Monday, July 26, 2010

We All Have Our Vices

File this one under, we all have our vices, and that includes me, but in this instance, I am the vice.  Vice-President, that is.  Of Congregation Adas Emuno.

I was asked if I would serve, and agreed, and so, on June 16, at our annual Congregational meeting, I was elected Vice-President, for a two-year term.  As you may recall, I have been a member of the Board of Trustees of Adas Emuno for several years now.  Our By-Laws are a bit different from what I'm used to, as the Officers are elected for two-year terms, whereas Trustees are elected for 3-year terms, so officers are distinct from Trustees.

Congregation Adas Emuno is a small Reform Jewish Temple in Leonia, New Jersey.  You may have caught my previous post about starting up a congregational blog:  Adas Emuno Now Blogging.  The blog's address is, and you can see the post about my new post (and the rest of the changing of the guard regarding the Officers and Board of Trustees) here: New Leadership and Trustees for Adas Emuno.

The nice thing about this vice thing is that there are no specific duties--that's an old story when it comes to vice-presidencies.  Of course, there's no senate (or sanhedrin) for me to preside over, but I expect that my cup will be overrun before long.  Until then, I will not weep over becoming the veep.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Say Amen to Digital Sampling

This is a video that was first brought to my attention by one of my interactive media students a few years ago, one that I just shared with the Introduction to New Media class that I'm teaching this summer at Fordham University.  We had just been talking about the differences between the concepts of digital and analog, and gotten into the practices of remix and sampling, and this was a perfect illustration.  And while the video was posted on a class blog back in 2008, I realize that I never added it here to Blog Time Passing, so it's well passed the time that I remedy that oversight.

Here's the write-up from the YouTube page where the video is entitled Video explains the world's most important 6-sec drum loop:

This fascinating, brilliant 20-minute video narrates the history of the "Amen Break," a six-second drum sample from the b-side of a chart-topping single from 1969. This sample was used extensively in early hiphop and sample-based music, and became the basis for drum-and-bass and jungle music -- a six-second clip that spawned several entire subcultures. Nate Harrison's 2004 video is a meditation on the ownership of culture, the nature of art and creativity, and the history of a remarkable music clip.

And here's the video itself:

The video mentions Larry Lessig, and now I realize that I never added Lessig's TED Talk, which I have used many times in my new media classes, to this blog (and here I thought for sure I had!).  It's called Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity, and the summary reads

Larry Lessig, the Net’s most celebrated lawyer, cites John Philip Sousa, celestial copyrights and the "ASCAP cartel" in his argument for reviving our creative culture.

 And Lessig's short bio reads

Harvard professor Larry Lessig is one of our foremost authorities on copyright issues, with a vision for reconciling creative freedom with marketplace competition.

There's a link over to his Profile Page where the longer bio reads

No expert has brought as much fresh thinking to the field of contemporary copyright law as has Lawrence Lessig. A Harvard professor and founder of Stanford's Center for Internet and Society, this fiery believer foresaw the response a threatened content industry would have to digital technology -- and he came to the aid of the citizenry.

As corporate interests have sought to rein in the forces of Napster and YouTube, Lessig has fought back with argument -- take his recent appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court, fighting the extension of copyright protection from 50 to 70 years -- and with solutions: He chairs Creative Commons, a nuanced, free licensing scheme for individual creators.

Lessig possesses a rare combination of lawerly exactitude and impassioned love of the creative impulse. Applying both with equal dedication, he has become a true hero to artists, authors, scientists, coders and opiners everywhere.
And here now, is his outstanding TED Talk video:

And of course including all this here on my blog is fair use, right?  Right? Right...?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mandelbrot! Mandelbrot! Mandelbrot!

In case you missed the reference, I was thinking of the Seinfeld episode entitled "The English Patient" where Jerry has to deal with the highly competitive 80-year-old fitness trainer and weightlifter Izzy Mandelbaum, and his son and father, and in particular the scene where three of them are lying in hospital beds, having had their backs go out on them, and they start chanting, Mandelbaum!  Mandelbaum!  Mandelbaum!  You can see the scene over on YouTube, I'd embed it but it's been disabled, so you just have to click here,  It's an edited compilation of all of the Mandelbaum scenes (the character being played by Lloyd Bridges), and the chant comes in around 3:50 into the video, and again around 6:10 in an excerpt from the episode entitled "The Blood."  It's not much, but somehow that chant stuck in my memory...

And based on his accomplishments alone,  I do believe a group chant of Mandelbrot!  Mandelbrot!  Mandelbrot! would be in order,  but all the more so based on his TED talk, which I recently screened for the first time in my Introduction to New Media class at Fordham University, and what a marvelous presentation it is.  Not only did it illustrate and explain concepts I had just gone over in discussing chaos and complexity (and fractals), but Mandelbrot himself was absolutely charming and endearing!  Here's what it says on the TED site:

At TED2010, mathematics legend Benoit Mandelbrot develops a theme he first discussed at TED in 1984 -- the extreme complexity of roughness, and the way that fractal math can find order within patterns that seem unknowably complicated. 
You can find the full transcript of the talk over on the TED page:  Benoit Mandelbrot: Fractals and the art of roughness.  And there's a short bio that reads

Benoit Mandelbrot is the pioneer of fractals, a broad and powerful tool in the study of many forms of roughness, in nature and in humanity's works -- including even art.
A link to a separate profile page reveals the following:

Studying complex dynamics in the 1970s, Benoit Mandelbrot had a key insight about a particular set of mathematical objects: that these self-similar structures with infinitely repeating complexities were not just curiosities, as they'd been considered since the turn of the century, but were in fact a key to explaining non-smooth objects and complex data sets -- which make up, let's face it, quite a lot of the world. Mandelbrot coined the term "fractal" to describe these objects, and set about sharing his insight with the world.

The Mandelbrot set (expressed as z² + c) was named in Mandelbrot's honor by Adrien Douady and John H. Hubbard. Its boundary can be magnified infinitely and yet remain magnificently complicated, and its elegant shape made it a poster child for the popular understanding of fractals. Led by Mandelbrot's enthusiastic work, fractal math has brought new insight to the study of pretty much everything, from the behavior of stocks to the distribution of stars in the universe.

And there is a link for Professor Mandelbrot's home page at Yale University.

Anyway, here is the man himself:

To sum it all up, Mandelbrot shows us that order can emerge out of chaos, and that enormous complexity can be generated on the basis of a very simple rule or procedure, as it is repeated and reiterated over and over again.  That itself is the simply point behind the complexity of fractal mathematics, and the natural world that it corresponds to.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Language, Maps, and (New) Media

Speaking of general semantics, and new media, my friend Bob Logan, who's one of the speakers at the New Languages, New Relations, New Realities Symposium this October at Fordham University (you didn't miss the announcement in my previous post, Calling All Papers!, now did you?), brought this video to my attention.  It features Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media, and like Douglas Engelbart and Alan Kay, he is a new media maven who acknowledges general semantics as an influence, and sees a connection between computer technology and Korzybski's non-Aristotelian system:

This Ignite series looks quite intriguing (perhaps taking a page from the TED talks?), and appears to be connected to O'Reilly Media, which I first heard about back in the 90s from Steve Talbott, author of The Future Does Not Compute (which is published by O'Reilly).  On the page devoted to this presentation, Tim O'Reilly on Language as a Map, there's some additional information and links that I would like to share with you here (I hope Tim doesn't mind):

O'Reilly Media's Founder and CEO Tim O'Reilly has used language to shape the software industry's thinking several times. In the 1990's he helped create and define the term Open Source (o help de-stigmatize "free software"). In this century he defined the term Web 2.0. By finding and evangelizing a meaningful name, Tim boosted the development and adoption of these world-changing technologies.
Tim had been exposed to the idea of using language as a map in the 1970's through a man named George Simon. As Tim wrote in his 2002 essay Science and Consensus:

At about the same time, I studied with a man named George Simon, who was trying to build what he called "languages for consciousness," believing, like Benjamin Whorf (author of Language, Thought and Reality), that our language limits our ability to perceive, and that until we have languages for certain states of consciousness and perception, we won't be able to use them. He saw his work as an extension of general semantics, a system developed in the 30's by Alfred Korzybski, author of Science and Sanity. Korzybski's famous statement, "the map is not the territory" is more than an observation; it's a tool for living more perceptively. A lot of my friend George's work was in training people to open up the ladder of perception, to recognize the difference between what you are experiencing directly vs. through various levels of abstraction, to let go preconceived notions and let the world come in fresh.

George also argued that as human consciousness evolves, certain things that were once on the frontiers of awareness, and that were experienced with near-mystical force, become commonplaces as they are routinely abstracted into language. In my classics honors thesis at Harvard, I used this premise to assess certain of Plato's dialogues, arguing that the mystical overtones with which Socrates describes concepts like justice and truth were the result of the newness of his ideas. As we "rehearse" these now familiar ideas thousands of years later, we don't get that same rush. Most of us receive them at a level of abstraction, fitting them into our accepted system of facts, rather than taking them in through the entire ABCD perceptual cycle.

Tim expands on these beginnings in his Wired Profile, The Trend Spotter. This talk was filmed at Ignite Sebastopol. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Very impressive, indeed.  I wonder if Mr. O'Reilly might be interested in speaking at our Symposium, and otherwise discussing the relationships between language and new media further?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Calling All Papers!

In case you haven't seen it elsewhere, here's the call for our annual autumnal intellectual extravaganza, sponsored by the Institute of General Semantics, and hosted by Fordham University.  The deadline on the call is August 31st, but I wouldn't mind hearing from you earlier.

Call for Papers

New Languages, New Relations, New Realities

A Symposium 
Sponsored by the 
Institute of General Semantics

Co-Sponsored by the 
Media Ecology Association
New York Society for General Semantics
Institute for Applied Mimetics
Friends of the Institute of Noetic Sciences
Lifwynn Foundation for Social Research
and Fordham University

Featuring the 58th Annual Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture
to be delivered by Deborah Tannen on 
"Language and New Media: How Texting, Tweeting, E-mail and Facebook Are Transforming Relationships"*

October 29-31, 2010
Fordham University
Lincoln Center Campus
New York, New York

Also featuring 
Douglas Rushkoff
Nicholas Johnson
Tiffany Shlain
Paul Levinson
Gary Gumpert
Susan Drucker
David Rothenberg
Michael Schudson
Robert K. Logan
Nora Bateson With a Preview Screening of Her Documentary About
Gregory Bateson
An Ecology of Mind


Send papers, proposals, and inquiries by August 31 to, or contact Lance Strate, IGS Executive Director, c/o Department of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University, Bronx, NY 10458 or 718.817.4864 (voice), 718.817.4868 (fax). For more information and updates, go to

*The Institute of General Semantics is Pleased to Announce
The 58th Annual Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture
to be delivered by

Deborah Tannen

Language and New Media:
How Texting, Tweeting, E-mail and Facebook
Are Transforming Relationships

Much has been written about how the use of new media is transforming the language, such as the concern that the use of acronyms like "lol" is compromising written language and creeping into spoken language as well. These concerns will be addressed, but more significant is the way that use of new media transforms relationships, for example by speeding up the length of time expected between communications; in some contexts encouraging the belligerence that results from anonymity; and providing access to more individuals while possibly limiting the volume and type of communication with each.

The 58th Annual Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture will be held on October 29th at Fordham University's Lincoln Center Campus in New York City, in conjunction with the New Languages, New Relations, New Realities Symposium to be held on October 29-31.

Deborah Tannen is University Professor and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University and author of many books and articles about how the language of everyday conversation affects relationships. She is best known as the author of You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, which was on the New York Times Best Seller list for nearly four years, including eight months as No. 1, and has been translated into 30 languages. Her newest book You Were Always Mom's Favorite!: Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives, which was released in September, became a New York Times best seller and received a Books for a Better Life Award. You Were Always Mom's Favorite! was featured on 20/20 and NPR's Morning Edition. You're Wearing THAT?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation, published in 2006, spent ten weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. Among her other books, Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work was a New York Times Business best seller; The Argument Culture received the Common Ground Book Award; and I Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs, and Kids When You're All Adults received a Books for a Better Life Award. In addition to her writing for general audiences, Tannen is author or editor of 14 books (21, including her general audience books) and over one hundred articles for scholarly audiences. She has also published poems, short stories, and personal essays. Her first play, "An Act of Devotion," is included in The Best American Short Plays 1993-1994. It was produced, together with her play "Sisters," by Horizons Theatre in Arlington, Virginia.

A frequent guest on television and radio news and information shows, Deborah Tannen has appeared on The Colbert Report, 20/20, Good Morning America, the Today Show, the Rachael Ray Talk Show, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Charlie Rose, 48 Hours, CBS News, ABC News Tonight, Oprah, CNN, Larry King, Hardball, Nightline, and many NPR shows including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, The Diane Rehm Show, and Fresh Air. She has been featured in and written for most major newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today, People, the Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review. Deborah Tannen is one of only five in Georgetown University's College of Arts and Sciences who hold the distinguished rank of University Professor. She has been McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California, following a term in residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. The recipient of five honorary doctorates, she is a member of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation Board of Directors.

So there you have it, a can't miss event, and a can't miss opportunity to be a part of it!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tatooin' Indiana

With triple digit temperatures in the New York City Metropolitan Area, brains are frying in the pan just like eggs on the sidewalk, so all I can muster up is a little bit of an amusement.  We all know that George Lucas and Steve Spielberg are collaborators and otherwise sympatico filmmakers, so this mash up of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark seems altogether appropriate, not to mention well-executed:

It is, of course, quite gratifying to know that Jawas are no friends of the Nazis, and in fact are quite willing to take them on.  As a nomadic people native to the desert planet of Tatooine, they clearly have more in common with the ancient Israelites of the Middle East than they do with the coldhearted denizens of Germania.  I also recall how these creatures were also the roadies for Neil Young's Rust Never Sleeps tour (really, I'm not kidding).  They sure do get around, and they sure do have a jones for killing the bad guys!  And these days, it sure does feel like we're out in the desert sun, maybe for a little bit too long...

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Kagan and Graham Show

Elena Kagan's Senate Confirmation Hearings for her nomination as a Supreme Court Justice have been especially noteworthy for her good humor, as well as her exceptional intelligence.  And what could be more priceless than her response to Senator Lindsay Graham's question about where she was on Christmas Day?

I do like Graham's remark that family is what Hannukah and Christmas are all about! That's a resolution that people of all different faiths and political persuasions can confirm!  

And it goes without saying that July is the perfect time to wish you all a Happy Holiday Season!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Making Healthy Media Choices

So, I was interviewed by Mary Rothschild of Healthy Media Choices for the program she airs on WVEW, Brattleboro Community Radio in Vermont.  The interview was taped at Fordham University, in the studios of our own station, WFUV (thank you very much), and was broadcast on June 8th.  I was very happy with the way that it turned out, especially since I wasn't at my best, health-wise, and was in a little bit of pain in fact, when we were taping (see my previous posts, A Minor Medical Mystery and Causation or Coincidence?).

So, anyway, the interview has been archived as a podcast by Mary Rothschild on two different sites, Healthy Media Choices which is devoted to media literacy and education and helping parents to cope with the overwhelming media environment that they and their children are immersed in, and Witness for Childhood, which a faith-based website that offers Progressive Perspectives on Media, Technology, and the Development of Young Children.  So go ahead, click on either of the links above, or both, and give us a listen, if you haven't already.

The interview is pretty wide-ranging, but centers on media literacy, with significant discussion about general semantics throughout.  And towards the end, the conversation turns to a discussion of religion and spirituality, based in part on my role as a Trustee of Congregation Adas Emuno, with emphasis on a progressive approach to those topics.

I really do think that the interview turned out well, and worthwhile--it was certainly a healthy choice to do it, even if my health wasn't 100%.  So, I hope you enjoy this bit of media, if you choose to check it out.