Michael: I’m just about to cap it off—
(C) We need a way to indicate when the line our reader is reading exists outside of the normal timeline, like this one.
Melissa: (C) What about putting it in square brackets? And each subsequent sub-conversation becomes nested in another pair of brackets.
(G) What is this, seven layers now? This really must be the last aside from the future, but it’s necessary to explain how we finally arrived at the letters.
Michael: (G) Okay, but if Dante says there are seven layers of hell, there certainly can’t be more to metaness!
Melissa: (G) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Michael: (G) Melissa, you’re getting—this has really gone beyond . . . Well, let’s see.
Melissa: (G) So, all I want to say—and this, I hope will actually be the real last line, the last line written, if not the last line read—
Michael: (G) Okay, love, get to the point.
Melissa: (G) I know! And I was realizing there was yet another aside in what I thought was going to be my last aside—the em-dashed part.
Michael: (G) Maybe we should start visiting local asylums, because if we keep this up, we’re gonna go insane.
Melissa: (G) I think this is evidence that we already are!
Michael: (G) Civilization as a whole is insane. It’s those rare individuals who stop, put down whatever they’re doing, and look around and see the insanity of it all. Those people are always labeled crazy. “They’re crazy!”
Melissa: (G) You mean, the sane ones?
Michael: (G) Well, that’s what I’m saying. If you live in an insane time, then unless you are insane by its definitions, you are not sane.
Melissa: (G) Like Yossarian!
Michael: (G) Yes. Catch-22.
(H) What happened? Catch-22 is supposed to be the end.
Melissa: (H) It is! Of the 7’s. Now we’re back to 4’s.
Michael: (H) It’s too hard to count those as 7. It’s too hard to see those as 7. We’re gonna need a different symbol.
Melissa: (H) It’s actually 8.
Michael: (H) See?!
Melissa: (H) What about ticks?
Michael: (H) No, because those would be too hard to count the individual ones, as well. This is what numbers were invented for!
(H) We should just use numbers. It’s just for some reason, when we had that earlier, we didn’t like it. It made it seem more like bullet points than really expressing that these were conversations happening at different times.
(H) Oh, what about like ‘A B C’—
Melissa: (H) We can’t do letters because that would blend too much with the text—and also would make it difficult to do global find/replaces.
Michael: (H) But what if they were surrounded by parens, so they were clearly like a little symbol? I like the idea of thread (A), thread (B), thread (C), because numbers can blur in your mind so easily.
Melissa: (H) Okay, I see what you’re saying. More like an outline.
Michael: (H) Yes, I guess so. I hadn’t thought of it that way.
(D) Why do we have two of them?
(E) Now, when I say “two,” this no longer makes sense. We’re looking at three of them.
Melissa: (E) See, it’s answered by the next line.
Michael: (E) It seems a little overwhelming to me still. See, look at those three—
(E) Maybe we can come up with something a little less cluttered.
(E) Do you think it would be comfortable at all to have a set of numbers in front of each one?
. . .
(E) I hope you’re not writing this down. This would be boring.
Melissa: (F) So you think the arrows work?
Michael: (F) Yeah.
Melissa: (F) It’s cleaner. Easier to read.
Michael: (F) And then you don’t have to have the brackets at the end.
(F) See the people who think you should just keep going. That’s the fool’s gold part of this.
Melissa: (F) Yeah, there’s such a thing as finding perfection. And staying there.
(F) (thinks) But is this really perfection? I wonder if there’s something better . . .
Michael: (G) What did you write?
Melissa: (G) What you told me to write.
Michael: (G) What?
Melissa: (G) Remember, earlier, you said we would need to include a meta layer to explain why we changed from square brackets to curly braces to numbered single curly braces to—what we arrived at. For now. The arrows.
Michael: (G) If you include every fecking meta detail, these posts are gonna be three yards long and will contain such a confusing path of direction and indirection—
Melissa: (G) I know. It’s looking kind of ugly. I don’t know about those arrows.
Michael: (G) Oh really? I haven’t seen them in practice yet.
(G) I’m not really satisfied with any of the solutions. If they could be in different colors, we’d be finished. Like gradients of gray. The lighter they become, the earlier they are; the later they occur, the darker the value becomes. It’s just—
Melissa: (G) (reads back last paragraph)
Michael: (G) You’ve got it backwards.
(G) The thing is, do we just leave it backwards and leave it up to our reader to figure out what that actually means? I think we can become too lazy, putting more and more responsibility on them to follow this insane metaness.
Melissa: (G) But you’re right, though! That’s it! We CAN do gradients of gray—
Michael: (G) How?
Melissa: (G) I just came across a post yesterday where it described how to incorporate colors into your OS post!
Michael: (G) You’re kidding! I mean, is it just regular HTML—I guess . . .
(G) Melissa, this thing is becoming monstrous.
Melissa: (G) But the gradients!
Michael: (G) We can try to do that. The only thing is, now I’m beginning to doubt it already. Before we’ve even tried it. Because, how does one determine one from the other—not next to each other, but two disparate ones, ones not next to each other. Like 2 and 4. Is there enough of a difference? Can a person look at that and go, “Well, that’s part of the fourth level.”
(G) So, I don’t know if that’s gonna work. Maybe we should just go with the nested curly braces, enclosing multiple lines of text. That’s so it doesn’t get too overwhelming, and it conveys all the information necessary to have a hope of following the thread of this discussion.
Melissa: (G) You mean, the threads?
Michael: (G) Well, no, because what we’re writing, when finished, must be able to be read and understood straight through.
Melissa: (G) Absolutely, and we have smart readers. So they can handle it.
Michael: (G) You said, “readers.” You can only ever say “our reader.” That’s the rule you broke. You can’t say “our readers.”
(G) Can we please find some bottom to this?
(G) And that becomes, of course, just one more piece to the fecking—
Melissa: (G) Let’s try the gradients first.
Michael: (G) No, no, no! I’m trying to tell you that it’s an immediate problem, because it would be too hard to tell the difference between 4 and 5. It would actually be better to use different colors. But then it would look like a rainbow! Now, there’s nothing wrong with rainbows—
Melissa: (G) Oh wait!
Michael: (G) Sorry. . . . I’m forgetting what I was saying.
Melissa: (G) Go for it.
Michael: (G) I’m forgetting. When I’m saying I’m forgetting, that means it’s gone already.
Melissa: (G) No, it isn’t! ’Cuz I just recorded it.
Michael: But you haven’t recorded what I was about to say. You’ve only recorded what I’ve already said, and because you needed me to stop so you could finish catching up, I’ve since forgotten the next words I thought to say.
Melissa: (G) Aha. But if I read you what you said right before what you were about to say—
Michael: (G) See, right now, this already feels like a yard and a half. I think we’re halfway there to obsessiveness.
Melissa: (G) And I’m already lamenting all the stuff that got lost while I was in the kitchen.
(G) But I’ll tell you what you were saying.
Michael: (G) Which was what?
Melissa: (G) (reads) “Now, there’s nothing wrong with rainbows—”
Michael: (G) Hahaha!
Melissa: (E) No, I think numbers would be even more confusing. Do you think making them curly would make them less offensive?
(D) Because there were two of them already, and this was back at the beginning. Actually, it should be three.
Michael: (D) If you’ve got four already, then I think you’ve gotten a little bit out of control.
(A) Okay, what did you just say? How does it begin?
(B) We can’t just introduce this without explaining it.
Melissa: (B) Maybe we can put it in this post. We just add another layer of brackets.
Michael: (B) I think you’re getting carried away.
Melissa: (A) You say, “I’m just about to cap it off—”
Michael: (A) What does that mean?
Melissa: (A) You were saying you were just about to cap off our comment to GalaxyMan.
Franny: (over bird monitor) AAccckk!
Michael: (presses talk button on bird monitor) Franny! I know what you’re doing. Just leave your sister alone.
(D) Should you say baby monitor instead of bird monitor? Because it’s actually a baby monitor.
(D) See, because you’ve got this new power, this power of the square brackets, you’re going to start abusing it.
Melissa: (D) Actually, it’s fantastic! I finally have a way of indicating our asides from the future!
Michael: (D) But are you sure that you can actually follow, from one line to the next—this one’s nested four times. Can you really follow that? I mean, a light puzzle is nice, but if it really breaks the train of reading. That’s not gonna be any fun.
Melissa: (D) Actually, it is exactly fun! The sort of fun I like, anyway.
Michael: (D) I know, but I’ve always thought there’s something mean about making it intentionally hard for people to understand what you’re saying.
(D) Poetry seemed mean to me.
(D) I guess, viewed that way, even the parables are kind of mean.
Melissa: (D) No! It’s not mean. This is the simplest, most direct way I’ve found yet to capture the verisimilitude of our conversation—and multiple conversations over different periods of time, starting with the creation of the text itself and the iterations over it with each new reading.
Franny: (D) Accck! Aaacck! Aaccckk!
Melissa: (takes monitor) Franny, Daddy is not just blaming you, because we know Zooey often does the same thing to you.
(D) See how perfect that is? It’s amazing.
Michael: (D) It’s meta.
Melissa: (D) It’s life.
Michael: (E) I didn’t say “meta.” You did.
Melissa: (E) No I didn't. You did.
Michael: (E) Yes I did. You did.
Melissa: (E) Did you actually say, “Yes I did. You did”? ’Cuz that’s what it sounded like.
Michael: (E) What?
(E) Okay, that’s the end of that.
(talking into bird monitor) Neither one of you is the victim or the hero here. Neither one of you is supposed to be fighting. Now just be good girls.
Michael: What’re you doing?
Michael: We’re supposed to be working on our post.
Melissa: I am.
Michael: You are? Can I hear what you’ve written?
Michael: Can you tell me what the thing is?
(sings) “Roll out the barrel!”
Remember what I told you about not having a musical bias?
Michael: There’s certain kinds of music that are almost universally denigrated. And therefore, they’re the target of jokes—and . . . you know, for instance, in Fargo, the son of—what do we call that character, because clearly Marge is the protagonist. Is he the villain? I’m speaking about—
Melissa: William H. Macy’s character?
Melissa: Maybe he’s the antihero.
Michael: Antihero, that would make sense. Well, I don’t wanna get into the structure of Fargo. It would be interesting, but—
See, when you’re typing, it’s making me self-conscious. But I guess there’s no other way. You’re always on.
Melissa: But it was going so well at first, because you didn’t know I was typing.
Michael: I understand—
Michael: I understand that. It’s just that, in the lulls of your explanation or whatever you’re doing, you become more conscious of your surroundings, and I immediately become conscious of your fingers flying away at the keys.
Michael: (A) “Ha” would be mildly funny. “Haha” would be—
(A) No, come on. Just write this. What’ve you got?
(A) If you’re doing more meta stuff, I’m skeptical about that right now.
And so I immediately go, “Oh yeah, we’re recording this.” And so then, I go from that slightly tired conversational tone to the more upbeat, “I’m on” tone. “Oh, I’m on!” And see, I just hate that. I hate being too aware of what we’re saying, so that what we end up recording is as natural as possible.
Melissa: I think the more we practice it, the more natural it will become.
Michael: Okay, but you would have to admit that already, it’s reflected back on our life and made times when we weren’t writing a post seem very much like that act—where, when we’re merely talking to each other, you have a little bit of that “I’m on” feeling.
Melissa: I don’t. I don’t have that “I’m on” feeling at all. But maybe that’s because I’m so focused on recording.
Michael: Maybe, ’cuz I am just pacing back and forth, wearing this Christmas Story apron we got with our ultimate collector’s edition DVD.
(I) Okay, I have a question. Does it make it sound like that’s all I’m wearing? Because—
Melissa: (I) No. (laughs)
Michael: (A) I’m hearing that as I’m doing that. I’m hearing that as I’m pacing back and forth right now.
Melissa: Yes, I know! I laughed when I looked up.
Michael: I had already forgotten I’d put it on.
Michael: Do you think you’ll be able to get another sunflower for the birds?
Melissa: Yeah, but later in the season.
Michael: Oh, that long?
Melissa: Well, it still has some seeds in it.
Michael: Really? I thought they were all gone.
Melissa: No, just yesterday, I was watching Franny sit on it and pop out some seeds.
Michael: See, that sunflower sat there for months, and they totally ignored it.
Melissa: You just have to be patient.
Michael: Melissa, I don’t come from a patient place.
Franny: (over bird monitor) AAccckk!
Michael: (into monitor) Franny!
I’m gonna feel terrible if that’s not Franny every time.
Melissa: It is Franny.
Michael: I no longer feel right about wearing the Christmas Story apron, because when I look down now, it looks more like a dress. With my knees sticking out, my hairy knees. It looks so unflattering. But when I was standing up, there was a nice, streamlined quality to this. Like I was ready for work or something. So I think the Christmas Story apron is going off right now.
- Oregon, USA
- We are procrastinating perfectionists with too many projects. We rarely finish anything we start, but hopefully . . .
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