Friday, December 21, 2007

HARK, THE HORRID MANGLERS SING!

BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Simply ha-a-ving a wonderful Christmas time … simply ha-a-ving a wonderful Christmas time … simply ha-a-ving … oh, holy night, make it stop! It seems Santa brought Paul McCartney a new synthesizer in 1979 and we’ve been assaulted by this bouncy, repetitive tune every year since.

But it could be worse. A lot worse. We’re talkin’ worse than tunes about getting hippopotamuses or two front teeth or nuttin’ for Christmas. Worse than singing dogs, cats, chipmunks or other mammals.

We're talking Weapons of Musical Destruction.


Here are 10 holiday songs I’d like to see get run over by a reindeer:

1. "The Bell That Couldn't Jingle" – Bobby Vinton. See, the bell was crying because it "had nothin' there inside," so Santa froze a teardrop to make a clapper – what most of us call "that thingy that makes a bell ring." So the bell no longer felt sad and empty, see? I, on the other hand, had nothin’ there inside – my stomach – after listening to this dreck.

2. "Deck the Halls" – William Hung. I’d like to deck the genius who gave this "American Idol" reject a recording contract. There’s one good thing about the album featuring this tune: It only runs 20 minutes – five minute longer than Hung’s career.

3. "Do You See What I See?" – Rosie O'Donnell with Elmo. Do you hear what I hear? A voice, a voice, grating on my nerves, from a mouth as big as the sea. And Elmo’s pretty annoying, too.

4. "Jingle Bell Hustle" – Wayne Newton. Mr. Las Vegas does disco! Danke schoen, but no thanks.

5. "Mom and Daddy, Please Don't Steal for Me This Christmas" – Suzannah. Treasured childhood memories of viewing Christmas lights withered and died with this verse: Through the neighborhood he browses/Showing me the pretty houses/But why does Daddy write the numbers down?

6. "Please, Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)" by John Denver, who must have been Rocky Mountain High-as-a-kite when he introduced this song as a "funny little ditty." Yep, nothing says “fun” like a 7-year-old’s plea to his alcoholic father. Way to go, John-Boy.

7. "Same Old Lang Syne" – Dan Fogelberg (R.I.P.). Despite heavy airplay between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, this isn’t really a Christmas song. And it’s not that it’s awful … just awfully tedious.

8. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" – Bruce Springsteen. Normally, The Boss gives us diamonds, but he laid a lump of coal with this one. Is he straining to pass a kidney stone … or a Buick? Somebody get this man a bottle of Metamucil!

9. "What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)" – Meco, from Christmas In The Stars: The Star Wars Christmas Album. May the Force be against galactic funkster Meco for his crimes against the music of John Williams. Listen to this, you should not!

10. "Zoomah the Santa Claus from Mars" by Barry Gordon, the same guy responsible for “Yes, We Have No Bananas.” Need I say more?

With rubbish like this cluttering up the airwaves, I’d gladly settle for a "Silent Night." Literally.

Friday, December 07, 2007

IT’S TIME TO PAY THE PIPER


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

At some point, most music lovers have downloaded free songs from the Internet. You hear a tune that knocks your socks off, but you don’t want to spring for the whole CD just yet, in case the other tracks turn out to be duds. So you hit the cyber-highway in search of a freebie.


I, of course, have never done such a thing. I wouldn’t dream of cheating artists out of the 8 to 14 cents per song that puts food on their tables. And I’m not just saying this for the benefit of any Recording Industry Association of America lawyers who might be reading this column.


Stealing music is like taking candy from babies – it’s quick, easy and hey, free candy! It’s not as much fun, though, since musicians have lawyers and babies don’t.


If you’re losing sleep over your idol suffering the unspeakable humiliation of driving last year’s Jag instead of a late-model Porsche because you’ve picked his pocket with your no-cost downloading, there’s something you can do to purge your guilty conscience.

Check out DearRockers.org, your online confessional! Here’s how it works:

1. Pick an artist whose music you’ve acquired without paying – preferably someone you really like and respect. No need to apologize if you’re one of the 8 people who downloaded Paris Hilton’s “Stars Are Blind.” You’ve already paid dearly.

2. Write the artist a letter telling them why you love their music, accompanied by $5 in cash. Why $5? Because, according to website founder Darren Barefoot, $5 “represents about three albums’ worth of income for an artist.” I know, it didn’t make sense to me, either.

3. Find the artist’s mailing address on the site and voila, absolution! No Hail Marys, no Our Fathers, no sleeping on a bed of nails. Such is the penance of pirating.


Also, if you scan or photograph your letter before mailing and submit it to the site, Barefoot will share it with the world (including any RIAA lawyers who might be reading.)


DearRockers.org give you an opportunity to express your deepest regrets, like Michele C. of Long Island does by apologizing – albeit a bit backhandedly – for ripping off Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose: “Dear Axl, There are a lot of musicians I could have sent this money to … (b)ut I figured out of all of them, you could probably use the money the most … I am giving it to you in change because that’s how bum wine should be bought.”


If you ask me, the world needs more people like Michele C. Maybe if we all sent Axl a few bucks, he’d finally release that new GN’R album he’s been sitting on for eight years.


I think paying artists what they’re due is a great idea and if I were the sort of person who downloaded free music, I would totally do it. Heaven knows Britney Spears could use the money for court costs and underwear.

Friday, November 23, 2007

I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

'Tis a month before Christmas and all through the house,
Shopping is done with the click of a mouse;
By people avoiding the fierce toy store brawls
Of maniacal mobs surging through local malls.

Where once they left early to line up at the doors,
They now browse and surf through the Internet stores.
No price-checks, no cart wrecks, no sore, aching feet,
No need to get out of that cushy desk seat!

No long checkout lines and no NASCAR-like races
As they zoom 'round and 'round, searching for parking spaces.
No hundred-pound packages weighing them down,
No schlepping to every darn store in the town!

No guilt for ignoring the bell-ringing guy
Who asks for donations and smiles when they lie,
"I've only got plastic," they sputter and spout.
"I'll get change and give when I'm on my way out."

They kick back in comfort, not a moment of stress;
Their version of Santa works for UPS.
He'll bring gifts to put under their Christmas trees -
(Or Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, whichever you please.)

The sites offer lists of this year's hottest toys
Sure to bring lots of cheer to indulged girls and boys,
Who've made lists of their own that stretch on for years,
And the parents just can't disappoint the little dears.

There's Jamal's gas scooter - oh, how he did beg!
Although fueling it up costs and arm and a leg!
For Ashley, let's see ... what makes her go bananas?
The Cheetah Girls, Barbie and Hannah Montana!

Little Dexter wants gifts in a scholarly vein,
So what can you buy that will challenge his brain?
The Mad Science lab won't cause chemical troubles,
It's safe and non-toxic - it only makes bubbles!

Or how 'bout a toy with a slight retro flair?
It's now electronic, but its shape is still square.
The multi-hued cube's undergone evolution;
Now featuring games, it's Rubik's Revolution!

Miguel wants to party - you know, like a rock star,
So get him the popular Power Tour gee-tar!
Or if he is more of the Nintendo breed,
Then perhaps "Guitar Hero" would be more his speed.

Or maybe your game-boy's a tinier tyke,
Just right for a Smart Cycle video bike.
If cuddly critters will bring him more joy,
Then buy him a Zoobie, the three-in-one toy!

For the teen who's a fan of the film "Office Space,"
There's a gift sure to bring a big smile to his face.
Yeah, you're gonna need to go ahead and pay
For a talking Lumbergh doll - that would be great, m'kay?

There's something for everyone, that is a promise;
There's Transformers, Legos, an engine named Thomas.
And i-Sing and iPhones and bionic eyes,
For youngsters of all ages, genders and size.

It's all close at hand, at your mere fingertips,
No more shopping-mall crowds packed in hip-to-hip!
It might hurt your wallet, but take heed of this:
You won't suffer more than a slightly sprained wrist!

Friday, November 09, 2007

OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD OF OZZ


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL
Ozzy Osbourne has done some insane things in his day, but his next display of lunacy and wild abandon will take the proverbial cake. Alert the paparazzi: The Prince of Darkness is going to – yikes! – host a Thanksgiving dinner.

On Nov. 18, four lucky metalheads will be singing, “Over the river and through Hollywood, to Ozz-father’s house we go!” as they reap the benefits of the “Thanksgiving with Ozzy” contest sponsored by mobile media company SendMe and concert/tour promoters AEG Live. At SendMe’s sweepstakes site, SoLow.com, Ozzy fans are bidding until 9 a.m. today for the chance to celebrate an early Turkey Day at the Osbournes’ new pad in Los Angeles.


Makes sense to me. After all, when you hear the word “Thanksgiving,” who doesn’t immediately think of a doddering, incoherent middle-aged Englishman in Spandex? But hey, different strokes … one man’s garbage is another man’s giblets, right?


The winning contestant will claim the grand prize, which includes round-trip airfare for the winner and three friends, $500 cash, hotel accommodations in L.A. and San Diego (I believe head-banger protocol dictates the trashing of said hotel rooms) and a concert in the latter city featuring Ozzy and Rob Zombie. But the pièce de résistance – or the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie, as it were – is the opportunity to watch Ozzy do something few have ever seen him do.


Will he utter a full sentence without using profanity?


Will he bite the head off a live turkey?


Will he mistake the gravy boat for a urinal?


No, no and no. Puh-
leese … such banalities are the stuff of everyday life for a madman like Ozzy. What he has in store for his guests will shock, awe and undoubtedly change their view of their idol forever. In fact, they could very well be rendered permanently mute after the sight of – Warning: Parental Discretion Advised – Ozzy preparing his famous Yorkshire pudding.

The Ozz-man is famous for many things – his years with Black Sabbath, his solo career, his MTV reality show – and infamous for many others – see above references to profanity, animal head-biting and publicly relieving himself. But seeing his name in the same sentence with “famous Yorkshire pudding” has to be a first.


I can only imagine what the dinnertime conversation will be like:


Ozzy: “Bloody ‘ell! I can’t (bleeping) work this (bleeping) electric knife (unintelligible rambling).”


Sharon: “Just take the (bleeping) thing and – down, Minnie! No! Bad dog!”


Kelly: “Mum! That contest person is (bleeping) staring at my (bleeps)!”


Ozzy: (Gibberish)


Sharon: “Minnie, no! We don’t do that to the guest’s leg! Naughty girl!”


Kelly: “Mum! Dad! (Bleeping) make him stop! Sigh … no one (bleeping) listens to me!”

Contest winner: “No one listens to your music … why should they listen to you talk?”


Ah, but I jest. To be honest, I have a soft spot for the oddly-functional-within-dysfunction Osbournes, and I’d love to be a fly on the wall during the Ozz-festivities. If nothing else, it would be worth it to hear Ozzy channeling Pink Floyd as he chides Jack and Kelly, “How can you have any Yorkshire pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARRIAGE


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Love and marriage might go together like a horse and carriage, but it seems celebrities and marriage go together like Britney Spears and underpants. What is it about fame that dooms a marriage before the ink on the license has dried?

In the time it’s taken you to read this far, a Hollywood starlet has married, divorced, re-wed, had a couple of extramarital affairs and booked an appearance on “Maury” to determine who’s her baby’s daddy.


Once upon a time, celebrity marriages were cause for glad tidings of great joy: “Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward? Lovely couple! They’ll last forever.” (Forty-nine years and counting!) Now, they’re the basis for office betting pools: “Avril Lavigne and that guy from that band? Two years. A year and a half if she writes another song like ‘Girlfriend’.”


The troubled Ms. Spears holds the record for shortest celebrity marriage – 55 hours of wedded bliss to childhood friend Jason Alexander. She beat out Zsa Zsa Gabor, who spent one day in 1982 as Mrs. Felipe Whatever (when you’re on Hubby No. 8, are names really important?), but the union was declared invalid because Zsa-squared was still married to her previous husband.


To be fair, we hear about the marriages that don’t make it because misery sells, merriment doesn’t. Vendors would have to throw in a free Bowflex and home visits by Billy Blanks to unload tabloids boasting, “Couple remains happy and faithful for yet another year!” Unless one-half of the couple was, say, Bigfoot.


We hear about the flops, but many have proven it can be done. Legendary actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee were married almost 57 years when Davis died in 2005. Bill and Camille Cosby, 43 years. Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, 25 years. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, 19 years. Jon Bon Jovi and non-celeb wife Dorothea, 18 years. Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn never legally married, but they’ve been together 24 years. Musician John Lydon has been with his wife more than 20 years – and we’re talking about a guy best known as Johnny Rotten!


Obviously, today’s young stars could take a page from the book of love written by the “old-timers” (with the exception of Zsa Zsa, of course). Susan Sarandon, who’s been with partner Tim Robbins for 19 years, said in 2005, “I'm certainly not an expert, but Tim and I just celebrated 17 years together, which in Hollywood years I think is 45. I think the key is just focusing on this one person and not keeping one eye on the door to see who might be better.”


In other words, the “something borrowed” at a wedding should not be someone else’s husband or wife.


If the kids don’t want to listen to their elders, perhaps they’ll heed the advice of a peer. "You have to keep marriage alive, spice it up. We have something called naked Sundays,” says Christina Aguilera of life with music exec Jordan Bratman, her husband of almost two years. “We don't need to go anywhere, we're just with each other. We do everything naked. We cook
naked.”

Hmm. Maybe if Britney had shed more than her skivvies, she’d still be Mrs. K-Fed.

Friday, October 12, 2007

WON’T YOU TAKE ME TO TACKY TOWN (KY.)?


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

From Andy Griffith’s bucolic Mayberry, N.C., to the Simpsons’ where-in-the-world-is Springfield, television is a wonderland of fictional towns. You’d think with it being entertainment and all, they’d come up with more entertaining names.


I’ll overlook drama series in this case; they’re supposed to be serious. But when it comes to cartoons and comedies, I want my made-up municipalities to sound like fun places, places I’d want to visit in real life. Sure, you get the occasional Quahog (“Family Guy”) or Bikini Bottom (“SpongeBob SquarePants”), but even animated towns are becoming anything but. Why can’t “King of the Hill” be set in, say, Bubba’s Rump, Texas, instead of – yawn – Arlen?

Even the melodramatic milieu of soap operas is dominated by drably dubbed burgs like Pine Valley, Pa. (“All My Children”), where I’ve not seen a single pine except at Christmas, though the town does boast its very own ocean – despite being located in the middle of the state. (Apparently, passing geography isn’t a prerequisite for becoming a soap writer.)


If TV writers are running out of ideas for colorful backdrops, I’ve got a solution: Get thee to an Atlas. This timeless book of maps yields more unusual names than you can shake a script at. Wouldn’t you be more intrigued by a show set in Rough and Ready, Calif., than Sunnyvale? Who knows -
maybe “Northern Exposure” would still be on the air if it took place in Manley Hot Springs, Alaska, instead of Cicely.

Picture this: A prime-time roster of programs of with similarly themed settings. You could visit the denizens of Butts, Ga., Fannie, Ark., and Moon, Pa. If you prefer sports-related sitcoms, you could spend an evening with the folks in Umpire, Ariz., Centerfield, Ohio, and Ball Ground, Ga. For legal drama fans, there’d be courtroom battles in Lawyersville, N.Y., and Justice, Ill.


Imagine if the nightly lineup featured shows set in:

* Mummie, Ky., and Egypt, Maine.


* Lolita, Texas, and Vixen, La.


* Opportunity, Mont., and Last Chance, Colo.


* Santa Claus, Ga., North Pole, N.Y., and Big Chimney, W.Va.


* Lickskillet, Ky., and Frying Pan Landing, N.C.


* Intercourse, Pa., and Protection, Kan.


* Energy, Ill., Power, Idaho, and Electric City, Wash.


* What Cheer, Iowa, Happy Corner, N.H., and Carefree, Ariz.


* Why, Ariz., and Whynot, Miss.


* Beggs, Okla., and Panhandle, Texas.


* Chicken, Alaska, and Rice, Kan.


* Peculiar, Mo., and Odd, W.Va.


* Marco, Fla., and Polo, Ill.


* Friendship, Maine, and Social Circle, Ga.


* Rollingstone, Minn., and Moss, Miss.


* LaVerne, Calif., and Shirley, Mass.


* Riddle, Ore., and Enigma, Ga.


* Romance, Ark., and Loving, Texas.


* Gas, Kan., and Belchertown, Mass.


* Mexican Water, Ariz., and Los Baños, Calif.


* Cowlic, Ariz., and Brush, Colo.


* Mayo, Fla., and Sandwich, Mass.


* Coldfoot, Ark., and Shoemakersville, Pa.


* Parchment, Mich., and Ink, Ark.


* Mars, Pa., and Jupiter, Fla.


* Coffee, Ala., Toast, N.C., Two Egg., Fla., and Bacon, Ind.


If TV writers insist on sticking with boring, normal town names, let’s hope those names are Boring, Md., and Normal, Ill.

Friday, September 28, 2007

MOVIES PLAY BY THEIR OWN RULES



BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

I’ve never been much for horror films of the slash-and-gore variety. Such movies are a large part of why I don’t go camping. Everyone knows a tent full of humans is basically a burrito in the eyes of a hockey-masked killer. However, if the movie has a hint of dark comedy, I’ll give it a shot, which is how I got hooked into the “Scream” trilogy.

While watching a rerun of the first installment on cable a few nights ago, I was reminded of two things: 1) Jamie Kennedy’s performance as Randy the resident film geek almost makes up for “Malibu’s Most Wanted,” and 2) Randy’s rules for surviving a horror movie are invariably true – especially, “Never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, ‘I'll be right back.’ Because you won't be back.” (Unless, of course, you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

Movies come with a set of regulations all their own. For instance, all you need is a pair of glasses to keep your friends from recognizing the resemblance between you and your superhero alter ego. And if you find yourself outnumbered by bad guys, don’t worry – they always have the courtesy to attack you one at a time. The others will dance around menacingly while waiting their turns.

Other filmdom rules of thumb:

* You can fire a six-shooter at least eight times without reloading.

* In the unlikely event that you run out of bullets, a comrade will sneak up and shoot the bad guy in the back.

* A bad guy can unload a machine gun and miss the broad side of a barn, but a good guy can take out an entire hit squad with one bullet.

* One twin is always evil.

* Amnesia as the result of a bump on the head is cured by another bump on the head.

* You will always have exact change for cab fare. Sometimes you don’t have to pay at all.

* If you need to see an important news bulletin, it will air the second you turn on the TV.

* Ventilation ducts are always large enough to crawl through. And they’re never turned on. And they’ll always lead you to an escape route.

* No matter how fast you run and how slowly the killer walks, he will catch you.

* When driving, it’s perfectly safe to look everywhere except at the road.

* If you break into song and dance on a busy street, traffic will stop and everyone will know the words and steps.

* When staying in a seedy hotel, you'll always get the room with the flashing neon sign right outside the window.

* If you’re in a hurry, you don’t need keys to start your car.

* Ugly girls are just pretty girls with glasses and/or braces.

* Whentyping,youneverneedtohitthespacebar.

* If you’re the underdog team, the winning shot will swish into the basket at the same time the buzzer hits zero.

* Aliens from other planets always sound American.

* Morning breath is non-existent.

* A bulletproof vest will protect you from being shot in the head or extremities.

* In a car chase, you’ll always miss oncoming vehicles by mere inches.

I could go on forever, but there’s an important news bulletin I need to see. I’ll be right back.

Friday, September 14, 2007

ALIENS ABDUCT WEEKLY WORLD NEWS!


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

The king of Elvis sightings is dead.

After 28 years, the tabloid that titillated us with its outlandish scoops about aliens, Bigfoot and the celebrity undead, cranked out its last issue on Aug. 27.


The Weekly World News, which billed itself as "The World's Only Reliable Newspaper," sported a front page that looked like a cut-and-paste project by a demented 10-year-old. It was printed in black and white, but it never lacked color.


Certainly, the glossier National Enquirer, Star, Globe and Sun are considered more “prestigious” (a relative term here) among the tabloid-erati, but the WWN had something those publications lack: A sense of humor. Behind the bunny-battling matadors, demon-possessed toilets and exposès that Dick Cheney is a robot (I’m still not convinced that story’s fake) was a major element of “nudge-nudge, wink-wink.”

The WWN, which inspired faux-news outlets like The Onion, holds the distinction of being the only tabloid to inspire two musicals—David Byrne's 1986 movie “True Stories” and the off-Broadway “Bat Boy: The Musical.” And unlike other tabs, big stars heartily endorse it. In the book Bat Boy Lives!: The Weekly World News Guide to Politics, Culture, Celebrities, Alien Abductions, and the Mutant Freaks that Shape Our World, Johnny Depp states, “The only gossip I'm interested in is in the Weekly World News." And in the movie “Men in Black,” Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) calls the WWN “the best damn investigative reporting on the planet."

When it came to not-so-real stars, the tabloid had some of its own. The legendary Bat Boy’s adventures included leading cops on a three-state chase, wooing Hillary Rodham Clinton, foiling a terrorist bomb plot and being knighted by Queen Elizabeth. Bigfoot kept a lumberjack as his love slave, while his female counterpart, a Sasquatch hooker, posed nude for a girlie-mag centerfold. Then there was the undead Elvis, who, in the paper’s best-selling issue, was found holed up in a Kalamazoo hideout.

In its heyday, the WWN boasted a million-plus readers and represented the best—and worst—of sensationalism. Its absurd headlines (“Concrete Enemas A Bad Idea, Docs Warn”) entertained millions more as they waited in grocery checkout lines.


Here are 10 more of the many great headlines in WWN history:


* “Space Aliens Are Sending Their Kids To Earth’s Universities & They’re Making Our Top Students Look Like Idiots!”


* “200 Elves Laid Off As Santa Moves Operation To Honduras Sweatshop”

* “Kitten Accused Of Murder—Sign The Petition Or Fluffy Dies!”


* “Why Moses Wandered In The Desert For 40 Years: He Lost The Map!"


* “Osama And Saddam Adopt Shaved Baby Ape” (A follow-up to “Saddam & Osama In Love!”)

* “Meek Sue to Inherit the Earth!”


* “Aliens Passing Gas Caused Hole In Ozone Layer!”


* “Loch Ness Monster Surfaces In Jersey Bathtub”


* “Ka-BOOB! Woman’s Breast Implant Explodes!”


* “Carpal Tuna Syndrome . . . Computer User's Fingers Turning Into Fish!”


Alas, poor Bat Boy … we hardly knew ye. But there’s good news for WWN fans: The tabloid lives on in cyberspace at www.weeklyworldnews.com. If your computer freezes while you’re reading, blame it on the aliens.

Friday, September 07, 2007

EMBIGGEN YOUR VOCABULARY, MAN!


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL
What began as a series of 30-second sketches on a variety show has left a giant, four-toed footprint in television history.
One of the greatest influences on adult-oriented, animated sitcoms, The Simpsons premiered in 1987 as filler material on The Tracey Ullman Show. Three years later, the dysfunctional Springfielders were the stars of the Fox Network's first series to rank among a season's top 30 highest-rated shows.
Naturally, a merchandising avalanche ensued – clothing, video games, comic books – anything that could be emblazoned with the Simpsons’ bug-eyed, yellow faces. Teachers were appalled by students sporting Bart’s “Underachiever (‘And proud of it, man!’)” T-shirt; many schools banned all things Simpsonian. George Bush the Elder urged families to be more like The Waltons and less like The Simpsons. Wife Barbara called the show “the dumbest thing” she’d ever seen – which she’d apologize for after receiving a strongly worded letter from blue-beehived mama Marge.
Detractors didn’t stop the show from flourishing into a multibillion-dollar empire. Two decades later, the Simpsons’ star shows no signs of dimming, as proven by the box office take from their silver screen debut. Since its late July release, The Simpsons Movie has grossed more than $168 million and is in the Top 20 movies with the biggest opening weekends.
But Homer, Marge, Bart, Maggie and Lisa have contributed more to American pop culture than controversy, entertainment and empty wallets. Besides catchphrases like “Cowabunga, dude!” and “Eat my shorts,” much of the show’s lingo has been adopted into the English lexicon.
Most famous is Homer’s trademark grunt, “D’oh!,” an exclamation of annoyance now found in several dictionaries. I’ve often used the term unthinkingly while in the throes of vexation. Same goes for “meh,” a declaration of boredom/apathy not invented by the Simpsons (some sources cite it as a Yiddish expression), but certainly popularized by them. Sample usage: In the 2002 episode Hungry Hungry Homer, Homer asks Bart and Lisa if they want to go to the Blockoland theme park:
Bart and Lisa, in unison: Meh.
Homer: But the TV gave me the impression that ...
Bart: We said, “Meh!”
Lisa: M-E-H, meh.
Here are more of my favorite Simpsonisms:
* Okely-Dokely – The signature phrase of squeaky-clean Ned Flanders, whose habit of adding nonsensical syllables to words – “Hi-diddly-ho, neighbor-ino!” – makes me want to up-doodly-chuck.
* Poindextrose: A pheromone secreted by nerds that makes them sitting ducks for wedgies.
* Cromulent – Valid; acceptable. Coined in a 1996 episode to describe the next word.
* Embiggen – To enlarge; to empower. This word was found its way into a paper by a Stanford physicist, which indeed makes it cromulent ‘cos those science guys are really poindextrose.
And my all-time favorite “Simpsons” neologism:
* Kwyjibo – A big, dumb, balding North American ape with no chin (suspiciously resembling Homer). To my dismay, my Scrabble buddies won’t allow this word coined by Bart during a round of America’s good-time game, thus denying me 116 dang-doodly points.
Some linguists say such words and phrases contribute to the dumbing-down of our society. To them, I say, “Don’t have a cow, man.”

Friday, August 03, 2007

When Harry Met Halle


By BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Hi, my name is Belinda and I’m a Potter-head.

I’ve read all the books, I own the first four movies and I know the difference between a bludger and a snitch. Call me a geek and I’ll give you a swift kick in the Hufflepuff.

Certainly, there are more devout fans than I – you won’t catch me queued up for hours waiting for the newest book to go on sale. Nay, I have the fortitude to wait a few days until my friend finishes the copy I suggested his boyfriend buy for his birthday. (Ulterior motive? Who, me?)

I’ve never dressed up as a character and I don’t refer to non-magic folk as "Muggles," but there’s no denying I’m just wild about Harry – and Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Dumbledore and Dobby. Heck, I even have a begrudging affinity for that slithery Slytherin, Severus Snape.

Now that the final tome, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, has hit the shelves, the curtain has closed on a decade of magical, fantastical storytelling by J.K. Rowling. Sure, there are two more movies on deck, but we already know how they’ll end. So, like other members of the cult of Pottermania that transcends age, gender, race, religion and nationality, I’m left to wonder: What now?

Personally, I think Harry should explore other avenues, as Daniel Radcliffe, who portrays the teen wizard, recently did when he went the full Monty in the play, Equus. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting Harry drop trou and become a Chippendale dancer … at least not without his invisibility cloak.

No, I’d like to see Harry venture outside the cloistered confines of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Imagine young Potter appearing out of thin air as Harry Poppins, the "manny" (male nanny) to a pair of neglected children played by Sean Preston and Jayden James Federline!

Here are some other casting possibilities for the stalwart sorcerer:

* How Harry Got His Groove Back – Disillusioned with his dreary job at the Ministry of Magic and brokenhearted after Jenny Weasley runs off with Draco Malfoy, Harry goes on holiday to Jamaica. He meets a beautiful older woman (Halle Berry) and sparks fly!

* Dirty Harry Potter – Just as he did during his days at Hogwarts, London cop Harry Potter has little regard for the rules. "You gotta ask yourself a question: ‘Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"

* Harry Gump – Life is like a box of magic wands. You never know if you’re gonna draw the short stick.

* Harry, Queen of Scots – Potter trades the flowing, silken robes of a magician for the flowing, silken frocks of the drag world! Co-star John Travolta reprises his gender-bending character from Hairspray.

For fans who find these roles too much of a stretch for their hero, Harry returns to his roots as The Wizard of Azkaban. Toto, I don’t think we’re in the Dark Forest anymore!

Alas, if Harry fails to make it on the big screen, there’s still TV-land. As a Hogwarts alum who returns to his alma mater to teach a class of chronic underachievers, he’d be a natural in Welcome Back, Potter.

Friday, July 20, 2007

THE FACTS OF ('80s) LIFE


BELINDA M. PASCHAL
(West End Girl)


Last week, [Dayton Daily News] co-columnist Tony Riazzi waxed nostalgic about being a child of the '80s. I'm not sure of Mr. Riazzi's age, but I'd bet my parachute pants and jelly shoes that he's younger than I am. So it is with the utmost smugness that I say, "Mr. Riazzi, I knew the '80s. The '80s were a friend of mine. And you, sir, are no child of the '80s."


To be fair, anyone born during or shortly before that particular decade technically is a child of the '80s. By that logic, I could call myself a child of the '60s, even though a "sit-in" was what I did in the corner when I was in trouble and the only Woodstock I knew was Snoopy's feathered friend. No, my true wonder years were the '70s and '80s.


You see, to be a true '80s child (according to the rules I just made up), one's age would have to have been in double digits by 1980. I'm not minimizing my colleague's '80s experience, but there's a big difference between experiencing the ‘80s as a mere tadpole and seeing them through teenage eyes. It’d be like comparing apples and oranges – or Papa Smurf and J.R. Ewing.


Gather around, young’uns, Grandma’s gonna tell you about life as an ‘80s teenager. Back then, when the working day was done, girls just wanted to have fun, so we popped in our Michael Jackson Thriller cassette tapes (I’ll explain later) and partied like it was 1999.


As Mr. Riazzi said, men were men in the ‘80s – like Hulk Hogan, for instance. But just as often, dude looked like a lady. Exhibit 1: Boy George. OK, dude looked like a bag lady on steroids. But we loved him, anyway. ‘Cos it takes diff’rent strokes to move the world.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of fashion. We wore slouch socks with mini-skirts and looked, like, totally awesome. We wore leg warmers with mini-skirts and looked, like, tubular to the max. We wore biker shorts with mini-skirts and looked like DA BOMB.


We’d put on our penny loafers, pegged jeans and fluorescent T-shirts, and boogie-oogie-oogie till we just couldn’t boogie no more at 1470 West – not the one that used to be downtown, but the original one in Kettering. When Whitney Houston wanted to dance with somebody, we were so excited we just couldn’t hide it.


On many a weekend – and summer weekdays – we’d gather in brat packs to hang out at the Arcade, buying the newest 45’s (I’ll explain later) and thumbing through the latest issues of 16 and Tiger Beat until the security guard chased us out of McCrory’s. Those were our "glory days," as Springsteen would say.


Well, kiddies, I’d love to regale you with more tales of the good ol’ days, but I can see by my Swatch watch that it’s time for my nap. Feel free to stick around and watch some videos – I’ve got VHS and Beta, take your pick. Just make sure to wake me up before you go-go.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Big hair is an AFRO-disiac


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

I have afro envy.

With the afro making a comeback in the last few years, I’ve often thought, "Sure would be nice to not have to wonder how I’m gonna fix my hair today." Unfortunately, my hair is of a length, weight and texture that doesn’t lend itself well to such a hairstyle. Oh, I can rock the "half-fro," wherein the hair fans out on either side a la Roseanne Rosannadanna, but I can’t achieve the altitude required for adequate afro-ness.

I want an afro of such gargantuan proportions that I’d have to turn sideways to walk through a door, like O.J. Simpson’s Nordberg in Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult. I want a mystical mountain of magic like Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo’s in the Shonen Jump anime series.

When I was 8, the reigning queen of blaxploitation filmdom was Pam Grier, who boasted a halo of hair that made the Jackson 5 look like the Hair Club for Men. Nobody messed aroun’ with Foxy Brown, ‘cos she packed a revolver. In her afro! In Coffy, Grier was "the baddest one-chick hit squad that ever hit town," according to movie posters. Anyone doubting her badness came away minus a few fingers, thanks to the razor blades hidden in her ‘fro – an essential accessory when engaging in hair-pulling catfights. I had no desire to use my hair as a weapons arsenal; I just wanted to look like the baddest one-chick hit squad that ever hit the fourth grade.

Around the same time, there was Tamara Dobson – sort of a decaf Coffy, if you will. At 6’2, Dobson was the tallest leading lady in film, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, which didn’t factor in the groovy platforms and funkadelic ‘fro that put Dobson near 7 feet tall in Cleopatra Jones.

"Hair's like a woman. You treat it good and it treats you good," says Doodlebug, a character in the movie. "You gotta hold it, caress it and love it." But no amount of holding, caressing and loving would give me an awesome blossom like the one on Cleo’s head.

Being afro-tastic transcends race and ethnicity. Just look at the cast of Welcome Back, Kotter. With the exception of Vinnie Barbarino, the Sweathogs were a veritable United Nations of afro-osity. Mr. Kotter (Jewish), Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington (black), and Juan Epstein (Puerto Rican Jew) all were fine specimens of afro-hood. I’m not sure what Arnold Horshack’s ancestry was, but he definitely inherited the afro gene.

If I want to achieve even a semi-respectable facsimile of an afro, I have two options. One would be to buzz my locks to about 3-4 inches, the length at which it begins to form single curls instead of spirals. But this would leave me with what we referred to in my childhood as a "TWA" – Teeny-Weeny Afro – thus defeating the purpose.

The alternative would be to torture my hair with no fewer than 283 tightly wound, microscopic curlers and enough Aqua Net to obliterate the ozone layer. It hardly seems worth the effort, since half a day of humidity would transform me from Erykah Badu to Erykah Ba-don’t.

Friday, June 22, 2007

MUSICAL BUOYS of SUMMER



By Belinda M. Paschal



Thursday marked the beginning of summer and I can't think of a better way to celebrate than in song. Actually, I can think of a better way, but I'm not paid to sit around drinking beer in my underwear. (To be clear, the beer's in a bottle, I'm in my underwear.)


Besides the Martha Reeves and the Vandellas tune quoted above, scores of songs serve as a sensational seasonal soundtrack: "Under the Boardwalk" by The Drifters, Sheryl Crow's "Soak Up the Sun," almost anything by The Beach Boys, Alice Cooper's "School's Out" — the year-end anthem at my high school — and no summer is complete without wastin' away in "Margaritaville" courtesy of Jimmy Buffett.


The list is infinite, but for this column, I'm sticking to songs with "summer" in the titles. Here's my list of 10 songs — in no particular order — that get me in a summery mood.


1. Summer In the City: The Lovin' Spoonful's 1966 hit initially was a poem by frontman John Sebastian's brother, Mark. Back of my neck's gettin' dirty and gritty just thinking about it.


2. Hot Fun in the Summertime: The best rendition of this often-recorded song came from Sly & the Family Stone in 1969. Crank the volume and boop-boop-ba-boop-boop when ya want to!


3. In the Summertime: Mungo Jerry's sole U.S. hit has endured for more than three decades. Reggae man Shaggy put the song back on the charts in 1995.


4. Summertime: Before he was king of the big screen, Will Smith was the Fresh Prince. With DJ Jazzy Jeff, he scored this No. 1 hit that won a Grammy and sampled another seasonal serenade, Kool & The Gang's "Summer Madness."


5. Summertime Blues: Eddie Cochran's gritty rocker about how parents just don't understand has been remade by numerous artists with rebellious reputations, including The Who, Joan Jett and notorious renegade Olivia Newton-John.


Speaking of the oldest high school senior in filmdom ...


6. Summer Nights: Newton-John played Sandy to John Travolta's Danny Zuko in the movie adaptation of the musical Grease. Tell me more, tell me more, indeed!


7. Summertime: Of the 2,600-plus covers of George Gershwin's classic from "Porgy and Bess," Janis Joplin's boozy, bluesy remake is the perfect backdrop for a lazy summer day.


8. The Boys of Summer: Don Henley's melancholy single debuted closer to winter — November 1984 — but its images of brown skin shinin' in the sun and a convertible with the top down are unmistakably summer-esque.


9. All Summer Long: No "summer" list would be complete without at least one song by the quintessential boys of summer, The Beach Boys. Just throw on your "T-shirt, cut-offs and a pair of thongs," and surf's up!


10. Summer Breeze: This gentle tune never fails to make me feel fine, blowin' through the jasmine in my mind. Whatever happened to Seals and Crofts, anyway?


Honorable mentions: "Summertime, Summertime" (The Jamies); "Summer of Love" (The B-52's); "Summer Girls" (LFO); "Endless Summer Nights" (Richard Marx); "Cruel Summer (Bananarama); "Happy Summertime" (R. Kelly featuring Snoop Dogg); "Suddenly Last Summer" (The Motels).


By no means is this list complete. In fact, I could go on for pages, but there's a brewski and a pair of skivvies with my name on 'em.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Jordin sparks heavy debate

BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Hollywood’s obsession with body size has been weighing on my mind for a while, but I couldn’t find the words to express my thoughts. That is, until a recent Fox News segment illustrated why this obsession persists and why starlets are shriveling to shred of their former healthy-looking selves.

Last week, newsman Neil Cavuto wasted airtime on MeMe Roth, founder of National Action Against Obesity and organizer of the Wedding Gown Challenge, which exhorts women to prove they can still fit their bridal dresses. Roth suggested that Blake Lewis should have won American Idol instead of 17-year-old Jordin Sparks because of the latter’s size, which Roth deemed "obese."

Not that it needs to be said, but Jordin is far from obese. She's not an underfed waif, but she’s no Ruben Studdard, either. (And so what if she was?) Jordin's what's known in some circles as "thick" – voluptuous, curvy and packing a few extra pounds, but in all the right places.

According to Roth, Jordin’s weight makes her a poor role model and she fears kids will want to be like her. What, talented and successful? I can think of worse things to be – like a smug, mean-spirited twit.

"When I look at Jordin … I see diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol," Roth said. "She is the picture of unhealth."

When I look at MeMe Roth, I see a self-absorbed, judgmental bully who undermines the purpose of the organization she represents. Yes, there's an obesity epidemic in America and we need effective solutions to this problem. But while Roth champions an important cause – good health and fitness – her strategies leave a lot to be desired.

One contributor to the epidemic is lack of sufficient scorn for overweight people, claimed Roth, who’s boycotting Redbook for its March cover story, "We Love Your Body From Size 2 to 20." Roth even says people should drop heavier friends like a hot, buttered potato with sour cream. "(They’re) more likely to suggest a Starbucks topped with whipped cream than your fit friends who might think a yoga class or quick jog sounds fun," she writes on her blog. "It’s no different than alcoholics avoiding drinkers."

Hate to break it to ya, Meems, but my thin friends rank yoga and jogging right up there with stoning, branding and bamboo shoots under the fingernails.

What drives MeMe? A compliment from her own idol back in her groupie days. "In the 80’s, I was Van Halen’s #1 fan … (I got) to meet the band. Eddie Van Halen made me promise I’d never get fat. He said I looked like something out of Playboy."

Yeah, a bookmark.

Furthermore, what qualifies her to say who’s unhealthy? Does she have access to the medical records of every overweight person in the country? I’m the first to admit I could stand to shed some pounds, but my blood sugar, heart and cholesterol are better than that of several skinnies I know.

Ms. Roth, eat a donut or 12 and relax. You're no American idol yourself.

Friday, May 25, 2007

HEY, KIDS ... GET YOUR LEARN ON!


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

These kids today – with their hippity-hop and their rock and/or roll– what are we gonna do with ‘em? From the Ice Age to the Electronic Age, adults have been shaking their heads and asking that question. When I was younger, they were talkin’ ‘bout my generation. People tried to put us down. Just because we sat around (watching the MTV).

Now it’s my turn.

I believe most kids are good, decent and capable of great intelligence. But we’re faced with a generation whose thirst for knowledge has been dampened by technology and the prospect of exerting a little effort. If it can’t be popped into the X-Box or the Wii and fed to their brains in high-definition SurroundSound, why bother?

While working on a geography report, a friend’s kid asked me, "Is Puerto Rico in California?" I replied, "Look it up." She responded, "If I have to look it up, I don’t need to know," before turning back to her all-important Google search for pictures of shirtless teen heartthrobs.

Another kid I know got a D because she couldn’t recite the Preamble to the Constitution. She defended the grade as acceptable because it wasn’t an F. "It’s still a passing grade," she said. "Besides, I can’t remember all that stuff!" Then she switched on her Snoop Dogg CD and proceeded to drop it like it was hot – without missing a word.

It saddens me when anyone, especially a child, closes the door to learning because it takes a little work. It’s criminal when a kid knows more about American Idol than American history, when they can quote Linkin Park but not Abraham Lincoln, when they can do the Harlem Shake, but have never heard of the Harlem Renaissance.

Sure, I was a teenager once. I had my idols and knew their every vital statistic (Andy Gibb, born Andrew Roy Gibb, March 5, 1958). But I also knew that Kansas’ Carry on, Wayward Son was drawn from the Greek myth of Icarus and that Freddie Mercury’s homeland of Zanzibar was once an independent African state, but united with Tanganyika in the ‘60s to form Tanzania.

Was I a freak of nature? Yeah, but I also kicked butt in Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy. Today’s ultra-hip crowd would surely deem me a "geek," a "dork," a "herb," or whatever the kids are calling it nowadays.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying all kids have no interest in enriching their minds; I know many who do. But we – society, the media, parents, adults in general – make it easy for them to sell themselves short. These days, information is literally at their fingertips. It’s not like back in our day, when we had to actually turn pages!

Real life isn’t The OC or Dawson’s Creek, where 45-year-old writers put 35-year-old wisdom in the mouths of 25-year-old actors playing 15-year-old kids. It takes a village not only to raise children, but to educate them in and out of the classroom.

Ignorance isn’t bliss; it’s dangerous. The more our kids know, the more prepared they’ll be for a world that’s one part playing field, two parts battlefield. They need to be armed. And I don’t mean with bullets.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Summer is open season for TV

BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Summertime – and the livin’ is easy, but the viewin’ is repetitive. Though we’ve just entered May Sweeps, it won’t be long before the summer TV season is upon us, that time when many shows go on hiatus, which I once thought was a sort of hernia, but have since learned is from the Latin hi- ("Hello") -atus ("We’ve gone to lunch for three months, please leave a message after the beep").


Rerun season does have its advantages. For one, it gives viewers a chance to catch episodes of their favorite shows they may have missed the first time around. Secondly, it draws new viewers to shows they’d never watched before. It’s also when networks unpack their summer replacement shows, a few of which are worth staying inside to watch. Summer TV has brought the good – Happy Days, Seinfeld, Entourage, Northern Exposure), the bad (I Want to Be a Hilton), and the downright ugly (Being Bobby Brown).


But sometimes the summer pickings can be pretty slim and often, the new stuff is a variation on the old - different actors, different locales, same premise. By next year, we could be watching CSI: Miamisburg, ‘cos every other U.S. city will already have its own version of the show.

What the heck, let’s throw another Law & Order on the pile! Only instead of the seamy underbelly of NYC, this one could be set in L.A. And instead of nabbing street thugs and white-collar villains, the good guys could take down celebrities who run afoul of the law. Who wouldn’t want to see a reenactment of Paris Hilton’s upcoming stay in the slammer? I’ve even thought up the perfect name for the show: Law & Order: SVU (Spoiled, Vacant, Untalented).

Here are a few more shows that could make summer viewing more entertaining:


4S*T*A*S*H – A "medicinal pharmaceuticals specialist" (Snoop Dogg) devises increasingly novel methods of smuggling his homegrown remedies through airport security.


4Big Brothel – Heidi "The Hollywood Madam" Fleiss plays herself in this comedy-drama. Charlie Sheen appears in a recurring role.


4The Courtney Love Boat – Come aboard, she’s expecting you. But be afraid. Be very afraid.

4Beauties and the Beasts – Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. Ric Ocasek and Paulina Porizkova. Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley. Avril Lavigne and Deryck Whibley. Jay-Z and Beyonce. Mick Jagger and every woman he’s been with. Barbara Walters takes an in-depth look at these and other celebrity couples in an attempt to solve a mystery that has long puzzled men all over the world: How do guys who can kindly be called "handsomeness-challenged" land these überhotties?

4‘Bama’s Family – This laugh-a-minute comedy centers around a squabbling Southern family headed by Clem Jenkins (Barack Obama). Carol Burnett co-stars as his ornery wife Eunice.

4American Midol – They’re bloated! They’re cranky! They’re opinionated! Rosie O’Donnell and Roseanne Barr are the judges in this new edition of the popular talent competition. You can bet Sanjaya won’t make it past the audition stage. Even if he brings chocolate.


4Pimp My Bride – Kevin Federline stars as a guy who rides his wife’s coattails to fame and uses her millions as his primary source of income. Now that I think about it, I’d better throw in a sassy neighbor kid and a loveable alien. Otherwise, it might be mistaken for a reality show.

Friday, April 27, 2007

45 Ways to Leave Your Lover

BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Recently, I heard a song I hadn’t heard in a long time, Paul Simon’s mid-70’s hit, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. It’s bothered me for years that, despite insisting “there must be 50 ways,” he lists only five: 1) Slip out the back, Jack; 2) Make a new plan, Stan; 3) You don’t need to be coy, Roy; 4) Hop on the bus, Gus; 5) Just drop off the key, Lee.

I don’t know if this resulted from a counting disability or lazy songwriting, but Simon shortchanged folks who don’t know how to stick a fork in a relationship when it’s done. What if there’s no back through which to slip, your “new plan” was to be coy, the bus drivers are on strike and you lost the key? Without those 45 other ways to guide them, imagine how many poor sods have lingered in loveless liaisons for the last three decades.

To pay off ol’ Paul’s debt, I’ve completed his list. Here are 45 additional ways to leave a lover, rendered Hollywood style – because if anyone needs relationship counseling, celebrities do.

1. Have a head-shaving fit, Brit
2. Find a wife with more bread, K-Fed
3. Try to lay low, J-Lo
4. Feed him to a piranha, Madonna
5. Say, “I’m done with this whole dad bit,” Brad Pitt
6. Leave him with the bambina, Angelina
7. Tell him to sit and spinneth, Gwyneth
8. Pay her one million-fiddy, P. Diddy
9. There’s no reason to dally, Halle
10. Shake her off like a leech, Cheech
11. Tell her, “So long,” Chong
12. Put him on the back burner, Tina Turner
13. Say you won’t be phonin’, Conan
14. Run ‘er up a flagpole, Haley Joel
15. Make her yesterday’s news, Cruise
16. Lose the dead weight, Kate
17. Drive him stark raving loopy, Whoopi
18. Give her that steely-eyed squint, Clint
19. Drop him off a pagoda, Dakota
20. Step on the brake, Timberlake
21. Treat him like a pariah, Mariah
22. Tell her you’re gay, Clay
23. Something’s gotta give, Liv
24. Wash him out like a stain, Twain
25. Write him off like a story, Tori
26. Let him know he ain’t yo’ man, Lohan
27. Put her in the past tense, Prince
28. Take back the ring, Sting
29. Don’t let him bore ya, Longoria
30. Call him a dud, Ashley Judd
31. Let him off the hook, Brooke
32. Slip a mickey in his drink, Pink
33. Shrug him off like a shawl, RuPaul
34. Pay someone to break up for you ‘cos you’re an heiress, Paris
35. Blow him off like a breeze, Charlize
36. Say “Sayonara,” Ciara
37. Admit you can’t handle ‘er, Sandler
38. Stop leading her on, Vince Vaughn
39. Scratch her like a bad rash, Slash
40. Get a new fiancè, Beyonce
41. Make him disappear-a, Shakira
42. Cut him out like a tumah, Uma
43. Keep on being wacko, Jacko
44. Kiss her/him goodbye-a, Sanjaya
45. Just find a spouse, Mickey Mouse.

Personally, I highly recommend #45 because there’s one surefire way to end a Hollywood relationship: Get married.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Today's lyrics are so much junk (in the trunk)

BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

You’d think that people would have had enough of silly song lyrics. But I look around me and I see it isn’t so – oh, no. Some singers want to fill the world with silly song lyrics. And what’s wrong with that, you’d like to know?

The answer to that question is My Humps by The Black Eyed-Peas. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it, but listening to the words will reduce your IQ by 10 points each time Fergie coos, “My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely lady lumps.”

You’re sexy and confident, Fergie – I get that. But “lady lumps” sounds like something you’ll need a two-week course of antibiotics to clear up.

Yes, I know songwriting is hard, and I’ve never written a hit, and these people are richer and more famous than I can ever hope to be. But you know the saying: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, write about those who do.” So as long as there are bad songs being written, there will be snarky columnists taking potshots at ‘em. It’s a tradition dating back to the caveman days, when the first song set to words evoked the response, “Og, you not quit day job, okay?”

Some tunes are famous for their god-awfulness, like Muskrat Love with its frolicking rodents and the pièce de résistance of lousy lyricism, Zager and Evans’ In the Year 2525, with its grim predictions for the future. Even legends like The Beatles warbled their share of nonsense – e.g., the “goo-goo-ga-joob” refrain in I Am the Walrus. But they were zonked to the gills on acid, so it probably seemed profound at the time.

Recently, Spinner.com offered its “20 Worst Lyrics Ever” list, featuring a couple that earned rightful membership in my personal Hall of Shame:

* Shakira, Whenever, Wherever - “Lucky that my breasts are small and humble, so you don’t confuse them with mountains.”

Ah, that explains why I saw Dolly Parton wearing a “No skiing allowed” sign the other day.

* Puff Daddy and Mase, Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down - “Young, black and famous/With money hangin’ out the anus.”

There’s just not enough brain bleach in the world to erase this image from my mind. Other chestnuts from my personal archives:

* Men Without Hats, Pop Goes the World – “Every time I wonder/Where the world went wrong/End up lying on my face going 'ringy-dingy-ding-dong'!”

Every time I wonder/Why these lyrics are wack/I come to the conclusion/That the writer smokes crack.

* Van Halen, Why Can't This Be Love – “Only time will tell if we stand the test of time.”

Funny thing about time: It takes time to happen. What with it being time and all.

* John Mellencamp, Small Town – “I cannot forget from where it is that I come from.”

Mr. Mellencamp, this is the Grammar Police. You’re under arrest for abusing a preposition, which is something you should never end a sentence with … sir.

Speaking of grammar – or more specifically, spelling – Fergie is proving to be a repeat offender. In another self-congratulatory anthem, Fergilicious, backup singers repeatedly proclaim the singer is “t-a-s-t-e-y.” Just seeing that in print makes my brain c-r-a-z-e-y.

Maybe I should cut Fergie some slack. After all, she launched a successful solo career practically seconds after the Peas broke into the mainstream. Even more admirably, she kicked a nasty methamphetamine habit. Now if only she’d get hooked on phonics.

Friday, March 30, 2007

RIDERS ON THE STORM

By BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Rock stars. They’re just like you and me. Except for the global fame, money and groupies. OK, scratch the groupies … a few privileged "regular" folks – for instance, certain über-cool newspaper columnists – are privy to the rabid adulation of enthusiastic female fans (translation: middle-aged ladies at my church).

Groupie love aside, music performers are lavished with luxuries unlike no other breed of human, including film/TV stars. Much of this indulgence is due to a little piece of paper that says they can have what they want, when they want. It’s called a rider and it’s pretty much the pre-nup of concert negotiations.

The rider is the part of the artist’s contract outlining facilities and amenities the concert promoter must provide before, during and after a show. Besides lighting, sound systems and other equipment needs, this list includes food, beverages and in some cases, animals. Hey, you never know when Ozzy Osbourne might have a sudden craving for bat's head soup.

The most infamous rider is Van Halen’s "no brown M&M’s" clause. Actually, there was a method to the band’s madness. Touring with elaborate, complex equipment left no room for mistakes, so they issued meticulous set-up instructions for safety and liability reasons. In the middle of the contract was the proviso to remove all brown M&M’s from the group’s candy bowls. If there were no brown M&M’s, the band reasoned, the promoter had read the contract thoroughly and the show would run smoothly and free of technical errors.

Unfortunately, the shrewd thinking behind Van Halen’s legendary rider got lost in the translation. What remained was a seemingly outlandish, spoiled-brat command that has influenced many of today’s artists to go overboard with their eccentric and egocentric demands.

Backstage riders are intended to give the artists the comforts of home and then some. Requests range from the ordinary – sandwiches, fruits, bottled water and other beverages, towels, ironing boards – to "oh, puh-leese!" – e.g., P. Diddy’s behest for napkins with his name printed on them. That’s no small order, considering his name could change before the ink dries.

Some rider requests belie the performers’ senses of humor. For instance, ‘70s rockers Foreigner asked for a dozen blueberry pies for an end-of-tour pie fight – a much sweeter way to blow off steam than say, bashing a paparazzi vehicle with an umbrella.

Shock rocker Marilyn Manson requires that his dressing room be air-conditioned practically to sub-Arctic temperatures. Now we know how he maintains that flawless, Night of the Living Dead pallor. Manson also asks for Kool-Aid – the next-best thing to pig’s blood – and gummi bears, so he can savor the sweet, sweet tang of their sugary blood as he tears into their soft, gelatin flesh.

On one tour, singer-rapper Pharrell demanded 20 crates each of Bacardi Rum and Grey Goose vodka, 15 magnums of Perrier champagne, a troupe of belly dancers and a Rolls Royce with driver. Who does he think he is … P. Diddy?

You can read more backstage riders at http://www.thesmokinggun.com/backstagetour/, which lists the requests of some 200 performers. In the meantime, I need to go call my groupies. Hey, somebody’s gotta dispose of those brown M&M’s for me.