Two Weird Dreams

Couple of weird dreams lately.

Two night ago, I dreamed we got an extra-thick Times-Picayune on our front porch. It was a Sunday. We don’t subscribe to the Sunday paper. I realized the reduced print schedule must have kicked in. I got out a knife and stabbed the paper just to see how thick it really was. I got out my phone and was about to take a photo and post it to Twitter. But suddenly a man in a suit got in my way, wrestled the phone from my grasp. It was the publisher (or was it the editor?) and he crawled out on the balcony with my phone, threatening to kill himself. Then I woke up.

Last night, I dreamed of a city called Lotus, an international science research city located somewhere in Asia. Under threat of thermonuclear war, Lotus launched some escape pods into the Pacific Ocean. The attack did not in fact materialize, but one scientist was lost at sea for a couple years. Then one day she felt like she was being watched. She turned around to see an automated probe rising out of the water. The probe was shaped like a giant version of her own head. Adding to the eeriness, the whole dream was illustrated in the style of EC Comics.

My Sister

I had my phone turned off from Saturday night when I went to bed until after noon Sunday. When I fired it back up, I got a volley of three text messages from my sister via Twitter.

U still up? Txt me from ur personal.

For some reason she doesn’t have my phone number. She follows me on Twitter and gets updates sent to her phone. It’s actually our main way of keeping in touch, though it’s kind of one-sided. Mostly I post and she receives.

Five minutes later:

U still awake? Need to talk.

No, I wasn’t awake. It was two o’clock in the morning, I was asleep, and my phone was off.

Twenty minutes after that:

I see all ur random bullshit daily. U cant take 5 sec to talk to ur sister when she needs u. Thks.

And that’s my little sister in a nutshell. Quick to anger! She’s kind of like a female version of Steven Seagal — “the woman with the short fuse.”

After some phone tag and a further exchange of texts and voice mail, we finally got to talk mid-week. I don’t need to spell out the details here for the whole world to see. That might get my ass kicked.

Let me just leave it at this: I love my sister, but that late-night text message was too funny.

My Cake Explodes

All of a sudden I’m getting a surge of traffic to this old photo of my birthday cake from 1984.

Rated R Cake

I trace the hits back to a tweet from a journalist in Paris (with a Troll 2 background no less) named Alex Hervaud. Dude’s got 6,718 followers. Here’s the tweet:

Si j’avais fêté mes 17 ans aux States, et si je m’étais appelé Bart, j’aurais kiffé qu’on m’offre ça

My French is a little rusty (as in nonexistent) but Google Translate tells me this means, roughly:

If I celebrated my 17 years in the States, and if I had called Bart, I’m offered that I kiffe

OK, I think I get the general idea. Still, something seems to be lost in translation. The message in question was retweeted by two other people. So there must be some humor I’m missing.

And what does kiffe mean? According to the infamous Urban Dictionary:

Kiffe comes from an arab word (kef) which means to like, to enjoy, a pleasure… which has been “imported” into France by North African people… and became “kiffe”.
It simply means “to really enjoy someone or something!”
e.g: I kiffed that trip!
I would kiffe to meet her;
She really is kiffable
What a kiffe to drive that car!

Because it comes from some sort of French suburb slang (langage des cités), but is now used by everyone (though it is still ‘slangish’), you can use it how you want to!

There are also some sexual definitions for kiffe, but I’m going with the one cited above. After all, my mom made that cake, so let’s keep it clean — eh, M. Hervaud?

Books vs. TV

I am pretty excited about HBO’s new series, Tremé. I still haven’t actually seen it yet, but I feel like I have, almost.

It premiered Friday night, and I had a couple invites to see it in some venues that would have been fun. (Like the Charbonnet Funeral Home in Tremé. That would have been a trip.) But the time-slot was late, and there’s no way I was going to keep my girl up past her bedtime. So that meant either Xy or I could see it while the other person stayed home and played the responsible adult.

I got stuck being the responsible one.

Since we don’t subscribe to cable television, I couldn’t watch the show, but I did “tune in” to Twitter where I watched a veritable deluge of commentary pouring forth — thousands of tweets, far too many to read in real time. I’d say comments were 90% positive, but it is hardly a scientific sample.

In the other 10%, one remark in particular caught my eye, from local author and luminary Poppy Z. Brite:

Read a Book

As noted, I don’t quite share her perspective — but I respect it. And in fact I think it provides the perfect springboard for a workshop I’m doing next week on Goodreads.

Different media have different affordances. Despite the convergence exemplified by technologies like the World Wide Web, there are still some relevant distinctions to be made. You can’t beat television for live coverage of a sporting event, for example; I’d argue that’s the ultimate application of that medium. You just can’t watch the game on a book.

As for dramatic narrative? That’s one reason Tremé is interesting to me, as it seems to be a best-case scenario. It’s not an adaptation of a book but a dramatic narrative straight-up written for television, involving lots of very talented people who have a great track record. If it’s anywhere near as good as The Wire I’m sure I’ll love it.

However, I still think theater and cinema and books are better venues for dramatic narrative. Television can aspire to the same level of quality as the best of those, but can it do anything unique? Is there anything a TV series can do that a film or a book can’t do? I don’t think so — beyond perhaps a heightened sense of social immediacy.

And that’s where Goodreads comes in. It adds that dimension of social immediacy to the reading of books. Or you can just use it to keep track of what you’ve read and what you want to read. I think it’s fairly handy, and of course, I’m on there so feel free to add me as a friend.

I’m curious to know what others think about dramatic narrative on the small screen. Is there anything a TV series can do that a film or a book can’t do better?

An Idea for Twitter

I just posted the following suggestion on Get Satisfaction:

When getting a notification that someone’s following me, it would be nice to see how many people have blocked them. The e-mail notification currently includes how many followers they have, how many tweets they’ve posted, and how many people are following them. However, I’m betting a count of the number of times they’ve been blocked would give the best indication of whether or not that person is in fact a spambot.

I have gotten ten or so follows over the past 24 hours, all from spammers. I block them once I’ve ascertained they are spammy, but the only way to do that is to visit their profile page. A block count might make it easier to filter these spammers out.

If you like this idea, you can head over to Get Satisfaction and throw it a little support. If it gains enough traction, Twitter may notice and actually implement it.

Twitter Bridges the Gap

Twitter has become such a faddish phenomenon it’s almost embarrassing. Amidst all the hype of celebrity tweeters and whatnot, it’s easy to lose sight of the flexibility and just plain usefulness of this tool.

This was driven home to me when I was recently visiting with my sister. She’s not very cyber-wired and wasn’t really familiar with Twitter. This despite the fact that she’s been using the service for over a year.

Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister

Back in late 2007 or so, my mom was frustrated in trying to communicate with her daughter and granddaughter. Mom liked e-mail while my sister and niece preferred text messages. Sister and niece didn’t spend much (if any) time in front of a computer, and Mom didn’t have a cell phone.

It occurred to me that Twitter could bridge this gap. It would allow my mom, my sister and my niece to stay in touch with each other via their tech of choice. Mom could post up from her computer and the girls would get it on their cell phones. They could text back and Mom could receive that on her computer.

Working through Mom we finally got it going in early 2008. So my sister had a Twitter account and was sending and receiving messages, but thought of it as a private communication channel with Mom. Little did she know I was following her updates too. But she wasn’t getting my updates until our recent visit, when I set her up to follow me.

I’ve hooked a number of friends into Twitter without ever sitting them in front of a computer. It can all be done via phone using The Official Twitter Text Commands. Unfortunately there are a few glitches. For example, my sister had to text both “follow editor_b” and “on editor_b”, the first command to subscribe to my updates and the second to turn device notifications on, i.e. to get those updates sent directly to her phone. This seems a little redundant to me; if you send a message from your phone to follow someone, I’d think it would be implied that you want to get their updates on your phone as well. Indeed, Twitter’s documentation even says “using follow/leave username from your phone is the same as using on/off username” but it didn’t work that way for us.

The important thing is that we enabled the communication. Now my sister, who lives over 800 miles away from me, can be a little more connected into my life. This blog can’t do that, and neither can e-mail or Flickr or Facebook or any of these other crazy services that I use. Only Twitter bridges the gap from the net to phone so easily.

My sister is hardly aware of the overheated hype surrounding Twitter, and I’m sure she couldn’t care less about it. She just wants to be in the loop when I get a speeding ticket in Cullman County or when I find my missing earring or when my daughter says a new word.

And now she is.

NOLA Twitter

Question: When will the NOLA blogosphere finally get around to infecting Twitter?

Answer: Last week. I blame Alan.

PS: In the spirit of constant self-aggrandizement, I should mention that I’m editor_b on Twitter.