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August 2010 Archives

End-of-summer, back-to-school friendship advice
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At the end of last summer, we posted some advice on long-distance friendships and how to find potential new BFF's. Funny thing about this time of year -- it comes around again and again! So we thought we'd post our advice again, since it never stops being relevant.

The Upside of Long Distance Friendships

Advice for Making Friends: Part One

Advice for Making Friends: Part Two

Advice for Making Friends: Part Three

We hope these tips help you as we all step up to what will hopefully be a great new school year!


Book Review: "Time for Kids' Big Book of Why"
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When we ask "Why?" about something, we usually get a range of answers, such as: "Because I said so."; "Well, duh!"; "Hmm. I never thought about that."; or "Don't ask stupid questions!" Occasionally you can find the info you're looking for by Googling, but that's not always reliable (especially when you get five different explanations from five different websites).

Thanks to a new book from Time for Kids called the "Big Book of Why," you can have a lot of accurate information about a lot of really interesting stuff at your fingertips. For instance:

bigbookofwhy.jpgWhy does hair turn gray?
Because every follicle of hair has cells that produce a chemical called melanin, which gives hair its color. As we get older, those pigment cells die off and with less melanin, our hair turns gray or white.

Why does flatulence (farting) smell bad?
The smell comes from bacteria in the large intestine that release small amounts of gas containing sulfur (which smells stinky).

Why do racehorses run counterclockwise?
That dates back to the American Revolution. The man who opened the first circular horse racetrack in America was a patriot, and had the horses run counterclockwise to rebel against the British, whose racehorses ran clockwise. The tradition stuck when runners and racecars also took to the track.

What was Mickey Mouse's original name?
Mortimer Mouse, but Walt Disney's wife didn't like the name (who could blame her?) and renamed him Mickey.

Why is water wet?
Actually, water isn't wet. Wetness is just a feeling we experience when we come in contact with water. When we change certain qualities about water -- like freeze it -- it can feel as hard as a rock rather than wet!

These factoids and hundreds of others are arranged in categories like Animals, Earth, Space, Humans, People and Places, History, Science, Technology, Art and Culture, and Sports. The explanations are great for satisfying curiosity, wowing friends and family, and getting ideas for further research or school projects. We like that many of these questions are so basic, we'd never even thought of them until we saw them here. The book is laid out in an easy-to-read style with colorful photos and illustrations, and the writing is fun to read. It's a great item to bring to sleepovers, family dinners, or just to bed. The Internet may be chock full of information available 24/7, but sometimes a nice hefty book you can hold in your hand is the best answer to many of life's big questions. 

IML's Rating: A

 
Celeb Scoop: Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice go "back-to-school"
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Even if you're not a student anymore, the end of August will always be "back-to-school" time -- just ask any grown-up or, in our case, a few Nickelodeon stars!

fashionshow.JPGRecently, IML was invited to attend a cool Back-To-School fashion show and concert at Macy's Herald Square in New York City. The event was hosted by "Victorious" star Victoria Justice and featured performances by up-and-coming singer/songwriter Josh Golden, teen pop artist Charice, and...oh...these four guys who call themselves "Big Time Rush." It was a fun way for all the kids, tweens, and teens there to really celebrate going back to school and how exciting it can be, instead of just feeling bummed out about it.

We also got the chance to talk to Victoria and the BTR boys -- James, Carlos, Kendall, and Logan -- about their own memories of going back to school. Check out our short video interviews:





Back to school -- bring it on!



Back To School Shopping Tips
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shopping.jpgShopping for back-to-school clothes is just plain exciting, filled with fresh possibilities. A great new addition to your wardrobe can help change your habits, your outlook, and your self-confidence. Plus, it's just fun to shop!

It can also be wrapped up in a lot of doubt, too. Times are tight; is there room in your family's budget for that pair of killer new jeans that you don't really need? What if you buy stuff that ends up being out-of-style before Halloween? What if you fill your closet with clothing that's hot and trendy, but just isn't you?

IML asked fashion expert and mom Audrey McClelland of MomGenerations.com for some advice!

IML: What are the trends for pre-teen and teen clothing this fall?
 
Audrey: On young ladies we're seeing some updates on classic button-downs with plaids, patterns and feminine detailing. Jeggings (leggings made to look like denim) are extremely hot right now for young ladies!  What's great with jeggings is that they can be worn with longer tops, tunics and dresses. Other popular bottoms options are deconstructed denim, five pocket khaki and mini-skirts. Mixing patterns, colors and materials is also a fashionable statement. Teens can create their own looks and styles with this trend. Outerwear is a fun and easy way to create some unique looks for teens. Leather jackets or ones with a military influence are also very trendy.
 
On young men we're seeing a lot of dark denim with stitching detail. It definitely creates a more polished look. Layering is a very big trend this fall. Layer a graphic tee, button-down and military style vest and/or hoodie. Even layer a graphic tee over a thermal knit for unexpected look. Vintage plaids are also a strong trend that we're seeing.  Button-downs with western-style inspiration is being seen a lot. Young men should be looking to achieve some classic and modern looks.
 
IML: Are these inspired by anything? Why do you think they're happening right now? 
 
Audrey:
Fashion is in a really fun place right now. It's something that young ladies and men are really having a good time with. Trends are usually inspired by something. I feel there are 2 things bringing forth some trend-inspiration right now. First, trends are really being inspired by young Hollywood starlets. We see them on TV and in movies, in magazines and online. Young ladies and men want to wear what these young stars are wearing. Second, we're seeing a lot of trends geared for women and men in their 20's and 30's becoming adapted for younger people.
 
IML: A lot of tweens and teens are looking to create their own style. For instance, they don't want to conform to a trend, but they also don't want to look totally out of place. What's your advice for people like that? What are some tips for creating your personal look?
 
Audrey:
Style is all about feeling comfortable in what you have on. If you don't want to conform to certain trends and they want to create their own looks, I suggest:

1. Find some colors that you truly like on yourself. Infuse these colors into your wardrobe. Once you have a color you feel confident and fashionable in, you'll find it very easy to work with styles and trends that are "in" at the moment.

2. Accessorize!  I love accessories because of this very reason -- you can create your own personal look. For young ladies -- necklaces, scarves, bracelets, rings, hair accessories and hats. For young men -- hats, ties and scarves.
 
3. Layering is a great way to create your own look. Start with pieces that you love -- tanks and tees and then build on them. Do you like button-downs? Cardigans? Vests? Sweater wraps?  Add items that you feel comfortable in and feel good in.
 
4. Know what works for you. Styles and trends that are "in" don't work for everyone. It's so important for you to really know what works for your body. This can impact your personal style immensely because you're only wearing pieces that you know actually work for YOU.
 
IML: If you want to buy clothes that look current, but aren't necessarily part of a trend and will last a little longer fashion-wise, what should you be looking for?
 
Audrey: Oh, I love this question!
 
For young ladies:
1. Dark Denim
2. White Button-Down
3. Black Sweater Wrap or Cardigan
4. Hoodie (any color)
5. Accessory item -- scarf, statement necklace, etc.
 
For young men:
1. Denim
2. Graphic Tee
3. Hoodie
4. Athletic Wear
5. Polo Shirt
 
IML: Do you have any advice for back-to-school shopping on a budget?
 
Audrey: My advice would be to shop at off-price retailers like TJMaxx and Marshalls. Parents and tweens will be able to stretch their dollar further because the prices are so affordable. My advice once in the stores is to stock up on items that will last throughout the year -- denim, hoodies, sweaters and tees. These are clothing items that can be built on, which is very important when you're shopping on a budget.
 
IML: Many tweens write in to our site about purchases they end up regretting. How can young people avoid that trap?
 
Audrey: Tweens can avoid purchasing items they regret by truly knowing the answer to what they need, what they want and what they will wear. This is the 3 part question that isn't easy to always answer, but when you can answer it truthfully, you won't regret purchases. Trends are not created equal. What works for you, will not work for everyone. It's so important to be able to know that what's going into your closet are actually items you will be wearing -- with a smile!

IML: Thanks, Audrey! That's great advice!

Audrey:
You're welcome!



Book Review: "I Am Number Four"
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If there are forms of life on other planets, what do you think they look like? Little green people? Those big-headed, huge-eyed baldies from old sci-fi movies? Freaky creatures that resemble insects or some kind of seafood?

What if aliens looked a lot like the cute new sophomore guy at your high school?

iamnumberfour.JPGThat's part of the premise of the new book "I Am Number Four" by Pittacus Lore. The main character and narrator, John Smith, is not the cute new sophomore boy in Paradise, Ohio. Well he is, but he's also one of nine children who escaped the planet Lorien ten years ago as it was being invaded by a malicious race of beings from another planet, Mogadore. The Mogadorians know these Loric survivors are in hiding on Earth, and are determined to seek and destroy them. Because of a charm placed on the children before they left their planet, they can only be killed in a certain order. The first three have already been found and are now dead; unfortunately for John, he is Number Four.

John and his fiercely protective guardian, Henri, have been on the run for a decade, never staying in one place for more than a few months, and never being able to "get attached" to anyone or anything. Their survival depends on them blending in and not attracting attention. When John and Henri arrive in Paradise, however, that proves challenging; John is beginning to develop his "Legacies" (supernatural gifts possessed by his kind), finds himself drawn to a beautiful local girl which gets him in trouble with the town's football star, and connects with his first real friend. Meanwhile, the Mogadorians are out there hunting him, and they might be planning to do to Earth what they did to Lorien. Talk about stress!

"I Am Number Four" has a lot of media hype surrounding it, the first of six planned books about the "Lorien Legacies." Pittacus Lore is simply described as "Lorien's ruling Elder" and is just a pen name for the real authors, James Frey and Jobie Hughes. There's a movie version being shot right now for a February 2011 release, co-starring Dianna Agron from "Glee." It's clear that everyone involved with this book is trying to make it the next "Twilight." With a cool website (www.iamnumberfourfans.com) and other promotions, the publishers want young readers to feel like they MUST read this book, because if they don't, they're missing out on something major. So at the very least, we were skeptical as we turned to Page One.

The thing is, "I Am Number Four" is a really, really great read. The premise, along with John's narrative voice, grabs you right away. We found ourselves caring deeply about the planet Lorien and its magical wonders, and heartbroken each time John revisits the day when an entire peaceful, highly evolved population is massacred. The relationship between John and his guardian, Henri, is compelling, and nagging mysteries (Which powers will John develop? What's up with Bernie Kosar, the strange stray dog they take in?) keep you reading. Once the story picks up, there are several can't-put-this-darn-book-down action sequences, and as a reader you feel how high the stakes are. It's a promising beginning to what could be another classic YA book series.

"I Am Number Four" has a few flaws. The writing is not as strong as, say, "The Hunger Games," and tends to drag sometimes. Sarah, the girl John finds himself falling for, doesn't seem all that interesting and we're not sure what he sees in her. The Mogadorians are supremely mean villains, but feel a bit cliche. (Why are all evil aliens tall and pale, with freaky eyes?) Also note: There's a lot of violence in this book, so it may not be appropriate for younger IML'ers.

All in all, over here we are looking forward to the movie and the next installment!

IML's Rating: A-


Celeb Scoop: Lauren Gottlieb
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Tonight! Will it be Lauren, or Kent, or Robert? Will there be stunning performances? Will Adam accidentally swear again? Will Mia be nice, or mean? Are you wondering what the heck we're talking about?

If you've been watching Season 7 of "So You Think You Can Dance" on Fox, then we don't sound so insane (hopefully). Tonight the final 3 dancers will compete for audience votes, and tomorrow we'll get to see the season's best routines performed again before the winner is announced. It's been a great season, in our opinion, with the addition of the "all-stars" (popular contestants from past seasons)...even though we still miss Alex Wong and found it a little strange that most of the girls got voted off first. If we had to bet, we'd put money on Kent Boyd as the champ, the "is he for real?" teen from Ohio; we would say, "Oh, he's just getting votes because all the young girls are crushing on him" but he's actually a fab dancer too.

lauren1.jpgFor us, the show has never been so much a competition as just a really great place to watch dancing, dancing, dancing. That's why we were extra-thrilled for the chance to chat with Lauren Gottlieb, an "all-star" who came back from Season 3 and who's gone on to develop a blooming career as a dancer, teacher, choreographer, and actor.

IML: What's it been like to come back to SYTYCD as an "all-star"?

Lauren: It's been so much more fun this time around than it was last time, as a contestant. We know the ropes now, we know what's happening. There's the fact that we're not getting judged or voted off, which is huge. With that weight off you, you can just perform and have fun. I'm also a teacher, so when you're with your contestant and you know what they need to work on from the week before, it's really exciting to try to pull that out of them, for the judges to look at them a completely different way.

IML: What kind of advice have you been giving to the contestants?

Lauren: Each person is totally different. For instance, when I did the Tyce Diorio jazz routine with Robert, we had lots of talks during the week we were partners. We talked about how his experience is, and how he feels, and it is very similar to how I felt on my season so I felt like I really knew who he was and what he's going through. I just really wanted him to forget about the judges when he went on stage and forget about the choreographers. It's really intimidating. You have some of the best choreographers in there watching you, and then you think about the millions of people who are also watching. It's overwhelming, but if you can get to a place where you can completely forget about that and just stay in the moment and have it be just you and your partner, you'll feel something completely different and magical and let yourself go. I would just talk to him and say, "When you stand up on stage, know you're a star, and when you give that aura off, people can't help but watch you." I was so happy because I saw Robert's eyes just light up and these walls sort of break down, and he went out and had his best week.

IML: As a teacher and a dance partner, that must have been a double experience for you.

Lauren: Yes...I love it. I feel like I've been there with each of one my partners. With Adechike, he had been so emotional in all his dances and when he got hip-hop with me, it was great to be goofy. I got to pull out the fun side in him. And Jose had never done contemporary and is not really a trained dancer, and to be like that and try to be intimate onstage, that was all something completely new to him. And fun to teach him.

IML: Do you have a favorite routine that you've done, and a fave that others have done?

Lauren: This season I think my favorite was that jazz routine with Robert because I just felt like we were really dancing. It wasn't about a story, it wasn't about gimmicks or anything. It was just true jazz, and it was fun to do that. Every one of them has been so memorable, though, in their own ways. The Stacey Tookey routine that Billy and Ade did was great, because their characters were so opposite and the contrast was great to watch. That was one of my favorites.

IML: How did you first get started dancing? When did you know you wanted to pursue it professionally?

lauren2.jpgLauren: I was seven when I started dancing. My mom put me in classes because I had two brothers, and I would run around and do the tomboy thing. Play baseball and karate and all that. She put me in dance and I really, really didn't like it. It was so closed up. I had a body like a gymnast so it was hard to move in certain ways. It took a long time. Actually, during my first recital I ran into the audience and my mom went to get me. She walked me out onstage and told me I had to finish it. She said when I came offstage I was completely different, I had a different look in my eyes. It never stopped from there. I jumped right into it. That moment, I'll never forget it and I still see it. I just knew it was what I was going to do.

IML: Was dance something you had to juggle with other things in your life?

Lauren: I felt like I needed to play catch-up and that's one of the reasons why I didn't like it at first, because everyone had been dancing since they were 3. Even though you can't really learn too much from age 3 to 7, I felt really behind. So I jumped right into being in a competition group, and I remember I would stay after all my classes and rehearsals and watch all the older girls and just kind of let everything soak in. And that was a big part of my training too, just to watch and be around it and study that way.

IML: Did you feel like you had to sacrifice other things as you got older?

Lauren: I sacrificed a lot at times, like when I got to high school. All throughout high school, I was traveling and assisting this dance convention. So I'd be gone almost every weekend. I'd come back on a Monday and everyone had inside jokes that I wasn't a part of and whatnot. I just kind of learned to accept that and know what I really loved to do. When I was dancing, the feeling that I got was so much more powerful than that. I had to let go of all the other stuff. As far as cheerleading and other things like that, I wasn't too interested. I don't feel like I gave up too much, and in the end it was totally worth it.

IML: What else did it add to your life back then?

Lauren: I felt like it was an outlet to let all of my hyper-ness and goofiness out in the beginning. It brought out a lot and taught me a lot about moving your body, knowing how your body moves to music, to really connect with yourself. And I was kind of fearless. As a dancer, you're throwing your body around so much, and when you walk around with bruises and battle wounds...you feel fearless. Most people growing up don't put up with that. Dancers are tough. It gives you this edge.

IML: Tell us a little bit about playing a member of rival show choir Vocal Adrenaline on "Glee." That must have been a really cool experience!

Lauren: It was really cool because we came in for the pilot. We had never seen the show before, and it was amazing to have Ryan Murphy (the show's creator) standing in front of you talking about how big this show's going to be. No ego involved, just true statement of fact. We just knew right away that the idea was brilliant, the choreography was great, and the characters were awesome. We just knew what it was going to be like. So to be on set and to work closely with all the actors and everyone, and see how generous everyone is after the take, when we're wrapped. Everyone is just friends. It was just a dream to be a part of it.

IML: Was it kind of like being in a real show choir? As a group you guys had to really come together to give off that energy.

Lauren: Totally. A couple episodes into it, we started being more and more into the Vocal Adrenaline part. We ended up having these cars with the license plates. We got our characters a little bit more and more, and then we did that great finale piece. We are like this big show choir!

IML: You've also been doing a lot of choreography. How does the process work, when you have to choreograph a certain style of dance for certain dancers?

Lauren: It's totally different for everyone, but the way I work, I get inspired by music. I think it's because I have to see the whole overall experience. When I was young, I always thought dance was just about the steps. But I'm realizing more and more how much of dance is about the moment and everything else comes into play. I kind of look at it more as a director, even the hair and the makeup and wardrobe...the right music and the right lighting. I'll start with a piece of music and kind of feel the vibe of it, and let it move me. I always want to be the instrument of the song and let it move me. That's how I work, but I know a lot of people who do steps first and then find the music.

IML: What else do you do to stay fit and healthy?

laurengottlieb_yoga.jpgLauren: I do yoga. It reminds me of some of my training when I was young. Because when you're in a dance studio and your teachers see you a few times a week, they really, really know you and watch over you. When I get into a yoga class, I feel like it's like that, plus yoga is as hard as you want to make it. It's completely up to you when you get in the zone and push yourself a lot more.

IML: We heard you're involved with an arts education foundation. What can you tell us about that?

Lauren: I'm involved with the Life Through Art Foundation, which helps hundreds of underprivileged kids per year. Kids who have the drive and the passion, but not the facilities or the right teachers. I've been doing a couple of things with them lately, teaching them and giving them dance classes. I put together this Michael Jackson medley number that we did at a charity event. I knew I wanted to make it extra fun and special for them, and to see their faces afterwards was amazing. They're so talented and it's so nice to go over there and give them something they're so worthy of.

IML: What is your advice for kids who want to get involved with dance but don't feel they have the talent?

Lauren: I've talked to a lot of people like that, and it's not necessarily that they don't feel they have the talent, but almost that it's too late for them to start dancing. So many people have the passion for it and can't stop talking about it, then they say, "I'm too old, I can't do it." You can start anywhere, and some of the most amazing people and successful dancers that I've met have actually started really late. I think it gives you a lot more of a commercial -- Mia Michaels would say "pedestrian" -- quality instead of being a trained technical dancer. I think if you want it, you take classes and let it sink in. It'll happen. Just enjoy it for what it is.

IML: If you're not clicking with a certain style, do you try to find another? How do you know what style of dance is right for you?

Lauren: You'll feel it. When I put heels on and do some ballroom, it's fun but it's not something that I feel like I would do every day. On the other hand, I love hip-hop. I love my tennis shoes, and dancing like a dude sometimes. I love that. Then you feel the soft contemporary and if you can connect to that, you'll feel it. I suggest trying every type of dance, because they're all totally different.

IML: What's next for you, after SYTYCD?

Lauren: I want to fulfill a couple of teaching arrangements that I have, maybe put together a few more. And then I'm getting a little bit more and more into acting. Hopefully I'll go further in that direction. I always say that the best dancers are the best actors. And being on the show this year has been a totally different experience than a couple of years ago. I feel like diving more and more into the characters. That's becoming the fun part of me. I'm looking forward to that!

IML: We're sure you'll continue to have a lot of interesting and exciting experiences doing that! Good luck with everything!

Lauren: Thank you!

Lauren answers advice and other questions from dancers and young people on her website, www.Lauren-Gottlieb.com.




DVD Review: "James and the Giant Peach: Special Edition"
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If you've read the books of Roald Dahl, you know how wonderfully weird they are. Mostly published in the 1960's and 1970's, they're the stories your parents probably read as kids, before there was Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or Artemus Fowl. They've always combined fantasy with reality in a way that manages to be both creepy and sweet at the same time. Wait...creepy and sweet...that sounds familiar. That reminds us of...Tim Burton! Well, duh. Tim Burton is also a Roald Dahl fan, having made the Johnny Depp film version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Years before that, not long after he and director Henry Selick made stop-motion animation history with "The Nightmare Before Christmas," Burton and Selick made a film version of another Dahl classic, "James and the Giant Peach." (What is it about Roald Dahl and stop-motion? "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" is another of his books that recently got that treatment.)

jamesgiantpeach.jpg"James and the Giant Peach" tells the story of the orphaned James, who lives with his horrible aunts Spiker and Sponge. He's lonely and hungry all the time, mostly because the aunts force him to do chores all day and feed him only fish heads. That's why he's a little more excited than most kids would be when he finds a friendly spider in his room, and accepts a bag of crocodile tongues given to him by a strange man. The friendly spider leads to more friendly bugs, and the crocodile tongues lead to a giant peach, and those lead to one great adventure where James learns about love, companionship, and courage.  

Since most IML'ers weren't born when it came out in 1996, you may never have seen this film. Fortunately, there's a Special Edition incarnation recently released on DVD and Blu-ray, and we were so excited for the chance to ride along with James all over again.

We Especially Liked:

The live action stuff.
The beginning and end of the movie are not animated but rather, shot in live-action, which makes the middle of the story, where James is living inside a huge piece of fruit with a bunch of insects, all the more magical. It's a great shoutout to movies like "The Wizard of Oz," where the lines between fantasy and reality are distinct, but blurred.

The songs. Oh yes. There are songs. While nothing is quite as catchy as what you hear in "The Nightmare Before Christmas" or "Toy Story" (which also had songs by Randy Newman), it's a nice reminder that a movie can be a musical without dancing basketball players in it.

The tone. This movie is visually both beautiful and grim. Everything about it has that combo. The bugs are yucky but gorgeous, with charming personalities. The inside of the peach is a little gross, but also somehow appetizing. There's a deadly robotic shark and a lot of seagulls and a flying, angry rhinoceros. Moments that are sad and depressing and scary are quickly followed by something lovely and joyful and funny. It's really a perfect balance in a movie for young people.

The extras. If you're a film or animation buff, you'll enjoy seeing the "making of" section of the bonus features. A music video of one of the songs, "Good News" by Randy Newman, is cool and the "Spike the Aunts" interactive game is something we don't see too often on DVD extras.

While "James and the Giant Peach" may feel a little young to those of you over the age of 10 or 11, it's a true "classic" that audiences of all ages -- even the adults in your life -- will enjoy.

IML's Rating: B+