The Inherent Dangers of Elf on the Shelf


It started in 2005, not really the “Tradition” that Bing Crosby is.

If you’re like me, then the holidays are a time of elaborate decoration, gift-giving and the hidden look of disappointment in your parents’ eyes as they come to terms with another season that you’ve stood by your decision not to have children. Luckily for my parents, my younger sister has two little boys that love Christmas! My parents adore them and my sister and her husband are heavily involved in their lives and forming nostalgic memories for them to look back fondly on.  One of the “traditions” that my sister introduced is the Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition.

For those of you who aren’t in the know as I was not, Elf on the Shelf is a posable elf doll and accompanying book that outlines what this little elf means for the children of the house. The book goes on to tell the children to whom it is read that EOTS is Santa’s eyes and ears. EOTS will position himself in a spot in the house (hence the ability to wrap his spindly little arms and legs around stuff in the house) and, if he spots you being good, then he sprints up to the North Pole during the night, lets the Big Man know that you should be on the Nice List and then hauls ass back to your house to situate himself in a different spot to begin his silent, spying vigil anew. The main rule in the book is that children MUST keep their damn, stinking paws off the elf. They can’t touch the elf or his magic might disappear and he would be driven to life on the streets, most likely killed by an outdoor cat who would first bat him around as a plaything, further removing his magic and ultimately his will to live.

It is a terrible idea to buy this for your children. Here’s the three reasons why.

#3:  You’re asking for your child to develop a complex.

So, you’ve decided that an inanimate bendy doll is the best way to manage your child’s behavior through the promise of rewards. Now your child always has one eye on the smiling little elf that you’ve sat on the china hutch or cleverly hung from the chandelier. He or she does his or her best to always behave, not throw a fit, play nice with their sibling, share their toys and wakes up every morning, anxiously running to the spot where the elf was monitoring the night before. Relieved, the child sees that the elf has run up North and reported their good behavior! Now the child must make it their life’s priority to search out where you’ve devilishly hidden the elf. Your sweet, behaving child cannot rest until they learn where the elf is so that they can make sure that it is in a different spot tomorrow and the game can begin again.

If this were an adult, we would label it extreme paranoia or obsessive compulsive disorder. Do you really want your child to become frantic about finding and pleasing a doll?  And, let’s not forget that you have to be obsessive about this as well, because this is the main reinforcement that your child has now to behave.  However, it should be pointed out that…

 #2: You’re encouraging bad behavior.

If you’re diligent and move the elf every night, you can rest assured that your beautiful snowflake is encouraged to be good and listen to mommy and daddy. But, let’s say that the child does something naughty and he knows it.  He knows he’s been bad, but the next morning, the elf has moved!  The elf didn’t see!  What else can he get away with?  Or, does this mean that what the child considered to be “bad” is not bad at all?  Maybe it is condoned, nay, encouraged by Santa! Eh-gads, man!  Do you know what this means?  We can do anything we want!  As long as the elf moves, then it doesn’t matter what Mom and Dad say!

So, maybe they won’t take it that far, but let’s say that your child does misbehave and the elf doesn’t move. How long can you hold out this game?  Really?  Are you going to keep leaving the elf where it is until the child turns around and changes their ways?  If so, are you willing to deprive them of gifts at Christmas or are you going to continue just as you would have even if you hadn’t had the elf in the first place? 

And what if your child really does start behaving if the elf stays where he is? They are good all day, but it was a long day at work, you’re tired, maybe had a glass of wine after putting junior to bed and the next morning, the stream of questions reminds you of something you didn’t do.

#1 You’re going to forget.

Back to my sister.  This is her experience with Elf on the Shelf in her actual Facebook feed.


Two days.  She lasted TWO DAYS!  My sister’s no dummy and she lasted two days. This means that she got Elf on the Shelf, showed her boys, moved it once and then forgot. 

Why set yourself up for failure?  Just give the kids some presents, sing some songs and eat a bunch of food with family.  Leave the Elf on the Shelf.

“That Looks Healthy”

I don’t care for hot drinks, so I need a substitute for the coffee that most of my co-workers drink.  I have been going for high-caffeine energy drinks lately.

On the way to work is a Walgreen’s that typically has Rockstar Zero Carb on sale, 2 for $3.  So, I stop there, grab two (one for tomorrow) and a bag of chips.  I get to the counter and the checkout girl says, “Well, that looks healthy.”

“Yeah, your produce section was sorely lacking,” I reply.  Really?  Do you know what they sell here?  None of it has nutritional value unless you really stretch the definition of healthy.  I’ll still go back because I can’t find cold drinks anywhere cheaper though.

And another thing, judgemental cashier!  I’m here at 7:40 a.m. right after running two miles and lifting weights for 40 minutes.  What have you done to stay healthy this morning?!

Bane needs a hug and a sandwich.

Caution, Minor Spoilers.

I’m not really a comic book guy.  I don’t think I’ve ever purchased one.  I may have read 3 from cover to cover.  I just don’t understand the obsession.  I do, however, seemingly love comic book movies; particularly the latest batch that have been released with accessible stories, solid acting, big budgets and amazing effects.

When I was reading about The Avengers in preparation to see it, I noticed how so many people were looking forward to seeing their childhood fantasy questions answered on the big screen.  Thing like “Who would win in a fight, Thor or Iron Man?”  That’s all well and good, but for some reason, I like to think of people with extraordinary abilities doing mundane things. Particularly villains since we get more of a glimpse into the hero’s life and usually there is a secret identity which is filled with everyday activities.  The villain, however, sometimes does not have a secret identity and can often times just be as evil as their day allows.  What consumes the majority of Megatron’s time when he isn’t on screen?  Do you think The Joker read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and wrote little notes in the margins about how it could be nefariously implemented?

This penchant for banality leads me to what I see as a major plot hole in one of the summer’s biggest movies.  I went to see The Dark Knight Rises for the second time last weekend.  There was quite a bit I didn’t catch the first time around because I was busy peeing myself with boyish excitement to see how the trilogy Christopher Nolan has magnificently pieced together would end.  Regardless, I was driving home, practicing my Bane impression (the voice is really just a lazy and more fluctuating Sean Connery) and it came to me as I was working out a bit where Bane goes to a karaoke bar and sings Aretha Franklin’s “RESPECT”.  Some background: the respirator that Bane wears (as explained in the movie) is the only thing keeping him from suffering unimaginable pain due to a torturous injury incurred at the hands of a pit prison mob. The prison doctor mended Bane, but the daughter of Raz Al Gul has the respirator made.

Side note: The doctors in the prison have to be the most amazing physicians in the world. These guys heal Bruce Wayne after a broken back and get him back to fighting weight in under 3 months using only a rope, a well-placed back punch and the sage words of a morphine addict.  These guys could cut recovery wards roughly by 2/3.  I’m sure that prior to their arrival, everyone in the prison had heart cancer.  Now, they’re all healthy as horses.

Back to it: Bane can’t remove the respirator or he get’s facial pain explosions.  So, how does he eat?  Wouldn’t each bite mean excruciating pain that would act as negative reinforcement to consuming a meal.  And, let’s look at this guy.  He doesn’t look like he’s missing any meals.  The only option I can think of would be protein milkshakes through tiny straws that can fit through the holes in the metal at the front.  I know that this is the meal of choice when someone breaks their jaw and has to have it wired shut.  Any other ideas?


I need an efficient way to eat this hamburger!

Side note #2:  How dumb is Batman in his first fight with Bane?  If a guy has a respirator and you’re wearing a Kevlar fist, try punching the respirator!  You would think that this would be his weak point, particularly after every other one of your punches has been met with indifference and manly badassery.

A simple misinterpretation

The weather was perfect for open top driving.  The sky was clear and didn’t play host to a single cloud. The temperature was hovering in the low 70’s and the humidity was tolerable.  It was the sort of day that we’ve been having in the Midwest for the last few months and has made the transition from Los Angeles much easier. 

Ms. Kitty rode alongside in the passenger’s seat, her elbow rested on the top of the door and the wisps of hair that had not been wrangled into the imprisonment of her pony tail holder bounced happily in the open air. 

The Miata sat happily at a red light, waiting to cross the overpass across I-265 when a white, 2nd gen Prelude with HID headlights and a fart can muffler pulled up in the left lane.  As the light went green, I accelerated as I normally do, but the Lude barked and sounded like it was drag racing.  Perhaps it is the roll bar mounted on the back of my little roadster that brings this out in people.  I don’t know.

My Miata easily kept up with the growling Prelude up to the next red light.  I looked over at Ms. Kitty and I said, “Really?”  She looked back, eye brows up and replied, “Really.”

Her “Really” was implying that it was ridiculous for grown men to drag race from stoplight to stoplight in broad daylight where police often pull onto and off of the highway.  Endangering other people’s lives for absolutely no purpose is a foolish, irresponsible and reckless thing to do that people over the age of 30 should certainly know better than to do.

Then the light went green and I immediately learned that she and I had absolutely different interpretations of what “Really” meant in this context. 

My “Really” had been in amazement that I hadn’t been blown off the line if he actually had anything under the hood and that only a fool would try to drag race with such a low weight-to-power ratio.  (I know most people say it the other way around and they are wrong.  Think about it.)  The fact that I didn’t have to launch or take it to redline and still be ahead meant that I could surely destroy this Prelude if I tried. 

I should have meant it the way she did because my victory (AND IT WAS A VICTORY) was short lived as I was quickly informed that I was incorrect in my definition.  And I apologized.

Benefits of Living in a Small Town

Last night, around 9:15, our neighbors started plodding into the night from the relative safety of their homes.  One jumped into his car and raced off.  He was in pursuit of a large, white, American sedan of Malaise vintage that had, just moments before, slammed into the back of my wife’s silver Toyota Matrix parked on the street in front of our house.  No glancing blow, the wagon had been shoved approximately a foot forward due to the large car’s impact into the rear driver’s side quarter panel which disfigured the sheet metal, pounded the plastics and tore the rear wheel from its suspension bits. The car then swerved around my little Miata and completely side swiped the Crown Vic parked at the head of our automotive conga line.

The police were called and arrived quickly.  Having been involved with the Indiana Highway Patrol, State Troopers and the Long Beach Police Department, I didn’t expect much to come from the report.  Usually, they take the information and say that the perpetrator is long-gone, but they’ll do what they can.  This was exactly what a State Trooper told the driver of another hit-and-run I was involved in just a couple of months earlier.  My hopes were low.

Based only on the description of “a white 80’s Caprice”, the officer asked a follow-up of, “Did it sound like it had a cowbell attached?”

I thought this was a curious question, but the officer went on to explain that there was a car in a nearby neighborhood that had a problem with the brakes that the owner never got around to fixing.  This owner was also well-known in the badge-wearing community as a bit of an imbiber.

I would imagine that cops with a large jurisdiction don’t have this kind of granularity.  The police picked up the guy and got a confession within two hours.

There are benefits of living in a small town.

Lego Blocks are Killing Our Future

I haven’t purchased a video game system newer than the Super Nintendo, so I’m not what you might call an avid gamer.  Recently, on a trip to visit family in Texas, I ended up playing a good deal of Wii with my 8-year-old nephew.  It took a little while to get used to the controls, but I think that I got a basic grasp of it by the last day that I was there.  While I was l learning however, there was a lot of instruction from my nephew that included phrases like, “No! Do that thing again!”  “What did you kill me for?!” and “Remember when we played this and you figured it out?”

The last one garnered the rather frustrated response of, “Keep in mind that I’ve never been to this town, I’ve never been in this house and I’ve never played this game before.  So, no, I don’t remember.”

Good times.

The game we were playing was Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga.  The violence is toned down since when you kill someone, they explode into coins and Legos just like in Mexico.  I guess this makes it better, but I would inevitably start fights in the portal cantina with everyone around and quickly learned that Darth Vader’s choking action makes quick work of just about anyone.  Man, did I ever love killing Jar Jar Binks…


Toned down violence is probably one of the reasons that his parents got it for him.  The other reasons are that he loves both Star Wars and Legos.  He’s got several Lego kits in his room, so, with his birthday approaching, Ms. Kitty and I were going to go and buy him a big case of Legos.  We quickly discovered that our idea of Legos differs greatly from Lego’s idea of Legos. 

When I was a kid, my mom would buy me Legos at yard sales because Legos were expensive and we weren’t rich.  I had a big bucket of all different colors and sizes with those nearly flat ones, the standard blocks, the long red ones, some wheel and axles and a couple of those big green boards where you could stage things.  What I didn’t have was a bunch of specialty pieces that made specific things.  Unfortunately, these kits that build specific things are all you can buy at most stores.

This is bullsh!t.

Lego is killing kids’ imaginations while pretending to enrich them.  Sure, they sell space kits and ninja kits and pirate kits and cannibal kits, but none of them work together.  Looking over the pieces, they all have to fit a certain way or else they simply don’t build anything.  I don’t really care that the characters that come with the kits are specialized with tiny mustaches and little painted on chain mail, but when you’ve got an alien ship that only goes together one way, what’s the point?  Now you’ve just got a toy that makes one thing and falls apart in a strong breeze.  Know what would happen if the helicopter I built for my yellow-faced bank robbers fell apart?  I could use those same blocks to build a getaway car, or a safe house, or a tank or whatever my mind conceived because those pieces all worked together.  I was the limit of what they could do, not someone who designed decals to match whatever movie tie-in was hot that month.


Legos 20 years ago. Endless, square possibilities.


Legos Today. You can build... Um... Harry Potter and a pegasus, but they're already put together, so you can't really "build" much.


I understand that Lego is in this to make money (at $9.99 for the most basic kit, they can’t be losing money) and toys that encourage the purchase of the same brand makes a lot of business sense.  But wasn’t the point of Legos that you could build a variety of things with them?  Isn’t that why they showcase professional builders?  Isn’t using your imagination the 54cking point of Legos? 

We couldn’t find a single package of Lego blocks that didn’t have a theme.  Everything was Ninjago or Star Wars or Citizen Kane (not a great seller, by the way).  Brand alliances and loyalty are awesome and all, but can’t they just sell regular f-ing Legos as well?!  It seems like Lego is just another name for “toys that fall apart easier” rather than being a gateway drug to imagination and inquiry.  I’ve heard a lot of architects and engineers talk about how they got interested in structures and building through Legos, but I doubt that they’d be quite so inspired if all they could build was a Millennium Falcon.  Weeeeeee!!

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me that there are Lego video games since that is essentially all that is available from the company these days anyhow.  You have one path to travel, little latitude to deviate from the prescribed options and it is all branded.  Bring back the tub of generic pieces and allow the minds of tomorrow to stretch out and set their own limits rather than telling them exactly what to do.  They have enough people to do that already.