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August 2019

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Last month Taylor Swift got stung by a business deal gone bad.  This month she’s made it clear that she will follow Kelly Clarkson’s advice to re-record the music from her first six albums, the ones now owned by her nemesis Scooter Braun.  Once re-recorded she will effectively make the earlier work obsolete, which will reduce its value to Braun and give her at least some control of her musical history. This is another story to add to a long list of recording artists who lost the rights to their own musical past.  Some lost the rights forever while others fought expensive legal battles to get back what was theirs – see Billy Joel.  Most of the artists, who lost their rights, did so by signing them away when they were too young to know better or too anxious for a career to care. Taylor Swift was neither.  She had proper representation and she cared – even at her young age.  Her original deal made her a wealthy woman, unlike many artists who got very little for their creativity.  In Taylor’s case, the deal blew up at the very end, when she wanted out.  The exit fee was too much for her to accept and Scott Borchetta, owner of her record label, Big Machine, sold out.  In walked Scooter. At the end, this is a fight between three people, all of whom are worth hundreds of millions.

Chris Hemsworth is best known for his role as Marvel’s Thor, God of Thunder and for his incredible physique.  Hemsworth, 36, took to Instagram to show off his workout routine.  The videos are an abbreviated form of his paid fitness app Centrfit, which is called “666 Workout,” not to be mistaken for the devil, although some say the workout is like going through hell.

666 signifies – six repetitions of six sets of six exercises. The video in his Instagram post focused on his back and biceps.  Chris goes through numerous pull exercises; pullups, curls, rows, and deadlifts.

Despite all the traveling he does, he rarely misses a workout, but because of selfie hunters, he rarely trains in a public gym.  Instead he gets it done in his room.

Beyond the workouts, Chris follows disciplined, healthy eating habits. He says he tends to eat fish later in the day over meats as it helps him sleep better. His body digests fish protein better overnight than meat protein. While he doesn’t reveal any tips about growing flawlessly, god-like hair, his Centrfit app has a ton of great high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts and diet suggestions that can help the average Joe get on the path to becoming, if not a God of Thunder, at least a helper.  Check out Hemsworth’s Instagram for footage.

Kids’ safety on the internet is something about which that all parents should be concerned.  A recent survey by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education shows disturbing results about the way kids are using the internet. Many kids don’t understand safe from unsafe digital behavior, which should alarm parents.

The Center’s surveyed of 4th to 8th graders discovered that 40 percent of them had used the internet to connect with strangers and that over 50 percent had given their phone number to strangers. Twenty-one percent of them admitted to speaking to a stranger on the phone while 30 percent of them had texted a stranger. Fifteen percent had met up with a stranger in person, 11 percent had visited a strangers’ house and 6 percent had given a stranger their address.

Another disturbing pattern is that kids use the internet at all hours. Forty-nine percent claim to be online at 11pm and 33 percent claim to be online past midnight. Late nights and talking to strangers are not good activities for pre-teens and teens.

Also, kids often know they are misbehaving: 29 percent admitted to using the internet in ways that their parents wouldn’t approve and a third of them admitted to lying about their age to access adult programs.

Meeting bad people at all hours of the night is not the only internet usage risk to children. Self-esteem issues from cyber bullying and gossip is another major problem. Then there is tech addiction that prevents many young children from healthy levels of interaction with nature and friends – not to mention that late hours hamper school work. Given how ill-informed most children are about healthy internet safety standards, it’s important for parents to educate their kids about what’s proper. Further, children need parental controls to prevent them from making mistakes even after they’ve been schooled about healthy internet behavior.

The Amazon rainforest is one of the most important natural ecosystems in the world and it’s on fire. The forest’s biodiversity is unmatched and its positive impact on global oxygen levels is significant making it devastating that the city of Sao Paulo has been darkened by a cloud of smoke coming from the burning Amazon rainforest. Strong winds brought the smoke from the forest over 1,600 miles away. The state of Amazonas declared an emergence earlier this month because of the forest fire and NASA images show smoke covering large parts of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. The event inspired Brazilians to go to social media to protest the destruction of the Amazon. Sao Paulo resident, Gianvitor Dias, told BBC that it seemed as though the day had been turned into night.  Another particularly popular Twitter post was by William Barros, who pointed out how Brazil had celebrated its natural abundance at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic opening ceremony only to continue to destroy the country’s most valuable natural resource.  So far the post gathered 17,000 likes as it encouraged people to pray for the rainforest. Many of the most popular tweets criticized Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) said that the Amazon has increasingly suffered losses since Jair Bolsonaro took office last January. In response, President Bolsonaro claimed that the data did not relate to reality and went on to accuse the Institute of smearing Brazil. If the forest fire does not inspire action to save the Amazon, major negative impacts on the climate will result.
Everybody loves a horse race.  That’s why it’s fun when someone like Lil Naz X comes along and scores big against the best in the world, in his case, with a record breaking hit song, “Old Town Road.”  The Taylor Swift’s and the Ed Sheeran’s couldn’t beat him.  He held the number one position on the Billboard chart for 19 weeks, longer than any artist in history…longer than Mariah, Madonna or Beyonce…longer than all the one-names. Then 17 year old Billie Eilish challenged the 20 year old by hanging in the weeds with her “Bad Guy” hit. When the leader started to weaken, as he inevitably would, she struck and took away that first position. But which horse in this race has the longer tail?  “Bay Guy” is not likely to have the lasting power of “Old Town Road.”  Songs like “Old Town Road” come along infrequently.  But which artist will have the longer career?  That is the real question and the answer may not be the one that’s obvious at this time. Billie Eilish is only seventeen, but she has a four year career with a series of minor hits, all building to this moment. She’s proven she can write appealing songs consistently.  By contrast, Lil Naz X has had one explosive hit, which will be very hard for him to follow.  His second song “Panini” has gotten good exposure by drafting the monster hit, but it does not have the magic X was able to package in his breakthrough hit?  Just a guess, but in the long term horse race between these two, it feels like Ms. Eilish has a shot to cross the finish line more often.  It all depends on the next couple releases from Lil Naz X…will he fade or is he able to make another charge? Check back in ten years when this is resolved.
The summer is coming to an end soon. For film, this summer has seen many big box office hits despite an overall industry decline compared to last summer. Disney in particular was a winner with successes including The Lion King, Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Aladdin and Toy Story 4. Here’s a quick list of box office winners and losers from summer 2019. Avengers: Endgame took in a record breaking $357.1 million on its domestic opening.  In total, worldwide revenue reached $2.8 billion, the all-time box-office record without adjusting for inflation. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum took away $320 million worldwide. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood already brought in $180 million worldwide in first couple weeks. Dark Phoenix has only taken in $66 million domestically. Disney’s CEO said the film was the primary cause for Fox’s operational loss last quarter. Men in Black: International earned only $ 79.5 million domestically and received bad reviews from Rotten Tomatoes. Shaft took in a mere $21 million.
The Roku Channel is a two-year-old streaming service with 30.5 million users is offering a new Kids and Family portal, which is going live the week of August 19th. Rob Holmes, VP of programming and engagement for Roku said, “We recognize that it can be a challenge to find quality kids and family entertainment across multiple streaming channels, particularly free, ad-supported options.” With that in mind, Roku has bundled 7,000 free, ad-supported movies and TV episodes and they promise the ad intrusions will be 60% less than on standard TV.  Participating programmers include: Hasbro Company, DHX Media, Happy Kids TV, Lionsgate, Mattel, Moonbug and pocket.watch, among others. Brands include: Care Bears, The Cat in the Hat, Leapfrog, Little Baby Bum, My Little Pony, Rev & Roll, Super Mario Brothers and Thomas and Friends.  Premium channel viewers will see even more options. Roku’s new family friendly portal includes a PIN-based system for parents to monitor the content their children watch. The free-to-consumer, ad-supported content is the advantage Roku brings to the market against some fierce completion from the paid offerings of Netflix and Disney+.
Antonio Brown was a headache for the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, which is why they traded him to the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders below value. The Steelers took a third round and a fifth round pick in the next draft in return for, arguably, the best receiver in the league. When Brown got to the Raiders, they rewarded him with a big time contract extension. Why? Because they’re the Raiders and they’re apparently willing to deal with his baggage. Trouble began immediately.  Brown has stayed out of the Raiders’ training camp for almost all of preseason. He finally showed up amid issues over the NFL’s helmet policy. Brown wants to wear the old model of his helmet in spite of the NFL’s transition to a new, supposedly safer, model. The concussion issue looms large for the league. But like a child who doesn’t get his way, Brown has done this to the Raiders, who have zero control over NFL policies. They now have first hand experience with Brown’s baggage. After strong statements from GM Mike Mayock and Coach John Gruden, Brown made his way back onto the field and is “all in” according to his agent. However, Antonio isn’t done with the helmet thing. He has filed another grievance against the league in an effort to get his old helmet back. An arbitrator is going to hear his case this week. Coach Gruden had good things to say about Brown upon his return. “He’s shown great retention of what we’re doing. He (Brown) hadn’t missed the off season program. He’s been here, and out of here, in meetings. And it’s just good to have him back. He’s in great shape, running hard and running good routes.” While it appears Brown is back for now and ready to focus on football, it is hard to imagine this is the last time Brown’s baggage weighs down the Raiders during the life of his contract.
Sony Pictures and Disney had a deal which gave Marvel Cinematic Universe legal rights to make Spider-Man movies. Talks between the two companies to renew the deal have recently collapsed.  In a plot worthy of the films themselves, Spider-Man is now set to leave the Marvel Universe. Disney, the owner of Marvel Studios, had demanded a 50/50 funding and profit split with Sony.  Sony declined causing Disney to remove Marvel as producer of future films. A Sony spokesperson expressed disappointment over Disney’s decision while saying that Sony would continue producing Spider-Man movies without Marvel. Sony is already working on Spider-Man spin offs including Tom Hardy’s Venom and Morbius. A sequel to the animated Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, is also being produced.  We’ll have to see of these back office battles effect the on-screen results.
One of the most important parenting responsibilities is to help kids develop the skills needed to grow into happy, healthy adults. Social skills, teamwork and good communication skills, needed for success in adult life, all can be learned through group games. Here’s a quick list of traditional, group games that will help your kids to learn social skills: Blind Man’s Bluff is an old-time game in which children are tagged as “it.” The “it” child is blindfolded and must wander around trying to tag other kids in order to make them the new “it.” Capture the Flag is a game where kids are divided into two teams.  Each team tries to capture a flag on the other team’s side of the field. The kids must run into enemy territory and take the flag without being tagged by the other team. Kick the Can is a variation of games such as tag or hide & seek. In this game, the “it” tags people in order to capture them while the un-captured players attempt to kick a can in order to release the captured players; the game ends when all non-“it” players are captured. Balancing Act is a game where kids place a bean bag, a pencil, an eraser or a similar object on their heads. When the music starts the game begins, the kids try to walk around without the objects falling off their heads; if an object falls, then they are frozen. They can be unfrozen if another child puts the object back on their head.