Gaming and music go hand-in-hand, and Spotify hosts over two million gaming-related playlists. This makes their jump into the so-called metaverse a no-brainer, since it’s apparently real, and we will, in fact, have to deal with it. But when Spotify invited The Dad to take a first-hand look at their partnership with Roblox, I was excited to ask the hard-hitting questions dads need to know. Questions like “What is Roblox?” and “No, really, is it like…like what is it?”
Okay, most of us have at least heard of Roblox and perhaps even used it as a motivating tool for chores or good grades or being left alone for an hour. Despite the surging popularity of feel-good, low lift video games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley, however, I’ve never actually played the game. But Spotify recognizes the fantastic potential of video games to connect people and has created a space within the game world for users to connect through a love of music. I was given a chance to explore “Spotify Island,” a unique little sanctuary within Roblox, and play around with the features. While it’s not exactly Elden Ring in terms of gameplay nuance, it’s an early look at the merging of all our digital spheres, and certainly a first step toward how entertainment will start to feel in the coming years.
Sidenote: I have to say, the Spotify office is pretty rad. When I arrived, there was a full coffee bar in the lobby, complete with a barista who was very unimpressed by my order of regular black coffee. Look, Spotify, you know me, you know how many times a week I listen to Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town; what kind of coffee did you expect me to order?
Anyway, the Roblox thing. The game allows players to engage with user-generated content, mainly in the form of mini-games players can create and share. The basic gameplay of Spotify Island is to parkour your way around a digital island paradise, collecting heart-shaped tokens, finding hidden easter eggs, and interacting with other players at beat-making stations. The tokens you collect can be exchanged for in-game content, such as emotes and cosmetic changes to your avatar. That’s all pretty familiar territory to online gamers, but the hook is how Spotify will use this space to host unique moments between artists and fans.
In-game, Spotify will host mini-quests, virtual meet-and-greets, and other interactive experiences with artists, including, obviously, selling MERCH! Yes, what kid hasn’t begged for some extra virtual dollars to spend on a virtual t-shirt for their virtual person. As someone who spent money on multiple skins for the various Avengers in a game I don’t even like, I have no commentary on this. But while it’s Dad Law to roll your eyes and act like your wallet is welded shut in these scenarios, Spotify made clear that in-game merch proceeds go directly to the artist. The artists are also as involved with the creative process as they’d like to be. Collectables and achievements are nothing new in video games – or, as we’ve seen with NFTs in the last year, real life for that matter. Considering the game’s been around since 2006, many artists will have grown up on Roblox themselves. I’m sure some young popstars will be thrilled to design in-game swag to share with fans. And I’m doubly sure preteens will lose their mind for it.
Spotfiy Island is a video game, but it’s more like a virtual lounge. I’m told there will be multiple islands added to the game world, with different themes and genres for each.This allows players to find their own little place in the metaverse based on their taste and creativity. Notably, the island features a large stage central to the action. While it’s not mentioned as part of an official release, it’s easy to see virtual events down the line, like how Fortnite has been used as a digital venue for concerts, movie trailers, and other #trending #things.
They announced they were starting partnerships with K-Pop icons Sunmi and Stray Kids, and I politely pretended to know who they were. I’m sure the kids will be excited.
Dads love history, monuments, and museums. In one of nature’s cruelest twists, kids are, historically, not huge fans.
When I was a kid, my dad LOOOVED taking us to the Wright Patterson Air Force Museum. He was unphased by our groans and complaints, in fact he may have been fueled by them, as dads often are. It’s not that he didn’t care that we didn’t like it. Now that I’m a dad I realize he took ambivalence as a challenge, that he would be able to convince us of how fascinating it all really was.
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My family just got back from a trip to Washington DC for the White House Easter Egg Roll. The last time I was in DC was 30 years ago. I was 10. Coincidentally my son is now 10 (and my daughter is 12). So while we were sightseeing, I constantly compared it with what it must have been like when my dad took me there in 1993.
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Our flight left Cincinnati at 6:30am. We left our house at 3am, because dads love arriving super early for flights. Dads love to beat the rush and dads love early flights because the airport is less crowded. Etc etc etc. Some cliches are true.
One of the first things we did was walk by the White House. DC was eerily empty Saturday morning but walking along the north side of the White House a Secret Service SUV suddenly stopped and rolled down its window. “HEY!” Uh oh… “THE DAD!” Uh ohhhhhh.
Let me pause and say that my kids do not think I’m cool. Partly because nobody’s kids think their parents are cool but mostly because I am 100% absolutely positively NOT COOL. Their assessment is spot on. But this was as if I scripted a scene that attempted to convince them I am cool.
An impressive Secret Service Officer got out of the car and shook my hand. He said “We see celebrities a lot but I don’t normally stop. But THE DAD? I love your guys’ stuff.” (As contractually required I assured him our content is made by a team of talented creators and I’m basically a boring business guy at this point.)
He got his police dog out of the car and let the kids pet him, even though he’s a highly trained combat doggo.
My son told him his goal was to play Joe Biden in basketball. The guy said, “Wellll I don’t know how athletic he is.” (Leaned closer and lowered voice.) “Well, actually I do but I’m not allowed to say.”
As he went back to patrolling, I gave my kids a knowing glance that asked, “Now do you think I’m cool?”
They responded with a glance back that unequivocally said, “Still nope. But the dog was cool.” Nonetheless, I am so grateful to that guy for stopping and raising my cool score from -1 to, perhaps, 0.
Did anything similar happen on my previous trip to DC in 1993? No because my dad’s meme game was trash due to memes not existing yet.
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The rest of the day was quintessential DC tourist stuff. So go ahead and play some montage background music in your head while you glance at pics. (Star Spangled Banner is a timeless choice but I’ll also accept My Country ‘Tis of Thee.)
Cliche right? We even did the “Pretend to lean on the Washington Monument” pic.
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Did I appreciate DC more as a dad than as a 10-year-old kid? In ways words can’t describe. I stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial realizing this is the spot where Martin Luther King Jr gave the I Have a Dream Speech. I imagined throngs of people gathered. So much happened RIGHT HERE.
We went to Ford’s Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was shot. I imagined the what ifs. What if John Wilkes Booth DIDN’T do that? What if the gun jammed?
Life is tenuous. All of the moments that happened, both good and bad, celebratory and tragic, have led to the present and made our reality what it is. Historic spots, monuments, museums… they are documentation of the most important moments that got us here. They’re the inspiration for living a better life and making our children’s realities more rich and full.
I looked at my kids. Did they realize the enormity? Did they appreciate the history? My daughter said something so profound. (This is an exact quote. I wrote it down in my phone so I could get it just right.) She said, “You should be grateful to have kids like us. We’ve been up since 3am doing your crap.”
I think she gets it.
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In 2.5 days we walked over 60,000 steps. When we’d stop I’d say “I need to rest the ole gams.” (Gams being a funny word for legs.) This became our running joke. Because what is a family trip if not a series of inside jokes you can look back on later in life. So the theme of this trip was not historical reflection as intended, but rather “resting the gams.” When we walked through White House security for the Easter Egg Roll on our last day in DC, my son asked the Secret Service Officer, “Is this the gam resting station?”
In 1993, we toured the inside of the White House. We couldn’t do that on this trip. Best I could offer was the South Lawn. What an amazing experience to walk the grounds. We saw the President, First Lady, the Easter Bunny, and Jimmy Fallon.
My son shouted for the dancing duck to “hit the griddy!” What would the 1993 equivalent of this be? “Do the Macarena!”? Kids, hitting the griddy is just a modern version of the Macarena. Ruined the griddy. You’re welcome.
An attempt was made @thejoelwillis #hitthegriddy
A guy in the VIP section saw a friend near us and came over to shake his hand. My son said, “Hey dude can I get one of those too?” (a handshake). The guy shook my son’s hand and said, “Nice to meet you. I’m Hunter.”
True parenting media brand aficionados will appreciate this: I got to hang with Micaela Birmingham and Alison Bucalo from Scary Mommy!
My kids’ favorite part? A pop up concert from Sofia Carson. In true dad fashion, I didn’t know who she was (despite her 16.3M IG followers) until my daughter told me she was Evie in The Descendents. Ah yes! Chillin Like a Villain! Historic.
We were at the White House yesterday for the Easter Egg Roll. @Joel Willis’s son got a selfie with @SofiaCarson and his reaction (and the pic) are killing me 🤣
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I’ve exaggerated for comedic effect. My kids appreciated the history more than most would. Certainly more than I did in 1993.
As parents, we need to remind ourselves: the point of historic sightseeing with your kids is not to induce some epiphany about their unique place in history and the world; the point is to create memories with your kids that they’ll look back on and appreciate when they’re older.
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After I became a dad, when my kids were little, we invited my dad to go with us to the Wright Patterson Air Force Museum. I hadn’t been since I was a kid. Ya know what? Through adult eyes it really was fascinating. My dad won the challenge after all.
My kids humored us and were as interested as kids can get. But they got to spend time with their grandpa. That’s what it was about all along.
He passed away a few weeks later and that was one of the last times we saw him. I’ll be forever grateful that we took that last trip to the museum.
History isn’t only boring museums, statues, and lengthy esoteric plaques. History is personal: our family, memories, shared experiences, and inside jokes. Some fascinating, some boring. Some heroic, some tragic. That’s the stuff life is made of.
The idea of unleashing your child into the digital world gives parents the same trepidation traditionally reserved for teaching a hormone-crazed teenager how to merge into rush hour traffic. Sure, the World Wide Web can be a scary place, but in a lot of ways, the experience is better than when we were kids. What we’ve lost in dial-up noises, we’ve gained in parental controls and strategies to make the online world a healthier environment for our kids.
You Control the World They Play In
There aren’t many phrases scarier for a parent than “in-app purchases available.” Thankfully, you can add layers of purchasing restrictions to make sure your kid doesn’t convert your life savings into video game currency.
Once you have your pocketbook protected, most apps and services also have filters you can apply to serve up only age-appropriate content. Video platforms get better every day at creating a digital world with training wheels for pre-teens. Most games restrict chat functions for younger kids so you don’t have to worry about strangers trying to make small talk with your second grader who simply wants to feed a pretend horse in an open-world environment.
Most importantly, keeping kids aware of your screen time rules — and enforcing them — will go a long way to keeping their digital habit a healthy one.
Today’s Parental Supervision Tools Are Next Level
Just as you want to know who your kid’s in-person friends are, you can monitor their early digital interactions to make sure they’re using the internet for good. Apps like Messenger Kids create a safer environment where kids can interact and play with their buddies while parents keep an eye on their whole experience.
Messaging apps are not only a great way for kids to stay connected with buddies outside of a classroom or play date, but they’re a solid introduction for kids to the digital world. They foster creativity by giving kids freedom in how they play and connect, while also aiding social and emotional development by helping kids stay in touch with friends and family members.
With Messenger Kids, you have your own separate Parent Dashboard that allows you to manage your kid’s contact list, set “off times” to enforce screen time limits, and check in on your child’s conversations, which is especially helpful with younger kids.
You’re Already Teaching Them What They Need To Know
Isolation and bullying are among the biggest dangers for teenagers growing up digitally. Actually, they’re some of the biggest problems of being a kid, period. But just as the digital world can intensify some of those issues, smart digital tools can also be part of the solution.
Many apps and platforms are joining the mission to educate and encourage positive behaviors in the digital realm. The Messenger Kids Pledge echoes the attitudes we want our kids to exhibit in real life: Be Kind, Be Respectful, Be Safe, and Have Fun. To help kids learn these behaviors and put them into practice, Messenger Kids’ new interactive Pledge Planets activity puts kids in charge of helping characters navigate social situations by using their digital citizenship skills. Messenger Kids’ interactive games also have report functions to help dramatically limit in-game bullying, while parental supervision tools let you monitor your kid’s online play.
Fortunately, there has never been more education and awareness in schools to combat issues like bullying. Those are the same values and lessons you’re instilling in your kids at home, both in-person and online.
Spending Time Online With Your Kid Can Be an Incredible Bonding Experience
Having an online kid doesn’t have to be scary — it can actually enhance your relationship. It’s something fun to do together. You don’t have to wait to throw a ball around the yard, you can destroy your fourth-grader in your favorite racing game. Meeting your kid on their level and gaming together, whether it’s a world-building game or a team-up-to-defend-the-world-from-zombies game, are memories they’ll carry forever. And it gives you a chance to model the behavior you expect from them online.
Also, an ongoing messaging relationship with your kid can bring you closer. Nothing cheers up the final quarter of your workday like your kid sending a GIF on Messenger Kids after they get home from school. Ask a child how school was, and they listlessly respond, “Fine.” Ask via text, and they might give you a whole breakdown of what’s going on — though it might be communicated with memes and emojis. Still, it adds a whole new dimension to your relationship. And you can’t ask for much more than that.
Messenger Kids is the video, voice, and messaging app designed for kids to connect with family and friends. Learn more by exploring messengerkids.com.
Johnny Walker was working near a store where a police cruiser was involved in an accident while chasing a suspect. He heard the crash, saw squad car had gone up in flames, and leapt to action.
“I’m homeless, I was doing some work for someone. I was taking some tools back when I heard ‘boom, boom, boom, boom,’” he said to a local TV station. “I ran out here to see what it is and I saw a lot of cars, but I paid attention to the fire. My instincts were to go to that car and help him out, because he was crushed in on both sides.”
The deputy was chasing a suspect of an armed robbery when he collided with another car in an intersection. Several vehicles were involved, and one woman was tragically killed. How you respond in a situation like that says a lot about a person. He didn’t see the armed robbery, he didn’t see the cop crash into cars in the intersection. He just saw a car on fire, and threw himself into harm’s way to help.
And Walker got a big reward for his efforts. Not in an official capacity, but his family, who thought the homeless man had passed away, saw him being interviewed on TV. They’ve since reconnected with him, and raised more than $10,000 to help him find a home and counseling. The selfless heroic act hopefully has him back on a path to more stability.
Sometimes, even family, fall out. Even the Fast and the Furious family.
That’s what happened with Vin Diesel and The Rock, who very publicly dislike each other and stopped teaming up on Fast movies. The Rock showed up for Fast 5, 6, 7, and 8, then had enough, did his Diesel-free Hobbs and Shaw spinoff movie, and said sayonara. But Diesel, perhaps after Fast 8 and Fast 9 weren’t quite as furious as he’d hoped, finally saw the light and asked The Rock to return for Fast 10 to wrap up the series. To which The Rock said: Nah.
A few months ago, Diesel posted to Instagram:
“The world awaits the finale of ‘Fast 10,’” Diesel wrote. “As you know, my children refer to you as Uncle Dwayne in my house. There is not a holiday that goes by that they and you don’t send well wishes… but the time has come. Legacy awaits. I told you years ago that I was going to fulfill my promise to Pablo. I swore that we would reach and manifest the best Fast in the finale that is 10!”
Diesel took to Instagram to essentially beg The Rock to return. The Rock has finally responded. Not in the way Vin Diesel wanted.
In an interview with CNN, the DC’s Black Adam laid it all out:
“I told [Diesel] directly that I would not be returning to the franchise. I was firm yet cordial with my words and said that I would always be supportive of the cast and always root for the franchise to be successful, but that there was no chance I would return.”
He directly addressed Diesel’s social media post asking him back: “Vin’s recent public post was an example of his manipulation. I didn’t like that he brought up his children in the post, as well as Paul Walker’s death. Leave them out of it. We had spoken months ago about this and came to a clear understanding.”
There are no hard feelings, of course.
“My goal all along was to end my amazing journey with this incredible franchise with gratitude and grace. It’s unfortunate that this public dialogue has muddied the waters. Regardless, I’m confident in the ‘Fast’ universe and its ability to consistently deliver for the audience… I truly wish my former co-stars and crew members the best of luck and success in the next chapter.”
And that’s that.
Not every star makes it big early. Some spend long careers grinding, never quite getting that big break, or fully realizing their potential, until later in their lives. It’s not easy waiting for recognition, or for finally delivering the project they’ve always wanted to make, especially when the people who would be most proud of your accomplishments aren’t around to see them.
For actor Jaime Dornan, that person is his father.
Dornan was a model who hit it big when he was cast in the film adaptation of the hugely popular book series, Shades of Grey. He’d become a star, and was very successful, but it’s his latest project that is getting the most attention. He stars in Belfast, an autobiographical tale from writer/director Kenneth Branagh, about a young boy growing up in Northern Ireland. The movie is an Oscar favorite, and Dornan is proud to be a part of it. He just wishes his father were still around to see it.
Dornan’s father, Jim, was a renowned obstetrician and gynecologist and was considered a pioneer in the field of women’s reproductive rights. He passed away from Covid-19 last March while Dornan was on quarantine while filming in Australia.
“For my dad not to see Belfast really hurts,” he told the Sunday Times. “I take comfort from the fact that he knows I did it. Some people go their whole lives without being told they’ve made their parents proud. My dad told me every day.”
Dornan says his father was the one who encouraged him to explore his creative side – rather than end up a working stiff.
“I didn’t want to become an estate agent in Belfast and play a bit of club rugby at weekends — with the greatest respect to estate agents in Belfast,” he added. “I just felt I had a wee bit more to offer than that… even though it is lunacy to try to be an actor. Only 4 per cent of actors are employed — who in their right mind would pursue that?”
His dad encouraged him, and Dornan has made his way quite well, and his dad knew it.
Game of Thrones was an incredible show. Groundbreaking for HBO and it absolutely deserved all the good accolades that came its way. But that last season…Season 8 of the show will always be the asterisk that drags the show down from being one of the best ever. But, star Peter Dinklage has a message for fans; “Move on.”
Dinklage, who was truly fantastic as Tyrion Lannister, gave a wide-ranging interview to the New York Times recently about new projects he’s working on. Late in the interview, he was asked about the ending.
“It’s fiction. There’s dragons in it. Move on [laughs]. No, but the show subverts what you think, and that’s what I love about it… Everybody had their own stories going on, but nobody’s was as good as what the show delivered.” – Peter Dinklage on Game of Throne’s ending pic.twitter.com/fI9fZ6eNcz
— IGN (@IGN) December 28, 2021
He said he thought people were upset with it because “they wanted the pretty white people to ride off into the sunset together.”
“By the way, it’s fiction. There’s dragons in it. Move on,” he laughed. “No, but the show subverts what you think, and that’s what I love about it.”
Dinklage thought it was the perfect time to end the show, and thought the ending was brilliant in how it wasn’t about who ruled after all.
“Everybody had their own stories going on while watching that show, but nobody’s was as good as what the show delivered, I think,” he said.
He does make a strong case for how the show frequently went out of its way to set up a fantasy trope and then cut it down. It’s what kept the show interesting and kept viewers on their feet. HOWEVER, The fans have some legit gripes with how sped up the creators made that last season. Author George R.R. Martin thought the show should’ve been two seasons longer (of course he did, he can’t finish anything) and he’s probably right. At least another season would’ve allowed them to set up the finish better.
Still, the destination was the destination, no matter how bungled the pacing was. And people…were not going to like that destination. It’s unseen if that’s how Martin plans to end things (although he clued the creators into other major moments that aren’t in the books yet, so I can’t imagine he veers off course with the ending), but Dinklage is right in that everyone had a different story. And no matter what, many of them were going to be mad with how it ended (and just the fact that it actually was over).
But if the ending actually was as good as he thinks it was, the show would still be spoken about reverently in culture. Instead, most people have moved on. And that’s the biggest sign that things didn’t work as well as possible.
“We have 2 under 2, about 14 months apart. Covid has become increasingly difficult with being in lock down and stay home orders (we’re in Ontario).
My husband has worked around the clock to be able to provide for us, as we’ve felt the financial ramifications just like so many. He works two jobs to cover our expenses and comes home always so present and involved with the kids. Always there to give me a break when I’m on my mental tipping point.
He’s always the first to say, “go for a drive, or go have a nap”… he does so much for us and never asks for anything in return. We’re so lucky.”
– Laura Fleming
A Minnesota teen served up more than just burgers and fries during her Saturday shift at McDonald’s. Throughout the seven months 15-year-old Sydney Raley spent working at the McDonald’s in Eden Prairie, her biggest challenges consisted of handling the daily lunch rush. That is, until a seemingly-typical day at the drive-thru turned almost catastrophic.
The hard-working teen was in the midst of her weekend shift, taking orders and handing customers their food through the drive-thru window. Working in food service can be incredibly hectic, but Sydney’s attentiveness and quick thinking meant the difference between life and death for one customer. After handing a woman and her daughter their first bag of food, Sydney turned to check on the remainder of their order. When the 15-year-old went to update her customers, she noticed something was seriously wrong.
“She was coughing like crazy, and I noticed she was gagging.” Sydney told CNN. “Her daughter was in the passenger seat and she looked so freaked out. I immediately knew ‘Oh, no, she’s choking.'”
Sydney learned the Heimlich maneuver from a Red Cross class for babysitters years before, and almost automatically, her training kicked in. After instructing both her manager and the customer’s daughter to call 911, Sydney leaped through the drive-thru window to do whatever she could to save the woman’s life.
With the help of a bystander, Sydney dislodged the chicken nugget from the choking woman’s throat. Though the customer was still in a state of shock, her immense gratitude was evident. The heroic teen received a reward from the Edina Police Department for her heroism, and well-earned praise from her community as a whole.