It was the summer of 1975. She was young, pretty, and care free as she ran through the night along the sand dunes toward the ocean. Her name was Chrissie Watkins. She pealed off her clothes before diving in the ocean. It was a peaceful picture of a perfect summer night. The water was calm as Chrissie swam toward a buoy as a bell rung. She paused as the dawn sun peeked above the far horizon. It was perfect. Then it was over, ruined, forever. There was heart beating music, screams as poor Chrissie Watkins got yanked every which way and finally under the water forever. It was horrifying to watch. A shark attack by the most famous shark of all-time. Jaws. Thanks a lot Jaws. The hit movie , ranked second scariest movie of all-time behind Poltergeist, taught us that swimming in the ocean equals human buffet for great white sharks.I was recently at dinner with a group of 8-people all over the age of 50 and everyone there had distinct memories of the first time they had gone to see Jaws at the movie theatre. Interesting enough the memories still lingered and several were afraid to swim in the ocean believing there would be a great white shark just waiting there to gobble them up. The shark is always there, lurking, somewhere deep in our subconscious, but ready to resurface every time we try to enter the ocean. What is it about a 39-year old mechanical shark that we can’t shake? Fear, that’s what. Not being able to see through the murky water to what is swimming below or next to us. The good, rational news is that you stand a better chance of being struck by lightning, twice, than being eaten by a shark. Does that help if you are on a pleasure boat and getting ready to jump in ocean water over your head…hell no. That damn shark is right below just waiting for the chance to maul you and end your life in a bloody mess. Even if you don’t get killed the instant you dive in the shark will appear not long after and people will be yelling “SHARK” as you race back to the boat only to be shredded up when your just feet away from safety while your friends on the boat watch in horror. If you are actually lucky enough not to be attacked while swimming the shark will surely appear just as you reach the boat and rip off your legs as you try to climb back on board. He has been waiting for this day for 39-years. You are the one he wants to eat and you can’t convince me otherwise. Fear is a good thing. It is an emotion intended to keep us alive and Jaws scared the crap out of us. A professor at the University of Wisconsin has been studying the Jaws effect for over 30-years says ” Thinking about Jaws when you are in the ocean, in a way, is a rational response, since there are sharks in the ocean”. DUHHH. Her survey was completed more than 30-years after Jaws was released and still 43% reported experiencing “enduring problems” with swimming in the ocean, all because of that monster fish. ” I feel intuitively that I am destined to die as a result of a shark attack” one student reported. That’s right, Jaws has had many offspring in the past 39-years and they are just waiting for you to venture out in the water. They are just deep enough to be out of sight but as soon as you enter their turf the attack will begin, no question about it. When swimming in the ocean I would always suggest swimming with a companion. That way you can have your companion jump in first and see if anything happens to them. But make sure that they have seen the movie first because Jaws descendants only attack people who have seen the movie. A mutant Jaws descendant with great intellectual powers has a list kept deep underwater of all those who have seen the movie Jaws and are planning to pick them off one-by-one. One thing for sure, don’t go swimming in the ocean at night. There will be an all points bulletin to all great whites about your whereabouts and you will be eaten by a pack of sharks, which might be less painful than the agonizingly slow death only one shark can bring. The sharks have a lot of ground to cover so if they don’t get you the first time, feel lucky, because your name is now on their “hit list” and they are bound to get you the next time you enter. The Jaws family considers it an insult if you dare to try and fool them. We saw the movie with a group of 8-people and there are only six of us still alive. A Jaws son got one, Gary, while he was snorkling off the coast of Hawaii and a second, Mike, was fishing off the Southern coast in a small boat with a friend when he put his hand in the water to clean off fish blood and a Jaws child grabbed him by the hand and pulled him out of the boat in to the ocean where he became a late lunch. The friend lived because he had not seen the movie. So if you think it’s safe to enter the water now, forget it, there is a whole new generation of Jaws sharks waiting for you to just stick your little toe in the ocean. I feel safe because I gave a fake name when I went to see the movie. I used the name of someone I didn’t like and he had his head bitten off while boogy boarding…kinda feel bad about that.
For those who think things were better in the past, I just say look at the people’s teeth. It used to be normal to have a yellow tint to your teeth, even the movie stars didn’t have the pearl white teeth that we see on today’s kids. Today as I look at the next generation of kids and young adults I can’t overlook how white and bright all their smiles are. What happened? When I was a kid we went to the dentist twice a year as recommended, checked for cavities and if any were found the dentist would drill them out and fill the cavity with a silver colored mixture of silver, copper, and mercury. It wasn’t until later that physicians realized mercury was a toxic material so a lot of kids were walking around with a mercury contaminated mouth. If your teeth were not straight then god awful braces were recommended. The braces were the size of train tracks and at night you had to wear a neck brace to hold them firmly in place. Braces were only recommended for the most crooked of teeth, if your teeth basically went north to south you were fine. We had three kids in our family and none of us were put in braces. It was by far the minority to have to wear braces and the verbal abuse for wearing them was unrelenting. Whitening of teeth was just unheard of in the 60’s and 70’s. It was in the 1980s when in-office bleaching techniques became widespread in the dental profesion. By the mid-1990s, people could easily get teeth whitening products over the counter. I started noticing it on television first where smiles seemed unnaturally white. The cast of “Friends” all had perfectly straight and white teeth. It looked fake at first, but as the masses began whitening, it became normal and those of us with unbleached yellowish teeth were freaks. When asked to smile I would get a chorus of “E-w-w-w-w!” It was soon my turn to be the parent and bring my kids in for their dental visits. Without fail all three kids were advised that they would need braces to correct their smile. I am convinced no one is born with perfectly straight teeth but if someone in authority tells you your child needs braces you do it rather than face a lifetime full of guilt. We spent thousands of dollars on each kid’s braces and of course teeth whitening when they came off. You do it because they are your children…no questions asked. You don’t want other kids calling your children “horse mouth”, “hillbilly” or “it looks like your kid was eating apples thru a chain link fence”. Fortunately braces had become far less evasive and some transparent, but the kids favorite part was picking out the color of rubber bands that went along with the braces. At least for all the effort their teeth do look fantastic and all have wonderful smiles. So does almost every other kid their age. I have seen some over-do it and their smiles come off as florescent rather just white. It is most obvious when older people have their teeth super whitened, teeth like the rest of the body are supposed to age. But all things considered people’s teeth are by far more attractive than they were a generation ago. For the record teeth are naturally yellow in color. The outer most covering of the teeth (enamel) is white. However the layer below this, which is dentin, is naturally yellow. The outer layer is translucent which makes the color yellow more apparent. This cannot be changed without the use of advanced whitening methods. I try to explain this to my kids who all give me the E-w-w-w when I smile, but to no avail. Let’s face it whiter teeth are more attractive than yellow. Maybe thru a genetic mutation future children will be born with naturally white and straight teeth.
Come on, admit it. You are a junkie for celebrity news. Why? What is it about the bigger-than-life actions of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie or Nicole Ritchie or the continuing train wreck news from Lindsay Lohan that makes it so compelling for Americans to drop everything and tune-in. They’re just like us – only better. They’re richer, shinier, more beautiful versions of ourselves. With all the fancy dress-up occasions and flashbulbs popping like crazy on the red carpet, it’s like the prom every day. The overwhelming media attention given them informs us that they are what we want to be. First of all, they’re always there. The media insists that the constant coverage is a result of their audiences desire for more news, more details on every facet of celebrity lives. The opposition says that because we are so submerged by the constant stream of media news that we become junkies for more news. I tend to think the first is true…people cannot get enough news about their favorite celebrities. Prior to the 90’s, there were two major sources for celebrity news, one televised and one print. Soon after the millennium the rise of the internet as a news resource became a major influence particularly among the young. With our ever-increasing access by virtual means into the lives of just about anyone, celebrities’ every move is recorded and broadcast into our lives as if we were right there with them. You can carry your favorite celebrity in your own pocket. Privacy isn’t what it used to be, so it’s easy to feel that we know all about the lives of Kanye and Kim, David Beckham, or whoever your fav is. There is a sense of entitlement to celebrity lives which feeds the celebrity frenzy. The effect is felt most by the younger generation who were born after 1990 and have known nothing else other than the current media frenzy that celebrities create. With all of our instant access and supposed need for more and more “gossip” sociologists believe we are suffering from a “Low level cultural depression”. The notoriety of the entertainer and the almost religious fervor of their most dedicated fans is a symptom of dissatisfaction with one’s own predicament. Kids see fame as a cure-all for problems. And whereas previous generations may have been interested in the so-called fabulous life of celebrities, the difference today is that kids feel fame is achievable. I remember watching the Academy Awards with my parents and while it was a wonderful night to see the Hollywood Stars all dressed up, it was soon forgotten and we continued our regular, sometimes mundane lives.With today’s reality shows and YouTube showcasing the lives of the unknown masses and creating instant fame for those who have no reason to be famous, there is the belief that someday soon they could join the ranks of those whose faces are seen on People and Us. Here is a big down-side with celebrity obsession…the motivation for following the lives of the famous, whether it be boredom, dissatisfaction, or loneliness in one’s own life-often can lead to increased isolation from the real world. Being older I was often amazed and almost impressed with how much the younger people at work knew about even the slightest of celebrities. It was like a game to see who could get the “dish” the soonest and the news comes out fast. I once took a lunch break and went to the gym for a 1-hour workout at LA Fitness. I saw David Hasselhoff at the gym and by the time that I returned to work his picture at the gym was already posted on TMZ…that is fast.
All this instant coverage often leads to confrontations between celebrity and the paparazzi. I can definitely see how an A-celebrity can be pushed to the limit from this kind of hounding. What I don’t think everyone realizes is that your B & C-actors and wannabe actors seek out the paparazzi’s attention. The more coverage , the better. They want their picture on any possible media outlet to hopefully be seen by the right producer who will make them famous and then they can hate the paparazzi if they get famous. I don’t think we are in any great danger as a society with our fixation on celebrity life. I think it is just a small minority who try to replace their own lives with that of someone famous. It is just a change that technology brought us into this mass supply of celebrity news. The internet separated generations and the new generation is comfortable with the new technology and will continue to be. For the rest of us what we don’t know won’t hurt us regarding celebrity news. FYI – currently the most followed celebrities are Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Barack Obama, Rhianna, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Shakira, and Jennifer Lopez.
When did America become so thirsty that we needed to carry around a fresh water supply with us continuously? What did we do before bottled water became available? As a kid I don’t remember people falling over from dehydration in the streets because they weren’t carrying a water supply. Sure, as kids we would carry around plastic canteens while playing army, but I don’t recall the adults having a water supply attached to them. They would stop by the nearest drinking fountain and take a sip and keep on their merry way. If at home it was easy to fill up a glass of water from the tap and have an unlimited supply of water. We never thought twice about the safety of tap water as it came from local municipalities and that meant it had to be good. We just turned on the kitchen sink, filled our glass with water, and drank it…a lot of it. It never had any adverse effects on us that we know about and generations before us had been doing the same thing. In recent decades sales of bottled water in this country have skyrocketed largely as a result of a public perception of purity driven by advertisements and packaging labels featuring pristine glaciers and crystal-clear mountain springs. But bottled water in the United States is not necessarily cleaner or safer than most tap water according to almost every scientific study made public. In fact 25% of bottled water comes from the same municipal supply as tap water. The water is treated, purified and sold to us, often at a thousandfold increase in price. Most people are surprised to learn they’re drinking glorified tap water, but bottlers aren’t required to list the source on the label. Aquafina, for example, is H2O that comes from public water sources. Nestle’ Pure Life and Dasani are just the same. It is a known fact that tap water is far more heavily regulated than bottled water. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, regulates tap water, while the FDA regulated bottled water. However, FDA regulations do not cover water that is packaged and sold within the same state, and so 60-70% of bottled water is fairly unregulated. Also bottled water is required to be tested less frequently than city tap water. So why the drastic surge in bottled water sales? Ironically, public concern about tap water quality is at least partly responsible for the growth in bottled water sales. But the major reason is perception fueled by marketing designed to convince the public of bottled water’s purity and safety. Marketing so successful that people spend from 250 to over 10,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than they do for tap water. This all came to light to me during a trip to San Francisco to visit my daughter and son-in-law. They took me to the Academy of Sciences Museum which is a beautiful museum inside Golden Gate Park and one of the most eco-friendly natural history museums in the world. I highly suggest giving it a visit if your in the Bay Area. The tour guide point blankly said that tap water is safer to drink than bottled water, not to mention the effect of plastic water bottles on the environment. Less than 25% of bottles are recycled. I was in disbelief when she told us about tap water in comparison to bottled water. I had long been a heavy water bottle user buying cases at a time from the supermarket. I didn’t care what the brand was, I just bought what was on sale at the time. As a kid, teen, and young adult I had never thought twice about putting a glass under the tap to get my drinking water and used public water fountains regularly. Then I too became suddenly dehydrated after seeing the bottled water commercials and needed to carry one with me constantly. I still buy bottled water, Arrowhead, for it’s convenience and the fact that if guests are over and I serve them tap water it’s likely to be left untouched. But I have gone back to putting my glass under the tap for a drink and honestly it feels strange. I have been so conditioned to think tap water is bad that it is tough to overturn that thought. I think the two best solutions are to attach an additional water purifier to your tap to take away any lingering doubts you might have and if you need to carry around a bottle for fear of sudden death due to dehydration just use one and keep refilling it. I see many younger people doing this which is note worthy. It’s also curious to note that the same people who are so afraid to drink from the tap have no problems with using the water fountain at the fitness clubs, which is just tap water cooled. ” Ever wonder about those people who spend $2.00 apiece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backward” – George Carlin.
The 4th of July happens to be my favorite holiday. The sole purpose of the day is to celebrate, which means having fun. No presents to wrap, no services to attend, no relatives you must see, no brunches…just friends, food, beer, flags and fireworks. I fell in love with the holiday as a kid when I went to my first fireworks show. I remember the warm summer air, running around a grassy area in bare feet with what seemed like a thousand kids, which probably was more like twenty. Parents for some reason let all the children off their leashes on this day to explore and have fun with all the other kids. The day was spent swimming all afternoon in a pool, lake, ocean, or even the classic Toys ‘R Us plastic pool. Squirt guns were always an essential toy to have on this day although compared to today’s water blasters they seem very chinsy. The old squirt guns were the size of a small pistol with one hole to fill them up and it took an eternity. You would have to submerge the gun underwater until the bubbles stopped coming up. Then it was full and you got maybe 10 shots of a measly spray to try to get your friends wet. It seemed fun at the time but nowadays kids use the long tube blasters which can drench your enemy with one pump. It’s like a revolutionary war musket compared to robo-cop machine gun. The bar-b-que was already running hot with coals and meat was the choice of the day. Fourth of July was not created for vegetarians. By evening your eyes were blood red from the chlorine in the pool and your face and shoulders the same shade due to the sun. Is it ever not sunny on the Fourth? Not in my memories. The evening would roll around but it was still light outside, only the temperature had dropped a few degrees and the parents had let all their guards down. After a second feeding of hamburgers and ribs the children would usually be back in the pool while the adults continued to drink their beer and wine. Without fail one of the dads would allow each kid to take a sip from his beer and it always tasted terrible. Eventually the sun would begin to set and with the first sign of darkness we would beg our parents to let us light the sparklers that had been under protective care all day. These sparklers were the real deal when I was young, made out of sulfur, charcoal, and aluminum and capable of burning off a child’s clothes in seconds, not the sissy safe and sane paper sparklers used today. Of course we were told to be careful after each one was lit, which we were around the parents, but left alone the sparklers could be very intimidating as you chased your friends around with sparks flying everywhere including your own face. It was also mandatory that you would try to spell your name with a sparkler. As darkness came so did the big show…fireworks. What could be better than laying back on a blanket on soft grass and watch fireworks go off overhead, that is the best. A moment in time that you wish would never end. People would oooh and ahh with each new burst of colors lighting up the night’s sky. The occasional white blast with a sonic boom would shake everyone up and an occasional dud would be standard. The big thrill came at the end when a barrage of fireworks would turn the sky into a multitude of blazing colors, it was incredible to watch as a child. The only sad part about the grand finale was that it meant the end to the fireworks, why can’t it just go all night long?
Fourth of July hasn’t changed much since being a kid. It’s been fun as a parent to see the excitement in my children’s eyes as they experienced the same festivities as I had. When we finally moved in to a house with a swimming pool we were able to host our own Fourth of July party which continued every year until our most recent move and the children had moved away. Now I have to wait for grandchildren to experience the same magic with and I’m sure it will still center around friends, family, swimming, patriotism, meat and the grand finale of fireworks. Happy Birthday America!