Fragmented Blogging

This isn’t another one of those “Sorry for Not Blogging” posts.

I’m working out the editorial calendar for the next phase of this blog, where I intend to do a bit more long-form writing in support of my current research project. Hence, I’ve been a little less active until I work out my writing calendar.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t follow my ramblings elsewhere on the Interwubs. Here’s where else you can find me right now:

http://twitter.com/ricetopher – my Twitter feed: brainleaks at 140 characters per post. Posting thoughts and interesting links on a daily basis. I’m also beginning to migrate over to http://identi.ca/ricetopher (Identi.ca – an Open Source, Creative Commons alternative to Twitter) for this purpose, as Twitter is proving that it probably won’t be able to get over the hump and achieve reliability.

http://ricetopher.tumblr.com – my research/scrapbook tumblelog. I’m posting quotes, videos, pics, short comments there on a regular basis now because it’s so damn easy. A more multimedia look into my brain.

http://del.icio.us/ricetopher – my online bookmarks. I keep all my bookmarks online now, so if you want to catch what I’m saving for later reference, look over there. Also, my Google Reader Shared Items page is at https://www.google.com/reader/shared/05641067023515274229, if you want to see the items I want to share quickly out of my feed reader. Note: the Del.icio.us and Reader pages do not always overlap in terms of items.

I’m also logging into Second Life a bit more lately, as I begin to prep for two SL-heavy courses in the Spring 2009 semester. You can find me in-world as Ricetopher Freenote.

So there, that ought to be the bulk of it, for now. If you have any other suggestions for other services I should be publishing to, let me know.

Long-form blogging and other announcements will resume here shortly. Thanks for stopping by!

Helpful Advice for Recent College Graduates

One of the really difficult things about being a college teacher is that, after being back for a few years now and getting to know many students on a personal level, I’ve begun to have several students come to me and say “Dr. Rice, I’m graduating in a few weeks. What do I do now?” Many of them had their hearts set on law school, but their LSATs didn’t quite pan out the way they would’ve liked. Many just don’t have the financial wherewithal to go to grad school. Others just went to college because that was “what you’re supposed to do” and now that they’ve reached the finish line, they have no idea why they were ever in college, and have no clue what the hell to do next. It’s like a fairy tale, where you reach the Happily Ever After but don’t get to see how Cinderella and the Prince deal with finances, children and infidelity. Sure, you’ve accomplished this great thing – getting a degree – but how do you answer the “so what?” or “what do I do now?” question?

I’ll be writing a longer post on this soon (once the semester ends), but I wanted to share with you a few sources that I think might help those of you in this position make sense of things.

First, click through Garr Reynolds‘ slideshow outlining Dan Pink‘s recent Johnny Bunko book:

[slideshare id=372443&doc=careeradvice-1209142144854362-8&w=425]

Then go out and pick up Johnny Bunko and absorb it. You will thank yourself later. You may also want to add the Johnny Bunko website into your feedreader (I did). This book is full of fantastic principles in designing a career for yourself, with a strong argument for rejecting the conventional wisdom on careers and career planning.

Second, I recommend you take a look at Steve Jobs 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford University. Reynolds and Pink reference this, but you really need to see it in its entirety – and ABSORB IT – to understand the wisdom in Jobs’ words. This address moves me the way few other speeches have.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc]

Graduation is a difficult, traumatic time. Meditate on these two sources, and think about their implications for your future. I’ll have my own thoughts about graduation up soon in a separate post.

The Realities of Being a Writer in the Age of New Media

As always, Tony Pierce is the man. Here’s what he had to say to a group of young aspiring Journalists the other day (straight from the legendary BusBlog):

i said you might come into the office and they look at you and say, can you make it to LAX to interview the CEO of Virgin and review the Donnas playing right there in the terminal and do it with a flute of bubbly in your hand, and can you speed back to the office and write about something else, and help fix this person’s HTML and help fix Typepad, and help resize photos in a web based photo application thats not Photoshop and can you handle it all before it gets dark?

[…]

i said write when you come home from the club drunk. i said write when youre sad cuz your dude just broke yr heart. i said write when youre mad write when your glad write when you believe you dont have shit to say. all of thats practice. all of that is so that you can knock out one piece after another when youre getting paid to do it. but you hafta do it when youre young. cuz if you cant do it when youre young you will make up some lameass bullshit when youre not young and then you’ll realize you probably werent a writer in the first place.

I fucking love Tony. He lays out in better language than I could why I try so hard to get my students to blog, to use Ning and Wikis, to do journals about their Second Life experiences. You need to learn to use the tools, because as Tony points out, being a writer is more than just sitting down at the typewriter, like some romantic vision of Hemingway. Today, to bring it, you’ve got to have all sorts of mad web skills. Tony knows. He’s doing one hell of a job revitalizing the LA Times (and he has my eternal thanks for bringing me the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Blog). And this is why I try to get my students to write more, even when its on “frivolous” projects like Ning or short blogging assignments. Work on writing, honestly, the small stuff now. Learn the tools. Then with hard work, persistence and some luck, you can make a go of it. Just like my man Tony.

Now get out there and blog you bums!

I need more fiction in my life

How did it come to This? I have become Old Before My Time. I read almost nothing but nonfiction these days – blogs, white papers, books, you name it. The only nonfiction in my most recent Amazon order was the newest collection of Grant Morisson’s Doom Patrol. It’s been that way with my reading for awhile, but now I’ve noticed that this has crept over into my iPod behavior as well. When I’m listening to the iPod in the car or at the gym, I’ve been listening to podcasts like the Manoa Future Studies podcast series or, recently, the podcasts from TED and SXSW.

HELP!

It didn’t used to be this way. I used to read a LOT of fiction as a young man, especially science fiction. And, as a musician, I listened to a LOT of music: classical, jazz, pop, rock, hip-hop, bluegrass, whatever. It was all good. But now… Now I’m one of those sad old white guys reading and listening for “productivity” and “skills/knowledge enhancement.”

I really need to develop a plan and a budget (money AND time) for indulging in music and literature again. Any suggestions for how to go about this in a disciplined way? How about suggestions for the last good fiction you read (novel or short story) or last good album you listened to?

kthxbye

PS, Also? I need to play more video games. I’m waiting for Robert Allen to come out with a book that can show me not only how to Get Things Done, but how to also Add Three Fucking Hours To My Day.

Transactional vs. Transformational Politics

Digby has a great article on the important difference between transactional and transformational politics over at Campaign for America’s Future’s “Blog for Our Future.” Here’s the money quote from the end of the article:

Cramped transactional politics should not be used as a definition of progressivism. While they are a necessary part of the system, they cannot fuel a transformation of our politics. Our job as activists is to pressure and prod our elected representatives to advance the progressive project and reward them when they do it. Winning office should be the beginning, not the end. Transformation is not just a goal, it’s a process.

So many times liberal and progressives, as well as anarchists, get caught up in the drive for immediate results. “We have to win this race – who’s the most electable person we have?” or “We’ve got to <insert outrageous anarchist act of resistance here> because if we don’t destroy the system now it will keep getting stronger! Fight the Power!”

Well, one reason for the success of the conservative movement over the last 30 years or so has been the willingness to forgo immediate gratification and electoral success in the interest of building a movement. It was the putting into motion of the old slogan “free your mind and your ass will follow.” Where the conservatives started to experience EPIC FAIL is when they started worrying about ways to win elections and use mechanical/procedural strategies and stopped worrying about building and nurturing a movement. Hence the fragmentation of the Republican party during this election cycle. Democrats who were willing to back the Clintons early were also vicitms of this same idea – they never quite understood the need to build a new national movement. This movement building instinct and effort has been what has made Obama’s campaign so successful, I think. This is why I often take issue with anarchists who want the big flashy spectacle now – propaganda of the deed as their only method – rather than focusing on the more difficult, but ultimately more effective, method of transvaluation. System change is slow at first but grows exponentially as it successfully progressive.

This is the difference between transactional and transformational politics.

Head over and read Digby’s article. It’s better than watching Wolf Blitzer on a Sunday afternoon!

Thinking the Future: Kardashev Scales and the possibility of sub-scales

Open Left put up this video today by Michio Kaku on the Kardashev Scale:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7FVjATcqvc]

Currently, the Earth as a whole  is ranked at roughly a 0.7 on the Kardashev scale. We are not even a Type I civilization yet.

I was very intrigued by Kaku’s discussion of the evolution of structures such as the European Union as stages of development towards a Type I civilization. Clearly the development of a global energy economy, and the concurrent political structural development, are key to driving this change. But they are not the end points. Which leads to the need to begin discussing scenarios for how we may achieve Type I civilization. To do this, we need to understand which aspects of our current globalizations are leading us closer to Type I and which are driving us further away. In order to do this, I believe, we need to begin understanding subtypes on the path to Type I civilization. If we are indeed at a 0.7 level, we need to have a firmer classification system to understand why this is the case, and not just rely upon measures of energy consumption. As Kaku is pointing out, there are a whole set of political and ethical structures which surround this subtype. Wedges, in other words. How do we then begin to think in terms of moving smaller wedges to achieve the larger goal of Type I civilization?

I don’t have the answer here. I just wanted to throw out the idea for further thought. As someone who teaches Kentucky and Appalachian Politics as well as Political Theory, it interests me to think about how we might classify global regions on a Kardashev-type scale. What variables, other than energy, might go into this? How do we measure progress, so as to more efficiently guide our efforts?

(I wish more Political Scientists would begin to incorporate some selements of Futures thinking, or Futurism, into their work.)

But I think the most important part comes at the very end of Kaku’s talk. We always blather on about how “the children are our future,” but rarely do we talk about WHY this is the case, other than some vague notion of DNA transmission and continuation of the species. In other words, the biological meatware answer, not the civilizational software answer.¬† Kaku suggests that the children are our future (and our grandchildren) because we are at a unique historical vantage point for either reaching for Type I Civilization or falling back into something much more primitive. It will be OUR generation, as well as the following two, which figure out how to use the available fossil fuel/carbon energy economy to get us to Type I without killing us through rapid global climate change. Or not.

As others have indicated, we get one shot at Type I. We either wisely use the available carbon resources to build a sustainable future and then rapidly wean ourselves off of them, or we continue to use carbon until it runs out or we kill off our existing sub-Type I Civilization¬† because we just couldn’t make the leap. It will take nature millions of years to sequester all that additional carbon again (which is what the Age of Dinosaurs and beyond was all about, really) to stabilize the atmosphere and concentrate the carbon into usable energy. On that timescale, you see, humanity really doesn’t have any alternative. We either use what we’ve got to get to Type I, or its an EPIC FAIL.

So to get there, we need to be thinking about Wedges now. Which Wedges are the best to use, the most effective and efficient, will largely depend on developing scenarios for achieving Type I. This means understanding sub-Type I scales more thoroughly, and using them to build a Type I blueprint.

Thoughts?

Eight Things You Didn’t Know About Me

Got tagged with one of those infamous blogger memes again, so I thought I’d actually, y’know, give it a go this time.

  1. I once worked as a comic book store clerk, and it was probably the best job I ever had, though it paid the least. As my best friend at the time described the experience, “Isn’t that like hiring an alcoholic to run your liquor store?” Short answer: Yep.
  2. I was once the best high school trombone player in the state of Kentucky and came to UK as an undergraduate music major on a trombone scholarship. I was especially good at jazz, and preferred orchestra over marching and concert bands.
  3. Continuing with this theme, as an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky I had four majors in four years (Music, Microbiology, History and finally, Political Science). I did not graduate with a minor (and no one has ever really cared).
  4. I once worked for a few years as a butcher. Far from driving me away from meat consumption, it actually made me MORE of a carnivore, because I knew more about the best cuts and how to prepare them. It’s why I have a hard time getting on board the Become a Vegetarian to Stop Global Warming train, even though I know it’s The Right Thing To Do.
  5. I am a serious cat person. I got my first cat at three years of age, and all the cats I’ve had since come from the same genetic line as the third cat I ever owned. Some of them have been amazingly inbred, resulting in blind cats, albino cats, cats with abnormally large heads, and one cat lacking joints in its front legs and with a hip shaped such that it could not scratch its ears with its hind legs. I loved that cat. The most cats I ever owned at one time? 14.
  6. From the age of 11 to the age of 18 I read the Hobbit in its entirety once a year. I have resumed the tradition with my son this year. It’s an especially good book to read when traveling.
  7. My father was my mother-in-law’s first husband [no, my wife and I are not related by blood]. My wife and I did not know this until after we had dated for a few months.
  8. I learned to read by the age of four because my father read comic books with me on the couch every night. Never underestimate the power of imagination and fantasy to fuel the goals of both children and adults. Not only did I learn to read very, very well at an early age, it led to an enduring affinity for comic books and science fiction that informs a lot of what I do today as an educator, writer and father.

So there you are, eight things you didn’t know about me (and probably wish you didn’t know even now). You may resume your normal programming…

Working Blue: or, why is the f-bomb so controversial?

I highly enjoyed this article on “F***: Why We Swear.” As some of you know, when I’m not in front of a classroom, I am one of the foremost artists in America working in the medium of profanity. I use the f-bomb in polite conversation the way some of you are addicted to “um” or “like” as a vocal pause. This article has a great exploration of the neurological and cultural reasons why we swear and why many people are still repelled by certain verbal/linguistic taboos.

My favorite quote from the piece?

For language lovers, the joys of swearing are not confined to the works of famous writers. We should pause to applaud the poetic genius who gave us the soldiers’ term for chipped beef on toast, shit on a shingle, and the male-to-male advisory for discretion in sexual matters, Keep your pecker in your pocket. Hats off, too, to the wordsmiths who thought up the indispensable pissing contest, crock of shit, pussy-whipped, and horse’s ass. Among those in the historical record, Lyndon Johnson had a certain way with words when it came to summing up the people he distrusted, including a Kennedy aide (“He wouldn’t know how to pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were printed on the heel”), Gerald Ford (“He can’t fart and chew gum at the same time”), and J. Edgar Hoover (“I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in”).

When used judiciously, swearing can be hilarious, poignant, and uncannily descriptive. More than any other form of language, it recruits our expressive faculties to the fullest: the combinatorial power of syntax; the evocativeness of metaphor; the pleasure of alliteration, meter, and rhyme; and the emotional charge of our attitudes, both thinkable and unthinkable. It engages the full expanse of the brain: left and right, high and low, ancient and modern. Shakespeare, no stranger to earthy language himself, had Caliban speak for the entire human race when he said, “You taught me language, and my profit on’t is, I know how to curse.”

As I struggle with how to structure my talk coming up on November 8th, I primarily struggle with how much to make my language conform with proper classroom decorum, and how much to talk in my normal, out-of-the-classroom voice. Do I sound like “Dr. Rice” or more like something quite similar to Lewis Black? After all, if I was really giving my “last lecture”, I sure as hell wouldn’t worry about offending anyone. On the other hand, I’d still like to have my job on Friday…

Thoughts? Are YOU offended by salty language? And if so, why? Email or leave a comment, kplzthxbye.