Grandpa always said that Paradise was the place where dreams could come true. He told me that it was the place where you could visit any place in the world, or even beyond. He insisted that, in Paradise, I was only limited by my imagination.

The Paradise Theater was a magical place when I was a kid. But now I’m an adult. Grandpa isn’t here anymore. Since he passed away six months ago, the Paradise Theater has been officially mine. And so are its problems.

As an adult in Paradise, I’m not longer limited by my imagination. I’m limited by money. Rather, I’m limited by a lack of it.

Some of my earliest memories in life take place within the walls of the Paradise. I remember the theater being filled to capacity night after night. I remember watching Grandpa as he ran the projector. I remember sitting on his shoulders as he stood in the dark while a classic movie played on the big screen.

The Paradise has been on the decline for a lot of years. After all, I only have one screen. It’s hard to compete with the multiplex at the mall with 18 screens and digital projectors. I’m still showing movies on celluloid. Kind of makes it hard to make money when every new movie comes out in 3D.

So I’m thinking it’s time to change. As of today, I’ve closed down the Paradise Theater. We aren’t closing permanently. Hopefully that will allow my five employees to breathe a sigh of relief. But we will be closing to rethink how we do things.

The first step will be to remodel. The look of the lobby has not been updated since 1987. For the record, that was before I was born. 1987 was when Grandpa first began running the place. That’s when he decided the Paradise needed a new look. Once he finished his remodel, he reopened just in time for the 50th anniversary. I figure I can do the same thing in time for the 80th anniversary of the Paradise.

As part of the remodel, the lobby won’t just be a lobby. We won’t just have a concessions stand with popcorn and Jujubes. We’re gonna have a full service coffee shop. Tables, chairs, live music when the occasion calls for it.

Finally, to complete the retro feel of our historic landmark of a theater, the Paradise will show only classic movies. Why should I show the new movies that can be seen in much higher quality for twice the price across town? No, the Paradise Theater will feature old movies that probably have not been seen on the big screen in many years. Admit it, wouldn’t you like to feel like a kid again, seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark in a dark theater?

So be sure to come back to the Paradise this January for our grand reopening for our 80th anniversary celebration. You’ll be able to come out and enjoy coffee, pastries, and a local band, yet to be determined. And then you can stick around for our first double feature: the 1937 classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (the first film ever shown at the Paradise) and 1987’s The Princess Bride (the first film shown after Grandpa’s original remodel). It’s gonna be a great night to celebrate the Paradise Theater’s past as we look to the future.The Princess Bride - As You Wish

The Single Guy and the Conditioner

I have a soft spot for hairdressers. I kind of always have.

Day Three - BuffyThere was the girl that cut my hair in college. This is the one that I insisted looked exactly like Sarah Michelle Gellar, so I would visit her at the mall and pay nearly twice as much as I could have paid the ancient barber with the bad tremor in his trimming hand.

Then there was the girl that worked at the place inside the Wal-Mart. I wasn’t necessarily a fan of getting my hair cut at the Wal-Mart. Actually, I wasn’t necessarily a fan of getting anything at the Wal-Mart. But the price of the haircut was kind of cheap and the girl that cut the hair a few times was kind of cute. I figured it was worth it.

And, of course, there was the Girl in the White SUV. Not that she ever actually cut my hair. She was one of those high end hairdressers. She worked in one of those expensive hair salons that catered to people in downtown Raleigh. I tried once to get an appointment with her, just to convince her to run her fingers through my hair, but it was not meant to be. Totally would have been worth the $60 for a quick haircut.

I have a much better time of controlling my crushes these days. Maybe I’ve matured. But it seems easier for me to just go into a hair-cutting-joint and not just decide that a girl is cute because she massages my scalp. More often than not, I’m successful in not developing a crush. I’m more talkative these days, so I’m usually able to talk to these girls to either realize they have a significant other in their lives or their personalities just would not mesh with mine. This helps.

About a month ago, however, I kind of got talked into doing something that I didn’t necessarily want to do. I have a regular place that I like to go to get my hair cut. It’s a chain that had a location in Wake Forest when I lived down there. Since moving to the New River Valley, I’ve been pleased to find that there’s a location in Blacksburg as well. So that’s where I’ve been going.

getting-hair-washedPart of the draw isn’t just the price that I have to pay. It’s the shampoo that they use. Upon finishing with the haircut, the stylist will escort me to the back room where there are a few sinks lined up. I’m seated in a chair that has a footrest and a massage feature. I lean my head back into the sink and the girl lathers up the most amazing smelling shampoo one could ever hope to experience. It smells like Christmas.

By “it smells like Christmas,” what’s really meant is that it smells like peppermint. It’s a very soothing aroma. And it kind of tingles on the scalp. In a good way. The stylist will not just wash the hair, she’ll massage the scalp as well. It’s quite relaxing. I have threatened to fall asleep on more than one occasion.

Anyway, on that last visit, the girl who cut my hair was kind of cute. I had no desire to ask her out or anything crazy like that, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t hold some kind of almost irrational influence over my wallet. My first mistake was mentioning how much I loved the smell of the shampoo. Of course, when she asked if I had any at home, I couldn’t lie. So I told her that I didn’t have any at this time.

Ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, this shampoo is not cheap. There are bound to be more expensive shampoos out there, but when I am used to buying the cheap stuff at the Wal-Mart, the real stuff can pinch the old bank account. So she went on and on about how great the shampoo was. And how great the conditioner was, as well. And how that particular shampoo was on sale that day. And it would be totally worth it to spend $45 on gigantic bottles of shampoo and conditioner. It was a package deal.

Billy Madison - Shampoo.gifNow, I don’t typically do conditioner, unless it’s a 2-in-1 kind of thing. You know, you just have the one bottle and the conditioner is magically mixed in with the shampoo. I have a really hard time understanding what the point of conditioner is. But, since I spent so much money on the package deal, I felt that I should give this hair tonic a try. A month later, I’m still not sure what kind of difference the stuff has made in my hair.

Someday, it may become a moo point. Because I randomly decide to get rid of all my hair from time to time and I’ve sort of been toying with the idea again recently. It’s certainly cheaper for me to buzz my hair with the clippers I have hidden on a shelf in my closet than going in for the massaging shampoo treatment. But then I’ll have this huge bottle of conditioner and no hair to condition. On the plus side, I’ll still smell like Christmas when I get out of the shower.


stargirl-coverTitle: Stargirl

Author: Jerry Spinelli

Published: 2000

I’ve had something of a thing for nostalgia lately. I’ve been picking up some books that I enjoyed reading as a kid. No, Stargirl is not one of those books. I was 20 years old when this book was first published. But its author, Jerry Spinelli, wrote one of my favorite books from my childhood: Maniac Magee.

My first exposure to Stargirl came when I was working in an elementary school a couple years ago. An English teacher was reading it to her fifth graders during classroom downtime. Unfortunately, I was transferred out of that school before I was able to listen to the teacher read the second half of the book. I was curious as to how the thing turned out.

Then, one day, when I happened to be at a thrift store, I happened upon Stargirl, along with old copies of Island of the Blue Dolphins and Bridge to Terabithia (both of which I did read as a kid). When a short paperback is only a buck, you tend to buy it. Well, maybe not every short paperback that’s only a buck. But if it’s something that you’re interested in reading to completion, then you definitely get it.

I’m glad I did. It’s not epic. It probably took me a couple hours to actually read the thing. But it was definitely worth the read.

Stargirl tells the story of a girl named, oddly enough, Stargirl. It’s narrated by another kid named Leo, who manages to fall head over heels for Stargirl. There’s no way around it, Stargirl’s a weird kid. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Except that it makes a lot of people in school despise her.

Oh, they like her at first. She’s this oddity who has been home-schooled until she reached the tenth grade. She shows up at school with a pet rat and a ukulele which she uses to accompany herself as she sings “Happy Birthday” to classmates during lunch in the cafeteria. People don’t know what to make of her, they just know she doesn’t fit the mold.

The kids tolerate her quirks up until her good-natured optimism includes her willingness to cheer for and care about opposing basketball teams. That’s when she becomes despised.

In the meantime, Leo has a thing for her and she brings out a lot of good in him. And he’s okay with each and every one of her bizarre tendencies (and even loves her for them), until he comes to realize the school is shunning him along with Stargirl. He doesn’t mind not being popular, he just can’t stand suddenly becoming a non-entity.

Toward the end, the book kind of breaks my heart. Stargirl decides to change who she is in an attempt to win over her classmates and, by extension, Leo. It breaks my heart that such a uniquely positive force felt the need to be like everyone else. It breaks my heart even more when it doesn’t work.

When I worked as a counselor, I worked with my share of weird kids. In some ways, I was incredibly judgmental of them. I remember thinking about one in particular, a kindergartner, that he just wasn’t gonna make it long term with his classmates. And I thought that because I watched the ways that he would interact with others in and out of the classroom. I thought that because I watched the ways that his classmates would (or would not) interact with him. And it broke my heart.

I’m not advocating that kids should give up their individuality in order to fit in with the status quo, though, in some ways, that’s what I was there to help with as a counselor. I just wish there was some way that we could teach kids (and adults) how to accept the weird kids without making them feel like outsiders. And I’m saying all of this to myself, too.

Spinelli wrote a sequel called Love, Stargirl. I’m intrigued enough after finishing Stargirl to want to find it and read it. I’m guessing it’s written in the form of letters, judging by the snippet that was included at the end of this book. If I find it, I’ll let you know if it’s any good. For sure, this one is. Check it out, even if you’re older than 10.

A Dater’s Guide to Disney Princesses: Ariel

the-little-mermaid-silhouetteWelcome back to a series of blog posts exploring the date-ability of Disney’s princesses. This week we come to Ariel, also known as The Little Mermaid. This is one of my favorites and is the film that is responsible for beginning the Disney Renaissance, which continued through 1999 with Tarzan and Fantasia 2000.

This is the first new Disney animated feature that I remember seeing in the theater. Now, I had seen Disney films in the theater before. After all, Disney used to be on board with re-releasing their animated classics in theaters every decade or so. I’d seen Snow White and Sleeping Beauty in the theater as a kid. But when their renaissance hit, there would be no more re-releasing their films (unless, of course, they can come up with a way to make it a gimmick, like offering a third dimension and charging an extra $5.00 per ticket).

So The Little Mermaid was new in my childhood. It probably really introduced me to the Disney animated musical. For the first time, we have a princess who has a very strong personality. She’s assertive and rebellious and it gets her into a whole lot of trouble. Which is probably a good thing, otherwise, it would have been a boring movie.

Ariel is a collector of random surface-world items and happens to fall in love with a handsome prince. Don’t they all?

Should You Date Her?

Absolutely not.

I don’t want you to think I’m being negative with the ladies of the official Disney Princess lineup. Because, so far, I have been. I was positive with Leia and Eilonwy, but they’re not official… yet (we should start a petition).

I like Ariel. I really do. She has a fantastic singing voice. But she was willing to sacrifice her greatest asset to a sketchy sea-witch. So, right off the bat, you know her decision making skills are pretty poor.

And she makes this decision based on the fact that she’s fallen “in love” with a human prince. No, Ariel, that’s not love you’re feeling. You’re 16. Your body is changing and these are hormones you’re feeling. That’s not love. It’s more of a lustful infatuation. Argue for “love at first sight” all you want. You just can’t fall in love with a man you’ve seen for approximately three and a half minutes from a distance dancing and playing a snarfblatt on a ship.

Also, she’s a hoarder. I know, I called her a “collector” in an earlier paragraph, but I was being nice. Have you seen that trove of hers? Who needs 20 thingamabobs? I mean, really. And it’s never enough. In a direct quote from Ariel’s anthem, “Part of Your World,” she says, “You want thingamabobs? I got 20! But who cares? No big deal. I want more.”

Prince Eric, look out. You could give her the world and it will still not be enough. It may seem simple to give her a lifetime supply of dinglehoppers with which she can brush her hair, but do you really want a palace full of useless forks?

And, again, I feel the need to bring up the age issue. As I mentioned before, she’s 16. Sure, that probably means she’s old enough to date. But she is just 16. And she’s kind of a delinquent. Why is she signing contracts as a minor?

I get it. She’s a real princess. She’s the possible heiress to the Seven Seas (though, as the youngest of seven, she’s not inheriting anything). But where’s her mother? As the youngest of Triton’s daughters, there’s a good chance she never had much of a maternal influence in her life. With only an angry merman to raise her and her six sisters, she’s bound to have some serious daddy issues.The Little Mermaid - Splash.gifWhat Did I Think of the Other Princesses So Far?

AFI #52 – Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver - PosterTaxi Driver


Directed by Martin Scorsese

Netflix says… Martin Scorsese crafts a violently prophetic, gripping vision of urban decay and insanity in which mentally unstable Vietnam vet Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) drives a cab through the sleaziest streets of pregentrified New York City and befriends a child hooker (Jodie Foster). The groundbreaking film earned four Oscar nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Best Score, and for De Niro and Foster’s haunting performances.

“Haunting performances” is right. I mean… that was pretty jacked up. So the AFI list gave me two very dark De Niro flicks back to back. I’m not saying I’m looking forward to watching number 51 on the list, but at least it will be a lighthearted romp compared to this and The Deer Hunter. I’m not sure I know what else to say about this thing, other than completely messed up. I mean, here’s this movie that starts out okay. A guy’s just trying to make a living for himself. He boldly asks out Cybill Shepherd. And somewhere along the way he kind of snaps. He buys a bunch of guns, shaves his hair into a Mohawk, and starts killing people. And he’s a hero for it! I won’t have nightmares or anything. But I wouldn’t want to run into this Travis Bickle character in a dark alley. Or a well lit alley for that matter.Taxi Driver - You Talkin' to Me

Six Fictional Presidents I Would Rather See Win This Year’s Election

Look, I generally make it a point to avoid talking about politics on my blog. But I can confidently say that I am struggling with this year’s presidential election. For reasons which are my own, I have a very difficult time supporting either of the major party candidates. For anyone who knows me even a little, that should not come as a surprise.

When I find that the real world is too serious or a tad too depressing, I allow my mind to retreat into my extensive memory of movies and television. In doing this, I’ve come up with six fictional presidents that would make better options than the two we have coming up on November 8.24-david-palmer6. David Palmer – 24
President David Palmer, played by Dennis Haysbert, appeared in the first five seasons of 24. In the first season, he wasn’t yet the president. He was merely a senator who was running for president. The next three seasons saw him during his presidency. Knowing that each season of 24 took place over a 24-hour period, it may not be fair to judge this president based on what we saw on TV. After all, we only saw three days out of his four years in office. But those were some pretty stressful days. And he handled them well, assassination attempts and all.Independence Day - Whitmore.gif5. Thomas J. Whitmore – Independence Day
President Whitmore, portrayed by Bill Pullman, is a former fighter pilot who happens to be President of the United States when we discover that extra-terrestrial life exists. We find this out because they’re not very subtle about arriving in our atmosphere and then systematically destroying every major metropolitan area on the planet. We don’t get to see much any of his politics or policies, but he’s the kind of president who isn’t afraid to make tough decisions and get his own hands dirty in fighting the good fight. And who doesn’t get chills during that speech in the predawn hours of July 4?Air Force One - Get Off My Plane.gif4. James Marshall – Air Force One
Along the same lines of President Whitmore, we have Harrison Ford’s President Marshall. This guy is a Vietnam vet and a Medal of Honor recipient. So when terrorists manage to take over the president’s airplane, they soon find that they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Yes, the terrorist group manages to take down the plane in the end, but not before Marshall goes all John McClane on these guys by single-handedly taking out Sirius Black and saving a lot of lives in the process.deep-impact-morgan-freeman3. Tom Beck – Deep Impact
Morgan Freeman plays President Tom Beck in another difficult situation. Much like President Whitmore, this president must deal with the potential annihilation of humanity. Unlike Whitmore, President Beck cannot just climb into an F-18 and fire sidewinder missiles at the comet that is on a collision course with earth. We don’t see much of this guy’s policies either, other than his role in covering up the fact that a comet is threatening to cause an extinction level event. I’m actually okay with that domestic policy. No sense in causing a panic when there’s a plan in place to divert the gigantic chunk of rock and ice.The West Wing - Jed Bartlett.gif2. Jed Bartlett – The West Wing
I’ve only recently been watching this show. Of all the presidents on this list, Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen) is probably the one whose policies we are able to see most clearly thanks to this show following his staff around for so many years of his presidency. I’m actually only in season two, thanks to Netflix, but so far I like the guy. I probably don’t agree with everything the man stands for, but I’d be okay with him in the Oval Office.The American President - Andrew Shepherd.gif1. Andrew Shepherd – The American President
I kind of feel like this movie was the trial run for The West Wing, seeing as how Aaron Sorkin wrote both. Michael Douglas plays the role of Andrew Shepherd spectacularly and, in my opinion, makes the audience genuinely care about what this president cares about. The movie takes place over the course of only a couple months as Shepherd comes into a reelection year. We see him deal with an attack on an American installation by a foreign government. We see his staff working with Congress in an attempt to get a piece of legislation passed. And we see him date a lobbyist, an action which manages to send his previously high approval rating into the basement. We also see him give a heck of a speech off the cuff at the end of the movie in dealing with a political opponent who is little more than a playground bully. Honestly, I think you could replace the name Bob Rumson with a certain Republican presidential candidate and the speech would be extremely relevant to the real world of 2016.

I’m certain there are fictional world leaders that I have neglected to put on this list. Who are the presidents that you like from movies and television?

And, look, I know it’s easy to complain about our real life options. But, to my readers in the US, I implore you to get out and vote. Read up on the candidates (even the third and fourth party ones) and make an informed decision. Our ability to vote is a right that people have died for us to have over the course of more than 200 years. Let’s not allow those sacrifices to be in vain.

Question of the Week #86

How do you picture your funeral? Is it important for you to have people mourn your death?

Think, Michael Jackson’s televised memorial service, times infinity. Yeah, that’s how my funeral should go. I know this doesn’t exactly carry the weight of a last will and testament, but these are my wishes. Please, respect them. I would like a choir of whistlers to whistle a jaunty tune. It must be in harmony. I prefer “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas.

I will be cremated, therefore I will have no need for pallbearers. However, during the service, I would like a line to form for people to come up and rub the urn containing my remains for good luck. I would like my friend Nicole to choose who is worthy to rub the urn. There will be those she deems unworthy. Those people must return to their seats and get over themselves.

I have chosen several people to eulogize me, one from each chapter of my life. From my childhood, my childhood best friend Justin. From the high school years, my oldest friend Jessica. From the college years, I refuse to choose a single person. I have too many friends that I still keep in touch with from those days. Therefore, as a part of the service, there will be a Thunderdome style battle royale. Any of my friends from Bluefield College are welcome to throw their hat into the ring. The winner of this fight will deliver the third eulogy of the day. The fourth eulogy will be delivered by Nicole, if she isn’t too worn out from selecting people to rub the urn. The final eulogy will be delivered by my pastor and friend, Jeff. Of course, there is the possibility of more eulogies, depending on where life leads me between my time in Blacksburg and my death. I must assume that I have many years ahead of me. So perhaps I should go ahead and say that my next eulogy would be delivered by the person I select as my running mate when I run for president. I’m sure that, whoever he or she may be will be a fantastic public speaker.

As far as a location for the service, I think the most appropriate venue would have to be the Bristol Motor Speedway. I know that’s not exactly near where I currently live, but it’s not too shabby. And if they can pack 150,000 people in there for a football game, then it should be large enough for my purposes. There must also be a laser show. And fireworks. And an anti-gravity machine.

*The Question of the Week can be found in The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.