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Director Taika Waititi Talks Creativity at TedxDoha

New Zealand Director Taika Waititi gave a short talk about creativity at TedxDoha. While his talk may seem like rambling, his insights into creativity are priceless – if you can find them. Creativity lies in the combination of seemingly unrelated, or never related before, subjects. It also lies in the absurd. The talk is about 18 minutes. Three highlights are below the video.

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New Zealand: A Short Survey of New Zealand’s Creativity

Hobbiton in New Zealand

The Arts Council of New Zealand is dedicated to opening the world to the arts of New Zealand. It facilitates creative exchanges and helps fund everyday artists and their works. Called “Creative New Zealand,” the organization is funded by the government and confirms New Zealand’s dedication to the arts and their proliferation.

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What Do I Need to Do Better? A History

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When I first started Penguinate.com in 2012, it was because I learned that people who were able to talk to classmates or others on the job were able to reinforce their learning. They retained more information and learned more than people who had to rely on themselves and their memory to learn. I was going to Disney World to be a part of their College Program, and I wanted to remember everything that I learned there. Not knowing if I would find people to talk to, I decided to start a website where I could keep my observations and put down what I learned, giving myself one more way to remember what I deemed as important and one more connection to tie the information to my brain.

I monetized the website, and as I went through school, I created movie and book reviews. When I started at examiner.com as a reporter, I posted videos on YouTube to support the news I was reporting. I monetized those as well. By the time I went to get my Master’s degree, I was making just enough to pay for my Internet usage, and all indications were that it would keep growing if I kept at it. Then everything changed.

When YouTube changed its policy about who could monetize their videos, I was on the outside looking in. I lost half of my web income. When my website hosting company decided to eliminate contact with Russia, I lost half of my income again. Then I made the drastic decision to move website hosting companies, and my income dropped to almost zero. I thought I had things moving in the right direction when I took another hit in August, my worst month at my website financially speaking, even though I was in the midst of a 251-day publishing streak. September responded in a “hold my beer” fashion, and I’m staring at two months of unexplained decline in income from my website – even while September was my best for “ads served.”

In the midst of all this, I turned to writing books as an additional source of income. My wife has made penguins to help supplement what we’re making. I’ve tried freelance editing with two paid jobs and one that didn’t pan out but kept me from working in September. I’ve started publishing at Medium, where I earn based on the number of views by members and their interaction with the articles I write. I’ve attempted to expand our Patreon base and failed with every offer that I’ve put out there. I have a small but mighty core of supporters. I tried starting an email list – my wife and I are the only ones on it, which makes it a lot less work. We’ve made two calendars – one of which we’ve offered for free to our Patreon members.

So, this is where we are – facing crickets with our web presence and our ability to get the word out about what we have available. I’ve gotten messages about how people love my books. Our penguins have gotten great reviews – in private, so it can’t be the products that are the problem. That leads me to believe my biggest issue is marketing. How do I inform people about what we have available and how they go about getting it?

I have read about marketing, watched videos about it, and participated in courses about it, but for some reason, there’s a block. Either I’m not using the things I have learned, or I am using them ineffectively. I’m not sure where the disconnect is, but it must be somewhere within me, or between me and the computer. Somehow, I’m not translating what I’ve read and thought about into something productive for me. It’s a lot of wheel spinning as I use social media and Google ads to little or no avail. How do I do it better?

If I am right, and marketing is the main problem, then it’s time for me to return the blog portion of the website back to what it was built for – to help me learn. It’s time for me to start going through the marketing materials I’ve already read once, and re-read it with an eye to distilling it down to the main points: Benefits marketing, tell-a-story marketing, and other marketing tactics. Whatever type of marketing I need to learn, it’s time to buckle down and do the research and figure out how to turn it into something usable.

And after all this talking, the one thing I probably need to learn most of all is to how to listen. People may have been telling me things that I have missed. Since I have missed them, I don’t know what they are.

If you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments.

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Changes to Penguinate.com Publishing Schedule

This post will mark my 251st consecutive day of publishing on Penguinate.com. For the last 8+ months, I have posted at least one article. I didn’t take any weekends off, and some days I posted more than one article. All of that work, plus what came from the beginning of November 2018, has created less than $2 worth of revenue, and August was the worst month for income, even though views were the third highest. So, I must be doing something wrong.

With this information, I have decided that I probably need to step back from publishing so much on Penguinate.com and start concentrating on the places where I can bring in more money. To that end, a lot more of what I publish here will be accessible by Penguinators (those who are a part of my wifes and my Patreon campaign) only. Not everything, just much of it.

Obviously, I’m not going to try to keep my streak alive. I may or may not publish anything tomorrow. Those 251 articles represent enough material to make a book if it had been written as such. So, I urge you to join my wife’s and my Patreon to help me continue writing and to read all the great content you get here. No matter what level you join at, you’ll have access to everything on Penguinate.com.

If you have a better idea of how to overcome this discrepancy in work versus pay, let me know. Leave your content. Otherwise, thanks so much for reading and through that supporting our creative endeavors.

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Introduction to ‘Stories from an Alaskan Cabin’

Preface

As Boccaccio’s “Decameron,” Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur,” and Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” can attest, our forebears were, much as they were in everything, better at telling stories. For what else was there to do in times before the Internet, television, movies, and radio? While modern man finds the need and the capacity to tell stories, the ability and opportunity is much diminished.

However, it has not disappeared. For, we tell ourselves stories every day to support our world views and our self-perception whether those are based on fact or folly doesn’t matter. What parent has not told his or her child a story about how babies are born or a fairytale remembered rather than read? Which schoolchild has not told a story of what he or she wished to be true? What person has not told stories about what he or she would’ve liked to have done to some transgressor against his or her person?

Indeed, humans are not separated from animals by the ability to reason, which any raven, rat, or baboon can show, nor are they separated from animals by the opposable thumb. Humans separate themselves from the rest of the animal kingdom by their flights of fancy, their ability to create, their ability to build, to imagine, and to tell stories.

So, dear friends, as you read these stories, do not think you have any less ability to compose and relay such as these. Instead, know that you have the capability to tell as good a story or better, with a little practice, and you can take it a small step further and write that story down. Talent is not required as long as you are willing to work hard and long and diligently over the course of time to perfect the craft and art of storytelling.

As long as you have read this far and choose to continue to read, my three friends and I hope these stories told at a cabin in the Alaska wilderness in the dead of winter will entertain you for no few hours. And if they can inspire you to create your own story, in words, actions, or other media – all the better. We would love to read them and include them in our storytelling anthology.

Our stories will be released one at a time on Fridays through the power of the Internet. They will be available to Penguinators only, those who join our Patreon at any level. For even when the intentions are good, the power of a story is only as good as its ability to attract an audience. We think these stories are ones that you won’t want to miss. For the next part of the story go to the Prologue.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Zone

When someone is “in the zone,” he or she is exhibiting the highest level of his or her talent through a seemingly effortless expenditure of energy. Michael Jordan’s 38 pts, 7 rebound, five assists, three steals and a block stat line while having the flu or his hitting six triples against Portland and shrugging about it after being criticized for his lack of three-point shooting skills are both great examples of being in the zone. Athletes are most often described this way because they are most often in the limelight, but artists, scientists and hobbyists can feel as if they are in the zone or, as creativity pioneer Csikszentmihalyi called it, “the flow.”

In Csikszentmihalyi’s “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention,” he describes part of the creative process as “the flow” and says that there are nine elements that characterize the flow:

  • Clear goals with no ambiguity: In the case of Jordan’s basketball games, the goal is clear; put the ball in your hoop. Whether you do it or you get a teammate to do it, the ball needs to get in your hoop.
  • Immediate feedback: The ball either goes in the hoop or it doesn’t. The feedback is immediate.
  • Challenge and skills are balanced: This is a little more difficult to illustrate. Basically, the question is whether or not the person’s skills are balanced with the challenge he or she is facing. If the challenge is too easy or too difficult, the person will not be able to enter the flow. It’s when the two are in alignment that the person enters the flow state.
  • Action merges with awareness: The person is focused on what he or she is doing. They do not think about anything other than the activity in the here and now.
  • No distractions: They exclude distraction from their minds. They are in the moment.
  • No concern about failure: The activity that the person is involved in is too consuming to give the person the opportunity to worry about failing or the outcome of failure.
  • No self-consciousness: The activity is too consuming for the person to be worried about how he or she appears to the outside world.
  • Time changes: Things slow down and time speeds up so that while the person is doing the activity, every detail can be examined, everyone else around him or her is slower, but when the activity is over the person doesn’t feel as if any time at all has passed. He or she loses track of time.
  • The activity is the end not the means to an end: If the activity is itself the goal and the required means to get to a greater goal, it becomes easier to enter the flow. If an author is writing to write a book and not to publish it or make money from it, he or she is more likely to enter the flow.

Getting into the flow creatively is why artists are depicted as absent-minded or the author doesn’t her someone calling out to him while he or she sits at the typewriter. It’s also what makes creativity so rewarding. Being in the flow indicates the person is operating at his or her highest possible ability without being overwhelmed. Get in the flow, or the zone, if you prefer, become more creative.

For more on creativity, check out, “Disneyland Is Creativity,” “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity,” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories for Greater Positive Creativity.” If you want more content like this, join our Patreon.

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What would America’s ‘The Calling’ look like?

After watching “The Calling” on Netflix, I wondered what the show would look like in the U.S. First, I think there would be a lot more game playing and strategizing than there has been through the first seven episodes of the Indian incarnation of the show. That would take away from the appeal of the show because “The Calling” is at its best when the three contestants are helping each other and taking their individual strengths into consideration, rather than just focusing on winning.

However, I want to focus on the travel experiences that could be curated in the United States. Without taking time, distance or cost into consideration and following the show’s original 10 competition setup, I tried to come up with the 10 individual challenges featured at the beginning of an episode, the two curated experiences for the winner of the individual challenge, and the grand experience that ends each episode. The idea is to show the greatness of America and its culture while exploring places that may not be well known. What experiences would garner great ratings?

I tried to choose ten regions or states that made sense, had a large amount of appeal and could bring something to the table that is instantly recognizable. Here’s my list and the challenges to go with it:

Alaska and dog sled
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Episode 1, Alaska – The competitors would be able to explore Native Alaskan Culture at the Alaska Native Heritage Center and take part in one of the games that is part of the cultural heritage of the Alaskan people. The “snowsnake” might be the easiest one for contestants to learn and compete in. They must slide a stick across the ice. The person who slides it the farthest gets the bucket list item. The other two must curate an experience.

There are many things people can experience in Alaska. Salmon or halibut fishing, salmon bake, hikes of all levels, wildlife watching, glacier trips… The two I would put on the list for curation would be a glacier tour and either Talkeetna or Valdez. Alaska’s glaciers are beautiful and cinematic. Talkeetna and Valdez offer unique glimpses of Alaskan urban life. Talkeetna with its Mountain High Pizza Pie has great food and views. Valdez has its earthquake and oil spill history. An Alaskan cabin experience could put on this list, too.

The biggest problem with Alaska’s most iconic event is the hassle people would get from PETA. Still, it would be an opportunity of a lifetime to ride in the Iditarod at the ceremonial start in Anchorage. That’s the bucket list item. Other bucket list activities could be a trip to Prudhoe Bay, staying in a Native village, going to Nome, staying in an Alaskan cabin, or flying over Denali National Park.

Seattle skyline
Photo by Sergei Akulich on Pexels.com

Episode 2, Seattle – the obvious next stop. Representing the Pacific Northwest, Seattle’s skyline is recognizable and there’s no shortage of culture and outdoors people can experience from the city. The competition would be to throw and catch fish at Pike Place Market; whoever caught and threw the most fish without a drop wins.

The first of the curation events would be a coffee tasting, which could include learning to pull a perfect shot. The second of the curation events would be glassblowing: Dale Chihuly is from Tacoma. A trip to the Museum of Pop Culture may also be a part of the curated event or the bucket list. The bucket list event could be dinner at the Space Needle or a concert with a popular Seattle band.

Hollywood sign
Photo by Daniel Semenov on Pexels.com

Episode 3, California – The Golden State offers a lot of choices as far as TV shows are concerned. From the Redwoods in Northern California to Hollywood with Sacramento and San Francisco in between, California could probably host an entire season of “The Calling” by itself. For this national and international version though, I would stick with Hollywood and Los Angeles. Contestants would be given a short script and have 30 minutes to memorize it. They would perform that script from memory. The one that has the best memory or makes the fewest errors wins.

The curated events would be a Hollywood sightseeing tour and a night at an improv or comedy theater. The bucket list event would be a rodeo drive shopping spree, but it could also be courtside tickets to a basketball game.

Las Vegas sign
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Episode 4, Las Vegas – If the first season is about iconic cities, few cities are as iconic as Las Vegas. The competition starts at the poker table, five hands, whoever has the most chips at the end wins. The competition could also be Elvis Presley karaoke, where the contestants dress up like the King and sing one of his songs. The judges would be three Elvis impersonators.

One of the curated events would feature one of Las Vegas’ most well-known restaurants. The other would be a trip to the strip; with the fountains, amusement park/hotels, and street performers, this could be really good. The Bucket List would be an “A” level backstage concert, which would probably beat the Seattle concert. A flight over the Grand Canyon could also be a Bucket List item.

Balloon Festival
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Episode 5, Albuquerque – You probably knew you should have made a left turn at Albuquerque. New Mexico would represent the Southwest. The competition would take place with the city’s minor league team, the Albuquerque Isotopes. Contestants would take batting practice, the one that hits the most balls in five minutes wins.

One curated experience would involve the cuisine of New Mexico and how it’s different from the rest of the Southwest. The other curated experience would be at Petroglyph National Monument. The bucket list event would be the International Balloon Fiesta.

Cowboy Stadium
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Episode 6, Texas – Capturing America’s cowboy spirit, the Texas episode would focus on its wild west reputation and independence. The competition would be shooting at targets with a gun. This could be problematic given America’s epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings. The curated experiences would be a trip to the Alamo and learning to play the guitar in the country style. The bucket list item would be the coin flip with the Dallas Cowboys and 50-yard seats for an NFL game.

Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

Episode 7, Florida – A state all of its own, Florida gives a quick trip to the Atlantic with several opportunities for cinematic gold. The competition would be a beach cleaning; the contestant that picks up the most trash wins. The first curated experience would be an airboat trip with manatees. The second curated experience would be the Miami club scene. The bucket list experience would be a trip out to the Keys or a cruise.

Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com

Episode 8, Illinois – Chicago is America’s Second City. You’ve got jazz, the Golden Mile, the Sears Tower and that song by Frank Sinatra. But Illinois is also home to Abraham Lincoln, and it is with him that the episode would start. Contestants would learn to spilt rails and then compete with their newfound skill. Curated events would include a jazz night and a Lake Michigan cruise. The bucket list event would be throwing out the first pitch at a Cubs game.

Episode 9, New York – The Big Apple is on everyone’s bucket list. Here contestants would compete at shooting hoops with the Knicks as their guides and coaches. Hit the most free throws in a minute and win! One curated event would be a night on Broadway. The second event would be a historical site tour, which could include the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Central Park and the Empire State Building. The bucket list item would be ringing the bell on Wall Street.

The White House
Photo by Aaron Kittredge on Pexels.com

Episode 10, Washington, D.C. – As the nation’s capital, D.C. makes for a fitting last episode. Here contestants would have to get people to vote for them. The one with the most votes wins. One curated experience would be the Smithsonian. The second curated experience would involve a trip to Gettysburg with a possible re-creation of the event. The bucket list item would be to meet the president, which some might find controversial; alternatively, it could be the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Event. The winner of the show would get a revamped website paid for five years, a YouTube channel set up and ready to be monetized, and $100,000 for travel and other expenses incurred as a travel blogger.

It’s tough to boil America down to ten episodes in a single state. We’ve missed Hawaii, Louisiana and New Orleans, Tennessee and Graceland, South Dakota and the Black Hills, Wyoming’s west culture, Missouri’s Mark Twain and so many more. What would you have people do in your state if a show like “The Calling” was scheduled? Exercise your creativity and give us a competition, two curated events and a bucket list event for your area in the comments.

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Why Have I Chosen These Titles for My Poll?

Writing a book isn’t as simple as having an idea and running with it, or at least, it isn’t for me. Writer’s need to consider what will sell, what they have inspiration for, and what their writing plans are. It’s a lot convoluted and other writers have different ways of working. For the moment, these are the titles that I can work on and why they’re included in the poll.

Extermination of the Ice Goddess – This book is about a boy who is recruited into an army that wants to eliminate the Ice Goddess. His companion is a different species. Together, they go out into the world, find the worshippers of the Ice Goddess and destroy their power sources. I’ve already got a part of the story written. I’ve been shopping it to magazines, but I think I can grow it into a trilogy or more. “No man follows the goddesses.”

Rod Serling and the Fifth Dimension – I don’t have all the materials I would like to use for research, but I do have much of them. This examination of the Twilight Zone and its creator would take time; there are five seasons of the original Twilight Zone. But it would be fun to examine his genius and what the Twilight Zone has to say about creativity. My copy of “As I Knew Him” is in Oregon, but that’s a minor problem. This could be used for comic convention presentations.

Saturday Mornings in the 1980s: A Study in Creativity – This would be a book full of nostalgia and it would examine everything about my Saturday mornings in the 1980s. Cereal, cartoons, and commercials would make up the largest components of this book. It would be fun and a lot of research.

Reimagining Tomorrow: Essays and Short Stories – There are a lot of dystopias out there and few utopias. With this book, I want to present a positive vision of the future and something we can work towards. This one will take research and brain power. It’s a little outside what I feel I can do properly, and I’m not sure I could get others to participate in an anthology style without coming up with some sort of payment. (I tried it with the “Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” and only two others participated – Thanks, mom and Darren!)

The Jungle Cruise Is Creativity – The third in the Disneyland Is Creativity series! The Jungle Cruise is one of the original attractions at Disneyland and opened in 1955, which means it has an anniversary next year. These books give me a presentation to pitch to comic conventions that may want Disney related content at their event. They are also my best-selling books. I would do this one a little bit differently because I want to examine the inspiration behind the Jungle Cruise, including “the African Queen” and the imagineers who made it successful, like Bill Evans. Also, no single tour can cover all of the humor in the Jungle Cruise since it changes with each skipper. I don’t have access to all of the information I would need, but I’m okay with that because I think I could get access to much of it by changing my entertainment provider.

Snow Wh-Island – That’s just a working title. I’ve also thought about “Fairy T-Isles.” Still a work in progress. This would be in the style and world of “The Pirate Union.” It wouldn’t be a sequel or a prequel; it would just be its own story. Something funny, something crazy, something weird, and maybe something timely. It’s hard to say what this story would actually be, though I have three chapters outlined, I have no idea where it would end up. Since my collaborator for “The Pirate Union” is no longer available for collaboration (or is he?), it will be a little more difficult to pull of the amazing humor and directions the PU took. Still it could be funny.

The Creativity Workbook – I don’t know if this needs another title, but basically, I have three sections outlined. This would be an intro to why the idea is important, and then how to improve your skills in that area. For example, believing that you’re creative is the first step to becoming more creative. The workbook explains why you’re creative, why you should believe it, and then it takes you through several different activities so that you can prove to yourself that you are creative. This book would contain fewer words than most books because it is a workbook.

Penguinate! At the Movies – This would be the easiest for me to pull together. It would consist of reviews of movies and essays inspired by the movies, most of which I have already published on my websites somewhere. I would just need to take them down, format them and then get a book cover. This would be the third in The Penguinate! series, which has been my least successful in terms of sales. Part of that is probably due to the title of the first one, which is in the process of changing to “Penguinate! Positive Creativity.”

Star Trek and Creativity: Where No One Has Gone Before – This would take a lot of research, and I only have access to part of it at the moment. Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future is fascinating and should be great fuel for a book about creativity and moving toward that future. I don’t have access to any of the books, but I still think I could work this correctly and then use it for comic convention presentations.

So that’s a little bit about the books in my poll. If you haven’t voted already, please do. Thanks.

P.S. I have other titles that didn’t make the poll list because nine was already enough (Why didn’t I keep it to eight?) and I don’t have the necessary materials to make them happen. “My Life in the Peace Corps,” “Ray Bradbury and the Theater of Creativity,” and “My Life in the Soviet Union” are all under future consideration as is “My Life at Disneyland” though I don’t know exactly which direction, I’m going to take with that one, it’ll involve having to go through my stuff that is stored at mom’s.

There may be more ideas floating around, but I have to find the notes about them. For the moment, I’m just considering the nine that are in the poll.