Monday, March 30, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

My friend Robin recently posted a link to this trailer, and I immediately thought...is it true? Is it true?

It *is* true! There is going to be a movie of Maurice Sendak's classic picture book, Where the Wild Things Are. (How did I miss this bit of information?)

Now, I have the same wary feeling about this that I had when I heard they were making a film of The Lord of the Rings. Excited, because it could be a brilliant interpretation of a book I adore, and nervous because it could just as easily be a full-fledged disaster.

What do you think? Can Spike Jonze successfully transfer Max's wild rumpus to film?

Here's a short blurb from the LA Times.

I have to admit, the trailer looks pretty awesome.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Grab Bag Friday: Community Supported Agriculture!

Here is a "rerun" post from 2007 about signing up to buy vegetables from your local farms. I truly believe the CSA movement is a force for all that is good and fresh and healthy in the world. If you are in Maine, Hatchet Cove Farm, my favorite local organic farm is currently taking sign-ups, and I just secured my summer share! You should, too! (At the bottom, you can learn how to find a CSA farm near you.)

* * *

Originally posted March 2, 2007. Here I am, snowed in on March 2nd, with at least a full month of winter spread out in front of me, and I'm happily dreaming and scheming about Summer! That's because I just received an email from Hatchet Cove Farm, a local organic farm that we purchase a CSA share from. Lots of farmers will be gearing up for their summer CSA programs over the next few weeks...here's what it means:

CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. It means what it says. I, as a community member, buy a "share" from a local farm. In return, I get a big bag of fresh, delicious, organic vegetables delivered every week for 18 weeks during the summer season. Here's why it's great:

I get to...

  • Eat healthy, nutritious food all summer long
  • Try new things (I'd never had bok choy before...it's delicious in stir fry!)
  • Know the farmer that grew my food
  • Support local agriculture
  • Keep my money in the local economy
  • Eat fresh, unprocessed veggies
SIDE STORY: My husband, a Los Angeles native, had never had a cucumber that wasn't bought at the store. We got our first CSA with cucumbers and he crinkled his nose, "I hate cucumbers." Until...he tried a real, fresh cucumber. He was stunned that it tasted so good! He thought cucumbers just naturally grew with a bitter, waxy buildup on the skin, never realizing that that is actually added to the cucumber to make them look more appealing and last longer in the store. Thanks to Hatchet Cove Farm, we snacked on yummy cukes all summer long!

Here's an example of how it works. I'll use our CSA, Hatchet Cove Farm, as my example...the details of other CSAs will, of course, vary:
  • Share price: [2009 update: HCF is now charging $300 for the summer--still incredibly reasonable] $270 for eighteen weeks of vegetable deliveries (mid-June to mid-Oct) is for a "two-person" share. If you love veggies or have a larger family, you may want to purchase two shares. I think $15 a week for fresh, homegrown veggies is a terrific deal!

  • The Vegetables: you receive a selection of in-season vegetables every week, including (but not limited to!) mesclun, spinach, and other early greens in the early summer. Peas, beans, broccoli, and early potatoes in the mid-summer. Zucchini, onions, peppers, and tomatoes in the late summer. Melons, corn, kale, and chard in the early fall.

  • Pickup/Delivery: [2009 note: HCF delivery days & routes may have changed] There are a few options for getting your veggies. Hatchet Cove Farm makes deliveries to the Rockland Unitarian church at 11am Sundays for people in the Rockland area. On Monday afternoons, they deliver shares to Waldoboro, Damariscotta, and Nobleboro. On Tuesday mornings, they deliver to Woolwich and Brunswick/Topsham. On Thursday afternoons, they deliver to members in Friendship. And pickup at the farm in Warren or Friendship is always availiable. If you do not want your share on any given week, the folks at Hatchet Cove will be happy to donate your share to the Area Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry in Rockland.

  • Newsletter/Recipes: Every week, along with your veggies, you receive a letter telling about activities and news from the farm, as well as recipes to help inspire you to use up every last vegetable.

  • Hatchet Cove Farm Meat: CSA members get first dibs on purchasing farm-raised lamb and chicken! [2009 note: check for availability]

  • Hatchet Cove Farm becomes your farm, too!: Members are welcomed at the farm to volunteer or just to visit, and a potluck/garlic planting day happens every fall.

Sounds great right? So, how can you join a CSA?

You can find out about CSAs from local farmers by keeping an eye out on bulletin boards at your local grocery store, library, church, or community center. You can also do a quick online search for farms in your area at the Eat Well Guide (Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals). If you live in my area here in Maine, you can contact Hatchet Cove Farm by email: info@hatchetcovefarm.com.

Ah, summer dreams...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Zooglobble's KidVid Tournament 2009

Ok, it's that March Madness time of year again, which means BRACKETS. Which means CHILDREN'S MUSIC VIDEOS! Right?

Every year, Zooglobble (the premier kids' music blog) hosts a KidVid Tournament...head to head match ups of the best kids' music videos of the year. Each day, you can vote for a match up, and the winner heads to the next bracket to duke it out with the remaining winners. Right now, they're in the tail end of the first bracket, so I highly recommend that you and your family head over, watch some videos, vote, and enjoy the fun.

One of my favorites already lost, but then again, I'm a little goony like that. Something about this Barenaked Ladies video just cracks me up:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Poem-A-Day

Am I the only one who gets really excited about National Poetry Month (coming your way in, oh, 8 days...)?

Well, in case it floats your boat, too...every year for National Poetry Month (April), the Academy of American Poets sponsors a Poem-A-Day email. Don't forget to go sign up...you'll get a poem each day selected from new books published this spring. It's a great way to come across poets you might never have read before, and I always hope to find a new favorite or two in the bunch.

I do wish they would stop using this poetry-as-medicine image though. Blech. Isn't reading poetry a *little* more fun than taking pills?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Grab Bag Friday: 30 Days with Morgan Spurlock

Have you seen this show?

Not too long ago, Kevin heard about a television show created by Morgan Spurlock, the guy who made the fantastic documentary Super Size Me (which, if you watch the special features on that DVD, watch out...it will turn you away from McDonald's delicious french fries for ever. I haven't eaten them since.)

So we googled 30 Days, and it turns out you can watch all the episodes for free on Hulu. We watched a couple. And now I'm completely addicted.

The basic setup is like any other reality TV show. People agree to put themselves in situations that are out of their comfort zones and be filmed. We watch vicariously while they go through varying degrees of insanity on national television.

But this is not your ordinary reality show.

Morgan Spurlock seems to be very interested in questions of extremism. Think of Super Size Me. He took something Americans do without thinking (eating fast food) and took it to the extreme, eating fast food for every meal, every day, for 30 days, just to see what would happen.

30 Days is an extension of that experiment. Spurlock takes people with extreme views on hot-button issues (abortion, gun laws, same-sex marriage), and puts them in a situation where they will have to live like the "other side" for 30 days.

For instance, one of my recently watched favorites was the episode on animal rights. An avid hunter from the South agrees to spend 30 days living with a PETA activist and her family. According to the rules, he had to spend his days they way they would spend theirs. So our hunter had to work at an animal rescue facility, and protest on the street against animal testing.

The results are fascinating. Sometimes, each side sticks to their guns and is unmovable. In the case of the southern hunter, he and the PETA activist were able to come to a kind of middle ground. The hunter, who will continue to hunt, decided that the practices in the commercial meat factories are unethical and wrong, and he won't eat commerical meat any more (even though he said his friends are initially going to razz him!) The PETA activist learned that hunters are not necessarily the evil animal-hating killers she originally imagined, but real people who can have good motives and a good heart.

I love this idea. Each time I watch the show, it makes me think about things in a way I might not have stumbled on alone. Kevin and I get into some *very* interesting conversations. And I try to think about what extreme views, stereotypes, or belief systems I might have that could use a little moderation.

I heard a rumor, that FX (the station that airs the show) is cancelling 30 Days. Please, please, somebody else pick it up. The Bachelor is fun (and believe me, I've watched my fair share), but we also need shows like this in the world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Great Hip Hop Speaks to Children News!

I'm happy to say that Hip Hop Speaks for Children (the Nikki Giovanni book/CD that includes my song Long Track Blues) spent its 5th week on the New York Times Bestseller list for picture books last week!

And, I found out from A Year of Reading that it has been named one of the 2009 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts. You can see the whole list here.

I'm hoping teachers and parents will use this book as a resource during Poetry Month, too.

Here's a short video biography of Sterling A. Brown, the author of the poem "Long Track Blues":

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jen Bryant & Melissa Sweet: A River of Words

This weekend, my sister and I went to a fabulous party to celebrate the recent Caldecott Honor given to Melissa Sweet for her picture book A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams.

What a blast! First of all, there were crazy party hats. You *have* to head over to Cynthia Lord's blog and read the story of the hats. (You can even scroll down to see a picture of me in my somewhat floppy hat.)

Second, there was a collage room. Beth and I worked diligently over a goofy collage involving plums, a flamingo, and *lots* of pink glitter (and no, I was not one of the pint-sized glitter gnomes that Cynthia mentions in her post). We were pretty satisfied with it until we looked up and saw some of the amazing (seriously, I mean frame-worthy!) pieces of art that were being created in that room.

Awed, we headed out to the main gallery area where we could partake in an activity we are much more talented at: making a mess while eating delicious cupcakes!

The best part of the party was the original artwork displayed on the walls. It was fascinating to see Melissa Sweet's collages in their original form, each intricate piece stacked on top of another, not perfectly flat and seamless like they appear in the book. Melissa signed my book and took the time to be gracious, kind, and warm to everyone in that long line.

Which brings me to the book. I was so excited when A River of Words came out because I love William Carlos Williams' poetry, and I've always thought that his use of the everyday, ordinary happenings and objects in our lives makes his work accessible to kids.

A River of Words tells the story of William Carlos Williams' upbringing, his choice to become a doctor, his friendships with other modernist poets like Ezra Pound, and H.D. The intricate illustrations merge the inspiration he found all around him (water, pastoral landscapes, roads) with his everyday life (bits of poems scratched on prescription orders, receipts, memo pads from his office).

I've always been interested in William Carlos Williams' story because he had a full life both as a successful doctor and a famous poet. It's inspiring and important to remember that we don't all fit into one neat box, as society often tells us. The "artsy" kid might just as easily also love math. The "science geek" or the "jock" might just as easily be able to create brilliant works of art. William Carlos Williams reminds us that we are all multi-faceted, and we all have the ability to see the beauty and the strangeness in the everyday world right in front of our eyes.

There's a great interview with Melissa Sweet over at A Year of Reading. Here's a sample of what she has to say about making the collages for A River of Words:

MS: This book had a woefully skimpy dummy and not many sketches. Although I had done extensive reading about WCW and visited his town, I was beginning to panic. I didn’t have a handle on how to render this book. The deadline was on the heels of Tupelo and I was feeling almost out of gas. I had saved some beautiful end boards from an old book with a subtle print and a good quality paper. I tried painting on it and it worked great. Then I tried using book boards as my canvases instead of starting on paper. It was just the thing I needed to propel me. It was new and fresh and I had such momentum from it. I’ve been buying old books, notebooks, atlases for years and for this project I used whatever I wanted—nothing was saved for another project. The collages are done like a painting. I start with a background, then add more objects and push things around until I feel it’s done. I approach it as a design problem so I’m considering the colors, composition etc. When I collect or buy collage materials I don’t necessarily know how I’ll utilize them. I just know I have to have them.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Grab Bag Friday: Operation Fairy Dust

George Bailey: That's some dress, Violet.

Violet
: Oh, this old thing? Why, I only wear it when I don't care how I look!

Spring is almost here! The 16 degree (feels like 9) temperature outside tells me otherwise, but I choose to believe the calendar.

We all know two things are inevitable in Spring:
  1. Spring cleaning
  2. Spring dances
I read recently about a brilliant organization that is ready and waiting to help with both. It's easy:
  1. Clean out your closet and set aside your old prom and bridesmaid dresses that you'll (truly) never wear again.
  2. Send them to Operation Fairy Dust, where they will be donated to a girl who can't afford one.
Operation Fairy Dust is based out of New York City, but if you prefer, you can make the same impact in your own community by donating your dresses to the local Goodwill or thrift shop. Or just ask around. Even if you think your dress is outdated, just remember..."vintage" is back in style (haven't you seen the legwarmers the past couple of winters?)

Though prom dresses were never my thing, I have to say, this is a *great* idea. (Ok, so I wore my Converse high tops and a crazy fringed shawl to my prom, but that's another story...)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Little Musical Nostalgia Never Hurt Anyone

My brother sent this video for nostalgia's sake earlier this week. It's amazing how hearing a song can bring you immediately back to a specific moment in time. When I was 13, I used to blast this as loud as my pink mini-boombox would go and bop around my room, complete with fake microphone in my hand and permed ponytail bouncing around its neon scrunchie. I can practically smell the Lip Smackers right now.

So what song were *you* bopping around to in your room when you were a kid?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Willa Cather: My Antonia

"Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep."

My friend Blueberry lent me this book over Christmas and for a long time, it sat on my coffee table, waiting to be read. Friends would walk into the living room and express genuine shock that it has taken me until age 33 to read My Antonia. "How is that possible?" What can I say? It simply hadn't entered my universe before.

I picked it up on a dull, snowy day. The kind of day perfectly described in the book, in fact: "Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen." The story is told in the voice of Jim Burden, an orphaned boy who is brought to Nebraska to live with his grandparents in the late 19th century. Antonia and her family are immigrants from Bohemia who have come to farm the land adjacent to the Burdens. Far from the American opportunity and promise they set out to find, their living situation is untenable, and they encounter struggles in the new world that they never would have imagined.

Willa Cather's prose is incredibly rich. She sets the Midwestern countryside ablaze with sunshine and lights up each individual blade of grass. Your mind can't help but hold a nostalgic, detailed picture of Antonia, her ragged dress, the dusty pioneer town, the dances, the starlight, the heat.

My Antonia is a portrait of pioneer life, and especially of the demands and struggles that confronted women of that time period. It is a reflection on nostalgia, friendship, endurance, and love. It's the kind of book you want to read again as soon as you've finished it. It's the kind you want to pass on to your friends and exclaim "What do you mean you haven't read this yet?" And even as you say it, you're just a little bit jealous. Because you know that when they open it, they'll get to meet Antonia for the first time, they'll get to run through the prairie grass, and be surprised and warmed by that deep, rich sunshine.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Grab Bag Friday: A Little Friday Humor

Here are three videos that made me smile this week.

My sister, Steph, sent me this one and I roared. I love the airplane bit at the end:



I came across this one on the blog As The World Stearns. It's another clip from Improv Everywhere. These people are creative geniuses.



Lastly, this one is Improv Everywhere's latest mission. I just love how quickly a simple thing like a high five can put smiles on people's faces. When these people get on the escalator, they're dour, lost in their own little worlds (like we all are half the time). When they get off, more than half of them are grinning, interacting, enjoying the moment. Think about that. It's brillant. What can you do to brighten somebody's day today?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

M Ward: Rave On

This week, I've been enjoying listening to M. Ward's new album, Hold Time. I started listening to it when I was doing some paperwork, so I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention, just enjoying his typical dreamy, groovy, somewhat nostalgic vibe.

But a few songs in, I had to put down my pencil and grin.

Was this really an M. Ward version of Rave On? Seriously?

Now how cool is that?



Original version: