Pay attention.

I was googling “Brothers & Sisters,” the TV show, trying to find something I once read about it. I tried to watch that show and gave up after about half a season, when it became clear the writers were never going to give up this maddening music-cue thing they do.

The show is your basic prime-time soap, with comic elements. Whenever a comic scene commences, however, the sound editors insert this giggly little piano/string thing, the universal music code for “French farce scene about to commence! Get ready to laff!” I remember a couple years ago, reading an interview with some network executive who said it was necessary to telegraph every punch that way, because they’d given up the idea of any viewer giving any TV show their complete attention, and they didn’t want someone to look down at their laptop during a serious confession-of-infidelity scene and look up to find a zany oops-we’ve-been-caught-having-sex-in-the-cloakroom scene. Too jarring. And so tonal shifts are underlined, perhaps so viewers know they’re watching broadcast TV, not HBO.

So I was looking for that interview, and got distracted by reveries of the Allman Brothers, who — you younger folks might not know this — had a monster album in the ’70s called “Brothers and Sisters,” which combined with “music” would of course turn up in any Google search. And by then I had forgotten that one of the things I wanted to say was, nobody has any attention span anymore, because they’re always multitasking.

There was a trainer at my gym who liked to combine the ab work in his classes with “Whippin’ Post,” which I always thought was appropriate.

Which sort of brings me to this story from the New York Times’ Department of News You Already Knew, about how kids today are addicted to the internet. As an abusive parent in this regard, defined as “one who declined to buy the data plan for her child’s cell phone, and who also activated the parental controls feature of the computer’s OS,” I read with keen interest:

Those ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices, compared with less than six and a half hours five years ago, when the study was last conducted. And that does not count the hour and a half that youths spend texting, or the half-hour they talk on their cellphones.

“I feel like my days would be boring without it,” said Francisco Sepulveda, a 14-year-old Bronx eighth grader who uses his smart phone to surf the Web, watch videos, listen to music — and send or receive about 500 texts a day.

It’s the texting that makes me insane. A true moderate, I equipped Kate with the moderate plan — 1,500 per month, which feels like all the goddamn texts any normal person would need, don’t you agree, my fellow geezers? Well, you should pay closer attention to your kid, who thinks nothing of texting “yo” or “‘sup?” or “hey” nine million times a day, and I am not kidding. Objecting to this is like saying with all this long hair, you can’t tell the boys from the girls.

I told her if she went over 1,500, I was taking it out of her hide. And no data plan until she gets a job.

After all, I don’t want to happen to her attention span what’s happened to mi– Shiny object! New tab in Safari! Tangent! So let’s go straight to the bloggage, eh? (I pronounce that blo-GAHGE, by the way, from the original French.)

Detroitblog finds a sterling example of that unique American character — the graphomaniac. (Look it up if you don’t know what it is. Why do you think we have tabbed browsing and the internet at our fingertips, fool? If this were a TV show, I’d be playing stern music right now.) Don’t miss the guy’s website.

It so happened I was at John King Books, Detroit’s spectacular used-books treasure house, looking for a couple of volumes that will aid in my horse-eating project mentioned last week. You want to know where graphomaniacs’ work goes to die? Check the local-history shelves at your own town’s version. They are distinguished by their lengthy subtitles (“Officer Down: One Man’s Heroic Crusade Against a Corrupt Police Force and Its Enablers Among the Legal Community, Particularly the Prosecutor’s Office — You Wouldn’t Believe”) and their equally lengthy dedications to the many kind helpers they had along the way to publishing their opus, which no publisher would touch, because it’s simply too hot.

There’s one at my local car wash, or was the last time I visited. I love this car wash, which takes advantage of the few moments you will spend there to push every imaginable sort of impulse purchase at your face. Greeting cards, scented cardboard air fresheners, bulk lots of utility towels, one-size-fits-most floor mats, laminated study guides for everything from the SAT to the periodic table — I have barely scratched the surface. But there, on a table next to the window where you watch them finish your inside windows, is a little pile of books. Self-published, natch. Title: “My Wife Has Cancer.” I can’t bear to pick it up. I hope it was therapeutic for someone.

An odd and an end from yesterday: You Cincinnatians, does Zino’s still have the greatest pizza in the world? We used to drive down from Columbus for that stuff. It’s the big red onions that does it. And Bob (not Greene) wondered if the Kim who commented yesterday had a last name beginning in L, because if so, he thought they knew each other? She does; you do. Contact me privately if you want to catch up.

It’s a new medium, so the growth curve is spectacular: The Chinese folks who brought you the animated Tiger Woods story tackle the Leno-O’Brien-NBC story. And it is awesome. If I were a young journalism student, this is what I’d be studying.

And now, to commence what is, theoretically, my work. If I don’t get distracted.

Posted at 9:38 am in Media, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' |

40 responses to “Pay attention.”

  1. Bill said on January 20, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Your graphomaniac bloggage reminded me of a line from Julia Keller in the Chicago Tribune last week: “A sentence written by the late David Halberstam seemed to have a mind of its own. It might start out with promising succinctness and then circle back around for additional attempts at the ideal wording, then suddenly veer off to retrieve a metaphor or two that slipped overboard during the first few dozen wobbly approaches, after which it would swoop around again and bear down for the landing. By that time, the subject and the verb might not even still be on speaking terms.”

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  2. Deborah said on January 20, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I was raised Lutheran and somewhere, someone told me that it was suspected that Martin Luther was a graphomaniac. It was the first time I’d ever heard of the condition. Many years later I saw the movie “R Crumb” and if I remember correctly one of his brother’s had a condition something like that. He had a compulsion to draw and write comics to the point that he would simply scribble on page after page of lined paper to emulate handwriting.

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  3. nancy said on January 20, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I think, toward the end of his life, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was almost indisputably graphomaniacal. At least, if I can draw conclusions from the fact “The Red Wheel,” his unfinished multi-volume magnum opus about the Russian/Soviet transition, draws notations like this in Wikipedia:

    November 1916, 2 volumes, 1985
    March 1917, 2 volumes, 1989

    The original plan was to continue through the mid-1920s. Yeesh.

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  4. Jen said on January 20, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Oooh, you are an evil mom, Nancy! You don’t let Kate have unlimited texting and data? Cruel and unusual! I now have unlimited texting and data and the Internet and all that crap on my Droid phone, but only because I pay for it myself. I justify the expense in several ways – I can keep my calendar with me at all times, which is nice when setting up interviews; I can check my work email from anywhere; it has a GPS in it; and I don’t have any children and I have my own job so I can get a fancy fun phone if I want it! I certainly wasn’t entitled to it when my parents were paying for everything, though!

    When my parents were paying (which they were nice enough to do through college), I had the bare-bones cell package, with some minutes and no texting. I had to tell my (much richer and more spoiled) friends not to text me because it cost 10 cents every time they did. I like texting, personally – it’s easy to be able to send quick messages to my sister, parents and in-laws without having to actually talk to them on the phone. But it’s not, by far, crucial, nor is it something that anybody should be doing 500 times a day.

    [ON EDIT: I have actually sent more than 200 texts to my sister – I think that’s since the beginning of the month, not since I got my phone. But still. 500 times a day? Insane.]

    Parents need to take a page out of your (and my parents’) book and tell their kids, “NO!” No, you can’t have the Internet on your phone. No, you can’t send more than 1,500 text messages a month. No, you have to stay under these minutes. I wonder what things are going to be like for this batch of kids who have parents who seem incapable of saying “No!”

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  5. Sue said on January 20, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Re: Big Dem loss in Massachusetts – has anyone seen any discussion or analysis on what the Mass health care reform legislation might have had to do with this? Yes I understand that Coakley ran a terrible campaign etc. etc., but has there been any discussion on why residents of a state that already has a plan in place should care one way or another if they seat a senator who, according to the “experts” on either side, will single-handedly torpedo national reform?
    Here’s Jon Stewart, for those who can still laugh about this:
    “Let me see if I have this straight. You need to replace perhaps the most beloved liberal in the history of the Senate with a candidate that believes Curt Schilling is a Yankee fan. Because if this lady loses, the health care reform bill that the beloved late senator considered his legacy will die and the reason it will die is because if Coakley loses, Democrats will only have then an 18-vote majority in the Senate. Which is more than George W. Bush ever had in the Senate when he did whatever the f**k he wanted.”

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  6. vince said on January 20, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Hey Nance, did you know that Leno/O’Brien animation was created by a newspaper?
    The Apple Daily in Taiwan is a scurrilous tabloid which, according to a Taiwanese friend, makes U.S. tabloids look restrained. “An apple a day keeps the falacies away” is its motto.

    It loves to report on crimes including the most salacious details in the most graphic way possible relating exactly how and where a woman was raped or a man assaulted.

    When it doesn’t have graphic crime scene photos, it invents illustrations out of thin air. Now that it has an online presence, it’s turned illustrations into 3-D animations. Recently they created a fictional depiction of 2 kids viciously beating in the head of third boy to accompany a story about a real life assault. Its brutality was astonishing. After slamming the kid several times with a bat, their weapon comes up bloody. I saw it before it was yanked amid strong protests. I believe the Taiwanese government even fined the paper for its violent excesses.

    This makes me wonder: when will a US site pick up this baton in the name of “news” and start inventing animated “illustrations” to accompany reporting on real events. I realize Dateline and Court TV do animations depicting where crimes happen, the big networks did animations of the US Airways flight coming down in the Hudson. But this paper in Taiwan has taken this to a new level with human avatars, based on real people, depicting them in the act of a crime.

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  7. paddyo' said on January 20, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Graphomania, huh? Sounds like what infected Jack Torrance once he got over his writer’s block in “The Shining,” no? Page after page after page of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” . . .

    On the Dems’ loss in Mass.: Haven’t seen anything on Sue’s observation. Wonder if folks simply bought into the tea-baggers’ hooey . . .
    But in the morning-after dept., can’t resist passing along Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory’s brilliant take, “Seduced by our new senator” —

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  8. Peter said on January 20, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    7-1/2 hours a day?!?!?! God help me if my teenage son finds the article – I go ape if he spends more than an hour on Flight Simulator…

    I had a client who is graphomaniacal. (Or is it was? I mean, he’s no longer my client, but I’d bet the house he’s still scribling away…) Our lovely relationship ended when he sent me a several page letter about sustainable tropical rain forests, and I had to call him back: “Like I care about the Amazon – do you want the light stain or the dark stain?”

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  9. beb said on January 20, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Texting seems like a great thing, quick messages, no time-wasting social chitchat, but then I don’t text often. At times, because we opted for cell phones without the querty keyboards, texting can be long and tedious. At those times I wonder why I didn’t just hit send and, like, TALK to my wife or daughter.

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  10. ROgirl said on January 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Texting and graphomania: opposite ends of the spectrum.

    In a pizza-related comment, I swear by Buddy’s.

    The Conan-Jay animation was spectacular. I loved the pot-bellied Jay in his super-hero get-up.

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  11. alex said on January 20, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    “…Democ­rats will only have then an 18-vote major­ity in the Sen­ate. Which is more than George W. Bush ever had in the Sen­ate when he did what­ever the f**k he wanted.”

    Sounds about right, although 9/11 gave Bush carte blanche to do whatever the f**k he wanted. The media feared public backlash for criticizing the president and so did the cowardly congressional Dems. Fucking fuckmooks.

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  12. Dexter said on January 20, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Deborah, I recall it a bit differently. Robert Crumb’s brother simply collected books. He had no radio, no television, nothing but books, rooms and rooms of books not unlike the infamous Collyer brothers of New York City, except the Collyers collected everything imaginable and brother Crumb only collected books.

    John the Detroitblogger is really very talented. I love that blog.

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  13. coozledad said on January 20, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    If you’re novelizing actual events, and using characters that might be composites of a dozen or so actual people, at what point might you have to consider bringing in foreskin-headed invaders from a parallel world to remove any doubt that it’s a work of pure imagination, and therefore litigation proofed for publication?

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  14. moe99 said on January 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Sue, this piece resonates with me on the Coakley loss:

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  15. Rana said on January 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Eh, texting. Too much trouble; none of my friends use it, and, as a touch-typist, I find pushing the phone keys ridiculously slow. Much easier to call, and, as a person with a bit of telephone anxiety, that’s saying something.

    Twitter, on the other hand…

    Oh, and I had to laugh about your comment about popping open another tab. At this moment, I have two brower windows open, one with 14 tabs open (5 semi-permanently), the other with 19. When I’m in full researching mode, I’ll add a third window and fill it with tabs just for that. (If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist; bookmarks, while useful, are the equivalent of a drawer crammed full of junk, versus the open shelving of tabs.)

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  16. Little Bird said on January 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    I used to work with girl who’s little sister could generate well over her parental approved number of texts. She stopped when her parents found out that they could get transcripts of all those texts.
    What gets me is “text-speak”.

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  17. Julie Robinson said on January 20, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Here’s someone else who doesn’t get texting and is really annoyed by its shorthand. It’s blocked on my phone after my outrage at paying for texted spams, which I believe qualifies me for full geezerhood. Both my kids have the $5/mo. plan and our son opted to pay the additional $5 for unlimited texts.

    The irony of Nance’s post is that I kept myself off the computer all morning to lessen my own internet addiction. Yep, much more productive.

    Our daughter, who is 29, remarked that NBC doesn’t get it with the whole Leno/Conan controversy. She doesn’t know anyone who watches Leno and those who watch Conan use Hulu to view it on their own schedule. She’s not really sure why people bother with TVs and cable and the like. The times, they are a changin’.

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  18. Watson said on January 20, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    My beloved is a copyeditor of some renown–extremely talented and (generally) quite diplomatic in working with his authors, many of whom become slavishly devoted to him in gratitude for his improvements to their manuscripts. Several years ago he worked on a Halberstam book that suffered mightily from the problems mentioned in Bill’s comment #1 upthread. He suggested some fixes, and in return received a scrawled note from Halberstam that said, “Write your own fucking book.”

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  19. Jeff Borden said on January 20, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Will someone please remind me what year it is? I followed a link to this story, which apparently is not a joke. Story follows:

    New basketball league open to whites only, to get away from the ‘street-ball’ played by ‘people of color.’

    A new professional basketball league called the All-American Basketball Alliance (AABA) sent out a press release on Sunday saying that it intends to start its inaugural season in June, with teams in 12 U.S. cities. However, the AABA is different from other sports leagues because only players who are “natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league.” AABA commissioner Don “Moose” Lewis insists that he’s not racist, but he just wants to get away from the “street-ball” played by “people of color” and back to “fundamental basketball.” Lewis cited the recent incidents of bad behavior by NBA players, implying that such actions would never happen with white players:

    “There’s nothing hatred about what we’re doing,” he said. “I don’t hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here’s a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like.” […]

    He pointed out recent incidents in the NBA, including Gilbert Arenas’ indefinite suspension after bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room, as examples of fans’ dissatisfaction with the way current professional sports are run.

    “Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?” he said. “That’s the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction.”

    The AABA is targeting Southern cities, but one proposed city — Augusta, GA — is opposed to the league. Several other cities have reportedly told Lewis to “stay out of town.”

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  20. nancy said on January 20, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    The ol’ “natural-born American” thing, again. Maybe he should change it to ABBA — absolutely boring basketball association.

    Someone out there explain the appeal of watching Hulu on a laptop. Thirty seconds into any Flash video, and my fans start up. I find commercials less annoying than the roar of an overheated processor.

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  21. Sue said on January 20, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Jeff Borden: I assume Jews and Catholics are out, too.
    This should be hilarious. One unintended consequence: team jerseys will become the rage among hip young “people of color”, and it will become the evening out of choice for slumming non-whites, who will make sure they show up in large groups.

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  22. Jeff Borden said on January 20, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    I guess the ghost of Adolph Rupp still exists.

    Doesn’t a team like this exist already? Aren’t the Washington Generals, the perennial patsies to the Harlem Globetrotters, all white?

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  23. Julie Robinson said on January 20, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    I think it’s being able to watch wherever and whenever you want, and they’re used to being on their laptops all day anyway. My kids also use Netflix instant streaming frequently while Mom & Dad still wait for the DVDs to arrive in the mail. We are so yesterday.

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  24. Jeff Borden said on January 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm


    You speak my language. It would be hilarious. I wonder what the uniforms will look like? I’m sure the “all-American white folks” will ditch the baggy shorts, so we’ll probably have a lot of pasty guys wearing the short-shorts of years gone by. Maybe the colors will be plaid?? Uniforms by Carharrt??

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  25. Sue said on January 20, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    They’ll all look like Larry Byrd and Kevin McHale (two members of my husband’s “all ugly team”), only without the talent and probably shorter.

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  26. Jeff Borden said on January 20, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    I can’t imagine anyone but a hopeless cracker wanting to be a part of such an enterprise, but I admit to a morbid fascination about what these teams might be named.

    The NASCARs? The Klansmen? The David Dukes? The Easily Sunburned? Perhaps they could sell sponsorships, so one night you might have The Limbaughs playing The Becks?

    The mind boggles.

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  27. Sue said on January 20, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Well, since the promoter makes no bones about targeting southern cities, it’s obvious we will see at least one team with “rebel” in its name.
    I want to see the cheerleaders’ uniforms.

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  28. Jeff Borden said on January 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Maybe the cheerleaders will wear bib overalls?

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  29. Little Bird said on January 20, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I predict super short cutoff jeans shorts and red and white gingham short sleeved shirts, tied to show off blindingly white midriffs for cheerleader uniforms. I’m thinking something like Daisy Duke meets Mary-Ann.

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  30. paddyo' said on January 20, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Actually, Jeff B., the Generals have black players now — in fact, their coach, Reggie Harrison, is black. But he does use a cane.

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  31. Jeff Borden said on January 20, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Thanks, Paddyo. I should’ve done some research before making my post. I appreciate the update.

    So, even the Washington Generals are more racially diverse than the proposed basketball league, lol.

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  32. crinoidgirl said on January 20, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Oh, Nancy, that’s because you have a Mac. (big grin)

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  33. brian stouder said on January 20, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    1. I will confess that I like our DVR; freezing a live broadcast, or backing up and watching something you just missed (or want another person to see) – and then resuming (and zipping through commercials to catch up again) is surprisingly habit forming.

    2. Gotta believe the ‘Can’t Jump’ basketball league is some sort of scam. Overt exclusion of people based on race or ethnicity would run squarely into EEOC issues, yes? (aside from the money-losing environment of hostility that would be their inevitable nature, wherever they went)

    3. Senator Brown won himself a two year term. He resolutely avoided the “Republican” brand in his victory speech, in addition to his cringe-inducing remarks about his daughters.

    And my guess is that the Republican party will (by and by) tire of highlighting him, I think, as they consider his reluctance to call himself a Republican, and his pro-choice credentials, and his nude turn in Cosmopolitan.

    In 2008, Massachusetts voters voted for Hope and Change, and in 2010 they voted for Fear and Change. My guess is that in 2012, when President Obama is on the ticket along with a capable Democratic candidate for the Senate seat, Senator Brown will have lost his ‘Independent’ fig leaf (so to speak) – and the electorate will vote for Actual Competence and Change.

    4. I never watch tv on the computer, and only rarely ever text. Sometimes our young folks will text me – but I never know until days later (usually my cell phone is OFF). The appeal of texting (etc) on a teeny-weenie little device is utterly lost on me. (I think I shall be a happy geezer, but a geezer nonetheless)

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  34. brian stouder said on January 20, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Today’s Vocabulary Words from NN.c:

    1. Graphomania (aka scribomania) – obsessive need to write; which lead me to

    2. Typomania – need to see one’s name in publication; and

    3. Logorrhoea – that guy who played Dracula; and – compulsive talkativeness, including nonsense

    and then I went to BBC’s F1 page, and tripped over the highlighted word at the end of an article about Michael Schumacher’s comeback:

    “My energy is back completely. I really notice how the prickle is coming, how motivated I am because I so much look forward to the competition. It is about time to start this whole thing.”

    PS – I did like the article about the guy who started his own CIA. The book he SHOULD have written is the one about his experience in the Army in the Second World War

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  35. Rana said on January 21, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Judging by my friends, the appeal of Hulu is being able to watch episodes as often as you want, when you want, on your own schedule. Since right now D and I are in a reality tv mode, we don’t see the need, but if you’re following a show with a story arc (like the Sopranos, or Lost, or any number of good shows that got canceled partway through) then it’s an alternative to buying or renting the DVDs.

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  36. Dexter said on January 21, 2010 at 1:13 am

    I admire you folks who can keep up with all the technology and watch Hulu on your Droids and I-fones and Backberries , text away all night and day and switch-out your TVs every few months to ensure the latest technologies are at your fingertips.
    Of course my kids and grandkids all have unlimited texting and hi-def TVs in every room. Now, of course, all new TVs are hi-def so saying they are high def is like saying someone has color TV when all TVs have been color for decades.
    I watch a helluva lotta Hulu and I love it. The picture quality is so much better than on my old “round” TVs from a few years ago.
    One thing I have noticed is that not everyone has I-Pods on all the time like when they became the rage.

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  37. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 21, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Dexter, you know what I’ve found — if you put a little powdered hematite in with the inner bark of red cedar and chew it up thoroughly, drink a little water from the deerskin bag, then hold your hand up against the cave wall, you can spray some of that water out of your mouth at your hand, and then wait a few moments for it to dry a bit in the heat of the fire.

    Then, when you pull your hand away, there’s an outline right there on the rock — it gets even more sharply outlined as the pigment dries and darkens. You can look at the handprint in the firelight, and it almost seems to move, and you think “that might still be there when my grandkids are looking up at it and I’m gone.”

    Good stuff!

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  38. Dorothy said on January 21, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Texting can come in extremely handy, such as a few weeks ago when my mom was in the Emergency Room and my sister with her kept us all informed (there are 10 kids in my family) via text. It’s fast and saves tons of time when disseminating information like that to many people at the same time. I can’t really understand anyone’s objection to it when it is used appropriately. It’s less intrusive to get a text from my kids if I’m at work and my phone is on vibrate, and they don’t want to disturb me with a phone call.

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  39. alex said on January 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Ha, Michelle Malkin needs an English lesson:

    Or maybe just half a brain.

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  40. joodyb said on January 22, 2010 at 1:42 am

    Charles Crumb, who died in 1992, was renowned as a graphomaniac. (there were a couple Crumb brothers.) A cartoonist/artist with a progressive mental illness, he became consumed with using concentric space. His comics eventually became nothing but paneled, compacted squiggles. regarded by many as outsider art, they are something to behold.

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