Thursday, May 27, 2010

Culture Lesson: Purple Drank

(Gleefully taken from Gifs of Popular Rappers. You have no idea how desperately I've waited for an opportunity to use one of these.)

Purple drank is a Southern-based recreational drug/cocktail that came to prominence in pop culture through the hip-hop community. The drink consists of prescription cough syrup (containing codeine and promethazine), soda, and (sometimes) Jolly Rancher candy. The beverage's color is the result of the cough syrup, though color may vary. The affect is similar to taking an opiate. Other names for the concoction include syrup, sizzurp, lean, drank, barre, purple jelly, and Texas tea.

The illegal beverage has been popularize, and glamorized, by the hip hop community. Generally, it is assumed to be the beverage inside studded chalices (like the one above) and Styrofoam cups on the red carpet (below).

One particularly popular fan is Lil Wayne (above), who was the source of speculation in 2007 and 2008—he carried a Styrofoam cup everywhere. He told MTV News in February 2008:

"Do your history, do your research," he vented. "It ain't that easy — feels like death in your stomach when you stop doing that sh--. You gotta learn how to stop, you gotta go through detox. You gotta do all kinds of stuff. Like I said, I'm a selfish-ass n---a. I feel like everything I do is successful and productive. It's gonna be hard to tell me I'm slipping. It's hard to sit and tell a n---a 'Stop.' 'F---, how can we tell this n---a to stop when every f---ing thing he do is successful? This n---a is making progress. He just went and talked to kids and that sh-- was amazing.' Feel me? So what am I doing wrong?

"Let me do me. Everybody's got their thing," he continued with frustration. "Why focus on me? Don't compare me to no one. Don't compare me to no one who has passed, and why they passed. I can walk out this b---h right now and get hit by a bus. Don't judge me. You wanna judge me, put on a black gown and get a gavel. Get in line with the rest of them that's about to judge me. I got court dates every other month. It's me against the world — that's how I feel."

In addition to being highly addictive, the beverage is also a deadly gateway drug. The beverage, which was invented in the South (though MTV says that it is also very popular in Philadelphia), has become popular with the Young People (much like cheese).

The beverage has been named the cause of death for DJ Screw—who popularized the drink in Houston in the '90s—and Pimp C, and speculated as the cause leading to the coma, and subsequent heart attack, of Big Moe. All entertainers proclaimed their adoration for the drug through music.

Drank/Syrup has also landed famous people in trouble with the law. Terrence Kiel, then a member of the San Diego Chargers, plead guilty in 2007 to felony and misdemeanor charges for shipping cough syrup. (The felony charge was dropped following 175 volunteer hours and counseling.) Johnny Jolly, also a professional football player, was arrested in 2008 for having 200 grams of codeine, which is a second-degree felony. Jolly's trial began in March. If convicted, he faces two to 20 years in jail.

The popularity of the illegal cocktail spawned a legal energy drink called Drank. The beverage's slogan is "Slow your roll" and the contents within the purple are supposed to bring forth "extreme relaxation." The drink contains melatonin, valerian root, and rose hips.

Additional Resources:
Purple drank, Wikipedia
Purple drank, Urban Dictionary
Lil Wayne On Syrup: 'Everybody Wants Me To Stop ... It Ain't That Easy', MTV News
Cough syrup found in Pimp C's hotel had no label, The Houston Chronicle
Codeine Overdose Killed DJ Screw, Medical Examiner Says, MTV News
DEA warns of soft drink-cough syrup mix, USA Today
Chargers' Kiel pleads guilty in attempt to avoid jail, ESPN
Jolly faces unclear future, The Journal Sentinel

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Culture Lesson: Trolling

When a local news report about high school girls using the Internet to bully other girls—specifically Irish teenager Phoebe Prince, who was bullied online and offline—called the practice "up and coming" and trolling a "new" practice I knew I had a serious problem on my hands. Internet bullying is not new—as a tween in the late '90s it was well indoctrinated as a part of a mean girl's arsenal—and trolling is as old as the Internet itself.

Trolling is the act of posting mean, vicious, cruel, and inflammatory commentary online with the intent of hurting, upsetting, or angering a person or people. (Dealing with it as an honest person is a total pain in the ass.) A person who does this is called a troll. (See Urban Dictionary for more.)

Here's the brief history I've lifted from Wikipedia, because searching for examples on my own is depressing (it's cheating, I know, but trolls are depressing):

The contemporary use of the term is alleged to have first appeared on the Internet in the late 1980s,[3] but the earliest known example is from 1992.[4] It is thought to be a truncation of the phrase trolling for suckers. That phrase is itself derived from the fishing technique of slowly dragging a lure or baited hook from a moving boat, waiting for fish to strike, a technique known as trolling.[5] The word also evokes the trolls portrayed in Scandinavian folklore and children's tales, as they are often creatures bent on mischief and wickedness. The verb "troll" originates from Old French "troller", a hunting term. The noun "troll", however, comes from the Old Norse word for a mythological monster.[6]

Early history

The most likely derivation of the word troll can be found in the phrase "trolling for newbies", popularized in the early 1990s in the Usenet group, alt.folklore.urban (AFU).[7][8] Commonly, what is meant is a relatively gentle inside joke by veteran users, presenting questions or topics that had been so overdone that only a new user would respond to them earnestly. For example, a veteran of the group might make a post on the common misconception that glass flows over time. Long-time readers would both recognize the poster's name and know that the topic had been done to death already, but new subscribers to the group would not realize, and would thus respond. These types of trolls served as a shibboleth to identify group insiders. This definition of trolling, considerably narrower than the modern understanding of the term, was considered a positive contribution.[7][9] One of the most notorious AFU trollers, Snopes,[7] went on to create his eponymous urban folklore website.

By the late 1990s, alt.folklore.urban had such heavy traffic and participation that trolling of this sort was frowned upon. Others expanded the term to include the practice of playing a seriously misinformed or deluded user, even in newsgroups where one was not a regular; these were often attempts at humor rather than provocation. In such contexts, the noun troll usually referred to an act of trolling, rather than to the author.

Trolling can be as simple as mean anonymous comments, or as complicated as creating a fake identity. An example would be Lori Drew, a Missouri woman who created a fake MySpace profile to lure her young neighbor, 13-year-old Megan Meier, into a (fake) Internet relationship. Drew intended to "get back" at Meier, who was no longer friends with Drew's daughter. When Drew's fake identity, as a teenage boy, dumped Meier, she committed suicide.

Before you ask, it's not illegal to create a fake profile. There's no law against failing to provide personal information about yourself or providing erroneous information.

Another example of trolling is web group Anonymous. The focus of the board is communicating anonymously which leads to a melée of expression. The upside is that the group has the freedom to do really awesome things, too, like protesting the Church of Scientogy (not a group you want to be identified by). You can read more about that here. There are many Internet-based groups with similar objectives. My recommendation for Old People is to steer clear.

Sometimes an Internet-based prank is considered trolling. Here are two less inflammatory examples from web comic xkcd:

Additional Resources:
Troll, Wikipedia
Trolling, Urban Dictionary
Bullying in School: What Can Be Done About It?, TIME
Serious Business: Anonymous Takes On Scientology (and Doesn't Afraid of Anything)
, City Paper
United States v. Lori Drew, Wikipedia
Lori Drew Not Guilty of Felonies in Landmark Cyberbullying Trial, Wired
Anonymous (group), Wikipedia
Parental Trolling, xkcd
Trolling, xkcd

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Technology Lesson: How to Back Up Your Bookmarks

We used to have a computer that ate bookmarks. Bookmarks sometimes disappeared for no reason at all, and my mother would be forced to cobble together a poor replica of her Internet resources. I don't want you to suffer this fate, so follow my instructions to prevent disaster.

Now that you've saved your bookmarks, you might want to consider also saving the file on an external hard drive (if you saved the file on your computer). You might also want to upload the file to a social bookmarking Web site. Think of social bookmarking like Facebook or Pandora for your bookmarks. Some examples are StumbleUpon, Digg, reddit, and Delicious (previously called I use Delicious too save my bookmarks, but since I don't use it much, I keep all of my bookmarks private. (Plus, some are a little embarrassing.) You can use a site like this like Facebook, or use it as back-up storage. The main advantage, however, is interacting with other users and receiving recommendations based on your bookmarks. We will discuss these sites on greater detail on a different day.

To start the lesson, you will want to turn on your computer, connect to the Internet, and open your browser. This lesson uses Mozilla Firefox on a Mac.

1. After you have opened your browser, click BOOKMARKS. BOOKMARKS is located at the top of the screen, between HISTORY and TOOLS. (Apparently I was adjusting my volume when I took this screenshot. My apologies!)


3. A window will pick up. You can organize your bookmarks here by rearranging their order, filing them in folders, and assigning tags. At the top of this window are FIVE BUTTONS. The first two, on the far left, art arrows. The next three are related to bookmark organization and management. Click the last one. It is shaped like a star.

4. Click BACKUP.

5. A window will pop up. It will prompt you to save the file. You can rename the file and assign a location to save the file. My file is saved to the Desktop by default. You might want to consider saving your file to an external hard drive. (Don't change the extension! The extension is the letters following the "." Just don't mess with it, OK?)

6. You're done. You might want to upload your bookmarks elsewhere, or you might want to bask in the glory of having learned something new. (But if you need it, the link to a bulk upload through Delicious is here.)

Additional Resources:
Social bookmarking, Wikipedia
Import bookmarks with Delicious


Technoloy Lesson: How to Bookmark

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Technology Lesson: How to Bookmark

Today's lesson is a bit remedial, so my advance apologies to my mom, who knows how to bookmark, and long suffering reader Belgian Waffle, who I suspect knows everything that's been posted here anyway.

So! Bookmarks! They're handy. They make finding your favorite Web sites, or that cake recipe you need to forward to your sister, easier to find. You should start using them! (Or using them more often!) Today I'll show you how.

Please note: I used Mozilla Firefox on a Mac in this lesson. These screenshots should work with Firefox on a PC. You can read a lesson about browsers here, and she ought to consider using Firefox (or Chrome) when you browse the web.

There are two ways to bookmark a page with Firefox. The first way is fast, but less thorough. I tend to bookmark this way and go back and organize my bookmarks later. This isn't advised, as it requires some commitment. The other, more thorough, slightly more complicated method, allows more options for organization. (You'll see below.)

1. Go to the site you want to bookmark. For this lesson, I used this blog.
2. Click the STAR ICON in your ADDRESS BAR. (The address bar is at the top of the page and has the Web address of the site you are viewing.) The star is not filled. It should be an outline. My version of Firefox has blue stars. Yours may be yellow.

That's it! You're done! The star should be filled/solid.

This is the other way. It takes more than two steps, but it lets you choose a folder to file your bookmark and the option to add tags. (Tags help me find bookmarks when they're not in a folder, or when I can't remember where I filed my bookmark. It's also a really good habit.)

1. Go to the site you want to bookmark. For this lesson, I used this blog.
2. Click BOOKMARK. It's at the top of your browser window.

3. A menu will descend. It will list options, your folders, and sites you already have bookmarked. Click BOOKMARK THIS PAGE.

4. Another menu will pop up. The previous menu will disappear. This one will appear under the blue star, under the address bar on the right.

You can edit the name of the bookmark (next to NAME), choose a folder to file your bookmark (the drop down menu next to FOLDER), and add tags (the drop down menu next to TAGS; you can also add new tags here). Click DONE when you are satisfied.

You did it! One nice feature here is the RECENTLY BOOKMARKED FOLDER. I use it when I book something for the short-term. You can check out your new bookmark by clicking the BOOKMARKS menu and clicking RECENTLY BOOKMARKED. Look! Lessons for Old People is at the top:

Nice job! You'll find that surfing the Web is easier when you use bookmarks.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Technology Lesson: Google Bomb

A Google bomb (sometimes called Googlewashing) is when people exploit Internet searches to move a Web site to the top of a Web search result in hopes of obtaining more exposure or page views. It can be used as a verb or noun. Google bomb was added to the New Oxford American Dictionary in 2005. The tome's definition:
google bombing n. the activity of designing Internet links that will bias search engine results so as to create an inaccurate impression of the search target.
For example, if I wanted Lessons for Old People to top the search result for John Mayer is a Tool, I would Google bomb. (But I wouldn't! Because that would be dishonest. I'm almost a little lazy.)

Google bombing is often used for political purposes. In 2003, searching for "miserable failure" and clicking "I'm Feeling Lucky" on Google's home page would take the searcher to George W. Bush's bio on the White House Web page:

Other pages about Bush, and, would also appear on the first page of search results, even though both pages lack the phrase "miserable failure." ( was Google bombed in an effort to fight the Bush page. Other liberal figures were also Google bombed.) explains why it worked:

Although Google's exact algorithms for ranking search results are a mystery, we do know that PageRank plays a roll. Google's search engine tends to think that the words used in the link to a particular source reflect some of the content of the source. If many people link to an article using a particular phrase, such as "using Google effectively," Google will assume that "using Google effectively" is related to the content of the page, even if that particular phrase isn't used within the page itself.

To make the Bush Google bomb, enough people just had to create a hyperlink from the phrase "miserable failure."

Another famous Google bomb is this result from seeking "weapons of mass destruction", a link to Super Size Me from seeking McDonald's, and Stephen Colbert's site Colbert Nation from "giant brass balls" and "greatest living American."

Google never favored the practice, and in 2007, announced that the algorithm had been modified to remove all bombs. Of course, bombs have returned. Following President Barack Obama's election, his page was the result for "cheerful achievement." Last November a racist caricature accompanied results in a search for "Michelle Obama" (part of its stronghold was that it became a news story). Google apologized that a bunch of racists had Google bombed, but didn't remove the offending result. The company said it didn't want to appear that it made decisions in what is seen in a search result (Google has taken this stance in the past as well).

Other political and humor-based bombs are sure to pop up in the future. Now that you know what they are, you'll (hopefully) have a better understanding when that occurs.

Additional Resources:
Google bomb, Wikipedia
Google Bombs Explained,
Google bombs get dismantled, Cnet
New President, New Googlebomb: “Cheerful Achievement”, Mashable
Inside the Michelle Obama image fight: why Google won't tweak results, The Guardian
Google Explains Racist Search Results, Jezebel
Google and Google Bombing Now Included New Oxford American Dictionary, Search Engine Watch
Cannot find Weapons of Mass Destruction

A New Googlebomb: Cheerful Achievement, Google Blogoscoped
An explanation of our search results.

Culture Lesson: Photobombing

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vocabulary Lesson: L33T

L33t (pronounced "leet") is an Internet language that uses numbers in place of letters, sometimes using a combination of numbers to replace all letters in a word. Leet is derived from the word elite (3£173, €£¡7€) and English-based.

Today, l33t is used as a method of showing that one is familiar with computers and Internet culture. However, it would be best that Old People refrain from communicating through this language. In addition to using numbers and symbols for letters, l33t has created some of its own words and suffixes. They are...

-age is used in the same way it would be in the English language, but with more veracity.

'd and "t" for "-ed"
Ex: pwnd or pwnt

The essence of [something]. -ness is used in the same way it would be in the English language, but with more fervor, and with words that are not commonly accepted of having -ness as a suffix.

-xor and -zor for "r" or "er"
Ex: roxor (roxxor), suckzor (usually for "sucks" not "sucker")

This is used as emphasis. Ex:
r0ckz0rz, lolzorz

And vocabulary:

haxor hacker

n00b, a "newbie" or inexperienced person (an Old Person)

pr0n, porn

pwn (pronounced "pown", not "pween"), "to own" (in the slang sense of owning something) or dominate

teh, the

warez software, usually pirated

Here are some examples of words with their l33t translation:
cat (47
elephant 3£3ph4n7
hello h3££0
iambic 14mb1(
jello j3££0
kite |{173
llama ££4m4
nice n1(3
open 0p3n
pint p1n7
quart qµ4r7
save $4v3
today 70Ð4¥
vine v1n3
xylophone x¥£0ph0n3

Additional Resources:

Leet, Wikipedia
Leet Translator
xor, Urban Dictionary
zorz, Urban Dictionary

Vocabulary Lesson: W00t!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Culture Lesson: Walk of Shame

The Walk of Shame a the term used when a Young Person goes home with a person, for intimate reasons, and has to walk home early the next morning in the previous evening's clothes.

This term is generally reserved for Young People (college students and 20-somethings) and in my experience, reserved almost exclusively for young women (where it is then cast as a judgment of a woman's promiscuity). Most Web sites use male-based pronouns, so this may have been exclusive to my school. (And yet! Here are kits marketed to women.)

Here is Wikipedia on the Unmighty Walk:
The walk of shame refers to a phenomenon in which a person must walk past strangers or peers alone for an embarrassing reason before reaching a place of privacy. Most commonly[citation needed], it occurs the morning after a night out at a bar, dance club, or party. People undertaking the walk of shame are understood to have spent the night at the house, apartment, or dorm of a sexual partner (or perceived sexual partner), particularly a one night stand.[1][2][3][4][5][6] The topic is often of the subject of college newspaper commentary.[7][8]

In general, it's not something you want to see on your kid's Facebook.

Additional Resources:
Walk of Shame, Wikipedia
Walk of Shame, Urban Dictionary
June 15, 2010's Dinosaur Comics

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Culture Lesson: Famous McQueens

Alexander McQueen, designer (1969–2010). McQueen was a British designer known for his "unconventional designs and shock tactics." He was awarded British Designer of the Year four time from 1996 through 2003. Photographs of his work are below, and additional information is available in the resources at the bottom of this post.

Steve McQueen, actor (1930–1980). This is the McQueen Old People probably know best, as he was the volatile movie star known as The King of Cool. McQueen starred in The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Towering Inferno, and The Getaway (among many many others). He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Sand Pebbles.

His son Chad McQueen is an actor, and his grandson, Steven R. McQueen, is an also actor, on the CW's Vampire Diaries.

Steve McQueen, artist (b. 1969). This Steve McQueen is probably confused with the Other Steve McQueen. This Steve McQueen is a British artist and film maker. His feature film directorial debut was the 2008 film Hunger.

McQueens other films are black and white silent films. Here is a clip from 1997's Deadpan.

Here is McQueen talking about his work in the 53rd Venice Biennial:

Additional Resources:
Alexander McQueen
Alexander McQueen, Wikipedia
Remembering Alexander McQueen, The New Yorker
Alexander McQueen Label Overview, New York Magazine
Steve McQueen (actor), Wikipedia
Steve McQueen, IMDB
Steve McQueen, Official Site
Steve McQueen (artist), Wikipedia
Race issue a two-edged sword for black contemporary artists, The Washington Post
Steve McQueen: Profile, BBC