Laughing and Crying: Jim Bruce

In this five-part series, comedians and humorists write about their experiences with the grieving process and its effect on their comedy. Today, comedian Jim Bruce writes about the death of his brother and mother, and how experiencing grief taught him empathy.

The Bygone Bureau: Tell us a little about your loved one. Did this person inform your comedic sensibility? In what way?

Jim Bruce: My brother Bill committed suicide. The idea of suicide is peculiar, intellectually. It is so counter to our natural instincts to survive that most humans struggle to understand it.

When I first got very personal with my comedy, my brother’s suicide was one of the first things I talked about, but I would talk about it mostly in the abstract. Suicide as a concept, and the jokes came from there. As I developed the material it started to get more real, his suicide in particular and then my own thoughts and attempts at suicide. So Bill did have an impact on actual material. My mother had a much more profound affect.

My mother was an alcoholic who quit drinking through AA and then got cancer and died. So I got very little time to enjoy my sober mother, and that woman was lovely. My mother was also very funny, and I would credit my sense of humor, finding comedy in dark places, to her.


Can you tell a short (maybe funny, maybe not) anecdote that encapsulates this person? Has thinking about the events of this story changed for you in the grief process, and if so, how?

Thanksgiving: One year my mother was pretty drunk on Thanksgiving. She made a pumpkin pie and a cream pie, but got confused and put the pumpkin pie in the fridge and the cream pie in the oven. As a result the pumpkin pie was raw, the cream pie was on fire.

Very funny to remember, but here is the best part. When my mother got sober, she would tell this story, and other stories of mistakes she made, herself. She was humble, and funny, and honest. She could be mean, she could be stubborn, but she could also be very sweet, and funny. In short, she was super Irish.

So I learned to laugh at my own mistakes, and believe me, there have been plenty. I did an hour comedy special and much of it was about my mother, my brother, my one legged father and there is humor in all of it.

Describe your experience with grief a little. Did it interrupt your desire to write or tell jokes? If so, in what way? When did that desire return, if it did. What happened that made it come back?

I don’t think grief ever interrupted my desire to tell jokes but it did change the kind of jokes I wanted to tell.

I like all kinds of comedy, from the absurd to the real life, but in the middle of grief I tend to want to tell and hear truth. Other people are different. They want the distraction. But for me, in the middle of it, I kind of want to soak up the grief, to feel it as much as I can. Then when it’s subsided some, I like to jump into jokes about whatever. In retrospect, I think that’s just me healing.

How has experiencing grief changed the way you think about comedy in general or certain jokes in particular? How is it different, and how is it the same? Are there any sorts of jokes that you were comfortable with before that you aren’t now, or vice versa?

I think you can joke about anything, but here is what has kind of changed for me: I feel very comfortable talking about my suffering, my troubles, my mistakes. I am less inclined to mock someone else’s grief. I also tend to think about how other people are human beings, so when I make jokes, it’s from that point of view.

Case in point: A celebrity like Lindsay Lohan. I find it strange that we are amused when someone has an addiction problem to the point that we seem to be hoping they’ll crash and burn. I find that instinct far more deplorable than anything she has or hasn’t done. So in my comedy, I tend to make fun of that instinct. TMZ and shows like it are filled with garbage human beings who should feel superior to nobody.

It’s been sometimes said that humor comes from pain. Has any comedy writing come directly out of your experience with the loss of a loved one? Is there anything funny about death or grief, whether in the abstract or in your personal experience?

Yes, death is funny, and the less abstract the funnier to me.

In my new comedy special, I open with a piece about how weird funerals are, and close with how I think mine might go. Everyone you know is, right now, dying. That’s just how it is. If you can’t find it funny how life works, then I feel for you. For me, finding it funny is the only way to continue on.

Laughing and Crying: Sarah Bee

In this five-part series, comedians and humorists write about their experiences with the grieving process and its effect on their comedy. Today, writer Sarah Bee tells us about the death of her father, and the importance of dark humor.


The Bygone Bureau: Tell us a little about your loved one. Did this person inform your comedic sensibility? In what way?

Sarah Bee: My absentee father Bill was a highly intelligent professional gambler, sometime English professor and an alcoholic, probably with some undiagnosed narcissistic personality disorder. He was somewhat Jewish, though not as Jewish as I had assumed (I didn’t realize that my grandmother, who I never met, wasn’t Jewish). He definitely amped up his Jewishness and his Americanness, having spent the second half of his life in London and always needing to be the center of attention. He made himself into a bit of a caricature, although he was always in control of that and it didn’t get away from him.

I always describe him as being like Woody Allen possessed by the spirit of Jack Nicholson, and I’ve never been able to come up with a more accurate shorthand for him.

I think he did inform my comedic sensibility, from afar: I’m English and grew up in England, but I definitely have an ear for the American way of making the funny. There’s a fantastic interplay between the two nations’ comedic sense. He loved to flaunt his way with words and was very entertaining. He would dominate any conversation to the extent that it would almost be a stand-up routine, complete with nicely-turned lines you’d heard before. I think I have a similar predilection for wordplay, winkling out the absurdity in phrases, but I can’t say whether or not it came from him.

I didn’t spend a lot of time with him, but I do remember quite a few of his colorful phrases, and I’ve related them to others complete with accent and arm-waving. He once complained that his then-girlfriend didn’t have any ice in her freezer: “I couldn’t believe it, she didn’t have any ice. You come to my house, half my house is made out of ice.” He described his adventures with his best friend, saying, “We were never on the straight and narrow, we were wildly rollicking from side to side.” He left me a phone message asking, “How are you where are you when are you?”

It was all a performance for him, all stuff calculated to induce admiration and submission in others, but also he was genuinely funny and he really loved words and bending them into crazy configurations. That’s certainly something I shared with him, and if he did pass on some of those word-genes then hey, thanks, dad.

Can you tell a short (maybe funny, maybe not) anecdote that encapsulates this person? Has thinking about the events of this story changed for you in the grief process, and if so, how?

It’s a second-hand story, like most of my stories about my dad. My uncle tells me that once, during Bill’s brief marriage to my mother, they were all on their way to some evening event and he insisted they stop so he could place some bet or other. Shortly afterwards he found out that he’d won, and was full of beans. He tried to entice various people to dance with him and couldn’t, so he went whirling around the dance floor on his own. He had a particular manic energy that swept all before it, and he loved to win.

I suppose I’m more inclined now to see it as a happy story, rather than as another manifestation of his dysfunction. I think you naturally try to account for a life that has passed, and when the relationship is difficult and full of absence and space and misery and the person was not the greatest example of humanity, you have to accept that in the end you must reconcile yourself to your ambiguity.

Bill had good in him, certainly, and had the capacity to feel and express joy and could even spread it around a little. You’re kind of locked into loving your parents whether you want to or not.

Describe your experience with grief a little. Did it interrupt your desire to write or tell jokes? If so, in what way? When did that desire return, if it did? What happened that made it come back?

My grief was almost inverted, since I barely knew Bill and he wasn’t really a father to me in any meaningful sense. So I felt like I skipped it, and that that was very lucky, but I felt the absence of grief just as I had felt the absence of a father for 34 years. So it was like hyper-normality, and an unpleasant blankness.

I wanted to experience the kind of grief that we naturally dread in life, but I think that grief is like a flushing-out of all the emotional energy that has built up in your relationship with another person, and there was just nothing there to flush out. I was relieved in some ways and felt calm, but there was something a bit askew about it and I felt not quite myself for some months. It was partly because I knew I wasn’t really grieving for him so much as for myself. Maybe my sense of humor did take a bit of a knock, but then I didn’t feel very sociable for quite a while so it was all tied up with that.

I think it increased my desire for funny stuff, though. Right away I wanted to sweep everything away with fun and laughter and silliness, just to relax and get back to myself. People find it so difficult to know what to say and how to behave around death and dying, and since I wasn’t experiencing grief in the “usual” way, I felt quite liberated. I wanted to put other people at their ease by making fun, and also try to scandalize my friends a bit with my inappropriateness (it didn’t work, they were totally there with me, which was great).

I don’t think Bill would have disapproved. I wanted to find the comedy in the situation — comedy rounds out tragedy, there’s a natural balance there. There is a daftness around death which will come out like a burp, one way or another, and I fully embraced it.

How has experiencing grief changed the way you think about comedy in general or certain jokes in particular? How is it different, and how is it the same? Are there any sorts of jokes that you were comfortable with before that you aren’t now, or vice versa?

I’ve got a fairly dark sense of humor anyway and the experience hasn’t affected that or my perspective on comedy at all. I’m not crazy about jokes to do with male parents, but then those have always made me sad, so there’s no change there.

I’ve always thought it’s important to address dark stuff in comedy, although it needs to come from an essentially decent place — then you can go as far as you want and it will never be truly offensive. You’ve got to know and care what you’re doing and not just be a mindlessly provocative dick about it. Nobody needs that.

It’s been sometimes said that humor comes from pain. Has any comedy writing come directly out of your experience with the loss of a loved one? Is there anything funny about death or grief, whether in the abstract or in your personal experience?

It was natural to me to put some levity into my writing about Bill’s death and its aftermath. It’s all pretty sonorous and bleak stuff, so good writing practice and sanity dictate that you need a smattering of amusingness. It’s not laugh-out-loud stuff, but it’s lighter.

In the abstract, I’m not sure there’s a lot that’s inherently funny about death. I don’t think our relationship with it is especially healthy, although of course it’s incredibly difficult and we must give ourselves a break about it — but if we didn’t fetishize and elevate it in the way that we do, and if we didn’t force it from our minds and fail to deal with it, then we might be able to see more humor in it. It’s got to be funny that entire human beings just disappear. It’s ridiculous. But it is the most natural thing in the world.

I think there’s some comedy in the fact that you can say anything you like about a person once they’re dead and they’ve got no comeback. There’s a certain giddiness when you absorb that knowledge. Of course you mostly want to say good things, but it’s a bit of a thrill to know that you can go, “That guy, he was kind of a fucker” and the guy in question can’t come back with anything. Bill would have been infuriated by this, but also he could have taken it.

I don’t think it’s disrespectful — it’s more disrespectful to sanitize real, flawed human beings once they’ve gone, bleaching out all their faults and presenting them as more palatable pastiches of their true selves. It’s like posthumous Photoshop and I don’t want that done to me after I die (OK, I do, but my point remains).

Laughing and Crying: Brandie Posey

In this five-part series, comedians and humorists write about their experiences with the grieving process and its effect on their comedy. Today, one of LA’s best and hardest-working comedians Brandie Posey talks about the death of her mother, and how it helped her understand that comedy is all about rooting for the underdog.

The Bygone Bureau: Tell us a little about your loved one. Did this person inform your comedic sensibility? In what way?

Brandie Posey: I’ve had two big losses in my life — my mom about three months ago and my dad’s mom, my grandmother, in September 2006.

My grandmother informed me pretty directly, mostly because she was a real pistol who didn’t care what anyone thought of her and was also the most social person I’ve ever met — she’d become your best friend behind you in line at the super market. She was a storyteller and loved holding court but would never need to be the center of attention.

My mom was the opposite in a lot of ways because she was incredibly shy, although when I was a kid she was always very goofy in private with my brother and I.

I think I learned not to need to be the center of attention from both of them, and to really know the value of saying something versus bullshitting. My mom developed a disease called MSA though, which is neurological, so it’s hard to know when she stopped being able to joke around that way anymore.


Can you tell a short (maybe funny, maybe not) anecdote that encapsulates this person? Has thinking about the events of this story changed for you in the grief process, and if so, how?

My grandmother, when she was young, had a younger brother, Leo, who was bedridden with an enlarged heart. She would come home from school and carry him outside and teach him what she had learned. Some of the neighbor boys would make fun of Leo, and she stockpiled rocks and would throw them at them and tell them to back off. It’s been a few years now since she died, but thinking about how tough my grandmother was has always been a huge source of pride for me, and I think of it when I feel like I can’t keep going.

My mom would always leave sweet little notes in our lunches, and when I’ve gone back recently and watched old video footage she shot of our school events, she was always saying little sweet things about us while filming — stuff she never said to out face very often.

I wish I had known that’s how she felt more when she was alive. Once I hit my teenage years there was always a distance between us, whether from being a teen or from the early stages of MSA taking away her ability to communicate as well as we’d both like.

Describe your experience with grief a little. Did it interrupt your desire to write or tell jokes? If so, in what way? When did that desire return, if it did. What happened that made it come back?

Having a comic’s mind has actually helped me immensely in the grief process. I was writing or thinking jokes within hours of my mom passing away. It gave me back control over the situation in some small way. Not about losing my mom, but just little absurd things about all the stuff that comes with it — picking out the clothes she’d be buried in and how weird that kind of thing is, the morticians being stereotypical morticians, etc.

Humor has always helped me cope with hardship because it’s taking back the power.

How has experiencing grief changed the way you think about comedy in general or certain jokes in particular? How is it different, and how is it the same? Are there any sorts of jokes that you were comfortable with before that you aren’t now, or vice versa?

I’ve always believed comedy was for backing up and supporting the underdog and people who are down. Using comedy through grief has only strengthened that feeling — I don’t like mean-spirited comedy. I like it coming from an honest place.

We only have so much time here so use it to really say something. This whole experience has only reinforced that. I think a lot of that can be attributed to losing my grandmother before I started comedy, so that grief definitely helped shape my beginnings.

It’s been sometimes said that humor comes from pain. Has any comedy writing come directly out of your experience with the loss of a loved one? Is there anything funny about death or grief, whether in the abstract or in your personal experience?

There are so many funny things about grief and death. They are things we all feel but don’t talk about much, which is a shame.

The pomp and circumstance of the funeral is weird and hilarious and you take a step back and think, “Why is this how this is done?” Weird relatives and parents’ friends come out the woodwork. You remember funny moments of the person in life.

Life is funny and weird, so why would death be any different. Good comedy helps us understand why we’re here and what’s waiting at the end and makes it less scary.

Dads are Vibrant, Sexual Beings. Stop Laughing.


“When people say dad rock, they actually just mean rock.” – Jeff Tweedy (a dad)

A few months ago The Bygone Bureau’s scholar of dad-ness, Kevin, claimed that he had reached “peak dad” by playing something called Rocksmith. As The Bygone Bureau’s resident actual biological (as opposed to cultural) dad, I had no idea what he was writing about. How does playing Rocksmith relate to fathering a child? Did something go terribly wrong in Kevin’s sex-ed class?

I guess Rocksmith relates to dads in that Rocksmith has a lot of songs from the dad-rock era of the 60’s and 70’s. Of course, if an actual dad grew up listening to dad-rock, he would be a grandpa-dad today. I am a pretty old dad as far as new dads go and the Beatles, Led Zepplin, Van Morrison, ZZ Top , etc. were old when I was growing up. I’m from the blister in the sun era, not the here comes the sun era. If I were to press an album from my youth into the eager hands of my son and tell him that he must listen to it in order to be an educated person who understands the history of music it would probably be the Violent Femmes eponymous Violent Femmes.

“Look, anyone who doesn’t like ZZ Top can go fuck themselves.” –Marc Maron (not a dad)

Dad-rock makes no sense to me. But I do get the humor of a man of a certain age blithely trotting out his pedestrian music snobbery while at the same time ignoring the fact that he is old and not entitled to musical opinions.

“Can a humor scientist please explain why are dads just inherently funny right now.” – Hallie Bateman (also not a dad)

Hallie, let me dadsplain this to you. Dads are inherently funny via the “Fat Man Dancing” principle of comedy. What is the “Fat Man Dancing” principle, you ask? It is easily summed up by the following statement: incongruity is humor. A low form of humor, to be sure, but humorous nonetheless. For instance:

  • Kitten in a business suit.
  • Foreigner using American slang with an accent (i.e. Rush Hour).
  • Related: Caucasian American speaking fluent Chinese.
  • Old lady rapping and/or expressing sexual desire.
  • Anyone not normally associated with smoking dope smoking dope (i.e. nuns, babies.)
  • Related: babies smoking cigarettes, dancing, rapping, wearing business suits, or using slang.

Any person or animal enacting the activities of youth while not themselves being youthful or body/gender normative is funny. Or, we should say, “often considered funny within the sexist, ageist media paradigm dominant in our culture.” Dancing, smoking dope, using slang, rapping, being horny – these are the activities of youth. At a certain age we are expected to replace our youthful passions with pills, cars, payments, children, and the grim acceptance that our best years are over.

But this is bullshit, you say. Why shouldn’t the fat man dance proudly, without humor or shame? He surely feels the need to dance that we all sometimes feel – the world is a round, funny, danceable place (basically a disco ball with weather). Yes, of course this is all bullshit! We live lives that don’t begin at 16 and end at 40 and we live these lives in less than perfect bodies, trapped in time. Violent Femmes will always have come out when I was 13 years old. So it’s not sad or funny when a man of my age and balding pattern walks around the grocery store singing “I look at your pants and I need a kiss.” And, yes, I’m wearing comfortable black socks with these sandals. But sandals chaff and I am pretty certain that this is sexy. I’ve gained a few pounds and therefore I refuse to remove my shirt at the beach, but I still feel pretty light in the water. Yeah, here in the water with by head just bobbing above the surface, my hot new trilby covering my bald head, I could be anybody. I could be cool again.

“Dad, you’re old and going to die soon,” – my daughter, when she was five

Why are dads funny? Because they are dads. Everything they do is incongruous and wrong. The advice they give merely shows that they don’t understand us. The clothes they wear show that they know nothing of fashion. The music they play is from a bygone era. The hobbies they enjoy are unrelated to current youth culture. Yet they are human beings – they laugh, they love, they cry, they call the doctor if they have an erection lasting more than four hours. Just like you.

So this Father’s Day, when your dad is taking you out to dinner (I am assuming he is paying – my dad would!), look him in the eye, hold his gaze like you haven’t in years and say:

“Dad, I understand that you are a human being, with interests, desires, mature sexual agency, hopes, and fears just like the rest of us. You are not an object of ridicule. Please, show me the dances of your youth. This time, for once, I promise not to laugh. Yes, dance father. Dance.”

Or you could just send him an e-card.

Photo by Chris Dominguez

Recommendations, 6/6



If you liked Threes, your next iPhone game obsession should be Folt. (Specifically, you should download it for free, then immediately unlock endless mode for $1 because the main game has some in-app-purchace nonsense you’re better off avoiding.) In screenshots, Folt looks like your standard match-three puzzler, but it sets itself apart with its novel method for placing tiles. Essentially, you “walk” your tiles in cardinal directions around the grid, one space at a time, stamping a new color with each step. When three match, they disappear and you get points. The action is easy to control and understand, but by restricting where tiles can be placed, the game demands far more long-term planning than your typical Bejeweled-clone. At first, it’s all too easy to trap yourself in a dead end, but as you play more, you can string together thrillingly long runs by developing more effective strategies and making each move carefully. Basically, Folt meets all my criteria for perfect iPhone puzzle games: You can control it with one hand in portrait mode, its sessions are just the right length, and it’s deep enough that you have to pay attention but simple enough that you can zone out a bit as you play. Those may not sound like tough standards, but after six years of playing App Store games, I’ve probably found fewer than ten that make the cut. And Folt passes with ease.


There is a line of thinking in education these days that college courses should be more like videogames. Videogames teach you the skills you need as you need them. You start a videogame at level one where you learn the basic mechanics and then the game gradually adds complexity and challenge. The player (or student) goes to the next level only when she has mastered the first.


Well, if this analogy is true then playing the fantasy RPG Dark Souls II is like enrolling in a course run by the cruelest, most jaded (probably tenured) professor on campus. You know, the kind who doesn’t provide you with even the most rudimentary context or background information to help you successfully complete the course. The only way to figure out what is going on in Dark Souls II is to look at what other students of Dark Souls II have written on the web. Even then, good luck getting very far without substantial help and luck. Or knowing how any item will work. Or what happens when you level up an attribute (or even how or where to level up). And yet, I keep playing Dark Souls II though I can’t seem to get past a fairly early boss level (three sentinels who, like a parsimonious prof, are completely unforgiving of even the tiniest mistake). Perhaps I just like looking at the bright red message “YOU DIED” over and over again? Or perhaps, having sunk my tuition money into the course, I am determined to sit through the whole damn thing even if I don’t quite get it.



I spent last week traveling around the Icelandic countryside (see above): hiking to glaciers, swimming in hot springs, eating more hot dogs than in the previous ten years combined, searching for elves, cuddling lambs (see below), wearing my teeth down with salty black licorice, and slowly going insane from the midnight sun. You all should try it.



Under the Skin was everything I have ever wanted from a movie. There is no exposition, and the few bits of dialogue are there for tone rather than explanation. Instead, its storytelling is completely visual and aural—dark and weird and moving. As I watched, I couldn’t helping wondering, Why aren’t all films like this?

I almost don’t even what the movie is about because it’s better to go in blind. (Here’s the trailer. No wait, don’t watch it!) Under the Skin demands a lot from its audience: patience, concentration, a suspension of narrative expectations. Its rewards are surprising and immensely satisfying.

I haven’t read the Michael Faber novel it was based on, but I’m having a hard time even imagining how it would look in prose. With most adaptations, you can see the seams of the novel. Under the Skin was completely immersive. I’m not even sure I have the vocabulary to express what the movie does. But it’s doing something, and perhaps it’s everything that we don’t know that makes the film so incredible.


My Own Private Arizona

The phone rings. The hour is past midnight, and my bedroom is dark. I reach for my phone, already knowing who is on the other line. The hospice nurse speaks in clipped, muted tones. Mom is “in decline,” and if I want to be with her when she passes, I need to come down to the hospice center now.

I get out of bed and make my way to the bathroom. I brush my teeth and put on clothes. I look at myself in the mirror. My face is expressionless. I don’t feel sad or scared. More, anxiety. Am I doing this right? What’s the right way to do this? I shut off the light.

My wife Allison is awake now and sitting at the bottom of the stairs. By her face, I can tell she also knows what is happening. Why else would I be dressed and looking for my keys at three in the morning?

But she asks anyway, and when I tell her she starts to cry. She asks if she should come with me. I say no. I don’t want her to see any of that.

The drive from our house to the hospice center takes only five minutes. The road leads out of our small Pennsylvania town to hills and pastures with cows and farmhouses on either side. From there, I take a sharp turn onto a gravel road where trees line either side, making a tight canopy overhead.

It’s easy to miss the transition from town to country. The difference between them is subtle. The town is a small oasis of civilization — houses, businesses, a liberal arts college — among vast stretches of grass and trees and marshes and rivers and other small towns.

The hospice center is a converted house with four bedrooms. It has a kitchen and a living room and dining area where bay windows open to a view of the neighboring hills.

But Mom has not seen any of this.


Ten days before, Mom and Allison and I made the journey from Las Vegas to Cleveland by plane. Then we drove for 90 minutes from the Cleveland airport to our home. When we pulled into our driveway, Mom was weeping with the pain. I had decided to wait until we got home to give her the next dose of liquid morphine, and she was certainly not interested in the scenery.

By the time we pulled into town, the sky was dark and she couldn’t see the grass or the trees. She could barely see the deer that stepped in front of our car, when I slowed to a stop and the deer blinked stupidly at us and ran away.

She had no interest in watching the sunset, only asking that I drive faster so she could have her medicine.

Why I was so anxious for her to see the scenery, I don’t know. I suppose I wanted this all to be a thing we experienced together. I wanted us to see the same things. We were already so separated. We had such different concerns.

The spare bedroom on our house was not at all a hospital room. I thought she would like that. Shelves on every wall were lined from top to bottom with books. I had pushed my desk to the foot of her bed so she could watch Game of Thrones on TV. The windows were always open and the sunlight streamed in. If she looked outside, she would have seen trees and blue sky.

But she never looked outside. The things that mattered to me didn’t matter to her. We both focused on what we could.

When she made the trip from our house to the hospice center by ambulance only four days after she arrived, she cared even less. “Care” is the wrong word. She couldn’t think about it, not even passively. I don’t know what she could think about, or if “think” or other words of cognitive state applied anymore.

She had made a profound change. Another separation. She had stopped eating and talking. I didn’t realize how much we had been talking until she stopped. She slept almost all the time and made only short, one-word answers when spoken to: Yeah. Okay. Alright.

Death was like a stairwell into a dark cellar. Each step I could see her less. Her personality had become reflex, not the product of a working mind. She stared off into the distance for minutes at a time. She no longer knew where she was or what was happening to her. The only thing she seemed to recognize was my voice.

When I would say, “Mom?” to her, she would respond, “Yes, dear.”

The doctors had given Mom six months. Now ten days after getting her to Pennsylvania, she was dying. I thought we would have more time. I thought I could take her outside, maybe even take her to a museum in Pittsburgh after she felt better. I wanted her to see things.

What was the importance of her coming here? Everything moved in concert to speed up the bureaucratic machine of medical insurance and airline regulation, only for her to arrive and leave again. She didn’t even get to see the Pennsylvania spring from her window. If she didn’t see where she was, why did it matter?

It doesn’t make sense.

Then again, seeing my mom in Pennsylvania at all doesn’t make sense. I’ve only ever known her against the desert of Arizona. Her presence here feels anachronistic, especially now.

Death itself seems native to the desert, not the hardscrabble earth and melted snow that covers our ground before spring.

It’s hard to communicate the desolation of Arizona in the summertime. Even in densely populated areas, the heat is like an oven blast. Everything is slowed down and washed with a blankness almost beautiful in its uniformity. It’s less like weather happening to the world than the world and the weather deciding all at once to change together, and every single person responding accordingly. They avoid going outside during the daytime. They seem to talk less. Fewer things happen.

This sounds like it would be unpleasant, but it isn’t. It’s like a dream or a hibernation, a purgatory where objects don’t merely exist but signify. When the canvas overawes the painting, the forms that emerge carry heavy meaning.

I will probably always think about death as an Arizona summer. Maybe Mom is experiencing death like this. A hot, blank state where forms are heavy with meaning.

The night nurse meets me at the door of the hospice house. She is tall and pale with big eyes and a tremulous voice. She leads me to Mom’s room.

Mom lies on her hospital bed, covers pulled up to her neck. She is halfway between sleep and wakefulness, as usual. One difference is now her breathing is raspy and labored.

“She keeps trying to get up, poor thing,” the nurse says.

The nurse has mentioned this before. My mom is suffering from something called “terminal restlessness.” She will try and kick off the covers and get out of bed, not knowing where she wants to go. If left alone, she would crawl out of bed onto the floor, so she can’t be left alone.

Every breath sounds like someone sucking the last bit of a milkshake through a straw. It is impossibly loud. It is constant and rhythmic.

I’ve been told by several people that a patient in the last throes of lung cancer does not feel pain in this labored breath. But that seems impossible. Hearing it, I understand why she is restless. That sound would make anyone restless.

They have brought a cot into Mom’s room for me. They don’t know how long it will take.

I sit with her and hold her hand and listen to her breathing. I try talking to her. Sometimes she responds with a word and sometimes she doesn’t. At one point the nurse comes in to check her, and Mom calls us both “worry warts.” These are the last words she says to me.

Her breathing becomes worse. She won’t go to sleep. Who could? The sound is unbearable. I can’t imagine that she is not in pain.

After hours of it, the struggle to breathe becomes even louder. It’s like she is yelling with every breath. I call the nurse in and ask if there’s some larger dose of morphine we can give her to help her sleep. She tells me they don’t even have needles. It is a hospice center, not a hospital. I ask again and she gets on the phone to her supervisor.

The nurse stands on one side of the bed and me on the other. She is still on the phone when my mom’s breath catches. She can’t draw in air. The nurse says “never mind” and hangs up the phone.

My mom’s chest keeps rising and falling with the effort to bring through air. But no air comes. She suffocates. Her lips turn blue. The nurse strokes her hair.

Mom’s eyes don’t close. I don’t know what she sees, if she sees me anymore. I don’t know if she’s there. Her lips are blue, but maybe her eyes still see. I don’t know at what moment eyes stop taking the interest to see — whether this happened days before, when she couldn’t see the trees and the deer that stopped in front of our car, or now.

In a sense, looking into the face of your mother is like looking into a mirror. You look out of different eyes but see yourself. This is my blood. We see.

But now I look into my mom’s face and the same resemblance is there, except the mirror is dead. A dead mirror, in flesh. Her lips have gone from blue to white. Her eyes are staring but not at me.

We don’t see the same thing anymore.

I wait around to talk to another nurse about what will happen to my mom’s body. I sit on the couch in the living room and pace. Waiting.

I hear the big-eyed nurse talking to the body as if trying to comfort it.

I talk to the nurse about cremation and drive home and my headlights reflect and follow on the telephone wires above the road, the light carrying along farther than I can see.


When someone you love dies, there are two deaths. There is the death of the person. And that comes to a lack, a debit. A person is whisked away, and you have to reckon with their ever existing through fading memory and the lack you feel. Different people leave different lacks.

But there is death itself too. Apart from the pain is the reality itself — a palpable thing in the world. Tangible, big, and unmoving. An awful credit. Not a lack, a presence.

As many who have experienced grief will attest, in many ways the aftermath of death is harder than the immediate event. The lack and the presence of death, both concretes, give way to abstractions. Mom herself has become abstract, an urn full of ashes on the shelf. The experience has been relegated to memory, images that don’t correspond to my working model of the concrete universe. I have never not had a mother before. Even that fact takes some getting used to.

The image of Mom’s lips turning blue comes to me at odd times — in bed trying to sleep, standing at the sink doing dishes. I have to know how to think and feel about it. Needing to know becomes the problem. I have a hard time sleeping.

Six weeks later, I am in Kansas with my wife’s family, celebrating her grandmother’s 90th birthday. Grandma Kay is surrounded by family, all telling her they love her. She is happy, at peace. She seems to have figured it out. A solution. She’s not concerned about figuring out a solution, but she has somehow.

A week after we return, I remember a few things. Things and people and books I love. It doesn’t matter which ones they are. They are more important for what they evoke than what they are. And there seems to be a direct correlation between the meanness of the thing and the depth of its evocation. Describing them would be misleading.

I still have a hard time sleeping, but it’s somewhat better. Now Mom’s death is less like something I need to solve. It’s more of a broom that has swept away petty happiness. Life after death seems real, because real life, as opposed to the gray, frittering cares that pass for life, is possible.

Photos courtesy of the U.S. National Archives

Guest Recommendations: Adrian Hon

North American Sweetcorn

Thanks to globalization, everything that exists in North America also exists here in the UK. Game of Thrones, Solange, Five Guys — we have it all. And so, one could be forgiven for thinking that things with the same name are the same. But not sweetcorn.

The first time I visited Canada, I stayed with a family a couple of hours out of Toronto. I can’t remember exactly what we ate the first night, but I know it included sweetcorn. I remember biting into it and almost weeping with joy at its intense deliciousness.

“What’s wrong?” they asked.

“What… what is this?” I stuttered.


Illustration for The Bygone Bureau by Hallie Bateman

“Uh… it’s sweetcorn? Don’t you have that in the UK?”

Yes, we have sweetcorn in the UK. But it’s not actually sweet — certainly not compared to North American sweetcorn. It looks the same, it has the same texture, but it doesn’t actually taste of anything. Maybe it’s because of the climate, or the soil, or the genetic modifications, or the delivery chain. I don’t know and I don’t care to know — that would kill the magic.

Such is my love for the vegetable that I sometimes fly back with fresh cobs in my suitcase. It could be illegal, but what the hell, it’s worth it.

Mini Metro

Tired of Threes and/or its unholy spawn, 2048? Too superior for Candy Crush? It’s time to board the Mini Metro train. The gameplay is simple; you draw subway lines that connect different kinds of station, and try to get passengers where they’d like to go as fast as possible without stations getting overloaded. Each game takes about 10-20 minutes, which detracts from the crack-like nature of other casual games, but on the other hand it’s plenty satisfying to build up seven interconnected lines serving dozens of stations and thousands of passengers. Minus point: it’s not on smartphones yet. Plus point: it’s free.

Sony SBH80

It stands for “Stereo Bluetooth Headset” (who knows what the “80″ means, though…) Catchy, huh?

Wireless headphones aren’t new; plenty of people use them with home theaters or to annoy people on public transport. Lately, though, they’ve started getting much cheaper, better, and smaller.

I got my pair because I run a lot with my phone in an armband and I didn’t want my headphone wires getting tangled up all the time — but I’ve experienced constant smaller pleasures when I’m using them at other times. When I was watching a movie on my iPad during a flight, I didn’t have to worry about wires looping around my seatbelt or knocking things over; when I’m at work listening to recordings on my laptop, I can stand up and walk around rather than staying tethered to my desk. It’s not in the iPhone-level of “life changing devices” but it’s definitely made it a lot more pleasant.

With a Little Help from My Sportsfriends


Maybe one of the most universal childhood memories for people in their twenties and early thirties is playing hours of Mario Kart 64. I played it endlessly at a neighbor’s house, and it was always at his house because his mom stocked the pantry with a seemingly unlimited supply of fruit snacks.

The Nintendo 64 wasn’t the first console to let you play with four people, but it was the first that made it easy. It also existed in the era before online gaming took off for consoles, so local multiplayer was the only option — and it was an extraordinary one. Though there are many fondly remembered games from the late ’90s, those four-player experiences on the N64 still resonate the most. I recall cramming in front of a small television with three friends, squinting at my corner of the Goldeneye screen, stuffing my face full of Fruit by the Foot.

The Xbox came along and, with Halo 2, created a new hunger of playing against anonymous opponents online. It ushered in an era of more serious, competitive console gamers, which alienated anyone who didn’t want to be called by some obscenity when playing on the internet. This was the death of local multiplayer, somewhat ironically as televisions started becoming big enough to support screens divided four ways.

A decade later though, we might be seeing a return of local multiplayer games. The trend mostly comes from popular indie games — Towerfall, Samurai Gunn, and Nidhogg all evoke a nostalgia for this experience both in format and aesthetic. But most notable is Kickstarter-funded Sportsfriends, a package of four games that celebrate the old-school thrills of gathering in front of a single TV with friends.


A couple weekends ago, me and three friends killed an afternoon playing each of its four games. Super Pole Riders involves vaulting and prodding each other with what my friend Nicole described as “fleshy, floppy” phalluses in hopes of knocking a ball into your opponents’ goal. The control scheme is deliberately unwieldy (as one might imagine holding a giant penis-like rod would be), and it’s endlessly fun watching friends run and leap uncomfortably across the screen. Johann Sebastian Joust is a game that doesn’t take place on the TV. Using the accelerometer built into each controller, Joust is a game of elimination that requires a sense of balance, both figuratively (thinking about offensive and defensive strategies) and literally (keeping your controller still while moving is a tricky thing). BaraBariBall is in some ways the most traditional of the games. Its 8-bit aesthetic evokes 8-bit-era platforming, which turns into an acrobatic dance of sorts. Hokra, the most abstract Sportsfriends game, is a blippy hybrid of king of the hill and monkey in the middle.

There are so many things to praise all four Sportsfriends games on — their intuitiveness, mechanical cleverness, sense of humor, how each game looks and feels distinct but cohesive to the collection — but the central motive of each game highlights the unique experience of playing together in person.

After we’d exhausted the four main games in Sportsfriends, we tried the two secret games, which can be accessed through variations of the Konami code. The first was a take on Pong called Flop that added a second dimension to Pong by allowing the player to bend his/her bumper, whipping the pong ball at high-velocity angles into the opponent’s goal. The second was simply called Get On Top, a sort of gangly tug-of-war where players control the arms and legs in hopes of pulling each other to the ground head first. Each match takes only a few seconds, and the physics have a hilariously warped logic to them. I watched as two friends played, laughing until they cried.

It was only after they had gotten through some 100 matches over the course of 15 minutes that we realized they had confused which character they were controlling the entire time. But it hardly mattered. Mechanically the Sportsfriends games are deep and thoughtful. But they’re fun because that doesn’t have to matter. In that moment, what was important was that we were all in the same room, drinking beer, laughing together.

Recommendations, 5/16



You know that friend who posts his/her Slate News Quiz score on Facebook every week? I am the opposite of that person. In the past two or three years — I guess whenever I gave up on RSS — I’ve been terrible about keeping up with the news. But recently I’ve been loving NYT Now, a new app from the Times that features curated stories from the paper and elsewhere.

I’ve played around with other news/media apps, like Circa and Percolate, but none of them really fit into my life the way NYT Now has. Sure, it’s a little strange for a publication to curate itself, but the balance of daily briefings, news stories, and features is exactly what I want on my commute. The app is also gorgeous — it has the perfect information density, and there’s some nice use of typography and white space that makes the entire experience pleasing. The whole thing also updates automatically, downloading articles in the background, meaning I can read it on the subway when I don’t have reception. In fact, I think the app was designed with a subway commute in mind. (Good assumption! I will die underground). The app features other highlights from around the web too, but I find that I stick primarily to the Times. There’s just so much good stuff, and here it is, not packaged but served to you.

Now to see how I do on the Slate News Quiz this week…


quit job


Maybe the 1970s were the only time a decent Three Musketeers movie was possible. The Dumas book, which I just read for the first time, feels deeply amoral — kind of like the vibe of the post summer of love, late Vietnam era early 70s. The book is fun and exciting and ambivalent toward any fixed notion of good and evil. At the center of the plot is D’Artagnan whose notions of justice are that of a narcissistic boy and whose hormonal “love” runs about as deep as Pepe LePew’s. The Richard Lester (Superman II, A Hard Day’s Night) version of the story (streaming on Amazon Prime) serves up an oft-shirtless Michael York as D’Artagnan along with a kind of horny-but-toothless sexism and jolly-yet-deadly swordplay that perfectly fits both 1974 and the spirit of the book. Add a rogue’s gallery of overacting 70s A- to B-listers (Charlton Heston, Faye Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain, Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch…) and, if you’re in a certain mood or chemically altered in just the right way, this is one of the best movies of the 70s.


suck dick

There is a 12-year-old boy in my brain that unfortunately informs a good deal of my sense of humor. When I discovered Suck My Dick, New Yorker Cartoons, I knew I had hit a goldmine.

It’s remarkably simple — comedian Emily Heller and her brother present comics that are currently in the New Yorker Caption Contest, paired with a phrase about fellatio. It’s probably the only place where I’ll find my love of both The New Yorker and a good dick joke satisfied in the same place. Yes, it’s crass and silly, but it’s also very, very funny; the sort of thing that’s a mind-numbingly pleasant go-to on a week like this past one when everything was terrible.



Missile Comes Back to Me is a Shakespearean tragedy masquerading as a flash game. Red ships fire purple missiles away from from them, but the purple missiles can’t bear to be apart. They’re destined to return to the scarlet-tinged objects of their affection, only to meet a sad but inevitable end upon reunion. Your job, as the yellow ship, is to insinuate yourself into the confidence of the purple missile and lure it back to its long-lost love. But don’t get too close, or you’ll, you know, get hit by a missile.

The game, by Kenta Cho, is brilliant in how much novelty it wrings out of such simple actions. Your only controls are the arrow keys and there’s only one kind of object to interact with, yet I’ve never played another game like it. And the techno soundscape that emerges from the missile shots, lock-ons, and explosions is musical and delightful.

It’s also really hard, so here are a couple tips to help you survive for at least a second or two:

  • When you start a game, fly straight sideways for a little bit to get yourself oriented in the wraparound world.
  • Stick towards the bottom of the screen as much as possible. Some of the later enemies fire super fast missiles that are hard to dodge from higher up.
  • Try to make every missile point either straight down or diagonally up. The world only wraps around sideways, so missiles that go off the top and bottom of the screen disappear. If you get one going horizontally, it’s pretty much guaranteed to come back around and kill you.

Nicholson Baker Wrote an Article


Nicholson Baker wrote an article. Nicholson Baker wrote an article in which Nicholson Baker goes to South Korea to do research for an article written by Nicholson Baker. Oh, the things that happen to Nicholson Baker! Nicholson Baker gets a bloody nose, Nicholson Baker goes to the Korean Electronics Show, Nicholson Baker gets tired. And in between, readers learn about pixel density. It all happens to Nicholson Baker in the annals of technology in The New Yorker.

Nora Ephron also wrote articles. She even wrote a book talking about writing articles called, Wallflower at the Orgy, the 1980 edition preface to which mentions that she’s noticed a prevailing theme in today’s (1980) journalism. “The image of the journalist as wallflower at the orgy has been replaced by the journalist as the life of the party,” she observed. She is talking about the “I-lost-my-laundry-while-covering-Yalta school of reporting” era in which we now (1980) live; the reporting that uses first-person singular pronoun to the point at which the reader begins to blush at the revelation that what has been published is the author’s diary entry instead of an articulate, informative report.

Yes, Ms. Ephron concedes, she uses the first-person singular pronoun “gingerly” in her later articles, but that came with editorial prodding. Until such prodding occurs — and even when it does — it might be wise to consider some questions posed by the late, great author about the use of these pronouns:

  • Do you really need them?
  • Is what you think interesting enough to make the reader care?
  • Above all, do you understand that you are not as important as what you’re covering?

It should be noted that Nicholson Baker does not necessarily believe that he is more important than what he is covering. The reader is informed of the birth and development of liquid crystals and is introduced to the crystals’ many foster parents over the years. Much of this information is found within seven paragraphs in which the word I is used only twice. Both times are inarguably irrelevant as one is a parenthetical — “(yes, I know)” — and the other informs that he read a book — “…as I learned from Joseph Castellano’s book…”

It should also be noted that Nicholson Baker does not necessarily write as if he were an electrified poodle-skirted preteen at an Ed Sullivan taping. The article works, it’s just distracted by its 111 I’s, me’s, and my’s. One-hundred and eleven times, in approximately eight pages, the first-person singular pronoun waves to the camera. Twenty-eight of those begin sentences. Twenty-five appearances are made in the first (and only) column on the first page, with four I’s beginning four sentences. First prize in “I, me, my” mentions goes to page 70 in which there are 29 occurrences, eight of which begin sentences.


Perhaps, in Nicholson Baker’s excitement, he actually did turn in a stunningly long and detailed diary entry. This would explain so many instances of action narration: “I slipped,” “I slumped,” “I moved,” “I found,” “I registered,” “I went,” “I rode,” “I exited.” Perhaps he has no access to family and friends and must therefore update them on his life though his articles. Enter elucidations of: story of dropping his iPod in the snow, answering his own questions about himself, descriptions of food, sharing his history of technological purchases since “circa 1980,” and the description, “waving my hands excitedly.”

The topic of the article, as articulated by its subtitle, “Inside South Korea’s LCD revolution,” does not promote itself to be a bland or boring topic. Depending on the readers’ interest, it could be anywhere from mind-blowingly exciting to surprisingly informative. For those ever surprised at what they have been informed, it is nearly always thanks to the author. Few people expect to enjoy a seven-page article about bananas or 4,000 words on Congo’s Mbuti Pygmies, but thanks to Mike Peed and Paul Salopk, respectively, it actually happens. Readers enjoy the read because they enjoy the words. They enjoy the style.

Nicholson Baker has style. He has enough to make liquid crystal displays exciting and interesting without pushing them aside for “some extraordinary passion-fruit and apple pastries at a boulangerie called Paris Croissant.” He surly understands how to let go of form and have a little fun with sentences like, “the various cutters and punchers and buffers and rinsers and bonders and layerers and vacuum suckers…” And, about the Korean Electronics Grand Fair, can anyone argue that “This was the place that made all Best Buys possible”?

But the I’s, oh, the I’s. And the me’s. And the my’s. The thirteen on page 66, the fifteen on 73. It’s so hard to learn about “A forth State of Matter” when it’s written as a first-person narrative. This applies to stories everywhere. There seems to have been developed a difficulty in telling stories without inserting the storyteller.


Lili Anolik became the main character in a Vanity Fair interview with Scarlett Johansson. She was nervous. She got flustered. She was timid, but opened up with time. She has to take an anxiety pee. This isn’t Johansson, this is Anolik. All of this is Anolik including the approximately 70 — although, if second-person narration counts, then 79 — self shout-outs throughout the piece. The feelings are Anolik’s: “I was acting totally and completely gaga,” “I’m hoping she’ll commit an indiscretion… something that will make for primo copy.” The familiarity is Anolik’s: “boobalicious,” “all of a sudden,” “un-makuped,” “I’m straying off topic, though.” She does stray off topic. Often to conduct an interview. During the biographical section (preceded by, “First, though, a recap…”), there is but a handful of I’s as the reader finally gets to know more about the magazine’s cover girl.

While Nicholson Baker narrates his actions, Lili Anolik narrates her thoughts. She felt “less like a lurking, peeping El Creepo from a James Ellroy novel and more like one of those sad-eyed old roués that Marcello Mastroianni used to play in movies that made Europe seem decadent and soul-sick and fun to visit.” She sees Johansson’s role in Iron Man as “proof, I think, of her unfussiness,” an observation evoking the famous Broadcast News retort: “Who the hell cares what you think?”

Alas, Ms. Anolik must ask the proverbial invasive questions. She admits a “wimped-out fear of offending,” yet inevitably asks. What follows is truly quite revealing — again, not from Johansson, but from the interviewer. She informs the reader, “I’m someone who responds to emotion and it’s my instinct to be on her side.”

This from a journalist to her reading audience and not, as Anolik — perhaps like Baker as well — may have confused, writer to diary. Johansson may not be running for office or be accused of a crime, but an admission like Anolik’s gives (or should give) readers serious pause. A few sentence later, the author reveals, “I trust her when she tells me…” No matter how that sentence ends; what matters is how it begins. “I trust her.” That’s wonderful, but what about the reader? Now the reader must trust a writer who has already admitted being swayed by displays of emotion — a skill an actress is likely to have. Anolik has not just inserted herself into the story, but her interpretations and conclusions.

And of those personal observations:

  • Does she really need them?
  • Is what she finds interesting enough to make the reader care?
  • Does she understand that she’s not as important as what she’s covering?

Nora Ephron’s advice was doled out over 30 years ago, as the problem of storytellers inserting themselves into their stories developed, apparently, over 30 years ago. No doubt it has grown worse with me-centric social media, but the real question is the cause. Why personally interject when there is no need? If the story is about a what, why insert your who? And if the story is about a who, why insert you? The answers lie somewhere between a writer’s ego and an editor’s acceptance. Would the editor not want the tone, it would be out. Perhaps they think it adds a charm, a quirkiness, an endearing quality to the piece. Maybe it’s what the “young people” like. Maybe it’s what the old people think the “young people” like. Similarly, perhaps writers believe their additions and observations are a sign of contemporary reporting. Maybe they don’t care about what’s in style, but simply feel their thoughts and interactions are warranted and valuable. It’s possible it’s narcissism on the writer’s part. It’s possible it’s laziness in finding other styles and sources. But what is also (and disconcertingly) possible, is its harmful effect on reporting.

Inserting irrelevant observations and intimate opinion where there is no effective necessity cheapens the relevant observations and rational opinion that can inform masses. Information that can be supported by multiple (and different) sources brings information that cannot be felled by a single event and can be, quite frankly, more interesting. The writer has the tools to tell someone’s or something’s story that cannot be told otherwise. That’s the job of a writer; unless you are a part of the story, it’s not your personal story, but a story to tell. Readers care about the subject, the thing on which the spotlight aims, they don’t tend to care for the lamp. This is not a matter of objectivity; it’s about knowing the difference between what contributes to the story and what contributes to word count. It is hard to do. It’s hard to tell a story without interjections — some would argue it’s impossible — but the hard things tend to be the right things and being mindful of reportage manholes is the first step.

By all means, read Lili Anolik’s profile of Scarlett Johansson. Learn what Anolik thinks of Woody Allen’s scripts and Theodore Twombly’s penis. Then consider what you learned about Scarlett Johansson. After that, read Nicholson Baker’s journey inside South Korea’s LCD revolution. Learn about non-Newtonian fluids and about Baker’s aching feet. Then consider which one makes your iPhone work.

Photos courtesy of Flickr Commons

Started from the Barber


Guest Recommendations: Nicole He

Lifting weights as a woman

I have always hated working out. The peak of my athletic career was in 7th grade when I went to a long jump meet and came in last place. So I’m not sure what kind of secret brain injury caused me to start lifting weights last year, but it happened and now I can more easily do important things like carry cat litter up the stairs.

But even better than that, I realized that lifting has actually shifted something in how I perceive myself in the world around me. For the first time in my life I feel strong, and I can’t overstate the power in that feeling. Maybe I should describe it this way: it feels like you’re Link after he gets the Power Glove — the world hasn’t changed, but now you interact with it differently. The boulders (or Craigslist coffee tables) that once stood in your way are no longer obstacles to you. It doesn’t even matter if you move them or not. Just that you know you can.


Illustration for The Bygone Bureau by Hallie Bateman

Except in real life there is no Power Glove. There are literally just your guns.

Unfortunately, physical strength is still mostly a male pursuit. Since no one tells women that they can be strong, it’s hard for us to even imagine that it’s possible to have the biceps and back strength required to, say, lift a couch. I suppose dudes find comfort in the idea that the ability to move heavy shit around is the one remaining thing that belongs exclusively to them in a world where women gain power in every other way. Poor dudes.

Women can and should lift weights. Join me, lady lifters, and together we’ll squat in unison towards a more beautiful future.

西红柿炒鸡蛋 (Tomatoes fried with eggs)

This is straight up Chinese comfort food, and it’s my go-to meal because it’s so fast and tasty. Give it a try!

Serves 1

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 scallions
  • a little bit of vegetable oil
  • cooked white rice
  • pinch of sugar
  • salt n pepa

Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them with a fork. Just kidding, throw all the forks in your house away and use chopsticks. Salt and pepper the eggs.

Slice the tomato into small-ish wedges. Chop the scallions into smaller-ish pieces.

Because you don’t have a wok, heat the oil in a normal pan over medium heat. Throw the tomatoes in there and let ‘em cook for 2-4 minutes until they get a bit juicy. Transfer the tomatoes and juices to a bowl and return the pan to the heat.

Pour the eggs in and let it sit for a bit until you start to get nervous, like, a minute and a half, and then break it up into large-ish curds. When they kind of start to solidify, put the tomatoes back in, along with the sugar, scallions, and more salt and pepper, and cook together for another minute.

Serve over rice with Netflix in front of your computer.


Last night I was sitting on a couch with friends, cry-laughing with a PS4 controller in my hands. I was clumsily trying to move a ball across the screen with a fleshy, floppy pole, and I was doing it so hilariously that tears were streaming down my face. We were playing Super Pole Riders, one of four wonderful games in Sportsfriends, created by Douglas Wilson, Ramiro Corbetta, Bennett Foddy, and Noah Sasso.

The games are all beautiful and evoke the competitiveness, spectatorship, and sometimes homoeroticism of sports. But what’s really fun about them is they’re videogames that you’re required to play in person with your friends. They don’t let you to hole up in your room alone, or even with faceless assholes on the internet, making them the opposite of my personal game nemesis, Dark Souls II.

Phallic pole-riding aside, there’s BaraBariBall, a buoyant game where you kick, jump and dunk a ball into a pool; Hokra, which feels like a somehow more dramatic air hockey; and Johann Sebastian Joust, a game without graphics that can be described as “polite wrestling” with your friends as Bach plays in the background.

I love all four games, and they’re a steal at $15. Get them now on PS3 or PS4.