Archive

Archive for November, 2009

A bibliophile nears a compromise with technology

November 26th, 2009 No comments

I have books all over my house – some are in large designated bookcases, some are tucked away in inconspicuous places out of sight. I have collectible books that are first printings of first editions (well defined in a paper written for another class – not all books that say first edition on the inside are true first editions). Most are books I have read and loved, some are books that I found interesting and plan to read. This scenario probably fits the description of many households of other bibliophiles.

This morning I clicked on a link in a tweet by Debbie Ridpath Ohi that took me to an enlightening article about ebook readers on Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020:

Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020

The article contains a fairly detailed discussion about ebook readers, starting with the Kindle. I took a trip on a link provided in the article to see the Barnes & Noble version of their ebook reader, the Nook.

Barnes & Noble Nook

I read a comparison of the features of the Nook vs. the Kindle on Barnes & Noble’s site that showed the features – of course in the Barnes & Noble comparison, Nook came out on top. However, the comparison does show indisputable proof that the Nook is a probably a better product than the Kindle.

So all of this set me to thinking, should I get rid of my books and get and use an ebook reading device? Well, yes and no. It’s easier to address the yes answer first: it would free up a massive amount of space in my house and lighten the load of overburdened bookcases. Also, carrying an ebook reader would allow me to have the availability of a book to read at any time of day, anywhere, without carrying a book that may be less portable. Now to the no answer: would I get rid of all my books? No. There will always be a place in my home for well loved books that I have read multiple times, as well as the collectible books that I would never part with. Another issue is cost. What if you download a book that you discover you don’t like? The money you’ve spent on the download is wasted money in this scenario. I wondered, does the yes outweigh the no? After all, you can borrow a book from the library or look at a book at Barnes & Noble and confidently decide if a book is worth reading before making a purchase of the ebook. Another discovery: the Barnes & Noble site gives links to download the ereader to an iphone, blackberry, or to your computer. More to think about …

So, I feel I am nearing a compromise. Perhaps it would be worth considering an ebook reader instead of maintaining my massive book collection. Still, it is hard for a person like me to let go of the feel of a book in my hands. This is a subject that clearly requires more research…

Not Thinking About Movies– It’s Not You, It’s Me

November 23rd, 2009 1 comment

Chuck Tryon’s “Reinventing Cinema” was a pretty cool read– an academic text about popular culture with an approachable style. I always liked this style, similar to some of the things I’ve read from Henry Jenkins. In part of his book, Tryon discusses recent developments that have served to shift the demographics of movie-watching. While movie-going habits have stayed rather steady overall, it seems that children with parents and teens make up the majority of movie-watchers. I am not not in that category, and am more a part of that geeky group that isn’t interested in the whole social aspect of having my movie viewing experienced compromised by a noisy crowd. I’d much rather rent a movie on Netflix, and watch it on my 40-inch Sony, with the surround sound turned up. At night, I’ll plug in headphones. The meddlesome cord is well-worth the inconvenience.

The movie theater, to me, is reminiscent of a time when most people had small televisions and VHS cassettes. Now that my technology recreates the experience of seeing a film well enough at home, I have no need to go to the theater. If I get a Blu-Ray player, I’ll have even less reason to go to the movies.

I really dislike the whole movie-going experience. I don’t get the $6 soda or the $7 popcorn. I understand the economics of the theater, but I don’t understand its appeal. The market should dictate the price of such items. I resent theater’s insistence on marking up their prices.

But really, I think it’s the ability to watch movies from the comfort of my home, and the ability to rewind if I missed something important, that makes home movie-viewing so much more compelling.

Then again, my Netflix account goes largely unused– I’ve had DVDs for close to a year, and haven’t sent them in yet. So I’m really rambling about nothing. But, you get the point. If I did watch movies, I’d watch them at home.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Older people go out to the movies less? Or, do we just lack patience?

November 21st, 2009 No comments

It was interesting to discuss Chuck Tryon’s Reinventing Cinema. Of particular interest: Tryon’s assertion that as people get older they don’t go to the movies as often. I agree with that. However, the reasons are less related to age, than with the fact that movie DVDs come out shortly after a movie closes in the theater, DVD prices are low, and the high definition televisions and DVD players are more common.

Or, is it because as we get older we become less patient?

 

The video is funny, but also full of such truth. Then again, cells phones in theaters are a galactic nuisance:

 And then of course there is always the delight of movie theater food:

 

The “New Moon” Craze.

November 21st, 2009 2 comments

Although I’d rather not bring it up at all, I think it’s particularly relevant to our discussion: I saw “New Moon” last night.  I haven’t seen “Twilight” and I have no interest in the genre at all, but my girlfriend enjoys it so I treated her to opening night.  It was my first opening night viewing since “Team America: World Police”, but this time, the theater was much more packed.  The audience was mostly teenage girls, but every so often I could spot a parent or a boyfriend who, like me, probably didn’t care about human-vampire romances.  I bought our tickets for the 10:46 show because every show between 4:15 and 10:45 was sold out, which was about seven shows.  I had never seen so many sold out and it made me curious as to how well the movie did elsewhere.

Once the movie ended and I made it back home sanity intact, I took a peek at some statistics.  A Huffington Post article reported the following:

According to online ticket seller MovieTickets.com, “New Moon” is the No. 1 Advance Ticket Seller of all time, surpassing “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” which previously held the title.

News organizations nationwide reported their local theatres selling out, with many camped out for hours to stake out their spot for the heavily-hyped midnight premiere. Before even hitting the screen, it was reported Thursday that more than 2,000 theatres sold out.

2,000 theaters being sold out by solely advanced ticket sales.  That’s simply amazing.  Also surprisingly, the opening day madness broke  the record previously held by the latest Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”  This was reported by the NY Daily News in their own midnight showing article, ‘New Moon’ Opening Night Sales: Box Office Breaks Record for Midnight Screenings. Some more facts from them:

  • “New Moon” raked in approximately $26.27 million in 3,514
  • “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” earned $22.2 million
  • “The Dark Knight” comes in third, having drawn in $18.5 million

Variety.com claims that “New Moon” made $72.7 million on its opening day, Friday, beating out “The Dark Knight”, which had $67.2 million.  This is amazing. “New Moon” more than doubled the opening day revenue of its predecessor, “Twilight,” which had about $36 million just a year ago.

So why in the world did “New Moon” do so well?  It all has to do with how “Twilight” dug out a new genre and created for itself a entire world of merchandising possibilities.  The incompleteness of the movie allows for fans to construct their own interpretations, carry the movie’s ideas along new paths, and gives the creators of the movie room to expand and build upon their work.  Chuck Tryon in “Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence,” explains the incompleteness of “The Matrix” which inspired the creation of a huge franchise involving, “video games, comics books, and online communities and alternative reality games” (29).  The popularity of “Twilight” was propelled by fan blogs, entertainment blogs, and, unlike “The Matrix” which appealed more to online-gaming (The Matrix Online), spawned series after series of published novels.  Visit the Barnes and Noble in Deptford, NJ, and swing by the Teen section (which is next to Writing References, oddly), and you’ll see several bookshelves paying homage to “Twilight”‘s ideas.

The Great Yogurt in “Spaceballs” had said, “Merchandising! Merchandising! Where the real money from the movie is made!”  Today, we accept this truth without thinking about it too much.  Much of the merchandise falls into the standard categories, such as t-shirts, book covers, and posters, but as the fan base grows, a certain percentage tends to become more devoted, which always results in stranger merchadise.  This is not specific to the “Twilight” series, though.  We can see the same thing with any film culture, such as “Star Wars“.

The year between “Twilight” and “New Moon” allowed the fan base to increase  almost exponentially.  Tryon, in his blog,  gives the credit for this rapid expansion to speed of publication, but is unable to determine whether it’s good or bad:

I’m not ready to argue that this process – in which gossip and entertainment bloggers rush to satisfy the voracious interest in Twilight films – is harmful…

But I think it does speak to one of the ways in which the “industry” of blogging – the modes of producing a profit – begin to shape how a film gets covered and even risks drawing attention from lesser known films.

He concludes that thought by saying that online social media tools are an important part in how a movie is received, promoted, and discussed.  In the case of “Twilight” and “New Moon”, its popularity depended entirely on those social media tools (fan blogs, Facebook, Myspace, film blogs, etc).  Now that fans of the series have been given the latest installment and because of how it ended (though I won’t spoil that for you), I see perhaps an even larger turnout for the next movie.

Reinventing Cinema and Youtube

November 21st, 2009 No comments

Reinventing Cinema; Movies in the Age of Media Convergence” by Chuck Tryon, discusses our understanding of film and how that understanding has needed to change in light of new technology.  Tyron talks of how once distinct and different forms of media have been incorporated into one another so to provide a more effective experience.  Tryon spends some time discussing the changes to the movie watching experience that have been brought about by the ability to view movies outside of theaters. He points to VCRs and now DVDs and the user’s ability to fragment the text.  This has given consumers more control over the movie and increased the number of those Tyron describes as “movie geeks” (p. 16).  He states, “…at home we are able to master the flow of cinematic images, while in the theaters we are forced to succumb to the temporal rhythms of theatrical projection, which require moviegoers to arrive at the theater at a specific time” (p. 25).  Tyron also talked in part about the issue of piracy in the film industry which provided a more well rounded view of this issue when combined with Siva Vaidhyanathan’s Copyrights and Copywrongs; The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity, which mainly discusses the issue as it relates to written text and the music industry.

I was very interested in Tyron’s discussion of movie Mashups and the dialogue that is created between what might, but not necessarily correctly, be called the consumer of movies and the entertainment industry.  I say that the term consumer is not entirely correct mainly because of the manipulation of professionally produced films, among many other things, that are displayed via website such as Youtube. Tyron states that,“…Youtube not only materially but also metaphorically keeps all texts available for reuse and recycling into new narratives.” The use of DVD’s and the “principle of incompleteness” has allowed an infinite number of movies, shows, and clips to be made available to individuals to “ripped apart and reassembled in playful new ways” (p. 151). Examples of such texts include “Shining”, “5 Second Movie”, “Scary Mary Poppins”, “Brokeback to the Future”, and many many more. Similarly, other such videos attempt to make political statements such as “Hillary’s Downfall” and “Baracky” or compilation videos such as   “100 Movies 100 Quotes 100 Numbers”, “Seven-Minute Sopranos”, and “Women in Film”.

User-generated video, such as the before mentioned, maintain and promote the discussion about the films, shows, and clips that they take their content from.  Therefore, some studios such as Twentieth Century Fox have attempted, with mixed results, to harness this free advertisement.  While others such as Viacom, also with mixed results, have “attempted to contain these fan productions” (p. 173).

Tyron explains the importance of such user-generated content and its ability to connect individuals with similar cinematic tastes or providing an avenue for discussion for those with different tastes. Individuals are given the ability to comment on products of the entertainment industry, politics, the news, or anything else for that matter.  Such texts promote the idea that “anyone with a computer is a potential producer, able to remix, rewrite, and reinterpret Hollywood movies” as they see fit (p. 173).

Thinking About Viral Culture and Time-Shifting

November 15th, 2009 No comments

I’m not sure where I stand on this viral culture thing. On the one hand, I appreciate its myriad distractions; on the other, I curse these distractions as they help keep me from getting work done.

Lost in the shuffle of our discussion of Bill Wasik’s “And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture,” was Wasik’s mention of the all-too-useful “time-shifting” (p. 185). Time-shifting is a term to describe the delaying of one’s gratification for a cultural nugget to be consumed at a later date. By employing this mind-set, we can combat the ephemeral nature of popular culture today. I wonder why the notion of delayed gratification is not so well discussed in popular culture anymore, as if Fundamental Christianity somehow held the patent on such behavior.

This technique, I believe, can be of particular use to myself for all manner of entertainment, for example. Why buy that new videogame today, for $60, when it can be had in two or three months for $30 or $40? The same could be said for new books, movies, or music. While Wasik was primarily arguing for time-shifting’s use as a way to get away from the hype that surrounds the release of a new cultural diversion, I think this type of action is useful for other reasons.

By employing time-shifting, we can combat the flakiness that is plaguing popular culture. I think this is what Wasik was getting at when he discussed Indie music in such detail. Cultural works should not need to be so emblematic of a particular era of time, or they risk becoming irrelevant very quickly. As writers, we can probably appreciate this aspect of Wasik’s discussion.

***

Also, I came across an article by Simon Dumenco that was laid out in bullet-point fashion that discussed Wasik’s book. I liked the article because it shed some light on the book, and it was a quick read, with seemingly little time wasted in the normal intricacies of professional feature-writing. One of the comments for the article complemented the author on how this bullet-point style was appropriate for the subject matter. It also made me wonder how much my attention span has been compromised from spending so much time on the web.

One of the things that caught my attention in this article is that the Flash Mobs were a metaphor for the vapid nature of viral culture. This makes me think that Wasik was not at first convinced of his argument until the end of the book.

Anyway, here’s a video of Larry Lessig pwning Andrew Keen on the merits of amateur Internet culture. It’s germane to the topic because Keen despises consumer-produced media, which Lessig champions it.

Essay structure: case study conclusions?

November 14th, 2009 1 comment

We see chapter conclusions in Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence and some of the other texts we’ve read. Our essay will be considerably shorter, but does anyone think we could/should do something similar at the end of each case study? It might make for easier transitions between topics. Just a suggestion. Anyone else have ideas?

Sorry for the really short post. I would have needed a few Twitter posts to get my whole question out!

Bill Wasik Visits Google

November 14th, 2009 No comments

Part of Google’s “Authors@Google” series, Bill Wasik discusses “And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture.”  I thought it’d be appropriate to share this video before we move on with our own discussion.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Viral Marketing

November 13th, 2009 No comments

Found Bill Wasik‘s And Then There’s This pretty fascinating. Given the PR and marketing classes and work that I have done, I was particularly interest in the concept of viral marketing.

We have all seen short films on TV in the past – many are created to market an upcoming show and I see from Wasick’s book and my own research that many viral marketing short films have been created to promote different products. I found the following Wired article discussing how viral marketing across many mediums is a proven method. I particularly remember seeing the BMW short film featuring Clive Owen that is pictured in the article Organized Chaos: Viral Marketing, Meet Social Media.

Organized Chaos: Viral Marketing, Meet Social Media

 This viral marketing by BMW using Clive Owen appeals to women due to his raw sex appeal; it also appeals to men due to the action content. There were several short films made by BMW films that, when linked together, do produce a somewhat cohesive story, but viewed alone, enhance the product. This is an example of viral marketing done well.

 Below is just one of the films in the multipart series:

 

While the above was a serious BMW film, the one below is a more comedic variation that probably never appeared on TV like the other one did due to some adult language. It features both Clive Owen and Madonna

While the above viral marketing ads did not make me want to run out and buy a BMW, they did interest me enough to go searching for all of the BMW viral marketing films. So, in one sense this form of marketing was successful due to the fact that watching one, made me want to watch more.

 

Some thoughts on YouTube & Remixing

November 13th, 2009 No comments

Since I am assigned with writing the section on YouTube and Remixing – something I have never done and know little to nothing about – I began researching the topic to bring this completely new information to the essay.

Lawrence Lessig, the founder of Creative Commons, appears in two notable YouTube videos. The video not only shows Lessig talking about remixing and culture, but also shows some remixed videos. It’s a pretty fascinating exploration of the topic.

 

Here is an even more fascinating series of YouTube videos by LiberalViewer discussing his struggle over fair use with Viacom and how the situation was resolved with the assistance of the ACLU. It sounds pretty stress producing.

Part 1

Part 2