Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

A bit of a twitter out there today and yesterday about ‘unfriend’ being cited as uh, wait, let me check: “The New Oxford American Dictionary 2009 Word of the Year.” Ah, the coveted OxWordie! Or, something like that (it may be connected with People’s 100 Most Beautiful Words of 2009, or I may be getting confused. So many awards, so little brain-cell-space to process them.)

What’s scarier is the list of words and, to be frank, psuedo-words that you’ll never get me (consarn it) to include in any real dictionary…words that were genuinely considered for this great lexicographical honor. Scroll down and be very afraid of the likes of “sexting” and “funemployed.”

But after a good chuckle over what are, after all, just words, what I really wanted to serve up for your remaining brain cells today is this pondering from Anil Dash, blog software pioneer and, it would seem, free thinker. Mr. Dash is concerned (and I quite agree) that in all this hoohah about the great global social and devices that do everything we wanted our Star Trek tricorders and communicators to do, we neglect or avert our eyes from the reality that we perform this wizardry at the whim and to the largely unregulated profit of those who control the giant tubes:

We cannot say we were not warned. We will not be able to say “nobody saw this coming”. It’s clear that, even those who are privileged by access and wealth and the ability to amplify their own voices have anticipated that we’ll all be disenfranchised by the private companies that own and control our networks of communication. And yet, most of our effort and ambition in the technology industry are not going towards building for the open web. Most communities that are disadvantaged are still trying to win on networks that they don’t own and will never control. Most of us are still cheering when the most powerful voices in culture and society embrace closed networks, instead of properly criticizing them for doing so.
[and he adds]
This, for me, is a social issue, a cultural issue, and a political issue, not just a technological issue. Perhaps we need to speak of it that way more often, to make the stakes clear.

Even more succinctly: we’re at the mercy of AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner, and really, we shouldn’t be. That’s not the way the internet was conceived, and that’s not what was supposed to happen as we spread broadband like creamy peanut butter across this great land of ours. They should profit, sprawl and survive with our permission, consensus and oversight, not the other way around.

Waiting for the light.

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

I was sitting across from Sammy just moments ago, and she lit up with a golden glow. No, this isn’t any mysterious superpower. It’s just the morning sun, finally cresting the ridge of the hill across from us. Well, I say ‘just’, but we’re in a place where the quality of light…how it casts a rich, angled gold at days beginning and day’s end…is why we travel to places like this.

Hello from New Mexico, a place quite unlike Michigan, Nebraska, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, or any of the California Coast we’ve explored on this multi-thousand mile trip.

And yet the constant (for me at least) through these road days has been a solar (and lunar)-defined rhythm. The sun sinks below the horizon and we take a few minutes to savor the last rays cast on clouds.

Before we see the moon above a ridgetop at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, we watch western mountains bathed in blue, ghostly light, seemingly from nowhere, and then spin around, looking back east, as the tiniest sliver of full-on moonlight breaks above the rock cliffs by the edge of our campsite. Then, over just a minute or two, the moonlight bursts free, and plays, like a roving spotlight, across the desert floor, and its full intensity is enough for even my old eyes to read by.

Next morning, the sun follows a similar route, and provides a bolder range of visual effects. Add or subtract the ocean (and humidity)…take us down to sea level or up thousands of feet, and the visual display continues to delight. Always the same processes at work…always a spectacularly different experience.