Exclamatory Inventions

The interrobang as rendered by Wingdings 2. While new words enter the language at a respectable clip, the marks and symbols that punctuate them arrive at a slower pace. Whether this is due to temperature fluctuations within the incubator or the devolutionary effects of text-messaging, anyone with half a slide rule and six digits can do the math: 2 + -2 = 0.

In an effort to plug the blowhole of this disturbing trend, I decided to dive, headlong, into the pool of symbolic creationism. Using an Abecedarian entry as the springboard, I noted the utter usefulness of the interrobang as a platform upon which to dry my hair while I considered my next move.

The snarkbangWelding should always be approached with due consideration for its longevity, but exclamations require particular care. An exclamation mark amplifies things, which isn't always the best way to start a conversation with someone you've just met, but can be useful when you wish to remove all doubt. While the snark mark is undeniably useful, certain situations simply require a bit more. Some require amplification, which is handily achieved through the use of the snarkbang pictured here.

The monkeybangThe at symbol has become ubiquitous in e-mail addresses, which is all the more alarming when you consider how many are used by spammers to gum up the machinery you rely on for social networking, and messages from fugitives who may or may not be related by blood or marriage. As you can see, I have successfully welded an exclamation mark to the familiar symbol—sometimes referred to as a monkey tail—thereby creating the monkeybang, suitable for use by spammers, terrorists, and indeed anyone who wishes to alert others to possible ulterior motives.

The amperbangOne of my favorite symbols, the ampersand enjoys a well-deserved reputation for bringing people, places, and things together in an elegant shorthand that's easy on the eyes. Perhaps too easy, which is why I decided to amplify the thing, yielding the amperbang you see here. Suitable for use in place of the weaker standard in company names—law firms for example—it reminds us that two heads are bigger than one.

The grapecentumbangIf there's one thing a hacker can't stand, it's computer naivety masquerading as authority. As recent studies seem to indicate, hacker-wrath increases by an average of 37% for every IT poser promoted to management, which may explain why grapes are such an important part of every hacker's diet. This, in turn, explains why hackers often refer to the traditional percent sign as "grapes of wrath," or simply "grapes." As you can see, I have added an exclamation mark to the grapes on the left, resulting in a new symbolthe grapecentumbangthat amplifies the concept of profit and loss while preserving the grapes' delicious flavor.

I decided to call this an inflatabang, on account of its fiscal puffiness. In a related vein, no one who's purchased a tank of gasolineor the car that surrounds itduring the past thirty years is likely to misunderstand the sensation of vertigo as prices climb toward the outer fringes of reason, and beyond. While the dollar symbol remains unchanged, the underlying concept has warped, leaving only a vague caricature with which to buy a pack of gum. The old idea of "getting more bang for your buck" is bizarre, but I can't very well abandon the formula here, at the very end of my monologue. Or can I?


Reinventing Möbius

Twisted, yes, but to what degree? Not every important discovery is made in a vacuum. Many are made in the comfort of Euclidean space, where common household pets often contribute more than their so-called owners are willing to admit. For example, while Möbius' dog is generally thought to have inspired his human's august mathematical epiphany, it was his neighbor's cat, Johann, who solved the problem of a one-sided, two-dimensional object while observing the dog's tail-chasing behavior at a local pub.

From Johann's vantage pointabove and slightly east of the Möbius dogthe solution came during the second, fourth, sixth and eighth passes of the evening, after which the bouncer threatened to remove the dog from the premises. Johann noted that Möbius' dog seemed particularly shallow during odd-numbered passes, while those with even numbers made him seem almost interesting by comparison. Johann concluded that, while the dog could scarcely be considered sophisticated, his flat, one-sided personality had everything to do with how many twists his leash had undergone during the course of the evening. Though he mistakenly attributed this paradromic phenomenon to Möbius' obsessive leash-laundering, Johann's observations would later become a cornerstone of postmodern psychology.

I must, again, tip my wig to the illustrious Craig Conley, who provided the inspirationas he so often has in the pastfor this monologue by way of a graphic, which is slated to appear on his site during the month of October.

Editor's note: And now we are here, and now here it is!


Punctuating the New Plurality

To coin a punctuation, the ones' needs outweigh the needs of the one's. Before we learned to count
Gazing at the lone belly button
Contemplating one's navel
Meditation was a private affair
What need had we of punctuation?

Now we are one plus one
Gazing at the communal belly button
Contemplating ones' navel
Rejecting exclusionary self-meditation
Necessity is the mother of punctuation.

Drinking My Shadow

Shadows often dance just before the sun goes down. Throughout my life, I've been forced to endure the same on-again-off-again relationship with my shadow that so confounded primitive cave-dwellers, philosophers, and members of rural electrical cooperatives. A fickle tormentor, my shadow knows where I live, when I sleep, and how many joules it takes to rekindle a relationship that was never meant to last beyond dusk in the first place. A fair-weather friend, the shadow that jumps for joy on sunny days leaves me sodden in the rain, alone, and without the sponges and umbrellas that make life tolerable in Britain, or Seattle.

Having recently attained the Age of Enlightenment, I decided to nip the problem in the bud. Using my newly heightened powers of perception, I realized that life had handed me exactly the sort of shadowy lemon that cries out for liquefaction. I decided to make lemonade.

Hours of careful preparation turned to days, then back to hours as the malfunctioning timepiece on my wrist raced and slowed before giving out entirely. Undeterred, I made a few final adjustments to the blender in which I intended to frappe the tyrant, then turned out the lights to wait.

In retrospect, it wasn't the best trap. Shadows come and go, but that doesn't mean they always use the front door. Even those who come in through the bathroom window aren't likely to wander into the kitchen for a snack when someone is snoring in the pantry. Shadows aren't deaf.

Besides, some noses just know a trap when they smell one. Whose nose? The shadow's nose.


Why Your Cat Hates Cold Toast

Birds and dams are a dangerous combination.

Say you just discovered an enormous bird on the dam you rely on to keep water in its place. For purposes of this discussion, the water's place is anywhere you don't want it to be, such as in your home, or your nose. Since very large birds are always connected to extraneous wings, the turbulence generated by their wing flaps often reroutes water along new and unfortunate trajectories. Exactly how unfortunate depends on where you live, and how many horses your powerboat can muster on short notice. Mustering horses is particularly difficult during molting season, when their feathers are more likely to be strewn about the floor than plugged in and ready for a quick escape.

"Well," you might be saying to the cat on your lap, "that certainly sounds like a predicament, doesn't it, Robert?" The cat, having grown accustomed to rhetorical questions, will likely open one eye in mock deliberation but won't have an opinion either way. While this may seem, at first, to be positive thinking or some similarly delusional effort to squeeze optimism from calamity, feline ambivalence becomes shockingly appropriate where large, turbulent birds are concerned. This is because cats and birds enjoy a longstanding enmity, the roots of which can be traced back to primitive agricultural communities located in flood-prone areas below large dams. If there's one thing cats hate, it's the idea of floating downstream on a pile of wet horse feathers. If there's one thing cats love, it's the preventable nature of birds, which is why eggs are in such short supply during the construction phase of every dam.

In other words, if you live below a dam and your cat avoids you at breakfast time, there's no use following him around the kitchen with a plate of cold toast.