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The Contest – Story 3: Lyla & Bendle

The next morning, they got up early and traveled to the city…thousands of Himmincats of all kinds were traveling as well.

On Orth, there were no such things as roads. Instead, Himmincats traveled in hovercrafts or on moving platforms.

conveyor beltThe moving platforms were like escalators, only flat – more like the “people movers” that you see in airports or shopping malls. The difference was they went much faster and were as wide as a road, so that many Himmincats could fit on at once.

The only way to get on, since it went so fast, was by first sitting in a little chair (with your luggage, if you had it) that was kind of like a ski lift.

The chair was in a little on-ramp area, like those of a feeder road, to the side of the people mover.

Then, every few seconds, after someone sat down in the chair, it would move down the ramp towards the people mover (which the Himmincats called the “Cat-way”), slowly at first, building speed until by the time it reached the Cat-way you were traveling at the same fast speed that everyone else was.

When a beep sounded, you had 10 seconds to just slip out of the chair onto to the mover. When you were out, the chair rotated back overhead for another waiting traveler.

They get to the city. The children are sorted by males and females. Their mother kisses them and says goodbye – knowing that if her children win, they will never see each other again.

She closes her eyes and places her paw on their heads. Their heads get hot and they realize she is imparting an image of their father that they will be with them always (she says).

Their father isn’t there – he’s a mystery that you can introduce at a later time.

They begin the contests. The contests can really vary in many ways, depending on the interests of your children.

When I told the stories to my kids, I liked to mix in a combination of physical activities, because all kids are familiar with that, along with intelligence, along with common sense kinds of things.

That way, there wasn’t an over-emphasis on just one quality, and a reinforcement that a balance is good.

obstacle courseThere can be 3 or 4 contests.

I liked using an obstacle course as the last one, because it gives the best opportunity for you to mix brains, bravery, common sense, and strength.

They jump over things, they solve 12 dimensional puzzles, they climb walls to get away from pits of sticky goo, they help each other to finish a maze (emphasizing the need for teamwork), etc.

The point is, Lyla and Bendle emerge victorious. Hoo-RAY!

Sister and Brother – Story 2: Lyla & Bendle

rocketSo, as the rocket was being built, a contest was announced across all of the planet. TV and radio, papers and magazines, all carried the news of the contest.

Only the four bravest, smartest, and purest Himmincats would be chosen. Everyone was to travel to one of the 12 big cities on Orth to be in the contest, to see if they would be chosen.

Far away from the capital city, in a little village on a lake, the news of the contest soon reached a hunter’s family.

A young girl Himmincat ran in to her mother from school that afternoon and said “Mother…have you heard? There is a contest to decide which of us will go on the rocket ship to another planet.”

“No Lyla, I have not heard. Where did you get this news?” her mother said.

Hover_Bus_by_DarkMeasures“They told us at the school,” interrupted Lyla’s younger brother, standing there panting at her side after the run from the hover-bus.

(A hover-bus was like our school bus, only it floated on a cushion of air and could travel over land and water.) “They said that we must all travel to the city to be in it to see if we are chosen.”

“Hush Bendle…don’t interrupt your sister,” said their mother gently. She looked at Lyla again, “When is this contest, Lyla?”

“It begins tomorrow, mother,” continued Lyla. “They said we don’t have much time. They have to choose quickly so that the chosen will be ready to leave on the rocket before the supernova.”

Her mother looked up, sadly, but with a fire in her eyes and said, “Alright children, sit down and eat. We must sleep tonight so that tomorrow you will be strong for the contest.”

The Planet Orth – Story 1: Lyla & Bendle

blog-himmincatThey lived on a dying planet, named Orth. It was dying because one of its suns (it had three) was beginning to supernova.

The supernova would cause the sun to grow several thousand times its normal size. The intense heat and radiation would burn the planet to a crisp, killing all living things.

There wasn’t much time — less than a month. Orth was surely going to die.

So the great scientists and philosophers and leaders of Orth decided that they must do something. They could not let the planet die, without finding some way to let their race live on.

The Orthians were no ordinary people — they were “Himmincats.” Himmincats were fierce, proud, lion-like creatures that walked on their hind legs. Their speech was like a growl and adults stood 12 feet tall, with children 6 feet tall.

{NOTE: During your bedtime storytelling, imitate some growling noises to illustrate their speech; these creatures are kind of like the ones in the computer game Wing Commander 3, for those who ever saw or had the game.}

They refused to be beaten by the supernova, so they called a great meeting held in a huge hall in the central building of the capital city.

After much talk, finally the oldest of all elders stood slowly and growled “There is only one way! We must find another planet for the Himmincats to live on. We must build a rocket ship to travel there before the supernova destroys Orth.”

But who will go on the rocket ship? asked the other elders. “There must be a contest,” said the oldest again.

“There is not enough time to build enough rocket ships for all of us. So, we must choose the Himmincats that have the best chance of surviving and building a new generation in another galaxy. Our hope and spirits will live with them.”

POSTSCRIPT: It’s interesting to read these notes from a bedtime story series that I started telling my kids 20 years ago, in light of the huge success of The Hunger Games trilogy.  Kudos to Suzanne Collins, the author, for an exciting series that appealed to young kids.

But, the reality is that the meme of youthful, high risk competitions is as old as the battles between Cain & Abel, Jacob & Esau, and David & his brothers…just to name one source – the Old Testament of the Bible!

The Tale of Lyla and Bendle

blog-lyla-bendleThe tale of Lyla and Bendle is an epic one, in the sense that it can go on for months, if not years if you choose.

I started out with the two “children” because I had two young kids at the time (Lauren and Ben) — I eventually had a third kiddo, Andrew.

It’s common sense, but matching the characters closely to your kids helps them to really get involved in the story. But, let them do the personalizing – you don’t have to make it too obvious…that’s part of the fun and magic.

I borrowed heavily from other tales, especially when I was tired – Star Trek episodes, Star Wars, old Johnny Quest cartoons, whatever suits your fancy – using the ideas but not the actual characters.  For example, I wouldn’t insert Darth Vader by name in a story, but I might insert a hovercraft like Luke Skywalker’s “Land Speeder” in the first movie.

In subsequent blog posts, I’ll share some of the episode narratives and notes.  I only filled out the first 3 episodes of the story for you. Beyond that, I wrote some loose story notes for other episodes that I can remember doing.

The rest, you can make up as you go. That’s part of the fun, especially as you get into the characters.

Bedtime Storytelling Tips

blog-bedtime-stories-girl-daddyI don’t claim to be an international authority (just a household one), but after a few years of telling bedtime stories to my kids, here are some pointers for you to consider that have worked for me.

  1. Settle the kids down before telling the story. A bedtime story has two objectives:
    • First is to fix their attention on something fun, interesting, and preferably positive right before they go to sleep, so that they (just like adults) can take their minds off of the activities of the day like school work, sports, play with friends, etc.
    • Second, is to make them drowsy and ready to go to sleep…if they aren’t settled down, it will be harder to get them drowsy.
  2. Be animated, but keep your voice low. Otherwise you defeat point #1 above. You’d be surprised at the range of volume and animation you can get, by still keeping your voice low the whole time.
  3. Don’t try to fit too much into one story. Keep the stories at about 4-6 minutes. It’s quite okay to continue stories on for weeks. Lyla and Bendle continued on for a couple of years.
  4. Not to belabor the point, but there is no question in my mind that storytelling is an important, unique opportunity to – as a parent or guardian – have a conversation with children that allows you to impart to them your beliefs, values, and other ideas you hold dear.

Bottomline: Storytelling is a great teaching time and I encourage you to use it to weave in the things that are important to you – whether it is respect for others, balance in life, spiritual belief, curiosity, courage…you name it!  Have fun!!


the-treachery-of-images-this-is-not-a-pipe-1948-magrittePerception is reality.

Change is the only constant.

Adapt or die.

The simplicity of these phrases is powerful.  But they belie a greater complexity.

There is perception and reality.

Some things don’t change.

Death, like adaptation, is a transitive state, not a permanent one.

I’m going to write more about this topic soon.  Stay tuned…

A Judge’s Scorecard: “Lights. Camera. Help.” 2014 #Film Frenzy

lch logoI had the great honor of being one of three celebrity, community judges for 2014 Reel Change Film Frenzy this evening.

Up to this point, the closest I’ve come to celebrity (other than having a Wikipedia entry) is purely associative, perhaps the greatest of which was being in the inaugural class of the Austin Under 40 Awards, in which Mike Judge, Lance Armstrong, and Michael Dell were also among the 25 inducted.

I showed to receive my award…they did not.  (Something about Emmys, French bike races, and self-immolating laptop batteries was muttered in each respective case, as I recall.)

But, back to the #FilmFrenzy…

My fellow judges and I watched 10 short films (the mandated max running length was 8 minutes), along with a sold-out audience at the shiny new-ish Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane.  We each scored in the following broad categories:

  1. Call to action
  2. Creativity, story, emotional connection
  3. Film craft, cinematography, sound

At the end of all 10, we three judges huddled in the hallway and, after briefly comparing our favorites, quickly concluded that the only one that finished in the top three for all of us for Pug Rescue of Austin.  It was funny, touching, well-paced, with solid sound and film work, and with interesting, readable titles and credits.

But, what we didn’t say was that we each had a different top favorite.  So, without further delay, here are excerpts of my judges comments:

  • Austin History Center: some great “insider” shots of the archives; would have loved more scenes other than downtown Austin; really liked use of old B&W photos in the closing sequence – very strong
  • Driving a Senior: the running length was long for my taste, but I give the team huge props for working in a narrative story…a very challenging decision that they executed impressively in such short time
  • Ecorise: some of the musical tracks were distracting and it felt a bit dialog-heavy to me, lacking a strong call to action; yet, film sequences of the kids outside and telling their stories was some of the strongest shown
  • Mariposa Pathway: the mix of motion graphics and action was nicely done; loved the butterfly sequences
  • Seedling Foundation: this was my overall favorite…I felt like the pacing was spot on; the film, sound, and titles were really strong; the call to action was powerful — I just loved it!
  • TALA: the filmmaker’s story was the perfect choice to illustrate the nonprofit’s value proposition
  • Truth Be Told: I had the strongest emotional reaction to this one; it was also in my top 3; really, really well-crafted film-making, powerful story-telling, beautifully done end credits — I loved this one too!
  • Umlauf Sculpture Gardens: some gorgeously done sequences of the sculpture garden (including night time rain – kudos team!) and awesome archival footage of the artist…reminded me to frequent this city treasure
  • VSA Texas: loved-loved-loved the beginning and ending sequence at Long Center…great choices for spokespeople, with a strong call to action

Congratulations to every one of the film makers who contributed their time, money and creative souls to producing these timeless works.  Good on you!

And special “thank you” to Aaron Bramley and David Neff (executive director and LCH founder/board member, respectively) for inviting me to participate.

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