Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wave Machine

I thought I would occasionally post some Smart Girl Projects. Of course, these are fun for smart boys and parents too. These wave machines can last a long time and are endlessly fascinating for kids!


One empty, clear plastic soda bottle, or any large clear plastic bottle with screw on cap
Blue Food Coloring
Mineral oil


Fill the bottle 2/3 full with water.
Add blue food coloring, one drop at a time, until the water is
"ocean blue" in color.
Fill the rest of the jar with mineral oil.
Get rid of as any air bubbles as you can and secure lid tightly.
Hold the bottle gently sideways and gently tip it, creating
delightful wave actions.

Note: Sometimes after a lot of rough use, the liquids in the bottle become cloudy.
Set the wave machine aside for a few hours and the liquids will become
clear again.

Friday, June 13, 2008

America the Beautiful

I was going to wait until I saw this documentary film to blog about it. But I realize it may be sometime before I can, because the kids just got out of school. I would not have even heard of " America the Beautiful" if I had not checked out Roger Ebert's site recently. It is a film about a year in the life of a 12 year old girl turned fashion supermodel. It looks like a mostly bitter, bittersweet experience for this girl. So, if you are lucky enough to have this film come near you, consider seeing it. And if you see it, consider being so kind as to commenting on it here.

Here is a little blurb about the film's creator by Roger Ebert. Entire article here.

Following a young beauty down a short runway

June 9, 2008

by Roger Ebert

A man from Chicago named Darryl Roberts made "America the Beautiful," a documentary that nobody wanted. It was about our obsession with being thin and beautiful and... perfect. Every distributor in the country turned him down. They told him he was black, and the 12-year-old fashion model at the center of the film was black, and blacks don't go to documentaries. He finally talked it into the American Film Institute's festival in Dallas, where it sold out four shows, "and 99 percent of the audience was white. Not that it means anything."

And here is a blurb from his review of the film:

America the Beautiful

May 9, 2008

Cast & Credits Arenas Group presents a documentary written, directed and narrated by Darryl Roberts. Running time: 103 minutes. Rated R (for some language). Opening today at Landmark Century.

By Roger Ebert

The documentary "America the Beautiful" is not shrill or alarmist, nor does it strain to shock us. Darryl Roberts, its director and narrator, speaks mostly in a pleasant, low-key voice. But the film is pulsing with barely suppressed rage, and by the end, I shared it. It's about a culture "saturated with the perfect," in which women are taught to seek an impossible physical ideal, and men to worship it.

I usually avoid this subject matter (child beauty pageants and some child modeling) because it angers me so. The closest I have gotten was"Little Miss Sunshine." A great film. In general the little girl "beauty queens" give me the creeps because they do not resemble little girls at all. They tend to look like miniature dolls, robotic and fake.
I think we can send much better messages to our girls than pile on the hairspray, makeup and inappropriate clothes and compete girl vs. girl. One child pageant's website had a photo of three or four year old girls standing there with their crowns. The pageant description: "Contestants are judged on 50% Facial Beauty, 25% Personality and 25% Stage Presence. Events include T-shirt, Interview, Casual Wear, Party Wear and Swimwear"
Sad to see facial beauty is twice as important as personality. And don't even get me started on swimsuit divisions for toddlers....................... I have seen claims that these pageants teach young girls "life skills." Huh? Facial beauty and stage presence (and let's not forget the "personality" they are looking for) will get you through life? Me thinks this is a recipe for an eating disorder, and/or insecurity and unhappiness. Girls are so much better than this.
I just don't understand how sexualizing children became so mainstream. Have we really been so blind? And the entire female body image industry- promoting insecurity and unattainable beauty for profit. It will be a hard fight with so much profit at stake.
I am happy that a man took the time to look closer at the beauty/fashion industry. The industry people speak for themselves and have oh so much to say. Check out their comments on Darryl Robert's website. They are funny in a sick kind of way.
So I give Darryl Roberts a Smart Girls Fun A+ Award for caring so much for our girls to make a film that will raise awareness about the attitudes of the fashion industry. Bravo!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Smart Girls Chess

I was thinking about chess the other day. I have to give my father credit. In the early 1970's, he taught all three of his young daughters how to play chess. I still enjoy the game. When I recently unearthed the chess board, put away during the baby is going to choke on little things stage, all three of our kids were immediately fascinated. We now keep the board in open sight and it is put to good use frequently. Our boys (age 9 and 6) are already building strategies and our daughter (just turned 5) almost has all of the pieces/moves memorized after just a week. You can really see the wheels turning in their little heads when they are playing.

Our kids' elementary school has an after school chess club starting in the fourth grade. I hope there are some girls taking advantage of this activity. And I hope our daughter will too.

Growing up, I only had my father and my sisters to enjoy the game with. None of my girl friends played. Until I met my husband, I hadn't played a game of chess outside of my family. Now I must say my husband and I haven't played since "the chess incident" in the Houston airport several years ago. Let's just say we played, I was losing big time, he wouldn't let me quit, I got mad and I came back and won. I think our egos have settled down and we can play again soon.

I am sure there still may not be enough awareness for girls' chess. I don't ask my current girl friends if they play. If any of you do- please speak up! And I will start to ask. I did not know of any professional women players either. I am happy to say, once I started looking, I found some.

A great program was put together by Susan Polgar, who became the first ever woman Grandmaster of Chess. Her SPICE (Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence) website has daily puzzles, a training guide and lots of good information for the girl chess player and her parents. I love her girls' chess camp. It is called Chess:It's a Girl Thing!

GoddessChess is another great website. They have links to essays that take on the "girls are too nice for chess" statements. Here is an excerpt from one:

From: "Chess - Are Girls too Nice to Excel in Chess?"
The Sale Lake City Tribune, February 2, 1997
by Shelby Lyman
It's an old scenario that continues to be replayed. As girls approach adolescence, they drop out of school chess programs in record numbers. They may keep an interest and later encourage their children to play, but they themselves shy away from chess activity and competition.
My guess is that the phenomenon has something to do with a special characteristic of the game. Chess is the only major sport where males and females encounter each other on equal terms -- where the usual advantage in size, weight and speed of the male is of no consequence.
Chess thus can be a unique head-to-head test of the intelligence, fighting spirit and endurance of the two genders. But it is not a test that many males past childhood relish or care to lose. Girls get the message -- often subliminal -- and too often back off from the confrontation with their male peers and friends.
The phenomenon reminds me of a study of college women in the 1940s who played dumb so their boyfriends (and future husbands) would be comfortable.
Women today are not as likely to downplay their intelligence, but there are still forces that discourage them from direct, aggressive competition with men. Nevertheless, they manage to compete with increasing success in many spheres. Chess remains a notable exception.
Although as a teen-ager I regretted the paucity of women on the chess scene, I was not unaware of the advantage it gave me. Half of my most talented and toughest potential adversaries had been effectively vanquished without my having to lift a finger at the chessboard.

I found out that many of the high school chess competitions award scholarships to the winners. So girls, dust off those chess boards and have some fun!