Acculturated http://acculturated.com Pop Culture Matters Wed, 28 Sep 2016 19:55:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 50466452 How a Strong Family Kept One Child Star Grounded http://acculturated.com/mara-wilson/ http://acculturated.com/mara-wilson/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 19:55:50 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=53470

Mara Wilson refused to follow the traditional trajectory of former child actors. The star of Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda didn’t become tabloid fodder when the roles started drying up. She avoided those reality show confabs where ex-celebrities do dubious things. And, blessedly, she didn’t spiral out of control via substance abuse. Instead, she realized her … Continued

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Mara Wilson refused to follow the traditional trajectory of former child actors.

The star of Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda didn’t become tabloid fodder when the roles started drying up. She avoided those reality show confabs where ex-celebrities do dubious things.

And, blessedly, she didn’t spiral out of control via substance abuse.

Instead, she realized her life needed a second act, and she forged it against some pretty imposing odds. She credits her strong family unit and good values for figuring out that there’s much more to life than auditions.

Wilson, now twenty-nine, chronicles her journey in a new memoir, Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame. In the book she dissects her brief but memorable Hollywood career, revealing her struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder and offering warm memories of her many co-stars, including the late Robin Williams. Wilson clearly found her “voice” along the way. There’s a reason she draws a crowd at her website, MaraWilsonWritesStuff.com, and boasts more than 300,000 Twitter followers.

But she credits her strong family for inoculating her from the rigors of fame. It wasn’t easy. Her mother developed breast cancer just as her daughter’s career was reaching its peak, and died before seeing Wilson play literature’s beloved Matilda, in the film adaptation of the book.

Mom’s influence on the youngster was profound all the same. Wilson’s folks always taught her to understand fame in the proper context. They were the opposite of stage parents. They supported her work while keeping her grounded. “My parents tried to give me a normal upbringing,” she told me. “Half the time I was this movie star, the other half I was this normal, public school, lower middle class Girl Scout.”

When Wilson realized she was suffering from OCD, her father stood by her side. He made sure she got the proper treatment, placing it above any career considerations. And when Wilson realized Hollywood no longer found her “cute,” her father let her resume her life without forcing her to take on projects that didn’t suit her.

Wilson was very close to her four siblings, too. That bond endures, and it’s one of many reasons why in the years since she became a child star, we haven’t read about her in the pages of Us magazine or seen her police mug shot on TMZ.com. Those collective family ties helped her move into a new stage of life when her stardom faded.

The child star also knew her future included more than hobnobbing with the likes of Pierce Brosnan and Sally Field. She was determined to get an education, and not just the kind involving on-set tutors. “[College] was incredibly important to my parents. I was going to learn other things,” she says.

And she is a staunch defender of traditional principles. “Values definitely matter. Strong, protective parents definitely matter as well,” she says. “Let’s be honest, therapy also helps,” she adds.

But Wilson was also a child actor with a lot of determination and perseverance. One of the more remarkable elements of Where Am I Now? is Wilson’s descriptions of learning about moviemaking beyond merely acting. Directors like Matilda’s Danny DeVito gave her license to influence the production, the kind you might think wouldn’t be afforded an eight-year-old star.

Her parents also respected her choices, allowing her some say over her life even at a young age. They also didn’t live off her earnings, and thus they focused on her happiness, not on her usefulness as a source of money—something that unfortunately can’t be said of many other child actors.

As an adult, Wilson hasn’t abandoned show business entirely. She’s dipped a toe back into the waters by doing vocal work on Netflix’s Bojack Horseman. She also stars in the recurring live show, What Are You Afraid Of? It hardly matches headlining her own motion picture, but Wilson doesn’t care. She’s taking her own path in adulthood and living her values.

Her parents taught her that, too.

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Palmer, Fernandez, and the American Dream http://acculturated.com/palmer-fernandez-and-the-american-dream/ http://acculturated.com/palmer-fernandez-and-the-american-dream/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 17:00:45 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=53457

Over this tragic past weekend, the sports world lost two giant figures who, in different ways, represent extraordinary success stories of the American Dream. The legendary Arnold Palmer passed away at eighty-seven after an impossibly full life as one of the greatest icons in any sport, not only golf. In addition to being one of … Continued

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Over this tragic past weekend, the sports world lost two giant figures who, in different ways, represent extraordinary success stories of the American Dream.

The legendary Arnold Palmer passed away at eighty-seven after an impossibly full life as one of the greatest icons in any sport, not only golf. In addition to being one of golf’s most accomplished champions, he earned a reputation as a class act, as admired and well-liked for his down-to-earth, gentlemanly demeanor as for his golfing skill. Palmer was noted, for example, for never refusing a fan his autograph nor asking to be paid for it.

I’m not a golfer, but my late father was on the course nearly every weekend. He was an enormous fan of “Arnie,” as he and countless others called him—as if they were buddies—because Arnie was so personable and accessible that his millions of followers— “Arnie’s Army” —viewed him as a friend.

Two stories serve to capture Arnie’s kindness and humility, qualities too often overlooked and underappreciated in our era of oftentimes narcissistic and self-aggrandizing superstars.

In 2014 an avid, eighteen-year-old golfer and local tournament winner named Nate Marcoulier received a graduation gift from his older brother Adam. It was a letter from Arnold Palmer, whom Adam had written in the hope that the golfing icon would have some life advice for Nate. Both brothers were stunned when Palmer replied, congratulating Nate on his golf victories and telling him he would find life “enjoyable and fulfilling” if he followed this advice:

  • Courtesy and respect are timeless principles, as well as good manners.
  • Knowing when to speak is just as important as knowing what to say.
  • Know how to win by following the rules.
  • Know the importance of when and how to say thank you.
  • Never underestimate the importance of a good education.

“Good luck in college and study hard,” Palmer concluded. “By far the best present I’ve ever gotten,” declared Nate.

Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament director Scott Wellman tells another tale, about Arnie’s humility and gratitude:

[A] gentleman came up to the car, knocked on the window with his young son and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Palmer, but could you give my son an autograph?” Arnold turns the car off, signs the autograph, and the gentleman said, “Thank you so much, you’ll never know how much this means to me.” And Arnold looked at him in all sincerity and said, “No, sir, thank you for asking me for the autograph.” That’s Arnold Palmer.

His many trophies notwithstanding, arguably the most important prize Palmer earned was the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship almost exactly a year ago, honoring Palmer’s “kindness and philanthropic commitment.” That award speaks more to the lives that he changed than the tournaments he won.

Pitcher Jose Fernandez also died last weekend, at the tragically young age of twenty-four. Unlike Arnold Palmer, we will never know the heights to which Fernandez might have soared as an athlete or the impact he might have had on the game of baseball. But in his short life he persevered through three failed attempts at escaping the Communist dictatorship in Cuba (each of which earned him imprisonment) before finally managing to defect to Mexico. At one point in that final dangerous attempt, Fernandez had to dive overboard to save his mother from drowning. Fernandez went on to become Major League Baseball’s 2013 Rookie of the Year and was twice named an All-Star in only four seasons for the Miami Marlins before dying last Saturday in, ironically, a boating accident. He had just become an American citizen and announced only days ago that his girlfriend is pregnant.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly became emotional speaking to reporters about Fernandez, praising the pitcher’s “joy and passion” for the game. One mourning fan wrote a tribute celebrating one quality about Fernandez that “stands out above the others: joy . . . No one has ever loved playing the game as much as Jose.” He went on to describe the pitcher as “a young man who was so talented he skipped most of the minor leagues and whose joy and simple, honest gratitude to be playing baseball flooded out of him so powerfully that you couldn’t help but share in it.”

Both these men exemplify, in different ways, the American Dream. In addition to his incalculable impact on the game of golf, Arnold Palmer parlayed his championships and unforced charisma into a side career as a product pitchman; at the time of his death his personal worth was estimated at nearly $680 million. He had gone from caddying at a local country club as a youth to buying that same club as a superstar adult. Fernandez escaped obscurity and the oppression of a totalitarian regime to find fame and fortune playing the game he loved.

But both men will forever be remembered for so much more than their success and rare talent. They exuded virtues that inspired others and transformed lives. They exhibited qualities of character that elevated their respective sports. They will be legends for the right reasons.

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Celebrities and their Annoying, Virtue-Signaling, “Makeup-Free” Selfies http://acculturated.com/makeup-free-selfies/ http://acculturated.com/makeup-free-selfies/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 15:34:14 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=53462

To celebrate her forty-fourth birthday, actress and Goop-preneur Gwyneth Paltrow posted what has become the celebrity version of a false confession: the makeup-free selfie. Pitched as an honest example of a celebrity’s true appearance, the #nomakeup selfie trend is in fact merely the latest celebrity form of virtue-signaling, meant to provoke envy among the rest … Continued

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To celebrate her forty-fourth birthday, actress and Goop-preneur Gwyneth Paltrow posted what has become the celebrity version of a false confession: the makeup-free selfie.

Pitched as an honest example of a celebrity’s true appearance, the #nomakeup selfie trend is in fact merely the latest celebrity form of virtue-signaling, meant to provoke envy among the rest of us who, for some reason, don’t wake up looking like dewy-skinned supermodels in the morning. (It must be the lack of kale in our diets).

Harper’s Bazaar featured a gallery of female stars this summer going makeup free, including several from Kylie Jenner, Cindy Crawford, and a nearly-unrecognizable Lady Gaga.

Other fashion and celebrity magazines have praised the practice, including InStyle. “No makeup? No problem!” the magazine noted, in its compilation of bare-faced celebrity selfies. And fans swooned when singer Adele posted a “beautiful, fresh-faced” makeup-free selfie.

It’s difficult to decide which is more annoying: the media’s fawning over celebrities who have sanctimoniously refused to apply mascara, or the celebrities themselves, who post these images as if they’ve done something worthwhile by merely joining, lemming-like, the latest self-promotional social media craze.

The fact that you decided to forego an expensive and time-consuming makeup ritual (and instead devoted that time to carefully lighting and filtering your makeup free selfie) is not a sign of virtue. Or female empowerment. It’s just humble bragging.

As well, the conceit that “I woke up like this” is just that—a conceit, since most of the people who post these shots live lives far removed from the everyday concerns of, say, a lower-middle class working mom trying to make ends meet while also trying to stay healthy and get enough sleep.

Celebrities might not have makeup—but they have access to a great many resources that allow them to maintain picture-perfect appearances, such as nutritionists and chefs, expensive dermatologists, and fleets of nannies and other domestic help, not to mention the biggest elephant in the room: cosmetic surgeons who make sure that a celebrity’s “makeup-free” canvas is devoid of any signs of natural aging (we’re looking at you, Cindy Crawford).

So the next time you spot a celebrity boasting about her “natural beauty” or posting an “I woke up like this” or “makeup free” selfie on Instagram, don’t admire or envy them. Instead, hop over to actress Betty White’s Instagram; she’s an example of a woman not afraid to show her age and not afraid to wear makeup—and refreshingly free from the need to boast about her supposed virtues.

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If You Post Lots of Pictures of Your Children Online, You Might Get Sued—by Your Kids http://acculturated.com/sued-by-your-kids/ http://acculturated.com/sued-by-your-kids/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 13:50:57 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=53447

My dear friend Brittany is a foster mother in Virginia. When she wants to take a photo of her children to post online, she tells them “hide your faces” before she snaps a picture. Because of state regulations, foster parents like Brittany are unable to post the likenesses of their charges. When I asked Brittany … Continued

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My dear friend Brittany is a foster mother in Virginia. When she wants to take a photo of her children to post online, she tells them “hide your faces” before she snaps a picture. Because of state regulations, foster parents like Brittany are unable to post the likenesses of their charges. When I asked Brittany the reasoning the state gives for a rule so strict that she could lose her license for disobeying it, she told me, “They don’t belong to us—they are wards of the state—we don’t have the authority to post their pictures.”

Like Brittany, I don’t post pictures of my kids’ faces either. They aren’t wards of the state, and government officials haven’t told me what I can and can’t do, but I don’t consider them “mine” either. Sure, I gave birth to them, but that doesn’t mean they belong to me.

As with every parenting question, it’s easy to find scare-mongering stories that explain why some parents have made the choice not to post their kids’ pictures online. There are the one or two families out there who had their photos reposted by weirdos. There’s the concern that our kids’ digital likenesses will be catalogued and kept on servers across the world, which is an Orwellian but perhaps legitimate worry. An interesting piece on Slate several years ago discussed one parent’s decision to “protect” her child from “facial recognition, Facebook profiling, and corporate data mining.”

And now parents have a new reason to avoid posting pictures of their kids online: the possibility of a lawsuit.

Okay, the possibility is remote, but the basis of the suit is interesting nonetheless. Austrian parents this month were greeted with an unpleasant surprise from their eighteen-year-old daughter in the form of legal action. After her parents ignored repeated requests to remove embarrassing childhood photos from Facebook, the teen decided to bring on legal counsel to settle the issue, suing for pain and suffering related to the embarrassment caused by the many childhood photos available to her parents’ Facebook friends.

Part of the lawsuit seems to indicate deeper problems than merely the photos; the plaintiff fumed, “I’m tired of not being taken seriously by my parents.” Well, suing the folks who gave you life and fed and clothed you for eighteen years is certainly one way to do that.

But it’s also clear her parents don’t consider her complaints valid and have decided that they own the photos, even though they are of someone else. In the Internet age we live in, nearly every employer or potential suitor Google’s a person’s name before investing in either a professional or personal relationship. How could photos or even videos of toddler tantrums affect how someone is perceived by others as an adult? Perhaps there are some moments (such as potty training triumphs) not meant for public consumption.

Why is it we feel the need to share every aspect of our lives, even the most personal? And why is it that our kids, even without their consent, have their lives documented for total strangers online? When I take a particularly cute photo of my kids I feel the impulse to share it too; I’m vain like everyone else and want to show off my progeny. I made that perfect little face and want that instant gratification that comes in the form of “likes” and comments.

But does everyone I went to elementary school with or worked alongside need to see pictures of my kids at the zoo last weekend? No, they don’t. Our family uses private photo sharing services to circulate the best shots among a select number of extended family and friends.

While I believe (well, I hope) that my children will never find our relationship so beyond repair that they resort to taking legal action against my husband and me, the Austrian lawsuit is a reminder that all parents should consider how their kids might one day feel about our sharing details of their childhoods online. While they are toddlers now, they will, God willing, one day be independent human beings with their own jobs, families, and ideas related to privacy and modesty. I’m a social media over-sharer, while my husband doesn’t even have a Facebook account; there’s no telling which of their parents my kids will take after on this front. But just in case my daughter or son decides to run for President one day, my social media postings (about them, anyway,) won’t be the thing that stands in their way. And I won’t get sued.

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Sorry, Donald Trump. You’re Not Punk Rock http://acculturated.com/donald-trump-punk-rock/ http://acculturated.com/donald-trump-punk-rock/#respond Tue, 27 Sep 2016 19:55:32 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=53435

Is Donald Trump punk rock? The question has come up recently in articles in the Atlantic and Taki’s Magazine. In the Atlantic’s “Donald Trump, Sex Pistol,” James Parker writes that “with his followers,” Trump “has co-created a space in American politics that is uniquely transgressive, volatile, carnivalesque, and (from a certain angle) punk rock.” Trump … Continued

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Is Donald Trump punk rock?

The question has come up recently in articles in the Atlantic and Taki’s Magazine. In the Atlantic’s “Donald Trump, Sex Pistol,” James Parker writes that “with his followers,” Trump “has co-created a space in American politics that is uniquely transgressive, volatile, carnivalesque, and (from a certain angle) punk rock.” Trump has done it even though he’s a conservative candidate— “It’s as if the Sex Pistols were singing about law and order instead of anarchy, as if their chart-busting (banned) single, ‘God Save the Queen,’ were not a foamingly sarcastic diatribe but a sincere pledge of fealty to the monarch. Electrifying!”

In Taki’s Magazine, Steve Sailer compares Trump and his supporting political movement, the Alt-Right, to punk: “Hillary’s recent speech denouncing the alt-right has raised eyebrows. It was as if in 1976 progressive-rock titans Emerson, Lake & Palmer had released a double album devoted to excoriating this new band nobody had ever heard of before called the Ramones. If you can remember back four decades, it might strike you that the alt-right phenomenon of 2016 is basically political punk rock: loud, abrasive, hostile, white, back to basics, and fun.”

In his abrasiveness, honesty, and ability to implode establishment dogma, Trump is punk—but only up to a point. In August 2015 he was asked by FOX News’ Megyn Kelly about some of the terms he’s used to describe women. “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,” said Kelly. She had more, but Trump cut her off — “Only Rosie O’Donnell,” he quipped, referring to his war with the celebrity actress and comedian. The joke was not just funny, but witty, reflective of the biting merriment of Johnny Rotten, the erstwhile lead singer of the seminal 1970s punk band the Sex Pistols. Trump’s line was also iconoclastic, cutting like a buzz saw through the miasma of political correctness that has settled over America. In her slowly building question, Megyn Kelly attempted to stack up a feminist indictment the way pre-punk prog rock bands stacked up solos, and Trump ripped through the virtue-signaling like punk legends the Ramones blasting through a song. Like a lot of punk songs, the rejoinder also had the ring of truth: yes, Rosie O’Donnell is annoying.

Yet there is also validity in Megyn Kelley’s accusation about Trump’s attitudes towards women, and it’s an indictment that extends to the Alt-Right. Alt-Right personalities like Milo Yiannopoulos and Gavin McInnes speak many politically incorrect truths that make the left squirm. But they also make claims that are borderline (and sometimes outright) racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic.

Women aspire to be—and are—journalists, doctors, musicians and scientists, and it is anything but punk to deny them these roles. Punk has always been about more than just giving offense—it has been about the ability to “become what you are.” That phrase was once sung by punk-inspired musician Juliana Hatfield, who came to music in the 1970s, when a babysitter introduced her to the great Los Angeles punk band X. The lead singer for X is Exene Cervenka, a poet and political conservative who recently moved to Texas because California has become “a liberal oppressive police state.” Punk music would be far less rich had Exene done what Gavin McInnes advises—stayed home and had children. Ditto the women in the punk bands Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney. Of course, it’s also possible to be a working female musician and have a family.

One last point is worth noting. One of the most infamous moments in punk history was the live 1976 interview the Sex Pistols did with British journalist Bill Grundy. The Pistols cussed on the show, dropping S-bombs and F-bombs, and the appearance became a sensation. Most rock and roll fans know the story, citing it as a flashpoint of punk nihilism, but few remember what actually set the band off. In the Pistols’ entourage was a nineteen-year-old woman named Siouxsie Sioux, who told Grundy, an established, middle-aged man who goaded the Pistols throughout the entire interview, that she’d “always wanted to meet you.” Grundy replied they could “meet after” the show. The Pistols’ guitarist Steve Jones called Grundy a “dirty old sod” and a “dirty bastard” and a “f***ing rotter.” Siouxsie Sioux would go on to become one of the most talented and accomplished songwriters to come out of the punk movement.

So a pivotal punk rock moment was not about louche rebellion and senseless anarchy, but defending a talented woman, an artist, against a leering old man with views about women that belong in another age. Trump and the Alt-Right should get that story right, and think about its implications, before calling themselves punk.

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Enough with the Extreme Breastfeeding http://acculturated.com/extreme-breastfeeding/ http://acculturated.com/extreme-breastfeeding/#respond Tue, 27 Sep 2016 17:00:26 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=53430

Has America’s breastfeeding obsession gone completely insane? In a word: Yes! Earlier this month, a woman pumped in the middle of running a half marathon, and the images went viral; the Internet went insane. Today Parents heralded the mom as “a passionate runner who pumped breast milk during a half marathon,” and “a multitasking rock … Continued

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Has America’s breastfeeding obsession gone completely insane?

In a word: Yes!

Earlier this month, a woman pumped in the middle of running a half marathon, and the images went viral; the Internet went insane.

Today Parents heralded the mom as “a passionate runner who pumped breast milk during a half marathon,” and “a multitasking rock star of a supermom.”

The Washington Post called her an “inspiration.”

The Scary Mommy headline read, “Marathoner Mom Pumps Mid-Run Proving Women Are Basically Superhuman.” “Talk about handling things like a boss,” read the opening line.

Have we all gone mad?

I have my own take on the breast pump, which I’ve written about here. The pump started out as something good to help premature babies and new moms struggling to establish a milk supply and has since turned into the latest ball and chain for mothers who are endlessly bullied by “breastfeeding or bust” philosophies that are not grounded in science. Someday, historians will write about the time when women, in this great era of choice and opportunity, felt forced to chain themselves to a machine and pump milk like a cow, all under the mantra of “health.”

But even if you think pumping is the best thing for women since sliced bread, women shouldn’t feel pressured into it. Women have a right to some boundaries. If pumping makes a woman feel like she has to do it in the middle of a competitive race . . . without even stopping . . . something is seriously wrong. Marathon Supermom is certainly within her rights, but what kind of message does praising such breastfeeding extremism send to other moms?

And it’s not just Marathon Mom. This week I was bombarded by pictures of multiple women doing advanced yoga while breastfeeding. “11 Jaw-Dropping Photos of a Mom Breastfeeding While Practicing Yoga,” reads a Huffington Post headline. “A Texas mom of three is taking multitasking to a new level,” the story opens.

I mean, good job, but I’m left with the overall impression that this is more about a game of breastfeeding one-upmanship than some exercise to raise awareness about the health benefits of breastfeeding. Because seriously, it’s not healthy for regular moms to be assailed with these stories and images. It skews our notions of what is normal when it comes to nursing, and I imagine that it makes the countless women who couldn’t or chose not to breastfeed for legitimate reasons feel lame. It’s a kind of backhanded breastfeeding bullying.

New moms are already bullied enough as it is by the aggressive breastfeeding and attachment parenting movements. No pacifiers. Keep formula under lock and key. Breastfeed until you drop for years on end. These movements gave birth to shifting practices at hospitals that became known by the Orwellian label, “baby friendly.” “Baby friendly” hospitals discouraged things like sending newborns to the nursery, even when a mom was in a drugged out stupor, and made women practically beg for formula when initial breastfeeding went badly. Unsurprisingly, a recent study found that those hospitals may actually be more dangerous for mothers and newborns than their supposedly baby-hating alternatives.

And while there is no inherent danger in breastfeeding in the downward-dog position or manually pumping mid-race, these extremist behaviors shouldn’t be billed as female empowerment; they stem from and reinforce a parenting trend that makes a lot of women suffer in the name of “health” and being “natural,” even though a breast pump is most certainly not natural.

You don’t have to breastfeed, pump, or do either while simultaneously doing yoga or running marathons to be a supermom. There is no such thing as supermom. There are just normal moms trying to keep it all together, and other moms who show off and act like it’s no big deal. You’ll forgive the rest of us if, when we see these boastful “supermoms,” we roll our eyes and get on with our day.

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The Many Virtues of Golf Legend Arnold Palmer http://acculturated.com/arnold-palmer/ http://acculturated.com/arnold-palmer/#respond Tue, 27 Sep 2016 14:23:25 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=53423

Over the weekend, at home in his native Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “The King” passed away at the ripe, old age of 87. Arnold Palmer had been a living legend for the previous seven decades and the professional golf community immediately began to roll out the well-deserved red carpet treatment in remembrance of the man who brought … Continued

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Over the weekend, at home in his native Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “The King” passed away at the ripe, old age of 87. Arnold Palmer had been a living legend for the previous seven decades and the professional golf community immediately began to roll out the well-deserved red carpet treatment in remembrance of the man who brought the sport they love to the masses long before Tiger Woods or Twitter existed.

All athletes who compete at the highest levels of their respective sports are endowed with some natural, God-given ability. But golf is a game that requires an unnatural amount of self-discipline and patience—qualities above and beyond pure coordination and athletic prowess. It is as much mental as it is physical.

From humble beginnings as the son of a golf course groundskeeper in western Pennsylvania, to his time serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, to an impressive collegiate career at Wake Forest University, to his exciting debut on the PGA Tour in 1955, Arnold Palmer was a man who exuded a wonderful mixture of larger-than-life charisma and blue-collar self-control. Whereas other titans of the game—Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, most notably—won more tournaments while being known for their gruff exteriors, Palmer was able to find a way to excel in an individual sport while simultaneously seeming to invite everyone else to get in on the fun.

Much of this was due to the fact that Arnold Palmer always looked like he was having a good time when he played; and the camera—not to mention millions of fans around the world—loved him for it. He cared about what he did and how it was done. In recounting favorite memories of “Mr. Palmer,” many current professional golfers have shared memories of the respect, if not reverence, Palmer had for rules and etiquette. Whether it was asking the CEO of a corporate sponsorship partner to remove his hat in the clubhouse, or calling a tour official over to acknowledge a penalty error he had committed (even though no one else saw it), Arnold Palmer made it a priority to create an environment around himself in which integrity and accountability went hand-in-hand with joy and compassion.

During his life, he helped in the design of over 200 golf courses around the globe. He was the first and definitive face of golf on television in the early 1960s, bringing the game to legions of new fans. He mentored young players and created tournament opportunities for them to showcase their skills.

But beyond the impact he had on the sport of golf, Arnold Palmer touched the lives of countless human beings.

From USA Today:

“In 1989, after Palmer played a major role in a fund-raising drive, the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Women in Orlando opened. The first baby was born within hours after the ribbon cutting. Since, nearly 200,000 children have been born there.

In 2002, Arnie’s Army Battles Prostate Cancer was launched and more than 2,500 tournaments across the country sponsored by the organization have raised more than $3 million for prostate cancer research.”

Palmer was married to the same woman for forty-five years. He kept a home in the same area he grew up in until the day he died. He gave back to his community. He did tangible, lasting things with his fame and fortune. And according to first-hand accounts from those who knew him well, such as the Golf Channel’s Dan Hicks, Palmer treated everyone from the kid parking cars to the former US presidents he considered friends exactly the same way.

Measured. Thoughtful. Compassionate. The King will be missed.

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A Definitive Ranking of the Worst (and Best) Barbie Movies Ever Made, by a Father Who’s Seen Them All http://acculturated.com/barbie-movies/ http://acculturated.com/barbie-movies/#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2016 17:00:41 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=53404

As the philosopher Mia Wallace once said: When it comes to important subjects, there are only two ways a person can answer. Which way they chose, tells you who that person is. For instance, there are only two kinds of people in the world, Beatles people and Elvis people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis … Continued

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As the philosopher Mia Wallace once said:

When it comes to important subjects, there are only two ways a person can answer. Which way they chose, tells you who that person is. For instance, there are only two kinds of people in the world, Beatles people and Elvis people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis and Elvis people can like the Beatles, but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice, tells you who you are.

And so it is with Barbie and the Disney princesses. You may think of them as inhabiting different universes—Disney princesses as movie characters and Barbie as a toy line—but over the last several years Barbie has pushed herself into the direct-to-video market in a very large way. Today there are dozens of Barbie movies that compete against their Disney counterparts for your daughters’ attention.

Disney projects are driven by a combination of artistic ambition and identity politics, but the Barbie films are exercises in cold-blooded capitalism. Mattel (which owns the Barbie franchise) cynically takes all of the things girls love—princesses, dancers, mermaids, puppies, fairies, gymnastics, ponies—and throws them into a blender with Barbie characters. A typical Barbie movie depicts, for instance, Barbie as a princess who is turned into a fairy and must then rescue a mermaid. I am not exaggerating.

Herewith is a ranking of Barbie movies, by general parental palatability*:

9) Barbie as the Island Princess

There are two species of movies in the Barbie genus. The first are films in which Barbie plays herself—that is, the protagonist is a blonde female named “Barbie” who has identifiable traits within a continuity of the Barbie universe. For instance, she is tall and she is a model/actress/whatever and, as a result, is both glamorous and famous.

The other species of movies uses Barbie as if the fictional character were a real actress inhabiting a role within another story. So in Barbie as the Island Princess, the only place the word “Barbie” appears is in the title credits. The character who looks and sounds like “Barbie” is instead referred to as “Rosella” and her story is entirely separate from the Barbie universe.

This conceit—that you have a movie featuring a branded, fictional character as an “actress” playing another fictional, animated character—is somewhat mind-bending. An adult analogue might be, say, a movie called “Batman’s The Three Musketeers” in which the (real) actor Christian Bale pretends to be the character Bruce Wayne who is playing the role of d’Artagnan.

You can see why children might be put off.

There’s a whole universe of these Kafka-esque Barbie movies: Barbie as Rapunzel, Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper, Barbie presents Thumbelina. There’s even—hand to God—Barbie and the Three Musketeers.

They’re all terrible. Total garbage. But Island Princess is the worst of the worst. Barbie plays a girl who was lost at sea as an infant, washed up on an uninhabited tropical island, and was raised by animals. She develops the ability to talk to animals. (So far, so good.) But when a prince stops by, it also turns out that Barbie somehow speaks perfect English. You’ll be shocked to learn that they fall in love.

But what’s really unforgiveable about Island Princess is that it’s so paint-by-numbers that it doesn’t even work as a seventy-minute babysitter because it bores all but the most devoted Barbiephiles.

8) Barbie: Fairytopia: Mermaidia

If you’re trying to figure out whether or not a movie was designed by committee, having more than one colon in the title is a pretty clear tell.

B:F:M (which sounds like code from a Craigslist personals ad) is one of those movies where Barbie is playing another character—in this case, a fairy named Elina—who must leave her fairyland and journey undersea to help a bunch of mermaids. It’s even more ridiculous than it sounds.

7) Barbie: Mariposa and Her Butterfly Fairy Friends

This cinematic disaster takes meta to a new level: Barbie plays the fairy Elina, who then stars in a play-within-a-play as a “butterfly fairy” named Mariposa. She has to rescue mermaids, too.

Mattel focus groups were very big on butterflies and mermaids that year.

6) Barbie in: A Mermaid Tale 2

It’s a sequel and it involves yet more mermaids, but Mermaid Tale 2 represents the moment when the Barbie movies slowly began to improve. Barbie plays a professional surfer named Merliah Summers who is (secretly) a mermaid princess with the ability to change between human and mermaid form.

Although it’s less brain-dead than other Barbie movies, it continues the franchise’s annoying habit of creating words that sound confusingly like one another. For instance, the protagonist’s name is “Merliah.” Her mermaid kingdom is ruled by a queen who has the power to command a force called “Merillia.” There are lots of scenes where characters fret about whether or not Merliah will be able to wield the Merillia. These moments make you yearn for the Schöfferhofer.

5) Barbie and the Secret Door

It’s a movie about a human princess who finds a secret door into another world where she becomes a magical fairy who helps—you’ll never guess—a group of fairies and mermaids.

But it’s also a musical. And God help me if some of the songs aren’t catchy.

4) Barbie: A Perfect Christmas

In all of the good entries, Barbie plays herself and in this movie Barbie and her three sisters—Skipper, Stacy, and Chelsea—find themselves stranded in Minnesota while trying to journey from Malibu to New York on Christmas Eve.

It’s full of musical earworms—I defy you to try to get the opening number out of your head. (It’s the Barbie version of “One Day More” / “La Resistance.”) The movie is also sweet, and heavy on Americana, and mostly concerned with sisterly relationships in the real world. Which makes it kind of great.

3) Barbie Spy Squad

It’s the lone action movie in the franchise and it features Barbie as an out-of-continuity version of herself: She’s Barbie and she has sisters we recognize, but she’s also a semi-professional gymnast who is recruited to become a Jane Bond-style spy.

There’s nothing especially great about Spy Squad except for this: Boys will watch it with a minimal amount of grumbling because it has lasers and fights and robots that fight with lasers.

2) Barbie and Her Sisters in: A Pony Tale

It’s basically a classic ‘80s high school movie: Barbie and her sisters visit a riding academy. The kindly owner is in financial trouble and about to lose the place. But she can pay off the mortgage if her team can win The Big Competition. The Barbie crew volunteers to help. You’ll never guess what happens next.

But the nice turn in A Pony Tale is that the students from the rival academy turn out not to be jerks and they strike up surprising friendships with Barbie and her sisters.

1) Barbie and Her Sisters in: The Great Puppy Adventure

It’s an almost straight-up retelling of the Nicholas Cage classic, National Treasure: Barbie and her sisters visit their hometown back in Wisconsin and wind up on a hunt for historical clues that will lead to a legendary treasure. (If you knew that Barbie’s last name is Roberts and that she’s originally from Willows, Wisconsin, then you should hide your shame.)

The movie has everything—you’ll laugh, you’ll cry. There are enough thrills to give small kids a sense of catharsis and enough mystery to keep bigger kids eager to watch it over and over.

And it’s clever enough that adults can sit through it without needing to dull the pain.

 

* This isn’t a listicle. It’s a cry for help.

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A Hug to Build a Meme On http://acculturated.com/a-hug-to-build-a-meme-on/ http://acculturated.com/a-hug-to-build-a-meme-on/#respond Mon, 26 Sep 2016 15:00:54 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=53389

Perhaps it’s the upcoming presidential election, which has spawned months of angry and vituperative remarks from both candidates; or the tense partisanship that more often than not dominates political discussions these days, but whatever the reason, it was refreshing to see this over the weekend: At the opening celebrations for the new National Museum of … Continued

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Perhaps it’s the upcoming presidential election, which has spawned months of angry and vituperative remarks from both candidates; or the tense partisanship that more often than not dominates political discussions these days, but whatever the reason, it was refreshing to see this over the weekend:

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At the opening celebrations for the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture on the Mall in Washington, D.C., First Lady Michelle Obama offered a quick hug to former President George W. Bush (who drew some laughs from onlookers earlier when he proved incapable of figuring out how to take a selfie with some people—he had to ask President Obama for help).

The image of the hug predictably launched a ton of photoshopped alternatives, including W wearing a cozy slanket and an image where actor John Travolta inexplicably tries to get in on the action (reminding us all why Reddit is awesome).

But the best assessment goes to Mashable, whose headline says it all: “Michelle Obama gives George W. Bush the bear hug we all need.”

Remember that hug as you watch tonight’s first presidential debate.

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A Simple Way to Be a Better Parent: Keep Nagging http://acculturated.com/keep-nagging/ http://acculturated.com/keep-nagging/#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:01:17 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=53384

Parents hear a lot about what they need to do to support their children’s development. Mothers of daughters in particular are told that we need to fight against cultural norms that shortchange girls. We are lectured not to tell our girls that they are pretty, and to encourage them to pursue science and math classes … Continued

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Parents hear a lot about what they need to do to support their children’s development. Mothers of daughters in particular are told that we need to fight against cultural norms that shortchange girls. We are lectured not to tell our girls that they are pretty, and to encourage them to pursue science and math classes (as well as sports). And of course, we hear all of the other general parenting advice, about how to feed kids right and help them be all they can be.

It’s a tall order. Many moms end up feeling inadequate to the task.

Yet an encouraging study suggests that moms can do pretty well by their daughters by employing a back-to-the-basics approach to parenting: Nagging. A study by Ericka Rascon-Ramirez of the University of Essex of 15,000 girls found that parents’ expectations and level of engagement had a big impact on their daughter’s outcomes, including the likelihood that they would attend college or become pregnant as a teen.

As Meredith Bland at Scary Mommy summed up the findings:

Teens don’t have to pretend to like the advice, either. According to the study, nagging has an effect even when our kids act like they aren’t listening to us, which is always. Said Rascon-Ramirez, “In many cases, we succeeded in doing what we believed was more convenient for us, even when this was against our parents’ will. But no matter how hard we tried to avoid our parents’ recommendations, it is likely that they ended up influencing . . . choices.”

That’s right—we’re in their heads, moms! We live so deeply in their angry little brains that we should buy apartments there and adopt a cat.

This advice may seem obvious, but this big picture can be lost in the endless lists of recommendations that parents get today. Simply being clear about what you expect from your children—and what you don’t expect, like drug use and sex—influences how they behave.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy counsels a similar approach and notes how parents tend to underestimate their impact on their kids’ decision-making. Survey research shows that 48 percent of parents believe that their children’s views on sex are most influenced by their friends, with only 32 percent saying that parents have the biggest impacts. But teens report it’s the other way around: 45 percent of the teens said that their parents had the biggest influence on their sexual decisions, compared to 31 percent who said it was their friends.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy encourages having more than just “the talk” with your kids; they suggest instead having an ongoing dialogue about issues like sex and relationships. This isn’t about being your daughter’s or son’s best friend, but rather a trusted source of counsel. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy uses the term “askable parent” to describe how this is supposed to be a conversation with your kid, not just a lecture. Yet beyond being askable, parents need to be opinionated too. You need to be clear that you think that it’s not okay for high schoolers to have sex, and explain the emotional and physical dangers of risky behavior.

Even if this advice is simple, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Unlike music lessons, tutoring, or the latest test-prep class, this isn’t a box you can check by paying a fee or schlepping junior to and from an activity. It’s the daily grind of good parenting: reminding your kids to do their homework, setting limits for how long and with whom they spend time, and putting down your phone to have tremendously awkward conversations when needed.

Nagging is no fun for the nagger or the person being nagged. Yet it’s comforting to know that it’s at least effective. Even better than that, at some level, I bet the reason it’s effective is that even your teenager must recognize the nagging for what it is: an act of love. After all, we take the time to nag, make sure kids keep up with school, enforce a curfew, and know what they are up to because we care and want what’s best for them. It may be greeted with an eye-roll, but deep down your kids know and accept that what you’re trying to do is help develop a moral compass that will guide them for the rest of their lives.

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