lovehate: Languages

Ethnologue.com's bold tagline claims that it catalogues 6912 of the world's living languages. While the claim is surely impressive, it makes one wonder at the freak happenstances of history that have allowed us to become so messed up as a species that we couldn't unify some of our communication. Even body language is radically different between adjacent regions.

Let's face it, if there remain 7000 different interpretations of words as common as "water", we are always going to have destructive global conflicts around the world. I know this sounds like quite a leap, but when a mesh-backed cap wearer in Mississippi will turn around and crack someone over the skull with a beer bottle because he misheard someone complimenting him as a "flag lover", the variations of language have proven their destructive powers. In the meantime I'm going to enjoy a tall cool glass of wasser,  agua, uma, su, wossa, ondou, ji, akvo, banyu or H2O.

While the Esperanto experience was noble in its conception, and small groups have adopted the constructed language to varying degrees, it certainly was never the over-riding success that would change the face of world communication. That said, technology has radically changed the ability to communicate across borders, continents and oceans. While trying to propagate a language through print would be cumbersome at best, involving drawn out exchanges by letter on usage, failures and successes, the current state of connectivity allows for everything from a text file dictionary e-mail attachment to live video-on-demand tutorials. There are, however, problems that would tax any attempt to resurrect Esperanto or some other existing or constructed language.

The sociological impact of a newly-learned language distributed throughout humanity sounds tempting, but consider the risk. As knowledge is power, so is language. While certain countries may endorse, adopt, perhaps even legislate the language's education to its populace, those falling behind would not only put themselves at a disadvantage with regard to simple understanding but, moreso, on the precipice of an economic sinkhole. Clear language is essential in business and is the reason so many MBA sycophants pick up Japanese or Chinese as a second language; there's always a job for someone that can bridge the verbal and written gap between world languages.

Those who, for any reason, could not maintain the pace of the language's growth would start to suffer implicit economic sanctions as trade would become scarce. Third world countries would hardly stand a chance as the technology that would allow for ease of assimilation is beyond them.

I suppose that half of the problem could be alleviated by eliminating the written language altogether. If books become e-books, letters remain e-mail, and business can be validated digitally, does an a/v language become the standard of correspondence? I'd wager that ascii emoticons reach cross-culturally far more effectively than the words "smile" or "wink".  Will broadband lead the way for the constructed language of the future? Maybe the tight head shot of a webcam will prompt a serious re-examination of strictly face language instead of body language. A new business crops up of web notaries that will witness and certify verbal contracts completed via Skype. All chat, journalism, blogging, becomes aural or visual. All poetry, short stories and novels become spoken word recordings. The death of the written word - as Sanskrit became increasingly divorced from a verbal component, the new "Visaural" language would evolve without a written component.

I know it sounds far-fetched, but could we at least start with proper names? I think we need to evolve to the point where we can respect the language of the place that spawned the name of the place. Would it really be that difficult for us to pronounce Rome as Roma or Paris as "Pa-ree"? Couldn't we say Espana for Spain or Deutschland for Germany? It really wouldn't be that hard, because while I honestly don't see a way to avoid history's diverse explosion of languages, I really hate it.

world

lovehate: Mornings on the Road

Sitting in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel and Convention Centre in Richmond Hill, Ontario for four days of conference and training, I awoke at 4am and could not get back to sleep even after listening to a full CD's worth of 80's progressive rock and begrudgingly watching some Olympic coverage because my only other choice was an infomercial about an exercise machine that doesn't look nearly as fun as some of the well-toned automatons seem to indicate.

Normally, at such events, I'm loathe to be startled by a wake-up call that rattles through my skull like the demented cross between the bells of St. Mary's and a Nine Inch Nails B-side. On this morning at least, I was not subjected to such an ordeal.

Being lucky enough to have found employment in a career that affords me a long summer vacation (and being a nighthawk by nature) I usually find myself, by the second week of July, waking no earlier than the crack of noon and often getting to sleep after dawn's break. While this morning, as I occasionally glance up past the horizon that is the top of the monitor at the early-risers in their caffeine-induced wanderlust, I am content to live with novelty of having become conscious at a time where, for the past six weeks, I had often remained up to see. In the summer I'm wont to ask friends, "you mean there's a 10am?"

Morning is just wrong in so many ways.

I drift around in a semi-conscious haze and am annoyed by people that are way too happy and energetic for their own good. I would much rather see the stragglers from an all-night run at a club come staggering through the lobby - at least they look how I feel. They've done their best to try and make me comfortable in the Hilton lobby. They've provided me with a complimentary PC to bang away my thoughts (although using IE6 again is a painful experience). They've gone through great pains to create this crazy open feng shui environment that runs an unbroken stretch incorporating the front desk, TV lounge, internet stations, bar, coffee shop and restaurant. But for the restaurant it kind of looks like an upscale Barnes & Noble. I feel so damn cosmopolitan I might just throw up. If I see one more light fixture that looks like it belongs at the MOMA or one piece of smoked glass I may just need a bucket.

If you awake early in the mornings while travelling, it can never be a good thing. It usually means you have stuff you HAVE to do (and nobody wants to HAVE to do anything), or you evidently didn't try hard enough to have fun the night before.

And as the TV in the lounge shows sports highlights and the overhead cascade of piped-in music plays Aerosmith's "Dream On" (and oh, I so wish I could have dreamed on from 4-8am) , and a Peewee baseball team from Whoknowswheresville tramps in to kill time in front of the TV until they're allowed to check in (it's 7:30 am!), and I frame my vision with a print of a elephant with the title "Kenya" behind the coffee stand barrista, and the lamp beside my monitor screams to be reunited with its Ikea brethren, and most people are dressed WAY better than I am with my "I'm what Willis was talkin' 'bout" tee, I take some solace in looking at the gentleman two PCs over, who, by his body language, seems to get it.

mourning

thinglets: fourteen minutes

Fourteen minutes typecast the frantic hack
Slack-jawed pushing out dimestore crap
For the masses displacing defacing the rhyme
A crime of abundance a vow of intolerance
Twelve rings high the noontime parade
Soft shoe charade of the Paris view
Eyes glistening trembling fearing the queue
Gladhanding demanding the how do you do's
Manacled beaten bereft of intent
Repel the flow go below the treeline
Under the radar subduing signs of destruction
Elimination lost within false elation
Walls undermine this palace of crime
Hold within
Hold within

Seven sought solace but Six evaded
Thought tricks were for kids rid his mind of doubt
Find the power to shout out injustice
Miracle patience veering from towers of hate
Grim told the number of fate and he followed
Three down to go to faces of fear
Traces a vision of insolent stasis
Two reconnects a lost point of view
Annointing the wrecked impassion renewed
One left a solitary headlight in shine
Till battery darkened the enemy mine

thinglets: Big Mac, Fries and a Chocolate Shake

Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, soybean oil, canola oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of each of the following: sesame seed, salt, wheat gluten, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium chloride, calcium carbonate, baking soda, soy flour, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: distilled monoglycerides, DATEM, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, enzymes, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, guar gum, mono-and diglycerides, calcium peroxide), calcium propionate & sodium propionate (preservatives), soy lecithin. 100% pure USDA inspected beef; no fillers, no extenders. Prepared with grill seasoning (salt, black pepper). Soybean oil, pickle relish [diced pickles, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, vinegar, corn syrup, salt, calcium chloride, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), spice extractives, polysorbate 80], distilled vinegar, water, egg yolks, high fructose corn syrup, onion powder, mustard seed, salt, spices, propylene glycol alginate, sodium benzoate (preservative), mustard bran, sugar, garlic powder, vegetable protein (hydrolyzed corn, soy and wheat), caramel color, extractives of paprika, soy lecithin, turmeric (color), calcium disodium EDTA (protect flavor).

Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*), citric acid (preservative), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent). *
CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK (Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients).

Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream: Milk, sugar, cream, nonfat milk solids, corn syrup solids, mono- and diglycerides, guar gum, dextrose, sodium citrate, artificial vanilla flavor, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, disodium phosphate, cellulose gum, vitamin A palmitate. CONTAINS: MILK. Syrup: High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, cocoa (processed with alkali), natural (vegetable source) and artificial flavors, salt, potassium sorbate (preservative), vanillin (artificial flavor).

lovehate: The Death of Journalism

I want to start this lovehate in reverse. I love journalism. I love the sense that a media outlet, be it print, television, film, radio, website or blog has the ability to maintain an objective integrity that allows for informative and enticing stories about the world around me. I do, however, have an ability to distinguish the ever-increasing blurring of the objective and the subjective in mainstream journalistic delivery.

Quite plainly, the human interest story is now 99% of journalism and human interest is governed by the least objective body in existence: humanity. Let me also admit that while this is often a tired subject that's been around for years, it's the look forward that concerns me. Its basis has been batted around by satirists from Mark Twain and Umberto Eco to Peter Cook and the tagteam of Stewart & Colbert. People gave the knowing wink when Colbert exalted the term truthiness, but we're getting dangerously closer to that threshold. Not to be misanthropic about some sort of dystopian future, but I have to wonder if facts will even matter in 100, 50 or 10 years from now.

Commentary has become the new story; on the web front, isn't Digg really about the importance of opinion and commentary over the actual links themselves? In teaching even high school students the basics of writing a newspaper article, there is the tried and true W5H model of Who, What, When, Where, Why, How to deliver all of the facts pertinent to a situation. Facts are checked and double-checked, sources are required, and above all, there can be no sense of bias on the part of the writer.

We have been devolving down a sliding scale toward a point where the Who, What, When, Where, and How of a story has been reduced to a soundbite. "News" has given way to entertainment and entertainment has glorified the 5th W - Why. The why allows for commentary, expert opinions, punditry, and no-so-expert opinions not just on the story, but, more importantly to broadcasters, every tertiary aspect of the story that market research says will get more viewers.

In reporting on the events in Georgia over the past couple of weeks (not the home of the Braves), I'm sure more time has been spent on McCain's and Obama's opinions on the matter and less on educating the general populace about the fact our Americentric view should allow for a Georgia that doesn't have peach farms. Check that! We're not even hearing about what people who are political forces think about a political situation, we're hearing from the pundits and none of them are adding facts. Journalism has become a culture of who can yell the loudest and who is most entertaining. And even the most idiotic blowhard can be entertaining in the right setting.

Television news has been reduced to 5-6 hard news stories a day. I hope the defense for such a concentration is that not enough interesting things are happening. On the day I write this Paraguay has a new leader, Zimbabwe continues its collapse, Polan gets rocked by a tornado, Peru has thousands march in protest, 14 million people in Africa are on the brink of starvation due to food costs, India is concerned about a cement industry cartel, people in Haiti are eating mud, Taiwan's former president is laundering 31 million dollars off-shore, the tropical storm heading to Florida has killed people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, trees are being genetically enhanced to swallow up double the carbon, and Argentinian authorities are investigating the deaths of 14 children in clinical trials. And that's the news, back to the blowhards... wait, incredibly we've taken all the time reporting REAL news.

I would certainly rather know some of these world events are happening rather than listening to O'Reilly, Hannity, Matthews or Olbermann wax redundantly about the world on NEWS stations. When personality becomes the news, it says more about what broadcasters think of us as consumers of information.

I started by saying that I love journalism, but I love opinion as well. There is a place for both. No one will ever accuse me of being a journalist, and I don't want to be - it's far too much work. I enjoy a well-crafted rant. I like listening to a good rave. Hell, I even enjoy hearing someone else fly off the handle letting invectives fly. None of this, however, is news, and the more we buy it, the more they'll serve it up with a side of slick computer-generated overlays.

pundits