brainI have never taken an IQ test, though I would guess I am neither super intelligent nor super stupid…I am firmly locked somewhere in between.  My equation would go something like: Average/slightly above average intelligence + loves to overanalyze + questions everything/curiousity – lazy + a half-century of life experience = me, now.

I use the word intelligence in the loosest way possible. I prefer Howard Gardner’s approach to intelligence that challenges the traditional understanding of the term.  Harvard University’s Gardner suggests Multiple_intelligences_diagrammedmultiple different types of intelligence, including mathematical, musical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, interpersonal, linguistic, intrapersonal, existentialist and, depending on what year you read him, naturalist.

He does seem to find a new type of intelligence every so often.

I believe most of us are exceedingly intelligent in at least one of these areas.

Yet, in it all, I contend that a primary key to knowledge-slash-intelligence is experience. If you are, say, 45 and have not gained some level of intelligence, you are just not paying attention.

Certainly genetics and environment factors into our intelligence make up, though perhaps an unconsidered factor in our level of intelligence is age. I am just old. I have seen, heard and read a LOT of stuff.  And as you age you come to better understand your path as you hone your perceptual filters, I suppose it becomes easier to filter out the bullshit.

At a certain amount of life experience, when the focus becomes much more clear as to your station in life, where you have been and where you need to go, I believe most people hit the TOFTS stage, or what I call the Too-Old-For-This-Shit stage which assists with the bullshit filtering.  I was TOFTSdelighted to recently attend a Dana Carvey performance at The Icehouse in Pasadena and he referred to this as coming down with a case of the “fuck its” (FI) –perhaps better stated. You know, those moments in life when you throw your usual cautionary self to the wind and pronounce, fuck it.

Reaching the TOFTS/FI assists in padding our intelligence because we begin to know what we really want and need, while realizing how best to go about getting it. And we realize what we DON’T need or want.

Sure with age comes a certain amount of knowledge; though with it also comes a certain amount of impatience. When you realize you are closer to receiving your death certificate than your driver’s license, patience seems to wear thin.  Hence the TOFTS/FI.

How do you know when you have reached the TOFTS/FI stage?

  • You usually keep your mouth shut at the Fuddruckers when your burger is too pink. No more, FI. TOFTS.
  • The moment when you realize, “why the hell am I still eating at Fuddruckers?” TOFTS. FI.  Ruth Chris Steakhouse baby.
  • You have a choice between staying at the Hyatt when you know the Motel 6 down the street would be the financially wiser choice. You choose the Hyatt. TOFTS. FI. Bed bugs suck.
  • You have always enjoyed the fine delightful bargain taste of “Two Buck Chuck “ and now find your eyes wandering to the French vintage wines and try it out. TOFTS . FI.
  • You are sitting at a red light turn arrow with no cars within miles and you are late for an appointment. TOFTS. FI
  • You decide to abandon the “friend” that continually gets on your nerves. FI. TOFTS. Nice is overrated.
  • Costco vs. Whole Foods. What do you think? FI. TOFTS.
  • You typically are reluctant to speak your mind and say what you really believe. FI. TOFTS. So sue me.
  • You are concerned what people might think of you. TOFTS. You realize no one is thinking about you in the first place.  I’ll start a blog, FI.

Do not mistake a brazen personality type with TOFTS/FI. TOFTS is recognizable by a distinct change in perspective and the situations where it is called upon. Sure you may be a young twenty-something who likes to challenge the red turn arrow, though without the fine discerning palette of age, that act is YAS (Young And Stupid); the TOFTS individual has the wisdom to perform the maneuver with the wisdom of the ages and with clear philosophical purpose.

TOFTS is brought about by a certain weariness from living a certain way too long. A realization of, “Why am I still doing this? Why? Why? Why?” If you are asking this question, you know it is now time to FI.

Once you have reached TOFTS, you are then freed up to focus on the things that really matter while discarding that which does not.

Or not. FI.





Porn in the USA

12505535-triple-x-neon-sign-illuminated-over-dark-backgroundPorn. It feels weird even writing the word; something not to discuss in polite company. But this is a blog. And most of you are not polite. So lezzz go.

I realize that statistics are essentially random numbers waiting for an argument, and porn numbers are extremely difficult to ascertain given the still very much underground nature of it, yet it is safe to conclude that there are very few things in life that we spend SO much money on (billions and billions annually), that millions engage in and, yet, ironically, never really discuss in a serious and open minded manner.

To summarize, there is arguably nothing we engage in MORE that we about talk about LESS.

We can actually learn about human nature from our cultural experience with porn -if we do not carry with us an underlying agenda either propagating its ills or singing its blessings. There are so many questions, which include:

  • Why do so many enjoy it?
  • Why is there still shame associated with it?EmberEB943
  • Why do so many try to hide it?
  • Why do we not discuss it?
  • If we are to believe the numbers, why are so many people against it in public though engage in it in private?
  • Why are people such hypocrites when it comes to porn?
  • What social influences cause us to remain largely puritanical in our public persona about porn?
  • Why is it such an emotional issue for many?
  • Does it really damage the person or society?

In the late 60’s when the porn business was in the early stages of threatening to enter more of the mainstream entertainment arena, many politicians were displeased. This motivated President Lyndon Johnson to set up “The President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography” in hopes of finding that the viewing of obscene materials conclusively determines to cause harm both to the individual and society. What did they find? In a nutshell? Nothing. No evidence to suggest it is harmful to anyone or anything.

Of course President Nixon and congress then did what most of us do when we are faced with apparently reliable data that flies in the face of what we would prefer to believe (see cognitive nixondissonance) they simply reject it; which they did in a landslide vote of the senate, 60-5.

Things that make you go hmmmmm.

Then, in 1986, the tables were turned. A commission set up by conservative Ronald Reagan to perform an essentially similar study, perhaps then fueled by the rising VCR porn industry, called The Meese Report, found pornography to indeed have harmful effects on the individual and society, particularly as it relates to its relationship with organized crime.  Of course, these conclusions were widely criticized for their biases as well (I must say that I do find it suspect that several on the commission were clergy; perhaps not the best source for an unbiased perspective). For an interesting read comparing the two reports, check this out.

Who was right and who was wrong? In the face of conflicting information most of us simply fall back on our personal preferences. If our ethical system does not allow for pornography, for any variety of reasons, most will go with the latter Meese report. If one enjoys porn, one will probably say the President’s Commission in 1968 was spot on.

Most of us seek out information to justify our preferences rather than seek out information to assist CogDigin determining our preferences. It’s called dogmatism.

Whether for or against, it is a big business, millions view it, and it does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, in 2009 the UK DailyMail reported that a Canadian University had to cancel a study on the effects of porn because they could not find a single man in their quest to create a control group of men who had not viewed porn. I have heard of several such canceled studies since.

I am no statistician though looking at it from the macro, consider:  We have seen an exponential increase in the porn industry over the last 20 years, primarily via the internet, yet we have seen a dramatic drop in violent crime. Of course I am not making a direct cause and effect argument, as there are far too many variables to draw a direct correlation. BUT, if porn, which is so pervasive and at epidemic proportions in our culture, were so devastating and degenerating as some suggest, would not violent crime go up…at least a little?  Is it possible to study if porn may actually assist in bringing crime rates down? Pretty hard to murder or steal with only one hand available.

Since there will likely always be rapists on the street, I would far prefer them to be in their mellowed refractory periods; a much more likely condition in the era of porn proliferation.

I am not advocating porn. And God knows I am not saying I enjoy it. God forbid. That might make me like most men, yeccchh. I am advocating taking the ethical and emotional punch out of the word and objectively asking the questions.

When anything monumental enters a culture it contains both a blessing and a curse. Let’s acknowledge both….and get the conversation started. Porn. I said it.

The California Community Collage (get it? collage? it took me all night!) System

(Warning: This blog pertains to the nature of the community college and is directed toward students and colleagues. May I suggest some other bullshit to read if not interested?)

Recently a student emailed me with the following request (some details have been changed to protect identity):

Hello Professor Urbanovich, My name is “Jane Doe” and am enrolled at Crafton Mountain Community craftonCollege. Currently, I am taking English 101; I have been cleared by the admissions office to speak with you about adding Speech 125 to my course schedule. When I tried to register for your class, I found it was closed. Will you consider adding me to your Speech 125 Critical Thinking Through Argumentation and Debate?  As you consider my request, please note that I have been involved in a national speech and debate league. I have competed throughout the western states for the past three years, qualifying for nationals two of those three years in both speech and debate. Furthermore, I have been accepted to the University of Southern California and plan to compete on their forensics team. I believe your class will help prepare me for that level of competition. If you care to learn more about my record, please visit and enter “Jane Doe” in the upper left search field.  I look forward to a favorable response. In any case, thank you for your time and your consideration of my request.

A wonderful, thoughtful, respectful request to be sure (you should see some I get….yikes!) yet it has me thinking.failure-success

Why is the basic assumption of this student, along with many other students (AND many faculty members), that we community college professors are more inclined, or at the very least, SHOULD be more inclined to enroll a student in our courses if the student demonstrates that they are a top performing and excellent student? That is why we have the four year University.

Isn’t that kind of like begging for admittance to the hospital as you adamantly argue how healthy you are?

This email has me in tension over the nature and role of the community college professor. Do we cater to the educationally healthy or help cure the educationally sick? Both? I like to think it’s the latter.

My oldest daughter has frequently encouraged me to teach at the four-year university level. “You would be so good!” she would say. At times I have felt she is right; it would be awesome to academically wrestle with bright and prepared students and then I would ponder back to my days as a lost, floundering 18 year old at Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys (The University of Van Nuys at Fulton Street, we jokingly called it) -as unprepared for college as one unprepared for college could possibly get. No one in my family history ever graduated college. I was lost. No direction from anyone.LAVC

Then came the instructors. Instructors that showed me respect. Encouraged me. I will never forget my Public Speaking professor, Dr. Edler, a then new USC grad. He was so nice and kind not to mention smart as hell and he made the classroom fun. The first day he sat in class like a student (no one knew who he was) and a few minutes later jumped out of his chair and said, “Well someone has to teach this class, it may as well be me!” He offered direction and gave encouragement. He said that I was good…imagine that! Outside of my high school speech teacher (now a colleague at Glendale Community College…love you Ira!) I had not heard that one.

Then my Critical Thinking professor, Jim Marteney, who was always there for assistance and treated a young man who had no business in school with respect and dignity. He helped build a student. He constantly challenged my work ethic as he made me laugh, and more importantly, taught me how to critically think.  I would sit in his course and be mezmorized by theories I had never heard before -it was clicking; the two-hour class seemed like all of five minutes.

Sure, I had my fair share of loser profs as well. The (usually) tenured profs who did not give a shit…yet they were few and far between. The instructors I encountered at Los Angeles Valley CommunityCollege were as good, and many better, as any I have ever had while earning two Master’s degrees from both public and private Universities.

I recall sitting in a Small Group communication class and looking around at the students. Many students just sat there because they did not want to work at the gas station down the street or simply had nowhere else to go. Some motivated, some not. Yet no one HAD to be there. Anyone was free to get up and leave anytime. I freaking loved it and in the back of my mind I knew that this is where I eventually wanted to end up, the educational hospital of the community college.

I now realize when I teach I am not just teaching, I am giving back. And when the lost and unprepared 18 year-old bro with the crooked cap with the round size sticker still on the bill wearing an inappropriate-for-public t-shirt comes in and sits down, I tell myself, “Patience Jimmy, there I am. That was me.”

I then crack a joke or three and earnestly hope, deep within my heart, it all eventually clicks.

I frequently have to listen to my colleagues complain about “today’s student” -sure technology has produced many new issues, though I do not think today’s student has gotten more disrespectful or unmotivated; I believe most professors suffer from long term memory loss and forgetting their own life as a student.

They are not changing as much as some are just getting older and crustier.

Don’t get me wrong, I love having the overachieving “top shelf” students in class, if nothing else other than to serve as role models for the unprepared. Though I know my work: it is to educate and inspire all, which includes healing the academically wounded. It is certainly a collage.


One Nation Under Sex Or Happy MLK Day!!

One-Nation-Under-Sex-How-the-Private-Lives-of-Presidents-First-Ladies-and-Their-Lovers-Changed-the-Course-of-American-HistoryBy far and away, one of the most interesting and insightful books I have read in the past couple of years has been “One Nation Under Sex” by Dr. David Eisenbach.  The author most associated with this work is Hustler porn man Larry Flynt, yet he has as much to do with writing this book as Garfunkel had with the success of Simon and Garfunkel…or that other Wham! guy with George Michael.wham

I am saddened that Flynt gets most of the credit for the writing of this book because Columbia University lecturer and historian Dr. Eisenbach is primarily responsible for this wonderful historic account of how sex has played an overwhelmingly large role in our nation’s history -from changing public policy to winning or losing wars.  The book is academic in every sense with all claims sufficiently backed with reliable historical accounts. It is neither lurid nor appealing to prurient interests; it is flat out eye opening and educational.

If I were an American History professor, this most certainly would be either required or suggested reading.

To summarize this work in as few words possible, sexuality has played as much a part in American politics as any other underlying force; to be unaware and uneducated on this, as many prefer to pretend the great majority of our nation’s leaders were NOT horny bastards, is to be left ignorant and gullible. It is a magnificent study in basic human nature and its interplay with public policy.

And by horny bastards, I mean normal men. And I’m not talking about the members of the Philanderer’s Hall of Fame, appropriately named, Kennedy and Clinton’s Club. No. Names you would clinton-kennedyhave never associated with such behavior.

Oh, but the ladies do not get a free pass on this either as the book reveals plenty of female forays.

The one chapter that was obviously authored by Flynt is actually an excellent one as he reveals the grand hypocrisy of the modern day politician. I do not respect Flynt for much, however in this sense, he is a hero. Several times he has offered a one million dollar reward for information leading to the “scandalous” sexual lives of elected leaders. The first time he did this in 1997 it lead to the resignation of incoming Speaker of the House Bob Livingston.

Flynt has no problem with congress having sexual dalliances; he has trouble with those politicians who publicly rail for purity while privately getting a lap dance from Puritee down at Little Darlings;  the politician who votes for no gays in the military as he or she privately carries on gay love affairs.

I bring this up on Martin Luther King day. Why?  MLK was quite renowned for his “activism” in the bedroom, at least if we were to believe J. Edgar Hoover’s reports. The man who carried the weight of the Civil Rights movement on his own shoulders often carried the weight of several mistresses on his shoulders, and probably his back, perhaps legs, and maybe even occasionally his arms as well.

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-9365086-2-402I mean MLK absolutely no disrespect; conversely, there are few that admire the man more than I do.

MLK had one problem, he was human.  I do not support lying or cheating or any other “flaw” (is it a flaw if we all have it?) we humans have in our make-up, however, I support people who are real people. Unafraid.

I have found that for every valuable trait we possess there exists a shadow to that trait, an often troubling flipside.  The attractive strong and silent type is also the uncommunicative prick.  The overly romantic man is eventually the wimp who needs to get his act together.  The witty and funny female is concurrently the woman who cannot keep her mouth shut. Thus a passionate man is a passionate man, whether in front of the Lincoln memorial or in a downtown no-tell motel. Passion knows no bounds.

I am a quote guy and the following one MLK delivered has been etched in my mind for years:

“I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live. Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are  just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.”

WOW. And would anyone want to rob someone of what makes them great?

Today I honor the man. The MAN. Not the larger than life mythical figure we have created that cannot possibly live up to our high moral expectations. I honor the “flawed” individual whose passion knew no bounds.

I honor that passion. I admire that passion. That passion was a wake up call for an entire country. Even if we are one nation under sex, that underlying driving passion can take us where we need to go. Happy MLK day everyone.





Makin Love in Da Club…..

My daughter is the “clubbing” age.   I am not. As a person who loves to dance though rarely has the opportunity, I remarked to her that it must be so fun and that she gets the chance to dance her booty off at least once a week. What I heard next was shocking:

“Why don’t you come with us dad?”

So many thoughts went through my head at that moment, though, primarily the fact that I turn 50 this year.

50 year-old dudes don’t club.  Or do they?

I could not believe that my daughter would actually allow her FATHER to go with her to da club…..Sup bitchuzzz??

“Please come with us dad, that would be so fun! I am so excited if you come! Don’t get my hopes up if you don’t really want to.”

Wow, that made me feel really good. Really, really  good. She REALLY wanted me to go.

The other day in class I asked my students to answer the question, “what floats your boat?”  Truth be told ANY new experience floats my boat. I absolutely love trying things I have never done before, from parasailing in Hawaii to clubbing in Hollywood. If I’ve never done it, I’m generally down.

She said there was a club she had never been to before called Das Bunker. Apparently it was an “industrial goth underground” (huh?) club in downtown Los Angeles.

Ok. Cool. Let’s do this.

We arrived at 10:45pm, well past my bedtime. But, hey, you only live once. And nothing a Red Bull and half can’t cure.

As we arrived, it was my daughter and her friend who were the ones more or less freaked out. Turns out the underground was on the second floor. It was goth, thus many looked like the walking dead and some were wearing gas masks, which made sense as one never really knows when some accidental tear gas might go off. And who will be laughing THEN?

The music was, hmmm, uh…. I think the official name for the genre is hypno-techno-pulsating-futuristic-loud-noise -though carried a nice beat. Apparently this particular club was nothing like the ones they were used to. Since I had essentially never been to a club before, particularly one such as this, I did not know what was “normal.” I was good.

In fact, the “stranger” it was, the better. The Sammy Hagar meets Heath Ledger meets Triple H dude making an ass of himself on the dance floor hardly stood out in this place. I was completely free to move to the music in any strange way I felt fit. It was “Saturday Night Fever” meeting “Flashdance” meeting “Footloose” meeting “You Got Served” all converging as they met little to no coordination.

Did this old man make as ass of himself? Hardly.

One young lady even came up to me and said, and I quote, “You are awesome!”

And I responded like anyone would else would. I said, “thank you!” as I proceeded to  do a “jitterbuggy” meets “80’s new wave arms over the head move” meets a “baby don’t hurt me” head nod, making my way back to the center of the dance floor.

Funny thing was, my daughter and her friend hardly danced. Apparently they did not “feel it” in that atmosphere.  As one who thinks the homeless man crawling on all fours, acting like a dog while biting people on the ankles within the Venice Beach drum circle each Sunday afternoon is beautifully rediscovering the art of play we adults have lost, I felt it. But I can be weird that way.

I must confess that after about 2 hours of nonstop movement I had enough. I liked the music, really I did, though it has about a 2 hour expiration date on my psyche; same goes for the accordion.

What’s the point of this blog? I earnestly believe the day we stop discovering, trying, experiencing, learning, playing while challenging ourselves to saunter into the great unknown, is the day we begin to press down to the floor the accelerator pedal of death.

Not sure when, or even if, this old man will frequent a club again. Yet all you have to do is ask.

Jimmy be Pimpin

In the classes I teach we always (yes, always) discuss the evolution of language. The evolution of words fascinates me. One word I find particularly intriguing is the word “pimp.”

What once meant a misogynistic and sadistic man involved in prostitution management, has evolved into many definitions, though a common one is “the art of selling something effectively.”

Thus today, I pimp education. And fully pimped you shall be.

Many years ago I used to believe that a college education was pretty much bullshit; a racket just to get society to pay for something that we could get for free simply by reading some books. While theoretically this may be true –we all have the capacity to be self taught (autodidact) -very few possess the needed characteristics to do so. In this sense, education is somewhat like masturbation, you can get the job done alone, though it is a much deeper and satisfying experience when engaged with another person.

I have 3 good reasons to get a higher education, regardless of your age.

1. Relationships: Yes, relationships. Think about the skills and characteristics that are needed in order to successfully complete college: Problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, dedication, perseverance, sacrifice, patience…all the same character qualities needed to sustain successful relationship. Don’t believe me? I will support this though it is worthy to be contained within the blog. “The figures are quite striking: College-educated Americans have seen their divorce rates drop by about 30% since the early 1980s, whereas Americans without college degrees have seen their divorce rates increase by about 6%. Just under a quarter of college-educated couples who married in the early 1970s divorced in their first ten years of marriage, compared to 34% of their less-educated peers. Twenty years later, only 17% of college-­educated couples who married in the early 1990s divorced in their first ten years of marriage; 36% of less-educated couples who married in the early 1990s, however, divorced sometime in their first decade of marriage.” Want to be in successful relationship? Get educated.

2. Personal Achievement: I constantly tell my students that the value of many college degrees is not so much the results of the information learned, rather, the real power of a college degree is about what this degree says about you and your character. In other words, it is not WHAT you learned but a statement of WHO you are. Imagine having to submit to my stubborn ass for an entire semester and demanding things be done MY WAY? God bless you. Yes, you will learn a thing or two about public speaking and critical thinking, although to succeed it says that – you know how to show up, finish what you start, and accomplish something the majority of Americans have not. It separates the talkers from the doers. A degree just feels good, really good. It’s pimp.

3. Financial: “Well I have a friend who has her degree and she is still waiting tables.” Maybe true, though the implication of a degree not helping one financially or occupationally is just flat out bullshit.  My favorite Freakonomics guy, Steven Leavitt, an accomplished economist, has this to say (BTW, I highly recommend this podcast): “Of all the topics that economists have studied, I would say one we are most certain about are the returns to education. And the numbers that people have come up with over and over are that every extra year of education that you get will translate into an 8 percent increase in earnings over your lifetime. So someone who graduated from college will earn about 30 percent more on average than someone who only graduated from high school. And if anything, the returns to education have gotten larger over time. They’re as big as they have ever been.”

I am a huge believer in the “never too late theory.” Whether 18, 28 or 68, a solid education is always (yes, always) a good thing at any stage of life. Perhaps this is why I love the Community College system -as the same class can have a retired medical doctor going back for a new degree along with a recent high school grad whose family never went to college…with EVERYTHING in between. A recent lecturer came to our school and asked our faculty if we were capable of teaching a class at USC. Not only could we, in some ways it would be a fantasy to teach pampered and prepared students – we could reach for the intellectual top shelf in every class. Then he observed that he guaranteed a USC professor would be ill-equipped to teach at a Community College. So pimp.

Not sure what degree to get? That is an easy one if you’re not sure: A Communication Studies degree. This study suggests that a degree in Communication is one of the most loved by employers, falling second only to Health Care Administration. Not to mention that we Communication College Professors are the fifth most satisfied profession in the country….and I get paid for doiiiing thiiiiiiis.

I may be no Huggy Bear though you most certainly have been pimped. How was it for you?

5 Helpful Hints to Give Off the Right Impression Online; or, Post an Ugly Picture of Yourself on Facebook

I dare you to put up the ugly pictures of yourself on Facebook.  Or Instagram. Or…whatever you kids play with these days. The kind of pics that look like you have a double chin, some bags under your eyes or just appear like you had no idea someone was taking a picture and caught you mid-blink.

We all have them.

I would guess that out of the thousands of pictures (ok…maybe hundreds) taken of me in the last year, only 25 or so I deemed fit to put on a website; yet I have been unwantingly tagged on occasion–thus the uglies have snuck in.

See that picture of me on the top right? That was a good day. It made the cut. Even if you do not care for long hair or handlebar staches, I do. I feel comfortable in that skin. I like the impression that gives off.

facebook-places-logo-2In terms of places or events I attend, I rarely put this information out in cyberspace.  I will every so often, though I would prefer that people’s impression of me not include certain, uh, events. I have an image to maintain you know.

What is the message you are sending out to the world about yourself?  Back in the “day” that decision was largely predicated on our wardrobe and bodily decisions for real life encounters: What Impression-Managementstyle hair? Make up? Piercings?  Tattoos?  Fashion sense.  How effective are we in communicating face to face with others?

In today’s “digital day” such decisions are still to be made, though we now have an additional component that lends us far greater control over the impression we send to others, namely through social networking.  We are able to control the events people see, the specific words we use and the images of ourselves we like, and simply discard what we would rather not have others see or read in forming their perception of us.

faceworkAcademically speaking, this is, ironically, called “facework” and I would guess Zuckerberg may have had this in mind when forming his new “impression management” universe, Facebook.

Now all of us are certainly free to send off any impression we desire of ourselves to the world. This being said, here are a few helpful hints as you decide what kind of perception of yourself you want the world to perceive.  As you send off pics, words, ideas, events and such off to cyberspace, perhaps it would be a good thing to keep these in mind.

  1. Be aware that every bit of information you send off to cyberspace will have an effect on you in some way big or, more often, small. It will give off an impression of you to the world. Often times we will never know of the effect because it frequently goes unmentioned. But it’s there. Don’t care? Your choice.
  2. If you are under the impression that just a select audience will see your cyberspace offerings, think again. If you are willing to drop a “fuck bomb” here or there, or worse (I personally believe a strategically placed “fuck bomb” can be effective at times) just know ALL living creatures can be privy to reading it. Even though there are ways to hide things from mom, it does not mean the dude who’s pissed at you cannot print it out and show her! Cool with that? Cool.
  3. Know that most online users can read between the lines, i.e. sense bullshit. For example, putting up pics of your self always at fun parties? Since life is not a constant party for most of us, most people will assume you have a great need to impress others and that your life is much more fun than it really is. Though your intended impression is, “Look at my fun life!” It may read more as, “Look at my gaping needs because my life is tragically sad.” Now this may be true or not, though that message can be sent. I find that users who constantly put up lovey-dovey pics alongside their significant other, often have a struggling relationship –as if a posted pic might change it. Even if people believe the erroneous perception, eventually  the truth is discovered. Don’t care?  Awesome.
  4. Careful of the philosophies you desire to espouse online. Be it religious, political, or philosophical, a wrong perception can be easily sent to others as (close your ears as I’m about to scream) SOCIAL NETWORKING IS NOT AN EFFECTIVE MEDIUM TO DISCUSS IN-DEPTH ISSUES THAT DESERVE THE RESPECT OF A MEDIUM THAT OFFERS ABILITY FOR DEEPER DIALOGUE! A blog will do just fine. Don’t care that people may get a wrong impression of you without the ability to further clarify your position? Fine. Just don’t be surprised when it happens.
  5. Providing personal information to the cyber world audience is a lot like getting a tattoo: It seemed a good idea at the time. For some, they have a life-long love for their chosen skin ink; for many others it was just not a good choice.  I have chosen to be candid about most of my life online, though, to be sure, it was not flippant or “not thought out” decision -as my M.O. is allowing people in. I am far from an alarmist by nature, even if the threat is small, yet it still exists.

Go ahead. Put that ugly pic up on Facebook. Say something you really mean.  Give the world a right impression. Or is it?

Your Brain on Facebook, or Snapchat, or Twitter, or Instragram, or God-Knows-Not-This-Blog…

Though still in its scientific infancy, relatively speaking much has been studied on the effect of digital Brain460technology on the brain.  One such result suggests I keep my blog entries to be 700 words or less, which is why I must sum up the findings in the most general and expedient way possible:

Digital technology is changing the way we think and the very configuration of our brains.

Some believe these changes to be a good thing (utopian) while others believe it to be a very bad thing (dystopian).  And if the history of human prediction tells us anything, the answer probably lies somewhere in between -as with each blessing a technology affords also comes with it a profound curse.

Those who have been brought up with digital technology are natives to that culture and mindset -they think digitally. Those like myself, who once marveled and stood in awe at the unbelievable technological achievement of the electronic game “Pong” and later, “Pac Man”-think analogically at most levels.The-Making-Of-Pong

This is a problem. Many of us  “older folk” (though could be as young as 27) are immigrants to this new digital culture and our analogue minds must adapt to this new world. And like any immigrant to a new land, some are much more willing and capable of acclimating to a new culture than others.

Like my dearly departed grandmother who believed our moon landings were staged somewhere in a high school gymnasium, unable to grasp the possibility of such technology, in order to survive, we immigrants MUST adapt and change the way we think. And you natives must understand the old world from which we come. We come in peace.

If you are still unclear as to who is a native or immigrant, perhaps this will help. Though generalizing is never completely accurate, I think you will get the idea:

A native takes pride in multi-tasking; an immigrant takes pride in a single task well done.

A native wants to get right to the point, brevity is king; an immigrant believes there is value in the Lehrer-t_CA0-articleInlineart of process.

A native demands instant access; an immigrant believes waiting is part of the process.

A native often feels naked without their cell phone; an immigrant may feel a sense of relief.

A native often prefers impersonal modes of communication when it comes to dealing with difficult conversations; an immigrant believes physical presence is the only way to deal with difficult conversations.

Phone Booth!A native has no problem allowing the world to listen to their phone conversations; an immigrant would seek out bullet-proof phones booths with sound proof accordion doors if they were still around.

A native assumes that texting another person while you are talking to them is generally acceptable; an immigrant believes this to be abhorrent behavior.FOMO

A native has a great Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO); an immigrant does not fear what they do not know.

A native has an expectation of immediate information; an immigrant has to remind themselves that the yellow pages has gone the way of the dodo (Myspace?).

An immigrant has no problem changing plans in an instant; an immigrant believes in making plans and sticking to them.

So what often happens when two cultures collide? Often there is judgment on both sides because the way THEY were raised is, to them, the right way. These cultures are frequently in tension with each other.

So, immigrants, what is wrong with having a device on you 24/7 and constantly staying connected with the cyber world and carrying multiple conversations at once? No harm -just another way of doing life. And, you, natives, cut some slack on the immigrant who does not understand why your life now depends on a device that did not even exist 15 year ago.

My native friends, please remember that some of us believe in your culture and are trying to mightily to fit in and adopt to your devices, customs and norms because we believe it to be essential to our evolution. And at the same time, our minds were raised analogue and we may be a bit slow to catch up as the neural pathways in our brain are slow to carve out new territory. Be patient.

That said, even the most digitally progressive of we immigrants believe that there is some value in analogue old school.  For example, doing one task at a time and doing it well with attention to detail is never a bad thing.

Yet, I understand my audience. And this analogue mind must keep my digital audience of 3. Whoops 764 words. Damn.


Hamburgers to Parachutes: Golden Snake Style.

If a good man or woman is hard to find, a good listener is damn near impossible.

Though this particular blog entry is primarily inspired by my course lectures, I think y’all might find some benefit in it.

Why? I love good listeners. They are so rare. Thus, as a Communication Studies professor, I suppose if I do not meet a lot of good listeners it is my duty to try and create them on my own with creative teaching strategies…and now blog strategies. It is in this spirit I share the following.

It was my first semester teaching at Crafton Hills College when I asked students in my Public Speaking course to deliver an impromptu speech on something strange or unusual that has happened to them.  A young, very innocent looking student began with her story about taking some type of hallucinogenic drug at a RedlandsYellow_Animals_8x party.

Shortly after taking the drug (which was never precisely identified….though perhaps my experienced-drug-taking blog followers can figure it out) a large golden snake appeared before her and began speaking with her. The snake instructed her to follow him (her? Snake gender was never identified). The young lady began to follow the snake throughout the party from room to room. The snake then went outside and took her down the block.

After weaving aimlessly throughout the block, the golden snake took her to her car and while slithering on the front hood, the snake continued to provide directions as she drove following the snakes instruction, giving new meaning to the GPS (Golden Positioning Snake?). When the golden snake finally disappeared and she came to, she realized that she was at a Denny’s restaurant somewhere in Arizona, some hundreds of miles away from her original California destination.

True? Bullshit? I cannot say for sure though I do know whether it is true or not I stumbled onto a wonderful and effective metaphor for teaching listening.

As she relayed the story, it occurred to me that this golden snake incident is analogous for what goes on in my student’s minds as I lecture. They begin to lose focus and begin following a “golden snake” of wandering thoughts and ideas.

To demonstrate, while listening to a lecture I may use the word hamburger. A student’s thought then  Juicy-Chicken-Burger-Pic-19-Hamburger-Ideasmight be directed to how hungry they are, which causes them to think of lunch plans, which causes them to think of texting a friend to go to lunch with, which reminds them of my “no text” class policy, which gets them to consider whether to risk breaking the class policy, which works to remind them how they are not a risk-taker at heart though perhaps should start, which prompts the idea of creating a bucket list and are reminded of their lifelong desire to parachute.pracht

From hamburgers to parachutes in under 10 seconds.

All this while the poor bastard professor (me) stands in front lecturing, doing all in my power to hold student attention, as they mentally follow the dreaded golden snake to Denny’s in Arizona. In tension indeed.

Increasing ADD and technological-driven reasons among “digital natives” aside, there is a physiological reason for such mental wandering behavior. Depending on what source you want to subscribe, the average person can only speak about 150 words per minute while the average person can comprehend -think– at upwards of, low estimate, 350 words, to a high estimate, of 1200 “wpm.”

Thus the mind has so much free time to wander in and out of thoughts and follow the illusory golden snake.

I have found that by assigning a stark image to a daily “invisible” activity students are able to more readily recognize it happening and begin to slay the snake with more focused attention and improved listening skills. If you must fill those empty mental voids, they must be filled with questions concerning the subject matter and mental anticipation of what is coming next.

Of course good listening begins with genuine motivation. And, truth be told, many of us are poor listeners because we do not care enough about what is being said to provide adequate motivation.

That, or perhaps more of us should just attend parties in Redlands.

The Power of Quote

“A great quote is like a good suggestion that keeps on giving.”

And you can quote me on that.

I love a good quote and its close cousins, the proverb and, what I call, simple life rules: It is as if the logic contained in just a few words used to convey an idea brings forth volumes of wisdom; the philosophical whole far exceeds the brief grammatical sum of its parts.  A good quote transcends time and offers universal wisdom when needed. A good quote can bring us in tension.

Some quotes are basic to the way I approach life:

“The last creature to discover water was the fish.”

The brief statement explains how each of us are blind to what we consider “normal.” If something ihow-to-introduce-new-fish-into-a-fish-ta.WidePlayers part of our everyday existence, we eventually no longer see it because it is just what we do. Truth be told, nothing about our experiences is normal. Learning this basic axiom is a basic step toward critical thinking. We all must question that which we consider to be “normal” because it probably is not.

One of my favorite lyrical quotes demonstrates this idea. Nestled in Jim Morrision’s mysterious poetry lies this little gem to personify the mystery of language and its power:

 “…save us from the divine mockery of words.”

Language is life. It is so much a part of us we stop critically analyzing its profound effect on every part of our being. Language is the basic building block in our entire approach to life. And, as Jim suggests, at times language can be our fiercest foe as we are unable to think outside of its confines: Perhaps akin to Sapir-Whorf (look it up)?

Some quotes are more quips –and at first glance seem humorous and somewhat flippant:

“When I die I hope I will be in a meeting so the passing from life to death is barely noticeable.”

You will find this quote on the bottom of my personal emails. It actually says a lot about who I am and my disdain for wasted time and, in particular, those meeting members who refuse to allow meeting time to move forward because they love the sound of their own freaking voice….and they always have just one more question. Yuck. Shut up.

You will find this little gem on the bottom of my professional emails:

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

I love this one. According to economist Steven Leavitt, the only thing virtually all economists universally agree upon is the tremendous economical advantage of having a college education.  Education is key component for financial, relational and personal success. Even divorce rates skyrocket for the uneducated.

A quote I have made up:

“Do not allow education to shape your mind, allow your mind to shape your education.”

Though I do believe education certainly –and quite literally – shapes our mind and neural pathways, we need to be captain of own “mind” ship. We cannot get lost in education and lose ourselves in it as each of us has something unique and valuable to contribute to the cultural conversation. We need people to sound like who THEY are, not their textbooks.

Some of my favorite media quotes come from Edward R. Murrow who shares my media cynicism:

“Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.” edward_r_murrow_2


“The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.”

Love this man. The last journalist with some integrity. Or is he?

Finally, some of my life rules:

“Never EVER, no matter how busy you are, pass up the opportunity for a purchase at a child’s roadside lemonade stand.”

If I did not have this rule, I know I would NEVER stop because, like all of us, I am far too busy and probably late for wherever I am going. However, the simple joy of seeing a child’s face light up while proudly serving the customer is absolutely priceless; worthy of a life rule

And, finally:

“It’s all bullshit until proven otherwise.”

Yes, even this blog. And you can quote me on that.