Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Year, Never Fear

Just a note to say that I'm back. Who knows what I will have to say this year, or whether I will run out of things all together? I guess we'll see. Here is a quick string of things leftover from last year that I meant to say before being caught up in the holiday spirit:

#1: Put 'er Therer, Friend

What's the deal with us making up words like "pusher-outer" or "picker-upper"? As in, "Mom said we all have to clean the house—Sarah, you vacuum the floors; Jon, you wash the dishes; and me, she said I'm the trash putter-outer."

Haven't we got a clear precedent with the term "passer-by"? Should I be the "putter-out" of the trash? The "hanger-up" of the clothes. The "puckerer-up" of the lips?

And if there's more than one of us, shouldn't we be the "suckers-in" of the tummies?

#2: Dukers-it-out

Has anyone else noticed that Michael Bolton, Huey Lewis, and Stevie Ray Vaughan all have the same voice, even though they all sing in a different style of music? Or, if not the same voice exactly, at least close cousins. I don't know what it is—maybe it's that huskiness or the way they power out the words from somewhere deep in their guts.


Whatever it is, I'd like to see Bolton and Lewis duke it out to play Vaughan in a biopic.1 Lewis has the advantage of being musically close to SRV, but Bolton's got (had) the hair.

#3: Catchers-up

Why doesn't technology keep up? We have what, like a billion scientists currently working on solving everything, right? And at least 750,000 of them are working exclusively on cell phone games and facebook applications, right? So why hasn't anyone fixed IM-ing yet?

I mean, I'm pretty new to the whole chat scene, having eschewed it for years on the grounds that whenever I thought I was chatting with Cute Girl it ended up being Cute Girl's roommate on Cute Girl's computer after Cute Girl failed to log out or whatever. (Or maybe it was Cute Girl, and just when I got the upper-flirt-hand she decided to bail by claiming she was her own roommate, tee hee!) But even in the few months that I've used g-chat (quite sparingly at that), I've figured out that IM-ing doesn't work right.

Here's one thing: Why haven't they come up with a way to type more than one thing at once? How often are you typing out some response to one thing when the other person posts and then you need to delete your whole line and start over to answer what was just said? They should have two or three little windows to type in so you can work on more than one idea at a time.

And another thing, how about multiple windows with one person to carry on different strains of the conversation? Or maybe different fonts or colors you can assign to your multiple windows to differentiate which part of the conversation what you're saying refers to? The other day I was chatting with a friend and we spontaneously developed a system of parentheses and brackets to identify which parts of the conversation we were contributing to. We did (this), [this], {this}, and ([this]), and in another minute we probably would've thrown in ({[this]}) or something if not for the difficulty of arranging the brackets all in the proper order and the danger of confusing our punctuation for a flirtatious smiley face. Why hasn't one of the scientists or the college dropouts done anything about this yet? What was all that talk about technology picking up so much speed we wouldn't be able to comprehend it, all those graphs showing a curve shooting up exponentially, an unassailable mountain of knowledge?

The thing is that the fundamental difference between talking in person and chatting online (aside from the issue of knowing who you're talking to), is that online you are free to follow every possible conversation. In a normal conversation you choose at each moment, with the next thing you say, where the conversation will go, even if there are multiple possibilities. Let's say Zach says, "Man, I loved that movie Dick Tracy." Then I can say, "Yeah, I love Warren Beatty's yellow trench coat," and we're off on costumes for five minutes. Or I can say, "I haven't seen it since I was six," and we're off on movies of our youth. Or I can say, "Madonna was a t-babe in that movie, but too skanky," and we can proceed to analyze her career for awhile. I know what you're thinking—you can always come back and touch on those other subjects later. True, and sometimes you do that by saying, "I've got two things to say about that." Then you have a marker to come back to, a mental tingle that waits to be scratched while you wander down a tangent. But more likely your talk of Madonna splits into her film career versus her music career, A League of Their Own takes you to Tom Hanks takes you to The Ladykillers takes you to the Coen Brothers takes you to No Country for Old Men, or "Like a Virgin" takes you to "Like a Surgeon" takes you to "Eat It" takes you to MJ himself, and you never come back to yellow trench coats or films like Willow and Cloak and Dagger (well, those are the ones from my childhood at least).

Instant messaging takes time out of the equation and allows you to explore simultaneous parallel conversational universes as they spring into being. This is the beauty of it, the thing that makes it different and supplemental to regular conversation.2 You're all thinking the same thing, right? So why haven't the scientists figured this out yet?

What we need is an interface that lets you split conversations out as they occur, a time-machine web-diagram chatterbox. At first you start with just one thread in one window, but there's a button you can press to split the conversation out and follow it in two directions. And there needs to be quick keyboard shortcuts to fly from thread to thread without having to reach out to the mouse and put the cursor in just the right spot. I hate that.

1I looked it up, and this word is pronounced "bio-pic," not "bi-opic." Personally, I prefer the second one. I'd also prefer to drive a CONvert-able (convert as in the person, not the verb), and I'd rather be mis-cheeve-ious rather than mischief-ous. Pedagogy. Pe-DOG-ogy. PED-agogy.
2 This is what discussion boards have been doing for as long as they've been around, only with more people and more spread out.


editorgirl said...

In the mode of my former 150 self: "I was too distracted by the use of 'tee hee' to follow your argument."

Was it K you were using parentheticals with? We always have sets going in our conversations. Makes it that much more entertaining.

In light of that (and totally stealing from Salinger), I'm leaving you with a bouquet of parantheses to decorate your blog comments:


Kirby said...

SRV is probably 3 or 4 times better than Bolton and Lewis combined, if I do say.
For example, "Life by the Drop" is an amazing song and his voice and acoustic guitar just drips emotion (pathos!).

Also, I might add, he as a far better musician and died in the typical way that proves he was a musical genius.

Jennifer said...

It's all proof that nothing can simulate or replace human contact. BTW, I just hit return in the middle of my reply, wherever I'm typing (adding a ...), type in a response to the new thought, hit return, and pick up on the first response (preceded by a ...) Isn't that called an ellipses? And this is because (referring to the first sentence) human conversation, both in person and over a phone, intonates nonverbal communication. IMing requires us to type it ALL in. Smilies, catchy abbreviated phrases (LOL, etc). It's almost like the difference between watching a movie and reading the book. My personal favorite example is the BBC's newest "Jane Eyre." My most favorite movie! Knocked "Buffy" out on her hindparts. It is SO passionate and emotional in ways that the book (which, don't get me wrong, is incredible) can't relay in a moment to moment way, simultaneously with speech or action being written. Although, this opens two strings of thought for me immediately: (1 - could the movie even do that if it weren't for the incredible awesomeness of the book?) and [2 - when emotionally involved in a book, like I usually am with "Jane Eyre," do we, the readers, inject our own emotional responses onto the characters, filling them in as the words are spoken and the actions taken? I do. I read faster and faster, heart pounding, waiting, like Jane, to hear Mr. Rochester proclaim his love! I almost get annoyed that the author stops to write the emotions, the pauses of breath, the glances and tender looks, because I've already supplied them, and I'm anxious to get to the dialogue. Then again, if the author left it out, like, say, I felt whatshisface did in "Anna Karenina," I'm annoyed that the book is dry, emotionless, uninvolved.]

David Grover said...

To eg: No, it was Elisa. Thanks for the bouquet.

To Jennifer: Are you my sister? Who are you? If you are my sister, how come you don't talk like that at home? And that Jane Eyre completely rules, especially the parts when she is remembering her last day or so with Rochester after the marriage falls through. So creepy, so emotionally tangly, so good.

Jennifer said...

Yes, I'm your sister, you Goat! How many Jennifers do you know exactly? And talk like what at home? You don't even talk at all at home. If you had that conversation at home, I would have told you then. What are you trying to say?

drew said...

I talk at home. At least more than Dave. I finished Jane Eyre on Wednesday and am going to watch the movie tonight. I'm so psyched!