The Lazy Lion and the Flawless Mermaid

Earlier this fall, my daughter was playing outside while I was planting a new garden bed. She said, “Dad, I’m Moana, and you’re Moana’s dad and I want you to tell me that I can’t leave the island.”

I played along. I gestured to the mulch bed and said, “One day this island will be all yours.” I leaned on the shovel. “It’s a lot of hard work but the garden gives us food and we have everything we need. Just stay away from the water, OK? There’s nothing out there for you.” I looked up and saw that she had my son stationed under the trampoline, waiting for “Maui” to be discovered.

She played along, dipped her head in despair and squeaked, “Ok.” She then went to the playset that I built (the “boat” she wasn’t supposed to be on!) and sang Moana songs.

As I got back to digging, I realized that we had just played out a theory I’ve had about Disney movies. This became evident as night after night I would read a picture version of The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. The story arc for boys and girls are mirror opposites.

Ariel lives in a fun place. It’s a constant party Under the Sea and there’s no responsibilities, except singing. But her oppressive dad is a total tyrant and stands in the way of her dreams of taking a stroll on a street or touching a fire. However, a girl’s pursuit of her dreams can not be wrong. In order to get what she wants, she has to answer a backpage ad, selling her larynx for a pair of feet. Fast-forward to an ocean-wide Amber Alert and the deaths of several hundred men on Eric’s ship, Ariel literally stands vindicated by her irrational behavior and her father sheepishly relents his harsh xenophobic position towards humans. “Daddy’s sorry he smashed all of your toys, pumpkin, here’s your legs back again. Enjoy kiddo! Eric, remember she’s 16!” From this movie, we learned a lesson and it is that there are outside forces keeping you from your dreams, princess, and you should do whatever it takes to achieve those dreams. You are free to do whatever you want in pursuit of your dreams.

All my toys are boring

Interestingly we learn at the end of this story that King Triton always possessed the ability to convert fins into legs. Were the merfolk former humans and the ‘Triton’ was invented to install fins on a certain tribe in order to escape an oppressive regime, perhaps Eric’s ancestors? Perhaps in an alternative story, King Triton would have mounted an offensive against the humans with the help of all of the seafolk leading to the overthrowing all of humanity and the instituting a new amphibious race to rule the world. Maybe we should be happy with King Triton’s restraint and the rules he placed on the kingdom.

Now contrast that story with the Lion King.

Under the shadow of Pride Rock, all of the animals dutifully perform their roles as cogs in The Circle of Life. The system is working perfectly and the sun continues to shine until Simba gets too full of himself and seemingly causes the King to die, screeching The Circle to a halt. Rather than fix the mess, Simba runs always from his responsibilities to go hang out with a couple of lowlifes in the Jungle. He runs to the fun place and is having the time of his life eating bugs, drinking, and playing video games.

King Mufasa and Simba share a moment

Simba’s No-Worries lifestyle makes him feel invincible. He nails his ex-girlfriend, seducing her with Elton John. Life couldn’t be better! But after Nala wakes up and knocks over Simba’s bong, she comes to her senses and tells him that he a screw-up and needs to get back to Pride Rock and “MURDER YOUR UNCLE!” Simba looks up at the stars, like thousands of cameras all focused on him, all calling down at him “loser, failure!” Simba remembers his dad always said, “Big Brother is watching.” Feeling guilt and the weight of the world on his shoulders, Simba single-handedly commits a coup against his uncle’s regime. The fires subside and the sun comes back out, allowing Simba gets back to the ol’ 9-to-5 routine and hunkers down to start a family. His 401K regains value and the Circle of Life coughs back to life, with all of the animals falling lockstep into their preassigned duties. The lesson we learn is that You must do your duty, young man, in order for the system to work properly. You are not free to waste your time with selfish dreams and fun when there is work to be done.

The primary character princess’ story arc hasn’t really changed since the 40’s with Cinderella. Rapunzel, Belle, and Mulan are all charging towards their dreams, challenging the oppressive forces that hold them back. Imagine if Elsa’s dad had encouraged her to hone her natural ability instead of being verbally abusive to her, telling her she’s a freak (it’s in the deleted scenes). Elsa could have used her magic (and a loan from her family) to start the world’s first year-round ski resort. After a few years she becomes mired in the day-to-day operations of the business and loses sight of why she started it the first place. An accounting error causes her to hastily fire her CFO and lash out at the entire ski patrol staff. After a long mountain journey, a talking bear named Solveig helps her realize that she was responsible for the accounting error and mistreatment of her staff. Elsa reluctantly relents her mistakes and apologizes to her staff, bringing them all back for a huge mountain ice castle party. She turns the keys over to the former CFO and begins her own HVAC installation business. Then Disney’s stock tanks, but for the first time a girl learned a life lesson.

It’s a bit more difficult to find primary male characters to apply the same test. A majority of recent animated Disney movies don’t feature a male primary character. Prince Charming is a flat mindless character driven by the duty of chivalry with no arc whatsoever. Arthur enjoys being several different animals with Merlin until he assumes his duty with the Sword in the Stone. Tarzan enjoys swinging in the Jungle all his life until a lady comes along and the savage changes. Peter Pan doesn’t want to grow up until Wendy and friends get captured and he realizes he has to be responsible for them. Then he flies to London in a ship so he can become businessman Robin Williams. (Robin Williams flips the arc over when Peter learns to have fun again in Hook.)

Males mostly fill in their duty as secondary roles in animated Disney movies. Maui, Flynn Ryder, and Kristoff all live a care-free, self-centered lifestyle until a dominating woman comes along and conscripts them into her fantasies which prompts them to realize that they need to grow up.

Over and over, men are selfish and they need to cast off their selfishness to redeem themselves in the audience’s eyes. This is the Beast’s story arc, meanwhile Gaston doubles down on his selfishness which causes his destruction. Selfish women, such as Rapunzel’s Mother Gothel, are also properly villainized. But we rarely see a selfish woman overcoming herself for redemption. Women that are dreamers and can do no wrong. They only need to overcome the outside forces at any cost in order to be redeemed. Am I missing any male primary character that are do-no-wrong dreamers or primary females that overcome their selfishness?

Aladdin is about the only diamond in the rough of Disney plots. He’s one of the few characters that assumes his duties and fulfills his dreams. Initially his natural skills allow him to generally live carefree in a city that oppresses the street rat thieves. The ladies swoon over him, but he dreams to live in the palace. However, outside forces (the caste system) and self-pity (himself) prevent him from improving his station in life. Aladdin redeems himself by overcoming himself with the help of a new encouraging magical friend. With new found self confidence and sense of duty, Aladdin is then able to overcome the outside forces (both Jafar and the caste system) without the immediate help of magic. Aladdin earns the things that he’s always wanted. Aladdin is an all around multidimensional hero.

♫ I’d credit his parents, except he hasn’t got ’em! ♫

I found this article, that speculates that Disney hates boys. I’m not interested in guessing Disney’s motivations nor saying that their films are right or wrong. They just are. And despite their excellent quality and standing power, the stories are all arguably derivative and formulaic. I grew up with and loved these movies in the 80’s and 90’s and my kids are growing up with them now. Disney is not responsible for my kids’ upbringing. I am. I’m definitely not going to teach my daughter to mindlessly pursue her dreams and that everyone is out to get her – that’s recipe for years with a psychiatrist.  Nor am I going to singularly teach my son that he has an inherent selfishness that must be overcome by becoming an unwilling cog in the machine of life. A balance of duty and dreams is important for every girl and boy.

I’m a dad (and a multidimensional character too) that reads & watches these stories over and over again and can’t ignore these patterns. It’s up to your imagination if you want to believe Disney’s stories reflect a representative real life male/female stereotypes or if they’re just repeating the formula that works. I was encouraged after reading Ed Catmull’s Creativity Inc. which is about the founding of Pixar and a guide for creative management – and explains a bit of why Pixar’s stories are a arguably more complex. “Getting the story right” is important at Pixar and it has to be rubbing off on Disney since the acquisition over a decade ago.

When my daughter came back to me after singing on her boat, I asked her if Moana left the island. She said “No”. Wait, WHAT? I didn’t know what was going on in her 5 years old head, and I’m aware that I’m definitely over thinking it, but my guess is she wanted to play out the story and needed me to play the oppressive father to put more emotion into her singing. But she apparently was too conflicted to disobey her father at this point in her life, even when pretending. Or maybe she’s not ready to disobey yet. Perhaps I should be concerned in the future… over her love of the stars… a precursor to her 2035 announcement of being on the first one-way manned flight to Mars. Maybe I’d have good reason to draw the shades and tell her to stop looking up at night?

♫ The Earth it gives us what we need. And no one leaves! ♫

I stooped down and made sure she understood we were playing and that she will be free to live her life how she wants when she gets older. My son was still hiding under the trampoline, waiting for Moana to set him free. I told my daughter she better go free Maui so they could go on an adventure together. She said, “OK!” and ran to play with her brother.

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Bees Hate him! Local Man Cures Allergies with One Simple Trick!

Pollen is in the air! And it’s blowing into your nose and mouth and eyes. Pollen is the body’s ultimate fake news that sparks a perennial histamine outrage. Histamine makes your body offended by a season and gives it an excuse to cry about something that doesn’t exist and shouldn’t matter.

In the Middle Ages, the symptoms of histamine were mistaken for possession by the Devil. Back then, the only solution available for an allergy sufferer was to slide their neck below a guillotine for temporary relief from demonic fluid draining from their faces.

But at some point between the Middle Ages and Johnson and Johnson, one man, running from the guillotine demon hunter mobs, began furiously rubbing his eyes to obtain temporary relief, even though he knew it would make it worse, and ran head first into a hollow tree. The tree was filled with bees. The man found his head and mouth covered in honey. And he felt a little better (despite the stings). The honey cured his allergies (for a few minutes)! He was proudly accepted back into his village and allowed to keep his neck*.

This moment in history marks the birthplace of natural immunotherapy allergy treatments. It works** because eating the pollen particles left in the honey obviously desensitize your body to the pollen you experience in the air, thus reducing your histamine response. It just makes sense! Just like how sharing heroine needles can help ward off non-hodgskins lymphoma and scheduling your spring break in Chernobyl might just be the best thing for that thyroid cancer – consuming more of the thing that hurts you just makes sense! Now everyone nod and agree!

Since I keep bees, I have my own honey that contains local pollen. In early April I tried eating my own bees’ honey. “It’s working! Local honey immunotherapy is a thing that works!” I screamed at a flower. As the season progressed, I realized I had judged far too quickly to start yelling to plants about something I didn’t know very much about. Honey with tea, twice a day was not keeping the face faucet monster away.

The honey immunotherapy kind of worked while I was actually consuming the honey. Naturally I filled a human sized hampster water bottle full of honey over my desk at work. My boss was totally on board with my productivity increase. However, work was not supportive of me purchasing a life sized hamster wheel with my AMEX and mounting it to the wall so I could blow off some that extra energy.

This immunotherapy just wasn’t working.

I went to my bees to get some answers.

Upon arrival, I threw a jar of honey at my bee hive, shattering glass and honey everywhere. “This stuff is busted!” I yelled at them.

The bees quickly began sucking up the honey and putting it in storage and worked together to fly the glass pieces to the recycle bin. One bee asked me to explain what all the fuss was about.

“Make the kind of honey that makes my eye lids not hurt and mucus pour out all of my head holes!” I demanded.

The bee answered, “Aren’t you the guy that makes us think that our hive is on fire and rips the roof off of our house every other week? Why would we want to help you?”

“You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me. I’m your dad and you do as I say. Make me immunotherapy honey, now!”

All of the bees started laughing at me with their little bee laughs. “Haha, whatever man! Don’t believe everything you read online!”

The worker jumped on to my veil, laughing and wagging her stinger at me. When she did, a puff of pollen flew at my face and I sneezed. The spray atomized through my veil and soaked the whole hive. The bees got right to work cleaning it up.

“Gross you sick bastard!” she said and flipped me the bird. “I’m going to tell the qu- CHOO!” The little bee made a cute tiny sneeze. Suddenly all of the bees started sneezing in a cacophony of cute bee sneezes.

“AH HA!” I told the bees. “That’s called histamine! And now your little bee bodies think the air is poison too. Now you really need to make some immunotherapy honey if you want to survive!”

After only a few moments of experiencing my allergies, the worker jumped on my mask again and pleaded for me to do something, anything! “Please!” she said with gross snot dripping down her face. “I can’t see where I’m going! My head feels like it’s going to explode and I don’t have enough hands to itch all 5 of my eyes!”

I considered her plea. I thought of the middle ages and building a little bee guillotine to help all of the bees out of their misery. But a hive of little headless bees sounded frightening, so I did the only thing I knew to do how when my antihistamines aren’t working.

I brought back a few bottles of Sudafed and Mucinex and set them in front of the hive. The bees immediately started going into the bottles, but the stupid workers couldn’t figure out how to get out of the bottle and they started drowning. Now I had two problems on my hands!

So, I shoved a yellow sponge down each bottle and decorated the rim with some flower petals. The sponge wicked up the medicine and the bees began feasting on it. Soon their sneezing slowed down and stopped altogether. The bees all fist pumped to me and let out several hearty bee huzzahs!

As an added benefit the bees brought the Sudafed nectar back to their hive and began storing it in their cells, mixing it with nectar and drying it out with their wings. The honey stores began to fill with a golden red color. It looked like I was going to get my all natural immunotherapy honey after all!

* The villager was allowed to keep his neck… until the villager’s latent demon caused a hypoglycemic diabetic shock after consuming vast amounts of honey the following spring.

**Does not work.

USA Inc. Corporate Citizen Orientation 

A lot of people look forward to having a business man in the white house. He’ll run the country like a corporation, they say. Having worked for a corporation for over a decade, I can say that I’m extremely excited by this proposal. Running the country like a corporation will improve everyone’s life dramatically. Below outlines the details of your benefits package.

Under new management, every citizen will need to be rebadged. Your rfid identification card can be acquired at your local DMV. Your ID must be visibly displayed on your person at all times. The new ID will allow you to gain access to other cities, subject to approval.If you see someone without their badge displayed, contact security immediately. Once you’ve received your ID, you will immediately report to your City Mayor for assignment.

Each City Mayor will be selected by the new Executive Team. Each Mayor will be required to champion the country’s yearly slogan. The 2017 slogan is “Make America Great”. 

All working aged people will be required to maintain employment within their city. Productivity will be monitored through sophisticated tracking technology. Elderly people will be kindly forced into an early Retirement Camp. All non-productive citizens or violators of Country rules will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

An HR2000 discipline drone will seek out each citizen subject to termination. A Citizen will be given 10 minutes to explain their infraction, which will be recorded and ignored by the robot. Terminations will be carried out every Friday afternoon.

Your job and your family are important to your country. In order to continue to provide great service, there are several ethical rules that all Citizens must follow.

Gifts to Citizens in excess of $100 must be reported to the IRS. 

Weapons are prohibited on Country property.

All computer and cell phone activity will be monitored by the management and are only to be used for Country business. The country reserves the right to change its acceptable use at any time without noticed.

All restroom use will be referred to as a “bio-break”. 

Productivity is the most important measure for the Country. Citizen parents may choose be released from their job site on weekends to interact with their children, however this is strongly discouraged as it decreases productivity and may damage the child’s development.

Citizens will be reimbursed for any travel on behalf of Country business. It is Country policy to use the Big Three chain preferred providers for all travel. Failure to obtain prior authorization from a town Mayor will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

All Citizens will be required to complete a yearly physical and obtain a certain amount of fitness points in order to retain mandatory health care coverage. All Citizens will be implanted with a permanent fitness and heart monitor. The Country shall keep your blood sample indefinitely.

All Citizens will be required to complete Annual Citizenship Training. These online modules will ensure each Citizen is provided with mandatory training that will improve their conformity scores and quell individuality uprisings. Mayors will be held responsible for ensuring 99% completion rating for all of these modules and will be the primary focus of the Mayor. A quiz score of 100% is required. Failure may result in “coaching” from an HR2000 compliance drone.

Speaking your mind freely is strongly discouraged. Refer to the Country’s slogan or talking quarterly earnings deck for discussion ideas. Speaking your mind may result in uncomfortable situations or hurt feelings of other Citizens. These matters are taken very seriously and will be investigated by an HR2000. Substantiated claims will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. 

Occasionally towns will be redistricted and reorganized. During a reorganization you may be asked to change your responsibilities, or move to a different location. Your new Mayor will select a new home for you and your family based on those homes vacated during the re-org. If you do not like your selection, you are free to apply for citizenship to other countries.

After each reorganization, several small towns will be eliminated. The Citizens will be relocated to a larger city. This will result in increased productivity and improve each state’s mandatory environmental score. All farms will be worked by robots. 

Working at the Country will be very beneficial to all Citizens! At the end of each year, each Citizen will have the opportunity to earn a profit sharing bonus. Congratulations, this is your reward for all of your hard work and compliance which avoids the dispatching of costly HR2000 drones. After the Mayor reviews each Citizen’s compliance scores, 66% of the discretionary credits will be issued to each Citizen based on an incalculable convoluted process which factors in their arbitrary conformity to the Country’s goals and slogans. A Mayor may keep up to 100% of a Citizen’s bonus based on criteria of their choosing. The Executive Team can reverse this decision at any time and terminate your Mayor and bonus structure without notice.

A Mayor who fails to uphold all of the Country’s goals and slogans will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination. Anyone on the Executive Team who displeases the President can be terminated without cause.

Thank you for joining us in USA Incorporated. Your conformance and compliance is mandatory.

If the thought of the businessman bringing about these changes doesn’t appeal to you, rest assured, citizen, that the creeping government involvement in your every day life can also be attained by voting for the corrupt woman politician. Voting for either will have us skipping merrily towards the singularly of the black hole of progressive totalitarian human control. 

So get out there and vote Corporate Citizen, like your life, liberty, pursuit of happiness inflated sense of an ever increasing minimum set of human requirements depends upon it!

Dishes Flow Chart

Sometimes talking to other people is a great way to convey information. But for an engineer this usually isn’t sufficient. An engineer can only carry a conversation so far before getting frustrated at the words getting in the way. Your engineer will then turn to the white board to map out their thoughts for mutual understanding for all.

That’s why my wife appreciates the flow chart I created for how to do the dishes. This chart allows the dish washer to determine the proper action when faced with each dirty dish. Prior to having the chart we would spend 10 minutes over a steaming sink trying to figure out what the heck to do next. Now with this chart laminated over the kitchen’s workhorse, we can easily follow the steps to the proper action. does-it-go-in-the-sink

This chart is great for not only spouses, but also for children, significant others, and even roommates. It’s especially useful for when family comes over for the holidays. You don’t have to yell at grandma anymore when she gingerly places her egg nog glass in the sink. Instead you can just snap your fingers in her face and point at the chart.

Once you’ve printed and hung this chart in your home, come back and leave a comment about how much better your life has become.

I Made the Robot Angry

Caller: Hi. I’m Meg. We’re offering security systems for your home at no cost to you… Now tell me, how long have you lived at your home?

Me: Oh I don’t have a lot of time here.

Meg: I’m sorry I didn’t catch that.

Me: I said I’m just getting lunch around.

Megbot: (Long pause) So how do you rent or own your system?

Me: Well I own my lunch. I don’t think anyone would want it back after I’m done with it.

Megbot: No, I am a real person.

Me: Me too. But I normally don’t have to go around telling everyone.

Megbot: I take my job very seriously. It sounds like you’re not interested. Good bye!

Me: Bye robot!

Moving Night for the Bees

I wouldn’t trust a neighbor that moves in the middle of the night. You would probably wonder if they’re in witness protection or expect to see them digging holes in their backyard at all hours. Buts that’s the way it is with bees. Bees are always obediently home at curfew or they face having their head bit off by the queen. So the only time to move them is at night. If you moved them during the day, you would have bees landing at the place where their home used to be, forming a homeless club of Clockwork Orange orphans up to no good in the neighborhood, stinging old women and puppies.

So I showed up in the moving truck and shone the headlines in their front window. “Honk honk! It’s moving night!” I yelled and opened the boxes up to make sure they were ready. The bees stuck their stingers up in the air to let me know how happy they were to see me. “You didn’t even box anything up yet! Do you not know how annoying that is when your friends show up to help you move?”

Instead of pizza and beer I brought the bees some sugar cakes that I had made the night before. It was the quick and easy kind of cakes that don’t involve cooking, or effort. It turns out 1 cup of water is way too much for 5 lbs of sugar to get a good hard cake. I had made the cakes on paper plates, so of course they stuck to the plates and came off in clumps. At first was a little disappointed with the hastily made cakes, but when I saw the bees enjoying their new ski slopes, I was pleased to find that we had a new activity to bond over.The Slopes

This site suggested I screen the front hole and lock the bees in for about 72 hours. I brought along some drywall mesh tape, which failed miserably to stick to the hive, so I plugged the entrance with some sugar snow cake instead. I figured the bees could eat their way, the same way the release the queen. This is the same logic of an Escape Room with a big cheese burger blocking the door. The puzzle solvers would nearly starve for 3 days, and wonder if they still have jobs, until one guy finally suggests they start eating the cheese burger and in a few hours they are free!Food Door

I ratchet strapped the bee boxes and carefully loaded them into the truck like I was carrying cartoon nitroglycerin. In the mild cold the bees are very docile, but I can’t imagine the reaction if I dropped a bomb of 80,000 bees right next to myself. So, yeah, I wore my suit. After loading them up, I slowly drove the bees to their new home while they enjoyed the slopes at Beeckenridge. (ugh)

New HomeSuccess! I didn’t jar them to death in the move. If they survive the winter it will be sugar cakes for everyone!

New Research! Bacon Causes Cancer

Tobias finished charting his spreadsheet and grinned at the results. “Christina, it’s done!” he called.

Christina peered at the monitor and shrieked with joy. “Oh my Gosh! By every account, consumption of processed meats shows a strong link to the growth of cancer cells.” She hugged him. “This is our big break Tobias! You pretty up the graphs and I’ll begin the report. Maybe well make it in some science journals!”

“Pffffffffffft! Science journals?” Gunther launched himself towards the two research students from his desk across the room. “Processed meats cause cancer? You guys are putting me to sleep over here!”

“Actually it’s pretty exciting. We’ve spent trillions of dollars on this thanks to funding from the world’s governments!” Tobias protested and Gunther forced a hand into his face.

“No Bacon Breath; your angle’s all wrong. What you’ve got is 100% Grade A pasteurized Click. Bait. First of all what are processed meats? Sliced Turkey? Bacon? People love their bacon. People have strong opinions on their bacon. What you need to do is drive a wedge between people. Paint a picture that pits people who like bacon against the vegetarians. You’ll be all over Facebook, Twitter, morning radio, water coolers, Keurig machines, everywhere! You want grant money? Here it is!” He pantomimed ‘making it rain’.

“Science and research are a thing of the past! This is the new science. Getting your story out as soon as you come to some sort of cursory conclusion is your top priority. The more sensational and divisive the better.” Gunther paused and leaned in whispering, “The more eyes, the better.”

“But, our research doesn’t offer an explanation directly about bacon, Gunther!” Christina whined. “This is just a simple ANOVA correlation completed as a study for the World Health Organization. We’re hoping that this is a step in the direction of ending the meat industry and ultimately forcing people to live in pods and live on feeding tubes.”

Gunther flapped his hands at Tobias, miming Christina while she talked. He waggled a finger at her, “Click. Bait.” Gunther slipped his sunglasses over his eyes. “Kids I gotta run.” Gunther stormed out of the room howling and grabbing a fistful of bacon from the breakfast tray as he stiff-armed the door.