Cartoon Review

Child Safety: Toxic Media Exposure: Baldi Cartoon Review

You’ve heard the expression: Garbage in, garbage out. That is what a lot of the mainstream cartoons offer your child. Garbage values replete with conditioned responses, desensitization, shortened attention spans, agitation, violent tendencies and psychological grooming. When it comes to feeding your child’s brain and values there is no grey. Either the programming has a positive and educational value or it is mindless and often subversive. Think about WHO is writing the script and what their purpose is and be very DELIBERATE is selecting what media your child has access to. If you don’t have the time to research quality programming, unplug your child and encourage your child to play outdoors, get a hobby, visit the library, join a club or read a book.

Your child can access these cartoons for free on YouTube. I have not seen the video game nor watched many of these Baldi cartoons but just three was enough to signal red flags and make me very uncomfortable with the idea of sharing these cartoons with impressionable children. Some of the Baldi cartoons come with a disclaimer warning that it is a horror show but not all. Regardless, it is far more insidious than most would assume. As a social skills and etiquette coach I think this is a gratuitously dark, toxic, violent and negative cartoon for ALL kids and is particularly inappropriate where faith based education is a priority for programming. It’s not like Superman where the star character has a positive goal to save humanity and has a couple of violent fights and wins against evil villains. Baldi depicts role models of authority like teachers and parents as the villain and glorifies killing them or disrespecting them as a victory while nonstop violence every 30 seconds like clockwork IS the storyline. This subversive cartoon and animation game sends subliminal and often very obvious messaging encouraging sadistic and anarchistic behavior but Baldi also includes hints at or blatantly depicts child abuse, pedophilia and suicide.

I spoke with one pre-teen child who watched this cartoon and sympathized with the abusive teacher who was beating students with rulers. The child said it reminded him of domestic violence in his family. The violence also inspired him to be abusive toward his own mother and he later exhibited suicidal ideation and planning. He discouraged me from watching the cartoon with him because he said he knew I wouldn’t like it. Very confusing for children. If your child is struggling with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, drug abuse, suicidality then this Baldi cartoon is particularly dangerous as it depicts suicide and child abuse.

So many adults are desensitized to foul language, hypersexuality, subliminal messaging and violence because they expose themselves to it so much that they may struggle to effectively shield their children from it. Parents may also feel guilt that if they are watching toxic programming then they are being hypocritical by not allowing their children to do so as well. The bottom line is there are MILLIONS of positive activities all of us can be focused on without self medicating with negative media and exposing our children to it.

For those parents who want faith based programming for their children, Baldi’s cartoon emphasizes pagan traditions of zombies and a fixation on death which encourages an atmosphere of violence and corrupts a spiritual soul. There is gratuitous and graphic violence every 30 seconds while pretending to teach a math lesson. Thus teaching children an aversion to Math. Other disturbing aspects of the cartoons (which are inspired by a video game) are the use of foul language like “Sh*t” and taking the Lord’s name in vain. A red pentagram reminiscent of pagan, neo-pagan and Satanic symbols.

There are so many positive curriculum and entertainment options that the goal should be to saturate one’s child with empowering and positive programming not this mindless and insidious drivel. For example, google “homeschooling resources” or “homeschooling cartoons” and free educational, entertaining and fun videos are available like the one below that teaches children basic concepts about being responsible with money. The key to beating a bad habit is to replace it with a good one and to CAREFULLY screen EVERYTHING your child views FIRST. Your child will be addicted to all of the positivity and brain stimulating lessons in no time – they just need you to show them where to look!!

Compare the first good example video with the poor one below.

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Negotiations in Personal and Professional Life.

Whether you are asking for a raise at work or requesting that your spouse be more considerate at home, life is a negotiation. “Uncomfortable” conversations will be more effective if they are structured and premeditated rather than improvised. Here are a few guidelines that can help you navigate the tense terrain.

  1. Schedule a time for the conversation – don’t drop a bomb on someone when they least expect it or catch them at an inconvenient time when they will brush you off. Find a time that is mutually conducive to both parties so everyone will be receptive and set aside the time.
  2. Establish ground rules:  Communication should not be a free for all chaotic endeavor that results in verbal abuse and hurt feelings or worse. Techniques such as “I messages”, active listening, no interrupting, taking notes, write down points of agreement/compromise, stick to a timetable, stick to the subject
  3. Schedule a followup meeting to discuss the progress of all topics raised
  4. Schedule a separate meeting for unrelated topics
  5. Don’t carry the conversation over past the meeting time.

Here are a few articles about effective communication skills:

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All Dressed Up and No Place to Go Go in the Spotlight!

by Deborah Joy Block, Director of Back to Basics Social Graces for Youth Program

Have you heard of the fable about the Emperor with no clothes? He travels through his kingdom making proclamations but his omission obscures his message. Unaware of his nakedness and with nobody daring to inform him, his nonverbal communication speaks volumes. Watching the Homecoming King and Queen,  a newly married couple or the First Couple at the Inauguration resort to the “bear hug sway” for their First Dance debut is equally awkward. These couples are royalty for the day and the dance floor spotlight is the most visibly dynamic kick off to the gala which officially invites all the other attendees to join the festivities on the dance floor.  In this comparison, both the Emperor and the couples being spotlighted have missed the opportunity to put their best foot forward.

Stepping through the dance studio door and admitting you need lessons to be able to dance as a partnership with someone else  doesn’t occur to most teens and is often the hardest part for people- especially males.  For those who initially express opposition to lessons, I ask them what their alternative plan is and they respond “the high school prom sway.”  I suggested that before settling on a decision they should videotape themselves and see if they can last the full length (a typical song is 3:45) without feeling bored or awkward then watch the full length dance on video from their guest’s perspective too.

According to proper etiquette, The First Dance is a formal obligation of honored guests to open up the dance floor for the rest of the guests to feel welcome and comfortable to dance and set the tone for the festivities. It is also the epitome of the Cinderella/Prince Charming moment at their ball. Unfortunately, many don’t realize that the awkward high school prom sway for 4 minutes in front of 200 people is not a desirable alternative to skipping dance lessons. Cutting the “bear hug sway” down to 90 seconds isn’t fooling anyone either. It just says that you are all dressed up with no place to go. There are countless reasons a person can conjure up to talk him/herself out of dance lessons but for every reason not to there are double the reason to go for it!

The dance lessons are a vulnerable space where couples learn about themselves and their partnership and where they learn appropriate boundaries or respectful physical contact unlike twerking, bump and grind or freaking which are not only degrading but will get teens kicked out of the prom by chaperones. The couples also feel pressurized because they are often juggling major undertakings such as part time jobs, full time school, hobbies, sports, and a social life. But dance lessons actually benefit and bleed into all of the above areas in useful ways that can be incorporated as a life skill for future occassions besides the prom. Can you imagine a speech with no microphone for all of the audience to be able hear? Unthinkable. Dance moves give voice to the First Dance as confident student leaders in the community demonstrating their maturity through cooperation and teamwork and setting the bar for healthy interpersonal relationships between males and females. With a little preparation, prom night has the potential to be the most magical, fairytale moment for everyone!

Deborah Joy Block is the Founder and Director of Back to Basics Social Graces Youth Program.   Block’s company has taught over 10,000 students of all ages. Block is most known for being the premier national expert on wedding dance preparation and founded the nation’s first wedding dance company called The Wedding Dance Specialists which has attracted celebrity couples and national media attention. Mrs. Block is available for guest blogging, interviews and to teach social skills, social graces and life skills programs on or off site.

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Dance Studio Etiquette for Teachers and Students


by Deborah Joy Block, certified etiquette instructor and professional dance instructor/performer

There are lots of articles about social dance party and class etiquette for students and a few about ballet student etiquette but despite the fact that ballroom studios have existed in this country for over 100 years it is quite rare to find an article on the subject of professional guidance for dance instructor etiquette . Unfortunately, common sense does not always prevail in a room full of “divas” so an official etiquette rule book is required. These tips are designed to ensure a pleasant work environment and high quality lessons for optimal customer satisfaction. Studio landlords, feel free to copy this and post it or distribute it to your staff. I hope you will find it a useful resource to maintain a peaceful and pleasant studio atmosphere! Feel free to add your own etiquette suggestions (without specifically IDENTIFYING individuals as that is ALSO a breach of etiquette and your comment will be deleted.) Enjoy!

  1. If space allows, set up speakers & use mirrors at OPPOSITE CORNERS of the studio NOT NEXT to another lesson already in progress.
  2. Once all 4 corners are full THEN fill in the middle sections to avoid creating a crowded, distracting and dangerous teaching environment.
  3. If you need to play music LOUDLY or NONSTOP while rehearsing SOLO routines directly next to ongoing lessons please use EARPHONES.
  4. GROUP lessons requires MORE space and are noisier so either rent the whole room or do NOT teach middle sections. Simply swap positions with your neighbors.
  5. If you set yourself beside a privacy curtain assume that your neighbors may expect you to use it or else switch places with them so others can take advantage of the amenity.
  6. Rent space during non peak hours (anytime BEFORE 6pm) if you are teaching tap or flamenco, drumming, zills or other loud percussive dances. Anything after 6pm requires that you rent the entire back room as you are making it IMPOSSIBLE for others to teach next to you.
  7. Be mindful of volume levels and speaker location/angle or take turns if nobody is able to hear their music. If your speakers are poor quality bring A/V wires to take advantage of the many speakers the studio offers. If the bass is adjustable set it to MEDIUM.
  8. Approach management with unresolvable complaints rather than gossiping or cyber bullying on social media as that damages the studio reputation and creates a toxic work climate.
  9. Ask permission before adjusting the teaching environment –curtains, lights, fans, borrowing speakers, using overhead speakers, adjusting temperature climate, closing or opening blinds or windows, switching music, etc…
  10. Due to the high risk, direct contact nature of our jobs, use sanitizer or wash hands frequently to prevent spreading germs around the studio.
  11. Turn your music OFF when not teaching or dancing to minimize the overall noise in the room. Don’t leave music playing unattended.
  12. Don’t leave your belongings around the studio to “save” a space indefinitely. Let your neighbors know when you plan to return.

Please use common sense and good etiquette to be part of the SOLUTION be creating a FUN environment for yourself, colleagues and clients that is friendly and respectful so clients, staff and renters will recommend and return to support your studio and share in your passion for dancing!

Deborah Joy Block is a professional ballroom dance performer and instructor with 17 years of teaching experience with close to 10,000 students.  Throughout her career, Block has had 30 professional instructors on her staff including international competitors and world champions. Block has a Bachelors in Public Relations/Communications and Business from James Madison University and received her certification in etiquette from  the American School of Protocol in Atlanta, Georgia with 10 years of experience as the Director of Back to Basics Manners Social Graces Program teaching for the DC metro community and local public and private school systems. Deborah Joy Block, is also the Founder of The Wedding Dance Specialists – the first wedding dance company in the nation. She is recognized by the media, wedding industry leaders and engaged couples as the premiere national expert of the wedding dance industry. The Wedding Dance Specialists inspired the entire niche industry to expand worldwide! Ms. Block is available for interviews, guest blogging, consulting and teaching etiquette and social dance instruction in the DC metro area or worldwide!

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First Impressions Matter!

by Kimberly Irwin, Publicist for Back to Basics Social Graces

When you watch a movie or read a book which are the parts you remember the most distinctly? The beginning and the end ofcourse! That’s why first impressions are crucial when forming new relationships and leave a lasting impression. Whether you are meeting a new potential employer, new friend or love interest, the principles remain the same. Here are some general guidelines to helping you achieve the best possible first impression every time. Here are some key tips to make a great first impression!

1. Be confident: confidence is always key. If you’re not proud of who you are, why would anyone want to be around you?

2. Be a good listener: avoid dominating too much of the conversation. Allow other people to speak and ask for their opinions. Others will appreciate that you took the time to listen to what they have to say.

3. Make eye contact: eye contact shows that you’re engaged in the conversation and are an active participant in it.

4. Dress well:  grooming. If you look nice, people will generally have a more positive impression of you. Meet with a stylist to create the perfect “look” that represents your signature style!

5. Be honest: People can tell when you are being sincere and genuine.

6. Be respectful: Always be respectful. There is nothing more off putting than a rude person.

7. Use the other person’s name: People love to hear their own names. It makes others feel special and valued.

8. Be humble: Humility is a highly admired quality in a person. Avoid bragging about yourself or constantly trying to be the center of attention.

9. Be at eye level with the person you are speaking to. If they are standing, you should stand and vice versa.

10. Always rise when being introduced to someone new especially someone older or higher rank.

11. Hygiene: make sure your nails, hair, hands, face, ears and teeth are clean and presentable and your clothes are fresh and laundered. Deodorant is a MUST.

12. Open up a conversation with a compliment: not only is it the perfect icebreaker but making someone feel good with a compliment is one of the kindest gestures and can make someone’s entire day! Often, people feel ignored or anonymous and you have the power to make them feel special and noticed!

13. Offer to help someone: another great ice breaker and a foot into the door of someone’s heart is to take the time to volunteer your assistance or loan someone something that they need. This is especially shocking as a stranger will be tremendously grateful and pleasantly surprised that you were so generous and helpful. The gesture says a lot about you and it also inspires others to pay it forward and be kind to others.

14. Listen: sometimes just lending a caring ear and empathizing with someone is just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes your calm presence and focused attention can even be powerful enough to save a life.

15. Make something home made instead of store bought or host someone in your home instead of meeting at a restaurant: time is money and this gesture demonstrates that the person’s company is valuable enough to you to invest the time. Priceless!

16. Table manners: if you are making your dining companion nauseous by licking your fingers, picking up crumbs and eating them, chewing with your mouth open, talking with your mouth full, slurping your drink, hitting your utensils against your teeth, leaning on the table or holding your drink with both hands they will not be able to even look at you let alone connect with you.

Keep these tips in mind to get started off on the right foot in personal and professional interactions.  And remember, you only have one chance to make a great first impression!

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Good Sportmanship in Life and Love

by Deborah Block, Back to Basics Director

I wonder if the Bachelor is privy to the behind the scenes footage depicting all the “mean girl” antics… If he did, it would be very easy to separate the wheat from the chaff.  As much as this show depicts relationships as a competitive experience each woman is really competing against herself and her own merit. The confident ones with strong character realize that and will not get dragged into the cat fights and drag their own reputation down in front of the world. Just because others get catty doesn’t mean you have to get dirty in their sandbox too!

Here is an example of the latest passive aggressive “catfight”

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January 5, 2012 · 10:03 pm

Adults “Freak Out” over “Freak and Grind” at School Dances.

by Deborah Block, Director, Back to Basics

And with good reason.

For children who have not learned how to partner dance – a school prom can be a daunting challenge…Since they don’t know how to lead and follow and have no concept of personal space they tend to adopt what they see in popular media – – the freak and grind. Some use the excuse that it is simply a form of self expression or cultural norms but that is just an excuse since they actually know no other alternative. As a result schools across the country are taking matters into their own hands. Some are empowering students with actual skills while others are trying to curb innappropriate conduct with rules and contracts. Either way, it is making headlines. Many cultures around the world use solo and partner dancing to highlight rights of passage, rituals and even casual celebrations but for those who aren’t exposed to it growing up, it can be too hot to handle when they are thrown into the fire! Here are some examples of what parents, administrators and chaperones are doing to prevent that “spark” from turning into a wild fire:

  • In order to attend a dance at Walnut Hills High School in Evanston, students must sign pledges that they will not dress
    provocatively or engage in lewd dancing. Their parents must sign, too. “Grinding, bumping, fondling, humping, licking, booty dancing, rolling, kicking, mashing, shoving, wallowing, disrobing, sexual kissing, freaking, jacking, and whatever a chaperone deems improper and/or indecent will not be permitted.” Students who break the rules will be removed from the dance and assigned Friday School detention for the remainder of the year.

• In Guam high schools, National Honor Society members have been threatened with a suspension for dancing in an inappropriate manner.

• At Dunwoody High School in the Atlanta area, students were told that if they were caught “dirty dancing” those who violated the policy would be sent to a “timeout” room if caught.

• Gabriel Richard High School in Riverview, Mich., linked dance attendance to passing a quiz about dance floor behavior.

• A Brown Deer, Wis., high school has thrown students out of dances, sent letters home to parents and threatened to suspend youths caught dirty dancing.

• Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia canceled school dances beginning next fall until students can propose rules.

• Dances have been canceled at schools nationwide, including in suburban Los Angeles; Iowa City, Iowa; Anchorage, Alaska; and Bethany, Ky.

• Administrators at Union Grove High School in Wisconsin are aiming to curb risque moves at their January winter formal. To assure that students do not get too footloose, school brass have issued official dance rules. As seen below, the rules outlaw “sexual bending” and the touching of breasts, buttocks, or genitals. Leg straddling is also verboten. Additionally, students are on notice that “Both feet must remain on the dance floor at all times.” The dance “will be videotaped to insure the safety of all students attending,” and so administrators could presumably review the film for provocative moves that were initially missed by monitors.

reprinted in part from The Cincinnati Enquirer

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The Benefits of a Social Skills Program for Youth

External circle of influences reinforce lessons learned at home. Children benefit from a social skills program because of the positive reinforcement they receive through “positive peer pressure” as they see the relevance of these concepts in their daily interactions with others outside of their usual comfort zone. In our program, Back to Basics, our students develop or fine tune their communication skills through life skills, manners and social dancing. The importance of good manners is obvious but what may be less obvious is how powerful social dancing skills are for celebrating milestones, personal expression and defining boundaries.

As witnessed in the documentary film “Mad Hot Ballroom” and movies like “Take the Lead”, social dance helps children cultivate coordination, self-esteem, respect, and socialization skills. Social dancing empowers children to:

• experience the joys of social dance fundamentals, music and rhythm.
• create opportunities for self expression.
• enjoy the social dance skills necessary for proms, parties, weddings and cotillions.
• inspire others to seek out dancing throughout their lives.
• to step out and shine when they may be shy or introverted.
• release pent up physical energies
• enhance their self-esteem by learning a new skill and achieving a goal.
• improve participation and confidence using interactive social skills.
• engage in teamwork with others
• learn  dance floor etiquette and appropriate decorum.
• broaden their exposure to the world of music and culture.
• gain an appreciation for dance performances as an artistic form of entertainment and expression.
• become acclimatized to public presentation.
• experience appropriate touching by defining their own boundaries and respecting the personal space of others.
• improve their physical health and combat obesity by making exercise fun!

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