The Peanuts Movie – Good Grief You’re In 3-D Charlie Brown – A Review

(Image Credit Mashable.com)

I know we hard-core fans of the comic strip “Peanuts” were shocked and dismayed when we learned Hollywood couldn’t help itself from sucking in even more revenue by scooping up and sending off our innocent, timeless beloved characters to the big screen (with the appropriate corporate tie-ins, of course) in computer animation…and in three dimensions no less.

Rest easy those of us nuts for Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts.” You can put down the pitchforks and plunk down the money to see “The Peanuts Movie.” And if available to you…do see the 3-D version.

You probably can’t find one positive review to this film that doesn’t allude to it being a “love letter” to all fans that have followed Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang for sixty-five years plus now. I believe this is considered the fifth theatrical movie featuring the “Peanuts” gang. I remember seeing the first with my Dad…1969’s “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” (The last one shown in theaters was 1980’s “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown”)

USA Today writer Bryan Alexander noted in a recent column Producer Craig Schulz (Schulz’s son) was determined if any new project was going to be made in this day and age it would be done the Schulz way – timeless and classic. Blue Sky Studios said they would honor his challenge.

They met their commitment and then some…guided by a screenplay carefully and lovingly crafted by Schulz, his son Bryan and Cornelius Uliano. Just about anything you associate or remember from this historic strip or its iconic television specials is stuffed into a film that only runs ninety minutes or so. Flying a kite, playing losing baseball, that Little Red-Haired Girl, the evil Red Baron, the jazz themes of Vince Guaraldi, trying to kick a football, paying five cents to see a shrink. It’s all here. It pretty much plays out like a longer version of the television specials that have meant so much to so many for so long. However…make no mistake it is indeed enriched and enhanced by the modern technology we fans originally feared.  All the characters…they jump off the screen (especially in 3-D).

Mind you this is not “Star Wars.” (There are some aerial fight scenes but let’s not give too much away here)

Director Steve Martino understood quite well he was dealing with a global fan base already on edge a film was even being done. Martino as quoted by Alexander, “It was not the time to be reinventing (these characters).” Martino was likely selected for how critics believed he preserved the sensibilities of Dr. Seuss’ Horton in his 2008 adaptation of “Horton Hears A Who!”

This is a G-rated, wholesome children’s movie…for adult fans of “Peanuts.” It is a newly-generated form of artistic expression designed to pay tribute to what this comic strip has meant to the world. I highly doubt a new generation of youthful followers will spring forth. That would be great. I hope everyone who has loved these characters has passed them down through the ages but in an era where your four-year old can show you how to turn Wi-Fi on and off on your smart phone…well, this quiet, simple film is likely not going to take over their lives. I don’t know how many kiddies we can expect to leave the theater with a burning desire to learn more about the richness and quality of Schulz’s long-running strip and its stars.

Indeed…there are a couple new “twists” added for veterans of “Peanuts” including a pop song by Meghan Trainor. But none of the new takes from the familiar.

The release of this movie in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the first airing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on TV later this month will surely leave an indelible, memorable impression on every fan.

Stay patient and wait for the credits to end. I promise you’ll get one more memory (and smile) to leave the theater with…on top of all the other memories and smiles you’ll take home…

I am positive Charles M. Schulz would have put his stamp of approval on this hi-tech take to his classic characters.

So shall I.

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Posted in Cinema, Comics, Entertainment, Family, Film, Home, Humor, Life, Media, Movies, Opinion, Peanuts, Review, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Finicky Fussy Philly Ficus

What is affectionately known as the “Finicky Fussy Philly Ficus” a year ago…

And now…

The backstory to this ficus tree is it was a present from the in-laws several years ago and kinda looked to me like it was rather DOA – I didn’t know a thing about them. It was only a foot or so high. I (gently) suggested putting it out of its apparent misery but my wife suggested we give it a little more time…we even hung a few small ornaments on it at Christmas.

And here we are a few years later. We were warned these are finicky, fussy plants but never expected this.

At the rate of growth building on an addition is not yet on the table but you never know.

Maybe it was those Christmas ornaments? (We still decorate it…)

Maybe it was simply because we never gave up on it. A good lesson that can be applied to a lot of areas…not just a corner of a room within a home.

Ficus likes us.

Posted in Christmas, Faith, Family, Flowers, Gardening, Home, Life, Nature, Plants, Spirituality, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Men Often Go Awry

Our title comes via the poet and lyricist Robert Burns (whom my father either was or was not named after).

Some background. I have another WordPress web site (sportsattitudes) where I remind readers on occasion why I rarely make predictions. Posts there often are a mash-up of life (reality) with sports (far removed from reality) with intriguing results. (I am not above self-promotion…try it…you’ll like it)

For those who are brave enough to venture into the world of planning sports results…or predicting results of anything for that matter…let me offer this true story of events eight miles from my home a few months ago. It should be noted no one was injured during the making of this life lesson of how the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

More background. Two years ago my wife and I were at the dentist for our six-month check-ups and noticed work had begun across the road (roughly 75 yards away) for an ultra-modern, state-of-the-art fire station. We had heard the local fire company had outgrown their existing facility in town and was relocating directly across the road from the strip mall shopping center our dentist was working out of. The station under construction already looked quite impressive. The dentist and her personnel assured us we were far from unique in making jokes about what happens if someone is having a delicate drill procedure done when those sirens start wailing. Trips to the dentist are nervy enough without wondering if your nerves…or the dentist’s…will be compromised by that sudden sound to service. One thing we could all agree on was it was comforting to know if any fire did happen in the immediate area help was so close you could throw a rock at it. The location in fact made it more flexible for the fire company to get to all the territory they normally cover instead of being in the center of town as currently located.

A great plan all the way around. And…you could easily predict our dentist office couldn’t be more safe.

You know where this is going don’t you?

On May 12th our dentist and her personnel stood outside with the other occupants and visitors of ten businesses as they burned. To the ground.

If that mall had an “evacuation area” like large companies do it would have surely been the ultra-modern, state-of-the-art fire station that had been in operation for some time.

There was a fire that erupted across town. The station dutifully responded to the call and raced its resources to that scene. And the ultra-modern, state-of-the-art fire station across the street from the shopping center was temporarily vacant…as a fire broke out within one of the businesses in the center. The structure was older and did not feature a sprinkler system.

I would suggest sending flowers to the business owners…but the fire began in a flower shop.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Some of the businesses have already found new office space to relocate to. In fact the pizza shop that was forced to relocate found a great location that will allow them to expand their menu and even offer outdoor seating.

Our dentist is currently looking at a more-spacious property than she previously worked within also.

However…it IS a little farther from the fire station.

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Death? I’ve Got Options

For whatever reasons a couple of days ago…after all the years living where I do…I noticed there are three funeral homes all within but six miles of my residence.

Heck…two of them are directly across the street from each other.

Perhaps it came to mind because two of the three were concluding services at the same time and trying to assist traffic out onto the main street.

Perhaps it came to mind because it was a miserable weather day…making sending the dearly departed off in style a bit more challenging.

Perhaps it came to mind because I remembered I’m dying.

We all are you know.  Whether we’re judged to be 100% healthy or not.

A day lived…is a day closer to all our end of days.

Now that may sound like I’m a glass half-empty guy but I’d like to think quite the opposite. For if we all truly embrace no day is guaranteed and it is up to us to fill it up…then I become a glass half-full guy…don’t I?

The point is we all have an unknown yet finite time in this world. We should strive to make the most of it.

“The greatest possession you have is the twenty-four hours directly in front of you.”

And it is comforting to know when my glass finally reads “E” I’ve got options.

At least three.

Posted in Blogging, Death, Family, Health, Home, Life, Personal, Spirituality, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Pope Francis Makes Eternal Impression

Pope silhouette

Pope Francis’ visit to our Philadelphia region has ended but for me one aspect of his tour will stay with me forever.

I’m not Catholic…I am a Christian. But one quote attributed to this Pope should always be cause for reflection regardless of Faith…regardless of whether you even believe in any higher power at all:

“A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.”

Yesterday as local stations continued their coverage I paused to watch his visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia. Attending the Pope’s speech were male and female inmates from across the Philadelphia Prison System, their families, prison staff and local officials. Also present were relatives of Patrick Curran and Robert Fromhold, the former Warden and Deputy Warden for whom the prison (formerly Holmesburg) is named…murdered in the line of duty by inmates in 1973.

Prison reform is one of this Pope’s top priorities and he relayed that by including himself in saying, “All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. And me in first place.” 

He continued, “I am here as a pastor but above all as a brother, to share your situation and make it my own.”

The message was clear during his fifteen-minute speech he feels strongly there is a critical need to emphasize hope and rehabilitation for and in every punishment. “He wants us to keep walking the paths of life, to realize that we have a mission, and that confinement is not the same thing as exclusion.”

Further, “It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities.”

But indeed on this day – as often we find so true in life – actions speak much louder than words.

At the conclusion of his speech the Pope made it a point to wade through the audience and meet with each and every prisoner and family member.

Seeing him interact with those incarcerated – and their families – was a wake-up call for anyone watching him move slowly and patiently among those in attendance…those behind bars are human beings. Their family members are human beings. We so often mentally throw away the key for all concerned when we hear of someone sentenced to serve time.

The local press reminded us the United States houses 25 percent of the world’s inmates but only 5 percent of the world’s population. That fact should indeed demand our immediate attention.

I saw the peaceful and hopeful looks on the faces of those inmates and their families as they met with Pope Francis and was embarrassingly reminded – forever now – regardless of whom or what you believe in these people are human beings.

Human beings can do a lot better making the world less cold and more just.

The Pope highlighted yesterday one aspect of our society where we should start.

Posted in Catholic, Christianity, Culture, Faith, Family, Home, Personal, Pope, Religion, Spirituality, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Four-Way No Way For Highway

This post continues the “lifeattitudes reprise series”…a fancy way of saying it appeared a few years back and is refreshed now for those who missed it the first time around…enjoy.

I come before you today to plead my case for outlawing all four-way stop intersections in America.

I can’t speak for the rest of Mother Earth but having driven over a good part of the U.S. I feel we can agree on the fact our citizens are completely unable to process the requirements of successfully navigating the Mother of all driving dilemmas… four-way stop intersections.

All my wife and I were trying to do was get home with our beloved Chinese food. We were not in a particular rush as our local establishment manages to pack out our order at a temperature equivalent to the surface of the sun…which is fine because we do like the food hot…and it does re-enter the atmosphere of safe eating by the time we get it home.

Yet there are these multiple four-way stop intersections without lights in our community…lots of them. Why this is I don’t know. Some sadist in charge of “transportation planning.” You’ve surely seen many fine examples of what happens when road engineers get approval for a project they claim needs to be executed. Drivers usually wish to be executed shortly after these people get their paws on our highways.

On the way home as we were carefully negotiating and navigating our way across a couple of these four-way stops I actually said to my wife how people just seemed incapable of knowing who was next to go, who had the right of way, etc. I usually have my guard up as we traverse this minefield of madness. Little did I know I was foreshadowing one of my all-time incidents at one of these heinous highway requirements.

As I approached the final four-way stop of the evening I encountered but one car out of the possible three. Sweet. I felt comfortable my wife and our flaming food would conquer this last hurdle and allow us to have a relaxing dining experience in the comfort of our own home…just a 1/4 mile away at this point.

However while I clearly was the first of the two cars to arrive at my stop sign, the driver of the other vehicle pulled up…stopped briefly…and then rolled into the intersection.

It was MY turn. (Instant replay would have confirmed it) I was already at my stop sign and was only waiting for that other car to come to a stop. It was MY turn.

Having been violated for the umpteenth time at this particular locale I rolled out into the intersection as well. I mean…if you don’t at least try to train these people what hope do we have? The other car stopped.

Success.

At this point I felt they had learned their lesson well and I proceeded forward once more…but alas…they did also.

It was like a small child was toying with me. I hadn’t even bothered to see who was piloting the opposition vehicle…yet.

Both cars are now practically parked in the middle of the intersection.

The first obscene gesture was made by the driver of the other car. I point that out with a sense of great pride because what I did immediately thereafter will not go down as one of my finest moments. My wife will verify this.

I returned said foul hand gesture with one of my own. I then locked eyes with my intersectional enemy (a woman who looked to be about our age with a cell phone attached to her head) and rattled off a stream of obscenities clearly audible regardless of the windows being up and the A/C on. Regardless of the decibel count you did not have to be a lip reader to get the context of my speech.

Having completed both the requisite opening hand gesture and follow-up remarks I then took the lead and sped off, clearing the intersection first.

And then…flush with adrenaline and filled with the sense of victory…the honk of a horn in the distance.

Having vanquished the other driver I guess it was her way of trying to win her war even if her battle was lost. I was about to take the high road on this one…but I…just…couldn’t.

I honked back.

Needless to say the discussion during the consumption of the now-cooled Chinese food was how I needed to be cooler at these intersections. Take it in stride, don’t get so upset. This from a woman who has come home from many a drive with the same exact stories of frustration and fury…well, ok…without the gestures and cursing.

I’m not a road rage fellow at all. I wave people along all the time. I take pride in not posting pedestrians on my hood. I’m a good guy at the wheel.

However I have come to the conclusion we all need to see the light…and install a light…at each and every four-way stop.

With these lights…maybe then I’ll lighten up.

Posted in Culture, Family, Home, Humor, Life, Opinion, Relationships, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Grocery List – I Have No Reservations

This post begins the “lifeattitudes reprise series”…a fancy way of saying it appeared a few years back and is refreshed now for those who missed it the first time around…enjoy.

Each week my wife and I compile a grocery list. It is carefully crafted and designed to efficiently go to no more than a couple of food stores on the weekend. We have to go to at least two because one doesn’t have what the other one does. After 32 years of marriage and more time solo as a pro grocery shopper I have (sadly) learned this to be true.

The grocery list construction starts mid-week and is “finalized” by Friday night.

More accurately however it is only in its “final stages.”

After conferring with other married men…some who shop with their wives…but others who do not…there is a universal consensus this is standard operating procedure in any relationship and to be accepted without fail. The grocery list we men think is the final list is not the final list.

The final list very much remains a work in progress…even while in the act of shopping.

Reminds me of the “Seinfeld” episode where Jerry is picking up an auto he thinks is waiting for him at a rental car location. They don’t have the car. They insist they know how to make a reservation. I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation…and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.”

I have come to accept we know how to write a grocery list…we just don’t know how to complete a grocery list.

And to stay happily married the most important part of our final grocery list is my not having any reservations at all …about it being not final.

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I Brake For Pumpkins

Pumpkin

It is Pennsylvania state law to stop when there are pedestrians in a crosswalk. The same protection is not automatically afforded pumpkins.

The area in front of our Wegmans superstore is not super. There are literally thousands of cars daily crossing in front of its entrance…as are customers navigating getting groceries.

The crosswalk is the safe haven where shoppers can align themselves when taking those final, fateful steps in and out of the store. In theory everyone seeing pedestrians stops politely and allows them protected passage.

In theory.

Older folks, who can sometimes melt ice with their heated dialogue when playing the role of pedestrians and are not honored with safe passage appear to strip their gears in anger when having to brake for pedestrians. If they don’t see anyone (and in their eyesight I trust) they’re often mashing the pedal straight ahead at warp speed.

The younger, technology-distracted drivers don’t seem to mind bringing their cars to a stop when they come up for air and notice where they actually are. They usually meander at a low speed and admittedly don’t stop talking or texting…but that’s fine for pedestrians as long as they stop.

Harried homemakers, driving vehicles big enough for both lanes, are resigned to stopping but often disgustedly gesture you across…even though as a pedestrian it’s already your right-of-way.

Which brings us to pumpkins. My wife and I decided to grab a cart and pick up three large pumpkins this morning to eventually decorate our front porch. We carefully and lovingly determined which ones looked the best and would stay stout throughout the season.

After checking them out…and checking out…it was off to the crosswalk.

It should be noted as habit I put my sunglasses on just as I step outside the store. This does require me to take my hands off the cart just briefly but, even with a small incline ahead leading into the crosswalk I never have any issue getting the cart firmly under control with sunglasses firmly in place.

Until this morning.

When I underestimated the overall weight of the three pumpkins in the cart.

And the cart started to roll.  Away.

At the point I estimated the pumpkins would arrive in the crosswalk before my wife and I the split decision was made to abandon fitting my sunglasses perfectly and focus on saving the pumpkins from having the shortest life span of any decorations in our history.

I got both hands on the cart just before its wheels entered the crosswalk.

Blessedly there were no cars driving in either direction.

I thought I was out of the woods at that point but there was soon a second, unforeseen crosswalk to navigate.

Walking with my wife…who was cross with me about not having cart in hand at the crosswalk. Indeed we had a cart-crashing close call. And it’s barely safe for us crossers as it is.

I gladly brake for everyone in the crosswalk. I would hope everyone else would too.

Pumpkins included.

Posted in Crafts, Family, Food, Halloween, Home, Humor, Life, People, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

September 11th

Like many others every time I see or hear that date (or its cruel partner 9/11) it sends a chill up my spine. I get sad. I become reflective.

On September 11, 2001 I awoke with thoughts of attending a job interview later that day. Having recently been laid off as a result of a manufacturing facility closing I was looking forward to discussing a new career option not far from my home. I kissed my wife good-bye as she headed off to work and then sat down to watch CNN to see what was going on in the world.

I was watching CNN when the first plane hit. Instinctively I called my wife to ask if she knew what had happened. She did. I was still on the phone with her when the second plane crashed. We had no words. Dead silence partnered with the obvious deaths that had already taken place.

The precise timing of information flow that day admittedly gets fuzzy fourteen years later. The other planes and locations. The towers coming down. Over time it has morphed into one huge, horrible blur.

My interview – it was scheduled for the afternoon. I had received no call canceling it but upon arrival the company had indeed closed for the day. The uncertainty of who was involved and why these acts of evil occurred obviously led many businesses to decide to let their employees go home to their loved ones.

My wife and I were reunited shortly upon my return. I don’t recall ever hugging her harder before that moment.

And I haven’t stopped since.

Aside from the very mention of the date causing me to pause whenever I come across it now…there is one other way it fundamentally changed my life forever.

When I say good-bye to my wife each day I make sure she knows how very much I love her.

Do not ever take those you love for granted…but especially when parting.

That’s a part I have played ever since…September 11th.

Posted in 9/11, Faith, Family, Life, Personal, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Weather Channel To Cover (More) Weather

For the last few years the Weather Channel has – even during live, severe weather events you’d think would warrant coverage and actually garner them more viewership – run reality shows and documentaries.

According to a story in Variety that’s about to change. The Weather Channel will once again focus on…weather. They are cutting back on personnel, tightening their belts and getting back to why they started the network in the first place as they weather a financial downturn…perhaps as a result of straying from the obvious journey they originally set sail on?

In Philadelphia most of our nightly news is turned over to the weather folks. Our TV stations use weather to tease the audience to watch nightly newscasts during their evening slate of shows. We are fascinated with the weather here because we a) always complain about it and b) can’t handle it. Nothing guarantees higher television news ratings in this region than an approaching front. Our stations don’t hesitate to sensationalize the potential for any and all storms. They get eyeballs by selling uncertainty and fear.

Indeed, we have more power outages than ever and they last longer than ever as well. It only takes an approaching thunderstorm to create the equivalent of an Emergency Broadcasting Test.

And also true, we have historically shown a complete inability to navigate even the weakest winter weather. Our ratio for auto collision/repair shops to residents is legendary.

If we get a few inches of snow? Look, if our residents aren’t out buying enough milk, bread and eggs to feed 1,000 people each they are all transfixed on their televisions.

The Weather Channel has shown a passion (when actually covering it) for sticking their personnel in harm’s way because they feel we somehow need to see a person getting pummeled by weather. We’ve all been there. Where they do come in handy for us in the Northeast is when bad weather arrives. Our local stations start to slowly turn to the human-interest aspects of situations people find themselves in when the atmosphere betrays us. We like to have the Weather Channel on “stand-by” as they (should) continuously display their radars and (should) discuss projected paths regarding the depth and length of the weather challenge at-hand.

Now…no one has a larger room for error and still maintains their jobs like meteorologists. That being said for what we can’t see out our window…well, they’re all we have.

So if the Weather Channel is going to cover more weather I’m betting a lot of folks in this area are happy…whether they like weather or not.

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The Irony Of Pope Francis Comparing Gossip To Terrorism

Pope Francis is expected in our neck of the woods at the end of this month.

Many will have to strain their necks just to get a glimpse of him in person based on current plans.

Obviously those in charge are charged with protecting the Pope the best they can.  And that’s a good thing.  However most folks here have found the large area being “locked down” before, during and after his appearances is going to inconvenience many people who don’t have any interest in the visit and/or are just trying to get to work, run their businesses …live their lives.  (People should not have to sleep overnight at work because they can’t come back the next day for example) The locations for these events are unfortunately designed for nice photo-ops more than an opportunity to nicely honor religious beliefs.

Ironically last Friday Pope Francis was quoted as saying “Gossiping is like terrorism because the person who gossips is like a terrorist who throws a bomb and runs away, destroying.  With their tongue they are destroying and not making peace.”

Ironically it is that very fear of what we generally consider a terrorist that will not only keep the Pope from walking among the masses but likely will also make some devoted followers feel they are not even in the same zip code.

Then again I did find this in my Daily Devotional as I turned the page to September:

“A real Christian is the one who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.”

Words to live by regardless of our Faith…and ones we should encourage the passing on as well.

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A Tardy Teacher…A Broad Brush…Don’t Pass Stereotypes On

Perhaps you saw the story regarding an elementary school teacher in New Jersey who was admittedly late over 100 times in the past two school years combined yet retained his position.

He has been suspended without pay from the beginning of this school year until January.

The teacher maintains he had a habit of eating breakfast at home…and thereby lost track of time.  Each time.

Governor Chris Christie expressed his frustration on Twitter…“Think I’m too tough on the teachers union?  This is what we’re dealing with in NJ.”  He signed into law a tenure reform law in 2012 which was supposed to make it easier to remove educators deemed to not be fulfilling their obligations.  It sounds like the only thing that really happened is arbitration decisions have returned said teachers to the classrooms as suspensions have been found to be more appropriate than terminations…at least initially.

This was just another entry read and filed away mentally off my news feed until I was listening to the radio this morning and the show hosts were making fun of it.  A man called in stating he was a teacher and he and his fellow co-workers are fed up with this story specifically and the way teachers are treated generally by the media when it comes to their dedication to duty. He said teachers work hard…work under difficult circumstances at times…and do not deserve to be painted in such a negative shade with the easy, lazy broad brush the media seems to pull out each time someone in their profession doesn’t perform it well.

Why WAS this a national news item? Was it because Chris Christie, a candidate for President, was trying to show the challenge faced in his position dealing with union politics? Was it because in many jobs you’d be excused from work after a couple bouts with lateness let alone at least 46 times the school year past…and 65 times the year before? Perhaps it was worth our attention because a lot of folks are still scrambling for any employment and would be most grateful for the chance to prove their punctuality? The headline to the story did happen to mention the teacher in question makes $90,000 annually…a living wage to be sure.

All of the above I’m sure…but the gentleman who called the radio station was also certainly correct.  A lot of us embrace stereotypes and paint a broad brush over most anyone’s occupation when but one within fails. These stereotypes are a part of our culture, our entertainment.

I hope when we see the jokes and ridicule generated from stereotypes, however and whenever presented, we are smart enough to refocus and confine attention to the specific individual and situation at hand…and not let stereotypes get out of hand…and not pass them on.

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