Monday, June 30, 2008

Eve Ensler play explores women's body types

Over the weekend I saw The Players Theatre's limited run of Eve Ensler's "The Good Body," which made me think about my own struggles with having a "good body." The thought-provoking work was sculpted into a witty play taken directly from the pages of one of the "Vagina Monologues" author's latest books featuring interviews with real-life women.

Not only was the acting wonderful, making these characters all the more real on stage, but the message was strong, too — women, no matter how skinny, normal or unfit they may be — seem obsessed about their bodies. What was interesting were the ones who decided to embrace what others may see as imperfections.

I could relate to Eve's (played by Kelly Walker) perils with her mid-section and wanting to vaporize it. I've been there. It's still there as a matter of fact. Then there were the other characters, offering a range of perspectives: a young woman who embraces her full figure at a fat camp, another woman who has become her plastic surgeon/husband's dream of the perfect woman by constantly going under the knife, a woman who has such a love/hate relationship with her chest that it brings a moment of deep sorrow, an Afghan woman who literally risks her life eating ice cream.

There are some moments in the play that brings out the playwright's saucier side — probably reminiscent of the "Vagina Monologues." But since I haven't seen Ensler's earlier work, I can't compare the two.

I fell in love with the part in the "Good Body," when Eve travels to Africa (she goes all over the world in the play) and meets an African woman who tells her to think of herself as a tree. No two trees look exactly the same, and they aren't suppose to, she tells Eve. But both are still beautiful.

I tucked that poetic metaphor away in my mind to pull out the next time I start comparing myself to the stick-thin women in my favorite magazines and TV shows. Thanks Eve Ensler. — January Holmes

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Unplug and camp out

The National Wildlife Federation is urging families to turn off their TV, stay away from the Wii and keep that iPhone — or any other cell phone device — at bay this Saturday night (June 28). It's time for the fourth annual (electronic-free) Great American Backyard Campout!

I'm wondering if that idea was met by the sound of crickets chirping.

Kids are especially attached to their electronic toys and gadgets these days, which is why the national camp-out-in-your-backyard initiative was started. Apparently children spend an average of 44 hours a week starring at electronic screens, be it the TV, computers, iPod or video games, according to the National Wildlife Federation. By the way, I'm sure the average adult spends way more time starring at their computer screens at work and home.

The group believes this is the first time in America's history that a generation is coming up "disconnected from nature." This can cause children to have a weaker immune system, less appreciation for nature in general and become less creative, the National Wildlife Federation stated. Plus, they miss out on good wholesome fun.

I guess kids don't really camp as much anymore. I went camping once with my fifth grade class at a wildlife preserve. I learned how to put up a tent, make fresh lemonade and roast hotdogs over an open fire. Singing camp songs and listening to scary stories in the moonlight was a blast. The only bad thing about the whole experience, besides the bugs, was participating in some "Survivor"-type activities, which isn't as fun when you're an accident-prone 11-year-old.

But living in Florida, you can't help but commune with nature because it's so beautiful here, whether you're swimming at the beach, fishing in the river or picnicking at the park.

Those wanting to take the extra initiative to bond with nature should definitely participate in the Great American Backyard Campout. Check out to get some great ideas for camping activities and overall tips.

Although the campsite will be in the backyard, be sure to tell the kids to leave all the high-tech gadgets in the house. And that goes for you too! —January Holmes

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tween group Clique Girlz the next big thing?

Yesterday, I realized something quite horrible: I have become completely detached from the "modern" music scene.

Maybe you felt that same way too when "The Today Show" introduced a blonde trio of tween girls who call themselves the Clique Girlz.

"Who?!" you may be wondering. I have never heard of this pop-rock outfit before. Ever. Though they've been around for about four or five years, making their way into the mainstream music industry. But I figured they must be something special since they were on "The Today Show."

I wasn't completely blown away when I heard them sing . I mean the group — made up of sisters Paris and Destinee (a 12- and 13-year-old) and their best friend, Ariel Moore (another 13-year-old) — sounded good when they were hitting all the notes to "Incredible" (their vocals clashed a little at times though). But they're no Miley Cyrus. They sounded like they were rolled out of the Radio Disney/ Nickelodeon tween factory with their cute all-American pop/rock look and sound.

Of course, the Clique Girlz's Myspace page, which boasts 7,523 "friends" and counting, begs to differ:

"One listen and you realize this is no manufactured, teenybopper, bubble-gum group, but a group whose music can appeal to all ages," the site said.

Um, I only agree on them not being a "bubble-gum" group. The rest is up for debate. Though their sound is catchy, vocally they don't stand out from the hundreds of girl bands and solo acts out there trying to be in the spotlight. But apparently, these "Girlz" are being touted as the next big thing. We'll see when their debut album comes out later this summer.

—January Holmes

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Being a pregnant celebrity not easy these days

Sometimes I think celebrities have it rough. And I don't mean the jet-setting around the world, living in multi-million dollar houses and driving fancy cars part. I'm referring to the part where they are constantly being judged in the public eye — the gossip, the rumors, secrets leaking out. It's like reliving high school over and over again.

But that's the price you pay when you're a star — unfortunately. The more private you try to be, the more people think you have something to hide. It also makes the joyous time of having a baby a little cumbersome when the whole world knows about it — or at least thinks they do — and is watching your every move.

Angelina Jolie seemed bent on keeping the news of twins a secret for as long as she could — until "Kung Fu Panda" co-star Jack Black accidentally blurted it out at the Cannes Film Festival.

Then there's Ashlee Simpson's baby. The news leaked out before the wedding vows did. The couple did their best to skirt the issue, to the point of denial, until they successfully got through the first trimester.

That brings us to Clay Aiken, who will be a dad in August. The guy is already been dealing with rumors on his sexuality, to the point that he doesn't bother to confirm or deny anything anymore. People are going to believe what they want, he told the media. Though I think Aiken is a fairly good singer, he creeps me out a little. I think it's his hair more than anything. It keeps getting blonder. News surrounding the 29-year-old's baby is that he artificially inseminated his "best friend," Jaymes Foster Levy, a record producer in her 50s. Both really wanted to be parents, they said. The whole thing is very unconventional, and strange.

The only reason I can kind of sympathize is that I have a friend who married someone older. She just had a baby and they are quite happy. Of course, they had their baby the natural way. While Clayhaters wince over the whole issue, others in the blogsphere seem pretty happy for the guy.

I just hope the kid has a normal life in the celebrity spotlight.

—January Holmes

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Remembering comic strips of yore

Do you long for the things of times' past, like telephone booths, vinyl records and those fried apple pies from McDonald's?

I don't really, I said to myself as I was clicking through a list of the Top 25 Things People Wish Would Return, as complied by AOL's Money writers.

But there is one thing that I do miss. The Far Side comic strip by Gary Larson, which was No. 1 on AOL's list. It was genius, out-of-the-box cartooning.

I stopped reading the comics a while ago when Charlie Brown and the whole "Peanuts" gang was put to rest. Over the years, I've seen a number of my favorite cartoon strips retire. My favorite one of all was "Calvin and Hobbes," about a thrill-seeking young boy and his stuffed tiger. They would go on imaginative adventures to the moon and play hours of Calvinball — the game where you make up the rules as you go along. Reading it was like reliving part of my childhood.

Another strip I dearly miss was "Outland." I always looked forward to reading about Opus the Penguin's plights every Sunday, along with that weird pop-eyed cat, Bill. Was I the only one who thought he looked strange? I was really sad to see "Outland" end.

Speaking of cats, I also enjoyed reading "Garfield," — though I loved the TV cartoon version a lot more. You can still find "Garfield" and "Peanuts" in the Herald along with some of the newer comics that may or may not stand the test of time. Unfortunately, the comic strips of today don't hold my attention like they used to. What are your thoughts on our current comic offerings? — January Holmes

Monday, June 2, 2008

"Indiana Jones" has filmgoer wishing for more

Okay, I'll admit when I heard there was another "Indian Jones" film in the works, I was excited and concerned at the same time.

I was excited because, even though the original trilogy is a little faded in my memory, I thoroughly enjoyed the Indy adventures. I was concerned because — well, do you remember the last time Harrison Ford made a really, really good film? I can answer that — "Air Force One" (1997). I saw that opening night on my birthday. I wasn't completely sure Ford, who used to be one of my all-time favorite actors, could gain all that momentum back from the past that he's seemed to have lost in the last few years.

But that old charisma shined in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." I saw the film this weekend and was pretty pleased even through some of the movie's hokey moments. My friend and I did lament a little over the whole — SPOILER ALERT — alien theme. Why couldn't George Lucas find something else to build a quest on — like a lost city or something archaeological? I have a fear of creatures from outerspace in flying saucers. It's their big eyes that scare me. Really.

Anyway, the film builds you up for the climax but lets you down a little when it's all about aliens and knowledge. I was hoping for masses of gold, a new glorious relic to put in a museum or the cure to cancer. Can't fiction films offer us something like that?

"Indiana Jones" is enjoyable to watch, though. It has me pumped that Ford will hopefully make another good film after this one. My fingers are crossed, but I won't be surprised if I'm disappointed. — January Holmes