Feb 17, 2009

"Thu" I miss good Cartoons

If you couldn’t tell, I feel especially strong about cartoons. 66% of kids watch more than 2 hours of TV a day, and I imagine a good chunk of that is cartoons. And today that means possibly 14 hours a week of Ed, Edd, and Eddy, Codename Kids Next Door, Fairly Odd Parents, or at best Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. What are these shows? How could they possibly be helping kids grow as people? The cartoons I grew up not only were so entertaining that adults usually watched, but they also taught kids something. For example:

Idea:Scrooge McDuck is the richest Duck in the world and he travels the world with his nephews Huey, Dewey, ,and Louie looking for ancient artifacts, new technology and other ways to keep his giant money bin full. Along the way they had to avoid traps from the Beagle Boys who wanted his money, Magica De Spell who wanted his lucky dime, and Flintheart Glomgold who was basically the exact opposite of Scrooge and #2 on the world’s richest ducks list.
And it taught kids…:I would say it taught kids about the importance of family. In a couple episodes I can remember Scrooge having to trade all his money or his lucky dime for the safety of his Nephews. It also taught kids that if they were misers they would one day have a giant bin of money they could swim in. That lesson didn’t really seem to take.

Name: Darkwing Duck
Idea: Darkwing was a spinoff from Duck Tales. It was basically a junior version of Batman for younger kids. He didn’t have any powers, just a gas gun, a sidekick named Launchpad, a high IQ, and a super long intro (it always started with “I am the terror that flaps in the night…” then kind of digressed from there.) Darkwing had to battle a bunch of decent villains including Taurus Bulba (who was a giant bull and had henchmen named Hoof and Mouth), Steel Beak, and Negaduck.
And it taught kids…:About justice, bravery, and that brains is better than brawn.

Idea: A cartoon sketch show for kids, with a ton of pop culture references and hosted by the puppy/cat looking things that lived in a water tower.
And it taught kids…:Everything. They sang songs about Geography, and Astronomy, they had mice that dabbled in politics and science, they had pigeons that explained street smarts, the show was a 12 year old’s guide to life.

Idea: Doug Funny is an awkward school kid who journals about his mediocre life. Many kids really connected with this premise
And it taught kids…: Along with the usual shows that taught about being yourself, importance of good friends rather than popularity, and that good family is not to be taken for granted, Doug also taught kids to be “color-blind”. Doug was white, his best friend was blue, his girlfriend Patty Mayonaise was orange, and the mis-understood bully Roger was green.

Idea: Bonkers was a police officer in a world where cartoons and humans co-exist. He had a human partner named Lucky Piquel (They had a “one of us, one of them” policy way before Heroes) who found him annoying yet ultimately through many adventures tracking down cartoons that were breaking cartoon laws, grew to like him.
And it taught kids…: Hating people that aren’t like you is wrong. There was always a kind of racist tone about how the humans treated the cartoons, some of them hated cartoons for no good reason. The show explained that different is good and we should celebrate our differences.

Idea: It was the comic books, except it was a cartoon. Probably one of my favorite cartoons ever, it had some really elaborate and complicated stories usually based on a comic book arc.
And it taught kids…: Another racism is bad show (racism must have been really rampant in the early 90’s), but also the importance of integrity. X-men only fought when they had to, in defense of someone who couldn’t fight. They worked as a team to accomplish something together that none of them could accomplish alone. It also touched on consequences of time travel, privacy issues (Professor X reading minds), Sacrifice (the Phoenix Saga), and the evils of big government (Sentinals and evil senators).

Name:Environmental cartoons (Capt Planet, Widget, Denver the Last Dinosaur)
Idea: The planet is dying, kids can save it, but only with the help of a green guy in a belly shirt, a purple alien that could shapeshift, or a dinosaur that skateboards and ime travels.
And it taught kids…: Adults are killing the world, you are going to have to clean it up when you get older, and global warming is imminent. I’m not really thrilled with that message exactly but the shows were entertaining and I’m not wholly against recycling.

These were just some of the amazing cartoons I grew up with. Back when cartoons were good, they taught you something; they entertained you and challenged you, they blew today’s cartoons out of the water.

So my favorite class so far 5 weeks into the semester has been my pop culture communications class. The teacher takes it really seriously, in a good way though. I kind of thought we would just end up talking about how movies and music affect people, that sort of thing. And it’s possible we’ll still go there, but the professor so far has approached it like an anthropology or maybe sociology class. It's been really interesting.

One of the things he pointed out last week was that the pop culture you grew up with will always be way better than whatever follows it or came before it. He couldn’t explain why that is exactly, but it seems about right. 40 year old women chase down Bon Jovi, 30-somethings always talking about how awesome movies in the 80’s were, and kids today actually sit down and watch whatever garbage cartoons that are popular. So even though I feel that this list contains some of the pinnacles of cartooning goodness, there's a good chance I'm more than a little biased.

Feb 7, 2009

"Wed": I dont like asking "So what are you doing after college?"

They say that the only things you can count on in life are death and taxes. “They” possibly did not go to College. If they did, they would’ve realized that you can also count on all 89 of your friends and acquaintances asking you “So, do you know what you’re going to do after college?” It's a lock. What you wouldn’t guess however is that 45 of those friends immediately follow that question with an apology for asking such a “painful” and “old” question. Those apologies caught me off guard. You just showed interest in my life, don’t apologize for that. In fact I applaud you for asking that question, it’s a tough question to ask, and I don’t like asking it.

First of all the question is so risky. It’s somewhere between asking someone how their grandparents are doing and asking a women if she’s pregnant. You might be bringing up a touchy subject. You open yourself to the awkwardness that this person possibly has no plan after college. Then you have to desperately back pedal and try and reassure them that it’s normal not to have a clue about life, and that they’ll figure it out. Or maybe you feel so terrible about the position your question placed them in that you immediately start to try and help them out. You start asking “Well, what do you like to do?”, or maybe “You know I have a friend who works in so-and-so field, they really like it, you should look into that”. Those attempts are admirable, and definitely appreciated, however it doesn’t do much to change the level of awkwardness that the question has introduced into the conversation.

Personally I don’t really enjoy asking the question because it sometimes seems like I’m asking "so, now that the world has beat the ambition and wonder out of you, what kind of life are you going to settle for?". So many of my friends enjoy college so much that slapping them with the reality of their inevitable exit and entrance into “normal” life sometime seems cruel. Not only that but in the event I do ask even the best answers are rarely too encouraging. Kids grow up wanting to be Doctors, Astronauts, Professional Athletes, maybe even a Chef. Rarely does that come true, and hearing the answer to the “after college” question just reminds me of that sad truth every time.

So all that being said, I had a friend ask me this question the other night, followed by the apology, and then followed by something new. My friend said that it would be sad if no one asked what I had planned after college, implying that it would mean they didn’t care. So with that in mind, even though I don’t really like the awkwardness, and I’m not a fan of cold reminders of reality, I’m going to continue to ask that question. It’s going to be awkward, possibly painful. But caring about someone’s life is often awkward and painful. I’m going to try and remember that for the next 90 times I’m asked the “After” question and appreciate how someone could do something I don’t like doing.

Feb 4, 2009

"Tue": I would change cell phones

I kind of loathe actually talking on the phone. We’ve discussed that before. The weird thing is I do enjoy owning a cell phone. It’s cool to send people little messages, listen to music, take pictures, read the news, or various other things all with this little hunk of plastic and metal. But being the greedy, unsatisfied, fallen being that I am, I always want it to do more. I’m living in an age as Arthur Clarke said “where technology has become virtually indistinguishable from magic”, but sometimes I think we need more magic. Not just more magic, smarter magic. I was reading an article earlier in the week about how with the iphone you can take a picture and then using the phone’s GPS capabilities stamp that picture with the coordinates of where it was taken. So when you upload it to the internet, your pictures can show up on a map based on where you took them. Conversely if you want to see an area of town, you can look it up on the picture map and see all the pictures that were taken by people in that area of town. Honestly it seems like a pretty cool idea, and I’m not sure why it took so long for someone to figure out that you could do that with a phone attached to a camera.

So here’s a few other ideas features I would want added to my cell phone:

Credit/Debit Card

This one is actually happening…well, it’s happening everywhere but the U.S anyway. Instead of having to carry around all those credit cards, and then trying to figure out how to use every variation of the credit card machines, why not just touch your phone to the credit card machine and punch in a code. That’s it! Your done! The phone could even tell you right then and there how much you had left in your checking account, or how much you owed to VISA. Even better what if you could transfer the money phone to phone. If you lose that bet with your friend; you can pay up instantly. It would save friendships.

TV Remote

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to find the TV remote. Usually because someone you live with didn’t put it back. Well most everyone has a cell phone, why not just allow those to also operate the TV? You could even personalize and assign your favorite channels to buttons like speed dial. It could be a topic of conversation, “so what channels is your phone set to…..The discovery channel!? Me Too!..Let’s talk about that.”

Garage door opener

I’ve never actually owned a garage door opener, but I’m guessing it’s pretty awesome. Even more awesome though would be not having that ugly, gray block weighing down your sunvisor. I’m sure there’s some security issues to work through, but still, cell phones should be able to handle this.

Car Keys

While we’re talking about cars, why can’t cell phones start cars? They have those little key dongles that start cars that have been around since 1992 yet you’re telling me a cell phone couldn’t just take care of this and free up valuable space in your pocket? Also you could start the car from inside your house that way the A/C already has it nice and cool by the time you make it out to your car.


One of the weird features on my phone is that it will read my text messages to me if I ask it. I’m not really sure why I’d ever do that, except if I was blind or maybe driving. I can also tell my phone to do things like “call so and so” and it seems to understand most of the time. So if the phone can understand speech and it can read text, why can’t it translate a language? You say something in German to my phone, and my phone explains in English what you said. It would be like a crude version of the Rosetta Stone or the Babel Fish from “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, minus the awkward worm inside your skull.

Video Phones

Honestly, I kind of thought that there was absolutely no difference between talking to someone on the phone and talking to someone on a video phone (or video chat). But after using skype a couple times let me tell you, there is. The non-verbal stuff is so huge. So most cell phones these days have video cameras included, I feel like the face to face conversations are really just a few months away.


How cool would it be once they have the camera thing figured out to be able to throw that video onto a nearby wall? I’m not talking about a building-sized, theatre image or anything, just maybe 9 inches onto the chair in front of you, the wall next to you, or the person you’re standing behind. You could pull up videos you’ve recorded on your phone and project them for your friends to see, instead of doing that awkward crowding around the 2” screen and pretending like you can see what’s going on.

Multiplayer games

If you have tetris…And I have tetris…why can’t we play each other in tetris? Or Nertz, battleship, jeopardy, pool, miniature golf, etc. These things are communication devices, that play games, yet I can only play games by myself. Why is that?

Active Listener mode

I kind of feel like the world of people that have cell phones could be separated into 2 groups, the people who need to call their friends and unload for 30+ minutes, and the people who receive calls from friends who need to unload. I would probably fall into the latter. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part we receivers do enjoy that you call us to share your life, but it can be tough trying to remain “in” the conversation enough to keep encouraging you on with the “oh yea?……..uh-huh…….yep…….mmmm……really?......oooo..”. I feel like maybe we could just create maybe a 60 second loop of that, and then when we get a call that has the feeling of being a doozy, could just turn on that the Active Listener Mode and a remix of that 60 second clip would play……while we listen of course, but just without the pressure of reassuring the caller every 7 seconds that we are indeed still enthralled.

Vibrate schedule

It’s possible some phones already have this, I don’t really do that much research for these things. I have a pretty set schedule, and I’m tired of trying to remember to turn the phone to silent/vibrate, then remember to turn it back on. The phone has a clock, why can’t it just remember to do this itself? Sundays, I’m going to need to be on vibrate from 9-10:30. Monday, Wednesday, Fridays from 10:45-noon, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to noon. That seems pretty easy to me. The phone should know that schedule and be able to set itself accordingly.

Some of these ideas I’ll admit probably could use a little more time in the oven. But maybe some of them are already way past due. To be honest I’m not really sure which are which but it probably won’t be too long till we’re laughing at the idea of carrying around those “humongous primitive blocks of plastic” which will just make this list even more entertaining and ridiculous. Which kind of fits the part-time goal of this blog.

Feb 3, 2009

"Mon": I like arguing

I'm a naturally peaceful person. I'm not a big fan of fighting or drama. If someone ever tried to steal my car, I'd probably throw them the keys, and tell them that all the good CD's are in the back seat. It's not really because I'm afraid of them or I just want to be agreeable. It's mostly because I don't really care enough about my car to fight. If you’re willing to risk your freedom and possibly your life for this car, then you win. Chances are I’ll get it back after you’re finished anyway. That was a long way to go about saying that normally I avoid conflict, especially with people I don’t feel close to. If I do feel close to you however, there’s a good chance we’ve argued about something, and I enjoyed it.

To start off, my definition of arguing is not probably the popular definition. I would say arguing is anytime people defend differing opinions using proof, sometimes leading to resolution. Many people call this discussing, but I kind of feel that you could discuss the weather, how the Suns are doing, how great some movie was and that’s all good. But talking about how sunny days are better than cloudy days, or how the Suns need to stop feeding Shaq down low and start running again, or how Wall-E was the best animated movie in recent memory, then that’s better, and that’s arguing. The trick is to steer clear of all the negative stuff that can accompany differing opinions, otherwise it just turns into a fight. And like I said, I probably don’t care enough to fight about it.

Aside from just being ridiculously entertaining there’s some other reasons I like comparing opinions. Throughout history there’s a consistent pattern of growth following a war. That’s not a good reason for people to die, but it does show that conflict can be a good thing. It allows you to learn, and possibly forces you to think differently than you’ve thought in the past.

Being exposed to differing opinions or arguments allows you to understand your stance better. Most Christians (myself included) believe they have a good handle on the reasons for their faith and the logic behind it. Whenever I’ve had to defend my faith, or explain it however I’m usually struck bad just how badly I’ve prepared for it, or how little I know about that issue. The conflict has shown me an area I need to spend some time learning about, and to stop being complacent.

Another thing I’ve noticed about these intense talks are that people allow their guard to slip a bit. Usually because the discussion is about something they enjoy or at least feel passionate about, they let you see more of their true self. They show you not only that they care about the topic that the argument is about, but also possibly that they care about you as well. They don’t want you to be mis-informed or want to help you see something you might not have seen before.

So the next time I don’t agree with you about something I want you to maybe see that as a compliment. It means, “hey, I care about you, feel comfortable around you, and value your intelligence”. Hopefully that comes across and we’ll argue soon.

Feb 2, 2009

"Fri": I look forward to owning my own business

The big reason I got into the study of marketing was because one day I want to own my own business. People always follow that little revelation by asking “oh yea? What kind of business do you want to own?”, which is a fair question, but I honestly don’t yet know for sure. Besides, those are the specifics, the nitty-gritty, areas I’m working on. I’m much more of a big picture person (which is dangerously close to saying “I have trouble getting things done”).Also the reasons I have for wanting to be the boss transcends many different kinds of businesses. They’ll apply whether I end up owning a MLB franchise or just running the local Long John Silver. I’m not really a fan of hush puppies so hopefully the reality ends up being closer to the former.

I’ve had a couple of different jobs, been apart of a slew of organizations, and I feel like I’ve learned something about myself through membership in these groups. I learned that I’m a control freak. I think I might be the worst kind of control freak too. I’m the kind that if I’m not in control or leadership or whatever, has trouble caring and participating in the group. I think it’s like the tragedy of the commons, if I’m not in charge I feel like I have little ownership of that group, project, whatever, and then don’t really care about it. It makes sense in some ways, but it’s not really a very Christ like attitude. For example, I was doing most of the technical stuff for my church, and even though it was time consuming I enjoyed it because I could take ownership of everything. When I came back after the summer I wasn’t needed as much (which in reality has been great) and now have trouble caring at all to help out with the tech stuff. Like I said earlier, I realize it’s not a great reason or attitude, but it is definitely part of the mix that makes me want to be in charge of a business.

This other reason has a kind long story. About a week ago Friday I had to watch as we fired 6 guys from my job. Guys I’ve known on average for about a year. I understand why we did it, and don’t think it was a bad decision, but it still really sucked. That night I just wanted to drive around and think. I had only had like an hour of sleep (I had to work really late the night before) so my thought weren’t exactly inspired. One thing I do remember thinking however was that when I own a business I would never fire anyone. At first it sounds a little bit crazy, but there are existing places that use this philosophy and at the same time are really successful. Here’s why: If you know firing someone is not an option you’re more careful about the people you hire. Also if you know you won’t get fired you take more risks, voice your opinions, and don’t suck up to the boss. That’s what I’m looking for, a group of people who challenge me, who don’t take my word for it and tell me when I’m wrong. I feel like those kinds of people can only exist if they feel secure.

Security is only half the equation though; the other half is careful selection. There are people I’ve worked with who are amazing, hard-working people, stuck in bad jobs. Owning a business would allow me to take people like this, really awesome quality people, and give them a job they deserve. Some of the greatest people I met were working for $7.25 at Target. It was unbelievable to me. They deserve better.

Once I had my quality people who challenged me I feel like a lot of other things would fall into place. There would be just a couple of other things that I would want to do to create the work atmosphere I always wanted. I would want everyone in my company to go eat lunch together at least once a week. How awesome would that be to look forward to that day of the week when there was a mini-party at work. Speaking of parties, I would make sure we had an amazing Christmas party every year. A family kind of thing, it wouldn’t need to be expensive or anything crazy; maybe just a potluck, some music and a secret Santa or white elephant. And if we were really successful who knows? Maybe something crazy. Also the company should pay for your tuition if you want to go to school, no exceptions. The company is seeing direct benefit from you getting smarter and learning more, if you’re going to take that kind of initiative then you get a reward.

I’m not sure how successful all these ideas would really be in the real world. I just figured I’d get them down on paper so I could look back one day and see how close I came to making good on my promises. I feel like if I could even come close to these ideas it would be great. And hopefully above all else, me and my amazing, challenging group of people who work in this yet to be defined business would serve as a great witness to everyone else of Christ. If I could just accomplish that…..well, that would be a dream come true, and something to look forward to.