04 August 2010

Day 130: Kyle B. (guest blogger)

The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno.  ISBN: 9781933354101.

I really like codes. When The Boy Detective Fails dropped a few little coded messages in the story and then moved on, I jumped at the chance to try my hand at pulling the messages apart. I was halfway through figuring out possible alphanumeric shifts when I realized there was a key to help out elsewhere in the book. In one of my favorite books, House of Leaves there are codes layered in on top of codes, some leading nowhere, some taking the reader deeper into the book. Something as simple as a switched letter or even just a checkmark on the bottom of an otherwise normal page is enough to make me start building scratch pads of ideas.

When I was a kid, I used a couple encyclopedias to brush up on some ancient writing styles such as, I kid you not, Phoenician. To my knowledge, I don’t retain any cuneiform, but that’s probably because most of the notes I used it for were only addressed to myself. Using code is a lot more fun when you’ve got someone else to receive the message. On the other hand, it’s a huge benefit when I’m taking notes, since not many people can read my particular iteration of shorthand.

Being deaf actually plays into this more than one might think. I’ve often taught a couple of my friends some basic American Sign Language. When we’re out in a loud place where hearing might be an issue, we can communicate a few common sentences to each other without having to shout out loud.

The problem with using other languages is that it can be a trap when someone knows the right code. I once caught some hearing high school girls out using ASL to talk about an awkward classmate who was nearby. I watched the conversation for a couple minutes as they were improvising some signs to come up with derogatory ways to refer to him in sign, giggling to each other in some kind of cruel confidence. Once I was near them, I told them they weren’t the only people who knew sign, and they might want to be a little more careful about what they said next time. I got terrified stares and walked off without the guy in question even being aware what had gone on.

What it comes down to for me is a fascination in how people communicate, especially how we try to talk to each other so that only one other person can understand. The secret message, even when unimportant, can be a meaningful one. I’m not saying I thrill on subtle encouragement to drink more Ovaltine. I’m saying it just makes things fun and can be useful now and again.

Kyle B. is some guy you've never heard of, but he's okay with that. He's a writer and journalist (also both a lover and fighter) that graduated from Kent State University a few years ago, with some slight gainful employment since. He loves to read but pretty much puts a new book back on the shelf if a couple of the first words on the jacket are "murder mystery" or "romance."

*Post was originally written July 14th, 2010 so I could do something else...like play video games all day.


  1. I am loving the image of a young you learning Phoenician. A girl after my own heart for sure!

  2. Hmm, yes, I too can imagine my guest blogger Mr. Kyle B. as a young girl diligently attempting to learn Phoenician. And this image is both lovable and hilarious.


    Thanks for the comment Trisha.


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