from Days of Awe by Hugh Nissenson

pg 271

“I’m grateful to have spent so much of my allotted time in time with you…”

pg 285

[speaking to the Rabbi]

“Tell me honestly. Do you ever experience loving God?”

“Occasionally, while praying I experience You! You! You! Everywhere, You!”

“I envy you. How I envy you!”

“Then learn to pray. But I warn you. It’s heart-breaking work. One should strive to be a prayer oneself.”

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ZERO things you need to know about social media

Gotcha, huh?

You clicked through because you’ve never seen a tweet promising ZERO things you need to know. What a relief that’d be. You don’t see many tweets these days that say,

Hey, ya know what, that whole social media thing? Yah, just sit it out. You’re exempt.

I’m sorry. I played a tricked on you.* But, while you’re here, I do have a lesson to share:

Gimmicks marginalize trust.

You know the drill — industry bloggers wanting to drive traffic to their posts use numbers in their title. AND, not common or obvious numbers like 10 or 4. Numbers like 7, 9, 13 for the risky set who don’t hold truck with no superstitions, 38 pops to mind. Come to think of it, they probably learned this trick from Cosmo.

7 Ways to Make Your Man Beg

13 Surefire Sizzlers to Try Tonight

38 Things He’ll Never Tell You, But We Will!

Anyways, what I wanted to tell you — Gimmicks only work the once. So, if you’re gonna use a catchy number-in-your-title title for a blog post, make sure of two things:

  • you know how to count; and
  • you reveal quality, worthwhile, relevant content.

Gimmicks marginalize trust.

Truer words… from Ben Paynter for Fast Company in his 2010 review of the probably-landmark study by Vivaldi Partners and Lightspeed Research on social currency. The article’s quick synopsis (and pretty pictures) is well worth the time; just discovered the actual Vivaldi-Lightspeed report, which also has pretty pictures but lots more words. Somebody tell me if I should read it, huh?)

*There are boatloads, arkloads, reams, and forests full of of stuff you should probably know about social media. Or, at least hire an expert who does. Or, at least someone who has a head start.

** Would you believe — and of course you would, if you’ve been working in this space for, like, 20 minutes — as I’m writing this very post, I see Brian Solis slide by on TweetDeck with his commentary on gimmicks in these days of stream fatigue. If I weren’t so exhausted by all this clicking and skimming, I’d go after the punchline there. It’s in there somewhere. Something about stream fatigue. Prostate health. Drug commercials with their ad nausea list of side effects where ad nausea and stream fatigue are the most common.

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Cyclists Who Use Social Media Well

* repost from November 21, 2009, which is, like, forever ago *

When I became Social Media Director at TX TOUGH, an event-based, pledged fundraiser benefiting Dallas Children’s Medical Center run by pro cyclist, Geoff Godsey, I picked up the undeserved title of “Expert.”

When Shannon Koch, another pro cyclist, asked my advice as such an “expert”, I suggested she study these four pros. Here’s why:

Chad Andrews@TotalCyclist – study Chad’s online presence for:

  • regular updates, including pics, that create & expand community around his (mis)adventures, family, work; sense of humor that laughs at his foibles & makes it all seem easy;
  • quality content flow-through to benefit followers;
  • replies & interacts;
  • great Push to his well-designed website & program offerings.

Adam Myerson@adammyersonCycle-Smart | Solutions for Cycling — check him out for:

  • all same as Chad above: updates, pictures, adventures, glimpses into life & times, plus interaction; BUT so completely different as befits their personalities; for example,
  • where Chad mostly RT’s & flows-through, Adam mostly chats, allowing the rest of us to eavesdrop, yum.

If I don’t get to know you online, you’re doing it wrong OR not enough OR you’re a drone OR a bot, and I’m not feeling ya. I’m really feeling these guys. ;-p

Whereas Chad & Adam are ultimately promoting services, Chad with a more business-like approach and Adam more “wide open”, the self-appointed King of Style, Ted King@iamtedkingI Am Ted King – isn’t. [Ed. note: He wasn’t leastwise when I wrote this post. Now that’s he’s created his big-ass fanbase, he’s converting with sponsorships and a online shop; and sales benefiting Krempels Center, for “New Life After Brain Injury,” near and dear to every cyclists’ helmet, pro and rec rider alike. Keep it up, Ted.]

That’s brilliant! Building his fan base before he’s even ready to promote a service. I gotta tell ya, he’s a fan favorite among the #cyclingdivas.

Liz Hatch@Liz_Hatch — One of the hottest gals in the pro peloton, and if she doesn’t know it, her followers sure do!

I like her, even still, because she’s approachable, human, sensitive, and kind. I get all this from her tweets: pics of gorgeous scenery on training rides; RT’s about hit & runs involving cyclists; talk of family. Like Ted, she’s not peddling anything, just pedaling.

Also, note how naturally & glowingly Liz and Chad cross-promote each other as client and trainer.

In any career, ’tis wise to participate in a thriving community, love and be loved, support and be supported, @reply and be @replied.



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Response to Friedman’s Next 100 Years

Friedman’s is certainly a clearer view on a bigger scope of reality than I’ve previously accessed. I wonder, who are his contemporaries? I say “contemporaries” because the media play on him would hold that he’s peerless. Who else does what he does? And what do they think?

{Note to self: Read de Tocqueville and Nietzsche.}

Were they to be given the same task, would they, too, approach it in 20-year segments and 50-year cycles?

A Quick Definition of Terms

Geopolitics is not simply a pretentious way of saying ‘international relations’.

“Geopolitics applies [Smith’s] concept of the invisible hand to the behavior of nations and other international actors.

“Geopolitics and economics both assume the players are rational … and will pursue their [short-term] self-interest, if not flawlessly, then at least not randomly.”

Let me start with what I wonder.

Geopolitics assumes that people self-organize into larger units than families, that loyalty to tribe is natural and deep; and that, therefore, war is ubiquitous. This assumption we know to be quite true.

I wonder, is there not a way beyond? If we evolve a higher and broader taxonomy, an intraglobal identity, then we would get to keep all of us. I am my brother’s keeper and he is mine.

World Hunger Myths by Lappé et alThe world has enough resources to care extravagantly for the all people on her. It’s not a crisis of capacity that we have, it’s a crisis of compassion. (I long cherish this line from John J. Carmody. The Google trail goes cold but I believe him to still be at the Center for Christian Nonviolence in Wilmington, DE. His basis for saying so comes from the work of Frances Moore Lappé and others at Food First: The Institute for Food and Development Policy.)

The Other Headscratcher

What’s to stop said international actors from reading this book or hiring their own geopolitical guru? There are countries in Friedman’s hypothesized future who put their money in defense when they should have put it in research… I don’t know. Even as I tease this out, it starts to sound naive, but do you know what I mean?

What Surprised Me

1st: The hard-boiled matter-of-fact presentation of American foreign policy. In all my schooling, which isn’t insubstantial, and in all my years of devoted NPR listening, I’d never heard:

America doesn’t need to win wars. America sows chaos and confusion, stretching thin would-be rivals so they can’t spare a thought for their own growth, a thought against us, let alone that they can’t hear themselves think.

All that angst about VietNam and Iraq and why didn’t we use decisive force, how could we lose the war. I suppose Friedman would say all of that was mishandled domestic relations since we were achieving our goals.

2nd: What really blew me away is that any discussion of peace within this worldview depends on who you’re talking to. Peace is not understood to be a standalone, natural, organically-arising state of ecological balance between and amongst all living systems on this blue dust mote. If you’re talking to anyone in power, peace is understood to be the brokered condition defined not by absence of war but by the ending of it by those parties who started it.

That’s not peace. That’s barely after-care.

3rd: Have you ever heard some talking head say that XYZ corporation is bigger than xx% of the world’s sovereign nations? I’ve heard it.

So, I was really expecting some discussion about global and transnational companies. Aha! you say, no entity can be a geopolitical superpower without that it has political, economic, and military power.

With all the talk about American partisan politics and both sides accusing the other of being in Big Corp’s pocket, can we say 2 outta 3 ain’t bad?

And, I’ll just ask, what about Halliburton? Boeing? Raytheon? Stranger things have happened. He even premises his 20-year approach on that. I mean, have you not seen Terminator or I, Robot?

What I’m Still Left Wondering

He opens with this from Hegel:

To him who looks upon the world rationally, the world in turn presents a rational aspect. The relation is mutual.

[I would suggest, and maybe Hegel did too, that you could same the same replacing “spiritually” for “rationally”. Or any -ally, for that matter.]

With that as his standard, he approaches his tale with no emotion. He refers to the circumstance of having more people than employment (or, might I mention, because he doesn’t, resources?) as a “population surplus”. I take exception to that as I am one of those surplussed persons.

dry honeycomb

A Dry Honeycomb

It seems he’s taken the people out of history. To me, that’s hollow and seems a dangerous decision. It’s like we’ve stumbled on an abandoned beehive. All honeycomb, no juice. No lifeblood along which to propel a pulse. Or perhaps it’s like finding a vacuum in a university physics lab with no grad students to run it. (Get it? You can’t predict human history in a vacuum. Meh.)

Forgive me, I’m new to this whole line of thinking. I’m spellbound. I think he’s brilliant. He’s taken a deep look at the entirety of human civilization, specifically 100 years back and reaching that far again forward. He hasn’t even limited his scope to this planet.

I don’t question his conclusions. I question his assumptions.

It seems a bit myopic to give exclusive primacy to geopolitical vectors with no eye to other mass motivators. Could geopolitical pundits of the times past have predicted the Black Death? The Storming of the Bastille? Gandhi? Jesus?

Elrond in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings

So Sayeth Elrond

Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.

I’m fascinated that Friedman handily discounts the power of any one political figure. Campaign strategists for either side won’t want him anywhere near the airwaves this year. “Meh, vote for whoever you want. They’re all constrained and situation-bound to do the same thing.”

I would really be curious to hear what Sanskritist and tantra scholar Pandit Rajmani Tigunait would say about this book, indeed this whole field of endeavor? I trust he’d have insightful commentary about its usefulness and his own appraisal of Friedman’s conclusions. What’s more, I’d like to hear the realm of geopolitics placed within an even broader scope of collective karma, the dharma of a nation or a people, and a story or two from the Bhagavad Gita.

That would be the ultimate mind candy.

PS — I also thought it was a very facile dismissal of global warming (in the Epilogue for crying in the night) and its effects like resource shortages and resultant mass migrations.

PPS — Paging Mr. Lucas. Mr. George Lucas.

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How I Came to George Friedman’s The Next 100 Years

Margaret Atwood, The Year of the FloodMad MaxBook of EliBladerunner; Terminator; Fifth Element; Terra Nova; Joss Whedon’s “World That Was”; the American Torchwood; even The Hot Zone, that 90s Ebola non-fiction thriller; and mostly, the book that makes Stephen King’s The Stand look like a Corona beach commercial for all its safety and allure, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which should come with a federal safety warning on the dust jacket. And a mason jar of Prozac.

I’m fascinated with the persistence of this genre. Ours and the entertainment industry’s insistence on perpetuating it. Is it predictive? Or will it be self-fulfilling? Is it in response to box office success alone that these scripts are commissioned or do they arise from the collective consciousness?

The Cold War might be over (or That Cold War, as Friedman might put it) but, whereas my classmates and I were taught in the 80s to stop, drop, and roll; safety check Halloween candy; and Stranger Danger; my parents in the 50s were taught to hide under their desks in the event of imminent and assured mutual mass destruction.

“Mm-kay kids, we’re gonna do the drill again this morning after the pledge. We’re gonna do it until you can get it right. It’s bend over FIRST, then grab your ankles.”

That’s got to leave psychological wounds.

Is it possible to introduce into this genre a view of “the end of the world as we know it” that isn’t Mad Max wasteland, that has green shoots, new beginnings, and I feel fine? It need be a Snow White affair with kindly woodland creatures but is there a transition that epic that’s without the wanton barbarism?

Armageddon and Independence Day both posit world-ending alien threats which, at this point in human development supersede terrestrial politics, as far as we know. The humans rallied, thwarting the alien advance, averting apocalypse, against all odds, because of the brave derring-do of handsome over-muscled men.

The same plot line is true of so many Dr. Who episodes. Except that he’s perfectly muscled, be he Christopher, David, or Matt.

So, you see, there’s a spectrum of destruction. From thwarted, near misses to Shawn of the Dead which is just good clean fun next to Viggo Mortensen and his kid on The Road.

a light-hearted moment

It is in this context, I have asked Mom and Dad because they’re smart people and this keeps us away from family gossip:

How would you write an “end of the world as we know it” novel that flips the script and writes a new story?

You’ve got to stick with the standby givens of the genre:

  • Cities will turn themselves inside out fleeing to familial farmland, land has long since been vacated of its fertility and, anyway, sold to Monsanto.
  • The traffic grid will stall, motor vehicles will clog roadways, panic and chaos, etc.
  • Those city dwellers who see the folly in trying to flee (because maybe they’ve seen these movies, too) will find big box stores and strip malls held like forts by the Joneses who held the biggest weapons caches.
  • There will be roving bands of neo-land-pirates. We like to think these will be hedge fund managers, bad bosses, dirty politicians, and used car salesman. But we know better because, in this new world order, people of middle and upper middle class upbringing will be such creampuffs they won’t see a page beyond Chapter Two.
  • There will be epidemics of third world diseases, of diseases that strike when sanitation goes to hell, like after an earthquake or tsunami.

{Sidebar: Isn’t it just a little precious for Hollywood to trot out these end of world scenarios as if there aren’t people right this very moment living in conditions not at all disimilar? If we really wanted to know what it’s like to draw water from a well and cook over an open flame, we’d send Anderson Cooper back to interview them.}

Nay, if the aspiring author sets said story in a city, he’d have mayhem, murder, epidemics, mass starvation, and not enough growing space or season or skill to set aside any crop towards the future. So, he puts his two remaining characters on a path towards the ocean that feels like its straight into the heart of Mordor. And, he’s not flipped the script, not crafted a new story of hope and possibility.

Therefore, the aspiring do-gooder, ever optimist author, sets said story in one of those middle-sized cities, like Amarillo, big enough to have infrastructure to play with. Don’t we all daydream about a steam punk Robinson Crusoe? It’s far enough away from big city populations that it won’t be overrun for at least three hours. Buys some time. Some time to what? Well, time to set up defenses.

This is where I always quail at the story line. This is where my question comes from.

Is there a way to write this “end of the world as we know it” story without people defending their resources (food) militarily?

We’ve used a handy and precedented plot device, idiopathic end-of-the-world syndrome, to resolve issues of overpopulation, crowding, and resource shortages. We’ve dealt an incapacitating blow to the hydrocarbon economy. As is the wont of the genre, we’re conveniently left with a Noah’s Ark of professionals. The electrician, the carpenter, the code hacker, and how splendid that we’ve crossed paths with an outdoorsman who knows from mushrooms. It’s not like you can Google it. (Or can you?)

Look, I’m not saying utopia, but a continuation of the human condition in an immediately and radically and permanently altered environment.

Remember when all our petty bullshit dropped away on that sunny day in September so many years ago? It was so clarifying. What’s real. Most not.

Maybe the urge for these “end stories” isn’t so noble as to give hope to the people of a Dark Age rather it’s a nostalgia for simpler times?

But, if you wanted to write a NEW-AND-IMPROVED end of the world as we know it story, how do you protect the food stocks of the good guys? How do you not establish good guys and bad guys? Okay, so you know the neo-land-pirates will come raping and pillaging and stealing food. So you have to protect it with weapons and violence or the convincing threat of violence. And, now you have to protect your weapons stores. And, now you have to train your ragtag band of shellshocked citizens. And, now you’re entrenched in the old stories and the sort of escalating tensions that got is in this mess in the first place. Now you’ve got something that looks like Book of Eli.

I could go on, but even I grow bored with my own exposition.

In talking this through with Mom and Dad, Dad always suggests that I read George Friedman’s The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century. Dad sent me a copy of this book. Twice. I finally read it.

Here are my thoughts.

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Outtakes from the First Draft

Maybe in every age of humanity — no matter the objective status of a given population — maybe you can always find somebody who thinks things are simply marvelous and somebody who thinks it’s all one hairy clusterfuck. Well, of course you can. Google Victor Frankl.

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Rearranging deck chairs and the band played on

Take the whole kit
with the caboodle
Experience life
don’t deplore it
Shake hands with time
don’t kill it
Open a lookout
Dance on a brink
Run with your wildfire
You are closer to glory
leaping an abyss
than upholstering a rut

~ James Broughton ~

(Little Sermons of the Big Joy)

The only difference between a rut and grave is the depth of the excavation. ~ my friend Elaine

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