This morning I was the guest lecturer at a composition class at UMass that is getting into blogging. I find myself being asked to speak all over the place these days. While accepting the invitations is easy, coming up with worthwhile things to say is more of a challenge. I guess I must come across as fairly coherent though, since people keep asking me to talk. The class I lectured at this morning is usually taught by Professor Darren Lone Fight, pictured below.
What did I talk about? Well, what I always talk about, new media and the changing ways in which we gather and distribute information in the internet era. Since I was one of the pioneering Valley folks online, having launched the Valley's first blog in 1998, people look to me as some kind of answerman with clues to the future. Actually anyone who would play that role with a straight face should be laughed off the stage, as this is all a new information fronteir where we are all making it up as we go along. If I've appeared to be ahead of the curve some of the time during this tranformation, that still doesn't mean I can predict what's happening next.
Still, I tried to impress a few general concepts upon the journalism students, among them:
The internet is the future of all media, so get online NOW with your own blog and start trying to build a name for yourself. That way when old media finally goes belly-up you'll be already out there with something going on for yourself.
I told them don't be discouraged by the decline of the traditional media outlets. Their crashing is just a distraction from the enormous opportunities that are being born for writers - or as they are becoming known in the online world - content providers. The opportunities for making money from writing are expanding like never before, and everyone who has something worth saying should be able to make money off it.
That's a point I tried to stress - Don't write for free! There are too many ways to turn your words into money and too much demand for content for anyone to have to blog as a hobby. I told them get with the Google program (or the many copycats) and start a cash flow going immediately.
And of course I also told them a bit about myself and my own media history, with the focus on showing them that if I could prosper then they can too. They were a good group of students who appeared attentive, polite and thoughtful. I promised them I would put their picture up on my website and so here they are, from two different angles.
Until 2003 there was a psychedelic shop on Main Street in Northampton called The Dancing Bear Trading Company. A dancing bear is a common stoner icon originating with the Grateful Dead, whose LSD chemist, Owsley Stanley, was nicknamed "Bear." He was once invited by the band to choose the songs for one of their albums, which was later called, Bear's Choice. The little drawing of a dancing bear on the album cover became synonymous with both the Grateful Dead and LSD.
When traditional Grateful Dead insignias became a magnet for bored police officers looking for cars to pull over to search for drugs, stoners switched to the seemingly harmless and cute looking bear images as a way of promoting the lifestyle in a way most people outside the drug culture wouldn't get. However, as the basis for a store, the dancing bear concept didn't seem to work because the place went out of business. Maybe instead of selling clothes, jewelry and posters they should have gone into a more exotic product line under the table, if you know what I'm getting at, something more closely in the "Bear" tradition.
Anyway, the place stood vacant for over three years until recently when this new clothing store moved in.
As a guy I'm a poor judge of what appears to be primarily a woman's clothing store, but from what I can tell it seems nice and I hope they succeed. However, I couldn't help but notice as I passed by that down in the corner of the front door, right by all the listings of credit cards, was one remaining remnant of the store's past life in the counterculture.
With the spirit of Jerry Garcia still greeting all customers, the shop's chances for success are much improved.
Finally, this latest from Jay is just so emotionally intense.