So as the last few minutes dribble out of what is left of September 7th, and I realize that I have woefully neglected this blog for quite a few days, I feel I should explain myself a bit. Now, I realize that most decent people fully understand that bloggers are due some “away time” and that there will be gaps in the production line. We have lives, we have to live them, as long as we generally obey any court orders that have been placed upon us due to past indiscretions involving proper behavior in public settings.
In this instance, however, I somewhat insipidly kicked off the “3-Word Challenge” on this blog, posted exactly one submission to that challenge, and then apparently ran for the hills, never looking back, swilling wine and carelessly trouncing about in the Land of People Who Do NOT Follow Through. (Side Note: If you ever travel to said Land, don’t order the flaming quesadillas at Gustav’s House of Incendiary Meats. It’s not what you think.)
Anyway, I have transgressed, at least when it comes to the category of “Timely Response to Crap YOU Started on Your Own Blog”. The only justification I can proffer is this: I had family come in from out of town.
For 87% of you, this is a perfectly valid explanation, and you will instantly forgive me for my errant ways. When the genealogy stagecoach pulls into your homestead, spilling out parents and siblings and cousins and offspring and possible baby-daddies, you completely release all control over your own life. Any objectives that you might have scribbled in your day-planner become obsolete. Those things are not going to happen, even if you make everyone who clatters through your door sign an affidavit that they will willingly tromp to the most sound-proofed room in your dwelling when it comes time for you to “work on your blog”.
That time will never come. There will be no tromping, no matter how much they claim to understand your hazy, don’t-really-get-it objectives. They are your guests, and they have needs. (“Uncle Brian, the toilet in the guest bathroom is making a weird sound.”) By the time you satisfy all those needs, it’s 2AM and all you want to do is fall face down in your bed and try to sleep for a few hours until some fool at 6AM wants to know how to use the same coffee maker that they have in their own house.
For the 13% of you that don’t recognize this scenario, please send me a detailed email on how you managed to avoid all of this. I beg you. I will pay you in un-sequenced bills, make a drop-off at a phone booth, or topple a dictator in one of those turbulent countries that changes its name every election cycle, whatever I need to do. I have no shame.
Seriously, though, I love my family, so there’s really not any lasting fallout from their visitations, psychological or otherwise. In fact, we generally have a swell time, catching up on each other’s lives, laughing about past familial exploits, gently teasing each other about the odd turns our various paths have taken, and liberally indulging in copious libations that make all of these activities seem even more festive. (Well, we don’t let the children do that last bit. Despite any startling videos that you may have encountered in obscure corners of the Internet, my family is usually well-behaved. We don’t have drunken toddlers staggering about in their droopy nappies, and least not since we staged an intervention with that one branch of the family that was a bit too free-spirited.)
And, from the “I have a blog and I always need new material” perspective, these family gatherings are a goldmine. Somebody at some point is going to do something that is worthy of an entry in my mental scratchpad. (The family members embrace this possibility to varying degrees, of course, with reactions ranging from carefree whimsicality to outright death threats, but by now they are generally resigned to the fact that they may be making a cameo in an upcoming blog episode.) Additionally, my niece tries to keep my decaying mind fresh and healthy by providing intel on what the hip and cool kids are doing these days. This visit’s revelation: Snapchat.
Snapchat has probably been out there for longer than I realize, as I often don’t find out about things until well after everyone else has not only found it but they have grown tired of it and moved on to the next 15-second cultural supernova. (To be fair, I intentionally avoid some of these overhyped flavors of the day, knowing full well that they will soon be minor footnotes, like planking or Nicki Minaj.) Essentially, Snapchat is another form of social media (because already having 750 such forms available is simply not enough in our attention-deficit society).
In this version of sharing your personal life across the airwaves, Snapchat allows you to take a picture of yourself or your surroundings with your phone and send it to selected contacts on your friends list. (Just like a number of picture-sharing platforms that are out there.) But Snapchat ups the ante by making things intentionally fleeting. When the receiver opens the pic, they only have a few seconds to review the submission before it vanishes. The receiver can save the pic, but they have to act fast by taking a screen shot. And the sender can add the pic to their “feed”, but it’s only there for 24 hours, then poof.
In other words, this is the most disposable of disposable media out there, at least in the realm of my admittedly limited experience.
And it’s fun, for what it’s worth. You entertain your friends with goofy pictures of whatever, images that leave no lasting evidence once the giggles or the squeals of “aw, isn’t that cute!” have faded. From that angle, I probably wouldn’t get much use out of it once the novelty dimmed. But, as usual for me, I like the app for an odd reason: the graininess of the pictures. These images are not meant to last; you won’t be lugging your jump drive to Walgreen’s to print out an 8×10 glossy, so the app cuts down on bandwidth with its low-res production.
I’m rather fond of the old-school results, especially when you use one of the limited filtering options available with the app. With sharpness and clarity not easily available, you can experiment with texture and shading and other elements that don’t always get top billing. This can lead to interesting, softer images that capture mood and tone more so than distinct subject, and this is what led to the snap that opens this post, with my sister and brother-in-law sharing a quiet, late-night moment on the patio.
I do believe I’ll be playing around with this Snapchat thing a bit, just to see what else I can squeeze out even though I’m squeezing it for the wrong reasons. I’m sure I could get the same end result by using a fancy, high-end camera with 500 settings and the mortgage it takes to own one. But I’m all about the road less travelled, especially if that road is found on a slim rectangle that I can whip out of my jeans pocket when the light falls just right on a patio and I wonder what I can do with it.
Moral of the story? Always listen to your niece. They can inadvertently send you on a new adventure without even realizing it.
(Final note to the participants in the 3-Word Challenge: I’ll get those things posted within the week, promise. As long as I can drag myself away from Snapchat and a new contingent of family members doesn’t knock on the front door… “Oh, hey there, Cousin Beulah, what a nice surprise, you stopping by without calling and all. And look, it appears that you have produced several more children since the last time you didn’t call. How sweet. Well, come on in, but first I’ll need you to sign these insurance waivers…”)