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October 18, 2016

Ask Hickey: How 'stay woke' got whitewashed

Today's roundup features questions about staying both woke and in control of your television from afar.

Have something you want to ask? Send me your questions through FacebookTwitter or email (with "Ask Hickey" in the subject line). Your anonymity is guaranteed — if that’s how you want it — so feel free to send them via private/direct message.


And now, this week’s questions...

'What we need is awareness / we can't get careless'

I know I should stay woke, but what about when I'm really, really tired? How can I stay woke then?

— Londo, via Twitter

Thank you for sending in the whitest question I’ve ever been, or will likely ever be, asked. You’ve afforded me the opportunity to cite some Public Enemy lyrics in the course of performing due #askhickey diligence.

The year was 1989 and Spike Lee needed an anthemic knockout punch for “Do the Right Thing,” his game-changer of a film that still resonates today. (RIP Radio Raheem and those who’ve similarly fallen since your fictional death at the hands of police.)

Here’s how Chuck D — sporting a Phillies cap, with Flavor Flav at his side, in front of a sign that says Philadelphia — launches into the third verse:

Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant s--- to me you see

Straight up racist, that sucker was simple and plain

Mother f--- him and John Wayne

Cause I'm black and I'm proud.

I'm ready and hyped plus I'm amped

Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps

Sample a look back you look and find nothing but rednecks for 400 years if you check


Like Elvis did with black music, we white folks totally co-opted what was a meaningful phrase to the Black Lives Matter movement.

It became a rallying cry after George Zimmerman’s ridiculous acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case.

It was the title of a BET documentary.

And we went ahead and turned it into bubble-gum pop to the point that MTV decreed “stay woke” replaced “on fleek” in 2016’s teen-slang power rankings.

Shame on us, myself included, for I — in true internet hive-mind fashion — have used the phrase to draw attention to societal ailments, including chemtrails, Jade Helm and the mean streets of East Falls.

Before white folks stole the phrase, it carried the heft of being aware of systemic shortcomings. Afterward, it’s been spayed and neutered to the point of being a punchline.

People like you and Twitter boss Jack Dorsey are who garment makers envision as their target audience when they turn meaningful phrases into Boardwalk T-shirts.

I mean, it’s noble to tell yourself, “I know I should stay woke,” but in doing so, you need to accept the reality that it doesn’t mean what it once did, and you’re merely a pale, stamp-collecting carpetbagger.

If you were truly woke, you would mount a soapbox and reclaim the phrase from those who’ve given it the Priscilla Presley plastic-surgery treatment.

Oh yeah, on the off chance that this was a sincere question, here are 1, 2, 3, 4 tip sheets about stay-woke tips that don’t involve nasal ingestion.

Now, go be woker than woke.

Puh-push it real good

Does pressing harder on the buttons on the remote really help when the batteries are dying?

— Matte Kane, via Facebook

While this seems more like a query for PhillyVoice’s Infrequently Asked Questions series, in the spirit of co-opting things that belong to others (see above), I’m more than happy to answer it.

This is an issue I’ve personally faced in recent months, as our puppy Scarlet Overkill decided to treat our universal remote like a chew toy, rendering it barely functional.

I’ve found pressing harder does work, but that’s less about batteries and more about overcoming structural damage. So, I turned to remote-control experts.

First up is Russ Hoffman, director of training and technical support for URC, a New York-based company, which, for 25 years, “has been the leading supplier of high quality remotes and is broadly regarded as the leading control manufacturer by consumers, subscription broadcast providers, retailers, custom installation professionals and OEM partners.”

Here’s what Hoffman had to say:

When a battery is dying on a remote control (or any other device), that device can act up, sometimes in mysterious ways.

Typically when talking about a remote, the 'infrared code' that needs to be generated may be sent incorrectly or not at all. This could result in a different action than expected, or no action at all.

Pressing buttons harder should not help this issue but is really dependent on how the remote is constructed.

Pressing harder could allow for more surface area for the connection and conduction of electricity so this COULD affect the ability to send a code.

However, with the tiny, barely visible connections on most state-of-the-art products, pressing harder should not change the desired effect, regardless of the battery power.

Please also keep in mind that pressing too hard could damage the membrane used to connect the bottom of the button to the circuit board, so it is best to press in a normal manner in order to maintain the life of the remote. Also, some remote controls have low-battery power cutoff features that are designed to prevent damage to the remote or programming while operating under low-power conditions.

For a second opinion, we turn to Lee Haughawout, senior vice president of product development at Universal Electronics, a company that ships more than 200 million remotes a year to TV, set-top and cable companies across the globe.

He, too, was skeptical.

Generally not with standard TV and AV remotes. Typically low batteries cause a reduction in power output from the remote, meaning the infrared output gets weaker (similar to a dim flashlight using near-dead batteries). 

Most people, when their remote starts to 'miss' commands, will point it more precisely, extend their arm and press the button harder all at once. 

For IR remotes, two out of those three actions really help:  1. pointing precisely and 2. extending the arm, which typically results in the 'dim' IR getting to the device.

So there you have it, Matte. Press harder with care.