Pre-class video: Joe Jackson singing “Sunday Papers”

Here’s Joe Jackson making a visit from the 1980s with his song “Sunday Papers.”

Because we’re talking about newspapers today.

Posted in Chapter 6, Pre-class video | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Great Magazine Covers

New Yorker satirical Obama coverClass today was devoted to looking at great/controversial magazine covers from the 1960s to the present day.  In a number of cases we looked at modern covers and the older ones that inspired them.

But, as always, I ran out of time long before I ran out of slides.

So here are links to several collections of great/memorable/controversial magazine covers from the last few decades.  You will notice that theres a lot of overlap between these lists:

Posted in Chapter 5 | Tagged | Leave a comment

75,000 people are viewing, playing a single game of Pokeman Red online

Guest Blog Post

Today we have a guest blog post from the UNK forensics coach Aaron Blackman (who is also my Nintendo video game mentor) about a big group of video gamers who are playing and watching a play-through of the old Nintendo game Pokeman Red.  Here’s his post:

Twitch Plays Pokemon screen capture

Something extraordinary is happening on right now.

An anonymous gamer has modded the original Pokemon Red video game to be played exclusively by the viewers of the stream. By inputting the controller commands to the channel’s chat feature (a, b, left, right, up, down, start, select), the game is played by several people rather than just a single person. As of this writing, there are 75,000 viewers, and potential players of the stream “Twitch Plays Pokemon.”

(Editor’s Note: As of my posting this, there are 73,833 current viewers and a total of 9.49 million total views.)

75,000 people are attempting to control a single video game that was released 15 years ago. The stream has been running for the last 5 days, and despite having thousands of commands (the majority of which cannot even be processed), there is significant progress being made by those streaming the channel.

The commands entered into the chat have a lag of about 20-40 seconds, making the stream equally frustrating and entertaining to watch. Here is the link for the channel itself. The stream is interesting because it successfully combines the popular sport of watching someone play a video game on, and actual participation in guiding the progress of the game.

Twitch Plays Pokemon

Watch live video from TwitchPlaysPokemon on

The stream has become so popular that individual button inputs have taken a backseat to what has essentially become a hive mind. There are players who want to see progress in the game, and many others “trolling” the game by intentionally blocking progress.

Another fascinating aspect is the community that this channel has created. Glance at the subreddit to see memes, status updates, fan art, and even guides on how the community should proceed. Those following the channel have even developed a fictional history and religion, thus assigning meaning to the progress the game makes.

For example, due to an abundance of random button presses, the in-game Pokemon Trainer continually attempted to use a key item in the game, the “Helix Fossil.” This item cannot be used until the end of the game and cannot be discarded. Those watching the channel have essentially made the fossil a deity in the fictional lore of the game. The players do more than simply pray to the “almighty Helix,” they actually assign nicknames to the Pokemon kept in the trainer’s team. The strongest Pokemon, a Pidgeot, is nicknamed “Bird Jesus.” Another Pokemon, Flareon, is nicknamed “False Prophet.” This fascinating piece of fan art showcases this deep religious theme the stream has adopted:

Religious art from the the play-through of Pokemon Red.

Religious art from the the play-through of Pokemon Red.

A self-described social experiment, “Twitch Plays Pokemon” is an interesting phenomenon that is certainly rising in popularity. The channel does give some support to the idea that video games can create and foster communities. Will the hive mind be able to finish the game? Only time will tell.

Posted in Chapter 10 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Talking About Media & Body Image

This morning in class we’re going to be talking about the connection between body image and how our media portray beauty.

I asked my students to take a look at some of my earlier posts about media and body image, and come to class prepared to talk about how these images might affect us.  Here’s the link:

In class today, we’re going to look at this video:

Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches

This video was reportedly viewed more than 114 million times the month it was released (through the many places it was posted) , making it one of the most viral videos ever. In the video, Dove compares how women see themselves vs. how other women see them, seen through the eyes of a police sketch artist who never actually sees the woman.

What was the result of these drawings? Why has this video been so popular? It resonates with women who tend to view themselves negatively

In addition to receiving lots of praise, it’s also been on the receiving end of quite a bit of criticism.  As Kate Fridkis of Psychology Today explains on her blog Eat the Damn Cake,  the video shows “some lovely, thin, mostly white women who are all pretty young describe their appearances to a forensic artist.”

One critic points out: “Out of 6:36 minutes of footage, people of color are onscreen for less than 10 seconds.” (I might want to take a stop watch to it, but it certainly is less than 30 seconds.)

Ann Friedman of New York Magazine points out that this video still holds that one of the most important thing is to be beautiful in our own way. Friedman suggests that the message instead should be: “It should be to get women to do for ourselves what we wish the broader culture would do: judge each other based on intelligence and wit and ethical sensibility, not just our faces and bodies.”

And for our pre-class video, we’re going to take a look at how Vogue portrayed singer Adele on their cover:

Posted in Chapter 2, Chapter 5, Pre-class video | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Comcast Commits to Buying Time Warner Cable

Back in November of 2013, the rumor started circulating that cable giant Comcast was going to try  to buy Time Warner Cable (TWC).  This was news because Comcast, in addition to owning NBC Universal, is the nation’s largest cable provider and Time Warner Cable is the nation’s second largest.

(Before we go any further, let’s make one thing clear.  Time Warner Cable is a company that provides cable TV and Internet services to subscribers in New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, North Carolina, Maine, and Ohio.  It is not the general media giant Time Warner that owns the Turner Broadcasting properties and Warner Brothers movie studio.  So why the Time Warner in Time Warner Cable?  That’s easy.  Time Warner the media company owned TWC up until 2009, when it spun off the cable/Internet provider into its own company.)

Then on Thursday, February 13, Comcast announced that it had reached an agreement to purchase TWC for more than $45 billion in stock.  If the transaction is approved by the FCC and the U.S. Justice Department, Comcast would have control of the programming going out to as many as 33 million cable subscribers.  (Why is that number in doubt?  There are roughly 100 million cable subscribers in the US.  If Comcast controls more than 30 percent of those subscriptions, it could run into regulatory problems.  So if the merger goes through, Comcast is likely to sell off approximately 3 million subscribers to fall below that magical 30 percent figure.)

Media reporter Ken Auletta says the proposed purchase would give Comcast a couple of key advantages:

  • More subscribers would give Comcast more negotiating power with both television program providers and Internet program providers.
  • It would give Comcast access to TWC’s powerful video-on-demand service that lets consumers have access to programming they want to see without being able to skip commercials.

One thing the deal probably won’t do is make you like your cable company any better.  The merger won’t give customers any more choices in who they can buy cable service from.  Local service will continue to be a monopoly negotiated between a single service provider and the municipality.  And consumer advocates argue that the merger would likely lead to higher prices to consumers.

AdAge magazine had one of the most interesting takes I’ve seen on the merger, arguing that even with 30 million plus subscribers, Comcast still wouldn’t be big enough to deal companions like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

Posted in Chapter 3, Chapter 9 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Valentine’s Day Pre-Class Video – Crowded House playing Either Side of the World

A great music video for Valentine’s Day.  Crowded House doing their song Either Side of the World from their album The Intriguer.

Posted in Chapter 7, Pre-class video | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Advice to Writers

Ten suggestions for better writing from famous writers:

Posted in Chapter 4, Pre-class video | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pre-class and In-class video: Talking About Books

Several videos for our discussion in class this week about books.  And yes, I’m running about a week behind in class.  There was way too much to talk about in the business chapter!

History of the Printing Press

Back in 1999, A&E’s Biography program profiled the top 100 influential people of the Second Millennium. They’re number 1 pick? Johanne Gutenberg.  Can’t argue with that.

Amanda Hocking and the Long Tail of Books

Meet Amanda Hocking, the indie author sensation who now has a contract with St. Martin’s Press.

Storyseller – A profile of author Amanda Hocking in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

And a note from a NY Times media blog that Hocking sold a paranormal young adult trilogy to conventional publisher St. Martin’s Press.

Interview with KTTC TV

Interview with the Associated Press

Promotional Video From Amanda Hocking

Posted in Chapter 4, Pre-class video | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Long Tail Pre-Class Video: Doug and Telisha Williams aka Wild Ponies

Doug and Telisha Williams, also known as the band Wild Ponies, funded the production of their latest album, Things That Used To Shine, using a Kickstarter campaign. They raised more than $30,000 from people who wanted to see their latest CD recorded (that would include my wife and me) and were able to book studio time and a professional producer — things that would have been out of reach without support of either their fans or a record label.

Here’s Doug and Telisha performing “Things That Used To Shine.”

Posted in Chapter 3, Chapter 7 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Super Bowl 2014 Media News Roundup

Super-Bowl-2014-XLVIII-Logo-500x450So the 2014 Super Bowl was played last Sunday.  Seattle schooled Denver pretty decisively, and by most accounts it was not a particularly good year for the commercials.  I can’t say definitively, as I didn’t watch it. (I’m not going to be one of those snobs who brags about watching Downton Abbey instead of watching the big game.  I listened to the first half of Sunday’s blowout on satellite radio in the car.)

So what is worth remembering about this year’s NFL championship broadcast?


Posted in Chapter 11, Chapter 9 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment