A Leet

According to WordPress and other services, the number 1337 is important. It is not important for obvious reasons, like, say, reasons that are important, but for more obscure, talismanic ones.

Almost from the start, the online world has been something of a secret handshake society, but a democratic one, in which one and one’s friends can come up with a new secret handshake, and a capitalistic one, in which some secret handshakes become more popular, trendy. Elite. Or, “1337.”

Going back thirty years, users of programming language and speakers of everyday speech started to find places where the two collided. Going back thirty years, teenagers were passing messages to kids in the next aisle by typing on their calculators. Remember doing that? Certain numbers look like letters upside-down, so when one types 0.7734 that is also saying, “hello.” Here is a list of 250 such calculator-words: 250 Words You Can Spell with a Calculator.

I have had only one problem with this from thirty years ago to today: 0.7734 has never looked like “hello” to me. I just do not see it. I was the friend across the aisle from you in school who, when you showed me a secret calculator message, inadvertently said out loud, loud enough to attract the teacher’s attention, “What?”

I also do not see hidden anythings in “magic eye” posters, other than pretty fractals and colors, so I am just a generally all-around evil human being and no fun at all.

In the early days of the internet, in the era of bulletin boards and relay chat, the era in which someone typing on a keyboard in a movie was the height of real drama, those sorts of calculated calculator misspellings became a short-hand way of demonstrating one had inside knowledge about a topic at hand. Some of these terms have entered the culture at large, like newbie or pwned, and many have not.

For all of my life, I have felt like an outsider gazing in at a world of secret handshakes. Further, I am at my most uncomfortable when I try to look like I think I belong with you. Thus, when the kids in school in the ’80s who were “into computers” made it look like a secret society, I lost interest in programming. (Your loss, gaming community!) When the secret handshake society’s special vocabulary filters into the larger society and becomes a trendy lingo for a month or two or a couple of decades, it makes the world look like how I feel when I am trying to bluff my way into fitting in.

(Amusingly, I am composing this rant in a WYSIWYG in which I write my own simple HTML code and do not use a visual editor, a habit dating back to my newspaper work and a blog I started writing [now long lost] in 1997.)

1337-1xWhen one achieves 1337 of anything on a website, it is worth noting because 1337 is a lot of anything. In the case of The Gad About Town, it reached 1337 likes on November 26, when someone liked the column, “Gratitude Week.” In old-school hacker lingo, being an elite member of the community was designated by referring to them as elite, or a leet, or 1337. Again it’s the upside-down calculators that I have never looked at without saying, “What?”

Thank you to my readers and especially those who make the effort to express that they like some of the things I do. You have liked me more than 1337 times so far in ten months, which definitely makes me feel like a member of an elite.

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for November 28 asks, “Today, publish a post based on unused material from a previous piece—a paragraph you nixed, a link you didn’t include, a photo you decided not to use. Let your leftovers shine!”

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Throw Back Your T’back Thursday

The photo below was shared with me about a year ago by a longtime friend. He informed me that he took it in June 1994. I do not remember the occasion but I do remember the hair, and that alone tells me it was from 1994.

The photo was taken at a party in his and his girlfriend’s apartment. I lived in the same complex as them at the time but I was soon moving “uptown” in New Paltz. (Three blocks away.) I believe that at the moment he was snapping this, I was asking him to be a future roommate with me the next school year, as no one had yet agreed to join me. (I was not an easy roommate to endure and two decades later, I got mine. In spades.) We were in graduate school, literature students, and my memory of our parties is unreasonably romanticized.

1994b

I loved that floral necktie more than it loved me, as it never held a knot that suited my fidgety liking. I have been the frayed death for many ties. And I certainly needed a haircut. The unruly hair—look at that thing on my head! It’s getting caught in my right eyebrow!—contradicted the intent of the tightly trimmed goatee, or vice versa, but I presented the world a lot of mixed messages about me in more ways than my grooming back then. I am 25 in this photo. An interesting life is ahead.

This is me in 2014. My girlfriend took this photo.
2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About a week ago, Michele at Steps Times Two awarded The Gad About Town a “Lovely Blog” award and I have not taken the time to thank her. Thank you. The reason she gave, on her blog, was, “Although he’s already been nominated, I have to add him to my list.” I love that. Thank you.

It is the seventh award this blog has received since joining WordPress in January.

In the blogging world, there are some rules of etiquette in the form of paying forward the awards attention. Here are the rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
2. Display the award on your blog—by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget.”
3. Share 7 facts or things about yourself.

In no order: A. Upon doing something new, I complain every time. B. Strawberries are my favorite food and I wish they had protein so they could be a complete meal for carnivorous me. C. Being in recovery makes every day feel like an awards ceremony. D. My love of the number 4. E. When it is fall I think that spring is the best season, and in spring I think that fall is. F. When asked to name a favorite book or movie, I usually blurt out like a nervous tic an answer that may have been true two decades ago, when I looked like the above photo, but without thinking. So I re-watched “The Maltese Falcon” after naming it last week, once again, as a favorite movie. It is still good. G. I whine.

4. Nominate bloggers you admire.

I am going to repeat something I wrote earlier this week. I have been participating for the last three months in responding to our WordPress service’s Daily Prompt, which has helped spur my most prolific period of writing since graduate school. (This prolific-ness is a good thing, too, because I am working on a terrific project, due out soon, with another blogger.) Most of the writers with whom I have been communicating regularly, several of whom ask me questions and give me applause every single day, I met via that service. My subscribers have doubled and so has the number of blogs that I subscribe to. Go to the Daily Prompt any day and you will see the several dozen blogs that I read and often like every day. Steps Times Two is really good. Michele is a teacher and a poet and a good, honest writer. I have also been reading Curl Up and Dye, written by Amy, who is exploring love and art in various manifestations, and very deeply.

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This was going to be the first sentence for today’s free-write post, but then I changed my mind: “I want to learn how to meditate.”

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for October 23 asks, “Our ten-minute free-write is back! Have no mercy on your keyboard as you give us your most unfiltered self (feel free to edit later, or just publish as-is).

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Ten-Minute Answers

I do not know if “1874: First Impressionist Exhibition” is the all-time greatest name for a blog or the 75th greatest name, but it attracted my attention when it appeared in the blogging world a month or so ago.

barthelme

Donald Barthelme

The creator usually illustrates her posts with works of art, paintings mostly, from the entire history of art, and is thus compiling a personal version of “The Story of Art.” This caught my eye, as it reminded me a bit of Donald Barthelme, and I think it also raised the bar for my website. (From the start, almost a year ago, I have included music and photos in here; an example: “Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.”)

http://1874firstimpressionistexhibition.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/the-liebster-award/

For the third time this week, The Gad About Town has been noticed and given an award, the Liebster award, given by one blogger to another. It is the second Liebster this year and I am very thankful to “1874: First Impressionist Exhibition” for the attention.

In the blogging world, there are some rules of etiquette in the form of paying forward the “Liebster” attention. Here are the rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
2. Display the award on your blog—by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget.”
3. Share 11 facts or things about yourself.

In no order: A. I spend too much time thinking about me. B. Strawberries are my favorite food, and I wish they had protein so they could be a complete meal for carnivorous me. C. Being in recovery makes every day feel like an awards ceremony. D. My love of the number 4. E. Yankees, Giants, Knicks, Rangers. F. When it is fall I think that spring is the best season, and in spring I think that fall is. G. Independent bookstores. H. “Too skinny” my entire life. I. Nascar fan, which no one expects. J. Have not yet owned an mp3 player. K. I want to see Mt. Everest but only see it.

4. Nominate bloggers you admire whose sites have fewer than 200 followers and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.

I am going to repeat something I wrote earlier this week. I have been participating for the last 10 weeks in responding to our WordPress service’s Daily Prompt, which has helped spur my most prolific period of writing since graduate school. (This prolific-ness is a good thing, too, because I am working on a terrific project, due out soon, with another blogger.) Most of the writers with whom I have been communicating regularly, several of whom ask me questions and give me applause every single day, I met via that service. My subscribers have doubled and so has the number of blogs that I subscribe to. Go to the Daily Prompt any day and you will see the several dozen blogs that I read and often like every day.

“1874: First Impressionist Exhibition” is one of the blogs to which I would have given a Liebster Award. A couple others: Joatmon14, A Body of Hope. The under-200 stipulation really is a great and understandable limit, but it truly is limiting.

But, you all get an award! Check under your seats and pass it forward if you would like to.

5. Answer 11 questions posted by the presenter and ask your nominees 11 questions. These are the questions I was given. (This is like being interviewed and this is the part I am only spending 10 minutes on.)

1. What’s the best piece of advice on writing you’ve received?
My first version of any piece of writing is usually an example of over-writing, a case of stating things in a complicated fashion; this is almost always done for comic effect, and then I read it and realize that I am the only audience for the complicated version of the joke. Keep it simple.

2. How often do you write or work on writing (e.g. researching)?
Lately, every day. I was silent for a decade, so perhaps I am catching up on lost time. As I am working on a book, I know that these muscles need exercise.

3. Are you an atheist, agnostic, a believer or something else?
I believe that life is a force that goes on. I do not believe that there is a Big Boss in charge, or that my particular consciousness was around before me or will continue beyond me. But life, whatever that energy is, will. I have a higher power in my life, in that I believe that neither you nor I are figments of my imagination.

4. Do you think this affects your writing?
It has an effect on my outlook on life, so I think that it has an effect on my writing, certainly any personal memoir writing.

5. What’s your favorite book?
“The Secret Parts of Fortune” by Ron Rosenbaum.

6. Who is your favorite author?
James Joyce. Sometimes I think that I like Richard Ellmann’s “James Joyce” more than Joyce, but then I look at “Ulysses” again. Nabokov. I am reading Martin Amis’s newest, out last week, “The Zone of Interest.” Nonfiction: John McPhee.

7. What’s your favorite movie?
“The Maltese Falcon.”

8. Who is the awesomest person you know (or know of), dead or alive?
I am proudest of my sister, for reasons she knows. I can not take my eyes off my girlfriend.

9. How would you define creativity?
Making 2 + 1 = G. But not every time.

10. How long have you been on WordPress?
According to WordPress, since May 2013, but this blog went live in December after starting it on Blogger.

11. Do you write for a living?
Not at the moment …

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for October 9 asks, “10 minutes. You and your keyboard (or smartphone. Or tablet. Or pen and paper). No pauses, no edits, no looking back: it’s free-write time!” And that is why my answers are what they are.

Two Awards in One Day

Two fellow bloggers separately named “The Gad About Town” as a winner of the “Lovely Blog” award today. That is as cool as it gets.

Both are blogs that I enjoy reading regularly, by two very different writers in different parts of the world: Tidlidim and The Reluctant Baptist. Thank you both. Both writers have strong personal voices in their work and sometimes include their own photos.

In the blogging world, there are some rules of etiquette in the form of paying forward the “lovely” attention. Here are the rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
2. Add the “One Lovely Blog” logo to your post. Display the award on your blog—by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget.”
3. Share 7 facts/or things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 bloggers you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.

The last one first. I have been participating for the last 10 weeks in responding to our WordPress service’s Daily Prompt, which has helped spur my most prolific period of writing since graduate school. (This prolific-ness is a good thing, too, because I am working on a terrific project, due out soon, with another blogger.) Most of the writers with whom I have been communicating regularly, several of whom ask me questions and give me applause every single day, I met via that service. My subscribers have doubled and so has the number of blogs that I subscribe to. Go to the Daily Prompt any day and you will see the several dozen blogs that I read and often like every day.

I fear I will leave someone out, is all I am confessing.

Several random facts about me:

1. The number four is my lifelong “secret lucky number.” (Anyone who has gambled with me knows about this. Read: The Gad About Town: Against NYS Proposition 1.) Now, I know that in most of the world’s luck traditions, if one declares out loud that something is secret and lucky, one has immediately kiboshed all secrecy and luck out of that thing’s existence, but that is the beautiful thing about my “secret lucky number 4”: It remains lucky and maybe even grows in power every time I speak of my special relationship with it. Maybe.

2. I left New Paltz in 1995 to work in Narrowsburg, NY, and moved back to New Paltz in 1997. I left New Paltz again in 2000 to work in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and returned to New Paltz in 2006. (There are legends about New Paltz and eternal return and gazing upon the nearby Wallkill River—I am legend, I suppose.) And then I had to move again, this time to Goshen, NY.

3. Depending on my relative levels of optimism or pessimism, I may refer to my spinal muscular atrophy as an “illness” versus a “condition.”

4. I pretended to write before I knew how to write. There may even now be pieces of furniture at my family’s house with my crayon scribblings on them and in them—I did not draw, I wrote, wavy lines that I would then inform my parents was a story. I’ll guess I was about three or … four. See? It must have been a lucky number.

5. I am very audiologically sensitive (I do not know if that is even a term). I can identify voiceover actors, even when famous ones are used anonymously. The downside of this is a sensitivity to certain noises … if the faucet in your kitchen sink is dripping, I will excuse myself from your living room to see if the tap can be tightened or if the faucet swung away from any container under it. Bloop bloop bloop. Sadly, this sensitivity does not translate to any musical ability. I have none, just an appreciation for music and performance.

6. I see words as I speak them.

7. My favorite animals growing up were dinosaurs. My favorite dinosaur was the triceratops. In the children’s books about dinosaurs, the triceratops always seemed to get into a tangle with the fearsome T-Rex and walk away, unscathed.

http://thereluctantbaptist.com/2014/10/07/and-the-nominees-are/

http://tidlidim.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/grouping-two-lovely-blog-awards-into-one/