Archive for March, 2012

As a very young girl, I was taught to embroider by my grandmother, and so passed along these skills to my daughter when she was in elementary school and spent hours doing craft projects. It’s meaningful to me when skills, whether carpentry or sport or cooking, are communicated from generation to generation. Of course, these moments provide far more than just physical instruction. Grandfathers teach their sons and grandsons to fly cast; families pass long recipes, card tricks and other amusements provide the space for inter generational relationships to flourish.

As an adult, I love discovering artists who work in traditional crafts with contemporary significance. Which is why I wanted to visit the Fowler Museum and explore the new show Order and Disorder: Alighiero Boetti by Afghan Women. An Italian who moved to Kabul in the 1970s, Boetti grew up watching women embroider (according to the exhibition catalog), and so it was a natural step for him to employ traditional embroiders of Kabul  in Afghanistan to work up designs that he drew on cloth.  The first of his now-very-famous Mappe canvases were produced this way; however, when the Russians invaded the country, many of Boetti’s embroiderers wound up in refugee camps.  Undaunted, Boetti managed to smuggle more canvases into the camps and the women continued to produce works that are now worth millions. We are lucky to be able to witness what it was like for these women to do this work in the camps because of the work of local photographer, Randi Malkin Steinberger, whose images accompany the Boetti show. Steinberger snuck into the refugee camps for just one afternoon, and her brave actions allow us to understand how the Boetti tapestries came into being.

So, was Boetti ahead of the free trade movement or was he taking advantage of incredibly unique, but cheap, labor?  Now, almost 20 years years after his death, a surge of popularity surrounds his work – along with the Fowler’s fascinating show is a solo exhibit at the Tate Modern in London, and one of Boetti’s richly colored tapestry maps also hangs at LACMA right now, part of a show called Common Places: Printing, Embroidery and the Art of Global Mapping.

The Hunger Games: Who Should Watch?

March 22nd, 2012 by admin

Despite having heard rave reviews of “The Hunger Games” from two readers in two generations who really loved Harry Potter,  I sniffed at the book covers with a certain disdain – kids killing kids? Sounded too violent and… offensive to me. But the marketing fever got to me, and when I realized that movie was coming out this month, I downloaded my 19 year old’s digital book to my iPad and started in.

Gentle reader, I raced through the books in about a week.

I admit to a rapid addiction to Suzanne Collins’ writing and a guilty satisfaction from the gotta-finish-the-trilogy jolt that I also got from the Dragon Tattoo series. Like readers across the country, I was obsessed with Katniss and her struggles against the sadistic Panem empire. That a gusty, girl heroine was once again capturing the hearts of readers was not lost on me. That she excelled at shooting with a bow and arrow was also darned appealing.

As a former film exec, I have been skeptically curious about how the filmmakers would bring the savage imagery of the books to their target audience of eerily young readers. An author can say that her storyline is meant to educate children about the horrors of war, but do we want to watch a handsome cadre of teens take each other out on screen?  As you’ll see from this wry commentary by Jamie Reno on the Daily Beast this morning, parents of kids as young as 12 are pressured to let their children see this film. Of course, they’ll all see it eventually, with the many platforms available to our media-saturated offspring.

But to let your kids go before the general consensus of reviewers and parental watch-dog organizations have weighed in represents the crucible of parenting in the digital age. Faced with the intense marketing hype, and social pressure in the halls of middle school, is just being tickled that our kids liked reading a certain book enough of a reason to rush to the multiplex?

Here’s the trailer and… it’s (admittedly) awesome.

This morning’s Los Angeles Times review from Kenneth Turan says:  “As to the kid-on-kid violence that has been the subject of so much talk, Ross has managed to adroitly downplay that, keeping the mayhem to a PG-13 level. Most of the children in the film want nothing to do with killing, and the ones who do look considerably older than the heroines of previous ultra-violent films like Hanna and Kick-Ass.”

But, NPR posted David Edelstein’s less glowing review this morning, which criticizes the morality of the storyline and calls the filmmakers “moral cowards”. He also quibbles with the film’s PG-13 rating: “If the film’s director, Gary Ross, has any qualms about kids killing kids, he keeps them to himself. The murders on screen are fast and largely pain-free — you can hardly see who’s killing who. So despite the high body count, the rating is PG-13. Think about it: You make killing vivid and upsetting and get an R. You take the sting out of it, and kids are allowed into the theater. The ratings board has it backwards.”

And, there is further controversy surrounding the books and film:  here an intriguing story   that draws parallels between the plot of The Hunger Games and a Japanese novel and film called Battle Royale.

On the Communities We Create

March 20th, 2012 by admin

I walked a half-marathon this past weekend, as part of a team to benefit Lupus LA. Twenty five of us walked/ran our way through LA’s streets, encouraged by rowdy crowds along a colorful route through West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, the VA and Brentwood to the beach. Turning that victorious corner from San Vicente onto Ocean Avenue and racing atop the blustery bluffs to the finish line was terrific… and each of us has committed to doing it again next year.

We decided to organize a team in late November to raise awareness and money for a disease about which very little is known: lupus. (My daughter was diagnosed with a relatively mild case last June). Lupus LA is an official charity of the Honda LA Marathon, and as such can enter half-marathoners who commit to a fundraising component. A friend and I organized the team, promised our teammates a weekly training session, and raised nearly $30,000.  Our gleeful takeaway is this: everyone loves being part of something bigger than themselves, and being given the opportunity to participate in a half-marathoner was the key to our success. Every one on our team crossed the finish line, and scores of new friends will join our team in 2013.

There are many things that stick with me from my Marathon experience.  Physically, the experience was pretty awesome: there is a burst of energy from the cheering crowds that help you do more than you thought you could do. I’m grateful that my old bod went the distance. But what I loved most of all were the two communities that I connected with during the experience. The first, of course, is my friends. They have supported me as my child suffered, and joined me to raise money to fight this strange foe. It’d all just be “making widgets” without friends to laugh our way along the strange journey of parenting.

The other community turned out to be the nameless thousands who trained for and completed the Marathon.  As we spend more and more time in our cars and online, we don’t always get the chance to rub elbows with strangers.  Sure, we live in a bunch of self-selected communities — at school and work and whatever group activities we track our children through (volleyball, chess, gymnastics, etc). But part of the thrill of going to a Laker game, or Springsteen concert, is that you’re surrounded by folks that love something that you love.  Showing up at the Marathon Expo to pick up my team’s 25 running bibs, I was surrounded by like-minded folk gearing up to make good on their goal to do something outside the ordinary…

And, Honda had printed all our names on a few mini-vans to celebrate our efforts. My compatriots! We didn’t know each other, but we were on the same path. We’d have to get to bed early, monitor our water consumption and make sure we brought the correct layers for the cold. Once in the race, wordless support passed between runners. It was echoed and multiplied by enthusiastic bystanders who handed us water, or offered Vaseline for the chaffed spots on our chests or underarms, or held up silly signs to keep us going.  (My personal favorite was: “You’ve trained longer than Kim Kardashians marriage”).

Now, when else in your life does this happen?So, thanks to the thousands of runners who ran alongside us – and thanks to my teammates and all of those who contributed money to support Lupus LA.

And to all of you who thought you could never participate in something like this, think again. It’s SO worth the effort.


Keep Cool this Spring

March 20th, 2012 by admin

Sunday night March 18 was the premiere of the Discovery Channel’s new series Frozen Planet, and we highly recommend setting your DVRs for the next six weeks continue to capture the high drama and stunning photography of another epic nature series that was filmed in collaboration with the BBC. Filmmakers spent four years of filming the enticing creatures and gorgeous natural wonders of the Arctic and Antarctica. Reviews have been rhapsodic; we caught most of last night’s show, which was full of stunning photography and the high drama between creatures that we all love – polar bears, penguins, sea lions, wolves and even, in future shows…. killer whales.  The stories of how the filmmakers got their footage is often as heroic as the stories of animals themselves. Though, the pure images of nature are pretty hard to best. The series is narrated by Alec Baldwin, though the final episode – which will air around Earth Day – is narrated by David Attenborough and will focus on global warming, according to the advance press. Click here for the review in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Common Sense Media who says the show is fine for the whole family.

Except that the folks at Warner Bros. and IMAX have done their best with a new film called To The Arctic, directed by two-time Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Greg MacGillivray (The Living Sea,” “Dolphins”). The film is narrated by Meryl Streep and includes songs by Paul McCartney.


Not everyone has the same Spring Break but we’ve found two choice activities in each age group to keep your family busy in whatever time off you have!

ELEMENTARY: Spring brings butterflies, bugs and things that crawl!

Every year, Kidspace Museum in Pasadena holds a wonderful event called Caterpillar Adoption Days (March 17 to April 29) in which guests can adopt a live caterpillar, take it home to watch the chrysalis form, and return with their transformed butterflies on Saturday, April 28 and Sunday, April 29 at the 16th Annual Grand Butterfly Release Ceremony.

For more butterfly joy, the Butterfly Pavilion at the Natural history Museum opens on April 8 (and runs through the summer).

The L.A. Zoo’s new exhibit LAIR (for Living Amphibian, Invertebrates and Reptiles opened last week (March 8),  so those of brave heart are welcome to explore creatures as diverse as Fly River turtles, gila monsters, a nearly extinct breed of crocodile, and sooo many snakes that we get the shivers just writing this post. Have you ever heard of a turtle that flies or a Mang Shan viper??


MIDDLE SCHOOL: It’s all about clothing and photography, naturally!

Hands down, the exhibit we’ve heard most about from our subscribers this winter is the Digital Darkroom show at the Annenberg Space for Photography. Many parents have reported how much fun the kids had at the show, and everyone loves that the space is small, located right in Century City and… free! We bet your kids are snapping photos on their mobile phones with reckless abandon, so why not show them how creative this new medium can be.

If your kids like to dress up, and especially if they loved Il Teatro alla Moda, take them downtown to LA’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) and check out the costumes that were nominated for Academy Awards this year. Yes, the fashion school has a museum, and every year showcases the elegant work of the industry’s top film designers. (They also have a store where the fashion students sell their wares at bargain prices!). Admission is free…!

 TEENS: No More Fairy Tales

We’ve spoken to more and more families who have brought their older teens (and returning college kids) to Women Hold Up Half the Sky at the Skirball Cultural Center. The kids are blown away that there are sex slaves here in LA, and particularly like having the ability to donate a few dollars to a micro-loan project (underwritten by Dermologica). The ceiling of the show contains hundreds of wishes scribed by other visitors to the site, and you can join in by writing your thoughts to a loved one, and to a woman across the world. Here’s our review of the show, which is open through May 20 with special evening hours, too.

Ballet Preljocaj – Snow Whitecomes to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center from March 23-25. Whether you’re dance fiends, fans of fairy tales being updated (such as in Once Upon a Time or Grimm, on television) consider this classy un-Disney take on the ultimate tale from Grimm. Performing the enchanted story of Snow White, Ballet Preljocaj captures the essence of the Grimm Brothers’ story with exquisite contemporary choreography. The costumes designed by fashion icon Jean Paul Gaultier and the romantic score of Gustav Mahler heighten the drama of the unforgettable tale for a spellbinding performance. Recommended for 12 and up.

ADULTS:  A great time to catch up on So Cal’s architectural heritage

Sunnyland is open to the public! Walter and Leonore Annenberg spectacular estate in Rancho Mirage, a ‘west coast Camp David” is open for touring. March is already sold out (!) but on March 15, you can sign up for tours in April. Click here for website, with fabulous photographs of the historic estate.

Los Angeles Conservancy’s  Millard Sheets Art and Architecture tour - Sunday, March 18, great for architecture loving adults and kids, too! You’ll travel in your own vehicle, but meet docents at several sites in Pomona, and environs. Entrance to PST showCommon Ground: Ceramics in Southern California 1945 – 1975, included. This is a one-time-only opportunity to learn about the artist, meet his daughter and artist friends. Tour 11:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Panel Discussion 5:00 – 6:15 p.m. $30 general public; $25 L.A. Conservancy members; $15 students, $10 kids 12 and under.


EVERYONE: Incredible Art to be Seen this Spring (most made right here in CA)

Make a day of it at LACMA and everyone in the family will find happiness. First, check out the the famous rock that recently arrived with great public acclaim (it will emerge in summer as Levitated Mass).  Kids and adults alike adore Chris Burden’s Metropolis II (part of the permanent collection), and many have also fallen for  Ellsworth Kelly’s colorful show, in town until late April. Adults and teens will appreciate the Women in Surrealism show with Frida Kahlo and friends.

How about a day trip to see the Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series at the Orange County Museum of Art through the end of May? Everyone we’ve talked to that’s make the trek south is happy they’ve done so – seeing these paintings all together is a rare event. If you visit on Sundays, the kids can participate in related art workshops.



The Zimmer Children’s Museum has Spring Break camps  with Earth themes between April 1-6.

It’s a mild winter so why not try a surf camp over break? We like Camp Surf with instructor Tommy Ostendorf (April 2-6), and also a program run by John Kim at Harvard-Westlake School (March 26-30). Call 310-288-3258 for details on HW Camp.

Beverly Hills Recreation and Parks – Spring Break Camps are April 9-12 We think the Kitchen Kid Presents “My Own Restaurant” looks really cool (ages 6-14). Create a restaurant, learn to cook, make a menu, market you wares, and serve your customers (ah, your parents…!) Call 310-285-6810

Finally, if there are comedians in your household that need a little encouragement, try Second City’s Spring Break Camps; sessions in multiple age groups from April 2-6 and April 9-13.

Silent films are suddenly all the rage… good timing the Oscar sweep by The Artist. You can catch several silent films this spring — after you see The Artist in the theaters, that is.

In May, The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra screens two Harold Lloyd masterpieces — The Kid Brother (1927) and High and Dizzy (1920) accompanied by an original score by Carl Davis in a benefit to support their family and community programming. Click here for ticketing and more information.

And, for fun, Curbed LA put out a map of the locations used in The Artist (the only Oscar nominated film to be shot entirely in LA). For extra credit, here’s a blog about other silent film locations in LA.

For Extra Credit: Here’s David Denby’s (somewhat cranky) commentary in The New Yorker about the difference between silent films of old… and The Artist.

Metamorphosis in Action

March 14th, 2012 by admin

Come to Kidspace Museum on April 28 or 29 for the 16th Annual Grand Butterfly Release ceremony.

If you’re particularly buggy, you might also like the big bug sculptures that are roaming around the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens between now and July.

Subscriber Profile: Teresa Anne Power

March 13th, 2012 by admin

Teresa Anne Power has written (and self-published) a fabulous book called The ABCs of YOGA for KIDS. Long a teacher of yoga for the Kindergarten set, her “Aha” moment came when she put the idea of teaching poses to children at the same time as they were learning letters of the alphabet.  Great idea, right?

How many of us let good ideas slip through our fingers by not following through? Not Teresa. She quickly came up with cute rhymes to match yoga poses; any yogi worth her salt can image “B” for Bridge and “T” for Tree. But, what would you do for the letter “E” or “Q”? It’s hard to read this book without slipping down to the floor to stretch out in a modified plank and imagine a “Dolphin” swimming over our backs.  Child’s Pose becomes Mouse, and Upward Facing Dog is Otter. Teresa’s imagination and knowledge of yoga is prolific – “W” is for Warrior, naturally. But she uses it for three other poses (Waterfall, Windmill and Windshield Wipers). It’s infectious, and actually makes me want to roll on my back like a… Happy Baby!

Teresa knew there was a dearth of books on the topic, and that her book needed to be professionally produced to be taken seriously on Amazon, so found illustrator Kathleen Rietz to capture the spirit of her lyrical stanzas about each pose and printed the book in full four-color process.  Here’s why self-publishing worked in Teresa’s case: she had the knowledge and expertise from a life spent practicing yoga, the commitment to complete the writing itself, and the confidence to believe that she could become the World’s #1 Expert in Children’s yoga. Her perseverance has already paid off – she’s sold thousands of books through a deal with the Scholastic Book Fairs, a marker of market confidence that has now led to a book deal, and the achievement of her #1 goal…her book is at Barnes and Noble!

Click here to buy the book from Amazon (a sweet gift, by the way), or here to buy it from Teresa’s website. She’s also created a poster (above) and yoga cards, and a coloring book – all of which are often used in adult yoga classes where kids are welcome.

What does Teresa like to do with hr kids around town? Theresa’s children are 17 and 19, a boy and a girl who are both active yoga practitioners. She and her daughter love to go to Yogaworks or Maha and get a smoothie afterwards. Her volley-ball playing son takes yoga for PE in high-school, and always comes home chattering about how people did their savasana in class.

What does Teresa do on a date with her husband?  When they met both Teresa and her husband were doing Bikhram every single day. (She confided that Bikram himself was at their wedding)! Both still do yoga every day but not together, since both follow slightly different practices. A date is likely to be dinner and a movie, proving that Yogis are not that different than the rest of us, after all!



The letters are coming out… whether you’re waiting on Kindergarten, Middle School, High School or College, the feelings are all the same. Dread. Self-Loathing. Disgust with the System.

It sure helps to have a sense of humor.  Especially about the college process which is nuttier than all the prior application processes. (Trust us on this!)

One clever Westside mom, J.D. Rothman, blogged about the process while her son was going through it – check out her blog and its hilarious cartoon illustrations — which was JUST turned into a spot-on, snicker fest of a book called  “The Neurotic Parent’s Guide to College Admissions. ”  It was published by a wonderful local publishing company called Prospect Park Media.

As wary as we were about revisiting the anxiety and craziness of the college process, Rothman’s witticisms serve as antidote to anxiety. Her research is absolutely up-to-date, and the plethora of hard data grounds her knowing humor. Truth hurts, but it’s also very, very funny in the hands of the right writer.

WE HAVE TEN COPIES OF THE BOOK to give to subscribers – LIKE US on FACEBOOK, and you’ll be entered to win!

Warning: If caught reading this book in public, be prepared to illicit all manner of commentary from passers-by (or nosy waiters) such as “Don’t be neurotic! Your kid is going to be your kid, no matter where he goes to college.”

Cupcake ATM

March 8th, 2012 by admin

Do you know what this is?? If you guessed the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM, you’re right. Which begs the question: is the first step towards a George Jetson future or a just a case of “Only in Beverly Hills”.

Given the speed with which I selected, paid for and received three scrumptious cupcakes, I don’t really care which it is. That’s because I have been known to wait in the Sprinkles cupcake line in the past. Once you’ve done that, you’ll realize why this ATM idea is brilliant!

Not to mention lots of fun.

All you need is a parking space, a credit card (careful, the little babies cost $4.00 each!) and five minutes later, you’re done. The most waiting you’ll do is for this little pink door to swivel open….  It’s pretty satisfying to watch the camera follow an arm that selects your cupcake, and drops your purchase into the delivery box.

The pink door swivels open and… by then you’re salivating. The only downside is that you have to pay for each individual cupcake on it’s own.

Can’t wait to dig in… (that V is for Vegan, a vegan red velvet cupcake). Sigh…. Maybe it really is the future.

 SPRINKLES CUPCAKES: 9635 South Santa Monica Boulevard between Camden and Bedford, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Click here for website, and other locations (this machine only in Beverly Hills, so far)