As an avid World of Warcraft player in my younger years, I’ve loved the code monkey video since the first time I saw it.
For those that aren’t familiar, it depicts a big, aggressive looking “code monkey” (that we assume to be a programmer in an office job) that is secretly pining over a dark elf (another species in World of Warcraft) that works in his office. It’s a touch of the hat funny that it takes place in “Booty Bay” in Stranglethorn Vale, one of the easier zones to level in as a new player. It’s rather silly, but the underlying message is that even someone like code monkey has a “warm fuzzy secret heart.” This shouldn’t be surprising, but it is only an issue in our present society where men (and code monkeys, generally) are discouraged from being anything but big and strong. Even a code monkey has a need to express and be loved.
A little over a decade ago there was a contest for a Google TV (yes, I do think there was such a thing!) and I decided to enter by making a video parody of this song that would explain why I definitely needed one. Side note - I really didn’t have much need for a TV, but I jumped on the creative endeavor, and I told a similar story of having an empty apartment that would be improved by such an asset, and of course following the code monkey trend, someone to love. Enough years have passed that I find this video slightly embarrassing. For example, you can see I’m using Windows! The computer lab in the video is where I used to run ~3 hour behavioral assessments for my lab, and I would spend a lot of time in there alone, and yes, dance quite a bit. You can even see the board to the left of my head that has advertisements for other studies for the students to take. You can also tell that I’m always slightly sleep deprived - I used to wake up before 5am to run and get ready, and then spend an entire day working. To be frank, I didn’t take care of myself. It was my first job after college (not my first by far) but the first time I was renting an apartment and fully independent and paying the bills, and I was determined to be successful, no matter what. This meant that I erred on the side of not taking care of myself, in any dimension really. With a tight schedule of running people at the MRI machine, doing 3 hour behavioral batteries, making time to do programming for the lab, spending time in the lab to help the graduate students, and running or exercise or errands, my life was controlled by the clock. That is best reflected by the beginning portion of showing the alarm clock. I don’t even own an alarm clock anymore, and I set an alarm maybe a few times a year.
As a final side note, I’m also amazed at the amount of apartment that a $525 monthly rent could get you on the East Coast over a decade ago. That red coat hanging in my apartment (that I’ve had since high school) is also still my main winter jacket. Here is a picture from last winter!
Yes, that means it’s over two decades old! It’s a great jacket! I think I got it at that store that was called EMS(?), which I’m not sure exists anymore because I hardly ever go shopping for things. But I digress! If you are interested, here is that creative endeavor.
New Challenges During the Pandemic
The pandemic is not just about disease, but rather loneliness.
I stumbled on the Code Monkey video again earlier this week, and just as before, loved it immensely. However, it got me thinking - how has the reality for the code monkeys (myself included) changed in the last decade? In the last three years because of the pandemic? I’ve been watching a YouTube channel Aaron’s Channel where a 40 something man with autism decided to speak openly about his struggles with loneliness. Dear reader, his words hit me straight in the heart, and had me realize that (especially in the pandemic) there is a (possibly larger?) epidemic of loneliness. However, because we are expected to behave in certain ways, it’s not appropriate to share this with colleagues, or even family. Aaron makes some good points - that most people by late 30s or early 40s have started their own families, so (on top of the pandemic) it’s not clear how to make friends or meet potential romantic partners. By way of this channel having over 15K subscribers (at the time of this writing) I know the message and desire for companionship is something many people can relate to. It makes me wonder who around me might be struggling, and hiding it. It makes me despondent that our society has not done a good job of taking care of its members’ mental health. That keeps me awake at night, because I think about the people close to me, and wish I could help.
Code Monkey is now Remote Monkey
I largely understand that I would never be able to give a hug to all the lonely people in the world. For most of them, we will never know it. So I channeled my empathy into a creative endeavour, and one that would allow me to express my own experience as a remote monkey, which is a dichotomy of thriving in the things that give me joy, and still sometimes struggling with that same “bigger picture” loneliness. In this endeavour I also wanted to show a real person. I’m hugely turned off by influencer culture, where girls and women are expected to be clad in makeup, and then they add on filters that make them look like cartooon characters. Many women even (without realizing it) do these little poses with their arms and legs in pictures. In this video I wanted to really roll out of bed, tie up my hair, and put on some cherry chapstick. I wanted to capture a more genuine depiction of “a day in the life” when you live in about ~620 square feet and work on a computer. For men and women alike, I believe that part of accepting ourselves as we get older is not hiding our actual selves. Having loved someone (even from afar) a handful of times in my life, I can tell you that the other person was never perfect, or even someone that others might consider attractive. So (my advice) that might not be for everyone is just embrace being you. Without further adieu:
It wouldn’t embed as I wanted, so please follow the link. And there are actually two parts to this video! It starts with a light-hearted rendition of Jonathan Coulton’s “Code Monkey” modified to be about a “Remote Monkey” where I poke fun at the regular routine of waking up, programming all day, and leaving some small time for exercise and play. It’s not exactly singing - it’s speaking deeply, and I can’t do justice to mimic Jonathan Coulton’s rich voice and backup music, but I did my best for a quick late evening effort! A subtle message in this piece is that despite our routine, we have moments of feeling trapped by the pandemic, and we hope and dream for more than that. The use of the color blue in term and visual is intentional and highlights the presence of this sadness.
Halfway through, you hear a DJ cut, and a voice coming in that has issue with the first depiction of the life of a remote monkey. For the second part, I wanted to send the message that we have to choose to thrive despite it all. Despite it all, there is curiosity and beauty in the world, and it’s up to us to seek the challenge and experience that will give our life meaning. Sure, at the end of the day we will find ourselves back in our beds, ready to wake up again. But somehow, we squeezed that day maximally of its experience. We lived as much as we could, sharing joy and strength with others, and the rare quality to be able to be a light in the darkness is what draws others to us.
Remote Monkey get up need coffee
Remote Monkey out of bed
Remote Monkey start morning routine
Remote Monkey have bed head
Washing with dinosaur is dope,
face and hands in the sink
No matter how much using soap
Remote Monkey still stink
Remote Monkey think maybe 11a meeting can suck a toad and go away
Remote Monkey not be like, the crowd,
Remote Monkey likes sleeping, out loud.
Remote Monkey like Golang
Remote Monkey's Keyboard's missing keys
Remote Monkey very simple gal
With big warm fuzzy secret heart.
Remote Monkey like you.
Remote Monkey like playing with LEGOS.
Spending time with her friends.
Talking about that fellow.
It can't be real so pretend.
Friends say why live under a rock.
Code Monkey getting old.
Maybe cuz COVID is a block.
It's pretty bad we've been told.
Remote Monkey have long coding session not facing true reality.
Remote Monkey is focused, in state.
Remote Monkey not feeling so great
Remote Monkey like coding.
Remote Monkey like dancing as she goes.
Remote Monkey very simple gal.
With big loving dino heart.
Remote monkey is blue...
Remote monkey is blue... alot.
Remote monkey program for the entire day.
Music gets in her head.
After ridiuclous productivity,
There is an adventure ahead.
Much rather turn on a music video
Jump left, jump right.
This live to work from dusk to dawn.
There must be more insight.
Remote Monkey dream someday she have everything and all her hopes come true.
Remote Monkey just waiting for now.
Remote Monkey say someday, somehow
Remote Monkey like lifting.
Remote Monkey like getting strong and fast.
Remote Monkey not so simple gal.
With not so secret loving heart.
Remote Monkey like you.
If you too are a remote monkey, I hope that you recognize having moments of sadness or reflection is OK, and to embrace them, and to find points of focus that, even if a distraction, allow you to finish a day with a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Tomorrow will be another challenge, but at least today, you got it.
Sochat, Vanessa. "Remote Monkey." @vsoch (blog), 08 Apr 2023, https://vsoch.github.io/2023/remote-monkey/ (accessed 04 Feb 24).