Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Princess...Really?

Girls sure have it easy, growing up that is.  Free to be themselves. As long as they're dressed nicely and are strawberry scented.  And they strive to be princesses with sophisticated social skills at a young age.  Why?  Because it's the only way for a girl to be adored and admired, and what girl wouldn't want that.   Doing anything else like not conforming to approved social skills (I'm talking in first grade, mind you!) just makes you...uncivilized.  In other words, it turns you into a boy, but none of the boys will accept you because they know you're really not one of them.'ll be isolated and alone. princess ever aspires to be boy-like. Maybe an exception can be made for sports, but don't push it! No one likes a girl who sweats too much.

Disney has taken some criticism for the princesses portrayed in their movies.  They may have progressed to a princess who isn't light skin or one hundred percent Caucasian.  Even the tough heroines such as Mulan in the end lays down her masculine lie and becomes more domesticated.  Don't bash Disney for this.  In their wisdom Disney has decided to pump up the self-esteem of girls by re-defining what a princess is and it's not just about turning yourself into Cinderella, Snow White, or Sleeping Beauty.  Now, to be a self-proclaimed princess, all you have to do is display the following traits:
  • Never be selfish
  • Always be articulate
  • Don't dress like a slob
  • Always be true to your word
  • Always be willing to give yourself to others
  • Always be happy
  • Never get mad and throw a fit!
  • Don't be like boys!  We've given up on making them perfect! (although, always be on the look-out for Prince Charming)
  • The thinner you are, the better.  
  • Always wear your hair long and well-kept. 
These are all traits of good character.  We only expect perfection from you girls!  You don't want life-long feelings of inadequacy, do you?  Of course, if you can't be a princess, at least you can strive to be a fairy.  It's like a princess, but you get a wand and wings.  Oh...and you still have to be perfect.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Magic Making

Okay...I get the concept behind The Magic School Bus series.  Presenting the world of science to kids in a fun-filled, cartoonish landscape.  Place a wacky, Willy-Wonka-like teacher and skeptical wise-cracking students and you get The Magic School Bus.  

I hate to even post this because there are some teacher-types and other adults who may think it's nearly sacrilege. I can just hear it now.  "You messed with Clifford and now...The Magic School Bus?  Nobody messes with The Magic School Bus."  People, people, people!  Let's be civilized here.  I speak as someone who has spent time reading these series in my time working in child care.  I don't hate Clifford or The Magic School Bus...really.  I mean, I live in the town where Tony the Tiger comes from and I don't hate him.   However, when it comes to The Magic School Bus, there are things to keep in mind:

  • Each page of all these books are filled with so much information and busyness, it can take over 30 minutes to read through it all, especially if you're someone who likes to read books to children with enthusiasm.  
  • Much of it goes right over the heads of preschoolers. 
  • I have yet to see elementary school-age children's interest be held by these books.  This is true even for the animated series. (Yes, there may be some quirky kids where it's not always true.  I would've been one of those quirky kids.) I wonder if it's because of the children's entertainment industry giants competing for the interest of kids.
  • Ultimately, I believe adults love The Magic School Bus more than kids because we think it's good for the youngsters.  It's like getting them to like (not just to eat, but actually like) cereal that is nutritious and not the stuff where sugar is the main ingredient.  (Hey, I live in the Cereal City and I smell that sugary stuff in the air. Which I, our main industry doesn't need to pack up and leave because they were insulted by me or anything.)  That or Scholastics really loves to push these books like some children's literature cartel.  (Just teasing, here.  Scholastics is a great company.  Really.)
However, they are packed with information that elementary-aged children can certainly learn from.  Maybe these stories are better served in a more strategic fashion.  Someone who has a certain amount of training, such as...a professional teacher.  Who knows?  There may even be a guide or a lesson book that gives ideas how best to use The Magic School Bus and incorporate it into a science curriculum.  Anyone else who has an idea, I would love to hear it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Doggie Poo

Having worked with young children, preschool age, I have had some nagging questions regarding certain series of children's books.  Number one set of questions:  Clifford the Big Red Dog
There's never any mention of Clifford "doing his business" and what actions are ever taken to deal with it.  Emily Elizabeth never keeps a pooper-scooper with her, so I'm guessing like any child, she shirks her responsibility in cleaning up after her dog.  So...

  • Who cleans up this shit?
  • How would anyone clean it up?  
  • Would a snowblower work on what I assume are giant piles of Clifford's crap? (If it does, wouldn't a snowblower just spray it in the air and just make the problem worse?)
  • Would the town of Birdwell Island have a water contamination crisis because of this shit?
  • What about the smell?
  • Does the town of Birdwell Island devote tax dollars for the task of the removal of Clifford's shit? (Being an American town, I doubt this would ever happen.)
Tune in for the next episode of the blog when I explore questions regarding The Magic School Bus.  If anyone has any resolutions to these never discussed Clifford dilemmas, please feel free to drop me a load...of comments, not excrement. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

While in Toronto

Keeping academic skills sharp over the summer can be a challenge!  So, to help overcome this possible decline, I gave my son a writing assignment.  Back in June he and I went to Toronto, Ontario.  Here is his report highlighting his trip.  My next assignment is for him to take this report and turn it into a PowerPoint presentation.

Toronto by Kaleb Lichty

I went to Toronto and the purpose of the trip was to go there and perform.  I traveled with the Battle Creek Boychoir because I was a member.  Also going with the Boychoir were the Battle Creek Girls’ Chorus and Young Men’s Ensemble.  We traveled on an Indian Trails charter bus.  We were in Toronto for three days doing some sightseeing and doing some singing from Friday, June 14th through Monday, June 17th.  One of those days was at Niagara Falls.  My dad accompanied me to Toronto and all the places we went.
These are the places we visited.  We visited Casa Loma, a castle in Toronto, the Ontario Legislative Building, the CN tower, Ontario Science Center and Niagara Falls.  We took a tour when we visited each place. My favorite places were the CN tower, Casa Loma and Ontario Science Center.  After touring Casa Loma, we found the nearest subway station and rode the subway to the Eaton Center, a giant mall in downtown Toronto.  Riding the subway was a blast.  While at the Ontario Science Center, we went to the IMAX Theater and it was huge! I didn’t like the Ontario Legislative Building as much as the other things because it was boring and we didn’t ride any elevators.  At Niagara Falls we went down an elevator to get to Journey Behind the Falls.  While getting to the Maid of the Mist, a boat that takes riders to the base of the Falls, we also rode an elevator to the bottom floor.  I love elevators, and so the CN Tower was the most memorable because it had the best elevators—so fast and so high. 
I raised the money toward the trip by selling flower pots, candles and spaghetti dinner tickets prior to going.  At the spaghetti dinner I also worked there and received even more money.  I needed to get passport documents to go and I got a passport card.  I had 5 rehearsals before I went. We performed at Casa Loma at 1:00, at Our Lady of the Sorrows Church at 7:30 on Saturday evening and at St. John’s Norway Anglican Church at 10:00 on Sunday morning.  We sang “We Will Sing for Joy”, “All Thy Gifts of Love” and more.  My favorite performances were at Our Lady of The Sorrows and at Casa Loma. My favorite songs were “All Thy Gifts of Love” and “We Will Sing for Joy”.  On the steps just outside the Ontario Legislative Building we sang the Canadian national anthem, “O Canada”.
I learned that in Canada some things are just like here in America, but some things were very different.  Canada uses the metric system, so instead of miles they use kilometers.  For temperature they use Celsius instead of Fahrenheit.  Their money is different, too.  They use only coins for a dollar instead of paper, and they don’t use pennies.  With so many things to see and do, I would definitely go back to Toronto or Niagara Falls.  I want to ride on the Maid of the Mist again and travel up and down the elevators at the CN Tower.   The biggest advice I can give anyone who would want to go to Canada is to learn the metric system.

(As seen from Casa Loma, inside one of the lookout towers)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Risky Business

Amusement park accidents

After the accidents at the Texas Six Flags and Cedar Point I have to admit that I'm troubled.  Since I'm a roller coaster enthusiast and have frequented Cedar Point, it's worth noting that any time we go on any of these great, awesome rides, we are assuming some risk.  No matter how advanced safety technology becomes and how thorough of a safety check system, it's only a matter of time before something goes wrong.  Perhaps the odds are in the favor of safety, but we all know any one of else could go tumbling out of our seats.  Will it stop me from riding them?  Probably not.  The most dangerous thing about Cedar Point is simply driving there.

New Looks
I may be experimenting with different templates for this blog, so hopefully, no one gets confused.  Generally, I'm happy with the Plain Jane format, like I am with my coffee.  I am not a fan of coffee drinks or flavored coffee--I just like coffee-flavored coffee.  Black, fresh, & strong enough to keep the coffee tasting like hot water, and yet not so strong that I can't taste the subtle undertones of my cup of Joe.  However, perhaps in the case of Blogger, I'm missing out on easier to use formats.  

Parents' Nightmare
If you have children and you need child care, this story should serve as a warning.  Hopefully you live where day cares must be regulated.  The welfare of young children out-weigh the business needs of those who run these centers.  If you don't live where this is the case, I wish you and your children well.  Any state, such as in Arizona, that allows the exploitation of children by letting someone post pictures of them without parental consent and write libelous things against them makes me wonder--do you not love your children?  Toddlers and young children act aggressively because they haven't developed language skills yet and they are learning self-control.  Human beings are not born with these things.  Day care centers work with children for such a long period of time that they must work to develop these traits.   If we can't act to protect our young children from providers such as these, we are sunk as a nation.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Crappy Cat Picture

In response to Steve the Cat Drawing Guy, I posted this picture of two crappy cat drawings on Twitter.  

I doodled it, so it's very light and hard to see.  I submit as evidence of my impairment in drawing--it's just beyond me.  

While I'm at it, I lowered the price of the Kindle and Nook versions of the book by a dollar.  So, it's $2.99.  I might be selling books at the Kalamazoo County Fair at a flea market in their Expo Center.  Please, please, please!  I hope I don't drop an elephant ear on the books!  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Autism at Camp

What a difference not having my older son around makes!  He's at church camp until Saturday.  My younger boy spent fewer days because he wasn't old enough for a whole week.  Next year, he'll have finished third grade--the magic age of full-week-at-camp maturity.  

If my older child was home, I would be asked non-stop questions regarding the following:  garage door openers, iPhone 5's (and when I plan on getting it so I can use Siri), Windows Operating Systems (and current and past editions), fans of any kind, and old Viacom logos that had been flashed at the end of television shows before they became the giant conglomerate that they are now (he really likes these things and watches them repeatedly on YouTube).  He and his brother would argue as the younger one attempts to demand that he play with him.  Then there are the shows he must watch, or so he believes.  He scans our program guide as far advance as it will go so he will know if and when his favorite SpongeBob or Phineas and Ferb episodes will be on.  He memorizes this information.  Adherence to the tiniest routine in his day must be followed--or the world cannot go on.  At least his world.  Going to camp is such a deviant path off his strict daily schedule, I know it is a challenge for him.  Poor kid.

Wow.  It certainly is boring and relaxing without him.  I hope he's doing well at camp.  At least they have worked with him before--so they know what to do with him.  Since this is his third summer, he can just assimilate into the routine of the camp until the week is over.  The last two years I expected him to be a completely changed child, but he comes back just as autistic as when he left.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Always a surprise

No matter what I have initially planned for my writing, I end up going a totally different direction.  Then I wonder how my  characters get into these situations.  Who's in control here?  Obviously, it was all me, but I can get so engrossed with my characters that I sometimes lose track of reality.  It's like dreaming while awake, although not the same as daydreaming.  Maybe it's those days I spent as a teenager playing Dungeons & Dragons.  

Having a Masters in Social Work I know really that it's all a matter of my unconscious.  It can be therapeutic to write creatively or do anything creatively.  What a way to unlock hidden memories or feelings (which you can't really separate the two)--it bypasses the conscious state which is often resistant to dredging up painful memories.  To protect us, of course.  However, it's important to make sure you are able to handle the negative emotions, especially in relation to psychological trauma.  If you're a creative person or someone who uses creative arts to get in touch with something painful and suddenly you can't handle it emotionally--seek professional help!

See, I never thought I would be leaving therapeutic advice when I first started this blog post.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Close Encounter?

 Note:  at some future date, this blog will not just be about Jimmy Miller previews.  It’s my only published work, so for now it works. 


      When I was twelve, I went to bed one night, and in the morning I had a pair of marks on my left leg that I didn’t have before sleeping.  I had no memory of injuring the two areas in question.  Just above my knee I had a sudden scar that measured maybe one centimeter.  On the underside of my thigh a smaller one, perhaps two millimeters in diameter, was also present.  Ignoring these blemishes and believing they would fade away, I didn’t think about them that much.  A friend of mine had inquired about the scars later that day, and I was at a loss for an explanation.
         Thirty-two years passed and those same scars are just as visible today as they were when they first materialized.  My wife insisted that I get them examined by a doctor in the event it was something cancerous.  However, the physician reassured me the scars were benign.            
       On closer inspection the scar in close proximity to my knee shows a triangular discoloration under the skin.  There appears to be a foreign object imbedded there.  Now the other more diminutive scar is hexagonal.  How could something remain in my body without an infection or some kind of reaction from my immune system?  It is bizarre and quite intriguing.  In what manner did this item get into my leg?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Live on ebay

I've placed a copy of my book on eBay.  I started the auction at 99 cents.   Or it could bought for $10.00.  The auction lasts for 7 days.  I need a new laptop.  The zero key isn't working.  So, I will be looking at laptops on eBay.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

By the Way

People can find me on Google+ and Facebook.  I have a personal and an author page.  The author page is where you can Like me and all that.  So...there's a variety of ways to connect.

When is your most creative time of day?  For me, it's in the morning right after a reasonable night's sleep and a few cups of coffee.  I can write at night, but my mind won't shut off when I try and sleep later on.  Then I don't sleep.  When I don't sleep enough, there goes a whole day without writing.  Bummer for me.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Challenges of an indie author

Obviously, number one is to convince others that it doesn't necessarily mean that the author is necessarily from India.  It took me a while to get that out of my head, especially since I'm a fan of The Big Bang Theory.

Marketing is a pain in the neck. Juggling this, writing, and all other demands on my time (including kids, yard work, house work, getting out of the house once in a while), dreadful.  If I had more knowledge of how markets worked and to find the right niche of readers most likely to enjoy my book, maybe this wouldn't be so painful.

One nagging bit of do I get my story reviewed by someone who has a reputation?  If only I was on the radar of the NYT or Washington Post, then more people would read it.  I wonder what other indie authors find as stumbling blocks, and more importantly, how to overcome them.

Friday, July 5, 2013

How It Started

What started as a project to help my autistic son with his writing, turned into a novel and eventually a series.  Language arts tend to be a difficult subject for people with autism.  I have two sons, and my older son has autism.  I set out to create a story with the both boys and decided we would do maybe a ten page tale of a superhero duo.  The characters would have my kids' names.  I couldn't decide who was who, so I named one Jimmy Miller temporarily.  Since I envisioned a pair of male heroes, I thought to bring a female character to bring some balance...the Princess Leia of the group, if you will.

I gave her the name Annie because my wife's grandfather had called her this most of her childhood instead of her actual one.  My sister's middle name is Ann and I had a friend, when I was a child, named Annie, short for Anastasia.  She was only eight and tragically died--a victim of a heinous crime.  Anyway, the more I brought the character to life, the more I fell in love with her.  It's a fictional resurrection for that girl I knew who perished way too young.

As for the villains I placed Etyouth (pronounced Et-Youth) in New Mexico not because of the Roswell/UFO/government conspiracy cliche, but I had a grandfather who sexually abused me most of my childhood and had an associate, and both of them went to New Mexico every winter.  He often desired to take me with him and when I was eleven, while my parents' separation was heading towards divorce, he did attempt to abduct me, hoping to abscond with me to his place in New Mexico...only, I ran off.  This was back in the late '70's and early '80's, still the dark ages for sexual abuse, when kids were never believed.

Anyway, not to dwell on my personal childhood trauma, the story in some ways is allegorical to my own background.  However, it's told as a science fiction story. So...this is a behind the scenes look at the evolution of Jimmy Miller, The Super Powerful: Forecast Acid Rain.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Girl Superhero

In the story it's obvious that Jimmy Miller has super powers.  What I don't say on the book in hopes the reader will make this discovery is that his 9-year-old friend Annie Marshall has them, too.  Annie has some terrifying abilities that fortunately she uses for good.  She is somewhat temperamental, so she is likely to strike out in anger.  Jimmy and Annie have powers that they have together that they don't have separate.  Annie has to overcome her mother's struggle with drug and alcohol addiction.  This often charming, manipulative brunette had to deal with an abusive step-father and often living in life-threatening situations.  By all rights she should have more behavioral problems, but her friendship with Jimmy is such a positive influence that she is surprisingly resilient.  Her younger brother, however, has some issues.  Being the preteen that she is she has a crush on singing sensation, Jonathon Bubber. 

Annie is a champion for kids (or former kids) who have dealt their own history with abuse, neglectful parents, foster care, and even school bullying.  Too bad for that step-father who dared to return and attack this girl's mother...he'll never do it again!