Monthly Archives: August 2009

The New Literacy

Clive Thompson has an article over at that hints reports of the death of writing may have been greatly exaggerated.

Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

Nowadays a lot of folks are socializing online as often as (if not more often than) they meet in person, and this means text messages, Facebook, Twitter. Indeed, as Thompson mentions, those tweets add up. People are writing to each other about their lives all the time, and many of them haven’t bought a postage stamp in years. The proliferation of computer keyboards may have placed proper handwriting on the endangered species list, but apparently writing-slash-storytelling has never been more popular—even if it’s “just” tweets, blogs, or text messages. Kind of makes you wonder, though, if the trend will continue if and when effective video chat becomes the norm. Somehow, though, I don’t think a video call can ever replace the eloquence of a simple text—preferably something with the word “fuck” in it—explaining to your boss that you can’t come in to work today because you “have a cold”—when really you’re up to your elbows in lovin’.

(There’s a nice little mental image for you.)

Windows 7 Sins

Windows 7 Sins—The case against Microsoft and proprietary software

Windows 7 has been getting a lot of positive press lately—and this site aims to make sure the sour is appreciated as well as the sweet. While I’m not an out-and-out Windows hater, I can relate to point 4:

Microsoft regularly attempts to force updates on its users, by removing support for older versions of Windows and Office, and by inflating hardware requirements. For many people, this means having to throw away working computers just because they don’t meet the unnecessary requirements for the new Windows versions.

I’d still be using my circa-2000 Athlon Thunderbird system for video editing if ATI hadn’t stopped refining the drivers for its All-in-Wonder 128 Pro line. Fuckers. That card had hardware MPEG-2 decoding. It was sweet. Ah, well. Spilled milk. With Windows 7 I think for the first time in a while I’m going to miss out on the whole upgrade frenzy—and I’m not going to care. Ubuntu 9.04 is friggin’ perfect. Well, Brasero burns discs at ~1x unless you remember to disable certain plug-ins, and VLC’s audio output is broken—and GNOME’s screen lock feature sometimes freezes up when you try to log back in, but other than that (and the fact that there still isn’t a good, easily-installable video editor for Linux) it’s Ubuntulicious. I think Ubuntu even renders Microsoft’s new Cleartype fonts better than Vista does. 13px Corbel looks pimpin’ in Firefox 3.5.

Holy Shatner. I just realized my loyalty to one particular operating system hinges solely on its ability to render type in a clear, legible manner. Can you say OCD?

No butts…well, maybe a few

Blink and you’ll miss Ricky Berens’ butt smiling for the camera

I was talking to Sal about this weekend’s impending The Oatmeal Man shoot, during which certain specific (totally tasteful, I swear!) vertical smiles are bound to occur, when I heard about Ricky Berens’ high-tech swimsuit malfunction during the World Swimming Championships in Rome. The subsequent Google news results got me thinking: When a woman shows her behind the immediate effect is usually artistic or sensual; when a guy shows his ass it’s just plain funny, but still effective (read: Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Look what it did for Ricky’s online visibility—and for Philip J. Fry’s career:

An asstounding likeness

And for Andy Dick’s:

Andy Dick file photo

Well, maybe it wasn’t as good for Andy as it was for Ricky, but my point remains valid. :P

FRA Magazine

Now, who do you suppose that pimp daddy in the right column is?

Now, who do you suppose that pimp daddy in the right column is?

FRA Magazine (no relation to any Marts, Wal or otherwise) has posted a quick blog and interview video about The Oatmeal Man. That first comment reminds me that one of the joys of working on this project is hearing “WTF?” whenever just the title is mentioned to anyone. Things get considerably more precarious as soon as I delve into the plot. Oftentimes the person to whom I’m babbling will nod agreeably and slowly inch his or her way towards the nearest exit. It’s like prom night all over again.

Instant Oatmeal

Just so you know, we’re not the only ones wasting camera time on oatmeal:

The best thing about this video: the finger in the bowl, poised, patient, self-assured. It should have worked, but didn’t. Bachelorhood can be hell sometimes.

Nonchalant Dandruff: What You Need to Know

You find out the darnedest things when you research a project. For example, while preparing background details for The Oatmeal Man, I found out there really is no such thing as an oatmeal factory (oatmeal production is usually one part of a larger mill). I also discovered that Amboy, California, on which Happy End is loosely based, was pretty much killed off by the I-40’s opening nearby in 1973. But I think the most interesting tidbit I stumbled upon is something called nonchalant dandruff, as illustrated by this video posted on YouTube:

According to Sickipedia, nonchalant dandruff, which can be differentiated from regular dandruff by its sufferers’ marked nonchalance concerning the condition, is one of the initial symptoms of Oates’ Disease. While OD affects less than 1% of all factory workers worldwide, there seems to be a growing trend towards infusion-based diseases (IBDs) where shoddy working conditions and managerial negligence collide (Sunday’s The Oatmeal Man table read, for example). Symptoms of OD include the above-mentioned dandruff, elevated moles that eventually break off and become raisins, and the gradual, painful conversion of glucose to sucrose in the bloodstream.

Like Crohn’s Disease or narcolepsy before the Internet, OD is getting little or no attention from the mainstream media. Which figures. In today’s mass-produced society, it’s usually the individual worker who suffers quietly in the field or factory. IBDs can be easy to misdiagnose because all it takes is the slightest bit of current while you’re in contact with, say, a blob of Malt-O-Meal, or a box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies—and what family doctor is going to make that connection?

Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s medicine. The Oatmeal Man is the fictional account of a man struggling with OD. If his story, embellished as it is, can save just one life, then I’ve done my job. ;)

Dogs Are Weird

Why do dogs howl at fire trucks?

I don't know. Next time you see a dog, ask him.

Pepper, the family schnauzer, is usually the cutest, most well-behaved little thing you ever saw, except for when she’s pissing on the living room floor—and when she’s howling at passing fire trucks. It’s almost like she gets hypnotized. She could be romping around the patio, or I could be playing a game of catch with her and all of the sudden she’ll freeze, cock her head, perk her ears, and start howling. It doesn’t exactly sound like the high-pitched sirens are bothering her, so I’m going to take micki’s suggestion and join in the next time a fire truck comes our way, see what happens.

Another little quirk: Pepper hates having her picture taken. She let me snap her photo once last year—and then never again. She doesn’t even like the idea of cameras. If I walk into the room with a camera in my hand she’ll dart out the nearest exit or duck into her kennel.

Just thought I’d put it out there: Dogs are weird. ;)