Thursday, June 23, 2011

What's up with this Ad?

It's supposed to demonstrate "Dual-climate control" (one side of the page is "hot"...get it?).  And I *think * that what they are trying to do is show the same story through two different lenses, one a children's storybook where it's innocent, one where it's an adult comic book and it's racy.  Of course, how it comes off is: "Teacher sees cute elementary school girl as hot sexually-available prey".   I see what they were going for, but that is not how it's read, and honestly it made me feel dirty.  What do you think?

Click to view larger.

via The Huffington Post

Seattle Area Geeks: Give Big today!

Today is the Seattle Foundation's Give Big Day. Donations made through The Seattle Foundation's online Giving Center on June 23, 2011 between 7:00 a.m. and midnight will be stretched by $500,000, thanks to support for GiveBIG from The Seattle Foundation and local businesses.

About the Seattle Foundation:
Founded in 1946, The Seattle Foundation is your local, definitive resource for giving. We provide the reliable insight and tools you need to make the most of your giving. Whatever your charitable budget, we can help you give wisely and have the impact you want.

As one of the nation's largest community foundations with total assets of nearly $600 million, we are governed by a board of respected community leaders and have an unwavering reputation among donors and the community at large.
You'd be hard pressed to not find your particular philathropic area of interest represented. You can make donations of any size, so even with a small budget you can help make a difference. 

We're going to donate to the Pacific Science Center to start.  Who did you donate to?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Advice for a High School Geek Girl

One of my readers, Eric, wrote this on Parenting Geekly's Facebook Page:
My daughter is the geeky gamer girl who has tubes of polyhedrons in her room. When she leaves middle school and into a much larger high school and I just know that there will be more geeky girls in her class, do you have any advice for helping her out of the lone female to a friendship with other geeky girls?
Here's what I wrote in response:

I think she should continue to do what she likes to do and she should join clubs that look interesting to her. As long as she isn't resistant to becoming friends with the other girls she'll be fine.

I really think (read: hope) that at this point being a geek is so mainstream that it's not the same type of situation as when we were younger. Something like 80% of the US Population thinks "geek" is a complimentary term now. It sounds like you've raised a confident girl who knows what she likes, I'm betting she'll do fine!
 What other advice can you offer Eric's daughter?  Leave your advice in the comments section below.

Geek Girls: There Can be Only One?

When I was 10 years old I was a geek. I was born into it. My parents dressed me as a Spider-Woman for my first Halloween, I had a Pac-Man themed 5th birthday party and my Dad used me as a ringer in living room Tetris tournaments against his friends.

I grew up in a small suburb of a suburb of Philadelphia. My fifth grade class had about ten other girls in it. The odds were stacked against me and, indeed, I found that I usually had more in common with the boys than I did with with my female classmates (though I did lead the girls in many awesome games of "Unicorn-Power-Princesses-Who-also-do-Karate-and-Magic").

It gave me a weird sense of entitlement. *I* was the girl the boys chose to play with, *I* was the girl who could talk to them about the merits of each of the Ninja Turtles (clearly Donatello is the best), could discuss which X-Men was the coolest (Phoenix of course), and how we were going to beat Contra without using the Konami Code (can't be done).  At age ten we were starting to notice the opposite gender and while the other girls were giggling about the boys they thought were cute, I was developing meaningful friendships with them. The girls didn't "get" me, so I found boys who did.

My friendships with boys continued throughout high-school.  I was outspoken, obnoxious and not at ALL "lady-like", I would frequently say things like "I don't get along with girls.  Girls are bitches.  I get along with dudes much better".  All those statements had an element of truth to them, but it was only when I became an adult that I realized how that attitude prevented from experiencing the awesomeness of being in a group of like-minded ladies.

I never realized how obnoxious this mindset was until I experienced it myself.  It was 1998 and it was my first venture into a comic book shop.  Growing up in the aforementioned small-town the only option for purchasing comic books was the grocery store.  When I graduated high-school and moved to Seattle I walked into my very first comic book shop and was greeted by the female (!) worker with "Are you looking for your boyfriend?".  I was so mad I retorted "No, I was actually looking for the Incredible Hulk" and stormed out.  I didn't go back into a comic shop for two years.

More recently I accompanied Super-Dad to a work function.  One of his co-workers brought a date and she and I started talking.  I mentioned that I liked comic books and she immediately got weird.  "Oh, yeah?  Look at this!"  she pulled up her shirt to reveal a full-back tattoo of the Preacher.
"Oh, Preacher, that's an interesting choice for a tattoo.  Must be interesting for guys to look at back there" I snarkily replied back.
"Oh, you know who that is?" she snarled at me.

What the heck was going on here?  Instead of talking about a shared interest we were creating some sort of messed-up Preacher related girly pissing match.  We could have been having a discussion about violence in comics, about why she identified with such a strong character, about why I generally dislike Garth Ennis' books.  Any of these topics would have been better than the "nanny nanny boo boo, I like comics more than you do" standoff.

Some of us geek girls suffer from what I've deemed "There Can Be Only One" Syndrome.  So many of us are used to growing up isolated from other girls with similar interests that we have developed this "I'm special" defense mechanism that automatically makes us wary of any other girl claiming to be a geek.  Just like our weight, our clothes, our boyfriends, we view our geekdom as a competition, as a way to tear each other down and prove our superiority.

It's time to get the hell over it, ladies.

Over the past seven years I have worked off and on  in a comic book shop, and at conventions.  I have realized the error of my ways.  One of my favorite things to do is to spot a bored girlfriend and introduce her to the world of non-superhero comics.  I've sold so many copies of Fables and Y:The Last Man to women who didn't think that there were comics for them that Vertigo should give me kickbacks.

I am now happy to say that there are lots of women that I love and get along with.  I spent all of those years missing out on the powerful friendships that nerdy girls can share. I have forged fantastic relationships with geeky girls of all varieties.  Many of them even geekier (gasp!) than I am! Together we are providing awesome inspiration for my four year old daughter.  She's a budding geek herself,  who doesn't yet know that it's "weird" that she likes superheroes and Star Wars.  And I hope that by the time she's ten it won't be.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The First Full Trailer for the New Muppet Movie!

This was leaked late tonight.  I'm so excited, it looks amazing!  I don't see any Sesame Street cameos, though which is dissapointing, but it *is* just a trailer and I'm sure they didn't want to ruin all of the surprises. 

What do you think?

Via Tough Pigs

Friday, June 17, 2011

Can Video games Make Kids Smarter?

I'm pretty sure that most gamer parents would answer the question with a "yes".  I've posted before about the inherent educational value of Assassin's Creed (you can read that post here).  But I also think that a lot of the other games that Nate plays help with different areas of development. The Portal games teach spatial relations and creative problem solving, all while being hysterically funny and entertaining (even just to watch).  Multiplayer war games like Battlefield and Halo encourage working together.  I love watching Nate "meet up" with his school friends over XBox Live and work together to kick some enemy butt.  Minecraft develops creativity. Really, any game with a goal teaches strategy and persistence. I'm not saying that every game out there is good for your children, and like all things moderation must be practiced.  But parents, educators, politicians and researchers who blindly label all video games as "bad" don't know what they are talking about.

A new study from the University of Michigan has shown that kids who play a specially designed memory game had long-term benefit to their problem solving skills.  The authors are quick to note that the study does not indicate that other, more traditional games would give the same results, but until they do a study to the contrary I'm going to continue letting my child develop his skills using the Xbox.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Giveaway Time!

Please join us over at our Facebook page.  Tonight at midnight (if we have reached 200 fans, which I think we are about 2 away from) I will randomly pick two followers to receive a super cute coffee mug featuring our adorable Geek Baby Logo!  Check it out here:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Geeky Father's Day Gift Guide

Father's Day is fast approaching and I have rounded up some handpicked gifts I think that Geeky Dads of all stripes would appreciate!

This picture frame from Gibberish uses the Periodic Table of Elements to spell out a name.  Spelling out your family name would make an awesome picture frame for Dad's desk.They also make awesome greeting cards, lab coat tags, and cuff links.

These Autobot Family Decals are a geeky alternative to the ubiquitous family stick figure decals and would look way cooler on Dad's car.

If you are crafty you still have some time to bang out one of the amazing Pixel People cross stitch patterns from Weelittlestiches.    They say that they are suitable for beginners and the PDF pattern files even include tips.  The one pictured has all of the Doctors from Doctor Who, but you can also find Ghostbusters, Firefly, Justic League, Star Wars and other geeky patterns.

Barnes and Noble just launched the newest version of their E-Ink Nook Reader.  I have the older generation one, and Super Dad is always borrowing it. The combination of the E-Ink screen (which is super easy to read, even in harsh sunlight and has a fantastic battery life) and the LCD touch screen on the bottom make the Nook attractive and super functional.  The newest generation ditches the separate LCD screen, but employs a very cool full sized E-Ink touch display. The main selling point of the Nook versus the Kindle for me was the fact that I can use the Nook to borrow ebooks from my local library.  The Nook can be picked up at any Barnes and Noble, or online (with free shipping for Father's Day if you order by the 16th).

A magazine subscription (SciAm, Make, Cook's Illustrated,Wired, etc.) is the perfect gift if you've totally waited until the last minute.  You can go into your local book shop, megamart, or drugstore and pick up a copy of a magazine that dad would appreciate.  Present the current issue to him with a note explaining that you have arraigned a subscription for him.  Then go online and buy him a subscription.  Don't forget to do that last part, it's important.

If the budget is tight or you just don't do presents, a personalized photo greeting card from Tiny Prints is a great small gift.  This is actually what I sent to my dad.  He'll love the picture of the Grandkids and the personal messages (from the kids and a sappy something from me) inside.  This is especially great if your Grandparent goes by an unusual name.  My Grandpa was Grumps, my Dad is Pop Pop and in my family we also have a Grand Keith and a Big Mike, you can't find those at Hallmark!

What did you get the  Geeky Dad in your life?

Seattle Area Families: Check out Great Family Programming from SIFF

Sadly, this year's SIFF has ended.  But if you have Littles that you'd like to take to a festival film (and you should take them!), you are still in luck. 

Being Elmo: A Pupeetters Journey  (Winner SIFF 2011 Lena Sharpe Award for Persistence of Vision, Presented by Women in Film/Seattle) is back at SIFF Cinema on Saturday June 18, 2011 at 11:00 AM.  Please go see this film.  We absolutely loved it, and this could be a truly life-changing experience for the older kids in your household.

The Winner of the SIFF Films4Familes Youth Jury Award for 2011 was Circus Dreams.  Circus Dreams follows the talented kids of Circus Smirkus, the only traveling youth circus in the US.  This movie was chosen as a winner by a jury of kids, so your children are bound to enjoy it.  It plays on Sunday June 19 at 11:00 am. 

Also of note is Life in a Day.  I recently learned that 35 hours of footage is uploaded to YouTube every minute.  So what is uploaded?  A lot of it is people just doing their everyday thing. Director Kevin MacDonald carefully selected 300 clips that all show people around the world on the same day (July 24, 2010) and wove it into the first collaborative user-generated feature film.  This one may be a little boring for the younger ones, but everything I've read leads me to believe it would be a fine film for older kids. Sunday June 19 at 3:30 PM.

All of the Best of SIFF films screen at Siff Cinema located at:
321 Mercer St
at 3rd Avenue, McCaw Hall
Seattle Center

There is plenty of easy pay parking around.  Tickets can be purchased here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Oooh Burn! Sesame Street's Accident Prone "Spider-Monster: The Musical".

Ah, poor Mr. Johnson can't even catch a Broadway show without Grover screwing it up.

As a huge Sesame Street nerd and big fan of Marvel Superheroes, this totally made my day. Bonus points for Monster Bono. "Sorry, this is Monster Bono's first show". Ha!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Never Meet Your Heroes, Unless Your Heroes are Muppets.

On Wednesday I wrote my review of Being Elmo.  If you haven’t read it, you can click here to do so.  If you have a chance to go see this film, please do.  It is not at all what you are expecting from a film about Elmo.  And if you have a kid who is passionate about a hobby, even one who isn’t into Elmo,  it may very well change their life.

As delightful as the movie was,  getting a chance to meet the people involved was even more so.  Our first introduction to the film-making team came when we left our seats before the screening to grab some popcorn.  A young girl (probably about 12 years old) pointed at Kit and said “Mom, look at her dress!”  The next thing I knew Kitty was posing for a picture.  The iPhone photog lady said “I just have to send this to Kevin!”  At that point I realized I should probably ask  who this woman I was allowing to take pictures of Kitty in the baggy Sesame Street dress that her grandmother made her was.  “I’m Connie” she said “I’m the director”.  

The excitement coming from this woman was radiating.  She seemed so thrilled to be there and so excited that happy families were in the house to see her movie.  She then asked Kit her age and told me “This movie is for kids who are a bit older, if you have to take her out because she gets bored please don’t feel bad!”.   I shook her hand and gave her my card.  We found our way back to our seats.  It was only as we were sitting down and I relayed my story to Super-Dad that I realized that the “Kevin” she had mentioned was Kevin Clash.  “Oh my God,” I said “I think she’s sending a picture of Kitty to Elmo!”.   Kitty had already figured this out (we are such Sesame Street nerds in our house that she knows all about Elmo’s “Friend” Kevin) and was babbling to herself that she hoped that Mr. Kevin liked the dress that her Grandma had made her.

After an introduction from the festival’s Educational Director Dustin Kaspar, Constance Marks came to the front of the auditorium and told everyone that a very special guest was on his way from the airport. She explained that he (our nameless special guest) had been ill with food poisoning and had caught a flight that morning. She mentioned that she had never given this guest flowers, even after years of working with him, but that his hopping on a flight to come meet us deserved just such a gesture.   The audience gasped upon the realization that Kevin Clash would be joining us and I heard one young voice near the center of the auditorium ask his parent the question we all were thinking: “Is Elmo coming”?

Dustin Kaspar, Constance Marks, Marks' daughter Sophia, James Miller & Kevin Clash
After the screening no one so much as moved. Dustin Kaspar came back up to the front and introduced  Constance once again who was this time  with her daughter Sophia, the young girl that had pointed out Kitty’s dress in the lobby.  Together they introduced James Miller, who is the film’s Cinematographer and Co-Producer and Marks’ husband.  They revealed that the inspiration for the film came after Miller, who was a camera operator on Sesame Street, brought home a story book for Sophia that Clash had contributed to. After another moment of banter Constance introduced Kevin Clash who came in through a side door to applause and a standing ovation.

Let me tell you, this guy has presence.  His enthusiasm is palpable.  It sounds cheesy but the man embodies love and joy.  You can feel it.  From the documentary we learned that he is the type of person who has always put his whole self into his goals and dreams and when he took on Elmo, a creature meant to embody “love, hugs and kisses” he put his whole self into that as well, and that is what comes through when he speaks. 

He answered a few questions, but was keenly aware of all of the littles in the audience.  When they started to get agitated (I have to interject here that Kitty was ignoring everything anyone said and had her eyes transfixed on the nondescript black leather duffel bag set nonchalantly behind Kevin.  She knew who was in there) Kevin stopped what he was doing and acknowledged the kids.  “Some of the kids are getting a little antsy I see.  We’re going to do a little meet-and-greet, but only with the littlest ones. Elmo and I will meet everyone else outside later”.  This was the moment we had been waiting for and Elmo was brought out to thunderous applause.  

In the documentary Kevin’s mom states “Kevin comes alive through Elmo” and seeing Kevin after he becomes Elmo, I can tell you that this is a true statement.  He is relatively soft-spoken and quiet, but almost seems as if he’s going  to burst.  It seems that he’s more comfortable with Elmo than he is with Kevin.  As if all the joy, all the love, all the humor that Kevin has to dull down so as not to seem like a crazy person is able to all spill out through Elmo.

When you meet Elmo, you are meeting Elmo.  Elmo starts talking and you forget Kevin is even there. Elmo isn’t a puppet, he isn’t a prop, he isn’t a doll.  He is a real live being.  I was convinced that when interacting with Elmo the kids would be distracted by the large man behind him (Clash isn’t a ventriloquist; his mouth is clearly moving when he’s voicing Elmo).  That wasn’t the case, even with the adults.  Elmo is a force to be reckoned with.  When the little monster spoke the audience sat rapt.  If you look in the background of the pictures I posted in this article, you can see perfectly sane adults smiling like little kids on Christmas morning.
Elmo comments on Kitty's dress.

Elmo walked up (see, he didn’t really walk up, Kevin walked up with Elmo in his hands, but that’s not how I remember it) to a toddler whose mom had taken him out of the theater when he became restless.  “You should be asleep.  Give Elmo a hug!”  The toddler gleefully hugged Elmo.  He talked to some of the other kids in the audience and then he got to Kitty, who had been surprisingly patient.  Elmo told told Kitty “Elmo heard about you! Elmo likes your dress!” Kitty pointed to one of the little Elmos on the print “It has YOU on it!” she cheered.
“No, that’s not Elmo, that’s Cookie Monster!” he teased.
“No, it’s you, Elmo!”
“No, that’s Cookie Monster, you’re silly!”.   Elmo then noticed that Kitty had scribbled all over her legs earlier that morning.  “You shouldn’t draw on yourself, sometimes it doesn’t come off!!”.  He treated every preschooler in the audience as if they were the only person in the room.  Elmo loves them, and they knew it. 

Kevin put Elmo back in the bag (while Elmo jokingly called out for help) and continued to answer questions.

After the screening the crowd emptied out into a beautiful sunny day (most likely brought with Elmo from Sesame Street as it was the first nice day in Seattle all year) and stood in a respectful circle around Kevin and Elmo. I have never seen a more well behaved group of people in public.  Kevin managed that crowd like a pro, arranging groups for pictures and greeting each child.  Kevin never seemed bored, tired or annoyed.  Kitty was able to get the Elmo hug she was so desperate for.  We stuck around for about another hour, watching a quipping Elmo interact with the audience.  We saw a man covered in Muppet tattoos and a puppeteer who gave the first puppet she ever made to Kevin.  We watched child after child get a hug from Elmo and countless adults who no doubt have new Facebook profile pictures. 

Could we look any more thrilled to be there?
As we were getting ready to leave I realized that I hadn’t gotten to meet Elmo myself.   I handed Super-Dad my camera and stood and waited my turn.  Seeing her opportunity to have another moment with Elmo, Kitty tried to photobomb my picture.  “Hey!  It’s Elmo’s friend!!” Elmo declared!  I scooped Kitty up and while James Miller snapped our photo Elmo took the opportunity to tease Kitty some more about her dress.  It was magical.

So thank you, Constance Marks for finding the inspiration and medium to bring this story to us. Your enthusiasm for your project is contagious.  I hope that many, many people get  the opportunity to see the amazing story you have crafted.

Thank you, Kevin Clash for bringing to life one of the most beloved characters in the world.  I have never felt as much love in one place as I did at Seattle Center that Sunday morning.  We all need to feel loved, we all feel like we need to have a friend and when we’re in the presence of you and Elmo, we do.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review of "Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey"

Last Sunday Kitty, Super-Dad and I were lucky enough to attend a screening of Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey as part of the Seattle International Film Festival's Film4Families series. Being Elmo is a documentary about the life of Kevin Clash, current Head-Muppet-Dude over at Sesame Street and performer of everyone’s favorite furry four year old, Elmo.  

Clash’s story is told starting with his upbringing in a working class town on the outskirts of Baltimore.  He started making puppets at age nine and with the support of his loving parents (seeing his mother and father talk about him with such delight is one of the highlights of the film), was doing two local television shows before he graduated high school.

After an introduction from his mentor - Muppet builder Kermit Love - Clash started working for Jim Henson on Henson’s film Labyrinth .  Labyrinth was my favorite movie as a kid and learning that Clash worked the Firey who popped his eyeballs out, a scene which creeped me out, opened my eyes to breadth of his work. Elmo may have been a bit after my time, but I had been watching Kevin Clash puppeteer for my entire childhood.  

After Labyrinth he moved on to Sesame Street where he performed Hoots the Owl before taking over Elmo from Richard Hunt who was frustrated with the Muppet that he performed as a gravelly voiced Neanderthal.  Taking a cue from Frank Oz who had told him that he needed to find the “one thing” to focus on with each Muppet character (as examples Oz told Clash that he performed Fozzie Bear as an old vaudevillian and Miss Piggy as a trucker who wanted to be woman)  Clash decided that Elmo would represent “love, hugs and kisses”.  It was this trait that made Elmo so popular with preschoolers.  
Some of the most touching moments in film come as Clash discusses his role as a father to his daughter Shannon, when Clash talks about being made fun of for “playing with dolls”, and when we see Clash mentoring a promising 8 year-old puppeteer named Tau Bennett.  Be warned that the movie does touch on some sad moments.  The death and memorial of Jim Henson are visited.  Dying children ask to meet Elmo as their final wish.  One such visit is shown, and I just about lost it when the sick child’s dad thanked Clash with tears in his eyes.  Despite these two sad but important moments, the movie was joyous, with the audience smiling almost non-stop.  It was a celebration of not only the life of Clash but of Elmo, of puppeteering, of family and of the unbounded imagination of children. 

This film would especially resonate with children who have hobbies that they are passionate about.  Clash touches on overcoming the teasing of his peers and how he decided to pursue his dream no matter what anyone thought. What I really took away from it was that with hard work and the support of your parents any child really can achieve their dreams.  The older kids in attendance seemed to leave the theater truly inspired.

Kitty is still rocking her Being Elmo swag days later.
Even though Kitty happily sat through the film, I’d recommend it for children who are a little older.  At four years old she was a little over excited and would yell “ELMO!” whenever the red monster appeared on screen, but otherwise she sat transfixed at the story of Kevin Clash.  Be forewarned that if your child is blissfully unaware that Elmo is a puppet behind the scenes footage may spoil that magic. At just over an hour, the film is the perfect length for kids.  

Both before and after the film we had the opportunity to speak with both Clash and Constance Marks, the director who so skillfully wove together over six years of fresh interviews and film with vintage television clips, family photos and behind the scenes footage.  Marks had her daughter with her, and I can’t help but think that young Sophia had some input as the film was entertaining for all ages.  

Make sure that you check out Being Elmo when it goes into limited release throughout the country later this year. No one in the family will be disappointed.

I will write more about the meet and greet tomorrow.

Kitty and I met Elmo this Weekend!

I've been dealing with a mystery illness, so I haven't posted much in the recent days, but I did want to share this fantastic photo of me and Kitty with Elmo and his friend Kevin.

We were at a screening of "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey".  The film was delightful and the meet and greet afterward allows me to check "Meet a Muppet" off my bucket list.  I hope to have details and a full review up by the end of the day.
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