Tag: Western New York

The Wild Slide – An adventure written by young author, Aryanna Khodorkovskaya and illustrated by Michael Bernard Stevenson, Jr.

Confession. I am a real push-over for books written and/or illustrated by children. l don’t care if it is their kindergarten Mother’s Day project or a book, such as The Wild Slide written and PUBLISHED by 8 year old ,Aryanna Khodorkovskaya – from Alfred Station, New York.

The Wild Slide is a very thoughtful and engaging story that in a few pages tells a rather sophisticated tale that includes adventure, friendship and bravery. The reader is brought along with Aryana’s characters to enjoy an exciting “ride”. I found myself also wanting to be part of this cadre of friends and transported in to world where a Wild Slide could offer a great escape.

Illustrated by Michael Stevenson, Jr. – the story reads like a typical early childhood reader. The twist – it has content, including vocabulary, that would be more typical of an adult writer who is creating for a child, rather than a child writing for other children.

Here is another accolade for Aryana – not only does she have a book that is published BUT she holds the record for being the YOUNGEST published author in Western New York!

Related: The Wild Slide on PARENTING.com

Keep in mind that rarely does an author, of any age, become published on their own. In this case – Aryana credits Nicholas Dosch for “generous financial and emotional support.”

She also had the artistic talent of Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. to help add the illustrations that graced the pages of Aryana’s story. I was curious to see how these two teamed up and what role as a mentor Michael may have had with this project.

Here is a short interview with Michael:

Question 1:
How would you describe your artistic illustrations and the inspiration for them in Aryanna’s book, “The Wild Slide”?

MSJr.: The Wild Slide, written by Aryanna Khodorkovskaya, was quite descriptive in nature which provided a more than adequate foundation for creating imagery for the book. One of my favorite lines is “‘Should we do this?’ Violet asked. ‘Yes’ said William. ‘No!’ said Rosie, looking panicked.” Rosie’s demeanor was spelled out for me. Various other elements were laid out for me too, like later when Violet and Rosie gives Zee a necklace and bracelet respectively, I knew I wanted to include those elements in the character design. I also modeled the character of Violet after Aryanna herself, and Rosie after her sister Natasha. Violet calm and composed, delicately dressed, while Rosie has a slightly more ruffled aesthetic, with untied shoes in every scene. 

As far as my own illustrative style goes, I have always had a style that closely resembles that of children’s drawings. I like my drawings to communicate an idea without relying on the exemplification of drawing technique. Part of the reason is that I don’t derive intense pleasure or joy from agonizing over details. I want to move on to the next thing. I also enjoy the simplicity of the drawings I do. However, this also serves the nature of my work with young people. They’re always shocked and impressed by what I’ve drawn, as well as how quickly when I’ve done the drawing in front of them. This creates a level of comfort with them, I’m not producing photorealistic drawings, the likes of which they could never produce themselves. I produce work that’s accessible to them both visually and practically as far as their own drawing practice goes. 

Question 2 : As an adult, you appear to “slide” into the role as mentor, who was or is your mentor?

MSJr.: Interestingly, most of my work is collaborative by nature, a process that’s been a long time in the making. Much of my work is in direct response to having a series of primarily elder mentors in life and practice inside and outside of the art world. Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the exhibition that The Wild Slide was produced for, was actually all about this dynamic. While I was growing up in Alfred New York I had a series of mentors, a prominent one being Fred Tscheda who taught neon and lamp design at Alfred University.

I also collaborated with Tschida for the Won’t You Be My Neighbor exhibition on a project involving the collection and display of rocks found across America. Fred and I have collaborated on rock based projects in the past and hope to collaborate on more in the future. We still stay in touch even though we’re a few time zones apart. At this point the majority of my practice is one on one or small group mentorship projects with young people. 

Read more about Michael and his projects (upcoming and previous) here

And… here is a bit of a side story.

I am not surprised by Aryana’s clever ability for storytelling. After all, her grandmother is writer and singer, Mary Gardner Ruch, a dear friend of mine from Western New York.

Read my Favorite Christmas Themed Interview blog here featuring Mary Gardner Ruch

In closing – please add The Wild Slide to your holiday gift list. Amazon offers it and consider it an investment in the future of this creative writer! Thanks to Aryana for letting us in to the world of her Wild Slide friends! And, thanks to Michael for his responses. 

Amazon Link

Happy Holiday!

National Comedy Center – Destination Laughter!

Laughter IS the common language of our world. And, you will find much of it at the National Comedy Center!

From Vaudeville to the Family Guy and every genre of comedy in between – you will find them here in Jamestown, New York!

When you think of destination spots for vacations one usually doesn’t pick Jamestown – until now. The National Comedy Center and the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museums are about to invigorate this sleepy hamlet located in Western New York the way that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame revived Cleveland, Ohio.

Read more about other Western New York location gems here.

In order to truly appreciate this “cultural center” you really need to experience it first person. But, I will try my best to give you a close-up account my words and the images snapped from my trusty iPhone 8 plus.


More than 50 immersive exhibits take visitors on an interactive journey through comedy history, from early vaudeville acts to the latest viral memes.

National Comedy Center Website: comedycenter.org

There is so much to see and “feel” at this center. I can’t stress enough how you need to experience it for yourself. AND EVERY ADULT can access this place. The accessibility factor is super!

To entice you to indeed visit I have devised a TOP 10 list of my favorite “things” about the National Comedy Center. I encourage you to add to my list in the comment section.


Tip 1. Come early and plan on staying several hours!

The center opens at ten. Arrive early to beat the crowds and be able to take in the exhibits without feeling rushed. If you have have all day opt for the pass that allows you entry to the Lucille Ball – Desi Arnaz museum AND the National Comedy Center. Both are amazing and you will be glad you did!

Note: Wear comfortable shoes and bring Kleenex. You will need it to wipe the tears from belly laughs throughout your stay.

TIP 2: Go all out – immerse yourself!

The first step of this experience is to get a wrist band that allows for digital engagement throughout the center. You can use the code to ‘vote” for favorite actors, comedy shows and more! Also, to receive content to your inbox that you generate – you will need to have this “techie wristband”.

Note: The first time I visited I was shy about sharing my personal info so I made a bogus email and name. Bad move. This didn’t allow me to get any of my saved content that I generated along my visit. The second time I was forthcoming and sure enough – when I got back to my hotel there were my interactive videos, etc. waiting for me in my inbox!

And… Don’t forget to wave to yourself when you walk through the entry way!

Above the entry way door you will spot your welcome message!

Tip 3 – Meander among the history of comedy, famous quotes and more

One of the very first exhibits you will encounter is a homage to comedy writers. Plus, a whole section dedicated to the humor of George Carlin. I spent quite a bit of time in this first section not realizing how expansive the remainder of the place was. But, I loved George Carlin and I was thrilled to see such a large exhibit about his genius and tumultuous history of censorship.


Now move on to the the first truly interactive room allows you to see behind the camera- literally. You also can pull up a chair and pick one of your favorite comics to perform. Dana Carvey got us off to a great start!


There are quotes and jokes along the way for all to enjoy. On windows of a walkway between sections of the building you will find great quotes that give you just enough chuckle. They also lead you in to an exhibit of a timeline of comedy in the United States. And, when you are done here – stop as you shouldn’t bypass the writer’s library. This area has some hidden gems – so go enjoy them!

Tip 4: Sit and stay.

There are several places that offer you a place to sit and watch a show, movie, news reel or interactive exhibit. Sit and stay for a while in these areas. Lingering is encouraged as there is sooooo much to see and reminisce. One of the areas I spent the most time was a huge wall with an interactive board of comedy influence – called The Continuum. It was fascinating to literally connect the dots between one comedian to another.

(Shameless side note: I will be working with Harry Shearer this October… guess what I am going to show him?! See below.)


Tip 5. Get a drink and a snack.

This place may seem a bit overwhelming with hysteria. So you may need to refuel. Lucky for you there is a snack bar easily accessible to the exhibits. Prices are fairly standard and won’t break the budget.


Tip 6 – Play with toys.

There is a section that shows you how props were used in comedic scenes, such as Saturday Night Live. . I missed this section during my first visit but went purposely to see it during my second. It was so much fun! Again, playing with toy props is encouraged! Also, a good place for older kids to explore.

Props!

Tip 7 – Become part of the act!

There are several opportunities to become part of the show. You can do you own improv stand-up comedy routines. You also can sit in a booth an insert yourself in to several well known scenes from past comedies such as I Love Lucy. Hubby and I took a few photos as Ethel and Fred Mertz.


Tip 8: Go Blue… Go if you dare…

The Blue Room is “rude, crude and at times socially unacceptable”. It also highlights some of the most “on the edge ” comediennes during the past century. I loved this room. It wasn’t salacious but more educational, if comedy that makes you blush can be that. So, if you want to see Richard Pryor, James Carlin, Amy Schumer, Don Rickles, Lenny Bruce and many more at their comedic best – take the elevator to the BLUE ROOM floor. No kids allowed. Read the caution below before entering. And, be prepared. The F-word is used liberally like salt is sprinkled on fries.


Tip 9: Keep going – there is so much more to do!

Just when you thought you were done with the exhibits here you will happen upon one of the most fun gift shops … anywhere. This place alone is a homage to comedy! Stay. Laugh. Purchase.

When you are done keep going and make your way to the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum a short walk away. If you find yourself hungry – stop for lunch at one of the several little cafes you will find along the streets.

Jamestown also is a stone’s throw to the famous Chautauqua Lake and institute.

Like some night life? Head east to the Seneca Nation Casino and Resort. They have a number of bands that play there, including Peter Frampton who packed the house!

Much to do here in Western New York!

Related: Places to eat and stay in Jamestown


Last Tip – #10 – Avail yourself of the events at the National Comedy Center and make plans to come back!

There is so much that happens at the National Comedy Center- especially in the summer months when the tourist season is at full peak. I am so bummed I won’t be there this week as August 7-11th is the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival with top comedians headlining.

Get your tickets here

And, just look at who contributed to this center and advises the programming, etc.!


Something to consider…

Our world is a bit topsy-turvy these days. In fact, there is so much dissension and violence that laughter gets lost in our collective worry and grief. We NEED a place like the National Comedy Center to help remind us about good times and good people. After all, laughter IS the best medicine.

Lastly, a special shout-out to the wonderful staff at the National Comedy Center. Gary Hahn and Adrienne (sorry forgot your last name) – both were super attentive and answered all my questions to help me prepare for this article. I hope our paths cross again – very soon! And, special thanks to all the staff – they were nice to every person who walked through their doors!

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