Speaking Fake English and Other Fake Languages

Have you ever tried to mimic a foreign language? As in: you don’t speak French, Chinese, or German but you attempt to sound like you’re speaking the language?

I’m guilty. I’ve done this on several occasions. This past weekend I made a baby giggle by performing my faux Chinese for him. He loved it. Best thing he’d ever heard in his less-than-one-year-old life. Giggles galore.

There are numerous You Tube clips of people speaking fake English. If you have a few minutes, watch this video. It’s a short film of actors doing a scene in fairly convincing fake English. Fascinating. Here’s one viewer’s comment…

Two other times in my life, I’ve publicly spoken fake langages.

Hotel in Des Moines. I was in high school at the time and was attending a function at a convention center. I don’t remember the function. I don’t even remember why I was there. I do remember my friend Jason and I were extremely bored. In our boredom, we masqueraded as foreigners in the opulent lobby by chatting in a quasi-something language as people walked by. The passers-by either thought “wow, they’re so foreign that I don’t even know where they’re from” or “what’s wrong with them.”

Rehearsal for a Play. A director once had the idea to have the actors focus only on the intent of our lines without using the lines themselves. She told us to use gibberish instead of our actual lines; our communication limited to nonsense sounds and physicalization. It’s a decent idea… until you start cracking up while trying to communicate frustration, joy, and other emotions while looking into your fellow actor’s eyes as he says “gerdarbul ferndig blarstic. Blarstic! Narful blads tog infel daldig rerg. Gowtow.”

Langauges fascinate me. I’m always amazed how humbled and awkward I feel when I’m in a foreign country where everything, including the language, is different from my normal. It’s refreshing to learn again. To communicate in broken sentences. To push through all those mistakes and uncomfortable moments.

Isn’t that what we do each and every time we create? We find our legs again and we start from scratch. We seek to communicate using our chosen language: written words, paint, ingredients, presentations. Sometimes we feel foolish. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes our message may seem like gibberish.

But sometimes we bring a smile. Sometimes our seeming nonsese makes someone laugh. Sometimes we change something in someone. All because we spoke the language that only we can speak.

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24 Hour Plays: Lessons in Fear, Control, and Joy

Why dive into a creative process involving fear, anxiety, the unknown, the uncontrollable?

The payoff is incredible. 

This past weekend, my wife and I participated in an event called 24 Hour Plays. Here’s the rundown of the events that transpire in a mere day at one of these creative explosions:

It’s an exercise in organized insanity in which writers, directors, and actors put their skill sets to the test: writing a short play, casting the play, directing the play, and performing the play in the time span of a mere 24 hours.

+Perfectionism. Most creatives are prone to it. It’s rarely helpful. For some of us, it keeps us from ever producing or sharing our creation. Within the time frame of 24 hours, perfectionism cannot dominate. There’s just no time to belabour the minutiae.

Bye bye non-friend.

+ Camaraderie. My creative process at my job usually involves training people to sell remodeling products to homeowners. It is creative, but I didn’t realize how much I’d missed the process of putting up an actual show. I marveled at the fact that the pros we worked with all spoke the same language. We understood the basics of each of our job functions and treated one another with respect. There’s such pleasure in rubbing shoulders with other like-minded creatives.

+Fear. 24 Hour Plays is skydiving. My mind’s conversation with myself went something like this: “8:30 AM. Here’s your script that was just written last night. You’ll play James. We’ll rehearse it today, have it memorized tonight for the show. By the way, we’re sold out. There’s gonna be people here asking for a show. So you gotta get this right. Did I say it has to be memorized? It does. Have fun!” When my wife and I were deciding if we should/should not do this, we realized the only reason we wouldn’t do it was because we were terrified. Not a good enough reason. We’re so glad we pushed through that fear.

+Payoff. Rachel Stevens, a former producer of The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices summarizes it well.

You always see the most incredible personal and professional growth take place in the artists involved.  There’s great confidence to be taken from realising that, if you can do this project, you can do pretty much anything.

Agreed 100%.

I’d do this whole experience all over again for that very reason. It exhilarating to do something that, initially, seems impossible and slightly terrifying.

What’s stopping us from doing that thing we’ve always said we’d do? Why not push the envelope this week and write that piece, finish that project, or call that person?

Someone needs your creativity today.

Friday Light: Slightly Embarrassing Quirks and Inappropriateness

At times I want this blog to be notable. Regal. Intellectual. Thought provoking.

But that can also be boring. Hence, the reason every Friday post blends in a little humor, and today’s shares an extra dash of embarrassing quirks from childhood. Quirks volume one here.

+Earthworms. After it rained and the earthworms littered the ground, I’d don my rollerskates and ‘save’ them, tossing them back into the soaked earth from which they sought to escape. I don’t do this anymore. OK, maybe I did once or twice in the last year.

+Hot Dogs. I didn’t eat hot dogs for about five years durning my elementary school days as I’d been told they were made of earthworms. I save earthworms, not eat them = childhood logic.

+I Pledged Allegiance to a Christmas Tree. Real Christmas trees always adorned our home, but one year it grew, even in it’s little tree stand. It actually got taller. I felt badly that the poor guy would be tossed into our woods behind the woodpile. It was growing, after all. So what makes a Christmas tree feel better? Singing to it. Christmas carols. I promised the tree that I’d never forget all it had done for us. The odd ritual only lasted a week or so, but that tree died a slow death while being saranaded by a nine-year-old. Kinda like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstien. Only not really.

+Inappropriate Nicknames. As a kid, I often went for the laugh in most circumstances. Still do. I think I was simply going for the laugh when I called my third grade art teacher a prostitute. Something like ‘oh yeah, we’ll you’re just a prostitute.’ Hmmmm. I’d never been removed from a classroom faster than I was on that day. I honestly had no idea what a prostitue was, though I imagine when I first heard the word used by others, their audience laughed so I thought I’d give it a try. Bad idea.

There’s more. Oh, yes, there’s plenty more. But that’s a start and you can read quirks volume one here.

In the meantime, please tell me I’m not alone. What kinds of crazy did you do when you were a kiddo? Leave a reply below so we can all get a chuckle…

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Creativity, Rule Breaking, and Growing Down

Mastering the art of when to break and not break the rules is a never-ending exercise in creativity. As creatives, we live with the privilege of learning that tightrope walk.

Today’s my birthday.

I’m 36.

I used my birthday money to buy this…

Birthday Helicopter Yes, it’s a remote control toy helicopter.

Yes, I’ve played with it a lot.

Yes, it’s amazing.

Some justification. A friend posted a quote on my Facebook Page today by Chili Davis, a Major League baseball player: “Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.” Chili Davis.

Chili? His name is Chili. No, for serious. I checked it. It’s for real.

So yeah, I’m just following Chili’s advice. (Said that in my head a few times… “I’m just following Chili’s advice.”) I’m gonna break a few rules, make a few, and keep a few rules this year to keep my creative juices growing.

~I’ll do my best work this year rather than rest on my laurels.

~I’ll learn what my ‘my laurels’ are.

~I’ll love better.

~I’ll keep rules, break rules, and sometimes make my own rules.

~I’ll live like a disciplined rebel with a cause.

~I’ll not just dream about ideas; I’ll do the dream, and take the steps to see the idea grow into a reality.

~I’ll explore like a toddler, dream like an adolescent, and work like a ‘responsible’ adult.

Today may or may not be your birthday, but we can always focus, define, and set the tone for our lives as we walk that creativity tightrope.

How are you growing down, growing up, and keeping the balance of rule keeping and rule breaking?

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Timelessness: Social Media, Pompeii, Creativity, and Romeo and Juliet

Facebook. Twitter. Linked In. Google+. Its a social media perfect storm out there isn’t it? Even outside the ever increasing social media realm, it seems there’s something new every day. The new technology. The new procedure. The new method. The new ideology. The new initiative. The new leader. The new diet. The new relationship.

The new                                                 .

I love ‘the new.’ I love discovering and exploring and asking ‘what if.’ Yet, in my line of work, I’m continually teaching and encouraging a ‘back-to-the-basics’ approach. As creatives, it’s easy for us to get gaught up ‘the new,’ sometimes to our detriment.

Enter Jon Steel via Ideasicle, one of my favorite think-tanks on creativity and the creative process. Steel is a British advertising giant and all-around creative thinker, creative doer type.

He’s one of my new creative heroes. Chew on this from Mr. Steel:

“It seems to me that we’re absolutely obsessed as an industry with the stuff that’s new and all the stuff we can do. . . I bet there were people shopping in Pompeii who shopped at the places they did to buy their bread or whatever they were buying because they were treated the way customers get treated in the Apple store today. We have got to remember that there are fundamental principles of human nature, of human instinct, the things that make us happy, the things that piss us off, the things that make us excited. Those are the same today as they’ve always been.”

And…

“The great communicators, the great books, the great movies, and the great advertising campaigns are all based on those human truths. It’s why you can take Romeo and Juliet and shoot it in the modern day with Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s why you can take classic Greek literature and make modern versions of it. Because the themes that they’re talking about are timeless. I just hope that people will remember with all this change [technology] going on there are still some fundamentals and things that remain the same.”

What do you think about Jon Steel’s approach to creativity? How do we blend the new with the old in our creative process?

Creativity Victories (and Fails) from This Past Week

Here’s some good food for your creativity from this past week (and leave your favorite link in the comments for all of us to enjoy!)…

  • For trekkies and geekers: Watch. This. Video. Quantum Levitation. Sounds confusing, looks amazing. Sure to blow your mind. (In case this video really did blow your mind, put the pieces back together with the explanation of how that all happened by watching this.)

What are some of your favorite links that fed your creativity from this past week? Share them with all of us in the comments below! (one link per comment or it might get spammed).

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Friday Light: A Craigslist Halloween Horror Story

Once upon a time there lived a happy husband and a happy wife who lived in a happy home. This happy couple made their living acting, singing, and (sometimes to the mild dismay of the happy husband) dancing. Being actors, they were frequently between jobs and needed their ingenuity and creativity to create revenue for their happy home. As their spooky story unfolds, we visit the happy couple exactly three years ago to the day.

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“This guy on Craigslist wants someone to do his makeup for his Halloween office party. He wants to go as an old man,” said the happy husband. “He’ll pay.”

“Go for it,” said the encouraging, happy wife.

The happy, and industrious, husband felt confident with his abilities having played numerous older characters in various theatrical productions. He knew he’d make this twenty-something office worker age 40-50 years with about forty-five minutes of makeup magic.

He contacted the office worker, they struck a deal, and made financial arrangements: $100 for about an hour or work. Jackpot. He couldn’t wait to tell his wife.

“Yeah, so he’ll pay $100 and we worked it all out. He’s gonna come over here at 6:00 Friday morning, I’ll do his makeup, and we’ll get some cash. Nice huh?” Her expression was clear. To him it read: what did you just say?

“So, if I hear you correctly, this guy from Craigslist is coming over to give you money so you can do his makeup? Is that right?”

Something about hearing his happy wife say it back to him cast doubt on the happy husband’s decision.

Three years ago today, that Friday morning plan entailed the following measures:

  • The happy wife would stay upstairs. She had the fire escape ladder at the ready if she heard any kind of skirmish.
  • The happy husband’s wallet was stripped of most of its valuables, except for a few items to make it appear ‘normal’ should the wallet be requested by wanting-to-look-old-office-guy.
  • All sharp objects were hidden.
  • The happy husband put one knife in his sock, resting against his right calf. . . just in case.

Preparations complete, the office worker arrived at the agreed time. He seemed nervous.

Why is he nervous? the happy husband thought. Maybe I’ll have to use that knife. Oh, dear.

The husband acted calmly. It was, after all, what he did: acting. With each new wrinkle formed on office-worker’s face via Ben Nye’s shadows and highlights, both the office worker and the happy husband got the results they wanted. Office worker looked old. Happy husband got paid. No one got hurt, and the happy husband was given an extra $20 tip from the happy office worker.

A happy Halloween.

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Today, to commemorate not being robbed (or worse) by an office worker pretending to be old, the happy husband reenacted the events of the day. But this time, it was without the aid of Craigslist, for HE become that wanting-to-look-old-office-guy.20111028-075759.jpg

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Celebrating Mistakes

There are multiple mediums of artistic expression: oil on canvas, word on paper, film on screen, status update on Facebook.

Regardless of the medium, at times our initial vision may get distorted by a glitch (or two) during the creative process. The clay is too dry. The paint is low quality. Writer block. Fear. In the case of a Facebook update intending to be clever, the distortion emerges because of not proofreading.

The Pumpkin Roll Problem

A simple example, and yet it proved a point to me:

Our blunders often create something unexpected.

Isn’t that what we want as creatives? We love the unexpected. Something new. Something fresh. Something surprising and refreshing. Sometimes we must allow ourselves the grace to make mistakes during the process. If we don’t, we will never create. We will never share. Others will never enjoy our work.

Conversely, when we do give ourselves grace in the process, we enjoy the immense satisfaction of creating and sharing our work. It’s very refreshing. Very rewarding.

Isn’t it time to dive in? Time to make some mistakes? Time to blunder?

Who knows, the end result may be more interesting, beautiful, and unique with the mistakes than without them.

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Derek Jeter, Michael Jackson, Tim Tebow and Apple Products

I never did get it. I still don’t get it. And, faithless me, I will probably never get it.

It = watching most sports on TV.

What’s my problem?

Am I not a man?

Should I get my testosterone levels checked?

Two polarized groups: fans and non-fans. If I may, I’d like to have a fireside chat with each for a moment.

For sports fans The non-fans, like myself, understand your passion; we just don’t understand why you’re so passionate. We too are a passionate people… for things like Apple products. We see this as a more beneficial relationship that doesn’t leave us as empty as watching a game. These products help us. They accomplish tasks. Create art. Improve communication. Entertain us.

“You just haven’t found your team yet,” you say. We’ve tried. To us, they’re all basically the same. Lions, tigers, bears . . .

“What about college teams instead of pro?” Same thing, different paycheck.

“Why are you a hater?” We know you just want us to love your team as much as you do and that our disinterest may seem like hate. It is not. We are lovers, not haters, which is why we’d rather spend our time doing things we love.

We’re not totally ignorant either. I knows some ‘sports names.’ I even put a couple in the title of this post: Jeter and Tebow! Granted, I Googled them before posting this because 1) I wasn’t sure if I spelled their names correctly and 2) I wasn’t sure what their first names were.

For non-fans  Michael Jackson said it best:

For you are not alone. Not alone ohhhh. You are not alone. You are not alone. Say it again. You are not alone. You are not alone. Not alone, not alone.

There’s other dudes like Brian Regan who may feel the same way. A t-shirt company even came up with a way to cash in on one of Regan’s stand-up routines.

This is my favorite jersey:

Andrew's Jersey

This football season, I want to participate and join the fans by cheering and celebrating as best I know how. I’ll just be wearing my ‘go my favorite sports team’ jersey.

What about you?

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Creative Juices: Monday Begins on Sunday

Monday blues. Case of the Monday’s. I’ve even heard it said that “Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7th of your life.” It’s a cute and clever statement, yet some actually believe this. Why waste 1/7th of our lives?

As whole and complete creatives our Mondays must begin on our Sundays with a basic three-fold plan: mind, body, and spirit.

+Sunday mind. Creative people read, listen to podcasts (here’s a good one on Ideation), and chat with other creatives at the local coffee shop. Whatever the case, striking that balance between mind, body, and spirit is rarely achieved without feeding the mind. This past Sunday I read a number of other blogs on creativity, watched a bit of the always inspiring CBS Sunday Morning, and snagged some time to write. Food for the mind.

+Sunday body. A jog. A walk. A ‘wog’ if you’d rather walk-jog. At any rate, a simple twenty minute something to fuel our week lets our bodies know that we care about them. When the weather is nice, like it was yesterday, I’ll clip off a few miles on our local rail-trail. Isn’t it amazing? (Find a trail like this near you.)

Rails to Trails Haven. Sad the railroad is gone. Happy it's used for a good purpose.

+Sunday spirit. Our spirit’s often neglected because it’s an intangible, unlike the mind and body. Sometimes used interchangeably with ‘soul,’ our spirit was created to commune and communicate with God. It’s maintenance is simple: get feed, feed others. My church is amazing–the teaching fantastic. The sheer joy and celebration of life is a banquet for my spirit. We leave knowing we’re loved, full of purpose, and desire to give that love away. Nothing like a healthy dose of gratefulness and thankfulness!

As I sit here now, in the early Monday morning pre-sun hours, I’m looking forward to today and to this week. My mind is charged, my body is refreshed, and my spirit is energized.

No more ‘case of the Monday’s’ thanks to a great Sunday.

How do you prep your mind, body, and spirit to supercharge your Monday?

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