New Games. New Rules

Give yourself the gift of fun this month as we look at new forms - of language, of fiction, and of a new kind of hero. Throw out the rule books, folks, it's a new era.

So you've mastered Spanish, Greek and Italian. But can you handle leet speak? Leet speak has been a passion with gamers for a number of years and is now spreading into the mainstream. As befits a rapidly evolving new form it will probably change by the time you learn to write and read it. No one has yet learned to speak it. The word "leet" is said to derive from the phonetic form of "elite". The slanguage is used over the Internet, in emails, on blogs and webcomics. Sometimes employees will use it in order to escape company email filters. You've probably already seen "kewl" for cool and "ne" for any. Maybe you've run into "d00d" for dude and "joo" for you. If you're using multiple exclamation marks you're already on your way. Sometimes every other letter is capitalized, in a leet form known as stickycaps. You can Google leet and find a number of fascinating translation sites; here is just one for starters: http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/text/leet.php Try this simple sentence: WHeRe @re joo? And for a more complex thought: 19174 91r43 1$ w4 (00. Now see how you do with the titles on our new digital paintings.(email me at giraffe@giraffe.com if you can't figure these out!)

Then take an adventure through your favorite series, be it poetry, books. songs or television. Make up some new episodes using the same characters that are legally owned by the creators of the series and you're now writing fanfic. In another form, songfics uses the lyrics from a popular song and then writes text around them. Fans of the multiple TV series of Law and Order, for instance, have written numerous new stories about the Lawyers and the Orderers. The impetus for fanfics isn't entirely clear, but for starters it may involve a competitive sense of outdoing the doer. Or perhaps it's getting inside the head of your favorite characters. Maybe fanfic is a kissing cousin of photography: take something "out there" and see what you can do with it. Whatever the motivation:try it for fun!

Finally we look at the status of the hero on television today, or rather the Anti-Hero. You've seen him portrayed by James Spader on Boston Legal, Mark Harmon on Navy NCIS, and Hugh Lauria on the new House M.D. The Anti-Hero is tough, confident, abrasive and demanding. He is decidedly unfuzzy and not at all warm. You wouldn't want to curl up with one, but you'd surely want one on your side in any dispute. He tends to be dismissive of rules, indifferent to the effect he creates on others, and unable to sustain intimate personal relationships. Like a piece of anti-matter he seems to bounce off the walls of convention and is saved from disgrace by his brilliance and ability to succeed. If you see one, don't adopt him, but don't ignore him either!

c.Corinne Whitaker 2004