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Love at First Byte

October 4th, 2008 by D.Billy

Jeff sent me a link to an awesome, fun, faux-vintage sci-fi short film a while back, and I mean to share it with y’all, but it slipped my mind… until I was flipping through a sketchbook and found this hastily scrawled list of cultural references that I saw while watching it for the first time:

She-Ra, Princess of Power. Lord of the Rings. American Apparel advertisements. The Neverending Story. Mario Bros. Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. “The Clapper”. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Space Invaders. Silverhawks. Batman. Thundercats. Tron.

These things, in no particular order, sprung to mind immediately for me. Some of them are obviously intentional, others perhaps unintentional but likely to be seen by anyone who grew up when I did and watched the same stuff. Still others were triggered by a small detail or action in the video that other folks might not notice or associate in the same way. Anyway, here it is!

ELA in Love At First Byte by PepperMelon:

ELA in Love at First Byte from Fernando Sarmiento on Vimeo.

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Goodbye, Marisol Caceres

August 6th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon


I’ve been staring at the screen for days trying to write this and I don’t have any idea what to say. The newspapers have it easy here — they just have to report the facts about strangers. Writing a memorial for the twelve year old sister of a good friend, that’s hard.

When that little girl’s been murdered and the whole thing’s been all over the Washington Post already, it gets even harder.

The father of 12-year-old Marisol Caceres was arrested in her killing and jailed without bond yesterday as more grim details emerged about the girl’s strangulation Tuesday in her family’s Northeast Washington apartment.

I’m just putting this here for the strangers, and I really, really hope Jose and Marisol’s family understand that I’m only repeating this so that strangers understand the story. I’m going to let the Post do the heavy lifting here and just explain my angle …

I met Jose Andrade through the Youth Action Research Group (YARG) early in 2006. I interviewed Jose for this blog back in 2006, about a walkout he and YARG put together at his high school to support a just immigration reform.

Not only was he the most thoughtful, intelligent, precocious and wise 19-year-olds I’d ever met — he may have been one of the wisest human beings I’d ever met. Once he opened up to me a little, he was this busted fire hydrant of knowledge about philosophy, classical music, video games and maybe jazz, too. The only organ bigger than Jose’s mind is his heart. I remember a lot of late nights at our friend Danielle’s place, him telling me about growing up in Columbia Heights while I made us dinner. He was telling me about his apartment when he just trailed off and gaped at the burritos I was putting together.

“You just like, made that right here, man?” he asked. “Can you teach me how?”

I think that may have been one of the most fulfilling nights of my life. We saw each other a lot over the next year, talking about all kinds of stuff — his girlfriend, his dog, school, and his family. He loved his little sister so, so much.

From the Washington Post‘s article about Marisol’s memorial:

“She was open to new friendships and always creating new ones,” her family said in a statement. “She always found a way to make us laugh. She was the youngest of the family yet she was, in many ways, the oldest because of her demeanor. She lived her life vividly by visiting museums, taking up martial arts, and sharing new thoughts and interests.”

She liked soccer, too.

She always took very good care of her little nephew.

She loved her dog, Moe, and her pet birds.

She liked video games and movies.

She never hesitated to share her cosmetology techniques.

And she was always a princess on Halloween.

I never met Marisol, personally. I saw her waving to Jose from across the street, heard him talking about her a lot. It’s hard for me to memorialize someone I never knew directly. But I’ll say this: I saw her effect on Jose, and I could feel his love for her just pour out of him when he told me how smart she was, how kind and giving she was even as such a little girl. Jose and his family had it tougher than most of us can imagine for a very long time, and they had a lot of reasons to be cynical. But when they looked at Marisol they felt pure love and a tremendous, giddy hope.

Now Marisol’s gone, and I’m all the way up here in New York. I have no idea what else I can do. So I’m doing this:

Marisol’s family needs money now. They need it badly. Her mother does not receive generous bereavement benefits. Cell phone bills still need to be paid, laundry needs to be done, and people still need to eat. And above all else: they have to move as soon as possible. Imagine having to come home to that same apartment every night.

***UPDATE***According to my friend Danielle at YARG, the family has since found housing. This does not at all change their need for money, mind you, but they do at least have a new place to sleep and try to rebuild their lives.***
I’ve never asked for donations on here before, and it’s going to be a long, long time before I do it again. But this is really, really important, and every little bit helps. It’s so easy to spend money — five bucks to download the new Radiohead album, thirty bucks on dinner and drinks — and this is so much more important than pretty much anything we could spend money on. I’ve seen users on Reddit buy thousands of dollars worth of flowers for Helen Thomas, seen the Web bail a woman out of credit card debt and help a guy trade a paper clip up to a brand new house. Those are cute stories, and they say something important about the power of crowds and commerce online. But this is a grieving, devastated family that needs real help.

If you’re reading this at work, you can afford to double what you spent on lunch and drop it into the family’s Paypal account. If you’re reading this in a coffee shop, double your check and donate it. Don’t let me stop you from dropping in more, all I’m saying is that doesn’t need to be much — and please pass this on.

Link to this post if you want, or write me through the “Contact Us” page up there and I’ll send you the code for the donations button above. The Web’s an incredible, weird place that can really do some good. If you don’t do it for them, do it for me. And if you have a problem with me, fine, whatever, just please do your part to help this family out.

Jose’s family will be accepting donations through Darling Andrade’s (Jose’s sister) PayPal Account. We chose this method because it is safe, secure, and makes the funds be available to the family immediately. To make a donation, click this button:

Paypal online isn’t comfortable for everyone, and that’s fine. If you would prefer to make your donation in cash or by check — or just want to send a card to express condolences — mail to:

Attn: Jose Andrade
1419 V St NW
Washington, DC 20009

The family would also be grateful for donations of food. Please the executive director of YARG at if you are able to prepare food for Jose and his family. She’ll help you coordinate the best way to deliver food to the family, as they will be in different locations throughout the week. Meals are best if they require as little preparation as possible, i.e. meals that can just be reheated or eaten cold.

Jose left this in the comments, and it really sums it up for me:

My family is going through a very difficult time.. and has it becomes clear whose responsible for this hideous act.. strange feelings arise and we have to deal with them in a peaceful and intelligent ways.

Thanks so much for all your help, friends.

Archives Posts

Sitting In the Dark With Dad

May 20th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon


My dad took me to see Star Wars for the first time on July 3rd, 1982. He was taking the next day off from work and had volunteered to take me to see Star Wars or fireworks for the first time, saying over dinner, “We can do whichever one you want, Jeffrey. It’s up to you.”

I know he meant it generously, giving me that choice, but the responsibility crushed me. Home video was a few years from being affordable, and even though Star Wars was the greatest gift to little boys since gunpowder and matches, it HAD to leave the theaters someday. I knew that much. I’d never seen fireworks, either, and those only came once a year. I couldn’t focus on which one I wanted to do more — because I had to miss one of them, and I didn’t know which one, I anxiously grieved over missing both.

This problem has not yet left me.

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February 19th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

As I mentioned here earlier last week, my father’s been diagnosed with cancer. And while the prognosis is pretty good it’s still a scary prospect, at least for those of us that have never dealt with it in any way before. I was pretty freaked out for a few days there while the news settled in. A lot of you left some very kind, supportive comments and sent some very thoughtful e-mails — I just wanted to take a moment here and thank you for all of your thoughts and words.

My sister left a pretty great comment herself, saying

… We just gotta keep in mind our Dad is a BAD ASS!!! He told us he had cancer in one breath and in the next told us “I’m gonna beat this shit”. The cancer is aggressive but so is our family.

My Dad sounds pretty upbeat about it, himself. When I called him to ask how he was doing, nervously, tentatively, tiptoeing around a potentially sensitive topic, he just said

Well, I threw my back out a few days ago, I’m going blind, and I’ve got cancer. Otherwise, I’m feeling pretty good.

He sounds good, actually. He’s just going into treatment confident and upbeat, getting his P.M.A. together and gearing up. I’ve got minor guilt here, as the kid who moved off to the big faraway city while his family suffers, but that’s kinda more my load to tote. I’m going to head down for an extended visit once they figure out a treatment schedule — but for right now, this day, this moment, things don’t sound too bad.

As my girlfriend, who is herself a cancer survivor says

We’re all going to go out sometime. Cancer patients just have more detailed information.

Thanks again for all your thoughts …

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Serious as Cancer

February 13th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon


My dad’s got cancer. I just found out tonight. It’s not as bad as it could be, fairly common in men his age. The doctor figures a 76 percent survival rate 5 years after treatment. That’s decent odds, I suppose, but 34 percent of a whole, whole lot of people is still a whole lot of people. And I would really rather my father not be one of them.

And there’s gonna be some treatment, too. Invasive stuff. There will be surgery and radiation and the planting of radioactive seeds deep in his body. If movies and television have taught me anything, it is that these radioactive seeds may cure this cancer, but they may also turn my father into the Swamp Thing.

We just lost my grandpa last month. My grandmother’s 94, and while she is doing well for her age, nobody in their mid-nineties is doing awesome. My Dad’s mom is out in a home in Indiana, depressed and making the nurses hate her and life will not stop getting realer and realer every week for any of us, ever.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get into my bed and watch Indiana Jones search for the Holy Grail with his dad — and wish like hell I could give my Dad a sip from that cup.

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Rockabilly Westworld: Zombie Karaoke Elvis-bot

January 18th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Zombie Elvis Karaoke-bot 1

My friend Eric called me up late the other night from somewhere outside of Barcade, panting breathlessly in the cold. “Dude, don’t go to bed yet,” he said. “I’m bringing something over for you.”

And what a something it was! In its heyday, he looked like this, functioning as an expensive karaoke toy.

More photos after the jump …

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Burying the Bat In A Pile Of Ham Biscuits

January 10th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

I lay in bed in Brooklyn yesterday afternoon, staring up at the ceiling and watching the sunlight fade from the room. I couldn’t nap, couldn’t rest. A creature had taken up residence in my throat and chest. I imagined it to be black and very hairy, with large leathery wings. It wasn’t quite a bird and wasn’t quite a mammal, just this hairy winged thing, like a shaggy, greasy bat.

It moved around, pacing between my uvula and heart, shuffling and trying to stretch its wings. I imagined what it would feel like when the shaggy bat burst past my lips and lifted off, cutting ragged figure-8s around the paper lamps hanging from my ceiling.

Smithfield Ham is a meat like no other. A close cousin to Italian prosciutto, Smithfield ham is the meat of peanut-fed hogs, salt-cured and hickory smoked for a minimum of six months in the corporate limits of Smithfield, Virginia — home to my grandparents, aunt and uncle. Smithfield ham is drier and more thickly cut than supple, subtle prosciutto. Compared to Smithfield ham, prosciutto is the damp rag used to wipe a hog farmer’s work boots.

In a purely physical sense, Smithfield ham is terrible for you. The only way it could harm your heart more from a medical perspective would be if a surgeon were to slice your chest open and manually pack your arteries with wads of the stuff. From an emotional perspective, it is Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, love and forgiveness and bedtime stories all in one salty, fat-filled bite. Draped over a handmade biscuit with butter, it is also Prozac, Lithium and THC.

The bat flapped tireless, frustrated laps up and down my throat all last night, all this morning, in the cab to La Guardia, on the plane and all the way through the airport. It wouldn’t come out, and it was getting hairier by the hour, so hairy it got heavy when it settled on my chest to tongue its wet wings clean.

I keep waiting for the real grief to happen, but I just feel numb. I feel like I’m made out of balsa wood or something — soft and flexible, but easily shattered. All I want to do is read. I am an Easy Reader of epic proportions on a normal day, but now I am positively EATING words. I finished “Bonfire of the Vanities” on the plane and started right in on Haruki Murakami’s “Dance Dance Dance.” I was able to take a break from reading and joke around with my dad and sister while we shopped for funeral suits this afternoon, but after reading Pop-Pop’s obituary in the local paper, I couldn’t stop. It was all I could do not to wad the newspaper up and stuff it in my mouth — knocked out the front page, local section, comics and started in on the classifieds by the time we pulled up to my aunt and uncle’s house.

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He’s Gone

January 8th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

I just got off the phone with my mother, who reports that my grandfather died this morning quickly and painlessly. She’s in the middle of funeral arrangements right now and will tell me when to get on the train to Virginia sometime tonight. Right now everyone’s moving too much to grieve and I can’t think about a damn thing.

He’ll be missed.

Daro and Pop-Pop, Summer 2004

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Christmas 2007: Loving Real Hard Without Knowing What’s Going On

January 7th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Everything’s unwrapped, the champagne’s gone flat, and even the hangovers are over. While my holidays were full of warmth and good cheer and that uniquely Simmermon brand of stressed-out love, I’m glad to be entering that great grey yawn of real winter. Running around outside SUCKS until mid-April and when I have my daily panic that my life is slipping past, I can look out the window and feel fine about having a laptop strapped to my face. In the factory-blended oatmeal that is an East Coast winter, every numbing day that ends like all the rest is at least one day closer to spring.

My New Years’ was spent having cocktails and a home-cooked meal with my girlfriend, best friend, his wife, and their new baby. My New Years’ celebrations in years past have also involved copious amounts of booze, screaming and vomiting, but this years’ was different.

While the first decade or so of David Allen Browne’s life is going to be happy and full of love, he’s going to have no choice but to become grim, selfish and willfully ignorant in order to rebel against his hilarious, brilliant and loving parents once he hits puberty. Hopefully he’ll snap out of it before it’s time to take the SATs.

Christmas was different, too. I brought my girlfriend home, for one thing. It’s a big deal for me to bring somebody home for a number of reasons:

  • My sister and I have pretty well inoculated our parents against cultural/racial hangups, accidental profanity, body art and punk-influenced fashion choices … all known causes of heart failure to conservative parents. My mom can even say “fuck” without making a face now. But my family can smell a bullshit heart from a running mile, and the false politeness that ensues is deeply embarrassing. Nobody makes it across the threshold of the Simmermon unless they’re top shelf for real.
  • Also, my grandmother kind of hates anyone that me and my uncle have ever dated. She comes around eventually, but I can take no responsibility for any eye-rolling, interrupting, or ignoring until she does. Folks that can’t handle it don’t make the cut.
  • The relationship must be about much more than the physical. As I mentioned before, my family can sniff out a bullshit heart. In a small house with two parents, a sister, two lively and curious dogs and a “no ring, no shared bedroom” policy, that physical side is going to have to take a little holiday of its own.


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Christmas is Over, the Bus Is Crowded and Burning

January 3rd, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

I haven’t died. And those of you that read this and know me know my posting’s erratic at best. I’ll be back in the cut soon with more stuff, but right now each thought is a hyperactive teenager trying to escape the burning school bus that is my brain. Blackening, melting and trying to leap out the front door are

  1. - daydreams about living and working in Antarctica
  2. - quick review of “The Orphanage”
  3. - sparring with the garbageman in the snow yesterday morning
  4. - an upcoming salsa dance lesson from an albino vegan dance instructor
  5. - Simmermon family holidays, namely
  • My sister’s dog behaving
  • bringing the girlfriend home
  • my grandfather saying his REAL “goodbye”

And, of course, I’ve got all these grandiose plans for this blog, writing, becoming some sort of international superstar … but publishing those online would embarass us all, don’t you think?

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