A Bit About Me

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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

30 April 2011

Remote-ly Interesting

My son always wants me to play video games with him...but I cannot.

You see, my "video game expertise" ended with Space Invaders" and "Asteroids"...all played on the Atari game system...many, many, many years ago. The Atari system had a controller which consisted of a little toggle joystick and one button off to the side of it. I believe it was red.

The controller my son has for his Playstation 2 and Wii, etc., etc., have about a hundred buttons...and sometimes the controllers vibrate. I'm not too sure for whose pleasure (certainly not mine)...but...they do.

I just went into my son's room and asked to see one of his "more complicated" controllers. Of course, as is customary by him, he retorted, "You mean anything more complicated than Atari??" He knows all too well my gaming skills died about the same time Ms. Pac-Man came out. The Atari and all the games (you know, Skiing, Pong, and Breakout) I had were eventually relegated to the attic and that was that.

This controller by Sony, has four keys on the left, then...on the right, four more keys with circles, squares, and other geometric shapes I haven't seen since Geometry class in 1975. Kind of around and below this layout are a few other miscellaneous switches, and a couple toggle thingies up as well to occupy your "second set of thumbs" apparently. If that wasn't confusing enough, it has two sets of two buttons which might be controlled by your index and middle fingers...or, sadly, in my case, just pressed randomly along with all the others.

I am, for lack of a better term, a "complete dork" when it comes to trying to play anything with this. ANYTHING. I also have no clue how to play any game even IF these controllers were to be simplified (extremely simplified). It's always "Jump through hoops, spin around, put your left foot in, take your left foot out, grab the cherry...don't touch the mushrooms...fly through the air at warp speed and pick a bale of cotton. Jump up, spin around, pick a bale of hey...what the heck am I DOING???

I have no clue. A small monkey on acid would get a better score. And that's not even taking into consideration the aneurysm I'm sure to get because there are more lights flashing than at a 1970s disco.

But what does all this have to do with anything?

I'll tell you...

My TiVo died a couple months ago. My first tier TiVo (get prepared for this - I tell everyone) that I won at an AOL Dennis Miller NFL Rant Contest with my one and only entry. Week 6 to be exact. I loved that silly machine. I didn't realize how much my life changed in about ten years of owning that stupid thing. It made holding your bladder until a commercial a thing of the past. It made dinner possible. It made not hearing what someone said the first time...an archaic annoyance. In essence...the little magical box was indeed my mini Pandora. Once I opened it up...I could never get all I was now accustomed to - to go back inside. Once I tasted of the forbidden fruit of technology...I was a giddy drunk. When it died...I went into withdrawal.

I am ashamed to have become so reliant on something so incredibly unnecessary...especially when others have dealt with so much more horrific things lately than their damned TiVo dying.

But I couldn't deal with the cold chicken in the fridge and the cold chicken from my TiVo withdrawal - so I called up the cable company to inquire about adding a DVR. Two days later...just in time to watch (and pause and rewatch) the live broadcast of Prince William and Kate's heavily replayed nuptials, I had one installed. Thousands without cable all around me, but since I was in the queue before the bad weather, mine was installed without any pomp or circumstance.

It also was installed without any written or verbal instructions. I basically had a Playstation 2 installed to replace my Atari...and I was all thumbs.

The dinosaur TiVo I had...was easy. It had an easy to follow remote...with prompts and words on the screen and you couldn't do anything without it asking "Are you absolutely SURE you want to do THIS???" This was now some mutant alien replicant...and I was awoken to the 21st century after being frozen since the late 1900s.

I am able, so the literature tells me...to be able to record two shows whilst watching a recorded third. Able to switch between two shows and watch them both by swapping between them. Able to even watch things I haven't seen back in time to an hour ago...but, for the life of me, after having done it once and being amazed...I have not been able to replicate it again.

I believe I recorded a show last nite. I believe I can probably figure out how to get to it...but other than that...I am clueless.

But I wasn't as clueless as the guy who installed it as he told me my ten year old remote would "still work with it" as it was "universal". Keep in mind this is my ten year old remote which made a plasticy-tinkly noise when shaken. This exact same remote, which, when I took it up to the cable company after the wedding ceremony...was promptly and ceremoniously tossed in a drawer and replaced by something...most regal.

But prior to this "changing of the remote" , I sat, almost as wooden as the Queen's Guards, when I watched the "Royal Wedding" a few hours earlier -- afraid to click a button lest I push something I couldn't "undo" - all the while in possession of this mismatched remote.

I sat, and literally "played" Playstation 2 with an Atari controller while watching the grandeur on TV...and it made me think...

The last time I played my Atari...about 1981. The last time I watched a "Royal Wedding"...1981.

Time goes by so fast. It's almost like I'm sitting here on a sofa fast-forwarding through my...and others' lives.

I'm still baffled by it all...how so much can change from one generation to another...how fast things (and people) grow and become so outdated...and how fast things are obsolete and don't work anymore in a world you once thought you knew. A world that was once so new. And then you realize that no one should be expected to be content to live life with a wonky remote.

And with anyone's life...just like trying to navigate blindly around with a new DVR and remote, there's just so many combinations of things that can go right...and so many that can go wrong...

...but without pushing a few buttons...you'll never ever know.

(Okay...on a different note...does ANYONE out there know how to work a CLIKR-5 remote? No online instructions...nothing on-screen like a TiVo had. I'm so incredibly lost - I'm pushing buttons at random like on my son's video controller. I'm so lost. Sometimes things work...and other times...nope. And I don't remember the "combination" of things I did...to get it to do it again - or not do it again. I can't find anything online which is remotely (yeah, ha ha) helpful, either.)


  1. Only the great Marianne could turn a post linking Atari, her new remote and the Royal Weddimg into a psot about the meaning of life and what it means to get older. Very nice work, Marianne. I'll never look at a remote the same way again -- if my wife ever lets me have it, of course.

  2. Thank you, Mike. This one took me where I never saw it taking me. Sometimes they do that and you have to follow along. It's fun to follow the path you didn't even know was there. :) I know you must do that sometimes as a writer.

  3. More than a dozen years ago, I was talking with my son about listening to albums when I was a kid. He asked what an album was. I showed him. He looked at it for several minutes, then asked how I got it into the CD player. I realized at that moment that 1) I was old and 2) he would never know about that wonderful sound the needle makes when you drop it onto the record, or the scratchiness when the music played.

    That second realization made me sadder than the first.

  4. wonderful blog Mariann...we also had an Atari. We begged my dad to get it after my sister and I played for hours on end at the Woolworth's. Mom and Dad would go shopping and leave us in the game room playing. Well, the Atari was finally set up at home and we played all about 2 times on it. I have never seen my Dad more upset.
    Now, any time I want to purchase anything remotely (!) expensive, I do the "Atari test"....how much will I use it and will it be used on an everyday basis, or be used twice and put in the closet.

    I hope you get your answers on your new TiVo and can find a manuel online perhaps

  5. Nicky - I hear there's a big resurgence in the record field for the "unclean" sound of it all. So, crank out that record player and pop something in that pops and skips and shows humanly love once played it - and played it a LOT. :)

  6. Nan - it wasn't that I didn't play it - I played it virtually by myself. I didn't like it much except for "Asteroids" and "Space Invaders"...that was it. It did get boring very quickly - but I could see having some fun if you had a friend over. Those were different times and that was pretty much state of the art technology. I just wish we didn't live in the state of total confusion nowadays as I have no inkling what I'm doing. I don't. I think I'll ask my son to find out how to work the remote and the DVR...he's certainly going to fare better than I did.

  7. What you need to do is go and find a 7yr old on the street and get them to explain it. Kids can work owt technical as you sit there looking stupid.
    Been there,done that,got the t-shirt lol

  8. philnonymous01 May, 2011 20:38

    Weren't you supposed to go to the cable company, return the ten year old, and get a shiny, newly born remote? Or did you just need some blog material?

  9. My favorite Atari games were Kaboom (a Hamburglar-looking guy dropping bombs that you had to catch in inflatable swimming pools) and Adventure (with the three evil dragons).

    I was disappointed when I discovered that my DVR automatically erases stuff after a certain amount of time. It has a "record on VCR" option but who the hell still has a VCR?

    HA! Word verification is "Vidiong," which I assume would mean "playing a video game wrong."