Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wordle, part I

When I was about 8 years old, my mom joined the local theatre group and I spent the rest of my growing-up years backstage, on stage, or involved in a theatrical production one way or another. Part of the fun was learning how to take on the characteristics of the people portrayed on stage. Even as a props girl or running a follow spot light, it was fun to pretend to be someone else (and the other back stage personnel was my only audience.)

One year, Mom directed the Rogers and Hammerstein musical "Oklahoma!" and the title song required nearly all the members of the cast to take turns and sing one solo line. Some people could sing very well; others couldn't carry a tune if you put it in a bucket for them. I learned how to mimic the singing voices of the entire cast. (What can I say? I was bored one evening at rehearsal.) With an operatic old lady voice I would belt out "Flowers on the prairie where the June bugs zoom," then I'd change my voice to a soft and gravelly gentleman's voice "Plenty of air and plenty of room." For a week or two I kept it to myself, then one day I sang the whole song with all the voices for my mom. She was dumbfounded as I began, then burst into fits of laughter as I sang the line from the one guy who could not sing no matter how much coaching he had. I warbled out his line just like he did and Mom just lost it. From then on, I loved learning how to mimic voices and accents. I only do phrases that I've practiced, but it's a lot of fun.

A little footnote here: In 2005, Mom was cast as the Old Woman in an indie horror film, "Harvest."

Have you ever seen the ad on tv for the Magic Bullet blender? At one point the Australian guy exclaims that you can blend and serve smoothies "Right in it's own frosty mug!" We make smoothies for breakfast at least once a week and when I serve them, the Aussie guy's exclamation comes out of my mouth. And my too cool for words 12 year old daughter rolls her eyes, takes the smoothie, and exits the room. (I secretly think she's impressed.)

In fact, most of the time I like to embarrass my very hip 12 year old daughter by not acting my age or demographic. At home, I keep the voices alive by using a fake French accent, a fake Indian accent (which Indian? Both feathers and dots; I'm lousy at both,) as well as talking like I'm from the 'hood, Marlon Brando, Casablanca, you name it. Poor embarrassed Rachel nearly blanches when I refer to her friends as her homies (and I say that in my best suburban-mom-goody-two-shoes accent) and when she questions my authority, I give her my little speech about 'respecting the mom' and end it with "Word."

Why so I do this to my tortured middle schooler? Control. I can threaten to talk like this in front of her friends if she "disses" (disrespects) me. No, I don't threaten-threaten her; we have a strict rule at home about treating people with respect, regardless of the situation at hand. But she does know that I can break out in Valley Girl if she's with her friends and things get out of hand. I know she doesn't want any funny talking from me and she knows I don't want any back talking from her. One snotty comment out of her, especially in front of her friends and it's "OMG! Gag me with a spoon!" She's very polite after my outburst.

On the other hand, she's just as goofy as I am, talking like a German Chancellor while making spaghetti with me, or her latest: "LOL Speak" via email to me while I'm at work. What's LOL speak? A sample email from her would go like this.


(Hi, mom. Do you know where I can find my blue hat? If you don't know, can I have your blue scarf? Let me know, ok?)

At home we love words. A few years ago, Mr. Pass It On Plates and I built a ten foot wide by six foot tall wooden bookcase to hold all our books. (Problem is, it doesn't hold them all.) Words are interesting in print and interesting when spoken. The funny thing is that even though we're fascinated by words, Mr. Pass It On Plates is Deaf and we communicate at home in sign language. Yes, I have a fascination with signs and that's a whole 'nother blog post.

That said... (*sigh* ok you have just been exposed to my innate weirdness. I had been holding it back for several months now. Yes, I agree - I think it is hereditary. Maybe the last 9 paragraphs were just TMI - Too Much Information?)

Here's a 180-degree turn from what I just told you but ... (and BTW, I love the name of this website and my have to work it into my various languages with my 12 year old punk.)

What the heck is Wordle? It's a super-nifty bit of programming that takes text that you type in OR it takes text from a URL that you provide and pulls out words. Wordle then arranges the words into a word cloud. You can choose from a long list of interesting fonts that I (the "font queen" at home) have never heard of, and you also get to mold the shape of the words. You also control the color.

I absolutely love this. I think I'm going to have to put this on a shirt or tote bag.

Click here for Wordle, part II
You'll see what I'm talking about. I bet you'll love it too.

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