Like a vast ocean that constantly churns, today’s culture–thanks to the Internet–moves at a rapid pace and surprising bits of flotsam become visible. Houston’s Chronicle ran a rather large photo of a cat standing on his hind legs and pawing at the air next to a headline with poorly-spelled words. It took up a lot of space–some above the fold–on the front page of the Chronicle’s business section. Yes, I do tend to gravitate toward animal photos but a headline reading “I’M IN UR NEWSPAPER WRITIN MAH COLUM” is a guaranteed stopper. I mean, I am a writer, and I once spent a lot of time learning how to spell.
The piece, written by Dwight Silverman, is a fun read with plenty of links and information. My main problem is that it reads more like a life-style, pop culture article rather than one that would appear in a business section. As a reader I kept looking for the expected bit of business application. A few facts did appear at the end, and readers who blog may be left with a bit of blogger-envy. The I Can Has Cheezburger? site opened for business in January and now “gets between 350,000 and 500,000 page views a day” and submissions of “300-500 LOLcat images a day.” Now that’s growth. This site urges readers to submit their own photos and captions. The unanswered question is, how do you come up with an idea that that is capable of generating a “subculture, complete with its own conventions and subgenres” and apply it to a business model?
LOLcats is a bit like the Harry Potter mania and other sudden literary and cultural explosions that leave writers asking why they didn’t think of that idea. It seems so simple. In retrospect some may appear obvious, even predictable. Given that The Lord of the Rings made it onto the screen twice and achieved literary cult status years ago, I’m not sure why the publisher of the new Tolkien The Children of Hurin ran such a small initial print run–unless it was to fan book collector fever. Less obvious but perhaps still predictable is the success of the latest British literary invasion, The Dangerous Book for Boys. Harry Potter caught the imagination of millions, young and old, and revived a dead genre. I’m not sure its metoric rise could have been predicted, but The Dangerous Book for Boys and even Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation are books that seem to run counter to a prevailing attitude in the culture. Both fill a need, albeit one that may be unspoken. The Dangerous Book for Boys is an echo of the past for the boomer and WWII generation; but it also offers parents and young boys alternatives to the modern, Internet and video-centric lifestyle activities that push, pull, and plague them. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation steps into the confusing morass of today’s slipping grammar skills and offers a simple and direct path out of the punctuation jungle.
In the meantime, I’m left realizing that I now not only have to figure out all this texting language but also something known as “kitty pidgin.”