I’ve been giving Twitter a workout lately.
Although I’ve had an account since early 2013, the microblogging bug never really bit. The nomenclature alone kind of makes my skin crawl. I could appreciate its utility, and even consider the character limit to be a worthwhile challenge, but ‘following’ always gave me pause. I already follow people in the sense that if I like a blog, I’ll bookmark and revisit when the mood strikes. The Twitter way is to eyeball the ever-scrolling feed of tweets of your chosen ones. Surely when you amass a certain number of followees, this becomes not much more convenient as a filter (if a filter you seek) than googling randomly. It only really seemed to make sense for mass movements of people; following trends. I’m not so interested in that.
Anyway, about a month ago I tweeted thus:
The implementation was clumsy as I hadn’t yet figured out how to slide text onto a curve using Sketch, which is my chosen canvas since Photoshop ascended into the Creative Cloud. (Can’t say you’re Sketching, people would just get confused. And the clumsiness would remain. When it comes to image manipulation, I’m what you call an enthusiastic amateur.) But it was an enjoyable exercise, so the next day I dipped into the past again, simply doing a search of July 10 and throwing a few events in this time.
The first history tweet I actually felt æsthetically pleased with came on the 12th when I got to do a group portrait of the Stones with Caesar. Next Nixon made his debut – he’s very photogenic. The 14th was another multi-event, which was becoming the new standard even if the illustration was quite basic. On the 16th I got more ambitious; at this point I was hooked.
I don’t think anybody actually follows my Days except Twitterbots, but that’s not why I post them (else I’d widen my library of pop culture references). They wake up my brain. The only downside is that ambition is an insomniac’s dream; they take too long, eating into time when my brain should really be asleep. Today’s, for example
was accomplished in the peak REM hours early the morning of August 10th.
According to Wikipedia, which is good enough for me (as are some of the ‘Today in history’ sites, though I’m aware they’re not always strong on fact-checking), on this day word of the Declaration of Independence reached London. Also, “In 1793 The Musée du Louvre officially opened… In 1990 the Magellan space probe reached Venus… In 1519 Ferdinand Magellan’s five ships set sail from Seville to circumnavigate the globe… And in 2003 came the highest temperature ever recorded in the United Kingdom – 101.3 °F in Kent. It is the first time the United Kingdom has recorded a temperature over 100 °F.”
The temperature thing was a surprising fact, but I didn’t have room for it, so never mind that. Everything else got slotted in like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, which is surely one of the handier metaphors.
This one was particularly irksome as my grey matter kept getting impacted with ideas [mental note: Breaking Bad. Ignore.] The character limit had forced me into ‘Dec’ of Independence, so in came Dec, Ant’s buddy. The lightning bolt was a flashbulb moment which naturally needed to be incorporated. As for the louvres, homophones stopped by the other day, and I grab continuity where I can find it, so… you get the idea. Tick-tock, tick-tock.
I had to find a useable globe stand, as cleaning stuff up is a chore I can do without; my kingdom for a .png or .gif with a transparent background!
Almost all of the history images are scooped up without apology in image searches, though I try not to use other people’s personal photography [see apologia]. Been to the Louvre, so that one’s mine.
Images are only half the fun. The rest comes with snapping the various elements together, where possible, and writing captions. Words and pictures, pictures and words: that’s my life.
Perhaps I should thank Twitter for limiting me to 140 characters. Make that 117 – or 99 with intro. I am constantly reminded of the importance of 23, which is the number of characters a picture(s) is worth in this brave new world.
I’m not sure how long I’ll keep this up.* There’s the only-so-many-hours-in-the-night thing, which can be addressed by lowering the benchmark or redefining the mission. Over time it will become progressively more difficult for me anyway as history runs out. Ideally I will pass this sacred duty to the next generation, whose job it has always been to make new history.
* 3 months as it turns out. Now I just do them whenever I feel the calling.