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Posts tagged with Citizen Journalism Academy

A Gift from the Holiday Shop

Black Friday... Holiday toy catalogues as thick as bibles... weekly Toys R Us emails and commercials telling kids to want, want, want and parents to buy, buy, buy. It’s hard not to have a Charlie Brown moment or two by the time the first snow falls. Every year I do more shopping via school book orders, gift cards and online and less at the store.

So, when I brought my boys to the Lawrence Arts Center's holiday shop and cookie sale this year I had just about had my fill of sugar and dollar signs. I was relieved to be left out of this shopping experience. They each went in with a list and were escorted in by elves to make their selections. My four year old came out pretty quickly with his bag of goodies and even had some money left over. I promptly sent him back in to give to his brother.

And that was the last we saw of them.

As we waited and waited for them to emerge, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in there. Were they fighting? Buying stuff for themselves? I imagined all these nightmare scenarios of angry elves and broken toys until, finally, after what seemed like an eternity but was probably 45 minutes, two boys emerged with full bags as full as their hearts. With the extra money, they had managed to buy a present for every kid in their extended family.

But it wasn’t until I put the boys to bed that night that I truly understood what had happened inside the the holiday shop. Santino curled himself in his covers, but his eyes were wide awake. “I’m just so excited,” he said. “Too many cookies?” I asked, regretting that final snack before bedtime. He shook his head. “I can’t wait to give everyone their presents.”

And then it hit me. There was no mention of the video games and lego sets he had been asking me about nearly every day since Halloween. This excitement came solely from the giving.

So, while the boys had bought plenty of toys and trinkets for family members that Friday night, they also brought a little something else home with them.

Holiday sprit. Just the gift I needed.

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Children’s Tea Time

When I asked my sons if they wanted to go to a tea party at Border's this Saturday, they enthusiastically said, "yes!" It did not cross my mind they would be the only boys there. Okay, so even if it had, it wouldn't have stopped me. I've taken those little guys to plenty of classes where they were the only boys there, like ballet and gymnastics, and it's never seemed to bother them. Tea time was no exception... well almost.They loved the hot chocolate and cookies served up by their gracious hosts at the storytime. It was truly a nice little intro to manners and ceremony in a kid friendly setting. Then, there was one "Fancy Nancy" book that the adults joked the boys might not like as it was a bit girly. With that casual comment, I noticed a change in my older son. It was the first time I saw him not look at a book during a storytime.It got me thinking about what age children shy away from things we think of as gender specific and what role adults play in that transformation. There is, after all, nothing inherently feminine about tea. It seems to me, as parents, we have some responsibility in broadening their interests and exposing them to a variety of experiences that will make them well rounded individuals. My boys are a rowdy cars-loving-karate fighting duo, but I have to say, I truly appreciate their sensitive and thoughtful sides as well.

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Election Day Freebies

Sure, I could have done advanced voting. I've only been decided on my candidate since early in the primaries, but, hey, there's a certain magic about going into that booth on election day. You have a direct connection to the day's events, you can correlate your voting with the kids voting events and then there's that little "I voted" sticker that entitles you to all sorts of free stuff! This year, Starbucks is offering free coffee for voters and Ben & Jerry's will give free scoops from 5-8pm. So, if you're like this procrastinator, go out and do your duty, then head for the goods. What some might call a bribe, I call a chance to feel part of our community and relish in the democratic process through the mass consumption of caffeine and sugar. Now if only we had a Krispy Kreme in town....

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Halloween Preschool Style

As I watched my son and his classmates celebrate Halloween at the Lawrence Arts Center Preschool today, I realized that 4 years old may be the perfect age to enjoy this holiday to its fullest. There is a certain blurring of reality and make-believe with this age group that makes the act of dressing up go beyond the mere act of wearing a costume and ventures into becoming someone or something else entirely.As each child in class got up to speak about his or her character, there was sheer joy in each face as they revealed their true identities. A boy dressed as Harry Potter took off his glasses and said, "it's really me!"My own little Prince Caspian, who usually has a wild and spirited temperament (i.e. euphemism for being a few steps from rowdy) was remarkably regal and dignified in his costume. He stood a little straighter and walked with a little more grace in his full princely wardrobe... that is until a smile broke loose and the excitement of the holiday took over.Wishing everyone a happy halloween!

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Raising my own Alex P. Keaton

When I took my four year-old to the democratic primary, he voiced his support, literally, for John McCain. At the time I chalked it up to his desire for attention (he sure did get a lot of head turns), but now I'm not so sure. He may in fact be the youngest true McCain loyalist. His support for McCain has never wavered, VP choice or economic crisis be damned, and when asked to back up this endorsement with some concrete reasoning, he is quick to answer. For instance, he has said John McCain should be president because he is in fact a character on the Candy Land board game (despite my reassurance that said candy cane-carrying character is actually the younger and more cheerful Mr. Mint). He has also stated that McCain must be cool because he is as old as the dinosaurs, and everyone knows dinosaurs were cool. To me, these were all harmless, and rather humorous, answers that I could take in stride and resist my urge to turn him into one of those brainwashed kids going around singing creepy Obama songs. I liked that he was taking an interest in the civic process. We've had fun reading The Class Election From the Black Lagoon and watching You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown together. It all seemed pretty educational and healthy, even if he was supporting a candidate just to be different from me... because that had to be the real reason for his passion for John McCain, right?Well, that's what I thought. But then I told him he could actually participate in some kids voting activities. Him: "You mean I can stop the war?"Me: "I don't know about that. But you can check a box for somebody."Him: "Yeah, John McCain- he's going to stop the war."Okay, I might have ran a stop sign at that point. Or just about, anyway. I'd never talked to him about Iraq. Heck, I didn't even know he knew what a war was. Sure, it was probably something he'd picked up from one of the myriad of pundits he's overheard during the last few months, but still, I was touched. There was such an earnestness to this young soul who truly believed that one person could make a difference in this world by simply checking a box. I think teaching kids about the election process is a good thing. It's never too soon to get those wheels turning, even if they're not aligned with our own.

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Colony Collapse at the Natural History Museum

Anyone checking out the dinosaur bones at the Natural History Museum this afternoon was treated to a rock concert by local band Colony Collapse. Okay, so maybe my oldest son plugged his ears when we approached the music taking place in front of the animal dioramas, but, hey, the kid's a little sensitive to loud noises. Once we were safely by the fossils, he gave in to the sheer energy this rock and roll soundtrack provided to the afternoon's prehistoric journey and danced down the hallways chanting "dino bones" to the beat (well, sort of) with his younger brother in tow.This epic kind of instrumental rock reminded me of east coast band, Saxon Shore, the group that did my film score. So admittedly, I may be a bit biased for this kind of sound, but for myself and my brood, these Lawrence guys rocked the house today. Just hope they didn't collapse the colony upstairs.

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Rockin’ Movie Soundtracks

When it came time to do the soundtrack for my feature film, I wanted to try something a little different than a traditional score. Through the help of my cousin, I connected with an indie band called Saxon Shore. Well, now that we are almost done with the mix, I am amazed how much their music has made a cohesive & rockin' score. So, this got me thinking about the cinematic quality of rock and reflect on some unforgettable band/ solo musician soundtracks.1) I can't really start this list without mentioning The Graduate. Try imagining this film without Simon & Garfunkel. 'Nuff said.2) My recent fave- Darjeeling Limited. After seeing this Wes Anderson movie on DVD last month, I don't think I have started my itunes once without playing "This Time Tomorrow" & "Strangers" by the Kinks. Seriously. 3) Curious George, soundtrack by Jack Johnson. Yeah, I know it was a kid's flick, but it was good. 4) Dead Man, soundtrack by Neil Young. Minimalist and powerful music, just like Jarmusch himself.5) Superfly, music by Curtis Mayfield. The soundtrack for this Gordon Parks Jr. film is as funky as it gets.6) Dancer in the Dark, music by Bjork. The movie may have been a bit heavy handed for my sensibilities, I have to admit the music was deliciously ambitious.7) Unnamed Jack White soundtrack. Okay, so he hasn't done one yet, but his music is so cinematic I know it'd be killer. Who knows, maybe I'll get to him first!So, those are just a few off the top of my head, and not in any particular order. If you have any faves you don't see here, add 'em to the list!

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Afraid of Fireworks

When I took my few month old son out on the 4th of July, he must have thought the world was coming to an end. His eyes glazed with wonder at the pretty lights, then quickly overcame with fear as he heard the sonic boom that followed. For the next three years, he watched the yearly display behind the safety of a living room window. Now that he's four, I sense things are going to be different. His boyish sprit for destruction and newfound reluctance to appear afraid are waging an inner war with his aversion to "loud stuff."So, trying to be The Mommy to Assuage All Fears, for his bedtime story last night, I told him about a boy who stayed inside during the fireworks and was visited by two ghosts of Independence Day past- Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. The former played upon our recent trip to D.C. where we made a cool late night visit to the Jefferson Memorial and the latter I chose because the recent HBO mini series has made me somewhat of an "Adams sympathizer" (okay, so maybe it's just fun to play the voice of someone who can be grouchy as hell.)Cheeseball? Yeah, probably, but somehow it got to him. You see, the kid didn't know anything about the meaning behind these colorful explosions till now. Discovered by the Chinese thousands of years ago as a byproduct of gunpowder, fireworks are now meant to harken back to a time in our nation's history when we had to fight for our freedom. Hundreds of years later, it's hard to write those words without feeling a sense of irony. Still, there's something about the hope of this upcoming election year and my recent D.C. trip that's wearing down my cynical old self and pulling at the strings of patriotism. So, as I celebrate the holiday this weekend, I am going to look past the exploding Bin Laden heads and striped hats and try to see the "artillery" we use on our homeland as a cry to get us back to the principles our country was founded on.Oh yeah, and I'll probably get some earplugs for the kid.

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Remembering Sydney Pollack

I'm taking a moment from my the sound mix of my film here in Fredonia, New York to reflect on the loss of a great director. Sydney Pollack died today of cancer and iit makes me sad to think there won't be any new films of his to look forward to. I think HBO's recent "Recount" would have been much better if handled by his capable hands. When I think about Pollack, I think of mainstream films that are taken seriously instead of being merely pushed through the process. "Tootsie" could have been ridiculous if Pollack had not taken the characters and situations seriously as well as comically."They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" is one of those films you see and wish you had made. "Three Days of the Condor" is one of the few films on the American Movie Classic channel's slate that deserves to be there, and it's hard to get "The Electric Horseman" out of my mind (Robert Redford turn as a burnt out Rodeo performer is a must see). And let's not forget his acting abilities. He's one of those guys that the minute he goes on screen you know he's believable. However small the part, it is always memorable. His scenes in "Tootsie" or "Eyes Wide Shut" come to first to my mind, but there are countless others.I could go on and on but I should get back to the mix, so I will leave the rest to you, Lawrence readers, to share your favorite Pollack moments.

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Is Obama (Finally) the Nominee?

So, I'll be the first to admit it- I have been experiencing election fatigue. The beginning of this process felt very hopeful and inspiring and now I am at the point where I am just ready for the primaries to be over. I didn't even watch the last democratic debate, that's how "over it" I've been feeling. I have even been seriously considering going back to my usual, "vote for a third party candidate that will never win but at least I'll feel good about myself" mentality. Sure, my dwindling interest in the democratic process may have been due to the endless debates and the inconclusive primaries but there has been something about my candidate of choice that has been a bit underwhelming as of late. It was not the Reverand Wright scandal or the accusations of elitism that distanced me from Obama, but rather, his lukewarm responses to these matters that got me down. I fully respect Obama's speech on race but do feel a bit more of a personal perspective on his relationship with his former pastor would have more aggressively handled the matter. And the elitist situation seemed so easy to defend that I was surprised he did not stand by his comments and give them some perspective. I guess what I have been missing is the confidence he showed back at the Texas debates when it really looked like he had this whole thing sewed up.Perhaps the insecurities that surfaced as Hillary remained so strong and viable weakened his armor just enough for us to see through the cracks. But whatever the reason, I am glad this race is nearing its end. I still care just enough to be happy when Obama reaches the finish line. Here's looking forward to November!

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