Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Robustness of Noise


For as long as I have known Gllen, our methods of communication have been constantly evolving. The first time I met Gllen was St. Patrick’s Day 2001. He came from Wausau to a party in Minneapolis and said maybe four things. Our communication at this point relied on brief awkward stares. The case was the same when I visited Wausau that summer and was a guest at Gllen’s house for part of an evening. I observed aloud, “Gllen, there is not one thing on any wall in your house except for that tiny picture of Eminem over there in the back room.” He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. Later I noticed a pile of about 200 Mountain Dew cans in the kitchen sink and asked him if he liked Mountain Dew at all. He gave a sheepish grin and nodded very slowly. Even though he said less to me during this visit, he communicated more.

Later, Gllen moved to the Twin Cities and our communication blossomed into daily conversation, both in person and over instant messenger. For a brief while I lived with Gllen and that stretch represented the climax of our verbal interaction. Still, even amidst that flourish of banter, if you were to do a word count on one of our conversations in the garage, Mike would be responsible for over 2,000 words and Gllen would have about 23.

A few months after I moved out, Gllen got a phone. This was the first phone I’d ever known Gllen to have. It was a remarkable thing to be able to call Gllen, however we all soon realized that the phone would remain shut off 99% of the time. To this day, I think I have received less than 10 calls from Gllen. In rare cases I am out with someone who receives a call from Gllen, their reaction is ALWAYS, “What the fuck!? Gllen is calling me?” In recent years he has been more active in making and receiving calls, and text messages, however it doesn’t matter anymore because we have honed the most reliable and dynamic method of communication mankind will ever need: The Noise.

It started out as a sarcastic jeer of dismissal, a condescending reflex.

“Gllen, do you have any mustard?”

“Mike, where is the DVD player remote?”

“Gllen, did you have a jack that last hand?”

This went on for many months. The Noise began to evolve, taking on new organic directions on a daily basis. The challenge became to create sounds that were as ridiculous as they were dismissive and unhelpful. Our instant message dialogues often involved no actual words, but I like to think something still got done.

“Mike, what time is grilling?”

“Gllen, can I get a ride?”

“Mike, did you win last night?”

Presently, we’ve reached the asymptote line of absurdity. We’ve been traversing it for over a year or so now. Basically any time Gllen or I see each other, we emit The Noise. How do I describe The Noise in plain text? This is such a tall order. Hopefully Janelle (Mrs. Gllen) can coerce Gllen into letting her record a good sample to embed in her GllenBlog (she is posting this there as a guest blog and elaborating on it). But I’d say The Noise is like a bus with 50 ducks on it crashing headlong into a tanker full of alphabets.

It also possible to make The Noise quietly—just imagine the bus and tanker are peanut-sized.

The Noise is always in full force during poker nights. As more and more alcohol becomes involved, The Noise presses and mutates the boundaries of its relevance (please see figure 1). It gets laughs from some people, but it should be noted that Janelle absolutely hates The Noise. She hates on it real bad. On the surface, she harbors ill will toward me for being a co-conspirator on behalf of The Noise, but deep down I think Janelle knows that it is not my fault, and that it is here to stay regardless of what any of us do about it. Like the Seinfeld episode where he mocks his date’s growling stomach with a fun and jovial voice. Janelle can hate on The Noise, but that will only make it stronger, exactly like the evil goo that blankets New York in Ghostbusters 2.

Today, it remains my most effective channel of communication with Gllen—a product of years of linguistic evoIution.

I really am sorry, Janelle, but this is bigger than all of us.

figure 1.