The inspiration for this column comes from two unlikely places. First, while preparing to swipe my bank card at the grocery store check-out line, I was told by the cashier (I never use those pesky self-service kiosks) that the card swiper had just been updated to reduce the card-eject wait to just under seven seconds. Seems that customers had been complaining that the former wait was far too long (@15 seconds).
Seems that customers had been complaining that the former wait was far too long (@15 seconds). Second, while I was being interviewed by Sarah, a student who was doing a project using Snapchat, I had to give my answers in those neat little ten-second snippets. These two experiences remind us that we live in a very impatient age that continues to shorten our already-truncated attention spans on an almost daily basis. Of course, this obsession with brevity is best represented by Twitter, that annoying platform that defines eloquence as a string of one hundred and forty characters or less–the same format used by our ubiquitous SMS text messages. Of course, Twitter now doesn’t count emojis, photos, and other characters in its limit (as well as giving preferred paying customers a few more characters) and at one time considered a 10,000 character limit. Should we be happy that decision wasn’t made?
As an innovative (or foolhardy) experiment, I am writing this column as a series of independent one-hundred-and-forty-word-or-less “mini-columns,” each of which might possibly be read in ten seconds, depending on your speed reading skills Call it “TwitterChat,” or whatever you wish. Yes, I do know the difference between words and characters, but decided to start with 140 words, maybe one day attempting to write a column using 140 character chunks. I am not quite that innovative yet, although one of my favorite books is built around six-word stories. So, let’s begin this bold experiment.
(1) As I write this, one of my favorite jazz musicians, Esperanza Spalding, is recording her new album in a 77-hour totally-improvised live session that is being streamed on Facebook Live. Improvisation, which is basically a way of taking a set of prescribed ingredients (facts, “real” not “fake”) and putting them together in imaginative and creative ways, should be a model for thinking and learning in many contexts (67 words).
(2) As you know from following this column, I read a lot of books, and my current favorite (which generally is the one I happen to be reading at the moment) is Ian Bogost’s PLAY ANYTHING: THE PLEASURE OF LIMITS, THE USES OF BOREDOM, AND THE SECRET OF GAMES (2016), which gives us a whole new perspective on the meaning of “fun” and “games.” According to Bogost, games are not escapes from boundaries and structure, but ways boundaries and restrictions to stimulate our creativity. Fun, which is the product of playing games, often results from working within boundaries. Bogost tells us that fun “will require us to see the hidden potential in ordinary things so that we can put them to new uses.” This book will make you see things you thought you knew so well in new and interesting ways (140 words).
(3) While watching the Apple iPhoneX announcement last week as it streamed from the company’s new “spaceship” campus, I couldn’t help but compare what I was watching to the new film “The Circle,” starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. This horror film is an obvious reference to Apple and its efforts to capture our hearts and minds, and it offers a very chilling view of a world that is totally devoted to surveillance. As Tim Cook strolled around the stage I kept seeing the face of Tom Hanks as Apple’s new Face ID was introduced. Very chilling indeed. I may never look at my iPhone the same way again, even when I update to iOS11 next week. Look for my column about “The Circle” as part of next month’s “Halloween Horrors” series (131 words).
(4) While writing this I am watching Howard Hawk’s 1963 screwball comedy, “Man’s Favorite Sport?,” a fishing comedy (there aren’t too many of those) starring Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss. I got this movie for around eight bucks from WalMart’s new classic movie section that features similar films, like Don Knotts’ “The Love God?” (question marks were popular in film titles during that era), the Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee vehicle, “If A Man Answers,” “The Brass Bottle,” another 1963 movie, starring Barbara Eden and Tony Randall, that inspired the TV series, “I Dream Of Jeannie,” and the Rock Hudson-Doris Day classic, “Pillow Talk” (1959). These movies, silly as they are, capture a transitional era that was beginning to deal with the changing roles of women in society, and should be studied as valuable documents alongside the “Mad Men” TV series (140 words).
(5) This is Column #1,461 in the “Kelly’s Place” series, and it literally seems like only yesterday when I came up with Column #1. That was in 1989, a month after my daughter was born. As you read this, my daughter’s first daughter (and my granddaughter) is now one month old. Seems like things have come round full circle (no reference to the aforementioned Emma Watson movie), and it makes the writing of this column a bittersweet and hopeful experience. So, this week’s column is dedicated to my new granddaughter and to her wonderful parents and her grandmother (98 words, 10 seconds, if you read fast).
So, there we have it–my experimental column. I think I will stick with my usual More-Than-140-Character limit, because here is how Paragraph #4 might look with the 140-character limit:
(4) Right now I am watching Howard Hawks’ 1963 comedy, “Man’s Favorite Sport?” which shows us the changing role of women in the early Sixties (139 characters).
I am definitely not ready for a SnapChat version of “Kelly’s Place.” And I don’t mind waiting more than seven seconds for my card to be ejected.
See you next week with some sort of column.