Friday, October 28, 2011

Los Angeles Teenagers OFF the Couch: Women Hold Up Half the Sky Open Now at the Skirball Cultural Center

It's not easy to explain, or even understand, why bad things happen in the world, but a new show at the Skirball Cultural Center goes a long way towards helping families turn their outrage into action. Women Hold Up Half the Sky, in town through March 2012, was inspired by a book that proclaims the worldwide oppression of women and girls as the central moral issue of our time. Pulitzer Prize winning authors Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn also believe that "the best way to fight poverty and extremism is to educate and empower women and girls." Kristof and WuDunn, the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize together, worked with the Skirball's curators on this landmark exhibit not only to heighten awareness of these issues, but also to spur visitors to action. 

Inside Women Hold Up Half the Sky, we wove around sail-like walled spaces, and learned about inspiring women who are fighting for the rights of abused women around the world. Then we spent a few moments inscribing wishes on blue wing-shaped paper. The wishes, addressed to a woman facing a difficult situation, will be tucked inside a plastic sleeve in an elegant Wish Canopy that hangs over the exhibit space. Our wishes, along with those of countless other visitors that will flock to see Women Hold Up Half the Sky,will turn the Wish Canopy "sky" from white to blue!

The metaphor, of course, is that a simple act can help a woman change her circumstances. We learned how CARE put locked boxes in an African village, allowing a woman to save a few dimes and start a thriving potato farming business. We learned how a Pakistani woman received a micro loan and began an embroidery business that freed her from an abusive relationship and now employs thirty other families. We were inspired to take simple actions for change, from sending postcards to our Senators, to picking up a bookmark with instructions on how to interact with specific charities, to shopping at a wonderful pop-up shop with handicrafts from women's cooperatives around the globe. We particularly loved an iPad station where we could make a micro loan with a dollar that comes with our exhibition ticket -- a direct way to prove the point that what might be pocket change to one family could change the lives of another. When we got home, we received an email that the dollar had been sent to a 36-year old woman from Kenya who runs a clothing shop to support her family.

Who Should Go: We think the show is an important one for young adults who are ready to tackle injustice, but we know it will be tricky to convince kids who aren't naturally inclined towards tough subject matter to come to the gallery. (The subject matter of abuse is not appropriate for elementary or middle-school aged children -- human trafficking and genital mutilation are just some of the horrors faced by women around the globe). You can tell the kids that Angelina Jolie and George Clooney use the power of their celebrity to support causes such as these, or suggest the show as a field trip for a school community service group; in fact, just watching The Girl Effectvideo (listed below) may be inspiration enough to get your kids through the door. Once on site, parents will appreciate that their kids will feel empowered to take action, whether by assembling a care package or gardening kit, sponsoring a woman in a war torn nation, donating food at a local women's center, or learning more about sexual slavery here in LA. One tidbit we gleaned from Kristof is his excitement for how college grads leap into action on issues such as the ones raised in the exhibit - they are notably more sanguine about the ability to address global issues than older generations, so bring your college kids over their holiday break.

Read and Discuss: Nicholas D. Kristof is a New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who wrote Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Knopf, 2009) with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. The book is a great choice for an adult book group. To learn more, click here to visit the Half the Sky Movement webpage.

Don't Miss: A fabulous pop-up store features items produced by female artisans and women's cooperatives from around the world. Each is tagged with a story, and we particularly loved the beaded animals and a spectacular necklace made from bullet casings. Shop for the holidays with a clear conscience! The shop can also be found online next week on the Skirball website.

Doing: During the holiday season, we make donations to charitable organizations. Why not help your kids get in this habit by giving them a small amount of money (as little as $25) to make a micro-loan to someone in another country? Check out and let your children choose a project they'd like to fund. Once the loan is paid back, your family can choose another project to fund. We've found that a one-on-one approach makes giving tangible to kids. Other interesting approaches include Women for Women International, whose founder Zainab Salbi is featured in Women Hold Up Half the Sky, and whose model is for donors to become pen-pals with a woman in a war torn country.

One More Thing: Check out this clever campaign from The Girl Effect, a charitable wing of Nike, about how changing one girl's life can change the world.
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Los Angeles Halloween Radar Screen - Part 2!

A Few More Scares!
Endangered Animals, Ed Keinholz Tableau and Teen Drivers
We're back with a few more seasonal tidbits, and an update on our latest ticket offer (see below). In thinking ahead to our trick-or-treat plans, we were wondering when Daylight Savings Time kicks in; turns out it's not until Sunday, November 6. If you're nervous about having the kids roam around on their own in the dark, check out an article in today's Los Angeles Times about tracking your kids on Halloween. Yes, there's an app for that! Though we're not sure how we feel about it...

Tots and Elementary: There's absolutely nothing frightening about the new carousel that opens at the LA Zoo on October 27, except for the fact that instead of horses, children will ride around on animals that are endangered. The carousel, which includes a komodo dragon, a poison dart frog, a Sumatran tiger and a dung beetle chariot, and includes beautiful murals of endangered California flora and fauna, is created by exceptional craftspeople and your $3 fee goes toward Zoo programming to protect many of these endangered species. Parents will enjoy that the carousel spins to music from recording artists from the A&M label (such as the Police, Go-Go's, Cat Stevens, Amy Grant, Janet Jackson, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass) which was co-founded by Jerry Moss with Alpert. Moss and his wife Ann have given generously to bring theTom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel to life.

Middle School: Take a tram ride up to the Getty Center this Saturday, October 22 for a day-long Pacific Standard Time Family Festival. Enjoy musical performances, workshops with local artists in the traditions of the celebrated PST artists (like poster-making, mail art, guerrilla clothing), and take in the new PST show, Crosscurrents in LA Painting and Sculpture: 1950-1970, with monumental sculpture by De Wain Valentine and a room of large-scale paintings by Ed Ruscha, Richard Deibenkorn and David Hockney. We thought this show was satisfying in a big way.

 Our son turns 16 on Halloween, and the scariest thing we're doing this fall is anticipating the moment when he will drive off alone. It's National Teen Driver Safety Week, and here is a powerful article about the odds your kids will have an accident in the first month or two of driving. New technical developments to keep them from texting behind the wheel are encouraging, like the new iPhone's SIRI virtual assistant and Ford putting a device in cars that can read text messages. But to stave off trouble, we enrolled both our kids in Jim Snelling's driving course at the Toyota Speedway. Although it's not cheap, Snelling gives a crash course is safety (the kids get to spin out in soapy water and learn to control the skid). It's exciting stuff, but Snelling tempers the action with sobering messages about safety. Click here for more information about Advanced Driving Dynamics.

 You'll have to have a strong stomach to visit Five Car Stud 1969-1972, Revisited, an arresting diorama that has been hidden from the public for 40 years, and is on display in the US for the first time at LACMA. Edward Keinholz's graphic and violently upsetting tableau takes up an entire gallery and makes a powerful statement about civil rights in this country.

Ticket Giveaway: In Tuesday's ticket offer for Bring It On: The Musical, we were mistaken about the dates - the new musical is going to be in town for SIX weeks not TWO, giving families a larger window to catch the show that explores the competitive, high-stakes world of high-school cheer squads. At the Ahmanson Theater from October 30-December 10. Tickets are still available online and by calling 213/972-4400. For special ticket pricing to shows in the first two weeks call the box office and mention code GAME or click here. Exclusions apply. We're giving away one Family 4-pack to Kids off the Couch readers (and will choose a winner next week, so there's still time to enter by writing 

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Los Angeles Kids Off the Couch: Halloween Delights and Frights!

From Old-Fashioned Fun to Techno Frights
Ticket Giveaway for Bring It On: The Musical
Our message for Halloween is that less is more. It's our nod to a simpler time, before the holiday got so ramped up by retailers (just when did those Halloween stores start popping up around town, August!?). We like to stretch out the homier, harvest-oriented traditions of the holiday: roasting pumpkin seeds, decorating cookies, bobbing for apples... you get the idea. It's not that we don't love candy and trick-or-treating, but the lead up to the big night (which this year falls on a Monday) can be just as delicious. 

Ticket Giveaway:
 If your teens were glued to the screen for the high stakes world of competitive cheer-leading in the film Bring It On, you'll want to book tickets for the brief run of Bring It On: The Musical, lifting off from the Ahmanson Theater stage from October 30-November 10.Tickets are still available online and by calling 213/972-4400. Kids Off the Couch subscribers are eligible for a Family 4-Pack ticket giveaway to the 8:30 PM show on Friday, November 4. Write to us at and please include your cell number. 

Elegant Creepiness!
 The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles is the place to be this month for cool, spidery programming: flashlight tours of the Spider Pavilion (October 22 and 28 from 5:00 - 8:30 PM), a Halloween Festival (trick-or-treat in the museum on October 30), and a Haunted Museum costume ball for the whole family on October 23. LACMA celebrates the final days of the Tim Burton Show by staying open all night on Sunday, October 30 and until midnight on Halloween, and hosting all manner of family-friendly activities throughout the blockbuster's closing weekend. Tickets are required for entry to the exhibit.

 Even if they're not quite ready for Edward Scissorhands, younger kids can participate in LACMA's Andell Family Sundays "Tim Burton: What a Character!" on Saturday, October 23 from 12:30 - 3:30 PM. Fall is the ideal time of year to visit Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena - both for its wonderful Pumpkin Festival over the weekend of October 23-24 and for the Halloween Pumpkin Hunt on Sunday, October 30. Magic lovers should drop by and meet some roving magicians at theSkirball Cultural Center for Spellbinding Sundays, between 12:00 - 2:00 PM. If your youngest are itching for more than just a trip to the pumpkin patch, check out Santa Monica Playhouse's A Halloween Hullabaloo between October 22-30.

 Forneris Farms Harvest Fest is perfect for an old-fashioned outing, offering pumpkin hunting, train and pony rides, and a friendly (as in not haunted) corn maze. Click here for our Popcorn Adventure about visiting Forneris Farms, which we paired with the Halloween classic, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Celebrate the Day of the Dead at a FREE Kids in the Courtyard event at the Fowler on Sunday, October 23 from 1:00 - 4:00 PM.

Middle School: We love the Halloween Harvest Festival at Pierce College (Winetka and Victory in the Valley), which this year added a corn maze and sells produce grown by students. World City at the Music Center has three FREE concerts on the roof of the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Saturday, October 22. Click here for information about show times and ticketing, and for more details on the performances, which tie in neatly with the Day of the Dead celebrations this month. For an unusual art tour atThe Getty, check out Demons, Angels, and Monsters: The Supernatural in Art.Created by kids for kids, the audio tour features imaginative children sharing their impressions of fantastical art that reveals how past cultures have viewed the supernatural, and how belief in such creatures influenced everyday life. All audio tours are FREE at The Getty until February, and are available at the main audio-tour kiosk in the lobby.

 The Los Angeles Haunted Hayride is underway on the grounds of the Zoo, but don't confuse it with a bucolic ride in the country - it's definitely not for kids under ten! The theme parks also produce rabid shock-fests for kids over 13 -- Knotts' Scary Farm and Universal's Halloween Horror Nights. With loads of add-ons available, the price tag for these adventures climbs steeply, so be sure your teens know the ticket price is as scary as the ghouls and zombies. For a milder price and scare-level, take inThe Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D at the El Capitan with special effects (fog, wind and snow).

Adults: For an elegant date, try the fabulous Walking Tours of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, hosted by Karie Bible. And, set your DVRs for a new series on PBS calledWomen, War and Peace with stories of bravery and barbarism that will stop your heart from beating. Tune in for tonight's (Oct 18) segment Pray the Devil Back to Hell, featuring one of this year's three Nobel Prize for Peace winners Leymah Gbowee, in the story of how the women of Liberia bound together to fight for peace in a country divided between warlords and the despot Charles Taylor. 

About Scary Movies:
 It's tempting to show kids really scary movies at this time of year, but keep in mind that frightening images can sear into their minds at an early age. KOTC has covered many fun Halloween flicks - from Kiki's Delivery Service toGhostbusters. To help gauge the right level of fright for your kids, check out theseScary Movie Tips from our friends at Common Sense Media.

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