When I asked my kids how they discovered Mike and Matt Chapman's website, homestarrunner.com, I was surprised to learn they'd heard about it the old fashioned way: on the school bus. As a dutiful parent, I had to check it out; I've seen too many Web cartoons featuring animals interacting with common household appliances. What I discovered is a site packed with goofy animation, retro games, and a strong cast of characters.
As early television cartoons demonstrated, good scripts and excellent character voices can compensate for limited animation. Today's animators use Macromedia Flash to produce cartoons based on this principle. My son, Will, tells me that the "Brothers Chaps" have inspired a new wave of flash animation on the Web, influencing major sites like bonusstages.com, redvsblue.com, and others. Like Jay Ward's Rocky and Bullwinkle, the toons on Homstarrunner don't "talk down" to their audience and are infused with a zany anarchy on the outer edge of wholesome.
Here's what Will says about Homestar: "I love the hilarity and originality that Homestar offers. One of my favorites is the 'Crazy Cartoon' email where Strong Bad parodies bad web cartoons in 'Sweet Cuppin' Cakes.' My sister and I check for Strong Bad Emails every Monday, Wednesday and 'some days,' for those are the days that Chapmans update the Web page."
And yes, that's actual fan email culled from the 10,000 received each day. It's a site my kids love to frequent, and if you don't mind yours talking like a clueless Elmer Fudd, I'd recommend you let them check it out.
--- Stan Merrell
This week for families:
Barnes & Noble Pittsford Thurs, Jan 6, storytime and craft with Memorial Art Gallery Workshop, 10 a.m. | Fri, Jan 7, PJ storytime with Rochester Children's Theatre, 7 p.m. | 3349 Monroe Ave. 586-6020
Brighton Memorial Library for pre-K: Mondays 10 a.m.; for toddlers: Mondays 10:30 a.m.; for families: Thursdays 7 p.m. | 2300 Elmwood Ave, 784-5300
Henrietta Public Library Storytimes for toddlers: Tues, Jan 11, 10:15-10:45 a.m. | for preschoolers: Tues, Jan 11, 11 a.m. and Wed, Jan 5 and 12, 10:15-10:45 a.m. | for grades K-3: Thurs, Jan 6, 4-4:45 p.m. | for families: Mon, Jan 10, 7-7:30 p.m. | 455 Calkins Rd. 359-7092, www.hpl.org
Music and Dance Classes Saturdays. Ages 3-5, 9:30-10:30 a.m.; ages 6-10, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Cobblestone Arts Center. 398-0220
RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium 657 East Ave. Giant-screen film: Bears, Wed-Fri 4 p.m.; Sat 2, 4, 8 p.m.; Sun 1, 2, 4 p.m. | Star shows: Hubble's Universe: Sat 1 p.m.; I See the Sky: Sat 9:30 a.m. | Laser shows: Beatles Laser, Sat 9 p.m.; Pink Floyd Laser, Sat 10 p.m.; Holiday Songs and Skies with Mr. Jack Frost, Sat 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Sun 3 p.m.| $4-$7. 271-1880, www.rmsc.org
Rochester Museum and Science Center 657 East Ave. Surprise! It's Science, through May 2005 | Rochester's Frederick Douglass, through January 2006 | Live Science! demos and theater, Sat 2, 3, 4 p.m.; Sun 1:30, 2:30, 3:30 p.m. Sat 3 p.m. show sign-interpreted | Ongoing exhibits include: AdventureZone, Carlson Inquiry Room, At the Western Door | Hours: Mon-Sat 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun 12-5 p.m., closed Sat, Dec 25. Tix: $5-$7. 271-1880, www.rmsc.org
Seneca Park Zoo 2222 St Paul St. Tues, Jan 11, little ducks: colors and shapes, age 2, 10:15 or 11:30 a.m. $18 | Mon-Tues, Jan 10-11, creatures of the night, ages 4-6, Mon 9:30 a.m., Tues 1 p.m. $22 | Wednesdays, book and beast, 11 a.m. | Hours: daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tix: $5, $4 seniors, $2 kids. 467-9453, www.senecazoo.org
Strong Museum 1 Manhattan Square. Arthur's World, through Jan 23. | Long-term exhibits include National Toy Hall of Fame, Can You Tell Me How To Get To Sesame Street? and Super Kids Market. Hours: Mon-Thurs 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun 12-5 p.m. Tix: $7; $6 seniors, students; $5 children. 263-2700
Stunting Clinic Sat, Jan 8. Groups of 5-6, pre-register, Premier Cheer, 1150 University Ave, Bldg 5, 2:30-5 p.m. $15. 244-CGYM, www.premiercheerinc.com
The Wizard of Oz Sat-Sun, Jan 8-16. TYKEs, UpStage3 Theater,
Auditorium Center, 875 E Main St, Sat 10:30 a.m., Sat-Sun 1 p.m. $10. 723-6080
YMCA Camp Arrowhead Fri, Jan 7: open house, Southeast Family YMCA, 111 E Jefferson Rd, Pittsford, 6 p.m. | Saturdays: winter wonders, ages 5-10, 10-11:30 a.m.; snow survival, ages 8-14, 12:30-2 p.m. | 383-4590, www.ymcacamparrowhead.org
Resolve to connect
The new year is here, and it's time for many things. I'll skip the resolutions. There's just one thing I'd like to make time for: gratitude. Each night I try to remember what I'm thankful for: warm beds for me and my family (and everyone I know), enough food, plenty of space in our house. The list can go on indefinitely, but what often stops me in my tracks is my gratitude for connections.
I am a part of several families, and fill many roles: mother, wife, sister, daughter, and more. I am also connected to friends, neighbors, and others. Many days I am thankful for a brief yet meaningful connection with someone in my life.
At this time of the year, when many take stock of their lives, perhaps noticing what is lacking, I offer the bounty of connections. Sometimes it can seem that we are islands of humanity, occasionally bumping into one another. I suggest that we are intrinsically connected --- to each other and to all of humanity. The connections are there, even when we forget them.
Many of us feel the universal brotherhood of man as we watch our South Asian brothers and sisters torn too soon from life, or torn apart by the grief wrought by earthquake and tsunami.
As we venture into yet another new year, armed with various resolutions, maybe we need just one: to search out those connections, and make more of them.
--- Lynn Malooly