Noah Stepro

Noah Stepro

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Life Lessons from North Korea

The recent hubabulu with North Korea hacking Sony Pictures, releasing copies of current films, damaging emails, publishing financial document and threatening US theaters that premier the film has created a tense situation in the entertainment world in the last few weeks. The Interview, in which Seth Rogen and James Franco infiltrate and kill the Supreme Ruler of the most closed society on earth seems almost like a work of fan fiction for the Bush doctrine…and that is probably how N. Korea should take it…a real life version of Team America viewed by folks like Rogen.

Now the last time I checked, post college (or college dropout) stoners lacked in militant organization and violent insurrection…semper fi is not the first thing they say when they are ordering pizza at 1am. The threat The Interview posses towards N. Korea’s national security is about as powerful as a SNL skit. But when you live in isolation and fear, molehills quickly become mountains.


In a recent conversation with some parents of adolescent and grown children we broached the subject of honesty with your kids. One parent’s approach to honesty with their kids was continual support, encouragement and positive reinforcement with little to no reality…i.e. “you are good at everything and everyone loves you”. The other parent was equally supportive and encouraging but tried to balance that with a healthier dose of honesty. They would tell their kids when they were being obnoxious or level with them about their strengths and weaknesses. The result was that the first group of children group up feeling very loved and very sensitive to any criticism…making it harder for them to fold into society where you will have performance reviews, fights and failures. The second group felt equal loved, but a little more equipped to deal with real life by having a bit tougher skin. Interestingly fear was a major component to this first group who tried to shelter their children…they tend not to handle things too well.


What does all that have to do with N. Korea? The dictatorship of Kim Jong Un is a macro specimen of what happens to us individually when we live in isolation and fear. Hacking the picture studios and threatening to attack U.S. theaters seems like…an overreaction, but they’ve gone a step further this week. Apparently the Korean government has issued threats against the White House, Pentagon and the U.S. mainland. This is equivalent to the rich kid who’s parents bought friendships and popularity trying out for a sports team in college, being told he isn’t good enough and then threatening to get the coach fired…oh wait and then burn down the school and poison the local drinking water.

When we isolate and shut of from criticism we become devastatingly unaware of our real strengths and weaknesses. When we win popularity through coercion or bribery insecurity lives in the recesses of our personality…making us more irrational and desperate. When we make fear the determining factor for our decision process paranoia and control take over. So parents take a note…a healthy dose of reality for your children could keep them from becoming the next totalitarian dictator…unless that is what you’re going for.

Loose Teeth and Willy Wonka

My oldest, Clover turned 5 today. It is quite hard to believe I have a 5 year-old child. I can remember 5 quite visibly…you are a real kid at five…no longer a baby or a toddler.


We had a fun day full of movies, pancakes and McDonald’s play places. On the way into town Jaimie was checking Clover’s teeth and found that two of them are loose! So much change at one time. It is hard to believe that it is going so fast. I find myself trying to hold on to time…but as I grasp it slips through my grip. We cannon hold on to time, we can only move with it, be present and enjoy it. When I look at the little lady she is becoming I am blown away. Some where along the journey she picked up some integrity and character. I hope that it is at least partially due to Jaimie and my efforts to foster love and virtue, but I know at best it is only in part.

Clover still likes to use a pacifier some times, but we told her she cannot at night because she loses it and wakes up. Last night she asked to take it to bed, I told her no and went through the nightly ritual of putting the girls to sleep. About two minutes after putting her to sleep she calls for me. I get up, slightly annoyed and walk in – “what”? I say. “I forgot to give you my pacifier and I know you don’t want me to have it”


“So shines a good deed in a weary world”

So Shines a Good Deed in a Weary World
Proverbs 22:6

Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Parents and the Generational Struggle in Film

Let me start by admitting, I do not get to go the movies often due to my work schedule and my 3 children under 5. However, the few movies I have seen over the last year have, in many instances, had a resounding theme: We Must Struggle to Understand and Often Overcome Our Parents and Parental Figures.
This theme stood out in extraordinary fashion when it rebuffed the motifs of romance in two classically “romantic” sub-genres: 007 films and Disney Princess fantasies.

Skyfall: This was excellent…possibly my favorite of any Bond film ever! One of the reasons why is the plot and the lack of trite, meaningless romance. Bond had a small fling in the first half of the film, but it was so periphial that you could completely augment it and the film would read the same. Instead it focused on an internal familial struggle between Bond, his estranged brother figure and M…who is clearly a mother figure to the orphan/hero. This was not so subtle given the line (in reference to M) “mommy has been very bad” (this film could have been titled “M is for Mother”).

M Judi Dench Skyfall lodge scotland

Brave: Not quite the hit Tangled was, but I still loved this movie. Completely void of a love interest or a real villain. This was the story of a daughter wrestling with herself, her family and her future.


Arthur Christmas: Brilliant! A three way, tri-generational struggle for power, style and values. Son, Father and Grandfather sacrificially fighting for their vision of Christmas and their role as Santa – this movie spoke to me way beyond what I was expecting.

 Arthur Christmas Movie

I could go on and draw connections from other films of the past year and point out that Finding Nemo was even rereleased this year, but the three examples provide sufficient evidence.

Here is the question – are we seeing a renewed sense of generational conflict? Is the gap widening between young and old? Or is this a coincidence?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject as well as other film illustrations you are thinking of.