Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

Pop Culture Questions (and My Answers!) 3: Stopping Crazy Things

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
How did that other question mark turn upside-down anyway?

Some questions turn you upside-down and inside-out.

For those of you who were looking forward to another edition of Pop Culture Questions on Tuesday, I apologize.  Due to circumstances beyond my control (and also because I hadn’t really thought of any good questions yet, and also I was kinda tired), I decided to do a shorter post, the first ever Random Top Five list.  I’m feeling a bit more at the top of my game, now, though, so let’s get back to exploring the nooks and crannies of pop culture for new queries to consider.

How come no one trips on the moving sidewalks on The Jetsons?

The future world presented on The Jetsons is one of my favorite TV environments.  I love seeing all of those high-rise buildings and flying cars and imagining what it would be like to live there.  One part of the show I think I would absolutely hate, though, would be the “moving sidewalks,” those conveyor belts on the floor that the characters are always stepping onto to save time from walking everywhere.  George Jetson, his family, Mr. Spacely, and just about everyone else in the universe seems to manage just fine in handling these sidewalks, a phenomenon which I took for granted when I was younger but which greatly bugs me now. 

No one trips on the sidewalks and ends up having their feet crushed under a doorway or wall or wherever those sidewalks start or end.  The sidewalk never moves too fast and sends someone hurtling through a glass window and falling hundreds of feet to the planet below (if there even is a planet down there).  Every other machine seems to go haywire at least once an episode, but those moving sidewalks always work the way they’re supposed to.  Even during the closing credits when George gets caught on the treadmill (“Jane, stop this crazy thing!”), he just keeps going around and around, the forward momentum always carrying him but never throwing him off.  I would be terrified out of my mind if moving sidewalks became a common mode of transportation in real life; I have seen a few in action in various places, but I still feel uncomfortable about getting on one myself.  I feel a bit more comfortable with escalators and elevators, but not by much.

How come there are so many turtles and walking mushrooms in Super Mario Bros.?

My favorite enemies in the Mario series are none other than the first ones I ever saw, the turtles (Koopa Troopas) and walking mushrooms (Goombas).  I’m still curious, though, as to how their numbers became so big.  They seem to multiply like rabbits with each new game that comes out.  It’s come to the point that I’ve seen them start long Broadway-style chorus lines in my dreams.  What has caused this surge in their populations?  Sure, they are pretty cute, and I guess they’d have to be popular if they keep showing up.  Real turtles do produce a lot of baby turtles and you can find mushrooms just about everywhere.  But still, these guys show up everywhere in Mario’s universe, whether they’re in grasslands, underwater, in frigid snowscapes, and even in outer space.  To me, it can seem a bit like overkill at times.  I’d like to imagine that King Bowser has a section of his castle estate designed to be a huge breeding ground and training center just for Koopas and Goombas.  They are probably subjected to all sorts of rigorous tests to make sure they can survive in any type of environment, and luckily for Bowser, most of them do pass with flying colors.  It’s too bad Darth Vader never turned these guys into his stormtroopers; who, besides Italian plumbers, could possibly fight back against turtle shells flying right at their heads?                  

How come the song’s called “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”

I think love is one of the greatest things a person can experience in this world.  No wonder so many songs have been written about it!  Through these timeless tunes, we’ve learned that love “is a many-splendored thing,” “takes time,” is “hard to find,” “knows no season” or “clime”, and, in short, “does exactly what it wants to do.”  Obviously, love is very demanding, so maybe there’s a good point to Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers’ age-old musical question, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”  Still, I feel there’s a negative tone to the question that Lymon and the Sour Bunch raised, because I’m sure most people don’t feel like fools when they fall in love with someone.  They probably think all is right with the world and that nothing could possibly go wrong.  Even though I do think that is a foolhardy way of thinking, that doesn’t make lovers fools.  Some pretty smart guys have fallen in love, too.  Just look at Peter Parker (you know, the Spider-Man guy) who has fallen in love with Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy, Felicia Hardy, and a bunch of other girls over the years.  Of course, some of the girls he has gone out with later turned out to be bad eggs, but that doesn’t make him a fool.  I haven’t even fallen in love with anyone yet, but does that make me a fool?  Let’s just agree to disagree here, Frankie Lymon and the Funky Bunch: everyone, including fools, smart guys, and everyone in between, can fall in love.

So, did you love this question-and-answer session?  Did it help you to come out of your shell?  Did it move you like the sidewalks on The Jetsons would move you?  I wait with bated breath for your comments.

Weekend Thoughts: March 2-3, 2013

Monday, March 4th, 2013
My days truly are numbered.

Time to check what we learned today.

This blog entry is very special for all of us here at Kellogg Thoughts.  This is the tenth official entry I’ve written for this site:  we’re into double digits now!  Even better, this is the second entry dedicated to my Weekend Thoughts, reflections on things I noticed or learned during the two days I normally do not write or upload material to this blog.  However, as you may have noticed if you checked this site during the weekend, I actually did do some work on the blog for reasons which I feel obligated to explain to all of you below.  So, without further ado, my most prominent thought during the weekend was…

 

Sometimes, I will have to work on this blog during the weekend, but that’s not a bad thing.

The second Real Advice for Fictional Characters entry was originally supposed to appear on Friday, but I had a little trouble with making the entries come out the way I wanted, so I thought a bit about it overnight and finished it up on Saturday.  My main objective with these “advice” entries is to make sure that all of the jokes are genuinely funny and the references to characters and the works they appear in aren’t too obscure.  Working on this particular entry proved more difficult than usual; at the beginning, I kept thinking about how advice columns usually look and I guess I forgot to put in funny jokes.  I had to go back several times and edit, rewrite, and replace the “mail”  until I had something I could genuinely call funny.  I now believe the old saying is definitely true: Laughing is easy, but comedy is hard.  I think writing comedy might be the hardest of all!  But, I like seeing the results of my efforts. 

 

Even the shortest of journies can be epic.

I downloaded a free iPad game over the weekend called MicroVentures which quickly became one of my favorite new diversions.  You play as one of three different heroes: a knight, a rogue (basically a medieval ninja with very strong attack power), or a wizard, all with their own styles of gameplay and storylines, and take them through randomly-generated worlds full of monsters and treasures.  Each gameplay session lasts about five minutes as you explore the world, make your character stronger through weapon upgrades and helpful items, then tackle the gigantic boss monster waiting at the end to either, depending on the story driving your current quest, collect the most valuable treasure or rescue an important character.  This formula did get a bit stale once I figured out how a lot of things in the game worked, particularly with the storylines which read a lot like Mad Libs stories filled out during a few games of Dungeons and Dragons.   But even then, there is a bit of variety to the environments you can go through, the monsters you fight, and the items you collect which kept me coming back for multiple play sessions.

I’ve played through about twenty-five adventures in this game already, and I feel like I have mastered two of the game’s three characters.  The basic strategy for the knight is to collect anvil power-ups to increase his strength so he can take care of most monsters in one or two hits, and the rogue’s strategy calls for collecting potions to keep her strength up while her aptitude for critical hits keeps you mowing down enemies through to the end.  The wizard is still a mystery to me because the spells he casts don’t seem all that effective to me and it takes a while for him to build up good offensive capabilities.  I’ll keep playing to see if I can figure him out, too, and to see if I can clear the new two-part quests I apparently unlocked during my last few gameplay sessions.  This game still surprises me with each new world it creates, and exploring them is still very fun.

 

I’m still not sure what to think of History’s The Bible.

The big highlight of my weekend was watching the premiere of the History Channel’s ten-part miniseries, The Bible, with my mom.  I had heard about it a few months ago and was looking forward to it to see just what kind of adaptation it would be.  There were some parts I liked about the show and how it faithfully depicted Biblical events, but I was disappointed by other aspects of the production which I felt could have been done better or should have been included.  While this topic could pretty much take up an entire blog entry on its own, I’ll just make three small observations here.  They are all related to the show, not the work it adapts; please don’t interpret anything I write here as a comment on the Bible itself.  I love it with all my heart, and I just feel that the show could have done a lot better in terms of faithfully adapting it for television.

1. The stories of Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark were not covered in any particular depth.  They were pretty much relegated to a five-minute introductory sequence before moving right into Abraham’s story.  I was highly disappointed with this detail because the previews had made me believe that these stories would be a bigger part of the show than they turned out to be.  I was looking forward to how the show would interpret them, too, so to see them treated as mere window dressing felt to me like I had been ripped off a bit.  I think these two stories are some of the most famous and important parts of the entire Bible, so it feels strange to me that a major TV show whose main purpose is to faithfully present the Bible would basically skip them.

The show also skipped over the forty-year period between the Exodus and Joshua’s invasion of Jericho when the Israelites were wandering in the desert.  I can understand how this might be hard to adapt into a television show, but I was surprised when it did not even provide so much as a brief explanation of this jump in time or any mention of the wandering period at all.  That’s three whole books of the Bible they jumped over (Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).

2. There are no “talking heads” on this show.  The Bible presents all of its material as straight adaptations of Bible stories accompanied by an off-screen narrator.  I think this kind of show could easily have been done on HBO, Showtime, AMC, or any other network, but I was expecting something a little more special from the History Channel.  I kept looking for signs that the show was going to bring in Biblical scholars, people of faith, skeptics, any and all manner of experts to talk about and make sense of the stories being presented.  I love shows with that kind of informative discussion, and I feel that the Bible would lend itself to a very interesting conversation.  I was disappointed to see that it shied away from this approach, as it has done for a lot of the other shows on the network.  I feel like this show lost out on a big opportunity to present an honest discussion that you do not see very often on regular television, one I would eagerly look forward to.  Perhaps the show’s producers are expecting viewers to have that sort of discussion among themselves, but I would have liked to have seen informed professionals take a crack at it. 

3. I was very impressed with the show’s depiction of Moses and the Isrealites and the story of the Exodus.  The segment with Abraham was a bit hard for me to take because of the massive death counts and hard decisions of faith which seemed to come every few minutes or so.  The first portion of the Exodus story was like that, too (I never thought too much of what Pharaoh and the Egyptians went through during the ten plagues until now), but at the end where the Isrealites had successfully escaped across the Red Sea, I felt like celebrating along with them.  After watching a lot more death and misery than I had expected, I thought about how the Israelites must have felt  after they had left behind hundreds of years’ worth of suffering.  It must have been exhilarating. 

 

That was my weekend in a nutshell.  If you have any thoughts about what I experienced that you would like to share, please leave them in the comments.

Real Advice for Fictional Characters No. 2: Me Need Help

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

question-mark-63979_150For the second installment of the feature in which I give famous (and occasionally infamous) fictional characters some sound advice, we have a mix of characters from film and television.  As with last week’s letters, the writer’s identities have been replaced with nicknames, but those nicknames will be linked to Wikipedia pages about the real McCoys for everyone playing along.

 

Dear Kellogg Thoughts,

I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps right now (literally; I live in a dump, you see).  For over thirty years, I’ve been stuck in the same dead-end job.  I was actually very happy with it at first because it paid very well (lots of quarters) and it was easy work.  Now, however, I’m getting tired of the daily grind.  Sometimes I feel like all that I’m good at is punching the clock (and bricks, and walls, and pretty much anything else you put in front of me).  I want to think outside the box and broaden my horizons, to break away from the same old routine.  I’ve been beating myself up about it for a long time, but now it’s time for some action.  Do you have any suggestions?  Don’t say, “Make some friends,” because I tried that already with some people at work, but I don’t think they really appreciated anything I had to offer.  Signed, Nervous Wreck 

Dear Nervous,

I’m not surprised at all that you’ve become tired of your work routine after thirty years; a lot of other people have, and sometimes sooner than you.  I’m going to level with you: I actually was thinking about suggesting a healthy friendship, even if you seem to have already lost a few points in that department; one good friendship is all some people need to improve their lives.  I agree with you that heading out into the world would be a good thing, too, but there is one question I have about your case.  Has all of your time just been spent at your job?  It seems to me like you’ve never even been more than ten feet from your house!  If you are as keen on heading outside as you say you are, then please, for the sake of your co-workers, bring a buddy along who knows the ropes.  Also, try to find a more worthwhile avenue for your aggression.  Too much pent-up anger can be quite unhealthy.  By the way, what does your family think about all this?  I don’t think you’d make your mother very proud with all of the sulking you’re doing right now.  Go grab life by the bullhorns and make something of yourself.  Enjoy the sweet things life has to offer, and don’t be too concerned about rewards or honors because life isn’t always centered around getting medals.  Put family first and find somewhere you belong, and you should do all right after that.  Thanks for writing, and game on!  Ben

 

Dear Kellogg Thoughts,

I have recently been swept off of my feet and into a new place I never would have dreamed existed.  It’s the most wonderful place, all emerald and yellow, very pretty colors.   I’ve met some great friends along the way, too, but now I want to go home.  We were going to see someone who I think can help me get back to my family (I think he’s going to be simply wizard!), but there’s just one problem.  There is a really mean woman trying to stop us from reaching our goal, and I fear she’s going to do something horrible to us (but especially my dog; she seems to have an unhealthy obsession with him) if she isn’t stopped.  I’m telling you, she’s a real witch!  I wish I could just click my heels three times and say, “There’s no place like home,” and then I’m home, but that only happens in fairy tales, right?  I’m so confused, and I feel like a raging tornado of emotions inside.  Please help me!  Signed, Twisted with Toto

Dear Twisted,

Your letter has given me a lot of questions, but very few answers are coming to me.  Are you sure this “witch” (Such a derogatory term!) is really as bad as you believe she is?  Have you tried talking to her yet?  Maybe she just wants to compliment you on your dog.  It couldn’t hurt to ask.  Even if she turns out to be a jerk, don’t let her get in the way of enjoying your time in this new land.  You’re only feeling homesick.  Making good friends seems to have made you feel a little better, but you can do more.  Go around and see the sights.  Go down the yellow brick roads less traveled, look at the cities glowing like emeralds.  I can’t guarantee you’ll see any flying monkeys or anything like that, but what you do see should be very magical.  Enjoy your stay, and have a heart (and some brains and steady nerves while you’re at it)!  Ben

 

Dear Kellogg Thoughts,

Me writing because me had massive hunger attack this morning shortly after breakfast, but there nothing me want to eat!  Me okay with fruits and veggies most of the time, but right now, me want something sweet, daring, practically forbidden!  Me been considering cake, but that leave frosting all over me fingers, very messy.  Cupcakes and muffins no good, they too small.  Me out of options!  What me do? WHAT ME D…  What that?  On dat table over dere?  Big plate full of chocolate chippy, round, delicious…  YES!  COOKIES!  That what me been looking for all this time!  This gonna hit the spot!  Cowabunga!  Please kindly disregard this letter.  Signed, (there’s a huge hole at the spot where the signature would normally go; all that remains is a big letter C that looks vaguely like a crescent moon-shaped cookie with a huge bite taken out of it)

Dear whoever you are,

Ummm… thanks for solving your own problem, I guess.  I’m craving something myself after reading your letter.  I think I’ll have a plate of little peanut butter and cracker sandwiches to tide me over until dinner.  Thanks for writing in, and remember to write to us again if life ever bites back!  Ben    

Well, that’s it for this week folks!  Did you like the advice I gave?  What would you suggest to these characters?  What other characters would you like to see in this space?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Real Advice for Fictional Characters No. 1: Mind Games

Friday, February 22nd, 2013
You send mail, you'd better get mail.

Look, you’ve got a letter!

I enjoy helping people however I can, both in my personal life and through my writing.  As a fun exercise in providing such help and in the spirit of such great advice-givers as Ann Landers, “Dear Abby”, and Dr. Phil, I decided to start an advice column for fictional characters in need of help.  For the sake of privacy, the help-seekers have kept their identities hidden (however, I have linked their nicknames to their Wikipedia pages, just in case any of you are curious as to who they really are).  I hope you enjoy the fruits of my efforts.  Let’s get to some letters.

 

Dear Kellogg Thoughts,

I always felt like a rat in a maze, but now I’m in a real tight spot.  I’ve been trying to achieve my goals and, for a while, I was on a straight path to happiness.  Now, though, the ghosts of my past are coming back to haunt me.  I’ve looked for any and all paths to freedom, but it doesn’t look like there’s any place to turn or escape.  I’ve lost my way and my appetite mulling over this problem.  What do I do?  Signed, Pellet Muncher

Dear Pellet Muncher,

It does indeed sound like these “ghosts of the past” have got you cornered.  I’m not too surprised by this outcome, though.  These tight situations often happen when you follow a singular path for a long time without considering other and, in some cases, better options that may appear along the way.  Don’t worry too much.  Stop and look at your problems from a larger perspective.  It may seem like you’re trapped now, but if you back up a little and see all of the other options you can take, you may find a better way to go.  If all else fails, remember to trust the people and things around you that have helped you the most (at the moment, those would be the power pellets and that tunnel that can shoot you out to the other side of the maze).  I hope this helps, and don’t forget that fruit will keep you very healthy!  Ben

 

Dear Kellogg Thoughts,

Mamma mia!  Have I got a doozy for you!  There’s someone special I really want to see, but she keeps playing hard to get.  I’ve been hopping mad trying to get to her.  Life has put a lot of obstacles in my way, namely turtles, chestnuts, man-eating plants, etc.  But with a good bit of athleticism and agility (and a few mushrooms, but trust me, they are for healing purposes only!), I have powered through everything.  Every time I show up at her castle, though, one of her friends always tells me, “Thank you, but our princess is in another castle!”  I’m tired of this routine, and I’m starting to think she’s not really worth all this trouble.  Should I keep going or should I pack up my wrench and go home?  Signed, Perplexed Plumber

Dear Perplexed Plumber,

I’d say keep going.  It sounds like you have been through a lot lately, and I’m sure the path has been rough at times, but it sounds like you really are enamoured of this girl.  Just look at all you’ve been through just to get to this girl’s house.  It takes a lot of dedication and perseverance to go through so much trouble just for one person.  Even though you know the world around you has made it very difficult to see this young lady that you profess has captured a special place in your heart, you keep trying anyway.  I will give you one more small piece of advice though.  After all that you have done, this girl had better be worth the time you’ve put into getting to her!  If she still does the whole “missing in action” bit, then feel free to find some other person or goal, but at this point in time, I think you shouldn’t give up just yet.  Keep on hopping!  Ben

 

Dear Kellogg Thoughts,

I’ll keep this short; I don’t want to waste your time.  A little while ago, I was speeding through life like I always do.  I was making split-second jumps, bopping the bad guys, and grabbing all the brass rings I can (actually, they’re more like gold rings in my case, but you know what I mean, right?).  All of a sudden, though, I ran right into a wall (covered in spikes, no less)!  All my progress stopped, I lost track of what I was doing, and now I’m having trouble getting back up to speed.  Can you give me a running start?  Signed, Blue Blur 

 Dear Blue Blur,

Don’t worry, you aren’t wasting my time; I’ve got plenty of it.  Actually, I’d suggest you slow down, a good deal slower in fact.  The reason you ran into that wall is because you were going too fast to begin with.  I’m certain you couldn’t possibly have noticed the wall or anything else while you were moving at the speed of sound.  Next time, cool your jets and move a bit slower.  Soon, you might notice that you can see everything more clearly including those bumps in the road.  If you take time to look where you’re going, you can avoid a lot of trouble for yourself.  I’m not saying you have to slow down too much, for you can still go pretty fast and know what’s in front of you.  Just don’t go so fast that you end up hurting yourself even more if you don’t stop.  There’s truth in the saying, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”  And by all means, keep reaching for those gold rings.  I always thought they sounded better than brass anyway!  Have a blast!  Ben

 

That’s all the advice I’ve got this time around, folks.  I’ve got plenty more messages from fictional characters I want to get to; the mail never seems to stop coming in!  If you’d like to see more or if there’s a fictional character that you know could use some help, let me know in the comments.  I believe that while a good piece of advice can help you get through a tough situation, a great piece of advice can keep on helping you for the rest of your life.  I definitely want to give great advice.