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Barbershop: 'Star Wars,' Worst-Case Scenarios And Holiday Buying


Now it's time for a visit to the Barbershop - that's where we gather some interesting folks to hear what's on their minds and what's in the news. And sitting in the chairs for a shapeup today are Anil Dash. He's a writer. He writes about tech and pop culture. He's also an entrepreneur based in New York. Hi, Anil.


MARTIN: Jenny Davis is with us. She's fashion editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and we reached her in Dallas. Hi, Jenny.


MARTIN: And Tammy Garnes is the former communications director for Atlanta Public Schools. She's in Atlanta. Hi, Tammy.

TAMMY GARNES: Hey there.

MARTIN: We're going to start with the talk of the town, "Star Wars..."


MARTIN: No spoilers, Jenny...

DAVIS: No...

MARTIN: ...Word to you...

DAVIS: I won't, I promise.

MARTIN: ...No spoilers. But we're going to start with you because in addition to being the fashion editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, we know that you are a superfan of "Star Wars" - superfan that you are Princess Leia impersonator, is that right?

DAVIS: Well, I costume as Princess Leia as part of the Rebel Legion, which is the good guys from "Star Wars."

MARTIN: OK, so - no spoilers, don't tell me - but you've seen it. And...

DAVIS: Yes, twice.

MARTIN: Twice?

DAVIS: And I'm leaving here to go see it again.

MARTIN: OK, why do you have to see it three times? You're seeing it all for...

DAVIS: 2-D, 3-D and IMAX.

MARTIN: 2-D, 3-D - of course, why did I even ask that? So do you recommend it? Do you think it's good?

DAVIS: It's everything that you would - hoped it would be and more.

MARTIN: OK, now I'm really jealous (laughter) filled with rage and jealousy because I haven't gotten to see it yet. OK, Anil, what about you? What's your strategy around this? You cannot escape it. I mean...

DASH: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...the "Star Wars" toys...

DASH: I don't have any...

MARTIN: ...Everything.

DASH: ...Rebel credentials. Like, I'm just a normal nerd that's seen the movie 100 times, but I don't have the outfits at home. But I've got a son; he's 4 and a half. So since - he hadn't seen the movies but he was really interested. And he started to learn about the characters, and he'd read some of the sort of kid's books. This summer, we were taking a road trip across most of the country, and we had a lot of time in the car. So I just started telling him the story - actually starting with "A New Hope." And I thought I would just recite the story from memory, and I was shocked in that I was able to do that.

MARTIN: Tammy.

GARNES: I can't wait to take my family. But I was a filmmaker before I started working in education. And so for me, I kind of come to this, like, I've got a little secret on this one. My very first mentor was this fabulous woman named Carol, and she was a producer. And she was, like, everything to me. And she talked all the time about her son. And she talked about the fact that her son was an incredible storyteller, and she couldn't wait to see what would happen with his life. And her son was J.J. Abrams. And so whenever - I know everybody else is looking at "Star Wars," like, this great movie that's going to come out. But for me, when I see it, I think of a mom who really believed in her kid. And when I see his name come across the screen and when I see the interviews, all I can see is a mom who believes so deeply in her son's vision and his talent and she supported him. And here he is now, giving us, like, one of the greatest stories that we'll ever be able to share with our kids.

DASH: Oh, that's incredible.

GARNES: So sorry, got a little, you know, emotional about that.

MARTIN: That's lovely. Let me move to a more serious topic though. This was another issue in the headlines this week that's causing a lot of parents around the country to kind of think, and that is the threatening email that shut down the LA Unified School District earlier this week. And it turned out to be a hoax, but students were sent home, schools were shut down all day Tuesday. Tammy, I have to go to you first on this because you were the communications director for the Atlanta public schools. I just have to ask, what do you think of the way the shutdown was handled?

GARNES: You know, I think they did the best they could probably with what they had. And I'm a former, actually, LAUSD parent, and I just can't imagine my - the first thoughts that went through my mind was oh, dear goodness, how are they going to get all those kids on buses and back to their homes? What if there isn't anyone there to greet them when they get home? What if they're little? You know, but it sounded like by the time they got their operations going that it was a beautiful coordinated effort and that kids got back to where they needed to be. But you could see the panic online of parents...


GARNES: ...As they try to figure out what to do with their kids and where their kids were and if they had a cellphone. And that always worries me because we saw that a lot whenever we would run a crisis here.

MARTIN: Well, Anil, you're on the other end of the country on that.

DASH: Yeah.

MARTIN: Your son is only in preschool. But then New York schools got the same email threat. They decided not to shut down. How do you feel about that?

DASH: I think that's the right call. And, you know, obviously, there are a lot of sensitivities around this. I understand why people err on the side of caution. I don't want to diminish that. But you can find the emails online, and you can see them. And one of the things that jumps out about the reaction to the emails was just the level of digital literacy because if you know online culture, you know how trolls work and you know how some of these negative communities that are out there work. It was a community that's known to do these kinds of things as hoaxes. They just weren't phrased in a way...

MARTIN: So they should've known - in your view, they should've known that it was a hoax in your view?

DASH: Yeah.

GARNES: You also have to remember it's a school district, so...

DASH: Yes.

GARNES: Yeah, while...

DASH: It's hard.

GARNES: You know, I mean...

MARTIN: What does that mean? What do you mean though? I mean...

GARNES: A school district is like a small city, OK? There's so much happening inside of it that people would just faint if they knew everything that was happening behind the curtain, behind the veil everyday in a school district. They receive threats every single, solitary day. There are bomb threats; there are evacuations; there are lockdowns; there are fights; there are all kinds of things.

MARTIN: Yeah, gas smells or something.

GARNES: Gas smells - everything.


DASH: Especially at that scale.

GARNES: I've worked carbon monoxide, dangerous incidents. I've worked two school shootings. I've worked all kinds of fires and lockdowns. And I'd have to say that they did what they had to do. And you have to do it in a split second because you're talking about kids, you know, all these families - that's a lot of families...

DASH: Yeah.

GARNES: ...You know?

MARTIN: Let me ask though, does it get - and maybe Jenny you want to talk about this - does this make you think about what's the plan if something like that happens.

DAVIS: And we don't have anything that's specific, but we really try to talk to the girls all the time about situational awareness. So we just want to make sure that they are always looking where they are, that they're noticing cars in the parking lot, that they are not glued to their phones when they're walking, that they know where their backpacks are and where their friends are and that if - you know, there's weirdness all over. But if there's something that's just really too weird that maybe they should move away from it.

DASH: One of the things I want to call out there, our kids have never been safer, right? Like, we get - we pay...

MARTIN: True...

DAVIS: True.


DASH: ...So much attention all these perceived threats and dangers. And the reality is our kids have never been safer. The moment when they're most in danger is when they're out on the highway on the way to or from school. Even if we want to talk about bad actors, people that do bad things - which do exist - most of the time those are going to be, like, relatives and, you know, disgruntled ex-family members - like, that's the actual danger.

MARTIN: Tammy, go ahead. Do you have a final thought here?

GARNES: For me, it's about village building. You have to have people around you that you trust to take care of your kids. I mean, we have to go old-school with this thing.

DASH: Yes.

GARNES: There have to be other people in your life who can take care of them if it should happen. So if something happens to my kids, I know, you know, Ms. Alice over there has them because she's across the street from the high school. And Ms. Pam is a teacher at the middle school; she's going to take them to her house, and they are going to take care of my kids as well or better than I could possibly take care...

DASH: Yeah...

GARNES: ...Of them.

DASH: ...Or the friends' parents...

>>GARNES; Or the friends' parents...

MARTIN: Yeah...

DASH: ...Like, knowing who they are.

GARNES: ...Or a teacher in the school.

MARTIN: Knowing the friends, who they are. Yeah, because...

GARNES: But you've got to have that set up way before - you know, it's village building.

MARTIN: Because I don't think Ms. Alice can take 30 kids to her class - to her house. I don't...

GARNES: You know what? She can, honey, yes she can. You don't know Ms. Alice.


MARTIN: All right, before we let you go, though, we have to move on to our final thing. It's almost Christmas...

GARNES: Ahh...

MARTIN: I know, yay - but even for people who don't observe the holiday, it is hard to avoid the whole emphasis on the gifts and expecting gifts, which is - you know, can be tricky for parents at this time of year. So I wanted to ask each of you, quickly, what's your strategy?

GARNES: I was just introduced by a friend, who - her kids only get four items. They get one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing they wear and one thing they read. Now, I'm just not as good as a mom...

MARTIN: That's kind of nice.

GARNES: ...As everybody else is...

DAVIS: That's awesome.

MARTIN: Say that again - want - say that again - want...

GARNES: One thing they want, one thing they need, one thing they wear, one think they read.

MARTIN: I'm calling you next Saturday to find out what's up, what happened there.

GARNES: I know, girl.


GARNES: I'm going to be somewhere laid up under a Christmas tree piled...

MARTIN: Exactly, crying.

GARNES: ...With presents on top of me, yeah.

MARTIN: Anil, what about you? What's your strategy for this?

DASH: Well, I love hearing that want, need, wear, read thing because I think the point is you have to have a plan that is grounded in your values about how you see consumerism, how you see commercialism, how you see all these different issues. You know, one of my rules that - and I'm admittedly not great at it yet but I've got to practice is this sort of, like, one in, one out. Like, we can welcome any toy or any gift into the house. If something goes out, then we donate it or share it. And, like, just teaching that sort of, like, we have - we're very fortunate. We have everything we need - we have running water, we have vaccines, we have, you know, good food to eat, all that kind of stuff. So everything passed that is something where we want to keep some balance. The other really important tip is if you're fortunate enough to have grandparents in your kid's life, know that they are the enemy, and they will undermine whatever plan you have...


DASH: ...Right?

MARTIN: They are so the enemy.

DASH: I love them dearly, but they - like, all they're doing is, like, they're taking out everything you did to them as a kid...


DASH: ...By spoiling your own child. And what are you going to do? They have every right to do it.

MARTIN: Oh, man, that's my - Jenny, what about you? I'm going to give you the general lay - the final word here.

DAVIS: Thank you. I hope the force is strong with my answer.


DAVIS: A lot of the time - I think some of the problems start when you look at Christmas as this isolated event, like, OK, here's what you want right now. And then you have a hard time saying no, whereas you kind of need to be teaching that gratitude all the time and just make it part of your parenting and part of your family values because, you know, my kids have more than I ever had when I was a kid, and the kids around them have more than the kids I knew ever had. But, you know, when you have a lot, you have to give a lot. There has to be a balance. And we always start our holiday time doing the Angel Tree. So we pick a family with kids with - at different ages, and we all just go on spending sprees and have a great time. You know, we talk at dinner - you know, what do they think that they would want? Well, if you were 4 - you know, should we get him the thing that makes the most noise or the thing that has the most gadgets? And we just have this whole family project of shopping for someone else's family.

MARTIN: Oh, that's lovely. Well, thank you all so much. That's all the time we have today. I'm going to check in with you next to just see how well you kept those resolutions.

DAVIS: (Laughter).

MARTIN: And that's Jenny Davis; we also had Anil Dash and Tammy Garnes with us. Happy holidays to everybody. Thank you all so much.

DAVIS: You, too.

DASH: Thank you.

GARNES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.