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Category Archives: The Internet

In yet another sign of the world economic crisis, the value of the LOL has officially dropped below the : ) benchmark.

The LOL, which stands for “laugh out loud,” originally denoted a strong reaction to humour. The basic smiley, or : ), traditionally denoted a less extreme state: in some cases as little as a courtesy smile or an indication of the user’s own humorous intent.

Data gathered by internet researchers shows that the LOL, or “lol” as it has become known, has now become so devalued it is worth less than the : ).

Experts largely attribute the phenomenon to airheads. “We point the finger at those dopes who punctuate every sentence with ‘lol’,” said Dr Sinter Klaus of the internet group OTOH. “People just over-used it until it had no meaning at all. Didn’t matter whether they were actually laughing, or just making a mildly humourous remark. The way we see it, if you’re not literally laughing out loud, you shouldn’t invoke LOL.”

A man pointed at a graph yesterday, noting that the line was at the top on the left side but near the bottom on the right side, always a conclusive piece of evidence.

The historic reversal in values of the two commodities is partly due to the devaluation of the LOL, but also due to the rise of gaudy graphic smileys replacing the humble text smiley. As the LOL has declined in value, the : ) has simultaneously become more attention-grabbing.

A lol (left) compared with a modern day Xtreem smiley (right), described by this caption (below).

Figure 1: A lol (left) compared with a modern day Xtreem smiley (right), described by this caption (below).

“Faster connections, higher bandwidths, and a generally more awesome intarweb have permitted a proliferation of in-your-face emoticons,” said another person. “They flash, they gurn, they move. And in many cases, these extreme graphic smileys automatically replace boring text smileys as you type them. FTW.”

Some commentators see the devaluation as an inevitable consequence of the unfair demands social networking places on time-poor participants. “People who supply inanities to internet forums don’t have time to waste,” said a teenage girl. “The L and O keys are adjacent. It’s therefore much quicker to type a lol [sic.] than to type a smiley, especially since you’d have to hold down the shift key to get the mouth part. And the eyes. When your time is precious, this kind of shortcut becomes a significant factor.”

“Look at this,” said Dr Klaus, holding up a picture of a smiley rolling its eyes.

Industry pundits are now closely monitoring the fortunes of the ROFL against the ROFLMAO.

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Depending on your tolerance for toilet humour, this is either a gem, or the last thing you’ll read on this blog.

The Australian Government’s Department of Health & Ageing maintains a National Public Toilet Map at http://www.toiletmap.gov.au/ . You can search for a convenient convenience by postcode, address, nearby landmark or map reference. Or you can just browse. I swear to you, there is a “Browse” button.

Presumably when you’re busting for the toilet, you can still spare the time to find an internet connection.

The Public Toilet Map website is professional and thorough. Kudos to whoever’s behind it (no pun). A lot of higher-profile websites could take a leaf from its book, or tear off a sheet; for example, Vodafone Australia’s ugly, broken and misspelled website, which should by rights be added to the map.

And of course, there are people to whom this is far from a laughing matter. There are worlds within worlds.

But getting back to the toilet humour, here are my favourite elements of the National Public Toilet Map:

1. The site invites to you “Visit other sites about continence”. I didn’t, but thanks. I wonder if it’s part of a web ring?

2. There’s also a link inviting you to “Visit our Help section for assistance”. The mind boggles.

3. If you find a public toilet that’s not listed, you can add it to the database by clicking a link labelled “Suggest a toilet”. This leads to an online form that concludes with a button labelled “Suggest Toilet”: possibly my favourite internet button ever.
suggest_toilet1

4. There’s a section called “My Toilet Map”. When you mouse over the link, the pop-up tip says “Save your favourite toilets, searches and plans”.

5. There’s a public toilet newsletter you can subscribe to. I signed up on behalf of a mate.

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The Sydney Sun-Herald of April 15 reports that an Australian actor is asking for donations to the total of US$200,000, which he will use to buy himself a ticket on a Virgin Galactic flight into space.¹

The actor is Gyton Grantley, from the soap Home and Away. Note that in Australia, appearing in Home And Away does qualify one to be called an actor.

The space flights are intended to have a duration of two and a half hours.

The Sun-Herald article says “people around the world can donate $1 each to the cause via a PayPal system or by depositing money into a bank account set up for the venture.” What it doesn’t explain is why.

Forgive me, but this rankles my sense of justice. It seems to me that there are much more deserving uses for one dollar, never mind 200,000.

But in the age of Paris clones, cookie-cutter Emos and Jackass imitators, a significant sector of the public will make choices based on how meaningless, stupid or nihilistic they are. So he’s in with a chance.

Wait, you say. The gentleman has every right to be cheeky and self-serving. Correct; and so too, I have every right to draw attention to it.

You might think that this is a stunt to raise money for charity. But the actor says, “This isn’t a joke or a scam, I am serious…”¹ He really will use the money to buy a ticket on a space ride.

The scheme’s website, http://www.sendguytospace.com, says:

By helping Gy you will also be helping many sick children. As well as 10 percent of the ticket price, all excess money donated will be given to the Starllight [sic.] Foundation. An Australian foundation helping bring joy to sick children.

This means that if he raises a million dollars, US$820,000 will go to charity, and he’ll spend US$180,000 on frivolity. And if he only raises US$200,001, then it’s US$21,001 to charity, the rest to play. Which figure do you think is more likely to be reached?

In fairness, good on him for offering 10% of your money to charity.

The website’s disclaimer says:

The funds donated are for the dominate [sic.] purpose of funding my ticket to space. However if by 30th of June 2008 I am unable to raise sufficient funds to purchase a ticket, and do not have adequate funds to pay the shortfall myself, I will donate the funds to the Starlight Foundation.

The bottom line is that this “cause” might raise money for charity, but first it’s gonna raise money for Gyton Grantley.

Full marks to the fella for having a go, and bonus points for bare-faced cheek.

Perhaps Send Gy To Space was inspired by 2005’s famous One Red Paperclip enterprise, in which a clever kid used the internet, and public goodwill, to make incrementally more profitable exchanges, beginning with a red paperclip and ending with a small house. (See oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com/.)

The difference is that the Paperclip guy bartered things that were of value to the people who helped him along the way, whereas Gyton Grantley is simply begging. And he doesn’t even offer to play guitar, sing or perform any traditional busker service. He’s just sitting on the footpath of the information superhighway, with his virtual hat upturned for your e-charity.

You see, Mr Grantley is based in Sydney, New South Wales, and under NSW law begging money from strangers is not an offence. Buskers, however, are required to have a permit. Perhaps a separate arrangement could be made with PayPal to facilitate donations to buy Gy a busking permit, or at least a permit to operate a silly name.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of natural selection, and it’s okay by me for clever people to profit from fools. But the public has limited reserves of tolerance for appeals to charity, and I think this audacious and relatively novel scheme would be better used to raise money for something that’s actually worthwhile.

So, are you feeling charitable enough to donate a trifling US$1 to a so-called cause? Are another 199,999 people feeling the same way? If so, here are a few things that US$200,000 would be better spent on:

• The Salvation Army
• Cancer research
• Drug education & rehab programs
• Equipment for your local hospital
• Food parcels for drought-affected communities
• Mass sponsorship of third world towns
• My early retirement

Or you could just send one bloke to space for a couple of hours, at Virgin Galactic’s profit.

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References:
1. Angela Cuming: To reach for stars, actor needs cash. The Sun-Herald, Sydney, April 15 2007, p21.

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11 January 2007: I download and watch the video of Saddam Hussein’s hanging. Supposedly an underground video, tagged with “banned”, it’s hosted by Google, one of the world’s biggest media players.¹

In fairness, Google itself isn’t responsible for the video. The video was uploaded by an anonymous user. Whoever this person is, he or she is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year

As at 16:30 AEST, 14,174,493 people have viewed the footage; I think this is quite a small number given that many of these hits will have been revisits. Or is it too many? Of course, many voyeurs will have sourced the footage elsewhere. 14,174,493 is just Google’s share of the audience.

The execution took place in a small, dark room, with much shouting and garbled Arabic speech. Saddam appears not to speak, appears to be resigned to getting it over with. Certainly there is no ceremony, or none by western standards. In the space of 2½ minutes he’s noosed, dropped and cut down; one might almost say it’s an anticlimax.

The camerawork is, if you’ll excuse the pun, terrible. Poor framing, poor focus of attention, too much motion, and the camera looks away at the crucial moments. At first I thought this gave the lie to Time Magazine’s contention that outsourcing of mass media creation to the individual is the current big thing. Then I remembered that media content standards have dropped correspondingly; to many, this is good enough.

On the other hand, as a rule, what isn’t shown on screen is frequently more evocative than what is shown. Ask any decent horror director. Perhaps this shaky, distracted camera work (or phonework) is intentionally gothic; perhaps a po-mo reference to The Blair Witch Project, an arch commentary on the new media.

Yes, yes… I’m supposed to remember that I’m watching, and discussing, the death of a human being. Since the execution, there has been an outcry against the death penalty itself, never mind its recording as entertainment. But I find it hard to place any more value on Saddam’s life or death than he did on the lives and deaths of the more than 300,000 Iraqis purportedly killed during his regime.³

Was it wrong to video-record Saddam’s execution? The recording arguably provides a public service inasmuch as it forestalls claims that his execution was faked. Right or wrong, it makes little difference to Saddam, for whom all things have become equal.

Was it wrong to download a video of Saddam’s execution? It certainly left me feeling bummed out and in need of a hug. And it makes it hard for me to claim the act of recording was in poor taste. But look, I got a short essay out of it; the muse is priceless. Did 14,174,493 others get similar benefit from watching this sorry thing? Did it at least make them all want a hug? Did it make people around the world reach for each other before they too took the last drop?

If so, how much better off is the world for it?

Google supplies a vox pop rating for each of the videos it hosts. After 14,174,493 views, the execution video has been rated 4 out of 5 stars. I wonder what criteria the voters used. How do you rate a video of an execution?

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POSTSCRIPT: AUTOPSY VIDEO

My ex-boss tells me now that there’s a video of Saddam’s autopsy floating about. He expects it’ll be a fake. As he says, “Why would they do an autopsy? [In stoopid voice:] ‘Wow, I wonder how this guy died.’

References:
1. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7532034279766935521
URL correct at time of writing.
2. Lev Grossman, Time’s Person of the Year: You, Time, New York, December 13 2006. Read online version
3. AP, 61,000 Baghdad residents executed by Saddam: survey, Sydney Morning Herald, December 10 2003. Read online version

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