Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Pop Culture Haikus: “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

A haiku is a beautiful type of poem with a certain number of syllables for each of its three lines: five for the first line, seven for the second, and five again for the third.  I was inspired by last night’s premiere of the new Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show (you can watch that episode here) to try my own hand at writing some haikus.  The following haikus are based on some of the characters and moments that stuck out to me the most from the first episode.  I think this show has a lot of neat ideas, and I cannot wait to see what else it has up its sleeve.

Agent Phil Coulson

He died but still lives/Still brings loners together/Same old tricks, “new” dog?

Rising Tide/Agent Skye

Crusading blogger/Spoke loudly against black suits/Now sleeping with enemy.

The Hooded Hero

Average worker/Not-so-average powers/That’s a bad mix, yes?

Agent Grant Ward

New kid on the block/Too serious in fun world/Loosen up, kiddo!

Agent Melinda May

Veteran spy girl/Played by one who voiced Mulan/She knows how to fight!

Agents Fitz and Simmons

Resident techies/Solving problems in nick of time/Good minds think alike.

Lola (Coulson’s Car)

Refurbished classic/Hidden features under wheels/Sounds just right for spies!

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Spies in heroes’ world/Movies part of TV now/Comics do no wrong!

I think I will post more haikus in the future if that is all right with everyone.  What do you guys think?  If you saw the first episode of S.H.I.E.L.D., what did you think of it?  How awesome is it that we now get to see Clark Gregg on ABC TV each week?  Leave your thoughts in the comments, and please watch S.H.I.E.L.D. in the coming weeks.  I think we’ve got a really special show on our hands here!

Pop Culture Questions: Superman Edition (Still Alive at 75)

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

I haven’t done an edition of Pop Culture Questions in quite some time, but I bought a magazine this past week that gave me the inspiration to write another one today.  It was an issue of a teen gossip magazine, Life Story, dedicated to Superman on the eve of the release of the Man of Steel movie and coinciding with the comic book icon’s 75th anniversary.  The cover promised a comprehensive overview of Superman’s life in comics, television, movies, stage shows, and many other forms of media, and a quick skim through the magazine showed this to be true (There really was a stage play at one point, It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman).  The magazine has also caused me to think of some puzzling questions regarding the Man of Tomorrow such as…

How come Superman is 75 years old, but still looks so gosh-darned young?

I am well aware that Superman’s character has been rebooted and revised countless times over the past three-quarters of a century.  I still feel, however, that it is strange to have a character at 75 years of age who rarely shows any signs of his long life.  By now, I’d expect Supes to have a bald spot in place of that wind-swept mane of black hair, a hunched back instead of a straight posture, or even him taking a crosstown bus to a crime or natural disaster instead of flying everywhere.  But instead, all I’ve seen for the majority of my life has been a young big blue Boy Scout in the prime of his life and health.  I have seen an old or aging Superman occasionally, but usually as the result of a strange spell cast by his enemy Mr. Mxyzptlk, and even then, that appearance only lasted for one story at a time.  Whatever magical fountain of youth Supes has been soaking in off-panel for all these years certainly must be working well for him.  I wonder where it’s located…probably some forgotten corner of Oz…

How come Clark Kent has the most effective disguise in the DC Universe?

For the longest time, I thought that Superman’s secret identity of Clark Kent was the most obvious secret in the history of comic books.  Beyond a change in costume and a more well-maintained head of hair, the only significant change between Superman and Clark is a pair of glasses.  (Of course, some might say Clark appears to be noticeably lacking in muscle tone, but I’ve noticed that in recent years, the Daily Planet‘s most famous reporter has looked better and better in this regard, so I tend to ignore that part these days.)  Yet, outside of a select few other heroes who know his true identity, no one can connect the two together.  I’ve come up with two conclusions: either Clark’s disguise is as effective as Boris and Natasha’s costumes on Rocky and Bullwinkle at fooling the general public, or everyone in Metropolis is deliberately ignoring the fact that two of its most famous citizens just so happen to have a very strong resemblance to one another.  Either way, I find both sets of circumstances very telling indeed of the collective sanity of the ordinary peoples of the comic book universes we enjoy so much.

How come Superman is sometimes called the “Man of Tomorrow?”

I appreciate the fact that Superman has acquired many colorful nicknames over the years, all of which tend to represent an aspect of his character.  “Man of Steel” for bending steel bars and being as strong and tough as that substance.  “Man of Might” for being, well, mighty and strong.  “Big Blue” for wearing a suit composed mostly of one particular primary color.  One nickname of Supes that I never could stand, though trust me, I’ve tried, is “Man of Tomorrow.”  I think it’s supposed to be a vague representation of the hope for a brighter future the people of the 1940s and early ’50s had in mind, but I think it looks oddly out of place today.  If I didn’t know any better, based on this nickname alone, I’d make the assumption that by this time tomorrow, we’d all be able to fly, shoot beams of heat vision out of our eyes, and dash off to rescue young female reporters from malfunctioning jet liners.  I think it’s time we found a better way to express hope than saying “Man of Tomorrow.”  How about “The Man We Could Be?”  Supes has always been an upstanding U.S. citizen, a practical paragon of virtue.  Why not use a nickname that reflects such lofty aspirations?  D.C. Comics, I’ll be awaiting my cut of the check.

Are there any questions about Superman or any other aspect of pop culture you’ve always wanted answered?  Let me know in the comments, and your query might become part of the next installment of “Pop Culture Questions.”  Up, up, and away!

The Unreal World: Ideas for New (Fictional) Reality Shows

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
TV or not TV?  That is the question.

TV: all of reality on one screen.

I was watching a video the other day about long-running reality shows, and I kept thinking that I would like to see more variety in the types of subject matter covered by these shows.  Dating, dancing, and diving all have prominent places on the air, and people of all sizes, shapes, and stripes have been represented on many different shows.  However, I believe that there are still some subjects that haven’t been used yet which could make for some interesting television.  The following are some ideas for fictional reality shows I think could be very entertaining if given a chance.  If any television executives out there are interested in these formats, I want to let you know that I want consulting credit on the resulting shows if they are ever made.

Who Wants to Be a Super-Sidekick?

America has already seen one reality show based on superheroes, but I think it focused too much on the “main event” type of heroes and not enough on those who aspire to greatness, but are still learning the ropes.  The sidekicks of the world need a show of their own to show that they, too, could be the next Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, or even Barnacle Boy.  The contestants would be presented with challenges replicating such exciting duties as washing the hero’s car or fending off minions while the hero tackles the main bad guy.  Of course, the prize of becoming an official sidekick might seem like a boring dead-end job after a while, but who knows, the winner might become a famous hero one day!  Give or take thirty years of menial service…

The Amazing Trace

Art students attempt to make perfect copies of famous works of art on this show.  Using the techniques of famous painters and sculptors, the students improve their own art skills by learning about the skills of past artists.  A panel of art experts are then brought in to see if they can tell the difference between the students’ works and the genuine articles.  Grab your paintbrush and chiseling tools, you just might gain some pointers!

So You Think You Can Lance?

Down-on-their-luck jobless Americans get the ultimate opportunity: become members of “lance crews” for television’s largest ever jousting tournament.  Mounting noble steeds, these people will soon learn that life looks pretty scary when you’re facing the tip of a pointed spear.  King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table whittle down the jousters until only one person is left to be crowned “Ultimate Lancer” and win one hundred thousand dollars.  Who will walk away with the keys to this kingdom?   

Would you want to see any of these fictional shows become a reality?  What’s your favorite reality show?  Let me know in the comments.

Obscure Holidays Worth Celebrating

Friday, March 15th, 2013

I celebrate most of the major holidays with my family: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.  However, there are some very obscure holidays you don’t really find on a calendar which I feel should be observed alongside their more famous brethren.  I smile a little bit when I realize one of these “holidays” is coming up or has passed without my realizing it.  Here’s a few of these lesser-known special days along with the dates on which they occur so you, too, can celebrate them the next time they roll around.

Pi Day (March 14)

This holiday gets its name due to the fact that it falls on the third month and its fourteenth day.  The first three digits of the extraordinarily long long number pi are 3.14.  There’s three things I think I would love to do on this day.  One: have a contest with someone to see who can correctly recite the most digits of pi in a row.  Two: learn how to make a pie and then eat three whole pieces of it for dessert with fourteen hundredths of a piece to be served with dinner.  Three: enjoy a My Little Pony mini-marathon on TV with Pinkie Pie as a featured character (or just watch this five-minute video of all of her best moments).

Star Wars Day (May 4)

This special day is based on a famous quote from the Star Wars movies, “May the Force be with you.”  Every year on May the fourth, the hearts of young Jedi Knight wannabes everywhere turn to memories of Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star, Han Solo resembling Indiana Jones in space, Darth Vader revealing to Luke who his true father is (spoiler alert!), and the “prequel” movies having some really cool/embarrassing moments (for me, that would be the podracing sequence in Episode I for the cool side and Jar Jar Binks casting the deciding vote in favor of  the Empire’s creation for the other).  This year, May 4 will be a Saturday, so I feel that might be a good opportunity to organize a little Star Wars viewing party with my family, even if we watch just the classic trilogy.  Who knows, maybe I might discover I have Force powers, which would make doing the household chores a heck of a lot easier!

Free Comic Book Day (May 4)

In addition to Star Wars Day, Saturday, May 4, plays host to another special occasion this year.  On the first Saturday in May every year, comic book stores throughout the country, as well as comic book fans in general, celebrate Free Comic Book Day.  This day is dedicated to promoting a love of comic books and literacy among kids and adults.  A whole host of comic book companies, including DC, Marvel, and Archie, publish special comic books and offer them free of charge to anyone who cares to visit a comic store that day.  It has been an annual tradition for me for the past few years to visit all the local comic book stores in my area and pick out a few free comics at each stop.  Most stores have limits on how many free comics you can get at that particular location, so I visit a few stores to get the best selection of titles.  I’ve noticed that more and more kids have been going to the stores on this day each year, so it’s definitely a special day I want to support.  Check out the link above for more information on Free Comic Book Day, and this link for info on the free comics being offered this year.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19)

Ahoy, matey!  Have you ever wanted to have a day where you could only speak in pirate lingo?  Have you felt the inexplicable urge to bury a treasure chest in your backyard, then go on a long “sea voyage” to find it again?  Do you just want to have a parrot sit on your shoulder all day?  Then this holiday just might be for you!  Whether you aspire to be the next Blackbeard or Anne Bonny, whether you want to turn your house into a pirate ship or just wear a puffy shirt and shout “Argh” or “Shiver me timbers,” this day has something for all landlubbers young and old to enjoy.  There’s still plenty of time to plan out your pirate party, but if you’re looking for inspiration, this music video featuring the cast of LazyTown as pirates might float your boat.

What do you think of these holidays?  Would you want to celebrate any of them?  Do you have any other special obscure holidays you observe each year?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.  Now get out there and celebrate!

Think Again: I Wish…

Thursday, March 14th, 2013
I wish I may, I wish I might...

Care to wish upon this star?

Think Again is a new format I am experimenting with.  It’s kind of like a Random Top Five.  This first list was inspired by all of the examples of wish fulfillment I have seen in pop culture.  Often, it seems the results of wishes are less than desirable while in other cases the wish itself or, to me, the way it is expressed seems poorly thought out.  I tend to live by the rule, “Be careful what you wish for.”  Here’s a few examples of wishes that I think should have been made more carefully.

“I wish I was an Oscar Mayer wiener.”  (commercial tag line)

Okay, Ralphie, let me get this straight.  You wished you wanted to become delicious sausages for no other reason than that, “…everyone would be in love with me.”  Did it ever occur to you that maybe they would love you because of how you tasted?  Well, look at you now.  Little Johnny’s lying between two hot dog buns and slathered with mustard.  Tony’s tied up in a long string of sausages along with Sally, Susie, and Norm, along with a dozen other kids.  People have been trying to eat your head off for two hours straight.  Now that you know what being a sausage feels like, maybe you’ll now wish you had an Oscar Mayer wiener instead of wanting to become one.

“When You Wish Upon a Star” (Disney anthem)

I have loved this ultimate tribute to wish fulfillment ever since I first heard it on a Pinocchio VHS tape.  I highly appreciate the song’s message that anyone’s dreams can come true.  However, I think it’s about time somebody added a verse to it or changed its lyrics slightly to reflect the fact that often you have to work hard to make your wishes a reality.  There’s too many princesses waiting around in towers waiting for a prince to come along and sweep them off their feet.  There’s too many child heroes waiting for some deus ex machina to come along and free them from lives of endless labor.  They all need to realize that sitting around accomplishes nothing, that action leads to reward (well, at least I think it should!).  The song already says, “Fate is kind; she brings to those who love the sweet fulfillment of their secret longing.”  I say we change that lyric to, “..those who love and work!”

“I wish everything was back to normal!  (Timmy Turner in every single Fairly Oddparents episode ever)

The typical plot line for a Fairly Oddparents episode goes like this: Average kid Timmy Turner makes a wish.  His fairy godparents grant the wish.  The wish often goes horribly and hilariously wrong.  Timmy wishes that everything was back to normal, effectively canceling the wish out.  Lather, rinse, repeat for 126 episodes.  The only thing is, Timmy’s life isn’t really all that normal.  His parents, babysitter, and teacher are all still lunatics.  Villains he’s defeated show up again in later episodes.  Some of the wishes he has made have had such far-reaching effects on his world that his life can never go “back to normal,” such as when he wished that his fairies would have a baby (he’s still on the show, folks, and he’s cute as a button!).  I think Timmy knows well enough by now that his life will probably never be “normal” again, and to his credit, he is starting to wish that “…the (insert bad thing here) was gone,” or that things would go back to “…the way they were.”  He still makes plenty of bad wishes, but at least he’s a bit more realistic when it comes to his expectations of what his normal life is like.

Do you wish to see more of this “Think Again” format?  Are there any wishes you’ve made that you’ve wanted to change?  Let me know in the comments, and may all your wishes come true!

Random Top Five: My Favorite Fives

Thursday, March 14th, 2013
One, two, three, four...guess what's next?

Coming in at Number Five!

Five is a number that is less than six, more than four, and number one in my heart.  The number five also turns up a lot in popular culture.  I wonder why that is.  I want to find out someday, but until that day comes, here are five of my favorite fives.

5. Subway’s “Five,  five dollar,  five dollar foot-long” jingle

I haven’t taken advantage of the deals being advertised in the Subway commercials featuring this jingle, but I do find the tune itself to be very catchy.  It’s got a simple thumping rhythm that makes me feel like I belong to something bigger.  Not bigger in a religious sense, mind you, just bigger in the sense that the jingle is welcoming me in.  It’s still “…g-g-going strong” for me!

4. The five starting members of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers

Whenever I think of this exciting action show that I loved watching during the ’90s (even though I didn’t really understand what was going on), I tend to think of the five “teenagers with attitude” who were first selected to be on the team.  Jason, Kimberley, Zack, Trini, and Billy were a diverse group who always tried to do the right thing and made kicking alien butt in multicolored superhero costumes look very, very fun.  Tommy joined later as the Green Ranger, but I always viewed him as a side character whereas the other five kids were on the show all the time.  Ironically, Tommy is one of the few Power Rangers characters to have continued to make appearances in the franchise much later than his heyday and modern groups of Rangers have initially had as few as three members, but I feel those original five Rangers formed the blueprint for the team’s balance and will continue to inspire new groups well into the future.  Whatever happens to the Rangers next, I’m sure it will always be “Morphin’ Time!”

3. Counting by fives with Schoolhouse Rock’s “Ready or Not, Here I Come”

The video accompanying this song features a group of kids playing hide-and-seek in a field of rolling hills, grass, and trees while practicing counting by fives all the way up to one hundred.  I can’t really remember much about the song itself beyond the numbers being delivered very fast.  The video doesn’t have too many standout moments for me either beyond the setting and the kids recalling the numbers using their fingers.  I do find myself singing the “counting by fives” part for no particular reason sometimes, however, so I guess it must have worked its way into the deep recesses of my mind somehow.

2. Numbuh Five from Cartoon Network’s Codename: Kids Next Door

The Kids Next Door are a group of kids who carry out secret-agent/commando missions to stop the fiendish plots of evil adults.  All of the members are very cool in their own ways, but in my view, Numbuh Five, Abigail Lincoln, was practically the definition of “cool.”  She always looked confident whenever she headed into battle, and her signature red hat and blue coat made her seem, to me,  able to handle the pressure, even if she may have actually felt scared or uncertain.  The other KND members often experienced embarrassing moments, but at least Abby was able to keep a level head most of the time.

1. Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5”

Some might call this song annoying (it ended up in AOL’s Top 100 Worst Songs list at #95), but it’s one of my favorite songs to listen to.  Whenever it comes on the radio, I turn the volume up and enjoy the awesome audio samples of brass bands which back up Lou’s vocals.  I’ve never been too crazy about the lyrics but I do feel they go perfectly with the music, making it sound like a lost Roaring Twenties jazz love song that somehow time traveled to 1999.  My favorite part comes when Lou calls for, “The trumpet!”  Some awesome horns are played in that section, probably the reason I love this song so much.  Incidentally, there’s a version of the song that played on Radio Disney back in the day where all of the girls’ names are replaced by Disney characters like Mickey, Donald, and Goofy.  I’ve listened to both and I prefer the original version (I don’t know why), but either way, the brass band still sounds good to me.

Do you have any favorite fives?  Give me your five cents’ worth of thoughts in the comments.

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.

Random Top Five: The Greatest Pac-Man Dots

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

 

I'll take Wakka Wakka Wakka for $100, Alex.

The maze of life: a box with dots and ghosts.

From time to time on this site, there will be short top five lists based on random topics.  For this particular list, I have decided to count down the top five greatest dots or groups of dots that appear in the original maze in Pac-Man. Please note that for the purposes of this list, only the 236 regular dots which Pac-Man must consume as part of his daily travels throughout the maze are in the running.  The four power pellets, the large ones in the four corners of the maze which give Pac-Man the ability to chomp up his ghostly pursuers, are disqualified because of their unique nature (in addition to the performance-enhancing drugs scandal they were part of some years back).

5. The paths of dots in the two S-curves at the maze’s bottom. 

These dots are in areas that are radically different from the straight lines found everywhere else in the maze, so you get a nice bit of variety in terms of scenery.  The eight dots that each curve offers make for a good snack to keep your energy up for the next straightaway. They also highlight a good bit of strategy: if you plan your route right, ducking down these winding corridors can throw the ghosts off your tail a bit as they’re forced to compensate for the slight change in architecture.

4. The dots on either end of the warp tunnel at the maze’s right and left walls.

These dots may not seem like much on their own, but the tunnel openings they sit in front of make them all the more appetizing.  After you swallow either one of them, make a hard left or right into the warp tunnel.  Through some kind of magical space-time warp which has still yet to be explained, Pac-Man will appear on the other side of the maze, promptly chomping up the dot waiting at the other end of the tunnel and continuing his mission of eating everything in sight.  If you have a bunch of ghosts ganging up on you, taking this escape route can be a godsend.  Watching the ghosts scramble around like the Keystone Kops while I relax far away from them has provided me with a bit of hilarity many times.

3. The two dots to your right and left when you start a new game.  

 Do you remember the first thing you saw when you were born?  I can bet that Pac-Man vividly remembers seeing two small dots floating beside him in the inky blackness of the maze soon after he came into the world.  I’m sure he was curious about what these new things were for and if they were exciting.  He would have quickly moved toward one of them, putting his gigantic mouth over it and swallowing it whole.  He then would have seen another one in front of him, so he would have eaten that one, too.  Then another and another and another, and pretty soon, he was addicted to the darn things.  He couldn’t complete a maze without swallowing all of them; they became his life’s calling.  But he’ll always remember that first dot.  That first stinking dot.  It’s all that dot’s fault that his life’s all out of sorts!  Oh sure, the maze gives him fruit to eat and ghosts to torment (and be tormented by), but the rest of the time it’s just regular, plain vanilla-flavored dots.  It’s enough to make anyone want to become a carpenter and dodge barrels thrown by a giant ape…  But like I said, all great stories have to start somewhere, and those two dots are it.

2. The first dot you eat after swallowing a power pellet.

This dot (any one of eight regular dots depending on in which direction you approach the pellet) knows its place in line.  It does not matter what happens to me, it thinks to itself.  I am no more important then those in front or behind me.  The yellow god has become death incarnate, and woe betide all who stand in his wake.  That little dot is right, you know.  What’s a mere ten points compared to the 1600 that Pac-Man can get after eating a power pellet then pulling off the spectacular feat of eating four ghosts in rapid succession?  This dot could never hope to equal that greatness, so it resigns itself to its fate and prepares itself for the day its world ends.  Goodbye, world, it thinks as it enters the yellow god’s mouth and blinks out of existence.  The points will go on, but alas, my days are done. 

1. The last dot you eat before swallowing a power pellet.

Those same eight dots that I mentioned above can sometimes play another role.  In this state, they are not the nervous citizens of a new deadly world recognizing that their time has passed.  They are instead young, free, excited to become part of something bigger than themselves.  These power pellet parties have apparently become seen as the best places to be in the maze.  The young dot stands in line along with the other dots, watching the thumping lights of the big round  club and waiting for its chance to walk through those doors, let loose, and enjoy itself  for the first time in its life.  Maybe it’ll meet a nice girl dot and they can swap numbers, maybe even go out for a movie later.  Yes, these dots are young, but they’re also hopelessly naive.  How could they know the pain that will come after the yellow god harvests their bodies and uses their power to turn ghosts into so much liverwurst?  How could they ever know?  All the difference in the world is thus made depending on what side of the pellet you’re on.  Better to be number one than number two.

I hope you didn’t find this list too hard to swallow.  Did it suit your appetite?  Are you craving more?  Leave your thoughts in the 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.