It seems like it was just yesterday that I parachuted onto the Internet thinking I was infiltrating a land of glowing wonderment, but instead I immediately fell victim to its shiatsu death grip. I was sealed in the trunk of a vehicle racing down the Information Superhighway at reckless speeds, and my girlish screams for help disappeared into the air like imploding sperm whales. But the flashlight of fortune shined upon me, and I was delivered to safety when my mobile prison crashed into a digital mailbox and exploded like a rickshaw would explode in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie involving an unnecessary rickshaw chase scene that also included a Jaguar, a tank, and an Apache helicopter piloted by Gary Busey. When it finally ended, when I finally climbed out of the wreckage, I saw a smiling face waiting for me. I can remember in vivid detail the features that demarcated this shimming face like a map of perfection: that elegantly curved smile, those two piercing eyes. It looked something like this:
Over time I would see many more faces like this. I soon learned that even though the Internet was a cold and distant apparatus designed to isolate people and destroy them systematically, it was also capable of displaying "emoticons," which put little graphic faces on the feelings of the amorphous blobs populating this new digital universe. I've talked about emoticons before in past articles, such as that one update where I spent 2,500 words discussing the importance of ending every single sentence with a smiley face, unless it was a sad sentence, in which case it should end with a frowny face. Though my binary emoticon range is limiting, it prevents too many emotions from spilling over into the online written word. We must repress all shades of gray, else it's only a matter of time before we're being strangled by a rainbow comprised not of colors, but various bands of gray. It should come as no surprise then that I'm appalled at the supernumerary emoticon options taunting me at every turn. With that said, I'd like to take you on a stroll down emoticon lane! I just hope you don't fall victim to some crazy Vietnam flashback from seeing all these tiny yellow emoticon faces staring at you. Oh, and in case you aren't familiar with emoticons, I've included some example contexts to show how they are used.
Our old friend Mr. Smiley is of no threat to anyone. In fact, it's the best way of saying, "Hey, look at me, I'm smiling" without ever having to move a single facial muscle. It's also a fun way of ending statements in which you say something disturbing, like "I murdered a kitten today. " It just seems so right.
Example usage: "I heard you got cancer. "
When the trials and tribulations of this sin-cursed world get to be too much, we can't help but feel like the crushing weight of world is crushing us with no less than its crushing weight. The best way of expressing pain, sorrow, grief, and tragedy is not with a well-crafted haiku or haunting painting, but with a sideways colon and left parenthesis. Also, if you're an angst-addled lad or lass, the kind that dresses in black and listens to nothing but songs about suicide and failure, you have to use all the time. You have no choice.
Example usage: "I'm the ugly duckling of this pond, the burdensome beast made solvent with the caress of the razor. "
Okay, here is where we start running into problems. Obviously this is supposed to be happy, but there is already a smiling face. Why do we need two smiling faces? We don't, so this is redundant. This is like the emoticon for "I'm currently getting a blowjob." While that's a facial expression people tend to enjoy making, it's unnecessary since only weirdoes are typing on the Internet while getting blowjobs. I mean really, put the keyboard away. This is no time for chatting.
Example usage: "I can't believe how good it feels when you take out your false teeth! "
I can't say I'm happy to see our friend Mr. Smiley Face taking things to a new level. I liked you when you were smiling, but when you started winking at me, as if to mentally undress me or perform some obscene act on me, you crossed an invisible line. How am I supposed to feel? Every time I see this emoticon I figure somebody is going to try to stick a finger some place I'm not expecting. I'm glad emoticons don't have bodies, because I'd hate to see what else is "winking" at me.
Example usage: "Close your eyes. Me and my speculum have a special treat for you! "
This emoticon causes me intense terror, since it is essentially the vile face of a transvestite with a cigarette burn just above the lipstick-caked lips. The cigarette burn is obviously the result of a trick that turned sour, like when those crazy hot-dogging Arab stuntman tried to fly their planes between the Twin Towers and missed. Every time I see this emoticon used I get a chill that races around the death-defying loops and curves of my scoliotic spine. If ever there was an emoticon that deserved to be strangled and buried in an unpopular national park, this is most definitely the one.
Example usage: " is the worst emoticon ever!"
You have to wonder what the purpose of this emoticon is. In real conversations, it's considered immature to stick your tongue out. Now if this emoticon is intended to mean something along the lines of, oh, say maybe, "I'm going to lick you," then that's another matter. It's perfectly acceptable to lick people in the middle of a conversation so obviously this emoticon is very important and necessary.
Example usage: "Wow that's interesting! I'm going to lick you now! "
This is very troubling, because like the blowjob emoticon, it represents a private matter. More troubling than that, it represents a rare occurrence. How many Internet users actively wear monocles? I can assure you that the numbers are very minor, and comparable with the number of people who die annually from laughing too hard at the jokes on "Hollywood Squares." Even then, nobody on the Internet has the class to wear a monocle. It represents a social caste far removed from the turbulent mass of trolls that, in their wretched and vile tongues, call the Internet home. This is mostly used, to my knowledge, on the SA Forums by people who are neither sauve nor sophisticated. I simply don't believe people who spend their free time arguing about whether pirates are cooler than ninjas deserve to be considered monocle caliber people.
Example usage: "Why I never! Your unpardonable assertion that the Negro is suited for more than menial labor has led me to crap my monocle! Be gone from my vestibule at once!"
Come on, like I'm supposed to believe somebody cool is using the Internet? It doesn't work like that, muchacho. This sly, slick, and sexy emoticon is at odds in a land of nerds, creeps, and clowns. Like Fonzy in the cast of "Happy Days," the emoticon is a winner in a sea of dead sloths. In reality is nothing more than the smiley face wearing sunglasses. Why sunglasses? To hide the black and bloodshot eyes that would give away the brutal drug and abuse-fueled lifestyle of this emoticon.
Example usage: "I wear sunglasses at night. "
Oh, feeling sassy are we? Cut the crap you miserable emoticon. You have nothing to roll your eyes at. You barely even have eyes, save for a few measly pixels. If there is ever a point in an online conversation where you need to express to people that you are rolling eyes, you are probably having an unncessary conversation. At this point you should shut down your computer and go back to writing threatening letters to Cat Fancy magazine.
Example usage: "I can't believe you think Spock could win a debate with Gandalf. Give me a fucking break, Gandalf is a white wizard and Spock is just a Vulcan Starfleet Officer. Sure he has logic, but Gandalf has magic!"
Wait, why is there an emoticon for this? Can't you just type out "I love you" instead of dredging up a dumb symbol? The problem with this emoticon isn't so much that it exists, but that it exists at such a massive scale. For a size comparison, this heart is bigger than the standard emoticon head. Obviously this vital organ was taken from some ancient race of giants, or perhaps a large gorilla. I don't know what kind of statement that says, but I find it rather odd anybody would attempt to show affection by displaying a large, pulsating primate heart. But ultimately, if a girl murdered and dissected a gorilla on my behalf, I'd be pretty touched.
Example usage: "I love you more than the four corners of the wrestling ring, from the turnbuckle and off the top rope hard against the mat. My love will put a submission hold on your heart, and you'll never want to leave the squared circle ever again, lest the cage of our love not forever entwine our tag team union. "
If we've learned one thing from this brief study, it's that all these emoticons (and the hundreds of awful ones I ignored) should probably be banned. Two are more than ample, and they convey all the emotions we need. In fact we don't even need those. This is the Internet, a global interchange for ideas and concepts presumably built by astronauts. A place like this should be devoid of emotions and individual thought, home only to cold, merciless packets of non-volatile information and strict totalitarian regulation. And porn.
Ben "Grasenin" Platt Marries the Sea
Ben is apparently out marrying the sea he loves so much and is simply too busy to write a plug for his article, so he left me instructions to feed his trophies and post his new movie review. It's part one of a two part series reviewing "Dark Stories: Tales From Beyond the Grave." Take a look:
Ever since filmmaking fatty Peter Jackson hit it big with the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, New Zealand has been hailed as the number one hot spot of the cinematic world. And why not? Personally, I loved the "Rings" films, and I was recently lucky enough to see Jackson's early masterpiece, "Dead Alive" on the big screen. Yes, New Zealand has the perfect locations for any sort of scene imaginable, which is why I thought it would be a nice change of pace to see seven young directors get in there and really fuck it up. Hence, "Dark Stories: Tales From Beyond the Grave."
Please read it and send Ben your electronic love and kind wishes. He likes fruit, so send him a fruit basket, too.
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
The Something Awful front page news tackles anything both off and on the Internet. Mostly "on" though, as we're all incredible nerds.