Friday, December 19, 2008



This is my last column of 2008, so what better time to look back on some of this year’s highlights (or in some cases, lowlights) in entertainment? And since it's the holiday season, what better way to reflect than in song? Feel free to go door-to-door serenading your neighbors … but don't count on me to be your one phone call from jail.

To the tune of “It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”:

It's a most ponder-ful time of the year!
A time to reminisce - who did that, who said this?
Who did we jeer or cheer?
It's a most ponder-ful time of the year!

Britney Spears staged a comeback, while Winehouse smoked more crack
Madonna and Guy called it quits;
She's been seen with A-Rod, who's kind of a big clod,
But at least he's still scoring hits!

It's the flashback-iest season once more!
Looking back at the rich - who got hitched, who got ditched?
Who made ratings soar?
It's the flashback-iest season once more!

The '08 election, lampooned to perfection
By Tina Fey, funny and smart;
Her good-natured nailin' of Governor Palin
Made it hard to tell them apart!

Teenage stars made many headlines this year!

Jamie Lynn caused a stir, parenthood ended her
Disney TV career!
Teenage stars made many headlines this year!

When young Miley went bareback, she caught a ton of flak,

But there was more scandal ahead...
The fans went bananas when Hannah Montana
Took photos that would make your face red!

Oh, the stork worked overtime all this year!

Stars were breeding like bunnies and it sure seems funny:
Twins from there to here!
Yes, the stork worked over time all this year!

Angelina and J-Lo bore double the payload;

Their photos were quite the big scoop!
Ricky Martin had two boys and now he knows the joys
Of livin' la vida de poop!

'Twas a year of gaiety, this is true:

Katy P kissed a chick - and she really liked it;
Lindsay Lohan, did too!
'Twas a year of gaiety, this is true!

Then Clay Aiken came out (like there was any doubt),

Ellen wed Portia at their posh pad;
Major Sulu's big trip wasn't on a spaceship,
But down the aisle with his beau Brad!

Sadly, we lost some bright stars this past year:

Isaac Hayes, Bernie Mac and Paul Newman - it's fact:
We wish they were still here!
Sadly, we lost some bright stars this past year.

To Heath Ledger: Goodbye, you were too young to die;

Farewell, Carlin, your humor lives on!
Other people of fame - there's too many to name
Laugh with you in The Great Beyond!

There'll be more headlines and footnotes next year!

First, a new Head of State ... "High School Musical" eight?
Yes, the forecast is clear …
There'll be more high jinks and low points next year!

Friday, December 05, 2008



There are no stupid questions. At least that’s what our parents assured us as children. But like the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and “Your face is gonna freeze that way,” it was just another of those little white lies adults tell kids because harmless fibs are cheaper than the therapy we’d need after being called stupid.

If you believe there are no stupid questions, just turn on the radio. Recently, I was rocking out to The Clash – "Should I stay or should I go now? If I stay there will be trouble, if I go it will be double" – a song I’d heard countless times in the past 20-plus years, but never deeply contemplated. Let’s see … staying = an indeterminate amount of trouble, while going = even more trouble. That’s like saying, "If I stay, my girlfriend will burn my clothes, but if I go, she’ll burn my clothes with me IN them." Given the options, this seems like a no-brainer. (P.S. He ultimately left her, lived to tell and scored a No. 1 hit in the process.)

It doesn’t matter if you dig classic rock, Top 40, R&B, country or post-nuclear techno-cabaret, insipid inquiries transcend genre and generation. For instance:

* "The Way I Are," Timbaland: "Can you handle me the way I are?" – Does he have multiple personalities or just bad grammar? Either way, I can’t handle this song the way it am.

* "On the Bus," Destiny's Child featuring Timbaland: "Why you sleepin' with ya eyes closed?" – Probably because I’m not a goldfish.

* "Earth Song," Michael Jackson: "What about elephants, have we lost their trust?" – I reckon that depends on what the elephants have heard from the pre-teen boys, Mike.

* "Pinball Wizard," (The Who): "How do you think he does it? I don’t know!" – In the verse and chorus preceding this line, it is explained that the Pinball Wizard "does it" by intuition and sense of smell, not to mention he’s got such a supple wrist and crazy flipper fingers. Pete Townshend presented the answer before the question, which is fine … if you’re playing "Jeopardy."

* "Sk8tr Boi," Avril Lavigne: "He was a boy, she was a girl … can I make it any more obvious?" – A pointless question, as gender differences are usually obvious to begin with. But apparently, Avril felt the need to elaborate and continued singing for more than three minutes. Had she realized the folly of her query, the song would have ended after that opening line – a monumental improvement, in my opinion.

* "Hero," Enrique Iglesias: "Would you tremble if I touched your lips?" – Tremble? No. Feel incredibly creeped out and in immediate need of lip sanitizer? You bet.

* "You Really Want to Hurt Me?," Culture Club: "Do you really want to hurt me? Do you really want to make me cry?" – Oh, Boy George … can I make it any more obvious?

Friday, November 21, 2008



'Tis a month before Christmas; our wallets are thin;
Still, we venture forth holiday shopping again.
The economy stinks, but the little ones beg
For toys that will cost us an arm and a leg!

In our day, we marveled at dump trucks and dolls,
Cassette players, tea sets and spongy Nerf balls.
If we ran out of batteries, we weren’t defeated –
Our imaginations were all that we needed

But now the Technology Age has arrived,
When a kid with no iPod's considered deprived!
Today's plugged-in kids, our old-fashioned toys bore 'em
'Cause too many gadgets do their thinking for 'em!

So onward we traipse, as if marching to war,
To elbow our way through some crowded toy store.
For the item that's one of this year's biggest choices:
Creatures that respond to their masters’ voices.

There's D-Rex the dinosaur, Biscuit the pup
And Wall-E the robot – they're grabbing 'em up!
It's a kid's fondest power-trip dream that's come true –
Finally, someone they can tell what to do!

Yet another new Elmo has set sales a-boomin';
It's creepy how he becomes more and more human!
Now he plays games, tells stories and blows flying kisses
If he wants to impress ME, he'll wash all my dishes!

Parents practically need to enlist a translator
To decipher the code spoken by their teenager:
"IDK if want a DS or a Wii
"Or a PS2 Silver or PS3 80GB."

Is he babbling in tongues? Is he speaking in Greek?
What are these strange acronyms of which he speaks?
Rolling his eyes, the kid deigns to assist them,
"OMG, Mom and Dad, it's a gaming system!"

And lest Hannah Montana should put her to shame,
Even trusty old Barbie has video games!
She's gotta keep up with the Joneses – and Jonases;
So she offers a sleigh-load of electronic bonuses!

But don't be disheartened by technology's sway;
Introduce kids to stuff we loved back in the day.
All the classic playthings from the Toy Hall of Fame –
Off the top of my head, here's a few I can name:

There's Lite-Brite! There's Slinky!
There's Tonkas and Play-Doh!
ViewMaster and Twister!
And Big Wheels and Lego!
To the top of the shelves!
To the stores and the malls!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!

Getting back to the basics can save you some dough
In these hardscrabble times when finances are low.
If your kids bellyache, bellow, bluster and bawl,
Remind them of those who'll get nothing at all!

Friday, November 07, 2008



Thanksgiving is treated by many as an appetizer for Christmas – it stimulates the palate in preparation for the main course. It's the opening act for the headliner, the preview before the feature film. If Christmas were Hall, Thanksgiving would be Oates.

But in my book, Thanksgiving is the best holiday, despite the absence of Thanksgiving presents under a Thanksgiving tree, Thanksgiving carols and Thanksgiving stockings. And where are all the Thanksgiving movies? Oh, they're out there – you just gotta search for ‘em. Which is exactly what I did, and my research turned up a surprising number of treasures (and a few turkeys).

If you don’t want to sit through NFL hell and Uncle Jack’s 847th reenactment of his winning touchdown at the 1968 state championship, check out these vintage videos while you digest your vittles:

* “Hannah and Her Sisters”: I'm not a huge Woody Allen fan, but if I had to choose between this 1986 comedy-drama and say, a Pauly Shore flick, I'd pick the Wood-Man over the Weasel. Unless "Encino Man" is showing, then all bets are off. But seriously, this is one of Woody's best. The stellar cast includes Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest and Barbara Hershey in a story that begins with one Thanksgiving and ends with another. It's funny, clever, heartwarming and all those other things a holiday movie about family should be. And I'm pretty sure it's Allen’s only film featuring both his mate at the time (Farrow) and his future wife, Farrow's daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, then a teenager in an uncredited role.

* “Home For The Holidays”: Director Jodie Foster's sophomore outing perfectly captures the essence of family: People who love each other, but don't always necessarily like each other. Stars include Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Robert Downey Jr. and Claire Danes.

* "The House of Yes": This 1997 film adaptation of Wendy MacLeod's long-running play offers a bit of dark meat to offset the lighter fare. The daughter of a clan obsessed with the Kennedys, Jackie-O (Parker Posey) reenacts the presidential assassination with her twin brother at their Thanksgiving reunion. Look for Tori Spelling in a very out-of-character role.

* “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles”: If the dysfunctional family theme is too big a buzzkill, you can count on this John Hughes classic to brighten the mood. All Steve Martin wants is to spend Thanksgiving with his family. What he gets is three days with a turkey – John Candy as an obnoxious salesman.

* “What's Cooking?”: Four families of different ethnicities – African-American, Jewish, Latino and Vietnamese – get together for the holiday. Guaranteed to make you hungry for seconds! The ensemble cast includes Alfre Woodard and Lainie Kazan.

* For the giblets – er, kidlets, there’s Alvin and the Chipmunks’ “Thanksgiving Celebration,” 1969’s “Mouse on the Mayflower” and “A Rugrats Thanksgiving.

* And no cinematic smorgasbord would be complete without the Emmy-winning “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” in which the Peanuts Gang gathers for roast bird – and Woodstock is thankful it’s not him.

Friday, October 24, 2008



Millions of readers have entered the “Twilight” Zone. Not the one inhabited by Rod Serling and the otherworldly "doo-doo-doo-doo" theme song, but a world created by novelist Stephenie Meyer, in which a boy named Edward Cullen is so besotted with a girl named Bella Swan that it’s all he can do to keep from killing her.

Not that Bella would mind Edward taking aim at her jugular – the result would level the playing field considerably. You see, Edward is a vampire, while Bella is not.

Though targeted at young adults, “Twilight” and its sequels, “New Moon,” “Eclipse,” and
“Breaking Dawn” are ridiculously popular among readers of all ages, including yours truly. The series has spent a combined 160-plus weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list and the big-screen debut of “Twilight” is set to hit theaters next month.

Meyer’s vampires aren’t the bloodsuckers of lore – they never sleep, they’re visible in the daytime, and they won’t throw a hissy fit if you sprinkle a little garlic on your pasta. In fact, Edward and his family are more protectors than predators of humans, preferring to hunt woodland creatures than two-legged ones. Aside from their stunning physical beauty and vamp-specific powers, they’re startlingly human…ish.

As much as I adore this new, romantic breed of vampire, I also love the campy vamps of yesteryear – capes, fangs, bat-morphing and all. Whether you’re from the old school or the new guard, one thing’s for sure: It’s not an easy life. If it’s not that #$%* Buffy trying to slay you all the time, it’s wicked morning breath and bloodstained teeth. What vampires save on food and drink, they spend on whitening strips. And you think bed-hair is a pain? Try pulling a comb through coffin-hair!

Sure, immortality might sound cool, but do you REALLY want to be around for “High School Musical 54: The Reunion – Let’s See Who Got Super-Fat”?

On the flip side, there are a few advantages to being a vampire:

* You raise “sleeping in” to a fine art.
* You’ll never need Botox or plastic surgery.
* No worries about health insurance.
* You don’t have to get a job.
* No grocery bills.
* Lightning speed that makes Superman look like Supersnail.
* Slim chance you’ll ever get food poisoning.
* No soul, no guilt!
* So what if you don’t cast a reflection in the mirror? You always look marvelous.
* You don’t have to worry about Daylight Savings Time.
* No need to kill your enemies … just outlive them.
* A 20-year prison sentence feels like 20 days.
* Bloody Mary night at the local bar.
* Your clothes will come back in style over and over … and over.

And last but not least, one of the best things about being a vampire is when someone says, “You suck!” you can take it as a compliment.

Friday, September 26, 2008



I've always been something of a geography buff. As a kid, I cherished my Atlases more than Barbies because if I needed to find a particular city, state or country, the only place Barbie could point me to was Malibu.

I awaited my parents' annual AAA membership renewal the way most kids anticipated Santa's arrival. Toys break, but maps last forever! And I aced Ms. Clark's ninth-grade geography class despite spending much of the period passing notes to my best friend (who got a D).

It saddens me to see how few people today seem to value geography, a fact recently driven home by a young friend who was surprised to learn that the "state of New Orleans" is actually a city in Louisiana.

Don't take geography for granted. It can equip you with valuable skills you'll need later in life — like, "George Eats Old Grey Rats And Paints Houses Yellow," which won't help you pass geography, but it will teach you how to at least spell it. A little geography know-how also goes a long way when it comes to map-reading — or as we ladies like to call it, "asking for directions."

Even stronger than my geography jones is my love of music, which probably explains why I know so many songs about geographical locations — and why I took another online message board user to task for including The Rolling Stones' "Sweet Virginia" in a list of tunes about U.S. states. Fact: It's about a girl, not our 10th state.

Anyhoo, let's continue the list I began in my last column featuring songs about Alabama through Massachusetts. Many of these were culled from my own collection and the musical Atlas in my brain, while others required extensive Internet research 'cause there ain't exactly a catalog of songs about Utah.

Without further ado, here's Michigan through Wyoming ... plus one to grow on:

* Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Especially in Michigan"

* Weird Al Yankovic, "Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota"

* Mountain, "Mississippi Queen"

* Ringo Starr, "Missouri Loves Company"

* Frank Zappa, "Montana"

* Bruce Springsteen, "Nebraska"

* Mark Knopfler, "Sands of Nevada"

* Sonic Youth, "New Hampshire"

* John Gorka, "I'm From New Jersey" ("It's like Ohio, but even more so.")

* Jill Sobule, "Somewhere in New Mexico"

* Billy Joel, "New York State of Mind"

* Melissa Ferrick, "North Carolina"

* Lyle Lovett, "North Dakota"

* Damien Jurado, "Ohio"

* Vince Gill, "Oklahoma Rising"

* Loretta Lynn, "Portland, Oregon"

* Glenn Miller Orchestra, "Pennsylvania 6-5000" (Also covered by the Brian Setzer Orchestra)

* Ike & Tina Turner, "Sweet Rhode Island Red"

* Archers of Loaf, "South Carolina"

* Liz Phair, "South Dakota"

* Arrested Development, "Tennessee"

* George Strait, "All My Exes Live in Texas"

* Camper Van Beethoven, "The History of Utah"

* Billie Holiday, "Moonlight in Vermont"

* Blessid Union of Souls, "Oh Virginia"

* Woody Guthrie, "Washington Talkin' Blues"

* Neil Sedaka "Wheeling, West Virginia"

* The Dead Milkmen, "I'm Living in Wisconsin"

* John Denver, "Song of Wyoming"

** BONUS: Ellis Paul, "Washington, D.C. 5/91"

Friday, September 12, 2008



Seems Hurricane Fay wasn’t the only thing out to sea when I wrote my last column. In my sleep-deprived delirium, I forgot my ABC’s and omitted the letter F from my list of hurricane names. So, first things first:

* Hurricane Federline: An ill wind frontin’ like it’s got mad hurricane skillz.

There. I feel better. Now on to this week
's subject …
In its quest to hip-up the state’s image, the Oklahoma Rock Song Advisory Panel has picked 10 nominees for its official state rock 'n' roll song, including JJ Cale's "After Midnight," Leon Russell's "Home Sweet Oklahoma," Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel," and for cool-kid cred, The Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize?"

Personally, my first thought was Bruce Springsteen's "My Oklahoma Home," but the line, "When I bent and kissed her, she was picked up by a twister" ain't exactly a ringing endorsement for tourism. My second thought was, "The Flaming Lips is a really stupid name for a band."

Then my thoughts turned to Ohio-oriented tunes. Of course, there's our official rock song, The McCoys' "Hang On, Sloopy," inspired by a Steubenville woman who apparently lived in a very bad part of town where everybody tried to put her down. Then there's "Ohio," Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's reaction to the 1970 Kent State shootings, and The Pretenders' "My City Was Gone," Chrissie Hynde's diatribe against pollution and commercial overgrowth in Akron, her hometown.

My next thought: "Man, are all songs about Ohio this depressing?" Thankfully, I was able to conjure up a tune that doesn’t make me want to hurl myself into a pit of starving piranhas: Randy Newman's "Dayton, Ohio 1903," is a charming vignette of a lazy Sunday in a simpler time: Sing a song of long ago/When things were green and movin’ slow/And people stopped to say hello.

Here's the first installment of my list of U.S.-themed tunes. Some are oldies, some are indies, some are obvious and others are obscure, but you’re sure to find something to suit your state of mind.

* Jimmy Buffett, "Stars Fell on Alabama"

* The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, "Going to Alaska"

* Wilco, "Hotel Arizona"

* Michelle Shocked, "Arkansas Traveler"

* The Mamas & The Papas, "California Dreamin'"

* Johnny Cash, "You Wild Colorado"

* PrimeRib, "Rock 'n' Roll Connecticut"

* Perry Como, "Delaware" (What did Delaware? She wore her New Jersey, boys!)

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, "Florida Time"

Gladys Knight & The Pips, "Midnight Train to Georgia"

Elvis Presley, "Blue Hawaii"

B52's, "Private Idaho"

* Dan Fogelberg, "Illinois"

* Jackson 5, "Goin' Back to Indiana"

* Dar Williams, "Iowa (Traveling III)"

* Ashanti, "Kansas"

* Neil Diamond, "Kentucky Woman"

* John Lee Hooker, "Goin' to Louisiana"

* John Linnell (of They Might Be Giants), "Maine" (from the album, State Songs, on which 15 of 16 tracks are named for U.S. states)

* Vonda Shepard, "Maryland"

* The BeeGees, "Massachusetts"

Tune in next time for Michigan through Washington. And don't worry about omissions … I've hired a couple of first-graders to sing the alphabet while I type.

Friday, August 29, 2008



As a kid, I often wondered how hurricanes got their names and how I could become an Official Hurricane Namer. As a grown-up kid, my curiosity was re-piqued by Hurricane Fay’s southern onslaught, so I turned to that info-seekers’ Bible known as Wikipedia.

Turns out they’ve been using the same six lists of names since 1979. The lists are recycled every six years, except in the case of exceptionally destructive storms (e.g., 2005’s Katrina), whose names are retired by the National Hurricane Center. What this means is that we could be reading about Fay again in 2014, 2020, 2026, ad infinitum. Bo-ring.

Since this column is as close as I’ll ever get to the real thing, I hereby declare myself DDN’s Official Hurricane Namer. I’m 86’ing unimaginative handles like Larry and Gert, and dubbing these destructive dynamos with names that do them justice. Ladies and gentlemen, I present my answer to the NHC’s rehashed lists, in alphabetical order:

Aniston: Lovely to look at and probably a very nice hurricane, but men still run from it.

Bob Dylan: The answer, my friend – as well as your house and car – is blowin’ in the wind.

Cowell: You call yourself a hurricane? You’re terrible! Just abominable!

Diddy: Name of storm subject to change without notice.

Elvis: Its gyrations have been known to drive women crazy.

Federline: Just an ill wind frontin’ like it’s got mad hurricane skillz.
NOTE: It bears mentioning that when I originally wrote this column for publication in the Dayton Daily News, I was in the throes of sleep-deprived delirium and omitted the letter F. So YOU, dear blog readers, are getting both the P.S. version AND a preview of the "correction" I intend to include in my next column!

Gibson: Speeds along drunkenly, targeting religious minorities and law enforcement officers.

Halle: Considered the most beautiful hurricane by weather geeks in awe of her warm front.

Isaac Hayes: They say this storm is a bad mother … shut yo’ mouth!

Jacko: Tends to lighten up quickly. Meteorologists are puzzled by its inexplicable gravitation toward young boys.

Kutcher: Gale-force wind machine + 3 million gallons of water = Dude, you just got PUNK'D!

Lavigne: Not as tough as it thinks it is; tends to go and makes things so complicated.

Madonna: Starts out vibrant and lusty before deteriorating to a withered, dusty shell.

Napoleon Dynamite: It’s, like, only the sweetest flippin’ hurricane of all time, freakin’ idiot!

Oprah: Characterized by fluctuations in size; a bit ostentatious.

Perez Hilton: Tags along after bigger, more well-known storms, bellowing hot air and leaving a trail of slime in its wake.

Queen: Any way this wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me.

Rihanna: So torrid and tempestuous, you’ll need more protection than an umbrella (ella, ella).

Springer: Deceptively benign façade; its lunar pull causes unsightly simpletons to fight and/or disrobe.

Tony Soprano: Unearths all them stoolies that was sleepin’ wit’ da fishes … unless they’re wearin’ cement shoes.

Uma: Not dangerous unless you’re Ethan Hawke’s ex-nanny-turned-new-wife.

Vanna: Without her, Hurricane Pat would’ve been just another low-grade tropical storm.

Wang Chung: In spite of the wreck and ruin, it ensures everybody will have fun tonight.

Xena: She’ll hit ya hard … and make ya like it.

Yoko: Notorious for emitting a high-pitched screech not unlike a cat undergoing a root canal. Without anesthesia.

Zellweger: Best viewed while cutely squinching up one’s face.

Friday, August 15, 2008



Earlier this week, a buddy and I were bemoaning the fact that technology – specifically electronic communication – is turning human interaction into a thing of the past. Fittingly, our conversation took place via email.

Gone are the days of opening my mailbox to find a friend’s kid gap-toothily grinning up from a school picture paper-clipped to a dog-eared letter chronicling the events of the past year in rambling fashion. Nowadays, I receive emails with links to personal pages showcasing 1.3-megapixel photos of baby Jaden’s new tooth or streaming video of little Madison’s debut in the kindergarten production of “High School Musical.”

It’s getting so that couples “date” six months before they even meet in person and “how we met” stories are peppered with phrases like “cyber-dating” and “”

Now, not only can you whisper sweet nothings via email, you can pass along not-so-sweet somethings as well. Got a co-worker who’s a bit, um, “aromatic,” and you don’t know how to tell him? If wearing a gas mask doesn’t clue him in and you’re not comfortable giving him a gift basket from Bath & Body Works, then is the way to go.

The site, which launched on July 4, calls itself “the anonymous way to send a helpful message” and allows you to send emails that can’t be traced to you or your computer. In other words, it’s a nice way to say mean things without taking responsibility. Site developer Erik Riesenberg got the idea when a friend who’d had several drinks, informed him that he really needed to trim his nose hair.

While getting liquored up is one way of gaining the courage to speak your mind, it’s bad for your liver and your safety. Plus, it’s frowned upon at most workplaces. Instead, consult, where the “helpful messages” fall into several categories, including:

* Personal Hygiene: “A breath mint would be beneficial today” sounds so much nicer than, “Dude, your breath is kickin’ like Jackie Chan!”

* Appearance: “It seems like your thong is showing” is a tip for which any colleague would be grateful. Unless she’s an exotic dancer.

* Office Behavior: If your glazed expression and gaping yawn doesn’t get your point across, try this gentle hint: “Stories about your kids are not as interesting as they used to be.”

* Cubicle Critic: “Please be courteous with the copier” is more discreet than publicly proclaiming, “You left these photocopies of your butt on the Xerox last night, Bob. Nice tattoo.”

* Neighborly Suggestions: “Please remember to close your blinds/curtains in the evening” is infinitely more courteous than, “Man, your wife is NOT aging well!”

Other categories are “Thoughts for Schoolmates,” “Sports Etiquette,” and “General Behavior,” which features my personal favorite, “You don't release your hug in a timely manner.”

If anyone decides to send me a message, I can only hope it’s something from the “Anonymous Praise” section rather than a heads-up that, “There seems to be some back-hair poking out of your shirt collar.”

Friday, August 01, 2008



Talk about creating headlines!

In late June, the conservative American Family Association shot itself in the collective foot by relying on technology to "clean up" stories on its Web site, OneNewsNow. Instead of simply republishing the Associated Press news feed in its original format, the Web wizards behind ONN first run an automated word filter to nice up the language so it more closely conforms to AFA values and terminology preferences. Apparently, they've never heard of a nifty little practice we in the news biz call "proofreading."

Had they done a final read-through before posting a recent sports article, they wouldn't have had to tidy up the mess made by their own overzealous clean-up efforts. By using auto-replace to enforce its policy of substituting the word "gay" with a more clinical term, AFA/ONN wound up running a story under the headline, "Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials."

That would be quite a victory — an unabashedly out, loud and proud athlete representing his country in the Olympics ... except the auto-replaced "gay" in question is the runner's last name. As in world-class sprinter Tyson Gay.


In the wake of this glaring goof and the ensuing embarrassment, the AFA has corrected all of its online articles referring to "Tyson Homosexual." But no amount of correcting can fix such a flagrant faux pas 'cause you just can't undo stupid.

Imagine if this practice was implemented in the entertainment world. We'd be listening to the old-school soul of Marvin Homosexual and the gritty blues of John Lee Prostitute. We'd watch James Bond canoodling with Octokitty and bad guys getting head-kicked by martial arts master Jean-Claude Van Darnit. And I don't even wanna think about how auto-replace would deal with the name Dick Van Dyke.

AFA/ONN's blunder is an example of "the clbuttic effect," in which obscenity-filtering software goes all wonky in its quest to find every occurrence of a word deemed offensive and swap it out for a more acceptable synonym. As the anecdote goes, one anti-profanity system substituted "butt" for each instance of a common, one-syllable euphemism that rhymes with "brass." Unfortunately, the software couldn't distinguish between this three-letter word by itself and when it occurred as part of a larger word — hence, "classic" became "clbuttic." As a result, somewhere in the heartland of America is a sweet, very confused little old lady who still can't figure out why John Hinckley tried to "buttbuttinate" President Reagan!

That's why I'm glad my editor doesn't rely solely on technology to catch any errors I might make in my columns. If something as atrocious as the Tyson Gay gaffe were to make it into print, I'd be pretty embarrbutted.

Friday, July 18, 2008



With leggings, wraparound shades and man-perms on the comeback, it makes sense that a show starring two of the biggest teen idols of the 1980s is a hit with the 18-49 demographic. "The Two Coreys" features longtime friends Feldman and Haim, once among Hollywood’s fastest-living, hardest-partying young actors. Older, wiser and with smaller hair, the lost-but-now-found boys are sharing a house and their deepest secrets with millions of reality television junkies.

Why stop with the Coreys? Why not make "A&E" stand for "All Eighties" – as in "All-Eighties-All-Reality-All-The-Time"? The decade is a glorious junkyard littered with pop-culture castoffs, has-beens, never-weres and long-forgotten-abouts … they’d never run out of subjects! I don’t know about you, but I’d definitely spend an hour catching up on what John Oates’ mustache has been doing since 1987!

I’m not the only one who’d tune in. An email survey of respected experts (translation: friends who spent the 80s like I did: on their couches) revealed that not only are folks nostalgic for the era when everyone was "Footloose" and girls just wanted to have fun, they’ve got some pretty intriguing ideas as well:

"Get the cast of 'The Cosby Show' back together. I think they all left hating each other, so that could be some good TV. Cosby and Lisa Bonet could finally have it out. Rudy, all grown up, could have a show-mance with her TV brother.
" – Sandy Newman, 42, Miamisburg.

"I'd like to see the original cast of 'The Facts of Life' on something akin to 'Survivor.' Tootie would kick some serious butt, but Natalie would win 'cause that girl, she just knew how to play sides. Plus, wouldn't it be fun to see Blair have to go without a blow dryer?" – Tonija Allman, 36, Palmdale Calif.

"Cyndi Lauper. She seems so (bleeping) cheerful all the time. I'd like to see her (ticked) off and yelling – with rainbow hair, assuming it hasn't all fallen out. I'd like to see her be rude to people who recognized her in the supermarket – or weep with gratitude." – Kim Rawley, “old enough to remember the 80s,” Palmdale, Calif.

"Whatever happened to that little girl from 'Small Wonder'? I watched the show and it ain’t no small wonder her career went into the crapper." – Sal Chavez, 36, Hawthorne, Calif.

"I would love a reality show with Axl Rose – that’s a volatile character! Remember when Axl and Tommy Hilfiger duked it out a few years ago? They could set up a rematch, a UFC cage match. It could be a charity fundraiser; the money could go to the Axl’s Kids Fund, an organization that assists has-been metal singers who need to get a life!" – DJ Tim Dylan, Mix 107.7’s (WMMX) “Saturday Night Mix” live from Julia’s Nite Club, Centerville.

Personally, I think Corey Feldman, who co-produces
"The Two Coreys," should track down his fellow "Goonies" for a reality reunion. If nothing else, it’d be worth it to see 34-year-old Chunk do the "Truffle Shuffle."

Friday, July 04, 2008



It was 232 years ago today that John Hancock put pen to parchment and proclaimed, “There! I reckon that near-sighted rascal King George won’t have any trouble seeing THAT!” From that momentous occasion on July 4, 1776, Independence Day has evolved into a nationwide celebration marked by patriotism and parades, food and festivities, and of course, fireworks.

Before you get your party on, there’s an important rule everyone should keep in mind: Safety is Job One. So remember: It’s a grill, not a bonfire. Use sunscreen. No horseplay in the pool. And most importantly, “fat pants” are a must at any backyard barbecue. Having a button fly off your overstretched Levi’s at warp-speed is not only embarrassing, but someone could lose an eye. There’s nothing like a disfiguring wardrobe malfunction to kill the mood of a family gathering.

But seriously, folks, let’s try to take the number of Fourth of July injuries down to a record low this year. Have fun, be safe, sane and sensible, and thank your lucky stars (and stripes) that these decidedly dangerous fireworks and aerial displays are not available in any stores:

* Yankee Doodle Dandruff

* Couch-on-Fire, Hidden Dragon

* Ramen Candles

* Kanye's Inferno

* Harry Potter and the Chamber of Second-Degree Burns

* Recurring Hot Flashes

* Flaming Mustard Gas – Available in Dijon or Grey Poupon

* Suppository Snakes

* Spiro-Pyro-Graph

* "Hey, Y'all ... Watch This!" The Build-It-Yourself Missile Kit

* Scars and Stripes Forever

* Nuclear Winter Wonderland

* Grampa's Old-Fashioned Cigarettes ‘n’ Oxygen Tent

* Fire-n-brimstone-crackers

* Retina Detachers

* Pop-a-razzi!

* Wheel of Misfortune

* Weapons of Rather Unimpressive Destruction

* The Four Fountains of the Apocalypse

* The Laser Gazer – It’s a light show and eye surgery all in one!

* Nostril Flares

* Grenade Roulette – Is it live or is it a dud? Only time will tell!

* Compton Crossfire

* The Naomi Campbell Public Meltdown

* Hasbro’s Exploding Lite-Brite™

* Microwave ‘n’ Tinfoil Economy-Pak

* Whiskey Bottle Rockets

* Elvis Presley’s Hunka-Hunka Burnin’ Lava

* Blistered Arm-ageddon

* Scented smoke bombs – Aromas include Savory Sulfur, Chokecherry and Dismember-mint

* Manhole Manglers

* The Sky-Tanic – Complete with Leonardo DiCaprio action figure!

* Taser-Dodge

* The Zit-Geyser

* Pin the Fuse on the Donkey

* Amber Waves of Pain

* The ThighMaster™ Friction Sparkler Show

* Traffic Cone Volcano

* The Star-Spangled Tanner – Emits intense UV rays that give you that St. Tropez tan in 10 seconds or less! (Warning: Do not watch display for more than 10 seconds.)

* The Black Widowmaker

* Disco Fireball

* Flying Finger Flambé

* The Spirit of Seventy Bics – Comes with eight-track tape of "Free Bird"!