Skip to content

Creativity and Nintendo

The popularity of the several Nintendo game systems that were released in the 1990s had profound effects on my creative mind.  I used to draw pictures of superheroes fighting villains and dinosaurs attacking cities whenever TV seemed unappealing.  These ideas I used for my doodles were mostly a result of the amount of Nintendo 64 I played at a young age.  Games like Star Fox, Rampage, and Super Smash Brothers, as their titles may suggest, are packed with colorful and unique characters and environments that would captivate any seven-year-old American boy.  My relationship with these games was so intimate that I began drawing pictures of my favorite characters at school and eventually in my room while doing homework.  Consistently practicing my artwork every day (out of sheer enjoyment, I might add) so that I could draw the characters just right, my skills developed to a point where I could draw Donkey Kong, Star Fox, and Mario better than the the older kids.

As a result of this newly developed talent, doodling became a hobby in which I indulged whenever I was not watching TV or playing video games.  I’m still pretty good at drawing Spider-man and Medieval Dragons, and I owe this to Nintendo.  Countless hours of flying through space and battling giant turtles inspired me to start drawing and opened my creative mind.  In my last two Archives of Childhood, I’ve asserted the importance parents taking the time to observe what electronic media their kids are indulging in and then determining how often they should indulge.  Now, I have proved how important it is for parents to think about the positive effects of at least some exposure to video games.  Some children may have creativity hidden within them, and video games may help bring them out.

Where’s Waldo??

Remember this guy? White and Red shirts, glasses with weird hat. I remember him as one that i really want to find. I always sat down hours and hours with a book called “Where’s Waldo.”  When i was a just a little kid, i would always followed my mom to the department store. As the shopping gets longer, my mom would stop by at the kids book store to let me read some of the book there. In the bookstore, i would always reached for “Where is Waldo”. This book allowed me to loose track on time, because i was so focused and got challenged on finding all the waldoes in big crowd group of peoples and excited situation.

So, who is waldo? and what is the book “Where’s Waldo”? Waldo is the main character of this book and he is 24 years old as me. British illustrator Martin Handford created this book in 1987.The name that we knew about this book is only used in published book in the United States and Canada. It  actual original name is “Where’s Wally?”, because in Korea, we called him Wally. “It is a series of children’s books that consist of a series of detailed double-page spread illustrations depicting dozens or more people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location.”  This book usually cost 1,2000 won in Korea currency, such as 12 dollars.

However,  where is Asian version of waldo or African version of Waldo? All the main character were Caucasian race. We could wonder that children might think that only Caucasian race travels around the world, but this might be too much worry. It doesn’t represent of inequality of race or challenge to the fixity of racial identity,  because children think that main character could be their race.  From the reading of Elizabeth Chin “Ethically Correct Dolls”, “Clarice, like a number of other girls I knew in Newhallville, does not appear to assume that just because her doll is whit she must treat her that way. When deciding to do her hair, she gives her very white, very blonde, and very blue-eyed doll a hair style that is worn by young black girls.”(368). And I agree with her, I never thought that Wally is only for white children,as view of Asian, he was in the book to be found by any kind of race children, And I thought that Wally was Asian.

Hoop Dreams

Hoop Dreams

In the film “Hoop Dreams,” we have to wonder why the two main characters are compared to each other the way they are. William and Arthur start off in similar situations where their lives spiral onto two completely different paths because of outside influences. As kids, they believed everything that was promised to them and were vulnerable to what I would call “being sold a dream.”  William and Arthur both were talented basketball players as children, but William was more physically developed than Arthur was. William was ready to play on the Varsity level, and as a result he was able to obtain a scholarship to that private school.  William was able to reap benefits from people who were not actually affiliated with the school.  Such outside factors act as an outlet for the school system to follow their policy while simultaneously allowing special treatment to certain students.

The school was able to stand behind their regulations and seem fair behind kicking Arthur out of school. The viewer at this point empathizes with Arthur for getting kicked out of the school that seemed so promising to him. Only, as the movie goes on, we start to understand that because of what was invested in William, his biggest expectation was to play basketball well.  As William and Arthur advance through High School we see their progression in class as well as on the basketball court.  The audience views William not only in a much better facility than Arthur but also showered with extra attention in order for him to do well.  William receives one on one tutoring while Arthur has to learn Senior English in a summer school class where the teacher had to teach all high school levels at the same time.  We see William able to spend many hours practicing in the gym as Arthur works many hours at his job only making minimum wage.

Though Arthur was forced to return to his under privileged school, he finds ways to express himself.  The camera catches him with his friends listening to music, dancing, and joking around.  William seemed to be surrounded by people that he couldn’t relate to.  Perhaps James displayed Arthur’s moments of expression and not William to imply William was stripped from these opportunities because of his school.

William gets hurt his junior year and had to sit out the rest of the season.  William works hard to recover and during his senior year he returned as the team’s leading scorer during the season.  However, William speaks out and says that the same teammates that idolized him before he was hurt lost respect for him when he returned because he wasn’t as explosive as he used to be.  We see Arthur progression on the court through high school.  Arthur was not the leading scorer on the team through school and his coach had many thoughts on how he could improve, but Arthur’s chemistry with his teammates was much stronger than William and his teammates.

Through all the extra perks and attention William received compared to Arthur, the audience watches William express to his coach that he wasn’t generally pleased with his time at the private school. I believe James captured a great moment with the audience when the coach says to the camera, “it’s how it goes… One kid goes out, another one comes in.” William couldn’t relate to his coach. His coach was there to win and win only, which explains why they recruited. Arthur’s coach believed in him. Arthur may not have gotten the best education, but he wasn’t a victim to any system. He was able to mature into the man that he wanted to become.

The viewer is able to see both lives develop. The beginning and the end of the movie tell the whole story. Arthur had a harder life, but in the end he pursued his basketball dream longer than William did. Perhaps James wanted his viewers to understand that maybe ones destiny is a result of a person’s ambition and not in the advanced commodities around you.  Because of all the extra attention from his coaches, teachers, and his sponsor William was expected to become a “promising athlete.”  Once he hurt himself he lost the attention from his teammates and his coach.  William expresses that his coach would not empathize with him whenever he went to his coach with personal problems not relating to basketball.  James shows how William is pushed to go to college.  William is able to take his ACT 5 times before he becomes eligible to get into a four year institution.  At the same time, James shows how easy it would have been for Arthur not to finish school.  His best friend dropped out of high school and his mother was more focused on Arthur finishing high school than going to college.  Arthur finishing high school and enrolling into a Junior college showed Arthur’s will and determination.

James’ “Hoop Dreams,” exposes the reality of special treatment.  Arthur was still in college by the time William dropped out.  The audience sees Arthur enjoying high school more than William even though William was in a much better school.  Had William stopped playing basketball he probably would have lost his scholarship and got kicked out of school just as Arthur did.  William did not have as many options as he did perks in high school.  Arthur made the choice to finish school and go to college.  William was pushed to go to college.  William was a part of a system designed to make sure their students get to college.  Arthur was part of a community where many never made it to college.  I think this was what James wanted his viewers to see.  Arthur was able to make his own choices when following his dream.  William was promised his dream as long as he followed the designed program.  My guess is that after it was all said and done, William would be the one to say, “If I could relive high school, I would of made the choice to do things differently.”

“The Snowy Day”

In 1962, prior to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech” and in the midst of the civil rights movement, a unique children’s book was published. The name of the book was “The Snowy Day”, and it was written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. The book deals with the adventures of a young boy named Peter, as he explores the winter wonderland around his neighborhood that results from the previous night’s snowfall. What separates this book from the multitude of other children’s books written about similar situations is that Peter, the story’s protagonist, is black. Perhaps even more distinguishing about this book is that while other stories attempt to highlight the child’s race or make it a central figure in the story, “The Snowy Day” does not. Peter is portrayed, quite simply, as a child. His race is irrelevant for the purposes of the story, because the plot focuses more on the beauty of the snow, the simplicity of his experiences, the carefree quality of his happiness- experiences that all children can relate to. Thus by doing so, “The Snowy Day” breaks down the barriers of race by producing a timeless story enjoyed by children of all shapes, sizes and colors, rather than targeting their story specifically towards black people (which would, by alienating other etnicities, almost constitute a form of racial segregation in itself).

Today marks fifty years since the award winning “The Snowy Day” was published, but it is worth noting that the world of children’s literature has not changed dramatically since then. According to a 1995 study by the CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center)

In 1995, the CCBC found that out of 4,500 total books published, only 100 books written by African Americans, and 167 written about (without taking into account any probable overlap). (page 2 of article I used to write this post)

An even more troubling trend, according to Michelle Ann Abate in her book “Raising Your Kids Right”, is that:

Books for young readers reinforce racial, ethnic, and cultural hierarchies. (page 8, second paragraph)

Even when books are published for black, hispanic, asian or children of other ethnic backgrounds, the race of the child is highlighted. It is almost like a “for us, by us” stamp is attached to the literature, and the mere presence of this psychological stamp causes the very segregation that those seeking equality and integration vehemently oppose.

In chapter two (“Looking to Get Paid”) of Robin D.G. Kelly’s book “Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional!”, there is mention of children seeking to use the avenue of professional sports (specifically basketball) towards success because they feel that their options are limited (page 415, course packet). I found this passage about Brian Collier, an award winning artist/illustrator, (page 2,”The Snowy Day” article on the Christian Science Monitor) particularly relevant to this situation:

“I don’t know what it was (‘The Snowy Day’,” Collier said, “but when I saw that boy Peter, he looked like me. I was like, Wow!” Growing up as the youngest of six during the often snowy winters of Maryland, Collier said he knew exactly how Peter felt watching the ”big boys” having their snow ball fights. The Snowy Day had subconsciously planted a seed inside of him, Collier said. For 10 years that seed waited, while Collier dreamed of playing professional basketball like the great Dr. J. But one day the 15-year old hoops fan stumbled into a freshman art class, and the seed was finally ignited. “It was an impact, it was visceral. You just feel it,” he said.”Just like the feeling of that first art class, Collier said America felt a bit of a spark with the publishing of the landmark picture book. “I think it put so much greatness into the world, a sense of diversity,” he said. “It unveiled something that was always there. The jolt was that the rest of the world, the publishing world, didn’t get it. They didn’t really get it until they saw it.”

This work inspired Collier to pursue a field many would have said someone of his race would find it hard to succeed in. The seed of hope implanted in him by the simplicity and beauty of “The Snowy Day”, however, resonated in his youthful mind, and eventually propelled him to success in the illustration and art communities.

In Elizabeth Chen’s book, “Purchasing Power: Black Kids and American Consumer Culture”, there is a section called “Ethnically Correct Dolls: Toying with the Race Industry” (page 358, course packet), in which she points out that (following the inspection and subsequent refuting of claims that Shani dolls’ butts were larger than Barbie dolls’)

These ethnically correct dolls demonstrate one of the abiding aspects of racism: that a stolid belief in racial difference can shape people’s perceptions so profoundly that they will find difference and make something of it, no matter how imperceptible or irrelevant its physical manifestation might be. (page 366, course packet)

It is my belief that this “stolid belief in racial difference” is exacerbated by the fact that the Shani dolls were produced specifically for black children. I believe that if those dolls had been released under the Barbie name and not under a demeaning, racially condescending subsidiary, those differences would not have been highlighted. In sharp contrast to the release of the Shani dolls was the manner in which “The Snowy Day” was presented. Rather than target the book towards black consumers, it was written as a non-racially binded children’s book. It was a book that all children could relate and identify to, regardless of the skin color of the protagonist. That to me is an extremely progressive idea, and an appropriate step in the right direction in regards to the dismantling of racist stigmas. Through the concept of understanding, of kinship readers felt towards Peter, they could learn that black children are not so different from themselves. Basic childhood experiences- laughter, wonder, excitement- are common ground that every child shares. And common ground is a huge step towards an ideology of equality in place of segregation.

Perhaps the greatest message “The Snowy Day” has left us with was summarized by the late Deborah Pope:

“As anyone who’s ever brought home a snowball could tell you, ultimately there is no color to put on children’s experience of snow.”

Cover of "The Snowy Day", courtesy of ChristianScienceMonitor.com

Too many eyes on African-American youth?

The death of Trayvon Martin has sparked parent discussions about the black male code.

Last month Trayvon Martin, a seventeen year old African American high school student, was shot and killed in a middle-class Florida neighborhood by a self-appointed watch captain, Andrew Zimmerman, who claims that he shot the boy in self-defense.

 

The case has earned national attention from the media, celebrities, and most importantly parents of young African-American males. Unfortunately, Trayvon Martin has become the poster child for African-American males that are automatically assumed to be criminals. According to an article in the Washington Post, Parents now are establishing rules for their children, teaching them that they may be scrutinized in public based on the color of their skin. Even though people may misjudge them, parents encourage them to be on their best behavior in public and avoid situations that yield even the most remote possibility of incriminating themselves. Children can do this by choosing the clothes they wear more wisely, taking precautionary measures not to resemble gang members. Andrew Zimmerman profiled Trayvon as “up to no good” because of the black hoodie he had pulled over his head in order to shield himself from the rain. Zimmerman discovered that the young black male was not carrying an alcoholic beverage or a weapon, but rather a can of iced tea and a pack of skittles. Trips to the local grocery store may not even be safe for young African-American males anymore.

 

In the Article Hemmed In and Shut Out the author explains that children who visit grocery stores avoid domestic turmoil and gang violence in the area they live in. They presumably frequent stores with little money to buy inexpensive items like candy, drinks, and snacks for themselves if they are not running errands for their parents. When African American youth visit stores in wealthier neighborhoods they can protect themselves from dehumanization by dressing up to appear respectable and nonthreatening to others. For example, areas that are at an economic disadvantage experience a “social and political culture [where] black has come to be equated with poor”(339). Wherever young African-Americans go, it seems people keep a careful watch. In the case of Trayvon Martin, too close of a watch. It is unfair to think African-Americans are instinctively considered guilty until proven innocent when killers like Andrew Zimmerman are considered the opposite. It is crucial for parents to advise their children on how to present themselves in public and react to awkward situations.

The Tables Have Turned

In “Who is the Route 29 Batman? This guy,” Michael S. Rosenwald writes of the man two cops had a strange encounter with on Route 29. He was driving a black Lamborghini with a Batman symbol on his license plate. The man pulled over was in a complete Batman costume, the interior of the car was fully accessorized with the Batman logo. His current costume is worth $5,000 and the one he has ordered is $250,000. He is a man who made his wealth as Batman by going to hospitals and playing with sick children. His “name” is Lenny B, as in Batman, Robinson and his inspiration came from his son who was a huge Batman fan. Usually it is the children who want to emulate the parents, but obviously in this situation the tables have turned.

Lenny "Batman" Robinson visiting sick children in a hospital, dressed in his full costume. Clearly a compassionate and non-violent Batman.

 

The original superheroes have their roots in comic books. Children have a strong interest in superheroes partly because they seem to be immune to law, they save the “good guys” and beat the “bad guys.” This is one of the reasons why parents, as seen in The Ten-Cent Plague, had so much trouble allowing their children to read these comic books. Parents did not want their children to defy the law, not to mention all the violence that goes along with fighting the “bad guy.”

 

Instead, “Route 29-Batman” has turned the superhero into an entity of compassion. He supports children in their fight for cancer and other diseases in hospitals by sharing joy. He is looked up to for what he both traditionally and non-traditionally represents. Passing out toys and concealing his true identity by day, Batman lives out his son’s dreams.

Hoop Dreams Priorities

Arthur Agee carried off the court by his Marshall teammates in the film "Hoop Dreams"

Arthur Agee carried off the court by his Marshall teammates in the film "Hoop Dreams"

The 1994 documentary film “Hoop Dream” directed by Steve James portrays the story of two African American boys, William Gates and Arthur Agee, in the pursuit of their dream, becoming a professional basketball player. In the beginning, both of the boys display an amazing athletic talent while in middle school. Due to this, a scout from Westchester, Illinois recruits the teenagers to attend the prestigious school of St. Joseph High School. St. Joseph is a private school with an extremely recognizable basketball program particularly known for recruiting and developing Isiah Thomas, a NBA basketball star. To nobody’s surprise, the boys are delighted to attend the school and with their parents permission embark on their new journey.

Through the first academic year, William develops as expected. He plays as desired by the coach, maintains a great academic record, and finds the school is well-tailored to him. Arthur, however, does not achieve St. Joseph’s level of competency. His ability in the basketball court falls short from expectations. When tuition costs rise, the story takes a huge twist. Both of the boys coming from low income families cannot afford the new cost, so the school makes cut-throat decisions. First, they aide William by finding him additional scholarships, trying everything in their power to permit him to stay. Then they present Arthur with two options: pay the other half of the tuition fee or leave. Half a semester passes by and Arthur is forced to leave school losing all he had gained, not just in his basketball dream but academically as well.

As the school presented their decision to Arthur, I found it extremely ironic that the scout told Arthur how he and St. Joseph would do everything in their power to help him accomplish his dream but in the end they destroyed it. At the beginning of the film Earl Smith, the scout from St. Joseph, says that he “helps young people on their road to success.” Yet after one year and a half of a semester Arthur’s road was cut short before any sign of success is seen. The scout knew Arthur and his family were incapable of paying the tuition cost before recruiting him and every school knows that upon early termination of a semester, no credit is awarded to a student so the semester is lost, neither of the options display an indication of aide and help to fulfill a dream. Arthur was cornered to do as the school wanted, leave. He was first treated as a powerful individual with control of his future when in reality he was simply a puppet for St. Joseph to market as they pleased. Arthur’s mother said that the scout offering the basketball players the scholarship to come play with them, “don’t want them to figure out that the story is totally different. I was under the impression I was going to have help in getting him into school, … getting his books, … but yet none of that occurred.” The head basketball coach, Luther Bedford, from Marshall Metro is under the impression that St. Joseph got rid of Arthur because he was not playing as well as they wanted, if he would have, they would have made some type of arrangement for him to stay just like they did for William.

If the scout had never recruited Arthur, he would have transitioned into Marshall Metro High School, the public school he returned to upon leaving St. Joseph with no crushed dreams, no debt, and no lost semester. In the end, the scout did more harm than good to Arthur.