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Kubo and the Two Strings: Storytelling is magic.

Kubo and the Two Strings was released in the U.S. in 2016, and according to IMDB, it made about $76 million worldwide with $48 million in the U.S. This is sad and maybe should be left for another day and another discussion about originality and sequels. As it is, if you are among the many who haven’t seen this film, I suggest seeking it out, maybe with this link, and pressing play before you read the rest of this article. It’s okay, just bookmark this article and come back to it. You’ll be glad you did, and if you aren’t you can tell me why in the comments below. This was a long-winded way to say:

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

Kubo goes to the village every day to tell his stories. He brings them to life with origami characters made with the magic of music. The people gather around him and watch intently as he strums and talks his way through the deeds of his father as told by his mother and translated through Kubo’s magic. Storytelling isn’t just something people do around a campfire or to their children at night. The best advertisers, TV shows and sports broadcasts know that story is what keeps people in front of their sets and buying products. Storytelling is a powerful tool anyone can use. Storytelling can improve people’s moods, capture their attention and make them beg for more.

We are the stories others tell about us. As Beetle points out to Monkey, Monkey will live on in Kubo’s stories and through generations of storytellers who pick up Kubo’s thread. She will continue to live, even when her spirit leaves this plane. Kubo’s grandfather forgets who he is and becomes the person in the stories of the villagers. The moment is both profound and dark as he is a microcosm of living up to what others believe about him.

Storytelling is magic. It can bring the dead back to life and create images that never existed. It can be used to enhance a person’s worldview and self-esteem or to destroy that person. Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to keep memories alive, and it’s something people have done since they first gathered together in groups.

Long before there was written language man gathered in the caves of Lascaux and painted pictures on the wall. They used these pictures,that came to life in the flickering firelight and the imagination of the audience to tell their stories – how to hunt, how to survive, and what it meant to be a part of the tribe. People kept their stories alive, so the next generation could learn and grow from them. Keep your story alive, tell it in whatever medium you are comfortable with, and if you don’t know what that medium is, find it. You and the world will be glad you did. Human beings are storytellers. You are a storyteller.

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Marvel Vs. DC: Who has the better fans?

Looking at the box office scoreboard, this discussion may seem like a no-brainer. Clearly, Marvel wins in every aspect of movie profitability. Critics and audiences alike seem to score Marvel films highly, and the receipts for this $4 billion Disney purchase make Marvel a bargain buy for the House of the Mouse. While the box office dominance is undeniable, this doesn’t mean that Marvel has a better fan base; it just means that it has better movies.

In fact, the box office reveals something quite different. DC clearly has the better fan base. When a POS like Batman Vs. Superman can rake in $872 million worldwide, it isn’t the casual fan that is making that happen. When a decent but not super film like Suicide Squad can show the legs it has at the end of summer start of fall, it is the DC fans that are making it happen. DC has been making clearly inferior films, and yet, those films have been blockbusters. It can only be fans who return time and again to see their favorite characters. If Marvel had the same fan base, it would have garnered more than the current 4 in the top 12 films on the all-time box office list.

Not only are DC fans propping up the box office, they are also propping up the advertising campaigns. A vocal movement, which made international headlines, to shut down Rotten Tomatoes because of the critic rating of Suicide Squad was enough to create more curiosity among casual movie goers. This seemingly absurd and outlandish petition generated controversy and kept Suicide Squad in the minds of the population who may have otherwise skipped the film because of the critic rating. Critics are often wrong, and in this case, it worked to the advantage of the film.

All of this happens at a company that has no Stan Lee at its forefront. Lee is a god amongst geeks, and his word generally carries fans beyond the pale. His presence in every Marvel film, doesn’t make the film better necessarily, but it does make the fanboys and girls squeal. Lee and his cult of personality should be able to drive every Marvel film above the $1 billion mark. Instead, DC is relying on the strength of the appeal of its characters, if not the actual characters themselves, to bring in audiences, and it has thus far worked.

Marvel films may be glorious hits that are super profitable, but they are drawing on the return presence of fans that aren’t necessarily Marvel fans. DC relies on its core of superfanatics to make sure that it has enough in box office to bring out the next movie. That gives the rest of us hope that DC will figure out how to make the next movie wonderful.

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EXCELSIOR, Stan Lee!

Stan Lee’s death isn’t a tragedy; he lived a long life full of creativity, which inspired and comforted millions of fans. He gave us characters and comic books that will live on. While We may be saddened at our lost, Stan Lee gave us the greatest gifts he could while he lived. That is what we must treasure, hold onto and emulate.

If his passing has dimmed the world’s light even a little, it is up to us, as his legions, to continue his legacy, to continue to create and to give the world stories that make people feel alive, feel better and feel less alone. If we can’t create the stories, we can aspire to be the people Stan Lee wrote about. With great power comes great responsibility; we are the ones who will carry on with the power Stan Lee once yielded.

Excelsior!

Thank you FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention for giving me the opportunity to see Stan in person. https://penguinate.weebly.com/stan-lee-violence-and-misc-notes-from-salt-lake-comic-con-2013.html

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Edward de Bono at the University of Malta 2015

On Feb. 9, 2015, Edward de Bono, one of the world’s leading thinkers in creativity, gave a talk at the University of Malta’s Institute for Creativity and Innovation named for him. During the session, he covered his ideas on lateral thinking, argument and why the world needs new thinking habits.

“The most significant behavior of the human brain is humor,” says de Bono. Humor indicates a patterning system. “Patterning systems are very important.”

De Bono had the group exploring the Random Word, Provocative Operation (PO) and Blocked by Openness techniques during his talk. Each technique introduces something into the situation that seems ridiculous or unrelated. The Random Word is just what it sounds like. As people are discussing the solution to a problem, a word is chosen at random and related to the problem at hand. The point is to find a word that will spark a change in thinking.

The PO allows the participant to say something that doesn’t make sense by itself. The group is then supposed to move forward from that idea. There is no judging of the idea, just moving forward from it. The example that de Bono gave was a question that came up when discussing a factory’s waste contaminating downstream. “What if the factory was downstream of itself?” While this seems a bit ridiculous, what it did was inspire legislation in several countries that required factories to dump their waste upstream of the factory. Factories then had incentive to keep the river clean.

The idea behind being Blocked by Openness de Bono explained by describing the main roads as free of traffic. Going down the main road because it is so open would limit anyone from taking the side roads. In essence the side roads would be blocked by the openness of the main road. Oftentimes, our brains use a concept to make things easier. In Blocked by Openness, it is important to find out what that concept is and then challenge the brain not to use that concept.

“The key thing is movement,” says de Bono, “movement as distinct from judgment.”

While judgment says an idea is wrong, lateral thinking moves forward from the wrong idea rather than criticizing it. For 2,400 years, people have been using argument as the key discourse tool. The problem is that argument consists of proving people wrong and holding onto and protecting a concept. It uses destruction as its essential tool, and it lacks creativity. Argument is not an effective way of exploring a topic.

De Bono created the 6 thinking hats as a different way to approach a problem. Everyone wears the same hat at the same time, and then examines it from that hat’s perspective. Someone who is critical of the idea but wearing the yellow hat would still need to see what is good about the idea. De Bono says that the process actually saves time.

De Bono says that the fear of mistakes and lack of incentive to try out new ideas are the greatest inhibitors to the adoption of creative ideas.

“We’re all brought up to avoid mistakes at all costs,” says de Bono. Trying even one new idea a year in business would help.

Too much of what people do when it comes to thinking is using normal processes without trying to go beyond those processes.

“Caveman thinking consists of recognizing a standard situation and then providing a standard answer,” says de Bono. “Most of our thinking is that.”

De Bono is working on his 85th book about “Bonting,” which focuses on thinking that creates value.

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‘Luv’ Opens the Lines of Communication at Southwest Airlines

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  While attribution of this quote is problematic, Southwest Airlines has taken the message to heart.  Starting with “Luv,” Southwest Airlines employees and guests are treated with respect and care.

Love helps to open the lines of communication by softening people’s defenses.  When people know that their managers care about them as people, they are more likely to reveal problems more quickly.  Information is able to move faster, which allows problems to be solved before they can get out of hand.

Part of caring for people is listening to them.  When someone really listens, the person who is speaking feels valued.  For leaders, this quality is invaluable.  It is also critical for the people who handle complaints to listen.  Sometimes, that simple act followed by an apology can help create enough good will that the person making the complaint will be more open to a solution that is equitable for all involved.

By providing guests with information about  why a flight has been delayed, Southwest is able to express their love for their customers.  Everyone in the organization is aware that without flyers, there would be no airline.  Creating an atmosphere where there can be no complaints is difficult, and when a situation arises where a legitimate complaint is made, it is important to listen to the person before trying to solve the problem.

All information is compiled from “Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success” by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg.

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Communication Keeps Southwest Airlines Flying High

Southwest Airlines has built a culture based on communication. Chairman Herb Kelleher insists on absolutely honest communication with employees. When Southwest started in Texas, they faced impediments to starting up that were instigated by the competition, but they succeeded in getting the proper authorizations to run flights in Texas.

In order to keep prices low, the airline had to turn its planes around in ten minutes. The industry said it was impossible. Because Southwest employees did not know it couldn’t be done, they were able to turn planes around quicker than any other airline.

The standard turn around for Southwest is now 15 minutes because airports have become more congested. The effort to get a plane turned around in that time requires open communication and teamwork from all employees on the plane – even the pilots help unload the baggage. Southwest has cultivated a casual atmosphere that has allowed employees the opportunity to talk to their managers and those higher up in the company. It is this casual atmosphere, as demonstrated by their uniforms and the fact that everyone uses first names, combined with the empowerment of employees that allows the company to make decisions quickly.

Kelleher has a reputation for thinking and talking straight. His honesty and actions have allowed employees and unions to negotiate in good faith with one another. When the pilots agreed to have their pay frozen, Kelleher froze his own pay. It is actions like these that help employees know that the company is a team. It isn’t employees versus management. It is everyone working together to create a better, more profitable company.

All information is compiled from “Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success” by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg.