Superintendent Uses Bonus to Pay Students’ College Application Fees

Superintendent Grant Rivera
(Marietta City Schools)

Applying to college is a huge pain in the butt, and I’m not even talking about the years of prepping for the SATs.

There’s choosing the schools you want to target, working with teachers and guidance counselors to figure out your odds, and then actually filling out the long, time-consuming documentation needed to actually put your hat in the ring for each school.

Did I mention the application fees? Every school requires a fee for each application, and this can limit the number of colleges and universities a student might put in for.

Thanks to the generosity of their superintendent, students in Georgia’s Marietta School district won’t have to worry about that.

Grant Rivera, the superintendent of the district, recently received a $10,000 bonus for satisfactory performance. Rivera, who has held the position since 2016, is eligible for a bonus every three years, and this was his first time capturing the award. But he’s not interested in keeping it for himself. Instead, he’s giving it back and using it to pay those pesky application fees that might otherwise deter students at Marietta High School from applying to college.

Those fees are usually somewhere in the $70 and 90$ range, according to Kelly Herrero, Marietta High’s IB Middle Years Program coordinator. That’s no small thing, especially if you’re applying to 3-5 schools, and she appreciates what Superintendent Rivera is doing.

“Any opportunity for these kids to have someone invest in them in this way goes to the theme to what Marietta, I think, is all about,” she told Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Rivera said that he expects about 150-200 of the schools 500 seniors to apply to college. He also pledged to use any leftover bonus money to pay for bus tours of Georgia colleges, to better help his students choose which schools they might want to attend.

“My hope is that it’s an incentive for kids to do the right thing,” Rivera said.

Either way, the generous educator is certainly setting the right example.

Data Expert Beautifully Charts Top Selling Video Games of Last 30 Years

Top Selling Video Game Data
(YouTube / Data Is Beautiful)

Video games hold a special place in our hearts. The virtual worlds and competitions we’ve explored on consoles and computers have shaped who we are and occupied tons of our headspace over the decades. Hell, dads love video games so much, we created a whole group just for them.

But just because a certain game means a lot to you doesn’t mean it necessarily does to everyone else.

YouTuber and first-year PhD student Data Is Beautiful dove into the history of video games to do what he does best: take us on “a fun trip down memory lane together so we can relive the colorful events we all experienced.”

Specifically, he charts video game sales worldwide over the last 30 years. These are measured by cumulative units on both PC and game consoles excludes both mobile app sales and free-to-play games (e.g., Fortnite).

Talk about some serious twists and turns! The video perfectly illustrates the radical changes that swept through the industry over the decades – some you surely expected and others you probably didn’t.

Frogger held the top spot for 3 years before finally being toppled in 1992 by everyone’s favorite Italian plumber in Super Mario Land. Soon after, though, Tetris saw an impressive rise to the top of the charts where it remained for two decades, despite several popular franchises like Pokemon and The Sims experiencing cult-like popularity in the ’90s and 2000s.

 

Tetris and its iconic falling blocks remained king of video game sales for what felt like an eternity until another block-centric title came seemingly out of nowhere to take the title spot in 2013: Minecraft. The sandbox video game saw a meteoric explosion of popularity, essentially leaving all the other titles and franchises in its dust.

So, for all of those who dream of designing a video game of their own one day, learn from history: Make a game with some damn blocks.

Malls Open Early So Kids With Autism Can Meet Santa In a Calm Setting

Santa Lays on Floor For Child With Autism
(Autism Speaks)

Taking your kids to meet Santa is a wholesome family tradition. You get to drive to an always-crowded suburban mall, spend 10 minutes circling for a parking spot, wait in a long line to meet Santa, and then take a picture of your kid crying when he comes face to face with the most magical person in their world. It really is pretty special.

And for some parents, especially those who have children with special needs, participating in these routine traditions can be a much tougher hurdle to clear. This is why Autism Speaks is hosting “Santa Cares” events at malls across the country, where kids with special needs can visit with Santa in a less frenetic setting.

On those days, the malls open early to help facilitate a smaller crowd, the music plays a little quieter, and the lights are a little lower. Santa also has training for children with special needs. Often times they’ll stand behind their chairs or lay on the ground to make sure the children are comfortable. All of this combines to create a much more accessible experience for kids who need it.

 

Autism Speaks partnered with Cherry Hill Programs to produce the events, which include special training for the Santas so they can better interact with special needs children.

“Our goal is to create a more inclusive world for people with autism, and events like this make such a meaningful impact in helping families feel comfortable, understood and accepted,” said a spokesperson at Autism Speaks.

There are hundreds of events planned around the country, to find a sensory-friendly Santa experience near you, check out the Autism Speaks website.

Parody Adds Ice Skates to Die Hard to Make Even More Christmassy

Die Hard on Ice Parody
(YouTube/NOW TV)

The holidays can be stressful. What with the shopping and the crowds and the long Christmas lists and the family interactions; things are fraught. Sometimes you need a break, and often the best way to get one is to sit down by the fire and the tree, grab a glass of egg nog, and watch a Christmas movie.

Like Die Hard.

Oh, I’m sorry, you don’t consider Die Hard a Christmas movie? Well, it takes place during the Christmas season, at a Christmas party, on Christmas eve, and there’s a tree and a Santa and Christmas songs, and someone even says “Ho. Ho. Ho.” So maybe it’t not about Christmas but it is surrounding by the trappings of Christmas, which is a good enough reason for me to put it on this weekend!

If you’re still not convinced, maybe this new version of the classic action movie will turn the tide.

A new ad for NOW TV in England, promoting the streaming service – and its airing of Die Hard this month – features a parody of Die Hard – featuring ice skaters. It has to be seen to be believed.

McClane is played by Hollywood stunt artist Tom Boney, but the real show-stopper here is Hans, as portrayed by four-time British silver medalist figure skater Thomas Paulson.

The ad, which is better than it has any right to be, is clearly meant with affection, as confirmed by NOW TV’s Managing Director, Marina Storti. “Die Hard is arguably the greatest action movie of all time – an iconic and festive blend of action, intelligence, drama and comedy,” Storti said. “And we’re sure our ‘on ice’ recreation will be loved by Die Hard enthusiasts and NOW TV fans alike.”

The parody only lasts as long as the trailer, and while I certainly don’t need ice skates added to the movie to make it an acceptable watch during the holiday season, my wife might.

I just hope Holly doesn’t yell “toe pick!”

Grandma and Grandson Are Best Friends and Viral Photoshoot Veterans

Ross Smith and Pauline "Granny" Kana
(Instagram/smoothsmith8)

Family photos are notorious for being cheesy, poorly staged, and just bad overall. Fortunately, a special grandmother-grandson duo is redefining the game and kicking out some unforgettable family pics to their now millions of fans.

Ross Smith, 27, and his 93-year-old grandma, Pauline “Granny” Kana, began posting short videos on Vine over 6 years ago. One particular vid featured Ross getting savagely blocked by Granny while playing basketball, which went subsequently went insanely viral and launched the duo into internet stardom.

Even with the decline of Vine, the duo has continued making videos and doing hilarious photoshoots, which has earned them an astounding 2.7 million followers on Instagram and 900k subscribers on YouTube.

We’ve compiled a number of our favorite parody costume shoots from Ross and Granny for your viewing pleasure. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

(Instagram / smoothsmith8)
(Instagram / smoothsmith8)
(Instagram / smoothsmith8)
(Instagram / smoothsmith8)
(Instagram / smoothsmith8)
(Instagram / smoothsmith8)
(Instagram / smoothsmith8)
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(Instagram / smoothsmith8)
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(Instagram / smoothsmith8)
(Instagram / smoothsmith8)

Clearly, family holidays are even more special for this pair who plan something costumed and ridiculous for nearly every single one of them. It’s also hard to tell who’s enjoying it more.

In addition to posting amazing photographic content like this, Ross and Granny also film comedy sketches, mini-documentaries, Granny’s words of wisdom, and sometimes just typical updates to let us know Granny hasn’t kicked it yet.

Sometimes, they’ll even visit conventions to heckle folks walking around. Check out Granny’s shenanigans at this bodybuilding event:

If you need more quality content from this iconic pair, check out their posts on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

‘Vacation’ TV Reboot ‘The Griswolds’ in the Works at HBO Max

The Griswolds TV Reboot
(Warner Bros)

It’s December, inching towards Christmas, and this time of year means one thing in my house: holiday movies.

In October we watch horror flicks, in December it’s Santa stuff. All month long. My wife indulges in the proud schlock of the Lifetime and Hallmark channels, my kids eat up all the animated stuff, I get thrown the occasional Die Hard or Bad Santa bone, and sprinkled throughout the month are the classics. The movies get more legitimate as we get closer to the big day, and the two biggest are the classic It’s a Wonderful Life and my wife’s all-time favorite National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Christmas Vacation is the third movie to feature the lovably dysfunctional Griswold family, featuring doofus dad Clark, his remarkably tolerant wife, Ellen, and their two teenagers, Rusty and Claire. There have been 4 movies (if you count Vegas Vacation) featuring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as Clark and Ellen, with their kids being played by a variety of different actors (including Anthony Michael Hall).

Johnny Galecki, who grew up to star in Roseanne and The Big Bang Theory, appeared as Rusty in the Christmas edition, and apparently he has fond memories because he’s bringing the family back. In TV form!

With his blockbuster sitcom coming to an end, Galecki is shifting attention away from Sheldon and company and back to the Griswold family with a new series for HBO Max.

The Hollywood Reporter describes the “The Griswolds” as “a single-camera comedy about what happens when the disaster-prone family returns home from vacation. The Griswolds, which currently has a script development deal, will follow the family and explore their daily lives in the suburbs of modern-day Chicago.”

Whether the dad will be Clark, or Rusty (Ed Helms portrayed a grown-up Rusty in 2017’s Vacation reboot that nobody saw), or someone else is yet to be seen, as is any potential involvement of Chevy Chase in one of his most iconic roles. The notoriously prickly actor has burned many a bridge over the years, but people still love Clark, so we’ll see.

Unfortunately, something tells me Randy Quaid won’t be reprising his role as Cousin Eddie anytime soon.

Father Figures: How Much I Lost

“My mother sent me a box of pictures from my childhood and included was the note I wrote my father the night he left. I was nine, and I can still remember him telling my mother he’d been having an affair. He packed some things as my mother cried in another room.

As he put his boots on to leave, I handed it to him. I remember feeling pretty confident that I’d be able to change his mind, but of course it didn’t work. He read it. Then he let out a forced breath, and then tossed the note onto the kitchen table. He didn’t say anything. He just finished putting on his boots, slung the duffle bag over his shoulder, and left.

It’s funny, in that moment I felt like I’d done something wrong. Like my note failed to keep my parents together. But when I saw it mixed in with those photos 28 years later, I felt anger, and I’ll tell you why.

After he left, he was in and out of my life until he died 10 years later from drug addiction. The most consist relationship we had was when he was in jail. I always knew where to find him then. But I don’t think I fully realized what we’d missed until I became a father myself.

That night he not only walked out on my mother, but he also walked out on years of bedtime stories, family movie nights, parent teacher conference, warm hugs, vacations, arguments over homework, Christmas mornings, camping trips, playing catch, and every other heartwarming, frustrating, and rewarding part of being a father.

I can remember him saying ‘you’ll understand someday. ‘He said that a lot. And he was right. It’s only now that I know exactly what he and I lost.

Divorce happens, but that fatherhood gig never stops. The moment I saw that note, a realization hit me in a hot angry wave. I finally understood how much I lost the night my father left, and I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more committed to my role as a father than I do right now.”

– Clint Edwards, Author of Silence is a Scary Sound [amazon.com/Silence-Scary-Sound-Stories-Terrible/dp/1624148530/]

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

Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Baby Confused By His Father’s Twin

NFL Star Pays off $80k in Holiday Layaway Accounts at Hometown Walmart

Khalil Mack Pays off Layaway Debt
(Getty/Quinn Harris)

Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack recently played hometown Santa when he paid off all the layaway items at a Walmart in Florida. Hundreds of families will have a happier Christmas as the Pro Bowler’s gift totaled nearly $80,000. The store tweeted about the heartwarming gesture.

“We have some wonderful News! If you have an active Holiday Layaway account at your local Ft. Pierce Wal-Mart, your account has been paid off! We here at Walmart would like to thank the Khalil Mack Foundation for your generosity, and for making so many families happy for the holidays!”

The Khalil Mack foundation approached the Walmart with interest in brightening the holidays for the community as a “secret santa”, which, admittedly, lost a lot of its secrecy when the store openly tweeted about it. Still, it’s a baller move to bring some Christmas joy to his community.

Mack, a former defensive player of the year and Pro Bowl regular, is a terrifying presence on the field, as he destroys offensive lines on the reg.

But it’s his big heart that’s earning him praise now. Mack has always been a big supporter of his community, as just earlier this year he donated cleats to everyone on the football team at his former high school.

Tis the season for heartwarming gestures from pro athletes, as this move comes just weeks after one star paid thousands to clear a middle school’s lunch debt.

Keanu Day: The Matrix 4 and John Wick 4 Share Same Release Date

Keanu Sequel Day
(Warner Bros./Lionsgate)

Keanu Reeves is having a resurgence over the past few years, and his apex is on the horizon, as we finally have a release date for the much-awaited Matrix sequel: May 21, 2021. Oh, and we also have a release date for the next installment of his beloved John Wick franchise and it is…May 21, 2021.

That’s right, the spring weekend will feature an epic Keanu v. Keanu box office showdown. Many have already started to call it “Keanu Day”, as the two mammoth titles will hit theaters at the exact same time.


In fairness, Keanu Reeves is the only actor who could compete with a Keanu Reeves opening. And while opening against a huge movie may be seen as a deterrent, it could actually help both films in this case as folks go out of their way to hit both.

It’s not yet clear which film would garner the bigger opening weekend. The Matrix 4 is a sequel to a beloved franchise, and there’s bound to be more than a healthy dose of nostalgia involved. And while some of the enthusiasm for the film may be tempered by the first lackluster sequels (2 and 3 both left fans dissatisfied), it’s hard to see how this could go wrong.

And you can’t sleep on John Wick 4 either, as that franchise doesn’t have any nostalgia factor, but does have a strong ass-kicking factor, one that has propelled it to strong box office openings. Case in point, John Wick 3 was the film that finally knocked Avengers Endgame out of the top spot at the box office.

It is possible that one of the films may change their release date, but for now, maybe block off the entire weekend for one giant Keanu celebration.

If you can’t wait for some Keanu content, check out how one artist worked him into the lives of every Disney Princess or check him out in the SpongeBob trailer.