My 10-Year-Old’s Work-From-Home Summer Schedule

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Sometime between 7 and 8 a.m. – Wake-up time. Roll out of bed and instantly turn on iPad.

8 a.m. – Breakfast: choice of Strawberry Pop-Tart, re-heated chocolate chip pancake, or Dad’s Grape-Nuts cereal.

8:10-9 a.m. – Back to iPad. Check in with friend on Facebook Messenger about cool new iPad game in which you create your own iPad games.

9-9:40 a.m. – 40 minutes of reading time.

9:20 a.m. – Negotiate with parent to do 20 minutes of reading time now, then 20 minutes after dinner, knowing that parent will be too distracted by Entertainment Tonight after dinner to enforce the agreement.

9:30 a.m. – Log on to school iPad to touch base with teacher and begin the day’s agenda of summer school assignments.

10 a.m. – Summer school assignments are completed. Run upstairs to complain about how there’s nothing to do and summer is boring.

10:15 a.m. – Draw a picture of a Fennec fox or a mythical creature.

10:20 a.m. – Stare emptily at half-finished Lego set that hasn’t been touched since 2014.

10:25 a.m. – Briefly contemplate changing out of pajamas.

10:30-11:45 a.m. – iPad games on Messenger with friends.

11:45 a.m. – Lunchtime, consisting of either PB&J sandwich or microwavable mini-pizzas, accompanied by chocolate milk, off-brand chips and applesauce left over from school lunch pickups.

12 noon – Outdoor time! Wander the neighborhood sidewalks with Dad. Climb a tree. Put on roller blades and skate around for about two minutes.

12:30 p.m. – Change out of pajamas into shorts, camouflage Crocs and a “Weekend Warrior” T-shirt.

12:45 p.m. – Pester parents about going outside to play with friends.

12:50 p..m. – Parents insist that friends are still busy with school work and it’s too early to bother them.

12:51 p.m. – Doorbell rings. Friend wants to play. Tear out of the front yard with friend like a pair of escaped inmates from a Victorian-era lunatic asylum.

12:51 – 2:50 p.m. – Splash around in friend’s inflatable pool from Menards. Cross the street and splash around in another friend’s inflatable pool from Menards.

2:50 p.m. – Come home to badger parents about turning on sprinkler system to run through, “Because it’s summer, Mom.”

2:55-3:30 p.m. – Run through sprinklers with friends. Lay on Minion towels stretched over the hot driveway. Talk ruefully about those lost days when kids had to leave their homes to sit at a desk inside a concrete building for eight flipping hours.

3:30 p.m. – Parent emerges to announce that online tutoring lesson is in 30 minutes and that, no, he hasn’t forgotten about the 20 minutes of reading after dinner.

3:30-4 p.m. – Complain about the unfairness of tutoring during these precious, fleeting summer days.

4-5 p.m. – Slap on a happy face and plow through another soulless tutoring session.

5-6 p.m. – A brief window of freedom, dragging friends up and down the sidewalk in Dad’s collapse-able red wagon with the fancy cup holders.

6 pm. – Tonight’s dinner: pork chops, mac & cheese, and sweet potato fries made in Mom’s new air fryer oven.

6:30 p.m. – Parents consumed by talk about Trump, coronavirus, then Entertainment Tonight.

6:30-8:30 p.m. – iPad games with friends, then curl up next to Mom to watch a silly network program about mini-golf.

8:30-9:30 p.m. – Bedtime-ish.

 

 

 

 

7 Conversation-Starters During COVID-19

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In a recent phone call with an old friend, I complained, in my First World way, about how conversations and social interactions had suffered during the coronavirus pandemic because the only thing there was to talk about was the coronavirus pandemic.

“Oh, there are more things to talk about,” my friend replied. “People just don’t want to talk about them.”

After some reflection, I realized my friend was right, as he usually is. There are at least a few topics to discuss besides COVID-19, some of them not so pleasant.

If you and your friends have grown weary of dissecting the latest COVID-19 Task Force briefing or mulling over whether you should wear a mask while gardening, here are seven icebreakers to add a little variety to your phone, text or socially-distanced driveway conversations during this strange and awkward time.

Korean baseball

As you probably already know, the NC Dinos are off to a 10-1 start atop the league standings for the Korean Baseball Organization, although the third-place LG Twins reeled off six straight wins before last Sunday’s loss to Kiwoom.

The KBO, which opened its season in early May before crowds of mostly stuffed animals (along with vivacious baseball cheerleaders), is one of the few live sporting events to watch on ESPN.

It’ll have to do until Major League Baseball starts its season, perhaps as soon as early July — or as late as April 2021.

White people doing horrible things

The appalling death of George Floyd under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee was just one instance of African American men being victimized by white folks in the past week. There was also the case of Amy Cooper, who called the police on a bird watcher in Central Park because he asked her to leash her dog. A few days earlier, a Florida woman accused two black men of abducting her autistic son before surveillance cameras revealed she drowned the nine-year-old by pushing him into a canal. Finally, a Georgia youth pastor claimed he was kidnapped by two black men before admitting he was at a hotel to meet a male prostitute.

All of this just in the past week.

As my former Hallmark Cards colleague Tara Jaye Frank eloquently writes in this blog piece, it’s not enough for white people to feel sadness about these events. Clearly, more must be done. Perhaps it can start with a conversation on why these racist attacks keep happening on a drumbeat basis in the world’s largest and most powerful liberal democracy.

The Presidential Election

The last time I checked, the U.S. presidential election was still happening on the first Tuesday in November. Donald Trump has not yet demanded it be canceled due to social distancing concerns (although don’t be surprised if he does). Until then, there is much to discuss. Who will Joe Biden select as his running mate? Can a sitting president survive more than 100,000 deaths, a collapsed economy and a 15% unemployment rate? What are the Russians going to do about this, and why can’t anyone under the age of 70 win their party’s nomination for the general election?

So many unanswered questions about what could be The Most Important Election of Our Lives (or at least the most important once since 2016).

Cornhole championships

Most live sporting events have ceased, but there’s always the American Cornhole League, televised regularly by ESPN, in which masked people take turns trying to toss beanbags into a box with a little hole. Not exactly must-see-TV, but still more exciting than NASCAR for people who absolutely must consume televised sporting events during these times.

That new Jeffrey Epstein documentary

Want to be totally creeped out? Watch the first two minutes of this new Netflix series, which starts with criminal deposition footage of Epstein in 2012. Not sure I need to watch four hours of Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, but the story of a serial rapist/child molester and his powerful friends is sure to be talked about in the coming weeks.

Those simple, carefree days when we almost had a war with Iran

Hard to remember now, but the big story in January wasn’t coronavirus (although it maybe should have been) but the near certainty that we were going to war with Iran.
Fortunately, Trump’s targeted killing of Iranian military chief Qasem Soleimani and Iran’s missile strike rebuttal did not lead to a larger conflict. But these two rivals could be at it again soon enough. Or maybe it will the U.S. vs North Korea next time? Or China?

The disappointment of “Onward.”

There are precious few certainties in this life: death, taxes, people behaving stupidly and, finally, Pixar putting out a polished, smart movie about the human condition that adults and children alike can enjoy.

That last certainty was shattered with the March release of Onward, a sentimental road-trip movie about two brothers on a quest to bring their late father back to life for just one day. Also, the brothers are mythical creatures, and their father’s spirit is reduced to a pair of slacks for almost the entire movie. Also, one of the brothers is an adult Dungeons & Dragons fanboy voiced by Chris Pratt.

You get the idea. A pretty mediocre effort from the Disney-owned studio that gave us Toy Story, Up, Wall-E and many other classics. In fact, I just had to double-check IMDB to be certain Onward wasn’t a DreamWorks production. That’s the kind of bland, formulaic storytelling I’m talking about here.

Disagree with me? Fine. Let’s have a conversation about that.

Five Classic Comedy Movie Reviews for These Delicate, Sensitive Times

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Animal House (1978)

Unrelenting hedonism and misogyny are the electives of choice for members of a 1960s college fraternity. School administrators try heroically to discipline the Delta Tau Chi house, but to no avail. A juvenile prank leads to the untimely death of a horse, several women are tricked into disrobing, and a pledge commits adultery with the college president’s spouse. “Animal House” is an apt title for a movie in which there is no empathy or respect for rules, rights, and human dignity.

Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Two developmentally disabled men take a cross-country road trip. One of them has an unhealthy crush on a mysterious woman who has left a suitcase at the airport. Trigger Warnings: subject matter includes frozen mucus, bowel control issues, bad haircuts, a lethal amount of chili peppers, and a fatal attack on a rare owl species.

There’s Something About Mary (1998)

There’s something chilling about an unstable man who exposes himself to his prom date’s parents, becomes obsessed with the young woman, then appears near her Florida home several years later. Ben Stiller stars as a man who spins a web of lies to get closer to the unwitting object of his desire. A cautionary tale about those who fall through cracks of our flawed mental health system. Trigger Warning: viewers who care about hygiene may be troubled by the “hair gel” scene.

Talladega Nights (2006)

Rural stereotypes abound in this crass tale of stock car driver Ricky Bobby’s fall from grace. A European rival, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, tries to teach Ricky Bobby a lesson about tolerance and sportsmanship, but is instead ridiculed for leading an alternative lifestyle and for being French. An explicit scene in which a dinner prayer is parodied for cheap laughs may be offensive to some viewers.

The Hangover (2009)

Four white males exercise their privilege by booking a lavish bachelor party weekend in Las Vegas. Not satisfied to simply reflect on life and enjoy each other’s company, the friends quickly become inebriated and encounter a range of dubious adventures that include animal cruelty, Asian stereotypes, excessive use of a Taser, and an agitated and possibly violent Mike Tyson. Finally, the Vegas getaway is scheduled one day before the groom’s wedding, a plot device that perfectly captures male indifference to relationships and long-term commitments.

So Much More Than a Pet

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The cartoon above by Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis ran in newspapers a few months ago, and instantly struck a chord with many folks who have loved and lost an animal who was more a member of the family than just a pet.

I’m sharing the cartoon today because my family recently said goodbye to Keiko, our English Shepherd mix who provided us with so much joy, affection and wet-nosed kisses over 14 years. Keiko was a constant in our lives through job changes, a move across town, heart-breaks and triumphs, and more than a dozen brutally hot Midwestern summers. During her lifetime, Keiko endured two pet cats, her humans’ hectic work schedules, and various yapping little dogs in the neighboring yards. Meanwhile, we tolerated bare patches in the backyard, the constant shedding of dog hair around the house, and the occasional “gift” in the corner of the basement when Keiko couldn’t quite make it outside in time.

Like Edee in Pearls Before Swine, Keiko was a gentle, nurturing dog that neighborhood kids often approached for a quick scratch behind the ears. In more than nine years, she never once growled or snapped at our son, despite the tugging, pulling, and errant karate kicks little boys sometimes inflict on pets. In fact, Keiko was very protective of our child. From the time we brought a three-day old infant home from the hospital, Keiko would bark and growl at any stranger who approached our doorstep, perhaps knowing how much this little baby meant to us. In a way, he was her baby, too.

For me, Keiko was an enthusiastic walking companion, even on days when the thermostat dipped into the teens or soared above 90. For my wife, Keiko was a tricolored shadow, following her from room to room, especially the warm bathroom on cold winter mornings, or the kitchen, where there was usually a pretzel cracker to enjoy.

Like the beloved pooch memorialized in Stephan’s cartoon, Keiko had cancer, and we had to put her to sleep. The staff at the veterinarian’s office were almost as heartbroken as we were. A few days later, they sent us a sympathy card with an image of a dog bounding across the Rainbow Bridge. Fourteen-year-old dogs affect a lot of human lives.

Does a Rainbow Bridge exist? I’d like to think it does. It would be nice seeing Keiko again. The house seems emptier now. Walking the neighborhood sidewalks without holding her lease feels strange. Even our son, who complained of having to let Keiko out several times a day to go pee in her later years, claims that he misses her. I even miss–at least a little bit–vacuuming the downstairs and pulling up gobs of black and white Keiko-hair from the medium-pile carpet.

Our hearts are a little broken right now, and it could be a while before we welcome a new animal into our family. There’ll be no replacing our soft, sweet companion of more than 14 years.

Rest in peace, Keiko.

Keiko, in her younger years.

Cooling off with a friend.

Love Songs for Social Media

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“Zuckerberg Knows” (to the tune of “God Only Knows”)

I may not always friend you,
but I got some baby pics to send you.
And did you hear what Trump said?
Just check out my latest post thread.
Zuckerberg knows how I feel about you.

If you should dare unfriend me.
Who knows how that would upend me?
So just click on a smile emoji,
for my post about Ben Kenobi.
Zuckerberg knows how I feel about you.

“Just the Google+” (to the tune of “Just the Two of Us”)

I get the feeling no one’s here
and what makes that cool, my dear,
is I got this place to myself.
A social network of my own
and the seven friends I’ve known.
They don’t hang here anymore.

Just the Google+
That’s where I like to jam.
Just the Google+
(Just the Google+)
Just the Google+
You can keep your Instagram!
Just the Google+
It’s who I am.

“I Had to Add You” (to the tune of “It Had to be You”)

I had to add you.
I had to add you.
I networked around and finally found
that connection who
could help me get paid
and then maybe get laid
and even be sad
just to be glad
LinkedIn was made.

Some folks on LinkedIn
connect just for grins.
They don’t really aim
for fortune or fame.
What world are they in?

For nobody else could get me a job.
Without your clout, I’d be a slob.
I had to add you,
wonderful you.
I had to add you.

“The Tweet of My Life” (to the tune of “The Time of My Life”)

Now, I’ve had the tweet of my life,
and I’ve never wrote this way before.
Yes, I swear
it’s the truth
and I owe it all to booze.

I just had a Jack & Coke
and about a dozen whiskey shots.
And now that I’m online,
well, you know I’ve gotta share my thoughts.

Yeah, there’s trouble all around,
You know, North Korea and all that stuff.
And my ex is on the prowl,
thinking that she’ll call my bluff!

Just remember–
Tweetin’s the one thing
I can’t get enough of.
So in 280 or less characters,
I’ll spread the love.

Because, I had the tweet of my life…

Daylight Savings Time is Stupid

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The Florida legislature got a lot of attention this week for passing a few gun control measures in the aftermath of the horrific February shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Florida lawmakers did something else of note this week, too: they voted to get rid of Daylight Savings Time with the passage of the “Sunshine Protection Act.” If the law is approved by the federal government, Florida residents will no longer move their clocks one hour forward or backward twice a year like most of the rest of the U.S. population (Arizona and Hawaii do not observe Daylight Savings Time). The Sunshine State would get an extra hour of sunshine during the evenings throughout the year.

What a great idea.

This Sunday, however, most Americans will “spring forward” one hour without thinking much about why this is even necessary. Why do we change the clocks in the spring and fall, anyway? What are the benefits?

Turns out, there really aren’t any. This article from Smithsonian.com provides a CliffsNotes version of the 100-year history of Daylight Savings. The original idea was that adding one hour of daylight to most peoples’ awake time during the spring and summer months would conserve energy used to light houses and buildings. This turned out to be true. However, the time change also led to Americans consuming more gasoline by driving their cars to parks and other outdoor attractions during daylight hours. In other words, Daylight Savings Time was found to increase energy consumption rather than reduce it.

That didn’t stop the government from forcing the entire nation to adopt Standard and Daylight Savings Time in a 1974 effort to ward off an energy crisis. As some of you older folks may recall, we still had an energy crisis in the 1970s, despite the time changes.

Who has benefited the most from Daylight Savings Time? Retailers and the golf industry. When there are more daylight hours, people tend to stay out longer and spend more money. Which begs the question: why not just make Daylight Savings Time the standard and get rid of the time changes?

Perhaps most dispiriting is that a majority of people don’t seem to like having to change their clocks twice a year, yet we numbly comply with it, as if it is a reality of life instead of just bad government policy. Here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, we keep our heads down, don’t ask questions and grumble about losing daylight, or giving up an hour of our weekend. We put up with it instead of wondering how we can change it.

There is hope, though. Maybe in this new age of political activism, Daylight Savings Time, along with many other bad ideas, will finally fade into the sunset.

Five Reasons Why It is Time to Return President Camacho to the White House

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Mike Judge’s 2006 film, Idiocracy, offered a grim take on the future. The United States of 500 years from now, the movie predicted, will be populated by mentally inert people who speak a crude mix of hillbilly and hip-hop.

Idiocracy got it all wrong, of course. Turns out it only took 10 years—not 500—for the country to plunge into utter stupidity. Some of the more shocking scenes from Idiocracy—the crumbling highway infrastructure, the refusal of some people to leave their TVs to even use the bathroom—seem almost quaint now. Even the movie’s commander-in-chief, a former pro wrestler/porn star named President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, is immensely appealing by today’s political standards.

In fact, if Camacho decided to make a run for the Oval Office in 2020, I could totally get behind that. Here are five reasons why Idiocracy’s president, as it turns out, wasn’t so bad:

  • He gets out of people’s way and lets them do their jobs. When word gets around that Luke Wilson’s time-traveling character, Joe—a man of average intelligence in 2006—now has the highest IQ on the planet, President Camacho immediately appoints him Secretary of the Interior. He tasks Joe with solving the country’s food shortage—and gives him one week to do it.
  • He is a unifying force. President Camacho’s charisma and tendency to fire automatic weapons toward the sky during joint sessions of Congress seemed to have bipartisan appeal among the Americans in Idiocracy. Now more than ever, we could use a president like Camacho who can bring people together.
  • He knows he’s not the smartest person in the room. When Joe suggests that the nation’s crops are dying because they are being irrigated with a sports drink called Brawndo, the president heartily supports Joe’s plan to switch to water. Of course, when Brawndo’s stock plummets and mass layoffs ensue, the president sentences Joe to death in a monster truck demolition derby.
  • He admits his mistakes. Despite his bravado, President Camacho is not above admitting when he has been wrong—a trait several recent U.S. Presidents seem to have lacked. When the nation’s food supply is rescued by water irrigation, President Camacho enthusiastically gives Joe a full pardon and appoints him vice president.
  • He’s good in a crisis. How many presidents can say they kept the United States from starving to death? Camacho may be a former porn star and pro wrestler (as opposed to a certain president who slept with porn stars and starred in the Worldwide Wrestling Foundation), but he proved smart enough to steer the country through a major crisis.I’m willing to bet he can do it again.

The 9 Most Impactful Pieces of Clickbait on LinkedIn Today

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Do you spend some of the workday scrolling through LinkedIn? You’ve probably seen the following blog articles (or something similar) pop up in your news feed a few thousand times:

The Magic of “Friendly:” How Being Nice Can Shorten Your Sales Conversion Cycle

The Grass IS Greener: 11 Arguments for Quitting Your Job Today

The Three Things You Do That Make Coworkers Hate You

What [Warren Buffet/Bill Gates/Elon Musk] Says About [Company Culture/Innovation/Win-Win Situations]

How Smart People Work Fewer Hours, Get More Done and Have Less Blotchy Skin

What [Steve Jobs/Winston Churchill/Mother Theresa] Understood About [Brand Management/Outside-the-Box Thinking/Building a Better Sales Team]

Eight Mistakes Parents Make That Keep Children from Becoming Strong Leaders

How the Best Middle Managers Navigate their Way to Zero Accountability

Six Ways to Detach Yourself While Firing a Direct-Report

Four Reasons “Three Billboards” Falls Flat

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With less than a month to go until the Academy Awards, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri appears to be the favorite to win “Best Picture” and several other categories.

That’s surprising, because it’s not that great a movie.

I watched Three Billboards on Saturday, filled with hope and anticipation from the glowing reviews I had read about the film. I don’t make it out to very many “adult” movies these days, so I’m selective in what I go see. Three Billboards, buoyed by all those Golden Globes and plaudits from film festivals, had been on my “to-watch” list for a while.

Sorry to say, I left the local multiplex disappointed and a little confused on Saturday night. What was it I had just witnessed? Was this story about a grieving mother’s battle with the local authorities a comedy or a drama? What was this movie trying to say, and why was it getting raves from vaunted quarters like The New Yorker and The Atlantic?

After taking some time to think it over, I believe Three Billboards doesn’t deserve the Oscar buzz or the 93% reviewer rating on RottenTomatoes.com. Here are four reasons why (warning—some spoilers ahead):

It is About Everything—and Nothing

Three Billboards touches on a lot of issues—child murder, race relations, cancer, domestic abuse, sexual predators, alcoholism, religion and, I guess, the decline of small town life. That’s an awful lot to cram into a two-hour movie. As a result, Three Billboards only glosses over most of these topics. A cop is accused of torturing an African-American suspect, but it’s only mentioned in passing. A priest is quickly shamed for the Catholic Church’s sex scandals, and never shows his face again. There are a couple of musings about human existence and the afterlife, but nothing deeper than that.

This everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach by screenwriter Martin McDonagh makes it hard to discern what the movie is about. If Three Billboards is supposed to be such an important film, as many have claimed, what message is the viewer supposed to walk away with, other than life is chaotic and often tragic?

The Hero is Completely Unlikable

It should be easy to empathize with Frances McDormand’s character, Mildred Hayes. She’s a hard-working single mom who’s suffered an unspeakable tragedy with the murder of her daughter. The problem is, Mildred is so angry, so confrontational and so crass, she inspires more fear than sympathy. She’s not just mean because of her child’s death, either—a flashback reveals that Mildred was just as thorny and abrasive before the murder happened.

Despite her take-no-prisoners approach, Mildred is also weak. She cowers during a scary encounter with a predator who may have been her daughter’s killer. She doesn’t even report the incident to the police. In fact, Mildred does nothing throughout the entire film to help solve the crime. Ebbing is a small town—wouldn’t Mildred have some theories about the killer’s identity? Rather than spend all her money on those three billboards, why not hire a private sleuth to investigate the case? Instead, Mildred takes the approach that will draw the most attention to Mildred. That makes her a colorful character, and provides a clever premise, but it doesn’t make Mildred the least bit relatable.

There is No Sense of Place

As one New York Times writer put it, Ebbing, Missouri is every bit as fictional as Narnia. It’s an Ozarks town with the buildings and landscape of western North Carolina (where the film was shot). The police force works in an old, storefront station house straight from The Andy Griffith Show. Police Chief Willoughby and his cohorts strut menacingly around downtown like Hitler’s stormtroopers, and everyone in Ebbing cusses like the sales team on Glengarry Glen Ross.

As someone who grew up in a city of less than 25,000, I see very little in Ebbing, Missouri that seems like an authentic American town. People in small towns have their problems and their prejudices, but don’t tend to wear them in on their sleeves like the denizens of Ebbing. Most small-town people are not dull-witted yokels, as many of the Ebbing folks are portrayed. Also, a lot of people in small towns attend church and go out of their way to be polite. They don’t swear nonstop like sailors, and they tend to think less of people who do.

The Characters are Often Out-of-Character

Woody Harrelson’s Chief Willoughby is a smart cop, a decent man and the best-drawn character in Three Billboards. For some reason, though, he has placed his faith in Officer Dixon, one of the most bumbling, corrupt lawmen to appear onscreen since The Dukes of Hazzard was canceled.

That’s one example of the inconsistencies almost all the key characters display. Officer Dixon, a relentless bully for 90 minutes, makes an about-face and becomes a hero in the film’s final half-hour. Mildred, so nasty in almost every other scene, presents an old tormentor with a bottle of champagne instead of hitting him over the head with it. Finally, and most absurdly, a local ad man who’s pistol-whipped within an inch of his life shares an orange juice in the hospital with the guy who beat him up.

When Hallmark moments like these pop up from the crude and deeply flawed people of Ebbing, it makes me wonder what kind of film Three Billboards is trying to be. Is it a darkly comic, free-wheeling romp, like some of the best works of Quintin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers? Or does the movie aspire to make an Important Statement about America?

The serious moments of the film, so jarring in their earnestness and sentimentality, make me believe Three Billboards aims for something lofty. That is why, in my opinion, it ultimately fails.

Children’s Books for the Age of Trump

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Got an eager, young reader in your home? These new titles will entertain and enthrall, while heightening your child’s awareness of the current geopolitical climate.

We Survived the Government Shutdown of 2018

Jake and Sophia haven’t seen their dad in four days. He’s on Capitol Hill, trying to hash out a deal with his fellow senators to reopen the federal government. Democrats and Republicans can’t seem to agree on anything, but Jake and Sophia have an idea about immigration reform that just might end the shutdown—at least for a couple of weeks.

Fantastic Beasts and the Women Who Work for Them

Julie is young, smart and has a promising career at the headquarters of a major corporation. Her only problem is the VP of marketing, who uses his power to lure Julie into his corner office with the shades drawn. Does Julie stand up to this creep, risking her shot at landing a coveted middle-management role? What follows is an important lesson for youngsters who have the ill-informed notion that the adult world is fair.

To the Edge of the World in 80 Days

All her life, Samantha has been told that the earth is round. She never questioned it until she became old enough to have her own social media account. Now, Samantha is on a quest to prove the world is flat, with a daring plan to ride her bicycle until she tumbles over the edge into nothingness.

The Giving Spree

This timeless parable about loyalty and love involves a rich man and the United States Congress. The man goes to Congress in the 1980s and early 2000s, asking for tax reforms that benefit the wealthy. Each time, Congress dutifully meets his demands. Finally, in 2017, the rich man—now an elderly billionaire—asks a weary Congress for one last tax break. Will Congress say yes, adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt? The conclusion is sure to bring a tear to your child’s eye.

Tales of a Working Class Nothing

Peter is having a rotten year. His younger brother, Farley, has a computer science degree and now gets all the attention as a highly paid programmer. Meanwhile, Peter has been working carpentry jobs with a bad back since getting laid off by the local automotive plant. There is hope for the future, though: Peter stands to save $400 on his 2018 taxes, thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Tweeting with Kim Jong Un

You’re president of the world’s largest economy with a massive nuclear arsenal at your fingertips. However, the leader of some upstart rogue regime halfway across the world wants to start trouble on social media. Infuriated, you take to Twitter, but be careful! Your next 280 characters or less could spell a quick end for humanity.

Donald Jr. and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Deposition

Donald Jr. has 24 hours to prep for what’s sure to be a crummy interrogation from the special counsel on what he knows about the Russians. Join our hero as he and his lawyers pore over thousands of pages of documents, and Don Jr. wonders aloud if it’s okay to ask his dad for a presidential pardon.

Oh, The Places You People Will Go!

This illustrated classic follows the adventures of an immigrant family that has lived in the United States for 20 years but now faces an uncertain future. Will they be deported? Can their children stay in the U.S.? How will the courts rule? What will the government do? Meanwhile, in a different neighborhood across town, a white-collar, politically moderate family seriously considers moving to Costa Rica.