From the monthly archives: March 2012

I miss seeing movies. As a child, I was the wierd one who stayed in the house on Saturday mornings watching back-to-back black and whites on the local TV stations, by the era of the big box office, I was compelled to see each blockbuster. Comedy, sci-fi, epics, anything with a decent story. Later, it became my business to see everything out there and my husband and I shared in the joy of Friday openings. But since becoming a mom, the precious hours when I’m not power-organizing other people’s lives, it’s either too difficult to schedule the two-hour slot on date night or I’m too exhausted during the week to get through a film queued on my DVR .

So I was bummed when faced with the choice for this coveted weekend’s flick. After a season dry of money-worthy films, there were two at the cineplex I was dying to see: 21 Jump Street; for pop-culture sentiment, my background in and love for a good comedy, and because I truly want Jonah Hill to have a huge win on his film (curses that my birthday weekend in New Orleans fell on his opening day), and Hunger Games; because I’m a sucker for any epic futuristic dystopian teenage drama. My husband and I (grudingly, because in my perfect world I would see them back-to-back), tossed a coin and saw Hunger Games.

As noted, it’s a daily race to the finish line to carve out a crumb of private time, so I’m particularly annoyed with the critics for giving Hunger Games such a blatant pass and high score on the adaptation of Suzanne Collin’s YA novel. And though I didn’t even read it, the gaping holes in story, conflict and character’s purpose were catastrophically aparent. It’s a challenge when conveying any literature to the screen, but it can be and has been, done right. And well, the writer and director really failed on this one.

Sure there were tearful moments and the acting was good — yay for Woody Harrelson, who rocked it, but in general, the desparation and passion were amiss. And I could waste my time critiquing Hunger Games but everyone else already has. Up until now, in my view, certain reviewers have retained a shred of dignity, but it seems we’ve lost those discerning few to the Hollywood machine.

The thing is, I not only expected Hunger Games to be good, I wanted to believe the hype. Unfortunately, I surmised, at the level everyone was freaking out over it, that I would, at least, have left the theater satisfied that the two hours and $25 spent was worth it, but it wasn’t. And I’m additionally irked that I didn’t give my time and money to Jonah Hill’s 5-year artistic achievement. Don’t worry Jonah, I promise to get there, but sadly now, not until after spring break. I pray you’re still in the theaters then.

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com

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With the conviction of former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi this past Friday on all 15 charges he had faced for using a webcam to spy on his roommate Tyler Clementi having sex with another man, this descision not only helps to broaden the definition of hate crimes in an era when laws have not kept up with evolving technology, it shines a light on the pervasive culture of denial in almost every aspect of our society.

Long-standing policies and behaviors of “look the other way” within many of our rooted communities are vastly coming into question. From the recent defamation of Sandra Fluke, to the Boy Scouts of America’s and Catholic Church’s blind eye to systemic pedophilia, to bigotry within structured competitive school sports, to the overall sophistication of bullying.

Criminalizing these enduring behaviors are the slow, methodical steps necessary to transform social order. I applaud the verdict by the Middlesex County jury to hold Dharun Ravi responsible for his willful and ignorant actions, and am hopeful that it’s evidence that we are evolving as species, that we are saying that these belief systems have no place in our modern world, and that the rule of law — the main value that this great country was founded on — is what will get us there, one step at a time.

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com

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‘Tis the Daylight Savings Time of year of spring breaks, and yes, for the Jewish communities -the Purim Carnival. Purim is the annual reading of the book of Esther, commonly known as the Megillah. During this time, Jews are “commanded” to eat, drink and be merry, which can include evening festivities and costume parades.**

For those who are not part of the “tribe” or who have never attended a Purim carnival — think grade school fair or a Halloween-type event that includes jumpy-houses and carnival games like ring-toss, face-painting, and, the parent’s nightmare, the win-a-Goldfish booth.

 

Purim Goldfish Tank

The Tank

Below is an interview I was lucky to secure with “Goldie,” a fish in line to be culled from the tank, before his untimely demise.* As you hear in his tone, it’s not all fun and games at the carnival.

PA: You appear frazzled.

Goldie: It’s exhausting fighting for room. I’ve carved a corner against the glass for a breather while we talk.

PA: I notice the water pulsates from the DJ music. Are you feeling it?

Goldie: What? Oh, I’m sorry, the BOOM reverberates and it takes me a sec to collect my senses. You were saying?

PA: The music. It’s loud. Is it painful?

Goldie: If being hit continuously by a bus is painful, then yes, it’s painful.

PA: Are you looking forward to being adopted?

Goldie: A quiet sun-drenched bowl might be an upgrade.

PA: You sound skeptical.

Goldie: I’d be lonely, but I’d survive.

PA: The children are so thrilled when they win. Aren’t you optimistic that you’ll be cherished and well-fed?

Goldie: If it weren’t for the grimace on the parents faces when the kid sinks the ping-pong basket, I’d be less inclined to think that my next home was going to be the toilet.

 

Purim Goldfist

In line for pick-up

PA: A fish hit the ground when he was being picked from the net and moved to a plastic bag. Was he a friend?

Goldie: I was separated from my school eons ago. We all here just met.

PA: Well, I’m sorry anyway. 

Goldie: What can I say, he’s in a better place.

PA: I appreciate your taking the time out of this crazy day, I wish you an easy transfer.

Goldie: Thanks. 

* Sadly, Goldie passed while being swung violently in his bag, from game to game for the next hour before even leaving the parking lot.

**For those interested in a more detailed description of Purim, Google Judaism 101!

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com

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We endured the salon trip. The waiting, the waiting and the waiting. Foiled bleach, hand-applied color, fancy cut and blowdry. We passed on the short bob and opted for a couple inches off the bottom with long layers to prevent tangles. I watched the dazzled eyes of the other little girls at Baskin-Robbins afterwards. Mouths agape, like “wow, look at the rainbow,” their stares said. And I felt a teensy bit guilty, as if this indulgence would come back to bite me. But so what, it’s hair color, not a nose job. My daughter loves it. And well, so do I.

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com

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I’ve suffered years of whining from my tortured seven year old. “It hurts,” she screams everytime I brush her hair. I’ve bought expensive adult shampoos, conditioners and detanglers without success. Since the day she was born with her full head of dark waves, she shrinks at the sight of a comb.

If you knew my history with hair, you’d genuinely feel for me. Having grown up in the 70’s with curls cropped so short, one would could call it a ‘fro, I was obsessed with obtaining the long, straight, shiny, ready-to-wear hair that donned every girl on the cover of Seventeen. The Conair blowdryer became my savior, and hence, launched my next thirty years of labored frizz-taming and hair straightening.

We now live in the age of indecipherable native descent, mixed backgrounds with brown skin and blue eyes permeate the airwaves, hair is more of a personal statement than a uniform. It’s a dream I have for my daughter, that her she’ll profit from her naturally long, wavy tresses with effortless self-esteem and low-maintenance. But the universe has thrown me curve — her over-sensitive scalp and pleading inflexibility.

I gave my daughter options: endure the daily grooming or surrender to a short, fashionable haircut. The sort, indeed, where Mommy whisks her to an actual salon for the whole grand experience. This negotiation fell flat for years –my child, defiant, insisted that she could have her mane without price. But finally, after a recent morning, when, I’m sheepish to admit, I failed at being Jesus, spiralling into a shrieking Medusa over a pigtail tussle, she quietly caved. “OK, Mommy, but I want a bob, like Charlie Beth’s, and I have to get some pink or purple strands, too, or no deal.”

When I conveyed my victory to a friend, she said, “Are you going to let her do it?” And I said, why not, this is not a decent into teenage rebellion, she’s seven, it’s more Hello Kitty and rainbows.

So, pink hair it is. The appointment’s made, we’ll see if the bride shows at the altar. I’ll keep you posted.

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com

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Damn Oprah and her helpful magazine staring at me from my chaise, beckoning me with “De-Clutter Your Life” splashed across a hot pink ribbon below her masthead. Sure. Add the guilt of my junk drawer to the list of my crimes, like that extra 10 pounds weighing down my less-than-Sports Illustrated-model butt.

I don’t know which periodical helps to make me more neurotic. Vogue or Simple Living. If it’s not swarming thoughts of my outmoded wall color and my unframed daughter’s art, it’s the compulsion to click the “buy it now” button for the Groupon selling discounted fat-wrap spa treatments.

When I carve out the time to shop for the supply of special food I’ll need for my pre-birthday fat flush, get that Brazillian blow-out and return all those unanswered phone calls and emails, I’ll finally read that “O” glossy article and learn how, with all the leftover minutes, to reach the perfection of that dust-free, spatially aesthetic closet.

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com

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