How Can We Know the Popcorn from the Snowflakes

Content 18+ Emojis. Well, that’s something I hadn’t given much thought to until I happened to catch an article on MEDIUM which was more of an eye-opener than a Bloody Mary on a Sunday morning after a Saturday night black-out. (I am not speaking of an electricity failure.)

In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I even understood what an emoticon or an emoji was. Sounded like a bunch of Arabs to me. Of course, I knew a Smiley Face when I saw one and often sent them myself. For example, on my laptop right here there are about seven: an angelic face with a halo on top, a red devil with horns, a face with a big happy grin, another with a smile, a frown, a snake, and a rooster. That’s the gallery. (On my Skype thing-a-me there is a very rich menu of choices).

What a cute idea, I always thought. That is, until I saw the piece by Jeremy Burge recently. I was stunned. For a moment I actually felt the need to scratch my body to make sure that none of them were crawling up my leg and clinging me. If I may quote the beginning:

“Last month, Apple added 158 new emojis to iOS, but the emoji keyboard on iPhone — the primary means of accessing each of these characters — remains almost identical to the one we used nearly a decade ago.

Meanwhile, people push for competing interests. Some want more emojis to better represent the diverse world we live in while others are frustrated by the ever-increasing list of characters to scroll past when new emojis push old favorites to the side.

“Just make it stop!” my friend Elle remarked after the most recent update, clearly falling in the latter camp of emoji traditionalists.

The two problems have something in common: An ever-increasing library of emojis has started to push our gadgets to the limit. Too many new emojis make it harder to find what you actually want to use on the keyboard, and the keyboard itself can’t accommodate diverse options.”

I must say that I quickly regained my composure. Why should I be surprised, I chided myself, that this pleasant diversion I had imagined, worth maybe 30 seconds of my time when a really difficult choice had to be made to capture the mood completely, had actually evolved, well beneath my unsuspecting and no doubt dimming eyes, into a marauding, subterranean army of jolly pimples, each an outgrowth of the other, suggestive of a clandestine cloning system, and YET each deceptively and crucially different, each displaying some tantalizing nuance of the human experience which only a committed veteran, a stalwart emoticon/emoji-voyeur or an exceptionally gifted connoisseur of these funny little squiggles and bubbles could ever hope to discern.

My God! It was like discovering The Terracotta Army of Qin shi Huang — there was a haunting aspect to it, a sheer and clear illustration of the likely fact that human countenance and ‘soul’ in its brainy boiler-room is not nearly as complicated as we might have previously believed. Little bubbles, if we can just produce enough of them, will finally nail them all.

The article, which then veered rather sensibly into the issues of how emoji can be widened sufficiently to deal with gender and diversity issues, really seemed more preoccupied with the technology than with the issues themselves. I kind of grudgingly admire this position: not should we, but can we? Gender Issues? Racial Profiles? WHO GIVES A FUCK? Can the technology make the rendering of all these diverse characters possible? — for that’s all that counts to the technician.(Hey, it’s not that I don’t care about these issues, but when you have been inundated with identity politics and ‘weaponizing’ words long enough, it’s rather neat to hear the voice, not of fury but of mechanical indifference).

Let’s end this discussion and move on with these immortal words, taken from the same article:

As Google’s head of emoji Jennifer Daniel puts it, “Sometimes you just really need a pink-haired monocle speckled giant hair bow wearing zombie with a goatee.” That level of detail is not likely in Unicode’s emoji future, but who knows what else might be?

So let’s move on. What are we really talking about here, or am I just scribbling to jack us all off about nothing?


One day long ago before both of them died, my Aunt Mary, carrying to the supermarket a piece of the information given to her by my Mom — which was that if she could locate the aisle where dried beans were sold, she would find a recipe for a very tasty bean soup — persevered until at last the Holy Grail was discovered (the place of beans), whereupon Aunt Mary started inspecting the bags of these somber pods for the much desired recipe.

Alas, like most things in life, the promised land kept fading in the distance, the seas refused to part, and the plastic bags gave no instructions.

So Aunt Mary kept looking, turning the bags of beans in her hands as gently as a new baby, but without actually finding the baby itself, replacing one bag, choosing another and resuming her investigation. There has to be a bean soup recipe here somewhere, she surely was thinking. Where could it be?

Finally a man walked by and noticed this. He must have watched her for quite a while because in the end he could not restrain himself: “Decisions, decisions,” he intoned in his most condescending mock-sympathetic voice.

Mary was furious. Maybe it was a gender-related thing ??? What the F&%#(& do you mean, Decisions? Mary outwardly fumed and inwardly baked. But…sexism? No, she wouldn’t have thought so because she was an Old School woman, but maybe it was — you know, the old ‘women can never make up their minds’ thing. Doesn’t matter. She would have called the guy a prick and forgotten about it. I would call the guy a tongue-in-cheek genius for seeing harmless comedy in what to him was Funny. And not untrue, as I discover every day with my (beloved) wife. Women dither and tarry. C’mon Dear ! C’mon, we’re going to be late !!!

It leads, as J. Alfred Prufrock states, to an overwhelming question.

How much choice, or how many choices, do we need? How many choices are we capable of making? The angel-choir of the Capitalist Church of America will triumph and speak in tongues to the Good Lord himself about the Freedom of Choice that Democracy offers us. But is it true?

Does having unlimited choices set us free, or do all these choices eventually and inevitably back us into a horrible closet in which we become both afraid to stay in and afraid to come out?

I can well remember the time when I was a child, my grandmother would take me up Queen Street to the grocery store where they sold ice cream. There were three flavors then: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Pick one. Or have two scoops, one of this and one of that. If you went to the supermarket, you could buy a box of ice cream which they called, as I remember, Neapolitan, and it was always a square/block of ice cream separated into three parts: V, C, and S. It was enough for me. Or if you really wanted an exotic experience, you could get orange or lime sherbet (ice).

But in recent years I have endured the experience of having to choose between a million flavors, and I just keep ordering vanilla if I am in America and pistachio if I am in Italy. I have tried some of the other ‘experiences’: Avocado apricot melon honey dew ripple; and Blueberry maple syrup orange peel vanilla sauce souffle’…

and I just want vanilla. Or pistachio.

We felt as happy with all our supposedly limited choices — and maybe more so — than people today seem when the choices are limitless. Imagine yourself in a small town of the past. You finished high school and married the girl you took to the prom. Next thing you know there were babies. You had a job at the local plant or factory and you and your family went on and on like that, while the children grew, and finally you just got old. How many choices had you been offered in life? Not many.

But were you unhappy? All the Waynes and Loises and Bills and Betties of that era? — were they miserable? I do not remember any such unhappiness, nor does it seem to me that people are much happier today when the choices come stampeding at them and after them like wild cattle. No, they don’t seem happy — they just seem more confused. And because there are so many choices, so many BETTER options (they are led to believe), they become dissatisfied with what they actually have: the car, their phone, their wife. Their life. The marketing monster keeps telling them that what they have is not good enough.

Just think: the guy thought his wife was beautiful until the world kept insisting that she was ugly. Finally, albeit against his will (deep-down) he confessed that yes…she was ugly.


Well, all things change, and all of it changed…especially as time crept by and the modern sensation of being.. trapped…entered the bloodstream of contemporary man/woman.

Is that what started to set in? The ego began wanting more and more?? Did my parents feel this modern absurdity/tragedy coming on? Maybe vaguely, but less so than I can accuse them of. They were were not necessarily passive fish. Some were dolphins, some sharks, but, I guess, most were minnows and tadpoles.. And why is that? Very simple, and the psychologists today have finally figured it out and turned it into a money maker: They were happy because they didn’t know of an endless array of other options and so they simply made the best of life. They played the hand they were dealt as well as they could.

Vanilla ice cream. Or chocolate. Kellogg’s corn flakes. Or Raisin Bran. Three channels on the TV (ABC, NBC, CBC) and it shut down after the news, weather, and sports at about 11.30 p.m. Sounds horrible? It wasn’t. Not at all.

Of course the academic feminists that we are saddled with now want to insist that those women who stood out in the backyards hanging up the laundry were nothing but slaves, indentured servants , and preacher-and-priest sanctioned nuptial concubines, but for the love of God, lose that hatred for a moment, and try…TRY…to understand that it was different then, a world in which women AND men had special magic, special medicine, that worked in the name of a happiness just as wonderful (though maybe as hard to find) as that which takes place now.

The difference is that, even if we often disliked, even hated, each other back then, we were somehow more comfortable in our own skin. Quite simply, the world was not as complicated in its outer limits and along its outer rim. True, our interior lives were just as dark and crazy sometimes, but the world outside was more pedestrian, and the hurly-burly was less. My grandfather pretended to hate half the people in the world. Jews, Blacks, Dagos, Micks (Catholics), etc. But that was only what he saw on the TV screen. Out in the road in Martinsburg, West Virgina, there wasn’t all that much for him to hate. He was a nice guy in spite of himself. I know. I grew up with him. Today’s world would have baffled him utterly.

I know, as apparently many people today sadly DON’T know, that we are destined to repeat and pass on both our attributes and failures. We’re not getting better, folks. The TECHNOLOGY is doing its Wild Thing, but you and I are not, morally, ethically, intellectually, or spiritually, better — for all our flavors and emoji — than were our great-grandparents with their chocolate and vanilla.

Like Barbee Dolls. They pee-pee now, I gather, and have a lot of possibilities that the originals didn’t have.

It’s been the same for a long time with the cereal aisles in supermarkets, the toothbrush aisles and the places in pharmacies where you can buy prophylactics. I mean, Dear Heart, shall we feed the children the chocolate fiber wheat-coated, strawberry flakes or the cream-colored, oat-meal centered, wafer-dipped maple-berried flakes…

and by the way, Sugar-buns, do you feel in the mood for the Trojan extra-sensitive Twists or the Deep Vibrating Orgasmic Bulb Inner-wall Massager?

And what film should we watch? I saw at at least 20 I might be able to access. Can you read little Polina a bedtime story? Check what I downloaded.

There are at least 100 One-Minute Fairy Tales. Oh, BTW, let me take this photo for Face Book and Instagram.

You and the baby. You and the purple, pizza-flavored, winking, electronic, sadness-evocative, ice cream cone emoji — — C’mon pose and smile.


ARE YOU SMILING? (I don’t KNOW why this piece of s — ain’t working. Just keep smiling, damn it. There you are, that’s…..IT!!!

ONE IN A MILLION ! (Whhhaydyahtellya?)


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