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40 years after the first Star Wars sequel, can Baby Yoda save the franchise? – The Canberra Times

Posted: September 1, 2020 at 10:52 am


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news, latest-news, star wars, the empire strikes back, the mandalorian, canberra times

An astrophysicist, a policeman and a Baptist pastor walk into a bar. This is no joke. This cantina can be a little rough. Actually, it's been called a wretched hive of scum and villainy. So, watch your step. They may not serve your kind in here. We are entering the eternally expanding universe of Star Wars - that colossal labyrinth of movies and merchandise, mystery and magic that has consumed followers and confounded non-believers ever since a visionary young filmmaker named George Lucas fashioned a rollicking space adventure from the archetypal hero's journey monomyth of Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Back in 1977, pioneering visual effects notwithstanding, Star Wars was pretty straight forward. Borrowing from such auteur idols as John Ford (The Searchers) and Akira Kurosawa (The Hidden Fortress), Lucas dressed the tropes of his favourite childhood movies - Wild West gunslingers, Errol Flynn duels, World War II dogfights, Tarzan and Jane on the vine - in captivating, futuristic packaging and infused his hero's journey narrative with a spiritualism ("the Force") akin to Zen Buddhism. More than four decades and an estimated $US70 billion in gross revenues later, Star Wars in 2020 is, well, complicated. The final films in the trio of saga trilogies,The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, divided fans and disappointed at the box office, raising questions about entertainment giant Disney's creative stewardship of the lucrative media property it bought from Lucas for $US4 billion in 2012. Evidently spooked, and with cinemas worldwide hit hard by COVID-19, Disney says it will "step back" from making Star Wars movies for now. Not long ago, there were grand plans to put out a new film every two years starting in 2022. But proposed offshoot trilogies by The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and Game of Thrones producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss appear to have gone the way of the Death Star, leaving only Kiwi Taika Waititi - director of Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit - contracted to deliver a new film at some point. With fans still eager to see every curious corner of this famous galaxy, Disney is turning instead to TV, with four Star Wars spin-off shows in the pipeline and five others rumoured to be in development following the success of The Mandalorian, which has helped the Disney+ streaming service amass 60 million subscribers worldwide in its first nine months. With the show's second season dropping in October and its title character joining Frozen's Elsa, Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear and Marvel's Captain America in the Disney+ Ooshies collection launched this week at Woolworths (along with a hologram Princess Leia!), the future of the Stars Wars universe - narratively and commercially - hangs on two characters first introduced 40 years ago in The Empire Strikes Back - the film that turned Star Wars from a hit movie into an epic saga. Long since enshrined as the best entry in the series, Empire opened in Australian cinemas in August 1980. Most of what is still loved today about Star Wars has roots in its darker, deeper first sequel, including gnome-like Jedi master Yoda and masked bounty hunter Boba Fett - inspirations for The Mandalorian - as well as the slow-burn romance between Princess Leia and Han Solo ("I love you." "I know."), composer John Williams' thundering Imperial March theme and Darth Vader's shock plot twist ("No, I am your father"). The film's limited 40th anniversary rerun in selected cinemas from September 10 may be the last time in a long time that a Star Wars movie swashbuckles across the big screen. Which raises the question: Is Star Wars done for as a movie-going experience and the ultimate four-quadrant blockbuster (appealing to both male and female audiences, both under- and over-25s)? Now that it's one franchise among many, will Star Wars ever recapture its original wonderment? Or has that star destroyer sailed? For fans clinging to the original trilogy, The Mandalorian may be the spin-off they were looking for - but can Disney keep this sprawling genre world spinning in infinity on TV? And why do these fans have such powerful proprietary feelings? Is it nostalgia, and is that what compels grown men to trade vintage toys for hundreds of dollars in livestreamed auctions? To help us to understand the forces that have shaped Star Wars and will forever dominate its destiny, we've assembled a small band of experts and aficionados. We're on a diplomatic mission to explore why, unlike its fans, Star Wars never seems to get old. Of course, bellying up to the bar together as if at the Mos Eisley cantina was not an option in the age of coronavirus. So the heroes of our quest - Mick the Fanatic, Brad the Astrophysicist, Heather the Preacher, Ben the Psychologist, Andrew the Marketing Expert and Kieren the Picture Show Man - shared their insights via phone and email. Mick "Fett" Pylak is a Star Wars superfan. His $500,000 collection of toys and memorabilia fills his Sydney house. When he's not trading action figures online or masquerading at events as "Aussie Vader", he has a day job with another kind of force - the police. Credentials: He named his firstborn Leia. Where it began: As a boy, when he saw Return of the Jedi (his parents were divorced and his Dad came specially to take him). "I can still remember how amazed I was by it - the characters, the creatures, the spaceships and this whole new world." His collection: "I started out wanting to find the toys to get back those memories of childhood, but I just never stopped. When they began to increase in value, I viewed it as an investment. Then it became about needing to complete a set and the thrill of the hunt. Once you get a set of, say, mint-on-card figures, you want to get more. I've got a normal job and income but I've acquired this collection by constantly buying and selling. For example, I was paying $500 10 years ago for the vinyl cape Jawa [action figure], the TolToys version on The Empire Strikes Back card which was only ever released in Australia, and these days they sell for $3000." The community: He established the Australian Star Wars Trading Post on Facebook in 2014. It now has 13,000 members. Last year, he set up the Australian Live Toy Auctions page, which hosts livestreams of collectors buying and selling action figures and other merchandise. "Collecting is no longer seen as a nerd thing," he says. "The kids who grew up in that era of the original films and toys are in their spending prime now, so they have the disposable income and the will to spend top dollar for the memories." But what compels him now has moved beyond nostalgia. "When you find and buy something you've been chasing for a while, you get a kind of euphoria which is almost like a drug. When you win the item and then it arrives, you feel this pleasure. And then you put it in your collection and you want to do it all over again." Disney: "They have kept Star Wars alive, which is great. After the prequels it wasn't looking like George Lucas was doing any more movies. The downside is the political correctness - trying to please everybody and not offend anybody." The Mandalorian - based on his favourite character, Boba Fett - has found the sweet spot to please all generations, he says. "TV series open up so many more possibilities for expanding storylines with different characters." Of course, that also means an infinite amount of future merch. "Ah, yes, that is going to be a problem." Dr Brad Tucker is an astrophysicist and cosmologist at the ANU's School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Credentials: He didn't watch Star Wars until his mid-20s. "That sounds weird for someone in my job, but space stuff didn't really register with me as a kid and I didn't become interested in astronomy until university," he says. "So, it's given me an outsider's view of science fiction." The science: "Science does owe a lot to the legacy of science fiction like Star Wars and the way it depicts the science, the storytelling and the visuals. For example, it's very hard to visualise travelling near the speed of light. That is an abstract thing to think about, but the visual storytelling of fiction like Star Wars helps open us up to that as visual creatures - we see it and become inspired," he says. "Our world now is facing really pressing scientific issues, from climate to COVID, so you need people to be inspired to want to pursue those questions. Look at Elon Musk and SpaceX - he's a billionaire fuelling private space endeavours because as a kid his imagination was opened up to the possibilities by Star Wars." The fiction: "People have always looked up at the stars and had a sense of wonder. We are one small world in one solar system that's one of 300 billion solar systems in a galaxy and our galaxy's one of 2 trillion - it makes us feel insignificant in the universe. Then, when you see that same vast backdrop of space and stars and planets depicted in art like Star Wars, it connects the dots straight back to that sense of wonder. When Star Wars came out it would be almost 25 years before we actually found the first planet around another star - so it was make-believe projecting possibilities and inspiring people to wonder. Then you layer over that an adventure story exploring the human condition, and it becomes a way to explore ourselves as a species." The aliens: "Star Wars, and sorry to be sacrilegious here but Star Trek too, were novel for portraying aliens as simply characters - other beings, other lifeforms, who can be good or bad. So, there can be a bunch of aliens in a bar having a beer and listening to a band - it flips the whole H.G. Wells War of the Worlds idea of monsters invading to destroy us, and changes how we think about alien life - and that question: 'Is there life out there?'" The Force mythology: "We often think about science and religion always being at odds, but to my mind they are complementary. They are both trying to help us understand our place in the world, how it works, where we are going, why we do what we do, and to ultimately better our world and our lives. Of course, sometimes science and religion can be at odds, but along comes Star Wars, weaving this narrative of the Force which says you can kind of do both - that there's a higher power, we don't know exactly what it is but it permeates everything and it's good because it gives us energy and life, but there also needs to be balance as part of this bigger universe (the meaning of which we are trying to unravel). That's exactly what we're doing with trying to understand the Big Bang. To me, the Big Bang is the intersection between physics and philosophy and theology - it's where these lines of questioning meet and each spins off in a different direction to try to help us understand." Heather Packett is a teaching pastor at Crossway, Australia's largest Baptist church, and co-director with husband Lucas of ARK, a foster care organisation that recruits and supports faith-based carers. Credentials: Hasn't seen Disney's sequels. Nothing could top her favourite film - Return of the Jedi - anyway. "It showed us that the most evil of people can still be reached with empathy," she says. Where it began: "We didn't have a TV for a chunk of my childhood to avoid bad influences on us as kids. But we did go to the movies, and my brother, seven years older than me, was my influence as far as Star Wars goes - I watched it to be with him." There she marvelled at the "sheer brilliance of the effects, the majesty of the score" and the contest between good and evil. "It was like my understanding of the spiritual realm was playing out before my eyes, albeit in a caricature-like way," she says. Today she often draws from movies in her work as a minister. "Star Wars has definitely influenced my interest in film, and most likely has contributed to my reading and interpreting of faith things within films, whether put there intentionally by the writers or not - for example, I see Messianic themes within most superhero films." The fantasy: "Fantasy and imagination are great for kids and should be encouraged and nurtured. It should also lead to them discovering ways to imagine and create fantasy themselves." But merchandising "can be a problem in an affluent society"," she says. "Kids can easily become entitled, and less creative, when merchandise is readily available, so I'm not really a fan." She has yet to introduce her children to Star Wars. "It'll happen, but currently both ours are still a little sensitive to even fictionalised violence on screen. They're 11 and 13. Most kids have seen it by that age, I know, but I have no interest in pushing them before they'll enjoy it. I was much younger, but I wonder if back in the '70s and '80s there was a greater expanse between reality and fantasy, so it was easier to compartmentalise than it is for kids now." The Force mythology: "I think initially when Star Wars was released, it connected to a generally accepted understanding of spirituality that exists far less now than it did then." She says the films "dabbled in spiritual things to make sense of a fictional galaxy, and to help audiences relate. For me 'the Force' is not the equivalent to God, nor is 'the dark side' an equivalent to satanic force". While actual religious faiths "attempt to help us make sense of life through the lens of a greater power", as a moral compass in the real world "the good versus evil homily of Star Wars doesn't delve into our personal brokenness, and can therefore allow us to remain removed from it, without ever providing answers or a redemptive path ... If it did provide that moral compass for people initially, then I guess, yes, it is less demanding and disappointing than actual faith. But it's also written to entice and entertain audiences - something actual faith has no interest in." Dr Andrew Hughes is a lecturer in marketing at the ANU's Research School of Management. Credentials: A certified fan since childhood. "Loved the storylines, the escapism of it all, be it the stories or the settings, and of course who as a little kid does not want to see good triumph over evil?" The Empire Strikes Back is his favourite. "It expanded the storyline dramatically, and added far more depth to the characters ... it made a story about space very human." The toys: "Toys, and merchandise of any sort, are a bridge to the experience and emotions we have to the franchise/brand. In a way, having a toy, or merchandise, allows us to access those positive emotions at any time. Even as adults this is what makes toys so collectible - it is the access to those emotions, those memories which the toy represents, that we are buying." Disney: "Buying Star Wars wasn't about movies, it was about owning a story which could be developed, changed and altered to match the needs of multiple markets ... smart thinking really, because 10 years from now, if not sooner, it will be all profit. Just look at the excitement around Baby Yoda (from The Mandalorian). That's one story alone where you could run for a decade, and tie in various merch opportunities." There's risk, though. "If the franchise dies or suffers from any poor management then that is going to compromise the entire brand. With home streaming services, though, the future does look bright. Right now Star Wars is propping up Disney+ ... allowing them some time to get it right. But they need to hurry up as streaming is becoming very competitive, and the margins are getting smaller as more and more competitors enter the market." The future: "The story has no end." Kieren Dell is chief executive of Majestic Cinemas, which operates picture theatres in Port Macquarie, Nambucca Heads, Singleton, the Entrance, Inverell, Nambour, Sawtell and Kempsey. Credentials: He saw the original Star Wars at the age of 12 on one of his first trips to the movies with mates rather than family. "It was mesmerising to my young brain [as] I was already a fantasy/sci-fi fan. I think I saw it about 10 times during its season and was forever changed." The movies: "Other than [James] Bond, it is the most enduring [franchise]. It is more anticipated by multi-generations than Bond, which does largely play older now. When Episode VII [The Force Awakens] was about to open, I talked to all of our young staff, who were very excited about it, and stressed that old farts like me in their early 50s were just as excited due to our childhood experiences. So it is the true four-quadrant blockbuster franchise. Marvel tends to play to younger audiences, Star Trek - I'm a big Trekkie too - is a smaller demographic of nerds, and Lord of the Rings was huge - and one of my all-time favourites - but seems a bit tapped out due to the source material getting thinner now." Disney: "I think they need to come up with new concepts that keep the look and feel of the mythology and develop good characters that they can build on and make iconic. Rogue One, as a standalone movie, was ... worth doing. I personally liked Solo, but it didn't do as well as expected ... but I don't think it should put them off going back and doing origin stories if they are good stories." He does not see The Mandalorian replacing the communal experience of seeing Star Wars at a cinema. "The Mandalorian was a slow burn that would not be acceptable in the tighter time frame of a feature film, but it helps to flesh out characters and the mythology, as did Clone Wars and other shows and books over the years. They are different products for different purposes." Ben Fletcher, of Newcastle-based Newpsych Psychologists, has been a clinical psychologist for 17 years. Credentials: Too young when the original trilogy came out, he preferred Batman comic books as a teen. "A bit darker. So edgy. Probably fitting for adolescence". The saga: "We've always told stories. These franchises are our modern myths." Star Wars repackaged "simplistic, comforting depictions of good and evil" with "familiar themes of the classic hero's journey, in a fresh setting with the effects to pull it off. Samurai movie in space - what's not to like?" The nostalgia: "Everyone relates to art in their own way, but some themes endure and resonate with us across time and media. I imagine Star Wars stays with us because of the classic hero's journey - the monomyth." The stories we grew up with "remain sources of comfort and wisdom, maybe a vehicle for catharsis and group/self-identification at times. It is appealing, in an ever-complex world, to take refuge in pleasant memories from our childhoods. Maybe the child and adult in us always needs a bit of room - for a well-rounded existence." The Force mythology: "Most well-crafted systems to foster good living, be they rationally derived or based on faith, can be prone to benefit or misuse. Some have argued that faith is meaningless without healthy doubt - one needs to be mindful of blind spots." With the "zen" of the Jedi and "the Force" as an expression of mindfulness, "some of these principles have been useful in facilitating corresponding concepts in psychology to promote mental health ... It's how you use it. It's not always as simple in practice though. We have competing forces within us - and thus we have the monomyth."

https://nnimgt-a.akamaihd.net/transform/v1/crop/frm/Z4Q6sUEHdcmw72MBPYgZkU/e3b796ce-020f-4492-81e4-27bd4eb90ab0.jpg/r501_0_3340_1604_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg

An astrophysicist, a policeman and a Baptist pastor walk into a bar.

This is no joke. This cantina can be a little rough. Actually, it's been called a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

So, watch your step. They may not serve your kind in here.

Can Baby Yoda save Star Wars?

https://nnimgt-a.akamaihd.net/transform/v1/crop/frm/Z4Q6sUEHdcmw72MBPYgZkU/e3b796ce-020f-4492-81e4-27bd4eb90ab0.jpg/r501_0_3340_1604_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg

As Disney says it will "step back" from movies for more TV like The Mandalorian, a small band of experts are enlisted to embark on a bold quest.

news, latest-news, star wars, the empire strikes back, the mandalorian, canberra times

2020-08-30T04:30:00+10:00

https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=6185324261001

https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=6185324261001

We are entering the eternally expanding universe of Star Wars - that colossal labyrinth of movies and merchandise, mystery and magic that has consumed followers and confounded non-believers ever since a visionary young filmmaker named George Lucas fashioned a rollicking space adventure from the archetypal hero's journey monomyth of Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

Back in 1977, pioneering visual effects notwithstanding, Star Wars was pretty straight forward.

Borrowing from such auteur idols as John Ford (The Searchers) and Akira Kurosawa (The Hidden Fortress), Lucas dressed the tropes of his favourite childhood movies - Wild West gunslingers, Errol Flynn duels, World War II dogfights, Tarzan and Jane on the vine - in captivating, futuristic packaging and infused his hero's journey narrative with a spiritualism ("the Force") akin to Zen Buddhism.

The first Star Wars movie came out in 1977. Picture: Lucasfilm

More than four decades and an estimated $US70 billion in gross revenues later, Star Wars in 2020 is, well, complicated.

The final films in the trio of saga trilogies,The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, divided fans and disappointed at the box office, raising questions about entertainment giant Disney's creative stewardship of the lucrative media property it bought from Lucas for $US4 billion in 2012.

Evidently spooked, and with cinemas worldwide hit hard by COVID-19, Disney says it will "step back" from making Star Wars movies for now. Not long ago, there were grand plans to put out a new film every two years starting in 2022. But proposed offshoot trilogies by The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and Game of Thrones producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss appear to have gone the way of the Death Star, leaving only Kiwi Taika Waititi - director of Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit - contracted to deliver a new film at some point.

The Mandalorian's title character joins Frozen's Elsa, Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear and Marvel's Captain America in the Disney Ooshies collection just launched at Woolworths. Picture: Supplied

With fans still eager to see every curious corner of this famous galaxy, Disney is turning instead to TV, with four Star Wars spin-off shows in the pipeline and five others rumoured to be in development following the success of The Mandalorian, which has helped the Disney+ streaming service amass 60 million subscribers worldwide in its first nine months.

With the show's second season dropping in October and its title character joining Frozen's Elsa, Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear and Marvel's Captain America in the Disney+ Ooshies collection launched this week at Woolworths (along with a hologram Princess Leia!), the future of the Stars Wars universe - narratively and commercially - hangs on two characters first introduced 40 years ago in The Empire Strikes Back - the film that turned Star Wars from a hit movie into an epic saga.

Bounty hunter Boba Fett was originally introduced in The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Picture: Lucasfilm

Long since enshrined as the best entry in the series, Empire opened in Australian cinemas in August 1980. Most of what is still loved today about Star Wars has roots in its darker, deeper first sequel, including gnome-like Jedi master Yoda and masked bounty hunter Boba Fett - inspirations for The Mandalorian - as well as the slow-burn romance between Princess Leia and Han Solo ("I love you." "I know."), composer John Williams' thundering Imperial March theme and Darth Vader's shock plot twist ("No, I am your father").

The film's limited 40th anniversary rerun in selected cinemas from September 10 may be the last time in a long time that a Star Wars movie swashbuckles across the big screen.

Which raises the question: Is Star Wars done for as a movie-going experience and the ultimate four-quadrant blockbuster (appealing to both male and female audiences, both under- and over-25s)?

Now that it's one franchise among many, will Star Wars ever recapture its original wonderment? Or has that star destroyer sailed?

The Mandalorian helped launch Disney's streaming service with more than 60 million subscribers worldwide in its first nine months. Picture: Lucasfilm

For fans clinging to the original trilogy, The Mandalorian may be the spin-off they were looking for - but can Disney keep this sprawling genre world spinning in infinity on TV? And why do these fans have such powerful proprietary feelings? Is it nostalgia, and is that what compels grown men to trade vintage toys for hundreds of dollars in livestreamed auctions?

To help us to understand the forces that have shaped Star Wars and will forever dominate its destiny, we've assembled a small band of experts and aficionados. We're on a diplomatic mission to explore why, unlike its fans, Star Wars never seems to get old.

Of course, bellying up to the bar together as if at the Mos Eisley cantina was not an option in the age of coronavirus. So the heroes of our quest - Mick the Fanatic, Brad the Astrophysicist, Heather the Preacher, Ben the Psychologist, Andrew the Marketing Expert and Kieren the Picture Show Man - shared their insights via phone and email.

Mick "Fett" Pylak trades in action figures on his Australian Live Toy Auctions Facebook page. Picture: Supplied

Mick "Fett" Pylak is a Star Wars superfan. His $500,000 collection of toys and memorabilia fills his Sydney house. When he's not trading action figures online or masquerading at events as "Aussie Vader", he has a day job with another kind of force - the police.

Credentials: He named his firstborn Leia.

Where it began: As a boy, when he saw Return of the Jedi (his parents were divorced and his Dad came specially to take him). "I can still remember how amazed I was by it - the characters, the creatures, the spaceships and this whole new world."

His collection: "I started out wanting to find the toys to get back those memories of childhood, but I just never stopped. When they began to increase in value, I viewed it as an investment. Then it became about needing to complete a set and the thrill of the hunt. Once you get a set of, say, mint-on-card figures, you want to get more. I've got a normal job and income but I've acquired this collection by constantly buying and selling. For example, I was paying $500 10 years ago for the vinyl cape Jawa [action figure], the TolToys version on The Empire Strikes Back card which was only ever released in Australia, and these days they sell for $3000."

Specific Jawa toys can go for big money to keen collectors. Picture: Supplied

"Collecting is no longer seen as a nerd thing," he says. "The kids who grew up in that era of the original films and toys are in their spending prime now, so they have the disposable income and the will to spend top dollar for the memories." But what compels him now has moved beyond nostalgia. "When you find and buy something you've been chasing for a while, you get a kind of euphoria which is almost like a drug. When you win the item and then it arrives, you feel this pleasure. And then you put it in your collection and you want to do it all over again."

Disney: "They have kept Star Wars alive, which is great. After the prequels it wasn't looking like George Lucas was doing any more movies. The downside is the political correctness - trying to please everybody and not offend anybody." The Mandalorian - based on his favourite character, Boba Fett - has found the sweet spot to please all generations, he says. "TV series open up so many more possibilities for expanding storylines with different characters." Of course, that also means an infinite amount of future merch. "Ah, yes, that is going to be a problem."

Australian National University astrophysicist Brad Tucker. Picture: Rohan Thomson

Dr Brad Tucker is an astrophysicist and cosmologist at the ANU's School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Credentials: He didn't watch Star Wars until his mid-20s. "That sounds weird for someone in my job, but space stuff didn't really register with me as a kid and I didn't become interested in astronomy until university," he says. "So, it's given me an outsider's view of science fiction."

The science: "Science does owe a lot to the legacy of science fiction like Star Wars and the way it depicts the science, the storytelling and the visuals. For example, it's very hard to visualise travelling near the speed of light. That is an abstract thing to think about, but the visual storytelling of fiction like Star Wars helps open us up to that as visual creatures - we see it and become inspired," he says. "Our world now is facing really pressing scientific issues, from climate to COVID, so you need people to be inspired to want to pursue those questions. Look at Elon Musk and SpaceX - he's a billionaire fuelling private space endeavours because as a kid his imagination was opened up to the possibilities by Star Wars."

The fiction: "People have always looked up at the stars and had a sense of wonder. We are one small world in one solar system that's one of 300 billion solar systems in a galaxy and our galaxy's one of 2 trillion - it makes us feel insignificant in the universe. Then, when you see that same vast backdrop of space and stars and planets depicted in art like Star Wars, it connects the dots straight back to that sense of wonder. When Star Wars came out it would be almost 25 years before we actually found the first planet around another star - so it was make-believe projecting possibilities and inspiring people to wonder. Then you layer over that an adventure story exploring the human condition, and it becomes a way to explore ourselves as a species."

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker being trained by Yoda to be a Jedi in The Empire Strikes Back. Picture: Lucasfilm

The aliens: "Star Wars, and sorry to be sacrilegious here but Star Trek too, were novel for portraying aliens as simply characters - other beings, other lifeforms, who can be good or bad. So, there can be a bunch of aliens in a bar having a beer and listening to a band - it flips the whole H.G. Wells War of the Worlds idea of monsters invading to destroy us, and changes how we think about alien life - and that question: 'Is there life out there?'"

The Force mythology: "We often think about science and religion always being at odds, but to my mind they are complementary. They are both trying to help us understand our place in the world, how it works, where we are going, why we do what we do, and to ultimately better our world and our lives. Of course, sometimes science and religion can be at odds, but along comes Star Wars, weaving this narrative of the Force which says you can kind of do both - that there's a higher power, we don't know exactly what it is but it permeates everything and it's good because it gives us energy and life, but there also needs to be balance as part of this bigger universe (the meaning of which we are trying to unravel). That's exactly what we're doing with trying to understand the Big Bang. To me, the Big Bang is the intersection between physics and philosophy and theology - it's where these lines of questioning meet and each spins off in a different direction to try to help us understand."

Pastor Heather Packett. Picture: Supplied

Heather Packett is a teaching pastor at Crossway, Australia's largest Baptist church, and co-director with husband Lucas of ARK, a foster care organisation that recruits and supports faith-based carers.

Credentials: Hasn't seen Disney's sequels. Nothing could top her favourite film - Return of the Jedi - anyway. "It showed us that the most evil of people can still be reached with empathy," she says.

Where it began: "We didn't have a TV for a chunk of my childhood to avoid bad influences on us as kids. But we did go to the movies, and my brother, seven years older than me, was my influence as far as Star Wars goes - I watched it to be with him." There she marvelled at the "sheer brilliance of the effects, the majesty of the score" and the contest between good and evil. "It was like my understanding of the spiritual realm was playing out before my eyes, albeit in a caricature-like way," she says. Today she often draws from movies in her work as a minister. "Star Wars has definitely influenced my interest in film, and most likely has contributed to my reading and interpreting of faith things within films, whether put there intentionally by the writers or not - for example, I see Messianic themes within most superhero films."

The fantasy: "Fantasy and imagination are great for kids and should be encouraged and nurtured. It should also lead to them discovering ways to imagine and create fantasy themselves." But merchandising "can be a problem in an affluent society"," she says. "Kids can easily become entitled, and less creative, when merchandise is readily available, so I'm not really a fan." She has yet to introduce her children to Star Wars. "It'll happen, but currently both ours are still a little sensitive to even fictionalised violence on screen. They're 11 and 13. Most kids have seen it by that age, I know, but I have no interest in pushing them before they'll enjoy it. I was much younger, but I wonder if back in the '70s and '80s there was a greater expanse between reality and fantasy, so it was easier to compartmentalise than it is for kids now."

The Force mythology: "I think initially when Star Wars was released, it connected to a generally accepted understanding of spirituality that exists far less now than it did then." She says the films "dabbled in spiritual things to make sense of a fictional galaxy, and to help audiences relate. For me 'the Force' is not the equivalent to God, nor is 'the dark side' an equivalent to satanic force". While actual religious faiths "attempt to help us make sense of life through the lens of a greater power", as a moral compass in the real world "the good versus evil homily of Star Wars doesn't delve into our personal brokenness, and can therefore allow us to remain removed from it, without ever providing answers or a redemptive path ... If it did provide that moral compass for people initially, then I guess, yes, it is less demanding and disappointing than actual faith. But it's also written to entice and entertain audiences - something actual faith has no interest in."

Darth Vader during a pivotal scene in The Empire Strikes Back. Picture: Lucasfilm

Dr Andrew Hughes is a lecturer in marketing at the ANU's Research School of Management.

Credentials: A certified fan since childhood. "Loved the storylines, the escapism of it all, be it the stories or the settings, and of course who as a little kid does not want to see good triumph over evil?" The Empire Strikes Back is his favourite. "It expanded the storyline dramatically, and added far more depth to the characters ... it made a story about space very human."

The toys: "Toys, and merchandise of any sort, are a bridge to the experience and emotions we have to the franchise/brand. In a way, having a toy, or merchandise, allows us to access those positive emotions at any time. Even as adults this is what makes toys so collectible - it is the access to those emotions, those memories which the toy represents, that we are buying."

Disney: "Buying Star Wars wasn't about movies, it was about owning a story which could be developed, changed and altered to match the needs of multiple markets ... smart thinking really, because 10 years from now, if not sooner, it will be all profit. Just look at the excitement around Baby Yoda (from The Mandalorian). That's one story alone where you could run for a decade, and tie in various merch opportunities." There's risk, though. "If the franchise dies or suffers from any poor management then that is going to compromise the entire brand. With home streaming services, though, the future does look bright. Right now Star Wars is propping up Disney+ ... allowing them some time to get it right. But they need to hurry up as streaming is becoming very competitive, and the margins are getting smaller as more and more competitors enter the market."

The future: "The story has no end."

Majestic Cinemas chief executive Kieren Dell and Kempsey Cinema manager Chelsea Curyer. Picture: Ruby Pascoe

Kieren Dell is chief executive of Majestic Cinemas, which operates picture theatres in Port Macquarie, Nambucca Heads, Singleton, the Entrance, Inverell, Nambour, Sawtell and Kempsey.

Credentials: He saw the original Star Wars at the age of 12 on one of his first trips to the movies with mates rather than family. "It was mesmerising to my young brain [as] I was already a fantasy/sci-fi fan. I think I saw it about 10 times during its season and was forever changed."

The movies: "Other than [James] Bond, it is the most enduring [franchise]. It is more anticipated by multi-generations than Bond, which does largely play older now. When Episode VII [The Force Awakens] was about to open, I talked to all of our young staff, who were very excited about it, and stressed that old farts like me in their early 50s were just as excited due to our childhood experiences. So it is the true four-quadrant blockbuster franchise. Marvel tends to play to younger audiences, Star Trek - I'm a big Trekkie too - is a smaller demographic of nerds, and Lord of the Rings was huge - and one of my all-time favourites - but seems a bit tapped out due to the source material getting thinner now."

Disney: "I think they need to come up with new concepts that keep the look and feel of the mythology and develop good characters that they can build on and make iconic. Rogue One, as a standalone movie, was ... worth doing. I personally liked Solo, but it didn't do as well as expected ... but I don't think it should put them off going back and doing origin stories if they are good stories." He does not see The Mandalorian replacing the communal experience of seeing Star Wars at a cinema. "The Mandalorian was a slow burn that would not be acceptable in the tighter time frame of a feature film, but it helps to flesh out characters and the mythology, as did Clone Wars and other shows and books over the years. They are different products for different purposes."

Star Wars action figures.

Ben Fletcher, of Newcastle-based Newpsych Psychologists, has been a clinical psychologist for 17 years.

Credentials: Too young when the original trilogy came out, he preferred Batman comic books as a teen. "A bit darker. So edgy. Probably fitting for adolescence".

The saga: "We've always told stories. These franchises are our modern myths." Star Wars repackaged "simplistic, comforting depictions of good and evil" with "familiar themes of the classic hero's journey, in a fresh setting with the effects to pull it off. Samurai movie in space - what's not to like?"

The nostalgia: "Everyone relates to art in their own way, but some themes endure and resonate with us across time and media. I imagine Star Wars stays with us because of the classic hero's journey - the monomyth." The stories we grew up with "remain sources of comfort and wisdom, maybe a vehicle for catharsis and group/self-identification at times. It is appealing, in an ever-complex world, to take refuge in pleasant memories from our childhoods. Maybe the child and adult in us always needs a bit of room - for a well-rounded existence."

The Force mythology: "Most well-crafted systems to foster good living, be they rationally derived or based on faith, can be prone to benefit or misuse. Some have argued that faith is meaningless without healthy doubt - one needs to be mindful of blind spots." With the "zen" of the Jedi and "the Force" as an expression of mindfulness, "some of these principles have been useful in facilitating corresponding concepts in psychology to promote mental health ... It's how you use it. It's not always as simple in practice though. We have competing forces within us - and thus we have the monomyth."

Excerpt from:
40 years after the first Star Wars sequel, can Baby Yoda save the franchise? - The Canberra Times

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September 1st, 2020 at 10:52 am

Posted in Zen Buddhism

The Health Benefits of Matcha, and Why You Should Hop on the Trend – Prestige Online

Posted: August 17, 2020 at 4:58 pm


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Theres nothing quite like a smooth, rich, andincredibly wholesomecup of matcha.

The uniquetea once only shared amongst the highest nobility in Japan has transcended from simply being an aristocratic beverage to one of the most lauded superfoods today. Besides its long list of health benefits, its is also backed by remarkable culture and tradition, which should still be celebrated, more so in our fast-paced modern world.

Like all teas, matcha isgraded by quality and provenance, and comes with its own set of rules for preparation. We break down everything you need to know about this verdant super-drink, as well as the best ones to shop today.

Matcha is derived from the same Camellia Sinesis plant thatall true teascome from, including oolong, black tea, and regular green tea. The only difference lies in the growing, harvesting, and production style.

Unlike other teas, matcha is the only form of green tea where you consume the whole leaf. These leaves are gradually shade-grown often in near-darkness by harvest time to crank up production of of chlorophyll and amino acids.

Only the smallest and youngest parts of the plant are chosen, steamed, dried, and sorted for grade in a laborious, time-consuming process to ensure the integrity of the tea, before getting de-stemmed and de-veined to become tencha. These leaves are then stone-ground into a delicate powder, hence the name matcha, or ground tea in English.

Matcha is always a brighter and frothier green than regular green tea thanks to its high levels of chlorophyll. Equipment is an essential part of the experience. In contrast to contemporary matcha culture ( think a green tea latte from Starbucks), traditionalJapanese tea ceremoniescalled chanoyu are centred on the preparation and offering of matcha, and involves specific tools like the chawan (tea bowl), chashaku (bamboo tea spoon), and chasen (tea whisk). Its roots in Zen Buddhism means that its preparation is still considered a mindful practice today.

High-grade matcha is made from leaves that are hand-picked, and is sweet or umami and smooth with no traces of bitterness thanks to its high amino acid content. Because the main area of cultivation in Japan is in Uji, a city south ofKyoto, its considered to have the ultimate terroir and is responsible for a majority of the countrys most distinguished (and also expensive) varieties.

Ceremonial grade matcha sits at the pinnacle of quality with a vibrant green hue. Its incredibly pricey, and should be reserved for whisking in water and not your DIY tea latte. To make fancy drinks,cakes, and other recipes, use culinary grade matcha, which is cheaper and wouldnt mind being subjected to high heat and your manhandling. Colour is a telling indication of quality too, so avoid the ones that have a brownish green colour.

Matcha powder is also best mixed with water under 80 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, regular green tea is often boiled to 100 degrees Celsius, which destroys its nutritional benefits.

To put its nutritional profile into perspective, youd have to drink 10 to 15 cups of regular green tea to match the nutrients of one cup of matcha.

This is because its higher in a catechin called EGCG, a potent antioxidant that stabilises harmful free radicals that typically damage cells and cause chronic disease and cancer. Beside being a nearly calorie-free beverage, matcha is also a great addition for those looking to shave grams off by also boosting metabolism and burning fat.

The high concentration of the amino acid L-theanine also promotes a state of relaxation and well-being, which makes it a much better alternative than coffee if you needcaffeinebut dont want to get highly strung. Matcha is, after all, the choice of drink for monks who want to remain alert yet calm during hours ofmeditation.

This story first appeared onLifestyle Asia Singapore

(Main and featured photo: Matcha & Co/ Unsplash)

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August 17th, 2020 at 4:58 pm

Posted in Zen Buddhism

Here’s How to Meditate With Your Eyes Open – The Good Men Project

Posted: April 26, 2020 at 4:46 am


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I forgot to tell you the basics of Zazen, said the monk as we walked into the ritual room of a small Zen Buddhist temple in Tokyo, sit in lotus on the cushion, spine straight, eyes open, gazing down and ahead of you. Keep my eyes open? I asked curiously. Id never done that before except for moving meditations. Yes, replied the monk. You will face the wall. Keep your eyes relaxed but open.

After that, I sat all day practicing the Zazen technique used in Zen Buddhism for the first time. And I struggled. I wanted to go back to my familiar practice of eyed closed that I had done for thousands of hours.

. . .

Sharing my story with a friend frustrated with the lack of progress in her own meditation practice, I hoped to explain how we all face challenges. But she connected with something else I had said,

Wait, She jumped in, you can meditate with your eyes open? I should try that. Whenever I close my eyes, the darkness overwhelms me and I get kind of weirded out.

Many people tell me they fall asleep when they try to meditate. If that happens, you should probably just sleep because your body needs rest. But I hadnt considered some may fight with keeping their eyes closed.

If you want to meditate but you simply dont want to meditate with your eyes closed no problem.

Open eyes may seem in conflict with the normal practice of meditation, but actually, they are more common.

Most Buddhist traditions in Tibet and Japan never close their eyes. They teach to half-close your eye, relax and look downward. But new meditators often get confused, so teachers say to close your eyes because straining to keep them open or frequently blinking distracts you.

We live life with our eyes open. Practicing meditation with eyes open teaches you to find peace when in the same conditions as life. Learn how to find peace from the thousands of thoughts your mind processes without having to block out all visual inputs.

We want the presence of open-eyed meditation without being carried away by mind-wandering or distractions. So remember to bring your mind back when it wanders. And try to narrow your field of vision to something plain and simple.

Dont hold yourself back from trying open-eye meditation because you think it inferior. That is not true. Both have a place in your meditation practice and journey. Do what works and feels good for you.

. . .

Every moment during your day presents an opportunity to practice open eye meditation, and you can do it for as short as 1 second. So try out some different techniques and dont let closed eyes hold you back from experiencing peace of mind.

This post was previously published on Change Becomes You and is republished here with permission from the author.

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Japanese culture from Tokyo. Spiritual growth from experimenting. Future musings from tech startup. Learning peoples stories around the world.

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April 26th, 2020 at 4:46 am

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Mini Japanese tea ceremony experience coming to Tokyo cafe – Japan Today

Posted: March 22, 2020 at 9:49 pm


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Tea is a beverage appreciated around the world, but Japan is country that really has that appreciation down to an art. Their famed tea ceremonies, influenced by Zen Buddhism, are a traditional activity which turns every step of the preparation and serving of tea into an occasion.

Those who are interested in Japanese tea ceremony, but dont have several hours to put aside for it (yes, they can last that long... more formal tea gatherings can even last up to four hours!), can experience a mini version of the cultural activity at Tokyos Cafe & Dining ZelkovA.

This limited time only tea set may not be as momentous as an actual tea ceremony, but its certainly a casual way to get a little taste of it.

Customers can pour their own hot water out of a Nanbu Tekki cast iron teapot, then use a chasen bamboo whisk to mix their matcha powder into a thick and frothy perfection. The tea provided is Uji matcha and Uji is a famous area in Kyoto known for their high quality tea leaves.

That same fragrant Uji matcha can be found in the accompanying matcha tiramisu. The set also comes with an assortment of seasonal fruit, shiratama, adzuki beans and Okinawan brown sugar syrup.

Cafe & Dining ZelkovA can be found on the first floor of The Strings Omotesando, and the Japanese Tea Set (2,600 yen) can be ordered until July 2.

Source: PR Times

Read more stories from grape Japan.

-- Japanese designer creates incredibly realistic cuddling cat dolls with flesh and bone structure

-- Japanese Elementary School Students Gather For Minecraft Graduation Ceremony After School Shut Down

-- Mothers Day Studio Ghibli Flowers and Card Delivery Set Perfect Gift for Anime-Loving Mums

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March 22nd, 2020 at 9:49 pm

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Richard Gere: Net Worth, Life and Career of the Famous Actor – Daily Hawker

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Richard Tiffany Gere, popularly known as Richard Gere is a famous American actor and producer. Richard Gere began his movie career in the 1970s with roles in movies like Looking for Mr. Goodbar and Days of Heaven. Richard Gere rose to fame after his role in the 1980 hit film American Gigolo. The role established Richard Gere as a leading man of Hollywood and a global sex symbol. He played notable roles in movies like Primal Fear, Pretty Woman and Chicago, even winning the Golden Globe as a part of the cast of Chicago. As of 2020, Richard Geres net worth is $120 million.

Richard Geres net worth as of 2020 is around $120 million.

Richard Gere has made most of his money through his long and successful career as an American actor. Aside from his career as an actor, Richard Gere has also earned a significant amount of money through his endorsement deals and other lucrative arrangements. Till date, he has promoted and endorsed Marigold Hotel, Hallmark movie, Norman, Fiat, Meals on Wheels, DirectTV and many more.

Reportedly, more than half of Richard Geres net worth is a result of his personal investments. Although he has invested in many profit-making companies, he has not revealed his million dollars investments details.

An anonymous source reported that he earns approximately $85.3 million profit from his investments and savings.

Gere is popular for his roles in movies and TV series including Pretty Woman, an Office and a Gentleman. He debuted in the entertainment industry in 1973 through the movie Chelsea D.H.O.

After that, he appeared in almost 60 movies and TV series including Chicago, Hachi: A Dogs Tale, Pretty Woman, American Gigolo, Shall We Dance, The Jackal, Unfaithful and many more.

As of his recent projects, he has been involved in movies and TV series including MotherFatherSon, and Three Christs.

For his outstanding performances and skills, he has been awarded prestigious awards like Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, Career Achievement Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, and many more. SO far in his career, he has been nominated for 27 different awards and has won 24.

Furthermore, he was selected as the 2006 Man of the Year and Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine in 1999.

He was interested in Buddhism since the 20s. He learned Zen Buddhism for five to six years under Kyozan Joshu Sasaki. As the Buddhist quote goes, Live simply, give much. Do as you would be done by. Richard Gere is actively involved in several charities as well.

He supported various charitable companies including Dalai Lama Foundation, American Foundation for AIDS Research, Gere Foundation, Robert F Kennedy Memorial, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Meals On Wheels and many more.

Moreover, he endorsed Hillary Clinton in her 2016 presidential campaign and donated for it.

Currently, Richard Gere resides in a $2 million mansion in the Hamptons. He stayed in a much bigger house before but sold it for $36.5 million.

Actually, the mansion was initially listed for sale at $65 million which was later lowered to $56 million. It ended up selling for $36.5 million. Richard Gere had nicknamed his house Strongheart Manor.

Moreover, a source reported that he owns real estate property of around $12.8 million based on current market rates.

Richard Gere has a wonderful collection of luxury cars from manufacturers such as Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar and Ford. His car collection is valued at $3.2 million.

Well, there is no information about his tax payments but he surely needs to pay bulk as his in income taxes, property taxes and other taxes due to his high earnings. He may have a million dollars insurance plans but the details are not out.

Richard Tiffany Gere was born on 31 August 1949 under the sun sign Virgo.

Gere was raised alongside his siblings; brothers David Gere, Henry Januszewski, and sisters Joanne Gere, Laura Gere, and Susan Gere.

Coming to his personal life, Richard Gere is a married man. Gere married Alejandra SIlva in April 2018. So far, the couple has had a smooth married life.

The couple have a son together. His name is Alexander.

Prior to his current wife, Richard Gere was married to Carey Lowell for 14 years. Gere and Lowell dated for a year before marrying in 2002.

Due to some internal conflict, the estranged couple divorced on 18 October 2016. They have a child together named Homer James Jigme Gere.

Richard Gere was married to famous supermodel Cindy Crawford from December 12th, 1991 to December 1st, 1995.

Im voting for Gore because the other is unthinkable. Which most of us will probably do. I hope all of us. Ive always liked Ralph Nader and would like to see a real third party, but the thought of George Bush as president is unthinkable.

My first encounter with Buddhist dharma would be in my early 20s. Like most young men, I was not particularly happy.

The Dalai Lama said that he thinks mothers love is the best symbol for love and compassion, because it is totally disinterested.

When His Holiness won the Nobel Peace Prize, there was a quantum leap. He is not seen as solely a Tibetan anymore; he belongs to the world.

From a Buddhist point of view, emotions are not real. As an actor, I manufacture emotions. Theyre a sense of play. But real life is the same. Were just not aware of it.

Well I think on a simple ecological level that the diversity of this planet is important for our survival, that all of our different cultures, people are important to the health of the whole the same way that a species of animal should be saved and at a simple ecology level.

Its nice to have money, but the first thing I did with money was buy my father a snow-blower, because my job was to shovel snow, and I wasnt there to do it any more, so I was able to buy him a blower.

I think most of our religious institutions are pretty corrupt, so theyre not reliable. I think the Christian religion that I was brought up with has very little to do with Christ, really, and more with the institutions that have built up around the church.

I meet human beings who are flawed, who are mentally ill and have enormous problems, but I dont think Ive ever met someone who was a totally dark energy that had no humanity or sense of love or affection for anything in their life. Thats very rare.

I would say that the West is very young, its very corrupt. Were not very wise. And I think were hopeful that there is a place that is ancient and wise and open and filled with light.

Its not enough to say that the Olympics is an athletic contest outside of politics, because its not. The Chinese clearly are using the Olympics to recreate how they are viewed in the world and how they view themselves.

Well I think on a simple ecological level that the diversity of this planet is important for our survival, that all of our different cultures, people are important to the health of the whole the same way that a species of animal should be saved and at a simple ecology level.

Richard Gere is a very famous Hollywood actor who made his mark on the industry with roles in movies like American Gigolo, Pretty Woman, Primal Fear, and Chicago. He is also a famous follower of Zen Buddhism and spends a lot of time and effort on charities. As of 2020, Richard Geres net worth is $120 million.

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March 22nd, 2020 at 9:49 pm

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Why Efficiency is the Enemy of Innovation – Thrive Global

Posted: February 27, 2020 at 7:46 pm


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My parents gave me a nickname when I was young: mini-Martha, named after my Type A, efficiency-obsessed aunt.

We shared common habits like filling our schedules with activities for self-improvement, and wanting vacations to be planned down to the minute.

Why then would I center my career around the idea of doing nothing?

It was an idea embraced by my first boss and one of the most innovative thinkers I know. We worked at a research and consulting firm, solving problems for Fortune 500 companies when it exceeded their capacity to do so.

A trained anthropologist, she taught me the art of ethnography: spend hours, even days, on end with little to no agenda just observing. Observe the typical life of a subject. Observe how customers naturally interact in stores, on devices, with their friends.

With ethnographylike a fish in waterthe more you went with the flow of the experience, the clearer everything became.

This method for being was a forced break from my hyper-planned daily life. But the more I saw results, the more I embraced doing nothing as the true way to innovative thinking.

Harvard Business Schools Clayton M. Christensen undertook a broad study on CEO innovation and arrived at this same conclusion:

Innovators engage both sides of the brain as they leverage the five discovery skills to create new ideas. Associating is like the backbone structure of DNAs double helix; four patterns of action (questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking) wind around this backbone, helping to cultivate new insights.

Harvard Business Review

Now, this is not to say we must shun the cult of busy entirelytaking idea to application often requires a different mindset.

But were so focused on being always-on, that much of the modern day business worldand the world in generalmisses the forest for the trees.

Were a society addicted to short-term results, a quantified and measured life (looking at you Apple Watch), and data that tells us the what but not the why.

The fact is that efficiency will hit a wall when we view it as a means and not an endflip the equation and see that the lack of structure (with bounds) is actually more productive than constant measurement.

This is something our clients realized and came to us for: A major gaming company hemorrhaging revenue among previously engaged consumers. A hyper-growth entertainment platform unsure where to best invest next.

In each case, we were approached for our outsider perspective and we, in turn, approached the problems without major pre-conceptions.

Zen buddhism had known about this trick of millennial, calling it beginners mind:

In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, but in the experts mind there are few.

Shunryu Suzuki, Zen monk

The new products we rolled out to clients, the improved storylines, the better user experienceall of these were birthed from doing nothing but observing.

Why?

We let insightful connections come to us. We do not logic our way into them.

This is why Netflixs recommendation engineas precise as it iswill never be as powerful as somehow seeing a truly random film and unexpectedly end up loving.

When we are intent on directing the story of our life at every moment, we end up with an uninspiring narrative where the past is always prologue.

The idea of true creativity can become elusive.

Walk down a random street and simply noticinga piece of street art, an interesting outfit, the way two strangers interact. No objective. Just wander.

When our self-directing mind has a chance to rest, we pick-up on more and we build a fertile foundation for creativity to strike.

Ill borrow another page from Buddhism on this one. In Zen Buddhism, great insights are learned through seemingly mundane tasks: meditate on a paradoxical Koan or just peel potatoes.

You want spiritual insight? Dont think about spirituality while peeling potatoes. Simply peel the potatoes.

Indeed, its healthy to give ourselves time with no set objective, but its also damn productive.

Thats the great irony for those of us (hand raise) naturally inclined towards goal setting and achieving, AKA Type As.

Give yourself a break and take a break.

I mean it.

It might just be the most useful moment of your life.

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February 27th, 2020 at 7:46 pm

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Kelly Brook reveals she once farted in front of Madonna – Metro.co.uk

Posted: January 30, 2020 at 9:43 pm


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Kelly Brook was once left mortified after she farted in front of Madonna at the iconic singers house and was never invited back again.

Say whaat?!

Turns out that Kelly once bagged an invite to have dinner with Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow at Madonnas home to try the macrobiotic diet they were following at the time.

Such a diet primarily focuses on eating local and organically produced vegetables, whole grains and beans.

Its associated with Zen Buddhism and balancing the yin and yang elements of food, and Madonna reportedly follows a very strict version of the macrobiotics diet which cuts out wheat, eggs, meat and dairy and is all about sea vegetables (basically edible seaweed).

Well, Kelly certainly wasnt going to turn down a dinner with Madonna, even if it did mean tucking into seaweed, and lets just say said dinner didnt exactly agree with her.

Speaking on Heart FM, she said: Honestly it was like it happened yesterday OK, so about 20 years ago I got invited to a macrobiotic dinner party at Madonnas house its basically like you eat whats in season, you eat whats grown around you.

Its all like vegetarian, vegan, its very healthy. Lot of pulses, lots of beans, chickpeas all that stuff. So Id known about this diet that Gwyneth [Paltrow] and Madonna had been doing for a while so obviously Im kind of in awe of them, Im only 20 years old so I want to be like them.

Kelly, who recently revealed she has lost two stone, continued: Id been doing the diet, probably like a week before, but Im like a real big meat eater, so my insides were just not liking this new diet you can imagine.

So I turn up, we had the meal, we had gone in the living room it was the first episode of The Sopranos so we put it on, so it was like a big screen and there was loads of people there.

I remember kneeling down talking to Madonna about something and I just remember my stomach gurgling and Ive let out the smelliest blow off, like honestly, it was so bad, it filled the room.#

Wow.

[Madonna], she just kind of , she just turned her head away because obviously it went straight up her nose, Kelly said. It was like something had crawled up there and died. I had never ever done anything like that in my life.

And I just remember like Jason [Statham] just looked at me and was like, was that you? and I was like, yes, I dont think this macrobiotic food is agreeing with me, and that was it, I was never invited back.

She knew it was me. I was mortified.

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Kellys revelation comes after Madonna was forced to cancel her first London show on her Madame X world tour.

Madge explained under doctors guidance she has been forced to rest for a few days and apologised to fans for not being able to perform.

The last thing I want to do is disappoint my fans or compromise the integrity of my show, she wrote on Instagram. So I will keep going until I cannot please know that it hurts me more than you can imagine to have to cancel.

Kelly Brook presents Heart London Drivetime with JK on weekdays from4pm 7pm.

If you've got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the Metro.co.uk entertainment team by emailing us celebtips@metro.co.uk, calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page - we'd love to hear from you.

MORE: Piers Morgan and Stephen Fry lead celebrity tributes to Nicholas Parsons as Just A Minute presenter dies aged 96

MORE: Blake Lively steals the show at The Rhythm Section premiere with Jude Law as she rocks classic look

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January 30th, 2020 at 9:43 pm

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Kelly Brook remembers letting out the smelliest wind in front of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow – Up News Info

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%MINIFYHTMLab1160791439f0cb7dde17dd57584f4811% %MINIFYHTMLab1160791439f0cb7dde17dd57584f4812%

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Up News Info Actress and model Kelly Brook He kept his face red after she passed the "more smelly" wind while attending a meeting in Virginis at home with the singer's friend Gwyneth Paltrow.

The "Piranha 3D" star remembers attending a macrobiotic dinner (diet based on Zen Buddhism) many years ago, but admits that the food did not agree with her.

"I knew about this diet that Gwyneth and Madonna had been doing for a while, so obviously I'm a little amazed at them, I'm only 20 years old, so I want to be like them," he said about the event on his iHeart Radio radio show. K and Kelly Brook, which happened decades ago. "So I had been on the diet, probably like a week before, but I am like a big carnivore, so my guts just didn't like me with this new diet."

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When Kelly and the other attendees settled for a previous screening of the pilot episode of "The Sopranos," her stomach began to rumble.

"One of the actresses of & # 39; The Sopranos & # 39; was there," he recalled. "Herb Ritts the photographer, Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, like, everyone was there. And I remember kneeling talking to Madonna about something and I just remember that my stomach was gurgling and I let out the most honest smell. Honestly, it was so bad, it filled the room. And she (Madonna) simply just turned her head because it obviously went up her nose. "

Her boyfriend at that time Jason StathamHe was also among the guests and definitely noticed the bad smell.

"And I just remember that Jason looked at me and said: & # 39; Was it you? & # 39; and I thought: & # 39; Yes, I don't think this macrobiotic food agrees with me & # 39; that was all. , I was never invited back. She knew it was me. She was mortified. "

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January 30th, 2020 at 9:43 pm

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8 famous artists who dramatically destroyed their own artworks – Dazed

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We look at why John Baldessari burnt his art and baked cookies with the ashes, Francis Bacon slashed his best paintings, and Robert Rauschenberg erased a work by Willem de Kooning

During the mid-20th century, the 'art of destruction' emerged as a theme in the work of many celebrated artists. Although this tendency has existed for centuries Claude Monet allegedly slashed at least 30 of his water lily canvases the 20th century heralded a new age for creative auto-destruction. Defined by artist Gustav Metzger in the 1960s, 'auto-destructive' art reflected the recent violence of the Second World War, the ideological nihilism of existential philosophy, and the rising tensions of nuclear warfare during the Cold War.

Conceptual artists sabotaged, ruined or destroyed their artworks, either as a deliberate, artistic strategy, or as a result of malaise, anxiety, or displeasure with their work. To destroy an art object was not only radical but iconoclastic a gesture that disavowed the artwork as a material object that could potentially sell for vast amounts of money.

Contemporary artists, from Gerhard Richter to Banksy, have followed in the footsteps of their predecessors. Ironically, some of these artists have proved that destruction isnt always defeatist, or for the purposes of sheer vanity, but allows for liberation, which in turn, inspires new bounds of creativity.

Named the godfather of conceptual art, John Baldessari passed away on 2 January 2020, at the age of 88. An artist who irreversibly changed the landscape of American conceptual art, he worked across all artistic mediums, from installation to video art to emojis.

In 1970, he decided to destroy his entire body of work created between 1953 and 1966. Rather than throwing them away, he took them to a crematorium. Afterwards, Baldessari stored the ashes in a bronze urn (in the shape of a book), which he placed on his shelf. He also bought a bronze plaque inscribed with the birth and death dates of his deceased works, as well as the recipe to make the cookies.

Cremation Project was not only practical but strategic Baldessari was commenting on the cyclical process of the creative process, which could be conceptually recycled.

At one point I made cookies out of the ashes, Baldessari reflected, only one person I ever knew ate one.

By erasing his past oeuvre, Baldessari cleared his artistic slate. The following year, he gave instructions for a work titled I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art an oath to never create dull work again.

In 1953, Robert Rauschenberg arrived at the house of abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning, who at that time was one of Americas most respected and highest-earning artists. Then, a little-known artist, Rauschenberg asked de Kooning whether he could erase one of his works.

Reluctant at first, de Kooning eventually agreed. He offered the 27-year-old Rauschenberg a pencil, ink, charcoal, and graphic sketch. Over the following two months, Rauschenberg erased the artwork. When finished, he retitled it Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953)

Echoing the readymades of Marcel Duchamp and precipitating the arrival of appropriation art, Rauschenbergs gesture ignited conversations about the limitations of art (specifically, can art be created through erasure?), as well as questions about authorship.

In late 1954, at the age of 24, Jasper Johns destroyed all of his work. Later in life,he would reflect that it was time to stop becoming and to be an artist... I had a wish to determine what I was... what I wanted to do was find out what I did that other people didnt, what I was that other people werent.

Just as Baldessari found a new vision after destroying his work, the obliteration of Johns practice boosted his creativity as if freed from the intellectual shackles of his former self.

Not long after, Johns dreamed of painting an American flag. Shortly after, he made his dreams a reality and conceptualised his most famous work, Flag, 1954.

In 1967, the Canadian-born painter Agnes Martin one of the few female members affiliated with abstract expressionism decided to destroy her earlier works. Known as a reflective and quiet woman, her modular, muted paintings reflect a desire for tranquillity.

Before dedicating her energy to the motif of lines, bands, and the grid (her trademark) she experimented with biomorphic abstraction: pale-hued paintings influenced by organic, or geometric forms. Her mature style developed in the 1960s and moved towards restrained abstraction.

1967 brought about great rupture in Martins life. Not only did she experience the sudden death of her close friend, the artist Ad Reinhardt, but she also suffered from a decline in mental health, which would eventually lead to schizophrenia in her 40s. She retreated from New York and left for New Mexico where she followed the principles of eastern philosophy: Zen Buddhism and Taoism.

Martins decision to negate her former style could be read as a purifying of her former life as she embarked on a new journey, albeit one characterised by descending mental health. Her displeasure for her older work was so great, that she commented that if collectors wanted to sell them back to me, Id burn them.

Towards the end of Georgia O'Keeffes life in the 1980s, she purged works of art she no longer liked. But she also destroyed photographs by her former husband, Alfred Stieglitz.

Among many paintings, she attempted to bury Red and Green II (1916), an early watercolour that she documented as destroyed in her personal notebooks. Only publicly displayed once, in New York in 1958,O'Keeffes work despite her attempts to remove it resurfaced at a Christie's sale in November 2015.

After Francis Bacons death in 1992, hundreds of destroyed canvases were found in his cluttered studio in South Kensington. In total, 100 slashed canvases were retrieved from his home.

Known for his masochistic tendencies and emotionally-charged works, the cycle of creation and destruction was central to Bacons torturous, creative process. He allegedly referred to his art as an exorcism a cathartic, painful release of raw emotion. And once described the violent application of his paint as to do with an attempt to remake the violence of reality itself.

One of the destroyed works found in his studio Gorilla with Microphone used his repeated motif of a glass box, within which a central figure was cut out, leaving two white, negated spaces.

According to Jennifer Mundy, Bacon reflected that some of his destroyed works were among his best. He found it difficult to finish a work, and his canvases often became so clogged with pigment that they had to be discarded. He also routinely destroyed works he was not pleased with.

Noah Davis was a prodigiously talented LA-based painter who founded the Underground Museum. He tragically died aged 32 from a rare form of cancer in 2015, though he left an impressive artistic legacy.

A visionary and efficient painter who followed the mantra of less is more, one of his closest friends, Henry Taylor, described him as an artist who was constantly growing.

According to Bennett Roberts (the co-founder of Roberts & Tilton) The only problem with Noah, was that he would call me and say, Come to the studio, I painted 10 great new paintings. He was very fast when he was working. Id go in there and just be mesmerised. These are unbelievable, can we get them to the gallery? Ill photograph them. Two days later, he would say, Oh, sorry, I painted over every one of them.

Banksys self-shredding artwork dominated the headlines in 2018. When his most recognisable work, Girl With Balloon, sold for over 1 million at a London Sothebys auction,the artwork promptly began to self-destruct. Unbeknown to onlookers, the artist had previously installed an automated shredding device into the frame of the picture.

Shortly after, Banksy uploaded a video of the scandalous moment on his Instagram account, with the caption Going, going, gone Ironically, the destruction of the work was left incomplete; the work was supposed to shred entirely but stopped halfway through. To the surprise of many, the artwork increased in value after its public decimation.

In homage to Picasso, Banksy remarked: The urge to destroy is also a creative urge

One of the most prolific artists of the twentieth century, Louise Bourgeois left her New York townhouse in a state of bohemian disarray after her death in 2010. Known for her chronic anxiety, erratic moods, and sudden outbursts of creativity, the artists close friend and assistant, Jerry Gorovy once remarked, If she worked, she was OK. If she didnt, she became anxious... and when she was anxious she would attack. She would smash things, destroy her work.

If Bourgeois disliked a small sculpture shed been working on, she was known to push it off the end of her kitchen table and watch it smash and break into small fragments.

Read more here:
8 famous artists who dramatically destroyed their own artworks - Dazed

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January 30th, 2020 at 9:43 pm

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Japanese Master Teaches Shojin Cuisine to One of the Best Chefs in the World – NextShark

Posted: January 14, 2020 at 8:43 pm


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As parts of the world transition to a more plant-based diet, restaurants offering Shojin cuisine have become more accessible, drawing patrons from all walks of life.

But what exactly is Shojin, and how does it work as a dietary choice?

Ren Redzepi, an award-winning Danish chef and co-owner of Copenhagens two-Michelin star restaurant Noma set out for Japan to learn about the cuisine from an authentic Japanese master, Toshio Tanahashi.

Its a style of cooking originating from the 7th century Japan. A vegetarian cuisine meant for Buddhist monks abstaining from taking any life, Redzepi writes in an Instagram post. The cuisine of Zen Buddhism.

Not all Buddhists are vegetarians, but for ancient monks who followed the precept of abstaining from the taking of life, vegetarianism was the way to nourish their physical bodies.

First introduced to Kyoto monasteries from China in the 7th and 8th centuries, the cuisine primarily consisted of vegetables that were boiled or eaten raw with simple seasonings.

Dogen Zenji, the founder of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism, wrote an essay titled Tenzo Kyokun (Instructions for the Cook), which sparked further development in the art.

By the 13th century, it evolved to become Shojin ryori, combining the words shojin (meaning devotion) and ryori (meaning cooking).

Based in Kyoto himself, Tanahashi has decades of experience in Shojin cuisine, hosting events around the world to share its philosophy.

He believes that the age of gluttonous cuisine is over and that Shojin is the best alternative to our meat-heavy, fat-saturated and wasteful diets.

In February 2008, Tanahashi established the Zecoow Culinary Institute, which plans to establish a Shojin dojo a traditional space for learning that would serve as a center for proliferating and advocating the art and spirit of the cuisine.

In my pursuit of Shojin cuisine, regardless of whether from the east or the west, my aim is to continue to discover how the unique Shojin approach can reveal true beauty and health in our clothes, home, environment, healing practices, and agriculture, Tanahashi says.

As its name implies, Shojin ryori is not merely an adherence to a vegetarian diet. In essence, it is the practice of meditating while consuming a plant-based diet.

Plants give tangible and intangible joys of living, helping establish a healthy life, Tanahashi says. This is the basis of the right way to live for mankind. No more and no less. The gratitude in knowing that this is enough will lead to good health.

Like the concept of veganism, Shojin goes further beyond the cuisine, according to Tanahashi.

A plant-centered, calm and modest life will lead to physical and mental health. Crime and conflict will be reduced, he says. I believe that a plant-based life is the richest and most beautiful form of humanity, [when subscribed to] in all clothing, food, and shelter.

Redzepi, meanwhile, is part of MAD, a global cooking community with a social conscience and an appetite for change. He has also co-written a book on fermentation with David Zilber, who also works at Noma.

Redzepi, who has nearly 900,000 followers, concluded his Instagram post by sharing his learnings from Tanahashi. Some include:

Nature and environment is the starting point for us all. By attaining a symbiosis with the land, we can understand that earth and body are inseparable, he adds.

Feature Images via @reneredzepinoma (left, right), Zeecow Culinary Institute (center)

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Japanese Master Teaches Shojin Cuisine to One of the Best Chefs in the World - NextShark

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January 14th, 2020 at 8:43 pm

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