Creativity in the Midst of Horror

A photo is worth a thousand words . . . so I’ll dispense with the thousand words.

 

Sand Sculpture in Ukraine.
Courtesy of Flipboard, curated by the Photo Desk


Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.



Live Long and Prosper, Ukraine!

Snoopy in Concrete

Creativity knows no bounds. Nor, it seems, does an artist’s or cartoonist’s palette. Take, for instance, a recent, uh, exhibit at the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, CA.

Talk about a lasting impression! If you’ve ever put your hands or feet into wet cement, you know what I’m talking about. When I came upon this photo entry by Jean Schulz, yes, that Schulz, I had to share it via my own creativity blog. All of us can relate to having impressions in concrete. Then, again, if you’re a world-famous beagle, your impressions are as varied as your moods.

In her latest blog post, “Leaving a Lasting Impression,” Jean Schulz shares the simple joy of leaving your mark in wet cement.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

Live Long and Prosper, Ukraine!

Creativity Takes Courage

Fear and courage don’t seem likely bedfellows. Yet, they are showing us every day how they play together amongst the citizenry of Ukraine. When you’re fighting for survival, it stretches the limit of one’s creativity. Some may say that creativity is not even involved in warfare. I disagree.

While creativity in warfare interacts with a much higher level of courage and seriousness compared to presenting an advertising campaign, it requires effort and takes courage, as Matisse says. The Ukranian people are showing resiliency and mucho bravery. Creativity lives within that realm.

Fear and courage impact our creative thinking and expression

Even in a non-combat zone, fear attacks us everyday. Courage is what most of us try and muster to get through a day’s time unscathed by said fear. We may not be fighting to stay alive but we are fighting. We’re fighting our internal demons and our self-doubt. We’re fighting to retain some of our creativity and resourcefulness.

Author and teacher Elizabeth Gilbert admits “the only reason I can speak so authoritatively about fear is that I know it so intimately. I know every inch of fear, from head to toe. I’ve been a frightened person my entire life.”

She points out that “Evolution did well to install a fear reflex within you, because if you didn’t have any fear, you would lead a short, crazy, stupid life. You would walk into traffic. You would jump into giant waves off the coast of Hawaii, despite being a poor swimmer…

“So, yes, you absolutely do need your fear, in order to protect you from actual dangers.

But you do not need your fear in the realm of creative expression.

Continue reading

A Tip of the Hat to the Cat in the Hat! (and his creator)

Happy Belated Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

As you may have gathered by now, this post is an out-of-the-ordinary-one. It celebrates one of our nation’s top word sleuths, a master of reduced vocabulary and a penchant for a feline sporting a floppy chapeau.

His birthday was yesterday but his creativity, particularly with and for children, certainly merits more than just a mention in this creativity blog. He is, of course, Dr. Seuss, and with that brief introduction comes some background that some of you may not know.

Theodor Seuss Geisel (March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991) was an American children’s author, political cartoonist, illustrator, poet, animator, and filmmaker. He is known for his work writing and illustrating more than 60 books under the pen name Dr. Seuss. His work includes many of the most popular children’s books of all time, selling over 600 million copies and being translated into more than 20 languages by the time of his death.

Geisel adopted the name “Dr. Seuss” as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College and as a graduate student at Lincoln College, Oxford. He left Oxford in 1927 to begin his career as an illustrator and cartoonist for Vanity Fair, Life, and various other publications. He also worked as an illustrator for advertising campaigns, most notably for FLIT and Standard Oil, and as a political cartoonist for the New York newspaper PM.

He published his first children’s book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street in 1937. During World War II, he took a brief hiatus from children’s literature to illustrate political cartoons, and he also worked in the animation and film department of the United States Army where he wrote, produced or animated many productions including Design for Death, which later won the 1947 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

After the war, Geisel returned to writing children’s books, writing classics like If I Ran the Zoo (1950), Horton Hears a Who! (1955), The Cat in the Hat (1957), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), Green Eggs and Ham (1960), One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960), The Sneetches (1961), The Lorax (1971), The Butter Battle Book (1981), and Oh, the Places You’ll Go (1990). He published over 60 books during his career, which have spawned numerous adaptations, including 11 television specials, five feature films, a Broadway musical, and four television series.

Geisel won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958 for Horton Hatches the Egg and again in 1961 for And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Geisel’s birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association.

He also received two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Children’s Special for Halloween is Grinch Night (1978) and Outstanding Animated Program for The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat (1982).

Geisel’s most famous pen name is regularly pronounced /suːs/, an anglicized pronunciation inconsistent with his German surname. He himself noted that it rhymed with “voice”. Alexander Laing, one of his collaborators on the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, wrote of it:

You’re wrong as the deuce
And you shouldn’t rejoice
If you’re calling him Seuss.
He pronounces it Soice (or Zoice)

Geisel switched to the anglicized pronunciation because it “evoked a figure advantageous for an author of children’s books to be associated with—Mother Goose” and because most people used this pronunciation. He added the “Doctor (abbreviated Dr.)” to his pen name because his father had always wanted him to practice medicine.

So whether or not you heard Horton’s Who or salivate over his breakfast suggestion of Green Eggs and Ham, take a moment and say Thank You to the one main character to whom millions of kids have related to for years, Dr. Seuss.

Rod Serling on Writing and Creativity

To sleep. Perchance to dream. To dream. Perchance to imagine. To imagine. Perchance to create. To create. Perchance to write; perchance to make a difference. Mr. Rod Serling definitely made a difference and impacted society with his unique form and brand of creativity in his writing.

One could not watch an episode of either the Twilight Zone or Night Gallery and not be moved in some way. His genius and commentary were not limited to “inside” the story lines, but could also be found in his opening and closing narration.

Take the following, for example:

Then there’s this gem on creativity (circa 1971):

Quoting from the book “As I knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling,” by Anne Serling, (wonderful read, by the way) “In what was to be my father’s final interview, he was asked what he wanted people to say about him a hundred years from then. He responded, ‘I don’t care that they’re not able to quote any single line that I’ve written. But just that they can say, ‘Oh, he was a writer.’ That’s sufficiently an honored position for me.'”

As creativity goes, he was a master. As a writer, he was unsurpassed in this genre of storytelling. Oh sure, you have Mark Twain, Hemingway, Poe, Dickens, and Stephen King to name a few. But they were different; they each had their own style. Serling was also of another generation.

I often wonder what great works he would have produced should he have lived beyond 50 years. If King was or is the master of horror, then Serling, surely, was the master of the macabre for his generation, just as Edgar Allan Poe was for his. Not surprisingly, Poe was a great influence on Serling.

One thing to keep in mind, no matter who is or has influenced you as a creative person or a writer in particular, don’t be afraid to extend your limits, your boundaries. If you don’t think you can design it, write it or overcome it, try creating it anyway. Get to work even if you’re doing it in small, baby steps.

Even Hemingway wrote in a one sentence at a time mindset. Serling, being aware of his capacities, didn’t limit himself to actual writing of words. His generation of technology at least afforded him the dicta-phone so he could keep pace with his mind.

Write on, Rod!

de Bono on Creativity

As you may know, Edward de Bono recently passed away. What he leaves with him is a vast treasure trove of creative insights and reminders of how and what we might do to strengthen and enhance our own creativity. Here are some select quotes from him provided by the World Creativity Innovation Week/Day and Prady, whom we thank for letting us further promote the creative thoughts of Dr. de Bono.

More de Bono quotes:

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.

Most executives, many scientists, and almost all business school graduates believe that if you analyze data, this will give you new ideas. Unfortunately, this belief is totally wrong. The mind can only see what it is prepared to see.

Creativity is a great motivator because it makes people interested in what they are doing. Creativity gives hope that there can be a worthwhile idea. Creativity gives the possibility of some sort of achievement to everyone. Creativity makes life more fun and more interesting.

Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits.

The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas.

Bonus Quotes:

Humor is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.

It has always surprised me how little attention philosophers have paid to humor, since it is a more significant process of mind than reason. Reason can only sort out perceptions, but the humor process is involved in changing them.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

Special Edition: Creativity Mastermind, Father of Lateral Thinking Edward de Bono Has Died

I couldn’t let the week go by without a Tip-o-the (Six) Hats to the truly creative wizard I had the pleasure of meeting back in 2005 at an international creativity conference.

Creative thinker Edward de Bono has died less than a month after celebrating his 88th birthday. De Bono died last Wednesday morning and the news of his passing was announced by his family. 

I really didn’t know anything about him before I met him at this conference in Austin, Texas. He was one of the featured panelists at the conference and, one could argue, probably the most famous. He was also unassuming as he sat there on the panel giving out advice and counsel based on his many books, especially Six Hats.

Edward de Bono photo: Roy Zhao

That’s one of several he autographed for me as we visited for a brief bit following his presentation.

Born in Malta, De Bono graduated as a doctor but went on to study psychology and physiology from where he developed an interest in thinking processes.

He fathered the phrase lateral thinking, which has an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, and developed multiple thinking strategies, including the Six Thinking Hats method.

In a statement, his family described de Bono as a global citizen, who returned to Malta in his final years.

“This has always been his home. He lived an extraordinary life, inspiring, encouraging and enabling all of us to be better and more creative thinkers. He wrote in his book The Mechanism of Mind: ‘A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.’ May the memory of Edward live on and inspire many future generations,” the family said.

De Bono received his initial education at St Edward’s College and the Royal University of Malta, where he achieved a degree in medicine. Then as a Rhodes Scholar at Christchurch, Oxford, where he gained a degree in psychology and physiology and a D.Phil. in medicine.

He holds a PhD from Cambridge, a DDes from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and a LLD from Dundee. He has had faculty appointments at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London and Harvard. 

Thanks to the World Creativity and Innovation Week/Day

He has written over 60 books and programs, with translations into 43 languages, has been invited to lecture in 58 countries and has made three television series. Included among these 60 books are Serious Creativity, Creativity Workout, and Handbook for the Positive Revolution, all now displayed in my library with his autograph.

His ideas have been sought by governments, not for profit organizations and many of the leading corporations in the world, such as IBM, Boeing, Nokia, Siemens, 3M, GM, Kraft, Nestle, Du Pont, Prudential, Shell, Bosch, Goldman Sachs, Ernst & Young and others.

The global consultancy, Accenture, chose him as one of the fifty most influential business thinkers. In a 2004 interview with MaltaToday, de Bono even proposed a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as he launched his thinking centre in Malta.

In 1994, de Bono was made an officer of the National Order of Merit by the President of Malta.

Thanks to Kurt Sanson of MaltaToday for material upon which this blog is based.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

Rising from the Ashes

A Macabre Tale of the Dearly Departed

I’m sort of numb, sitting in Pam’s huge, upholstered easy chair just staring into space. It’s only been a few weeks since she died and here I am staring at the forlorn-looking black box that the funeral home delivered containing her ashes.

I’m scared to open it. I’ve never even seen someone’s ashes before. Not sure what to expect.

I sit. I stare. I wonder. I need a drink! Maybe two!!

After I return with my Jack Daniel’s on-the-rocks, I put the glass down and notice some liquid residue evidently left over from a glass no longer sitting here on the coffee table. I just mutter to myself that I’ll wipe it up later.

I take a sip of Jack, replace the glass on the table and reach for the black box to open it. Opening is no problem but I see that the bag inside is tightly tied so as to prevent spillage of the ashes.

Or so I thought.

When I lifted the bag from its container and began to remove it from the box, it began to slip from my hand and spill out onto the table. Evidently, the bag was not as securely tied as I was led to believe.

Though startled, and slightly embarrassed, even though there’s no one else home, I quickly apologized to Pam for having accidentally spilled some of her ashes. When I began to wipe up the ashes from the table, I noticed some weird reaction start to take place with those ashes.

It seems that some of them spilled precisely where some liquid remained from a few drinks ago.

I sat there mesmerized as I watched some chemical reaction taking place with the spilled ashes and liquid. To my amazement, it seemed as if some sort of figure was beginning to form.

A blob. Unrecognizable. But then, my God, it’s transforming right before my eyes into . . . a . . . person.

Pamela’s Voice imagerpy from The Night Gallery

I watch, amazed, not knowing what, if anything, to do. I am utterly transfixed on what is happening right before me. Then to my astonishment, it stands there and speaks, “Hi Joe!”

“It” is Pam, and I faint.

ii

“Uh, Joe,” she says. “It’s me, Pam, I think, though I’m not sure how I got here. It’s kinda fuzzy to me.”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” I muttered, slowly beginning to regain consciousness.

“Do you remember dying?,” I asked. “You know, you really screwed up my day, not to mention yours!,” I stated as flatly sarcastic as I could.

“I don’t know. I mean, I remember laying on the bed, semi-asleep and then, well, nothing. It’s as if everything went black,” she said.

“I don’t want to dwell on your death, Pam. I’m still in some kind of shock. It was I who discovered you, thank you very much,” I said.

“That moment was my worst nightmare come true,” I retorted.

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t exactly plan it that way,” she said. “But enough of this! How the hell did I get back here and what am I doing in our living room?”, she asked.

“Well, I was handling your bag of ashes and they slipped out of my hands with some spilling into a little residue of liquid there on the table. The mixture began some sort of chemical reaction and the next thing I know, you formed into, uh, you” I explained.

“You mean I was sort of resurrected from my ashes?,” she blurted out.

“That’s pretty much it,” I said.

“Well, that explains the gritty taste in my mouth,” she said as she sort of spit out some sandy-like substance.

“Why are you looking at me that way?” she asked.

“It’s not everyday, Pam, that I bring the dead back to life!” I said. “And,” as I stumbled for words, “you’re much younger looking than when you died,” I explained. “You look like you did when we first met, about 30 years ago!” I confessed.

“Maybe your appearance has something to do with your transformation,” I offered. “Whatever the explanation, I’m glad it has taken place” I admitted.

Evidently, unknown to me at the time, the mixing of the liquid with ashes that produced the chemical reaction also transformed the liquid somehow to create a person. This has resulted in forming a human, in this case, Pam, as I recall her from when we first met.

Oh, man, do I have questions, I thought. Does simply mixing a little of the ashes with any liquid produce this magical transformation to a “living being?” Is this magical elixir the solution for bringing the dead back to life?

“Pam, why don’t we take a little walk outside and get some fresh air? You’ve been bagged and bottled up for too long,” I suggested.

She agreed and off we went. However, as soon as we began to walk out the front door, she screamed in agony. We both immediately stopped and I looked down in horror.

She had begun to disappear!

iii

Her feet and ankles were dissolving and were starting to leave behind some dust reside. Thinking quickly in almost a reactive sort of way, I grabbed hold of her and immediately yanked her entire body back inside the house.

Within moments, thankfully, the shape of both feet and ankles began to return to normal appearance.

“Whew, thank God,” I exclaimed in shortness of breath. I was still holding on to her and sort of afraid to let her go. We eventually made it back to the living room where we both sat down in utter relief, she on the table and me in her overgrown chair.

“What the hell was that all about,” she screamed. “I started to disappear,” she said.

“Yeah, I know” I said. “I have a theory,” I suggested.

“Perhaps once the person leaves the house or the dwelling she occupies, she begins to dissolve and then disintegrates. In other words, she can’t venture outside or else she returns to dust or ashes in your case,” I theorized.

“You mean I can’t go outside or physically leave this house?,” she exclaimed.

“Not this way,” I said.

“Damn!” she retorted.

“Well, after all, you’re dead, remember?” I told her.

“As you have said on more than one occasion, my dear Joe, ‘minor little detail!'” she deadpanned.

iv

My now-growing list of questions boggles my mind: Is this chemical reaction trick a way of always producing Pam whenever I wish? Even though this creation is evidently limited to exist within the boundaries of my home, is that enough to satisfy me or to counter my longing for her? Could I bring her back in a different setting if I began the process from a different locale?

NightGalleryArtMinds

I have no clue at this point. The quest for clarification is now upon me. Where will it lead? Am I flirting with another dimension? Where is Rod Serling when you need him?

I think I’ll pour me another Jack Daniel’s and sit, contemplate . . . and chat with Pam.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

Special Friday the 13th Edition: Rod Serling – In His Own Words.

The Man. The Mind. The Mentor.

The Dad. The Television Star.

The Host. The Creator.

Mr. Twilight Zone himself.

Night of the Meek

Christmas is more than barging up and down department store aisles and pushing people out of the way. Christmas is another thing finer than that. Richer, finer, truer, and it should come with patience and love, charity, compassion.

Somewhere between apathy and anarchy lies the thinking human being.

Violence does not spring from a vacuum. It’s born out of other men’s violence. It gets nurtured and it grows in a soil of prejudice and of hate and of bigotry.

Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.

Serling-Judge him

A basic ‘must’ for every writer. A simple solitude– physical and mental.” ~ AS I KNEW HIM: My Dad Rod Serling

More than a man has died…More than a gallant young President has been put to death. What has been assassinated is a faith in ourselves. What has been murdered-a belief in our decency, our capacity to love, our sense of order and logic and civilized decorum.

Our greatest responsibility is not to be pencils of the past…

This is what I learned at Antioch-when something was wrong, I could get up on my own two feet and make comment on it… I think the idea of questioning is not only a right, it is a responsibility.

Serling-young

Remember that your salvation is in your capacity for human warmth–in that remarkable propensity for love.

I found that it was all right to have Martians saying things Democrats and Republicans could never say.

My dad said in a final interview, “I’d like to write something that my peers, my colleagues, my fellow writers would find a source of respect. I’d rather win a Writer’s Guild award than almost anything…

No moral, no message, no prophetic tract, just a simple statement of fact: for civilization to survive, the human race has to remain civilized. Tonight’s very small exercise in logic from the Twilight Zone.” –             The Shelter

Serling new pic

Rod left us way too soon. Not surprisingly, he is still today someone we look up to, someone we admire. From The Twilight Zone to the Night Gallery, he put his imagination on display for millions of fans.

As a writer myself, I’ve often wondered what kind of morbid, macabre mysteries would have come alive if Rod Serling and Edgar Allan Poe had lived in the same century. Deaths-Head Revisited, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Monsters Are Due on Maple StreetAnnabel Lee, A Stop at Willoughby, The Fall of the House of Usher, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet and, of course, The Raven.

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream. Because this, you see, is the Twilight Zone. Quoth the raven, “Nevermore!”