Archive for November, 2013

Are we there yet?

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

“Are we there yet?” Ah, those dreaded four words, launched from the backseat in varying tones of hope and discontent. Especially during the holidays, when family visits can mean extended road trips. Why not try some mood-lifting musical distraction, courtesy of top-of-the-line, award-winning family artists? Their smart, witty, engaging songs and remarkable musical chops won’t send the driver around the bend—and may just have everyone tapping out a beat and singing along as the miles fly by.

The “Are We There Yet” Playlist:

Bob’s Favorite Sing Along Songs: Children’s favorites sung by “Sesame Street” veteran Bob McGrath in his signature mellow tenor.

Recess: The latest thoughtful-funny-fab album from indie rocker-turned-ace children’s artist Justin Roberts.

Paul Spring – Home of Song: Inventive and imagination-stirring songs from exceptional new family music artist Paul Spring.

Turn Turn Turn: Outstanding “handmade” music makers Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell offer traditional songs with a new spin, and new songs crafted with wit and wonder.

Chocolalala: Mister G’s latest bilingual (Spanish and English) tasty treat with a playful, bouncy beat.

Great Day: The “happy” radiates throughout each deft layer of this effervescent Milkshake album.

Go Waggaloo: An acoustic treasure trove of singalong songs from Woody Guthrie’s granddaughter, her dad Arlo, Pete Seeger and more.

Singing With Treblemakers: Songs for Young Singers: Simple, timeless and irresistible.

Tumble Bee: Family folk songs enlivened with captivating harmonies and sterling musicianship.

Back to the Garden: Ted Jacobs’ resonant second batch of poem-inspired, childhood-celebrating songs.

Give Yourself a High Five: Songs rooted in real life and fairy tales, plus toe-tapping rhythms and imaginative soundscapes.

Princess Revolution!: Don’t let the title fool you. In Moey’s catchy songs, princess power means strength, independence and self-sufficiency.

Here We Go Zodeo: Acoustic sing-along fun, about as exuberant as you can get.

Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie: An inspired pairing: Children’s folk artist Elizabeth Mitchell and folk music icon Woody Guthrie’s children’s songs.

JumpinJazz Kids – A Swinging Jungle Tale: Al Jarreau? Hubert Laws? Yep, this engaging jazzy musical adventure is full of surprises.

Time Shift Your TV – Time Travel

Monday, November 25th, 2013


If you’re like me, you might have found yourself this past week saying, “Dr. Who?”

Or maybe you’re among the many fans who know and love Doctor Who, a BBC show that’s celebrating its 50thanniversary. The series, shown here on BBC America, is centered around a time-traveling, universe-exploring, foe-fighting “doctor,” and it has a worldwide cult following.

A special 50th anniversary episode to commemorate the series’ milestone aired Sunday (Check the BBC America site for listings for repeat airings). On Monday, a special Doctor Who Explained episode is scheduled to air, and all this week there are various episodes repeating so you can get caught up, if you need to.

Why has this science fiction show endured for so long? In honor of the anniversary, the BBC asked that same question. Among the responses were that the series is about “the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.” In other words, Doctor Who features a dashing hero who can think and talk his way out of jams. It also has universal appeal. It’s not a show just for kids or adults, but both. And, it’s about exploring new realms.

The concept of traveling through time is always intriguing. That may be why so many shows tackle the topic. From The Twilight Zone to Star Trek, there have been dozens of entertainment-related time travel shows.

One of the most popular current science shows to delve into trying to explain time travel is Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, with new episodes airing Wednesdays at 9 p.m. (Episode 3 in Season 1 was titled “Is Time Travel possible?”) The Science Channel has a short video posted that explains the real possibilities of time travel as part of its Prophets of Science Fiction series.

Television, at its best, should delight and inspire. It should make you think and make you want to know more. These time travel shows might just do that for you and the viewers, whether young or old, in your house.

What if you could travel through time? What and when would be your destination? Would you want to go backwards or forwards? Meet famous people from history or explore the future? Throw these questions out at your Thanksgiving gathering or any night as you sit down to dinner. It might make for some fun conversation.

Reciting History

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

In sixth grade, my fellow classmates and I had to commit to memory the prelude to the Canterbury Tales—in Middle English. It seemed like a futile and pointless assignment, yet I remember and treasure it to this day.

To honor the 150th anniversary (seven score and ten years) of the Gettysburg Address, there is a national effort to get everyone to learn Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech. Don’t worry if you missed the actual anniversary (November 19). Folks will commemorate this historic speech all year. After all, one of the great things about history is that it is never too late to learn about it.  USA Today has some little known facts about the Gettysburg Address, one of the world’s best-remembered speeches.

At just 271 words, the speech takes about two minutes and is a crucial part of American history. Filmmaker Ken Burns will premiere the documentary, “The Address” on PBS in 2014. Before it airs, he and several partners are encouraging all Americans to learn the address and record themselves reciting the speech.  The inspiration sprang from a small boys’ school in Putney, Vermont, which includes learning the address as part of the curriculum.

Why not make it a family project and get your kids to direct your efforts? Will you learn the Gettysburg Address? Do you already know it by heart?

Time Shift Your TV – It is real? Is it magic?

Monday, November 18th, 2013
David Blaine

Magician David Blaine

It’s fun to be delighted by the seemingly impossible.

An ad for Volvo trucks got a lot of people intrigued last week as it showed action star Jean-Claude Van Damme doing splits between two trucks driving backwards.

We know that Van Damme can do the splits. He’s done them in some of his past movies. But to do them when standing on the rear-view mirrors of two zooming trucks going in reverse? The stunt prompted some skeptism, to say the least. The company, however, insisted it was real. They had rehearsed it many times, and there was a safety line attached to Van Damme that was invisible to viewers, an exec said.

This week, you can find more of the same skepticism-inducing stunts on a new 90-minute ABC special, David Blaine: Real or Magic, airing Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 9:30 pm.

Blaine, an illusionist who was born and raised in Brooklyn, has done many stunts over the years. I still remember when he was encased in a massive block of ice in New York City in 2000 for 63 hours. And in 2002, he stood on a pillar for 35 hours. In 2006, he risked his life again by putting himself in a sphere of water for a week.

This new TV special isn’t about a single feat of endurance. Instead, Blaine is doing some of what he does best–street magic and card tricks. He stops people on the street and wows them with his tricks.

In the show, he also goes into the homes of some of the world’s most famous people to perform for them. George W. Bush, Stephen Hawking, Kanye West, Woody Allen, and Katy Perry are among those featured in the show. In one clip, he pulls a small alligator out of Katy Perry’s purse! He also takes a bite out of her drinking glass–not a good idea.  In another clip, he performs a mind-blowing card trick for two Breaking Bad actors.

Watching the show may do more than just elicit a gasp, a smile, and a “How did he do that?!” It may inspire budding magicians in your house. Magic does require practice, along with patience, skill and focus. Blaine explains that it takes “hours and hours of practice” to get tricks right. In our fast-paced world, those are all good abilities to nurture.

At the very least, watching the show will afford another chance to talk about when it’s appropriate to be skeptical in our media-saturated world—and about the reality of magic.

Never Say Quit?

Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Jessica Lucia via Compfight

Jessica Lucia via Compfight

Parenting comes with so many of those moments where you wish you had that one correct answer. If only we could make that exact decision which, like a well-played chess move, ensures victory long after the first move.

Not every parenting decision is make-or-break, but sometimes it sure feels like it. One problem parents seem to grapple with the most is whether or not to let their child quit. Be it a family night board game or an organized sport, we often tell our kids quitters never win. It’s an important lesson for sure, but what if your child is really not enjoying an activity or a sport? It must be detrimental to force your child to do something that makes them miserable. It also seems like a really good lesson for kids to, in the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” To quit or not to quit? This is the parental question that can cause sleepless nights.

Reactionary or snap decisions are never a good thing. Experts remind parents to take time to contemplate the situation. Psychologist Dr. Carl E. Pickhardt also suggests you ask yourself and your child several key questions:

Is it worthwhile to continue?
Should I stick with it?
Have I had enough?
What’s the point?
Why keep trying?
By quitting what do I hope to get?
By quitting what do I give up?
By quitting what will I miss?
By quitting what might I later regret?

If your child really dislikes an activity, would you let them quit? Does it make a difference whether or not they are proficient in the activity they want to quit? Is it okay to quit?