The lasting effect of the penny press on modern newspapers

The penny press was a significant part of journalistic history as it was the time where newspapers finally became mass communication. Before they were only for the rich and businessmen.

Now they could be read by the people, and because of that it changed how newspapers were produced, distributed and written forever.

The first effect is what’s in the papers. This is where local news, sports and business sections began. The news what now to both inform and entertain.

This has had a huge impact on modern newspapers and media in general, with full publications now focusing entirely on sports, entertainment and business news. That would have never been the case if not for the penny press and the masses becoming newspaper readers.

Example of early penny press advertising

Also the way newspapers are financed changed. Before readers had to pay a higher price for the paper and subscribe to them. The penny press changed the equation by adding advertising. Papers became funded by advertising, in addition to lowered costs to readers.

Now most media is funded completely or substantially by advertising. That is how broadcast tv networks work, that is how radio stations work and that is how modern newspapers work.

Lastly the printing press effected journalism standards forever. Competition lead to the necessity to be the most current news. This began press association, where different newspapers would combine their manpower to have stories that cover news they wouldn’t be able to cover otherwise. Newspapers around the country began sending Washington correspondents.

Also, newspapers started to value “objectivity” and quality reporting. This has become the standard of modern newspapers and is what news has strived towards since the days of the penny press.

Without these changes, I feel that modern media would be sorely lacking. Mass communication as we know it would have been only for the rich and powerful, and the ramifications would have been disastrous nationally. The penny press created a huge step forward in both quality and reach of the news.

Oscars: Boyhood please win best picture

If Boyhood doesn’t win Best Picture tomorrow, I will be really disappointed. I know, it’s just an award and awards don’t matter. But the Academy Award for Best Picture sets the tone of what makes a film great.

“Boyhood” is the reason film isn’t a dying art. “Boyhood” is the epitome of what films can do that no other medium can. You go into that film looking at life one way, and you leave having new perspective. It is an emotional movie about life and growing up and is universal in a way that so few films are.

For instance, there is a scene towards the end of the movie where the titular boy, Mason, is leaving home for college and his mom (played by future Academy Award Winner Patricia Arquette) speaks about how time passes you by. I watched this movie with my family and my mom started to cry, while my younger sister and I started laughing. There is no other scene I can think of that felt as real and truthful.

Sure it’s not the best crafted movie ever. It’s not the best shot, Ellar Coltrane isn’t the greatest actor and there isn’t even a score. But it doesn’t matter. The film is just that moving. I love some of the other nominees. Birdman is maybe the most ambitious films in years and Whiplash is one of the best scripts, but Boyhood is why I go to the movies.

I want movies to affect me, and I think about scenes in Boyhood constantly since I watched it months ago. Just watch this trailer and tell me you don’t get slightly teary eyed.

The Gutenberg Printing Press

The Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed with the printing press.

We would not have modern pop culture without the printing press and media would have never became global.

The Gutenberg Printing Press was the early discovery that had the most impact on the development of mass communications. It had the most impact because it allowed the mass production of books. This was the first instance of true mass communication, where texts could be read by many people. It also lead to more literacy, since previously illiterate people could actually get books and learn.

The Gutenberg Printing Press was such a breakthrough because before that, books either had to be handwritten or in China they had developed a plan where wooden blocks could produce multiple copies, but new blocks had to be made for every page. Both of these options were unable to produce a large sum of books, and the printing press led to multiple books, and therefore many ideas, to be read across Europe.

The printing press worked by lining up wooden characters to make words and sentences, putting ink on them like modern stamps and then pressing the paper onto the blocks.

Without the printing press, we would not have books, magazines, the further explanations of science, the recording of history and the information age we now live in. And with that I leave you with this awesome explanation of it’s impact through puppets.

Oscar Nomination coverage by medium

When the Academy Award nomminations were announced on Jan. 15, it was the biggest entertainment news so far that year. What was interesting, looking at the coverage in various platforms was how it was covered and the discussion that was formed because of it. But let’s start with it’s coverage that morning live on CBS.

What was cool about watching the nominations on TV was that you actually got to see the announcement ceremony, which I find interesting if only for hearing the press in the room sometimes ooh or aww if something got nominated they didn’t expect. CBS bookended the live coverage of the ceremony with round table discussions with the CBS This Morning hosts and a commentator from Fandango about what got nominated and what didn’t. They also talked about who are the frontrunners for many of the awards. The television medium was able to transport you to the announcement ceremony, but the discussion was more rushed and less thorough than the next two presentations.

The Washington Post’s coverage. It’s initial coverage of the nominations gave a complete list of the nominees with some initial thoughts after each category. It lacked some of the “Oscar buzz” of the television segment because you only got the list of nominees but where the print format was more useful was the ability to re-read and analyze the nominations yourself. Also, this article listed how many nominations each movie received, giving readers more information that the television broadcast did not.

Lastly, social media took a different angle than that of television or print. It was almost immediately became clear that the Academy Awards had a diversity problem when people started commenting on the apparent snubs of the movie “Selma,” along with other movies including both racial and gender diversity. None of the twenty acting nominees were people of color, and none of the fifteen directing, screenplay or cinematography nominees were women. And while there were tweets about the snubs for “The Lego Movie” and Jake Gyllenhaal, most were about the lack of diversity using the hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite.

The hashtag and social media movement led to additional news coverage at both CBS and Washington Post, creating a dialogue that wouldn’t have occurred before Twitter. It brought attention to an aspect of the story that may have remained unspoken about. However, social media coverage of news is not perfect. It lacked in overall coverage of the nominations. Knowing who all got nominated solely from Twitter would be difficult, at best.

Every medium had its own successes and failures in trying to tell the complete story, but it was the overall media coverage that made the Oscar nominations an interesting and compelling story this year that will continue to be discussed till the award show and beyond.

“A Tale of Momentum & Inertia” is totally awesome

Okay, so this video is made by the Portland, Oregon based animation studio known as House Special, who are best known to me as doing that really awful fake M&M movie that runs in movie theaters. It is just so breathtakingly simple while still saying something about the world we live in. It keeps you attention, you feel for a rock and you can’t help but smile at the end. Trust me, I’ve been showing this to a lot of people this past week and no one has been able to resist the grin.

A Relook at the Flash Sideways of Lost (Spoilers… obviously)

dr linus alexFull disclosure: Lost is my favorite tv show of all time. I don’t think it is the best show, the best written show, the best visual show or even the best show featuring flashbacks. But it remains to be my favorite. The heart wants what the heart wants. It its the show that got me to think critically about what they were doing, trying to do, and planning on doing in the future. And I, along with a huge section of the shows audience decided it was up to us to figure the show out.

And that is why, when it ended, it caused such a commotion. Because while we as an audience were trying to solve the mysteries, the writers of the show were just trying to tell an interesting story about this group of people stuck in a situation where crazy shit happens around them all the time. The show was never about the mysteries. It was about the characters ( and yes, I do know how cheesy that sounds.)

So when the show went into it’s final season, Lindelof, Cuse and company decided to do something crazy. They were going to spend a good portion of the time they had left on “flash-sideways.”

The show had been known for using flashbacks (to fill in the backstories of the main characters) and had briefly used flashforwards (to show the time some of the characters spent of the island without the show ever having to leave the island.) But these were different.They seemed to not really connect with the island story in any way, plot wise.

The flashbacks made us look at the characters differently and the flashforwards made us look at the characters decisions differently, trying to connect the dots. But no one knew how to look at the flash-sideways.

They were showing what originally seemed like an alternate timeline where none of the main characters ever stepped foot on the island. Some things were the same (Kate was still arrested, Clare was still pregnant) and others were the complete opposite (Sawyer was a cop, Whitmore loved Desmond.) The questions on everyone’s mind were “What does this mean?” and “How does it fit with the island storyline.”

The answers were “Not much to the plot” and “After they all die, they created a world together so that they could all ‘move on’ together.” Let’s just say not everyone was pleased. From a plot perspective, it added basically nothing except provide a very confusing and spiritual epilogue to the show.

And so we are at the point where I tell you of my experiment. I decided to watch every flash-sideways in order without any of the other parts of the episodes over the course of two days. Now it practice, I did end up watching a few of the island scenes (including a scene toward the end of Mr. Dr. Linus where Ben breaks down about Alex) and I did accidentally watch some of the scenes out of order (I missed the Sayid/Shannon scene in the finale originally and had to go back to find it.) But I found the “experiment” really interesting.

First, it took me back to the show instantly. When I was watching LAX and they were all on that plane, it felt like I had been watching the show week-to-week just a few months ago. It was almost like I never left. I wouldn’t recommend starting a rewatch in the sixth season of a show (and I’m sure if I had watched more of the plot-heavy island scenes, I would have been more confused,) but in this case it really worked.

What worked, I think, was that the Flash-sideways were almost void of all plot. Now of course this is Lost, so there is some plot involving Desmond getting everyone to remember, but it is so extraneous to the point of the flash-sideways. They seemed to be a way to get everyone closure.

What made Lost interesting to watch was that as soon as someone hit a life-altering moment in his/her life they seemed to die. So this was the way that the show was able to give everyone a bit of closure, in at least the afterlife.

Watching it knowing that it is all an afterlife really changes the way you see it. For one, Jack’s fake son seems weird, but it works to show Jack (finally) getting over his daddy issues. Jin and Sun get to make the decision to run away together, Locke gets to both come to terms with his father, Sayid is able to get past his relationship with Nadia, and Charlie and Claire actually getting to be together (I just started tearing up.)

But the most impactful part of this was the sideways journey of Ben Linus. He originally seemed very different in the flash-sideways as a history teacher who was one of the most moral people at the school. But through the course of the episode “Dr. Linus,” he slowly becomes the power-hungry man we all love to hate. But then there is Alex. And Ben gives up his power for her in a way he never could in real life (full on crying mode activated.)

I hadn’t watched his character in years, but that decision affected me so much. It was the episode in my rewatch that I got why the show decided to do this crazy experiment. It got us to care for these characters one last time before the end. It showed why the show worked so well for so many people. We loved these characters. Not all of them, but enough of them to keep us coming back every week. And when these characters were able to be happy, even if it was only in their minds, we were able to find some closure at the end of this show.

So what if the island ended up being a MacGuffin and no one knows who was on the other outrigger. We got character closure over plot closure, and personally I can deal with that. The sideways felt like another question to be answered the first round, but now seems like the perfect encapsulation of what the show always did right.

Plus more time with Charlie, which is never a bad thing.

Why original characters in Comic Book TV shows are always the best

When watching the pilot of Gotham (which I quite liked) it became clear that in a sea of future superheroes and supervillains, it was the original character Fish Moony, played by Jada Pinkett Smith, who was destined to be the standout performance for the show.

Yet this phenomenon isn’t only seen in Gotham. Characters like Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead, Felicity Smoak in Arrow and Chloe Sullivan in Smallville all are basically original characters for their respective shows that have all become fan favorites. Why is it that when comic book are translated to tv shows, it is always the entirely new character that fits the most into that world? (Note: I do not know if this theory pertains to Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D., because I don’t watch that.)

It seems to me that it is because they have the most freedom to become who the story organically wants them to become. There is no way that young Bruce Wayne will grow up to be a police officer, for example. But Fish Moony could rise to greater power or could end up being the most tragic character in the show. We don’t know, and that is the great beauty of it.

While other characters, like the future Penguin, Oswald Cobblepot is never going to be shot dead by Jim Gordon, but Fish Moony could. Original characters (especially in prequel series like Gotham) are invaluable.

People are drawn to them because they give the show actual stakes but also because they are the only one’s that the audience has to actually figure out. Sure Alfred is a bit militaristic in this version, but it isn’t like he is just gonna say “Peace out, Bruce. You’re mopping too much, and I just can’t deal.” We know that Alfred’s place in this story is to help form young Bruce’s future.

But with Fish Moony, her purpose is limitless. What makes these original characters interesting is that they could heroes, villains, victims, mentors or even love-interests. Gotham  is so tied down by the history that it is leading up to, that it is going to be interesting to see how they handle someone with no prior history at all.