Showing posts with label kids these days what can you do. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kids these days what can you do. Show all posts

18 August 2014

Wisest Thing I’ve Read Today

Over the weekend the Boston Globe ran an interview with eleven-year-old actor Aidan Gemme. He’s currently starring as Peter Llewellyn in the unfathomable stage musical adaptation of Neverland, the unhistorical movie about J. M. Barrie writing Peter Pan.

One of Gemme’s earlier Broadway jobs was alternating in the role of the Boy in Waiting for Godot. Here’s how he described preparing to play that frustrating character:
The Boy doesn’t really have a personality, and you can’t get information on him. I didn’t step into him. I just stepped out of myself.

17 August 2014

One Family’s Robin Debate

This week Brad Guigar of the Evil, Inc. webcomic (sample above) posted a podcast debate among himself, his eight-year-old son Max, and his twelve-year-old son Alex on the vital question of who’s the best Robin.

Some observations about the discussion:
  • The gents are almost totally concerned with DC’s post-Crisis, pre-New 52 universe, with perhaps a bit of the animated cartoons thrown in. It’s no surprise to hear them skip Jason Todd’s pre-Crisis past as a trapeze artist since that goes against what made the character most meaningful, but the guys also don’t acknowledge the history of the second Tim Drake, appearing in comics now.
  • The panel amalgamates Carrie Kelley, the possible future female Robin from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Rises, with Stephanie Brown, the short-lived female Robin from the regular continuity about a decade ago. (And of course they don’t bother with the current Stephanie Brown, who had a shorter history.) I think that mostly shows how girls remain an unfathomable mass to preteen boys.
  • The older son makes a sharp distinction between the Robin he likes most as a character (Jason) with the character he thinks is or was the best Robin. In fact, he ranks Jason low on the Robin scale.
  • Neither young panelist sees much to like in Damian Wayne. I believe young readers still want a Robin they can look up to or imagine as their own best selves. Damian’s popularity rests with older readers who get off on his brattiness or neediness.
Thanks to Eric Gjovaag for the pointer to this podcast.

21 April 2014

The Marathon Tradition Endures

I live about three blocks from the route of the Boston Marathon as the race winds through Boston’s suburbs toward the Back Bay. For many years every Marathon Day looked much like the photo above, with families lining both sides of Commonwealth Avenue to watch, cheer, and pass out cups of water or other replenishment.

Naturally, the kids clapping and holding out water would edge into the road, and every half hour or so a motorcycle cop would roll slowly along the gutter, herding everyone back. Early in the race people would wait for a break in the runners and then dash across to visit friends on the other side, sometimes getting stranded until the field thinned out again. Some parties brought multiple lawn chairs, campers, and spreads of food, either to eat or to sell to other spectators.

But that was before last year’s bombs.

Three days ago, we found that the whole of the race route through town had been marked off with orange plastic delineators, or “candlesticks” as a cousin told me the professionals call them. On the side of the street away from driveways, a cord had already been threaded through those plastic stakes. Clearly the public-safety officials were planning to keep everyone off the road.

Meanwhile, race organizers issued several strict warnings about this year’s event. No unauthorized runners. No running in costume. No march along the route by service people. No backpacks, coolers, or thick blanket rolls. All understandable regulations, but I feared the Marathon I enjoyed would disappear.

I’m pleased to say that even with cords strung on both sides of the road and signs warning that all coolers, backpacks, and other bags were subject to search, the atmosphere is much the same. Kids were still edging out into the road, just not as far. People still dashed from one side to the other, just not as often. There were plenty of lawn chairs, coolers, and unrolled blankets, as well as plenty of security officers. And at least one runner in a tutu.

14 April 2014

Reacting to “Kids React to…”

I grew up with dial telephones. The family of my best friend in first grade had a “princess” phone with a smaller dial in the handset, but that was as exotic as home phones got. Touchtone phones were confined to offices.

In fact, I grew up in a town that once had an exchange named “Woodland,” so a lot of the local numbers I dialed started 969- or 965-. I spent many seconds of my school years waiting for the dial to rotate almost the whole way back—and I’m never getting those seconds back.

Since dial telephones were already established when I was a kid, they seem indeterminably old to me. Yes, my mother had stories about something called a “party line,” which was clearly ancient, but I can easily accept dial telephones as historic.

I could therefore enjoy the “Kids React to Rotary Phones” video easily. Though these twenty-first-century kids are baffled by the old technology, they’re also smart and lively and often able to figure out the implications of that device once the video makers explain it to their incredulous ears.

The kids display those same qualities in “Kids React to Walkmans”, but there’s a sharper edge for me. Because I remember when the Walkman was new. And cool. And, like all widely used new technology, a cause for tsk-tsking social concerns. Yes, I understand that they’ve long been superseded by, well, phones. But they’re not really old, are they?

09 March 2014

Forever Robin?

Listening to Kevin Smith and Marc Bernardin discuss the Batman Forever movie from 1995 on Smith’s Fat Man on Batman podcast got me thinking how poorly cast Chris O’Donnell was as Dick Grayson.

O’Donnell was in his mid-twenties when he made the movie. His appearance certainly called into question the state’s need to assign Dick Grayson a bachelor millionaire as a guardian, but that wasn’t the only problem.

O’Donnell is at his best playing bottled-up characters alongside wild cards (as in Scent of a Woman with Al Pacino). But Dick Grayson is the more emotionally open side of the Dynamic Duo. Furthermore, that movie’s take on the partnership called for Dick to be edgy.

Looking back, I was reminded of a scene in the 1960s Batman television show in which Dick tries to infiltrate a youth gang by cleverly dressing up in a leather jacket and slicking his hair. A girl offers him a cigarette. He coughs at the first inhale, offering the lame excuse that he’s had too many already that day. (Burt Ward himself didn’t smoke growing up, he says.) Adam West as Bruce Wayne later acknowledged that Dick had done his best, but it was…painfully obvious…that…he was not…a smoker.

Even with an earring, O’Donnell looked just as incongruous reading his lines. Just working on a motorcycle doesn’t make a kid a potential juvenile delinquent—especially when he looks old enough to be in law school.

Reportedly director Joel Schumacher had narrowed down his casting choice to O’Donnell and Leonardo DiCaprio, four years younger and already Oscar-nominated for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?. The moviemaking team asked a focus group of young teen-aged boys—the core audience for action movies since Star Wars—which of those two actors looked like he’d win in a fight. The boys says O’Donnell would. But that was the wrong question. A big part of the appeal of Robin is that he’s the littlest guy in the fight, but comes through anyway.

O’Donnell played the role of Dick Grayson through two movies directed by Schumacher. Then, as he tells the story, he walked away from blockbuster roles to marry and raise a family while taking less time-demanding acting jobs. He’s now a father of five, three of them boys, and they’re naturally proud of their father’s most iconic role. O’Donnell described the pattern in a 2010 interview:

“I used to try to be really low-key on airplanes, with my hat pulled down. Now I pre-announce to the people around us, ‘I want to apologize in advance,’” he jokes.

“When Chip was 3, as soon as we sat down, he said, ‘My dad was Robin in the Batman movie.’”
During a recent visit to Conan O’Brian’s talk show, O’Donnell disclosed that he still owns one of the Robin costumes, in an unopened crate that he’s moved from house to house. I’m sure his kids would be glad to see inside.

13 February 2014

Art for a Winter’s Day

With yet another snowstorm piling up outside my door, I’m sharing some of the beautiful and transient artwork that Andy Goldsworthy sculpted out of ice in Cumbria and other parts of England in the 1980s.





At Publishers Weekly’s Shelftalker blog, Elizabeth Bluemle recently wrote about a nephew so enamoured of Goldsworthy’s work that he had a birthday party with a snow-sculpting theme.

06 February 2014

Set-Up for a Heartwarming Story

Matthew is a nine-year-old kid. He was born with very short fingers on his right hand—a condition known as “limb difference.” Usually this doesn’t bother Matthew, but after his family moved into a small town in Kansas other kids kept asking him about his hand.

Jennifer is Matthew's mother. She adopted him and two other kids. Her late father also had only a partial hand, and she remembered that bothered him. Jennifer came across plans on the internet for making an artificial hand, but she knew that was beyond her technical skills.

Mason is a sixteen-year-old high-school student. He’s always been a tinkerer; he built his own computer, for instance. He was on the football team, but after his third concussion from sports Mason’s parents told him he couldn’t play anymore, so suddenly he had a lot of free time.

The Johnson County Library has a 3-D printer.

I couldn’t make this up.

02 January 2014

All the Young Humans

Humans of New York is Brandon Stanton’s photography blog, which recently featured this portrait. The blog led to a book of the same title published this year by St. Martin’s.

The collection is wonderful, full of color and personality and very short stories. Stanton is particularly good at capturing kids. Of course, it helps that he’s walking the streets of New York, where the combination of human density, variety, and appreciation of difference produces a very wide spectrum of style, even in the young.

I was planning to recommend the book even before I spotted one of my college roommates, Jefferson Mays, and his wife inside.

21 December 2013

The Problem of Resentful Reading

Fifth-grade teacher Pernille Ripp in School Library Journal on “Why Reading Sucks: Talking honestly with kids might make them more passionate readers”:

On posterboard, I wrote the heading, “Why Reading Sucks,” and asked the kids to name their own reasons for why this might be the case. At first, the children darted glances at one another, not quite sure where this crazy teacher was headed. Then one student finally blurted out, “I don’t think a teacher has ever asked me that!” . . .

When we looked over the list we had created together, I agreed that these were valid reasons, indeed, why reading may not be the most favorite thing to do for a child or even many adults. Some children hate sitting still; others find reading boring, time consuming, or restrictive. They resent that they are forced to read certain books or at a certain time. They feel pressured, and some believe that they are bad readers. What it all adds up to is a miserable reading experience, and that is what we have to fight.

I thanked the kids for their honesty, and then asked them for their solutions. One after another my students raised their hands. “Can we pick our own books?” “Yes,” I replied. “Do we have to read a certain amount of minutes and log it?” “No,” I said. “I expect you to read every night and you only log it in [class].” “Do we have to finish every book we start?” “No,” I assured them.
Ripp originally wrote this piece for her blog in September. She also offers a survey asking kids how they are as readers.

The day after the SLJ site published Ripp’s essay, she had a baby.

19 November 2013

Not in Florida Anymore

Here’s a striking video of The Wizard of Oz, largely based on the MGM movie, from a Florida state school. The troupe is called Eyes Alive!, and all the young actors are deaf, performing in American Sign Language.

The school’s blog explains:
Jessica Stultz, a deaf elementary teacher, founded the performing arts group in 2010. “With many deaf films rolling out within the past decade by ASL Films, Rustic Lantern and others, I felt creating ASL films by our young students was a great way we could share old classics in the language of the deaf.” She added, “Having our young students perform in these films helps build their ASL acting and storytelling skills – they also learned nonverbal and facial expression skills. This increases their self-confidence and they also learn to collaborate with others.” . . .

In the fall of 2011, the Eyes Alive! group decided their next project would be “The Wizard of Oz.” After writing the 25-page script, they quickly realized that the production would be better if it were made into a movie instead of being performed live on stage. Jessica Stultz contacted Michael Johnson, FSDB video production specialist, to see if he would help produce the film. Mr. Johnson has a degree in Film and Television Production from Full Sail University in Orlando, FL and spent a couple of years in Los Angeles working on multiple motion pictures, television shows, and commercials.

With his help, photography started in early 2012 and filming was completed by the end of April. On June 5, 2012, “The Wizard of Oz” was performed live for elementary students and their families in Kirk Auditorium.
Clearly all the kids worked hard on the project, and some are quite expressive actors.

10 October 2013

This Is Your First Time?

In the New York Times’s review of the New Yiddish Rep’s production of Waiting for Godot, I noticed that the Boy is being played by nine-year-old Nicholas Jenkins.

I know New York is a cosmopolitan melting-pot, but it still struck me that a lad named Nicholas Jenkins had probably not grown up hearing Yiddish.

In fact, the theater company has shared a video of “Nicholas Jenkins’ First Yiddish Lesson.”

And it turns out Nicholas and I have something in common. At an early age we both played a Flying Monkey in The Wizard of Oz.

20 August 2013

Market Report on “Oz Incorporated”

Earlier in the summer I caught a performance of Circus Smirkus’s “Oz Incorporated” show. Each year this traveling youth circus has a theme, lately one based on some cultural milieu of the twentieth century: superheroes, journalism, pirates, westerns, science fiction. Sometimes those shows have had narrative arcs.

This year’s production took its inspiration from The Wizard of Oz (mostly the 1939 movie rather than the book). But it didn’t really try to retell the story; rather, the show relied on audiences recognizing moments and characters from the source material and tying those together for themselves.

This show also shifted the setting of Oz to a modern office building and corporation—think How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Thus, the Wizard is a charlatan CEO, Glinda his executive assistant, and the Munchkins hand-puppet workers in a phone bank. The usual arch to the backstage was treated as an elevator door. I’m not sure how much of that biting satire the youngest members of the audience got.

The Scarecrow came on as a mop-headed, mop-wielding janitor in the building. The Tin Woodman was introduced through a juggling act, with a juggling club doubling as his oil can. And the Cowardly Lion was a big fellow in a suit, too soft-hearted for the corporate world. Interestingly, the Wicked Witch of the West was played by a young man in a stylized modern performance.

But I don’t want to put too much weight on Smirkus’s narratives because they’re really just strings to hold the pearls of the acrobatic and clowning acts. Thus, the Emerald City guards performed on unicycles and trampolines, the Flying Monkeys on trapeze, and the lions and tigers and bears on slack and tight ropes. The Wizard performed several bits of poor magic and also came out as a giant head on stilts.

When I first saw Circus Smirkus perform decades ago, the performers came in a wide range of ages. The same held true when the organization was featured on the Disney documentary series Totally Circus. But today most of the cast are in their mid-teens, young adults rather than older kids.

Every year I hope to see Smirkus present tricks I hadn’t seen before, and the show rarely disappoints. This year those were slack-wire techniques, new moves with juggling clubs, and a unicycle with three wheels. Like this.

12 August 2013

“You do Batman stuff all the time.”

As long as I was talking about Ty Templeton’s Batman work, it seemed like a good time to share his autobiographical “Bun Toons” webcomic about being a father of teenagers.

Click through to see what impresses Templeton’s kids even more than dinner with the Governor-General of Canada.

03 August 2013

Page by Gulledge

In her graphic novel Page by Paige, Laura Lee Gulledge harnesses the power of surrealism to explore the inner life of a teen-aged artist new to Manhattan.

That visual invention is what really carries the book because, although there’s tension involved in Paige’s search for friends and confidence, her journey doesn’t run her into any wrenching twists or setbacks.

Like The Plain Janes, this story involves absurdist guerrilla public art. Apparently that’s a thing kids do now. Or wish they could.

01 August 2013

Wisest Thing I’ve Read Today

From the Reddit “Ask Me Anything!” discussion with Ethan Nicolle, co-creator of Axe Cop, on how his brother Malachai has developed as a writer from age five to age nine:

He also has begun to get a better understanding of story, why it is good to give the bad guys a motive and to make the good guys almost lose. These were concepts that made no sense to him when he was five. He likes surprising and tricking his audience now.
And as for the violence in the comic:
I always…try to envision it the way HE sees it and not the way it would happen in reality. He think[s] in video games and toy battles. One very revealing moment was when we watched this fan-made live action Axe Cop movie, which is basically episode 1 verbatim, shot for shot in real life. When Malachai saw it, he had to shut his eyes, and it scared him. He is not thinking in reality. That is why when he says something that would be really violent in real life, I don't draw it that way. Most of the bad guys heads pop off like toys. I think that kids are much better at discerning cartoons from reality too.
And Malachai himself on when he might stop writing Axe Cop:
I think I will stop when I don't have that crazy imagination any more. Around 18.

16 July 2013

“Come face-to-face with acrobatic Munchkins” in Minnesota

Circus Smirkus isn’t the only American youth circus offering an Oz-themed show this summer.

Circus Juventas, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, is also doing a show called “Oz.” Its description:
Summer 2013, audiences will encounter a curious gypsy-circus wandering a bleak and windswept landscape, sweeping along an enigmatic magician, an odious fortune teller, and an organ grinder with a mischievous monkey—but watch out for the Kansas-sized twister that will sweep you up, twist you dizzy, and hurtle you over the rainbow.

Come face-to-face with acrobatic Munchkins and a glittering witch afloat in a bubble, and of course a ruminating scarecrow with no brain, a tin man with no heart, and a quaking lion with no courage. Beware the wrath of a wicked witch or two on your way to the dazzling Emerald City, where the great and mysterious Wizard will grant your wishes only if you accomplish the impossible—finding your way home again via Circus Juventas!
This production runs 1-18 August. Unlike Circus Smirkus, it’s not a touring show: all the performances are at Circus Juventas’s home in St. Paul.

20 June 2013

Raised on Harry Potter

One of the calls for papers from the Northeast Modern Language Association reads:

Into The Pensieve: The Harry Potter Generation in Retrospect

As professors, we now teach the first generation of students to grow up reading Rowling’s books and watching the movies based on them. How have a generation of children, now adults, been shaped by this phenomenon? What future is there for Harry Potter studies? Are we still in the Harry Potter Age, or have we entered a Post-Potter age? This panel seeks papers that address the idea of a Harry Potter Generation broadly, with perspectives including fan studies, pedagogy, and traditional theoretical lenses. Abstracts to lauere@sunysuffolk.edu.
Back in 2007 I noted how kids all over the English-speaking world were sharing the same experience. Some of the links are broken now, but the generational milestone—perhaps one of the last of its sort?—remains.

(H/t to Comic Book Masculinity.)

15 June 2013

Timberline and Sprayberry

Six years ago I marveled at the Dickensian names of two young actors in 28 Weeks Later.

Today I’m celebrating the Pynchonian names of two younger actors:

Cooper Timberline and Dylan Sprayberry

They play the young Clark Kent at different ages in Man of Steel. Both are acting in other projects.

For nostalgia’s sake, here are pointers to Marc Tyler Nobleman’s interviews with the actors who played young Clark Kent back in 1978.

14 May 2013

And Now for Something Quite Different

From preteen reviewer Milo Kotis’s write-up of Gilbert Hernandez’s Marble Season at The Graphic Novelologist:

I remember another thing from when I went to see Gilbert Hernandez's talk, he said that in the 60's, parents were only there to spoil your fun. He also said that old ladies with horn rimmed glasses ran the show. As I'm sure you know, it's quite different now.
Good to have that confirmed.

25 April 2013

They Just Don’t Publish Them Like They Used to

I have a new favorite series of novels for young readers that I’ve never read:
The Square Dollar Boys, by H. Irving Hancock.

As Wannabe Wonderlands shows, these books were advertised in the backs of other series with this stirring copy:
The reading boy will be a voter in a few years; these books are bound to make him think, and when he casts his vote he will do it more intelligently for having read these volumes.
Doesn’t that just scream “adventure”? The semi-colon alone hints that these books are a cut above the ordinary boys’ series fare. And look at that cover art, courtesy of HenryAltemus.com: two young men in suits sitting in a clearly labeled office talking to an older man in a suit.

The Square Dollar Boys Wake Up; or, Fighting the Trolley Franchise Steal appeared in 1912 and was immediately followed by The Square Dollar Boys Smash the Ring; or, In the Lists against the Crooked Land Deal. That was the year of the wide-open Presidential race among Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft, so teenaged boys’ interest in political reform must have been near an all-time high. The publisher announced The Square Dollar Boys Still Hunt to come.

Due to the unaccountable vagaries of the market, however, Altemus never issued the third volume.