Dad Grades: Darth Vader

(20th Century Fox)

If haven’t seen the original Star Wars trilogy, major spoiler alert:

Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia’s father. Also, what’s your deal? It’s one of the most beloved media franchises in history and you don’t even have to stand up to rent movies anymore. 

Anyway, in the spirit of Star Wars Day, we present to you the Dad Grades for Darth Vader.

(20th Century Fox)

Note: This Dad Grades will only take into account the three original films. No prequels, no sequel trilogy, no novels, no comics, no lunch trays. The Star Wars universe is far too expansive to consider how Anakin Skywalker’s story arc in 1993’s The Truce at Bakura may have shaped his approach to diaper changing. 

STRENGTHS

Darth Vader was many things. A father. A foe. A fashion icon. But we often forget that fourth thing he was: a business owner. Vader employed roughly 1.1 billion stormtroopers alone and oversaw the operations of 25,000 Star Destroyers. “Married to his work” would be an understatement.

Touching base with employees on Bring Your Daughter To Work Day. (20th Century Fox)

In any other other edition of Dad Grades, over-commitment to one’s career would be disqualifying. But despite all that midnight oil clearly being burned—long days at the office supervising Jedi purges and hammering out the logistics of space-wide oppression—he still made strides to remain active in his son’s life.

(20th Century Fox)

Sure, the circumstances under which he seeks involvement are suspect. Coasting through space, eradicating life one planet at a time. This may not sound like your ideal father-son dynamic. But having catch in the backyard, building pinewood derby cars— bonding rituals of the dad who doesn’t have access to galactic superweapons.

“Luke, we can destroy the emperor… Join me and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.”

There was also a sweet moment near the end of Return of the Jedi when Vader throws Emperor Palpatine down a reactor shaft, getting electrocuted in the process, effectively sacrificing himself to save Luke. In his final moments, he asks Luke to remove his helmet, so that he can get one final good look at his boy.

No, you’re crying.

WEAKNESSES

Vader’s big reveal to Luke, that they are father and son, is done with little if any tact. Reconnecting with your estranged father member should be, by all accounts, heartwarming. Expressing forgiveness, recouping decades of missed hugs. A moment of reconciliation worthy of Ellen.

But no. This dude indulges his son in a lightsaber duel.

And cuts off his hand.

Then, in his son’s most vulnerable, handless moment, Vader reveals that it was from his own villainous balls from which Luke swam. There’s bad timing, then there’s this.

(20th Century Fox)

Seems like the sort of thing he could’ve revealed moments earlier, precluding the lightsaber duel. Had the issue been approached with the pageantry and enthusiasm of a gender reveal party, Luke might still have his real hand.

We also can’t condone how adamant Vader is about his son joining the family business. This would be poor form even for a dad who owned a used car dealership, let alone one whose line of work involves boundless celestial genocide.

VERDICT

While one of cinema’s greatest characters, villain or otherwise, Darth Vader is a truly terrible father to Luke. Abandonment is never okay, regardless of how well you pull of a cape. Remember: Any guy can be a No, I Am Your Father. But it takes a real man to be a No, I Am Your Dad.

We’ll award bonus points, however, simply for the fact he has the most badass intro music of all time.

FINAL GRADE: D+

“Wait a sec,” you’re probably itching to comment. “You didn’t expound on his relationship with Princess Leia, who is also his kid.” Don’t worry. This is a Star Wars Dad Grades. We’d be remiss if we didn’t hit you with a sequel.

Check out our previous edition when we graded another supervillain named Thanos.

The “Man Reunites With Donkey” Video You Didn’t Know You Needed

Man Reunites with Donkey
(YouTube/Cadena SER)

We’ve seen our fair share of heartwarming reunions in the era of COVID-19. The cast of Fresh Prince came together for an appearance on Will Smith’s Snapchat show. Dan Harmon hosted a Community table read fundraiser. The gang from Back to the Future and Goonies reunited virtually.

But none of 2020’s nostalgia-fueled reunions will tug at your heartstrings quite like this one.

Meet Ismael Fernández. Ismael lives in Malaga, Spain, and has been on quarantine lockdown for the last two months. When restrictions loosened in recent weeks, he had but one order of business: a trip to his sister’s, who’d been caring for his best friend, a donkey named Baldomera.

“Que pasa?” Ismael repeats, his voice quavering. Baldomera reciprocated with some overjoyed brays and whimpers in return. It’s unbearably sweet. The video’s in Spanish, but the affection on display certainly transcends all language barriers.

Watch their precious reunion right here:

Top that, Will and Jazz.

Detroit “Mower Gang” Rivals Face Off to Preserve City Parks

Detroit "Mower Gang" Rivals Face Off to Preserve City Parks
(Facebook/Detroit Mower Gang)

Any lawnmower owner will tell you, with great horsepower comes great responsibility. The first rule of lawnmownership (the act of owning a lawnmower) is befriend your lawnmower – nobody wants to be up against what is basically a knife windmill on wheels when the robots take over. The second rule of lawnmownership is know your limits. You may think you can handle a cool 130 miles per hour on your sweet riding mower, but please take another look at rule one (see “knife windmill on wheels”) to remember what you’re actually dealing with here. The third rule of lawnmownership is use your lawnmower for good, not evil. That’s exactly what Tom Nardone did, and it ended up saving his city.

In 2010, Tom Nardone realized Detroit was in trouble. Financial hardship meant that the city had to pick and choose between basic maintenance projects, and the city’s inhabitants were left to live with overgrown parks and crumbling playgrounds. Instead of allowing his beloved city to be buried in buckthorn and dandelions, Nardone started a gang. A mower-riding, groundskeeping, donut-eating crew called The Detroit Mower Gang.

The Detroit Mower Gang has been in operation for a decade. Their Facebook page explains, “Every Other Wednesday The Mower Gang gets together to mow the abandoned playgrounds of Detroit. We are a crafty crew that refuses to let small budgets and bureaucracy stand in the way of a great playground.” The group is entirely volunteer-based and open to anyone interested in keeping Detroit looking its best.

Once a year, the Mower Gang kicks things up a notch. For 12 straight hours, grass will be cut. Parks will be revamped. Dreams will be crushed. That’s right gentleman, start your engines. The annual Detroit Mow-a-Thon is about to begin. There can only be one ‘Motown Mowdown’ Grand Champion, the mower who cuts the most grass within the 12-hour period.

Congratulations to this year’s winner, Gage, who rolled right over his competitors.

Though the group hosts other events such as the stinky fish challenge, ice cream night, and donut tasting (hey, the lawnmowers aren’t the only things that need to refuel after a long day’s work), the group’s main goal is to preserve parks so they can continue to be used by the community. Who would have thought that 40 years ago, when Nardone was running around those very same parks yelling “YOUR ASS IS GRASS” at his rowdy friends, he would return all these years later to say “and I’m the lawnmower”, ensuring that the next generation can do the same.

Father Figures: My Rock

“My dad has always been, and always will be, my rock and my idol.

He realized at a young age his passion for painting, and despite knowing that finances might not be easy, he pursued his dream, earned a degree in Fine Arts, and became an amazing landscape painter. He taught me how to paint, the beauty of art and nature, and the value of creativity. He also taught me morality.

I used to ask my dad advice on what to choose for a career and he always said I could do whatever I wanted, but the most important rule is that no matter where I go or what I do, I need to be kind to people. I hold this rule close to my heart, and while I occasionally slip up, I try to stay positive, open-minded, and forgiving of others.

Growing up, a number of people, including teachers, questioned my desire to pursue a career as a doctor. They suggested nursing instead, an incredibly valuable field in its own right, but not what I wanted for myself. I brushed their comments off, but I noticed.

I never heard any such suggestions from my father. He supported me and encouraged my leadership, passion, and teamwork skills. I finished medical school last year, am currently working as a resident doctor, and will be be graduating in just over a year, on my way independent practice.

I could never have done it without my parents. Love you, Dad!”

– Kaye Faulder

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email [email protected]

Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

College Graduate Repurposes Graduation Gowns as PPE

College Graduate Repurposes Graduation Gowns as PPE
(gowns4good.net)

In the era of the coronavirus, things that we used to do every single day without a second thought have had to get a complete overhaul. Restaurants are serving patrons in rubber bumper tables, tennis players are being instructed to kick some balls. Things are extremely confusing right now, and there’s no guidebook for navigating this new reality we’re faced with.

Graduates around the world are being hit with the reality that the celebration of their accomplishments just isn’t going to happen this year in the way they had anticipated. For high school students, this meant no prom, and no ceremonial walk across the stage in front of friends and family to accept their diploma (unless you’re this lucky grad who got a private graduation ceremony that puts some actual convocations to shame). For Nathanial Moore, a recent graduate of the University of Vermont, graduation meant the opportunity to make a difference.

Moore, a physician assistant, saw firsthand just how desperately frontline workers needed PPE. Moore also saw firsthand just how useless his graduation gown was, a gown that he’d never get to wear. With a stroke of genius, Moore solved both problems with one brilliant solution – he started an initiative called Gowns 4 Good which upcycles graduation gowns and turns them into much-needed PPE.

According to the website, “Graduation gowns are more effective than other PPE alternatives given their length, sleeves, and easy zippered access”. Some hospitals are so desperate and under-resourced that they are using things like garbage bags as PPE (and if you’ve ever had a garbage bag explode all over your feet like some kind of sewage balloon, you know they cannot be trusted). Some are getting creative and designing their own 90’s inspired PPE. Basically, everyone is grasping at straws in an attempt to stay safe while continuing to do life-saving work.

Moore was horrified at the thought of his colleagues, friends, and other medical professionals around the world working without the proper protection. In just over a month, he has collected over 10,000 graduation gowns for hospitals in need with more coming in every day.

Gowns 4 Good isn’t picky about the gowns it takes in as long as they’re in decent condition. If you still have your 1972 graduation gown sitting in the back of your closet, first of all, it may be time to clean up just a little. Second of all, you can donate it to Gowns for Good and make a difference to a medical worker in an in-need hospital of your choice. You can keep the cap though, you may need it for crashing your wife’s Zoom calls.

REJOICE: Hot Dog Flavored Beer Is Here

Hot Dog Beer
(Sheetz)

It doesn’t get much better than a beer in one hand, hot dog in the other. (Unless it’s in your pillow.) It’s basically “10 and 2” for cookouts. But haven’t you ever wished that perhaps, someday, maybe we could combine the two? No? Never even crossed your mind? That actually sounds sort of gross to you?

Well, too bad. Because Sheetz, a popular convenience store/restaurant based in Pennsylvania, has rolled out a limited edition craft beer that’s brewed with, yes, hot dog.

Last summer, Sheetz got together with Rusty Rail Brewing to release its first store-brand beer, Project Coffee Hopz, brewed with their very own Sheetz Brothers Sumatra coffee beans.

(Sheetz)

Later in August, they broke ground with Project Blueberry Muffinz, which is exactly what it sounds like. A morning beer if we’ve ever seen one.

(Sheetz)

But Sheetz has really outdone themselves this year. Teaming up with Pennsylvania’s own Neshaminy Creek Brewing, they rolled out a brand new ABV India Pale Ale. Light. Crisp. Dry-hopped with Nugget and Centennial hops.

Oh, and hot dogs. They tossed a bunch of Sheetz brand hot dogs in the brew kettle. Yep.

Introducing…

PROJECT HOP DOGZ

(Sheetz)

The beer, described by Sheetz as “refreshing and dry, with delicate hop flavors of citrus and pine,” hit shelves at 128 locations across Pennsylvania this memorial day weekend.

“Don’t worry, the beer does not taste like hot dogs!” reassures Neshaminy’s head brewer, Jason Ranck. “We thought it was just a fun concept and the perfect beer for pairing with Sheetz Hot Dogz and warm-weather activities.”

Sheetz and Neshaminy’s hope to spread some much-needed good energy with this otherworldly concoction. “[It’s] a surprise that’ll engender smiles, laughter, and conversation—something we could all use more of right now,” Jason continued.

Very touching. Cheers to these innovators. Now back to the lab. August is just around the corner and we still don’t have a beer that tastes like new car smell.

Click here to see if Project Hop Dogz is available near you. And remember, dog responsibly.

George Lucas Admitted Boba Fett Survived Return of the Jedi but Palpatine Didn’t

Boba Fett Survives
(Disney)

There are few creators out there like George Lucas. An experimental filmmaker who helped launch the blockbuster era with his groundbreaking space fairytale, Lucas will forever be revered as the man who created Star Wars, the most enduring pop-culture franchise of the past 50 years.

He’ll also forever be vilified as the man who ruined it, by having Han shoot first, by inexplicably adding a musical number to Return of the Jedi, and for creating the sequels. Lucas, perhaps tired of being attacked by increasingly rabid fans, sold Star Wars to Disney, and for a while, people seemed happy. Until The Last Jedi, and Solo, and The Rise of Skywalker soured many fans on the new Star Wars too.

When your story gets this huge, there’s simply no pleasing everyone.

Disney keeps trying though, clearly tailoring some of ROTS’ moments to fans upset by Rian Johnson’s radical changes in TLJ, and with The Mandalorian, the Star Wars universe’s first live-action TV show. It was recently announced that the second season of the Disney+ show will fill in some of the backstory surrounding Emperor Palpatine’s resurrection and that it will feature Boba Fett, another character long-thought vanquished in Return.

Some of these new ideas seem like they couldn’t possibly have Lucas’s blessing, but it turns out it’s not that simple.

Lucas is actually fine with Boba Fett having survived the Sarlacc pit, and even told an old colleague as much, as that colleague revealed in a Reddit AMA.

Yes, he does. I have been in meetings with George where he confirms that Fett survived. If it comes from George then it’s true!

But the man who created the Jedi, the Death Star, and midichlorians, is less down with the Emperor’s return.

Years ago, Ian McDiarmid, who has played Senator Palpatine/the Emperor across all 9 movies, admitted that Lucas once told him that the Emperor was indeed dead at the end of Return. Although, Lucas also allowed for one possibility: that the Emperor could be cloned back to life. Which is indeed what happened in the last movie – or so we’ve been told via other means.

Star Wars has been out of its creator’s hands for some time now, but he will never fully be free of it. And based on some of the “new” ideas at play in a galaxy far far away, the feeling is mutual.

“Baby Shark” Immortalized on Washington Nationals World Series Ring

Baby Shark World Series Ring
(Twitter/jjalcantara)

Championship rings are one of the great traditions in sports. Sure, they mostly all look the same in the end, just a massive collection of diamonds around the team name and year, but the Washington Nationals have something on their championship rings that no other team can claim: Baby Shark.

Yep, the 2019 World Series Champions unveiled their ring design earlier this week, and it was mostly standard fare. More than 100 diamonds, some rubies, the players’ numbers, and etched on the inside of the ring…Baby Shark holding up the championship trophy. ‘’

Baby Shark became a fan favorite once Gerardo Parra started using the internet’s favorite song for his walk-up music. It became an unofficial anthem for the Nationals as they marched through the MLB playoffs en route to their World Series win.

The ring also features the team’s slogan of “Go 1-0 Everyday.” But let’s be honest, as the franchise fondly remembers their first World Series, they won’t remember that. They will remember the summer of Baby Shark, and will doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo their way to reliving an incredible run.

The Fruit Snack Challenge Puts Toddlers’ Patience to the Test

#FruitSnackChallenge
(YouTube/Sesame Street)

I’ve never seen a challenge my kids were more destined to fail.

Recently, social media has been circulating something called “the Fruit Snack Challenge,” and it exploded in popularity after a few celebrities posted the results of their children’s attempts.

The challenge is as follows: parents put a bowl of fruit snacks, or candy, or something equally enticing, in front of their toddler, and then warn them not to eat any until they get back from the other room. Needless to say, not every child manages to resist. Frankly, I’m astonished any child is able to hold off!

Kylie Jenner explains to her daughter that she can have three chocolates from an enormous bowl, but only after she Mommy from the bathroom. The adorable little Stormi steels herself for the challenge, and when she senses her resolve crumbling, she even employs a little sing-songy hack to maintain her composure. Impressive. Most impressive!

 

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Things don’t go quite so smoothly for Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade’s cute kid, who barely waited for Mom to stop talking to pounce:

Musician Thomas Rhett’s daughter powered through:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

After pool hair, ballet outfit & #toddlerchallenge 🌈💕 #soBERYpatient

A post shared by Lauren Akins (@laur_akins) on

With those videos going viral, it didn’t take long for non-celebs to tempt their kids, with varying degrees of success:

A few people even tried it with their dogs!

And then Cookie Monster got in on the action:

Do you think your kids could pass the test?

Miami Dolphins Converting Stadium Into Drive-In Movie Theater

Dolphin Stadium Drive-In
(3D RENDERING BY AZEEZ BAKARE STUDIOS)

Drive-in movie theaters are a hot commodity these days.

Staples of yesteryear, those parking lots where people gathered in their cars to watch a movie, together, but apart, have largely vanished from the country. By the time I was a kid in the mid-80s, the one drive-in theater that existed in my town was mostly known for hosting a local flea market, and I didn’t actually attend a drive-in movie until a few years ago, on vacation.

Nowadays, with real movie theaters being shuttered to help flatten the curve and limit the spread of the coronavirus, drive-in movies are seeing something of a resurgence. It’s a way for people to get outside (in their cars) and be social (while socially distancing), which is a bit of a rarity itself during the quarantine. The problem is, the facilities don’t exist anymore. Yet.

The Miami Dolphins, one of the most storied franchises in the history of the NFL, boasting both the league’s only undefeated season (17-0!) and its best quarterback of all-time (Marino baby!), are helping change that, at least in the short term. They’re converting their dormant stadium into a drive-in movie theater.

The NFL’s off-season has been suspended, and the regular season is in doubt as sports leagues across the world try to figure out the most responsible ways to resume play without endangering their players and fans. This means Hard Rock Stadium, where the Dolphins play, is currently not being used. Which makes it a perfect place to put on a movie!

“We’ve spent several weeks planning this to be able to provide people with a safe option to go out and enjoy movies, classic Dolphins content, concerts, and celebrate 2020 graduates,” said Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium Vice Chairman and CEO Tom Garfinkel in a press release. “It’s a fundamental human need to physically experience and celebrate events and experiences together, and we’re trying to provide options for everyone where they can be safely socially distant and socially present at the same time.”

The Miami Herald reported that the Dolphins are using their stadium to show movies in two different ways that are suited to social distancing. The two “Outdoor Theaters” will include an open-air theater and a drive-in theater, via which they’ll present classic movies and “classic Miami Dolphins content,” the majority of which will surely be from the 70s and 80s and also will include some future footage from the 2020s when Tua suits up and we go undefeated again FINS UP!

The stadium will house 230 cars, you can order food and drink, and restrooms will be open. Regardless of who you root for, it sounds like a really cool idea, and probably the most fun Dolfans will have in their football stadium in quite some time. No schedule is available just yet, but you can sign up for alerts at hardrockstadium.com/theater.