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Episode 9: ‘The Twilight Zone’ Perchance to Dream

Charles Beaumont’s first episode for “the Twilight Zone” explores the power of the imagination. It’s main question: “Could someone imagine him- or herself to death?”

The mind is undoubtedly powerful. It creates much of our reality. Self-fulfilling prophecies, the placebo effect, the law of attraction, “If you can dream it, you can do it…” These are the ways the mind bends reality.

When the psychiatrist’s new patient shows up in his office, the patient is concerned and facing a catch-22. If he goes to sleep, his dreams will deliver him a shock his heart can’t withstand; if he stays awake much longer, his heart will give out. He tells the doctor that the doctor won’t be able to help him. The patient has already made up his mind, all that’s left is for his body to figure out how to fulfill the reality the patient sees.

The same is true in our lives. How we think of something is what it becomes, and we can imagine both good and bad things. When someone doesn’t call you, do you imagine something like a car wreck or do you think his or her phone has run out of battery power? If it’s the first, they may not be in an accident, but your body reacts in the same way as if that person had experienced something terrible. You face worry and stress even if nothing has happened. Removing worry from the equation is hard, but if you can achieve it and face reality as it comes, you’ll be healthier and happier.

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The Secrets of Creativity: Seeing

The bacteria H. pylori are responsible for some stomach ulcers. For decades, doctors had been able to see the bacteria in the stomach. While it was on photographs and in literature since 1875, the doctors didn’t see it. Because they were certain that bacteria couldn’t survive in the stomach, they ignored it. It didn’t exist as bacteria for them. In 1940, a doctor found the bacteria, but his supervisor told him he was wrong and ordered him to stop his work.

One doctor in 1967 labeled the bacteria as “spirillum,” published it in a respected scientific journal where thousands of other doctors could see it, and no one examined it further. It wasn’t until 1979 that Robin Warren declared it to be a bacterium and called it H. pylori. That’s when doctors went back through the literature and photograph showing something that no one thought could be bacteria. A cause of stomach ulcers had been in plain sight for over a century – only hidden by a false belief that nothing could live in the inhospitable climate of the stomach (Kevin Ashton, “How to Fly a Horse,” 2015).

Count the number of passes the team in white jerseys makes in this video.

Did you count them? Did you watch the whole video?

Did you see the dancing gorilla? When people are told to count the passes (and haven’t seen this video before), they entirely miss the gorilla who walks through the middle of the basketball players. People talking on their cell phone while walking down the street will miss a unicycling clown that passes in front of them because their attention is on the phone conversation. The brain prioritizes the phone call over everything that doesn’t seem threatening or that doesn’t make sense. If you want to be more creative, you have to see what others miss.

Human beings have so much input coming through their five senses that they have to ignore a lot of things. Otherwise, we would all be mad/crazy. (Maybe that’s what happening with cell phones…) The brain prioritizes what it thinks is important and eliminates everything else. You might think that driving a car and avoiding collisions is the most important thing, but your brain will prioritize the phone call and the conversation because driving is routine. Moreover, the brain doesn’t know how to process the impending collision while also dealing with the conversation on the phone.

Seeing is one of the most important skills you can develop, and that means getting rid of the distractions and beliefs that keep you from seeing what’s right in front of you and millions of other people.

When you something new or something old in a different way, you spark your creative abilities. In “Big Hero 6,” Hiro’s brother tells him to shake things up as he turns Hiro upside down and shakes him.

Sherlock Holmes ability to deduce where someone was from and why they had arrived came from his ability to remember facts and see details. Those details were often esoteric, but the skill is akin to addressing someone at a convention by his or her name. When that person asks “Do we know each other?” The answer is “I read your name tag.” Everyone has the name tags on, but many people forget the name tags are there.

Of course, seeing is only part of the battle. Once you see something, you’re going to have to make others see it. Most people will ignore the new information, especially if they know better. Others will intentionally make you see something false so that they can justify their worldview rather than face up to the reality of it. But when you know something the way that Robin Warren knew there were bacteria in the stomach, you need to set up an experiment and find someone to verify your results. In creativity, sometimes that means finishing something you started and finding out you were wrong. And sometimes, it means turning the world on its ear because you were right.

For more on the secrets of creativity, check out our Patreon page. Order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “The Haunted Mansion is Creativity,” and purchase “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.”

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The NeverEnding Story: The Great and Terrible Power of the Imagination

In 1984, “the NeverEnding Story” posited that human imagination was being destroyed by a power that brought “the Nothing” on Fantasia. The hench-Gmork doesn’t reveal the power that is behind him before Atreyu kills him. Fantasia is saved by the wishes and imagination of one little boy and his Luck Dragon.

How would it fair now when the dark side of the imagination is called upon to foster fear and create lies? Imagination is a double-edged sword. For as much as someone can imagine all the good things that can happen, it is easier and far more likely for people to imagine all of the bad things that could happen. You can imagine being rich and poor, but what do you imagine more often?

Imagination is a tool that you can harness or let run wild. You have to choose the scenarios that you will give power over your life. The more you think about the bad things, the more power they will have. The more you think about the good, the more power they will gain, and each will manifest itself in Fantasia and in your life.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Join us on our Patreon page!

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7 Episodes in: ‘Instant Hotel,’ Creativity and the Power of Critique

australia traveling travelling travel

It doesn’t take any special qualifications to be rated one of the top one percent of TripAdvisor raters. The only thing you really have to do is write a lot of reviews about places you’ve been. You don’t need to have any expertise in what you’re writing about, you don’t have to take into account anything but your own opinion. There are no other qualifications for being a reviewer.

As a writer, I can appreciate when someone writes a lot of reviews because it isn’t always easy to write. However, to use a TripAdvisor status as a way to justify your opinion is duplicitous. TripAdvisor doesn’t endorse your opinion; it just says you have had a lot of them.

Just going places doesn’t make you educated in anything. It doesn’t tell you how to run a hotel. It doesn’t tell you about the history of the area, and it doesn’t create automatic information by osmosis. It simply says you have money to go places. In order to know about what is behind a good critique, you have to know something more than what you’ve done or what you think you’ve seen online. So, in the second half of “Instant Hotel,” I can only roll my eyes and scream out in frustration when Serena continuously talks about her discerning eye as evidenced by her TripAdvisor rating.

Critics of an idea or product are often seen as smarter than the people who created the product. It’s easy to destroy, degrade and denigrate something. It’s much more difficult to come up with something new. While some critics may inspire passion because they treat things fairly and can be happy for what they are criticizing as well as angry or sad about what they are criticizing (like Roger Ebert), critics who only find fault with what they criticize are working to aggrandize themselves. In a competition like “Instant Hotel” where people are judging other people’s dreams, the judgments should be fair and driven with a genuine concern for lifting people up, instead of finding a way to tear people down so you can award them fewer points. Awarding fewer points is a strategy to win a game, but this isn’t just a game; it’s people’s livelihoods.

There’s no doubt that Serena is playing a game. Her and her buddy, Sturt, discussed their divide and conquer strategy. We can only hope that it backfires spectacularly on them. Then Serena can take her TripAdvisor rating and flush it in her next television engagement – Lifetime’s “True Love Story.”

In the interest of fairness, I did a small amount of additional research because ultimately, this is Serena’s livelihood, too. It isn’t fair to believe that reality TV reflects reality. In an interview published on “Decider,” Serena said it was the editing that made her look like the villain. She wanted to please the producers and wanted to get more air time. She also wanted to compete and win, so she says that the whole Houseboat episode didn’t go down like it was edited. She doesn’t care about her TripAdvisor rating, but again, the producers told her it would be good for the show.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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5 Episodes in: ‘Instant Hotel,’ Criticism and Creativity

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By the time the fifth episode has rolled around, everyone has drawn lines. It’s the fussy couple vs. the mother-daughter team. Who will win is really beside the point. Throughout the course of “Instant Hotel,” each team has received criticism about their hotel, and each has acted predictably. Criticism makes people defensive. It hurts even when it comes from a place of love, and it rarely makes people think about the actual problem.

It’s difficult to hear when people are raising valid concerns about the results of your passion, and it’s harder to tell the difference between genuine criticism and jealousy or gamesmanship. So, when the teams are facing the Instant Hotel owners, a lot of the criticisms are dismissed.

Some of the criticism deserves to be dismissed. A difference in taste or opinion is no reason for someone to change something. If the hotel is designed for quiet contemplation, and that’s not someone’s idea of a good time, then that hotel isn’t for him or her. It doesn’t mean the owner should change the hotel; it just means that the hotel needs to be marketed to those looking for that type of vacation.

However, there are other concerns that are justified. If the criticism is that there are no curtains on the bathroom windows, that probably needs to be taken care of. If people don’t like the number of mosquitoes, you should at least try to come up with a solution (citronella candles, bug killing light) because sometimes trying is more important than succeeding. If, instead, you decide that people are telling you these things so they can deduct points from your score and don’t take them as valid, then your real guests are going to have to face the issues, and probably won’t say anything.

“Instant Hotel” provides us all with a way to think about how we can deal better with criticism by taking what’s valid for us and using it to our advantage, even if it is said with malice, and leaving behind what won’t serve us or our vision. As a creative person, it’s the same thing. If someone doesn’t like your book because its science fiction and they don’t like westerns, well, you know, whatever. However, when they tell you about the typos they spotted or ask about a plot hole, it may be time to revisit the writing.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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How ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is helping Netflix

Patch Penguin and the Avengers

“Avengers: Endgame” is smashing records like Hulk smashed everything in his many movie and TV appearances. Above all, it’s performing well in China where it’s close enough to all-time records to be mentioned in the same breath as homegrown favorites like “The Wandering Earth.”

The fact that “The Wandering Earth debuted in February and had the highest IMAX gross, which was then beaten by Avengers, creates an interest in seeing the movie. Endgame could gross more in China than “The Wandering Earth” and creating an even greater interest in seeing the Chinese film. If it was that good, it must be worth seeing, and for those who want to be able to say anything intelligent about the heavyweight duel overseas, they’ll have to find a way to see ‘The Wandering Earth” and find out what made it such a huge hit in China. In steps Netflix to fill the gap.

By promoting it as something people can see, Netflix is effectively able to use the free advertising generated by the comparison between “The Wandering Earth” and Endgame to get views of a Chinese film most wouldn’t ordinarily even find to watch much less consider. If Netflix or other streaming services begin to capitalize on the comparisons that go on with box office incomes, we could see a slew of international films gaining steam first through streaming. Once Americans get used to seeing foreign films with subtitles, there’ll be no stopping the influx of new and better films.

Even if those foreign film studios are as mired in sequel-itis as U.S. studios are, the stories and concepts will be new and more original to U.S. audiences. That’s good for storytelling and creativity because foreign films can introduce different ideas and viewpoints into American culture. For now, Netflix gains with having “The Wandering Earth” available to stream, and having one more way to create buzz through using another studios success.

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A Question of Imagination

An alien

You can’t imagine anything you haven’t already seen. If the imagination is the combining element of the human brain, then it stands to reason that if there’s nothing to combine, you cannot imagine it. I read about an experiment where scientists asked people to draw an alien. They could draw the alien however they wanted, but it should be as different from life on Earth as possible. The people that were asked to draw these aliens still created creatures with legs, arms, eyes, and/or mouths. Some made amoeba like creatures. At least one left the page blank and said we couldn’t see it. Regardless of the instructions, people couldn’t imagine life on another planet without referencing life here on Earth.

So, it’s your turn. Grab a sheet of paper and draw an alien that looks a different as possible from anything on Earth. Go ahead. I’ll wait. (I mean, seriously, as long as you bookmark this page, you can always come back and find this article and continue reading after you’ve drawn your alien.)

After thinking about this for the past couple of days, I gave it a go. I tried to draw an alien that doesn’t look like anything we have on Earth. It’s difficult because of the diversity of life on Earth. It’s also difficult because the creature is designed out of context. What type of planet does it live on? How does it survive? How does it experience the universe?

It’s difficult enough for us to imagine how other life here on Earth experiences the universe. What our dogs and cats thinking about? Is it just ball, ball, food, master, and food, sleep, sleep, food, servant? I know my cat dreams, but what is she dreaming about? Those are our domesticated pets. Put us in the alien environment of water and we just think fish are stupid, or we use excuses about how all animals are to be dominated by mankind. We don’t empathize with creatures we consider below us, and that’s true for people to.

If you weren’t born into poverty, it’s probably pretty difficult for you to imagine what it’s like to be poor. “Let them eat cake if there’s no bread.” “Why don’t they just get a car and drive to work?” “They’re all lazy and don’t want to work hard.” Poor people are often seen as something less than human by the people in the socioeconomic sphere above them, and it makes it difficult to empathize with someone who can’t afford their medication, doctor’s treatment, rent or food. “They should get a job” even if they’re already working three jobs. “They should get an education,” even if they are already working three jobs. “They shouldn’t have kids if they can’t afford them.” Seriously, who can afford kids? The hospital bill alone for a newborn without complications is enough to put me off my tea.

There are ways to fix the problem of a lack of empathy. Reading books is a start. Watching documentaries could help. After all, a lot of people can empathize with the rich because that’s what they see on television, in films and in music videos. Get experiences that are vastly different than your regular life through volunteering – at a soup kitchen, at a shelter, with an outreach group. Start seeing other human beings as being the same species as you and seek out to engage with them.

This is one way to begin improving your imagination. You can imagine a horse flying because you’ve seen horses and things that fly. You’ve seen things that float, so you can imagine a horse flying in that way. It’s not a big leap to think of a horse jumping and missing the ground. It’s gone back centuries. Once you can imagine a horse flying, you can imagine anything else flying. However, to bring something into being that you have no way of imagining is impossible. Whether for art or for life, you have to start with a base of knowledge before you can use your imagination to create something new and hopefully better. Leave your alien in the comments below or share it on Facebook and Twitter #penguinate.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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2 Episodes In: ‘Instant Hotel’

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When someone does something with passion and the do it well, it’s a joy to watch them be rewarded. In the second episode, Jannine and Mark have a ‘50s-inspired Instant Hotel that’s amazing. The other guests love it, too. When they tell the couple how they feel, Jannine and Mark tear up. It’s a beautiful moment that’ll touch your heart strings, too.

As a series, “Instant Hotel” is fun. Because the participants are Australian, I’m never sure what I’m going to get. Sure, they speak English, but the cultures are different enough to catch an American off guard. So far, they tend to stick with their stereotypes: The two gay guys, the spoiled little girl who can’t get out of bed and her enabling mother, and the young couple with the wife who is spoiled but “in a different way.” But most of them seem to be enjoying themselves. The competition is bound to ratchet up as the mother-daughter team look to bring down the gay-team, but for the moment, there are only seeds for this future conflict.

I don’t normally watch reality television shows, but “Instant Hotel” is a good time that has a different cultural element to it. If you want to diversify your viewing habits and watch something that you don’t normally watch, this show is a good choice. Improve your creativity by replenishing your well and learning about instant hotels in Australia.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The ABCs of Creativity: Risk

Being creative means taking risks. When you’re doing something new, that no one’s ever done before, or that you haven’t done before, you’re taking a risk. It may be a small risk; no one will see you mess up a canvas or write a sentence incorrectly. Or it may be a big risk: taking on an assignment at work that could decided the fate of the company. There are a lot of different kinds of risk in between.

When you stood up for the first time, you were taking a risk. You might lose your balance and fall. Of course, your baby mind didn’t really think of it like that. When you fell down, you probably cried and were comforted by your parent(s) or guardian. Then you got up and tried it again. Then maybe you took the next step, literally, after standing. That probably resulted in falling down to.

As a baby, you were used to taking those risks. If you were in diapers, it didn’t hurt a lot. Even if it did hurt, you didn’t mind after a while. You saw everyone else standing and walking, and you wanted to get there, too.

You probably continued to take risks growing up. Raising your hand to answer a question was a risk: if you got it right, kids might think you’re a know-it-all; get it wrong and the teacher might think you’re dumb. You probably learned that answering the question wasn’t worth it.

As an adult, if you suggested something new at work, you were probably met with objections and derision. That risk was bad enough. In some places, a creative person is seen as a threat.

But people are meant to be creative. If you want to become, if you want a happier overall life, if you want to make something, you’ve got to take the risk. You may fail, you may make mistakes, but if you do it right, you’ll have fun and learn more about who you are.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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‘The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity’ eBook Now Available at Amazon.com for Preorder

The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity cover

In case you missed it, “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” is available for preorder at Amazon.com. The second book in the “Disneyland Is Creativity” takes a look at the Haunted Mansion’s history and structure and relates them to creativity principles to help you become more creative.

While the Haunted Mansion opened on August 9, 1969, it’s history dates back more than a decade before when Harper Goff drew the first haunted house concept in 1951 as part of a church and graveyard. The façade was finished in 1963, but it took 6 more years for the technology to develop and the concept to work. This delay allowed the Disney team to learn more as well as explore hundreds of ideas before choosing the right one. Creativity requires lots of ideas, time to be creative, and patience to choose the right idea to develop.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t failures. The Haunted Mansion was supposed to open in 1963 instead, Marty Sklar wrote a sign that said the team was busy gathering ghosts. A short-lived effect called “the Hatbox Ghost” didn’t work when the Haunted Mansion opened, and it was removed until the effect could be done correctly. (It was reinstalled in 2015.) Creativity comes with failures and mistakes.

Just in time to celebrate Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion’s 50th anniversary, the eBook is scheduled to be released June 1 and 2 to coincide with Lilac City Comicon 2019 in Spokane where I will be presenting “The Haunted Mansion: 50 Years of Creativity.”

The book tour will continue at City Cakes and Café in Salt Lake City. On June 7 to 9, we’ll be at Ogden UnCon where I will present “The Haunted Mansion: 50 Years of Creativity” on Sunday. Currently, our last scheduled stop will be at Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con from June 14 to 16.

Click on the link to preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” in paperback. Get “Disneyland Is Creativity” in paperback here and in eBook on Amazon.