The Princess

My Top 10 Songs of Summer

I’ve seen more summer concerts than I care to mention,
Vanilla Ice, Hammer, and other cries for attention.
And while it’s easy to say I got caught up in a fad,
The truth is, “summer songs” just make me go mad.

By summer songs, I’m not talking about the [insert “Summer” here] songs that play All Summer Long. The ones that reak of desperation from desperate artists [that means you Kid Rock, Kid Rap, or Kid Country]. And while some titular summer songs like Bananarama’s Cruel Summer, Don Henley’s Boys of Summer,  and Bryan Adams’ Summer of ’69 do fit my bill, I’m referring to that summer song that’s released in the spring…picks up steady airplay and humma-bility by Memorial Day…and still rings in your karaoke-ear come Labor Day. It’s that pervasive summer song that becomes as much a part of your summer as sunshine, sunburn, and a summons for public drunkenness.

Just listen to the classic songs of summer like The Police’s Every Breath You Take or even Carly Rae Jepsen’s ubiquitous Call Me Maybe (Not). Close your eyes and try not to associate those songs with at least one golden moment from the sun-soaked season of promise that produced it.

As the final summer of my early 40′s approaches…I’ll acknowledge that I haven’t had a real beach vacation in years…and that these days my summer tan is often a whiter shade of pale ale. Even so, the unofficial start to summer this weekend has bewitched me with that whiff of nostalgia and the lure of another summer’s promise.

So this Memorial Day weekend, I’ve decided to “adjust the base and let the Alpine blast…” with the songs that bring back memories of summers past…when love was often in the air…and “those su-uh-mmer niii-iiiiiiiights” seemed to last forever.

Borderline – Madonna (summer of 1984)
I spent the summer after 6th grade daydreaming about my first girlfriend, my first kiss, and how my one true love got away (I was 12). So naturally I was a sun-soaked sucker for Borderline’s poignant opening keyboard lick and infatuation-infused lyrics. It was the first of many summers marked by romantic frustration for me. But at least I had Madonna to “keep pushing my love” to dial six out of my ex-girlfriend’s seven numbers before hanging up the phone. I repeat, I was 12.

Pour Some Sugar On Me – Def Leppard (summer of 1988)
In 1988, “Hold On To The Nights” by the nappy-mulleted Richard Marx was all the summer rage. And while many teenagers were waxing hopeful about a summer fling…or figuring out that spinning the bottle was more fun after you drank the bottle…I was racking my brain trying to figure out the “love me like a bomb” lyrics of Def Leppard’s signature song. I still don’t get the lyrics…I’ve never found myself “living like a lover with a radar phone”…but l really don’t care. I credit Def Leppard for ushering in the sound of those late-80′s summers…where the best bands anywhere were the ones with the biggest hair!

Poison – Bell Biv DeVoe (summer of 1990)
I’ll never forget the summer before my Freshman year in college. So many friendships made, lessons learned, and even more memorable love songs: Mariah’s Vision of Love, Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love [Even Though Julia Roberts Was a Hooker], and Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2U [Because You’re a Bald Chick]. All great, memorable love songs…that bring me back to a summer that bridged the gap between high school boyhood and college manhood. Yet the greatest lesson I learned that summer was to “Never trust a big butt and a smile.”

Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (summer of 1991)
In the summer of ’91, I became intoxicated by the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s “new definition of summer madness.” I summoned the courage to Dippity-Do my hair like Vanilla Ice…then I zeroed the sides of my head and annointed myself The Fresh Prince of Bad Hair. I popped in my Summertime cas-single…put my ’79 Camaro on cruise control…and laid back like Vanilla Ice Cube driving straight out of Compton (by way of Morris Plains). Somehow my new-found summer confidence (and identity crisis) lead me to the Rockaway Townsquare Playhouse where I auditioned for, and won, the role of Stanley in Neil Simons’ Brighton Beach Memoirs. It was my first-ever acting experience, and I owe it all to a “groove slightly transformed” by the artist formerly known as The Fresh Prince.

All I Wanna Do – Sheryl Crow (summer of 1994)
The most mindless summer song of all-time is the one song I didn’t want to get out of my head. At the start of my PR career in Manhattan, Cheryl Crow’s party anthem played on my Walk-Man (remember those?) and helped me endure the daily, dehumanizing, sardines-in-a-can grind of the NJ PATH train. If you had asked me back then, I’d have said ”all I wanna do is get the hell out of Manhattan, propose to my girlfriend, and live happily ever after in Morristown.” Thanks, in small part, to Sheryl Crow…that’s all I wound up doing by summer’s end.

Waterfalls –TLC (summer of 1995)
Sad stories from the ghetto, a buoyant hook, and images of water — so of course this is the song that most reminds me of my wedding day. The song and video were inescapable during the months leading up to my September wedding. Hell, it even turned up at my wedding (and we hired a Portuguese band). It also became the song of choice from the Indigo Girls-inspired folk chicks who serenaded honeymooners at our Key West resort. I’ll never forget Waterfalls, or the amazing honeymoon I spent with the love(s) of my life…Chilli, T-Boz, Lisa Left Eye Lopez, and the girl I married.

You’re Still the One – Shania Twain (summer of 1998)
Although it peaked at #1 on May 2nd, I’m willing to bend the rules here because You’re Still the One owned the airwaves throughout the summer of 1998…and it still owned my wife’s heart throughout her pregnancy with our son. On December 22nd of the following year, Helena gave birth to the youngest Shania Twain fan on Earth. I reckon our firstborn heard that Twain song in the womb more than I heard that Twain song (Hey, Soul Sister) in 2010. Twain and Train…get it?

I’m a Believer – Smash Mouth (summer of 2001)
“Somebody once told me”… that when I had children my taste in music would change. Thanks to my firstborn—and Shrek—I fell for this drek during the summer of 2001. Worst of all, it was only 2 short years after Smash Mouth’s other summer smash, All Star. I had banked on Smash Mouth following in the footsteps of other one hit summer wonders like EMF (“You’re unbelievable….Ohhhh!”) and The Proclaimers (“I would walk 500 miles…just to be the man who walked 500 miles” to turn off that fu**ing song!). But I’m still a believer in cherishing your child’s first movie-going experience. And for me, I’m a Believer is a small price to pay for watching Shrek scare the donkey out of my 2-year old son.

American Idiot – Green Day (summer of 2005)
Bending the rules again. During a long, hot car drive to and from a pre-Snooki Jersey Shore….my sons were introduced to modern rock…compliments of Green Day. What began as lispy, backseat whispers (“…here comes the part where he says f-u-c-k”) turned into the love of one song, then the entire CD, and ultimately a whole genre of music. So American Idiot is 2005′s “CD of summer.” And thanks to this American Idiot dad who allowed his young sons to listen to a CD with explicit lyrics….my boys still treat rock as more than just a passing fad. And it’s best enjoyed when they’re rocking out with dad.

Big Girls Don’t Cry– Fergie (summer of 2007)
Fatherhood was supposed to have matured me. And while the births of my two sons definitely helped turn me into a more responsible adult….the jury was still out on the maturity claim until my daughter was born. Fergie’s song played out like the soundtrack to my daughter’s 2-year-old summer. She was becoming a big girl, my boys were growing into their roles as big brothers, and daddy became a bigger (yet, more mature) moosh.

That’s it. My all-time summer top 10. Now “pop in [your] CD and let me run a rhyme…and put your car on cruise and lay back cuz it’s summertime.”

Rocky Balboa’s Guide to Puppy Love

I was delighted to see Sylvester Stallone accept his well-deserved Golden Globe Award for Creed earlier this month. But he missed a golden opportunity to give a “Yo Adrian, I did it!” shout out to the heart and soul of the Rocky franchise. Even though she’s been absent from the last 2 films, and wasn’t verbally present in the first one, there’s no denying that Rocky I-VII could never have gone the distance without Yo Adrian’s love.

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My shy, animal-loving daughter Melanie reminds me of Adrian. If you recall, Adrian was just a shy pet-store lady working at J & M Tropical Fish when she first met Rocky. It was Rocky’s love for his pet turtles–Cuff and Link–that brought him to the pet store. But it was his affection toward the store’s resident bullmastiff, Butkus, that really endeared Adrian to the future heavyweight champ and star of Stop or My Mom Will Shoot! I think Adrian fell in love with Rocky because she loved the way he loved Butkus.

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Maybe Paul McCartney was on to something when he said “You can judge a man’s true character by the way he treats his fellow animals.” In the process, you just might fall in love like Adrian did.

Before I get back to why this all reminds me of my daughter Melanie, I need to first defend myself against an oft-repeated claim that’s dogged me for years. While it’s true I’m not a card-carrying “animal lover”, I’m certainly not an animal hater’s gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Yes, it’s true I didn’t own my first pet ’til I was 35. Also true, an errant bird did spring to life in the back seat of my Nissan Sentra. And I did bolt from the car, in the middle of an intersection, arms flailing about while screaming “Take that, you winged spawn of Satan!”

However, that doesn’t make me an animal hater. In fact, I have 3 very reasonable explanations for why it took me so long to own a pet. First, my mom never let us own a dog or cat growing up. Second, the pets we did own were more accident-prone than the lawyers in John Grisham’s The Firm. And third, I seriously thought there was a serial pet killer in my family. Like the time when…..

  • I watched in horror as my sister’s rabbit, Charky, got mauled to death by an escaped German shepherd. Sure it was the dog’s fault. But it was my father who built the rabbit coup, so I guess I always felt like it was an inside job.
  • Our tropical fish aquarium was deep-fried like a Long John Silver pub bucket. Mom claimed to have “accidentally” turned up the tank’s temperature while cleaning it. I contend that she “hit puree”.
  • My Daisy-Red-Rider-owning brother repeatedly fired bee bees at our neighbor’s donkey, Peanut. You’ve never heard a “HEEEE-HAAAAWWWW” until it comes from the mouth of a jackass who’s just been shot in his peanuts.
  • My sister’s parakeet, Tweety, died shortly after my parents purchased low-priced bird food at the Chester Flea Market. It turns out the box of bird food in question had expired 8 years before Tweety did.

Remarkably, my siblings were unscathed by memories of our “sometimes-dead-is-better” pet cemetery. In fact, they all welcomed their own pets as soon as they left home…

My sister Cindy:
Her love for animals knows no bounds. Like Ace Ventura: Pet Rescuer, she’s owned countless rabbits, a one-eyed pug named Pugsley, a Syberian Husky named Lakota, a turtle named Topanga, a parakeet named PJ, and Smokey: a cat with feline AIDS.

My sister Sherry:
She owned a black lab named Jake who wasn’t just the “family dog”, he was the “neighborhood dog.” When Jake passed, the whole neighborhood cried. Jake was quickly replaced by another dog named Kitty who, understandably, deals with identity issues. Ironically, I think she might also have a cat named Dog.

My brother Brett:
He owned a dog named Buford and it was Buford who taught me that dogs can catch ADHD from their owners. Technically, Buford was a boxer, but I say he was the reincarnation of Mike Myer’s “Phillip-the Hyper-Hypo Boy”. 

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When Brett was in acting school, I used to walk Buford…which is to say Buford used to walk ME. Instead of a leash, I used one of those back-brace harnesses that deep-sea fishermen use to haul in blue marlin. And even after 2 hernias, I grew to enjoy Buford…and the day that Brett put Buford down, I cried.

Today I still cry when I go to Brett’s home because his American bulldog Memphis rapes me. Don’t get me wrong, Memphis is a wonderful family dog. He’s also a projectile slobberer. And not in a Turner and Hooch shoelace slobber way. It’s more like: if you enter Brett’s home wearing dark pants, you exit wearing Ross Gellar’s leather “paste pants.”

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All kidding aside, I learned a lot about pet-loving from my siblings. I learned how they become a part of your family and how there’s a major void when they leave your family. But I didn’t truly know what “puppy love” was until I watched my daughter Melanie fall in love with our dog Scruffy.

“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is a life diminished.”
—Dean Koontz

As a pre-tonsillectomy gift to my oldest son, Scruffy joined our clan in August of 2007. Scruffy is a Cavachon, which is a mix between a King Charles Cavalier and a hamster.

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While my son will always be our dog’s “owner” and protector, Scruffy is officially “Mel’s best friend”. It was love at first sight for Melanie, and our shy little girl is never happier or chattier than when she’s with Scruffy or telling a silly Scruffy story.

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Which brings me back to why I brought up Adrian and Rocky in the first place.

Just as I believe Adrian fell in love with Rocky because of how much he loved Butkus, I fell in love with Scruffy because I loved the way Melanie loved Scruffy. Her love for Scruffy is that “first thing I want to see when I wake up/last thing before I go to bed” kind of love.

Melanie’s love for dogs extends beyond our home and even influences her social life. From an early age, it was clear that Melanie was down with OPP (Other People’s Pets). In fact, Melanie has a long list of BFFs who happen to be dogs. When she asks for playdates with friends, they’re actually playdates with dogs who happen to have human owners. “Mom, can I go to Marnee’s house to play?” translates into “Mom, can I have a playdate with Jessica’s dog?”

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My love for the way Melanie loves dogs is the only reasonable explanation for why I said “Yes” when she asked if grandpa’s Portuguese hunting dog could come live with us. The dog’s name is Niko, and he’s the reincarnation of Brett’s Hyper-Hypo dog. He actually hunts and kills rabbit for sport, yet I watch him transform into a lap dog on Xanax every time Mel is near.

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Charles Schultz once said that “Happiness is a warm puppy.” For me, happiness is the warm smile of a shy girl who loves her dogs.

I’m proud to say that after so many pet-less years, I can finally call myself a “dog lover.” And unlike Stallone at the Golden Globes, I’ll give a shout out where a shout out is due:

“Yo Melanie, I did it!”

 

 

To Wong Foo. Thanks for everything, Helena!

My wife and I are married 20 years today.

20 years, and we’ve never had a fight (that I won).

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My original blog post concept was to cover the pop-culture landscape of September, 1995. That plan backfired when Wiki revealed the #1 song and #1 film on my wedding day: Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise and Swayze’s To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. I can’t work with that (but I’ll try).  

While Helena and I have Wang Chung’ed before, we’ve never Wong Foo’d. Unless “wong foo’d” is what happened the first time I called her home.

Allow me to explain…

September, 1991
I was a college sophomore; working two part-time jobs; commuting to Seton Hall twice daily. So I’d been spending most my life living in a Gangsta’s ’79 Camaro. Helena was a fellow working-class commuter, and a cute one at that. We had exchanged numbers for homework purposes (I was a player). I finally worked up the courage to call her many weeks later (scratch the player part).

I left a message with Helena’s mother, Mrs. Moreira, whose native language is Portuguese:

“Can you please tell her Shane called.

But my seven-word English message was truncated into a one-word (Chinese???) message:

“Shanco”

Needless to say, Helena never returned my call that night. She read the message and understandably thought, “There aren’t any Chinamen at Seton Hall.”
Shanco was wong foo’d. Thanks for everything, Mrs. Moreira!!!

September, 1995
Ultimately, Helena would receive one of my messages and we married at the barely-legal age of 22. Following the ceremony, we celebrated with a barely-fire-code-legal 265 guests at Newark’s Sports Club Portuguese. Then we honeymooned in Key West, where I spent the first 48 hours introducing our honeymoon suite’s shitter to a liqueur that most call Sambuca, but I called Some-puking.

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True to the first reading at our wedding, “love is patient…love is kind”…and Helena was both of those things during our first 48 hours as wife and “Exorcist baby.” And Helena’s been the most patient and kind partner for the past 20 years.

September, 2015
Fast forward 20 years, 3 children, and a Scruffy dog later…and I’ll profess to being a better father than husband. I’ve made mistakes, I’ll make more, but I’ll Never Stop Learning.   

As blog-post pot luck would have it, the #1 Twitter hashtag on the eve of my anniversary was #MarriageAdviceIn3Words. “Never Stop Learning” works for me, as does “Marry Your Friend” and “Make Her Laugh.” But as you’ll soon learn, I’m in no position to give marital advice. Instead, I’ll simply share the 3-word marital tweets that made me laugh the loudest…

#MarriageAdviceIn3Words
Run Forest! RUN!!!
Hide The Porn
Compliment Her Mustache
She’s Always Right
Keep On Humpin’
These Are Balls
Spitters Are Quitters
Lower Your Standards
Ask My Wife
Smile And Nod
Hire Ugly Nanny
Delete Browser History
Buy A Shovel

…followed by those 3-word marital tweets that made me reminisce the longest…

Do The Dishes
I have the world’s greatest mother. Having said that, mom made my bed, cut my meat, washed and ironed my clothes, and then sent me out into a 1990’s world as a 1950’s husband. Like the “Shanco” story above, it took me some time to “get the message” about how to be a good husband. As the legend goes:

We had our first real dinner guests about 2 months after moving into our apartment. Somewhere between dessert and Pictionary, this happened:

Friend 1:
Should I put the dishes in the dishwasher?

Shane:
We don’t have a dishwasher.

Friend 2:
Shane, isn’t that a dishwasher?

Friend 1:
Helena, is that really your husband?

But I’ve Never Stopped Learning. I’m also proud to say I’ve never stopped doing the dishes…even though (I think) we have a dishwasher for that.

Check Ancestry.com First
This tweet cracked me up. Even if there were an ancestry.com before I proposed, I wouldn’t have needed it. I knew I had hit the future in-law jackpot when I first met the Moreiras. And despite the fact that I once showed up to their house with a Doo-Rag on my head, they welcomed me (the whitest person they’d ever met) to their amazing family.

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  • Thanks to my in-laws, I’ve had an “experiencia religiosa”. This is my broken-Portuguese way of saying I helped slaughter a lamb for the feast of their patron saint (okay, I just watched. Alright, I passed out).
  • Thanks to the unforgettable Uncle I never had growing up, I drank “aguardente.” Aguardente is called “fire water” because it makes your pee flammable and it probably caused my ulcerated colitis.

My in-laws have introduced me to so much: culture, vino, their native Portugal, and the concept of long lunches that just kinda turn into dinner. In short, the Moreiras are the exception to the in-law rule and I’m so proud to be the adopted son of a Portuguese-American family.  

Love Things Together
Some things we loved together from the start (Movies, 80’s Music, My Hair). Other things we learned to love together (Rom-Coms, Christiano Ronaldo, and The Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas”, which begins in 44 days…or so I’ve heard). A perfect example of learning to love things together: BASEBALL.

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During baseball season, my beloved Mets dominate weeknight television in our family room. Helena joins us, but her knowledge of baseball vernacular begins and ends with her knowledge of the 1989 baseball classic, Major League. During games,  she speaks only in Major League terms and in the character’s voices:

After an anemic offensive output from the Mets:
“That’s all we got, one goddamn hit?”

After David Wright boots a ball at third:
“Don’t give me this olé bullshit!”

After a Yoenis Cespedes strikeout:
“Up yer butt Jobu!”

Major League is a major reason why my wife and I don’t only watch rom-coms together. It’s also a perfect example of how we’ve learned to Love Things Together.

No Comb Overs
Helena will always be my one-woman fashion police department. The first time she said yes, she told me it was “my hair” that attracted her to me. Today my hair appears to be allergic to me, but she loves my hairs just the same. She just has one simple rule: “No Comb Overs.” There are countless examples.

Like many years ago, I discovered that working out actually grows muscles. Inflated by this realization, I decided that sleeves were overrated. (As shown below: by “muscles”, I simply mean that my biceps were no longer just skin on humerus).

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Once again, Helena was there to show me the error of my humerus ways…

Shane:
“Helena, what’s the dress code at this restaurant?”

Helena:
“Sleeves.”

And it works both ways. I’m also happy to offer Helena advice. Like the time she started a weight-loss program…

Shane:
“Have you considered Couch To 5K Helena?”

Helena:
“Have you considered Couch to Fu*k You Shane?”

Sorry, I promised I wouldn’t make this blog post sappy.

As You Wish
Helena and I also support each others wishes. Helena’s wishes often turn into impulse buys that are small and practical. She will buy the shit out of anything labeled “Pampered Chef” or “As Seen On TV”. Not to minimize these impulses, but let’s just say that Helena puts the WOW in ShamWow.

My impulse buys, on the other hand, are much larger and far less practical. Nonetheless, Helena is always supportive. She fully supported my mid-life diversion from mid-sized sedans to a Mini-sized Cooper. She was always there to help me stuff 4 little-leaguers and 2 bags of baseball equipment into my clown car. And she was there to console me when the Mini engine blew because I forgot that Mini tanks need oil worse than the Tin Man.

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All joking aside, 20 years is a long time and there’s reason to celebrate. But I have no sage advice to give or secrets to reveal. Marriage isn’t guided by 3-word tweets. It’s nurtured by 2 people who fall in love, take a chance on each other, and are willing to stick by each other through thick and thin, mid-sized and Mini.

Happy Anniversary to my eternally beautiful, patient, and kind partner, Helena. Or, as it translates into Chinese…

To Wong Foo. 

Thanks for everything, Helena!

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50 Shades of Porn

PrincessMy wife says it best: I’m a “book whore.” I simply cannot read only one book at a time. Hell I’ve even serial-cheated on Stephen King. Could it be that my scrambled egg book brain works best in a blender? Whatever the case, at one point this year I was reading fiction: King’s brilliant 11/22/63; non-fiction (really?) Heaven is for Real; and a biography: Rob Lowe’s Stories I Only Tell My Friendsexcept the story about snorting coke with teen girls. All great reads, and best enjoyed in a blender. “Hit puree!” [watch Goonies].

My wife, on the other hand, is a book bore. She’s a prolific reader of the type of romantic westerns that Laura Ingalls would rate G. At least, that’s what I believed before I bought her a Kindle Fire last Christmas. ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring…except Shane syncing his wife’s Kindle Fire to her Amazon account.

When what to my wandering eyes should appear…but half-naked cowboys on the covers of her countless “historical romantic westerns.” These weren’t Little House on the Prairie novels…they were Little Hoes on Fabio! I feared her Kindle might catch FIRE or go into heat from all the barebacked, bare-chested, naked cowboy romance.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating a little. But for every Sarah, Plain and Tall my wife reads…there’s at least one Tall, Dark, and Handsome on her Kindle Fire. Nothing, however, compares to the genre switch that has her giggling in bed until the wee hours of the morning. Yep, it appears that Fabio has hung up his saddle and hair extensions to allow my wife to enjoy the newest sensation that’s titillating women all over the nation…MOMMY PORN!

50 Shades of Grey? Bondage. Domination. Sadism. There’s no gray about it. It’s porn!

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And since I’ll never be accused of judging a book by its cover…I’m now reading the book my wife reads under the covers. My initial review: It’s Crap-tacular! I mean, how can’t you love this crap:

“Does this mean you’re going to make love to me tonight, Christian?”
“No, Anastasia it doesn’t. Firstly, I don’t make love. I f**k… hard!”

To quote EL James’s fellow literary genius Wayne Campbell:

“Ex-squeeze me??? Baking powder???”

Yes, the writing is hack…but it’s HOT…and it’s flying off e-Book shelves faster than Christian’s and Anastasia’s clothing. Think of it as a permission slip for conservative wives/moms everywhere to feel a little naughty. I mean, don’t all wives/moms deserve a  little extra sugar, spice, and everything nice (eg, masks, handcuffs, whips, and ties)?

What I find most entertaining is trying to predict which mom, daughter, sister, or even grandmother is reading it. Since the Kindle has essentially become the modern-day brown-bag booze cover….I pay extra close attention to the moms who read their Kindles at my 6-year-old daughter’s baseball games. Note to Moms: Your 50 shades of blushing give you away.

The book has been dubbed “mommy porn”, but I think that’s an unfair tag. I call 50 Shades of Grey mommy escapism. An escape from “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mama. Mama. Mama.” [watch Family Guy].

So to moms everywhere, I say: embrace your “inner Goddess”…and enjoy your 50 Shades of Porn.

Laters baby,

Shane

NOTE: Universal has already purchased the movie rights to 50 Shades of Grey. My wife is campaigning HARD for Matt “White Collar” Bomer (ryhmes with female boner). While I can’t agree with her casting prediction because I’m jealous of him, I will offer the following prediction.

The following exchange….

“Why don’t you like to be touched?”
“Because I’m fifty shades of fu**ed-up, Anastasia.”

…will replace “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” as the corniest fu**ing line in film history.

I’m a Muppet of a Fan

PrincessThere’s an old apocalyptic tale my father shared with me when I was a child. It goes something like this: If there were ever a global thermonuclear war, cockroaches would be the lone survivors. Along with Keith Richards, Twinkies, and presumably those yellow Easter-season chicks called Marshmallow Peeps.

I know I’m going out on a green, felt-covered limb here…but I’d like to add The Muppets to this post-apocalyptic survivor list. Keep in mind I say this with zero scientific knowledge to back me up. I’m only guided by a soft spot for nostalgia, my firm belief that Kermit is a wiser puppet philosopher than Yoda, and the fact that my daughter is obsessed with The Muppets some 20 years after their presumed extinction from relevancy.

Yes, I’m a “Muppet of a Man.” I’m also damn proud to say that my 6-year old daughter is a Muppet of a fan. She started counting the days ‘til March 20th soon after she stopped counting the days ‘til December 25th. March 20th you ask? The day The Muppets arrived in video stores [do they still have video stores?] and landed in my BluRay player. I’ve been smiling ever since, and I’m happy to say that the more things change, the more The Muppets stay the same.

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When I first heard that Jason Segel had written a new Muppets script, I had my doubts. Let’s face it…The Muppets were about as relevant as a “Who Shot JR?” t-shirt. Fanatic or not, I feared Segel would play the ironic, out-of-their-era hook for easy laughs [think “The Brady Bunch Movie”]. The brilliance of Segel’s (and Nicholas Stoller’s) heartfelt and hilarious script is that they don’t shy away from the irrelevance. They embrace it. Case in plot point, when we learn that Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) wants to drill for oil under The Muppet Theater, nobody—least of all The Muppets—care to save the theater. That’s where our Muppet-loving heroes come in.

A Muppet named Walter, his human brother Gary (Segal), and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) are tasked with making the world care about The Muppets again. Part of the fun—and underlying sadness—is how far the filmmakers go to tell us what we already know: The Muppets have faded into the kind of obscurity reserved for the cast of Alf. Kermit’s a hermit living a depressed life in Beverly Hills. Fozzie’s bearly hanging onto his sense of humor with “The Moopets” tribute band. And poor Animal is a strung-out drum addict stuck with a sponsor named Jack Black [can we fade him into Alf-like obscurity? Better yet, suck him into a Jack Black Hole?].

So Walter, Gary, and Mary hit the road and try to convince Kermit and company to reunite, “light the lights”, and save The Muppet Theatre. The film is packed with the chirpy songs and smart, rapid-fire humor that first won me over in 1979 [and had me carrying a Muppets lunchbox to school long after lunchboxes were relevant]. Segel and Adams play their human characters with relentless, Muppet-like enthusiasm. Without a single knowing wink to the camera, their squares have a whole lot of flair to spare. They’re never too cheeky or ironic, and when they sing “Life’s a happy song”…it’s as if they’re paying tribute to Jim Henson himself. In other words, “Life’s a happy song…as long as we’ll always have The Muppets to sing along.”

Is it the “most sensational, inspirational, celebrational” movie of the year? Maybe not. But it’s “Muppetational” enough to make my daughter finally forget about the mindless mayhem of a square-pantsed sea sponge. She’s now a Muppet fan…and she’s proud to say her daddy will always be a “Muppet of a man.”

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It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights.” It’s time to rent, download, stream, or purchase The Muppets movie tonight.

Seriously, I don’t think they have video stores anymore.

Crazy, Stupid [In] Love with The Vow

PrincessI vowed to hate the second half of my Valentine’s date last night. Hell, I even skipped dessert, fearing I’d go into diabetic shock from all the sugary sweet confections on the big screen. Worse than dismissing the film on premise alone, I nearly spoiled dinner for my wife. I started brainstorming these opening insults for a review of a movie I hadn’t seen yet. For example,

I liked The Vow better the first time…when it was called Regarding Henry.

For the love of God, just curl up in bed with James Garner and Gena Rowlands already!

SPOILER ALERT: Rachel McAdams finally remembers…it’s P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.

Did I really loathe the idea of spending a romantic Valentine’s evening watching a romantic movie with my wife? No. Truth is, it’s no secret that I’ve got a soft spot for rom-coms. But after falling so Crazy, Stupid, [in] Love with the Ryan Gosling ab movie last summer, I really needed to disavow the genre altogether. To put it mildly, I needed to smoke an unfiltered cigarette, slug a pint of Guinness, shit all over The Vow, and watch me some Spaghetti Westerns when I got home.

Instead, I Googled the real-life couple* who inspired the film that I enjoyed way too much. Turns out I liked the cheesy amnesia premise. Enjoyed watching two genetically blessed actors fall in love for the first time…and hopefully for a second time. I especially liked how the producers raided Cousin Eddie’s wardrobe just to make it seem harder to fall in love with Tatum a second time. No joke, at one point he appears to be wearing a denim leisure suit that wouldn’t fit a Build-A-Bear.

Yes, the movie should come with a warning for diabetics. It’s that light and sweet, romantic and contrived. But it’s also just original enough and funny enough to rise above a predictable genre that banks on amnesia from its audience. Rachel McAdams is at her Notebook best as Paige. Channing Tatum summons his inner Christopher “cowbell” Walken as Leo. Like Walken, Tatum’s quirky delivery works to great dramatic and sometimes comedic effect. Just funny enough, in fact, that I’ve lifted my personal boycott on the 21 Jump Street trailer.

The supporting cast is lead by Sam Neill, who basically plays the “not with my daughter” role from Cocktail. Scott “Felicity” Speedman plays the “other guy” who douche-bags his way back into Paige’s life. And as Paige’s mother, poor Jessica Lange looks so old and wrinkly that Sam Neil offers her the occasional Jurassic Park double take.

So does Paige finally remember Leo? Does Leo make her fall back in love with him all over again? Do they steal a page from The Notebook and die happily ever after? Sorry, no spoilers here. I’ll only offer three tips: 1) Skip dessert; 2) See The Vow; 3) Don’t tell anyone I told you so.

*Google note: as for the real-life couple who inspired the film….they look less like Tatum and McAdams…more like Turner and Hooch.

How to Lose Your Date in 10 Minutes

PrincessA funny thing happened on my way to see “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” this past weekend. A startling thought sent the last remaining shreds of my manhood running for the exit: I am about to watch my third consecutive chick flick in as many weeks. After enduring “Pretty Woman In Manhattan” and “Too Weak To Notice” on DVD,  I feared my wife might lose me in 10 minutes.

Predictably enough, the movie opens as advertised. We meet Andy (Kate Hudson), a would-be journalist trapped in How-To hell at a fictional woman’s magazine. Andy’s newest assignment: write a firsthand account of the things women do to drive men away.  As the title warns us, her deadline is in 10 days. Sound plausible enough? Not so fast!

As fate would have it, and it always seems to in these films, Ben (Matthew McConaughey) stakes his career on a bet: make a woman fall in love with his six-pack-rack of abs in 10 days. Naturally this will prove he knows what women want, making him a worthy pitchman for the agency’s coveted diamond account. To save you the 24/10 version, here are my chick-flick Cliff’s Notes on how the predictability unfolds…

Day 1: Ben meets Andy…Andy goes to Ben’s apartment…but she’s not that kind of girl on the first date…and he can’t be that kind of guy on the first date if he wants her to fall in love with him by the tenth date. Got it? I’m not done, and that’s only day one.

Days 2-8: z-z-z-z-z-z-z [Sorry…I must have dozed off somewhere between Andy naming Ben’s private member and Andy moving in with her tinkle-challenged pup].

SPOILER ALERT: Utterly predictable plot points revealed.
Day 9: Ben takes Andy to meet his folks on the exotic Isle of Statin. Despite her journalistic need to drive Ben away, a card game with Ben’s fart-aholic uncle proves too much stank to resist. Sparks fly, shirts fall, and feelings [disguised as abs] are revealed.

Day 10: Will Andy confess her love to Ben? Will Ben win the girl and/or the diamond account?  Frankly my dear, will moviegoers even give a damn?

I can list more than 10 things wrong with this film and with the direction that McConaughey’s career compass points. But then again, I’d only be rehashing the many sins of a played out genre that caters to ego-driven actors with dimples and man boobs. Director Donald Petrie does the best he can with a high-concept pitch, two pretty ingredients, and a microwaveable pop-CORN formula. However, we grow tired of seeing these characters together within 10 minutes……let alone the required 10 days.

If you complained about Tom and Meg spending only a few minutes on-screen together in “Sleepless in Seattle”, consider these 10 days the painful alternative. Are you looking to lose a guy in 10 days? I have just the film for you. If you’re waiting for a more drastic alternative to come along, I encourage you to wait for McConaughey’s next film.