Hollywood. An area of Los Angeles where magic is made and dreams are realized. Also, a place where the lowest forms of life live and an infinite line of dreams are routinely and grossly shattered. It’s where the best and brightest go to show the world what they’ve got and everybody else below them means little. No one stays at the top for very long and the mighty fall hard.
Hollywood’s about making money through entertainment. It has to be bigger than life or it won’t be considered. The problem is that there’s a really big disconnect between the producers of the entertainment and the consumers. So they find something that’s popular and try to make it better, meaning they’re always looking for things to soup up. Sequels are often the result. But for marketers an obviously low-hanging fruit is toys. Merchandising. Think George Lucas got rich with theater ticket sales?
I have to state upfront I don’t see the attraction girls do to that toy/doll, but as the father of a 4-year-old girl, I play Barbie all the time, as best as I can. My daughter loves playing with dolls and creating scenarios and having them do things like she does, and pretend they’re different people. It’s a healthy outlet for creativity and I support her obsession with them. I’ll make accessories for her to play with them, like gluing a screw onto a Coke cap to make a frying pan, a pipe cleaner and old baby sock for a backpack, making beds out of shoeboxes, and other lame efforts.
But the point of the thing is to have the child use her imagination to develop certain skills and create worlds and interact with other dolls and feed her mind. Hollywood steps in and says “we’ll show you what Barbie does, and who Barbie is.” And not only will they get it wrong, but they’ll also do so in the most politically-correct way that all the fun and magic will just die.
In a sense, the media, and Hollywood, have become our cultural government. Of course, sponsored by McDonalds and Diet Coke.
As much as I’ve come to abhor the entertainment industry, I still have to participate in a large, lucrative segment of it, which is the part that caters to young children and their parents, supposedly.
As anyone with a three-year-old mind, my daughter is no different in being drawn to the marketers’ hooks and shiny, loud, flashing offerings put forth by Hollywood and skillful, data-rich marketers. As someone living in America, I have no way of possibly hiding her from the commercialism and larger than life promises made by the cabal of Hollywood elites that regrettably shape our culture, mesmerize young minds, lock catch words into place, and direct fashion, and incredibly, set which way the winds blow for much, if not most, of middle America. Those winds smell more and more like a train of greasy street food trucks rather than a field of lavender, unfortunately.
Rather than give in and relinquish my child’s mind to their ever-growing tentacles, I watch alongside and vet everything my kid absorbs and we talk about what we’re watching while watching it. That’s not to say I prevent her from seeing and hearing things I’d rather she didn’t. It’s simply impossible with the internet, even when many measures are taken to shield her from the mental dangers it presents. Even the most innocuous offerings would (or should) astound diligent parents. Hollywood is a deep cesspool rich with self-important people that seem to be set in arrested development from their prepubescent years, pedophiliacs, and mostly a bunch of older liberals that only strive to entertain each other, and think the rest of the world should follow in their short-sighted, culturally harmful, dysfunctional and fringe beliefs.
I have a Netflix subscription, had a Hulu subscription which was more for my own late-night entertainment for watching mindless 90’s shows I’ve seen a hundred times each whenever I can’t sleep, which is often. Amazon Prime gives me access to a lot of movies and shows for “free” and YouTube, of course, is an infinite trough of “entertainment” which I can cast to my televisions if needed. I have a giant Roku television for my daughter’s wants with a subscription which is affordable and convenient, especially with the app. I find that’s plenty. There’s also PlutoTV which offers free television shows, but the only thing I tend to watch if my daughter isn’t here is Mystery Science Theater, Key and Peele, and Flight of the Conchords. And that’s usually on my laptop while I’m doing work or writing or doing something else.
I watch a lot of home videos of girls playing with Barbie dolls, LOL dolls, and Anna and Elsa dolls from the Frozen movie. What it is about these homemade videos that absorb my daughter’s mind is beyond me. I suspect it’s more fun to watch other girls play with toys than always play with me, which we do, a lot. I’ve become better than I ever imagined at putting clothes on dolls and playing out an impromptu show with our array of dollhouses for hours with a cast of usually 4 or 5 dolls at a time all with backstories, names, and personalities I have to create at a moment’s notice. Sometimes it’s fun, being creative like that and playing with a 3-year-old on her level, through her eyes. Sometimes it’s rough though, being called upon to put on a Les Miserables scale production on a moment’s notice day in and day out with an ongoing plotline. Last week I found ourselves tricycling down the street chasing after an elf who ran down to the creek with a bottle of googly eyes that we had in our crafting closet that somehow disappeared. We were going to alert the police of the googly-eye larceny if we couldn’t catch the elf. All true, except the elf. I don’t know what happened to that giant jar of googly eyes, but I took video of the event and had to laugh imagining the officer’s response when we showed up at the police station on a tricycle, with my daughter dressed in her formal gown (Which she insisted on wearing. How many more times will she be able to wear it anyway?) and me trying to file a report to be on the lookout for an elf that stole our googly-eyes which had become a serious caper.
“YouTube for Kids” is an app that my daughter often fiddles around with, but most of the videos are nothing more than infomercials for toys. It’s criminal that they say they vet the shows but promote videos that are nothing more than long commercials for endless piles of toys that companies send to popular kids in the medium to unbox, unwrap and talk about how they’re all “SO CUTE and SO COOL.” Even though most of them are immediately tossed in a heap off the screen. I watch and worry about how the effect impacts my daughter, since the most expected response should be that she wants each and everything that’s presented with wild screams and overhyped kids (and often parents filming them that are obviously doing their part to keep the thrill level as high as possible. And they are VERY weak actors.) It’s a phenomenon that’s going to start causing problems, I assure you. It’s become too popular, and too much money is involved for it not to.
I try to keep my daughter interested in videos that at least have a storyline, like Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, both of which are some of my personal favorites. And I try to steer her clear of the interminable number of cartoons and puppetry shows that are nothing more than psychological trickery to teach kids what is right in life and what is wrong, in a Clockwork Orange fashion. Endless chants about brushing teeth, sharing, not fussing, not bullying, and concepts that should be parent’s duties, and not the television’s. I can’t imagine how watching show after show telling you how great vegetables are and taking turns could be remotely entertaining. Storybots comes close, but even then, enough is enough. And then there’s Calliou, who does nothing but whine about everything, Daniel Tiger and a plethora of other PBS-esque shows that are so overly PC, so unrealistic with their overwrought diversity, and so liberal that it seems Soviet Russia has taken over Sesame Street with attempts at controlling culture, shaping society and mind-control.
I receive warnings from other parents that state there are foul people that have the time and will to edit Peppa Pig videos on YouTube to contain bad words, or satanic characters, or something unpleasant and inappropriate which I’ve never actually seen, despite watching hours and hours of the show online, and would still be benign compared to the subliminal PC trickery most shows are inseminating into their children’s entertainment. Since I watch the shows with my daughter, instead of using them as an electronic babysitter, I’m not worried about them anyway.
Something that I have noticed as well over the years is that fathers have disappeared from the families portrayed in children’s media. Totally gone. No father at all. Or if there is one, he’s portrayed as a bumbling idiot who would forget to breathe if not for the overworked and frazzled wife. That scenario is old hat on television, however, and dates back to the dawn of the medium, a la The Honeymooners, Flintstones, and every commercial ever made. The idea: women smart and unappreciated; men bad and dumb. Lord only knows how that came to be and has been perpetuated for so long.
One of the most interesting evolutions of children’s media to me has been The Grinch. Since the original book by Dr. Seuss, to the cartoon made famous by the same animators, we can thank for Bugs Bunny et al., to the grotesque human-motion picture made by Jim Carrey, Ron Howard and of course Clint Howard, to the most recent Grinch cartoon, which was mostly made by black entertainers, and to me is the most successful and best version, and should be how it was made in the first place.
Dr. Seuss’ book looks like a primitive cave drawing in comparison to the modern version. The cartoon which I grew up on with Boris Karloff and a Chuck Jones, Bugs Bunny flair which all kids recognized of the era has been documented well. Then in 2000 Hollywood decided it would have its try at it and made exactly what you’d expect: a terrible, dark, un-funny, creepy boring, ham-fisted, super-expensive, overwrought film that Hollywood slapped itself on the back endlessly with accolades, and the rest of the world shuddered and rightfully forgot about. I remember watching an interview with Seuss’s widow, who has a lot of say-so over his trademarks and estate, of course, when the Jim Carrey nightmare was in the works. She said she wanted it to be true to the original and be something like Theodore Geisel might have made. I think she failed and was strongarmed by executives, lawyers and gigantic piles of money, which resulted in the feature-length disaster.
I watched the Jim Carrey version with my daughter, and she was less interested in it than I was. The whole thing is set at night, contains prosthetics that are more creepy than whimsical, and the whole movie’s humor revolves around passing gas, which is among one of the first scenes and is a theme that lasts throughout. Har-har. The guys that put that atrocity together all walked away with 20+ million dollars for their work. There’s no mention that Christmas is anything more than getting presents, and if you don’t get presents, your life should be considered ruined. Jeffery Tambor’s casting was probably suitable, as we should remember how his career came to an ugly but predictable end. It seems to be written for other people living in Los Angeles, in that culture and mindset. That represents about .000001% of all humans, but much of the worst of the species.
The newest Grinch, however, does it right. It’s fun, bright, and believe it or not, even manages to (quickly) mention (via background song) that Christmas is about the Christian concept of Christ’s birth, and not solely giving and getting presents. Weak, but at least it’s in there somewhere, after 53+ years. I personally could do without the hip-hop soundtrack, but what should I expect? It is catchy. And it’s funny and entertaining with an optimistic message. The design is great as well.
But it’s hard for me to notice, as a single father, that there’s no father present in the main family in the movie. No mention of one whatsoever, ever even existing. Just an overworked mother which Cindy-Lou Who’s only Christmas wish is for Santa to help her, doing noticeably less than I happen to actually do in real life. I’m not saying that for sympathy which is the movie’s writers’ motive. I mention that because it’s an observable and odd truth. And it goes along with a lot of what’s coming out of Hollywood and other “cultural” outlets — no father in the household. Netflix originals especially write out fathers. Llama Llama: Only mama Llama. Daniel Tiger, who seems to be the replacement for Mr. Rogers: Fatherless. Where have all the fathers gone?
Anyone who knows me or any member of my family knows we’re lovers of dogs. Actually, most of my family are lovers of animals. (Not literally; in a platonic sense.) I’m a HUGE proponent of animal adoption, the ASPCA, and hate the number of breeders that exist. There is no reason at all to buy a dog, with the number that is euthanized each and every hour of every day of every year. It’s tragic. And beyond dogs, there are few animals I haven’t had and cared for, including an alligator.
I’ve spent over 45 years now, usually with at least one dog around and often many more. I’ve helped care for 11 dogs at once, 8 being puppies, and if I could, I’d take care of as many as possible. I recently had a dog I adopted from the Asheville, NC animal shelter and she lived well past 16 years old – almost 17 years, which is uncommon for a Retriever/German Shepherd mix. I’m still trying to get over her passing and the reason I don’t run out and adopt another as people suggest is that dealing with her death was so difficult. I had to do it alone and it was awful. I can’t imagine going through that again.
Getting off topic, but I wanted to establish that I have a heart for dogs. And people that genuinely need service animals. But I’ve noticed as the internet ages, the number of “service dogs” has grown. And many of these dogs aren’t legitimate – people buy vests and obtain letters online for dogs that are not service dogs just so they can take them places they typically cannot, for good reasons.
Businesses and parks and airlines and other public spaces restrict animals for some common sense reasons. Uncertified animals can attack people, including children that might touch them and startle them, prompting them to bite. It’s how I’ve been bitten twice in the face by dogs as a child. They urinate and defecate on merchandise. They defy sanitation rules in restaurants. And on and on. Some people have allergies to dogs, so bringing them on an airplane to be nearby for hours is inconsiderate, to say the least. Some dogs attack other dogs, including actual service dogs, which are expensive, and serve an actual purpose, beyond a pet.
Training service dogs can cost up to $25,000. There are several types of “services” dogs may offer. Actual service dogs have been trained to do things for their disabled partners that humans can’t do themselves and they’re allowed, by law just about anywhere their handlers go with a few exceptions.
A therapy dog, on the other hand, is trained to provide comfort to people, usually non-family members, in need of affection and interaction and is not an official service dog. There are specific certifications required for therapy dogs, but they are not entitled to any of the privileges of service dogs.
Somewhere between these two fall emotional support dogs (ESD), that provide comfort for their handlers with a disability by their mere presence. They have no training to perform tasks and don’t qualify as service dogs, but they still have some access rights. They must be allowed in all housing and in airplanes. However they aren’t entitled to enter businesses and other public places where dogs are usually prohibited, and owners may be required to present a signed note from a mental health professional stating a need for the ESD.
A psychiatric service dog (PSD) does qualify as a service dog. A PSD helps its handler cope with mental disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, anxiety disorder, and schizophrenia. They may alert panic attacks, help with mobility if the handler is dizzy from medication, remind the handler to take medication, interrupt self-mutilation, provide room searches or safety checks, or perform a variety of tasks specific to that handler’s needs.
This past week I took my 3-year-old daughter to a playground that also has a water facility, or “sprayground.” Kids love it and there were probably around 60-80 kids running around playing. No dogs are allowed in the fenced area, for good reasons, save service dogs. As we approached the playground, a family was leaving with their “service dog” which was some type of pit bull mix with another, much larger breed, producing about a 100-pound pit bull. With a service dog vest. 60-80 rowdy kids running around. A recipe for disaster.
I know it’s argued you can’t spot a fake service dog vs. a real one. But 99% of the time, you can if you know anything about dog behavior and watch the “service” dog for a while. You can tell if they’ve been trained to be service dogs or not. Most service dog breeds will be a retriever, German Shepherd, greyhound or a breed well-known for their gentle demeanor. (Not all, but the vast majority.) You can tell by their focus on their owner and on the tasks at hand, and not distracted by noises, children, or whatever most other dogs will be distracted by. They’re working dogs, at work.
I’ve even worked with a lady who claimed to have PTSD from some nameless event and desired to bring her dog to work. Her dog was very sweet, and I love having dogs around at work. So my point here isn’t that I don’t want dogs around. Personally, I’m generally more than fine with it. But there are employees who don’t like dogs, are allergic or have some legitimate reason to not want a dog there. And I was 99% certain the “service dog” was a fake and the vest was a costume purchased online. And her desire conflicted with certain other employees which caused an unnecessary personal conflict at work.
Entire websites are devoted to selling service dog identifications along with providing handy tips (once you’ve paid their registration fee) on what to say if confronted. The websites offer links to questionable psychiatric services that will provide you with a letter stating you need an emotional support dog pending your responses to an online test and a couple of phone sessions.
There are immediate problems I’ve stated about fake service dogs. But another more concerning problem is that the general public was once fine with allowing the few legitimate service dogs for the blind and serious needs. However, when fake service dogs begin to increase in number for less serious “needs” that dogs can’t even be tested to serve for, like seizures or diabetes, and untrained dogs attack people, other dogs, including legitimate service dogs, then the general public will grow more disdainful towards these people and their animals. Unrecognizable symptomatic conditions have been tacked on over recent years, while businesses have become (sadly) gunshy about questioning animal handlers for fear of lawsuits. They can legally only ask 2 questions:
1) Is the dog needed because of a disability?
2) What task has the dog been trained to perform to mitigate the disability?
Anything beyond that and you’re pushing your luck.
The egg salad sandwiches at The Masters are among the best in the world. But egg salad isn’t hard to make if you know how. Here’s a simple egg salad recipe that’s probably just like the ones at The Masters. I make it and a variation which is egg and tuna salad all the time, which I plan on one day putting a how-to with photos here for reference. Not all recipes have to be Chateaubriand, you know.
6 hard-cooked eggs, diced
1/2 cup diced celery
2-1/2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp vinegar
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp pepper
Cooking hard “boiled” eggs are something most people seem to think involves tossing some eggs in a pot of boiling water for a while, then drain rinse & peel, but to make good hard-cooked eggs, which should be the goal if you actually are going to make your own or feed this to others who may care about what they eat, isn’t difficult. Or shouldn’t be, but it sort of is if you don’t know the science behind it. There are a lot of ways to mess it up, with off-colored yolks, overcooked, rubbery eggs, or ones that are difficult to peel. The worst thing ever is to make egg salad with a shell in it to break someone’s tooth on.
I’ve tried tons of different ways to do it, including Alton Brown’s and Cooking Illustrated‘s methods, which I usually trust to be the “best” way, since they go through the time and resources to test and scientifically examine the science behind cooking, which is all cooking is. Alton got his method from Shirley Corriher of Cookwise fame, who is an expert on such things. When you’re applying some type of heat to food, you’re performing science. And science is something that should be able to be repeated on a consistent basis by anyone with the right tools and ingredients.
Send your egg salad into space with a UFO. Or the useful Dash egg cooker.
What I’ve come to use, however, is something I found on clearance at Target, which is a steamer by Dash for about five bucks. I also tried using a microwave steamer that looks like a chicken, and another that cooks one egg at a time in the shape of an egg. The best, by far, is the Dash steamer. The one egg at a time plastic gizmo wrecked the eggs, and cooked them inconsistently. It wasn’t good for either recipes or just making a single egg to serve to my daughter, who loves to eat lightly salted hard-cooked eggs. Just the whites, though.
Eggs are interesting things, scientifically. A marvel of nature. Honey is another marvel of nature. I only recently learned, or should say realized, that farm fresh eggs don’t need to be refrigerated. If you wash and chill them in the refrigerator, though, you need to maintain the temperature. But eggs have a protective coating that keeps bacteria out and you can just keep them on the counter or wherever until needed. This is an article that explains it in some detail.
Some things I know about eggs that I find to be valuable knowledge: the base of the egg has an air pocket. And fresh eggs should have yolks that stand up tall when cracked into a pan, not flatten out. If the yolk just collapses, you have some not-so-fresh eggs. And I think the difference between whether the chicken egg is white or brown depends on the type of bird laying it. Also the opaque slimy thing in eggs is called the chalaise(sp), which is fun to say.