Don't Mess with Tetris

March 06, 2006

I hate the internet right now1. I mean, the ‘net is theoretically supposed to encourage creativity, but at the moment, I find it positively stifling2. I’m talking about a brilliant idea, completely original and endogenous to myself. On the subway to work, I saw one of those “Don’t Mess with Texas” t-shirts, and as I’ve been seeing a lot of gamer tees around lately, I thought it would be pretty funny to make a “Don’t Mess with Tetris” shirt. Funny, right? It’s so… awesome. You’re so novel!3 As I got to work, I decided to make sure someone hadn’t already thought of this, and sure enough sure enough, there it is laughing at me. Some young entrepreneur has created stenciled screenprinted shirts with the witty phrase, and sells them out of her dorm room for $15. There you go. To my credit, the phrase only gets 43 hits on google, but it still is a blow to the ego to find that even my original ideas are unoriginal.

It got me thinking, in the early 90s, you could have stupid, derivative ideas and not even know it. You could be blissfully ignorant with your stupid puns on pop-culture references, and until ‘Weird’ Al came released the same pun in a song, you could believe that you were the first and only person to have that idea4

[1] The ‘i’ in “internet” is not capitalized in this sentence, even though the Chicago Manual of Style recommends capitalization. This blatant disregard for an informal standard with motley participation represents the author’s general contempt for the whole concept of a global network of smaller computer networks that transmit information via standard protocols, as well as the related services such as e-mail, online chat, and especially the interconnected web pages known colloquially as “the web”.
[2] The use of the idiosyncratic apostrophe before the abbreviated word is used to convey a sardonic sense of familiarity which combined with the author’s aforementioned hatred of said technology is meant to reinforce a present sense of disregard and derision. It is also a reference to an early internet abbreviation convention that has fallen out of use after being overused by mainstream news sources and becoming cliched; it is used here to belittle the technology once more, much like the term ”interweb” being reappropriated by hackers to mock computer novices. In escalating the degree of obscurity, it may be setting the tone for a highly irreverent blog post, indeed.
[3] The hyperlinked lyrics, presumably to suggest that the reader “sound out” the phrase with the same stresses and pronunciation used in the song, is probably the weakest association in the article. It requires the reader to 1) be familiar with a fairly obscure alternative song and 2) click on the link and read through the entire song lyric to make the association. Furthermore, usability studies show that most web users are extremely cautious about context-free links, a user would have read the phrase before clicking or even mousing-over the lyrics.
[4] This whole footnote thing is particularly unoriginal. Footnotes or endnotes with tangential rants that sometimes even eclipse the original material in style, intent, and effectiveness have been used by several major literary works, most notably in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, as the book had over 400 individual endnotes, some of which went on for pages themselves, and had salient plot information. The book received general acclaim from the literary community, but the practice itself fell out of favor almost instantly after the widespread fame achieved by the book. Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman predates Infinite Jest, and uses a similar device, though not nearly to the same extent.

Written by Will who lives and works in New York. You should follow him on Twitter.