Archives for April 4, 2018

L.A. Times Festival of Books Will Feature Black Eyed Peas, Dave Eggers, Vivica A. Fox, Patton Oswalt, Jorge Ramos, Maria Shriver and Hundreds of Authors, Experts and Storytellers The festival’s Newstory zone, in its inaugural year, will showcase creative storytelling including podcasts, virtual reality, music, film and television

The Los Angeles Times today announced the lineup for the Festival of Books, the nation’s largest literary festival, held the weekend of April 21-22 at the University of Southern California. More than 500 writers, musicians, artists and chefs, hundreds of exhibitors and an expected 150,000 attendees will transform the 226-acre campus into a vibrant cultural festival in the heart of the Downtown Arts and Education Corridor.

Laila Ali, Reza AslanEd AsnerMayim BialikBlack Eyed Peas members, and TabooRoshani ChokshiJunot DíazKate DiCamilloDave EggersJenna Fischer,Vivica A. FoxDiana GabaldonJuan Felipe HerreraTayari JonesPatrisse Khan-Cullors, Dennis LehaneMoby, Janet MockNatalie MoralesWalter MosleyViet Thanh NguyenJoyce Carol OatesLeslie Odom Jr.Patton OswaltJorge RamosRick RiordanMaria ShriverJake, Jazz, Jurnee and Jussie SmollettNic Stone, Gabrielle Union and Lawrence Wright are scheduled to appear with more to be announced in the coming weeks.

Newstory, a series of multimedia programs highlighting creative forms of storytelling, will debut at this year’s festival.

“Los Angeles is the world’s epicenter of storytelling,” said Suzy Jack, Times vice president of public affairs and events. “We’re excited to launch our 23rd annual celebration of books and literature, and go beyond the book with Newstory, which will showcase some of today’s creative storytellers through alternative forms and unique experiences.”

BigSTORY, Creative Visions, Grammy Museum, The Second City, SeriesFest, Spotify, Two Bit Circus, the Universal Hip Hop Museum and Vortex Immersion Media are among dozens of Newstory programming partners and musician Beatie Wolfe has curated a day of talks and performance across music, art and technology.

“It’s such an amazing and fun time for storytellers, as well as for readers, viewers and listeners,” said Clint Schaff, Times vice president of strategy and development and, with Kim Garner, co-producer of Newstory. “Humans have always found shared meaning through stories, and now we can do that through not only books, but also video, audio and emerging platforms that incorporate new media that allow for new voices to be heard. That’s what Newstory is all about.”

Additional festival highlights:

  • Nine outdoor stages and activity areas: L.A. Times Central Stage, L.A. Times en Español Mommy & Me Time / Mama y Yo Pavilion, L.A. Times Main Stage, Newstory Stage, Pacific Sales Cooking Stage, Poetry Stage, Reading by 9 Children’s Stage, USC Stage and YA Stage presented by HS Insider
  • Newstory zone: virtual reality and 360 experiences, variety shows, live improvisation, television and film screenings, conversations and other creative forms of expression
  • Dozens of expert panels on a variety of subjects ranging from politics to pop culture
  • Spanish-language programming and English to Spanish translation services available in select festival venues
  • Art installations: a series of original murals curated by Branded Arts and the community Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project from artist Lauren Halsey
  • More than 200 exhibitors with books and merchandise for sale, activities and giveaways
  • Musical performances, food trucks and more

On the eve of the festival, Friday, April 20, The Times’ 38th annual Book Prizes will honor novelist John Rechy with the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement, Glory Edim, founder of Well-Read Black Girl, with the Innovator’s Award, and 11 outstanding literary works published last year.

The 23rd annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is presented in association with USC and Pacific Sales Kitchen & Home. The festival and Book Prizes are sponsored by Medium. Admission to the festival is free. Pre-sale passes (which provide advance reservations for up to 20 indoor conversations) and all-access passes (access to all indoor conversations, plus valet parking) are available for purchase now. Individual conversation tickets will be available Sunday, April 15. Schedule, location, ticket and transportation information can be found on the festival websiteFacebook page, Twitter and Instagram feed (#bookfest).

Credit: The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Images were also provided. 


How to Help your Family Unplug this Summer

We live in a world where technology affects every aspect of our lives. It is slowly but surely reducing the amount of face to face interaction we have. This kind of relationship with screens and electronic devices can not only negatively affect your children’s development, but also put a strain on the whole family as well. However, it is possible to get your kids to unplug and reconnect with the rest of the family by making a few lifestyle changes. Here are a few of them.

Go Outside

The simplest thing you can do is to encourage more outside play. Young children are naturally hyperactive and will gladly play outside if they haven’t already built an addiction to electronic devices. Go to a nice park with a good mix of activities. The more you participate in the fun, the more they’ll get involved and the more you’ll have a chance to bond and reconnect.

Brainstorm Activity Ideas

Get the whole family together and brainstorm activity ideas. You could get together and create a kind of bucket list for the summer and let every member pitch in. Try to introduce original ideas that they may have never thought about before.

For instance, you could go on a road trip and visit a Pittsburgh Escape Room along the way. Kids love puzzles and escape rooms are a great way for them to develop logical thinking while getting some much-needed activity. Each member could come with a few ideas and you could dedicate one day each week for activities. This is a great way to get the whole family involved so that no one feels left behind.

Participate in Organized Sports

Most children will have a sport of some kind that they gravitate towards. Whether it’s figure skating, swimming, soccer, hockey or gymnastics, try to get them to participate in organized sports. You don’t want to push them though since you still want them to have fun instead of seeing it as a chore. If you notice that they want to take things up a notch, you could get them to join a league. Not all sports leagues are ultra-competitive, so take things slow at first and see how it goes.

Do Things around the House

Try to get your kids involved in household chores as much as possible. If you’re going to do outside work, bring your kids with you so they can learn the ropes. They are more likely to participate and be cooperative if you work with them.

Consider planting a home garden and make them responsible for their own little plot of land. You’d be surprised at how much kids can get excited by the idea of planting their own crops and watching them grow. This is also a great way to teach them responsibility and give them a strong sense of achievement.


Getting your family to unplug can seem like a challenge, but the sooner you introduce them to a healthy and active lifestyle, the more they will be likely to grow up to be active, well-rounded adults. You’ll also form a stronger family bond as a result.


Coco, April 5th Pet of the Week!

You can’t see it in black and white, but Coco has beautiful, sleek fur that matches her name! Coco is a 7-year-old darling pit bull who’s as mild mannered as a lamb and loves lying down in the play yard if it means getting a tummy rub from a volunteer or a visitor. She’s house trained and also knows how to shake hands, especially if she gets a treat afterward! Coco was an owner surrender, so she needs to go to a forever home that will appreciate her sweetness. Meet her at the P. D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village, 7700 East Spring St., (562) 570-PETS. Ask for ID#A603994.

(The usual suspects contributed to this rescue)

Credit: Courtesy of the P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village.

5 Things a Family Can’t Live Without In the Winter

Winter is a time of the year when it requires extra effort to maintain your home and stay comfortable despite the elements.


It’s always good to be prepared when the cold weather arrives to make sure your home is ready to get through the long winter.


Protecting against the cold is not the only task you and your family are going to be faced with during winter, as there’s always the possibility of winter storms and extreme winter conditions.


Here’s everything you need to know about what a family can’t do without in the winter.


A Garage Heater


Coldness can make your work in the garage during winter uncomfortable and it could also prevent you or your family members from using it for other activities.

Getting a garage heater can easily solve this problem so that you won’t have to worry about spending time in the cold.


A garage heater is a must if you own a garage workshop and can’t stop your work during winter. The good news is that garage heaters are pretty inexpensive so you won’t have to worry about spending extra money.


A Standby Generator


It’s always useful to have a backup power generator in case of power cuts, especially if there’s a winter storm coming and you need to keep your home warm enough until the shortage is over.

Smaller generators are useful for occasional power cuts, but they cannot satisfy the power needs of the entire home. Larger generators, on the other hand, are more costly to install and run and are only needed if you expect frequent power outages.


Tankless Water Heater


Unlike tanked heaters, tankless water heaters do not require the use of storage tanks to heat water.

The water is heated directly, last longer and you don’t need to wait to get hot water. Another important feature of tankless water heaters is that they save energy because the flow rate is limited.

Heaters can be either gas or electric powered, with the former being more effective and reliable.


Tip: Continue reading about the benefits of tankless water heaters by clicking on the hyperlinked text.


A Space Heater


Chances are that you will need a space heater at some point during winter, whether due to power cuts or simply the need to heat a smaller room inside your home. Space heaters also come in handy if, for some reason, your central heating breaks down.


Tip: We recommend you get a gas-powered heater as they are better at heating large spaces and are generally more cost-effective when compared to electric heaters.


First Aid Kit


In case you get caught up in a winter storm and are unable to leave the house, it’s essential that you have a first aid kit in your supply room. Make sure that the first aid kit contains all of the must-have items, such as antiseptic spray, tape, bandages and sterile gloves.

No one likes to think of accidents happening at home, but we recommend that you always be prepared.

Ready Player One – Takes You To a World You Would Never See Without VR

In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place. The only time Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spends their days. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the Oasis to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends-aka the High Five-are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “This film remarkably resembles its subject. Like virtual reality, it takes you into a world which you would never see without the gear. Like VR, it shows the future of technology. Like VR, it has its ups and downs that can be improved upon.” Benjamin P. adds, “Ready Player One is a delightfully nostalgic, modern-day sci-fi classic filled with Spielbergian magic.” See their full reviews below.
Ready Player One

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

This film remarkably resembles its subject. Like virtual reality, it takes you into a world which you would never see without the gear. Like VR, it shows the future of technology. Like VR, it has its ups and downs that can be improved upon. Finally, like VR, Ready Player One has the potential to either change everything or to simply bring us back to the past. Ready Player One entertains the audience with its adventure-packed explosions that run the plot of the film and add a surprising amount of comedy, which the actors deliver perfectly.

Ready Player One’s adventure follows the quest to find an Easter Egg. This hidden object requires a lot of effort as it is hidden in the massive virtual world called The Oasis, which has a land size greater than Earth and access to multiple planets. The value of it makes it worth the search, as the finder gets half a trillion dollars as well as complete control of this massive online world. While many of the independent gamers fight for this egg, there is also a large corporation fighting to make it a money-making opportunity instead of a skill-based experience. To them, the richest should win. The race is on to get the egg and to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

My favorite scene is what should solidify this film’s nomination for an Academy Award in visual effects. This scene contains a challenge that unlocks another step in finding the Easter egg. The challenge takes place in the classic horror thriller, The Shining. Not only did I immediately love this scene, due to its dedication to the great mind and creator of The Shining, Stanley Kubrick., but I love it because it visually breaks all the boundaries. Despite The Shining being a much older film, with the sets that probably no longer exist, Ready Player One completely recreates the setting from the film and perfectly places the characters’ avatars in that world too. Just like the films Star Wars and Avatar, which took your breath away because of ahead-of-their-time visuals, this film and specifically this scene does as well.

Ready Player One excels at bringing the visual world that Ernest Cline describes in the book to the big screen. The surroundings and the story are packed with references to different movies, comic books, games and TV shows. It would take months of constant replay to catch every little detail, which defiantly will delight the fans that are craving nostalgia. The CGI really is what makes this movie stand out. Despite it being branded as live action, it has more runtime in the completely animated environment than it does in live action. However, these visual scenes do not look like the standard animation of Pixar. They look and feel, unmistakably like real life. In a way, Ready Player One fails to portray a virtual world, because it looks so real. The acting has its ups and downs. Inside the Oasis, where acting relies primarily on voiceover and basic body movement, it excels. Outside, where the actors are left to the task completely on their own, they feel rather flat and somewhat monotone. The romance that runs throughout the story feels somewhat forced, partly due to the acting and partly due to the story. Interestingly enough, the romance feels more natural in the virtual world, than it does in the real life. The score of the film is one of the many pleasant surprises. Without the video, the score would still leave audiences satisfied. It does not quite reach the masterful skill of John Williams, but Alan Silvestri, known for his soundtrack for the Back to the Future series, creates beautiful harmonies that sound incredible.

The book and film differ quite a lot in a positive way. While the book (one of my favorites) is a joy to read, in many ways it would not translate well into a film. For that reason, while the main story barely changes, the actual events are structured much better for the movie and make it much more interesting. Instead of watching a person playing a game, the viewer is offered an opportunity to watch someone jump over zombies in a ballroom. The book has mainly 80s references, but the film mixes it up much more to include references from the games and movies that became popular in the last few years, which really allows the nostalgic adults, as well as the kids, enjoy the film.

Even though the messages and possible future is shown in Ready Player One should be shown to kids, there are some things that are a bit mature. For that reason, I recommend this to ages 10 to 18. Despite some issues with acting, it makes for a great adaptation of the book while keeping important messages in place. The biggest accomplishment would be the mass scale of the lifelike CGI that truly makes you believe you’re in the virtual world of the Oasis. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars.

Ready Player One

By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Ready Player One is a delightfully nostalgic, modern-day sci-fi classic filled with Spielbergian magic.

Based on Ernest Cline’s bestselling book, Ready Player One follows Wade Watts, a teen living in dystopian Columbus, Ohio in the year 2045. Like much of the population, Wade plays the OASIS, a multiplayer game in an expansive virtual world created by the eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday died, he told players he left a hidden Easter egg that will win control of the OASIS and his shares in his company Gregarious Games. A malicious corporation called IOI wishes to turn the OASIS from an imaginative escape to an ad-filled wasteland. Wade’s avatar Parzival teams up with his friend Aech, his crush Artemis and a pair of best friends named Shoto and Daito, to take down IOI by finding the egg before the company does and foil its evil agenda.

Ready Player One, true to the book, is full of 80s pop culture references from Halliday’s early life and his icon status. At the same time, much of the film takes place in the video game and is visually vibrant and futuristic. Steven Spielberg brings the OASIS to life very well. He sneaks in visual gags from Robocop to Street Fighter. The OASIS has an insane color pallet that totally matches the idea of what that virtual world is. There is a lot of CGI used, but it is necessary to tell the story and the characters’ avatars look very realistic.

As a huge fan of the book, this film adaptation still holds up for me. Quite a bit of what happens in the book is different on the big screen, but fans should not despair because the film remains true to the book’s main themes. This film is also very funny. The entire ensemble gets great one-liners. This is refreshingly different from typical sci-fi and it makes the ride through Ready Player One even more fun.

I give Ready Player One an age rating of 11 to 18 for some language and heavily implied violence. Older kids and adults will enjoy the film’s crazy visuals.

I rate Ready Player One 4.5 out of 5 stars. This film is excellent and I recommend it for anyone who is a fan of anything pop culture. Whether it is music, film, video games or anime, Ready Player One has something for you. This film opens in theaters March 29, 2018 so check it out.

All photos courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures.