Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Somebody Doesn't Like Me

Somebody out there doesn’t like me, and he’s spent the past several years trying to post comments to this blog telling me what a contemptible loser I am. Well, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve lived an uncommonly diffident, shy, socially awkward, unaccomplished, and unexemplary life. But what I don’t understand is why this person cares so much that he wastes all this time reading my posts and sending comments that don’t get published and also posting nasty comments supposedly from me to a friend’s blog. 

Do my admitted shortcomings unconsciously remind him so much of his own that he vents against his own by disparaging me? I guess this is a question I’ll never be able to answer, because this individual will probably never summon the courage to venture out from behind his wall of anonymity and relate to me as a human being instead of as a faceless, pseudonymous antagonist with an unspecified grudge.

I keep referring to this person as a “he” because I can scarcely imagine a female exhibiting such compulsive antagonism toward someone she’s never even met. This kind of unseemly behavior appears to be the province of disturbed maleness. Men are supposed to be strong and capable, and a weak man might feel compelled to insult and ridicule another man’s weakness in place of his own. Maybe his initial moniker of "Shirley" subconsciously points to his estimation of his own masculine potency.

I seem to recall that “Shirley” did once upon a time suggest a motive for his ongoing insults. They were benevolently meant to “help” by confronting me with hard truths that would provoke me into changing the sorry course of my life. Well, I have a suggestion for my compassionate would-be “helper.” Tell me something I don't know about myself. Tell me I can rise above my limitations instead of persistently berating me for having let them get the better of me. Extend a strong hand of friendship or at least kindness instead of a flaccid fist of hateful vilification. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Letting Go of Cable TV

I'm canceling my cable TV Wednesday. I wish I could say I'm doing it strictly on principle. I posted an entry yesterday about how telecom companies such as Comcast are monopolizing the industry and keeping prices higher and quality lower than they could be, and I'm a Comcast subscriber.

But I'm dropping cable TV and Comcast for another reason. I'm trying to economize, and cable TV is a luxury I can do without. By signing up with another company, dropping cable TV, and keeping only internet and a modest digital phone package, I can save a lot of money. But I'll miss plenty of programming and the overall convenience of cable TV that I've enjoyed for decades, and I think my wife will miss it even more.

I need to find out which shows I can still watch on my computer and on Hulu Plus alongside the ones I can view on the broadcast networks I can catch with my indoor antenna, and I'm hoping this will become second nature over time for both my wife and myself.

But I know we're still going to miss cable TV.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Susan Crawford Says Revamp the Telecom Industry

"The rich are getting gouged, the poor are very often left out, and this means that we're creating, yet again, two Americas, and deepening inequality through this communications inequality." ~ Susan Crawford

Bill Moyers recently conducted an interview with law professor, author, and former Obama administration technology advisor Susan Crawford on the telecom industry in the United States, and I didn't like what she had to say. I won't summarize the interview in detail, but the gist of her message was that even though this nation pioneered much of the telecom industry, it lags behind many other countries in bang-for-the buck public internet and wireless access because certain companies such as Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon have been allowed to monopolize their domains and prevent competition that would spur development and lower prices that could benefit the nation as a whole and allow poorer people access to telecommunications resources vital for getting ahead in today's world.

Crawford recommends that the telecom industry be treated not like the provider of a luxury product or service but as a public utility and regulated by federal and local government so that it provides virtually everyone with excellent and affordable internet and wireless access. And she believes that because  telecommunications giants command enough wealth and power to influence government policy to preserve the status quo, the American people need to demand changes from their elected representatives or else this nation will fall further behind the rest of the world and the poor and shrinking middle class will become even more disadvantaged than they are now.

I think Susan Crawford has a compelling message, and she'd get my vote, if I had one, to be the next FCC chairperson. We need more like her and Elizabeth Warren looking out for the American people from powerful government positions.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

On Writing Better

I seldom post to this blog anymore, but I've started rereading William Zinsser's wonderful book titled "On Writing Well," and I feel inspired to write and challenged to write well. Of course, I've always wanted to believe that I write well already and needn't work harder to write better, but I've always known on one level or other that there's room for improvement.

Zinsser writes: "Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon." Well, that seems to describe my writing when I examine my words under the magnifying glass. I've always woven superfluous and pretentiously big words into ornate sentences that surely tax the patience of even the most attentive readers and send the rest scurrying for cover.

Yet I struggle with the question of how to streamline my writing in a way that improves it rather than robs it of my unique and vital voice. I long to write clearly and simply, but I don't want to repel readers with prose that sounds like Dr. Seuss wrote it and they stop reading not because my writing's too daunting in its turbid complexity but because it's too boring in its spare and sterile simplicity.

Well, Zinsser makes one thing clear at the outset. Writing is difficult work. If it ever seems easy, it's probably because I'm doing it wrong. But I still have to figure out how to do it right, and I'm hoping that reading Zinsser's book and practicing what it preaches will help me.

However, I need to remember that when we try to do something differently that we already do pretty well, we may do it worse before we learn how to do it better and that we need to hang in there with the effort and the frustration.