March 2009

Muziic To Our Ears

03-24-09

Muziic When I’m jonesing for a certain song, I’ll just search for it on YouTube--it’s always there. Just today, I’ve listened/watched videos by the New Pornographers, Daft Punk and Paula Abdul (who could forget that dancing cartoon cat in “Opposites Attract”?). The one frustration I have, though, is I’d really like to create a streaming playlist, so I don’t have to keep on returning to YouTube to search for another song or hit play again. Well, whadyaknow? My wishes have been answered! Hallelujah!

David Nelson, 15, and his father have come up with Muziic, the YouTube media player. Muziic is free downloadable software that enables you to stream music directly from YouTube without the inconvenience of having to keep a browser open. Just search for a song via Muziic and add it to a customized playlist--it works a lot like iTunes (without, ahem, the cost).

So, thank you David for your technological masterminding. The next time I listen to Paula Abdul, you’ll be in my thoughts.

Flowers in Our Attic: The V.C. Andrews Challenge

03-23-09

Heavenbanner Taren, 23, and Steph, 15, are two book reviewers from Pulaski, Tennessee and Brazil, respectively. Taren's blog is The Chick Manifesto, and Steph is also known as Reviewer X. So what has brought these two together lately? V.C. Andrews. You know who we mean--the author of those books you used to hide under your mattress in 6th grade because you weren’t quite sure what you were reading was legal? (Or was that just me?).

Anyway, they’ve challenged their blog readers to read 11 V.C. Andrews books this year (cool points for finding vintage copies with die-cut covers, which are a personal favorite of mine). We had to find out the who, what, where, when and why of this amazing venture, so Taren and Steph graciously agreed to talk:

What inspired the V.C. Andrews "Read the Good Trash" Movement?
STEPH: Taren sent me, hand to god, 22 V.C. Andrews books when I was in the US during the holidays. She’d been bugging me to read VCA for freaking ever until I finally read Flowers in the Attic sometime last year, and loved it. So anyway, there I am hauling the biggest supply of VCA known to cross continents, when I decide I want to get the blogosphere in on this, too. It wasn’t until Taren posted a primer on her blog that I had the idea for a theme year on both our blogs accompanied by a challenge.

What has the response of the blogosphere been?
TAREN: We’ve been hearing from a great mix of people--a lot of really young people who'd never even heard of V.C. Andrews before and a lot of people who are a little older, especially authors, who had read a couple of the books before. So it's been a fun mix of people reading them for the first time and people re-reading them, comparing them to their original opinion.

What's your favorite VC book, so far?
STEPH: Flowers in the Attic, the only one I’ve completed... so far. But the Casteel series sounds like a winner.

TAREN: I can't pick just one! There's Flowers in the Attic (of course) and the prequel from that series, Garden of Shadows. The Casteel series is my favorite as a whole, with Dark Angel and Web of Dreams (the prequel) being especially high up there.

Why do you think the V.C. Andrews books continue to speak to young adults?
STEPH: I think VCA books tempt that morbid curiosity in all of us. (“The family what? He’s her what? They did what?”) I’ve heard more than one person get disgusted and all, to which we say, “Pfft, guys, wait until you start becoming advocates for the incestuous couples.” ;)

TAREN: I think it's a combination of things. When I was younger I loved reading about rich people and their big houses and shopping sprees and clothes. Now that I'm older I realize I also subconsciously related to a lot of the feelings and changes the heroines went through. VCA heroines go through a lot of the same basic problems that everyone does--family, relationship, and money troubles--just totally magnified and turned around (and of course scandalous!). Whatever problems you have, when you're reading a V.C. Andrews books, you can rest assured that their problems are going to be so much worse and so much more dramatic than yours.

Amen to that! Those characters are messed up. But in an amazing I-can’t-look-away way. Want to join the V.C. Andrews Challenge? Go here or here to find out how.

The Midwest Teen Sex Show

03-20-09

Mtts Sex education is a tricky topic. It's probably the one subject we wouldn’t mind studying for, yet, in school, we barely learn anything. And those slide shows and charts don’t really teach you much except for a) giving you sterile statistics, b) explaining how the reproductive system works, and/or c) showing you graphic slides of STDs (scare tactics are so 1974).

That’s all fine and dandy, but this is stuff we can learn by looking up “Sex” in Wikipedia, which is why we’re grateful for the Midwest Teen Sex Show -- a monthly video podcast that is funny, informative and answers all those questions you were too embarrassed to ask. From boobs to orgasms to condoms, the MTSS unflinchingly covers all the bases in a totally frank and hilarious way. It's sex education in sketch comedy format.

Nikol Hasler is one of the writers and host of the show. Her deadpan delivery of lines like, “We know you care about the environment, but recycling does not apply to condoms” are killer. I Heart Daily sat down with Nikol to ask her a few questions about, what else? Sex.

What do you think of state of sex education?
Everyone is willing to admit that teaching abstinence-only doesn’t work. There is a push towards comprehensive, but that means charts and graphs and saying if you have sex your penis is going to fall off, or if you have sex you’re going to get pregnant. So, there has to be some sort of balance that we have to strike. If teens are able to ask a question about long division, they should be able to ask you a question about their bodies.

Do girls and boys ask different kinds of questions?
Girls ask a lot of relationship questions. If it’s a question about their bodies, it tends to be about body image. They also ask about how to talk about their parents about sex—boys don’t ask that. Boys have some pretty standard questions. They all want to know if they can make their penis bigger.

What are some common questions you get asked?

I can’t even count the number of emails I’ve gotten that start out, “My friends and I were having an argument today, and I want to know...can you get pregnant from giving oral sex?” A lot of bad information gets spread through friends.

What advice would you give to kids who do want to talk to their parents about sex?
I don’t know their individual situations, so it’s hard to say, but I tell them to approach their parents in a professional, educated way. If they are mature in how they are asking a question, it shows they’ve put thought into it.

What do you say to girls who say their boyfriend doesn’t want to use a condom?
My advice is to find a boyfriend who does.

Catch all episodes of the Midwest Teen Sex Show on their website. If you are under 18, please get permission from a parent or guardian before viewing episodes!

Cool Girl: Lovetta, 15, Inspirational Designer

03-19-09

Lovetta_Conto-1 Lovetta Conto, 15, grew up in a refugee camp in Ghana after fleeing a war in her native Liberia. Now this bright entrepreneur has a mission and a message of hope for other kids growing up in darkness. “I want them to know that life can change, that good can come,” she says. “As my dad would say, ‘Keep walking. Press on. It's going to happen.’” We asked her five quick questions.

When and why did you leave Liberia?
I left Liberia when I was a little girl, with my father. We lived in many surrounding countries as refugees. Finally we ended up in Ghana, where I grew up in a refugee camp outside of the city of Accra. When I was 14, I came to America as part of a Strongheart Fellowship to study. I'm currently living back in my home country of Liberia, which is finally at peace.

Growing up with war all around you, what inspired you to find beauty and hope?
I always imagined myself as something more. The power of imagination is incredible. No matter how dark things get, seeing yourself in a brighter place can carry you through. It carried me through.

Where did your love of fashion come from?
From deep within me. It was always there. My father is also very stylish. West Africans have an incredible fashion sense. Even in the refugee camp, women would buy cloth and make clothes, sell jewelry. Fashion is just a deep part of who I am. I love how you can express who you are through the way you dress.

What are your goals with your jewelry line, AKAWELLE?
I want to do so much! First, I want the world to learn about it and also to sell enough jewelry to open the Strongheart House in Liberia, which is a home for other young people affected by difficult life circumstances like war and poverty. I want to expand into a full design line of more jewelry, clothing, shoes--everything!

What does the name AKAWELLE mean?
The first part "a.k.a." is "also known as" and the second part "welle" is from a Kpelle word, which is my tribal language. The word "wel'le" means "love." So literally, it's "also known as love." It has multiple meanings for me. "Love" is my nickname, short for Lovetta.

Is it any wonder we love Love? See how she gives melted bullet shells new life at AKAWELLE Jewelry.

An Homage to Boyfriend Tees

03-18-09

Pittsburgh homage tee The really great thing about boyfriends is that they always have those amazingly soft t-shirts. I’m still hanging on to my high school BF’s rec basketball tee, just for its broken-in aesthetic and the feel of that gently worn cotton (is that sad?).

Luckily, I found a site where I can get my fix of this shirt style: Homage Clothing.

From the perfect yellow-and-gray color combination on their Pittsburgh: City of Champions number to the simple elegance of this Ohio tee, Homage does it right. And as someone whose current boyfriend owns the block-lettered NYC beauty, I can vouch for the softness factor. It’s unparalleled.

Homage’s mission is to “tell stories of triumph, individualism and hustle, preserving the old school and creating new legacies.” Our mission is to get you a boyfriend tee without the actual guy baggage.

You’re welcome.

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