Archive for September, 2014

Time Shift Your TV – Transparent

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

A very modern, new family drama has arrived as part of the fall TV season, and this one is web-based. It’s Amazon’s original series, Transparent. All 10 episodes arrived on Friday and are available for viewing.

The series is earning raves from TV critics, who say that the rich storylines, complex characters and insightful acting put it in a different league from the usual broadcast fare. The Los Angeles Times calls it “transcendent.” USA TODAY gives it four out of four stars, saying it’s “beautifully told.” The New Yorker calls it a “daring, difficult project.” Time calls it “gorgeous.”

Transparent 2The story centers around Jefferey Tambor, a divorced father of three (incredibly selfish) adult kids –  son Josh (Jay Duplass) and  daughters Sarah (Amy Landecker) and Ali (Gaby Hoffman). Tambor is coming out, finally, as transgender. Mort Pfefferman wants to be Maura Pfefferman.

In the first episode, streaming now for free on Amazon, there is a painful dinner scene in which Mort assembles the kids to try to tell them, but can’t because they’re too busy assuming he has cancer and questioning his decision to sell the family home. “How did I raise three people who cannot see beyond themselves?” he later wonders at his transgender support group.

Everyone in the family, including ex-wife Shelly (played by Judith Light), is busy struggling with their own sordid issues – sex, relationships, money, what to do, how to be.

Writer/direction Jill Soloway deftly paints a dysfunctional family dealing with secrets. Each character seems to be hiding some inner desires that haven’t quite been realized. It’s not always a laugh riot, but critics who have seen more than just the pilot say the payoff comes with Tambor’s bittersweet and poignant portrayal of Mort/Maura.

While it is a series about a family, it’s clearly an adult series. It will be up to you to decide if it’s appropriate for the older teens in your family. (Nudity and the f-word make appearances within the first three minutes of the half-hour pilot.) But it is definitely quality programming worth checking out, particularly to appreciate the family dynamics, to be reminded of the lost art of really listening to someone else, to remember that change happens in a family and to see this always-important message played out: Be true to yourself.




Innovation Nation

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

A new series is joining the “The CBS Dream Team, it’s Epic!” programming block on Saturday mornings. Innovation Nation

It’s titled The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation. Mo Rocca is the host.

It would have been nice to just call it Innovation Nation, but CBS partnered with The Henry Ford organization and Litton Entertainment to produce the show. We’re guessing it must have been part of the deal to include Henry Ford in the title.

Whatever the name or the reason, the series will be a nice addition to the Saturday lineup (9 a.m. to noon), as Rocca will tell stories of historic innovators of the past, explain the stories behind great inventions, and he will also find inventors around the country who are working on new projects.

The show is designed to both inspire and educate and get everyone in your house into the innovation spirit. Think beyond TV, out of the box.

As of Sept. 27, here’s where the new show fits into the CBS lineup, which features several Parents’ Choice Award-winning shows:

9:00-9:30 a.m.                           LUCKY DOG

9:30-10:00 a.m.                         DR.CHRIS PET VET

10:00-10:30 a.m.                      THE HENRY FORD’S INNOVATION NATION

10:30-11:00 a.m.                       RECIPE REHAB

11:00-11:30  a.m.                      ALL IN WITH LAILA ALI

11:30-12:00 p.m.                       GAME CHANGERS WITH KEVIN FRAZIER

Fall into Sleep

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Fall is a beautiful time, full of colorful leaves, crisp juicy apples and bright round pumpkins. It’s also a time of year when all bedtime routines and sleep patterns get thrown completely out of whack. No matter what age, sleep patterns are thrown askew as the time and season changes and it is harder to get on track than any other time of the year. Researchers at the University of Colorado  think they have some idea why toddlers have so many problems at bedtime. It may be just the break to help parents deal with the ongoing, generational-defying bedtime battle.

Bedtime_readingAccording to scientists, it has to do with the hormone melatonin and when it naturally increases, cueing our bodies to rest for the evening. We’ve all met those parents who tell us that they “let their children set their own natural bedtime,” only to find these kids bouncing off the walls at 1 a.m. only to have trouble the next day in school. Kids need schedules and direction, but like other bodily cues, it is worth noting whether or not a half an hour bed time change may make much difference.

It’s also worth noting whether or not your child is the wind up or wind down before bed time type. Our daughter never showed signs of sleepiness until she collapsed on the pillow—sometimes in mid-sentence. If she didn’t fight bedtime, she would engage in what Study Professor Monique LeBourgeois describes as “curtain calls.” These episodes consist of endless glasses of water, thoughtful questions, bathroom trips or encore book readings.

After dinner exercise, or basically wearing them out physically, is a good fix, but don’t forget to set up all of the rituals that help slow the mind and body down to get ready for bed. A bowl of cereal, a warm bath, soft lighting and less stimulation allows kids to prepare for sleep and gives their body time to prepare for bed too. Learning how to go to bed and consistently getting a good night’s sleep, says the journal Mind, Brain and Education, can stave off problems later in life. Research shows a correlation between good sleep and cognition and behavior.

Not to mention what a good night’s sleep can do for a parent’s sanity.


Learning how to study without 600 TC Egyptian cotton sheets

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

When I headed off for college, (back in the dark ages) I had a hand-me-down-comforter, bed sheets from the bottom of the linen closet, some plastic storage cubes and a half a dozen free posters given out at a local promotion. There wasn’t even such a thing as dorm room decorating budget. You moved in, you made do, and you moved on. Today, the pendulum has swung far in the other direction. Moving in days at colleges not only include eager freshman and tearful parents, but not uncommonly, a decorator. For a dorm room. dormupdate9

According to The National Retail Federation, students—well, really parents—are spending about $900 to decorate a dorm room. There are now registries at stores for students to post wish list items. Forget about paying for college. How about that Laura Ashley bedspread? Pinterest has boards with ideas for decorating, which is great, but the newfound industry with products created just for dorm rooms has become a $50 billion a year boon.

I get that kids want to be creative and make their own space in a dorm. In my opinion, part of the process of college is making do in smaller spaces. Part of higher education is learning how to study without 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets or high tech modular shelving. I suppose it’s a shock for millennials to leave their well-stocked and decorated nest and move into what looks like a cell block by comparison. Over the years, the retail industry has had us carve out castles and race car bedrooms for our kids, so a plain, extra long twin is going to look pretty drab. Sure it’s cute, but have we caused a problem in the process? Parents need to take a good hard look and make sure we haven’t taken the decorative touch over the top. Should or could this level be maintained? By making a bedroom too comfy for our kids, are we putting them at a disadvantage? Would you hire a decorator for a dorm? How much did you spend to decorate in college? With college so costly, are you also planning (or saving) for decorating? At least ask yourself this; why would you spend good money on a fancy rug when most of the time it will just be covered in dirty clothes?


I Am Eleven

Monday, September 15th, 2014

On the heels of the delightful Boyhood movie comes another charming film focused on children.

I Am ElevenI Am Eleven, which opened in U.S. theaters this past weekend, looks at what it’s like to be 11.

Do you remember where you were at that age? What you were doing and thinking?

Watching this documentary, you will see kids who are “tweens.” They’re not young children, but they still have the innocence of kids. They’re approaching a time of big emotional and physical change. And if you have an 11-year-old in your house, you already know that all too well. As WebMD notes:  “Your child at 11 will be embarking on a period of physical growth at a faster rate than at any time in life except infancy. This will be accompanied by a series of major bodily and hormonal changes in preparation for puberty, as well as increasingly advanced cognitive skills and emotional maturity.”

To capture the feelings of kids who are 11, Australian filmmaker Genevieve Bailey spent six years traveling the world and talking with 11-year-olds to put together an insightful and sweet documentary. Bailey says she set out to make something optimistic. She wondered if kids were still having fun and still hopeful about the world – as she was at 11. What did she find?

“I was excited to turn 11,” says one girl, “because I’m one-one. I always tell my dad, I’m number one twice!”

The kids, from a boy named Remi in France to a girl named Sreekutty  in India, give their thoughts on all sorts of topics, from racism to the need for empathy, their love of cats, their dislike of snakes. We see them dancing, playing with elephants, getting ready for school, brushing their teeth and just existing, coping and living in very different settings.

At the end, Bailey goes back to the same kids, who are now teenagers. Billy has a mustache. Grace says she thinks adults might be meaner than children. They look different and talk about how they’ve changed and about what lies ahead.

I would like to have seen even more interviews with a broader range of kids in the film, but the ones Bailey chose will give your kids a view of the world they probably haven’t seen. It’s worth watching, especially to open the door to conversations with your own ‘tweens.

Visit the film’s website to watch the trailer and see show times and theaters.