Friday, December 18, 2009

THE TWELVE DISCOUNTS OF CHRISTMAS



BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

For 26 years, PNC Wealth Management of Pittsburgh has entertained and educated bankers, brokers, students and shoppers alike with its annual "Christmas Price Index,” a cost assessment of the gifts in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" if purchased at current prices. According to the latest tabulation, the whole kit and caboodle would run you $87,403 – up $800 from last year.

If you’re like me (translation: as broke as a sailor after three days ashore), there’s no way you could finance even a fraction of that figure, and besides, where ya gonna find a single maid a-milking, let alone eight? And unless those hens are wearing tiny berets and clucking “Frère Jacques,” how can you really be sure they’re French?

There are many less expensive, easier-to-obtain alternatives to the presents listed in the holiday tune. Compare the costs of these substitute gifts to the price tags on their traditional counterparts, and if your true love isn’t overjoyed by your offerings, your wallet will be.

* Traditional gift: A partridge in a pear tree - $159.99
* Cheaper alternative: Green parakeet - $21.99 at Petsmart, plus two pounds of juicy pear Jelly Belly beans from Amazon.com - $15. (Feeding Jelly Bellies to parakeet not recommended.)

* Traditional: Two turtle doves - $55.98
* Alternative: Two Dove Chocolate turtle martinis – After tossing back a couple of these, you won’t care about the cost.

* Traditional: Three French hens - $45
* Alternative: Three French hams - $27 (IdealCheese.com). Let’s face it, those hens are destined for the soup pot, anyway, so why not buy your food already dead?

* Traditional: Four calling birds - $599.96
* Alternative: Four bird callers - $13.48 (Amazon.com). Not for use during wabbit-huntin’ season.

* Traditional: Five golden rings - $499.95
* Alternative: Five rolls of Butter Rum Lifesavers – Candyfavorites.com offers a 20-roll box for $17.41.

* Traditional: Six geese a-laying - $150
* Alternative: “The Harlem Globetrotters: Six Decades of Magic” on VHS. Features early ‘trotter Reese "Goose" Tatum, possibly doing lay-ups, $1.99 (Amazon.com)

* Traditional: Seven swans a-swimming - $52.50
* Alternative: Seven scoops of Schwan's ice cream a-swimming in the syrup of your choice - $5 to $6 per half-gallon at various stores. Bonus: It’s easier to clean up than swan poop.

* Traditional: Eight maids a-milking - $58
* Alternative: “Watersing” by The Singing Milkmaids, $15 at CDBaby.com. Who can forget such hits as “My Johnny was a Shoemaker” and “Cheese and Curds and Whey”?

* Traditional: Nine ladies dancing - $5,473.07
* Alternative: Numerous ladies dancing at assorted “adult” establishments around town – Cover charge plus dollar bills for G-string-stuffing.

* Traditional: Ten lords a-leaping - $4,413.61
* Alternative: “The Michael Flatley Collection,” three two-sided DVDs featuring “The Lord of the Dance” for the low, low price of $18.99 at Amazon.com.

* Traditional: Eleven pipers piping - $2,284.80
* Alternative: Amazon’s entire stock of Zamfir's "Pipe Dreams" - $75.90. Hey, somebody’s gotta buy ‘em.

* Traditional: Twelve drummers drumming - $2,475.20
* Alternative: One out-of-work garage-band drummer – Fifty bucks, all the eggnog he can drink, plus he gets to crash on your couch for two weeks.

Friday, December 04, 2009

PAPA’S NOT A BRAND-NEW GAG


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

In this age of cookie-cutter programming, with hundreds of channels spewing no-resemblance-to-reality shows, Very Special Episodes and so-you-think-you-can-marry-a-dancing-millionaire-cougar contests, there’s little to nothing groundbreaking on the tube.

Shhh! Don’t tell The Powers That Be at CBS, who think they’ve mined comedy gold with the idea to base a show on the popular Twitter account of an out-of-work California writer.

After unemployment forced him to move in with his parents, Justin Halpern created the site to chronicle his 73-year-old father’s insults, tirades and pontifications. Example: “Oh, please, you practically invented lazy. People should have to call you and ask for the rights to lazy before they use it.”

Be warned before you Google the Twitter page: The elder Halpern’s proclamations aren’t usually as tame as the above quote; most are generously laced with profanity. In fact, the title of Halpern’s site includes a four-letter synonym for bodily waste that’s not fit for this family publication. Let’s just call it “Stuff My Dad Says” – “SMDS” for short.

In a victory for basement-dwellers everywhere, Halpern has become an Internet sensation, garnering 700,000 (and counting) followers, scoring a book deal with HarperCollins, and then landing an offer to co-write a sitcom inspired by “SMDS.”

CBS execs are twitterpated over this “new” idea, but they can’t slap a fresh coat of paint on a rundown shack and convince me it’s the Taj Mahal.

The concept of a crotchety geezer who berates and belittles everyone and everything under the sun? Gosh, I loved this show when I was 8 and it was called “All in the Family.”


Long before social networks, TV networks deluged us with dour, disgruntled dads. Here’s a half-dozen of my personal faves:

Archie Bunker, “All in the Family”
Family: Wife Edith, “little girl” Gloria, son-in-law Mike Stivic
Trademarks: Shabby armchair; penchant for slandering and stereotyping those of races, ethnicities, religions, etc., other than his own – and somehow, he made it funny.
Quotes: “Aw, geez!” “Dingbat!” “You are a Meathead!” “Shut … up … you!”

Fred Sanford, “Sanford and Son”
Family: Son Lamont; sister-in-law Aunt Esther, best friends Grady and Bubba
Trademarks: Junkyard; raggedy pickup; ratty beard; suspenders and plaid shirt
Quotes: “Shut up, dummy!” “It’s The Big One! I’m comin’ to join you, Elizabeth!”

Red Forman, “That '70s Show”
Family: Wife Kitty, daughter Laurie, son Eric
Trademarks: Permanently furrowed brow; narrow-eyed scowl
Quote: “Dumbass!”

Martin Crane, “Frasier”
Family: Sons Frasier and Niles, both psychologists; live-in physical therapist Daphne Moon
Trademarks: Threadbare armchair; cane; Jack Russell terrier named Eddie
Quote: “I did … then we had Niles.” – In response to Frasier asking if he believed in second chances.

Frank Costanza, “Seinfeld”
Family: Wife Estelle, son George
Trademarks: Incessant bellowing; man-boobs
Quotes: “You want a piece of me? YOU GOT IT!” “My George isn't clever enough to hatch a scheme like this.”

Al Bundy, “Married … with Children”
Family: Wife Peggy, daughter Kelly, Son Bud
Trademarks: Beleaguered expression; Sans-a-Belt trousers with hand in waistband
Quote: “Peg, kids, get ready to torture me – I'm home.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

I’LL BE BROKE FOR CHRISTMAS


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

'Tis a month before Christmas and all through the U.S.,
The economy's left our finances a mess.
We're hocking our gold, from our jewels to our teeth
To buy a big tree decked with gifts underneath.

The children are nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of PlayStations dance in their heads.
As Mom and Dad over the checkbook conspire
To somehow fulfill all their Christmas desires.

Their MasterCard's maxed out, they save every dime;
They're grateful for jobs that they work overtime.
For the Christmas they knew in their own younger days
Has swapped Elmo for Rudolph and scooters for sleighs!

The sales pitches start up 'round All Hallow's Eve:
Commercials and print ads, without a reprieve!
For Barbie dolls, digi-cams, Nerf toys and VTechs,
Buzz Lightyear and Clone Wars, Transformers and Mindflex!

The kiddies make lists filled with treasures assorted
While Mom and Dad wonder, "How can we afford it?"
But somehow they manage as most parents do,
To spin silk from a sow's ear and make dreams come true.

They start shopping in summer - sometimes early as May;
They stockpile the lay-bys and pray they can pay.
They seek bargains and deals, searching high and low places:
Flea markets and yard sales, Craigslist in some cases!

It's the deep, heartfelt wish of each mom and each dad
To provide their dear children with more than they had.
From schooling to housing to everyday joys
Like cell phones, chic clothing, and gadgets and toys.

But lately, most purse strings are pulled rather taut,
And parents can't buy all the things they once bought.
For schooling and housing trump gadgets and toys
And cell phones won't feed or clothe young girls and boys!

Some children will haul in as much as last year
While others will open a gift there and here.
Still others will wake up upon Christmas morn –
Not a thing to unwrap 'neath a tree so forlorn.

Yet many will nonetheless praise and give thanks
That their hearts are more full than their wallets and banks.
Rejoice in the moment, not in yuletides of yore
For the present's a gift that’s not sold in a store.

If there is one good thing to come from this recession,
It's that many are learning an important lesson:
Getting presents on Christmas is fun, there's no doubt,
But that's not what the day is really about.

Friday, November 06, 2009

LET’S TALK TURKEY


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away and I’m already dreading the weeks of leftover turkey. I’m not just talking about resurrecting the remnants as sandwiches, casseroles, soups and salads.

No, in years past, I’ve gotten so creative in my attempts to disguise the remains of the day that I’m pretty much to turkey what Bubba of “Forrest Gump” is to shrimp. There’s turkey lasagna, turkey quesadillas, turkey jerky tacos, chili con turkey, turkey kabobs, turkey gumbo, pan-fried turkey, deep-fried turkey, stir-fried turkey, pineapple turkey, lemon turkey, coconut turkey, pepper tur … well, you get the point.

This year, I’m heading Tom Turkey off at the pass, before he even makes his way to Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, I probably won’t reach Farmer Brown before he swings the ax – or whatever undoubtedly gross and gory manner in which the bird is dispatched. Hey, turkey, I don’t know your life; I was almost 10 years old when I learned that you weren’t raised in shrink-wrapped Styrofoam at the deli counter.


Anyway, in the event that I arrive to find ol’ Tom already gone to that Great Turkey Shoot in the Sky, I’ll still honor his remains, just not at my table. Join me in flipping the bird into something new and unusual by consulting my Top 20 Uses for a Dead Turkey:

20. Fancy-schmancy mop … take that, Swiffer!

19. Not-very-effective pool floatie

18. Handy, dandy back-scratcher

17. Makeshift marshmallow roaster

16. Modern-art table lamp

15. When placed at the base of a door, makes a festive draft-blocker

14. New-fangled bagpipes

13. Decorative candlestick

12. Tetherball, anyone?

11. Louisville Gobbler baseball bat

10. High-fashion, hipster headwear that’ll make all those coonskin
cap-wearing dweebs go greener than a seasick leprechaun

9. A couple of snips, throw in a zip and voila! An avant-garde handbag!

8. Nifty feather duster that will give your furniture a delicious golden glaze

7. Guest co-host on "The View" to make Sherri Shepherd look like eloquent genius

6. Tie two together by their necks … instant numchucks!

5. Mullet-like toupee – feathered in the front, giblets in the back!

4. "Discover" dead turkey in your Quarter Pounder, sue the pants off Ronald McDonald.

3. Très chic replacements for those tacky pink flamingos in your front yard


2. Four words: Dead Turkey Puppet Theatre!


And last, but certainly not least:

1. Isn't it about time fruitcake had some meat in it?



Friday, October 30, 2009

. . . AND THE BANNED PLAYS ON


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

In the wake of my last column, a friend took umbrage at my inclusion of "It is what it is" in a list of words and phrases that should be banned from the English language. "Some things defy explanation," she said, in defense of the aforementioned term. One need only to look at the phenomena of Kim Kardashian’s fame and women attracted to Jon Gosselin to know that this is true.

When I declared a moratorium on "It is what it is,
" perhaps I should have noted that I am as guilty as the next gal of spouting that throwaway phrase now and again on those occasions when my vocabulary is feeling not-so-fresh. In fact, were I to do away with my own stock of oft-uttered expressions, this column would be little more than a handy space for doodling. What one linguist calls overused and irritating, I call "the cornerstones of my biweekly babbling."

So, in the name of increasing my word power, I hereby vow to (make a halfhearted attempt to) abstain from (or at least slightly reduce) the use of the following terminology (except when I really and truly need to):

*
"Meh" – It’s less obnoxious than the ubiquitous teenspeak staple, "Whatever," and nicer than, "Your opinion is as meaningless as Kim Kardashian."

* "PWNED" – Derived from "owned," meaning to conquer, it should only be used if you are 12 years old and playing Halo online while wearing headgear and watching "Naruto."

* "Full of win" – Victorious, excellent or otherwise superlative. Example: "Stephenie Meyers ‘Twilight’ series is full of win." In addition to being blatantly false, saying this will make you sound like you’re full of something else.

* "Conversate" – Please orientate yourself with a dictionary so you can learn that the proper way to pronunciate this word is "converse."

* "Not so much" – And yet it’s uttered TOO much.

* "Cool beans" – This is ranks up there with "the bee’s knees," "the cat’s meow/pajamas" and "easy peasy lemon squeezy" on the list of Things You Should Not Say Unless You’re Old Enough To Tell Stories About The Depression.

* "Carbon footprint" – Mine’s a size 5, so how environmentally destructive could it be? Kim Kardashian’s buttprint, on the other hand …

* "Weak sauce" – That’s enough, Guy-Dude-Bro.

* Combined celebrity names – Brangelina, TomKat and Bennifer are bad enough, but if this asinine amalgamation continues, we could end up with Madonna + Simon Cowell = MadCow.

* "Pop" – As in, "That red blouse really makes your auburn highlights pop!" Save this one as slang for soda or a nickname for your dad.

And last, but certainly not least:

* "I threw up in my mouth a little" – Enough with the figurative regurgitation, people! How about upchucking this term from your lexicon? (Those suffering from acid reflux are exempt.)

If I hear this expression one more time, I swear I’m gonna gag someone with a spoon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

WORDS GET IN THE WAY



BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL


Recently, “Saturday Night Live” newbie Jenny Slate commited the faux pas of uttering one of George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” Keep in mind that the list was issued before we had eleventy-zillion cable channels where you now can hear all seven words terms and many more colorful ones that have since been coined. The expletive in question was none of the euphemisms for bodily waste or anatomical parts, or the one describing, um, an act of … uh … intimacy between … er … well, just don’t do it, OK?

This four-letter word is used as a verb, noun or adjective, often in exclamation and/or imperative form, and was deemed in the movie “A Christmas Story” as “the granddaddy of all swear words.” That’s right, Slate dropped the “eff-dash-dash-dash” bomb during the sketch “Biker Chick Chat.” Only those in the Eastern Time Zone heard the slip-up, since NBC quickly restored it to the intended “freakin’” for western zones.

Since the incident, online comments have ranged from, “People are so uptight! It’s just a word,” to “It should be banned from the English language.” Oh, if only that were possible! If I legislated lexiconography, the overused, misused and useless terminology I’d banish – if not from the language altogether, at least from common usage – would fill a dictionary.

“Cougar” tops my list. Why are women of a certain age likened to a beast of prey because they enjoy the company of younger men? If you don’t think that’s sexist, tell me the comparable term for older men who date younger women? The only one I can think of “lucky S.O.B.”

Next up: “ATM machine.” The “M” stands for machine, so unless you’re talking about the gadget that repairs an ATM, stick to the acronym or call it by its technical name: Cash spitter-outer.

Last year’s presidential campaign spawned several words and phrases I could without hearing again, like “pit bull,” “hockey mom” and “new change.” What other kind of change is there? And I don’t want to hear anyone dubbed “maverick” except James Garner, circa 1960.

I’d also outlaw:

“It is what it is” – Unless you’re Bill Clinton, in which case, it depends on what your definition of “is” is.

“(Insert noun) is the new black” – So what does that make the OLD black?

“Best-kept secret” – How well-kept is it if you’re telling me?

“Sick” as a synonym for “cool,” “amazing,” etc. – You might think you sound cool and amazing, but you’re making me sick – and that’s a synonym for “ill” and “nauseated.”

“Past history” – This redundant phrase is like repeating the same, exact thing twice.

“With all due respect” – Translation: “I don’t really respect you, so it’s fitting that I’m about to say something disrespectful.”

“Downsizing” – Dressing it up doesn't make the folks on the receiving end feel any better. Ditch this word and call it what it is - firing. Unless you’re referring to weight loss. In that case, it is what it is.

Friday, September 25, 2009

GOTTA WORK WITH WHAT YOU’RE GIVEN


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

A reader with whom I correspond regularly has started sending me getting-to-know-you questions; I’m not sure whether to be flattered or put a restraining order on hold for future use. Is this just an average Joe/Joanne who merely enjoys my writing and wonders what makes such a twisted mind tick? Or will I wake up one morning shackled to my bed by a sledgehammer-wielding stranger who claims to be my biggest fan?

I jest. This reader has confessed to being a fan, but not in a kidnapped-and-hobbled, Kathy Bates kinda way. Her questions range from whimsical – “Would you rather fly every time you pass gas or wet your pants every time you laugh?” – to sensible – “If you went back to school, what would you study?” The beautiful thing is that I can respond however I choose – poem form or pig-Latin or straightforwardly; there are no wrong answers.

I answered her latest query, “Why did you become a writer?” with this laundry list of coulda-been professions:

* I considered becoming a ballet dancer, but I couldn't pass the barre exam.

* I tried pro golf, but my performance was below par.


* So I switched to bowling. It wasn’t up my alley.


* I worked as a dolphin trainer, but there was something fishy about my boss (an ex-Marine), so I got fired on porpoise.


* I tried being a wedding photographer, but I got tired of waiting for my prints to come.


* I studied dentistry, but I couldn't sink my teeth into it.


* I worked as a bank teller, but I didn’t have much interest.


* I went into archaeology, but I didn't dig it.


* I went into carpentry, but it board me to tears because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.


* My tenure as a janitor wasn't a sweeping success, either.


* I wanted to join NASA's astronaut program, but the requirements were out of this world.


* I applied to be a nanny, but the job came with too many little problems.


* I tried my hand as a Las Vegas dealer, but it just wasn't in the cards.


* I got hired at a brewery and had high hops that this was my true calling, but I could barley stand it.


* I was a clerk in a cheese shop, but I was no Gouda at it, so I Bleu it off.


* I thought about applying to beauty school, but I couldn't makeup my mind and missed the deadline.


* I was a mail carrier, but thankfully, I was delivered from that post.


* I joined the police force, but I copped an attitude with the chief and he refused to give me another shot.


* I took a job as an elevator operator. It had its ups and downs.


* I toyed with the idea of being an Egyptologist, but that's ancient history.


So, with all other options exhausted, I went into journalism, where I’ve been told I have the write stuff. It hasn’t brought me fame and fortune, but it’s kept me in the headlines.

Friday, September 11, 2009

JON & KATE MINUS ME


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Normally, I try to steer clear of the hot topics du jour and decomposing horses still being flogged, post-mortem. But my silence about the Jon and Kate debacle has gone on long enough. I think my sentiments would be expressed best when sung (in abbreviated form) to the tune of “American Pie,” with deepest apologies to Don McLean.

'Twas not so long ago
I can still remember
How the Gosselins used to make me smile
Residing in a modest house
Homemaker Kate and Jon, her spouse
And babies that went on for miles and miles

But as she toiled to raise her litter
Kate appeared to grow embittered
Jon seemed more aloof, yes
(Turns out he's just a doofus)

I can't recall the moment quite
When I knew divorce would be their plight
But I knew that I'd called it right
The day the marriage died

So bye-bye, to the Gosselin tribe
'Cos this season isn't pleasin'
No more can I abide
I can't watch your show or read the constant headlines
Sayin' Jon claims Kate does nothin' but whine
And Kate says Jon is out of his mind

While Kate's fans wave books to sign
And as Jon works on his clothing line
Does a nanny watch their eight?
The cash they rake in from their show
I hope they're saving up that dough
'Cos therapy's no doubt their children's fate!

Well, it's true that Kate's a control freak
And a germophobe who tends to shriek
If Jon were more laid-back
He would be comatose, in fact

Now he's a playboy bach’lor, he likes to flirt
Rides a bitchin’ bike and wears Ed Hardy shirts
But deep down, I'm sure it hurt
The day the marriage died

So now I'm sayin'
Bye-bye to the Gosselin tribe
Once your ratings were inflating
Now I'm watching them slide
Them good ol' fans are fallin' by the wayside
And waiting for your 15 minutes to die
For your 15 minutes to die

Wed for 10 years, two spent on this show
With perks that most people never know
'Cos stardom has its luxuries
First, a tummy tuck for post-natal Kate
Then some plugs for Jon-boy's balding pate
And a big Hawaii trip for free

Oh, and between hulas and luaus
The Gosselins renewed their vows
All at the network's cost
(Jon had his fingers crossed!)
So it seems this show has jumped the shark
Turn it off and put the gear in park
It's time this program fades to dark
And let the madness die

So I'm singin'
Bye-bye to the Gosselin tribe:
Mady, Cara, Hannah, Collin
Alexis, Leah, Aaden and Joel
I pray someday a normal life you will know
Once they pack up all the cameras and go
Pack up all the cameras and go!




Friday, August 28, 2009

REACH OUT AND (RE)TOUCH SOMEONE


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

In the past few weeks, one of Google’s top searches has been “Kelly Clarkson SELF Magazine” or some variation thereof, as fans and readers seek the skinny on the singer’s recent dramatic weight loss.

Examining Clarkson from head to toe on SELF’s September cover, they marvel at her newly svelte figure, which she must’ve attained overnight, since photos from earlier this month show a more buxom, curvy lass.

How’d she do it? Walking and Weight Watchers? Pilates and prune juice? Jogging and Jenny? Did she have that surgery where they reroute your stomach like I-75, only the traffic flows more smoothly and exits faster? None of the above.

The secret to Clarkson’s slenderness is SUCH a secret that she wasn’t even in on it. You see, the folks at SELF decided, in their quest for “the photo (that) is the truest we have ever put out there on the newsstand” – quoth editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger – that Clarkson would look her “truest” minus at least 20 pounds. So they downsized Rubenesque hips, tapered sturdy thighs and streamlined what some call “junk in the trunk” – heck, they all but altered her DNA – to the point that many readers didn’t recognize her.

This is an entertainment column, so I don’t want to get too heavy, but I can’t overlook the hypocrisy and irony in SELF’s “retouching” (as Danziger calls it) the physical appearance of a celebrity who spends part of the interview discussing body confidence. “When people talk about my weight, I'm like, ‘You seem to have a problem with it; I don't. I'm fine!’” Clarkson said.

It’s the singer’s self-assuredness that Danziger claims led SELF to revamp the photo. (Yeah, I don’t get it, either.) On TV talk shows and on her blog,* the editor lamely attempts to explain away the decision, stating, “We correct color and other aspects of the digital pictures … then publish the best version we can.” Apparently, “color” is SELF-speak for “dress size.”

Showing a flair for double-talk, Danziger writes that Clarkson “is happy in her own skin … (w)hether she is up or down in pounds is irrelevant.” (Except on the cover of SELF, that is.) Danziger also trumpets her own body confidence, but contradicts herself in the same paragraph with a story about once “retouching” a photo of herself because her hips looked too big. “I was heavier then,” she notes, adding that today, she would let the aforementioned photo run unaltered. Hmm. Very telling, indeed.

Danziger might be fooling herself, but she hasn’t conned the numerous readers from whom she’s received a heft of responses tipping the scales in Clarkson’s favor. The words “cancel” and “subscription” appear frequently, as do “I hope” and “you lose your job.”

Through thick and thin, one thing remains constant about Clarkson: Girlfriend’s got pipes – and not just when she’s singing. I’ve read enough interviews to know she’s not shy about addressing what others think of her physique. I’d be very interested to hear her weigh in on this matter.


* Read Danzinger's followup to the reader backlash here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

WORD TO YOUR MOTHER (GOOSE)

BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

The centuries-old nursery rhymes we continue to teach kids had little relevance in our own lives, so imagine how cuckoo-bananas these fantastical verses must sound to today’s more world-savvy youngsters.

In an age when Old McDonald’s farm is in foreclosure, Little Boy Blue is blowing his horn on YouTube, and tuffets have been replaced by ergonomically designed game chairs with head rest speakers and built-in subwoofers, Simon ain’t so simple anymore.

The dish isn’t just running away with the spoon; it’s eloping to Vegas with a TV camera crew in tow. Rock-a-bye your baby in the treetop and you can expect a visit from Child Protective Services. Jack and Jill? They’re not walking up the hill to fetch a pail of water; they’re footing it because gas is too expensive!

During more innocent times, we blithely accepted such notions as a cow jumping over the moon, four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie, and Peter Peter locking the missus away in a pumpkin shell. What else was a man who couldn’t keep a wife to do? But if the children in my life are any indication, modern-day munchkins don’t accept these concepts without question.

Mother Goose might have been spittin’ dope rhymes back in the day, but in 2009, her flow is tired – or as the whippersnappers say, “Weak sauce.”

It’s time for Mama G to kick some lyrics the shorties can understand. For instance, instead of asking Brother John if he’s sleeping, it’d be more timely to inquire: “What’s that beeping, what’s that beeping/John, my bro? John, my bro?/Is your iPhone ringing, is your iPhone ringing?/Let it go, let it go.” To voice mail, that is.


If nursery rhymes got with the times, children’s books might read something like this:

No raining, no pouring/Oh, no - it's global warming!

Mary had a little lamb/Till Daddy lost his job/Now Lambie's on the table with/Some nice corn on the cob.

Georgie Porgie, puddin' and pie/Kissed the girls and made them cry/Now to his great embarrassment/He's charged with sexual harassment.

Jack Sprat could eat no fat/No deep-fried foods at all/Because his wife's concerned about/His bad cholesterol.

Little Jack Horner/Sat in a corner/Playing his brand-new Wii/He's sprained both his thumbs/His brain has gone numb/And his weight’s multiplied by three.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick/You've got no insurance, so don't get sick!

To market, to market, to buy me some bling/Home again wearing a gold chain and ring.

There was a young woman who lived in a condo/She had many kids and a husband named Jon, so/She signed a big contract and next thing you know/It's ‘Lights, camera, action!’ Their own TV show!

Friday, July 17, 2009

THAT’S HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLES


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

For someone who has voluntarily kept her DNA out of the gene pool, I watch a lot of kid-targeted television. It’s my not-so-guilty viewing pleasure and a source of bemusement for my friends who have young’uns and wistfully dream of someday discovering if other stations exist besides Disney and Nickelodeon.

Call me developmentally arrested, but I’ll watch four consecutive episodes of “iCarly,” and I’ll laugh loudly, shamelessly, and frequently. Call me a bored escapist who should get out more, but I’ll vehemently debate the social relevance of “SpongeBob SquarePants” (it has none). Call me a kid at heart, but I get a nostalgic thrill when I happen upon oldies but goodies like the “ZOOM” video I found in a thrift store, the revival of “Schoolhouse Rock” and a show I watched since its inception, “Sesame Street.”

I hadn’t visited “Da Street” in the three or so years since my twin nephew and niece outgrew the program, so I decided to catch up with my Sesame peeps. I saw several new kids on the block, as well as all the old homeys. Ernie and Bert – still kickin’ it bachelor-style; the Count – his same number-lovin’ self; and Cookie Monster was stuffing his gullet full of … fruits and vegetables?

I felt boondoggled, mind-boggled and hornswoggled, like I’d stepped into “Sesame Street: The Bizarro World Edition.” I’d always been confident in the knowledge that three things in life are certain: Death, taxes and the fact that “C is for cookie.” But my faith faltered upon hearing Cookie Monster’s new anthem, “Cookies Are a Sometimes Food.”

Being a seasoned newshound, I consulted the Internet to investigate this unsettling turn of events. I learned that the program’s producers, noting the national rise in childhood obesity, restructured the show to teach kids about exercise and healthy eating. I also found out I’m four years late discovering this, but that’s beside the point.

What kind of cockamamie world are we living in where a Cookie Monster munches on mangos instead of macaroons, tomatoes instead of Trefoils, squash instead of snickerdoodles, lentils instead of … well, you get the picture. It’s radicchio … er, ridiculous! What’s next, Oscar becoming a compulsive bather? Grover achieving calmness through yoga and Ritalin? If they want to create a Broccoli Beast or a Veggie Varmint, fine, but gimme back my cookie-chomping critter!

Certainly, I don’t take health matters lightly; I realize obesity is a problem in our nation … heck, it’s a problem in my mirror! But what harm is there in keeping Cookie Monster true to his name? Obviously, he’s suffered no ill effects from eating nothing but sweets the first 36 years of his life – he hasn’t aged a day, his fur has a healthy glow and he doesn’t have to worry about sugar rotting his teeth, for he has none!

I say they can the veggies, boot the fruit and let him eat Cakesters. After all, C isn’t for carrot, it’s for cookie. And that’s good enough for me.

Friday, July 03, 2009

KINGS OF THE ROAD


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

With unemployment rising faster than Megan Fox’s hemlines and gas prices oscillating like Tila Tequila’s sexual preference, folks are canceling vacations and seeking cheaper alternatives. If your purse strings are tighter than Beyoncé’s weave, there’s a way to hit the highway without shifting the car out of park. It’s one of our most revered cinematic pastimes: The road trip movie.

For the cost of two, maybe three, gallons of gas, you can see the world without enduring traffic jams, flat tires, the eternal wait at baggage claim or Mommy’s Little Precious playing punt-the-passenger on the back of your seat. So pop some Orville Redenbacher’s, fire up the DVD player, and settle into that you-shaped groove in your sofa.

This list isn’t comprehensive by a mile because there are so many road trip classics, including “It Happened One Night,” “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World,” “Smokey and the Bandit,” and of course, “Easy Rider” – not a personal pick, but nonetheless a linchpin of the genre.

Even “The Wizard of Oz” is a road trip – bonus points because it’s on foot! More recent years have brought “Dumb and Dumber” – I’m not a fan, but many are; “Sideways,” which I haven’t seen but hope to; and “Road Trip,” which I’ll never see for two reasons: Tom. Green.

I’ve narrowed my choices down to a few favorites from the last three decades:

* “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983) – The quintessential road trip flick, featuring Chevy Chase at the height of his hilarity.

* “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985) – Tim Burton kicked off his directorial career with man-child Pee-wee’s search for his stolen bicycle, a trek that takes him to truck stops, biker bars, tourist traps and don’t forget – The Alamo.

* “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” (1987) – This screwball comedy manages to have heart and depth, thanks to funnymen Steve Martin and John Candy.

* “Thelma & Louise” (1991) – A chick flick that feels like a dude movie, except dudes wouldn’t hold hands and grin during their final trip. I won’t spoil it for the three cave-dwellers who haven’t seen it; let’s just say the last journey is a short one.

* “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (1994) – Forget “To Wong Foo.” This Aussie trio makes those so-called drag queens look like … well, three guys in women’s clothing.

* “The Muppet Movie” (1997) – A froggie goes a-courtin’ stardom, as Kermit heads to Hollywood. I dare you not to get misty during “Rainbow Connection.”

* “The Straight Story” (1999) – An unconventional road tripper featuring one man, one riding mower and a six-week trip to make peace with his estranged brother. Even weirder: It’s a David Lynch film.

* “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (2006) – Reporter come to U.S. for do movie-film about greatest country in world and hopefully make sexy time with Pamela Anderson. High five!

* “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006) – “National Lampoon’s Vacation” for the indie set, with a more dysfunctional family and a kiddie beauty pageant thrown in for extra laughs.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I’M NOT BUYIN’ WHAT THEY’RE SELLIN’


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

You can’t turn on the TV, radio or computer without being assaulted by celebrity endorsements. They scream at you from billboards, store displays and magazine stands. Celebrity branding’s nothing new, but have you ever wondered how stars decide which products to put their names on?

Did Paul Newman have a run-in with some rancid ranch dressing and decide he could do better? Was Suzanne Somers watching “Three’s Company” reruns and thought, “I dunno what I was thinking when I wore that side ponytail, but boy, my thighs looked great!” Perhaps Jimmy Dean was scarfing down a corndog when it struck him that meat on a stick would taste even better with a pancake wrapped around it.

Why do certain stars shill certain wares? Maybe it’s a career move or a publicity ploy. Maybe they truly love the product and want us to know how great it is. Certainly, some do it because they need the money, but many do it even though they don’t.

From Newman’s Own dressings and Somers’ ThighMaster to Jimmy Dean foods and the Foreman Grill, celebrity-stamped products have woven their way into the fabric of everyday life. Sometimes the endorsements make sense, like Michael Jordan for Nike. Athletes wear sneakers – simple enough. But sometimes it’s a stretch connecting the celebrity to the product, like Michael Jordan cologne. While I trust His Airness to tell me which kicks have the best traction, I’m more dubious about his knowledge of botanic chemistry. His cologne won’t make me 6’6” or give me mad b-ball skills, so I can only conclude it’ll make me smell like him. I’ve seen the guy in action and he sweats. A LOT. Thanks, but I can manufacture my own stink for free.

Of course, Mike’s not the only one to endorse a scent bearing his name. Fragrance fever has infected stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Prince, Cher, J-Lo, Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, KISS, Mariah Carey, Hilary Duff, the Olsen twins, Joan Rivers, Paris Hilton, Derek Jeter and even fictional characters like Barbie, Spiderman, Austin Powers and Avril Lavigne, who describes her new Black Star perfume as “me in a bottle,” so you’ll need to buy a spit-shield before spritzing it on.

Why should I trust uncredentialed non-experts to tell me what to wear, eat or drive? If I want a healthy dessert, I’ll ask a nutritionist, not Sylvester Stallone, though I’m sure his high-protein pudding is quite delicious. Samsonite’s been making suitcases for almost a century, so why do I need Jessica Simpson’s new luggage? If you ask me, the girl has enough baggage already.

I do, however, have faith in Danny DeVito, who’s hawking something called Premium Limoncello, which is not a fine stringed instrument but an Italian liqueur. In fact, it’s what he’d been imbibing before appearing on “The View” in a rather juiced-up state. Any man with enough sense to tie one on before facing that flock of cackling hens is a man I can trust.

Friday, June 05, 2009

KIDS SLAY THE DARNEDEST THINGS!


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

In honor of National Children’s Day, which takes place on Sunday, June 14, I’d like to give you parental types a little something to think about. The next time little Billy “discovers” science by putting a raw egg in the microwave or little Susie uses your $25 Color Fever™ lipstick to draw a hopscotch on the hardwood floor, take a deep breath, count to 10 and remind yourself it could be much, much worse. Then thank your lucky stars you’re not raising one of these terrifying tykes!


Henry Evans, "The Good Son"
Macaulay Culkin's Kevin McAllister had a sadistic streak in "Home Alone," but he was a rank amateur compared to Henry, whose idea of fun includes causing accidents by tossing a life-size dummy off an overpass, killing animals with a crossbow and picking off his younger siblings one by one. You’d think it wouldn’t take him trying to push her off a cliff for his oblivious mother to realize she's raising "Henry, Portrait of a Future Serial Killer."

Isaac, "Children of the Corn"

If you ever get a flat in Gatlin, Neb. (population: 968 and rapidly dwindling), don't bother calling AAA; roadside service isn’t much use in a town where most residents are too young to drive. Your best bet is to keep rolling on the rims till you hit the next town. Otherwise, creepy Isaac and his followers will take you directly to "He Who Walks Behind The Rows" – and I’m pretty sure he’s not a mechanic.

Reagan MacNeil, "The Exorcist"
At first, Reagan's acting out is thought to be the result of her parents' recent divorce. I mean, what kid HASN'T crashed Mom's dinner party by piddling on the carpet? When she starts gushing great green gouts of pea-soup vomit, it's obvious there's a darker force at work. To be fair, Reagan (Linda Blair) can't be blamed for her demonic behavior. After all, the devil made her do it.


The children, "Village of the Damned" (the 1960 original)
Rapidly aging blonds with blank expressions – no, not Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, but eerie, mutant spawn of inexplicable origin, capable of mind control that forces adults to do their bidding, including committing suicide. These towheaded terrors will make you think twice before telling “dumb blond” jokes.


Rhoda Penmark, "The Bad Seed"
Thanks to a brilliant portrayal by Patty McCormack of pure evil that's seldom been rivaled and never bettered, this pigtailed preteen set the bar for Hollywood hellspawn. If this murderous moppet has a moral compass, it's undoubtedly stuck on "south of Hades."

Damien Thorn, "The Omen"
He may look innocent, but there's something "off" about this kid. Maybe it's his aversion to churches. Or the way people have a curious habit of dying violently when he's around. One thing’s for sure: This is one instance in which “You’re just like your no-good father” is an appropriate admonishment!

Friday, May 22, 2009

MOVIELAND’S MOST-QUOTED MISQUOTES

BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL


"Luke, I am your father."


Everyone in the free world recognizes this line from a jaw-dropping scene in a legendary sci-fi film, when the protagonist’s paternity is proclaimed in moviedom’s most memorable "Maury Povich" moment. In a game of Jeopardy, even someone like me, who’s never seen the flick in question but knows just enough to reasonably fake it, would punch the buzzer and triumphantly shout, "Who is Darth Vader, Alex?"


And Mr. Trebek would regretfully reply, "I’m sorry, but that’s wrong. Darth Vader did not say those words."


I know! I was as shocked as you! (At least I have the excuse of being a big Fakey McFaker who’s never seen the film.) Diehard devotees already know this: What Vader actually said in "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back" was, "No, I am your father,"in response to Luke Skywalker’s accusation about his father’s death.


According to a survey at lovefilm.com. "Luke, I am your father" is the daddy of film misquotes, topping a list of the 10 most common misquotes compiled after polling 1,500 filmgoers. What the survey didn’t show, however, is that for every misquoted movie quote, there’s another movie that uses the misquote, therefore making it a correct quote. In other words, right quote, wrong movie. So if you fancied yourself a master impressionist every time you asthmatically intoned, "Luke …," you weren’t imitating Darth Vader, you were citing Chris Farley’s character in "Tommy Boy."


Here’s the rest of lovefilm.com’s list, with the actual movie quotes, and as a bonus from yours truly, films containing the misquoted quotes.


"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" – "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"

Actual quote: "Magic mirror on the wall …"

Misquote used in "101 Dalmatians"


"Do you feel lucky, punk?""Dirty Harry"

Actual quote: "You’ve got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"

Misquote used in "Scary Movie 2"


"Play it again, Sam." "Casablanca"

Actual quote: "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By'."

Misquote used in "Moonraker"


"Hello, Clarice.""The Silence of the Lambs"

Actual quote: "Good evening, Clarice."

Misquote used in "Dr. Dolittle 2"(by a caged boar, no less.)


"Beam me up, Scotty.""Star Trek" (TV and films)

Actual quote: "Scotty, beam us up."

Misquote used in "Armageddon"


"Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.""Gone With the Wind"

Actual quote: "Frankly, my dear …"

Misquote used in "Clue"


"If you build it, they will come.""Field of Dreams"

Actual quote: "If you build it, he will come."

Misquote used in "Eight Legged Freaks"


"I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.""The Wizard of Oz"

Actual quote: "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

Misquote used in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"


"Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?""The Graduate"

Actual quote: "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me."

Misquote used in "The Ladies Man"