subscribe to rss feed
subscribe by email

Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Suppression and Dreams

I recently read this article called “Eight Ironic Effects of Thought Suppression”. It was about how trying to suppress a thought would make it come back even stronger and linger even longer, and therefore people cannot not think of a white bear when asked to not think of a white bear.

The article also talked about how people are more likely to dream about subjects they are specifically trying to avoid. So if you are having nightmares, perhaps it’s a good idea to stop suppressing those thoughts during the day, so they don’t come to haunt you at night. I don’t have nightmares very often, though, so what have I been suppressing?

Many people have this nightmare of being late to a test. Well, being late to an exam is also a recurring dream of mine, but I wouldn’t call it a nightmare. In the dream I would usually go to the classroom and saw nobody there. And I would realized that the exam actually took place several hours ago. Instead of panic, I would say to myself, “you know what? I don’t really care.” and go walk around the campus and enjoy the scenery.

Now, what’s with this dream? Perhaps I was too responsible in being where I was supposed to be and suppressing that urge to say “eh, I don’t really care” during the day?

How about those wacky dreams? I sometimes have these dreams in which a bunch bizarre and somewhat amusing things happen. And a few times I actually woke up laughing because the dreams were so funny.

Now, what was I suppressing during the day? Perhaps I suppressed some wacky thoughts. Perhaps I was trying very hard to not say so many stupid things in my daily life. I still think of weird things and say many stupid things.

Or maybe that research just has to do with scary and annoying things that people are trying to avoid and has nothing to do with what I am talking about here. Did you actually read the research paper? Me either.

What You Can Learn From Popeye The Video Game

Have you ever played the Popeye arcade/NES game? This game, which first came out in 1982, has many hidden messages within the simplistic game-play. Whether you agree with the messages or not, you’ve got to acknowledge that they are there. (This post is based on something I wrote in 2006.)

1. A girl may give you her heart, but if you don’t pick it up right away (1), it will kill you once the time is up (2). Cause of death? Broken hearts (3), of course.

2. Girls love dropping off letters.

3. When a girl is playing music for you, you better take notes. Otherwise, you will die.

4. There is always someone between you and the girl you like. That guy is, of course, an asshole with ten times the muscles you have.

5. When the fat guy bends over, move away! Or you get killed.

6. Your only hope for beating the big muscle-y man is weed. With weed, you can feel invincible and that confidence will make the muscle-y guy run away. You can chase after him and punch him in the face, but the effect wears off very soon and things go back to the way they were. Unfortunately, while weed is useful, the supply is low. (Or wait, is the lesson: eat more vegetables instead? I am not so sure.)

Who said video games aren’t educational?

The Generic Academy-Award-Winning Movie

So, just after I wrote about the formulas in Power Rangers and romantic comedy, I came across this Youtube video about what an Academy-Award-winning movie trailer would look like. I like how the trailer includes numerous clichés in not only characterization and storyline, but also cinematography.

I had this idea of writing a play (actually, more of a short sketch since I got the idea when I was writing for college theater) that uses lots of movie clichés. It will have a lot of cheesy characters and plot, and it will be titled “Cheese”. It will start out with a scene where a guy and a girl first meet and fall in love (of course). The two will find each other to be not quite someone they were looking for, but somehow strangely attractive (like what I said in my last post, and what they had in that video). Since there needs to be something, an item, an object, a symbol that joins them together in the first encounter and for the rest of their lives, I will invent some sort of dish for it, which, of course, uses lots of cheese. There will be a cheesy family dinner scene, complete with the typical awkward dinner conversations when one person meets the family of the significant other. Later the guy and the girl will, of course, break up for some cheesy reason, but of course, they will realize that they are the one and only for each other. They will have a teary-eyed reunion over, of course, the cheese dish. And they will be explicitly stating the moral of the story, while awkwardly working in the title of the story.

Of course, the moral of the story will be: We know this is cheesy, but why do we still love it so much? It’s just cheese! Nothing you’ve never had before! But I guess, no matter how cheesy it is, we still eat it up.

Unfortunately, while I had this basic structure, I never came up with details that I liked enough (in terms of character and plot), so I never wrote it. If you want to write it, feel free to take it as your writing prompt and run with it. I shall look forward to reading it someday. 😀

Why Power Rangers Writing Is Brilliant (Like Romantic Comedy)

When I was re-watching Power Rangers in Space three months ago, I was only doing it for nostalgic reasons. However, I actually found the writing to be surprisingly good. The writers managed to explore many themes and really develop the characters, even though it was for kids, was based on the classic good vs. evil storyline and had lots of clichés. In fact, in an odd way, those formulaic element actually helped, a lot.

You know what else also use formulas a lot? Romantic comedies. I realized that Power Rangers and romantic comedies had a lot in common.

The Formula

Here’s the Power Rangers formula:
1) Monster/Villain was looking for something or simply wanted to destroy the city for the hell of it
2) Power Rangers showed up
3) Power Rangers defeated the Monster
4) Monster became gigantic and tall as the buildings, somehow (using some kind of energy source)
5) Power Rangers brought on the Megazords (battle robots)
6) The Megazord defeated the Gigantic Monster and Villains vowed to try again

Here’s the romantic comedy formula:
1) Guy and Girl unexpectedly met each other in a serendipitous encounter
2) They found one another odd/weird/interesting/annoying and yet strangely attractive
3) They fell in love and had passionate sex
4) They broke up because they had a misunderstanding / found out they had too many differences / decided there were more important things than being together
5) They couldn’t forget each other and took each other back in tearful reunion
6) One more long passionate kiss with camera panning 360 degrees in scenic setting (followed by optional wedding / honeymoon / trip)

Now, we all know what’s going to happen. Although the Power Rangers appeared to be losing, they would eventually triumph. Although the couple was broken up, you knew they would beat the odds and be together again for the ending (and possible sequel).

Well, then why the hell are you still watching anyway?

The Characters

Since you already roughly know what is going to happen, we can now put the focus on the characters. The five (or six) Power Rangers are all given distinct characters. The romantic comedy leads and supporting cast all have looks and personalities you can either admire, relate to, or despise. You already roughly know what is going to happen, so character development can take center stage and really make the whole thing come alive.

The Expected and Unexpected

It is very satisfying to know the story is going the way that you think it’s going to go. Kids beg their parents to tell them their favorite story over and over, even though they’ve heard it many many times. In Power Rangers, you expect the good to triumph over the evil. In romantic comedies, you expect true love to brave through all obstacles. You expect that, and it’s very satisfying to see it play out. But also, another thing with formulas is that you can break them if you can do it right. Astronema, the prince of evil, is actually the long-lost sister of Andros, the Space Power Ranger? What? One of the villain, Dark Specter actually had quite a noble side. Wait, really? (And I couldn’t think of romantic comedy examples off the top of my head because I don’t have enough people making me watch those.) If a writer can deviate from the formula in interesting ways, they are very nice surprises. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, you still want to follow the formula to a degree.

The Suspension of Disbelief

Also, the suspension of disbelief is an important element in these two genres. Come on, really? Power Rangers? Are you telling me that a bunch of people in colorful spandex are here to save the Earth? Why are there still buildings left in Angel Grove when monsters and robots fight there all the time? And aren’t those monsters and robots just actors in rubber suits? And for romantic comedy, come on, would that line actually work in real life? If someone does that to you, would you say “oooh, that’s hot” or “ew, that’s creepy!”? In real life, and especially when you don’t look like a movie star, let’s just say that results might vary. So, suspension of disbelief is very important for these genres.

When you can accept that men in spandex are fighting rubber monsters using plastic toys, you can accept a story about a magical stone with dark powers creating a black hole and warping the time-space continuum. When you can get an “aww” from the highly unlikely ways two people get together, you are willing to accept how they get back together again after the break-up. Once you can accept the premise, you are willing to accept a lot more weird things that the writers throw at you. It works that well.

The Process and the Result

Since these things tend to follow a formula, it’s the process that counts, not the result. Given the not-so-surprising beginning and ending, what happens in between becomes the most import and variable part of these stories. You know the good guys will win, but you want to know how. You know the main characters will live happily ever after, but you want to know how they are going to get to that point. So the process is the main focus. However, this also means that if the process isn’t written and executed right, you will have really mediocre results. This is why some Power Rangers series have great stories, while some do not. The same thing applies to romantic comedies.

But hey, when everything works, these things can be so downright brilliant.

Why Old People Take Cruises (Blame Hemingway)

Yesterday was my birthday. And you know how they say that you get wiser as you get older? Yep, I got wiser. (A wise guy, eh? Nyuk nyuk nyuk!) And I know I got wiser because I just got this insight about how books affect people in subconscious ways. In fact, book titles affect people’s behaviors even more. After all, many people pretend that they read while they really don’t, but they hear book titles thrown around (sometimes by Oprah) nevertheless.

Once we have those book titles ingrained in our head, we can’t help but be subconsciously influenced by them. A very good example is the huge number of senior citizens that go on cruise trips every year. What makes them do this? Why do people, many of who didn’t even like cruises before, suddenly have an urge to go on a cruise when they are old? You might blame advertising and media portrayal; I blame Hemingway.

Yep, you heard that right. I am blaming the guy that wrote The Old Man and The Sea. You might not remember what went on in the book (or what you learned from Cliff’s Notes) but most people have heard of the book title. Subconsciously, they start to associate being old with being at sea. And that is why so many old people want to take cruises. They think it’s their choice, but they are simply victims of these word association games.

Since I am so much wiser now and I gained such insights, here’s more example of how book titles affect our society:

1. War and Peace: This made people associate the words “war” and “peace”. People waged wars in order to obtain peace because of this book title.

2. Pride and Prejudice: This book title made people associate the two words together and be really proud of their views even when they are being incredibly prejudiced.

3. Hamlet: Made people put ham in their omelets. Um… omelets. Yum.

4. Invisible Cities: Made city dwellers feel invisible and lonely. A famous poet once wrote “Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a partner/ Sometimes I feel like my only friend/ Is the city I live in/ The city of Angels/ Lonely as I am/ Together we cry”.

5. Great Expectations: This made people raise their expectations to be really great and produced lots of disappointed people.

6. Crime and Punishment: This reduced crime rate.

7. Light in August: This had no averse effects on most of the world, but confused the hell out of people in Antarctica.

8. The Scarlet Letter: Inspired teachers everywhere to grade papers using red ink.

9. Catch-22: Made many baseball catchers subconsciously want to choose 22 as their jersey number.

10. The Catcher in the Rye: Provided a hint for what to grow when the aforementioned catchers retire and decide to become farmers.

11. The Grapes of Wrath: Caused the most recent uprising of a herd of grapes. Feel the rage!