ScreenTime: How “Spirit: Riding Free” Saved Me $38,760 (Approximately)


ScreenTime is not an educational column. Sure, sometimes you learn something, like Which Paw Patrol Puppy Is The Worst, or How Barbie: Life In The Dreamhouse Prepares Your Kids For The Apocolypse, but today you will learn something even more valuable: How to save $38,760 with nothing but a basic Netflix subscription.

This Friday, November 17, 2017, marks the release of Season 3 of the Netflix/Dreamworks Original Series Spirit: Riding Free. The surprisingly controversial spin-off of the 2002 movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron has many admirers, but my daughter and I will not be returning to it. This is the story of why.


When my daughter first pointed at the title screen for Spirit: Riding Free and screamed, “NEIGH!!! WAMMA WATCH NEIGH,” I clicked with no small amount of trepidation. Netflix’s kids programming isn’t exactly Stranger Things-quality, and given the lackluster approach content makers often take when it comes to shows aimed at young girls, my expectations were at rock bottom. But I don’t like to judge a book by its cover, so we gave it a shot.

If you watch the show’s title sequence, you might think my apprehensions were well founded. The theme song is a country-pop tune blander than a Kidz-Bopped Florida Georgia Line and the animation is ripped straight from the cut-scenes of an early 2000s PlayStation 2 RPG about horse grooming. The particularly savvy amongst you may have noticed aspects of the aforementioned controversy. But you, like me, are focusing on the wrong aspect of the sequence. The key scene, the scene that unlocks the true heart of the show, is the one of the girls dodging flying boulders as they charge down a narrow canyon.


It is here that we see the first hints of what this series is all about: putting humans and horses in legitimately, unnecessarily terrifying situations, over and over again.

The first season of Spirit: Riding Free only has six episodes in it, but it is not until the second episode that it reveals to the unsuspecting viewer its harsh message. The pilot is inoffensive and straightforward: girl arrives in town, makes some friends, makes some enemies, the scene is set. We are introduced to our protagonists, Lucky and her horse Spirit. Yeah, along the way she witnesses a horse being wrangled in a somewhat unnecessarily traumatic way, but it’s a minor blip.


This lulls the viewer into a false sense of security. This is going to be a nice show about a girl, her friends, and their horses. Then Episode 2 begins and the facade starts to slip.

“Lucky & The Treacherous Trail” starts with Lucky’s horse Spirit going nuts and smashing through the walls of a barn, and climaxes with a set of scenes in which Lucky and Spirit ride through a dangerous trail about which we have previously been given dire warnings. First they mess up a jump and we see the deadly results of one false move. Then the unstable cliff edge gives way causing Lucky to trip, nearly plummeting to her death, with poor Spirit hurting his ankle trying to save her. I’m not too proud to admit, my heart was in my mouth.


The show presents the lesson of the episode as one of listening to your friends and not being too proud, but the true lesson it seeks to impart is this: Don’t Fuck Around With Horses. You Will Die.

I had learned my lesson, and was ready to move on, but my daughter is made of sterner stuff than I. I have seen her sit through scenes like Tai Lung’s escape in Kung Fu Panda, or the final battle in How To Train Your Dragon, that have made lesser children literally shit their pants. So we persisted.

As if Episode 2 hadn’t put Lucky, Spirit, and my nerves through enough, Episode 3, “Lucky & The Mysterious Map”, opens with exactly the kind of terror-inducing vertigo that drove me to drink at the end of Episode 2. Here, Lucky, her father, and her two friends, Pru and Abigail, are ascending a steep and narrow canyon pass when Spirit freaks the fuck out and causes their wagon and all their possessions to careen off a cliff. The wagon nearly takes two horses and Lucky’s dad with it, and it’s only because Lucky’s dad is some kind of super-powered acrobat that he survives.


Already I was concerned: If this is where “Lucky & The Mysterious Map” starts, at what fearful pitch will it end? Sure enough, it isn’t long before Lucky, Pru, and Abigail are TRAPPED IN A DARK CAVE BY A WILD BEAR. And this isn’t some friendly, picnic-stealing Yogi Bear type. It is made clear that this bear is trying to maul and eat these preteens.


It was Episode 5 that finally finished me. Specifically this scene, in which an abused and terrified horse is trapped and panicked. Our heroes can’t go near him for fear of getting a hoof to the solar plexus. Meanwhile, a dam is about to burst, unleashing a tidal wave that tears down trees and crumbles rock. Just look at this damn horse. I can’t take it.


Maybe one day my daughter and I will return to Spirit: Riding Free, but we will return to it humbled, our lesson learned: Horses are terrifying.

And in years to come, when my daughters’ friends gaze longingly at horses galloping majestically in open fields, or bring home flyers for riding lessons, or for conveniently-located stables, my children will remember “Lucky & The Mysterious Map”, and, fearful of the inevitable bear mauling and near-death experiences that accompany horse-related activities, search for some safer, cheaper hobby.


So enjoy your approximately $38,760 in horse activity-related costs, parents who haven’t seen Spirit: Riding Free. My daughter and I will be over here on the couch, breathing into brown paper bags, resisting flashbacks of “Lucky & The Treacherous Trail”.

Four-Year-Old Boy Steals Great-Grandfather’s SUV to Score Candy

4yo Drives SUV to Get Candy
(YouTube/CBS 17)

Ever have a serious craving for some Reese’s peanut butter cups? Totally. Who hasn’t?

Ever steal your great-grandfather’s Hyundai Santa Fe to go on a candy run? No? Well, buckle up!

A 4-year-old Minnesota boy named Sebastian did just that recently, diving the stolen SUV over a mile during morning rush hour traffic to a local gas station, all in search of peanut butter cups. Luckily, this story has a happy ending as no one, aside from a few mailboxes, was injured during the candy caper.

The mischievous youngster used his great grandfather’s walker to reach the keys, sneaking off without anyone noticing. His eyes barely able to see over the wheel, Sebastian made his way down several side streets before making it to University Avenue, a major roadway in the middle of busy morning drive time. Witnesses reported seeing the vehicle traveling erratically, rarely exceeding 15 miles per hour.

Eventually, Sebastian made it to the local SpeedWay where police arrived shortly after.

“We laugh about it, but it could’ve been very serious,” Sebastian’s great-grandfather Roy Becker told news station KMSP. “He could’ve hit a car. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt. We could be talking about a funeral.”

“I’ve never seen a driver this young before operating a vehicle,” Capt. Mark Boerboom told the TV station. Thanks to no serious injuries or property damage, most are able to joke about it now, however, all involved say parents need to be aware of how quickly things like this can happen.

The family says they now plan to lock up all car keys for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps they should consider a few packages of Reese’s in the freezer too… just in case.

Microsoft Unveils Next-Gen Console: Project Scarlett


Microsoft is finally unveiling details regarding its upcoming console that will compete against the PlayStation 5 and Google’s Stadia Service. This high-end console, codenamed Project Scarlett, will reportedly output 4 times more power than their current powerhouse, the Xbox One X, and “usher in resolution and framerates we’ve never seen before.”

This new project will be powerful enough to support ray-tracing (an advanced graphics rendering technique), variable refresh rate support, and up to 120fps in gameplay. It will also support 8k gaming (though, it might be harder getting your hands on a TV that will support 8k, honestly).

Like the PS5, Project Scarlett is utilizing a solid state drive (SSD) to help boost the console’s performance.

“We’ve created a new generation of SSDs. We’re using the SSD as virtual RAM,” says an Xbox spokesperson in their unveiling video.

This will result in a console that is up to 40 times faster than the current generation, cutting loading times to a fraction of what they currently are. (You’re welcome, players of massive RPGs)

Of course, new consoles are dead in the water without quality games to release with them, which is why Microsoft is making everyone knows that Halo Infinite will be launching alongside it. Hopefully, couch co-op is including this time around. [biggest side-eye ever to 343 Industries]

As with the PS5, we don’t have actual specs of what the physical Project Scarlet console will look like yet, but be on the lookout for updates in the coming months, especially when next year’s E3 rolls around.

Robin Williams’ Son Zak Pays Tribute to Dad With Naming of Firstborn

McLaurin Clement Williams

Everyone loved Robin Williams, his energy, spontaneity, and unbridled creativity thrilled stand-up audiences, TV viewers, and moviegoers alike for decades. It was a tragedy and something of a shock to the general public when the legendary comedian took his own life.

When Robin Williams committed suicide five years ago, the world lost one of it’s brightest, most joyful presences. The loss we feel, of course, is nothing compared to what his family had to endure, including his eldest son Zak Williams.


View this post on Instagram


You’re a grown man now and I’m so proud of you. A little bit of you will always be my “Mr Pym”. Happy Birthday, @zakpym!

A post shared by therobinwilliams (@therobinwilliams) on

On May 22nd, via an exclusive report from People, Zak and his fiancee Olivia Williams welcome their first child, and Zak paid tribute to his late father with the name they chose. The 8lb baby is named McLaurin Clement Williams, which might not sound like a tribute to Robin until you learn that the unique “McLaurin” was Zak’s father’s middle name.

Zak’s sister, Robin’s daughter Zelda, posted photos of her nephew on Instagram, in which she reveals that McLaurin will go by “Mickey.”

Zak is an entrepreneur, but after his father took his own life, his son became a staunch mental health advocate as well. In the aftermath of his father’s death, when the actor, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it was revealed that some of his symptoms were also a result of diffuse Lewy body dementia.

In an excerpt from a biography of his father, printed in Vanity Fair after his dad’s passing, Zak expressed regret over not spending more time with Robin in those final few months

I’m kicking myself for not visiting him during that time. Because I think that was a very lonely period for him. In retrospect, I feel like I should have been there, spending time with him. Because someone who needs support was not getting the support he needed.

With the birth of his son and the use of McLaurin as his son’s name, Zak is paying sweet tribute to his father.

Clever Ad Campaign Recreates Iconic Living Rooms With IKEA Furniture

IKEA Recreates Famous Rooms

We’ve all done it. We’ve all sat around watching TV and wondered how the characters can afford their lavish apartment. A group of twenty-somethings living in a pair of Manhattan apartments with spacious living rooms, multiple bedrooms, and full-sized kitchens? In this economy?

You probably guessed that I’m talking specifically about “Friends,” the classic 90s sitcom that was the poster-child from unrealistic real estate expectations. It simply didn’t make sense, certainly not to anyone who’s lived in NYC anytime in the past 30 years, that an often unemployed chef, a masseuse, and a waitress at a coffee shop could afford the rent, let alone stylishly furnish their sprawling apartment.

Unless they shopped at IKEA. Which still would have cost them. But how much?

The Swedish furniture manufacturer, notorious for its own sprawling spaces, cheap prices, and mind-bending instruction manuals decided to help us out. They recreated Monica, Phoebe, and Rachel’s village apartment entirely out of items in their catalog. Complete with prices! (Although in foreign currency.)

The recreation is part of a brilliant ad campaign IKEA United Emirates called “Real Life Series”, which was dreamed up by Publicis Spain. The “Friends” living room isn’t the only one they put together. They also recreated Joyce Byers’ home, including the alphabet wall, from “Stranger Things.”

They didn’t rebuild the Upside-Down version of the room (IKEA is not LEGO), but for their third room, they chose a place just as surreal: the Simpsons’ family room, home of the couch gag.

I don’t know that I’ve ever wondered about the cost of the iconic Simpson’s couch, but kudos to Publicis Spain and IKEA for running with this clever campaign. Now you have all the information you need to model your own home after your favorite fictional family and “Friends.”

Just don’t count on being able to fit it all, especially if you live in Manhattan.

Teacher Brings Clippers on Graduation Day to Give Students Free Haircuts

Teacher Robert Dunham Gives Grad Haircuts
(WTVR/Dionyah Randolph)

Being a teacher often comes with extra responsibilities not listed in the job description. Besides educating our youngest minds, many teachers are also the only other adults our kids interact with on a daily basis. That often means looking out for not just their mental wellbeing, but their emotional and physical health as well.

So on June 12th, as his 5th-grade class prepared for their “Moving on” ceremony, Robert Dunham did as many teachers do each day: went above and beyond. The first year elementary educator woke up with a feeling his kids may need a little extra TLC on such a momentous occasion.

“I just had this gut feeling that some of my boys weren’t going to be able to get a haircut, so I instinctively picked up the clippers,” Dunham told Yahoo. “My wife says to me ‘where you going with those clippers?’ and I said ‘something tells me some of my students are going to need a trim.’” Dunham is no stranger to barbershops. His father who had raised the family in Brooklyn owned a chain of barbershops where Dunham picked up the trade.

As his students began arriving at school that day, Dunham knew his initial instincts were correct. He took out the clippers and began trimming, one kid after another. Word spread quickly around Carver Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia, and soon other teachers caught wind of Dunham’s random act of awesomeness.

(WTVR/Dionyah Randolph)

“The next thing I know, one of my colleagues came to my room and said, ‘Can I send you one more?’ and I said, “Just keep sending them!” recounts Dunham. “One of my colleagues from 4th grade just started taking pictures and then she posted them, and it took off from there.”

Not looking for notoriety or a pat on the back, Dunham says he was only doing what he thought was right and trying to lead by example while giving his kids the best day he could. “It was their Moving on Ceremony and I wanted it to be special.”

The news comes just a year after a state investigation uncovered a cheating ring at the elementary school, led by then school principal, Kiwana Yates. “Often we get a bad rap because of things that happened in the past,” Dunham told news station WTVR. “We tell people, this is in the new Carver.”

Dunham says he always tries to lead by example, leaving his students and all of us with a simple message: “Remember to always get caught doing the right thing, remain humble, and it’s not always about how you start, but it’s how you finish.”

Father Figures: Newfound Sense

Christian Madamba
(Supplied/Christian Madamba)

“When I held my daughter for the first time, I felt this newfound sense.

I can’t really put it into words other than it was like someone put a blanket or cape over my back and I was donned with this responsibility of protecting this being for the rest of my life.

At that moment, I knew that my purpose in life was no longer for me but for her.”

– Christian Madamba

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email

Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

A Tribute to Sports Dads, The Raptors, The Blues and Big Papi

Raptors are Champs

It’s only appropriate to take some time on Father’s Day to raise one to all the sports dads out there. Someone has to set up the soccer goal in the back yard, teach the finer points of hitting a fastball to a kid who can barely hit off a tee, and scream belligerently at the refs during a high school basketball game (OK maybe not the last one).

Like most sports fans, I picked up my love of sports from my dad. One of my earliest sports memories was being woken up on a school night because he thought I should see the Stanley Cup presentation (and he was right). He coached my hockey team when he couldn’t skate much better than the sixth-graders on the ice, and years later I got the assist on a goal my dad scored when we were playing on a rec-league team together (when I gave him a pass so perfect even he couldn’t have blown it).

We weren’t even together for one of my favorite memories. As huge college basketball fans, there was one March where our favorite team made the NCAA tournament by blowing out the No. 1 team in the nation. Immediately after the win, my dad called me from the sports bar where he was watching the game and asked if I saw it. I told him I not only saw it, but I had skipped one of my college finals for an impromptu road trip to see it live. I was a little worried he might turn full dad on me for skipping a major exam, but his reaction was one I’ll always remember.

“Oh man, college is the greatest time of your life!” he said.

So here’s to all you sports dads, who truly have your priorities in line. If you’re looking for additional Father’s Day #content, USA Today has a great collection of athletes with their kids and the U.S. Women’s National Team shared some memories of their dads before their big game Sunday.

USWNT Dad Memories
(Fox TV Stations)

Check out the USWNT video tribute here.

Speaking of the USWNT, many were clutching their pearls after the 13-0 win over Thailand earlier this week. There were far too many “pundits” taking the team to task for running up the score and celebrating too much, and whining about “winning with class”, which is such an old man take. Or is it a fair question: did they score too much? Were the celebrations overboard??

No. No, they were not. I’m sorry, but it’s the World Cup, the highest stage for soccer, it’s not exactly the stage where you worry about the other team’s feelings. I could understand the sentiment if this was 11-year-olds playing in a rec league, but this is the World Cup. Most of those players will only get to play in one, so I’m fine with celebrating their moment however they want. Besides, Thailand should be honored, as they were part of the game that broke the record for most combined goals. Sure, they didn’t score any of them, but that record couldn’t have existed without them.

The Toronto Raptors got to celebrate this week as well, winning the NBA championship over a depleted Warriors squad. I’m not one of the people beating the asterisk drum, but it was such a bummer to see Durant go down in the manner he did and to see Klay Thompson not far behind him. They put up a valiant fight, but those were catastrophic injuries to overcome and it is a sad note for the Warriors dynasty to end on.

That being said, Kawhi Leonard had an insane finals and it was great to see players like VanVleet and Siakam get a championship. Even aged veteran Jeremy Lin, who averaged only a few minutes more than I did in the playoffs, made history, becoming the first Asian-American player to win a ring. So, the Raptors deserve to celebrate.

Rounding out a championship week, The St. Louis Blues capped off a dramatic turn around to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. It’s hard not to get behind stories like that, as the Blues went from dead last to hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup. And huge props to the bettor who turned $400 into $100,000 by backing the Blues when no sane person would. He had many chances to hedge that bet but he stuck to his guns, and it must have been a wrenching game 7 for him. He should probably give a considerable chunk of that to Jordan Binnington.

Deadspin had a great video of Blues fans going crazy on local news. This is one of the best parts about a championship-starved franchise finally crossing that line. The pure jubilation when your favorite team wins a title is a level of bliss you experience a couple of times in your life (if that, I’m still waiting for the Bengals to win a Super Bowl.

Blues Fans on the news

Check out the footage here.

And in less than celebratory father’s day news, David Ortiz is still recovering in intensive care. The Red Sox great was shot last weekend, and his daughter took to Instagram with an emotional post about his recovery.


View this post on Instagram


I would like to formally thank everyone who has reached out so kindly to feed us, transport us, and support us. Those who have extended prayers, thoughts, and love, I thank you. If there is one thing this world should know it is the admiration I have for this man, my father. I find myself complaining on a daily basis yet chaos has struck but my dad hasn’t complained once. I promise on my life he has not once looked for pity, tears, or even indicated how he feels in his current state. He may be hungry (he’s eating only ice right now) and he may be tired but you know what he said not more than 3 minutes ago? “Even the toothpaste tastes good here.” I hoped to share a bit of optimism in a time like this. People keep asking: [if] there is anything [they] can do. There is one thing everyone can do. Anytime you want to complain or feel sorry practice David’s method and turn that sorrow into optimism. #myRemarkableDadDavid #IceChipDiet #ThankYouDoctorsDominicanandAmerican

A post shared by Alexandria Ortiz (@alex.veda.ortiz) on

Beer-Loving Dad Gets Proper Send-off in Foster’s Can Casket

(Solent News)

Raising a glass to someone who’s died is a common tradition, but literally burying them in a beer can is something new.

Perry Cardy, a father-of-three was buried in a casket resembling a massive can of Foster’s lager—his favorite drink.

(Solent News)

“I think he would have been blown away and I think he would have thought it was really funny,” said Mandy Hunter, Perry’s sister. “It was a fitting send-off for him. He loved a Foster’s top, that was his favorite drink.”

A lager top is typically a summer beverage in which a lager (in this case, Foster’s) is topped with a bit of lemonade or lime juice, so it made sense that someone who clearly knew Perry set a can of lemonade on top of the casket.

(Solent News)

“I spoke to the funeral directors and asked if we could have the coffin wrapped, like you can do with cars,” Mandy continued. “He said it was possible and gave us a quote. While a traditional coffin would be around £400, we paid £700 to have the Foster’s can printed on it.

“We didn’t want it to be a sad funeral, we wanted it to be upbeat and happy, just like how Perry would have wanted.

“We had so many lovely comments at the funeral saying what a lovely idea it was, it will make people remember Perry’s funeral with happy thoughts.”

(Solent News)

On the evening of April 19th Perry was assaulted outside of his local pub. Perry was rushed to the hospital with serious head trauma but succumbed to his injuries the following morning. The man responsible has been charged with murder and is scheduled to appear in court later this month.

Despite his quiet demeanor, Perry was always friendly and well-liked by his community—so much so, in fact, that his sister was surprised by just how many folks wanted to pay their respects.

“Perry was quite a quiet person who kept himself to himself, so I don’t think even we realized just how well liked he was by his friends and fellow workmates. We are overwhelmed with the amount of people who turned up.”

Cheers, Perry!

Recognize the Signs, Break the Stigma: Today is Father’s Mental Health Day

Father's Mental Health Day

Over the past few decades, doctors, researchers and moms alike have all shed a light on a once darkened corner of the parental experience. Postpartum depression (PPD), an often debilitating condition that impacts at least 10 to 20 percent of new mothers, has slowly begun to move from the shadows and into common conversations in doctor’s offices and even on personal blogs.

Not to be confused with “baby blues”, a much more common occurrence marked by mood swings or feelings of depression caused by mostly hormonal changes immediately after child birth, PPD persists for weeks or months on end, mirroring symptoms of serious clinical depression.

Postpartum depression is not a weakness, but instead an unfortunate complication of childbirth that with prompt treatment and support, can typically be managed. While the actual causes are still unclear, research suggests several factors are at play, including hormonal changes, situational risks and life stresses in general.

While most of the attention has justifiably been on mothers, data shows that up to 10% of fathers also struggle with symptoms of PPD. That number jumps as high as 50% when their partner is also experiencing PPD. Although men often try to live up to cultural expectations of unwavering emotional strength, a wealth of research now confirms that even dads may need a little support during what can be one of the biggest life changes any person can experience.

That research, along with his personal experiences, is what led Mark Williams to help found International Fathers Mental Health Day. The initiative is centered around a whole-family approach with hopes to raise awareness and ensure all parents have the resources they need when they need them.

In 2004, Williams experienced severe depression and suffered in silence for years until eventually having a breakdown. In a post he wrote about the experience, Williams shared how patriarchal stereotypes and societal stigmas kept him from seeking help for far too long. “I hated feeling the way I did and didn’t feel like a man. Wasn’t I supposed to be the strong one?”

His wife Michelle was experiencing PPD at the same time but eventually was able to get the support she needed. Mark, however, internalized most of his emotions and instead withdrew from his loved ones, making it harder for anyone to recognize his cries for help. “I’ve learned that postpartum depression and anxiety can look very different in fathers. For me, I acted totally out of character and wanted to avoid family members. I drank more to cope and was not feeling the overwhelming paternal love that society was telling me I should, ” Mark wrote, adding “ I didn’t think men could have postnatal depression and felt I had to “man up” because all I wanted was for my wife to be happy.”

While his story is all too common, resources and visibility surrounding men’s mental health are few and far between. Dr. Andrew Mayers is one of several medical professionals attempting to break the stigmas surrounding PPD in both men and women.

“We are running three studies at Bournemouth University currently: one focusing on asking dads how the support they got (and need) when dealing with their wife/partner’s (perinatal) mental illness; the second examining support fathers need for their own mental health; while the third focuses on birth trauma.”

According to the site, around 20-45% of women perceive their childbirth as traumatic. An otherwise ‘normal’ birth may be perceived as traumatic due to things such as “loss of control, perceived threat or physical harm to self or baby, or negative attitudes of healthcare professionals involved in the birth.” Now imagine like many fathers these days, you’re in the delivery room watching as your partner suffers, feeling helpless and often ignored by medical professionals.

Pediatrician Dr. David Levine had his own personal experience with PPD which took the Yale-educated doctor to a very dark place.

While efforts are underway encouraging men to reach out, there is still a long way to go before many will feel comfortable seeking help or even discussing potential issues with their doctor or partner. For Mark Williams, it’s all about encouraging others not to wait. “I have been at my lowest ebb and have come out the other side. The best advice I can give you all is that the quicker you get the help, the quicker the recovery.”

If you think you or a loved one may be experiencing signs of mental illness, visit to take a free, quick and confidential screen for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD, and/or Alcohol or Substance Use Problems.

For more information surrounding mental health in dads, visit Dr. Mayers resources page as well as the Fathers page on Postpartum Support International’s site. In addition, here’s a quick infographic on men’s mental health in America: