Monday, March 21, 2016

Am I being evaluated?

     I’m in the process of attempting to renew my medical for my Merchant Mariner Master Captain’s License.  Knowing the process can take months, well in advance of the expiration date  I visited my general practitioner and my eye doctor, let them thump and stick and scan me, filled out the numerous exhaustive forms, and sent them in to the Merchant Marine Division of the United States Coast Guard under The Department of Homeland Security. 

     After three weeks, this is a verbatim excerpt from the e-mail I received: 

     Your Application has cleared the Medical screening and is ready to be evaluated by the Medical Evaluation Division, evaluation section.

     This is the sort of bureaucratic nonsense that grinds along like a great boulder-strewn glacier all across our fair land in almost more governmental departments and agencies than can be counted, and at high cost to us all.

     No wonder so many people are pissed.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Language erosion

     The global advent of social media and texting has wrought some sad side effects, including, I’m afraid, the erosion of our language.  We’re seeing homemade abbreviations and sloppy spelling and unleashed clich├ęs and incorrect punctuation and bad paragraphing, with everything tapped out in lazy lower case and sprinkled with exclamation points.  Have we so devolved in the use of our language that we must employ cutesy graphic gimmicks like hasty emoticons to express emotions that we used to take the time and thought to sincerely spell out?

     If you’ve ever read any letters from the Civil War years, you’ll recall how differently our language was used then.  It may have been overly embellished and a touch melodramatic, but it displayed a deep respect for the beauty and power that has been instilled in the intelligent use of words over uncounted generations.  Those wartime letters were sincere and often deeply moving.

     Is it too late to rescue our great language, to begin again using it to its full potential?  Employed with respect and skill, it still has the ability to make us marvel and laugh out loud and cry empathetic tears, and it bears the latent energy and impact—as when so well used by Winston Churchill or Dr. King or Eleanor Roosevelt or Abe Lincoln or Carl Sagan and his successor Neil deGrasse Tyson—to change the world.

     I hope it’s not too late.

     In closing, I’d like to thank one and all out there from the bottom of my heart (and from the middle of my liver and from both ends of my appendix) for reading this humble blog. 

     Happy face.  Winky face.  And lots and lots of exclamation points.