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.

Advertisements
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.

Posted on Leave a comment

‘Star Wars’ R2D2 builder Tony Dyson on Creativity

I was lucky enough to be invited as a journalist to Malta Comic Con 2015, where I met the man who built R2D2 for the Star Wars films of the 1970s and 1980s. Tony Dyson was a personable, friendly man who invited me outside to interview him about creativity. For a Star Wars fan writing a dissertation on creativity, this is about as good as it gets. Dyson summed up his advice for people who want to be more creative in two words – “Play more.”

Check out my interview with Tony Dyson:

Now go forth and play.

Want to know more about creativity? Get a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Purchase “Penguinate: Essays and Short Stories: Improve your creativity for a better life and world.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

Read more about Malta Comic Con 2015 at our archive site.

Posted on Leave a comment

Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and Creativity

In the stage play when Tinker Bell drinks the poison that is intended to kill Peter Pan and starts to fade, Peter says it’s because not enough people believe enough in fairies. If the audience could believe more in fairies, and show that belief through applause, Tinker Bell could be saved. This isn’t the only time that the two characters are associated with belief.

In Disney’s 1953 screen adaptation, Peter tells the Darling children that they can fly. “All it takes is faith and trust… and a little bit of pixie dust.” As long as the children think happy thoughts and believe they can fly, they can.

The first step to improving your creativity is to believe you can. Too many people believe that creativity is an innate gift bestowed upon a blessed few at birth. The reality is that everyone is creative, you just have to harness it, practice it and release your inhibitions. None of that can happen unless you believe in your own creativity and your ability to improve it first.

Think you can improve your creativity? We do to, get a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Steps for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essay and Short Stories: Improving Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Let us help you fly!

Posted on Leave a comment

Harry Potter, the Boggart and Anxiety: Curious?

In “The Prisoner of Azkaban,” Professor Lupin is teaching the students at Hogwarts how to protect themselves from a boggart. Boggarts take the shape of what the person fears most. Lupin advises the students to picture what they fear most and use the incantation “Riddikulus.” However, just using the incantation isn’t enough. “What really finishes a boggart is laughter. You need to force it to assume a shape you find amusing.”

Todd Kashdan offers similar advice for dealing with anxiety in his book “Curious?”. The incantation he uses is “I’m having the thought that…” followed by whatever the anxiety producing thought is. Kashdan points out that we aren’t our thoughts. Our thoughts do not always reflect reality. By adding the observation that you’re having a thought, you’re able to separate the thought from reality and look at the situation more objectively while limiting the power of the thought.

After exploring the incantation, Kashdan talks about other ways of dealing with anxiety, including imagining the anxiety as an animate object, like a purple puppy dog or a tiger with candy cane claws and licorice teeth. “It becomes a lot easier to confront unwanted experiences and prevent fusion (the strength imbued in a thought when it is taken as literal truth) when they look silly and nonthreatening.

So, imagine your anxiety as a black widow on roller skates it can’t control or as Snape dressed like Neville’s grandmother and start getting control of your anxiety. Who knew that Harry Potter had insights on how to deal with anxiety and fear?

Posted on Leave a comment

‘Frozen 2’: The Fall of Elsa

Let’s forget the mildly entertaining and somewhat inconsistent shorts that Disney spun from its billion-dollar franchise ‘Frozen’ and look at the new teaser that just dropped. A determined Elsa faces the fury of a stormy coastline. Was she kidnapped and left on an island? Shipwrecked? We don’t know. We do know, by the determination in her face and body language, that she’s going to get off the island using her ice powers. The ocean can’t defeat her. (I don’t know why she needs a running start or how long she plans on running.The ocean is big.) She could probably make a stairway or bridge over the waves, but that would be way less cool.) Winter is coming!

Floating multi-colored diamond shapes…

All the SVENS! Gather the herd, we have places to run!

Anna shows off her athleticism. That’s quite a leap. Of course, tossing a bust around like it’s a bouquet of flowers showed off some of Anna’s unexpected strength.

Elsa is fighting fire to save her friend Olaf. Is this the time we see the demise of Olaf? If this scene comes before Elsa fighting the ocean… I fear for our friend who likes warm hugs. Maybe, it’s retribution for the short that was too long and shown before “Coco.” Olaf! Some people are worth melting for. Just maybe not right now!

The wind through the leaves as fall settles across the land. Has fall come too early? After Elsa’s eternal winter of the first movie, is this how the trees would react? Are those two new characters? It doesn’t look like Christoff’s coat. And he’s being blown like a leaf on the wind. It could be Hans or the son of the Duke of Weselton.

There’s a fell voice on the wind. All of those blowing leaves… It’s the Fall of Elsa. How else would a queen, her sister and the official ice deliverer be able to leave the castle and ostensibly the kingdom? Who did they leave in charge? Hans? He was a capable leader who seemed to care about the people of Arendelle, even if he wanted to kill the sisters.

The all female version of “Vuelie,” the seemingly weirdly out of place opening to the first movie featured a choir of men and women. This trailer version is different. And cut! No, Anna, I didn’t mean that literally!

I have already proposed several different plotlines that I’m pretty sure Disney didn’t consider. You can see them on my Patreon page as a preview of my planned book “Penguinate! The Disney Company” if you join today! You might also want to check out five bad pick-up lines from “Frozen” at our Weebly archives.

Posted on Leave a comment

Nine Episodes in: ‘Salvation’ requires trust

“Trust is the most valuable commodity in the world” – paraphrased from the Russian Defense Minister Toporov on “Salvation.”

In fewer than six months, the world will end. All it would take to save the world is to launch a gravity tractor equipped with the newly developed EM drive into space. It seems like it should be a relatively simple thing to accomplish. The biggest issue is that no one trusts each other enough to let anyone else do his or her thing, and it starts at the top with the governments of Russia and the U.S.

REM: It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Russia cuts off all diplomatic ties to the U.S. and threatens war. They know the asteroid is coming, and they don’t have the ability to build an EM drive, in spite of having kidnapped one of the scientists responsible for its invention. Russia threatens to shoot down anything shot into space and has already destroyed any satellite capable of crashing into the asteroid (which they should do, because if the asteroid is blown to pieces, it will result in a lot of meteors raining down on Russia and other countries in the Eastern Hemisphere rather than an extinction level event.) Russia threatens these things because they found that the U.S. has already dropped one asteroid on them (using the real-life Chelyabinsk meteor as part of its story).

Kaa the Python: Trust in Me

The U.S. president refuses to acknowledge the action, and the only way to move forward with a launch is for billionaire Darius Tanz to take PR official Grace Barrows to Moscow. Barrows is friends with the former ambassador, who may be able to arrange a meeting with the Minister of Defense. Pointless shenanigans (meaning the death of Barrows’ friend and the frame-up of Tanz and Barrows for her murder by polonium) ensue and the two meet with Toporov, who demands a test of their trust. Barrows and Tanz drink the tea laced with SP-117, which is not sodium pentothal, and tell the truth about what they want and how they propose to get it.

Russia still doesn’t trust the U.S., but it trusts Tanz and Barrows. The launch is a go. Yay! We’re going to save the world with a joint operation between the U.S. and Russia… Scrap that. The world learns about the asteroid, and Russia withdraws its people again. The Secretary of Defense sends up the rocket with the only EM drive, as far as he knows, and it gets shot down. The world will be destroyed because government officials couldn’t do the right thing. The only plan anyone has left is to shoot nuclear missiles at the asteroid as it gets closer, and every scientist has already said that plan won’t work. (Tanz has a secret plan, but the Secretary of Defense doesn’t know this at the time he makes his stupid decision.)

Liam, the kid scientist responsible for the discovery of the asteroid and calling its attention to Tanz and then develops the EM drive, finally gets his ex-girlfriend Jillian back to Tanz Industries to do a job she’s uniquely qualified for. She may be willing to get back together with Liam; after all, she had to keep the secret from her family and discovered how difficult it was. Then, the reporter shows up, attempts to blackmail Liam and reveals to Jillian that they kissed. Liam is dumbstruck.

First of all, this is not how a good reporter behaves. However, it’s the second time that this particular reporter attempted to blackmail someone. She has also made friends with people who could provide her with information for her story. She’s going to get the story regardless of the morality involved in the methods to get it. Her story is the reason the Russians pull out of the launch deal. She is also the reason why Liam and Jillian have more trust issues than before.

Billy Joel: A Matter of Trust

While in Russia, Barrows and Tanz engage in a tete-a-tete, which results in an SP-117 kiss. Barrows is dating Harris Edwards, her boss at the Department of Defense. This action would likely undermine their relationship by destroying the trust they have in one another, but back in the states, it’s clear that Edwards doesn’t trust her. Professionally, he revokes her security clearance; personally, he goes to a bar and has sex in the bathroom with the bartender. When Barrows gets back to the U.S., he arrests her and then accuses her of sleeping with Tanz. Dude, that ship sailed when you went to the bathroom with the bartender. What gives him that right? Oh, and he’s being set up by someone to make it look like he ordered Barrows to be assassinated.

Fleetwood Mac: Little Lies

Barrows daughter doesn’t trust her and ends up in Re/Syst. Tanz makes a deal with RE/SYST, who tack on a malware program to monitor Tanz’ work from here on out. With all of the lies and deception, it’s hard to see how anyone will gain another person’s trust.

Instead of people trusting in each other, we’re stuck with a bunch of egos, lies, and the inability to let it go for the sake of saving the human race. Everyone is involved in making shady deals and shadier decisions that work to undermine what little trust they’ve built up. Worse, everyone is ready to believe the worst of someone else; they turn on a dime regardless of their confessed feelings. If this show is any indication of the truth about people and trust, there is little difficulty in believing that a few people at the top will wind up destroying the Earth for petty reasons and because they lack the humanity, intelligence, and moral compass required to do the right thing for everyone rather than the right thing for themselves. If people facing the end of the world can’t trust each other, how can normal people in everyday life expect to do so?

Trust isn’t an easy thing to rebuild. Once it’s broken, there are few people who are big enough to build it back up, and few people who change for the better in order to justify rebuilding the relationship. Human beings are creatures of habit. If a person engages in behavior that destroys trust he or she will probably engage in the same behavior again no matter the good intentions the person may have. The point is: Trust is the most important commodity in the world. The world is ending for someone every day; inspire trust and help make it easier to face.

Posted on 1 Comment

Three Episodes in: ‘Salvation’ Decreases Faith in Humanity

Three episodes into “Salvation” and I can’t believe how stupid the characters are. The premise of the show is there is a planet killing asteroid on a collision course with the Earth. It has a 97 percent chance of colliding with our planet creating and extinction level event. The U.S. government has known about it for three months, and ordered a rocket from the Tanz company to send up a gravity tractor. The rocket has to retrofitted to work for what the government wants, and in testing, the retrofits don’t work right and the rocket blows up. The gravity tractor is out as far as the government is concerned.

In the meantime, a college student’s algorithm found the asteroid. The student informs his professor, who disappears. The student gets close to Darius Tanz, head of the Tanz company, and tells him what’s going on. Tanz contacts the Department of Defense. Both the student and Tanz get added to the secret group that is trying to find ways to deal with the asteroid. With the gravity tractor out, one of the men has proposed running the IO satellite into the asteroid to knock it off course.

The student and Tanz point out that doing so won’t move the asteroid. It would instead create a lot of meteorites that would rain down on Earth with no telling where they would land. The man, who proposed the idea, concedes the point and asks if Tanz has a better idea. Tanz proposes the invention of an electromagnetic engine which doesn’t exist. They agree on that solution for the moment.

Flash forward to the next meeting because the president is getting nervous and wants an update. The man, who proposed the ramming of the asteroid, comes back with the same proposal, but this time, he’s done the calculations: the created meteors would rain down on Russia, China and Korea killing an estimated 1.4 billion people. They have two windows. The first is in seven days, the next is in 60 days. Rather than give Tanz and his team 60 days to build and perfect their EM engine, they decide to go with the first window because it gives them two chances to get it right.

What? The false logic here is that they have two chances. Unless they have two satellites in orbit around IO, they have only one chance. Waiting for the second window wouldn’t change anything. If they didn’t get it right the first time, there is no second chance. The IO satellite would be careening into space, and there’s no backup. You have one satellite and one chance. Wait for the second window.

However, there’s a larger problem. Russia and China have active space programs. Chances are they’re going to find out about this asteroid and what the U.S. did. If they do, there’s a good chance, they’ll see the destruction of the asteroid as an act of war and decide to use their missiles to blow the U.S. up. The political wonks and military people should understand that’s the natural reaction of any person in power and that this secret asteroid information is going to get out. At the very least, some spy is going to find out. More likely someone’s going to let something slip.

If colliding with the asteroid is the only choice, this group needs to make sure it has a plan to evacuate the countries that are going to be affected before it decides on this plan of action. That means the information about the asteroid needs to be brought before the United Nations and nations need to know what’s coming. Even more importantly, the U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on “smart” people or space. In fact, with the defunding of NASA, the U.S. isn’t the leader in space exploration any more. The asteroid could be used to bring countries together; instead of as a way to fill the American ego.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Mummy of Nuclear Waste

In “the Mummy” (2017), Tom Cruise is a rogue army officer looking for ancient artifacts to sell on the black market. He gets caught in a tough spot, calls in an air strike, and blows a hole in the street of an insurgent occupied town that reveals a screaming face. His commanding officer gets there along with a woman who specializes in protecting antiquities. They discover a giant screaming bust, which she recognizes as Egyptian. Cruise, his partner and the woman go into the hole.

There the woman narrates what she sees: A rope with hieroglyphs to warn against evil spirit submerged in a pool of mercury being used to weaken its power, watchers faced inward (rather than outward) guarding against the pool, a set of chains (not for bringing the object up but instead, for keeping it down). We find out later that she knows monsters exist, and this is one of the most ancient. Even with all of these warnings and the knowledge of why the cavern looks the way it does, Cruise shoots the rope, activates the lifting mechanism and reveals the sarcophagus, which is taken aboard a military aircraft as a sandstorm threatens to engulf the plane.

Many of the other Mummy movies that came before involve a team seeking treasure in the desert and continuing to proceed despite warnings of natives, tribes put in place to guard against the release of the evil, and bad things happening to the team before they even enter the chamber.

There is a popular myth about the curse of Tutankhamun. Many people believe there was a curse written on his tomb and Howard Carter went in anyway. Even though there has been no curse inscribed on the tomb, it’s representative of what people will do for knowledge, history, fortune and glory. The truths exposed in these films and this legend include people are curious and people are greedy. And these are the reasons why burying nuclear waste won’t work.

Nuclear waste is deadly for 250,000 years. That’s longer than any languages will survive. Burying it with statues and pictograms detailing its deadliness may be treated as superstition from a less developed society. Or it may not be readable to explorers who have no context for the depictions. Worse, it may entice the future explorers to learn more about the inhabitants who lived amongst the strange drawings. At that point, the horror and joke will be on them. Assuming the mummy of nuclear waste isn’t unwrapped by natural disasters or our own people with malevolent intent.

Posted on Leave a comment

‘Io’s’ Infuriating Ending Defies Character and Logic

Netflix’ “Io” is a minimalistic, quasi-science fiction movie about the end of the world. The CGI and backgrounds are questionable, and the two main characters have a hard time holding viewers’ attention, which is too bad because I like Anthony Mackie. However, what drives me to write this review is the anger I felt at the main character Sam, played by Margaret Qualley, at the end of the film. (Spoilers ahead.)

The Earth is contaminated by ammonia vapors and the entire population has fled to Io, Jupiter’s moon, to find a new planet and build a new life. The entire movie takes place on Earth, so the movie name is a bit of a misnomer, but not so much that it creates cognitive dissonance. Sam, the daughter of a scientist who has claimed that people can adapt to the new atmosphere and urged people not to leave the planet, is the only one left alive as far as she knows. She self-administers some sort of inoculation against the toxic atmosphere.

Her human connection is a man who is already at the Io station. She meets Mackie’s Micah when he lands at her place in a helium balloon. Micah is looking for Sam’s father and headed for the last shuttle off the planet.

In no particular order, she dumps the man on Io, there’s a flashback of her father telling her that the human connection is more important than science, and Micah reinforces that idea when he says people aren’t meant to be alone. Sam acknowledges all of this and agrees to go with Micah to the shuttle. Before that happens though, she seduces Micah overcoming his objections with “we have to.”

And here’s where I get angry. Sam goes to a museum and then tells Micah, she’s not going with him. She sees life on Earth where everyone else sees death. She rips off her mask and survives the toxic atmosphere. Micah leaves the planet. She gives birth to a child, and they go visit the sea. What? Seriously? She’s a scientist working in biology. She should know that women don’t necessarily get pregnant after one session of intercourse. But it can happen, so let’s go ahead and give that to the movie.

Here’s where the movie doesn’t make any sense. When Micah tells Sam that she’s coming with him, she has already gone through the process of convincing herself that’s the only logical plan. She’s lost the bees. She needed help with the windmill. Most importantly, she knows she needs the human connection. She’s accepted that. She says, “Okay,” and that should be that. There is no indication that she has changed her mind about human connection in the rest of the film or that she understands she is pregnant.

There is no sense to her decision, and if she knows she’s pregnant, she makes the most selfish decision available. First, the treatments didn’t work for her father, and administering them to a child would be different. She doesn’t have the expertise or data necessary to insure the survival of the child.

Second, that child is going to grow up, she’s going to die, and the child is going to be alone with no chance for human connection. She is basically sentencing her child to solitary confinement for much of its life – at best, and she’s doing it for no other reason than because she still believes the human species can adapt. Except, the child will not be able to reproduce. He or she (according to the credits, the child is a boy) will be the last person on Earth with no chance to find the human connection beyond the mother-child one. Which brings us to the last point, she cannot on her own establish a new species or a human adaptation to the ammonia with just her child, which begs the question of incest and menopause, if they both survive to his sexual maturity.

I was willing to deal with the long, slow parts of the movie, but to have it conclude so illogically and against the character of the only real characters in the film, was more than disappointing. It was disturbing and enraging.