On the nuances of e-laughter

Let’s start with the fundamentals. The basic unit of written laughter, which we’ve long known from books and comics, is “ha.” The “ha” is like a Lego, a building block, with which we can construct more elaborate hilarity. It sounds like a real laugh. Ha! The “ha” is transparent, like “said.” If you’re chatting or texting, a single “ha” means that a joke has occurred, and you’re respectfully tipping your hat to it, but that’s all it deserves. If I say something hilarious and I get one “ha,” it’s a real kick in the teeth. If I make a mild observation, a “ha” is just great.
The feel-good standard in chat laughter is the simple, classic “haha”: a respectful laugh. “Haha” means you’re genuinely amused, and that maybe you laughed a little in real life. (The singsong Nelson Muntz-style “ha ha,” of course, is completely different—we don’t do this to our friends. There’s also the sarcastic “ha ha,” a British colleague reminded me: he’s used to reading “ha ha” as “Oh, ha ha,” as in, Aren’t you a wag. “But I’m learning to read it as good,” he said. Poor guy.) “Hahaha” means that you’re really amused: now you’re cooking. More than three “ha”s are where joy takes flight. When you’re doing this, you’re laughing at your desk and your co-workers can hear you, or you’re texting with both hands, clacking and laughing away. Somebody has been naughty and fun: a scandalous remark, a zinger, a gut laugh, the high-grade stuff. If things get totally bananas, you might throw a few “j”s in there, because you’re too incapacitated by joy to type properly.
Then there’s the mysterious “hehe.” “Hehe” is a younger person’s e-laugh. My stepsister has used it, and she’s a person who also says “hiiii”—but, reassuringly to me, she’s also one of the best hahahahaha-ers in the business. A friend who’s in his thirties and savvy, with friends of all ages, uses “hehe.” I find it charming—he’s a perfect speller, and he’s a lively, tidy writer, and his “hehe”s are a strange mystery. I know what they mean: friendly, somewhat sneaky giggling at a shared joke. But why the single “e”?
I consider “hehe” to be the “woah” of laughter—an odd but common enough misspelling of a common term of social communication. I think it’s “hee hee,” our conspiratorial buddy, sweetly shortened to “haha” length in a slightly bizarre way. Is it more a masculine “hee hee”—literally a bunch of “he”s? Is it a squished-up “heh,” with some filigree? Is it a cross between “haha,” “hee hee,” and “heh”?

Sarah Larson breaks down hahaha vs hehehe.

Hahahe! Wait, is that allowed?

Lesser-known trolley problem variations

Putting a stake in the popular philosophy thought exercise.

The Time Traveler
There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards a worker. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits a different worker. The different worker is actually the first worker ten minutes from now.
The Cancer Caper
There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. Three of them are cannibalistic serial killers. One of them is a brilliant cancer researcher. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits just one person. She is a brilliant cannibalistic serial killing cancer researcher who only kills lesser cancer researchers. 14% of these researchers are Nazi-sympathizers, and 25% don’t use turning signals when they drive. Speaking of which, in this world, Hitler is still alive, but he’s dying of cancer.
The Suicide Note
There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards a worker. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits a different worker. The first worker has an intended suicide note in his back pocket but it’s in the handwriting of the second worker. The second worker wears a T-shirt that says PLEASE HITME WITH A TROLLEY, but the shirt is borrowed from the first worker.

And so on. I'm not really sure what I can learn from the trolley problem, but I'm uncomfortable that the most common version always involves an fat guy. In fact, it's just referred to as The fat man problem!

Chef Jacques La Merde

Chef Jacques La Merde lampoons the tweezer food movement by posting photos of junk food artfully plated.

A photo posted by @chefjacqueslamerde on

A photo posted by @chefjacqueslamerde on

A photo posted by @chefjacqueslamerde on

It's fun to read the captions to see the mystery ingredients. Doritos soil? Mmmm, can I have another?

To really drive the dagger home, they should have launched this as a pop-up with expensive tickets available only via lottery.

Matthew McConaughey watches the new Star Wars teaser

There are no words.

Whoever created this clip may have singlehandedly launched the next angry Hitler video meme. 1 I look forward to what is sure to be a burgeoning industry of McConaughey sobbing in reaction to Jonny Ive material science promo videos, the next trailer to Pitch Perfect 2, and so on. Sobbing McConaughey is the new Kevin Durant “You're the real MVP.”

I don't own Interstellar on Blu-ray, can someone now cut the same clip of McConaughey crying, but this time swap in The Phantom Menace? What better way to demonstrate The Kuleshov Effect?

  1. I absolutely adored all the angry Hitler videos, but one advantage of the McConaughey clip as a video reaction meme is its short duration. You can claim fair use, I suspect. The angry Hitler videos were fantastic, but the clip is so long that all those videos are pulled off of YouTube by the lawyers. For my next startup, I may just buy the rights to that angry Hitler clip from the movie Downfall and launch a website and app for easily cutting in your own subtitles. If you want to write me a $10 million check for that you know where to find me.

Ayn Rand reviews children's movies

Via Kottke, some reviews of children's movies by Mallory Ortberg, channeling Ayn Rand.

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

An industrious young woman neglects to charge for her housekeeping services and is rightly exploited for her naïveté. She dies without ever having sought her own happiness as the highest moral aim. I did not finish watching this movie, finding it impossible to sympathize with the main character. —No stars.


“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”

An excellent movie. The obviously unfit individuals are winnowed out through a series of entrepreneurial tests and, in the end, an enterprising young boy receives a factory. I believe more movies should be made about enterprising young boys who are given factories. —Three and a half stars. (Half a star off for the grandparents, who are sponging off the labor of Charlie and his mother. If Grandpa Joe can dance, Grandpa Joe can work.)