Life lessons from the Queen of Versailles

Extremely loyal blog readers may recall that I wrote about The Queen of Versailles in 2013:

the protagonist talks about her days as an engineer at IBM. One day she asked her manager why he had a clock counting down. The manager said that it was showing him the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until he could retire. Why did he care? “Because that is the moment when I can start living,” was what the guy said. As a result of this conversation, the Queen of Versailles quit her engineering job and took up fashion modeling in Manhattan. Then she devoted herself to being the wife of a rich guy and mother to seven children.

The funniest line in the movie was Jackie Siegel talking about the setbacks during the Collapse of 2008 forcing the family to travel to Upstate New York via commercial airline. One of the younger kids, accustomed to the Gulfstream life, asked “Mommy, what are all of these people doing on our plane?”

Jackie Siegel is back, finishing Versailles, her huge Orlando house, in front of an TV audience (Queen of Versailles Reigns Again; streaming on HBO). (In the 2012 documentary, I remember she and her husband saying that the inspiration for the house was the Paris casino in Vegas and not Louis XIV’s bungalow in Frogland, but in this new TV series they talk about the French original as the inspiration.)

The saddest event between the two documentaries is that one of the Siegels’ daughters was addicted to Xanax and was entrusted to rehab. She formed an alliance with a fellow patient, ultimately pronounced cured by the psychologists. As soon as they were out of rehab, he introduced her to heroin. She was dead of a methadone overdose at age 18 (New York Post):

Victoria, who was a big part of the documentary, had gone to rehab to deal with a Xanax addiction. It was there she met her 26-year-old boyfriend.

“The day she got out, she tried her first heroin … a month later she was dead,” Jackie said. The boyfriend later died of a drug overdose as well.

(About 20 years ago, a friend paid handsomely for his childhood best friend to go to the Betty Ford Clinic for treatment of alcoholism. At Betty Ford, he met Hollywood heroin addicts and, upon being cured and released, began to party with them. He overdosed and died.)

The HBO show is a mixture of lifestyle and construction challenge, but I think it is worth watching to see what happens when half of the fine craftspeople of Florida come together in one place. I learned about the High Point Market, a furniture trade show that takes up 10 million square feet. Also, that the decorator chose red as a pool table felt, not tournament blue. Sometimes style is more important than function!

Sadly, the house was built right next to a big lake and not too many feet above the lake. It’s not within a FEMA flood zone, but the lake itself and shores are flagged as “Zone AE” with a 1 percent annual flood risk. Hurricane Ian was purportedly a 500-year flood event and Versailles flooded (TMZ).

Fired Googlers: How about a system that returns the FEMA flood zone, not just a map, in response to an address? ChatGPT is useless:

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Should we take the neighbor’s 5-year-old in for a COVID-19 vaccine booster?

From the Journal of Popular Studies: “FDA Grants Emergency Use Authorization of Pfizer COVID Booster for Kids 5 to 11.” Children are facing an “emergency”, according to the scientists at the FDA. If there weren’t an emergency, by definition, the shots wouldn’t be available until completely tested and approved via normal procedures.

If a child in the neighborhood is facing an emergency, you’d be morally obligated to take him/her/zir/them to the local hospital, right? You wouldn’t let a 5-year-old bleed out on the sidewalk in front of your apartment when you could simply load the injured kid into the minivan (or Tesla if you’re a douche and/or dog lover!) and zip over to the ED.

Suppose that we suspect some of our neighbors (most of them physicians or dentists) are deplorably failing to respond to the emergency facing their young children. Are we obligated to snatch up the neglected children and rush them to to the nearest healing center for an injection? If not, why not?

If you’re at Disney World in the sexual orientation and gender identification dark ride for kindergarteners and discover that a child in the next car hasn’t received his/her/zir/their booster…

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Update children’s cartoons to meet today’s propaganda challenges?

While visiting the new Peppa Pig Theme Park, I researched the glorious history of this cartoon. Wikipedia:

Peppa Pig is a British preschool animated television series by Astley Baker Davies. The show revolves around Peppa, an anthropomorphic female piglet and her family and her peers are other animals. The show first aired on 31 May 2004. The seventh season began broadcasting on 5 March 2021. Peppa Pig has been broadcast in over 180 countries.

Peppa and her family did not wear seat belts in cars in the first two series. After receiving several complaints, Astley Baker Davies announced that all future animation would include characters wearing seat belts, and that the relevant scenes in the first two series would be re-animated to include them. Similar changes were also made to add cycle helmets to early episodes with characters riding bicycles.

The main propaganda challenge of the past couple of years has been getting children to worry about a disease that kills 82-year-olds. Depending on the whims of Science at any given moment, we need to convince children to wear masks, give up school and social life, meekly accept injections of emergency use authorized vaccines, etc.

There has been some original propaganda produced in this genre, e.g., Disney’s Goofy series that includes “How to Wear a Mask”:

(Directed by Whoopi Goldberg‘s cousin Eric Goldberg?)

But why not go back and rewrite history, as the New York Times did with the history of mRNA vaccines? Break into the cryptomines and steal enough GPUs to digitally update all of the beloved animated movies and TV shows going back to the 1930s.

Snow White, kissed without consent (because she was as unconscious as a typical American college student on a Friday night), could be approached by a prince in an N95 mask. WALL-E could vaccinate EVE as soon as she arrives on a poisoned-by-SARS-CoV-2 Earth. Timothy Q. Mouse could cooperate with a TSA search and wear a mask at all times, except when eating and drinking, while flying on Dumbo:

Depending on the current CDC guidance and community transmission levels, the masked or unmasked versions of cartoons could be shown/streamed to kids depending on their physical location.

Readers: What do you think about the idea of content that adapts to the latest advice regarding mask-wearing?

Separately, you might ask how the Peppa Pig Park is. The rides are not too exciting, so it isn’t worth going on a crowded day.

As long as we’re talking about COVID-19, it is tough to understand how so many Americans were killed by a virus that attacks the obese:

(Thank you, Apple, for the 13mm-equivalent lens that enables everyone to fit into the frame.)

There is an air-conditioned TV-watching room:

The line to get lunch at the sole in-park restaurant was epic, but this was a Sunday just a week after the park opened and, in fact, they were turning away anyone without pre-purchased tickets or annual passes. Children 2-4 can probably be entertained for hours in the playground, splash park, etc. Our kids wanted to walk across the street to Legoland after about 1.5 hours and said that they wouldn’t go back unless there were no lines.

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Breaking bad habits for the New Year

Happy New Year to everyone!

What bad habits are you going to try to swear off for the New Year?

A recent conversation in the middle seat of the minivan:

  • 6-year-old: Dad, if you crack your knuckles you can’t have any ice cream for a month. I’m trying to stop your habitat [habit].
  • Me: Are you going to follow any rules, like brushing your teeth every night, or are you just going to make rules for adults?
  • 6-year-old: I’m just going to make rules for adults. I’m Joe Biden.
  • 8-year-old: If you’re Joe Biden, then give me money. I’m not working, so give me money. If you don’t give me money then you’re a fake Joe Biden.

Another fun conversation was in Naples, Florida, where we saw multiple Rolls-Royces and Ferraris every hour that we were downtown. This sparked a conversation regarding what were the world’s most expensive cars. The 8-year-old settled on a $28 million Rolls-Royce for himself. A short time later, we happened to see a Bentley and I pointed it out. The 8-year-old scoffed, “Those are common. A Bentley is for un-rich people.” (His first language is Russian (via mom and grandparents) so he didn’t have ready access to the English word “poor”.)

[Note that we haven’t attempted to persuade our kids of the merits of any particular politician, just answered their questions regarding why people might want to vote for Biden (“he promised to give people who don’t work extra money”) or Trump (“he promised to keep taxes and regulation low, which would be good for people who are trying to run small businesses”).]

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Elizabeth Warren’s plane at Oshkosh

Parked along the main drag at EAA AirVenture (“Oshkosh”) was a homebuilt airplane with Native American portraits airbrushed on the vertical stabilizer:

As we walked by on Day 1 of the event, I said to the kids, “that must be Elizabeth Warren’s plane.” On every subsequent day, we took the 15-passenger hotel shuttle van and, of course, it was always jammed. We would drive by this airplane once in the morning and once in the evening. Every time, our 5-year-old would shout out “Elizabeth Warren’s plane!” for all of the other hotel guests to hear.

(Note the stats on the plane. 2,700 hours to build over 5 years and 3 months. That’s perseverance!)

Coincidentally, at almost the exact moment that our 5-year-old was announcing the Senator’s airplane, I received a group chat message/photo from a friend who is taking his family around the National Parks: “I found Elizabeth Warren’s relatives.”


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Has educational TV (Sesame Street) been discredited?

My friend is fully recovered from COVID-19 (previous post). As part of his twin passions for minimum effort parenting and ensuring that his children go to an elite university (just like mom and dad!), he has been parking the 3-year-old in front of Sesame Street. I said that I admired his dedication to making sure that the child got to see Dr. Bill Cosby, but that the kid would be bored catatonic by anything from PBS:

Educational PBS TV was a creation of marijuana-fogged urban elites of the 1960s and 70s. I would think that it has been totally discredited by now. Learning the alphabet over and over again? How does that help a child who can learn it in 20 minutes once old enough? Shaun the Sheep is good for kids 3+ in my opinion and there is plenty of mental challenge in following a narrative story.

So… that’s the question for today. Has the idea that children can learn useful stuff about arithmetic, reading, etc. from a TV show such as Sesame Street been discredited or not? “It may be educational, but what is that TV show really teaching your preschooler?” implies that there might be some education, but that children learn to be aggressive as well. “Why TV toddlers are lost for words: Educational programmes do not help young children develop language” (Daily Mail, 2014)

(Our kids watch about 20 minutes of TV per day, on average, and content is selected purely for entertainment value, e.g., the movie Soul on which their cousin worked as an animator. What can be learned from Soul? Not history! A character refers to Charles Drew as the inventor of blood transfusions when, in fact, successful human blood transfusions were developed 100+ years prior to Dr. Charles Drew’s work in blood banking. (There is no mention of Dr. Charles Drew’s colleague, Dr. Jill Biden, MD.))

From SeaWorld Orlando, February 2020:

(The park is open right now, but warns visitors:

Exposure to COVID-19 is an inherent risk in any public location where people are present; we cannot guarantee you will not be exposed during your visit.

“inherent risk”? Even with “protective masks”? Those are fighting words here in Massachusetts!)

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