PJ Lifestyle

PJM Lifestyle

Are They Kids or Employees? Are We Parents, or Just the Boss?

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The other day I came across a “Consequence Chart” when surfing parenting Tweets. It’s a simple list detailing consequences for various actions taken and it’s meant to hang in a common area of the home as a contractual reminder of punishments for childhood crimes like “using unacceptable words” and “disrespect.” It reminded me of the many corporate flowcharts I viewed during my 9-5 working days in HR. Thinking of those made me impulsively shudder. The last thing I want is for my kids to feel like they’re going into the office every day.

Which is probably also why I have quickly developed a near-seething hatred for “apps that teach your kids time management skills” like the one featured in Paranoia — er, I mean Parents magazine. Why does your 6 year old need a device when all you have to do is say, “It’s time to…”? Since when does a kid that young need to learn how to manage their time independently? Since kindergartens have become “skill-and-drill” factories in which free, imaginative play is sacrificed for the sake of academic excellence. After all, time management is a skill working mommies and daddies both have to excel at, so why shouldn’t junior, too?

In fact, working parents already acculturated to the corporate lifestyle crave parenting styles that provide a businesslike structure in the home. Along with contractual charts and educational apps, there is the infamous calendar containing a schedule loaded with color-coded blocks for before and after-care, playdates, homework time, extracurricular activities and social events. Parents used to having to overbook in order to achieve in a corporate environment have no problem pushing their kids into a high-paced bevy of activities in order to “keep up” with their peers and get smarter, faster. Some parents are so desperate to give their kids every “experience” on the book that they’re crowdsourcing funds to pay for it.

The question becomes, when did parents cease to be parents and begin being bosses of their own children? When is the last time you felt comfortable having a heart-to-heart about your bad day with your boss? The answer is, never. And if you’re the boss of your child, they’re not going to be comfortable expressing themselves to you, either. Being managed doesn’t equate to being happy. Nor, in fact, does it equate to being successful later in life. In fact, the primary accomplishment of corporate parenting is to bring more stress into the home, not less, for kids and parents alike.

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5 Dinosaur Movies Better than ‘Jurassic World’

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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Jurassic World is setting world records for the biggest box office movie opening ever.  One reviewer called it “big dumb fun.”  No wonder audiences are flocking to the film like interns to free donuts. Good creature-features have always been a healthy cash cow for filmmakers. Before Chris Pratt took on the role of dinosaur whisperer, the silver screen had its share of unforgettable movies about the monsters from our lost world. Here are five films that are worth a look.

#5. Gertie the Dinosaur (1914). Maybe The Lost World  (1925) was the first full-length big production of a SciFi dinosaur movie. But it wasn’t by a long shot the first big reptile on the silver screen. Animation pioneer Winsor McCay made this short in 1914. This is the great-grandfather of Hollywood’s fascination with the Mesozoic Era. This first deserves to be on the list of the very best.

#4. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953). No master monster-movie list would be complete if it didn’t include a film by the special effects genius Raymond Frederick “Ray” Harryhausen. Ray created his dinosaurs using animated stop-motion models. The strange “beast” released from the frozen Arctic that makes its way to Coney Island is one of his most marvelous creations. This film inspired countless other monster movies. This black and white movie is a not-to-be-missed classic.

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9 Ways Your Marriage Changes When a Baby Is on the Way

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Everything about our life together changed the minute we learned we were pregnant. The obvious changes were welcome ones. Loads of much-needed gifts, the rearranging of rooms, the changing of jobs so I could be the work-from-home mom I always wanted to be. Those weren’t the issue. It was all the seemingly mundane unexpected changes that seemed to carve us into being parents instead of just husband and wife.

9. The Sleepless Nights Start Now.

Around 5:45 one morning my husband dragged himself out of bed and got dressed for work. “Did you need to go in early?” I mumbled, half incoherent after yet another night of on-again, off-again, my-leg-is-numb-again sleep. No, he didn’t. He just couldn’t sleep, either. We were less than four weeks out from our due date and he’s busting a move at work to get things done in anticipation of his upcoming “vacation.” Because this is what you spend your vacation time on when you get pregnant: The baby that’s due any day.

8. Mommy-to-Be Builds Her First Nest in Bed.

Besides, 2 feet of bed space to move around in didn’t exactly bode him a good night’s sleep, either. It was easier to get up and go to work than to wrestle with the pillow fortress that had become my pregnant body’s nest during these last, huge months. We called it practice for dealing with a newborn’s sleep schedule.

7. You’ve Gone from Budget-Conscious to Budget-Paranoid.

Conversations about possible vacation locales now ended with, “It’ll be great to take the baby there when they get older.” Suddenly money was not meant to be wasted on fun. Food shopping becomes an adventure in coupon clipping. By month 5 we decided to avoid browsing the baby aisle, since price comparing diapers left us both in a bit of a panic.

6. Friends Are a Distant Memory.

We began seeing less and less of our friends. It started out with having to somehow get out of a dinner party invite thanks to my all-day-sickness. We weren’t ready to make the big announcement, so I had to claim a virus. Later on, rejections came in the form of, “I’m sorry, but my feet won’t allow me to stand on them for more than 10 minutes at a time,” or “I don’t think my body will fit into your apartment for that massive reunion.”

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Transracial Rachel Dolezal, Transsexual Caitlyn Jenner, and the Denial of Objective Reality

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

We new media professionals surf a choppy sea of social whim. Whatever people talk about, we write about. It’s supply and demand. That said, there are certain stories which I resist chiming in on no matter how big they get, stories which I find either distasteful or ludicrous.

The story of Rachel Dolezal stands as an example. The drama surrounding her masquerade as a black woman strikes me as tabloid garbage, warranting a sidebar mention at best, and then only for laughs.

Unfortunately, my attempt to avoid the story has run up against this piece at Reason, in which editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie attempts to draw a distinction between Dolezal’s transracialism (yes, spell check, that’s a word now) and Caitlyn Jenner’s transsexualism. He writes:

To say that Jenner’s very public coming out disturbed social conservatives is an understatement. Between the ritual unwillingness to use female pronouns in relation to Jenner to exhortations that she is clearly deranged, it’s fairer to say that cons lost their shit. “A surgically damaged man appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, and the applause is mandatory,” opined National Review‘s David French. ”If we’re not going to defend as a [Republican] party basic principles of male and female, that life is sacred because it comes from God, then you’re going to lose the vast majority of people who’ve joined that party,” howled Iowa talk-radio host Steve Deace.

Gillespie cited Outside the Beltway’s Doug Mataconis, who wrote:

[It's just] another attempt by social conservatives to demean transgender people, a phenomenon that has been quite prevalent on that side of the political spectrum over the past two weeks. Even taking the arguments at face value, though, they don’t add up….

Rachel Dolezal didn’t “choose her race,” she committed fraud by lying about her background. She can choose to adopt whatever culture she wishes, but that’s not what happened here. She lied about her background, not just to the public but apparently also on job applications. That’s fraud. The people who are trying to use this case to draw analogies to, or mostly just to make stupid, snarly comments about, the issues raised last week by the Caitlyn Jenner story, are just being obnoxious jerks.

Obnoxious jerks, or adherents to objective reality?

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Should You Demand Fresh Blood for Your Next Transfusion?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by Theodore Dalrymple
Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

As everyone knows, fresh human blood rejuvenated Dracula no end: stored blood simply would not do for him.

Blood has long been a fluid endowed with mystic significance. Only comparatively recently in human history have people donated it to strangers with anything like a good grace. I once worked in a remote country, much given to drunkenness, where people would only give blood to their relatives, though fortunately they lived in large families. A man there once had an accident requiring rapid and repeated transfusion. His family had all been at a party. After transfusion, he himself was drunk.

It has long been thought that the longer human blood had been stored in blood banks, the less good its quality. There were two papers in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine that tested this hypothesis, which (within limits, of course) turned out to be false, as so many hypotheses do. I think most people would instinctively feel, because it stands to reason, that fresh blood is best; we agree with Dracula.

Normally, blood is taken from donors, treated chemically and tested for viruses and refrigerated. In practice it is not kept more than six weeks, though this period is to an extent arbitrary and by convention. In the first trial, conducted in Canada, Britain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium, critically ill patients in need of blood transfusions were allocated randomly to receive either blood that was less than a week old or blood that was three weeks old.

One short passage in the paper was slightly troubling from the point of view of medical ethics: “At sites where deferred consent was permitted, written informed consent was obtained from the patient or surrogate decision maker as soon as possible after enrollment.” This appears to mean, unless I have misunderstood, that consent was retrospective, in other words that the patients were asked “Do you consent to having been experimented upon?” Even where such consent was not given, refusal was all but pointless, for they were then asked whether, nevertheless, they consented to the use of the data gathered in their case.

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4 Stages of Play All Parents of Boys Will Understand

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Stephen Green
Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

It’s summer vacation and I’m a work-at-home dad in charge of two boys, ages Nine and Nearly Five.  They’re good kids, provided you remember — and develop the patience for — the Four Stages of Play.

They are:

• Every idea becomes a game

• Every game becomes a contest

• Every contest becomes a bloodsport

• Every bloodsport ends in bloodshed

The only exception to these Four Stages is when boys spend too long in close proximity to one another, and skip directly from Stage One to Stage Four.

In Stage One, I use the word “idea” loosely — looser than a noose tied of loose yarn draped loosely around the neck of a loose goose.  A small boy gets an “idea” when a random synapse fires under the stimulation of a third bowl of Cookie Crisp, and consists only of the words, “Let’s do that!”

“That” being something you told them not to do is a direct function of how many times you’ve told them not to do that.  The other possibility — really the only other possibility — is that they come up with something so bizarre that you, as a grown adult-type person, could never have imagined to forbid it in advance.  But we’ll get to Trampoline Lego in a moment.

The other boy(s), whose synapses are also under the influence of various sucrose-based breakfast foods, and who have also been told repeatedly that doing “that” would be a bad idea, immediately and invariably agree that “that” would be an excellent idea.

“That” is how Trampoline Lego was invented, and if you think bare feet are the best way to find missing Lego pieces in the living room, just wait until you’ve tried the lawnmower.  I’m not particularly upset about the Lego brick lodged at Lawnmower Blade Speed into the stucco exterior of Casa Verde for the simple reason that it isn’t lodged into one of the dogs.

This brings us to Stage Two, or as I now think of it: How High Can We Make the Legos Bounce?

In their little boy minds, I’m certain they pictured something like one of those bouncy ball rooms, except on a trampoline.  But instead of soft, round bouncy balls, they had pointy, stabby Lego bricks.  So instead of paddling their way through soft, round bouncy balls, they were flying through the air with pointy, stabby Lego bricks — and seeing who could go the highest with the mostest.  Nine was going for height, I was told, but Nearly Five was going for numbers.

The International Olympic Committee has yet to devise universally accepted rules for judging Trampoline Lego, so naturally an argument ensued over who had indeed gone the highest with the mostest.  Other arguments involved the merits of hang time versus height, and whether Duplo bricks were “too immature” for Trampoline Lego.

I should add that there were no arguments over the merits of Trampoline Lego itself.

There was also no discussion about what might happen when an airborne little boy, surrounded by airborne pointy, stabby Lego and/or Duplo bricks, inevitably becomes un-airborne.

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Anatomy of a Knock-Knock Joke, or How to Raise Funny Kids Without Even Trying

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Michael T. Hamilton

Image via Tanu842011/Wikimedia

Knock knock.

Who’s there.

Mr. Piggy Pants.

Great. Mr. Piggy Pants who.

Mr. Piggy Pants went to … the funniest place … and everyone came with him. Haaa.

Mmm. Uhuh. Quick, change the sub—

Knock knock. I said knock knock.

OOOOkay, let me explain something. Here is how knock-knock jokes work….

That’s a cross-section of yesterday morning’s pre-coffee minivan conversation on our way to Grammy’s, conducted with an unsafe number of glances in the rearview mirror. As dad to a family of too many explanations and too few old-fashioned look over there propaganda decoys, I frequently commit myself to explaining things I don’t understand—particularly things that bother me but which I am reluctant to abolish without being able to articulate why. Unfortunately, articulation usually involves reasoning with my children, who interpret this as an invitation to debate, deliberate, distinguish, etc. In other words, they argue—not because I’m afraid to pull rank, which I frequently do, but because I’m in the middle of something, kids, and wouldn’t it be a shame if my parenting got in the way of my pontificating.

Before I go further, I should address why a grown man who claims to hate knock-knock jokes is spending more time thinking about them than most adults should. The answer is that I couldn’t care less about understanding knock-knocks, but I do want to understand my kids, particularly my five-year-old, who recently started tilting at windmills in his quest for everybody (somebody? isn’t there anybody?) to regard him as hilarious.

So here is what I said:

To make a good knock-knock, start with the answer you want to end with, then split it up between the knocker and the door opener in a way others won’t expect.

Lord knows why that didn’t impress my children, whose combined age is seven. Their owl eyes just hung there in my mirror. So I gave an example:

Knock knock. (Me)

Who’s there? (Jonah, genuinely curious)

G.

G who?? Hey, I have one. Knock knock.

What? No. I’m trying to explain something to you. Plus I’m in the middle of a joke.

Oh. You can finish.

Thanks. G.I. Joe. (Man, I hate this.)

Haaaa. That was a really good one, Dad.

Well. OK. Do you know what a G.I. Joe is?

Of course, it’s a good guy.

Good enough.

Yep. Actually that joke isn’t funny.

He’s right, despite my having followed the rules. You may say I did it wrong, that I needed a cleverer word combination—say, “Al” and “Coholic”—to keep the element of surprise, but I disagree. If the thought of a man named Al Coholic is funny, its humor is inherent and needs no knock-knock framework—doorframe—whatever. The knock-knock is nothing but a shell for the already funny; it contributes nothing (except frustration). It adds no value, and in fact conducts an even less funny Q & A session than someone asking you point blank, “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if there were a guy named Al Coholic?” I don’t know, would it? Probably not any funnier than if he had a buddy named G.I. Joe. But frame this within a knock-knock, and you’ll only drain off what little laughing power these names may pack.

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Jurassic World Review: Big Dumb Fun

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Warning: Some plot details from Jurassic World will be disclosed.

Believe it or not, it has been 22 years since Jurassic Park premiered in theaters. For many, that film stands as a landmark cinematic experience. Never before had computer-generated characters been so convincingly portrayed on-screen. The technology manifest in Jurassic Park went on to reshape the film and television industries, empowering creators to build whatever they could imagine, for better or worse.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park debuted four years after the original. Despite being again directed by Steven Spielberg and again based on a novel by Michael Crichton, the sequel failed to capture the same magic. By time Jurassic Park III came around in 2001, the good money was on the franchise’s demise.

But if there’s anything Hollywood loves, it’s a comeback story. In an age of belated sequels and franchise reboots, Jurassic World has emerged as an unprecedented hit, making half a billion dollars in its opening weekend, the largest debut haul in film history.

There’s clearly been a long-harbored desire to return to Isla Nublar. The question remains, despite its commercial success: is the film any good?

Pros

True Sequel to the Original

Perhaps it would have been better for all parties concerned if the second and third Jurassic Park sequels had never happened. Indeed, Jurassic World pretends they didn’t, referencing nothing from either film. It’s telling that no such references are necessary.

Jurassic World proves to be a true sequel to the original film by building off its events and advancing its themes. Entrepreneur John Hammond’s dream of an attraction sans illusion was never fully realized, cut short by the tragic fulfillment of Ian Malcolm’s chaos predictions. Here, that vision has finally come.

Chris Pratt

Though he takes too long to appear, once he does, Chris Pratt commands the screen. After his breakout role in Marvel Studio’s Guardians of the Galaxy, observers have been looking to Jurassic World for an indication of whether Pratt has persistent star power. The verdict is in and, as observed by an admirer in the film, he’s a badass.

Early glimpses of the banter between Pratt’s Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard’s uptight Claire Dearing raised concern that we were getting another version of Star Lord. That’s not the case. While Grady and Peter Quill have a similar sense of humor, the former proves much more reliable and mature. Grady plays an amalgamation of Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm, fusing practical expertise with a sense of humility before nature. Unlike Quill, Grady’s the voice of reason here. And Pratt sells it.

Evolving the Franchise

Jurassic Park was built from ambition outpacing caution. Jurassic World proves no different, made worse by years of apparent success. With the public (and we the movie-going audience) no longer in awe of living dinosaurs, the park’s corporate masters demand ever more shocking attractions. That leads to the creation of the Indominus Rex, an amalgam of monsters both modern and prehistoric.

Jurassic World continues to ask where man should stop meddling with nature. Whether the application is entertainment or something more nefarious, should humans play Frankenstein with the building blocks of life?

Like the original’s Barbasol can full of embryos, Jurassic World leaves a fairly obvious opening for follow-up films. Given the monstrous success seen thus far, and Pratt acknowledging he’s been signed for additional films, we can bank on seeing where things go next.

And now for the cons….

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Why I Want to Parent Like Steve Jobs

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

One of the first discussions we had as new parents involved how we were going to introduce technology to our child. For my husband, a computer geek and career engineer, the immediate desire was to get his kid pushing buttons fast. Suddenly he was ready to change cell providers just to get a more rugged phone that could be gnawed on or dropped repeatedly.

Then I gave him a quick quiz. How much screen time is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for children 2 and under? If you answered anything greater than zero, you’re wrong. Sorry, worn out parents of toddlers needing distractions in the supermarket, handing them your iPhone may cause more problems than it solves. 

Recent statistics from Canada show that while 70% of preschoolers met recommended physical activity guidelines, that number shot down drastically to 7% of 5-11 year-olds and a meager 5% of 12-17 year-olds. Why? Because these kids are hooked on screens. And who can blame them? Most houses today have at least 2 televisions, 2 personal computing devices, and 2 smartphones readily at hand. Is it any wonder that Great Outdoors Colorado is spending $25 million this summer to get kids “off the couch and outside playing”?

The grand irony in all of this is that Steve Jobs, the man whose company revolutionized smart technology, didn’t permit his own kids to play with iPads. Neither do most parents in Silicon Valley, who prefer sending their children to schools like Steiner Waldorf “which exclude screen time before the age of 12 in favour of physical activity, art and experiential learning.”

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Pitch Perfect: Is Celemony’s Melodyne the Most Versatile Pitch Correction Software Ever?

Sunday, June 14th, 2015 - by Ed Driscoll

There are lots of computer-based digital audio workstations (DAWs) that transform Apples and PCs into multitrack recording studios, and a seemingly endless amount of applets for those DAWs to process and transform sound. But among them, perhaps the most intriguing is Celemony’s Melodyne program. Melodyne originally debuted in 2001, and quickly set new standards for pitch correction, particularly with its ability to create harmonies from a single vocal or instrumental line, and its ability to edit and manipulate tracks with chords and harmonies. But what really sets it apart for most other pitch correction programs is its range — it can be very transparent sounding, or totally mangle recorded sound in new and unique ways. Melodyne is both an outstanding application in and of itself, and it offers a rare glimpse into the future of recorded music. (And yes, I paid full price for mine last year; I wasn’t supplied a demo copy by the manufacturer.)

Ever since Cher’s infamous “Believe” song first made the public aware of pitch correction back in 1998, pitch correction of recorded vocals has always been a controversial topic. There are many who believe that singers should be au naturel and that fine tuning the pitch of their vocals is someone “deceiving” the public — this despite the incredible advancements that have been in multitrack recording, ever since the Beatles’ first serious attempts at pushing its original limits in the mid-1960s. No one seriously believes that the Beatles, an orchestra, an audience, and background sound effects were simultaneously recorded live in one pass inside Abbey Road Studio to create the opening of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. But somehow, pitch correction of vocalists is seen as anathema by many in the general public.

Using Pitch Correction for Better Demo Vocals

In contrast, as I argued over a decade ago at Tech Central Station, what makes pitch correction so powerful a tool for those of us who are home recording enthusiasts is that it allows those of us who aren’t great singers to record demo recordings featuring lead vocals that aren’t completely out to lunch. In any case, pitch correction is simply a fact of life in the pop recording world today. If you record at home, ignore it at your own risk, as Mike Senior of England’s Sound on Sound magazine wrote in his excellent home recording primer Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio:

Decent tuning (especially on vocal parts) is increasingly being ignored in small-studio productions, and this puts the onus on the mix engineer to fix things by default, because arriving at a competitive mixdown is otherwise pretty much a pipe dream. “If you don’t do it, your records will sound strange,” comments [music producer] Steve Lipson. “People’s ears have become used to hearing voices perfectly in tune.”

While there are numerous pitch correction programs, including Antares Auto-Tune, the granddaddy of them all, Melodyne is one of the most flexible, and when used properly, one of the most transparent — and when used “improperly,” one of the most fun to mangle sounds. This 2009 video, while a bit crude looking due to that era’s blotchy YouTube codec, is nonetheless a succinct introduction to the program:

Melodyne has one of most intuitive GUIs I’ve ever seen. Unlike so many programs and applets that feel like a control panel from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, because of its utter simplicity, it’s possible for a new user to begin to get excellent results from Melodyne very quickly after first loading the program.

However, as with all programs, the best results come from repeated, dedicated use. It helps, as Senior advises, to go slowly, listening to the track as you edit, rather than relying on what the program’s GUI tells you is the correct note.

As Senior writes, “If an ostensibly out-of-tune note encapsulates the emotion of the music, then have the courage to let it lie. If the most emotional vocal take has some distractingly duff pitching, then consider that the general public (and indeed the artist) will probably thank you for tastefully drawing a veil over it.”

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Someone at Cracked Thinks You Should Be Terrified of Disney Theme Parks

Sunday, June 14th, 2015 - by Chris Queen
Photo via AP Images

Photo via AP Images

Not long ago, I wrote about Cracked.com‘s unfunny TED Talks parody of Walt Disney. The writer of the video filled it with so much knee-jerk character assassination that it took me two posts to refute the abject lies, all of which were meant to make Walt Disney look like a bigot and all-around bad guy.

It turns out that somebody in the Cracked organization apparently has some sort of ax to grind with Disney, because their site is littered with list posts intended to smear Disney as some sort of horrible organization. A friend of mine forwarded me an email from them a couple of weeks ago entitled “Disneyland Is Secretly Terrifying For Visitors (And Worse For The Staff)” which features two articles from 2010 and 2012 that seek to paint the Disney Parks as, at best, tacky and, at worst, downright evil. The two posts are not particularly funny nor do they unearth much new information.

The first one I clicked on tells readers about “The 5 Most Unsettling Disney Theme Park Easter Eggs.” Before I go into much more detail, suffice it to say that none of these “Easter Eggs” were unsettling at all — unless you paint them with an anti-Disney agenda. The post begins talking about the Utilidors: the first-level corridors underneath the Magic Kingdom’s surface that make for unobtrusive passage from one land of the park to another (so guests don’t see a Frontierland cowboy hoofing it through Tomorrowland) and house cast member break rooms, storage, and the computer systems that run the attractions and parades. According to the author, the Utilidors take on a “sinister” tone because Disney’s custodial crews can move quickly from one place to another to clean up messes. That’s right — to Cracked, Disney’s cleanliness is “sinister.” Let that sink in for a minute.

The next section of the article discusses Club 33, the not-so-secret “Secret Club” (the author’s words) at Disneyland, which isn’t really a big deal to anyone who isn’t obsessed with class warfare — so we’ll skip over it and move on to what the author refers to as “Scent Based Mind Control.” (Conspiracy wacko much?) What the phrase “mind control” really refers to is Disney’s innovative use of scents to help immerse guests in the experience of specific lands or attractions (my favorite examples are the pine and orange scents that Disney uses to great effect on Soarin’).  Much to the author’s presumable chagrin, retail giants use this tactic as well to enhance their customers’ shopping experiences — and to entice them to spend more money. But it’s only “unsettling” when Disney does it.

One of the most absurd examples of the author’s horror at Disney’s innovation occurs when he reveals the terrible truth that the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is based on the design of an offshore oil rig:

But here’s the catch: The whole thing is constructed from an offshore oil-drilling platform. Which is like secretly using an animal carcass to symbolize your vegan restaurant, except not really, since that sounds like something PETA would totally do.

The Imagineers struggled to figure out how to construct the park’s iconic structure in a way that would allow it to support what was initially a restaurant, but later became the theater for a multimedia attraction. So, after watching a documentary on oil rigs, they found the perfect base for the Tree of Life. It’s clever and not creepy or unsettling by any means. Finally, the author apparently just gave up at the end and tried to insinuate that hidden Mickeys are some nefarious plot rather than playful inside jokes that reward observant guests.

It got worse when I checked out the next article, “6 True Stories About Disneyland They Don’t Want You to Know.” (Why do I even dignify them with a hyperlink?) These authors throw their Disney hatred out there with boldness — it’s right there in the intro when they write, “We’ve said that Disney movies teach bad lessons” and “Disneyland is the combination of the only three things that matter: cartoons, rides and thinly concealed evil.” But all they have to show for their vitriol is half-truths and urban legends.

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Somehow Vox’s Matt Yglesias Still Has a Job After His Bizarre Take on Game of Thrones

Saturday, June 13th, 2015 - by Leslie Loftis

I’m not going to link to Matt Yglesias’s Vox article on last week’s Game of Thrones. At first, I wasn’t going to even read it because I figured the title was clickbait. Still, I’m a hopelessly curious geek, so I read the post.

Yglesias titled his piece “Game of Thrones’ Shireen scene was perfect, and Stannis made the right call.”

For non-fans, in that scene Stannis sacrifices his 10-year-old daughter by burning her at the stake because his high priestess has told him that the Lord of Light requires a sacrifice for victory in battle. Stannis stood and watched while his daughter shrieked, first in terror, and then agony as the flames consumed her. Stannis doesn’t even have the sense of duty of the Stark family. In the first episode, Ned Stark executes a deserter and teaches one of his young sons that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. Stannis, however, has his priestess set off the pyre.

Having watched that scene, I thought surely Yglesias’s title was click bait.

It wasn’t. He meant it. Stannis’s army is marching on Winterfell in the growing cold and snow and has just lost some food and horses to a precision strike. Yglesias sees their difficult position as justification for the sacrifice of the young girl.

Stannis’s decision. It makes sense. With insufficient supplies to make it back to Castle Black and no way forward through the weather, his entire army is drawing dead. Yes, he could have saved Shireen personally by sending her back to the Wall. But the vast majority of his men are doomed unless Melisandre can pull a magical rabbit out of the hat. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and it doesn’t require that high a confidence level in the Lord of Light to see that the expected value of burning Shireen is high.
Means and ends, many and few— add this callousness to his long and always growing list of fact blunders — and you wonder how Yglesias still has a writing gig. How do Vox links still show up in my Facebook feed as if it were a credible outfit?The only logical conclusion I can draw is that there are people who actually agree with him. To them, Yglesias makes sense. And then I wonder, how how ever did conservatives get the reputation for cold calculation?

ALSO READ: 

The 2 Most Important Reasons Why I Hate Game of Thrones

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Actor Mark Ruffalo Tries to Do Some Mansplaining

Saturday, June 13th, 2015 - by Leslie Loftis

Mark Ruffalo has a Tumblr post for women who aren’t feminists. It appeared on my Facebook feed earlier this week to cheers. Many loved what he wrote. (Back to the quote marks in a sec.)

The post opens as almost all rebuttals of “I’m not a feminist” arguments often do:

First of all, it’s clear you don’t know what feminism is. But I’m not going to explain it to you. You can google it.

I do know the definitions—there are far more than one—of feminism. I know them without googling them. I’ve read First, Second, and the theoretical Third and Fourth Waves. I’ve got a crumbling copy of Redstockings and a 1967 history of the Pankhursts within arm’s reach of my desk. I know the post refers to the popular “equality for women” trope that pops up on top of a Google search. I know that definition is the preferred definition when they want to shame anyone who dares to disagree with elite feminist dictates. While a few have noted the happy and broad definition’s problems, it is a very useful definition as it makes for good PR for personalities, like actors and singers, who are obviously not very well read. (The happy and broad link is Jessica Valenti in the delightfully titled, “When everyone is a feminist, is anyone?”)

The author, however, is not content with merely lecturing us supposed know-nothings.

You’re insulting every woman who was forcibly restrained in a jail cell with a feeding tube down her throat for your right to vote, less than 100 years ago. [Insert a few paragraphs of mostly First Wave accomplishments prior to the 1960's]

In short, you know not what you speak of. You reap the rewards of these women’s sacrifices every day of your life. When you grin with your cutsey sign about how you’re not a feminist, you ignorantly spit on the sacred struggle of the past 200 years. You bite the hand that has fed you freedom, safety, and a voice.

In short, kiss my ass, you ignorant little jerks.

Such an example of grace and class for a public debate, no? I, for one, won’t be kissing his ass. Instead I will ask, who insults the sacrifices of feminists past more? Someone like me who actually bothers to read them and advocate for oppressed women? Or the current crop of declared feminists who can hardly be bothered with more than a hashtag for oppressed women, who are reduced to spending their time arguing over what a woman is, who sabotaged women-friendly professional opportunities decades ago, who think activism is about period performance and hairy armpits, who disregard how their positions affect anyone else, who let their sisters die alone, and who spend more time shaming women for calling out the movement’s shortcomings than addressing it themselves. “You just don’t know what feminism is” has been an empty rebuttal for quite some time. It is not the dictionary definition that matters. It is what feminism does that defines the movement. But it is the last thing I noticed that is so choice, as we’ll explore on the next page.

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Looks Like We Need to Revive Lemonade Freedom Day

Friday, June 12th, 2015 - by Leslie Loftis

Lemonade stand

Lemonade Freedom Day became a blog and then an event in the summer of 2011 after a spate of shutdowns of the iconic American childhood activity. After that, police moved on to harassing parents who dare let their children walk to a park, stay in the car, or play in their own yard. Those were the stories that took over the news—justifiably, as those are ridiculous stories. But the lemonade problem seemed to have abated.

Earlier this week, however, police officers in Texas closed down two little girls’ lemonade stand. They were selling lemonade and kettle corn so they could raise $100 to take their father to a water park on Father’s Day.

I think we need another Lemonade Freedom Day. If the creators of the site will name the day, Team Loftis will participate. This year we could even add live music.

 

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The Witcher: Wild Hunt: An Exercise in Brutality, Fatherhood, and Gwent

Friday, June 12th, 2015 - by Moe Lane

witcher_videogame_6-10-15-1

The Witcher: Wild Hunt is of course one of the current hot properties in video gaming right now, having moved four million units in two weeks and showing no particular signs of slowing down. For those unaware of the title (which comes from Polish game company CD Projekt Red): it’s the third installment of a series about Geralt of Rivia, who is a professional monster-hunter (‘witcher’) and visible mutant in a late-medieval setting whose inhabitants pretty much default to hating anything that isn’t human. Wild Hunt is particularly noteworthy in that it is an ambitious ‘open world’ game setting: this basically means that you can go all over the map, and take your time at getting to the main quests. It is not quite at Skyrim-levels of nigh-infinite gameplay (and this game gets compared a lot to Skyrim, generally respectfully) — but it comes close.

Moving on… the title above covers what I think are the three major themes of Wild Hunt. Brutality is the easiest to explain, of course: suffice it to say that you will not be adventuring in a happy place. I’ll avoid spoilers, but most of the major areas that you’ll be exploring in-game are either being fought over, or about to be fought over, or waiting to be fought over and are distracting themselves in the meantime by burning people alive. In short, it looks a lot like Central Europe during the Thirty Years’ War, with a strong flavor of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Polish history added in (with a supernatural setting that draws equally from classic alchemy and the suppressed bits from Grimm’s Fairy Tales). This is not a game where you will be able to make everybody happy in the end; while you are never obligated to be a horrible person yourself, you can very easily blunder into making horrible things happen. And while the game may not really reward you for being a monster, it is not really interested in rewarding you for being a paladin, either. Geralt kills monsters for money, and that’s largely the extent of his professional moral code.

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36 Things All Moms Should Do Before Giving Birth – Part 2

Friday, June 12th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

From Part 1:

Our grandmothers were blessed with a simple trip to the doctor and a confirmation 10 days later with a polite, “See you in nine months.” Today we’re slammed with monthly, bi-monthly and eventually weekly doctor or midwife appointments, several rounds of bloodwork and ultrasounds, and let’s not forget the bevy of paranoia-inducing information from family, friends, books and the infamous court of public opinion known as the Internet.

Whether you’re a pregnant mum or an expecting dad, here’s what I’ve learned that will spare you feeling overwhelmed so you can skip straight to the joys of pregnancy.

20. Enjoy sex.

I’m not saying you’ll stop having sex. In fact, sex can be a great way to induce labor in a healthy pregnancy if you’re at or over term. Just be willing to get really creative about it. And just start repeating the mantra, “The baby is asleep in the other room,” now. Mom, you’re going to feel the baby move while you’re getting it on. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it funny. But your guy won’t. Mentioning it might just send him to therapy.

19. Make room for baby.

You have a lot of stuff that you don’t need. Let it go. The more you bond with your baby, the less attached you are to pretty much everything else, making it super-easy to conquer any lingering nostalgia. Remember: A new tenant is moving in and they’ll be bringing their stuff with them. Lots and lots of really cute stuff that needs lots and lots of space.

18. Pack away your beloved breakables to share with your baby when they’re older.

Come across a family heirloom or precious collectible you can’t wait to share with your 12 year old? Put it in a clearly marked box in a safe space where you can see it, but they can’t. You’ll thank yourself in ten years.

17. Take some bump photos.

We didn’t do this religiously, but it was pretty cool when my hubby layered the photos to see how much baby and I had grown over the course of 9 months. It also makes all those, “My God, you’re getting huge!” comments a lot easier to handle. Remember, girls: when it comes to pregnancy size is an achievement!

16. Indulge in a magazine (or two, or three) that has nothing to do with being a mommy.

Sure, you can’t fit into those clothes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t admire them. And the shoes. All the gorgeous, strappy, stiletto-heeled shoes…

15. Sleep.

Around week 20 I admitted to my midwife that I was taking some serious naps during the day. “Is that normal?” She looked at me like I was crazy. “This is your first, right?” When I nodded, she nearly laughed. “Enjoy it while you can!” Girl, if you have the time, take it. If you don’t, make it. Rest up and give your body the best chance to handle the workout that is labor. Just remember to talk to your healthcare provider if you’re feeling abnormally tired as that is a key sign of iron deficiency, a very common occurrence in pregnancy.

14. Establish family quality time with your partner.

Babies aren’t half as patient or forgiving of late work hours, household projects, or girls’ nights out as are two grown adults. Instead of waiting for baby to arrive, begin establishing time each day to spend together with baby. It’s a great way for daddy to interact with his little one who needs to hear his voice and feel his touch as well. It didn’t take long for our babe to perk up in anticipation of family time, stretch towards Daddy’s voice, and respond to our mutual touch.

13. Revisit your own childhood.

Make a list of all the great things you want to re-live with your kids. Toys, movies, day trips and the like. In certain ways you really do get to be a kid again when you have one of your own. Only this time you’re the one making all the decisions. It really is the best of both worlds.

12. Decide what you want to pass along.

You and your partner are now going to be integrating traditions from two different households. Have great parenting styles or cultural traditions you want to pass along? Talk about it now so a plan is in place when baby arrives. Kids don’t care what you do, they care how you do it. Stability is key. Get the negotiating (and the fighting) out of the way now.

11. Discuss with your partner what you want to do differently.

My mother’s best advice on parenting: “Parents are adults who have kids.” No one is magical or perfect. Admitting that there are things you’d do differently from your own parents doesn’t mean you don’t love them, it just means you are your own person. Don’t hesitate to take the meat and leave the bones when it comes to making your own parenting decisions.

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Live Like an Immortal

Friday, June 12th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” That’s what the Apostle Paul suggested we should say if there is no resurrection. If our lives truly flame out after a few short years on Earth, there’s nothing left to do but enjoy the time we have.

To this day, the world echoes that sentiment. We say carpe diem, live for the moment, seize the day. We say life is short, live it as best you can now, because death comes at any moment.

Of course, Paul didn’t believe that. Paul believed in the Christian Gospel. He believed that, through Christ, death had been overcome and life could be lived eternal. That belief fundamentally transformed his worldview, reshaping it into something distinct from the “live for the moment” attitude most prevalent in the world.

As a believer, the older I have gotten, the more I have considered the implications of my belief. The limitations of time define so much of our existence, our routine, our priorities. What if there were no limitations? What if we knew, for a fact, that we would live forever? How would that change our approach to living?

From a believer’s perspective, the question brings conviction. Does our life reflect that expectation? Does it bear out in how we spend our time, how we engage in relationship, and what we prioritize as most important?

Even for non-believers, a thought experiment in immortality may prove enlightening. Indeed, for many transhumanists, immortality remains a goal of science. So the question arises: what would you do with life eternal if you got it?

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Visit Sitka, Alaska — The Russian Capital of America

Friday, June 12th, 2015 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi
Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

Sitka, Alaska, a charming and picturesque town along Alaska’s Inside Passage, still has a few vestiges of when it was once the proud capital of Russian America, the name given to the Russian colonies in the Americas from 1733 to 1867. Russia took possession of all of what is now Alaska in the mid 18th century. Sitka itself, originally called Archangel, was founded in 1808 as the capital of Russian America and at one time Russian officers and their ladies danced the night away in Sitka homes.

In the late 19th century the U.S. Congress voted to purchase the Russian territory by only one positive vote. It was Secretary of State William Seward* who had pushed to buy the land, which cost the U.S. seven million dollars, or two cents an acre, in 1867. He was widely derided for this and the purchase was termed “Seward’s folly” and “Seward’s icebox.”

Subsequent years have shown what a fantastic purchase it has been and Alaska has proven itself to be one of our richest areas in natural resources, and the purchase one of the U.S.’s best deals. You can still see remnants of the Russian influence, which include the Russian Blockhouse, the Russian Bishop’s House, and Princess Maksoutoff’s Grave and Castle Hill, all of which date back to the Russian era. There are 22 buildings in Sitka on the National Register of Historic Places, all of which can be visited on the city’s walking tour.

The Russian Bishop’s House is furnished much as it was when the Russian Orthodox bishops lived there. One of its highlights is a magnificent ornately gilded private chapel. The rest of the mansion is decorated in a more subdued tone. The house has innovations in heating that were probably the most modern of the time. The cathedral is smaller, but its onion dome is the highlight of the town’s skyline. Though small, it’s still quite impressive.

Sitkans are proud of their town’s Russian heritage and you can even buy souvenirs that remind you of Russia. You might even be able to pick up a samovar here. I bought an ermine key chain in town from a Russian furrier. Sitka is a big stop on the cruise ship route. One storekeeper told of some of these tourists asking him if storekeepers took American money in Sitka. He was also asked if they could use American stamps to mail letters in Sitka!

Sitkans are also proud of their new Centennial Hall, where you can watch the Archangel dance troupe performing authentic Russian dances using actual Russian costuming, music, and instruments. They give a very lively and foot-stomping performance. For more music, visit during the time of the Sitka Summer Music Festival.

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More Health and Strength Nonsense From the Mainstream Media

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 - by Mark Rippetoe

The mainstream media lets us down every single day. Monday, for example, we learned from NPR that a Palo Alto acupuncturist has traveled to the third world and determined from her careful observations that indigenous peoples do not have back pain, and that Americans do. The reason for this, according to her meticulous examination of the data, is that modern back-pain-afflicted Americans have “S”-shaped spines, while indigenous people have “J”-shaped spines.

The proof of this assertion is the confident presentation of the drawing of a spine from “a modern anatomy book” compared with another drawing of a spine from a less-modern anatomy book, along with photographs of some Greek statues and a few indigenous people with very nice posture. This is, of course, absolutely convincing evidence of the fact that modern American spinal shape is the cause of back pain, even in the luxurious and probably undeserved absence of liver flukes and bilharzia.

Her conclusion is that modern Americans have “somehow forgotten the right way to stand.” Their bigger bellies apparently pull their upper backs forward into a more kyphotic curve. Despite the fact that the human spine appears in various curvatures in lots of different healthy people in lots of different places around the world, NPR never misses the opportunity to extol the virtues of the absence of technology.

Her answer to this spinal-shape problem? Strength. The rough lifestyle of the third-world involves a more rigorous physical existence than that typical of modern America. Carrying water in a bucket on the head, collecting firewood, sitting on the ground weaving for hours, and gathering water chestnuts for seven to nine hours a day while elderly — this is being replaced by sitting at a desk in an air-conditioned office with clean water in the fountain.

She’s right, of course. About the strength.

Take the example of a piece published at CBS Sports this past Saturday, where we learn that basketball is not really a strength-dependent sport. The story is about the “insane strength” in the possession of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, 27 years old and 190 pounds at 6’3”. Curry is apparently capable of a 400-pound trap-bar deadlift.

Despite the fact that Texas high schools are home to dozens of teenage girls capable of this feat, the team’s director of athletic performance, Keke Lyles, slobbers with excitement:

He’s probably 10 times stronger than what people think.

Apparently people think this particular professional athlete is only capable of deadlifting 40 pounds. I have a 92-year-old lady in my gym that deadlifts more than this.

Gus1

He continues:

We knew he was strong, but when he started pushing that kind of weight, I was like, “This guy is just a freak.

A young professional athlete who “deadlifts” a little over twice his bodyweight is a freak to a professional director of athletic performance.

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Why It’s Hot to Rag on Jurassic Park, Chris Pratt and Sexism in Hollywood

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

So, some so-called feminist wrote a “scathing” review of Jurassic World in the Daily Beast, accusing the film of being overtly sexist because it features a corporate bitch who discovers her mothering instinct in the midst of rescuing her two nephews from an onslaught of wild dinosaurs. Let’s make one thing clear: If that woman existed in real life and pulled a car off her child, as women have the innate power to do when their child’s life is in danger, she’d be a hero. If she’s a Hollywood character, however, she’s just a figment — oh, sorry, “construct” — of the sexist male imagination. Pardon me while I hit the snooze button and roll over.

Before you get your anti-feminist panties in a bunch, here’s the bottom line: It’s sexy for American feminists (contemporary feminists, Western feminists — whatever we want to call the non-Paglia, non-Hoff Sommers crowd) to criticize Hollywood’s portrayal of women. Why? Because 90% of the mainstream audience doesn’t listen to a word these critics say about sexism, stereotypes or constructs. They do, however, get easily distracted by pop culture like children (or dogs) staring at shiny objects.

Case in point: Put Ayaan Hirsi Ali in front of a crowd to talk FGM and see how long it takes them to whip out their smartphones to see what Kim Kardashian is up to. Feminism has to be a First World Problem if it wants to get ratings on this side of the globe. Yazidis jumping from cliffs to avoid forced marriages and sex slavery at the hands of ISIS? Too heady. Too political. Too scary. Chris Pratt getting a woman hot and bothered for motherhood? Now that’s something people will click on. In fact, most women will click on it in the hopes of seeing, well, Chris Pratt.

What the Daily Beast feminists and their compatriots willfully choose to ignore time and time again is that Hollywood is a business. Action franchises are the only vehicles making money at the box office. What is Jurassic World but Indiana Jones meets dinosaurs? And why not? It is a Spielberg piece, after all. Notice the well-timed buzz regarding Indy’s resurrection with Pratt at the helm, a rumor started just as Jurassic World was about to be released? Indiana Jones, the franchise all about the guy going on an adventure and rescuing the girl. Why not use one guaranteed blockbuster as a vehicle to market another beloved formulaic action series to a built-in audience? 

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Open Letter from Politically Correct College Student Proves Jerry Seinfeld’s Point

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

The culture of political correctness has gotten so bad at college campuses that even bleeding heart liberal comics like Jerry Seinfeld feel out of place. The venerable comedian told ESPN’s Colin Cowherd last week that he avoids performing on college campuses, and has been advised by those who have to stay away. From Entertainment Tonight:

Seinfeld says teens and college-aged kids don’t understand what it means to throw around certain politically-correct terms. “They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist;’ ‘That’s sexist;’ ‘That’s prejudice,’” he said. “They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”

Tuesday, the Huffington Post published an open letter from a self-identified “‘politically correct’ college student” which proved Seinfeld’s point. San Diego State University pupil Anthony Berteaux took issue with Seinfeld’s comments, even as he demonstrated their accuracy.

According to Berteaux, it’s not that college students in our “progressive culture” expect comics to be unoffensive. They simply expect comics to “offend the right people.” Berteaux writes:

… yes, Mr. Seinfeld, we college students are politically correct. We will call out sexism and racism if we hear it. But if you’re going to come to my college and perform in front of me, be prepared to write up a set that doesn’t just offend me, but has something to say.

Speaking on behalf of his peers, Berteax commands Seinfeld to “use the medium as a way to create social commentary and dialogue.” He evokes routines from Amy Schumer and Louis C.K. which, to his mind, meet this critical threshold. The comic’s job, he says, is to make people think about important social issues.

Seinfeld, by contrast, seems to think that his job is to make people laugh. Who can blame the performer for wanting to avoid a humorless crowd that takes something like comedy so seriously?

 

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Six Great Moments from Monty Python’s Life of Brian

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

lifeofbrian

I know some label Monty Python’s Life of Brian offensive. I’m an Irish-Catholic journalist, so pretty much nothing on the R-rated spectrum is offensive. But on the charge of blasphemy, I’ve never seen the movie as mocking Jesus. When scene arrives where Brian accidentally loses his sandal, and the chasing crowd takes it as a sign to rip off one shoe too (or maybe follow the gourd), I always think of the time a well-educated Moonie in D.C. politics tried to explain to me why he thought Sun Myung Moon was the messiah. That scene pretty much sums up people so desperate for a messiah they can see and touch, instead of having quiet faith in that which they cannot.

Anglican Rev. Richard Burridge, dean of King’s College London and professor of biblical interpretation, told BBC Radio 4 a couple of years ago that he thought Life of Brian is actually more historically accurate than many films about Jesus in its depiction of messianic movements and factions in the first century:

“What is interesting about what Cleese says is that when they sat down to read the gospels they were struck by Jesus, his teaching, and realised that you couldn’t actually make a joke of these things which is why the accusation from Mervyn Stockwood and Malcolm Muggeridge that they were trying to use Jesus was so patently false.

“I think it is an extraordinary tribute to the life and work and teaching of Jesus – that they couldn’t actually blaspheme or make a joke out of it.

“What they did was take ordinary British people and transpose them into an historical setting and did a great satire on closed minds and people who follow blindly.

“Then you have them splitting into factions … it is a wonderful satire on the way that Jesus’s own teaching has been used to persecute others.

“They were satirising closed minds, they were satirising fundamentalism and persecution of others and at the same time saying the one person who rises above all this was Jesus, which I think is remarkable and I think that the church missed that at the time.”

But before this discussion gets as lofty as a meeting of the People’s Front of Judea, on to the clips.

1. The Stoning

Have you ever not thought about this scene when faced with a piece of halibut? It’s also mind-blowing to think that we live in a world where people are still stoned for really stupid stuff — see the ISIS penal code.

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What Is Colonel Sanders Implying About KFC in This Ad?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

It’s cool that KFC found a guy who looks exactly like Colonel Sanders to play the iconic chicken peddler in new TV ads. What’s odd is how they’ve chosen to utilize him. Have you seen the baseball-themed spot embedded above? Here’s the colonel’s dialog:

If there’s two things I’m certain of, it’s one: baseball will always be America’s number one sport, free from corruption, scandal, or cheating of any kind;

And two: the summer meal featuring my Kentucky Fried Chicken tastes better than a no hitter.

Evoking the popularity of baseball and tying it to a great American meal like fried chicken makes sense. But why would you associate a false perception of baseball with a claim about your product? The ad seems to indict the colonel’s judgement right before presenting his endorsement. It’s an odd strategy.

But hey, it’s got us talking about fried chicken. So mission accomplished.

 

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The Spaghetti Mess Inside a Woman’s Head

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 - by Tricia Lott Williford
Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

I’m sitting in McDonald’s this morning, sharing Cinnamelts with my nine-year-old son. He should be at day camp, as that was most assuredly the plan, except that two days ago he broke four bones in his foot. He fell from a swing set, and he cracked a jagged line across the bones of his instep. He is in a wheelchair full-time for the foreseeable future, we are waiting for a CT scan tomorrow, and then he will have surgery next week. In other words, I feel like I could title this whole scenario, “How To Ruin Your Summer Plans in One Leap.”

We are the epitome of discouragement. So long, football camp. So long, mini-vacation to the Great Sand Dunes. So long, afternoons at the pool. And—lean in so I can whisper this part—farewell to my introverted hours of solitude this summer. I had an agenda for writing essays, blog posts, book reviews, and the pitch for my third book, but instead I’ll be looking for meals, games, and altered plans to keep my athlete from going stir crazy. In other words, so long, sanity. But I can’t say that last part out loud, because someone might think I’m not equal to this task of meeting his every need in what may be the longest summer of our lives.

The thoughts inside a woman’s head are one tangled mass of cooked spaghetti. The noodles wrap all around one another, and it’s tricky to pull one long strand from the bowl without getting lumps of marinara on the placemat. Everything connects to something else. It’s hard to set boundaries, boxes, or even perforated lines around the things we think and feel, because most of us don’t usually think and feel in a linear, organized fashion.

If we are honest with ourselves, there are things we might admit if only we could be sure they would land safely apart from the thoughts that surround them.

If she tells you she wishes her car got better gas mileage, that doesn’t mean she wishes she’d never learned to drive. If she tells you she didn’t like the middle of the book, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth reading. If she tells you she doesn’t love her job, that doesn’t mean she won’t come back tomorrow. If she tells you she needs a few hours by herself, that doesn’t mean she’s not committed to her family.

If she tells you today was hard, that doesn’t mean there was nothing to smile about. If she tells you she’s tired, it doesn’t mean she’ll never find rest. If she tells you this is harder than she thought, it doesn’t mean she’s done. If she tells you she doesn’t love the tasks, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love the role. Sometimes it just means what it means.

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