Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tolstoy on a Grain of Sand

Most signifying tweet I've seen to-day:

"I have only 140 characters, so please listen very, very carefully. A huge badger just broke into my office and he seems angry. Please send h"

By Mike Nelson. I hope he's okay.

Meanwhile, last night my twerrific tweets twere;

Motorcycle cop sneezed on the freeway.
The sushi bar waitress loves
War and Peace.
I made a powerful pita segue.
Quiet trivial tasks shall never cease.

Yes, I did see a motorcycle cop sneeze on the freeway. And now he's probably sneezing because I'm talking about him.*

I had to get groceries yesterday, so I stopped at a sushi place for lunch where the middle aged waitress tapped my copy of War and Peace and said, "Very good book. Read it a long time ago. Better than Harry Potter."

I told her I was really enjoying it so far, but added, "I'm only about a fourth of the way through." I realised as I said it this might be a somewhat difficult statement for someone who didn't sound like she understood English very well. Sometimes I'm really bad at economy with my words. In moments of crisis when a simple "Look out!" is probably best, I tend to opt for the "They have a crosswalk so you should probably stop," or "I guess this stuff is flammable." It's probably the same reason I can only twitter in verse.

I think a big part of why people like me have trouble understanding the phenomenon of Twitter is that we don't text. It's easy to forget how thoroughly texting has permeated the social landscape--watching my sister compulsively text while watching television, I always get the feeling there's an entire, unselfconscious alternate dialect massive portions of the population have sort of organically developed. I don't quite understand it, which makes me reluctant to look down on it.

I listened to Keith Olbermann while colouring last night and he was discussing Tea bagging--as in, the right wing political protest, not the act of dipping a scrotum onto someone's face. What amazes me even more than the fact that the protesters would haplessly adopt such a name for what they're doing is that they don't seem to have a very clear idea of what they're protesting. There's been no tax increase for the middle class or any proposal of such a tax increase--the people seem to be protesting actually how their money is being spent in attempts to combat the subprime mortgage crisis. That people would become angry enough to protest in large numbers government spending in order to manage a real economic crisis seems a bit surreal until you hear about the corporate sponsorship of the phenomenon through propaganda (Fox News) and even contests and prizes. It's not grassroots, but "astroturfing", as Paul Krugmen and a number of other analysts have said.

This seems to me a demonstration of our peculiar ghost world (once again, I'm co-opting Daniel Clowes' term). There's always been propaganda and groupthink, but with the unprecedented media distribution of to-day, the masses of people being shepherded are perhaps more firmly convinced of their worldliness and ability to spot authenticity than any other known society. Cheap information and platforms for information seem to have propagated some lazy thinking. I guess we can only hope that these new networks do more good than harm at the end of the day. While it may be easier for a corporation to manipulate large groups of people, it's also easier to distribute alternate perspectives. Mostly I think we just need more open minded people.

*Don't get that joke, but you're familiar with not getting it because of the hundreds of times you've seen it in anime and manga? Read this.

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