Friday, June 22, 2007


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


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.