Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Process of Becoming -- Writer's Poke #240

I watched Pinocchio for the first time last night, and what a quaint story it is by today's standards. Here's a wooden puppet that would love to become a boy, but to do so, he must prove himself. His task is to avoid lying, avoid smoking, and for god's sake, avoid playing pool. Real boys know right from wrong, and they choose to live according to their consciences.

Most of the focus in the movie is on Pinocchio, but it's quite clear in the Paradise Island segment that boys who "sin" aren't any better than marionettes (or jackasses). They're just controlled by different strings.

Pinocchio's "conscience" is Jiminy Cricket, which is interestingly a euphemism for Jesus Christ. Unlike a "real" conscience, and unlike Jesus Christ, Jiminy is not perfect. He's a little bit of a ladies' man, and one wonders if perhaps sometimes a conscience itself doesn't need a conscience. But both Jiminy and Pinocchio grow by film's end -- Pinocchio is "promoted" to real-boy status, and Jiminy receives his badge from the Blue Fairy.

Describe the process of becoming (examples: becoming a man, becoming a woman, becoming a friend or a spouse, a citizen, etc). What gets removed or lost in the process?

"To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Retouch My Body (Mariah Carey parody)

The sound is a little off, but the lyrics are crazy-good. Mariah fans and anti-Mariah haters alike should be able to appreciate this one...

The Number of the Beast -- Writer's Poke #239

This scummy kid walked out of the bathroom, and the first thing I noticed about him was his earring. In 1987, not too many guys wore earrings at my junior high. His was an inverted cross, and I remember wondering why anyone would want to wear an inverted cross. To my mind at the time, that was a symbol of Satan, and I couldn't understand why anyone would want to join the losing team.

Later that year, I found myself doodling the number 666 on one of my notebooks. When my dad saw the notebook on the kitchen table that night, he nicely recommended that I scratch out that number and not ever doodle it again. Why? I asked. How can that number have any meaning? Surely the devil doesn't really have a "human number." But Dad explained that it wasn't the number that mattered so much as how other people would perceive the owner of the notebook.

Somewhere between seeing that boy coming out of the bathroom and doodling 666 on my notebook, I had decided that other people's perceptions shouldn't make any difference. We can get hung up on the silliest of things, and allowing an inverted cross, a number, or anything else to shock us isn't rational. A number cannot be evil.

Some people actually believe that the devil's number is 666, and maybe you're one of them. If so, do you also believe that the number 13 brings bad luck?

Why do some people outgrow some beliefs and not others?

"Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?" -- James Thurber

Monday, June 22, 2009

Be Like Mike -- Writer's Poke #238

In the original 1992 Gatorade commerical staring Michael Jordan, a chorus of children sing "If I could be like Mike" while a montage of basketball images cascade across the screen. In four specific scenes, we see Mike hold a Gatorade product in his hand, but only in one of them does he hold the cup to his lips. Does he actually take a sip? The scene cuts away before we can know for sure.

And what exactly does "Be Like Mike" mean, anyway? The message at the end of the commercial isn't very subtle: "Be Like Mike. Drink Gatorade." The commercial actually ends with this command (in black and white no less). Whoever designed the commercial didn't want you to simply "be like Mike"; they wanted to make sure that you got the message that you should be drinking the green liquid (and how exactly do you describe the taste?) at all times.

If we are to "Be Like Mike," does that mean that we should use what Mike endorses? Does it mean we should play NBA basketball for the Chicago Bulls? How exactly should we follow this man? Or does being like someone require following them at all?

In the end, drinking Gatorade, wearing Haines, or eating at McDonald's doesn't make us any more like Mike. Trust me: I've done all those things, and it hasn't helped my game one bit.

Who would you like to be like? Why?

"My heroes are and were my parents. I can't see having anyone else as my heroes." -- Michael Jordan