Public Policy

Social Media: So Far So Good

Social Media Week* unfurled at a dozen cities around the globe last week. I was fortunate to attend several events in Los Angeles and enjoyed the irony of finding pleasure and purpose in interacting with people in the flesh (real live human beings!) rather than via Tweets, blog comments, and Facebook messaging. Read more

9/11: An Emergency Wake-Up Call

What good is an anniversary if we don’t reflect on what the experience memorializes and signifies? A historical turning point, 9/11 exists in both past and present. It was a singular event and is a still-unfolding one. We don't know all its consequences or how they'll play out, but some lessons are apparent -- most urgently the need for compassion and understanding in a world sputtering on ignorance, fear, greed, hatred, and pride. The second is the need for vigilance in protection of all that is worthy and good -- which includes not just life and property but the values that give existence meaning beyond mere survival. Read more

Forget Elephants and Donkeys, Beware the Pigheaded

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Planck devoted his life to observable phenomena and logic, but he had a dim view of their power to change minds. “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light,” he said, “but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” Read more

Words Drive Us to Distraction

Carmageddon begins today. That’s what wags are calling the traffic nightmare that’s supposed to befall Los Angeles because of the three-day surgical closure of the Westside’s main artery, the 405 freeway. It might as well be called Karmageddon; it seems fitting that L.A.’s lifeblood mobility should come back to strangle it. Since we're avoiding the roads, we're left to transport ourselves with thought, and here’s one that seems apropos: the English language is a lot of fun. We can play with it endlessly, savoring its ancient words and idiosyncratic pronunciation, while concocting new terms sharp or sweet with meaning.
Wordlovers are forever coming up with their list of favorites. (Wordlover is no more a "proper" word than carma- or karmageddon, yet. It's just more descriptive than the more correct logophile. Common usage tolerates the violation. In fact it doesn't give a damn.) Deshoda.com, cribbing from a blog called So Much to Tell You, recently presented a selection of 100 of the “most beautiful” [http://bit.ly/qJvnfs]. Many selections shimmered on the (web)page – how can one argue with epiphany, sumptuous, or woebegone? Then there were “ailurophile” (meaning cat-lover) and “chatoyant” (like a cat’s eye). Uh … no. Honestly, when are you ever going to use those terms (and still have people willing to associate with you)?
Other offerings such as "ratatouille" made no sense at all. Love the word, love the dish, love the movie. But it’s purebred French. If that qualifies, then why not put Beaujolais on the list? Phooey is a more worthy candidate. Oh, well. Everyone spouts an opinion in a democracy, which English not incidentally fosters because it's inclined to let people follow their bliss. English is a mutt with French, Germanic, Latin, Greek and other parentage, and its best words tend to be resilient old simpletons and crazy bastards. Whatever their etymologies, English boasts an astounding hoard, more than half a million gems and nuggets, and its enterprising promiscuity adds to the trove each day like a smartphone does apps. If you're a certain kind of person it can leave you feeling a little giddy. (Does nerdy rhyme with wordy for a reason?) Bang, dazzle, glee, languid, mist, perky, pesky, pipsqueak, resplendence, sigh, silly, smidgen, soft, velvet, whimsy, whisper, zephyr … Whoa, I feel dizzy. Of them all, I particularly favor the word laugh. You can’t help but smile just saying, or even looking at, that word. It gladdens the heart. “Love,” “joy,” and “grace” prompt much the same response – how can you resist them? They’ll help see us through any -mageddon life throws at us.

The FCC’s Aborted View of Net Neutrality

In one of those Solomonic decisions (less for its sagacity than for the result where no one is thrilled at the prospect of half a baby), the FCC passed a “net neutrality” ruling that guarantees consumers the right to view content (a check on the power of cable and phone companies and Internet gatekeepers) – but allows service providers to charge more money for faster priority speeds, especially on mobile because of the network strain (congestion) on wireless networks. So, neither this nor that. Few on the right or the left are happy. But when nobody really gets what he wanted that passes for bureaucratic wisdom. Expect lawsuits.
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