Remember Playing Hangman?

Remember playing hangman?

I do.

Sometime in the last century they stopped hanging people for real (at least in most States) and converted the activity into a word game. The game was played by two people. One person would think of a word and draw a row of blank spaces, one space for each letter of the word. Above the blanks would go a little picture of a gallows. The other player would guess one letter of the mystery word at a time. If a letter was part of the word, the first player would fill in the appropriate blank. If the letter was not part of the word, the first player would draw in the hanged man, one piece at a time. Guess wrong once and a straight line would come down from the gallows, representing the noose. Guess wrong again and a circle would be drawn for the head. Enough bad guesses and there would be a hanged stick figure on the page and the game would be lost.

I never understood why the hanged man was necessary. The game was just Wheel of Fortune but without the wheel and and without the fortune. But this was in the time before portable devices that held video games and media players. Kids just today just don’t understand – back then, if we wanted to goof off during class, we had to play hangman. I guess even back then our games had to have a violent component.

Most of my hangman memories are from Hebrew School. I don’t know why I would have chosen to play this inane word game instead of learning about Moses and Matzoh and how to light the Sabbath candles. There must have been a lot of peer pressure.

I just found on online site where you can play hangman. I wanted to see what it like, just one more time. The topic was “countries” and the word turned out to be Switzerland. I figured it out in five seconds and not one piece of the hanged man appeared. When I had guessed all the letters the stick body formed all at once and the gallows collapsed behind it, freeing the stick body. I wanted to gloat and cheer, to bask in the glow of victory over my opponent and over the classroom wall clock.

But I was alone. And the only time I had wasted wasted was my own.

Remember When We Did Not Have To Remember A Million Passwords?

Remember when we did not have to remember a million passwords?

I do.

The first piece of datum that I had to remember was probably my name.  I distinctly remember not knowing how to spell my last name.  I was in nursery school, and the task at hand was to draw a picture of your family members – evidently with arms coming of their heads – and sign it on the back.  The drawing was no problem but I had to ask my teacher how to spell my last name.  I would have been embarrassed were it not for that little “accident” the previous week.

In Kindergarten a phone number was added to the name.  It was only seven digits and I used it frequently over the ensuing years to get my parents to pick me up from people’s houses.  Add my birthday and the channels for Nickelodeon, MTV, and whatever channel showed “Growing Pains” and you’ve rounded my mental database for elementary school.

When I got to middle school a locker combination was added to the set.  I entered this number with such frequency that after a while I did not even see the numbers anymore, and entered the combination by feeling the clicks like a bat or one of those insects that sees through receptors in its knees.

Then in college everything changed.  I was given an email account and asked to choose a password and my life since then has been one giant coveyor belt of passwords.  A password for Windows accounts for home, and work, and for my co-workers when they are away from their desks.  Email passwords for the online account I use and the account to which I send all my online purchase receipts and emails from charities.  And…I think that’s…is that it?

No.  There’s all those websites that I join not because I need to apply for a “free” registration just to look at-I mean research-a few things.  Because there’s a word limit and there might be children reading this, I won’t list the websites here.  But trust me, there are a lot.

And these sites all give the same direction: Choose a password that contains at least one capital and lowercase letter, one number, one symbol, is more than eight characters long, and is not like any other password that you have used in the past.  In the beginning I used to be able to keep from the different passwords.  But after password number sixty-seven I started getting confused.  And I don’t remember the security questions either, because I always made the hint very cryptic to fool the team of hackers that I knew were gathered in a cave in Siberia, thousands of miles beneath the frozen tundra, wearing thick rimmed glasses and looking like showers were not an important part of their lives.  Looks like the joke is on me.

Perhaps some day I will surmount this obstacle.  Perhaps one day scientists will be able to increase intelligence by pumping fat into people’s brains.  And perhaps this technique will enable me to memorize thousands of passwords and the names of all the Kardashians.

But in the process, will I forget that who that boy was…that little boy standing in front of his house, who loved his family, who loved life, and who had arms coming out of his ears?

Remember When Beavis and Butthead Was a Popular Show?

Do you remember Beavis and Butthead, that cartoon on MTV?

I do.

It was spring and I was in ninth grade.  A friend of mine quoted some dialogue at the lunch table one day.  I watched the show that night and thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen in my life.  It was on at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., I believe, and I started taping an episode every night on the VCR.  The characters spoke to me.  I too was a young man who saw the world divided into things that were cool and things that sucked.

One time my mother watched the show and forbade me from watching it anymore.  I had to watch and tape in secret.  I figured out how to tape the show without the television being on.  I would bring the tape to a friend’s house and we would watch it and laugh and I would think to myself, “This show is never going to go out of style.”

The two main characters spent a lot of time watching television.  Whenever an image of fire came on to their screen, they would shout, “Fire!  Fire!” not in alarm, but in excitement.  I too was excited by images of fire at that time.

Parents were outraged.  Educators were disappointed.  Congress got involved.  The “Fire! Fire!” got edited to “Fight!  Fight!” which did not make any sense.  Until that time I had thought censorship was something that happened only in places like the Soviet Union.  Now I knew the truth.

A few years ago while I was cleaning out some old boxes of stuff, I found my tape of Beavis and Butthead.  It was marked with a simple “BB” so that my mother would not know what it was.  I dusted off the VCR and popped in the tape.

You know something?  It was still funny.

Heh heh.  Huh huh.