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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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The ABCs of Creativity: Explore

If you’ve ever seen a group of children on the playground, you know they’re everywhere. They’re on the equipment, on the swings and going down the slide. They’re grabbing bark dust, examining the concrete near the playground area and running into the field. They’re hanging out near the fence, crawling through the sand box and sticking their heads and arms out of the holes in the cargo nets or boxes near the top of the slide. They’re having fun, exploring and playing. It’s all part of growing up, learning and being creative.

If you’re a parent, you don’t have to just watch, you can listen, too. Children are using language in new and different ways, especially for them. They are exploring their imaginations and relationships with other children. They’re exploring what they can get away with and what they are capable of. They do this naturally. They aren’t aware of the process. They couldn’t tell you what they are exploring or doing beyond the literal and obvious, but they are developing skills for future use.

Adults don’t do this type of exploring as much if at all. In fact, many adults have given up on exploring. They fall into a routine and remain stuck there, which is fine if they are happy and fulfilled. However, exploration can help you grab a hold of life and get the most out of your experience. You’ll learn new things, have new experiences and become a more interesting person. When you look intently at the intersection or seek information, you’re setting yourself up to be able to create and synthesize your knowledge into something new. Explore your world, and then seek new worlds.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Buy “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Become More Creative for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Check out these links on creativity.

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Have You Ever Seen a Sad Person with a Stuffed Penguin?

Penguins in sweaters

Our penguins make us happy. Every time I walk into the living room and see it full with my wife’s new creations, my smile gets brighter, and I’m filled with a sense of love. While we can’t promise that you’ll be happy for the rest of your life because of one of our penguins, but we can say that your penguin friend will be ready to listen to you and help you face the most difficult situations.

Our penguins can provide you comfort and a non-judgmental ear to hear your concerns and worries. They can also provide you with a playmate for those days when you just want to enjoy life. All you need is to connect with your inner child, bring your imagination and open yourself to the experiences you treasured as a young person. Let our penguins revive your childlike qualities that help make like more joyful, creative and fun.

Order a handmade penguin today to improve your mood. If you have a specific clothing style in mind, we’ll do our best to accommodate your request.

Our penguins are made from faux fur and felt. They’re filled with holofiber. If you’re still not sure, read these 25 reasons you need a stuffed penguin.

Waving  stuffed penguins
Waving penguins
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Curiosity, being childlike and Questlove’s experience getting older

Being childlike is important to creativity. Children are curious; they ask questions about everyone and everything. They don’t care who is better. They don’t care about their egos. They don’t care if someone is stepping on their own creativity. They play with abandon and talk to famous people with the same irreverence as the talk to their parents and friends.

“When I was ten, I was curious with reckless abandon. There wasn’t any fear about consuming things: if they interested me, I took them in. I ranged far and wide because I wanted to see what was out there,” says Questlove. “Now that I’m older, I’m more cautious. I’ve whittled my influences down to my pantheon of drummers and singers and guitarists, and it’s hard for new people to crack the shell.”

In “Creative Quest,” Questlove calls this a “hardening.” He says that there are some artists about whom he “feels a certain way,” which he explains is “nuanced form of snark.” It allows him to slow roll “whatever envy you admit by not admitting.”

This not-quite jealousy keeps Questlove from listen to a few artists “at all.” It may be that he doesn’t want to be influenced by or learn more about the artist or he feels a certain way, and “it gets worse with age.” Questlove recognizes this as a problem, this “brittleness,” and he says that as a person ages, he or she is going to have to deal with it.

There are a million reasons why its hard to be curious as you get older. Even with the Internet, it’s harder to satisfy that curiosity. Who has time to find out and understand why solar panels work? Who wants to learn new information that could challenge old, long held beliefs? Who wants to find someone younger doing something better in the same field wherein they both work?

It’s easier to keep on living with the information that one has accrued and not to challenge that status quo in one’s own life, even when one specifically self-describes as a creative. It’s much harder for people who think they’re only a little creative or they’re not creative. However, adopting a childlike acceptance of your own limitations and taking wonder in what other people are doing in your field (like children at play) will help you become more creative and have better ideas. It’s in the challenge and the questioning of the status quo that creativity thrives. Find the space that allows you to play, to be curious and to create.

For more on creativity and Questlove, check out: “‘The Pirate Union’ and collaboration” and the links at our Creativity page.

If you liked this essay, you can get more in ‘Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.’ To improve your creativity, get ‘Disneyland Is Creativity.’

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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.

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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.