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Leslie’s On Zee Go Newsletter

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– Teddy Roosevelt 


Honored again to be a part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on the jury for Shorts. This is my second year on the jury (last year it was for feature documentaries). As I have had both “Bound by Flesh” and “Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer” in the festival I can appreciate how well they treat the filmmakers, jury and audience.
I love being on the jury, watching something like 13 hours of films. I try and look at them and ask; are they complete pieces? do they have a beginning, middle and end (you’d be surprised how many don’t have this)? Does it tell a story, is there drama, action . . . It’s a great lesson to NOT look at them and judge them by subject matter or what I would do. And though 99.9% of them are on subjects I wouldn’t make I completely appreciate the vision and the passion behind these films. And bravi to them. It is NOT easy to get a film made, let alone in a festival. 
I do want to talk about one film in particular. It was in the Doc shorts category, called “Blossom.” A film about a non-profit called Fostering a Change. The woman running the organization was a former foster child. She started a program helping women transition between foster care and the “real” world. She provides a place for girls to live, supports and help them with career and education decisions. And while it isn’t a “great” doc, it moved me so much that I got in touch with the woman to see how I can help. Foster care (while I know little about it) is a bit of a mess, and any help we can give these kids that have no support going from foster care to (many times) the streets seems to me to be a worthy cause. One thing that struck me the most was one young lady saying how she felt so stigmatized when people knew she was a “foster kid.” And she didn’t know why. She wasn’t responsible for her parents’ behavior.
Here is a link to the program

Glenn Close and I hobnobbing backstage after her award at the fest.

I wanted to make a quick mention of a woman I interviewed for my first film “Behind the

Burly Q.” Late in February Alexandra the Great “48” (you can imagine why the 48) passed away., Apparently ,she contracted pneumonia. I don’t think she had been in the best of health. She was a sweet, swanky lady, who has a story not yet told. Though I interviewed her in the film, I have since discovered a lot about her but she did not want to speak of it. When others come forward .I might write about it. We shall see . . . anyway here is a link to a trailer for “Behind the Burly Q” (available Amazon, everywhere)
Obviously, I am a huge reader and believer is reading BOOKS. Some of my little people love to read and for some its more difficult and then I have friends who never read BOOKS. I was listening to NPR the other day and came across a very interesting discussion about a doc (I haven’t seen Hard Word). The gist of the discussion was that children aren’t really.being taught to read and many are failing. I thought I’d cut and paste some of the quotes from the program:
Scientific research has shown how children learn to read and how they should be taught. But many educators don’t know the science and, in some cases, actively resist it. As a result, millions of kids are being set up to fail.

The basic assumption that underlies typical reading instruction in many schools is that learning to read is a natural process, much like learning to talk. But decades of scientific research has revealed that reading doesn’t come naturally. The human brain isn’t wired to read. Kids must be explicitly taught how to connect sounds with letters — phonics.
A school in Pennsylvania set out to figure out why over half of its student didn’t like to read and couldn’t.
The teachers were talking about how kids should attack words in a story. When a child came to a word he didn’t know, the teacher would tell him to look at the picture and guess. The most important thing was for the child to understand the meaning of the story, not the exact words on the page. So, if a kid came to the word “horse” and said “house,” the teacher would say it’s wrong. But, Harper said, “if the kid said ‘pony,’ it’d be right because pony and horse mean the same thing.”
The big takeaway from all the scientific research on reading is that learning to read is not a natural process. We are not born wired to read.
What a child must do to become a reader is to figure out how the words she hears and knows how to say connect to letters on the page. Writing is a code humans invented to represent speech sounds. Kids have to crack that code to become readers.

The school in Pennsylvania decided to train its teachers to re-teach reading.

The training used a curriculum written by Moats called “Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling” or LETRS. 

At the end of each school year, the Bethlehem school district gives kindergartners a test to assess early reading skills. In 2015, before the science of reading training began, more than half of the kindergartners in the district tested below the benchmark score, meaning most of them were heading into first grade at risk of reading failure. At the end of the 2018 school year, after the principals and kindergarten teachers were trained in the reading science, 84 percent of kindergarteners met or exceeded the benchmark score. At three schools, it was 100 percent.

One of the most consistent findings in all of education research is that children become better readers when they get explicit and systematic phonics instruction.

Anyhow I thought this was all interesting and I would love to see more people pick up a book and dive into a world they could not otherwise enter.

We all spent a cold week skiing in Aspen. Tons of powder, tons of fun. Temperatures really, really cold, as in 2 – 20 degrees. My skin hates this dry cold weather, but besides a travel humidifier here are some of my go-to skin helpers for the DRY.

We all spent a cold week skiing in Aspen. Tons of powder, tons of fun. Temperatures really, really cold, as in 2 – 20 degrees. My skin hates this dry cold weather, but besides a travel humidifier here are some of my go-to skin helpers for the DRY.

Coco now has her own You Tube channel that ZZ created, please subscribe

Burlesque and Pinup Emojis
If your BOOK CLUB would like me to visit via Skype I’m available on the road or when I’m at home. It’s been fun coming into your homes, sending specialty FAN cocktail recipes before for you all to try. email me at  if you want me to join in on some Fun FAN talking. A questionnaire is available on my website to download for your Book club.

And lastly what I’m reading or recently read
for complete list, I have everything on Good Reads
as I can’t remember them all!

This is going to sound strange, but has much to do with my current research, but I actually enjoyed this book (probably out of print). It is all about the Second Empire, war, intrigue, imperial life. It’s a confusing hodge-podge of Bonapartes, legit and not, Imperial and not, that I am trying to get straight. So many had the same or similar names, Jerome, Louis, Napoleon. Not to mention all the cousins and relations vying for recognition.  So Plon, Plon (Prince Napoleon, cousin to Napoleon III – see confusing?) is a very interesting character, very contradictory. He was called many things, intelligent, louche, cowardly, republican, liberal. He is just one of the fascinating characters from this era I am exploring. Its really the women . . . but I have to understand the men and the era.
A few other mentions: “The Broken Girls” (super creepy and good)
“My Year of Rest and Relaxation” (endless and pointless)  

It has been the long birthday month and I thank all my friends for celebrating me. As Anais Nin wrote: “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

Until next time . . .

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