Wednesday, May 18, 2011

this stupid program

It's the last day of classes for Spring semester, and for the academic year. That means it's time to start fighting with Excel to make it calculate grades for my classes.

I'm not computer illiterate, and I'm not math illiterate. But something about the Excel interface is so counter-intuitive to me that I feel like I am. This morning, considering the prospect of my semi-annual battle, part of my brain decided to call Excel "This Stupid Program."

"This Stupid Program" was the name of a program my friend Bob and I recorded, over and over again, using a series of cassette tape recorders from ages 9 or 10 until 19 or 20. As a kid, I was either instinctually or preternaturally drawn to parody, I don't know which. As a result, Bob and I made up and recorded multiple hours of utter silliness that made fun of TV and radio programs and, especially, ads. We called our efforts "WDUM," as though it were a radio station.

I used to draw up program schedules before we would record ourselves. As I recall the events, I had just put "This Stupid Program" on a schedule without any idea what it would be. I don't remember how it was that Bob became the host of the program, but I do know the entirety of the transcript of the show:

Time again for "This Stupid Program." "This Stupid Program" is designed to last approximately thirty-seven and one-half seconds, so it is almost time to go. There, it is time to go. See you next time on "This Stupid Program."

Now, that's fairly stupid. Having a program like that on a radio or TV broadcast would be rather stupid. Who would advertise on "This Stupid Program"? Who would listen to it? That was the conceit that drove WDUM - that these idiots were actually on the air. (And of course they had one chief sponsor, called Krazy Kooks Inkorporated, which was a conglomerate selling absolutely everything.)

Bob uttered the text in a weird muppety voice, which made it sillier. We used to repeat the show multiple times running, and by the third or so, it was immensely silly.

So, while I'm struggling to make Excel behave, I'll be hearing Bob in my head, and then the ad following, for KKI's Tree Tree, or some other similarly useless invention. Sadly, I've lost all of the tapes we made. I don't remember the circumstances of that, but it may have been in the flood in Pittsburgh in the summer of 1998 - the same one that took a dozen or more notebooks and plays, and hundreds of poems that I wrote from ages 13 on.

2 comments:

Bobo the Wandering Pallbearer said...

I have no problem using Excel once I get there, but for some reason, I resist the very notion of using it. I have no idea why.

Robert Kirkman said...

I think you sent me copies of the tapes some years ago. I'll have to look around for them.

I have slightly mixed feelings about WDUM. Making those tapes was a lot of fun, certainly a lot more fun that watching TV - even cable TV - or going to the mall. It was a great training ground for creativity, for verbal improvisation, and even a (tiny) bit of social critique. Some of the lunacy was inspired, for a couple of sheltered, middle-class, white suburban kids from Ohio.

(I still remember riding to school on the bus, inventing the call letters and even the network and its tag line . . .)

Some of what we produced was just plain dumb, though, and we occasionally lapsed into the kind of thoughtless racial and cultural stereotyping you might expect from a couple of sheltered, middle-class, white suburban kids from Ohio.

Still, in all, it was a good thing. Almost as good as Space Guys.