Yes, I’m unsubscribing to “The Onion”

structured_controversyFebruary 27, 2013 – In era where we worry too much about being politically incorrect, I am going to do something that I thought I’d never do. I am banishing the satirical publication “The Onion” from my life.

Basically, that means I’ll “unlike” them on Facebook and no longer visit their site. And no matter how small that may seem to the publication or the rest of the world, it’s a huge statement for me because I’m always the first to cry “don’t read/watch it if you don’t like it” when people call for a ban on something.

My protest makes me feel a little sad because “The Onion” has provided me with a lot of laughs through the years with its clever commentary. Lately though, whether they’ve hired a new crop of writers or I’ve turned into a bitter curmudgeon, I no longer find them funny.

Their latest stint on Sunday night involving Twitter and their vulgar comment about Quvenzhane Wallis, the adorable and talented nine-year old who was nominated for Best Actress for her performance in “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, was not only tasteless it had me scratching my head wondering what they could be thinking. I don’t care if they apologized. I can’t bring myself to read a publication where anyone associated with it could possibly think that remark was appropriate or funny.

“The Onion” has never been one to shy away from controversy. Last year, they made headlines for their doctored photo of a plane with the Sears logo flying into Chicago’s Willis Tower, the tallest building in the country that used to be known as the Sears Tower. The headline read “Sears extremists fly a plane into Willis Tower.” Thousands of people complained to the site that it was too soon to attempt that brand of humor, and it probably would never be funny in our lifetime.

The following week, they shocked people again with purposeful and bad timing. While hundreds gathered to memorialize the six Sikh worshippers gunned down at a temple in Milwaukee, “The Onion” featured a photo of Christian Bale (in the spirit of his visit with the victims of the Aurora, Colorado shooting) with the headline, “Christian Bale Visits Sikh Temple Victims.”

While these stories aren’t what I consider funny, and are arguably insensitive, they are not nearly as offensive as referring to an innocent young girl by a word so horrid, I believe it to be the worst in the English language. It crossed the line a little too much for this former fan, and I must bit them adieu.

Thankfully, I still have some satire to enjoy, but isn’t updated nearly as much as I’d like it to be. Any other ideas?

A new take on the Oscars

imagesFebruary 25, 2013 — Did you watch the Academy Awards last night?

Can you believe a movie fan like me missed the best part? I was catching up on episodes of “Homeland” and didn’t want to stop watching, so I hit the DVR button. Unfortunately, the show ran over (something I didn’t think about) and I missed all of the major awards and speeches.

While searching for news and clips this morning, I found this piece, which sort of takes the magic out of Oscar night, but somehow I believe every word.


The good, the bad and the ugly of television

Philo Farnsworth Adjusting Television CameraFebruary 22, 2013 – When inventor Philo Farnsworth presented the world’s first television broadcast at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute in the early 1930s, he probably never envisioned the medium including programs like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”.

Rather, Farnsworth wanted to bring information (news) and entertainment  (Shakespeare) to the masses. Romeo and Juliet, and Othello are on a different scale altogether than Honey Boo Boo, Sugarbear and Mama June.

So, how did we leap from his original plan 80 years ago to the television circus we have today? People and their tastes continually change, which is a factor, but the biggest reason most likely is greed. Television executives discovered reality-type shows are more cost efficient to produce over other quality programming that involves actual actors and writers. Plus, viewers don’t seem to mind that their programs are slowly being taken over by lower-quality choices, and simply accept what they are fed.

Growing up, before cable television existed, we had a choice of a few network stations, a UHF channel or two and PBS. My family had rules about television viewing. Not so much censorship rules, my parents were pretty open-minded about that, but we had to ask for permission before we put the television on during the day because my mother didn’t want to “use up” the television tube. I don’t ever remember being told no, I couldn’t turn the television on during the daytime, but it was a question I hesitated to ask because I didn’t want to do that either. To appease our daytime viewing, especially for cartoons, soap operas, and after school programming, my parents added a smaller television to the kitchen/dining room. We became one of those families who ate dinner with the television on, and it was my brother who always got to pick the program. Dinner became a different experience with “Ultra Man” playing in the background.

While I was in high school, the cable craze hit my neighborhood. The addition of all of those extra channels has been both a curse and a blessing to the medium of television. It not only gave the networks more competition, but it created the need to fill hundreds of channels, which made way for some of the strangest reality television programming.

And I have done my fair share of keeping this insane cycle going. This week alone I got sucked in to the ridiculous Brandy vs. Adrienne feud on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and “The Bachelor Tells All”. Granted, no one forced me to sit down and watch these programs. I often rationalize it by thinking that while these shows aren’t exactly the type of quality programming that inspires me, there are far worse selections I could have viewed instead.

On the other hand, cable television has helped develop some of the most refreshing and original programming that has ever graced the small screen. Can you imagine a world of entertainment without “The Sopranos”, “The Wire” or “Dexter”? This week, I also tuned in to the third season finale of “Downton Abbey”, a program worthy of the title “Masterpiece Classic.” That sort of makes my viewing habits similar to a character on “Boardwalk Empire”, who praises the Ladies’ Temperance League for fighting to make alcohol illegal, and afterwards goes home and enjoys a stiff drink.

It was Farnsworth’s wife who said that he “saw television as a marvelous teaching tool. There would be no excuse of illiteracy. Parents could learn along with their children. News and sporting events could be seen as they were happening.” That seems funny when you consider that even television networks like The Learning Channel, a television station whose name suggests it is a teaching tool, features a top rated show with the “Toddlers and Tiaras” breakout star Honey Boo Boo.

The world of television began with high hopes, and in many ways has accomplished much of what it predicted to do. But as far as Farnsworth’s dream, it appears we’ve only scratched the surface. For now, that means we have to take the good along with the bad and the ugly.

The age of bold and brazen

scoldingFebruary 20, 2013 – As a young student in a Catholic grade school, I knew I was in trouble when my teacher called me bold or brazen. It’s no wonder I grew up believing those words were negative and could only described bad people.

Fast forward several decades, and those words became a compliment in the workplace and often in life in general. “Her marketing plan is quite bold!” Or, “He was brazen and gutsy enough to act first, which earned us the account.” Our language is complicated, and the words we use to scold or praise – especially if they are similar – can be difficult to differentiate in young and sometimes no so young brains.

Think about what we say to our kids, for example. My friend told a story about observing her young son playing with a group of children several years ago. One of them said, “Who is smart, raise your hands.” Most of the children in the group raised their hands, except her son who exclaimed, “Nope. Not me. When I’m smart my dad smacks me.”

Taken literally, the phrases parents and authority figures use to scold children such as, “You’re too bold or brazen for your own good,” or “Don’t get smart,” actually describe the very nature of what children should be. Won’t they fare better in life if they are brave and intelligent, and if they take smart chances and think outside of the box?

A few years ago, my cousin told me that she liked getting older because now that she was over a certain age, she could act and do what she wanted and not have to worry about how people perceived her. In other words, with age she could become more brazen. I think about those words a lot, and I’ve noticed that even though I’m several years away from the age she deemed appropriate for such behavior, I’m bolder and more brazen that ever. That means I’m moving in the right direction although I’ll always worry whether I’ve hurt someone’s feelings or if I went too far (which probably will never happen). It’s just my nature. Yet, I’m proud of the strides I continue to make as I erase the negativity I once associated with those words, and nibble away at more each day.

As I progress, I think about Sister Francis Veronica who always called me a brazen article. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was absolutely right.

The battle of the billboards

mailFebruary 18, 2013 – Perhaps you remember the blog entry I posted a few weeks ago regarding the billboard on I95 in Philadelphia that advertised for a company not only promoting infidelity, but actually claiming it could help find you a partner for your adulterous liaison.

Like Superman swooping in on Metropolis to save those in trouble, an unnamed company/organization purchased a billboard not so far from the adultery advertisement that shared an opposing message. “Thou shall not commit adultery” it simply read, with a caption below “Fidelity matters”.

Granted, I’m not one who enjoys being preached to, but I found this new billboard, which had to be placed in response to the other rather refreshing because fidelity does matter. Why get married if it doesn’t?

I also find it interesting that no one is claiming responsibility for the new billboard’s placement. I assume it is a religious organization, but if it is, they’ve decided to stay in the background and let the message speak for itself. That’s kind of refreshing, too.

How bizarre is it that advertising has reached a new pinnacle and is now marketing morality – or immorality as it were? One may try to argue that this has been going on for years, but not this literally. If this trend catches on, and more shockingly makes a difference in the way people behave, can you imagine what other billboards you could see in the future. Like post it notes on my desk that remind me to do different tasks, billboards on highways can become the new voices of our conscience.

On second thought, I hope that never happens.

TV review: The Jenny McCarthy Show

mailFebruary 15, 2013 – Have you seen Jenny McCarthy’s new late-night talk show that debuted on VH-1 last Friday night?

If anything, it just proves my theory that I am one step closer to having a talk show of my own, because eventually everyone seems to get one. It also proves that like MTV these days, VH-1 is about anything but music, and that is just sad.

I’m not very familiar with McCarthy, but I know she’s a comedienne and an outspoken activist against vaccines for babies because she believes they may be a leading cause of autism. I also know she used to be a playboy playmate and she used to date Jim Carrey.

After watching the first episode, my first thought was she is stealing Chelsea Handler’s shtick (or perhaps that of Andy Cohen of Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live”, although I will admit I love him) with her outrageous no-filter mouth and lots of booze flowing throughout the show. And I should mention the saucy language that annoyingly causes about every third word to be beeped out. Now, after just one episode, I know more about McCarthy than I ever cared to know.

According to McCarthy, she believes her talk show is different than the norm because, “We don’t have pre-interviews, so I make it really candid for the celebs to come on and just hang out for a half hour.”

McCarthy also claims that her interviews are really more conversations than a question and answer routine. Her favorite part of the show is the man-on-the ground interviews where she and the guest literally lay on the carpet, suck lollipops and have a conversation. She believes celebrities open up more when they are not sitting in an interview-type setting.

The half-hour show airs every Friday night at 10:30 p.m. EST. Its purpose, it seems is to make you believe you’re viewing a party between McCarthy and her friends, but who wants to watch that? Maybe it’s supposed to make you feel like you’re there, too, but if so, it was lost on me. It’s been reported that she turned down an opportunity to host a talk show on OWN, Oprah’s network, but chose to go over to VH-1 instead. Even though OWN is not doing well, it’s difficult to believe that she would choose VH-1 instead – then again, maybe not considering the type of show she chooses to do.

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who find this format humorous; I’m just not one of them. Even so, I can’t believe this one will last long, folks, so if you want to see it for yourself, catch it quick. Better  yet, just skip it.

“All the Single Ladies” reside in Philly

mail-1February 13, 2013 – Do you remember that odd statistic that claimed it was easier for a single woman to be killed by a terrorist than get married over 40?

Thankfully, that statement was proven false, but a recent survey released by – just in time for Valentine’s Day – sort of makes it feel true in my home city of Philadelphia.

The survey focused on the best cities for dating, and Philly came in at no. 17 when it came to single women meeting single men. For single men interested in meeting single women, the city ranked 4th, which suggests there are far fewer single men in the city of brotherly love when compared to single women.

The survey also showed that Philly is one of the more affordable cities to co-mingle, with the average date costing $27. That seems too reasonable; we’re not necessarily among the most affordable cities in the country. Expect those costs to double or even triple tomorrow night as the city celebrates Valentine’s Day.

So, what’s the best city for single women? San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, Denver and Austin, Texas, are the five best cities for the ladies. For the single men the top five cities are Boston, Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Denver. Perhaps these singles should merge, meet in the Midwest and make everyone happy.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The nuts and bolts of moving on

snowblowprep-shearpins-lowes-revFebruary 11, 2013 – “Girls you’ve gotta know when it’s time to turn the page.”

That line from Tori Amos’ “From the Choirgirl Hotel” is most likely about moving on with your life, but moving on with anything, even to a new home, can be traumatic and fulfilling. You find yourself in a new space and even though you’re surrounded by your own familiar possessions, everything feels different.

Last week, I moved to a new home. I’m happy with the decision, especially now that everything is unpacked and put in its new proper place. Still, I miss my old home in the same manner that while I love Citizens’ Bank Park, the new home of the Philadelphia Phillies, there are aspects of their old home, the infamous Vet’s Stadium that I miss, too. But shaking things up and starting from scratch is healthy and one of the upsides of moving.

The downside is often the obscene amount of money you have to spend to settle in. For example, I had to visit that famous do-it-yourself home store several times this week, and I feel like I’ve spent the equivalent of a small country’s national debt. I’ve probably been to Lowes 10 times in my life, and half of those visits occurred this past week. It’s much more pleasant to enjoy the decorating part of making a new house a home with items from HomeGoods or William Sonoma than the practical fix ups completed with a visit to Lowes or Home Depot. I’ll choose that beautiful pasta bowl from Italy over nuts and bolts to replace the ones from the leg on my dining room table that went AWOL during the move any day. But my table needed to be fixed, along with several other pieces that fared well through the move, yet needed special attention.

My visits to Lowes had me searching for necessary things like outdoor trash cans, a snow shovel, and a recycling bin, and found myself wandering the crazy aisles of the huge warehouse, opening mysterious drawers of brackets, washers and other serious looking things just to find the right pieces to put my new home together. I was determined to do it alone, but it felt overwhelming and I had to ask the friendly man in the red vest to help unveil the mystery of the hardware drawers to begin my scavenger hunt. I quickly learned that the parts for my table needed to be searched by metrics because they were European. I had no idea my table was European, but the man in the red vest knew from looking at the pieces I’d brought along to match, and I was impressed.

On my next visit, while searching for a water filter for my kitchen spigot, I discovered an entire world of filters in aisle 15. I wanted to grab another red vested employee and tell them that kitchen filters should be in the aisle with all of the other kitchen items, which is logically placed near the new kitchen cabinets and sinks, and not at the other end of the store with the heating filters. It just makes more sense that way.

By the way, I’m not a complete amateur when it comes to do-it-yourself. I can work a hammer and screw driver with the best of them. And I’m not usually a girly girl, but Lowes made me feel like exactly that. I transformed into a confused customer who needed assistance to find the hand-held shower heads, which this time was logically placed with the other bathroom items. It’s inconsistent logic like that which makes me believe I’ll never understand the complicated world of the home improvement store.

I have to run now. I’m heading to Bed Bath and Beyond to look for some fabulous pillows. You see, that’s a home improvement store with a layout plan designed for someone exactly like me.

10 ways to release your creative spirit

creatrivityFebruary 8, 2013 – Everyone is born with the ability to be creative; some of us just relish it more than others. Whether you’re a budding Rembrandt or a seasoned financial analyst, we all need to break free from mental ruts, shake things up and spark new ideas. Here are 10 tried and true methods that help me.

1. Listen to different style music than you normally would. Classical works for me not only because I have trouble concentrating on what I’m doing if I listen to music with lyrics (I often want to sing along) but I get lost in the melody of classical music and I begin to daydream, which is always good for finding that creative spark.

2. Be positive. We are all capable of doing great things; we just need to recognize that ability in ourselves and practice, practice, practice. Also, banishing negative thoughts makes you feel better, which gives you a natural creative boost.

3. Do something different. A change of pace is good for you and it shakes up your brain cells. Go for a walk, visit a new place and talk to people you don’t know. Urban areas, like center city Philadelphia, for example, are great locations to people watch, and observe the unexpected and interesting. Doing something different often gives you a new perspective, which opens you to new ideas.

4. Brainstorm. When I worked in marketing and advertising, we had a rule that there were no bad ideas when brainstorming. That’s because even the lesser ideas could spark brilliant ones. Brainstorming not only helps you come up with a list of ideas, but it also helps you pinpoint which ones are best.

5. Be prepared. Carry a small notebook and pen with you wherever you go, and keep one by your bed in case you want to jot down your dreams. That way, you’re always ready for a creative idea when inspiration strikes. Like brainstorming, this may lead to some ideas that are less than perfect, but they also may help you strike creative gold.

6. Read. Reading always provides for the possibility of new ideas, so I try to take in as much as I can. Reading is also a good exercise for the brain. If you keep your brain in shape, it will be good to you when you need it most.

7. Take risks. Being creative is often far more interesting if it’s a little risky. My blog posts that have garnered the most attention are those that I felt a little unsure about at first, but in the spirit of taking a risk I published anyway.

8. Act like a kid. No one is more creative than a child. If you have children, you’ve probably learned that by now. Even if you don’t have children, play on swings, finger paint, or and blow bubbles (my favorite). Acting like a child makes me happy, which like being positive, is a boost to my creative spirit.

9. Join a creative group. Nearly every community has their share of film, reading, writing or even knitting clubs to join. Visiting with others who share your creative passion on a regular basis can be motivating. Plus, it provides an excellent means of gaining encouragement from others in the group.

10. Be curious. Somehow along the line, curiosity got a bad name. I asked so many questions when I was growing up, my mother often asked if I was writing a book. Sure, she was being sarcastic, but the mere suggestion made me actually want to do just that. And it all stemmed from curiosity. I continue to ask a lot of questions as an adult, especially if I am interested in something. And I haven’t killed a cat yet.

The Best of the Best: Top 10 movies that have been awarded “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards

oscar-2013February 6, 2013 — February is the month to celebrate everything Oscar – The 85th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony will air on Sunday, February 24 – and today we’ll look closer at the Best Picture category.

To date, there have been 503 films nominated for this top honor, including this year’s nominations, Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty.

Here are my choices for the best ten films in no particular order that have received the honor of “Best Picture” in the last 84 years:

1. It Happened One Night – 1934 – A spoiled heiress (Claudette Colbert) runs away from her family and meets a man who offers to help her (Clark Gable), who is actually a reporter looking for her story.

2. Gone with the Wind – 1939 – Fine Civil War and Reconstruction drama starring Clark Gable as an unscrupulous man in love with a scheming woman (Vivien Leigh) in the South.

3. Casablanca – 1943 – Set in unoccupied Africa (Morocco) during the early days of World War II, an American bar owner (Humphrey Bogart) meets a former lover (Ingrid Bergman) who deserted him in Paris the day the Germans took over.

4. From Here to Eternity – 1953 – In 1941 Hawaii, the lives of servicemen and their women (a large cast featuring Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr and Frank Sinatra) unfold right before Pearl Harbor is attacked.

5. West Side Story – 1961 – A Romeo and Juliet type musical about two youngsters from rival gangs who fall in love.

6. The Sound of Music – 1965 – A widower (Christopher Plumber) with seven children falls in love with a woman (Julie Andrews) who leaves a convent to become their governess.

7. Annie Hall – 1977 – A neurotic New York comedian (Woody Allen) falls for a ditsy Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) in this movie that created an instant fashion trend.

8. Ordinary People – 1980 – The accidental drowning of the older son deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother (Mary Tyler Moore), the good-natured father (Donald Sutherland), and the troubled younger son (Timothy Hutton).

9. Terms of Endearment – 1983 – A movie about a controlling mother (Shirley McLain) and a free spirited daughter (Debra Winger), and their trials and tribulations through their lives.

10. Dances with Wolves – 1990 – Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) is a Civil War soldier exiled to a remote western where he befriends wolves and Indians.