How Comics Promote Delayed Gratification

Image Comics. Used for non-commercial purposes.

I just finished reading Volume 2 of Lazarus, the excellent Image Comics series from Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, and Santi Arcas. Let me be honest right up front; I am no serious comic book fan. I bought a few random issues of super hero stuff (mostly Batman) when I was kid in the early 90s, because that was what people were doing, before quickly losing interest. My recent interest in comics is mostly through The Walking Dead (which I don’t actually own), two issues of The Wicked and the Divine (which I didn’t actually like) and the Lazarus series. Not to mention that I am buying these things in “volumes” on Amazon, not actual comic books, which I know seriously hurts my street creed. I just don’t have a comic book store anywhere close to where I live, and I enjoy reading them this way for now. Essentially, reading and following comic series is a fresh, new experience for me at the age of 29.

What struck me today was the intense feeling that I needed to read the next installment of Lazarus immediately. Unfortunately for me, Volume 3 does not exist yet, and will not for at least another 3 months. 3 months?! Even if I was able to shop for the individual comics, there are only two new issues out now, with just one new issue every month. If we think about comic books as episodes, that would be like waiting a month between episodes of Game of Thrones. When I have to wait a week for a new episode of Boardwalk Empire, I absolutely lose my mind! How I am going to wait months for Lazarus?

Comics are a unique medium. Reading a good one resembles reading a novel, looking at a painting, and watching an episode of a TV show, but at the same time is nothing like any of those things. The visual sequences feel like watching a movie in slow motion, giving the reader an opportunity to really absorb and enjoy the art. The unraveling of the story, character development, and cultural relevance can rival some of our best literature.

Yet, comics are almost more unique in their distribution. I think it goes without saying (since you are reading this on the internet) that we live in a world of instant media access. When I want to read or watch something, I don’t have to wait for it. I don’t want to ever have to wait. And if I do have to wait more than 20 seconds for something, I am going to fill that time with a quick look at Twitter or Instagram. I love this world. But it frightens me to think of what it may be doing to our psyche. We may be too quick to lump comics in with this category of fast media since they are so popular and engrained in our culture through Hollywood movies. However, comics demand that you wait for them. Even if you are reading them electronically, you still wait the month for the next issue. And when they’re really great, you are brought right back into the story, the world that has been created by the artists. When we are forced to wait, different things happen in our brain.

Perhaps this delayed gratification for comic books is a good thing, a counter balance to the overwhelmingly rapid pace of information. I often cite reading a novel as an opportunity to slow down, but I will be adding the experience of waiting for comic book releases to that list. It is an important list, even though it is a short list. For now, I will embrace this long period of waiting for the next volume of Lazarus. Will it get any less painful? I don’t know, but I think that pain is good for my health.

What is your experience of following a comic series? Is there any value to this delayed gratification? Discuss in the comments.

Rare NPR Morning Edition Blooper and What it Tells Us

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Every once in a while, I will hear news anchors on NPR mess up, trip over a word, clear their throat, and then expertly regain their stride and move on. But last week on Morning Edition, I got to witness a real mess up. I’m still not sure if it was human error, or technical error, from the anchors, or from the technicians. Either way it was a moment that caused me to reflect on the quality of programming I receive in my car every day.

Unfortunately, I could not find the recording of this moment, or any other blooper to share with you here. A testament to the rarity of them, perhaps? After a loss of momentum reading the intro to a story, Steve Inskeep tried to throw it to a different story. Apparently that package was not ready either, in which case they both laughed and made a joke to stall for a few more seconds. This was enough time for the producers and technicians to finally (a few seconds is an eternity in live media) play the next story.

My first reaction was to smile and enjoy this human moment with two people I listen to every day. I felt like I was getting a glimpse at another side of them that we rarely get to see, raw and unscripted. As I continued my ride to work, I thought about how it revealed how truly consistent that show is, and everyone who is a part of it. A week later, I still take that appreciation of quality and consistency with me as I drive and listen.

Photo:  Morning Edition Anchor Steve Inskeep at Iowa Public Radio studio

Photo credit:  LicenseAttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by John Pemble

My Updated List of Free Music and SoundFX for Student Productions

My Updated List of Free Music and SoundFX for Student Productions

Here is my updated list of free music and sound effects for student (or other people) media productions. I encourage (read force) students in my video production classes to use audio from these sources for their projects. They also must provide attribution in the credits. I know that copyright law allows students to use copyrighted material for education purposes. But are we not encouraging students to share their work with the world? What happens when their excellent video project is uploaded to YouTube with copyrighted music? It is not longer a student project. I believe that it is important to show students how to use music that is legal and ethical to use, and will not cause their video to be taken down from YouTube.

I have also used some of these sites with English classes making book trailers or other video projects. After keeping track (no pun intended!) of this topic for several years, these are the best resources I have found and used regularly.

Twitter, The World’s Backchannel

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Photo: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works by Scott Beale

I do not voluntarily watch too much TV, but sometimes it is on in the house. For most of the year, I am teaching during Good Morning America, but I happen to be in the kitchen while it was on one day this summer. They were introducing a pop star who was to perform a few songs in Central Park to a decently large crowd and a much larger one watching at home. At the same time, the producers introduced a Twitter hashtag in the lower third of the screen and proceeded to display tweets from the online chat. This is certainly not the first time I have seen something like this on TV. It has been a growing trend for the last two years. Typically, I am annoyed by this. It always seemed like a desperate attempt to be trendy and hook a young audience. Something that is new for ABC is including Twitter handles in each reporters lower third graphic, under their name and title. Television reporters on several networks have even been quoting tweets to add context to their news stories. It seems that ABC is really trying to integrate Twitter into the entire news experience. So what? Do they have some sort of partnership with the social network to help promote each other’s businesses? I am trying to think more about how Twitter, used in this context, can be meaningful.

While watching this artist sing and dance across the stage on a blistering hot New York City summer morning, sweat poring off his skin, I started thinking about what was really going on in the bottom third of the screen. This practice of streaming tweets during the performance was tapping into the voice of the audience. Isn’t that what a backchannel is for? It gives a space for live discussion, commenting, questions and answers.

I experimented with using TodaysMeet while watching and analyzing films in my video production course. The students were intrigued by the idea but did not really use it. I think if it is integrated as a part of the course from the beginning it will see more use. The site (and others like it) is used to set up what is basically a live chat room for student discussion. It could be used in many ways. I decided it could be useful during long films.

Twitter can certainly be used as a backchannel for individual events, such as the pop concert or for my video class. But it seems that more and more, Twitter is becoming the backchannel for the world. News events, professional development, pop culture, and more are being discussed all day, in real time, 140 characters at a time.

What do you think about this idea of Twitter as a backchannel? Discuss in the comments below or on Twitter, or course.

10 Instagram Accounts to Follow

Photo by chriswalts CC license

In the past few months I have become a more active Instagram user, finally seeing the value in the service. It is very different and separate from my DSLR photography, which is still a slower, often more thoughtful and technical process. Instagram is more like snapping Polaroids to capture interesting, casual moments, and instantly sharing them. You know how people take photos with their phone or point and shoot camera and immediately walk up to you wanting to show you the picture? Instagram allows us to post those moments instantly and tap into that urge to share, all while feeling really cool. I stayed away from the service thinking that all it was were pictures of drinks, pets, fashion, food, and selfies. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of that going on (even some of my own). But there is a lot of beautiful things going on in hidden corners and not so hidden corners of the Instagram world. And despite the spontaneous nature of instaphotography, there are photographers practicing thoughtful composition and clever concepts. I like to try to follow people who only post photos from there phone, part of the fun is viewing and creating images that look like they were taken with professional equipment, using only your phone and mobile post processing.

Here is my list of favorite accounts to follow:

@uncornered_market is my absolute favorite Instagram account. This couple have been on the road, traveling the world, for years. They post stunning photos of the places they visit, as they visit them. A source for daily inspiration.

@bkindler is a pilot in Europe who posts pretty landscape photos from his plane that will open your mind to a bird’s eye view of the world.

@samhorine is a NYC photographer who posts awesome iPhone pictures capturing the pulse of the city.

@japhetweeks and @sollsken share crisp images from life in Egypt. They do not post frequently, but when they do, you will be glad you are following.

@vagfrag shares awesome iPhone street photography from Greece.

@swopes posts some really fun, hip, colorful images from Chicago.

@payphones is a really fun concept. This account posts hip, colorful pictures of payphones around the world.

@dguttenfelder is a photojournalist for the AP in Asia who posts photos from his iPhone showing the texture of life in North Korea and other countries.

@nasagoddard posts awesome photos from the NASA archives. You do not have to be a space geek to appreciate the science and won display in this account.