Renowned playwright Christopher Shinn recently twitterwrought this:
Last week’s dreams would do pretty well for that: “Suspension Ping-Pong” is a viable play title. And “The Insincere Seagull” swings too. But last night’s? That was one that just didn’t have any disturbing elements, really. There was just a lot of shuffling up and down cramped stairwells and a lot of confusion on my part about why I was involved in the process of picking a comedic weather reporter. It also featured overnight news polka artist and all-purpose comedian Barry Mitchell explaining to me that a joke he’d used when he got into the business of comic weather reporting was a good one. “The kind American audiences like, that’s funny but that the more they think about it makes less sense”.
I remember that in the dream I also found the joke amusing, but all that’s left of it is the punch line “dog whistles”. (I mean literally the thing used to get dogs’ attention, not the thing where you insist someone’s crazy for hearing a racist comment when you say something racist.) Probably I thought too much about the joke. I had no idea why I was part of any of this. But I haven’t known why I was part of anything I was part of since my undergrad commencement. And that I knew was going to on whether I was part of it or not, but if I was part of it, I would hear a speech by Senator Bill Bradley. I guess that’s what I needed back then. So even not having any idea why I was there in the dream wasn’t disturbing. It was just what I’d have expected.
As I say, though, there’s not any disturbing elements in this dream. Just shuffling around stairs and pondering what kinds of jokes really sell.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index fell one point as traders were all giggling about that Samsung store in Singapore that caught on fire. “I bet the manager was quoted as saying, `Shut up’,” said one analyst who did not in fact place such a bet. And then they felt bad they didn’t check if anybody was hurt in the fire before passing around jokes about it, and don’t you feel a little bad about that grin you had now? I don’t think anybody was hurt in it.
A friend was talking about some Spider-Man video game he’d played as a kid. There was a screen where you could enter cheat codes. If you entered something that wasn’t a cheat code, mostly, the game just ignored it. But if you entered a cuss word or something else dirty or sexual or racist or something Spider-Man would come out and whap your entry. So the game turned into one of testing out every possible word to see what would be objectionable. It’s possible there was no actual Spider-Man game and kids were just entertained trying to figure out what wasn’t allowed as a cheat-code word.
It’s got me realizing that someone had the job of making a list of all the words deserving of a Spider-whapping. Maybe not at the game maker’s, maybe they grabbed the list from some industry-standard list. But that just moves the list-making. Somebody had the job of compiling a list of all the words kids might reasonably enter into a game and that they shouldn’t be doing. And I bet it wasn’t just one person either, because who knows every sexist or homophobic or racist term out there? You need to pool experiences to get something close to full coverage. There had to be meetings of people working out this list of offensive terms. And somebody deciding whether a word really was a common and offensive enough term to include in the list.
And then they had to do all this without breaking the rules about appropriate office discussion or creating a hostile work environment. And that’s got me boggled. It almost seems easier to just not let people cheat on their Spider-Man games.
(I’m kidding. I know tech companies don’t have any rules about appropriate office discussions and require the work environments to be hostile. But imagine if it were another way! How would they get things done?)