(Editor’s note: This article was originally published at examiner.com.) “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth” (affiliate link) examines the demise of the Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex in St. Louis. The housing project was supposed to help lift people out of poverty. It lasted 18 years before the city decided to demolish it because of a lack of maintenance, low occupancy and high crime rates.Continue reading
What if I told you there was a Polish immigrant in Pennsylvania, who fronted a Polka band, met Trump, George Burns and the Pope, and ran a Ponzi scheme that bilked people out of their life savings? “The Polka King” is based on the true story of Jan Lewan.
Jack Black’s portrayal of Jan Lewan is positive, upbeat, and American. Lewan does everything to make a dollar and to climb up the ladder of success, but it’s never enough. Then he hits on the idea to get investors for his career. Offering a 12% return on their investment, Lewan unknowingly embarks on a huge Ponzi scheme, and everyone is happy as long as they’re making money. He gets caught by the government and gets a warning, but the allure of easy money that can help him, his bandmates and his wife get ahead, is too much to resist. He continues with the scheme.
From the beginning of the film to the “Rappin’ Polka” ending, which might be the funniest moment of the film, “The Polka King” is baffling. It’s clear that what Jan is doing is wrong, but his heart seems to be in the right place. He’s just looking toward future success. How does something like this happen in real life? It can only happen in the movies, and sometimes in Pennsylvania – they have the pictures, newspaper articles and videos to prove it.
“The Polka King” provides plenty of fun and a little comedy. And if you don’t watch out for it, you might be hit with a dose or two of criticism of American Culture.
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.”
Sometime in early January, I started looking for a charity that supported penguins. It seemed like something we should do at penguinate.com. Penguins are cute, funny, the basis for our mascot and our lead creativity identity marker. I just didn’t find a lot out there on penguin charities and their effectiveness (much of what I found was for the Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey Team charity efforts).
Then I saw a trailer for DisneyNature’s “Penguins.” Ignoring the fact that the penguin’s name is Steve (hmmm… Steve), the movie looks like it has a lot of compelling penguin footage. Also mentioned in that trailer is DisneyNature’s commitment to give a portion of the opening week’s box office to the Global Penguin Society (GPS), which has a partnership with the World Conservation Network (WCN). In this case, as a Disney fan, I’ll let the DisneyNature film guide me to contribute to the GPS.
Jenya and I discussed it and we decided we would give to the GPS through the WCN $1 for every penguin we sell. That way we can do our part to make sure penguins are around long enough for us to go see them in the wild.
Wildlife Conservation Network has a 100 score and 4-star rating from Charity Navigator. Global Penguin Society won the 2018 Whitley Gold Award and the 2018 and the National Geographic Buffet Award for Leadership in Conservation presented to Dr. Garcia Borboroglu. Ten of the 18 species of penguins are vulnerable or endangered according to the IUCN.
Get a cute stuffed penguin today and help us support efforts to improve their numbers.