Trending on Netflix

This article is about the first episode of the #1 trending show on Netflix called The Squid Game. Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the show, go ahead and skip this article. I don’t want to ruin it for you. It’s a pretty good show.

I wanted to write about the red light/green light game in the show. This is a game many of us have played as children. Perhaps it was part of our pre-conditioning to the game of life itself. In the show, the premise of the game is simple. When the rule maker calls green light you run towards a finish line. When the rule maker says red light you must freeze. If you move during the red light period you will lose. In the Squid Game episode, you don’t only lose but are “eliminated.”

There is a timer. You got 5 minutes to make it to the finish line and win. If you don’t, you also lose or are “eliminated.”

Red light/green light is the game of adult life. It is also the game scenario of any major battle in war. There are many important things you can learn from watching The Squid Game red light/green light game and I encourage you to think about it carefully.

Imagine The Squid Game red light/green light game was put in a different story. Imagine the American Civil War and the game players are required to make it across a field to the “finish line” or past the enemy. Imagine Union soldiers in uniform in battle. The red light/green light game is the story of what can happen in that battle and the quick assessments and decisions that must be made. Remember, the field of victory is won by the man of action. The field of defeat or failure is given to the man of inaction or the coward who retreats. I’ll talk about this later. There are really only three groups of people on the playing field: men or women of action, men or women of inaction (those who are frozen), and men and women of retreat (those who succumb to panic and fear). In life, it is really just the doers, the dreamers, and the cowards.

If you are young and you are reading this, which one will you choose to be? I’ll explain more in a moment.

Ok, so studying the red light/green light game carefully from the beginning, we see that the players are conditioned with fear, panic, anxiety a little before the actual game starts. They are put in a strange new environment together. They are assigned numbers and taught a few things ahead of time. They are given some time to interact together which makes them collectively question things. Right away, we see who the super villain is of the group and we see the one who is being bullied by the super villain. This will come into play later.

The contestants are run through a strange new environment that appears to consist of standing in long lines and going up levels and having to take photos to be identified. Right away, we also meet the cocky sure-fire and comedic fools who will attempt to lead right off the bat in the red light/green light game and fail completely while the others watch. Their “elimination” will drive a pivotal moment in the game when the players all realize the true stakes of the game and must decide to either freeze, progress forward, or run back to the starting line.

I would argue that this red light/green light game is like the game of adult life. Instead of 5 minutes, you are given 5 decades to get to the finish line of winning, or retirement. You must progress through the green light moments and be cautious and smart and stop during the red light moments. You must not get caught. You must not get disabled. You must not run back to the starting line of returning back home to parents after failure or returning too much to school for degree after degree or professional studentship after failure in employment or returning back to your hometown in the face of shame……etc. etc. you get the point. You only got five decades. You need to be progressing through each decade steadily like a turtle….not like the fools out front or like the hare in the Aesop Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Stay in the middle. Don’t be at the front. Don’t be at the end.

It’s a little bit like that other game from our childhood, that board game called Chutes and Ladders. In Chutes and Ladders, you got 100 spaces to move up to the end. You spin the wheel. Some spaces you land on will have small ladders. Sometimes you hit the jackpot and get on a tall ladder all the way to the top. But there are also slides or chutes. Some of the slides just go down a few levels. There is one terrible dreadful slide that goes all the way down to the beginning. It is super frustrating……but you can still win the game if a lot of luck is on your side and you are smart and take very good calculated risks.

So back to red light/green light….you should be making slow and steady progress like the turtle throughout the decades but there are some players who freeze in inaction early on or later throughout the game, perhaps they can’t make up their mind about life goals or perhaps when they see a loved one down on the ground either eliminated or almost eliminated. Those people can still win the game but it is much much harder for them and they need lots of luck, brains, and moxy. They gotta take big risks.

Ok so what are the other very important things we learn about the Squid Game red light/green light game as it correlates to the game of adult life. We learn that the pre-game of being in a strange new environment, standing endlessly in lines, going up levels and such…..it’s very similar to childhood or schooling. It also, whether intentional or not, serves to place panic, anxiety, and even dread in the players.

The word “panic” itself comes from the mythological creature Pan. He was said to play strange music. Panic originates from ancient times when during battles between two opposing forces, one or the other or both sides would announce their presence far before being seen on the battlefield through the use of sound or music. Imagine being a Roman soldier encountering the Barbarians of the Germanic tribes and over the crest of the opposite hill while you stand in file for war, you hear the loud beating of ominous drums. These drums are intended to scare you or make you panic long before you actually see the faces of the soldiers on the opposing side. The Barbarians would use other similar tactics to instill fear…..such as war paint or carrying creepy totems or human skulls on stakes, or carrying terrible weapons with spikes and chains and stuff.

The whole point of panic is to get half the players retreating and giving up before the action even starts and then there’s a good portion of the players that are just frozen in terror between retreating or pressing forward.

Ok, so we’ve already established that there is a pre-game that intentionally or not will get you scared and adrenaline coursing through your body ahead of time. We’ve established that on the field of play, the greatest problem you face is fear, panic, or anxiety. We’ve talked about how bad retreating is or moving away to get a fresh start in the fight or flight response or perhaps giving up on a goal and heading back to your hometown. We’ve talked about the importance of slow, steady progress that is smart. We talked about the fools out front of the pack who only serve as lessons to the rest of us of what not to do and drive the pivotal moment of intense fear or dread when they fail or are eliminated horribly. And lastly, we learn that prisoner 456 freezes in inaction for a large portion of the 5 minutes on the timer but he resumes moving forward. We learn that he can still win and cross the finish line but he needs a lot of luck, smarts, and to take risks.

But what are the really smart and strategic things we learn from watching The Squid Game red light/green light game?

We learn that family, friends, neighbors…..community or rather other people who feel devotion to us……this is very important. Remember that prisoner 456 is the older brother to the younger man in the game who convinces prisoner 456 to stop freezing and start moving forward or he will be eliminated by not crossing the line in the 5 minutes deadline. The younger brother who feels a devotion to the older brother because the older brother helped him go to college and helped raise him, returns the favor by taking a calculated risk to hide behind another player and tell prisoner 456 two important things. First, he tells him to move or he will lose or die. Second, he tells him to survive, prisoner 456 should hide behind the body of another player as he progresses forward. This is very smart.

What does this mean in the real world game of adult life?

Don’t be the fool at the front nor the sloth at the back. Hustle. Find a mentor. Find someone to get behind that can help you progress forward. Keep moving behind them as long as you can whether it’s a parent or boss or supervisor or teacher or coach. Also, stay to the middle. Be smart. Move fast on a green light. Watch for red lights and be prepared to stop long before the red light is called. Red lights in the game of adult life can be jail, bad jobs, divorces, etc. There are many avoidant behavior paths too that inactive people or retreating people engage in that can make things way worse like substance abuse or procrastination activities.

So prisoner 456 starts moving forward but he is hindered by someone that is shot and on the ground pleading for help. Also later in the game, prisoner 456 himself trips and almost falls but is saved by prisoner 199 who takes a calculated risk to be altruistic and save his life. For this, prisoner 456 will owe prisoner 199 a favor.

Calculated risks of altruism are good in the game because they can help us later when others pay back favors to us. But too much risk for a person that is really in trouble can lead to our detriment or demise even. In the red light/green light game, prisoner 456 determines the first time to ignore the bleeding man on the ground. He is already too far gone. He can’t be helped. Whether in war or life, you have to triage and do a quick assessment of who you can help and who is too far gone. Be altruistic. Develop good karma that can be repaid. But sometimes it is necessary to cut losses. I know that is harsh to say, but this viewpoint is from the perspective of winning the game. There are so many people in life that stop to help a loved one and just self-sacrifice knowing they are going down with the ship and that is their conscious choice. Eventually, they will lose the game.

In the Squid Game red light/green light game, there is a super villain and his bullied victim. As the game starts the bullied victim realizes how she can even sabotage or destroy the super villain but doing so will expose herself to potential elimination. She can easily move the super villain and she lets him know that. In life we can sabotage or out bad guys but it is important to realize that we should not lose ourselves in the process and get ourselves in trouble or develop bad karma as a result as well.

Now the most interesting player in the game is player 1. At the start of the game, it is established that he has a brain tumor and not much odds of living long. He has early trauma at the start of the game. Also, his will to win is stronger because he has less to lose and sorta a cavalier stance towards life. He probably thinks to himself, well it can’t get much worse. He leads the others in the game moving forward and he is cunning and steady. He also has almost a smile or half-crazed look about him that is sorta creepy.

What does this teach us about the game of adult life?

The best players are the ones that experienced early trauma in the game and feel like they have less to lose cause heck, it couldn’t get much worse, and their will to win or determination is very strong with almost a crazy tenacity. You will see these type of folks leading the pack in life. They went through bad, bad stuff early on. They learned a lot about life. They had to go through it to get to it ….so to speak and they have very strong drive and discipline. These are the people that grew up in terrible poverty or fought back from horrible illness or accidents or disability, etc. etc.

So morale of the story? Don’t pamper your kids. You may say to yourself, you are giving them a break and you are being kind to them. You are sheltering them from hardship. No, you’re not. You are making it way worse for them as adults when that pivotal fight or flight moment sets in and they might turn around and flee or freeze in inaction. Teach them early. Teach them while their young. Maybe you’ll give them a fighting chance. I don’t really recommend private schools and such cause they just pamper and protect kids. Put them in public school if you have too. I think Kevin Hart says it best in his new comedy show that private schools turn out soft, scared adults. To quote him directly, “private schools breed bi*****.” And well, he’s sorta right.

I think that covers everything I learned from watching the first episode of The Squid Game red light/green light game. It’s pretty fascinating psychology actually. Oh, and I guess one last point is that whatever actions you make, you will be observed by others. So make sure you make the right decisions…it may come back to help you or hinder you in the future.

So, if you’re young, please watch this part of the show and think about this admittedly long-winded review on the psychology of it. These tips can help you later in life whether you are a soldier on the battlefield or a worker at the office, etc. etc. Remember,

  1. Keep moving forward.
  2. Work steadily towards one goal….the finish line.
  3. Don’t be the first to lead the fray.
  4. Don’t be the last to follow.
  5. Find a mentor or guide to follow.
  6. Slow and steady wins the race like the turtle.
  7. Don’t forget you are on a deadline.
  8. You can freeze momentarily but don’t give up or retreat. He who hesitates is lost.
  9. Stop before the red lights. Be smart. Anticipate the moves of the rule makers.
  10. The only thing you really have to fear is fear itself. Panic, anxiety will ruin you. Stay calm when all hell breaks loose.
  11. You can start over later in life but you better have a lot of grit, good luck, and brains to cross the finish line.
  12. Don’t let the pre-game get to you and psych you out.
  13. Don’t be pampered in your youth and don’t pamper your own kids.
  14. Be altruistric but also triage who you can help and who you cannot.
  15. Stay away from avoidant things like alcohol, drugs, too much social media, video games.
  16. Those people you help in life will one day return the favor. Support your friends, family, neighbors when you can.
  17. If you face trauma, use it as fuel to move forward not as an excuse to be disabled.
  18. Victory comes to the men and women of action. Failure/defeat lies for the men and women of permanent inaction or permanent retreat.

Good luck and I hope you catch a lot of green lights in the game of life.

The Locket

By J. Speer

Photo by Bruno Castelli on Pexels.com

(This story was written for a dystopian writing challenge. The short story had to be 600 to 2,000 words and involve a silver heart locket.)

Part One


It wasn’t supposed to happen like this…


That was the last thought entering Dawn’s mind as her shocked eyes pulled away from the rearview mirror. In the reflection, she could see the slow pool of blood flowing out from her sister’s abdomen. Liz was crumpled in an unmoving heap on the ground 15 yards behind her. That was as far as Liz had gotten before the robots fired lasers at her fleeing the vehicle.


LIz was dead for certain. Dawn knew this already in her shattered heart. The shadows of drones flew overhead targeting her renegade F390 truck.


Her eyes darted to the glove compartment briefly and then drew back to the gathering robot border patrol guards. Dawn thought of the only weapon she had, an ancient Colt 1911 that had belonged to her father before he was euthanized by the People’s Republic in 2064. This was 17 years prior to this moment….her Dad euthanized at 50 to fertilize soil for the republic crops……euthanized by state mandate like all the other 50 year olds that surrendered their bodies for the greater good. State survival…it was necessary.


The laser sights flickered briefly to show the robots were on to her movements, armed and deadly. Dawn swallowed harshly.


A brief text appeared before her.


“You know what to do.” scrolled the incoming message left to right above her briefly on the digital windshield.
There was another pause as she considered the weight of the silver heart locket on her heaving chest.


“You know what to do.” the message repeated only this time it was followed by a slight command strong enough to stop her beating heart.


“Remember your family back here in Teyhanna.”


A solitary tear fell down Dawn’s right cheek as she continued to stare at the border crossing now filled with reinforcing robotic sentries. No more messages appeared.


Dawn reached quickly for the heart-shaped locket with her left hand. The laser lights flickered again. Four robots forcefully came forward.


“Halt!” They ordered. “You are in violation of ordinance 517.”


She thumbed open the tiny clasp on the locket. Her eyes were glued to the robots coming forward now, fast approaching the vehicle.


She felt the small pill fall into her cupped hand. She remembered what the cartel man had told her. You can’t allow yourself to be captured. If you do fall into their hands, you will wish you were dead anyway. They’ll never let you go. Slavery…prison….fertilizer….worse. You know what to do.


The robots slammed their fists into the hood of her car. Dawn closed her eyes and brought the little pill to her mouth. Then, she swallowed it down. Cyanide. He had said it was cyanide. It will be quick he had said as he had handed her the lockets and walked away from her little brother’s graveside in Teyhanna, the brother that was executed by the same cartel. He had gotten in over his head with the wrong sort of people.


Minutes later, robots yanked open the locked driver side door of the truck. Dawn’s limp, lifeless body fell in a crumpled up heap onto the dry, parched desert ground. When her head hit the ground, her soulless eyes stared towards her sister. A sort-of bluish foam pooled out from Dawn’s breathless lips.

Part Two


One week prior, Dawn was heading out the hatch door of her apartment flat in Drose. She was going to be late for work if she didn’t hurry. She activated her truck from her watch and noticed an emergency alert intercept from her older sister, Liz. Liz – the wise and strategic one who had married into wealth and fortune despite her upbringing…..despite the days of their youth trudging illegally across the desert wasteland between Drose and Teyhanna to reach the promised land. Days without food and barely any water…..days they survived by each holding tight to the hands of their father who kept the little girls safe, alive, and kept them going.


Drose, or rather The People’s Republic of Drose established in 2036 after the nuclear wars and eventual climate change desertification of 3/4 of the Earth’s top soil, depletion of the fresh water sources, and final death, destruction, plague, and general famine of the Great Eradication of 2041 through 2043. It took 3 years for nearly 7 billion people to be wiped off the planet.


Gone.


Drose had survived and so had the badlands of Teyhanna, south of Drose through the searing hot desert. Anything goes in Teyhanna…so they say. It was the wild, wild west of drugs, prostitution, murder, mayhem, black market deals and so on. Teyhanna fueled the abundance of Drose. Drose, for its part, drove the decisions of the overlords of Teyhanna.


Drose, The People’s Republic of Drose, on the otherhand was a model of thinly veiled democracy underlined by totalitarian extremism. There were no families, so to speak, in Drose….not according to the state. Bioparents birthed children who were sent immediately to boarding schools of advanced technology, science, and medicine. Rules were strictly enforced. Slavery and debtor prisons were re-introduced. From the age of 10, all were expected to work together for the greater good of survival and all were expected to help the crop cultivation and soil/water conservation through all means necessary…ALL means necessary.


It was a harsh reality but one much better than life in Teyhanna. Dawn knew this, so she grew up to service the plant industry cultivating seeds in labwork. She was a hard worker…like her father. LIz, on the other hand, due to beauty and charm…caught the attention of one of the higher class. She was not completely like Dawn, a proletariat citizen.
Dawn checked the message. Liz seemed upset which was rarely her outright nature, given that she was quite guarded emotionally.


“John has……I’m sorry to say this, Dawn……John has passed away.” There was a pause on the line. “Mom…she wants us to come home, to come back to Teyhanna for the funeral and to see the family. The funeral is Wednesday.” Another pause on the line followed.


“He was executed by gunshot. Bullet to the head. I’ve decided to go….to go back. I know it’s dangerous. I know this already. I’m going anyways. It’s been years. We need to be there for Mom and the others.”
Liz sighed. “Dawn, I want you to come with me. I need you to come with me.”

Part Three


She could see them from the graveside, the men in black. Everyone was dressed in black at the funeral but they stood out from the rest, these men that had murdered her brother. They had pulled up their entourage of vehicles 100 yards away from the little service among the crowded tombstones of the clustered graveyard. The preacher gave a brief sermon. Others cried tears of hardship and loss feeling the injustice of a life taken violently and too soon.
But Dawn watched the men quietly.


They eventually approached. They offered their condolences to the grieving mother and family. Dawn and Liz looked cautiously at each other as the leader of the group motioned them to follow him to a more distant spot to converse. Knowing this was Teyhanna, knowing the way of life here…..they reluctantly followed. The others from the family were leaving group by group back to their little homes and little lives in the barren, crowded wasteland slums of Teyhanna.
“My condolences to you for the loss of your brother,” he offered in feigned respect. “We had concerns regarding this situation…your brother’s allegiance and fealty to our….operations.”


Dawn felt a rising anger inside herself that she knew not to expose. Without missing a step, the two women fell in line with the overlord’s assistant. He walked a ways in silence and then turned abruptly.


“Our needs have not been met yet,” he said deliberately, cocking his head to one side. “When you return to Drose, you will be required to carry something onward for us….a gift for the magistrate….a package. Do you understand?”
The women said nothing.


“Consider your brother’s debt to the organization cleared when and if you cross the border successfully,” he stated.
He continued to walk and they followed.


“This package will come to you,” he said in a low voice as he motioned to one of his bodyguards holding an assault rifle near the vehicles.


Then he smiled. “You will deliver. Your family here will be counting on you. Understood?”


“It’s simple really. Just deliver the item. If however, you face….opposition…,” his voice trailed. “We will need you to wear these.” He gave the women each a silver plated locket. “There will be no compromising of the course of action. Come, follow me further and we will discuss in more detail.” He motioned once again to his men.


Liz and Dawn continued to listen quite carefully as was to be expected in a violent, notoriously black market place like Teyhanna. A few days later, the package arrived at their mother’s house. Shortly afterwards, the two said their goodbyes and made their way with the package to the border of Drose. Both women had a deeply unsettling feeling of fear but they did exactly as they were told.


They just didn’t anticipate what would soon occur. The package was hidden carefully in the truck undercarriage. But it was not secret enough to avoid exposure to the vehicle imaging scans of those silent, deadly drones overhead.

Coincidence

In his book, Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey talks about love. He compares it to archery. He says, “The arrow doesn’t seek the target. The target draws the arrow.” He was probably talking about romantic love.

Many of us spend much of our lives chasing romantic love like Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner. It evades us when we force it. But if we go with the flow enjoying life and the present moment, if we stop to “smell the roses” so to speak….that love will come sit down right beside us and we don’t even have to try…much like the Roadrunner going “beep beep” to get Wiley’s attention.

Bottomline, as I get older I don’t chase love as much. For one, my knees are bad. Chasing is exhausting and makes you want to drop an anvil on someone’s head with frustration when you fail. For another reason, there’s no point in it. Policing a man or woman gets you nowhere. Love will come to us when love is ready.

Beep, beep….

But tonight, I talk of a different kind of love…the love from pets. There have been only a few times in my life that I have been drawn to something or someone like a strong magnet. One of those times is the day I first encountered my second dog.

When I saw him, I knew in my heart I wanted that dog. I didn’t go to Petsmart to get a dog. That was the last thing on my mind. I was there to get fish food. I had brought my son and one of his friend’s along to the downtown shopping district. We were just enjoying the day.

Do you believe in random occurrences or are our steps ordered in some way as if predestined? Why do I say such gibberish? I will tell you why in a moment.

This is my second dog. I took him home from the pet store that day as a spur of the moment decision. I said I’d take him the moment the volunteer said his name.

Slushy.

Such an odd name for a reddish brown border collie like this:

Slushy was his name.

Why would that name make me instantly buy him?

This picture right here:

A 1982 Slushy doll on sale.

In 1982, my grandma bought me an Avon toy called Slushy the dog. I carried Slushy everywhere. I slept beside Slushy. I ate beside Slushy. Slushy never left my side….for years. He was my favorite toy comparable to a favorite blanket. I loved Slushy with all my little girl heart.

Slushy.

How is it possible that years later I would encounter the real life look-alike to my favorite childhood toy friend? Coincidence? Random fate? Or something more…

Today, I type this by the fireplace as Slushy sits beside me napping. The fire is warm and toasty. He is resting. His eyes are closed but I know if I shift just a little, he will open them to peer at me curiously….my toy brought to life in later years, just when I would need him most. I would need his friendship once again.

I sleep beside Slushy curled up near me sometimes. I eat beside Slushy. Once again, we are inseparable. And we will probably be inseparable to the end of the road for one of us, whomever that might be.

If You Love Poetry…

If you love poetry…

I’ve found a great place to submit your work! It is a little newspaper called The Webb City Sentinel located in southwest Missouri in the Joplin area. The submission process is simple and free. If your work is approved by the poetry editor, it will be shown on the online portion of The Webb City Sentinel. Here is the announcement on their site. I love this. I love what they wrote:

“I’m a great believer in poetry out of the classroom, in public places, on subways, trains, on cocktail napkins. I’d rather have my poems on the subway than around the seminar table at an MFA program.”

Billy Collins, 2001-2003 United States Poet Laureate   

We want your poetry. We want poetry from your children and your grandparents.We want poetry from seasoned poetry veterans and those just putting ink to paper (or, finger to keyboard).

We want to feature them here in Webb City’s “newspaper.”  Then, we want you to print them out and slap them on your refrigerator, carry them in your pocket, give them to someone special.  We want your poetry on the school bus to Mark Twain and Eugene Field, while you’re waiting in line at Crazy Llama and the Sub Shop, and while you’re walking around King Jack and the Frisco Greenway Trail. 

We can’t wait to see what you’ve got.

Here is the link to the submission board:

I was super fortunate to be listed on their site recently. Here is the poem I submitted:

Little Pawn

by Janea Speer

My whole life, I admired the King and Queen.
Serene, graceful, and applauded.
Powerful and strong….aggressive.

Yet hiding behind the defenses of the lesser pieces.
As I became older, I pondered the knight or the bishop,
how they could think outside the box and level the playing field.

But, in my older years, I admire the pawn.
The one to first enter the fray with honest courage.
Who risks much although so little…..
One by one, swiped from the board unceremoniously and yet…
Relentless, undeterred, defiant against odds so stacked heavily against.

Yes, some days even the little pawn sees glory
when faced with such intimidating adversaries.

With this blog, I also wanted to do a shout-out to the poetry editor there. I met him in Fall 2019 at the Joplin Writers’ Fair at the Joplin Public Library. There were many great local authors there showing their books. He was at a table across from mine and was nice and friendly. We talked about publishing books and Ray Bradbury and joining writing clubs. It was fantastic to meet someone with an avid interest in reading and writing and helping other authors. He recently published a new work to help authors too.

His name is F.C. Schultz and here are a few links to some of his books. Type in his name on Amazon and you will find, on his author page, a large group of books he has written or co-written.

My daughter read the book titled The Rose Weapon and she did think it was quite good. It is a Viking story about fire-breathing dragons. There is a sequel to this book as well called When Embers End.

Answers to the Harry Potter Word Scramble

Here are the answers to the previous post:

GINNY

HOGWARTS

LORD VOLDEMORT

CHARM

QUIDDITCH

BASILISK

AZKABAN

MINISTRY OF MAGIC

OWL

DEATHLY HALLOWS

RON WEASLEY

WIZARD

ROWLING

HERMIONE GRANGER

DRACO MALFOY

DUDLEY DURSLEY

DUMBLEDORE

BUTTER BEER

DEMENTOR