Archive for January, 2012

Time Shift Your TV: The Super Bowl?

Monday, January 30th, 2012

The Super Bowl on Sunday (Fox, 6 p.m.) is one of the biggest television events of the year, with more than 100 million viewers expected to tune in. The halftime show – Madonna is performing this time – and its commercials are at the center of as much hype as the football contest itself.

Will the game be on in your house?

According to a recent USA Today story, more than 30 advertisers will spend $230 million peddling their wares during the Super Bowl, and this year they plan to do with sexier-than-ever images. While some of the ads are amusing (E-Trade’s talking baby) and some are sweet (VW’s The Force” featuring a young Darth Vader), some may require explanation (What’s Cialis, mommy?). Some will undoubtedly be too suggestive for the wee ones in your viewing party (yes, that’s Kim Kardashian lying on the ground with her midriff bared – in a Skechers shoe ad). Website domain seller has already said it plans to show a seemingly naked model getting her body painted in its big Super Bowl ad. And you know that beer ads will be plentiful, along with ads for the snack foods that go well with beer – such as Doritos.

So what messages will your kids be getting as they watch? Sex, alcohol and junk food.

At the very least, the Super Bowl spectacle is worth a dinner table conversation about what we value in this country, from the attention paid to football (and not, say, to a Quiz Bowl?) to the selling and marketing of products. Ask your kids: What are the advertisers trying making you feel? How do they get their message across? Is any of it really good for you?

Maybe you’ll be able to enjoy the sporting event, appreciate the spirit of the competition and marvel at the athleticism of the contenders, without buying into it all. And that’s great.

Or, when Sunday rolls around, you could opt not to watch it and give your kids a very valuable lesson: You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.

What Shall I Be?

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

A career board game for girls from 1966.

If we looked at the world through the eyes of television, we’d see it populated mainly with lawyers, policemen and attractive young surgeons with messy personal lives. Of course, there would be the occasional teenager who, through a funny twist of fate, becomes head of a fashion design company or the young computer genius in a fish out of water comedy. By now, we know that TV doesn’t really mirror what society looks like—in fact it exaggerates it. Still, it’s a far cry better than when television was new. With the exception of a few characters like Lois Lane, women worked as homemakers, housekeepers or school teachers.

The mindset of that time is summed up in the 1966 board game called What Shall I Be? The object of the game is to be the first player to become a “Career Girl.” By collecting cards that cover school subjects and personality, you can become a teacher, airline hostess, actress, nurse, and model or ballet dancer. The personality cards assign players traits that would be better suited for one career over another. For instance, a subject card that says “You are good with makeup,” means you could be a model, actress, ballet dancer or airline hostess. If, however, you pick up a personality card that says “You get too excited,” that means becoming a nurse and airline hostess just isn’t for you.

Granted, today’s kids are feeling pressured to figure out exact goals and career paths as early as freshman year of high school, and the current job market isn’t amenable to a lot of popular college majors. Still, we need to step back, be thankful for expanded career choices now and remember that times do change. If we prepare our kids well enough, they can handle these changes, make good decisions and—best case scenario—be happy in life—that is if they don’t get too excited.

Sing-Play and the gentle art of song to bond with your baby

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Sing to Your Baby

New parents enter parenthood with a variety of comfort levels regarding every aspect of caring for their baby, but they ALL have an innate desire to bond. Long before there were electronics to soothe, distract, and comfort baby, parents, siblings, grandparents and those in a new baby’s circle of love did all the work.

Whenever a parent says to me, “I really want to sing to my baby, but I don’t have a good voice,” I’m ready and willing to help.

First things first. Your baby loves your voice. Your baby has no idea if you are Queen Latifah or Ben Holds or Celine Dion or Garth Brooks. Your baby loves you in that unconditional way that you love her. Your voice is important -as a whisper, a spoken word, and yes, singing. We adopted the words “sing-play” when creating Sing to Your Baby® to inspire interaction in the bonding of baby and parent/caregiver/loved one.

Here are some simple ways to get started with SING-PLAY.


Time Shift Your TV: Lady Gaga

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Parents’ Choice recommending Lady Gaga? Yes, when she’s paired with Tony Bennett.

Making your TV time count doesn’t mean you must always delve into a high-brow science show, deadly-serious documentary or the usually-dreary evening news. There’s value in using television to stop your hectic life for a bit of entertainment, inspiration and smile-inducing programming.

That’s the Time Shift prescription for this week: Gather the family, sit back, relax, and listen to Tony Bennett. Not only will it be enjoyable, but you will marvel at the man’s abilities as, at 85, he skillfully croons with celebrities of all sorts in Tony Bennett: Duets II.

The Great Performances 90-minute special, airing on PBS on Friday, Jan. 27, at 9 p.m., features Bennett singing from his Grammy-nominated CD Duets II, which made history in September 2011 by debuting at the top of the Billboard Album charts, with Bennett, the oldest vocal artist to hit the No. 1 spot.

The unstoppable troubador spent six months recording the album, traveling the world to meet his singing partners in studios from Los Angeles to Nashville to London. Highlights include Amy Winehouse’s last recorded track before her death, “Body and Soul”;Bennett’s playful rendition of “The Lady is a Tramp” with Lady Gaga; and his stirring performance of “Stranger in Paradise” with Andrea Bocelli, recorded in at the opera great’s Italian home. Other Bennett duets include John Mayer, Michael Buble, k.d. lang, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, Josh Groban, Faith Hill, Alejandro Sanz and Carrie Underwood. Enjoy!


Thursday, January 19th, 2012

When most of us think of piracy, the image of Johnny Depp’s infamous Captain Jack Sparrow in mind. But as the debate over SOPA  continues in the news and on social networks, it makes for a good opportunity to talk about piracy–and censorship– as a family.  SOPA is a proposed bill to stop online privacy acts. It’s a complicated debate that has confused many.  The problem is, many look at Copyright codes as more of what you call guidelines than actual rules. Some say that implementing SOPA will lead to censorship and may even be putting libraries at risk for law suits. Others say that the loss of compensation has hurt business and that artists—not big companies– are the true victims of online piracy. Everyone likes to and should get credit for their work and stealing someone else’s art, songs, movies or TV shows is no exception. But censorship in its worst forms can undercut everyone if the system of checks and balances isn’t fairly applied. It’s a tricky subject and while you don’t have to come down on one side of the issue or another, you should look closely at both. David Lowry, of the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven posted this to his Facebook page in regard to music piracy:  “You may love to hate record labels, but most record labels are not evil. Most record labels pay their artists. When you steal from record labels you steal from artists.” Movies, TV, books are all part of the argument, and could affect Google, YouTube and other big online sites.

This article helps spell out the details of the SOPA, so families can discuss together:

Have you talked to your kids about illegal downloads? What is your stance on censorship? What are your thoughts on SOPA? If it’s not the right fix to the problem, what should be done?