Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jersey Shore: oh to be so tan...

I like bad television. I'll admit it. I often watch it in private, too embarrassed to expose my love for watching morons at their worst. There's a new show that I not only cannot believe has been made, but I am so excited to see...Jersey Shore on MTV.

I should preface this that even at my advanced age (somewhere in the abyss of my 30s), I'm still a fan of MTV. There's a lot of junk on MTV, but then I think there's a lot of redeeming real-life television shot documentary style that entertain and educates young people and old people like me on trends in the lives of young people. I love the True Life series, as it seeks to expose the real lives of teens and young people with all sorts of life conditions--from dealing with adoption to drug use to interracial dating--all of which dealt with in an nonglamorous manner, gritty, and well...real. Coming soon on MTV is a series on teen moms that shows the bad and ugly of being a 16 year-old mother. This is a show that I hope serves as birth control for many, many years. I feel like these shows that do not glamourize but show the grit and reality of life are a service to young people as they make life decision and informative to old folks like me as we parent our children.

Now back to Jersey Shore. Being a California girl, born and raised, it is often hard for me to understand the Jersey lifestyle, clothes, and the like. The tanning, the over-buff and clearly 'roided out dudes, the dramatic and over made-up gals--it's all so intriguing to me because it's not even remotely close to my life. If you haven't seen a clip or trailer for this show, check out the clip below. The entire thing has my jaw on the ground. I love a train wreck and won't be able to divert my eyes from this spectacle.
Yes, yes, I know what you are saying. It looks like just one more crap television show. So maybe it is. You are probably saying that this show can't be real. Well, as the wife of a television producer, I can tell you this. No one can "edit" you to look bad...not even the best editor. The producers and editors will string together your most interesting and colorful moments and that's the participants doing .

As an armchair sociologist and a woman obsessed with learning about the lives of others so very different than my own, I will be setting my DVR to watch this show. I cannot wait to see the drama, the hairspray, the tanning sessions, and the nights at the club. I can't wait to hear that awesome Jersey accent and be thankful to have been raised in the golden state.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vampire Diaries

I'm not certain if this is something I should admit publicly, but I have never read any of the Twilight books and haven't seen the movies. I really didn't see the appeal of the vampire stories. (Please don't hate me Twilight fans!) I mean, could vampires be appealing or interesting or have depth of character?

When the Vampire Diaries premiered on the CW, my husband was excited at the idea of a vampire show on every week. I mocked him and told him he was ridiculous. So...then I watched the Vampire Diaries. I watched the first and second episodes with him. He lost interest and I...became obsessed. I love this show! It is awesome--compelling, hot guys (too young for me, of course), smart dialog, good acting, and interesting twists and turns in the story lines. I look forward to each week's episode as a "supernatural escape" with vampires and witches mixed with a tragic love story and family tensions.

The great news is that it's not too late to be bitten by the Vampire Diaries. The CW will start a Vampire Diaries marathon on Monday, December 14 that will go through Friday, December 18. Each night, the CW will show two hours of "The Vampire Diaries" per night, in order. This is perfect timing, as if you are new to the Vampire Diaries or missed an episode, the last new episode of 2009 aired this last Thursday, November 19.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sesame Street

Thinking back in life, perhaps one of my earliest memories is of Sesame Street. Back in the days before the 24-hour cartoon and children's programming cycle, the Sesame Street hour was a cherished hour for families. For moms, it was undoubtedly a time for a quick shower, call to a friend, or chance to clean the kitchen without grubby hands following close behind. For children, Sesame Street was a chance to get away to a magical place of friends and sharing, monsters and learning.

When I was very, very young--about 2 1/2 or 3--I was pretty sick. Sesame Street was an opportunity to get away from the sickness. I would sit in front of the television, with my bowl in which to throw up in every few minutes or so, and take a magic carpet ride to that street so far away. I loved my sweet, lovable friend Big Bird and the silly frustrations of Kermit the Frog. I squealed with delight when Grover would get it all wrong as a waiter and loved trying to figure out "which of these is not like the others...which of these doesn't belong." (You know the song.)

Sesame Street not only provided me a happy place of wonderment and escape, but it provided a place for me to learn. It provided me background knowledge on counting and number sense. I learned letters, phonemic awareness, and the concept of blending sounds in order to make words. It taught sharing and kindness. It taught me the qualities to look for in good friends.

Over the summer I had the chance to sit in on a press breakfast on the new Sesame Street. It was magic...I'm not kidding. We watched a short retrospective on Sesame Street presented by President Obama. I was an emotional trip back in time. And then, after the breakfast, I met the REAL Maria, Grover, and Cookie Monster. I just cried...like a moron. I've met celebrities in the past...but none as big as these...in my opinion at least. I must have looked like such an idiot, but these were three of my very first friends. I felt like I had known them forever. I loved them and knew them so well through our relationship back in the '70s, '80s, and today. I was instantly the three year old standing in our little house in Gardena, California again. I had reverted back to the day I had packed my dark yellow suitcase with who-knows-what and announced I was running away to Sesame Street to be with my pals. I didn't care that it was in some place called "New York" (according to my less-than-amused mother), I was going to take a magic carpet...just like the song said. Finally my magic carpet had arrived.

To top off my awesome Sesame Street experience, Abby Cadabby made a special video for my two sons.  It is something that our family will always treasure.

On the eve of Sesame Street's 40th birthday, I salute the hard work of the Children's Television Workshop (CTW) and its fine educators past and present. Today, the CTW continues its mission to provide children fantastic learning opportunities through television--something that critics said was not possible before it aired. I applaud their effort to educate children on the issues that matter most in their homelands around the world. I thank them for creating happy television friendships, memories, and learning opportunities for my children. I wish Sesame Street a happy 40th birthday and a blessed and successful 40 more.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sid the Science Kids Makes It Easier For Kids to Stay Healthy This Flu Season

There's been a lot of talk about vaccinations lately--especially when it comes to the seasonal and H1N1 influenza strains. As a parent, I admit that all of the talk has stressed me out. And while I have tried to shield my children from all of the frightening news, it's tough to keep them completely in the dark. I've become the wash-your-hands-use-hand-sanitizer-don't-touch-your-eyes/mouth/nose police.

Today, PBS Kids premiered a new Sid the Science Kids episode that deals with these very issues. The Jim Henson Company and the US Department of Health and Human Services partnered to produce this special episode, which aims to help answer children's questions about the germs, virus, and vaccinations. What I find truly amazing is the fact that the typical six-month production time of normal Sid episodes was trimmed to only six weeks, from greenlight to delivery, in order to get this episode "Getting a Shot: You Can Do It!" out at this crucial time of year. I was lucky enough to attend a special event hosted by PBS Kids and First 5 California at the Kidspace Museum last week to preview the episode.

This episode of Sid the Science Kid once again highlights what puts PBS Kids' programming head and shoulders above other children's programming. The characters on the show are truthful with the kids that shots "hurt a little but help a lot." As a parent, our first instinct is to tell our kids that things like shots don't hurt, but let's be real...it does and we are doing our kids a disservice by not preparing them.

I know that many parents do not believe in vaccinating their children. For those families, the later part of the program is still very informative for the preschool set. After telling kids why they get their vaccines, the show goes into what germs are, how they are spread, and what we can do to minimize them. It so super cute and reminds me of the Donald Duck cartoon they used to show us in school about how germs are spread, but in a hipper way for the current generation. Parents and their children can learn more in cyberspace. At PBSKids.org/sid, children can learn about germs, illness, and getting shots through age-appropriate activities and videos. Parents can learn more about preparing their children for flu season and vaccinations by logging on to pbsparents.org.

If you missed today's episode of Sid the Science Kid, it will air again on October 29 and November 3, 11, 19, and 27, as well as December 21. Check your local listings for times.

I am so sorry I didn't get this posted before the show aired this morning. I came down with a cold yesterday morning. Oh the irony! I guess I need to practice what I preach and wash my hands a little more often!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Little Bit of Bragging

Just wanted to post a couple of pieces my husband did for his show, That Morning Show on E!. My husband helped create the show and celebrated his last day there yesterday, as he is moving on to produce a new prime time family challenge show for NBC. While there at That Morning Show as the creative executive, he got to live out his on camera dream and do a bunch of field segments. Here's a few.

And yes, that is our dog. And yes, that was just before a desperately-needed grooming appointment. You honestly wouldn't recognize him now. And yes, he is pretty old and just that calm all the time.

The "oh-so-funny" part of this piece is that my husband lost his wedding ring in the surf while frolicking with another woman. Hilarious, right? (INSERT SARCASM HERE.)

I'm so proud of my hubby and all of his hard work. He moved to a roach-infested apartment right after college and got a job as one of those tour guides aboard the trams at Universal Studios. I stayed behind in Long Beach while he worked his butt off to make it in an industry in which he knew no one (in an industry in which you MUST no someone). His hard work and determination never ceases to amaze me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hate Watch

Do you hate watch? You may and not even know it. I brought up the term of "hate watch" recently to a friend and she laughed and then remarked, "I had no idea I was doing it!" I know see her include the term in her Facebook updates frequently.

So what does it mean to "hate watch?" When one "hate watches" a show, they watch a show they hate because they just can't believe how bad it is. I hate watch a couple of shows, but I am the most dedicated to hate watching the CBS show, "The Ghost Whisperer." I should preface that by saying there was a time when I watched the show because I liked it. I liked the initial premise and I am certainly a believer in the paranormal as seen in the video below that aired on my husband's show, That Morning Show.

Ok, so back to what I was saying. I hate watch The Ghost Whisperer, although I used to really enjoy it. And while I can't say that it jumped the shark overnight, although it has more than jumped the shark at this point. It has jumped the aquarium! And, yes, I realize to say that a show about ghosts has become too unbelievable sounds a bit odd, but it really has gone far beyond what is normally expected within the realm of normal human behavior. I attribute how bad this show has become to HORRIBLE writing compounded by producers who think the general public is incredibly stupid.

As I hate watch each episode, I'm looking for three main (horrible) elements:

1. How many times they (the wardrobe stylists, producers, and Jennifer Love Hewitt) can prop up JLH's boobs in perhaps the most inappropriate clothing any woman (especially a busy working mom) has ever ran around town in. Oh, and while JLH's boobs are ever-so-prominent in the dress above, she is wearing a strapless cream-colored dress to her child's outdoor fifth grade birthday party. Huh? What? Seriously? That seems like a good idea when there's a ton of kids running around your yard eating cake. Oh and yes, she is holding a trash back and cleaning up in said dress in the pic. I'm sure you have hosted your children's parties in similar attire. I prefer to pull out my wedding dress for my kids' parties, but that's just me. :)

2. How JLH has no idea how to pull off being a mother on camera. This inability coupled with the fact that the writers clearly do no have children and have no idea how to write for mother/father roles is a recipe for the most unrealistic portrayal of parenting and parent/child roles. JLH and her tv husband look as though they just took a bottle of happy pills every time their five year old (who incidentally aged from birth to five years in this season's premiere episode) is in their presence. Whether they are busily eating breakfast in the morning or putting the kid to bed, it's pure joy and elation. Ok, I love my kids, but seriously...is saccharine really necessary? No one acts like that unless they've had a lobotomy, and even then I don't think a parent would be as happy as the parents on this show were when their son left his toys all over the living room.

3. Ok. And then there's the moment when this show completely jumped the aquarium in the season before last. At the end of that season, JLH's husband died and then in the last season his "spirit" jumps into the body a completely different actor. Now, his character should look like the person whose body it inhabits, but doesn't. At first the show would show both men during the episodes, but now it doesn't. It's so weird.

So anyway, I hate watch because the show is so completely insulting and perhaps because I lead a very small life. It is doubtful that I will stop hate watching Ghost Whisperer, no matter how bad a time my husband gives me. Do you hate watch any shows that are so bad that you can't wait to see where they go?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Time to Turn on the Electric Company

In the last five years that I have been a reading intervention teacher, I have worked to find ways to make reading accessible to older children. When a child is in fourth and fifth grade, if he or she has not yet grasped the basic concepts of reading, it is very difficult to provide the student with content and lessons that are appropriate for their particular age. They don't want to read about kittens and trips to the store; they want to read about skateboarding and movies. They need to be interested in the content.

I am so very pleased that the Electric Company is back and providing these very valuable lessons to children. Geared toward the interests of children in third grade and high, the electric company has combined eye-catching graphics with music and popular culture in order to teach very basic reading concepts (first and second grade level). The skills they teach are the very same skills that I fight to teach my struggling fourth and fifth grade students. The show is interesting, funny, and filled with celebrity guest spots. The lessons are straight and to the point and provide students with easy ways to remember basic concepts that most students with educational gaps lack. Specifically, the show aims to fill the following gaps that older struggling readers often exhibit:

  • Decoding: Children increase their ability to manipulate sounds in spoken words and map those words to print. The most basic and vital skill for readers.
  • Vocabulary: Children expand the amount of words (vocabulary) that they use and understand.
  • Comprehension of Connected Text: Children learn strategies that good readers use to understand connected text (phrases and sentences).
  • Motivation: Children are motivated to read connected text and express themselves using text.
The executive producers of the show are dedicated to providing children with high quality entertainment rich with opportunities to learn. I am thankful for this program and plan on recommending it to my intervention students' parents this school year. And not only do I recommend encouraging students to watch the show, but I also encourage students (and parents) to follow up on the concepts presented on the show by logging onto the show's website at http://pbskids.org/electriccompany to check out the games, videos, and more. I plan on keeping up to date on the parents and educators section of the site at http://www.pbs.org/parents/electriccompany.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

All Aboard the Dinosaur Train

Boys love two things. Ok, they love more than two things, but two things that would definitely be in their top-ten list of favorites would be dinosaurs and trains. The good folks at the Jim Hensen Studios recently premiered a great science-curriculm-based show called the Dinosaur Train. At attending a recent media event for the show, I was given a DVD with two episodes on it. My boys have watched the episodes over and over...and over. My boys watch the Dinosaur Train while I make dinner and I swear that my four year old has picked up more science knowledge-not limited to dinosaurs--than I had ever imagined.

The Dinosaur Train airs on PBS and in my opinion is geared at children approximately 2 1/2 to about 7 years. It hits on some very important scientific elements and most notably, the scientific method. I love the idea that my son is learning the scientific method without even knowing it. I can't wait for him to learn about it in school and be able to explain a hypothesis. As schools struggle to fit in the rigors of language arts and science, in some classrooms social studies and science fall by the wayside. Shows like the Dinosaur Train give kids a leg up on science and will only enhance the great or dismal amounts of science they receive in school.

Check your local listings for times in your area.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Finally...Worthy Super Heros

In June I was invited to sit on a special presentation by the great folks at PBS Kids on how they make their show Super Why!. For those of you not in the know, Super Why! is a show that teaches reading concepts suitable for children three and over. As a mom, I am always interested in learning more about what my child watches on television. As the wife of a television producer and having lived on the production side of things, I love hearing television professionals talk about their shows. However, most important to me was my career background I brought to the event. I am a reading intervention specialist. Day in and day out I deal with students who struggle to read and figure out ways we can combat those struggles.

The Super Why! discussion was led by the show's executive producer. I was very pleased to learn that the producers at PBS Kids approach creating and producing television shows much like I (or any teacher) prepares his or her curriculum. First they identify what is to be taught in the show (reading skills, science, etc.). Second, they research the specific skills or topics that need to be taught by the program. In the case of Super Why!, the show focuses on the very basic building blocks children need in order to become readers--letter-sound identification, understanding of text direction, etc. All good reading intervention uses research-based teaching methods and strategies to teach, and Super Why! is no exception.

As a mom, I think Super Why! is a great show. As a reading intervention teacher, I know that the skills taught by Super Why! are those that all children need in order to become readers and those that are often missing in the children I work with.

Super Why! airs Monday through Friday on your local PBS station.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mister Rogers Is On Your Television and Online

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...espeically when it comes to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. It was recently announced that 26 favorite episodes will be part of the national PBS KIDS Saturday morning broadcast lineup beginning September 12 (check local listings) and will be available to stream online later this fall at PBSKIDS.org/rogers for fans to enjoy whenever they want. Mr. Rogers has been a caring friend to millions of children and for the first time I turned the show for my four year old just last weekend and he was mesmerized.

There is a newly redesigned Mister Rogers' Neighborhood website complete with full episodes mentioned as well as video clips and memorabilia. It also features virtual field trips with Mister Rogers to visit a penguin exhibit, a dinosaur museum exhibit, an art museum, a pediatrician's office and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, along with the ever-popular factory visits. The site also encourages parent-child interaction with Parent Tips on every screen to help adults understand what their children are working on through their Web experience.

  • In the all-new Neighborhood of Make-Believe area, children can explore two new environments -- inside Lady Elaine’s Museum-Go-Round and Daniel Striped Tiger’s clock.
  • In the Museum-Go-Round – never depicted before on TV or the Web - children can create artwork of their own, make a kaleidoscope, or just delight in the simple joy of discovery as they make things spin and go up and down.
  • Inside Daniel’s clock, Daniel Tiger is getting ready for bed, offering an open-ended activity which gives children an opportunity to reflect on their own feelings about bedtime and separation from the ones they love. As they turn out Daniel’s lights or get him his blankie or teddy bear, they can listen to a Mister Rogers bedtime song or hear Mister Rogers tell a bedtime story.
  • And for fans of all ages, the all-new “Neighbors of All Ages” section invites kids and adults to share their memories of growing up with the Neighborhood and provides tools through photo sharing site Flickr to post photos and letters.

Parents and teachers can also continue to access content and resources that support essential childhood themes in MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD through PBS Parents (PBSPARENTS.org) and PBS Teachers (PBSTEACHERS.org). PBS Parents offers articles, activities, tools, recipes and printables that parents and caregivers can use to extend the learning at home. PBS Teachers provides classroom resources from the series that educators can download and use to support education in community engagement, the arts, mental and emotional health and many more topics.

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