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How to Tell a Story

Learn how to tell a story because stories matter

You’ve been sitting at home for three or more weeks now waiting for this whole coronavirus thing to blow over, and it isn’t going away. You’ve played all the video games, read all the books, binged all the videos and shows until your eyes bled. If you’re with family, you’ve descended on each other’s last nerve and are, hopefully, learning how to live together through it. If you’re by yourself, you started talking to inanimate objects, and like Alice in Wonderland (affiliate link), they’ve started talking back. The chess pieces are telling you where to go, and you’re not sure you like the implications. But before you and your loved ones/ co-habitators fall apart, it’s time to dig a little deeper into your ability to as a human being and learn how to tell a story.

There are already some amazing things being done out there. People are recreating their favorite Disney rides. They are racing marbles and putting rubber balls through elaborate contraptions. There are people singing and dancing in the streets, or near them, properly social distanced from one another. Maybe you’ve done all those things, and you’re ready for something new. However, being stuck at home with only the supplies you have may make finding something new hard to do. Fear not! You have all the tools you need to do something memorable for the next 1001 nights.

Storytime! With You!

(Editor’s note: Contains affiliate links) Stories are magical. They transport you and whoever’s listening to another world, and they are in your DNA. Since the dawn of man, people have been telling stories. 15,000-year-old cave paintings at Lascaux tell stories. Aesop had his fables. Scheherazade saved her life 1001 times through storytelling. The Decameron is about young people telling stories during the plague in the 1300s. Walt Disney built an empire through telling stories. Mr. Rogers told stories. LeVar Burton still tells stories. You have seen enough TV shows and movies, read enough books, even if they were from the children’s section of the store or library, and heard enough fairy tales to tell your own stories. More importantly, you have all the tools you need to tell a story: your imagination and your voice (unless you sold your voice to a sea witch for legs). You can add pen and paper if you want, but they aren’t necessary. You can record them, too.

I Don’t Have an Imagination

During this crisis, have you thought about the worst things that could happen? That’s your imagination working. Have you thought about what it’ll be like without work? What life will be like if we still have to social distance six months from now? What the first thing you will do when the quarantine and self-isolations are over? That all takes imagination, and they are stories that you’re telling yourself. If you think about the future at all, you have an imagination. It’s time to use that imagination for something good rather than for the bad things it’s helped you to conjure.

Don’t Have an Audience? Yes, You Do!

As long as the electricity and the Internet are still around, you have a potential audience. Record your story for YouTube or write it for your blog. Think of your nieces and nephews, your children, or other people who are dear to you and tell the story for them. Then post it and send a link. If the Internet goes out, you may need to get creative for your audience. Use stuffed animals, action figures, or photos of friends and family. Gather them around you and tell them the story. You can even tell stories to your pets.

But How Do You Tell a Story

First, you need an idea. Rod Serling says that ideas come from everywhere. You can use anything to start your story. Pick anything in your house and start with it as your story’s main character. The Brave Little Toaster is an appliance. Buzz and Woody are toys. Think back to a story your grandparents or parents told you. Retell a movie that you love.

If you need a structure, you can use the Hero’s Journey made famous by Joseph Campbell and used in “Star Wars” among other films. An oversimplification of this would be: An everyday person stuck somewhere gets dragged into something. He or she doesn’t want to be a hero. Overcomes one obstacle. Faces a larger obstacle. Overcomes that, too. The circle goes around until the final outcome. Robert Jordan’s Rand al-Thor, Mat Cauthon and Perrin Aybara start in a tiny village as boys. Bilbo and Frodo are hobbits. Luke Skywalker is on his uncle’s farm at the beginning of his tale. The Hardy Boys are capable detectives, but they aren’t taken seriously because they are teenagers.

Collaborate with Others

You don’t have to tell a story by yourself. Recruit your family members to add to the story. Find someone online to write with. Stories are better with others, sharing them will empower you even more greatly to tell better stories later.

Still need help? Try this starting point:

The teapot on the stove whistled out that the water was boiling. Steam poured from the spout and into the air with the sound. It was time to have breakfast, but no one was sure what there was to eat…

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The Moral Dilemma of Employees at Non-Essential Businesses

Old people are more valuable than politicians

There are some people who are still going to work because they are essential. Doctors, nurses, fire fighters, police officers, grocery store workers, postal workers, the people who keep the Internet running are a few of those people. We salute them for being on the frontlines. Everyone of them deserves a pay raise for being at risk of catching coronavirus. Here’s hoping they have adequate medical coverage. By staying at home and not going any place you don’t have to go, you’re honoring the sacrifice and the risk these workers are taking to keep your community functioning and in touch with the rest of the world.

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Keeping Your Humanity while Keeping Your Distance

Stay the F--k at Home

Infants who do not receive enough touch can die due to a condition known as “failure to thrive.” Skin-to-skin contact is important for both infants and mothers. It reduces stress and increases emotional connection according to “Scientific American.” As we grow up, we don’t stop needing that contact; we can just get by with less, even if it means going without it for years.

Banishment and Solitary Confinement

In the Middle Ages, banishment was a form of punishment akin to death. The person who was banished at that time lost all of his or her support network. The banished became a person non grata in his or her own community and had to find another place to live. Often, the new person would not be accepted in a different society. They could die from exposure to the elements if they didn’t find a place to live, hunger if they couldn’t find food, or dysentery and other disease if they found the wrong food or water source. A person who was taken out of society was at a great risk of physical death after experiencing identity death.

Someone who is in jail can be subjected to a worse punishment. Solitary confinement is used to separate prisoners who misbehave for the safety of the other inmates. Sitting all day alone gives these prisoners an opportunity to think about what they’ve done. On a much lesser scale, children face this type of punishment when they are sent to their rooms or put in the corner. The punishment keeps them from interacting and touching others.

Isolation in Fiction

Several fiction stories have explored long-term isolation and its effects. The Twilight Zone’s first episode was about a man who couldn’t find anyone in the town he walked to. “Where Is Everybody?” was the series start that explore isolation on different levels. “The Lonely,” another Twilight Zone episode, features a convict on asteroid. His only contact comes from the supply ship that arrives every six months. A more modern take on isolation is Tom Hank’s “Cast Away” (affiliate link) wherein Hank’s character befriends a volleyball. In literature, “Robinson Crusoe” (affiliate link) deals with a shipwreck and what happens to the man involved. People aren’t meant to live alone, even those who profess to not like people – maybe them the most. Think of Scrooge (affiliate link) who isolated himself for the love of money until he was visited by ghosts.

Cultural Human Touch

In many cultures, human touch is an important part of interacting. Handshakes, cheek-kissing, a pack on the mouth, and holding hands are all ways to establish a familial or platonic connection depending on where you are and what the cultural norm is. Not being able to connect with people in this very personal way can keep others off their game and lead to depression.

Other Ways to Connect

Fortunately, there are other ways you can connect while staying at least six feet or farther apart. The current self-isolation and quarantine doesn’t mean you have to avoid human contact altogether – just physical contact. With the Internet available, you can still connect to your friends and family. Facetime, Facebook chat, and Skype are all ways to connect to the people you know and love. You even get video!

You can also use your phone to call them. Or if you want less interactivity, you could try YouTube or Facebook live. You don’t have to be alone with your thoughts. You just shouldn’t be in the same place as someone else. Virtual conversations can cover that. Even better, if you’re one of the people who is just supposed to stay home, you have the time to make those important connections again.

How to Survive

Astronaut Chris Hadfield has four steps to thriving in self-isolation. The first step is to understand the risks. Don’t let fear rule you. Find the facts and learn your risk factor. The next steps are knowing your mission and obligations. Then you can take action and do something about it.

One Person Doing It Right

Paul Draper, a public speaker, magician, mentalist, and anthropologist was at Disneyland waiting to do a show when he heard the park was closing and he was out of a job. As a public speaker, he’s lost several gigs, and instead of focusing on what happened to him, he focused on what he could do to make his situation better. He started a community on Patreon where he shares his stories and secrets. The biggest secret is that he isn’t just helping himself. He’s helping others through his thoughtful posts and comments. He is still accomplishing his goals, he’s just harnessing the Internet to do it.

The Next Steps

In essence, touch helps us feel real. We need someone else to validate who we are and who we think we are. We need to know we are loved. Words are inadequate to the job, especially in cultures where saying “I love you” is taboo or restricted enough to be taboo. However, you don’t have to let self-isolation take your humanity. Sure, you may feel like touch is the exact thing you need to feel real, but being human is so much more.

Storytelling for Your Soul

One good way to connect is through storytelling. People have been telling stories long before they could write. Fairy tales, fables, and many religions are made up from oral stories passed from generation to generation until they could be written down. Storytelling is your birthright as a human being and now, you have more options to tell your story than ever before.

Write a novel.  Write a short story. Tell the story on video and then release it on YouTube, Facebook, or your favorite social media. Some people are using MadLibs to pass the time. Start your own. There are even communities of writers that have writing prompts. If you’ve always wanted to be a writer, the only qualification is you need to write.

Storytelling isn’t just about telling your story. It’s also about listening to the stories of others. It’s the give and take. The act of sharing between two people that makes storytelling so powerful. You don’t have to search far for stories. There are plenty of movies and books with fandoms that you can connect to. However, talking to the older members of your family and asking them for their history will increase your appreciation of them and create memories that will last a lifetime. Now is the time to call grandma and grandpa and ask them how they are doing, and if they’re up for it, what they remember best about their lives.

Play Some Music

You’ve seen the videos of Italians connecting to each other through music from their balconies. Police officers in Mallorca are performing concerts while enforcing the lock down in Spain. Celebrities came together while remaining apart to perform “Imagine.” The Doobie Brothers knew what they were singing about when they said “Listen to the Music.”

But you don’t have to just listen. You can perform, too. Maybe you don’t play an instrument, but if you have one at home, you can learn. All you really need is your voice. Check out Cameron Diaz (below) singing in a scene from “My Best Friend’s Wedding” or Tiffany Haddish in Netflix’s “Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.” Neither one of them is on-key, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is giving yourself the voice and allowing your lungs, vocal cords, and mouth to work together to sing out your feelings – whatever they are.

Back to Normal

We can’t know when it will be safe to touch each other again. As long as people break the rules and continue to party, get together for church services, congregate in parks because “I do what I want” or whatever their excuses are for coming together, we will continue to face the consequences of our physical interactions. Those of us who are doing our part will face the continued consequences of those who are being irresponsible and exposing all of us to greater risk. But that’s okay because in the end, we will understand that our humanity comes from our compassion, our creativity, our storytelling, and our music. Create something new today, and the world will be better for it tomorrow.

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Selfish Greed, False Sacrifice Lead to Covid-19 Cannibalism

Old people are more valuable than politicians

If you’ve followed the events of the past few days, it might seem like Americans have been turned into nothing more than the way to run capitalism. Rather than science-based data, the push to get back to work is coming from on high because of the fear that the economy grinding to a halt will destroy the stock market. Several people have floated the idea that if some old people have to die to keep capitalism running for the young, then so be it. They would be happy to.

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The America I Love Doesn’t Discard You Because You Aren’t Economically Viable

Old people are more valuable than politicians

So, he said my grandma (over 90) and my mom (a grandmother and retiring at the age of 67 in June) would be willing to sacrifice themselves, so that we, their children, grandchildren (and great grandchildren), can have the America that all America loves. My grandma and mother didn’t work all their lives so they could be thrown out by the politicians. They worked hard with an expectation that they would be able to retire and enjoy their golden years.

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Stay the F—K at Home (Go the F—k to Sleep parody)

Stay the F--k at Home

The malls are closed; the stores are shuttered.
There’s no place for you to roam.
Disneyland is empty and quiet.
Please stay the fuck at home.

The movie theaters are dark.
Movie companies aren’t releasing any more.
You can watch all the movies on the Internet,
and stay the fuck indoors.

You need to get some sunlight, and the backyard’s just too small?
You can go on a little trip. Let me be your guide:
Around your fence and down the middle
Or stay the fuck inside.

You need to get some groceries?
Get it through your thick dome,
You’ve got enough food and toilet paper. Stop lying.
Don’t go outside; stay the fuck at home.

You need to get some exercise?
You never cared before.
Put on a yoga video,
And stay the fuck indoors.

You’re not scared of a virus?
There’s no need to run and hide?
If not for you, then for your family;
Stay the fuck inside.

You’re bored and lonely and tired?
Just follow the instructions of this poem.
Read books, use Facetime, take a nap,
But for real: stay the fuck at home.

You’ve been cooped up for 24 hours,
And you just can’t take it anymore?
You’ve played video games for three days straight
Jesus Christ, what the fuck? Stay indoors.

You decided to go out and hang with friends
So what if old people will have died?
Make the right choice for your grandparents now,
And stay the fuck inside.

There’s nothing new out there.
Everything’s shut from St. Petersburg to Nome.
Some wonderful places to drive to,
You know where you can fucking go? No, stay home.

This room is all you can remember.
You’ve never been out you swore.
That’s okay. You’ve got this.
Don’t give up and stay the fuck indoors.

The nation is counting on you.
In fact, this is worldwide.
Screw your courage to the sticking post,
And stay the fuck inside.

There’s no reason to leave the house.
In the future you can say with pride
Others went out to meet friends
But I stayed the fuck inside.

If you need more things to do while you’re at home, read, aerobicize, and movies.

Now, I just need to figure out how to get Samuel L. Jackson or Jennifer Garner to read this.

Thanks to Adam Mansbach, who wrote “Go the F—k to Sleep” (affiliate links). Hopefully, he’s coming up with a better version of this.

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Being Human: Identity, Compassion, Creativity and Problem Solving, and Storytelling

Curious girl

Many people mistakenly believe that what makes us human is an opposable thumb. While that may be part of what separates us from the animals, it doesn’t actually make us human. Cut off a person’s thumb and he or she is still a person. So, what is it that makes us human? It’s a set of qualities that brings out our humanity. These qualities include our sense of identity, our compassion for one another, our ability to solve problems and our ability to learn from history and stories.

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St. Patrick’s Day 2020 Penguin Parade

Lucky Penguin has your passport to the St. Patrick's Day 2020 penguin parade

When events started getting canceled and St. Patrick’s Day 2020 parades country-wide became victims of the pandemic, I wanted to do something to help those who love St. Paddy’s Day. Of course, I had to use what I had, so my wife and I put together this penguin parade! The video will go live at 9am West Coast time on March 17.

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‘Ride of a Lifetime’ Offers Iger’s Lessons Learned at Disney

Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disney CEO Bob Iger shocked the business world by announcing his decision to step down from the company’s top position. He led Disney through some of its largest expansions – both in terms of intellectual property (IP) through acquiring Pixar, Marvel, LucasFilm and 21st Century Fox, and parks built or expanded, including Shanghai Disneyland and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. In his book “The Ride of a Lifetime” (affiliate link), Iger allows the reader to see what he has learned during his tenure at the Disney Company, where he started at the bottom and worked his way up.

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Combat Covid-19’s Consequences with Creativity

Penguin taking a group photo

I don’t know if the news that came out yesterday regarding the novel coronavirus, aka Covid-19, shook you as much as it did me. I do know that as more events are canceled, and we’re asked to self-isolate, or self-quarantine, we’re going to have a lot of time on our hands. Those of us who are sports fans, fans of wrestling, fans of parades, those of us who love going to movie theaters, plays, or operas, and those of us who made travel plans or other plans that involved meeting with people are going to need to find something else to do. Those of us who get the virus are also going to need some way to occupy our time. We need to combat Covid-19’s consequences.

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