Book Review: Creativity, Inc

 

Every once in a while you come across a book you would never attempt to read but for some stupid reason you do, and you are so thankful you did. This is one of those times.

While researching material on writing, I came across a recommendation for a book, and I kind of scratched my head. This was a book on business, and there was just no way I would read a book on business – my eyes would glaze in the first page, the same way they do if someone is talking actuarial tables or student loan forms. What could such a book have to do with writing? It just so happened the library had a copy I was able to grab. And that book, despite being a couple of years old (2014), is the best book I have read so far this year.

Creativity, Inc. is written by Ed Catmull,  who was part of the driving force behind Pixar Studios, the film company known for making ground-breaking and award-winning (and record-breaking, with more than 14 Billion dollars in revenue) animated films, such as Toy Story, Monsters,Inc, A Bug’s Life, and more. When Pixar and Disney merged in 2006, he applied his same priciples to the flagging animation department at Disney, who hadn’t had a hit in 16 years. Disney shot right back up with films like Wall-E, Cars, Incredibles, Coco, Brave, etc. To read this book is to relive the last 30 years of animated film making. If it’s not a walk down memory lane for your childhood, it is a reminder of all the wonderful films you saw with your children. If you haven’t enjoyed any of them, run and grab one today. 

What is Catmull’s secret? Of course a strong bottom line is what investors want, and Catmull agrees, but he refuses to allow the creativity of the artists to be stymied in any way. There are no superstars – not even preferred parking. Everyone from the janitor to the lunch lady to the writer is allowed equal – respected – input. Employees are encouraged to do what it takes to keep happy and relaxed, because happy employees are productive employees. They are encouraged to take time for classes offered at work – art, archery, whatever. If they are producing a film in Africa, a team of writers and artists will take a field trip to Africa and experience what they are trying to portray. Films, from first idea pitch to final cut – are brought up for constant, honest review, where the ensemble team toss ideas off each other about the work, good or bad, and the film may take a twist for the better from it. Every artist is respected every step of the way. Written into the contracts is a proviso that if a film reaches a certain amount of return, a portion of that is given to the employees as a bonus.

Needless to say, Pixar and Disney Animation staff are  happy to go to work. 

So, how did that all relate to writing?

Remember that movies start as stories. Someone has to write them before they can be filmed. By keeping an atmosphere that encourages creativity, no matter how odd (come on – talking cars? Emotions? Bugs? A rat who likes to cook? ), by immersing yourself in a creative environment, by learning to take constructive criticism without imploding, you become a better writer. A writer needs feedback as they develop ideas, as they write the ideas, as they polish their ideas into a final copy.  

This book was a joy to read. Grab it, read it, whether you’re looking for a business model to follow, as a manager looking to improve productivity, as an artist looking for appreciation, as a movie person wanting to know more about Pixar and Disney films. It’s all there. 

Be amazed at the process, and then check out one of the masterpieces Catmull’s presided over. Wall-E, Coco and Up are perfect for adults!

The Incredibles   –  Ratatouille  –  Cars  –  Shorts Finding Dory  –  Wall-E   

Inside Out –  Brave  –  Monsters, Inc  –  Toy Story  –  Coco  –  Up

Return of the Rom-Com!

The romantic comedy film genre took a serious dive in popularity over the last 2 decades, going from 2 billion dollars in tickets sales (1999) to less than 1/2 million (2018). Romantic comedy novels followed a similar trajectory.  But the film genre is experiencing a resurgence, and rom-com novels are riding their coattails with a comeback of their own.

The past couple of years have seen an explosion of romantic comedies in publishing – heck, the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction went to a book with a lot of rom-com characteristics: Less by Andrew Sean Greer. As poignant as it is humorous, Greer’s award-winning novel contains many familiar rom-com tropes, and also turns a few on their heads!

Once known somewhat disparagingly as “chick lit”, these smart and sassy stories explore all the quirks and foibles of modern relationships, often tackling difficult subjects but never losing their sense of humor. If you’re new to the genre, this list of recent romantic comedies is a good place to start:

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman are competitive rivals at a publishing company and profess to hate each other, but when the tension reaches the boiling point, they both wonder if the competition is just a game and that maybe they don’t hate each other after all.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren. Partnered with a nemesis best man on a paradise honeymoon when her bride twin gets food poisoning, a chronically unlucky maid of honor assumes the role of a newlywed before unexpectedly falling for her companion.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. A 30-year-old math whiz with Asperger’s tries to make her love life as rich as her career by hiring an escort to help her with her lack of knowledge and experience in the dating department.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. Stranded together in an elevator during a power outage, Drew and Alexa agree to pose as a couple at an ex’s wedding and discover afterwards that they are unable to forget each other.

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young. After her delayed flight, Ava has a brief intimate encounter with Caleb, an arrogant Scotsman, and never expects to see him again, but when he is stranded in Boston, they reconnect, and Ava has to deal with her increasing attraction.

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting. After meeting the former actor she had a crush on as a teenager and fangirling all over him, Kailyn Flowers strikes up a friendship with Daxton Hughes who needs help acting as guardian to his 13-year-old-sister.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin. A modern Muslim adaptation of Pride and Prejudice finds a reluctant teacher who would avoid an arranged marriage setting aside her literary ambitions before falling in love with her perpetually single cousin’s infuriatingly conservative fiancé.

Red, White & Royal Blue  by Casey McQuistion. A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends.

When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri. A romantic comedy about gender and sexuality follows the experiences of a traditionally minded Midwesterner who, in the aftermath of an ended engagement, finds herself in a transformative relationship with a self-assured New York businesswoman.

 

 

Unusual Sports Movies

There are only two days a year when no major sports games are held: the day before baseball’s Major League All-Star Game, and the day after.  On every other day of the year, a major sporting event occurs somewhere in the country. Indeed, there are only 26 days a year when the PGA is not on tour, 51 days without tennis, and 95 days without a NASCAR event. Many sport seasons overlap – baseball ends long after football starts, basketball begins during football, and hockey runs long after baseball starts.

I’m not a huge sports fan. Sure, I grew up watching Wide World of Sports, but our family sport was Indy car racing, and if you practice that, police get annoyed. I earned an inter-dorm basketball championship shirt in college, but that was because we won three games by default, and yes, I watch two full weeks of the Olympics each time.

But for some unknown reason, I do like movies about sports. And there are a plethora of really good ones. Every sport has a loyal following, and some sports are more of a specialty than others (there aren’t many mainstream martial arts films beyond The Karate Kid,  and when I thought of skiing movies and thought of The Other Side of the Mountain (yeah, I’m old) and Eddie the Eagle real skiers have movies no one in the average  theater knows of), but no matter what the sport, there’s at least one film about it (Cool Runnings not withstanding).

Best of the Best

Ten films are on almost every Best Sports Movie list available. They’re grade-A movies that can make even the non-sportsman cheer for the underdog:
Hoop DreamsField of Dreams   / Moneyball  /  Bull Durham  /  Rocky   Rudy  /  Caddyshack   / 
Raging Bull  /  Tin Cup  /   Million Dollar Baby

Wider World of Sports

Yes, you say, but three of those are boxing movies. I’m a competitive swimmer. Then check out The Swimmer, with Burt Lancaster. If you want a top-rated movie for a sport without a weekday TV contract, try:

Golf: Caddyshack (no matter what list you look at, golfers insist this is THE best golf movie, but check out Tin Cup or The Legend of Bagger Vance for something more serious).
Tennis: Borg vs. McEnroe Battle of the Sexes
RunningJericho Mile, Chariots of Fire   

Skiing: Deep and Light
Martial Arts: Drunken Master II (Jackie Chan)
Auto racing: Days of Thunder,  Rush

Soccer: Pele: Birth of a Legend, Bend it Like Beckham
Billiards: The Hustler
Ice Skating: The Cutting Edge,  Ice Castles I, Tonya

Hockey:  Miracle, Slap Shot, Mystery Alaska
Surfing: Soul Surfer, Blue Crush

Horseracing: Seabiscuit
Weightlifting: Pumping Iron (the absolute classic!)
Rodeo: The Electric Horseman 8 Seconds  

Killer Roller Skating: Rollerball Whip It
Dodgeball: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story  
Apocalyptic ManhuntingThe Running Man,  The Hunger Games

Always Broom for One More

And Quidditch? Yes, that crazy game from Harry Potter is a real modern-day Muggle sport. Quidditch was first played on the campus of Middlebury College in 2005, with actual world championships (but no flying on the brooms), and there is still a push to make Quidditch an Olympic sport. Or you can follow Connecticut Quidditch teams at Yale, UConn, or Quinnipiac to watch live action on the pitch.  (Yes, I’m serious. My daughter’s team ranked 22nd in the world).

Don’t pay those exorbitant stadium prices or suffer through repetitive commercials! Grab your beer or bottled water, your popcorn or your Ball Park Frank, and cheer for your favorite sport with one of these awesome sports films!

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in October

This October, we’re thrilled to welcome Joyce Saltman back to CPL for two programs about how to maintain our sense of humor as we age. We also have local authors coming to discuss their books and local artists sharing their processes and artwork. There’s always something interesting happening at CPL, take a look:

QPR Suicide Prevention Training

Wednesday, October 2, 2019, 1:00 – 2:30pm

Wednesday, October 9, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) is a nationally recognized emergency mental health intervention for suicidal persons. This 90-minue training session is designed for anyone in the community who might be in a position to recognize a crisis and the warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide. This class will be taught by Michelle Piccerillo, Director of Human Services for Cheshire, and Kate Glendon, Public Health Specialist for the Chesprocott Health District. Registration is required. For more information on QPR, go to https://qprinstitute.com/about-qpr.

Creating Abstract Art Using Oils and Cold Wax

Wednesday, October 2, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Artist Diane Brown produces abstract works by mixing oils and cold wax. She will discuss the process of layering color on top of color and working to create textures as well as the new and exciting directions this technique can take the artist. Sponsored by the Cheshire Art league, no registration required.

Drop-In Loft Knitters

Saturday, October 5, 2019, 10:00am – 12:00pm

Come socialize, learn, share your techniques with other knitters. All levels of adult knitters are welcome. (Please be advised that instruction on knitting will not be given for this adult program.) This event will meet the first Saturday of the month through April 2020. No registration required.

Joyce Saltman Returns to Cheshire Library!

A Humorous Look at Aging and Sex:

  • Monday, October 7, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Laughter: Rx for Survival:

  • Saturday, October 26, 2019, 2:00 – 3:30pm

Joyce Saltman, Professor Emeritus of Special Education at CCSU, international lecturer and ‘laughter consultant”,  brings two uniquely enlightening and entertaining talks to CPL this month. The October 7 program will deal (with a minimum of scientific data and a maximum of humor) with the trials and tribulations of being a Senior! Combining research about this important topic for the “senior citizen” set (those of us who are old but not dead!). The October 26 program will deal with the physiological benefits of laughter, studies on the mind-body connection, and practical (plus some not-so-practical!) suggestions on ways to bring more laughter into your life.  Seating is limited for this popular speaker, early registration is recommended for each program.

Care for Caregivers of the Aging

Tuesday, October 8, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Please join us as the Western Connecticut Area Agency on Aging discusses support services for caregivers.  Caregivers often find the task of caring for another person to be overwhelming. They often develop stress-related illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension, or ulcers. An occasional break from caregiving enables an exhausted caregiver to regroup both physically and emotionally, and find the strength to carry on. Registration is required.

Crafting Street Organs

Saturday, October 12, 2019, 2:00 – 3:00pm

Local resident Anatoly Zaya-Ruzo makes beautiful street organs, automatons and mechanical dolls.  During this presentation he will discuss the process he uses when crafting street organs. Mr Zaya-Ruzo’s workshop in Cheshire is the only place in the U.S. where street organs are fabricated. He will bring several organs, explain how they work, and talk about their history. Registration is required.

Greenwave – 3D Ocean Farming

Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

As seen on “60 Minutes” come learn about 3D ocean farming: growing and harvesting kelp, seaweed, and shellfish in Long Island Sound and beyond. Can we restore our seas through ocean farming? Members of the non-profit organization GreenWave -right here in New Haven County – will explain what it’s like to be ocean farmers. Registration is required.

Author Talk –  Stephen King : American Master

Thursday, October 17, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Join us for Stephen Spignesi’s, presentation on Stephen King: American Master illustrated lecture based on Spignesi’s new book. The program includes unique photographs Spignesi acquired from King’s family, and excerpts from little-known writings are read to the audience.  All attendees receive free a tri-fold, color, signed limited edition brochure commemorating the event, as well as other handouts. Registration is required.

Tony Falcone: Creating the Art for the United States Coast Guard Historical Murals Project

Saturday, October 19, 2019, 2:00 – 4:00pm

Connecticut Artist Tony Falcone will share his artistic process in the creation of the oversized, detailed and historically accurate oil paintings (each approximately 9’ x 11’) that comprise the Historical Murals Project commissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association, Class of ’62. Registration is required.

Tales from the Grave

Monday, October 21, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Did you miss the Spirits Alive Lantern Tour? Or did you attend and want to know more about the featured Spirits? This is your chance to Meet the Spirits and find out how their stories were unearthed and “fleshed out”! Registration is required.

The Mill River: Past and Present

Tuesday, October 22, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Cheshire Historical Society President Diane Calabro will provide background on Cheshire’s connections with the Mill River, while the New Haven historical aspect will be presented by Mill River Watershed Association’s Malinda Hennes. Nicole Davis, Watershed Coordinator for Save the Sound will discuss the work done to improve the water quality of the Mill River in the past year. Registration is required.

Genealogy DNA

You did a DNA test and have a match list and some predicted relationships. How did the company do that, what does it mean, and what do you do next? Genealogist Nora Galvin will present this advanced lecture, which explains what the results mean, shows how we get “segments” and what to do with them. Registration is required.

Author Talk – One of Windsor: the Untold Story of America’s First Witch Hanging

Thursday, October 24, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Join us for a captivating lecture by Connecticut author Beth M. Caruso as she discusses the overwhelming factors that led to the beginning of the witch trials in colonial New England. Her well-researched novel, One of Windsor: The Untold Story of America’s First Witch Hanging, is based on the life of Alice “Alse” Young, the first colonial hanging victim, and explores certain events in Windsor, Connecticut that were precursors to Alice’s indictment and death. Copies of Beth’s book will be available for purchase and signing. Registration is required.

Books Over Coffee: The Death Instinct

Wednesday, October 30, 2019, 12:00 – 1:30pm

On the last Wednesday of every month we’ll meet from 12-1:30 in The Loft to discuss the selected title, “Death Instinct” by Jed Rubenfeld is our October selection. Books are available each month ahead of time, and will be available in audio & ebook format. You bring your lunch, we’ll provide the coffee and tea. Registration is required.

 

Hometown Famous

Whether you’ve lived here a short time or half a century, Cheshire can seem like a sleepy, quiet little town, without much going for it beyond being close to most of the state’s highways. Settled in 1694 as part of Wallingford, Cheshire broke away to become a separate town in 1780 – eight years before Connecticut would ratify the Constitution to become the fifth state of a brand-new nation. Between the Grange Fair, Strawberry Festival, and the annual Memorial Day Parade, sometimes it feels like we haven’t changed much since then. We’re a small town that doesn’t attract a lot of attention.

Or do we? Little Cheshire seems to be a hotbed for creating artists, writers, actors, athletes, celebrities, and more.

If you read the signs as you pass in and out of town, you’ll know that we’re the “Bedding Plant Capital of Connecticut” – our multiple large farms and greenhouses grow and distribute flower-bed plants to stores and markets throughout the state. You’ve probably passed by the Foote House on West Main Street – Samuel Foote was the 28th Governor of Connecticut, born the year Cheshire became a town. In 1823, Amos B. Alcott, born in Wolcott, became a teacher in Cheshire – his daughter Louisa May would go on to find greater fame.

Yeah, yeah, but those aren’t people *I* would know.

Then let’s look at some of our locals and graduates whose names are known not just in town. You have certainly heard of some of them! I know I’ve gone to school with a few, or their siblings.

     – as well as several scientists and economists and inventors. With such a rich, diverse list of accomplished graduates and residents, remember to support educational opportunities in town, especially arts and sports! Even if all you do is look at a school art show, or check a book out from the library.  Take an art class. Take a writing class. Check out the wide range of programs at the library or Adult Education. It’s never too late to start. You never know when the next star will appear!

If I’ve missed you, I apologize, our space is limited, and there are MULTITUDE of artists and authors in Cheshire!