Friday, December 31, 2010

Christine Nystrom 1941-2010

It is with great sadness that I relate, here on Blog Time Passing, that Christine Nystrom passed away last week, on Wednesday, December 22. Chris was born on March 23, 1941, earned a BA and PhD from New York University, attending Columbia University's Teachers College in between for her MA.  

She was a mentor and a friend to me, and to many others in the media ecology community.  As Neil Postman's student, she produced the first doctoral dissertation in New York University's Media Ecology program that dealt with media ecology as a coherent theoretical framework, completed in 1973, two years after the program began.  As his colleague, Chris gave structure to the Media Ecology graduate program.  

For most of the history of the program, she was one of the three principle faculty members, with Neil and Terry Moran.  And for much of that time, certainly for the time I was there, she team-taught most of her classes with Neil, and they really were an awesome combination, Neil providing charm and wit, and excelling at eliciting discussion, and Chris providing structure, rigor, and intellectual depth.

Chris was a dedicated educator, served on hundreds of dissertation committees--she was the chair of mine, and also mentored Joshua Meyrowitz's thesis, No Sense of Place, Robert Albrecht's dissertation on music, and many more.  And for many of us she went above and beyond in editing dissertations (sometimes to the point of rewriting them) in support of her students.  

She was absolutely brilliant, and a gifted writer much like Neil, but she did not direct her energies to publishing, did not care for the spotlight, and instead focused on teaching, on the success of her students, and supporting her peers, Neil Postman, Terry Moran, and Henry Perkinson (she continually provided Postman with invaluable feedback, editing, and suggestions on his work).  But the few articles that she did publish were absolute gems..  

She was in many ways an unsung hero of media ecology, dedicated to serving the needs of the field in many different ways.

I credit Chris with helping me to improve my writing in very significantcways, and with teaching me how to be a scholar.  She was demanding of her students, and some found that quite intimidating, but her insistence on rigor in scholarship put her in the same camp as Walter Ong and James Carey.  She was a true intellectual, a pure intellectual, but also a woman who had an off-beat sense of humor and imagination.

The loss is a personal one for me, a loss felt keenly by all of her students, and others who knew her professionally, and as a friend.  Many more in the media ecology community know her through her writing, and her reputation as a pioneer in our field.  

I last saw her in September, she asked if I would meet her for lunch before she departed to Iowa to spend her last days with her family, and so we did.  The conversation we had was rambling, we could have talked about so many different things, it seemed as if what we did talk about was almost random.  But it wasn't about the content, it was about the medium, the relationship, one last time together.

And before we parted she looked back on the time she devoted to the media ecology program, and the students that came through it, and said that she thought that she, and Neil, had accomplished something worthwhile, something important.  And of course I said that it certainly was very important, very influential, that media ecology is not something that is going to fade away, that the effects of what they had set in motion will continue to be felt into the future, serving to make the world a better place.

Chris and I first bonded over our mutual love of Tolkien.  When she emailed me asking to meet one last time, she spoke of leaving New York City to head west towards the Gray Havens (the passage to the next world in Tolkien's mythos).  And when we met for the last time, she mentioned the song Bilbo sang in The Fellowship of the Ring:

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

For Chris, there are no more sounds of returning feet, no more voices at the door, but the messages she has sent to a time she will not see can still be heard, loud and clear and true.

I have been in touch with Christine Nystrom's friend, Anne Garfinkel, who was contacted by the Pastor at the Church that Chris attended, and he has graciously offered to host a memorial service in their chapel, a location that held special significance for Chris.  Anne is organizing the memorial, for which we all are very grateful, and I am doing whatever I can to help her.  Please share the following information with anyone you think might want or need to know:

A memorial service for Christine Nystrom will be held on Monday January 17, at 11 AM, at The Chapel at St. George’s Church at 7 Rutherford Place (E. 3rd Ave. between 16th & 17th Streets), New York, New York.  It will be an opportunity to pay our respects, share our memories, and celebrate her life.

Anne has asked that you RSVP if you intend to come, to help in the
preparations (of course if you don't RSVP and decide at the last minute that you do want to come, please do join us). Also, if you would like to come up and say a few words at the memorial, we ask that you let us know in advance as well, to aid in the organization of the memorial program.  Please RSVP via email to

Also, there have been some inquiries about sending donations in Chris's memory.  Chris's niece, Jenny, has indicated that they can be made to New York University's Cancer Institute, The Smile Train, Hiefer International, or Hospice of Central Iowa.

And here are a couple of pictures taken last year, no captions necessary...

Rest in peace, Christine Nystrom, rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Digital Damage Control

So, last month I appeared on a local TV news segment about "Digital Damage Control," to use the dramatic title they gave to the story.  It's all about what to do when something negative pops up in the search results for your name, or organization, or product for that matter.  How do you address the problem of bad Google publicity?

You would think that if it's something false, or blatantly offensive, you could just appeal to the better natures of the site owner, or blogger, or internet provider for that matter, but no, that doesn't work very well.  Often you'll get no response whatsoever, or maybe a shrug of the shoulders.  So, what can you do, who can you call?  Not Roto-Rooter, that's for sure.

Well, why don't you check out the segment, which originally aired on the 11:00 PM news on November 11th (that's 11/11 at 11, but who's counting?).  And note that the sound is a little on the low side, so you may have to turn your volume up a bit.  After you're done, meet me back here so I can correct a few errors.

So, yes, I confess, somewhere on the internet there is a listing for Sex Vixens from Outer Space, and my name is attached to it as the author.  But it is not in fact a movie, which would be a more serious matter, what it is, is a Commodore 64 text adventure game from the 80s.  And frankly, I wish I had the programming skills to create a game like that, I really wanted to make my own text adventures back in those early days of the personal computer revolution, but I never got past the basics of BASIC.  Anyway, I had an Atari 800, not a Commodore, and let me tell you, that Atari was a great little machine.  But I digress.  The point is, whoever the author was, it wasn't me.

And in case you're wondering if there might be someone else out there with the same name as me, well, it's highly unlikely, as that is the only listing that has ever come up on any search engine under my name that is not me.  As far as I know, I am the only Lance Strate on the planet.  It's interesting to think about that sort of thing, by the way, that is maybe, in the future, people will be given or create for themselves unique names, perhaps by using one or more middle names, and maybe titles, to make it possible to find them without confusion on search engines.

So anyway, what I figure happened is that, back in the 80s, someone used my name as a pseudonym in this one instance.  My guess is that it wasn't someone that I knew very well, although I could be wrong, but I don't recall knowing anyone who knew how to write code for the Commodore, and I think it more likely that it was somebody not too close, maybe even one degree of separation removed, who heard my name and liked the sound of it, or thought it would be funny to use.

Hey, if anyone out there has any idea of who the actual author of Sex Vixens from Outer Space might be, or if the real author is out there, let me know.  I bear no grudges, I'm just curious at this point.

When I first started to check up on myself via search engines (back before google was a verb), this item came up in the first ten rankings, at one point even as the first!  And I admit to being taken aback, feeling uncomfortable, both for the association with this kind of content (obviously, the real author did as well, which is why a pseudonym was used), and for the fact that it is, essentially, a false attribution.  A me that is not me.

I was uncomfortable, but the news report is incorrect in saying that I deliberately tried to bury it with all of my digital activity.  First of all, while feeling uncomfortable, it just didn't bother me all that much.  Second, I had no idea what to do about it, so I just ignored it.  And as more and more pages listing my name appeared on the web, e.g., my online publications, citations of my work in other publications, listings on various sites, sites selling my books, web pages at Fordham and elsewhere, and eventually social media profiles, my blog posts, etc., it just naturally got pushed further down and down and out of awareness.

And I had no intention of ever bringing it up, until Andrew Siff contacted me about doing this story, explaining that a friend of his (Alan Gottlob I presume) had developed this sort of search engine problem.  So we met at Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus for the interview.  Andrew was interested in seeing my own Google search results, so I decided to share this example with him, which proved to be a very useful illustration.  But obviously, it's more dramatic to say that I used a deliberate strategy, rather than to say that it just happened naturally, as a result of being active online.

But hey, I got some really good face time on this story, don't you think?  Name time as well, but well, that I take for granted.  But it was also great to see Fordham University get some good publicity out of it.

Anyway, there's also a text version of the story online, under the title of Undoing Digital Damage: How To Write Your Way Out Of Trouble, filed by Andrew Siff on the station's website.  And I got a Google alert last month that pointed to the same story appearing on the MSNBC website, I'm not sure if that means it also aired on that cable news channel or not, but it's since disappeared from there.  Anyway, the story has a tag line, "The keyboard may be mightier than the sword -- If used properly."  And then it begins,

Fordham University Technology Professor Lance Strate couldn't help but laugh when he googled himself -- and saw a surprising hit.

And let me stop right there, I can't help but laugh, and note that I'm not a Technology Professor, as you probably know, I'm a Professor of Communication and Media Studies.  Okay, continue please,

"Somebody claimed I'd written this soft-core film for a Commodore 64," said Strate, who pointed to the link on projection screen inside a classroom on the school's Manhattan campus. The film he supposedly wrote was called Sex Vixens From Space. But the professor never wrote such a script, and never even owned a Commodore 64. Strate laughed it off, assuming some mischievous blogger had co-opted his name for some reason. Then, he happened on a pretty good strategy to abolish the fictional shout-out.

He wrote some real stuff.

Okay, you remember from a few paragraphs above, it was a text adventure, not a film.  Not as sexy as they made it out to be, no.  And there were no bloggers back in the 80s.  But, hey, details, details.  Let's move on,

His blog, Lance Strate's Blog Time Passing, advises the young, the old, and the in-between to write, write, and write some more. And by keeping it clean you'll gradually earn a good reputation, impervious to any search engine. After all, Google and other navigators tend to rank searches by the age of a post. And recent writings register higher. So, you can also tweet your way to a clean rep.

Check it out, dear friends.  Blog Time Passing has made the news!!!!  We are the story!!!  And so what if I never actually advised anyone "to write, write, and write some more" before.  By quoting this here and now in Blog Time Passing, I've made it so!  A self-fulfilling professy, don't you know?  So get to it, boys and girls.  Write away!  And yes, keep it clean!  And thank you so much, Andrew, for the great publicity!

But wait, there's more,

Of course, it's not always so easy. Financial advisor Alan Gottlob was horrified to see the words "insurance scam" only a few hits from the top when he entered his name into Google. The phrase came from an article he insists was totally false. But his attempts to reach the author, the editor, and Google itself have proven unsuccessful.

"Makes you feel angry," said Gottlob. "Makes you feel like you can't get the truth out there."

And let's get some more Fordham in there, if you don't mind,

The truth, say young Web-surfers, is that the Internet tends to be written in permanent ink. Rebecca Bates, a student at Fordham said it's all about knowing the risks before you even log on for the night.

"You're putting yourself out there," she said. "You should have the knowledge that anything you put out there, anyone can see."

But wait, what about me, me, me? 

Professor Strate offered other advice. Use an alias, or alternate screen name, if you plan to post anything too controversial. That way, it won't show up in a search for your name.

Yes!  I get the last word in, sort of.  Use an alias.  Like the author of Sex Vixens from Outer Space did, ha ha.  Ah, the irony of it all!

So, all in all, this was a good story, and great fun, and maybe did somebody some good somewhere.  And you can go check out the video on YouTube at and like it or comment or whatever it is that people are doing nowadays.

Or just go google yourself.  I mean it.

Oh, and stay tuned for more on this subject later on, including something big coming up a few months from now.  No, I can't tell you now, you'll just have to wait.  But when the time comes, I may call upon you to do a service for me...  And I'm not talking google here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chanukah By Candlelight

So, last night my son showed me this video, which I very much enjoyed, and said I'll have to post it over on the Congregation Adas Emuno website (which I'll do tomorrow, but Blog Time Passing gets it first!).  

And today I saw it mentioned online via The Chronicle of Higher Education's e-mail newsletter, which directed me to a short item entitled, ‘Candlelight,’ the Viral Video From the MaccabeatsThe Chronicle introduces it by saying, "A Hanukkah treat from the Maccabeats, an a cappella group at Yeshiva University. It’s viral, folks, so apologies if you’ve already seen it."  So this is officially an academic topic now, as well.

And over on the video's YouTube page, the Maccabeats write

Buy this song on itunes!


Based on Mike Tompkins' a cappella version of Taio Cruz's "Dynamite". Video created by Uri Westrich

And I think they deserve our support.  So, anyway, okay, here's the video:

And all that's left to say is, Well Done, Gentlemen!  And Happy Chanukah to all, and to all a good night!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Continental Airlines Takes a Nosedive

So, a blog's reach must exceed its grasp, or what's it good for?  And one of the functions of blogging, and I might go so far as to say that one of the duties of a practicing blogist, is to report to the public on problems related to the consumer goods and services that dominate our culture and environment.  To that end, this post is about Continental Airlines, which is in the process of merging with United Airlines, and turning into one of the largest, if not the largest in the industry.

Living in New Jersey as I do, I usually use Newark-Liberty Airport, where Continental is king of the hill, and that is the airline that I most often use.  At least, that was the airline that I most often used.

And last week I traveled from Newark to San Francisco for the annual meeting of the National Communication Association.  The return flight boarded at 11:00 AM west coast time, and landed after 8:00 PM east coast time.  In other words, we were in the air during at least one meal time, and arguably two.

Now, as you may know, the new policy is not to offer free meals on these flights.  They say no free meals on flights under 6 hours, which sounds rational but conveniently cuts out most transcontinental travel in the United States.  So they offer a menu and food for sale, hamburgers, salads, sandwiches, and snacks.

That's bad, but that's not what motivated this post.  We're all getting the treatment from airlines, like paying a fee for checking your bags, that's old news.  And I noticed Continental now offers seats with extra leg room in coach for an extra $69!!!  Maybe they'll start to offer better quality air for passengers willing to pay a fee?

But no, what motivated this post is the fact that on the flight from San Francisco to Newark they not only charged for lunch, but didn't have enough food to go around.  And of course, you get no information about what's going on before you leave, it's not until you're imprisoned up in the air that you're informed of the situation.

Look, it's bad enough that Continental Airlines offers not so much as a complimentary peanut to eat anymore.  That's more of an insult than an injury.  But to represent that they have lunch items for sale, and then not to have them available, well, what do we call that?  False advertising?  Bait and switch?

You see, when the flight attendant with the food cart got to my row, she informed me that all she had was snacks.  This included two kinds of snack boxes.  And you might say, Lance, the snack boxes are not very good, but they're something, right?  And I'd say, sure, that's true, but wouldn't you expect to be informed of what's in the snack boxes before purchasing them?  Well, it seems that whoever prepared the flight for take off neglected to provide menus in the seat pockets, not a one.  And the flight attendant did not know what was in the box, and wouldn't open one up so I could see what was in it before purchasing it.  Pig in a poke?

So, all of this is pretty bad, but corporate malfeasance is nothing new, right?  But what was over the top is that this flight attendant was angry!  She was angry with Continental about the situation, and made that clear enough, but she directed that anger at me, as I was, I gather, asking the same questions and expressing the same complaints as a couple dozen people had already done in the rows ahead of me.  I'm sure the situation was very unpleasant for her, but she was rude and nasty to me, and when I pay good money for a seat on a cramped and uncomfortable flight, I expect a little better.  Talk about insult to injury, this was just too much. 

I won't go into the specifics of our exchange, they're not important.  And I'm sure she was stressed, tired, etc.  But for me, the bottom line is that when you are taking a paycheck from a company, then you have to take responsibility for what the company does.  You are that company's representative, period.

So, I wound up purchasing one of the two types of snack boxes sight unseen, as I had no alternative.  And to be honest, I felt pretty nauseous afterward.  

I did complain about the flight attendant's behavior to the head flight attendant, a fellow named Don, and while he had already heard her side of the story, he listened to me, acknowledged that her behavior is not always the best, was entirely polite and friendly, and bought me a drink to make up for the way she acted.  Thank you Don, you really salvaged a bad experience for me!

Now, don't get me wrong.  The flight attendant with the food cart may have been a bad apple, but the source of her irritability and anger was Continental Airlines.  Continental Airlines created a situation where it was impossible to satisfy its customers, and where its employees had to bear the brunt of consumer dissatisfaction in a context that they were unprepared to deal with.

The bottom line is information.  Tell me what the situation is.  If you're not going to offer us anything, say so, say it in large letters on the boarding pass, have your personnel announce it at the gate, make it clear, spell it out, so we have a chance to prepare.  If you don't have enough for everyone and may run out, say so, print it on the ticket and boarding pass, send me an email, call me up, announce it at the gate, let us know what the situation is.  We have a right to know, and YOU have an obligation to tell us.

That's the bare minimum, of course.  And with merger mania, the fact is that we do not have all that much of a choice in airlines.  But after hearing folks rave about JetBlue, I really have to rethink my travel preferences.

I should add that my flight home was delayed due to high winds in New Jersey, something we've been experiencing in the New York Metropolitan Area with increasing frequency in the last couple of years.  It's downright scary to see such climate change, and what with strange weather, volcano eruptions and the like, air travel is becoming not only less pleasant and less reliable, but less possible!

My tip for the future, therefore, is invest in high-speed railways!  As I read in a comic book as a kid, good old terra firma, the more firmer, the less terror!

Monday, November 15, 2010

DayRiffer (a one way ticket yeah)

So, I want to take this opportunity to recommend to you my friend Andrew Postman's new website, It's subtitled, Aggregating with Attitude, and that's what it is, an aggregator.  You know what an aggregator is, right.  No, not this:

That's an alligator, not an aggregator.  Now, don't get aggravated, just having a little fun here.  

So, according to good old Wikipedia, an aggregator is "a web site or computer software that aggregates a specific type of information from multiple online sources."  And they list six types of aggregators:  news, video, poll ("aggregates polling data for upcoming elections"), review ("reviews of movies or other products or services"), search ("organizes a specific search from various search engines"), and wellness ("a virtual clinic that integrates a variety of Health and Wellness modalities for people seeking to improve their health and wellbeing").

So, Andy's site is a news aggregator, which puts it in the same category as the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post, and Google news.   Some, like Google news, are based on search algorithms and crowdsourcing and/or ranking, others like Drudge and Huffington, reflect some kind of individual editorial vision, although they have long been collaborative efforts.  Postman's is pretty much a one-man show, or one-man aggregation, put on by a highly talented writer and creative mind.

Here's what he says about it:

It's an aggregator with attitude; an attempt to have a human being select the stories of the day that are most interesting, meaningful, counterintuitive, provocative, odd, moving, funny, with commentary reflecting a certain sensibility, accompanied by a longer, daily "riff." I don't know why I put riff inside quotation marks but I did. So be it.
Andy goes on to say
Any comments or recommendations you may have about the website are most welcome - specifics, you'd visit it daily, you loathe it, etc. It's a work in progress. Then again, so are we all.
So, it's kind of like a blog, kind of like I do here, but better, more reliable, and with a purpose, and linked to all sorts of cool items found elsewhere on the web, so really, it's not so much like this.  But well, why don't you go on, take a look, and make it a part of your daily routine.  Tell him I sent you.

Oh, and the title of this post alludes back to what I take to be the allusion behind the name of the website, that is, the Beatles song, "Day Tripper".  Here are the lyrics, and imagine them applied to the art of the aggregator as you read them:

Got a good reason, for taking the easy way out
Got a good reason, for taking the easy way out, now

She was a day..... tripper, one way ticket, yeah!
It took me so..... long to find out, and I found out

She's a big teaser, she took me half the way there
She's a big teaser, she took me half the way there, now

She was a day.... tripper, one way ticket, yeah!
It took me so.... long to find out, and I found out

Tried to please her, she only played one night stands
Tried to please her, she only played one night stands, now

She was a day.... tripper, Sunday driver, yeah!
It took me so.... long to find out, and I found out

Day tripper
Day tripper, yeah!

Day tripper
Day tripper, yeah!

And, oh yeah, now I just gotta hear the song...

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's much better now!  So now,  Aggregate!  Aggregate!  Dance to the music!  Or something like that...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Lure of Bateson

So, another great event at the Institute of General Semantics-sponsored New Languages, New Relations, New Realities Symposium at Fordham University was the preview screening of Nora Bateson's documentary about her father, Gregory Bateson.  We had an earlier preview of the film at this past June's Media Ecology Association meeting in Maine, and I was very grateful that Nora agreed to come to New York City last month for the general semantics event.

Gregory Bateson gave the 1970 Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture, and his daughter, and Nora's sister, Mary Catherine Bateson, was last year's AKMLer.  Mary Catherine is the daughter of Margaret Mead, Gregory's first wife, and Nora is the daughter of his third wife, Lois, who we were also honored to have present for Nora's screening and Deborah Tannen's Korzybski Lecture.  

So, you can check out Nora's official website for her film, An Ecology of Mind, subtitled A Daughter's Portrait of Gregory Bateson, at  It includes an homage to Bateson written by systems theorist Fritjof Capra, and here's one excerpt from that essay:

He made significant contributions to several sciences — anthropology, cybernetics, psychiatry, and, most important of all, to the new interdisciplinary field of cognitive science, which he pioneered. But perhaps even more important is the fact that he championed a new way of thinking, which is extremely relevant to our time — thinking in terms of relationships, connections, patterns, and context. As we replace the Newtonian metaphor of the world as a machine by the metaphor of the network, and as complexity becomes a principal focus in science, the kind of systemic thinking that Bateson advocated is becoming crucial.

Nora's site also includes a trailer for the film, and there's a version on YouTube with Italian subtitle's that I can embed here for you (but by all means, check out too, because there's a lot more to look at there):

And here's another excerpt found on YouTube:

Gregory Bateson's work cuts across many disciplines, and certainly adds an important dimension to general semantics, as general semantics emphasizes the relationship of the individual to the environment, whereas Bateson adds an emphasis on the relationship of one individual to another.  Along with his pioneering work in cybernetics and systems theory, he also set the stage for the study of relational communication, including family communication, through his contributions to psychiatry (e.g., the notions of codependency and enabling are derived from his work).  And his work is important for media ecology, in establishing a systems and ecological view on human thought and behavior.  


Neil Postman spoke highly of his book, Steps to An Ecology of Mind, back in the old days of the media ecology program.  And I would also recommend the follow-up volume, Mind and Nature.  Also significant in the fields of communication and psychotherapy is the volume he co-authored with Jurgen Ruesch (Bateson listed as second author), Communication:  The Social Matrix of Psychiatry.  His first two books were devoted to his anthropological research, Naven: A Survey of the Problems suggested by a Composite Picture of the Culture of a New Guinea Tribe drawn from Three Points of View, and Balinese Character: A Photographic Analysis, the latter co-authored by Margaret Mead.  Two more books have been published posthumously, Angels Fear: Towards An Epistemology Of The Sacred, co-authored by Mary Catherine Bateson, and A Sacred Unity: Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind, co-authored by Rodney E. Donaldson.

For a quick summary, there's always the wikipedia entry on Gregory Bateson, and the page devoted to him on the Institute for Intercultural Studies that he helped to found along with Margaret Mead.

Gregory Bateson's emblematic quote, taken from Mind and Nature, which appears on the IIS page and is highlighted in Nora's film, is

"What pattern connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose and all the four of them to me? And me to you?"

Patterns that connect, that's what Gregory Bateson is all about, indeed, that's what everything is all about!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Connected Yelp!

So, with the Institute of General Semantics-sponsored New Languages, New Relations, New Realities Symposium at Fordham University all over and done with, I think I can get back to a bit more blogging, sorry for the lapses and absences and all.  

And it was certainly a pleasure to have with Tiffany Shlain, the daughter of the late Leonard Shlain (see my previous post, A Brain to Remember, Rest in Peace Leonard Shlain) with us at the symposium.  Leonard Shlain was a past Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecturer, a featured speaker at three Media Ecology Association meetings, and an outstanding media ecologist in his own right.  And Tiffany shared with us a rough cut of the new film she's working on called Connected:  A Declaration of Interdependence.  The film goes into Leonard Shlain's life and scholarship in very interesting ways, which I very much appreciated.  Of course, the theme and topic is more broadly about the patterns of interconnection common to biology, ecology, and technology, as can be seen from the trailer:

And on a related note, here's Tiffany Shlain's short film, Yelp (With Apologies to Allen Ginsberg) narrated by Peter Coyote:

I have a feeling Ginsberg would get a real kick out of this.  I know I do, although I admit as well to the irony of blogging about a YouTube video that admonishes us to unplug!  Well, I guess I'll go take Tiffany's advice and do that, so, see ya later!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Languages, New Relations, New Realities

So, I've been working very hard on this event coming up at the end of the month.  Here's the schedule, I hope you can make it!

And if you want to go to the AKML Dinner, better register now, we'll have to close it off next week!

Anyway, this is going to be very cool, fun, illuminating, and inspiring.  I hope to see you there!

New Languages, New Relations, New Realities Symposium

Sponsored by the Institute of General Semantics
Co-Sponsored by the
Media Ecology Association
New York Society for General Semantics
Friends of the Institute of Noetic Sciences
Fordham University

October 29-31, 2010
Fordham University
Lincoln Center Campus
McNally Auditorium
Law School Building
140 W. 62nd Street, Between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues
New York, New York

Friday  October 29

8:30-9:00 AM                          Registration Opens & Breakfast

9:00 AM-12:00 Noon              Evolving Languages
Moderators:              Eva Berger, College of Management, Tel Aviv
                        Jacqueline Rudig, Institute of General Semantics

9:00-9:30 AM                        "Korzybski's Apple and the World of Null-A:  Reflections on Teaching General Semantics Through the Lens of Science Fiction"
            Edward Tywoniak, St. Mary's College

9:30-10:00 AM            "Fantastic Language/Political Reporting:  The Science Fiction   Illocutionary Force Is With Us"
Marleen Barr, City University of New York

10:00-10:30 AM            "'Pernicious Stuff':  19th Century Media, the Children Who Loved Them, and the Adults Who Worried About Them"
Margaret Cassidy, Adelphi University

10:30-11:00 AM             "What Do We Talk About When We Talk About 'Transparency'? Notes on the Origins of the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Impact Statements"
Michael Schudson, Columbia University

11:00-11:30 AM            "The Renaissance of Literacy in Texting and Tweeting"
Paul Levinson, Fordham University

11:30-12:00  AM            "If Not A, Then E"
Lance Strate, Fordham University/Institute of General Semantics

12:00-1:30 PM                         Lunch Break

1:30-4:30                                    Evolving Relations and Realities
Moderators:               Janet Sternberg, Fordham University
                        Lance Strate, Fordham University

1:30-2:30 PM                        "Connected:  A Declaration of Interdependence" (Rough Cut Screening and Discussion)
Tiffany Shlain, The Moxie Institute

2:30-3:30 PM                        "Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age"
Douglas Rushkoff, Independent Scholar

3:30-4:30 PM                        "An Ecology of Mind" (Preview Screening and Discussion)
Nora Bateson, Independent Filmmaker

5:30-7:30 PM                                    Dinner Break

AKML Dinner (reservations required)
In the Lowenstein Hall Atrium
on the Plaza Level, off the cafeteria
113 W. 60th Street, Corner of Columbus Avenue

7:30-9:30 PM                                    The 58th Annual Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture

Introductory Remarks
                                                Lance Strate, Executive Director, Institute of General Semantics
                                                Martin Levinson, President, Institute of General Semantics
                                                Allen Flagg, President, New York Society for General Semantics
Jacqueline Rudig, Vice-President, Institute of General Semantics

"Language and New Media:  How Texting, Tweeting, E-mail and Facebook Are Transforming Relationships
                                                Deborah Tannen, Georgetown University

Saturday October 30

Registration Opens & Breakfast 8:30-9:00 AM

9:00 AM-1:00 PM                        People in Quandaries
Moderators:            Jacqueline Rudig, Institute of General Semantics
                        Susan Jasko, California University of Pennsylvania

9:00-10:00 AM              "Uncommon Sense"
Bob Eddy, Institute of General Semantics

10:00-11:00 AM            "Was It Something I Said? General Semantics and the Unacceptable Remark"
Nicholas Johnson, University of Iowa

11:00-12:00 AM              "The Place of the Other"
Gary Gumpert and Susan Drucker, Urban Communication Foundation

12:00-1:00 PM              "How Just is Our System of Justice: Some Challenges and Insights into American Law and Lawyering"
Frank Scardilli, United States Court of Appeals

2:30-4:30 PM                                    Language in Thought and Action
Moderators:             Thom Gencarelli, Manhattan College
                        Edward Tywoniak, St. Mary's College

                                    "Twitter and the New Publicity"
Joseph Faina, University of Texas, Austin

                                    "Does Social Media Help Political Communicators Engage with Young Citizens? An Analysis of How Political Communicators are Using Emergent Communication Technology in their Relationships with Young Citizens"
Kristin N. English, University of Georgia

                                    "Make Mine Medium:  FaceBook as a Medium for Mentoring"
Susan Jasko, California University of Pennsylvania

                                    " New Languages:  Newbie Steps to Fluency in Media Ecology"
Karen Lollar, Metropolitan State College of Denver

                                    "A Non-Aristotelian Re-orientation"
C. A. Hilgartner, Hilgartner & Associates

                                    "Extensional Orientation: The Alpha and Omega of Sane Communication"
Richard Fiordo, University of North Dakota

5:00-7:30 PM                        Philosophy in a New Key
Moderators:              Bill Petakanas, Western Connecticut State University

5:00-6:00 PM                        "'Sell T-Shirts, Not Songs':  The Future of Music in the World of New Media
David Rothenberg, New Jersey Institute of Technology

6:00-7:00 PM                        "Creating a General Semantics Self"
Milton Dawes, Institute of General Semantics

7:00 PM                        General Semantics Jam Session

Sunday October 31

Registration Opens & Breakfast 8:30-9:00 AM

9:00 AM-1:00 PM                        The Tyranny of Words
Moderators:  Richard Fiordo, University of North Dakota
                        Ben Hauck, Institute of General Semantics

9:00-10:00 AM              "Topics in Teaching General Semantics:  A. Why They’ve Never Heard of General Semantics. B. About Metaphor"
Bill Petkanas, Western Connecticut State University

10:00-11:00 AM             "Media vs. Communication: Narrative Medicine in Pediatrics"
Eva Berger, College of Management, Tel Aviv

11:00-12:00 AM             "From Subject to Function:  McLuhan’s Semantic for the Digital Age"
Elena Lamberti, Università Degli Studi Di Bologna

12:00-1:00 PM            New Languages, Relations and Realities:  A Writers' Roundtable
  Moderator:     Meir Ribalow, New River Dramatists
  Participants:   Michelle Anderson
  Leslie Carroll
  Sol Stein
  Chuck Wachtel

2:30-3:45 PM                                    Language, Thought, and Reality
Moderator:  Ben Hauck, Institute of General Semantics

                                    "The Knowledge Most Worth Knowing"
Hillel A. Schiller, Institute of General Semantics

                                                " Nietzsche and Korzybski:  Comparative Reviews 
on Philosophical and Linguistic Issues"
Zhenbin Sun, Fairleigh Dickinson Univeristy

                                    "Language Power: Korzybski's Model of Interdisciplinary Scholarship"
Blake Seidenshaw, Columbia University

                                    "The Observing Self:  How Immersion In Our (Over)mediated Culture Leads To Increased Self-Awareness"
David Zweig, Independent Scholar

4:00-5:15 PM                                    Science and Sanity
Moderator:  Lance Strate, Fordham University

                                    "Getting Schooled: The Sports Blog as Classroom using the Basketball Blog Knickerblogger.Net as a Case Study"
Anastacia Kurylo, Marymount Manhattan College and Michael Kurylo, Knickerblogger.Net

                                    "Fascism as a Semantic Void into the Metanarrative of Rational Modernity"
Alessandro Saluppo, Fordham University

                                    "The Quaker Tradition:  Meaning in Silence"
                                                Michael Plugh, Temple University

                                    “Are We Externalizing Ourselves Out of Existence?: A Speculation On The Future of Humankind”
Eugene Marlow, Baruch College

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Social Media Goes to the Movies

I haven't had the chance to see the Facebook movie just yet, have you?  I know I should, and I'll get to it eventually, but in the meantime, I just had to share this YouTube parody video that a friend on MySpace brought to my attention:

A Twitter movie, why not?  Here's what it says over on the YouTube page, courtesy of indymogul:

If Hollywood can make an overly dramatic film about the early years of Facebook, why can't we make an overly dramatic movie about Twitter? Or at least the trailer to that movie! Check out the exclusive (parody) trailer for "The Twit Network" right here on Rated Awesome!
Seriously, though, there is something distinctive in all of this about social media and the cultural industry they represent emerging out of a college-age population. This phenomenon parallels in an interesting way how the motion picture industry in the United States emerged out of an immigrant, largely Jewish population.  According to Harold Innis, as James W. Carey has explained, monopolies of knowledge (media) lead to marginalized, excluded groups pioneering and embracing alternate modes of communication that can break the monopoly.  That's an economic metaphor, true, but it's pure media ecology.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hot Pstromi

So, over at Congregation Adas Emuno last Friday night we were fortunate to have with us special musical guests Yale Strom and his klezmer band, Hot Pstromi.

Klezmer is the soul music for Ashkenazic Jews, that is, Yiddish-speaking Jews originating from Germany and Eastern Europe (that includes me, in case you were wondering).  Oy!  And in recent years, klezmer has become popular outside of Jewish circles as a distinctive type of ethnic music, and insofar as it crosses various cultural boundaries, a kind of world music.  Anyway, don't ask me, go ask Mr. Wikipedia if you want to know more:  Klezmer entry.

 So, I did up a bunch of blog posts about Yale and his band over on the Adas Emuno blog, and I thought I'd put together the highlights for you in a single post here on Blog Time Passing. 

So, let's take a listen, shall we?  Here's a video courtesy of JLTV's YouTube channel.

That's Yale Strom on violin, Elizabeth Schwartz singing and Lou Fanucchi on accordian performing "Ben Avrameni".  And here's some more Hot Pstromi, performing "Getshinke" with traditional Yiddish lyrics set to music by Mr. Strom:

And here they'e performing Avram Goldfadn's "Rozhinkes Mit Mandln":

And this is "Shpilt Mir Op Dem Naye Sher," a traditional Yiddish piece:

And for one more helping of Hot Pstromi, here's Yale Strom on violin, with friends, playing klezmer music at Festival Zachor in Białystok, Poland:

You might say he played Bialystock to the max--unless he brooks no puns...  And before we leave good old Bialystock, here's an interview with Yale Strom about klezmer music, and bringing the old country back to the old country:

This just gives you a taste of the performance Yale and his band served up for us last Friday night, but it left me saying, klezmer bist du schoen (if the Andrews Sisters reference doesn't do it for you, then, well, oy!).