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The Dots of Creativity and Velcro

Penguinate creativity book

Steve Jobs said that creative people aren’t smarter than other people; they just have more dots to connect. Jobs believed that creativity came when someone connected two seemingly unrelated things to create something new that had value. But what is a dot exactly?

A dot is a fact or piece of knowledge that someone has. People who are trained in baking have a lot of dots about cooking times, what ingredients work well together, what ingredients do when they are heated up, how long dough should rise, and everything else about baking. If that’s their specialty, they will be knowledgeable about baking because they have learned about it. They may have memorized the recipe for a perfect wedding cake, but if it’s no their own recipe, they can’t be said to be creative, yet (even though baking does create something).

It’s not just the dot that has value for creativity. If someone has two dots and that person doesn’t connect them, no creativity has taken place. It’s the line between the two dots that is important. This is, what I call, the “thinking deeply” part of creativity. It takes a thought process to connect the parts together into something that makes something new. Sometimes, this thought process is conscious; sometimes, it’s in the subconscious and shows up as an “AHA!” moment. Either way, the person has a problem that he or she has been presented with, and the solution comes because of the thinking not only about the problem but also about everything he or she has learned before.

One of my favorite connect-the-dots moments comes from the story of Velcro. Invented by Swiss engineer George de Mestral, who loved hiking in the woods, Velcro came after a hike when de Mestral found burrs on his clothes. He was curious if the burrs could have a commercial application. He studied the burrs under a microscope, did eight years of research and product development and created the hook and loops to make Velcro work.

This story has the dots – hiking and engineering, the curiosity to ask the question, and the thinking deeply – studying a burr and working to create something like it. Velcro was patented in 1955, the same year that Disneyland was opened. De Mestral was ridiculed, suffered his fair share of failures, but thanks to his stick-to-it-iveness, the company sold 60 million yards of Velcro during his lifetime. When you learn something new and think deeply about how it can be applied to a problem, you’re opening up your imagination and opening the door to creativity.

For more about creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.”

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Uniqlo’s New Line Kaws for Alarm?

Kaws, Sesame Street and Uniqlo have teamed up to kill your favorite Sesame Street characters. Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, the Cookie Monster and Elmo are dead as evidenced by the exes in their eyes and the inert way they interact with the Kaws character himself.

Exed out eyes are a long-time symbol of death used in comic strips and by serial killers. The eyes are the mirrors of the soul and the accusers. The stare at the killer until his guilt causes him to kill the staring entity and remove sight from this world, either through a plucking out of the orbs or through a closing of the eyelids.

What is Kaws trying to assert with his exed-out-eyes Sesame Street characters? Do they sardonically grin while representing the death of childhood and innocence, or is something more sinister afoot? Perhaps, Kaws is looking to represent the death of American education through the death of the most recognized symbol of learning in the Western World.

The sales team at Uniqlo will tell you that it’s just theartist’s signature style; the characters aren’t dead. No one should be naïve enoughto believe Kaws doesn’t know the significance of the exes. For that matter,Uniqlo and Sesame Street shouldn’t have missed the meaning.

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The Moral Implications of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”

One of my favorite renditions of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”is from Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams. I showed it to my wife, and she said,after seeing a couple of other versions, “That’s a miracle.” I’ve led a singalong with the song at the Speakers’ Club in Blagoveshchensk to help improve English skills in a fun way, and after listening to, and singing, the song a half dozen times this season, I thought we should delve deeper into its meaning. Words like “scurry” and phrase like “pacing the floor” aren’t everyday English that people here may have encountered.

Frank Loesser wrote the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in 1944 and performed it with his wife at parties. (That was something famous people did back before television and high fidelity.) The song let the guests know it was time to go home. It was so well received that Loesser and his wife were invited to several high society shindigs, so that they would perform the song. Loesser sold the song to MGM who used it in the film “Neptune’s Daughter.”

The song has a call and reply setup. The first line is labeled as “the mouse” (I really can’t stay) and the second line is the wolf (Baby, it’s cold outside). Most people will say that the male part is the wolf and the female part is the mouse, and because men still predominantly hold the power in society, this isn’t questioned, even though the first mass media showing of the song had both a man (Ricardo Montalban) and a woman (Betty Garrat) in the wolf position (while Esther Williams and Red Skelton sang the mouse parts).

Art is what you bring to it. In the 1940s and ’50s, this song may have been seen as a call to empowerment. The mouse, male or female, is trying to throw off the shackles of society and judgement. If the mouse is vocalizing an internal struggle and the wolf isn’t interrupting but vocalizing his or her feelings about the whole situation, the song could’ve been read this way, especially if the audience was unfamiliar with the labeling.

In the age of #metoo and hyperawareness of consent, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” becomes questionable. Whether the wolf part is sung by a male or female, it’s about one person trying to convince another to stay inside and cuddle, or more, depending on what’s in the drink. Even if it’s just alcohol, consent could become a further problem. Worse, these types of arguments are the same ones that people who commit sexual assault use to get the other person in an uncomfortable situation.

In a fantasy setting or movie, the song is enjoyable, flirtatious and fun. In real life, when “no” means “no”, there’s no place for this type of coercion. If s/he must go, call her/him a cab and facilitate a safe departing. If you have to invoke this song in your decision to do so, remember, it was originally written to signal to guests it was time to leave the party. Share this article if you liked it!