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Episode 4: ‘The Twilight Zone’ Sixteen Millimeter Shrine

When faced with the reality of aging and the passage of time 20 to 25 years after her last big movie, Barbara Jean Trenton retreats in to her study. Curtains drawn, she sits in a chair watching her old movies and drinking – day after day, week after week. While she would welcome a starring role as a leading lady, she cannot accept that her star has faded in Hollywood.

When reality finally catches up with her, she rejects it and claims her home as a sanctuary returned to the 1930s. She escapes into the past, watching her movies and wishing for a better day, one that probably never existed but looked sweeter with time. When she returns to the past, it’s two-dimensional, but it fits her because she herself is shallow. She values looks over substance, and status over possibility.

Barbara Jean Trenton gets her wish and is seemingly none the worse for wear, but the days past aren’t always what they a cracked up to be. Should we move backward toward the comfort of our nostalgia, or should we look forward to a better tomorrow? A theme that the Twilight Zone explores further in “Walking Distance.”

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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 Kinder Egg Avengers Toys

“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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Episode 3: ‘Twilight Zone’ Mr. Denton on Doomsday

Town drunk Al Denton is more than he seems. The other men in town abuse him, make fun of him and make him sing for his drinks. When Fate steps in, Denton is forced to come to grips with his gunslinger past.

Formerly, Denton was the fastest gunslinger in the area. Every day men would come in to challenge him to a duel. Every day he would start drinking earlier in the day. One day he killed a 16-year old; that’s when he put up his guns.

Denton lives in a time that is contrary to his nature. He doesn’t want to kill people, even if he’s good at it, because he realizes that one day he won’t be fast enough. He’ll be the one dead in the street. Unfortunately, word gets out that he has quit drinking and he has bested the fastest gun in town. Denton receives warning that another gunfighter is coming to challenge him.

Denton couldn’t forgive himself for killing the 16-year old because there was no point in doing so. If he had been able to, someone would have shown up the next day and the day after that. Denton would’ve kept having to fight men and boys who thought they were fast with a gun. Forgiveness can only happen when the behavior that has brought on the need for forgiveness has ended, and Denton had no control over ending the behavior without dropping into the bottom of a bottle.

It’s not until Fate steps in and lends a, uh, hand that Denton is blessed to be able to live a life free from the threat of his times. He is redeemed, and he his able to forgive himself. Some people aren’t able to free themselves of a situation because their times don’t allow it; they need help from someone or the luck of Fate. If you can get yourself out of whatever situation is keeping yourself from forgiveness, do it.

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‘Instant Hotel’: The Strategy

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What makes “Instant Hotel” a little different from other reality game shows is that it pits a group of entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry and share economy against each other. Each couple owns an instant hotel, which means they rent out their homes to vacationers. The other couples visit the hotel and rank it based on the home itself, local amenities and attractions, a good night’s sleep and value for the money. These scores, all on a scale of 1 to 10, are combined with the interior design professional’s score. In addition, the group of 8 are given a score from the hosts based on how the home was left and if all the rules were followed. The winner of the game gets a trip to California to stay at an exclusive instant hotel rumored to be run by a Hollywood celebrity.

So, how do you win this game? Since it’s the first season, episode two, it doesn’t appear that many of the participants are looking to win in the traditional sense – getting the prize. Instead, they’re looking to enjoy themselves, see what other instant hotels are doing and just go along for a good time. The mother/daughter team tried to plant the seeds of some sort of alliance against the two gay men, but it was more of a “let’s not let them win because we don’t like them” kind of thing.

If someone wanted to win, they could rate every experience they were on with a zero. The scores are anonymous, and it would probably be too late before anyone did the math to figure out what was going on. That same team could then rate their guests as a zero, and it would still put them ahead but reveal the strategy. This would work best with a team that is later in the series. No one knows when they will be the hosting hotel, but even the first hotel could rate its guests with a six without giving anything away.

However, that’s not actually the point of this competition. The point is for every hotel to get more guests after the episodes air. How do we get more people to come to our hotel rather than the other hotels featured and the other hotels in our area? The first step is to have a great hotel. The second step is to treat your guests well. The third step is to hope the guest at your hotel on this show say good things about your hotel. Whatever happens, the hotel experience needs to be memorable so that no one forgets what your hotel was like.

These steps should help the team connect with the viewing audience in some way and improve booking rates. More needs to happen though. People need to feel like the team is made of people they want to hang out with. They need to feel like the team is something they can support. Most importantly, team members need to find a way to create a story that will last and motivate people to book.

The longer-term gain from “Instant Hotel” is increased tourism for Australia from both nationals and foreigners. So, there needs to be a minimum of bad-mouthing of places and hotels and a maximum of showing off the best the country has to offer. Could a team employ a zero-sum strategy? Sure, and while it might win that team the trip to California, it would undermine the meta game goals of improved bookings at their own hotel and improved tourism for Australia. Because who would want to stay with a team that lied to win?

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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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Why This Isn’t an ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Review: Spoiling Things Sucks

KINDER SURPRISE! NO SPOILERS!

Every m-f-ing major media website has posted more stories about “Avengers: Endgame” by now than it has any right to, but I’m not upset about that. What I am upset about is that I haven’t had the opportunity to see Endgame yet and with every frickin’ new headline, its photo and its accompanying article summary, I come closer to having the movie spoiled for me. I don’t want headlines about certain characters and accompanying questions. And I would repeat them here, except then I would be doing the same thing to you that Yahoo!, Entertainment Weekly, and others have already done to me.

Why do they do it? Money. In a couple of weeks, no one is going to care about Avengers: Endgame. They’re going to be on to something else: Godzilla, maybe, or Pokémon, or John Wick… Whatever it is, the general public isn’t going to want to click on Avengers: Endgame stories anymore. Even if it does, those stories are worth a lot more because they are already on the web, so people who are late to the game will still be able to click and find them.

In journalism and the Internet, it’s all about speed. Get it out first and fast. You can correct errors later and, in the case of a movie article, people who don’t want spoilers shouldn’t click on the link and F them anyway. I have unfollowed spoiler accounts including the New York and LA times and Yahoo! Entertainment. I will continue to do so. I might follow them back later on, because print media like the New York Times and the LA Times need saving for the sake of the First Amendment and democracy, but for now, they can believe that Thanos snapped me out of existence.

So, for now, Thanos demands my silence. If you want to read a review from me, you’re going to have to swim against the tide and wait a couple of weeks. I will post my review then. It may or may not have spoilers. I don’t know. What I do know is that now is not the time to be publishing stories about the movie that could ruin it for others. And that, true believer, includes information about cameos, Easter eggs, and any of the characters we’ve spent the last 22 movies following. Follow my blog, follow me on Twitter and on Facebook if you want to read my review of Avengers: Endgame later and show the other news media that you will support a review even after the original furor goes by. When it comes up, share it and comment on it. (You can do the same with this article if you feel like I do about spoiling things, except commenting – no commenting, no GIFs, no SPOILERS.)

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Episode 2: “The Twilight Zone” One for the Angels

Death comes in with a gentle kindness though obtuse in his assertions. Maybe, he needs people to recognize that their time is up, or he is unable to tell them outright. He is firm in his proposition but explains the ways out that Lou Bookman could take. The last one suits Bookman’s purposes: he never got to make a big picture, one that opened the skies. Death grants bookman a reprieve and asks him when he thinks the pitch will be made. Bookman shuts the door on Death and shouts that he is done pitching.

Death follows Bookman pleading with him to reconsider and telling him there are consequences to his actions. Bookman refuses to listen until he hears squealing tires and one of his neighbor children is hit by a truck. Death had to take someone if Bookman wasn’t going to come willingly. Death will arrive for the girl at midnight, leaving Bookman to consider what has happened and what he can do to stop Death, who will no longer listen to Bookman’s pleas.

Bookman has two things in his heart. He has really wanted to make a big pitch and never gotten to, and he loved the children in his neighborhood. No one has to fear death who accomplishes in this life his or her heart’s desires and loves children. That’s true of Bookman, who has his last wish fulfilled and saves a little girl in the process. If there is something that you want to accomplish go out there and do it, but do it with kindness.

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Episode 1: ‘The Twilight Zone’ Where Is Everybody?

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When people are isolated, they get depressed and go crazy. In real life, babies fail to thrive if they are denied human touch. In the middle ages, banishment was an equivalent punishment to death. It denied people access to their homes, their friends, and their support systems. For many, it was a literal death sentence without an executioner. In its first episode, Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” openly addresses the need people have for human contact. It’s the moral of the story, but it isn’t the entire story.

The main character opens the story on a dusty road headed toward a diner that has hot coffee on the stove but is deserted. He doesn’t know who he is. There’s no one in the diner to help him or to help identify him. This character’s identity is missing because he doesn’t have anyone to measure himself against. He doesn’t have people who reflect him and tell him who he is. He has no context.

The first identifier he remembers is his nationality. He’s American. People draw a strong identity from their country and their birthplace. When abroad, Americans find each other and ask where the other one is from. It’s often the first question before what one does for a living. His job is the second thing He remembers. He’s in the Air Force.

But this character is still missing his identity. What’s his name? Who is his family? Why is he in a deserted town? Was a bomb dropped? He doesn’t know, and it’s not until he’s back among his Air Force command that he remembers everything that happened before the town. He has people to help him remember who he is. It takes a strong sense of identity to withstand isolation for any length of time. It takes others to remind us who we are, especially when we lose ourselves.

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Rod Serling’s Original “The Twilight Zone” a Relevant National Treasure

Rod Serling’s original “The Twilight Zone” is a timeless television show that continues to be relevant and thought-provoking. I have wanted to own the entire series for a very long time. With each trip to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disneyland, I looked at the collected series and its price, and decided I just couldn’t afford it. During one of my brainstorming sessions, I thought about adding Rod Serling and “the Twilight Zone” to my “… Is Creativity” series. That gave me the excuse to get the series on DVD, and I’m so glad I did.

I waited until recently to open the DVDs because I was working on “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” (to be released June 1, 2019 at Lilac City Comicon 2019). Now that I’ve started watching them though, I’m so glad I bought them. “The Twilight Zone” is hands down one of the best written series I have ever watched. In 30 minutes, Rod Serling creates characters that you can engage with and stories that move you.

Nothing may ever come of my wanting to do something with Rod Serling, creativity and “the Twilight Zone,” but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the was a man who wrote such wonderful stories for the betterment of the world. I may never attain the stature of Serling, but I’m glad that I have been able to see the fruits of his labors.

For more on Rod Serling and his creativity, get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.”