Friday, December 31, 2010

THE YEAR IN REVIEW REVUE


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

As we stand on the precipice of 2011, looking back on the Entertainment Year That Was, one thing is painfully evident: By and large, the rich and famous are nutty, and the fans who make them richer and famouser are even nuttier.

Walk with me on my annual stroll down memory lane and remember the highs and lows, triumphs and woes of The Beautiful People, especially those who engaged in some not-so-beautiful behavior. Sung to the tune of “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” this ditty is suitable for all ages, anytime, anywhere. Feel free to belt it out in public – the grocery store, school, church – but don’t blame me if you get ejected, expelled or excommunicated.

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

It’s the most ponder-ful time of the year!

When we review the news
Of celebrities whose
Antics we booed and cheered!
It’s the most ponder-ful time of the year!

The recap-cappiest season of all!
Who got hitched, who got ditched?
Who went broke or got rich?
Whose high jinks did appall?
The recap-cappiest season of all!

“Jersey Shore” – looky, looky! – at overtanned Snooki!
And that dimwit we know as The Sitch!
Every cast member’s face was all over the place
And Jwoww? Hey, wow, she’s such a … witch!

We were plagued by “Bieber Fever” this year!
Fangirls fainted and screamed
For this pubescent dream
With the haircut we jeered!
We were plagued by “Bieber Fever” this year!

The songbirds on “Glee” dominated TV
With Jane Lynch and her humor so dry!
In her red jogging gear, Sue Sylvester struck fear
In the body of McKinley High!

Betty White made a big comeback this year!
When it seemed “SNL”
Soon would ring its death knell
Hostess Betty appeared!
Golden Girl brought back the laughter this year!

Viewers started rebellin’
When “Idol” got Ellen
She’s awesome, but not in that role!
And they really cried “foul” when that grump Simon Cowell
Announced that he was leaving the show!

L.A. cops worked hard in two thousand ten!
Paris Hilton played dumb
Claimed the drugs looked like gum
Lindsay Lohan … again!
L.A. cops worked hard in two thousand ten!

Cher’s kid caused quite a stir;
Printing presses did whir
When her daughter’s news got back to them
Some folks found it outrageous, but some called it courageous
When Chaz became HIM ‘stead of HER!

Tiger found himself bleeding
And quickly retreating
When caught swinging off the golf course
His indiscreet cheating earned him a sound beating
As well as a costly divorce!

We bade farewell to some legends this year:
Lena Horne, Dennis Hopper
Blake Edwards, Lynn Redgrave
Lots more we held dear!
Yes, we lost several bright stars this past year.

Goodbye, lovely June Cleaver
From “Leave it to Beaver”
Gary Coleman’s death gave quite a jar
Same goes for Corey Haim – both were once household names;
Two of Hollywood’s biggest child stars.

So please join me again this time next year!
We’ll reflect, retrospect
Speculate, contemplate,
All the star news we hear!
Tune in same time and same channel next year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

HARK! THE SCARLET (OR GREEN) LETTER SINGS


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Happy holidays, readers!


Just wanted to share with you my yearly holiday letter – you know, the one in which I ooze joy and season’s greetings, and point out that I have a bigger house/car/income than you, that I’m spending Christmas in Aruba, and that my super-prodigy wonderspawn make your honor-roll kids look like “Dumb and Dumber.”


Oh, wait … I live in a one-bedroom apartment, drive a 14-year-old car and have no children, so that’s definitely not MY holiday letter! But we all know someone who mass-mails those annual missives (I call ‘em “brag bulletins”) that give a play-by-maddening-play recap of the last 11 months in their incredibly awesomer-than-yours life.
They spout geysers of love, glad tidings, and wishes for a prosperous new year, but often they serve to boast about impressive job promotions, luxurious new homes and genius offspring – and to remind us of all the things we didn’t achieve in 2010.

Folded inside deceptively festive Christmas cards, they lay in wait to ambush us like single-spaced, double-sided, three-page ninjas. They’re typed in microscopic font on red or green stationery, and chock-full of corny prose, cutesy kid stories and in some cases, outlandish claims that don’t just stretch the truth but make fib-flavored taffy out of it:


“We are so proud of Madison, who had a very productive year. During a break between volunteering with the Peace Corps in Malawi and building houses with Habitat for Humanity, she finished her second novel, received straight A’s – well, one was an A-minus because she missed two days to host a fundraiser for the Foundation for Kittens Without Mittens. Nevertheless, she found time to attend her fourth-grade graduation.

“Chase turned 5 in June. For his birthday, he received his first set of LEGO building blocks, which he used to build a scale model cathedral with a fully-functioning baptismal font! He showed off his architectural talents on a CNN special about gifted children and was subsequently commissioned to assist in the renovation of Notre Dame, as well as given honorary citizenship of Vatican City by The Pope.

“Last, but not least, we learned this morning that we won the lottery for $382 million!”


Fortunately, the one holiday letter I’ve received thus far is from friends whose updates make me feel pretty good about my own life:


“Clem moved out in May to live with a bunch of roommates in Leavenworth. We manage to visit him once a month, usually on Saturday or Sunday. He says the food is decent, but he’s sick of body cavity searches and making license plates.


“The baby is 18 months and talking up a storm. His vocabulary consists mostly of “No!” and “Mine!” and assorted grunts and barking.”


As I wait dreading more seasonal scribblings from friends and family,
I invite you, dear readers, to fill my email box with holiday cheer by forwarding your own holiday letters. I never pass up a chance to read good fiction.

Friday, December 03, 2010

THE 12 SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Say the phrase “Christmas movies” and many people think of classics like “It’s A Wonderful Life, “A Christmas Carol,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” Visions of more farcical films dance in other folks’ heads – “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Elf” and “Bad Santa,” to name a few.

My personal pick is “A Christmas Story,” which TBS airs each year as a 24-hour marathon, allowing me to spend Christmas Eve following Ralphie Parker over and over on his quest for “an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot-range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.”

But there’s a segment of the viewing audience whose yuletide yearnings lead them down a more twisted path, where Santa slays instead of sleighs and his elves wield hammers for purposes more nefarious than toy-making. For these folks, ‘tis the season to be gory and shirk the traditional fare for more horrifying holiday films – and I don’t mean Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Jingle All the Way.”

An in-depth survey of respected horror movie experts – by which I mean, “slightly disturbing conversation with a 16-year-old who probably should be heavily medicated” – turned up a dozen recommendations for those planning to have themselves a scary little Christmas:

1. “Tales From the Crypt” (1972) – In the segment “All Through the House,” Joan Collins’ Christmas gift to her husband is a fireplace poker upside the head. While trying to dispose of the body, she’s terrorized by a homicidal Santa trying to break into her house. It’s British so it’s bloody (literally) brilliant.

2. “Black Christmas” (1974) – The terrifying phone calls are coming from – where else? – INSIDE THE HOUSE in this Canadian creeper that’s widely regarded as the best Christmas horror movie ever made.

3. “Silent Night, Bloody Night” (1974) – This predecessor of the ’80s slasher genre doesn’t really revolve around Christmas; it features a killer taking revenge for something that happened four decades earlier on Christmas Eve.

4. “Christmas Evil” (1980) – Harry loves Christmas so much that he dresses as Santa and keeps tabs on who's naughty or nice … and woe unto the latter!

5. “Don't Open Till Christmas” (1984) – It’s Santa who’d better watch out in this British slashfest!

6. “Christmas Nightmare” (2001) – After witnessing the murder of a presidential candidate just before Christmas, a campaign manager targeted for assassination is taken with his wife to a safe (translation: haunted) house miles from civilization.

7. “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (1984) – For committed fans – or fans who should be committed – this movie’s main character dresses up as Santa and kills people in a variety of beastly (but undeniably creative) ways.

But wait – derrrrre’s more! Four more, to be exact. Numbers nine through 12 are sequels to “Silent Night, Deadly Night” released in 1986, 1989, 1990 and 1992. According to my teenaged source, the dreadfulness of each installment rises exponentially with the body count. Case in point: Part V features a toy maker named Joe Petto (get it?).


Watch at your own risk, as these movies could cause many an insomnia-plagued night. Then again, maybe it’d be safer to stay awake. After all, he sees you when you’re sleeping.

Friday, November 19, 2010

THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS POEMS PAST


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

'Tis a month before Christmas, the traditional time
When I herald the season in lyrical rhyme.
A takeoff on Clement Clarke Moore’s classic verse,
Two thousand and six was the year it ran first.

That first column mocked the melee in the malls –
Customers decking each other while decking the halls!
Rushing through stores like a bat out of hell,
Almost dogpiling Santa Claus, ringing his bell!

More rapid than eagles those shoppers did bound
To be first in line at a shop across town.
Pushing and shoving and being obnoxious,
Grabbing iPods and Playstation 3’s and X-Boxes!

Oh-seven’s verse talked about shopping online –
No mob scenes, no price checks, no tired child’s whine.
No lifting a finger ‘cept clicking the mouse
Like Santa, Fed Ex brings gifts straight to your house!

No long checkout lines and no NASCAR-like races,
No more zooming around searching for parking spaces.
No hundred-pound packages weighing you down,
No schlepping to every darn store in the town!

Two thousand and eight took a look back in time
Before techno-gadgetry entered its prime.
Back then, we had toys with eternal shelf-lives;
Now each year, an updated version arrives!

In our day, we marveled at dump trucks and dolls,
Etch-a-Sketch, Lego and spongy Nerf balls.
If we ran out of batteries, we weren’t defeated;
Our imaginations were all that we needed.

Then technology reared its computerized head,
Sending sales that once flourished deep down in the red.
The playthings ensconced in the Toy Hall of Fame
Took a backseat and I know where to place the blame:

On VTech! On Leapster!
On Elmo and Mindflex!
On Wii and 360,
On Wall-E and D-Rex!
At the top of the shelves!
In the toy stores and malls!
They flash away, flash away,
Flash away all!

In oh-nine, I bemoaned the state of our nation:
Out of work, out of cash, economic stagnation.
Tight purse strings made Christmas a challenge for many
Who balanced their checkbooks down to the last penny.

As children wrote long lists of treasures assorted,
Their parents lost sleep wond’ring how to afford it.
For the undying wish of most moms and most dads
Is to provide their kids with what they never had.

But some did arise early on Christmas morn
No presents bedecking a tree so forlorn.
Yet many still offered praise, glory and thanks,
‘Cos their hearts were more full than their wallets and banks.

And so, this year’s message echoes that from the last:
Let’s not mourn the ghosts of those Christmases past.
Rejoice in the moment, not in yuletides of yore,
For the present's a gift not sold in any store.

Exchanging gifts is one aim of this season,
But always remember the prevailing reason:
Joy and good cheer aren’t encrypted or coded,
And love is a heartsong than can’t be downloaded.

Friday, November 05, 2010

IF TV TITLES TOLD THE TRUTH


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

So it’s late at night and I’m flipping through the channels, when I happen upon a program called “Inside the Milky Way.” I’m excited and intrigued because I’ve always wondered how one candy bar could be so chocolaty and so nougat-y at the same time. Imagine my dismay upon learning the show actually was about stars and planets and nebulae and a bunch of other space junk. Talk about a letdown – I was crestfallen by the discovery that “clusters” referred to a group of stars rather than the nutty goodness of a Snickers bar.

Oh, sure, I could have read the onscreen program description, but that would require a degree of effort exerted only by those who aren’t pathologically sloth-like sluggards. (Which is also why I didn’t change the channel.) After watching the show, as well as the subsequent “Drugs, Inc.” (NOT a documentary about the pharmacy business), I felt disgruntled with TV networks for not making program titles more truthful. If I had my druthers, viewers would know exactly what they were getting with just a glance at the channel guide.

For instance, “The View” would be renamed “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah” and “Dancing with the Stars” would be called “Dancing with Mostly D-List Entertainers and Athletes.” See where I’m going with this?

Here are a few more examples of what program descriptions would look like if I were running the show(s):

“$#*! My Dad Says” – “Fourteen More Minutes of Fame Than It Deserves”

“CSI: Miami” – “The David Caruso School of Bad Acting Presents ‘Sunglasses Off, Sunglasses On.’”

“Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” – “Shamed By Children On National TV.”

“Maury” – “Breeders & Cheaters”

“Law & Order: Los Angeles” – “Really? Another One? Are You In Competition With ‘CSI’?”

“The Real Housewives of Orange County” – “Rich Shrews With Way Too Much Free Time.”

“Ugly Betty” – “In Show Biz, Ugly Girls Are Just Pretty Girls With Glasses and/or Braces.”

“Beverly Hills 90210” – “Thirty-Year-Olds Playing 18-Year-Olds Who Talk Like 40-Year-Olds”

“Happy Days” – “Whatever Happened To Chuck, The Oldest Cunningham Kid, Who Went Upstairs and Never Came Back Down, and Really, Fonzie, Aren’t You A Bit Old To Be Hanging With Teenagers?”

“The Nanny” – “The Lady Whose Voice Peeled Paint Off The Walls.”

“Last Call With Carson Daly” – “I Know … I Thought I Was Cancelled, Too!”

Friday, October 22, 2010

HOW TO LOOK LIKE THE BOO-TIFUL PEOPLE


By BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Throughout this month, several websites have published lists of this year’s most popular celebrity Halloween costumes, along with how-to guides for the little people who want to look like the beautiful people. But what they don’t tell you is that you’ll need the salary of a celebrity to afford all the bells and whistles they suggest.


Well, have no fear, Halloweenies! If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this Great Recession, it’s how to stretch a dollar. By thinking outside the box, you can transform into a Hollywood hotshot using items found in your own homes, borrowed from friends, or easily obtained elsewhere on the cheap!


Here’s my quick ‘n’ simple how-to guide for a few of this year’s most popular celebrity costumes:

Tiger Woods – You’ll need a polo shirt (preferably red), black pants, black shoes, black baseball cap, and one white, left-hand glove. Then bash yourself about the head and face with a sack of nickels. For the complete Tiger look, you’ll need these accessories: Band-Aids, a cell phone full of naughty texts, and a hot blonde who can swing a mean golf club.


Lady Gaga – In addition to the requisite blonde wig, this costume can be created by covering your body with pretty much any item not originally intended as clothing, e.g., stuffed animals, live animals, Christmas ornaments, hood ornaments, baby dolls, baby humans, faux ice crystals, Folger’s crystals, candy wrappers, gangsta rappers, shrink wrap, Saran Wrap, bubble-wrap, or actual BUBBLES – in which case, you should hire an assistant with strong lungs to replenish your costume regularly so you don’t end up showing everyone your tricks and treats! If you really want to be on the cutting edge of Gaga fashion, go for the now-famous meat dress. Just be sure your costume passes USDA inspection.

Snooki from “Jersey Shore” – While preheating tanning bed at 450° F, combine the following in small bowl: Orange juice and firmly packed brown sugar (one cup each), two tablespoons melted butter, one teaspoon dry mustard, and a pinch of allspice. Brush mixture evenly over entire body. Bake for 35 minutes or until skin is color and texture of an unlubricated catcher’s mitt.

Justin Bieber – The garb is simple: A white T-shirt under a black button-down shirt and black jeans so tight that if you break wind, you’ll blow the designer sneakers right off your feet. To achieve the teen popster’s trademark forward comb-over, forget going to some high-priced, high-falutin’ salon; there are less expensive ways to achieve The Bieber! If you have short hair, you can ride backward on a motorcycle at approximately 100 mph or have someone slap you on the back of the head until it appears as if your hair is trying to consume your face. Those with longer locks can tuck their tresses under a “Bruno” wig.

If these costumes require too much effort for you, I suggest you show up at your All Hallow’s Eve celebration in your PJ’s and spend the evening chain-smoking and shotgunning Mountain Dew. If anyone asks, “What are YOU supposed to be?” tell them – duh – you’re a freelance writer for the local paper!

Friday, October 08, 2010

COFFIN IT UP FOR THE ECONOMY


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

In support of fellow columnist Tony Riazzi’s recent bid to bring the economy back from the dead by making this an all-vampires, all-the-time space, I’m grabbing the baton – or stake, as it were – and running with it.

In his Sept. 17 column, my colleague struck a gold mine with his idea to revive our anemic fiscal health. Just look at the way fans lap up “True Blood,” “The Vampire Diaries,” and of course, the beast that won’t die (for at least another two years, anyway), “Twilight.” With our finances in the red, it couldn’t hurt to pump a little blood into the nation’s pocketbook.

To that (grisly) end, I’ve taken up cryptwriting – er … scriptwriting, that is – and I’m shooting this list of pilots to major TV network VIPs (Vampires in Power):

“America's Most Vanted”
“A*S*H”
“The Big Fang Theory”
“Captain Fangaroo”
“The Cold and the Beautiful”
“CSI: Transylvania”
“Dawson's Crypt”
“Dora the Impaler”
“Friday Night Bites”
“The Golden Ghouls”
“How I Bit Your Mother”
“iSnarly” (On NECKelodeon, of course!)
“Maul in the Family”
“Name That Tomb”
“Nosferatu-and-a-Half Men”
“Kids Slay the Darndest Things”
“The Killmore Girls”
“Let's Stake a Deal”
“Pee-wee’s Slayhouse”

But this isn’t just art for art’s stake – uh, sake. Helping the economy rise from the ashes is serious – nay, GRAVE – business, so I can’t limit myself to the constraints of the small screen. Movie moguls (Mo-ghouls? Someone stop me!), look for these blockbusters coming soon to a studio near you:

“Bite Club” (What happens there STAYS there!)
“The Bloodsucker Proxy”
“The Count of Monte Crypto”
“Drac to the Future”
“Fang-Tasia”
“Follow the Bleeder”
“For Deader or Worse”
“Full Metal Casket”
“Gentlemen Prefer Blood” (Featuring the signature tune “Demons Are a Girl’s Best Friend”)
“Ghoul, Interrupted”
“The Good, The Vlad and The Ugly”
“Holywaterworld”
“Immortal Kombat”
“Lady and the Vamp”
“Little Miss Scared-of-Sunshine”
“A Parasite for Sore Eyes”
“Rebel Without a Cross”
“Undead Poets Society”
“Vampirates of the Caribbean”
“Wake Up and Smell the Coffin”

For the most rabid devourers of fang-oria, there’s the “Scar Wars” franchise, with such heart-stoppers as “The Vampire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Deadguy.”

Why stop with TV and movies? Might as well have all-vampires, all-the-time radio! More hits than you can shake a pointed stick at, all the music that DOES suck (literally!), including Katy Perry’s “Teenage Scream,” Lady Gaga showing us her puh-puh-puh-“Poker Fang,” The Beatles doing their bloody best on “With a Little Help From My Fiends,” Steve Miller Band’s “Abra-Cadaver,” the Frank Sinatra two-fer “The Lady is a Vamp” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” plus all the best from the legendary Leech Boys!

Elton John could practically have his own station, with a VJ (Vamp Jockey, what else?) spinning hits like “Don’t Let the Sun Come Up On Me,” “Lucy in the Sky With Demons,” “Saturday Night’s Alright For Biting,” and “Don’t Go Staking My Heart.”

OK, I got a little carried away, but coming up with all this bleedin’ wordplay is a draining endeavor that makes me a little batty. I sure hope my effort to pick up the mantle (or “cape,” if you will) from Mr. Riazzi hasn’t been in vein and that I haven’t made a complete ash of myself.

Friday, September 24, 2010


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

It’s officially autumn, and in anticipation of the day Jack Frost comes nipping at their noses, folks are squeezing out the last drops of summer in any way possible – last-minute canoeing excursions, barbecues, picnics, campouts, and of course, road trips. And no road trip longer than a couple of hours is complete without its own soundtrack.

There are road-ready songs like “Cruisin’” (Smokey Robinson); “Truckin'“ (Grateful Dead); “Running on Empty” (Jackson Browne); and the quintessential traveling trilogy, “Freebird” (Lynyrd Skynyrd), “Born to Run” (Bruce Springsteen) and “Born to Be Wild” (Steppenwolf.) While classics like these are worthy of any sojourner’s soundtrack, they’re also as obvious as a two-mile tailgater. So I dug deep into my music collection, which includes cassettes, 45’s and albums (you youngsters can email me for an explanation of those), to compile this list of 50 songs to get you tuned up for the road.

To stave off the phalanx of emails about songs I’ve overlooked (on second thought, phalanx away; maybe I’ll use ‘em in a column farther down the road – ha!), I’m sticking to tunes with titles referring specifically to surfaces paved for motor vehicle travel and/or the act of navigating said surfaces.

So, without further stalling (I slay me!), get your motors and your iPods runnin’ with this playlist:

1. “On the Road Again” (Willie Nelson)
2. “Hit the Road, Jack” (Ray Charles)
3. “Road Trippin'” (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
4. “The Road's My Middle Name” (Bonnie Raitt)
5. “Middle Of The Road” (Pretenders)
6. “Long and Winding Road” (The Beatles)
7. “The Road” (Jackson Browne)
8. “Holiday Road” (Lindsay Buckingham)
9. “King of the Road” (Roger Miller)
10. “Hit The Road & Go” (Johnny Cash)
11. “Hard Road to Travel” (Jimmy Cliff)
12. “There's a Rugged Road” (Shawn Colvin)
13. “Farther On Up The Road” (Bobby “Blue” Bland)
14. “Crossroads” (Eric Clapton)
15. “Road Back Home Again” (Cornershop)
16. “Road Buddy” (Dar Williams)
17. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (John Denver)
18. “Open Road Song” (Eve 6)
19. “Road to Nowhere” (Talking Heads)
20. “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” (Lucinda Williams)
21. “Ease on Down the Road” (From “The Wiz,” Diana Ross and Michael Jackson)
22. “Refuge of the Roads” (Joni Mitchell)
23. “Highway Song” (Blackfoot)
24. “Everyday is a Winding Road” (Sheryl Crow)
25. “Living on the Open Road” (Delaney and Bonnie)
26. “Rockin' Down the Highway” (Doobie Brothers)
27. “Roll On Down the Highway” (Bachman-Turner Overdrive)
28. “Endless Highway” (The Band)
29. “Lost Highway” (Bon Jovi)
30. “Three County Highway” (Indigo Girls)
31. “Queen of the Highway” (The Doors)
32. “Down the Highway” (Bob Dylan)
33. “This Highway's Mine” (Steve Earle)
34. “Lord of the Highway” (Joe Ely)
35. “Highway Chile” (Jimi Hendrix)
36. “Highway Blues” (Lightnin' Hopkins)
37. “Life is a Highway” (Tom Cochrane)
38. “Blue Highway” (Billy Idol)
39. “Ghost Towns Along the Highway” (John Mellencamp)
40. “Freeway of Love” (Aretha Franklin)
41. “Drive My Car” (The Beatles)
42. “Shut Up and Drive” (Rihanna) - Also known as “What Dad Says to Mom When She Insists on Stopping to Ask for Directions.”
43. “I Can't Drive 55” (Sammy Hagar)
44. “I Drove All Night” (Roy Orbison)
45. “Drivin’ My Life Away” (Eddie Rabbitt)
46. “Driving in the U.S. of A.” (Guided By Voices)
47. “Driving” (PJ Harvey)
48. “Driver's Seat” (Sniff ‘n’ The Tears)
49. “Behind the Wheel” (Depeche Mode)
50. “Jesus, Take the Wheel” (Carrie Underwood) - Also known as “What Mom Says to Dad After Three Hours of Him Yelling, “What the #&@*? Get Over! You’re Gonna Miss the Exit!”

Friday, September 10, 2010

PUTTING THE “BOOK” IN FACEBOOK

BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Last week, I finally succumbed to the shame of being an Official Grownup Person and owning not one, not two, but all four books in the “Twilight” sparkly-vampire series. Actually, my shame dates back to when I purchased the second book. See, after reading the first one out of curiosity about all the hoopla, it felt like I’d made a commitment and should follow through, and well, the library’s waiting list was too long and look, don’t judge me.

I tried unloading the books on Craigslist, but I couldn’t give the dang things away. Even leaving them in a basket full of kittens with a “Free to a good home” sign didn’t work, unless you define “success” as no kittens, a stolen basket, and a pile of books with, “Ha ha, nice try!” scrawled on the back of the sign.

Long story short, I donated the books to a library, where the teenage clerk chirped, “Oh, I hope your daughter loved these as much as I did!” OK, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. The “Twilight” series has taken a lot of flak – almost as much as anyone older than 17 who admits to having read them. Sure, it ain’t Shakespeare and Stephenie Meyer is no Anne Rice, but anything (within reason) that gets youngsters interested in reading is okay in my book (ha!). Sure, there are many young folks who still love to curl up with a good novel, but the reading habits of Generation Z (and at the least, the latter half of Y) have undeniably decreased as the use of electronic media has increased. What with texting and the MyBook and the FaceSpace, more young adults are fluent in QWERTY than in Kafka, whose seminal novella, “The Metamorphosis,” might be translated today as:

Gregor Samsa is WTF, theres a giant cockroach in my bed !!!1!!!1

Hey, I think I might be onto something! Perhaps translating time-honored classics into chatspeak and text-talk would make them more appealing to younger generations. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by this version of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind”:

Scarlett O’Hara is OMG Rhett wut am i gonna do if u leave? :-(
Rhett Butler commented on Scarlett O'Hara's status: "whatevs, babe...i dont give a d@m."

Or Homer’s “The Odyssey”:

Odysseus is a fan of Dr. Scholl’s Blister Treatment.
Odysseus
commented on his own status: "Dude it feels like ive been walkin for TEN. FREAKING YEARS!!!!!"

And of course, the requisite freshman-year Shakespeare assignment:

Juliet is now friends with Friar Laurence.
Friar Laurence commented on Juliet's status: "Romeo's gonna be soooo surprised when he gets ur msg LOL!"
The Messenger is playin Farmville, so imma be a lil L8.
Romeo joined the group Poisin-Drinking Emo Boys.
Juliet is Romeo??? r u OK??? helloooo?
Juliet became a fan of Dames with Daggers.
Romeo and Juliet are no longer online.

Who knows? Maybe the suspense and desire to know the whole story would inspire kids to read the actual books!
Belinda M. Paschal likes this.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A CHARACTER BY ANY OTHER NAME …

BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip – that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailin’ man, The Skipper brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that da—whoa, wait a minute … what kind of name is The Skipper? Were his parents named Mr. and Mrs. The Skipper Sr.? Was he listed in grade-school attendance books as “Skipper, The”? Surely, his mother didn’t stand on the porch yelling, “It’s suppertime, The Skipper!”

Or maybe it’s a title, like “The Queen” or “The Pope.” In that case, he’d have to have a real name. Surely, he must have revealed it to Gilligan, who was, after all, his “little buddy.” Well, wonder no more! Thanks to a top-secret, cutting-edge technological gadget that allows audio enhancement of even the most feathery of whispers (fine, I Googled it), I discovered that The Skipper sailed into existence as Jonas Grumby.

I also learned that The Professor’s real name was Roy Hinkley and that “Lovey” was merely Thurston Howell III’s pet name for his wife, Eunice. What’s with all the pseudonyms? Were they really castaways or participants in the Witness Protection Program? (Incidentally, it’s never been confirmed or disproven than Gilligan’s first name was Willie. In fact, speculation continues as to whether Gilligan was his first or last name.)

Here’s a roll call of several fictional characters whose real or full names aren’t known to many besides the most ardent fanboys or groupie girls:

On “The Simpsons” – Montgomery is actually Monty Burns’ middle name; his first name is Charles. Sideshow Bob’s birth certificate reads “Robert Underdunk Terwilliger,” while Krusty the Clown signs his checks as “Herschel Schmoikel Krustofsky.” The Comic Book Guy? He’s Jeff Albertson, though that wasn’t the name of choice for creator Matt Groening, who imagined the character as “Louis Lane.”

* It’s a lot easier to sing, “We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz,” than to tie your tongue around, “the wonderful Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs,” which is the Wizard’s given name.

* Mr. Clean has a seldom-used first name, and it ain’t “Mr.” It’s “Veritably,” which came from a “Give Mr. Clean a First Name” promotion in the early 60’s.

* Zorro is actually Don Diego de la Vega, which takes a lot longer to write with a sword and doesn’t look nearly as cool as that slashy “Z.”

* On “The A-Team,” Mr. T’s character, B.A. Baracus, let it be known that the initials stood for “Bad Attitude.” I pity the fool who dared to call him by his birth name: Bosco.

* If you didn’t know that the policeman in Monopoly is named Officer Edgar Mallory, do not pass GO, do not collect $200, go directly to jail!

* And who is Cap’n Crunch when the S.S. Guppy is in dock and he’s not protecting his cereal from Jean LaFoote the Barefoot Pirate? The other sea dogs know him simply as “Horatio.”

* Last but not least, Norville Rogers was better known as Shaggy of the “Scooby Doo” gang. Makes sense … “Rut-roh, Rorville!” would sound pretty silly.

* THIS JUST IN! Charles Montgomery Burns was actually born Happy Burns to penniless parents in middle America!

Friday, July 30, 2010

FALL BACK INTO SCHOOL

BELINDA M. PASCHAL

So I’ve been thinking about going back to school at the ripe old age of twenty-ni—uh, thirty-sev—um … let’s just say I’m older than the average “traditional” student. Since I started tossing the idea around, I’ve had flashbacks of retirement-age Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School,” a movie I hated when I first saw it in 1986, but have since upgraded to “doesn’t TOTALLY suck, but Rodney still gets no respect for this one.”

Then I got to thinking about the many films revolving around institutions of higher learning and came up with more than you can shake a yardstick at. I divided my mental list, reduced it to its lowest terms and I now present the remainder: 10 of my favorite films about lessons learned both in and out of the classroom.

To Sir With Love” (1967) – The quintessential parable of the dedicated teacher winning over a class of rebellious malcontents. Standouts include Sidney Poitier as Mark Thackeray (“Sir” to his pupils), Judy Geeson as Pamela Dare, and Lulu’s hit song sharing the film’s title.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) – With a cast of future stars including a young Sean Penn as stoner surf-rat Jeff Spicoli, “Fast Times” taught us words like “wuss,” and “gnarly,” plus that the settlers “left this England place 'cause it was bogus.”

The Breakfast Club” (1985) – Most of us identified with at least one of these five student caricatures (“a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal”) who meet in Saturday detention and find they have more in common than they thought. (As a freshman, I was a less-nerdy version of Anthony Michael Hall’s “brain”; by graduation, I’d morphed into Ally Sheedy’s not-so-insane “basket case.”)

School Daze” (1988) – Spike Lee trains his gimlet eye on intra-racial color discrimination and Greek vs. non-Greek conflict among students at a historically black college. With musical numbers!

Stand and Deliver” (1988) – This is the movie “Dangerous Minds” wanted to be. Though both are based on true stories, Edward James Olmos is infinitely more credible than Michelle Pfeiffer as a teacher who transforms underachievers into honor roll students.

Lean on Me” (1989) – Morgan Freeman as tyrannical-but-dedicated principal Joe Clark saves this from being just another fact-based tale of an inner-city miracle worker.

Dazed and Confused” (1993) – Imagine what “The Breakfast Club” got up to after detention and it might look something like this peek into the lives of nerds, jocks, stoners, cheerleaders and that creepy guy who graduated five years ago but still hangs around the high school.

Rushmore” (1999) – Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman make extracurricular activities more hilarious than giving wedgies to Chess Club geeks.

Mean Girls” (2004) – One of the many reasons I love Tina Fey, who turned a nonfiction book about cliques into one of the smartest, funniest teen movies of the decade (starring Lindsay Lohan, pre-downward spiral). You go, Glen Coco!

Napoleon Dynamite” (2004) – Gawky Napoleon has one goal during his senior year: To ask his secret crush to the prom. Lessons learned: Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills and D-Qwon has the dopest dance grooves.

Friday, July 16, 2010

CLOTHES-MINDED ABOUT BRANGELINA’S BABY


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

A bunch of folks are having a conniption over a certain oft-photographed celebrity’s unconventional fashion choices. “Appalling!” they crow. “Why can’t she dress like a NORMAL girl?” they caw.

Who could “she” be? Lady Gaga? Kristen Stewart? Serena Williams? No, no, no and no.

Despite having her face plastered all over websites, magazines, tabloids and newspapers around the world, this star hasn’t had a hit song, starred in any blockbuster movies, or won an international sports championship. In fact, this blonde beauty is probably just beginning to master the fine art of coloring inside the lines. (No, it’s not Paris or Britney, either.)

Meet Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, gender-bending, tomboy-chic fashionista … and thumb-sucking 4-year-old. Spawned from the two-headed entity known as Brangelina, little Shiloh is making headlines with her short-cropped locks and preference for britches over ball gowns. According to Mama Jolie, the tot “dresses like a little dude … she likes track suits, she likes regular suits. She likes to dress like a boy.”

So what’s the big deal about a little girl who likes pants and button-down shirts? No doubt it’s Jolie’s follow-up comment that “she wants to be a boy. So we had to cut her hair. She thinks she's one of the brothers."

I repeat, “What’s the big deal?”

Maybe it’s that the idea that a child so young adamantly refuses to conform to traditional gender roles. Perhaps it’s the notion that her parents are comfortable with and accepting of her choices. Or maybe the thought that Shiloh’s male-identified persona might not change as she grows up brings out people’s fears about their own children.

When I was Shiloh’s age, I, too, wanted to be a boy. Like her, I grew up with two older brothers whom I idolized and imitated. Had I been dolled up in some frilly nonsense, there’s no way I could have executed an effective knee-drop while playing “Big-Time Wrestling.” Plus, I envied my brothers’ never having to run home from the playground to answer a call of nature. (My attempts to imitate them in that respect were less successful.)

Yeah, I wanted to be a boy. I also wanted to be a Muppet and one of the Supremes. Four-year-olds are barely beginning to identify as humans, much less grapple with gender identity.

We have no idea who this preschooler will be as she matures – a diehard tomboy or a hearts-and-flowers girly-girl. And if she DOES turn out to be transgender, like Cher’s daughter, Chastity, who’s now her son named Chaz, I say better an alive, well-adjusted man with loving, accepting parents than a self-hating woman who, worst-case scenario, finds life not worth living.

Shiloh’s apparel won’t change the fact that her parents see her as “one of the goofiest, most playful people you’ll ever meet” instead of just a haircut and boy’s clothing. If anything, she’ll grow up to be charismatic and independent-minded, instead of just another brick in the wall, so hey, people … leave the kid alone.

Friday, July 02, 2010

DE-FUSING THE FOURTH OF JULY

BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

It’s that time again, when we prepare to celebrate our independence from the nation that ultimately would give us The Beatles, “Absolutely Fabulous,” and Cadbury chocolate (well done!), along with The Spice Girls and “Jerry Springer: The Opera” (try again), and Russell Brand (jury’s still out).

That’s right, it’s almost Independence Day, when we thank our lucky stars (and stripes) that we’re eating hot dogs and apple pie instead of bangers and mash. And of course, this holiday isn’t complete without the requisite Fourth of July fireworks.

Actually, “Fourth of July fireworks” is a misnomer, since packaged pyrotechnics start cropping up in pretty much any store where it’s legal (with the word “legal” being left to the proprietor’s interpretation) long before the actual holiday.

“Welcome to Bargain Bonanza! Would you like to try our new super-duper-sized Combustible Carnival of Calamity?”

“No, thanks … I’m just buying a pack of gum and these ceramic bobbleheads.”

“How about our mega-giganto-normous Barrel of Burnable Bombshells?”

“No, just the gum and the bobbleheads. Ooh! And this half-price, tie-dyed toaster cozy! That’s all.”

“Ah, c’mon … it’s the Fourth of July!”

“Actually, sir, it’s June 12.”

You get the picture.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against feting America’s freedom and lionizing our liberty. I do, however, bristle at being besieged by bombs bursting in air for weeks before and after the Fourth of July. And on the actual holiday, I prefer to watch the colorful aerial exhibits from a safe, non-flammable distance, not packed with dozens of other spectators in some cul-de-sac in an unfamiliar neighborhood. (“Cul-de-sac,” by the way, is French for “no escape route.
)

But seriously, folks, safety is of the utmost importance when dealing with fireworks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 10,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms every year for fireworks-related injuries, and most of these incidents involve children. (According to me, it’s mighty strange that this statistic comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

So if you’re going to be firing off gunpowder-propelled projectiles this Fourth of July, remember to be safe, sane and sensible, so you don’t end up with scars and stripes forever. And be glad you’ll never see these bad-idea fireworks and aerial displays at a store near you:

Red, White and Blew a Finger Off

Ba-Rocket Obama

Aimlessly Roamin' Candles


REALLY Hot Pockets


Lady(GaGa)fingers


I Can't Believe It's Not Napalm!


The Wailin' Palin


The Star-Spangled Band-Aid®


Apocalypse POW!


Skanky Doodle


Five Charred Dud


Pop! Goes the Diesel


Rock, Paper, Blisters


Six Degrees of Amputation


As the World Burns


Botulism Rockets


Ring Around the Rosie O’Donnell


Sweet Landmine of Liberty


Fatalcrackers


The Emergency Roominator



Friday, June 18, 2010

HOT FILMS IN THE SUMMERTIME


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Looking for a cinematic treat while beating the heat and kicking up your feet? Cool your heels while watching these summer-themed flicks from the last few decades:

Summertime” (1955) – Katharine Hepburn was nominated for an Oscar for her turn as a vacationing spinster who falls for a married antique dealer in Italy.
Memorable quote: The film’s tagline: “She came to Venice as a tourist … and went home a woman.”

Suddenly, Last Summer” (1959) – A stellar cast (Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift) lights up Gore Vidal’s somber adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play known for such then-verboten themes as homosexuality, cannibalism and lobotomy.
Memorable quote: “We would carve each day like a piece of sculpture, leaving behind us a trail of days like a gallery of sculpture until suddenly, last summer.”

The Endless Summer” (1966) – The “ultimate surf movie” follows avid boarders to California, Hawaii, Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa in search of the perfect wave.
Memorable quote: “Malibu Beach, California, famous for its Malibu Outriggers, surfing, and girls. THIS is a girl … and for those of you who are maladjusted, THIS is a Malibu Outrigger.”

Summer of ’42” (1971) – A bittersweet coming-of-age film in which the lovely Jennifer O’Neill’s main concern is her soldier husband’s fate in WWII, while three hormonal teens’ main concern is the lovely Jennifer O’Neill.
Memorable quote (as the boys gawk at a medical journal about sex): “Before I saw these pictures, I didn’t think it was possible, either.”

Corvette Summer” (1978) – A high schooler’s automotive passion leads to a dream job as a Corvette mechanic, but he’s soon embroiled in the bossman’s dirty dealings. (Believe it or not, Mark Hamill DIDN’T do this for the money; he was already rolling in “Star Wars” dough!)
Memorable quote: “Ya wanna hitchhike, ya gotta stick somethin’ out.”

One Crazy Summer” (1986) – An aspiring cartoonist (John Cusack) and his pals come to the aid of a singer (Demi Moore, back when Ashton was 8) to save her family property from developers.
Memorable quote: (While reading the obituaries) “You ever notice how people die in alphabetical order?”

I Know What You Did Last Summer” (1997) – Four teenagers try to cover up a hit-and-run, but SOMEONE knows what happened. And they’re out for revenge.
Memorable quote: “We should have a plan. Angela Lansbury always had a plan.”

Summer of Sam” (1999) – Spike Lee’s spin on the “Son of Sam” murders during the summer of 1977 centers on the residents of a South Bronx neighborhood living in fear and distrust of one another.
Memorable quote: “Evil spelled backwards is live!”

(500) Days of Summer” (2009) – Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young man who believes in true love. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is a young woman who doesn’t. CON: It’s as disgustingly hip as the parentheses in the title. PRO: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Memorable quote: (Narrator): “Tom Hansen of Margate, NJ, grew up believing that he’d never truly be happy until the day he met ‘The One.’ This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total misreading of the movie ‘The Graduate’.”

Friday, June 04, 2010

DOING THE WRITE THING


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

Since I began writing this column four years ago, countless readers have asked, “How do you come up with this stuff?” Well, in addition to having been blessed with a modicum of innate talent and what I suspect is a genetic predisposition toward insanity, I have experience and education on my side. I’ve spent years honing my craft (a work in progress) and I also hold a state-certified B.S. degree – not to be confused with a degree in B.S., which I also possess.

“I love to write, but I’m not very good at it,” many folks have lamented to me. Take heart, aspiring scribes, there IS help for you. Even if you’re not a natural-born writer, you CAN learn to be a better writer. Taking a cue from Frank L. Visco’s “How to Write Good,” I present “How to Write Even More Gooder.” By following these 20 handy hints, you’ll be on your way to more coherent scribbling in no time:

1. Prepositions should never be used to end sentences with. (That's why I always use a period after.)

2. Being a writer does NOT give you carte blanche to use foreign terms ad nauseam. This practice is gauche and makes you look like a humongous jerque.

3. Don’t be redundant. Use the fewest, smallest number of words possible to make your point and convey your message; otherwise you come across as repetitive, wordy, long-winded and repetitive.

4. Conversely, don’t use one-word sentences. Ever.

5. Or sentence fragments.

6. Profanity is used by &*%!$ with limited vocabularies.

7. There ain’t never no good excuse for using no double negatives.

8. Just between you and I, some writers could care less about misusing certain words and expressions, irregardless of how awful it sounds. A responsible writer takes the time to research how to use the bestest grammar possible.

9. One exclamation point is enough to express strong feelings!!!!!

10. Avoid repetition. There’s no need to say the same thing over and over.

11. Clichés are for the birds and often stick out like a sore thumb. Instead, try to think outside the box.

12. Its important to use apostrophe’s properly.

13. Also, please, do not, get carried away, with the commas.

14. Same goes for the overuse of quotes by famous people. Quotation confesses inferiority – or so Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, philosopher and poet (1803-1882), said.

15. Employing bad analogies is as terrible as when you get a letter from some non-profit organization asking for donations and you don’t send them any, but you still use the little return-address labels that they sent as a gift.

16. Talented though they may be, dangling participles make even the most brilliant writers sound like idiots.

17. Using big, fancy words when more plebian locution would suffice makes your writing abstruse and superciliously magniloquent.

18. If something was mentioned previously, to do so again is repetitious.

19. Proofread thoroughly to see if you any words out, as well as to to be certain you didn’t repeat any. And don’t forgit to use spell-check.

20. And speaking of proofreading … it’s also a good way to make sure there are no unfinished

Friday, May 21, 2010

BUS STOP! IN THE NAME OF LOVE

BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

In the good ol’ U.S. of A., flirting on a city bus could land you on the bad end of a sexual harassment lawsuit, but leave it to the Europeans to actually ENCOURAGE a little slap-and-tickle among public transit passengers.

I reckon running barefoot all over the world takes a lot out of a diaper-wearing, arrow-shooting cherub because Cupid recently hitched a ride with Arriva Scandinavia, the Copenhagen company behind the “love seat project” launched on more than 100 of its vehicles to urge riders to become friends … or more.

When someone sits in one of the valentine-red, side-by-side seats, it’s an indication that he or she is single (or at least available). Smiling, winking, making goo-goo eyes, batting of lashes and other coquettish behaviors are wholeheartedly encouraged.

That’s right, folks, it’s … The Love Bus. Come aboard, they’re expecting you. Set a course for adventure, your mind on a new romance. At least until you get to your stop.

“You never know what will happen,” an Arriva spokesman told the American Free Press. “We cannot guarantee that you will find the person of your dreams. We are just offering the possibility for people to communicate, to smile a bit more and possibly, to win someone's heart.”

That’s PR-babble for, “You might get lucky, but most likely, you’ll experience the soul-crushing agony of having no one sit next to you, causing other passengers to avert their eyes in embarrassment for you, all the while sneaking surreptitious glances at you and obviously delighting in your abject humiliation as they snicker and mutter, ‘Loser!’ behind their morning newspapers.”

Perhaps the Danish are a sweeter lot than we statesiders – after all, they DO have a pastry named after them – because I can’t see this experiment playing out too well in America. In fact, the XXX disgrace described above is just the best-case scenario. There’s also the chance you’ll end with some pervy loner as your seatmate. Or worse, YOU could be the pervy loner – at least in the eyes of the purse-clutching little old ladies boring holes through your obviously corrupt moral fiber with their disapproving stares.

It’s been a while since I patronized the mass transit system, but if memory serves and stories from friends who are regular riders are true, chances are slim to none that you’ll end up holding hands with a dreamboat, and much greater that you’ll be used as a pillow for some snoring, hygiene-challenged furball who decided of all the shoulders on the bus, YOURS looked especially drool-absorbent that day.

Seriously, though, is this what the dating game has come to – the equivalent of holding a “Please love me, I’m lonely” sign on a bus full of strangers? Whatever happened to meeting potential suitors the old-fashioned way – on Internet matchmaking sites?

Friday, May 07, 2010

A SANDWICH BY ANY OTHER NAME …


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

In Hollywood, you know you’ve “arrived” when, instead of having you OVER for lunch, people have you FOR lunch – figuratively, that is. Restaurants, diners and delis across the U.S. celebrate celebrities with a smorgasbord of sandwiches, salads, sides and sundry snackables named for stars of TV, film, music and sports.

For some businesses, there’s no business like show business for drumming up big business. For instance, at New York’s Stage Deli, you can chow down on a Kevin Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato, a Richard Simmons Tropical Fruit Salad or a Dolly Parton – no, it’s not a double serving of extra-large chicken breasts, but pastrami and corned beef on twin rolls. Stage Deli also boasts Sid’s Caesar Salad and the Tiger Woods, which, inexplicably, is a Reuben sandwich; I guess "pork and tongue sub" didn’t sound too appealing.

With the exception of the aforementioned cleverly named dishes, it seems most eateries simply stamp a name on a particular food because a certain star once ordered it or a particular personality is their idol or the ingredients vaguely reflect the honoree’s ethnic origins – e.g., Carnegie Deli’s famous Woody Allen sandwich (pastrami and corned beef on rye).

I’m more a fan of menu items that pay tribute to a specific attribute of a celebrity – something like: The Kardashian: Roast beef, trimmed of unnecessary fat and served on two hot buns – or names that play on celebrity’s name and/or work – Samuel L. Jackson Steaks on a Plane, anyone?

If there are any restaurateurs out there in need of ideas to spice up their menus, I’m your go-to-girl! I have more ideas than a Big Mac has calories. Here are some morsels of food for thought:

* Spam Anderson

* Tom Shanks

* The Brad Pita

* Roseanne Salad Barr

* Britney Asparagus Spears

* Tyra-misu Banks

* Bismarcky Mark Wahlberg

* The Hulk Hoagie

* Terri Garr-lic Bread

* Johnny Hash – served with …

* Seth Green Eggs and Ham

* Dane Cookies ‘n’ Cream

* Johnny Depp-Dish Pizza

* Bernie Mac & Cheese

* Jane Fondue

* Jason Mrazberry Pie

* Snoop Chili Dogg

* Jean-Claude Flan Damme

* Ladyfingers GaGa

* Al Cap-Pacino

Friday, April 23, 2010

GRAY MATTERS


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL

I’m not one to keep up with fashion trends, except when they strike me as particularly hideous or inane. Impractical footwear: If the heels are so high, you get a nosebleed, they’re not shoes, they’re health risks. Spray-tanning: That skin color does not occur naturally in any species except Oompa-Loompas. The return of harem pants: MC Hammer called … he wants his 1990 wardrobe back. No pants at all: Only if you’re Lady Gaga, in which case, it’s expected.

One of the latest fads infecting the chronically hip is what some have dubbed “the granny movement.” No, it has nothing to do with geriatric bowel functions; it’s all about going gray – courtesy of a dye kit rather than the natural aging process.

From London’s cool cliques, runway models, celebs like Pink, Kate Moss, Victoria “Posh” Beckham and one of the ubiquitous Olsen twins to the funky-chic geek down the block, charcoal-colored coifs are all the rage. Among the most noted of the “hipparrazi,” as I like to call ‘em, is 13-year-old blogger and style mascot Tavi Gevinson, who’s been making the scene at fashion shows and after-parties in her self-described “awkward jackets and pretty hats” and a blue-gray Dutch-boy bob. Sure, it’s cute now, but what’s she gonna do for an encore … a hip replacement at 16?

Of course, this craze is more prevalent among the younger set, ‘cause I don’t know too many women over 25 who don’t run screaming in horror at the sight of their first silvery strands. According to Nielsen, their older counterparts collectively spend $1.3 billion to hide their grays, but many of these so-called trendsetters are plunking down $200-plus per head to acquire the salt-and-pepper look … without the pepper.

I don’t get it. And I want it to stop before it gets out of hand. Next thing you know, it’ll be en vogue to carry those little coin purses that hold a megazillion pennies, which MUST be counted one by one in order to give cashiers exact change, thus holding up the rest of the checkout line.

Nothing good can come of this voluntary graying of America, I tell you. It can only lead to the popularization of other trends like:

* Male pattern baldness haircuts

* Beaded necklaces made from Geritol, Pepcid and Viagra.

* Henna tattoo liver spots

* Crow’s feet facial decals

* Perpetually blinking stick-on turn-signals for hipster hybrid cars

* Instead of blinged-out grillz? BeDazzled dentures!

* Ugg boots designed to look like black socks with sandals

* Tiny ear-hair wigs

* Customized doorbell that shouts, “You kids get off my lawn!”

Gray hair may be the new “in” thing for some, but frankly, I’d much rather see it on those who have earned it the OLD-fashioned way.


Friday, April 09, 2010

COLOR ME ...






BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL


With the recent upturn in temperatures, I’ve been on a quest for a reasonably priced spring jacket, something stylish but not too trendy and featuring enough pockets to serve as sort of a wearable purse. As I’m notorious for my hatred of shopping –which, along with my disdain for purse-toting, puts me in danger of having my Ladies’ Club membership revoked – I’ve been cruising the online clothing circuit. I guess you could say I’m doing a little Windows-shopping. (Ha! See what I did there?)

Because I’m just enough of a girl that I wouldn’t be caught dead in a jacket that conflicts with the rest of my ensemble, I’m looking for something in a neutral tone, preferably on the lighter end of the brown spectrum. One would think this would be a relatively simple search. One would be grossly mistaken.

What I found was a baffling array of choices – none of them accompanied by examples – like Chamois, Flax, String, Oakleaf and Pearl Bisque. (String?! Really?) Whatever happened to good ol’ lower-case khaki, beige or just plain tan?! Now, I understand trying to make colors more attractive-sounding, and I can figure out what Sand, Camel, Toast and Café-Au-Lait look like, but Praline Cream, Barley, Oatmeal and Biscuit?

Distracted by these undecipherable names (and a sudden craving for breakfast food), I forgot about shopping and got lost in a sea of Delicacy and Fatigue – not states of mind, but colors in the Chico’s catalog. Another site offers items in the color of Mud, which is about as clear as … well, its name, since one puddle of wet dirt can look different from the next.

Silly me, I always thought brown just came in light, medium and dark, but apparently, it also can be Havana, Aztec, Cordial, Hacienda and California Gold, the last of which I’m pretty sure is an illegal substance.

Seriously, I get it. I realize manufacturers can’t call ‘em as they see ‘em because who’d want to buy anything offered in Jaundice, Gaping Head Wound Red or Strained-Carrot Baby Barf? And I shouldn’t complain because it could be worse. Though I have no idea what Plumbago, Slurple and Haze look like, I’d be more likely to put them on my body than such Tudor-Era shades as Dead Spaniard, Goose-Turd and Blod (I don’t even want to know).

I did enjoy the color wordplay on an automotive website – Anti-Establish Mint, Last Stand Custard, There She Blue – and was thankful to find no cars offered in Gang Green, Salmon ‘Nilla or Pierced Navel Orange. (Though I AM lobbying for I Cannot Tell A Lilac.)

Paint-job possibilities aside, this catchy-naming trend has gotten out of control. What’s the world coming to when there’s a selection of more than a dozen names for what most of us know as black? I give up. Until someone invents a color decoder ring, I’m sticking to Fisher-Price products, where the colors come in primary red, blue and yellow.

Friday, March 26, 2010

WALKIN’ IN A BURTON WONDERLAND


BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL


Recently, I saw Tim Burton’s through-a-looking-glass-darkly interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” which even the dimmest single-celled organism knows has raked in about a gajillion dollars since it opened in theaters on March 5.


Though a bit more brightly landscaped than much of his previous work and shot in 2D-converted-to-3D, “Alice” is typical Burton fare: Surreal, whimsically absurdist, artfully cartoonish, and featuring the nepotistic casting of wife Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp, godfather of the Carter-Burtons’ son. (Personal opinion: Adding a third dimension did little to enhance an already visually spectacular film, and I’m not just saying that because my poor depth perception makes 3D movies look like the fuzz on a hookah-smoking caterpillar.)


Some literary purists are all in a dither about Burton taking liberties with the original fairy tale – Corporate negotiations! An action scene with Alice in chain mail! – but many are becoming curiouser and curiouser about the director’s wonky re-imagining.


Most people know the story of Alice falling down the rabbit hole, but how many stop to ponder just HOW twisted a tale this is transmit to tots? “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland,” while written to entertain a preteen friend of Carroll’s, is a strange and hostile-bordering-on-sadistic narrative that’s just as appealing to adults as it is with children.


Adults’ fascination with “Alice,” proven by countless analyses of the story’s psychological underpinnings, prompted me to wonder why Hollywood doesn’t simply make fairy tales for the NC-17 crowd?


To that end, here are some suggestions for fairy tales and nursery rhymes I’d like to see adapted for the big and/or small screen:


* “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: A Study in Polygamy”

* “Narcoleptic Beauty”

* “Free-Range Chicken Little”

* “Addicted to Rogaine: The Rapunzel Story”

* “The Incontinent Duckling”

* “Mrs. Pumpkin Eater, Desperate Housewife”

* “The Tortoise and the Hare's Not-So-Amazing Race”

* “How I Met Your Mother Hubbard”

* “Two and a Half Men in a Tub”

* “Simple Simon Cowell”

* “The Emperor's New Clothes, Portrait of a Metrosexual”

* “Ring Around the Rosie O'Donnell”

* “Jack and Jill Plus Eight”

* “Beauty and the Beast 3: She’s REALLY Out of My League”

* “The Three Little Pigs in a Blanket with a Side of Hash Browns”