Category Archives: Kids and Media

“One Day On Earth” Premieres Today


Remember the 10-10-10 global film project in which my family and I participated? It was the first-ever simultaneous filming event occurring in every country of the world. Well, today is the worldwide debut of the finished film, entitled “One Day on Earth”. All over the world, the film is being shown at free screening events in theatres, cafes, churches, high school and college auditoriums—click here (or go to onedayonearth.org) for a list of cities/venues/times (make sure to scroll down to see the list).  Unfortunately, none are close to the Dallas area so I’m going to have to wait until it comes out on DVD.  I have no idea if any of our family’s footage made it in the final cut— from all the videographers, over 3,000 hours of video was submitted. 


If anyone recalls, we spent 10-10-10 on Amelia Island, Florida, on a family vacation (including our foreign exchange student).  I submitted footage of a sunrise at the beach, Emmie riding a bike, all the girls hanging out by the pool, a turtle walking slowing into the bushes, and someone high up in the air on a “beach sky bike” (or is it called a parasailing bike?).  After viewing the film’s promotional trailers, one might think my subject matter is trivial compared to the images of soldiers marching in North Korea, a homeless man in France, or the American woman holding her newborn infant, but I felt that anything submitted is just as important as the next.   It ALL happened on the same day, it’s all part of one story, so I would think One Day on Earth would want to include mundane as well as extraordinary things.  It’s mind-blowing to see what was going on at the same time that Emmie was simply showing her mom how she could dive into a swimming pool—many miles away, people were having a barbeque in Mozambique, and a woman was about to be married in Kosovo.  So, content-wise, we may have a chance, but video skills? Well, I don’t think that I and my non-professional Canon camera stand much of a chance(although one of the film’s editors did ask me to mail in all of my original footage after I uploaded some of it to their site).  But at least my footage is part of the vast One Day on Earth archives.  And I think it will be a great learning experience for the kids when they finally get to see the complete film.


If any of you get to see it, let me know what it’s like! Happy Earth Day!

Potty (Mouth) Training Revisited

I watched with interest all the hoopla last week about the little girl on the ABC-TV show “Modern Family”, who was depicted as cursing on last week’s episode (or is it “cussing”?).  See, “using swear words” had already been a “hot topic” around our house this month.  In the wake of the episode, which was entitled “Little Bo Bleep”, I found lots of online psycho-babble by professors and other experts chiming in about how swearing is, among other things, a natural part of early language development, cathartic, and helps people tolerate pain.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think most people already know that.  And we also know something else the experts were saying, that, just like in the Modern Family episode, little kids use swear words without really knowing what they mean, and get a kick out of adults’ reactions when they use them, and so they’ll say them again.  “Modern Family” was just art imitating real life.  (Does that mean the Parents Television Council, the group who first caused a stink about the show, is not made up of real parents? Sometimes I wonder…) But what I really wanted to know amidst last week’s jaw flapping was how real parents deal with swearing by children and teens.  

When we first heard four-letter-words spoken in the teen years by our oldest, our stance was to ignore them, just like we’d ignore insults, to lessen their “power”, hopefully communicating the message that “if you’re trying to get a reaction out of us, it’s not gonna happen”, which would hopefuly lessen their occurance.  Some “experts”, like the parenting coach at The Huffington Post, would agree.  Well, this stance worked okay— there wasn’t a lot of cussing… but it was still happening.   (I think, whether they get a reaction out of adults or not, teens feel “grown up” when they cuss, especially in front of adults, and that’s a reward in itself!) One day Emmie came to Andy and I and said, “I don’t want to live in a house where there’s cussing, it’s not fair that Allison doesn’t get in trouble, and you know I’d get in trouble if I did the same thing!!” And we said, “You’re right,” because she was.  (Besides, I suddenly pictured two kids swearing in my house instead of one, and it wasn’t pretty.)  And so we changed our stance. A few weeks ago, we told the girls we weren’t allowing cussing in the house anymore, and that if they decided they couldn’t communicate nicely with words, then we’d take away their other main form of communication– their phone.  “F that!!!” said Allison. Au revoir, said her phone.

“But they’re just words! What’s the big deal?” she said.  We explained that every place, every group of people has their own rules, and that in this house, we’ve decided we don’t want to hear cussing anymore. “I don’t think your school wants to hear it in the classroom,” I said, “and I don’t think your church youth group allows it, either!”  More cussing followed, but I think she’s finally gotten the message, now that her phone has been gone over two weeks.

Are we being ridiculous? Is this a battle most other parents choose not to fight?  I checked on CafeMom.com, a great gathering site for moms of all ages and stages, to see if there was any current buzz about swearing.  There were a lot of posts and comment threads about the topic– one in particular among “Moms of Teens” had about 40 different parent replies, and it looked like the majority of those parents don’t allow swearing, especially when it’s directed at someone. 

While I don’t believe we need to tell kids that all swearing is wrong, we can teach them that not everyone wants to hear it, even some of their own peers, and that unless you know someone’s boundaries on the subject, it’s best to keep your four-letter favorites private.  (I’ve known of people who have lost jobs because they thought that swearing during a business meeting would make them appear “tough”!)  Kids might also be encouraged to come up with different words or phrases that can help them “let it all out” without crossing the line.  (I’m sure my kids get sick of hearing me say, “Oy vey!”)  I’ll never forget the time, while I was growing up, when a neighborhood friend told me that she’d come up with a way to “cuss without cussing”.  “You just pronounce the words differently!” she announced proudly.  “So now I can say ‘FEWK’ when I’m mad and I won’t get in trouble!!”

Whatever works, I thought…but somehow, it just didn’t seem very cathartic…

Parents Who Shrouded 9/11: Is It Time to Lift the Veil?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was standing in our hallway bathroom, staring at a wall, when the phone rang.  It probably took me a few rings to snap out of my trance—after all, bathroom remodeling is serious business.  But after I answered the phone, deciding on paint color and tile didn’t seem so important anymore.  It was Andy calling from work, telling me to turn on the TV and see the events unfolding over 1,500 miles away.  I put down my tape measure and watched in horror.  It was so unbelievable, at times I felt as if I was watching a twisted episode of Batman where the villains were winning,  in an over-the-top, diabolical way, using only a few people and a few box cutters.  The atrocities kept happening, and somewhere, you just knew that a villain was smiling some sick grin and probably throwing his head back, laughing like The Joker. This is not supposed to be happening for real, I thought.  This can’t be happening to America.  I wanted to wail.  I wanted to scream.  But there in the next room, my 2 ½-year old toddler was dancing happily in a pink tutu.  And down the street at the elementary school, I had a six-year-old starting her third week of first grade. I knew, based on past experience, that any strong outpouring of emotion by me would scare both of them, and they wouldn’t understand why, or if they did, they might feel wrongly that they were in eminent danger.  And so, I made the decision pretty quickly that as a mom protecting her kids, I would not act like the events of the day were a big deal.  I would stifle my emotions.  I told Emmie I was watching “some very important news” while she danced in circles, round and round to the soundtrack from The Big Comfy Couch (a former PBS show).  Sirens were wailing on the TV in front of me as I heard Emmie singing at the same time: “Ya gotta stop! Don’t go! Wait ‘til the green light says so-oh…” As the hours wore on, I was even more determined that no terrorist was going to affect any more lives than he already had…Emmie and I ran errands together, ate lunch…I remember actually being annoyed that some stores, such as The Container Store, were closed for the day. I was determined to keep moving for the sake of my kids and my country, and I didn’t understand why everyone else wasn’t doing the same.  We need to be like Whoville, I thought.  The Grinch did NOT steal Christmas!!!

I felt helpless to do anything else. How could I possibly make a difference? I wasn’t going to enlist in the Army, as many were inspired to do, or get on the next plane to New York.  I felt that I needed to be at home, being a mother to my kids.  We gave a donation to the Red Cross and the star-studded telethon. We attended a 9/11 memorial church service with Allison and prayed.  We did tell her about the events in basic, simple terms and allowed her to see a bit of the footage on TV.  But we didn’t dwell on it much more than that.

Ten years later, we still haven’t.  Out of my strong desire to shield my kids from needless stress and worry, I pretty much swept 9/11 under the rug.  But lately I’ve been wondering if that was such a healthy thing to do, for me and for them.  I mean, it’s not good to stifle emotions, right?  But once they got old enough to where my emotions wouldn’t scare them, seeing Mom crying about anything became a source of humor for one of them, and embarrassment for the other. (I have managed to steal a few 9/11 cries over the years in private, like this morning as I watched on TV as a 12-year-old girl remembered her mother, a fallen NYPD officer who died in the south tower…)

For sure, keeping quiet about 9/11 for so long definitely doesn’t help our kids’ history knowledge, which Andy and I are usually big on enhancing.  Surprisingly, their school classes have been pretty quiet about it as well.   

Andy and I discussed recently about possibly showing the girls a documentary or movie to mark the 10th anniversary. A Google search and IMDB.com revealed a larger selection of choices than I expected.  Flight 93, a made-for-TV movie, might be good.  It focuses on heroism and doesn’t contain the foul language of its big screen counterpart, United 93. But, according to reviews, it’s still extremely tense and sad.  “I know I don’t want to see that,” said Andy.  There’s World Trade Center directed by Oliver Stone (got horrible reviews) and DC 9/11, a view of the tragedy from inside the Bush administration (a bit slanted).  A good choice looks like “9/11”, a documentary first aired on CBS, which uses hand-held footage taken by two French brothers who were already near the twin towers, working on a documentary about a fireman, when 9/11 unfolded.  It won two primetime Emmys and gets high praise for its avoidance of sensationalism.  So, maybe we will add that to our Netflix queue.  In the meantime, it looks like there are a lot of news specials on TV tonight that also sound good—CNN’s  “Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11”, CBS’ “9/11: Ten Years Later” which uses footage from “9/11” and is again narrated by Robert DeNiro; and “CNN Presents: Footnotes of 9/11”, which focuses on eight ordinary people who were footnotes in the 9/11 Commission Report, such as a man at the airline ticket counter who checked in two of the hijackers. 

Ten years ago, shielding my kids was probably the right thing to do. Experts lately are saying that children who viewed nonstop images of 9/11 in the days after the events showed signs of post traumatic stress syndrome.  But now, I think it’s okay to show them more, at least older kids (mine are almost 13 and 17).  Allison says she’s fascinated by what little she’s already seen.   And both Allison and Emmie had lots of questions when Osama Bin Laden was killed recently, since they knew it was a “big deal”.  Now they can see for themselves just how big.

When Your Child’s Email Gets Hacked: My Look Into the Evil World of Spamming


I guess our first clue should have been when our preteen daughter, Emmie, couldn’t get into her email account a few weeks ago– she said it wouldn’t let her in, and she figured that maybe she’d forgotten her password, even though it was the only one she ever used, and it always popped up automatically from our home computer, anyway.  (Her email service says that’s a sign that the account might have been compromised.)  But unknowing doofus parents that we are, we just went on about our business as she answered the security questions and reset her password (she chose to “change” it to the same one as before).  Then yesterday morning, suspicious emails, with blank “subject” lines, started arriving from her address, several every few minutes, into my inbox and into everyone else’s in her address book.  They contained a link to a “pharmaceutical” website, a site that contained descriptions of just how their products would help male enhancement and performance.  It’s bad enough we all get bombarded with those ads on radio and TV, but now kids are being specifically targeted for that message as well?

“How do they know it’s a kid’s account?” Andy asked me after I phoned him. I was mad and needed to vent. I think they have a pretty good idea, I told him.  I’d found out, after doing a bit of Internet research, that spammers often get into email accounts because many people use the same password for all their online accounts, and the spammers simply find a not-so-secure website where the person has entered their email address and password, and they figure that same password is good for that person’s private email inbox. Which had been the case with Emmie, and probably so for a lot of kids.  Which means that, based on her Internet presence, that spammers troll everywhere, even kid websites like Neopets, Webkinz, American Girl…and that’s just sick. 

You are probably wondering, as I did, why pharmaceutical spammers would want kids to find their website, since it’s doubtful a kid is going to beg Santa Claus for some Viagra. Why waste time going after kids? Well, it’s simply a matter of clicks– the more clicks their site gets, the more that spammers make money. (Even exiting out of an unwanted spam pop-up earns those spam vermin some cashl!)  And unsuspecting kids might just be the “perfect” audience to give their site a lot of traffic, especially those kids who get the giggles every time they see the word “penis” in print.  A 2008 study done by the University of California-Berkeley and UCSD showed that even at an average rate of only one response for every 12.5 million spam emails sent, spammers turn a nice profit.  For one large spam network, it was to the tune of $7,000 per day, over $2 million per year. 

Emmie was definitely upset when she arrived home, bleary-eyed and tired after a sleepover, to find out what had happened.  By that time, I’d emailed everyone to whom the messages had been sent to tell them not to open up any emails from her. Her mouth dropped open in horror every time she realized just who might have received the spam, as she remembered who was on her address list– “My teachers from last year?” she asked.  Yes.  “All my camp friends?” Yes.  “The gymnastics coaches?” Yes. And yes to the email addresses of music instructors, relatives, even some of her friends’ parents.  The more upset she got, the more upset I got on the inside, and the more I wanted to go after the jerks who did this.  I called up Andy again.  “I want to find out who did this, and I want to press charges!” I told him.  After signing in to Emmie’s email account, he found a list of the origins of the last 10 sign-ons, and called me back. “Well, I guess you’re going to have to send that lawyer to Azerbaijan, Turkey, Chile, and Poland,” he said.  Because someone, or someone’s computer, from each of those countries had gotten into her account that morning– one at 5:12 a.m., the next at 8 a.m., another at 9:43 a.m. and the latest at 12:06 p.m.  Creepy, isn’t it? He felt it was futile to do anything except make her account more secure (email providers usually offer how-to’s), but he underestimates the lengths moms will go to when someone messes with their children.

A few Google searches and a little more reading and I came upon a website called The Spamhaus Project. The Spamhaus Project is an international nonprofit organization whose mission includes tracking the Internet’s spam operations and sources, working with law enforcement agencies to identify and pursue spam gangs worldwide, and to lobby governments for effective anti-spam legislation. It maintains a Register Of Known Spam Operations, or ROKSO, collecting information on “known professional spam operations that have been terminated by a minimum of 3 Internet Service Providers for spam offenses.”  The list is long, but represents a group of about 100 “spam gangs” that put out 80% of the spam we receive at any given time, most operating illegally and moving from ISP to ISP. It didn’t take long to find the name of the website to which all of Emmie’s spam emails had directed her friends–though each email housed a different address/link, they all led to one place:  “A long time running pharmacy spam operation. They send tens of millions of spams per day using botnet techniques. Probably based in Eastern Europe, Ukraine/Russia. Host spammed web sites on botnets and on bulletproof Chinese web hosting”.  Just as I was thinking it really was futile to bring charges against someone sitting several continents away, I decided to click on a ROKSO feature labeled “Contact info.” And there in black and white were the street addresses of the spam pharmaceutical company’s three “known” offices: one in Canada; their “warehouse” in India; and their “U.S. branch office”, located in… Austin, TEXAS. Yee-HAH! (Now I may not be proud of some things in Texas, but prosecuting criminals is something Texas does really well, so at that moment, I couldn’t have been happier to live where I do– even in this nonstop triple-digit heat…)  I double-checked Spamhaus’ address information with what was listed at the pharma website and it matched. 

SO- to make a long story shorter, I checked with the Texas Attorney General’s website (yes, spamming is illegal in our state, not to mention selling prescription drugs on the black market), and I called their Austin office, and was encouraged to file a consumer complaint– it’s easy to do and the form is online (see below for links). Maybe if enough angry parents complain, spammers will be put out of business, or at least put out of state. (Various state attorney generals have had success in prosecuting spammers.) The TAG’s office also encouraged me to phone the Austin police non-emergency line, who gave me a national link where people in any state can file a complaint against spammers (see below). I’m also thinking about a call or email to the Austin Better Business Bureau, and an email to the FTC (they take spam complaints at 
www.ftc.gov).

A ridiculous waste of time, you may be thinking? Just get used to spam? Ah, but think again. Where one crime is being committed, usually others are, or will be, as well. Not only do website spammers often branch out into identity theft and fraud schemes (like bilking senior citizens), they’ve been known to be pedophiles and child pornographers as well. As responsible
citizens, we’ve got to treat any Internet crime just like we’d treat a hit-and-run or an assault, and report it, especially when it happens to our children.
———————————————————————

Texas Attorney General consumer complaint form:
https://www.oag.state.tx.us/forms/cpd/form.php

Internet Crime Complaint Center (run by FBI, National White Collar Crimes Center) http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

The Register Of Known Spam Operations: http://www.spamhaus.org/rokso/index.lasso

Pottermania: What a Fun Ticket to Ride It’s Been

We all have “I remember when” things we can say, that vary depending on our age, when it comes to historical events that we’ve experienced.  The day Kennedy was shot, the first moon walk, personal computers become a household item, 9/11…history-making events and milestones are happening all the time.  But not every generation can say they grew up amidst the worldwide excitement and hysteria over something creatively great, as it’s being created.  For example, lots of people will continue to love the music of The Beatles, but only some can say they grew up looking forward to every Beatles record release or being one of the first in line at the record store to buy those releases, or saw the Beatles in person, “live in concert”.  And many people will continue to love J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and watch the movies on DVD, but only some will be able to say they were at the book store the day (or week) one of those books was released, and only some can say they got to look forward to, and experience, a new Harry Potter movie release almost every year.  I’m so thankful my kids can count themselves in this latter group, and so glad to be a parent who has experienced it right along with them.

I mean, think about it—does phenomenal, ground-breaking creativity with massive appeal like this happen all that often? Yeah, in addition to the Beatles, there was Elvis, and there was Michael Jackson—but did any of their work cross generations (at the time) like Pottermania has? While kids grooved to the Fab Four, “The King of Rock ‘n Roll”, and Jacko, parents were not exactly thrilled…and though Star Trek and Star Wars has its following, I see more males into them than females, and more parents of boys than parents of girls.

But this is different.  More adults and children, parents and grandparents, males and females, are Potter fans, often together enjoying the books and movies.  (Yes, non-fans, they’re that good!) While our family is not what I’d call “fanatical”, we are fans.  Emmie once dressed as Hermione for Halloween, and when she was 8 years old, she carefully wrote a letter to Emma Watson in England (who portrays Hermione in the movies), and heard back from her about six months later (the letter included two autographed photos!).   Allison read every book, and introduced us to “Potter Puppet Pals” and “A Very Potter Musical” on YouTube.  We’ve all enjoyed family outings to see the movies when they’re released.  And we will never forget our day at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Florida last fall, where all of us, including our exchange student, tasted “butter beer” (it’s like cream soda, Dr. Pepper and whipped cream mixed together) and walked the halls of Hogwarts. (“Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey”, a “ride” inside the castle, is hands-down the best theme park attraction I’ve ever experienced—talk about overwhelming, profound joy!  And I’m usually a wimp when it comes to rides!)

Allison is attending her first (and unfortunately, the last)
midnight Harry Potter premiere tomorrow night and has been deep in thought lately, trying to figure out a costume to wear.  While I’ll be passing on that experience, I know it will be electric to get that first glimpse among so many die-hard fans.  “I think I’m going to cry when the credits roll at the end,” says Allison.  I can understand.  But again, I can also thank God my kids had the privilege of being kids during the era of Potter.  What fun!!! What great stories they can tell their own children some day!! There may be more dangers in the world now than when John, Paul, George and Ringo hit the stage, but maybe this generation will be inspired to eliminate those dangers thanks to the courage, ethics and love shown by Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Bieber Fever Has Hit My House– Should We Be Quarantined?

Not too long ago, as some of you will recall, I wrote about the phenomenon of teen idols, and how my older daughter, like me, snubbed teen idols in the preteen and junior high years.  I wrote that if she was truly like me, she was due to fall for one “at any minute”, since I had my first teen idol crush in high school.  But I really wasn’t taking my prediction too seriously.  If I were a betting mom, I would have bet that Allison would never crush on any of the faces gracing the current or future covers of “Bop” magazine.  I would have bet that this strong-willed child would want to be different, and purposely hold her ground so as not be a rabid fan of anyone that she’s told by the media that she needs to like.  And I would have already lost that bet.  Because, thanks to her and her friends going to see the movie, “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never”, she is now a HUGE Justin Bieber fan.

It’s funny—whenever we used to be driving somewhere and a Bieber song would come on the radio, she would promptly turn it to something else.  Now, she’s constantly scanning through several channels to find him. She scrounged up $10 in loose change in her bedroom the other day in order to buy one of his “old” CDs at Target (“Mom, pleeese give me $10 so I don’t have to dump all those quarters on the checkstand!”), and now she’s saving to buy a $10 special edition magazine full of posters and facts about the swishy-haired Canadian.  She says her dream job is to be one of his backup singers. Huh? Did that movie have subliminal messages hidden among the special effects saying stuff like YOU WILL BECOME A HUGE FAN, YOU WILL GO CRAZY OVER THIS BOY…? Did they put something in the popcorn salt? I mean, I guess I should be glad it’s not some misogynist rapper or foul-mouthed headbanger, but, really, for my teen to go from zero to full throttle overnight had me mystified.

I decided to check it out for myself, and took Allison to see the movie again (along with Emmie).  I love a good “behind the scenes” documentary and had heard the adult critics liked this, so I was ready to be impressed.  But, even with 3D glasses on, I thought it was hard to be “wowed”.  Yes, there is some compelling stuff– early home video footage of Justin, interviews with Scooter Braun, the man who discovered him on YouTube and became his manager, and comments from Justin’s mom about “getting the phone call” from Scooter and moving Justin to Atlanta to cut an album—but it lacks something that, in my opinion, is a HUGE omission—interviews with Justin himself.  Seriously, it seems like the viewer hears from everyone in his life, from one of his elementary school teachers to his grandparents to singing star Usher to even his former next door neighbor, but we rarely, if ever, hear from Justin, unless it’s singing. I would have loved to hear what he felt about living away from home for the first time, what it felt like to see the cover of his first CD, or where he was when he first heard himself on the radio.  Was it a “That Thing You Do” moment? What about his first television appearance? Or the first time he was recognized on the street, or mobbed by fans? The moviemakers do give us an appreciation for his musical talent—this kid has sung and played drums, guitar, and piano quite well from an early age—but they really leave the discerning viewer wanting more.

Maybe that’s why they’ve just announced there’s a “limited engagement”, “new extended version” coming out, with “40 Minutes of Unseen Footage!!!” Maybe that’s when he’ll get to tell his story, instead of all the adults who surround him telling it for him.  If so, I guess that’s genious marketing.  But sadly, I doubt that is what’s included.  It will probably be more concert footage, more arms magically reaching out to touch the audience, more minutes of hair being flipped.  I do know that I’m not going to pay $11.75 to find out, and neither is Emmie.  But Allison is willing to wash windows, cars, even dogs, to earn enough to go again.

Parents and Movies: Hopelessly Forgetful

The re-release of the movie, “Grease” in “Sing-A-Long” version this month has reminded me of something a parent recounted to me not long ago: She’d been all excited about showing her kids the original “Grease” but when she watched it with them, she was embarrassed that she’d forgotten about all the sexual references.  Oops. You can bet with the song lyrics now plastered onto it, it’s going to be even more embarrassing for forgetful parents! J  I’m tellin’ ya, even old movies need to be Googled or looked up on rating sites like CommonSenseMedia.org for a quick refresher if you’re planning to enjoy them with kids.  Most adults I know have such bad “movie amnesia”, myself included, that it’s ridiculous when we think we “know it all”.  We have good feelings about a movie we think we saw as kids so we’re all excited about sharing it with our own children—only to be caught off guard.


I won’t forget how, in the summer of 2006, I rented “The Goonies”, sight unseen, to watch with my daughters, then aged 7 and 11.  I’d never rented it or seen it at the theatres, but so many people had told me it was their favorite movie of all time from childhood so I thought it couldn’t be that bad.  It turned out to be a definitely uncomfortable watch for me. Way too much bad language, in my opinion, and a reference to sexual torture devices (by the infamous Corey Feldman) within the first 15 minutes, as well as penis jokes.  At least I used the movie as an opportunity to talk to them about unnecessary language in movies.  Then I looked at the release date: 1985.  I was 24 years old and one year out of college when that movie came out, as were many of those people who told me they’d loved it in their childhood. Yeah, right.

 

Uh well-a, well-a, well-a, huh!
Tell me more, tell me more, did you squirm in your seat?

Tell me more, tell me more, was your face like a beet?

Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh, uh huh…

 

Amnesia happened again when I wanted to rent the original movie version of “Fame” to watch with Allison, my older daughter.  She has always loved music, acting, singing and dancing, and this was about a performing arts high school, full of performing teens– and “High School Musical” hadn’t yet hit the small or big screen (and neither had the 2009 Fame remake).  So I thought it would be a perfect choice.  Luckily the rating stopped me—an R? Oh, yeah, I forgot about the “casting couch” nudity.  And the drugs.  And the abortion. And the frequent use of the “f” word.  And so I checked the release date once again: I was 19 when I saw that one.

Tell me more, tell me more, who’d of thought it was “R”?

Tell me more, tell me more, not when kids are the star!?

Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh, uh huh…

Sometimes the movie doesn’t have to be that old for us to forget stuff.  Last year, one of Emmie’s teachers (a great parent to three kids of her own, now grown) announced to the class (and their parents) that she was showing “Supersize Me” as a last-week-of-school treat after they’d finished a nutrition project.  She said it was rated PG for talk about obese people.  While my memory of the documentary wasn’t real clear, bells were going off in my head.  Allison’s 9th grade Biology class had just seen it…and this was 5th grade.  I looked it up on the Internet, and my hunch was right. It was rated PG-13, not PG, due to “graphic scenes of a stomach stapling”, offensive language and the fact that the main subject and his girlfriend discuss how his diet is affecting their sex life.  Yes, most of the 5th grade class could probably handle all that, my own child included, but…I didn’t want the teacher to end up squirming, not to mention she might get in trouble with the principal, so I gave her the information I’d found (after all, kids get disciplined at school, at least at our school, if they say the word “fart”, so I had a feeling this film went well beyond those standards!). She was grateful for the heads-up and yes, had fallen victim to movie amnesia, and ordered a “cleaned up” version of the movie to show instead.

Whoa, whoa, whoa,

Tell me me more, tell me more, did the kids like the flick?

Tell me more, tell me more, did it make them get sick?

Shoo-bop bop, shoo-bop bop, shoo-bop bop, shoo-bop bop, shoo-bop bop, shoo-bop bop, shoo-bop bop- YEH!

Movie amnesia goes on and on.  A big controversy once brewed at our elementary school several years ago when some moms of 6th graders wanted to have a quote from “The Breakfast Club” featured on the kids’ class T-shirt. They thought it would be cute.  Evidently they’d forgotten that F-bombs and pot smoking are staples of that famous film, not exactly something a school would want to promote.  (And why would “millenial” 11 and 12-year-olds even care about that movie or find it relevant?) Anyway, I’m pretty sure those moms were older than 24 when The Breakfast Club was released—the same year as The Goonies.  Which, by the way, my oldest says is one of her favorite movies of all time.

Tell me more… tell me mo, ore, ooore!

Erykah Badu’s Real Crime Isn’t Just Public Nudity

Wow. Entertainment figures blatantly taking advantage of kids aren’t in short supply these days…while I’m not going to go on and on about it, I feel I have to weigh in on the Erykah Badu controversy because a lot of people are missing the point. First, to catch up people who don’t know what I’m talking about: Erykah Badu is a popular R and B singer who was raised in Dallas and still calls our fair Metroplex her home.  On March 13, she shot a video for her latest single, “Window Seat” at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas at the site of the spot where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was on the web for all to see on YouTube for awhile.  In the video, done in one shot with one camera and without getting permission from the city, she drives up in a Lincoln not unlike the one ridden in by the President, gets out, and proceeds to walk down the sidewalk amidst unsuspecting tourists, toward the assassination spot, shedding her clothes layer by layer until she’s in her underwear, then completely naked. A shot is heard, her head jerks back, and she falls on the street, next to “the spot”.  She claims her “art” was necessary to draw attention to the dangers of “groupthink”. (According to dictionary.com, groupthink is conformity, the practice of approaching problems as matters best dealt with by the consensus of a group rather than by individuals acting independently; the lack of a sense of personal responsibility.)

 

I think whatever message she was trying to get across has been lost in the controversy over this video and her own “lack of a sense of personal responsibility”.  Most of the discussions I’ve read/heard about it have been the argument of  “What’s wrong with nudity? America needs to quit being so prudish!” vs. “Public nudity– how scandalous!”, without much, if any, mention of why she really ought to be ashamed of herself: the fact that she knowingly took advantage of children.  She claims she sent out telepathic messages to the children in the area in the hopes that they wouldn’t be traumatized—what a cheap “absolution” of responsibility.  First of all, what most news coverage about this video shoot fails to mention is that it was shot on a weekend during Texas’ spring break, when all Texas public schoolchildren were off for the week, and many people were on vacation.  There were many families in Dealey Plaza that day, showing their children a historic, albeit sad, site. She has three children of her own, she has friends with children, some of her crew members probably have children, so I don’t believe for one second that they didn’t know it was a high traffic moment for that site.  I used to work two blocks from there for nine years and I know that if she’d just waited a week or two, there would have been less people, and a lot less kids. But then the video (and song)  probably wouldn’t get as much attention as they’re getting.  One of the main things viewers are looking at in the video, in addition to her cottage cheese thighs, is the reaction of the people around her—viewers are naturally curious to see how the adults and children are reacting to a naked lady in public, and without these tourists in the shot, it wouldn’t be as “intriguing”. 

 

So I don’t think the major beef people should have with this is the public nudity. Yes, she broke the law, and that’s not a good thing, but overarching this whole scene is the fact that she knowingly took advantage of a lot of people, diminished the history lesson for all the children present that day and used them and everyone else seen in the video as unpaid actors, in an enterprise that is no doubt raking in lots of cash for her and her record label.  I would have a problem with anything sensational done to make money at a historic site like that, with children watching and caught on film without any forewarning or given the chance to leave. 

 

I wish one of those parents present that day would come forward and say something…but maybe they are stuck in the confines of…groupthink?
—————————————-

Note: Since this was written, someone did come forward and complain, and Erykah was fined (by the Dallas Police) less than $1,000.

Not gaga for GaGa

(Note: the following post is probably going to generate some weird ads showing up in my Google frames on the sidebar, based on some of my words– bear with me as I try to block the bad ones…)


Boy, does the entertainment world make it increasingly hard to keep from being a helicopter parent these days. On the one hand, I do not want to be like some parents I know, who routinely listen to their teens’ Ipods and punish them if they hear something objectionable, or get all bent out of shape if their teen watches a movie that includes cussing.  Like I always say, if you’ve taught your children well, micro-managing them undermines your show of confidence in their ability to take that information, make good decisions and see past the trash.  Yet on the other hand, I do think parents need to be aware of what’s going on out there, even try to stay one step ahead, so that they can be more informed when they do talk to their kids and yes, be a censor when pop media takes things too far. 


 


It may “take a village” to raise kids, but I believe there are an increasing number of people in this village, moreso than ever before, who don’t have a child’s best interests at heart.  It’s like they get some kind of sick pleasure in making money off of, and hurting the lives of, our youngest citizens.  Dan Akroyd’s “Bag of Glass” skit from the early days of Saturday Night Live isn’t so far-fetched anymore…


 


Is it really healthy for kids to play certain video games, over and over, where they kill people, and make decisions on who to kill, and, according to game reviewers, really feel shaken up when it’s all over?  And every year, the games get more and more violent…The makers of energy drinks say they’re not marketing to kids, yet their increasingly colorful graphics and crazy names do just that, and according to the Nutrition Business Journal, young teens are a significant part of the drink’s purchasers, and caffeine intoxication is on the rise…  Modern parents, including myself, are used to fending off the sexual messages that are everywhere in pop culture, but give me a break—now today’s kids are being bombarded with encouragement for sexual threesomes in kid-targeted shows like Gossip Girl, and in Britney Spears’ song “Three”—did the people who were worried way back when about Elvis and his hips really think things would “progress” to this? And even if your kid watches and listens to everything and turns out just fine— does every child? We all know that many kids spend more time with media than with their parents, so for them, media is where they get most of their advice about life. 


 


This point was made clearer to me the other day when I received the following video in an e-newsletter from Common Sense Media. 


 


Common Sense (http://www.commonsensemedia.org/about-us/our-mission) is an online site I head to when I want to learn about the content of movies, etc. if I’m ever not sure about whether something is kid-appropriate.  (There are many online sites that make this task easy and I like several—this one is very “common sense” and straightforward, involves a ton of reader feedback, and doesn’t have a conservative or liberal slant to it.)


  


If you don’t have time to watch the video, it’s a Common Sense posting of a You Tube video they found, of young kids singing and dancing to a Lady GaGa song called “Love Game”, where she tells everyone she “wants sex bad” and wants to take a ride on someone’s “Disco Stick” (she was very frank in Rolling Stone magazine about explaining that a “disco stick” was in fact a male body part and how she uses a giant light-up sex toy onstage when singing the song…).  In the YouTube video, the images of  sweet young kids licking their lips and singing the suggestive lyrics were really disturbing…


 


Did it make me want to instantly yank all Lady GaGa songs off my kids’ Ipods? No. Hopefully after I let them know more about her, they’ll do it themselves. Most of what they usually choose to download is fine, anyway—I actually think they are developing a pretty good value system when it comes to detecting true trash.  Will I start turning the dial whenever GaGa or numerous other skanks sing on my car radio? Absolutely.  The video also reminded me that we all vote with our time and our dollars when it comes to the marketplace, and Andy and I need to make an effort not to vote for sleaze-hawkers like GaGa anymore—ever so often, when our girls have used up any ITunes gift cards they’ve received, they each give Andy a list of songs they’d like on their Ipods and if he’s feeling generous, he’ll take the time (and money) to download them, not paying much attention to their choices.   We’re going to be paying closer attention to those lists from now on. I don’t want any more of our time or money going toward people who blatantly seek to reel in children and then bring them down. 


 


Some may argue that those entertainers are not Barney, that they never asked for kids in their audience.  Oh, really? Is that why Madonna wrote children’s books? Is that why Britney worked with Play Along Toys to develop the Britney Spears Fashion Doll? And is that why Lady GaGa dresses like something out of Willy Wonka and went public a few months ago in talking about her lust for the Jonas Brothers?


 


Hmmmm,  and if my memory serves me correctly, she requested a threesome with them…