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A Baby Penguin Hatches

Doing some research for “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly,” I came across this video from PBS. In it, one baby chick calls to another who is still in its egg. This encouragement helps the unhatched penguin emerge from its shell. The chicks all arrive at once.

The father has sat on the egg for two months. Once the chick has hatched, he or she needs food; the father and chick need to find the mother in order to get food and survive.

Polly is a newly hatched chick who wants to fly, but penguins can’t fly, can they? If you want your name in “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly,” sign up for our Patreon at any level before August 30, 2019. You’ll get a mention in the acknowledgements.

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Matured Penguins and Their First Swim

When I was doing research for “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly,” the above video from National Geographic played its part. This video talks about the black tips on the wings, the down washing off during the penguin’s first swim, and swimming to the north for three or four years.

All of these concepts play a part in book, which is written for four- to seven-year olds. Parents can read it to their younger children. It is fiction, and is scheduled to be released in September. “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly,” but penguins can’t fly, can they?

If you want your name in “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly,” sign up for our Patreon at any level before August 30, 2019. You’ll get a mention in the acknowledgements.

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Who were your childhood friends?

My first friend was my dog Reggie. He was a beautiful, loyal German Shepherd who would listen to me, play with me and was always there for me. I lost Reggie when we had to move to the projects in California. They don’t allow poor people to have pets, and Reggie would’ve been too big for our apartment.

In the third grade, I had a girl-friend. Everyone joked that we were destined to get married. She had long brown hair and was, ew, a girl. Still, we were friends who spent recesses and lunch together.

In fifth and sixth grades, I reached the height of my childhood popularity. I knew a lot of people with whom I was friends. Many of them showed up for my birthday party at Marine World Africa, USA – a story I wrote up (with an account of Reggie) in “My Life in the Projects.”

In sixth grade, I had an actual girlfriend. Girls weren’t so “ew” by that time. I also had a couple of friends that I regularly played Dungeons and Dragons with. They were upset when we had to move to Oregon to get away from the violence in the projects.

A father and son lived caddy-corner from us in the projects. They were older than me, but we were still friends, even after we moved. I played chess and watched anime with the father. The son and I kept in touch until after I graduated from high school. We played a role-playing game that he made up to entertain me. I lost touch with them when I went to college.

Even before all of my human friends and about the same time as Reggie, I had a group of friends and protectors who kept me safe in the dark of nights and provided solace in the darkest of times. My stiffed animals were fun to be around, and they could always go with me, no matter where we moved. They were steadfast, loyal, and some told amazing jokes.

I haven’t kept in touch with my childhood friends. We’ve grown apart – separated by time, distance, and experiences, even in this electronically and virtually connected world – and that’s on me. I have, however, kept my stuffed animal friends, tucked away in a box somewhere, waiting for me to bring them back into my life, to enjoy the sunshine and the laughter of an old man they still see as the child that once was. Until I am able to, until I have the space to house them, I’ll keep collecting plushie friends from the amazing penguins my wife hand makes to the multiple examples of Olaf the Snowman. And when I am finally able to bring them all together, we’ll have an epic party to celebrate our friendship.

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Judy Collins and the Muppets of ‘Sesame Street’

marching penguins

During a difficult time in her life, Judy Collins had fallen prey to alcoholism and was on the edge of a chasm from which there would be no return. She was saved by her friend and fan Jon Stone and the Muppets of Sesame Street. Collins was able to find a reason to keep going; she was able to find an intermittent beacon that brought her back to a safe place full of love and respect.

Collins found the Muppets absolutely convincing. The characters established a safe place for every performer but perhaps more so for Collins because Jim Henson recognized that she was an alcoholic. Kermit and the gang allowed Collins to be more playful and to be a child again. Collins was able to establish a connection with the Muppets, which she says was part of the magic of her Sesame Street experience.

This story of Judy Collins is in “Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street.” It strikes two chords in me. The first chord is related to creativity. Collins talked about feeling comfortable and safe with the Muppets, being able to play with them and become a child again. These are attributes that allow people to become more creative. There’s a place where they can take a risk and make a mistake without having to worry about the social or economic consequences; it’s safe. Play is the way that people learn; it allows for experimentation and growth. Becoming childlike allows people to discover the world around them and seek out answers to questions that are both simple and profound. Like the question found in the “Rainbow Connection.”

The second chord relates to our penguins. My wife makes the great penguins you see on our website. We have adopted several for ourselves. Piotr the first penguin and Perpetua the second one. We have the penguin that someone else made and my wife gave me on our second date, and a penguin that she commissioned but wasn’t exactly what she wanted. We have Patch, our black and white travelling companion, who is always telling stories, mostly about fish and Penny in her rain slicker, who started traveling with us first and always wants to fly. Recently, Checkers found himself with is forever family in New Zealand; we’ve been interacting with him on Instagram and Facebook. Of course, we have the other penguins who get hatched here and wait for a family to adopt.

Tea Party with the Penguins
Tea Party with the Penguins

Having all these penguins around allows us to play, feel childlike and connect with who we are through them. Each has its own personality, and each provides its own kind of support. Our penguins may not be Muppets, but they are a great way for us to be able to find our freedom and happiness.

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Our Traveling Penguins: Penny and Patch

My wife and I love to travel. We don’t get to do it as often as we like, but when we do, we make sure to take along our two traveling penguin companions – Penny and Patch. They’ve help us meet other people who are bringing their own stuffed friends along, and we’ve found adventures and fun in the most unexpected places, inspired by our penguins.

Penny Penguin in Hawaii
Penny Penguin in Hawaii

Penny has been traveling with us the longest. The problem is that she likes to fly. It’s okay if it’s in a plane, but it’s much better if it’s under her own power. Fortunately, she’s tough, and she hasn’t flown too far away from any of the photo sights. We have to keep an eye on her though because she won’t miss an opportunity to leave the ground.

Patch Penguin The fish was this big!
Patch Penguin The fish was this big!

Patch is our hungry penguin. He loves to eat almost anything, but he always has his eyes set on fish “this big.” Patch is also telling the other penguins in our rookery stories about what he’s seen, what he’s done and what kind of fish he wants most.

You can see the adventures of Penny and Patch on our Instagram. Or you can check out, Checkers Penguin who has his own Instagram; he’s into food, fingernails and lives in New Zealand.

If you want a traveling companion, you can get one of our handmade stuffed penguins. They’ll come with a passport, so their ready to go anywhere. If you want more penguins in general, join our Patreon or you can give the gift of a penguin with our Pay-It-Forward Penguin program.

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The Top 8 Movie Penguins

Penguins should have more movies. They’re funny, cute, and always ready for a hug (especially the handmade variety available here). Here are my picks for the top 8 movie penguins.

Pablo the Cold-Blooded Penguin. Released as part of “the Three Caballeros” in 1945, Pablo is a penguin who doesn’t like the cold, so he conspires to get away from the cold weather to get to the warmth.

Chilly Willy’s first animated short wound up on the big screen in 1953. Like Pablo, Chilly Willy doesn’t like the cold either. That doesn’t mean that Chilly was copied from Pablo; it’s possible, but it’s equally likely that a penguin who doesn’t like the cold is funny. Chilly Willy had a longer run than Pablo and lived to be seen on Saturday Morning Cartoons regularly. He also has a memorable song.

Penguin from the Batman movies is the ultimate bad guy. Burgess Meredith probably played the best version of the penguin as dapper villain with a squawking laugh; Danny Devito was also memorable for his disgusting and more penguin like villain in “Batman Returns.

The Madagascar Penguins have had a heft run that includes four movies including one of their own. This team works as comic relief with their pseudo-military organization.

Mumble is a penguin who doesn’t have a heart song. Instead, he has “Happy Feet.” Fortunately for the penguin colony and the Earth, his happy feet get him international attention and spark a worldwide debate about the fate of penguins and global warming. (Even those, who have a vested interest in keeping the status quo over making life better for everyone, are represented in the argument that follows.) Most of the film Mumble spends as an outcast in search of meaning; then he gets what every outcast wants, acceptance and a leadership position in his colony. The messages in the film overlap, and it’s an interesting juxtaposition of new creativity versus old creativity. Plus, there’s a kickin’ soundtrack and Robin Williams.

Wheezy’s appearance in Toy Story 2 was enough to set off the events of that film. He triggered Woody’s insecurities while putting Woody in a position to get stolen from a yard sale. Being part of a billion-dollar franchise is nothing to, uh, wheeze at. Wheezy also appeared briefly in Toy Story 3.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins was a mediocre movie based on a book that was better. At least the penguins got to wreak havoc on Jim Carrey.

Billy Madison’s giant penguin hallucination is funny and a little freaky.

Honorary Penguin: Benedict Cumberbatch – any actor, whose work is pronouncing words and who can’t say penguin, deserves this honorary position.

Which penguin is your favorite? Which one did I miss? Let me know in the comments.