Pop Culture Pondering: Four Reasons Why Kids Should Play Neopets

Okay, this week’s entry might seem a little random. In fact, you may have read the title of this post and thought Amanda had finally cracked her nut. But I insist, hear me out on this one.

Neopets is the original MMORPG for virtual pets, but it is so much more. It’s a whole galaxy to explore. It’s a world of people from across the Earth chatting like they’re best friends. And, of course, it is cute pixel critters that you get to bond with. The company was started by two British folks just before the new millennium. Today, it has millions of users, many of whom have been part of the site for years. I myself began my Neopets adventure when I was just 9 years old. (I’ll be 24 in two weeks.)

And while, yes, the game is highly addictive…it also taught my younger self some great skills. Here are just a few of them, and why I think it is actually beneficial for parents to setup a Neopets account for their children.

queenfyoraHTML. I am not kidding; playing Neopets taught me HTML coding. You see, in order to customize the various pages on your account, you must do all the coding yourself. Oh sure, the site gives you many templates that you can copy and paste to create layouts. But looking at these codes, over time, enabled me to learn which ones triggered such-and-such on the Internet. I still use the foundation from this to date!

kacheekswimFinancial responsibility. Not only does the Neo-world have its own stock market system, you also learn basic money management principles. See, in order to get cool things for your pets and virtual life, you need to save up Neopoints (NP). It was here that I learned how to “haggle” prices, since you can barter with the online shopkeepers to get better deals on stuff. You’ll even open your own store for other users to visit and get a sense of how supply-and-demand works.

illusendollMotor skills. One of the ways you can earn NP is by playing an endless variety of Flash games, for free! These range from arcade-style games to brain-twisting puzzles. Now, I’m not saying that you should let your tykes spend hours trying to beat their high score. But studies have shown that limited video gaming can strengthen cognitive processing and, particularly, hand-eye coordination.

kioskwockySocialization. As I said earlier, Neo-folks have formed a bustling community. Although users cannot write on the message boards until their 13th birthday, they become an invaluable resource. The Neopets staff strictly monitors their forums to ensure that they are safe for everybody. So for someone like me who had trouble interacting in the real world…the online community became a haven. Here, I could see which social protocols worked and which did not.

(Source: Neopets)

Puccini’s Chronicles STYLE: Curated by Broadway’s Newest Leading Ladies

Patti LuPone as Helena Rubinstein

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Think red palettes, pearl accented jewelry, and fashion-forward hats with an old-fashioned flair. Your inner diva is sure to shine.

Denee Benton as Natasha

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Think femininely with gossamer dresses, faux fur stoles, and wrist-length gloves. For extra credit, pair with a Tolstoy novel or cute accordion player (whatever you prefer).

Jenn Colella as Beverley Bass

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Think navy blues, aviator shades, and tennis bracelets (just because). Channel your inner pilot with a brave outlook and grace under pressure.

Phillipa Soo as Amelie

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Think checkerboards patterns, gold jewelry, and a classic bob hairstyle. Your aura of excitement and wonder draws people to you. Duck into a photo booth for some fun!

Daily Prompt: Record

We’re halfway through March and it seems that spring should be just around the corner here in New York City. Sadly, we are expecting a foot or more of snowfall tomorrow. But you could argue that a blizzard is the perfect excuse to kick back with a mug of tea and listen to some vinyl records.

Speaking of which, today I’m going to share five of my favorite “morning songs.” These are tunes I most like to crank up when the weather is sunny and warm. For one reason or another, they’re a perfect soundtrack for the crack of dawn.

5. “Suddenly I See,” KT Tunstall: Maybe it’s because of this song’s role in the opening montage of The Devil Wears Prada, but “Suddenly I See” practically brims with inspiration and admiration. As you wake up and the sun shines through your window, it’s hard not to imagine Tunstall cheering you on as you chase your dreams in a big city.

4. “Opening Up,” Sara Bareilles: The version of this number that Bareilles performs on the What’s Inside album is sure to get you pumped for your day with its rousing drumbeat and infectious chorus. With any luck, it will put you in a good enough mood so that when a Starbucks barista pours your latte, you’ll want to say “Hello, how ya been?”

3. “Another Day of Sun,” La La Land Cast: Sure, everyone talked about what happened to this movie at the Oscars, but it’s hard to deny that its score makes for great listening. This song in particular is full of energy, with an earworm-inducing hook. You don’t have to live in Los Angeles to let “Another Day of Sun” brighten the morning.

2. “Beautiful Day,” U2: There are certain songs that I associate with specific mental images. For “Beautiful Day,” I envision driving along an empty highway in the summer, just as the sun is beginning to rise. The song’s three-note riff is instantly recognizable and the lyrics are just as life-affirming.

1. “Mr. Blue Sky,” ELO: “Today’s forecast calls for blue skies.” This Jeff Lynne-penned hit song practically had to make my list. Lynne was even inspired to write it by beautiful weather in Switzerland. With its upbeat rhythms and bright vocals, the tune has not only become a radio staple but a popular addition to several Hollywood films.

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Daily Prompt: Shine!!

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Feinstein’s/54 Below, Broadway’s Supper Club, presents Amanda DeLalla in “Alone in the Woods,” marking a 54 Below debut.

You’ve seen Sondheim’s masterpiece performed by a cast of 18 and a cast of 10…now see it attempted by a cast of one. Featuring an abridged version of the book and score, arranged by DeLalla herself, the fairytales won’t be the only stories getting told.

12% of the proceeds from this event will benefit an autism-based charity.

“As an artist with Asperger’s syndrome, I know that navigating this world- much less being creative in it- is a trip to the woods all on its own!” Along with special guests, see Into the Woods in a new light and contribute to the cause of autism acceptance. The evening will be musically directed by Cristina Dinella.

Amanda DeLalla in “Alone in the Woods” plays Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54th Street) on February 7th. There is a $25-$35 cover charge and $25 food and beverage minimum. Tickets and information are available here. Tickets on the day of performance after 4pm are only available by calling 646-476-3551.

“Shine” on, all you crazy diamonds!

From Page to Screen: “Don’t I Know What’s Right For Me?”

by Amanda DeLalla

All my life I sat around waiting

For something to begin

Brushing off trouble I found myself in

My mama kept me in her shell

Teachers at school would spurn

And now to your words I say well,

Now it’s my turn.

Don’t I know what’s right for me?

Now that I’m 23,

Shouldn’t I be someone who makes her own choices?

Listen to the voices,

The ones in my head and the ones swirling ‘round

Gotta shut them all out, gotta just hear the sound

Of the one in my heart that longs to be free

‘Cause it knows what’s right for me

Took me so long to grab the reins,

I’m not about to let go.

Knock it all away and I’m all that remains,

I must be the one who knows

What’s right for me.

Thank you but don’t you see,

That I am just smart enough to pick a good guy,

Or at least let me try!

Advice in my head and the kind swirling ‘round

Gonna shut it all out, gonna just hear the sound

Of a heart that beats on its own at long last

I’ll show you all soon, hold fast!

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Daily Prompt: Fortune

~MUSICAL THEATRE FORTUNE COOKIES~

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“She with large hair, who racially integrates television, will be blessed with good ch’i.”

“He who cuts throats for meat pies may end up with a throat cut himself.”

“Wise is the one who climbs ev’ry mountain to freedom.”

“He who gives vanilla ice cream to his beloved will find good favor in her heart.”

“Beware of the masked men who drop chandeliers from the ceiling.”

“She who greenly defies gravity, defies expectations of herself.”

“One must not fail to identify one’s father in a Greek taverna on their wedding day.”

“That which does not render us shaky as a fiddler on the roof, makes us value tradition.”

“She who glows and goes strong will always be welcomed back where she belongs.”

“That which fails to see itself with one look, may be gone by Sunset.”

“Even a flying machine can mean the difference between life and death in Saigon.”

“He who finishes the hat in seclusion shuts out his children as well as the art.”

“If one throws away their shot- ah, screw it, like we need another Hamilton reference!”

Daily Prompt: Vigor (or, Sailing Away)

This weekend, I saw the newest Disney film Moana. I thought it was very good in its own right, but one part of it in particular stuck with me.

In the first quarter of the story, our vigorous heroine sings a song called “How Far I’ll Go.” It is soon followed by a reprise containing the following lyric: “There’s a line where the sky meets the sea and it calls me. I’m on my own, to worlds unknown.” It was already an emotional scene, but for me, there was a deeper meaning.

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Midway through this year, every room of my mind was filled with you. Maybe I fell too hard, too fast. That’s certainly not unheard of in my life.

And with you, it was even worse because my heart raced from the very first time I saw you. Maybe it needs more barriers, a thicker shell. Who knows? Certainly when you left me, told me you could not love me despite your best efforts…I wish it were made of stone. Now some days what transpired doesn’t affect me at all- at other times, it bothers me a whole lot. It didn’t have to happen this way.

As I saw Moana sail away from her home, alone, to the next chapter of her life, the metaphor was not lost on me. For nearly half a year, you were like home. I felt safe there, felt cared for. But evidently, that’s not where I was meant to stay. Moana, too, was not destined to remain on the island where she was raised.

Don’t get me wrong- I made mistakes as well. But that is, if you’ll excuse the pun, water under the bridge now. Today I board my boat. Today I press onward, if alone. I’ll turn my head, briefly, and see you standing on the seashore. Even then, after all this, I’ll probably smile at you as I sail away.

“All the time wondering where I need to be is behind me…”

“The Fools Who Love”

by Amanda DeLalla

Here’s to the fools who love.
To the red-nosed reindeer,
And finger-less glove.
To the dandelions called a weed,
Who may get what they want,
But not what they need.
Here’s to the fools who desire.
For a better world, some inner peace,
And more hearts afire.
Those who just want to know what’s true.
I don’t think they’re stupid to try;
Do you?
Here’s to the fools who dream.
Who believe that goodness
Is more alive than it seems.
The ones who trust in some greater plan,
Those who leave a legacy
Because they believe they can.
We reach and cry but will still be kind,
From oceans below to skies above.
All in a quest to simply find
Another one of the fools who loves.

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