Posted on Leave a comment

‘Up in the Air’ Takes Flight with Destructive Innovation

airplane wing towards clouds

Up in the Air” provides and example of creativity and innovation being applied in a destructive and dehumanizing way. CTC is contracted to go to other companies and fire people though they never use that term. The position is no longer available, or there is no longer a position for you at this company are phrases they would use, and they offer re-placement services in theory. Newly hired Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) proposes a way for CTC to save thousands of dollars by moving from an in-person firing process to a virtual firing process.

Her innovation would allow a person to sit at a computer in Omaha to fire someone anywhere else in the world. The person that would do the job would have a script that he or she could follow, which would make the job easier theoretically. Long-time downsizer Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) sees his whole lifestyle collapsing in front of him and confronts his boss, Craig Gregory, (Jason Bateman) and Keener.

Gregory instructs Bingham to take Keener on the road and show her the ropes. He does so reluctantly, but through their partnership, it becomes apparent that a human connection is important in both their work and in their lives.

Firing someone is a personal (for the one being fired) and destructive consequence of capitalism. In the United States, it’s a devastating blow to one’s identity and social network. To have it be done by someone who isn’t a part of the company is bad. To do it over a conference call akin to Skype is like breaking up using a text. It’s a cowardly act that causes psychological harm to both people involved in the transaction. The lack of respect in dealing with the elimination of an employee’s position and hence, his or her employment, in such a way is underscored by Keener’s and Bingham’s girlfriend’s reaction to Keener’s boyfriend dumping her via text. It is further underscored and remarked on by Gregory when Keener quits with a text and he says the act is because of the lack of respect in the younger generation.

Keener’s idea was innovative and would result in a windfall for CTC, but the human cost would’ve been too high. There are certain actions that should be done face-to-face because human empathy can help cushion the blow. Creative efforts don’t always result in something good. Be sure to find a way to make your creative efforts beneficial for as many people as possible.

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

Advertisements
Posted on Leave a comment

Season 3, 15 episodes in: ‘Lucifer’ and the Lost Book – An examination of pop culture’s need for violence and gore over peace

people standing beside black pickup truck

You never get to read the Kathleen Pike series in “Lucifer.” All you get to know is that it was a high school drama based on the real-life high school that the writer went to. There were teens, who while not engaged in explicit activities, were engaged in swapping boyfriends or girlfriends and petty jealousy. And there were robots, apparently. The last book in the series was finally finished, but the author was dead after completing the last novel with a robot uprising. At least that’s what the manager says, and it took five years to complete.

As the mystery unravels, it comes to light that the last novel in the teen drama sci-fi didn’t include a robot uprising. Instead, the author finished a novel that ended with peace and everyone brought together by the social outcast. The manager was furious, the author was going to kill the series with her ending, but the robot uprising existed, too, written by a fan who had shown it to the author. That was the ending the manager wanted, the one that would sell the most books and keep the franchise viable.

As in real life, violence and dystopia sell. They, along with sex, sell the “Lucifer” show. They sell “Game of Thrones.” They sell every police procedural on television, and almost everything is a police procedural. How many NCIS divisions do we really need? How many good cop, bad cops? How many ways are there to represent people dying? Those are rhetorical questions.

The real answer is that we need to bring balance to our shows. Charlie Brown, “Family Ties,” Mickey Mouse, “I Love Lucy,” “The Facts of Life…” We need more shows that focus on the good in life. Even though “M*A*S*H” was set in the Korean War, it focused on the relationships and the people trying to survive the horrors of war. What entertainment do we have now that’s helping us examine our best ourselves, rather than trying to solve the puzzles of our worst selves with violence and detail or skewering us with sarcasm, satire and rude jokes?

Posted on Leave a comment

Disney Fox Merger Sounds Death Knell for Creatives

Book cover for Penguinate! The Disney Company

The official merger of Disney and Fox has sounded the death knell for creativity. While scooping up Fox’s assets is the right business decision for Disney, it is one that writers, movie makers, ad executives and other creatives should fear.

With Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Fox, and its own studio, Disney will own an estimated 40% of the box office. The merger allows Disney to exercise economies of scale and negotiating power not seen this side of Wal-Mart.

Writers already face enormous competition to get their stories read. Every indie writer out there who wants to see their stories on the big screen has just had their chances reduced by one major player. Making a living as a writer is difficult enough without having Fox’s ability to seek out new storylines withdrawn from the market.

Looking at Disney’s upcoming movie slate, Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Lion King are remakes of animated films. Dumbo will have to lose the crows. Will Smith will have to do his own genie thing because it would be ridiculous to copy Robin Williams. Other than that, these three films look to be Xerox photo copies of their animated counterparts. We’ve already seen them and we’re going to see them again.

The sequels list is longer. With Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far from Home (though not as far as you might think), Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Frozen II and Star Wars Episode IX on the slate, there is hardly any room for an original idea. While sequels can bring something new to franchise, they don’t require as much risk taking or creativity to make.

Which leaves Disney with Artemis Fowl and with DisneyNature’s Penguins as its only non-sequel, non-remake movies coming out in 2019. With 11 films left on the slate, Disney has one new story that will probably flop and a documentary to offer. Take a moment to ponder that.

Even if Disney remains true to form and let’s Fox operate the way Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm have, Fox was depending on its Avatar sequels and X-Men films to keep it in the black. Films Disney was already on board with.

Creativity will have to come from film makers with smaller budgets who, despite lacking marketing savvy and budgets for said marketing, have a film hit big. Like writers, these smaller film makers will have to find a way to cut through the noise of modern media and its giants to harness the power of going viral, and they’re going to need you to help. It’s going to be an uphill battle for creative people to get out there, but it always has been.

(Full disclosure: I own Disney Stock ad will go see all the Disney/Marvel/Pixar branded movies they make.)

For more thoughts on the Disney company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company.” For more on creativity, buy “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

Posted on Leave a comment

Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion Exterior and trouble accepting new ideas

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

In a story about Ignaz Semmelweis, the survival rate of children and their mothers, and handwashing included in his book “How to Fly a Horse,” Kevin Ashton points out that even in a “field as empirical and scientific as medicine… Creation is seldom welcome” (74 – 76). People need creativity and change, and they resist it at the same time. It’s part of the dichotomy of being human.

When Walt Disney wanted his imagineers to envision and create a haunted house for his theme park, they all came up with the same idea: a decrepit, run-down building that had ghosts. Walt didn’t like it. He didn’t want a run-down building ruining his pristine park.

According to Sam Gennawey’s “The Disneyland Story,” Ken Anderson, the original lead on the Haunted Mansion as we now know it, wanted to hide the run-down mansion behind trees native to Louisiana. Walt didn’t go for it.

Harriet Burns built three models for Walt to choose from. The imagineers put the pristine building behind the other two decrepit versions. Walt chose the beautiful building every time. He wanted guests to feel welcome in his park; that meant everything had to be clean and in good repair, even the haunted mansion.

Walt was working with some of the most creative people in the planet. Imagineers knew Walt, had experienced his success and demeanor first hand. Even when he told them, “We’ll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside” (Surrell, Jason, “The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic,” p. 13), they insisted on trying to convince him that a haunted house needed to look a certain way.

“Everyone expects a residence for ghosts to be run-down. But Walt was always looking for the unexpected,” (Genneway, p. 180) said Claude Coats.

When those who consider themselves creative and create for a living have trouble accepting new ideas and ways of doing things, everyone else has even greater problems to accept the changes that come with innovations. It’s okay. We just need to realize that creativity is just as necessary for the advancement of humanity as being wary of the change that it brings is. As soon as we can embrace our seemingly opposed sides, we can see they are working together to make us more successful, as long as we don’t let one win over the other all the time.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” For more on the Disney Company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company” officially releasing on April 14, 2019.

Posted on Leave a comment

Old Creativity and New Creativity collide in ‘Happy Feet’

In “Happy Feet,” every penguin has a heart song that he or she uses to find a mate. If the songs work together, the penguins marry and have eggs. The heart song is so important that a penguin isn’t a penguin without it. When Mumble is hatched with feet that compel him to dance, his father is worried and upset. He admonishes his son to keep his feet still; he knows other penguins wouldn’t understand.

Time proves his father right. His dancing is seen as an afront to the Great ‘Guin, and Mumble gets blamed for the lack of fish. Mumble doesn’t think that the accusation makes any sense. Mumble is ultimately banished from the penguin community. He goes to find the real culprit responsible for the missing fish – people. In the end, it’s Mumble’s happy feet that save the penguin community from starving as humans take an interest in the him, and after he teaches his penguin community to dance, the penguin colony on the ice.

Singing and dancing are creative acts, but if a person or penguin keep singing the same song, the act loses its creativity. Creativity must be something new. In the case of “Happy Feet,” it’s the dancing that is creative, and because it’s new, it threatens the status quo. Mumble, its initiator, gets punished for his creativity. When he returns to the community, his new creative act saves the penguins.

People rely on creativity to continue to adapt and grow, as a species and as individuals; people are also threatened by anything that’s new. It’s the paradox of creativity: human beings need it to survive and embrace it in words, but fear the change that comes with it and reject it out of hand. Creativity can be great and terrible. It’s up to us to embrace the innovations that will solve current problems and to encourage those creative acts that bring more beauty and true enjoyment, like dancing and singing, to life.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “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

Two episodes into the third season: Lucifer, Identity and the Human Condition

“We all have itchy butts.”

How long does it take for me to realize that the show “Lucifer” is about identity? Lucifer spends all of his time trying to convince his partner that he is, in fact, the devil. He does this without actually showing her is true face because somewhere inside of him, he’s afraid she won’t accept him. He wants her to see his identity, and it’s important for him to be identified as THE Lucifer. But he holds back from the detective for some reason unknown to him.

He reveals himself to the therapist. He reveals himself to countless bad guys. Maze, his two brothers, his mom and, for a time, God Johnson, know who he is. When someone punishes another person, he broods about how it’s his job to do the punishing. He gets his wings back and shouts that he decides who he is not his Father.

In season three, episode two, he confronts a comedian and says “the joke’s your identity.” She denies it telling him that everyone has an itchy butt, it’s what you do with it that counts. So, when Sinnerman shows up in the third season, Lucifer has found someone who has stolen his schtick. Sinnerman gives out favors for a price to be revealed at some unnamed time in the future. Sinnerman stole Lucifer’s identity, and he goes off about it until he realizes that everyone has an itchy butt.

Lucifer’s identity isn’t any less important to him than another person’s identity is to that person. People place value on who they think they are. It’s why some poor people won’t take government handouts. It’s why some religious people deny science. It’s why some people make choices that are seemingly set up to be bad for themselves. We cling to who we think we are rather than give up what we want to believe about ourselves, even when presented with incontrovertible truth that contradicts our beliefs. People will die to protect their identity, and if for some reason they survive the trauma of having their true identity revealed to themselves, they break. “Lucifer” makes it clear that identity is a powerful force. What identity are you protecting?

Posted on Leave a comment

‘Captain Marvel’: The Problem with Prequels

Before the movie everyone is waiting for, fans of the Avengers films have to, get to, or whatever your verb choice is, sit through “Captain Marvel.” The movie in and of itself, without its connection to the larger franchise, has nothing really wrong with it.

Clark Gregg is amazing and fun. Brie Larson is a badass, and Samuel Jackson delivers as Agent Fury. There’s plenty of action, one lame reveal, and an amazing cat made for the Internet. The lame reveal is lame, but it’s surprising in its lameness, which makes it less lame by a smidge. At any rate, Marvel makes a good movie.

The problem is that “Captain Marvel” is a prequel, so there aren’t any stakes to speak of. You know what’s coming next “Avengers: Endgame.” If you’ve seen the other Marvel films, you know the Earth isn’t in danger, at least during this film. Captain Marvel is coming to fight Thanos and save the current half of the Marvel universe. That meta-knowledge renders the stakes in this film pointless. Captain Marvel, Agents Coulson and Fury, and Korath are all safe. Flashbacks have the same problem as prequels, but they’re shorter. (Let’s not talk about a flashback in a prequel; it gets too difficult to process.) How do you raise the stakes if the audience knows the outcome?

“Captain Marvel” doesn’t answer the question well. Instead, it settles for a cliché shot at an ancillary character Still, it’s a nice film, with a beautiful tribute to Stan Lee and his cameo. “Captain Marvel” is just enough to whet the appetite for Marvel’s “Endgame.”

Read more blog posts about Marvel.

Which was better: “Captain Marvel” or “Wonder Woman”? Leave your answer in the comments!

Posted on Leave a comment

5 Episodes in: Isolation within and outside of ‘The Umbrella Academy’

Isolation is one of those themes that pops up quite a bit in science fiction. From “The Twilight Zone’s” first episode ‘Where Is Everybody’ to Will Smith’s “I Am Legend,” people are fascinated by the effects that being alone for an extended period can have on a person. It’s probably in part due to the dual nature of humanity. We want to be alone, and we need companionship; every person is somewhere on the spectrum between these demands, and it changes depending on the day and inner requirements.

Spoiler Alert.

This theme should have been clearer from the start of “The Umbrella Academy.” There were so many other things to adjust to, however, that it got lost until episode five. Number Five is the most isolated. He spends decades in the future with a manikin, who is as real to him as any person. Luther spends four years on the moon, which for him was enough.

Allison has been psychologically isolated from people for most of her life. She couldn’t discern what was real and what was the result of her power. She is now isolated from her daughter ad is attempting to build a new relationship with Vanya.

Pogo, and this is important, was left alone in the house after all the children moved on with their lives. Diego constantly talks about how mom was treated, but he doesn’t pay any attention to the talking chimpanzee who also had to put up with the abuse (as Diego sees it) that father dished out. Pogo says that he owes everything he is to Mr. Hargreeves, but it’s clear he’s hiding something.

Klaus used drugs to keep the spirits at bay. These are the spirits he should have been connecting with his whole life in a “Ghost Whisperer” sort of way. Unfortunately, his father’s ill-conceived training regime did nothing but frighten a young child into a life of escapism and dulling fear through chemistry. He continues to refuse to embrace who he his and what his power represents, even if there’s nothing scary about his brother Ben, who hangs out with him.

Diego lives in the backroom of a gym and goes out nights to fight crime. He has spent his life pushing people away and doing things his way without compromise. The death of his not-girlfriend sends him further down the road to isolation. He doesn’t recognize that he needs companionship, but his actions suggest otherwise as he takes Klaus with him to stake out the donut shop.

Surprisingly, it’s the relationship between Hazel and Agnes that hammers the theme home. Hazel feels acutely alone, and it’s affecting his work. Perhaps his isolation is worse because he spends all of his time with a partner as they travel 52 weeks a year. When he opens up to Agnes, he reveals that his job is fulfilling anymore.

People need companionship. They need to be part of something bigger than themselves. They need to be loved. Religions, cults and sports teams flourish because they can provide a semblance of these things. Humans define themselves in terms of the other; we don’t know who we are without someone else to base ourselves on. It’s part of our strongest desire – that of establishing and maintaining our identity. Sometimes, that means embracing the love of family, both biological and chosen. Sometimes, it means choosing something more carnal.

When a man finally shows interest in Vanya, she falls for him. She doesn’t care if he’s nefarious. On the outside he presents a nice-guy façade, and he does things to support and help her, including, unbeknownst to her, murder. Vanya won’t take the warnings of Allison because she has been isolated for so long. She hasn’t felt worthy and no one has expressed to her that she is worthy. Her father always told her she was ordinary. Her siblings ignored her to the point that when Allison watches tapes from their childhood, she says she wouldn’t let anyone treat her daughter that way. Vanya wrote a book that further estranged her from the family. She lives alone and pushes people away. So, when she finally decides to open up and take a chance, she falls hook, line and sinker for the manipulations of Leonard.

Vanya gives Leonard her love, literally and her power, figuratively. Leonard, a creep, stalker and killer, dumps her pills and unleashes Vanya’s creative power. Not all creative power is good. Some people use their creativity to destroy. The atomic bomb, hypersonic ICBMs, new forms of torture… the list of terrible creativity is long and horrific. Vanya’s power isn’t just to build but to destroy, and when she finds out about Leonard’s manipulations, it could be apocalyptic. Allison still provides hope that someone can reach her.

Posted on 2 Comments

One Episode in: The Umbrella Academy devalues creativity

The only child, Number Seven, or Vanya as she likes to be called, without powers is perhaps slated to be the most powerful of all the superhero children gathered at the Umbrella Academy. In the first episode we’ve already seen Vanya, played by Ellen Page, practicing violin on a stage. She’s written a book, and her dream patterns were beeping off the chart and compared to the relatively normal brain patterns of the other children. She is clearly the most creative of the group, and that’s what makes her dangerous.

Diego and Luther are the tanks. Time and space travel boy is a freak! His fight scene against what appears to be an elite military group was incredible. Suggestive woman is dangerous, but says she has stopped using her power. And Klaus, a drug addict and cliché, speaks with the dead – that’s a different kind of freaky. That leaves Vanya, who is undervalued and underappreciated.

Creativity and the resulting innovations are what set the humans of today, homo sapiens sapiens, apart from other humans and animals. Being able to make something and then turn that to other uses is how people became the dominant species on Earth. People aren’t the fastest or strongest. They aren’t even the smartest necessarily, but people adapt the situation to their needs. Too cold? Build a fireplace and house. To hot create an air conditioner. To wet? Open an umbrella.

Vanya also trained with her father though she may not see it that way. She knows what the people in the group can do and how to use their powers, and as soon as she adapts her thinking to solving the problems at hand, she will be the one to guide the members of the Umbrella Academy to greatness with better chances for success.

Posted on Leave a comment

After 2 Seasons: No ‘Salvation’ for CBS series

Spoiler Alert:
CBS’ “Salvation” illustrates the problem of a countdown. When a show has a significant, world-ending event on the calendar, it can only end poorly. The asteroid is coming and for two seasons of “Salvation” the main thrust of action comes from the reaction of people to the asteroid and the ineffectual efforts of the government, a rogue hacker organization and a genius billionaire to divert the asteroid from its course. There are plenty of amazing, thought-provoking episodes, especially in the first season. And then there are the dumb actions, mostly in the second season.

By the penultimate episode, none of that matters. Humans are doomed by the incoming asteroid. Old rich and evil people have made off with the show’s namesake spaceship/lifeboat for humanity and there’s nothing left to do but tie up loose ends, except “Salvation” is a TV show and needed a way to continue if it were picked up for a third season. (It wasn’t.) That’s when the writers decided it wasn’t an asteroid.

If you’re writing a series with an asteroid and you’ve built it up to the point of impact, you either need to end it with a bang or with the success of people over nature. In this case, “Salvation” decided to offer a vote of no winner and scuttle everything it had built up to the last episode, which was unfortunate because they could’ve gone out with a bang.