Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Food Inc. on PBS tomorrow night

Tomorrow night (Wednesday, April 21st at 9pm) local PBS station KCET will air Food Inc.  Click here for the national schedule.  Look,   I know nobody but the already converted wants to watch this but I'm telling you - you should.  First of all you're putting the stuff in your body so whether you want to think about it or not it's having an effect. Secondly, food - its growing, raising, juicing, picking, harvesting, slaughtering, delivering, packaging, and selling - is a part of this big, crazy world where we, the consumers, actually have a lot of power.  What you are willing to buy is what you will get. If you are willing to pay for less nutritious, disgustingly raised, possibly dangerous stuff that's what you're going to get. Period.  Oops, too many words. You're not going to watch if I keep going...

Here's the thing -know what you're getting. That's all I'm saying.  Learn the truth - then, if you have no problem with it, have at it.  Really, it is your business... mostly... except for the green houses gasses all the cows are producing, and all the antibiotics going in to the water supply - darn it!! I'm doing it again!  Sorry.  But when somebody who cares about you is a little bit worried that you might not know everything that's going on with what you're eating and what your kids are eating, well, this somebody is going to try make it her business, too.   It really is because I care.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ultrazone Birthday Party

My youngest turned 10 this week.  To celebrate we had a party at Ultrazone, the laser tag /arcade/7th Circle of Hell located on Ventura Blvd in Sherman Oaks.  I'm kidding. Actually, um, I have a confession to make.  I loved the Laser Tag.  I did.  It was my first time playing and I only did it to make my boys happy but - I loved it.  It was so much fun sneaking around that dark, maze-like room with those flashing, light-up vests.  And the guns.  Oh, my God.  I loved using the guns. This is not sitting well with me at all.

You see, I'm a peaceful person.  I mean, I actually believe in the possibility of World Peace, even now.  Now don't go yelling "wishful thinking" or "fantasy" at me the way the hawks are at the President.  I'm not stupid.  I, like President Obama by the way, accept that there are a lot of people in the world who aren't looking for ways to make our planet a more peaceful place.  I understand that the world is full of scary, dangerous fanatics.  I understand and accept the need for a well funded Armed Forces, even for war in some instances and I am grateful for those Americans who are willing to risk their lives to protect me and this country.  But I also actively support those who work for peace, who march, who speak out.  I am aligned with those who advocate for a Department of Peace and I am proud of the Californian Congressional Representatives who have signed on to support their legislation. 

But here's where I now have a problem.  In order to work for peace, you can't glorify or participate in violence.  That just makes you a hypocrite, right?  Take eating.  I didn't eat land animals for 20 years because I saw, still see, killing animals for food as needlessly violent, and raising meat for food as a kind of war on the planet.  Hold on -  I'm not judging you.  My kids eat chicken and the little one will eat red meat if given the chance.  I have even, lately, regretfully, been eating a little chicken once in a while as I figure out how to tweak my vegetarian diet to get rid of my reoccurring anemia.  Where health is concerned things become a little less black and white.   But what about play? Specifically, playing with guns?

When I was a young teacher there were no guns allowed in our school and that's the way I liked it.  I believed I was helping to raise a generation that would finally create the peaceful world we all wanted, deep inside.  I believed that if you simply kept toy weapons from the hands of little boys they would find all kinds of other, far more satisfying ways to play.  They just needed the chance. Then one day I watched as a 4 year old chewed his snack pretzel into the shape of a gun and "shot" his friend, both of them loving it. Huh.

With my own boys we never had any guns as toys until they were old enough to see the commercials for Nerf Blasters and start endlessly pleading for them.  I didn't buy them but, when their dad did,  I didn't make good on my threat to throw them in the garbage.  We are now in possession of a few of these kinds of guns and the target-printed vests that so fabulously accessorize them.  Our collection of weapons also includes water pistols, several swords and a battle axe from the Viking World at Lego-land.  Do I feel good about this? Not completely.  Do I think I am a responsible parent? Responsible, 100 percent, to my deeply held beliefs? Nope.  But I have been able to let it go. Thankfully, my boys are really good kids.  No signs of future criminality.  Well, the little one is still on the fence but I have faith.  So I have accepted the "boys will be boys" line of thinking when it comes to toy guns.  But it's a slippery slope people because now, look what's happened! I am the one running around with a toy laser gun gleefully trying to shoot as many human beings as possible in 15 minutes.  And most of those beings were much smaller than I am. Here's a tip - in general, the smallest ones are the easiest to hit.

The Ultrazone Birthday party was a big success.  For $25 a person on weekends you get a 2 hour party that includes a party helper, a balloon- festooned party room, drinks, invitations, 2 hours validated parking for everyone and 2 games of laser tag.  In between these the kids play in the main room which contains several loud, token-run arcade games. At $20 for 100 tokens, we went through about $60 worth for 14 kids.  If you want to feed your guests you can order pizzas from Dominos and they will deliver them right to your party room. You bring the cake.  We forgot candles but Ultrazone had some -white only so do remember your own if you want something else. 

I have to tell you my brain was fried after 2 hours in that place. I felt like a part of me had shut down in self-defense.  Thankfully I had a car full of kids having conversations like the following to keep me awake and smiling all the way home:

Kid A -The Easter Bunny isn't real.

Kid B -Yes he is!

Kid A - No.  Your parents put the candy in the baskets. I got a basket last year and I really liked it and everything in it and I got the same one this year.  How could the Easter Bunny read minds to know that I liked it and to give me the exact same thing?

Kid B - Dude. Hello. He's a Super Holiday Being - Super Holiday Beings can read minds!!!!!

 If you, too, would like to loose some more of your principles, or if you've never had any when it comes to playing with toy guns, Ultrazone  also does adult parties.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Current photography at the Getty

There is a small but interesting show on now at the Getty CenterIn Focus: Tasteful Pictures.   I took my 11 year old yesterday.  First we had lunch on the cafe terrace.  Between the tram ride up the hill and the fact that I said yes to coke and M & Ms his day was made.  I was just happy to sit with him, looking between his beautiful, ever changing, ever growing-up face and the gorgeous wisteria climbing the terrace posts.

My son has always been crazy about conveyor belts, roller coasters and the like so, on the way out, we made a mandatory stop at the tray collection area -

then strolled over to the photography galleries in the West Pavilion.

As I said In Focus: Tasteful Pictures is small but it's a terrific overview of photographic techniques and styles with food as the unifying theme.

Peas in a pod - Edward W. Quigley about 1935

When choosing museum exhibits for your kids it makes sense to give them something they get, to try to reach them on a kid level.  The Getty is filled with decorative furniture and silver candlesticks  but not many 11 year old boys wants to look at those.   A show about food is easy to relate to and yet, appropriately challenging.  Kids eat.  Kids play with their food.  But, kids don't usually see food as art.  How great, then, to show them different ways of looking at it.

Memphis from the portfolio Troubled Waters by William Eggleston, 1970

Over in the next gallery a beautiful show called A Record of Emotion: the Photographs of Fredrick H. Evans runs through June 6th.  The pictures are mostly small and mostly of cathedrals and estates so it might be hard to get your kid to stop and look closely at them.

 A Sea of Steps: Wells Cathedral, 1903

They are lovely so be sure to take a look yourself as you must pass through the gallery anyway to get to Urban Panoramas: Opie, Liao, Kim  also running through June 6th.  Here I fell IN LOVE with Habitat 7, the work of Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao and my son thought Soo Kim's Midnight Reykjavik was "cool." 

69th Street, Woodside by Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao

We left the photo galleries and I gave my son the camera to see what he would see after viewing several different kinds of photographs. Don't deprive yourself of this pleasure.  Even if you've been to The Getty a million times and taken dozens of pictures of the Santa Monica Bay bring your camera so you can give it to your kid for a while.

Before we left we stopped in to see Foundry to Finish: The Making of a Bronze Sculpture.  This was a huge hit.

The show takes you through each step in the making of a bronze sculpture, from the armature (the iron skeletal frame) to the final polish. There are videos throughout to demonstrate the steps and, as the videos show lots of hot fire and cool tools,  the boy was fascinated.

This exhibit runs through July 11th.