Scat Mask Replica IV


If your child exhibits creative qualities, my advice is to offer them tantalizing constructive criticism. This may not work in every case, as every child is as different as every adult is, but too much encouragement leads to the dreaded parent-approved stamp, and if you’ve ever been a kid then you know that stamp will collect dust in the attic. As much as our children hate to admit it though our opinions are important to them, and they want to impress us, so discouraging them too much will provide diminishing returns. Parents don’t want to destroy their child’s dreams of course, but there is a sweet spot between being too encouraging and too discouraging.

We might reach a point one day, when we can artificially induce creativity into the brain, but to my understanding, the science of creativity is still a mystery, and the idea of developing it to the point of establishing a career out of it might be so farfetched as to be futile. To become a successful creative artist, a young person needs to be hungry and driven with almost inhuman ambition. How does a parent cultivate such extremes? Anyone who knows anything about the elusive qualities of creativity knows that some of the most brilliant and unique material reveals itself when a creative mind strives to prove their detractors wrong. Does this mean that we should be constantly criticize everything they do? I would say no, but every child is different. In my firsthand experience with the topic, the best mix is a stew of compliments. Provide your child a compliment, and if that doesn’t work, add a dash constructive criticism. The problem with that, of course, is that you’re playing a long game when trying to cultivate a creative mind. The parent who can find the perfect blend that works over the long haul needs to tell the rest of us how to do it, because it’s hard to find. If it were easy, we would have a lot more brilliant, creative types.   

Too much constructive criticism could break your child of course, but too much encouragement could lead the child to experience a sense of accomplishment in the field of creativity, and feeling accomplished might be the worst mindset for a creative type to know. The ideal stance for a parent to take is one in which a creative young mind is forever striving for our approval and to prove us wrong about them, so they can wipe our influence off their map. When our child completes a project, we might want to take a critical stance, no matter how much we appreciate the incredible progress they’ve made. We might also want to say that one creation is the best project they’ve ever completed, but we should be honest in our appraisal, and we don’t want to say this about every piece they’ve done, as one of the greatest creative motivators is to attempt to outdo what we’ve accomplished in the past.

To encourage our child to navigate the dizzying path to success, hunger and angst are vital. Thus, a parent may never be able to give up this façade. Giving it up, may squash further ambition. At some point in the process, they might break our heart by saying, “How come nothing I ever do is good enough for you?” They may then go through the list of their accomplishments, and an accompanying list of all the people they care nothing about who are impressed by their accomplishments, and without knowing it, they will have answered their own question.

2) One common joke I hear now is that everyone hates jazz. I’ve heard some jazz that I hate, the virtuoso sax or trumpet player that plays obnoxiously loud for far too long, but there are so many variants of jazz that I don’t see how anyone can dismiss the entire genre.

3) Jazz musicians do have an annoying habit of titling songs to capture the attention of the listener without what I consider playing to that title. If a jazz musician titles a song, The Umbilical Cord of Cosmo Kramer my intrigue with that title will cause me to skip to that song. By the end of that song, I don’t know what the song has to do with Cosmo Kramer or his umbilical cord. The song sounds like every other song in their discography.

4) Some say movies are a contributing factor to the mass shootings we’re witnessing in our country. Most of us are, at the very least, skeptical, but we’re judging that charge from the perspective of a sound, rational mind. How many twisted, irrational individuals are uncool loners who identify with the back-stories of some of fiction’s most twisted irrational mindsets? How many of those same sick, twisted types vie for the level of cool these bad guys achieve in the movies? How many otherwise healthy individuals shout, “Just shoot him!” at the screen. In our fantasy world, shooting people is an excellent problem solving solution, even if 99.9% of the people in the world would never consider acting on it in the real world. If these mass shootings have anything to do with these portrayals, moviemakers might want scale back on the ubiquitous characterizations of bad guys as cool. If that pendulum has swung so far it’s not going to swing back, maybe moviemakers should consider placing some focus on the victims of the destruction these bad guys cause. In my experience, Darth Vader was the first, best cool bad guy in fiction. Yet, he took part in a movement that not only tortured a princess, but also detonated her entire planet, just to get her to talk. The Princess didn’t cry too much about the destruction, we just moved onto the next scene. Obi Wan spoke of a disturbance in the force, in which millions cried out, but that was one of the few mentions of any victims suffering.

The Joker is another one of fiction’s baddest guys on the planet ever, and we might now characterize him as first terrorist in entertainment media. Most of The Joker’s victims were faceless entities. He blew things up, but when victims were involved, The Joker often put the victims in a circumstance that allowed Batman to save them. The Joker usually put victims in a bind to distract Batman while The Joker carried out a greater masterplan.   

The victims of these two bad guys, and all of the other cool bad guys, are often large masses of people intended to highlight the bad guy’s cool path of destruction while veering away from any sympathetic portrayals of the victims for the audience. It might taint the aura of cool, but moviemakers might want to depict a sympathetic family struggling to survive. This side story might make no sense when introduced, until the bad guy’s cool destruction causes them a slow, tortuous death. At this point, we see the single mother’s futile efforts to save her doomed children. We then witness the cute, little children we’ve come to love succumb to a painful death that will stick with us, coupled with the mother’s screams as she witnesses this and eventually succumbs to her own demise. The indifference the bad guys show the victims might make them cooler than cool, to the deranged minds that enjoy such portrayals, but it might also put a face to the figures they dream up for their destructive act. For most of my life, victims haven’t even been an afterthought in moviemaker’s attempts to make bad guys cool. 

The best fictional bad guy on the planet was Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas. I don’t think I’m engaging in superlatives when I write that Pesci’s portrayal of that real life character was so violent that I consider his depiction of one with violent tendencies unprecedented, and I don’t think anyone will ever be able to match it. I hate to take any credit away from screenwriter Nicolas Pileggi, or Martin Scorsese, but Pesci brought something organic to that role that I’m guessing left his peers in awe. The character made me so uncomfortable that when he died I was relieved. I’m sure I had such a reaction to monsters as a kid, but I can’t remember ever having such a reaction as an adult.

5) I’m proud to be American, Irish, male, a member of my lineage, a dad, a husband, and a Nebraskan. Yet, in the course of my employment, I’ve met people from all over the world. I have a child-like curiosity about their origins. There is a reflexive reaction in some that if a person is proud of their heritage, identity, and that which informs their identity that they must think less of anyone who isn’t like them. As a young person, I hated everything about the Oklahoma Sooners, until I met someone from Oklahoma. That person taught me to separate the Sooners from the good people of Oklahoma.

When the Oklahomans told me about the subtle variations of their state, it fascinated me that a state so close to my own could be so different. When I’ve met people from other countries, I would ask them about their variations. Some of the variations I heard involved a daily struggle for survival I’ve never known. Some of them involved levels of poverty I’ve never experienced, and some of them were so similar that it deepened my fascination. Most of these foreign-born people wanted to know the particulars of what I thought it meant to be American, and they were particularly fascinated with my perspective because I was one of the few unabashed proud Americans they met in their time in our country. “Most Americans are ambivalent,” one of them said, “because they’ve lived their whole lives in this country, and they don’t know what it means to be so free. They take it for granted.” Another one corrected my notion that most people in other countries hate America. “The leaders do,” he said. “The social and economic leaders know it makes news when they say it’s America’s fault that their country is in such dire straits. They’re like every other politician, they don’t accept blame for their failings, they seek a scapegoat, and America is the best scapegoat in the world. I’ve lived in a number of different countries, and I can tell you that most citizens around the world love America. We look up to it, and we’re all dying to come here. I told my people that one day I would become an American, and they laughed hard at me. ‘Who do you think you are?’ they would ask. ‘You’re as dumb and untalented as us.’ They didn’t think America would have me. No, most people are dying to come here and live one day in America. You should be proud of it.” When I asked him about particular atrocities that have been committed over the course of its 240+ years, he said, “Every country has those. You just know America’s because you grew up here.”

6) The ability to see, hear, and feel everything that is going on around a person, even the little things, is what we call hyper-vigilant or hyper-aware. One couldn’t have a conversation with a friend of mine, because he was so aware of conversations going on around him that he couldn’t block out their conversations. Yet, his hyper-awareness was selective, because he didn’t hear the soft muzak coming through the restaurant’s speakers. There are wide varieties of hyper-vigilant people in other words, but it boils down to paying attention to surroundings in an almost involuntary manner. Hyper-vigilant people also tend to be universal in their intelligence, as opposed to those who have tunnel vision. Hyper-vigilant people also tend to be a repository of useless knowledge, whereas those with tunnel vision tend to be successful in life. Those with a tunnel vision in life may not know the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, George Carlin’s best lines, or how Archduke Ferdinand affected history but they do have specialized knowledge. Their level of specialization might create some level of ridicule for their basic lack of knowledge in regards to their culture, but if we were to re-characterize it as a commitment to career, how many would continue to mock? How many laugh when they hear the stories of how Albert Einstein couldn’t tie a tie, or figure out how to use a toaster properly. Historians debunk most of those myths, but they drive home the point that Einstein could be so single-minded that most concerns that occupy the minds of the hyper-vigilant or hyper-aware on a daily basis are useless and trivial.

7) Too many people care too much about too many people who care nothing about them. If we had the chance to tell the people in D.C., Hollywood, and others in the various industries we enjoy, how much they mean to us, they would probably reply with one word: “Security!”

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