Posted on Leave a comment

Irony: ‘Good Fences Make Good Neighbors’

Good fences make good neighbors?

In “Everything All At Once” Bill Nye uses the proverb “Good fences make good neighbors” to bring out his point that sometimes people need privacy. He isn’t advocating for a wall. A “voluntary boundary” built to keep to oneself is different than a boundary built to keep others out. People need both to have a fence and have people in their lives. It’s one of the diametrically opposed character traits that all creatives have, according to Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi: they need to be alone and they need to be with people.

Continue reading Irony: ‘Good Fences Make Good Neighbors’
Posted on Leave a comment

Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’ powerful commentary on America today

In BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee delivers another powerful joint. Based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, Colorado Springs first black police officer, and his infiltration of the KKK in 1979 with the help of his white partner Flip Zimmerman, Lee taps into the past to cast light on the present.

The writing revels in knowledge that the characters can’t possibly have, spitting it out as a foreshadowing of America today. It’s easy enough to catch the references to “America First” and making America great again. Those less steeped in politics may fail to realize that the real David Duke, played by Topher Grace, was a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and ran for president as a Democrat in 1988 and a Republican in 1992. Making (movie) Stallworth’s belief that such a thing couldn’t happen all the sadder and more naïve.

Lee’s powerful message is on point and strikes at the heart of his audience. Seamlessly edited cuts race between the KKK ritual David Duke is running and the Black Power meeting where Jerome Turner, played by Harry Belafonte, is describing in detail the torture and death of Jesse Washington, a mentally retarded black teenager in Waco, TX. The tension mounts as Stallworth’s and Zimmerman’s identities are discovered at the KKK meeting. All of the pieces are there to bring about real tragedy, including a bomb and police brutality against one of their own.

BlacKkKlansman, however, stops short of being an indictment against all white people. Instead, it points at those who espouse racist views, those who refuse to stand up to demagogues (in a brilliantly ironic speech given by Duke), those who implement budget cuts for nefarious reasons, and those who passively allow racism to continue unobstructed. If this Lee joint enrages you as being anti-white, maybe you need to take a hard, long look in the mirror and question your beliefs, values, actions and inactions.

For the viewer that isn’t able to keep up with the MAGA and America First references, the ending shows actual news clips to bring the message into focus: Not much has changed in the last 30 years; America is as racist as ever. BlacKkKlansman is clearly a cry to bring America together through the elimination of bigotry and hate. If Stallworth could do it as the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, so can we.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Secrets to Creativity and Success

The steps to success and becoming more creative are the same because the essence of creativity breeds the success that humankind was made for. Before the first chapter of “Everything All at Once” and just after the table of contents, Bill Nye sums up his steps for successfully changing the world with a bullet point list.

The first point he makes is that “Everyone you’ll ever meet knows something you don’t.” Teams have brought the world several innovations from the Walt Disney Company to Steve Jobs’ Apple, it’s been the teamwork that made the dreamwork. Individuals can have singular breakthroughs, but it takes a group dedicated to the same goal to make something truly extraordinary. At the very least, learning what someone else knows allows you to make more connections with what you already know.

“Constraints provide opportunities.” Creativity shines when there are rules, regulations and constraints involved. Creativity, in everyday use, is about problem-solving. The constraints provide the way that creativity is to be used.

“Question before you believe.” Brainstorming is the essence of questioning before you believe. No idea should be criticized and no suggestion is too far out there. The beginning of coming up with creative solutions is eliminate inhibitions and beliefs about projects. The idea that seems the furthest out there may be the one that sparks the best solution.

“Change your mind when you need to.” Creative endeavors lead to mistakes. They lead to dead ends. Sometimes, they are implemented before all the facts are known. It’s important to be able to change direction when a better solution presents itself.

“Be optimistic; be responsible; be persistent.” Optimism is curvilinearly related to creativity. Responsibility to yourself to use your creative talent will allow you to improve your creativity. Persistence is the key to success and creativity. You have to be able to stick to your path even when others are saying it won’t work.

Creativity is a meta-skill. Like success, it doesn’t come from just one place or affect just one aspect of a person’s life. Being creative won’t guarantee that you’ll be successful in the way that the world sees it; Van Gogh died a pauper. It does, however, mean you’ll be successful in fulfilling your own potential and finding the destiny you choose rather than the one society and industry have planned for you.

Read more about creativity. Get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

Posted on Leave a comment

The Apartment (1960): A Christmas/New Year’s Comedy Classic?

The Apartment” (1960) starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray was nominated for 10 Oscars and won five of them, including an Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director for Billy Wilder. It is rated by Rotten Tomatoes as the eighth best Christmas film of all time and by Esquire as the third best New Year’s film. In some ways, it seems like the 1960s version of “Love Actually” (or maybe, it should be the other way around). Whether these rankings indicate a true dearth of good holiday films or something else about the film industry and its rankings, “The Apartment” is no longer a feel-good movie or one with many laughs.

C.C. Baxter (Lemmon) is a young executive looking to advance in his company. As such, he loans out his apartment to the executives above him, so that they can cheat on their wives. This leads to late nights on a park bench for Charlie as well as a poor reputation among his fellow apartment dwellers and landlady. Lemmon schedules each of four executives, gives them deadlines to be out of the apartment (which they fail to meet), purchases alcohol and snacks for them to have while they are entertaining the women.

The boss, Jeff Sheldrake (MacMurray), learns about the apartment and its shenanigans and manipulates Baxter into allowing him to use it for his dates with Elevator Operator Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), with whom Baxter is in love. Baxter doesn’t know the identity of the woman Sheldrake is dating, and with the promise of promotion and the threat of losing his job, he agrees to the arrangement.

Kubelik makes it clear, on multiple occasions, that she likes Baxter but has absolutely no romantic interest in him. Still, she’s nice enough to him in a friendly way that he keeps his hopes alive for a meaningful relationship with her.

Everyone of the main characters has low morals of some sort. Disney staple MacMurray’s Sheldrake is a liar and manipulator, who serially cheats on his wife. MacLaine’s Kubelik knows Sheldrake is married and still goes out with him while lamenting about the type of men she’s attracted to. While she may seem to be the victim, she is complicit in her decision to continue going out with Sheldrake even after she has ostensibly broken off the relationship. The company itself shows its morals at the Christmas party where co-workers make out in every corner and one of the women does a striptease on a desk. All of this can be taken in context of current and past morals. (When Sheldrake confronts Baxter, Baxter says four bad apples are very little in relation to over 32,000 employees; Sheldrake responds with the fact that even four bad apples can ruin a large barrel.)

Lemmon’s Baxter may be the least objectionable morally; he certainly isn’t as bad as he could be. He never resorts to blackmail to get his promotions. Still, he’s an enabler and a liar, and his need to climb the corporate ladder trumps his better judgement.  His character is the only one with a believable arc. At least, the doctor, his wife and presumedly, the landlady are good people.

Lemmon, MacLaine (until her sudden change of mind/heart), and MacMurray are convincing in their roles. They are sympathetic actors even if their characters don’t offer much in the way of sympathy, and as long as cheating on your wife, attempted suicide, and discussion of another attempted suicide make for funny situations in holiday films for you, “The Apartment” is a decent movie. It’s interesting as a cultural study, especially in view of many people who would like to back to the era when men in power could cheat on their wives with impunity. Though this movie includes a woman who would cheat on her husband, who is in jail in Havana, so maybe this is where the sexual revolution began.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Ludicrousness of the Internet and the Simple Answer

Should I feed my dog mandarins? Yes or no. It’s a simple question to answer. Yet, before I can get an answer to this question on the Internet, I have to understand what a mandarin is, what a dog is, the different breeds of dogs that might eat mandarins (all of them), the nutritional value of mandarins and their rinds, how a dog’s digestive system works, why people might think it’s a good idea to give dogs a mandarin, why dogs should have mandarins, why they shouldn’t have mandarins, why they shouldn’t have the rinds, and then finally, the writer of the article deigns to give the answer: Probably not, but barring allergy, the dog won’t die from it. (In other words, I should not feed my dog mandarins.) That simple sentence could have been written at the top of the page, and it would have saved 15 minutes of scrolling and loading and given me the answer I was looking for.

The same is true for recipes on the Internet. Search for “apple pie recipes” and you’ll get plenty of recipes, but most of them will tell the story about how the person thought about making an apple pie on one harvest Sunday when the smell of cinnamon wafted through the air from the local bakery reminding him or her of a long deceased grandma who had the best apple pie recipe in the world, the one that you will soon be baking after the person gives you a complete biography of said grandma and the hardships she went through to get to the U.S. during the Great Depression. There will be a not-so-lively discussion of various apple types, how Johnny Appleseed was responsible for a majority of the apple trees in the U.S., and whether or not apple pie is actually as American as baseball and Chevrolet. Sure, the recipe, which calls for cardamom and squid, could’ve been placed at the top of the page and all of the other stuff below it, but you might’ve clicked to another web site if you found that the recipe required an ingredient you didn’t have, like 24k gold dust from a Nevadan river.

For either of these two posts, you’ll be scrolling past photos, videos and ads, all eating up bandwidth and time. Why all the scrolling, or worse, the multiple “next” page clicks? The easy answer is money. The slightly less easy answer is search engine algorithms. The least likely answer is credibility.

The more copy someone writes, the more place there is for ads. If a web page can keep you scrolling through ad after ad, it will make more money, even if you never click on any ads. Some web writers don’t have control over the placements of the ads, so using several pages rather than one long post makes it easier to make more money while you click through page after page of long-winded explanation for a simple question. Regardless of how much everyone wants content on the Internet to be free, the person or people producing the content need to make money to live. While multiple pages and multiple ads are annoying, they are necessary for many creators in the Internet (me included).

However, if no one is looking at the pages, there is no revenue to generate. Getting people to the page takes good search engine optimization practices. This includes writing enough that search engine web crawlers don’t exclude the page because it has a lack of content. “Should I feed my dogs mandarins? No” just isn’t enough words for a search engine algorithm to recognize the page as serious. Anything fewer than 100 words is suspect, even 100 words is questionable. Write enough, and the web page not only becomes more reputable according to web crawlers, but it will also hit on more keywords for search engines to latch onto.

For some pages, this is a matter of establishing credibility. (If I wanted to do that, I would tell you I’ve been working in the SEO industry for almost a decade and have studied trends in the Internet and its search engines. I would also give you a complete history of the Internet and my involvement with it, stopping just short of claiming to have invented it – I did not invent the Internet; please don’t start any rumors.) Because most Internet information is published by those who wish to remain anonymous or those you don’t personally know, it is important for the person to come up with a way to get you to trust him or her. After all, not everyone can be associated with a credible Internet source and those who aren’t need your page views even more than the biggest web sites. Of course, credibility doesn’t really matter to someone who is looking for a recipe. It should matter more to someone looking for dog care tips, but for the most part people on the Internet aren’t looking for the truth. They are looking for someone to confirm the information or biases they already have.

Aside from that, writing a lot doesn’t actually establish credibility. Anyone can write anything, and you will have little to no way of verifying the information. I used to be an astronaut and flew the first manned spaceship to Jupiter in a secret government program. That’s not true, but there’s no way you can verify it. Maybe it is true, and I’m trying to cover myself by saying it isn’t. Even if you have access to secret government records, chances are you don’t have secret access to every government’s records. However, if I wrote a whole lot about space and Jupiter and published some planetary stock photos, you might think I’m a credible authority on space travel. The same is true for someone who writes a whole lot of information they found on the Internet in their blog about feeding dogs mandarins.

Until the Internet changes the way information is sorted and paid for, there is little anyone can do to stop the overflow of useless information that doesn’t answer the question asked. Sending reports to search engines about clickbait, especially on sponsored posts, may help. Subscribing to your favorite web sites may also help. However, for the foreseeable future plan on learning the obscure history of someone’s great uncle pirate who is responsible for the introduction of gravy to the Indonesian diet while you’re looking for the answer to whether or not raccoons are native to North America. (They are.)

Posted on Leave a comment

Misunderstanding in the English Language: Sarong, yet it felt so right.

I handed the small items to the cashier, who was in training, as his supervisor stepped away to help another guest. I then handed the larger items over, including a sarong and held up the suitcase last.

“I want to put all this stuff into the suitcase,” I said. It would save us the cost of a plastic bag that wasn’t needed anyway.

“Okay,” he scanned the suitcase price. Then he rang up the smaller items. Then he reached for the hangar with the sarong. “Do you want these two?” It was clear English wasn’t his first language.

“Yes, I want this, too.” I indicated the sarong on the hanger.

His trainer, who also wasn’t a native English speaker, returned and asked, “They want this two?”

“Yes, they want this two.” He replied.

“Yes, we want this, too.” I said simultaneously.

“No, we don’t want those two,” my wife says. “We just want one.”

The trainer pulls two sarongs off the hanger and hands us one. I didn’t realize there had been two sarongs there and apologized for the confusion. The trainer assured me there was no problem and that the overring was easily fixed.

Creativity requires a change in perspective. Learning a new language can help provide a different perspective. Alternatively, speaking with people who have English as a second language can also improve creativity through culture and connections they make that Americans would not. Read more about creativity.

Posted on Leave a comment

‘Mary Poppins Returns’ with a message the world will needs but will miss.

The original “Mary Poppins” is a ground-breaking cinematic achievement that is as magical today as it was in 1964. There’s no way a sequel could match it, and if this is the reason some people don’t like “Mary Poppins Returns,” they’re missing out on a story that this world, at this time, desperately needs and will probably fail to hear. “Mary Poppins Returns” isn’t about saving the children or saving the father; it’s about saving ourselves.

“Mary Poppins Returns” is similar to the 1964 “Mary Poppins” that it’s a sequel to. There are songs, hand-drawn animation combined with live action, a bunch of working-class men doing dancing in the most preposterous of ways, a female character fighting for a cause, a weird relation who’s facing an impossible affliction and a father whose situation has caused him to forget all of the things he learned as a child when Mary Poppins was his nanny.

From a time before the film was released, it was clear:

  • Emily Blunt is no Julie Andrews.
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda is no Dick Van Dyke.
  • Meryl Streep is no Ed Wynn, but you might not recognize her either.
  • Marc Shaiman is no Sherman Brothers.

I should probably repeat that last statement. There isn’t a tune that I was humming at the end of the movie. “Mary Poppins” gave us “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” “Feed the Birds,” “Step in Time,” and “Chim-Chim-Cheree,” which won the academy award. “Mary Poppins Returns” gives us…

Whatever you’re doing this Christmas, go see “Mary Poppins Returns.” It’s grown up a little while keeping most of its innocence intact. (The “Book by It’s Cover” Sequence is a bawdy vaudeville style song.)

Posted on 2 Comments

The Disneyland ‘A Christmas Fantasy Parade’

Opening float for A Christmas Fantasy Parade

As Charles Dickens wrote in ‘A Christmas Carol’:
“It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.” Creativity requires people to be child-like. Children are insatiably curious. They combine things that no one else would think of; they explore the intersections where concrete meets grass and water meets land.

Enjoy these photos from Disneyland’s ‘A Christmas Fantasy Parade’ and find your inner child. Read more about being childlike and creativity.

Posted on Leave a comment

Uniqlo’s New Line Kaws for Alarm?

Kaws, Sesame Street and Uniqlo have teamed up to kill your favorite Sesame Street characters. Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, the Cookie Monster and Elmo are dead as evidenced by the exes in their eyes and the inert way they interact with the Kaws character himself.

Exed out eyes are a long-time symbol of death used in comic strips and by serial killers. The eyes are the mirrors of the soul and the accusers. The stare at the killer until his guilt causes him to kill the staring entity and remove sight from this world, either through a plucking out of the orbs or through a closing of the eyelids.

What is Kaws trying to assert with his exed-out-eyes Sesame Street characters? Do they sardonically grin while representing the death of childhood and innocence, or is something more sinister afoot? Perhaps, Kaws is looking to represent the death of American education through the death of the most recognized symbol of learning in the Western World.

The sales team at Uniqlo will tell you that it’s just theartist’s signature style; the characters aren’t dead. No one should be naïve enoughto believe Kaws doesn’t know the significance of the exes. For that matter,Uniqlo and Sesame Street shouldn’t have missed the meaning.

Like this article about Kaws, Sesame Street and Uniqlo? Be sure to share it!

Posted on Leave a comment

The Princesses Save ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’

If you haven’t seen “Wreck-It Ralph 2,” look away now. This review probably contains spoilers. If you’ve seen “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” continue below the trailer.

When Wi-Fi gets plugged in at the arcade and Ralph’s good intentions mess something up, it’s up to Ralph and Vanellope to visit the World Wide Web and find the part that fixes the problem. The fish out of water find a variety of new experiences that they can’t explain. Some of it is as disconnected and strange as the Internet in real life. You might find yourself wondering what you’re actually watching.

However, it isn’t until the Disney Princesses show up that “Wreck-It Ralph 2” finds its groove. The princesses are fun and redeeming, and Disney continues doing what it’s been doing to its princesses since “Frozen” and before.

Fortunately, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” contains more themes than a typical Internet usage day. Identity, friendship, and dreams all take center stage and provide fodder for the movie goer to think about. Of course, if thinking isn’t your thing, there are plenty of “duty”-type jokes to keep you happy. Though no one says you can’t enjoy both. As always, staying until the end delivers a… reward?