Monthly Archives: January 2008

Note to Racists: At Least Be Funny

Look, I know it’s hard to run a small weekly paper like The Independent, a newspaper for Long Island, NY’s East End. Even if you potentially have rich readers in the Hamptons to help out, you’re still going to run on a shoestring budget.

Still, do you think you might pay your writers more so your editor wouldn’t end up writing a racist article about Barack Obama? And then running it during the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

I was telling this very thing to my wife AliBama the other night when we were in bed, umm, praying. I said, “AliBama, I want to be your next president so together we can begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today.”

And she said, “YoMama, then why don’t you cut out the president shit and get a real job and make some freakin’ money?” But I explained I have plenty of money, because bleeding heart liberal Democrats from all across this vast country of ours have felt it in their hearts to send a contribution to my campaign so I can begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today and also because I need to buy my little daughter Bamma Slamma a PlayStation so she will get off my back.”

There’s also the fun part where the column says, “Ultimately, if [Hillary Clinton] gets too close, one of my New York advisors has advised me to ‘Bitch slap that ho.’ White women, I am told, like that.”

I’m not going to talk about the steaming helping of racism the newspaper’s serving us, though I will note that both the publisher and the editor and author of the piece have apologized. What I will say is, c’mon, if you’re going to be racist like that, at least be a funny racist.

This column is all over the place. In parts it paints Obama as a black man with little education; elsewhere it depicts him as not really being black at all. Focus, Rick Murphy! Pick one insulting stereotype and stay with it throughout!

While you’re at it, update your jokes. “Talk jive. Brothers want to hear jive.” Jive? What is this, the 1970s? The least you could do is pretend you’ve paid attention to newer African-American stereotypes and reference ebonics. That way your jokes would only be one decade out of date instead of three. And for all that is holy, don’t mix Valley Speak in there as well. “…you know, the system is, like, broken, y’all”? Have you paid attention to American pop culture since 1982?

In a further example of your unwillingness to commit to your article’s conceit, you took sideswipes at women and gays (“…I might consider bitch slapping [John Edwards], as he is somewhat of a Pretty Boy, if you get my jist[sic]”) but didn’t really drive the burning cross home. Me, I’d have left those out — being racist is enough work without adding in misogyny or other examples of hatred — but perhaps your shoulders are broad enough to carry them all.

Finally, don’t set up jokes and then not follow through. “I’m kind of like Will Smith, except he’s got those Dumbo ears and mine are normal. So, for the next six months, I am going to fly all over the country, and everywhere I speak…” See, you’re clearly setting up a joke about Obama getting his ears stretched so, like Dumbo and Will Smith, he can fly around the country, but then you don’t do anything with it. Or, and I’m just spitballing here, you could reference the racist caricatures of the ravens who gave Dumbo his feather, and maybe make them a stand-in for Oprah or Jesse Jackson or some other black celebrity whose name has reached you there in 1982.

Good grief. It’s like you’re not even trying.

3 Hours of 1983-era MTV

I’m a few days behind the power curve here, but when a good friend showed me the link to 3 hours of 1983-era MTV, I knew I had to share it with all of you.

Part the first:

Part the second:

I’m rather retro-nostalgic for this: while I recognize the music, I never really saw MTV until the 1990s. But c’mon, Night Ranger! The Thompson Twins! Quarterflash! There are other, lesser-known bands like The Who and The Police in there, but we know who the real stars are. Besides Mark Goodman’s hair, I mean.

Thank goodness there’s a writer’s strike on so I can watch this tonight.

Child’s Play, a New Text Adventure

It is playgroup day and playgroup day is normally a good day but ever since that little red-haired girl started coming she always wants your toys.

She shouldn’t get your toys.

You tried telling the mom this but she doesn’t understand you. She mostly ignored you but then she just shoved a pacifier in your mouth and changed your diaper.

Back in 2006 I wrote a playable introduction for a text adventure called Child’s Play. At the end of last year I finished it. It’s finally polished enough that I’m pimping it on the blog.

For those of you unfamiliar with interactive fiction, works of IF are (roughly speaking) text-based games where you play the protagonist in a story and deal with puzzles. In this one you play a baby struggling against another baby for control of your favorite toy during a playdate.

This is a work of fiction.

At any rate, go download Child’s Play and give it a try. You can even play it online if you don’t want to sully your computer with IF just yet. If you’ve not played IF before and would like some guidance, you should read Emily Short’s guide to IF. And if you write IF, why not peruse the source code?

Review: Hyper Dash

Way back in October, I posted about Eli playing with Legos in his room. Then a nice man named Devin Kingdon offered to send Eli a game called Hyper Dash to play with. I said yes and that we’d review it here.

Bad Misty.

It’s nearly February and still no review.

So here it is! And it’s in no way more positive than it should be because of the delay!

hyper_dash_product_lo.jpg

I’ve had a lot of fun with Hyper Dash. One game included is called Micro Dash and puts me in mind of a modern day Simon, which I had and loved as a child. (Side note: How sad is it that when I went to search for Simon, Google sent me to www.handheldmuseum.com?) In Hyper Dash there are multiple levels of difficulty, so it scales great for different age groups and level of ability, and at the highest level of difficulty even calls for simple computational ability. Also, I need the math practice.

We played with it with Eli some; however, he is a bit on the young side for it still. It’s rated ages 6-12 and I’d say that’s about right. He wants to play with it but at 3 1/2 – 4, he just doesn’t have the coordination to do it easily, so he gets frustrated.

I do like the dash part of the game. Eli needs more activities that call for movement and this game provides that. The further you spread the targets the more exercise the kids can get. I’m envisioning spreading them to the four corners of our 1/2 acre lot and the extra sleeping that will ensue from the exercise!

So we’ll definitely be hanging on to it until Eli is old enough to use it properly. Until then, don’t mind me, I’m off for another round of Micro Dash!

Thanks to Devin at Wild Planet for sending out Hyper Dash for us to play with. Also, check out the company’s senior management team. Those folks look they are having a blast at Wild Planet.

Bad Love Songs of the 1990s

Yesterday I claimed that the 1990s were terrible years for pop songs about love. Then I wondered, was I being too hard on the decade?

I tell you what: you judge.

Bryan Adams: (Everything I Do) I Do It for You (1991)

In 1991 you could not escape this song. Even if you avoided the radio and didn’t turn on your TV, A&M Records would send men into your house to duct tape a Walkman and its earphones to your head. “I can’t help it,” Adams croons as the song swells gently to a crescendo worthy of a bad sex scene in a low-rent romance novel.

Aerosmith: I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing (1998)

“I could stay awake just to hear you breathing/Watch you smile while you are sleeping”. Imagine, if you will, that you had a rough day and were asleep moments after you crawled in bed. Then you’re waking up, feeling relaxed and refreshed, ready to face a new day. You open your eyes and your bedroom comes into focus and suddenly in front of you is

Steven Tyler

And he tells you he’s been staring at you all night long. I also note that Diane Warren, who wrote the song, has said that she originally wrote it for Celine Dion.

Backstreet Boys: All I Have to Give (1997)

Jonathan Coulton’s song Soft Rocked By Me contains the lyrics, “I’ll listen to the things you say about the way you feel / I’ll smile an understanding smile when your boyfriend calls / And you’ll go, but you’ll think of me”. All I Have to Give is that passive “but I could love you if you’d let me!” approach taken seriously and somehow going quadruple platinum. This song is the anthem of Nice Guys(tm) everywhere.

Celine Dion: I Want You to Need Me (1999)

Celine Dion should hook up with the Backstreet Boys.

Kenny Loggins: For the First Time (1997)

A decade after Footloose and Danger Zone, Kenny Loggins inexplicably reappeared on the charts with this Oscar-nominated song. Eyes, smiles, hands holding hands — there is no cliché safe from Loggins’s muse.

Mariah Carey: Emotions (1991)

Everything about this song feels carefully and soullessly assembled, despite the number of times she says the word “feel”. And “I feel good, I feel nice”? Her singing may be full of high notes, but the emotions her lover inspires in her are barely two inches off of the floor.

Extreme: More Than Words (1990)

If you really loved me, you’d sleep with me.

Richard Marx: Now and Forever (1994)

You’re holding a fortune heaven has given to you, huh? I wish you had kept holding it quietly. If you’re low on your RDA of love ballad string sections, this song should help.

You know, I’ve been hard on the 1990s, but at least it didn’t give us this:

[tags]love songs, 1990s, music videos, too much vibrato, too many high notes, too many string sections, I can’t believe the album “The Best of Bread” has twenty whole songs[/tags]

Eli on Medicine

Eli has an ear infection. He started complaining about it hurting yesterday afternoon, and occasionally I’d see him tugging on it. An hour after he went to bed he came back out, crying. “My ear is squeaking,” he said.

He has medicine now. He nearly gagged while taking it tonight. “Are you okay?” we asked. He nodded. “Did it taste bad?”

“It tasted like my bad dream,” he said, tearing up once more.

How to Know Your Love is Deep and Abiding

And I said, “What about ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’?”
She said, “I think I remember the film,
And as I recall, I think we both kinda liked it.”
And I said, “Well, that’s the one thing we’ve got.”

–Deep Blue Something, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

Truly, that is the song of a committed couple whose love will stand the test of time.

I’d embed the video here, since it’s like a bowl of shredded Wonder Bread in milk, but Universal Music Group doesn’t believe in allowing embedding, so I’ll just link to it instead.

Man, the 1990s were a terrible time for pop songs about love.

A Story and a Smile

Sam Granade was the tallest man I knew.

Sure, when you’re little, most everyone is tall. But Granddaddy was immensely tall. When he would pick me up the world would fall away from me and I was higher up even than when I was on my dad’s shoulders.

When I was young, he wasn’t my favorite of my grandparents. My grandmother, Missy Law, would get on the floor and play Safari with me, and make Witches’ Brew out of whatever juices and teas were in the refrigerator. My mom’s parents and my aunt Melanie, who was a teenager then, were relaxed, joking easily with each other. Granddaddy, though, seemed reserved, a man who knew what was right and planned on doing it. Moreover, he was an outdoorsman. I never really liked hunting and fishing, which were Granddaddy’s love. As much as he enjoyed turkey hunting (or, as it sounded in his south Alabamian accent, thick as a wool blanket, “toikey huntin'”), I’m surprised he didn’t disown me when I couldn’t sit still on our few hunting trips.

Our love of stories helped bridge that gap. Stories gushed out of Granddaddy like water from Moses’s rock. He would cock his head, his smile growing wide, and launch into his tale. He savored telling them, and his stern, no-nonsense demeanor would relax. One of my favorite memories of him is from a holiday shortly after Misty and I were married. We’d gathered at the beach like we did every year, and he turned to Misty and gravely began explaining how we did things at the beach. At one point he clasped his hands together and said, “And of course, as the newest member of the family, you’ll be expected to clean up after everyone,” and before he could even finish the sentence his laughter bubbled out of him.

As a preacher, he preached as Jesus did, through story and parable. But more than a preacher, he was a minister. He cared for people, and saw his calling to the ministry as a call to help others.

I didn’t get to know Granddaddy well until he and Missy Law started keeping Andrew and I once a year while my parents were out of town. During one of those visits, when I was ten or eleven, Granddaddy and I were playing one of those games that aren’t really games, but an excuse to “foster communications” and bore young children. At one point we had to talk about a time when we’d felt scared.

I don’t remember what I said. I do remember Granddaddy pausing before quietly describing his first jump as a paratrooper into the waiting darkness. I later learned that he’d volunteered for the Army. Since he was an ordained minister still in seminary, he wouldn’t have been drafted, but felt compelled to volunteer. He also volunteered for jump school: as the Army pointed out to him, they couldn’t assign him to the paratroopers, but they could assign him to glider training. Granddaddy used to laugh and say that the other members of the 13th Airborne Division would make him jump first. That way, if he made it, surely the rest of them would, too.

As I grew up and began driving the family around Montgomery, I also learned of his love of “little jogs”. He just knew that the simplest route was not the quickest, especially if it involved main streets. He would say, “Here, we’ll take this little jog and avoid the Southern Bypass” and send me on a bewildering series of turns.

Time pulls on us all, and one day I realized that I had grown taller and Granddaddy had grown more stooped. He shuffled when he walked, and he complained of how he couldn’t hunt or fish or preach any more on account of doctor’s orders. We thought he had decided he was old. What we didn’t know was that he had dementia.

His people skills were formidable, and he used them to cover for as long as he could. We had no idea his memory was like the sun on a cloudy day, appearing and disappearing. It wasn’t until we were moving him and Missy Law into the assisted living community that I realized how serious his dementia was. Misty, mom and dad were moving furniture into their rooms. Missy Law and Granddaddy stayed in one of the common areas with me and Eli. Eli was one, so I spent a lot of my time corralling him and keeping him from chewing on the furniture. During one of our circuits around the room, I overheard Granddaddy say, “Who is that young man with that boy?”

Dementia is a terrible disease. It took the Granddaddy I knew and loved and spirited away bits of him. He went from the open wing of the assisted living facility to the controlled access ward, then to a true nursing home. The wellspring of his stories ran dry, and he spent his time nodding amiably but uncomprehendingly at most of the conversations around him.

The disease didn’t take his smile, though. On occasion the clouds would part and Granddaddy would return to us, and his smile was the herald of those occasions. The last time I saw him was after Thanksgiving. We had four generations of Sams in the same room: him, my dad, my brother, and his son. Of the four, only Granddaddy and my nephew are called Sam. We re-introduced ourselves to him, and Andrew hoisted his son up. “And this is Sam,” he said, and Granddaddy nodded. Then he realized what Andrew had said and smiled, saying, “Oh, you named him for me!”

I don’t carry his name like so many members of the family do, but I have my own gifts from him. A King James Bible he used in his preaching. The railroad pocket watch with which he timed his sermons. His stories of being one of six Granade brothers and cousins in a single generation who became ministers.

At his memorial service, some three hundred people filled Stakley Chapel at First Baptist Church of Montgomery, people he’d ministered to and befriended. Everyone had their favorite stories of Brother Sam.

Me, I think of a man brave enough to throw himself into the air because he knew it was the right thing to do. He falls through darkness, looking back only to make sure those following him are okay.

A picture of Granddaddy
Samuel Andrew Granade
1918-2008