Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image


Friday random ten – Girls’ music of 2016, part 2

More of the music from 2016 that is in my library because of my daughters:

1. Stitches – Shawn Mendes
2. Side To Side – Ariana Grande
3. Same Old Love – Selena Gomez
4. Don’t Let Me Down – The Chainsmokers
5. 7 Years – Lukas Graham
6. Sugar – Maroon 5
7. Centuries – Fall Out Boy
8. Tom’s Diner – Suzanne Vega & DNA
9. Picture To Burn – Taylor Swift
10. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

If you are familiar with “Centuries”, then you know that it liberally quotes from the main theme of “Tom’s Diner”, which I pointed out to the girls the first time they played it for me. That enabled me to talk them into also buying the Suzanne Vega song. One of Olivia’s classmates got her into “Bohemian Rhapsody”, to my delight. I already had a ripped-from-vinyl version of it in my collection, but sprung for a better-quality version from the iTunes store. The rest I’m more “meh” about than last week’s list, but whatever. They like what they like, and for the most part it doesn’t annoy me. I’m fine with that.

Friday random ten – Girls’ music of 2016, part 1

The girls got their share of music last year as well, enough to span two lists. Here’s the first half:

1. Confident – Demi Lovato
2. Ex’s & Oh’s – Elle King
3. Mockingbird – Eminem
4. Hello – Adele
5. Brave Honest Beautiful – Fifth Harmony
6. Chandelier – Sia
7. Dance Like Nobody’s Watching – Laura Marano
8. Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae – Silento
9. Wildside – Sabrina Carpenter & Sofia Carson
10. Grease (Is The Word) – Jessie J

I’ll be honest, I like a lot of these songs. “Ex’s & Oh’s” is a great tune, though one that (I hope) kind of goes over their heads. Thanks to the girls’ insistence on watching “America’s Got Talent”, I am now familiar with the Puddles Pity Party version of “Chandelier”, which I assure you is a sentence I never expected to type. We all enjoyed the live showing of “Grease” last year, including the opening number. And of course what kind of monster doesn’t like Adele? I’ll have more next week.

Friday random ten: New music for the girls in 2015

And of course, Olivia and Audrey asked for new music last year. Not quite as much as in 2014, thanks to Olivia’s newfound love of Spotify, but still. We put the music they like (along with plenty of music I like; I’m no fool) on the hard drive for our car’s stereo system, so that’s an extra value for downloads. Here’s some of what they got in 2015:

1. Umbrella – Rihanna
2. Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson
3. Jealous – Nick Jonas
4. That’s How We Do – from “Teen Beach 2”
5. Worth It – Fifth Harmony
6. The Heart Wants What It Wants – Selena Gomez
7. Geronimo – Sheppard
8. Starships – Pentatonix
9. Me And My Broken Heart – Rixton
10. Shut Up And Dance – Walk The Moon

There are a few names that come up regularly for them – Pentatonix, Jessie J, Fifth Harmony, Kelly Clarkson among them – and a few hits from acts that may or may not ever be known for something else. Walk The Moon did an a capella version of the Star Spangled Banner before a football game I happened to be watching this season; I recognized their name and scored some points by calling the girls over to see them do it. I should note that after last year’s Katy Perry extravaganza, the girls were nonplussed to hear that Coldplay was doing the Super Bowl halftime. “They’re good,” Olivia said “but I don’t know that they’re Super Bowl 50 good.” The kid has a future in music criticism, methinks. The news that Beyonce would also be performing was met with much greater enthusiasm, which means they’ll probably deign to watch. It won’t be the same without Left Shark, though.

Friday random ten: Audrey’s favorites

And here are the ten songs that Audrey wanted to contribute:

1. Welcome To New York – Taylor Swift
2. Where Have You Been – Rihanna
3. Counting Stars – One Republic
4. Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
5. Lone Ranger – Rachel Platten
6. Roar – Katy Perry
7. I Love Rock and Roll – Joan Jett
8. What A Girl Is – Dove Cameron
9. Wild – Jessie J
10. Cups – Anna Kendrick

Most of these are from iTunes. “Lone Ranger” is from Olivia’s Spotify playlist, and “Wild” is from their grandfather’s Xbox. Kids today, with their non-traditional ways of listening to music, I tell you. The girls enjoyed making their contributions to my weekly musical efforts. I hope you liked them, too.

Friday random ten: Songs for Olivia

My traveling companion for the trip to New York was my six-year-old daughter Olivia. We bring the iPod Touch along on plane trips because she and Audrey can watch videos on them. (Phineas and Ferb episodes are the hot property these days.) For this trip, and for the one that preceded it in June, I put together a playlist of kid-friendly and Olivia-approved songs for their listening pleasure. Here are ten tunes from that list:

1. America The Beautiful – Ray Charles
2. Bein’ Green – Rowlf the Dog
3. Born At The Right Time – Paul Simon
4. Dancing Queen – ABBA
5. Froggie Went A Courtin’ – Bruce Springsteen
6. If I Had A Hammer – Pete Seeger
7. Istanbul (Not Constantinople) – They Might Be Giants
8. Jenny Jenkins – Lisa Loeb
9. Metro – The Vincent Black Shadow
10. Take A Chance On Me – Lager Rhythms

“Born At The Right Time” is the song that was going through my head the day Olivia was born. “Froggie Went A Courtin'” is an old family favorite that my grandmother used to sing to her grandchildren. “Metro” is the first song Olivia ever expressed an opinion about. “Jenny Jenkins” – the abbreviated Lisa Loeb version of it, anyway – was something we discovered when Olivia was into watching Jack’s Big Music Show.

And then you might notice the two ABBA songs. Olivia (and Audrey) loves ABBA. In particular, they love the movie “Mamma Mia” (thanks to my father-in-law, who has a thing for Meryl Streep, not that there’s anything wrong with that), and so I downloaded a copy of the soundtrack for her. Which in the end was the only thing she listened to. And sang along to, which amused me no end.

So there you have it. What’s on your iPod that’s suitable for a first grader?

Entire song list report: Started with “Join The British Army”, by Larkin. Finished with “Juke Box Music”, by The Kinks, song #2615. That’s 17 songs, which isn’t much but then I only got my hands back on my iPod on Thursday.

Ripping vinyl report: Still on break. Check back next week.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from all of us

Merry Christmas from all of us

From ours to yours, have a very Merry Christmas. I’ll have a Christmas version of the Friday Random Ten up later today, but that’ll be it till tomorrow.

Eat your veggies, kids

Texas school children don’t have sufficiently healthy diets. I know, I can’t believe it, either.

Only 8 percent of Texas teens are eating enough fruits and vegetables, a new report finds, despite efforts to stock school cafeterias with healthier foods.

Nine out of 10 American high schoolers are short on fruits and veggies, which is only a slightly better rate than their Texas counterparts, according to a survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The recommended daily minimum is more than two cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit.

The findings come from a 2007 national survey of about 14,000 high school students. The report’s results were culled from six questions involving whether students drank fruit juices, ate fruit or green salad, carrots or other vegetables in the prior week.

The true percentage of teens eating enough fruits and vegetables may be even lower than the survey found, said Houston child nutrition researcher Tom Baranowski.

“The fact that it’s not assessing all components of fruits and vegetables may mean it’s overestimating,” said Baranowski, a pediatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine who works for the Children’s Nutrition Research Center.


In 2004, then-Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs set a public school nutrition policy that restricted fried and fatty foods but required more healthful offerings including daily fruits and veggies. This year’s updates to the law required schools to eliminate deep-fat frying as of Aug. 1 and restrict candy sales to after school.

Still, teens have more opportunities to eat what they want, which is why the survey results don’t surprise Sonya Kaster, a registered dietician and school nutrition specialist. She also consults at The Oliver Foundation, which aims to prevent childhood obesity.

“They are more in control of what they are eating than younger children,” Kaster said of today’s teenagers.

That’s why the Houston-based foundation focuses most of its efforts on elementary students, instead of trying to persuade older kids to break unhealthy habits.

Good luck with that, because speaking from my own experience, that control is more illusory and shorter-lasting than you might think. Audrey still eats everything I send to school with her, but Olivia is much more likely to simply not eat portions of her lunch, as she knows that she’ll be getting snacks later in the day both at kindergarten from a rotating schedule of class parents, and also at after-school care. On the plus side, she’s become a fan of the school lunches, which do include fruits and vegetables, so we let her buy them a couple days a week. Not perfect, and I don’t think she eats as well now as she did in preschool when we had essentially full control over her choices, but it’ll have to do.

You kids today, you don’t know what it was like

And that’s a pretty good thing, as evidenced by GeekDad’s list of 100 things your kids may never know about – things like typewriters, relying on the evening news for all your sports highlights (am I the only one who remembers services where for a fee you could call a number and get a recording with more-or-less updated scores and game results?), and having to manually unlock a car door. My girls live in a world where whatever they want to watch on TV is available to them at any time, and where they can see and talk to their grandparents on the computer. I never fully appreciated the concept of a generation gap till I started realizing stuff like that. All I can say is I like their world better.

Terrible Yellow Eyes

Please allow me to introduce you to Terrible Yellow Eyes.

What I’ve wanted to do for sometime is make a collection of paintings inspired by Where the Wild Things Are as a tribute and celebration of the book. And now with the release of the film later in the year, the world of Wild Things has opened even wider.

My goal for this project is really just that, expressing of my love for the story. None of the art has been done for any profit but has all been created out of admiration for Maurice Sendak and Where the Wild Things Are.

Over the coming weeks and months I’ll display a growing collection of works created by invited contributing artists and myself. We share a love and admiration for Sendak’s work and the pieces we present here are done as a tribute to his life and legacy.

Simply put, like a visual love letter to the book, with Terrible Yellow Eyes I am seeking to celebrate and promote the original masterwork by Maurice Sendak in the best way I know how — with pictures.

Do yourself a favor and click here and scroll down through all the contributions he’s received for this. I dare you to stop without looking at them all. There’s some truly amazing artwork in there. Both our girls love the book, and I’m thinking maybe we’ll take Olivia to see the movie. I’m sure we’ll get the DVD in any event – we already have a Scholastic DVD with an animation of the book. And speaking of the movie, go watch this Film School Rejects trailer/feature about it, which if you’re not already giddy with anticipation about, this will help you get there. Maybe between the two, MeMo will finally come to get what it’s all about

Saturday video break: The stations are alive with the sound of music

Best reason I can imagine to have trains: So you can do this in the train station.

Awesome. Of course, it helps to have a train station like that one, but still. And have I mentioned how I can’t wait to watch “The Sound Of Music” with my daughters? Yes, I have. Thanks to ‘stina for the catch.

The IR Guide to Parenting

In honor of Father’s Day, I bring you this post by Stephen M. Walt on how parenting and international relations are basically the same thing.

First off, modern realist theory focuses on the structure of the system and especially number of major powers in it. Right off the bat, this perspective can tell you a lot about the dynamics parents face as the size of their family increases. When parents have one child, the balance of power is in their favor. They can double-team the lucky kid, and give each other a break by taking turns. Life is good.

But if you have a second child the dynamics shift. If one parent is alone at home and both kids are awake, the balance of power isn’t in the parent’s favor anymore. Instead of double-teaming them, they get to double-team you. And once the kids are mobile, you learn about another key IR concept: the window of opportunity. You’re feeding or changing Kid #1, and Kid #2 makes a bolt out the front door, just like North Korea tested a nuclear weapon while we were busy with Iraq. Or you’re in the middle of a crowded department store and they each decide to head down different aisles. The potential complications of a multipolar order were never clearer the first time this happened to me.

Read the whole thing – it’s hilarious in the way that makes you laugh and wince at the same time. Thanks to Hilzoy for the link.

And since I got a request for a current picture of the girls, here’s one from Olivia’s fifth birthday party:

Olivia and Audrey

Olivia and Audrey

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Easter!

People have been telling me lately that it’s been too long since I’ve posted a picture of the girls. So here you go:

Happy Easter! And now it’s time for a nap.

Movie night of the future

So I was reading this FireDogLake post that used the movie “The Wizard of Oz” as a metaphor for the changing of the guard in Washington, DC, and it got me to thinking about how I can’t wait till my girls are old enough for that movie so I can watch it with them. I remember how much I looked forward to that film’s annual airing on TV, back in the Stone Age days when that was our only option for viewing a favorite movie. Anyway, based on the warm fuzzy feelings I got from that spate of nostalgia, here’s a list of the Top Ten movies I’m looking forward to watching with Olivia and Audrey some day:

1. The Wizard of Oz. – I just hope the flying monkeys don’t freak them out as much as they did me.

2. Miracle on 34th Street – The original, of course. I love me some “It’s A Wonderful Life”, but this one is my favorite Christmas movie of them all.

3. A Christmas Story – And this is the first runnerup behind “Miracle”.

4. Star Wars – I wonder if they’ll love Han Solo as much as Tiffany does.

5. The Princess Bride – Some of these movies are here just to ensure they get the references I make to them. Well, that and the fact that they’re great movies.

6. Better Off Dead – This one will have to wait a little longer, but that’s okay.

7. Snow White – I could pick just about any classic Disney animated movie here (other than “Bambi”, which is a movie I do not want them to watch any time soon), but we’ll start with this one.

8. The Sound of Music – Yeah, I like musicals. Deal with it.

9. It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – We recently watched the episode of “The Muppet Show” that had Ethel Merman as the guest star. She stole every scene she played in this movie, no mean feat given the vast amount of star power it contained.

10. The Harry Potter movies – And the accompanying books will be on the list of books I can’t wait to read with the girls, along with “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. But that’s a list for another day.

So. What movies have you enjoyed/do you plan to enjoy with your kids? Let me know.