Saturday, December 24, 2005

This week's column: Oh, 'Carol'!

Each holiday season brings certain things that are unavoidable. For instance, at some point in December you're going to turn on the radio and hear "Dominic, the Italian Christmas Donkey." And some of those times, if you're distracted enough, you may listen to almost the whole thing before remembering to change the station. That's three minutes of your life you'll never get back.

Another thing you can count on is to be bombarded with umpteen productions of "A Christmas Carol" - this year there are no fewer than four on the North Shore alone, not to mention the film versions with the likes of Mr. Magoo, Mickey Mouse and the Muppets. (Granted, Charles Dickens is believed to have commented to William Makepeace Thackeray, "My 'Christmas Carol' is pretty good on paper, but with a fake felt frog ... well, that would be something.")

If we do have to have so many versions, though, wouldn't it be nice if they did something different for a change? For instance, does it always have to be ghosts? Why not ever the Wolf Man? And that ending where Scrooge gets all nice -- just once I'd like to see him wake up, down a snifter of schnapps and foreclose on Cratchit's house.

For the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Football without booze is
like baseball without ... booze

Overheard during the fourth quarter of the alcohol-free Jets-Pats matchup:

Fan No. 1: Delightful contest, wouldn't you say?
Fan No. 2: Quite, quite ... Oh dear, it appears the Jets have fumbled the pigskin.
Fan No. 1: Bad form!
Fan No. 2: Wait, I'm mistaken -- they've recovered.
Fan No. 1: Jolly good. (polite applause)
Fan No. 3: Bollinger, you suck!! Pats rule!! %$#%@! %$#%@! %$#%@!
Fan No. 1: I believe that fellow has snuck in some libations.
Fan No. 2: Grab his flask! (riot ensues)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Before you send someone out
to check for me in the trunks
of nearby abandoned vehicles ...

Hello, and please excuse the pathetic lack of posting on this blog of late. Work responsibilities have reared their ugly head, which I know probably comes as a surprise to those of you who figured that being custodian of this blog must be a full-time job in and of itself. Plus there have been some other interruptions, like all the wrapping. Oh Lord, the wrapping.

Expect periodic postings whenever I sneak some blog time in, and for regular entries to resume after Jan. 1. It's my New Year's Resolution, and I always keep those, which would explain why I'm so slim and have so many worthwhile hobbies.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

This week's column:
It's beginning to look a lot like gift-mas

You say time is running out, and you still haven’t found those certain special somethings that will make the people on your list think you’re the cat’s pajamas this holiday? Well, never fear; the At Large staff has culled through our "new product" press releases and compiled this list of actual items for the person in your life who has everything.

As for cat’s pajamas ... You’re on your own there.

To read the "AT LARGE" holiday gift guide, click here.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Sunday, December 11, 2005

This week's column:
Shopping's been merry, merry good to me

Although department stores still hire scary women to squirt you with perfume for no good reason, I'm happy to report they've finally done one good thing: stopped the willy-nilly throwing around of the offensive term "Merry You-Know-What." (I'm hesitant to say the actual phrase since it's been known to spontaneously turn people into Christians against their will; this is why during the Crusades, knights made a common practice of offering Yuletide greetings to heathens right before the beheadings.)

After all, one need look no further than the Constitution, which says very explicitly that no one should be subjected to such abject proselytizing while they're buying underwear. It's right between the part that says we have the right to use a .50-caliber assault rifle to subdue deer and the section entitled "Abortions for Everybody!"

Sure, when department store clerks say (OK, I'll say it) "Merry Christmas," it may sound like they're just offering a friendly seasonal greeting. But what they actually mean is, "May this underwear go with you in Christ," or "May this underwear fill you with the blessed glory of His undying love." Or maybe more to the point, "May these be the underwear in which you burn in hellfire if you don't embrace the one true Lord." They're crafty, these department store zealots.

For the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Friday, December 09, 2005

If the judges find out you own 'Judy
at Carnegie' on vinyl, you're toast

Who says nobody's doing anything about men who would otherwise be manly heterosexuals turning willy-nilly to gay lifestyles? (And when I say "will nilly," I mean that in only the most politically correct way possible.) Turns out that Massachusetts pastor Tom Crouse is drawing a straight line in the sand, so to speak, by sponsoring a "Mr. Heterosexual" contest.

And he's not doing it as an excuse to parade hunky alleged heterosexuals around the church basement. Apparently the pastor felt there was a need to "show men and boys that it's OK to be heterosexual." Yes, it's about time someone did something about all those gay schoolyard bullies, forcing the other kids to listen to show tunes and color coordinate against their will.

But is this contest for me, you may ask? To find out if you might make a good "Mr. Heterosexual," take this simple quiz:

1) Football is ..
A) Sport of the Gods
B) A great way to spend Sunday afternoon
C) Like ballet, but the men are bigger and the pants are tighter.

2) I'd like to be stuck on a desert island with ...
A) Tyra Banks
B) Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
C) Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Jr.

3) Finish this phrase: "Will ..."
A) Smith
B) and Grace
C) someone loosen my Missoni wool mohair scarf and pour me a Bailey's banana colada? It's getting hot in here, baby!

Award yourself 5 points for each A, 3 points for each B, and 1 point for each C. If you scored 13 or higher, you may be the next Mr. Heterosexual. If you scored 5 or lower, James Dobson of Focus on the Family is waiting outside to beat you up.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

And for an extra grand you can
get one that plays 'Also Sprach
Zarathustra' when the lid opens

The Invention of the Month for December goes to Toto, the company that has developed a $5,000 toilet. Is the toilet made of solid gold with a diamond-encrusted lever for fancy flushing? No, apparently Liberace's next of kin had all of those melted down.

Rather, it's a remote-controlled toilet: The lid lifts as you approach, the seat lifts on its own if you wait a few more seconds, and it automatically flushes and lowers the lid upon completion. Suggested motto: "It does everything except pee for you!" And that's probably coming in the 2007 model.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

This week's column:
A mist opportunity for drinkers

Here in Massachusetts we have our share of problems worthy of attention by our state legislators. For instance, there's the fact that what you'd pay for an average home here would, in Florida, purchase Cape Canaveral.

I'm sure the legislators will get to that, but in the meantime they're making progress on at least one other important issue. I'm speaking of course of their efforts to outlaw Alcohol Without Liquor (AWOL) machines, which are devices that turn alcohol into a mist so you can, yes, inhale it. This apparently doesn't sit well with people who feel that alcohol should be in liquid form, which makes it easier to pour through the funnel.

In fact, the makers of the AWOL, Spirit Partners Inc., have come under fire in several states for their device, which they bill as "a fun, new, exciting way for adults to enjoy alcohol in a responsible manner." And as we all know, when you look up "responsible" in the dictionary, there's a picture of people snorting alcohol into their lungs like some kind of crazed sauce junkies.

For the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Guest starring Dustin
Hoffman as Ratzinger Rizzo


You dis the Catholics you get some a' this, know what I'm sayin'?

So let me get this straight -- You defy the Nazis, become the spiritual leader to millions, survive being shot and forgive your attacker, and are mourned by the world when you die, and you’re honored by ... being played in a CBS TV movie by Jon Voight? The “Anaconda” guy?

(Although granted, he was great in “The Champ.” “Don't die champ! Don't die! Georgie, wake him up!” … What? I’ve just got something in my eye.)

Anyway, I hear Voight is actually pretty good as the old Pope, and Cary Elwes is equally adept as the young pope, a role vaguely reminiscent of his turn as Lt. Kent Gregory in “Hot Shots!” If the real Pope were alive, I'm sure he'd be honored. Although that whole sainthood thing would be pretty good too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

'Illegal' is such a harsh word --
let's just call them 'uninvited'

Details of President Bush's plan to deal with illegal immigration:
  • “Invisible fence” that triggers a mild electric shock as immigrants cross border.
  • Great Wall of China, except in America.
  • Start calling illegal immigrants who’ve already moved here “extra very special guests.”
  • Giant green door with sign, “Bell Out of Order -- Please Knock.”
  • Moat.
  • Offer huge tax cuts to illegal immigrants who agree to leave right away, no questions asked.
  • When Mexico and Canada aren’t looking, move America to giant crystal structure in the Arctic (“Operation Fortress of Solitude”).
  • Hire French guys to throw cows at them when they try to get in.
  • Teach all real Americans the secret password.
  • Giant invisible force field.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

This week's column:
And they all lived thankfully ever after

As you may know, every year about this time I like to sit down and remind people why, even though things may sometimes get rough, there are still plenty of reasons to be truly thankful. And not just because it's Thanksgiving. No, I do it because I have to fill this column.

So when life gets you down, just remember the following:

  • Tom Cruise has never referred to you as "glib."
  • Your job, as awful as it may be, probably does not involve cleaning up after hurricanes or potentially diseased chickens.

For the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

And this bloated post-Thanksgiving
feeling probably isn't helping any

This just in: According to Science magazine, new research shows carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at any point in the last 650,000 years.

Woo-hoo! Yes! I knew we could do it! We are the CO2 masters! Carbon dioxide rocks, baby!

Oh, wait -- that's actually really bad. Never mind.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Please, Chris Klein, get the 'American Pie'
guys together, get in there and rescue her!

Yes, you heard correctly. Tom Cruise has gone out and bought a sonogram machine, presumably so he can make sure the fetus isn't doing any psychotropic drugs while he isn't looking.

Now, I suppose if you're that rich you can buy anything you want -- sonogram machine, trip into outer space, elephant man's bones, whatever -- but is anyone else as creeped out as I am at the image of Tom slathering up Katie's pregnant belly with goo and rubbing the little sonogram device all over it? Uuuuuuuuuugh.

I've got to go shower.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Being mayor rocks!

This blog has just acquired the list of first-term goals for Michael Sessions, the 18-year-old recently elected mayor of Hillsdale, Mich:
  • Get city councilors to start referring to each other as “dawg.”
  • Pizza at all union negotiation meetings (stuffed crust -- sweet!).
  • “State of the City” address to be delivered via text messaging (“BTSOOM. L8R!”)
  • See how fast that city-issued Lincoln Town Car can go on a straightaway.
  • At least once a week, guys in assessors department to be given wedgies.
  • Lay off fleet of snowplow drivers; issue all residents snowboards.
  • Lower drinking age to 18 16.
  • Replace city department heads with buds from school; Murph gets to run DPW. (Free rides on the front-end loader -- sweet!)
  • Bring in sophomore cheerleaders as “interns.”
  • Change city motto to “Fo Shizzle.”

Sunday, November 20, 2005

This week's column:
So what's the deal with Thanksgiving?

It's time once again for "Mr. Holiday" to answer your holiday queries. This week: Thanksgiving.
***
Dear Mr. Holiday:
I understand that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals want us to give up eating turkey on Thanksgiving. But I love turkey! Juicy, succulent, recently deceased turkey. What should I do?
Hungry in Holliston
Dear Hungry:
PETA is a very well-meaning organization, in that same way that your crazy uncle who thinks he's a founding member of ABBA is well-meaning. But mostly they're just looking for an excuse to parade around naked and get arrested.
For the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Nein! Nein! Nicht in der
Kindereisenbahn Geschäftsbereich!

The good news: A court has declared that Wal-Mart is not allowed to ban romances between employees. The bad news: It's still allowed to pay slave wages, offer little to no health insurance, import billions of dollars in cheap merchandise from Chinese sweatshops and put thousands of smaller stores out of business. But as long as there's no smooching in Aisle 12, we can live with that other stuff.

Wal-Marts ethics code also attempted to ban "lustful glances and ambiguous jokes," presumably either together or separately. No word on unambigous jokes, but if they're about a fellow employee's bosoms, that's probably out too.

Of course, this was a German court, so here in the U.S. we can assume that it will be business as usual in our local Wal-Marts, otherwise known as the twisted fiefdoms of retail hell.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Hmm ... sauerkraut, death ...
sauerkraut, death ... I'm thinking!

To think, after all the worry about bird flu -- President Bush's $7 billion plan, hundreds of column inches in the national media, the five pounds of peanut butter and cartons of toilet paper squirreled away in my basement -- it turns out we were all worried about nothing. Well, nothing that a little sauerkraut can't fix.

Yes, that's right, Korean scientists are reporting that several bird-flu stricken chickens that were fed German cabbage made a full recovery. Of course, more tests are needed: The scientists still can't be positive whether that was due to the sauerkraut or to the Oom-Pa-Pa band playing a continuous loop of "The Beer Barrel Polka."

Anyway, I know all this is true because I read it at ananova.com. Which I'm starting to think is just trying to mess with my head.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

This week's column:
Everything's coming up iPods


Well, it took a lot of soul searching, but I've made my decision: I'm not going to buy an iPod. But not for the reason you might think, namely that my weekly personal entertainment budget covers nothing beyond previously read copies of the Boston Herald. (Oh, that Marmaduke!)

No, it's because every time I feel myself about to break down and buy one, Apple comes out with a new iPod with new features on it. I can only assume they do this to perpetually frustrate the people who just bought the last version -- I'm sure this is the source of much hilarity among the techies at Apple, who are still trying to get back at us for giving them wedgies all through high school.

In fact, just in case you haven't been following at home, here's a quick review of all the iPods you could now own if you'd started buying them when they first came out:

For the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Of course, most undergraduate males
have been minoring in that for years

If you know anything about college, you know that many of the courses involve subjects you'll never actually use in real life. Philosophy. Ancient history. Electrical engineering. You get my drift.

That's why it's reassuring to hear that the Polytechnic University in Hong Kong has finally added something practical to its curriculum: a degree in bra studies. Yes, it's hard to believe that up until now most bras have been designed by people with no formal university training in that area. No wonder women are so cranky.

And the program's graduates will probably be pretty much guaranteed jobs, given that China's biggest lingerie manufacturer, Top Form, has a bra lab right in its factory. If there are rats involved, I don't want to know.

Meanwhile, to whomever designed the front hook bra -- we smell Nobel Prize!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

That's what you get for
taking a ride with Billy Joel

Poor Paris Hilton. First there was the sex tape, then the big fight with Nicole Richie, then the breakup with the other Paris ... No wait, first was the hamburger ad controversy, then the breakup ... wait, somewhere in there was her stealing her own sex video. So it was the sex tape, the fight with Nicole, the hamburger ad, the sex video stealing, the other Paris breakup ... Oh, forget it.

Anyway, now she's been caught on tape in a car crash outside a Hollywood nightclub. Oh, Paris, when will you give up this wild, fly-by-night lifestyle and settle down, have some kids, go through a messy, public divorce, pose naked in Playboy and star in a reality show in which you and your filthy rich kids go clubbing together? And also, when will we stop caring?

I vote for right now.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Or perhaps they'll recruit the
talents of one Mr. Air Bud

Hats off to the players on the Hanna, Okla., High School basketball team. Hopelessly outclassed by their arch rivals, the Earlsboro Wildcats, they could have just given up. But they hung in there, and what happened in the end? They lost 112-2. But that one basket was beautiful, baby.

Besides, I'm sure they'll pull together and, after overcoming obstacles both personal and athletic (lack of coordination, distant fathers who come around just in time for the big game, an ambivalent coach who comes to realize that yes, while he'd love to still be playing professional basketball, it's here with these lovable losers that he'll find true satisfaction), will come from behind to win the state championship against all odds.

Or there's always the math team.

Monday, November 07, 2005

And then JK Rowling comes out at the end and admits that, yes, she is trying to convert the world's children to satanism

Secrets of the new "Harry Potter" movie:
  • Hermione officially switches to her Kaballah name, Esther.
  • A strange spell turns all the major characters sullen and lanky.
  • Key line of dialogue: “Goblet of Fire … Goblet … Of course! Ron, Hermione -- it’s not Goblet … it’s Giblets!” (Cue giant, three-headed turkey.)
  • Voldemort reveals he is Harry’s father; mother was Natalie Portman.
  • Something fishy about that new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher …
  • Actor who played Ron (above) replaced by guy who played Napoleon Dynamite.
  • Hagrid … gay?
  • Turns out the lightning-shaped scar actually a temporary tattoo.
  • Climax is battle to the death among Harry Potter, Col. Potter from "M*A*S*H" and Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Harry wins, mostly because the other guys are wicked old.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

This week's column:
What I actually meant to say was ...

OK, I'll admit it: I feel bad for Harriet Miers. For the first two weeks after her nomination to the Supreme Court I had a vague inkling that she might actually be Bea Arthur, and by the time I'd gotten that thought out of my head, she'd withdrawn her nomination and gone back to her regular job as President Bush's valet.

But I can't blame her for pulling out, given the way people were combing through every word she'd ever said in public, from speeches to women's clubs to comments in front of the Texas Bar Association to, presumably, call-ins to sports talk radio. ("Ms. Miers, is it true that you once referred to Roger Clemens as a 'big, fat, over-the-hill American League loser?'" etc.)

So best of luck to the new guy, Samuel Alito. I know I wouldn't want to be in his shoes; I can only imagine how some statements from my younger years might come back to haunt me. In fact, just in case, I figure I better clear the air now:

For the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Hmm ... Maybe that's what
happened to Shelley Winters

You may have heard about how Tyra Banks donned a fat suit to find out what it feels like not to be a gorgeous supermodel and talk show host. What did she find out? That it doesn't feel nearly as good as being a gorgeous supermodel and talk show host. Duh.

But it's interesting that Tyra would take that route, because as it turns out -- I, too, have been wearing a fat suit! I'm really 150 pounds rather than 195. I'm also actually 6-foot-3, and only appear 5-10 1/2 as a result of my fat suit's accompanying short suit. So all of you who've been calling me the Pillsbury Dough Boy behind my back can just stop it.

As for Tyra, apparently she's now planning a Nov. 18 segment on pursuing "a beautiful booty" on which she will reveal her own "dimpled butt" and receive an on-set endermologie treatment, which is definied in the American Journal of Medicine as an advanced scientific procedure involving Tyra Banks' butt.

Proving once and for all that Tyra has stopped asking herself, What Would Oprah Do?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

When they start selling the home
version, then it's time to worry

See, this is why the Dutch have the stellar reputation that they do. Where else in the world can you go lingerie shopping and find an entire store-full of men feeling up a wall full of fake bosoms? I've certainly never seen it, and I've shopped on Canal Street in New York City.

According to Ananova, the fake breast wall is designed to help male shoppers buy bras that fit their wives or girlfriends. "By look and touch, male shoppers can work out the right size," it reports. Just like in real life.

The question remains, however: Is the wall of fake breasts more or less revolutionary than the Dutch library that lends out gay people, gypsies and muslims? And also, whatever happened to the days when Holland was known pretty much exlusively for its windmills? I vote we go back to that.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

There but for the grace
of God goes Vanilla Ice

Ladies and gentlemen, get out your checkbooks! MTV is reporting that MC Hammer is selling the music publishing and copyrights to his entire catalog. Yes, now you can own 62.5 percent of "Turn This Mutha Out," 75 percent of "Addams Groove" and 90 percent of "2 Legit 2 Quit." So what do I hear? Anyone? Hello?

OK, how about 40 bucks for his pants?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Also, it would be nice if
his name rhymes with 'burrito'

Acquired exclusively by this blog -- President Bush’s (new, improved) Supreme Court nominee checklist:

__ Don’t know him
__ Smarter than me
__ Smarter than lots of other people who are smarter than me
__ Wicked conservative
__ Has been overheard in public saying “Abortion is evil … eeeeeeevvvviilllll!”
__ Makes Democrats itchy
__ Causes James Dobson of Focus on the Family to feel oddly aroused
__ No reason for the lefty senators to flillib … fribble … fibill … vote against him
__ Isn’t secretly in love with me
__ Was actually a judge at one point

Sunday, October 30, 2005

This week's column:
Trolling for treats is
tricky for grownups

The thing I've always liked about Halloween is how it truly gets everybody involved, from the smallest trick-or-treater going door to door collecting Tootsie Rolls to the grumpiest old curmudgeon pulling down toilet paper from his oak tree Nov. 1 and thinking about finally getting that gun permit.

Personally, I'm now right in between those two extremes - not old enough to humbug Halloween, but too old to trick or treat or even go out on the town in some crazy getup, like when I was single. (By the way, single guys: Based on my experience, it turns out having a cool costume doesnot make it easier to meet women. At least when that cool costume is Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy of the original "Star Trek." Let's move on.)

But just when I thought my enjoyment of Halloween would continue to be limited to gnawing arduously on rock-hard Mary Janes from my kids' candy bags, I saw some survey results that have made me reevaluate my stance. According to shoppinginamerica.biz, more and more adults - including an astounding 42.1 percent of people over 75 - are planning to trick or treat on Halloween. (Sample over-75 survey response: "Of course I'm planning to expectorate on Halloween - all this phlegm doesn't just go away by itself!")

For the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

On the plus side, at least
I'm not nicknamed 'Scooter'

Ten other things that went wrong this week, by President George W. Bush:
  1. Rotisserie baseball team tanked.
  2. Remembered that Harriet's coming for Thanksgiving -- awkward!
  3. "Family Guy" preempted by World Series.
  4. Shoelance broke this morning. Gotta remember to get more loafers.
  5. Missed "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" again ... Damn the Joint Chiefs and all their darn meetings!
  6. Google image search turned up 47 more goofy pictures of me on the Internet.
  7. Dick asked if I thought the other prisoners would find him attractive -- awkward!
  8. Somehow erased "My Sharona" off my iPod.
  9. Dad said he'd love to come visit, but he's going to Martha's Vineyard with Clinton.
  10. Looked at calendar -- more than two years before this stupid job ends.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

So that's why I'm obese!

If you're anything like me, you're having trouble containing your excitement over the fact that McDonald's is going to include nutritional information on its food packaging. Or it may be your lunch you're having trouble containing. One of those two things.

Well, I'm happy to report that you don't have to wait until the new policy takes effect, since this blog has acquired a copy of the new labels. For instance, following is what will be printed on the packaging for the Big Mac:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1 Big Mac
Calories: One meeeeellion
Calories from fat: You mean there's another kind of calories?
Total Fat: Yes
Saturated Fat: Hell, Yes
Trans Fat: If you're referring to the kind of fat that can cause a heart attack almost immediately upon consumption ... Yeah, we got that
Cholesterol: You've seen a 2 liter bottle of Coke? About that much
Sodium: Enough to keep a herd of cows licking for a month
Total Carbohydrates: If you're on the South Beach, you're in the wrong place
Protein: Protein? Get yourself some carp, for crying out loud
Ingredients: Two all-beef patties; special sauce; lettuce; cheese; pickles; onions; sesame seed bun. OK, not really. It's actually mostly lard and chemicals, and possibly, although we can't be positive about this, rat feces. Don't quote us.

Monday, October 24, 2005

We can assume she breast fed

Well, it seems that Janet Jackson -- you may have seen her left bosom perform at the Super Bowl last year -- may have birthed a secret baby with her then-secret husband 18 years ago. If this turns out to be true, all I can say: Why, oh why, couldn't Britney have showed the same discretion?

In fact, I contend that we'd all be better off if celebrities kept pretty much everything they did a secret, in many cases including their albums and movies. Do you hear me, celebrity America? The new code word is "stealth."

Meanwhile, please e-mail me if you'd like copies of Britney's stolen baby photos.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

This week's column:
What a difference a month makes

We are currently in the midst of National Toilet Tank Repair Month. This strikes me as odd, given that if there was something appreciably wrong with your toilet, I would think you wouldn't want to wait until October to fix it. (I don't know if there's a National Toilet Seat Repair Month, but similarly I wouldn't let the problem go for too long, unless you want to end up the subject of one of those stories EMTs laugh about when they drink together.)

I bring this up because I recently learned that October is home to a veritable potpourri of official observances that nobody ever heard of, except possibly toilet tank repairpersons.

For instance, did you know that October is International Starman Month? This is apparently meant to honor not the forgotten 1984 movie in which Jeff Bridges plays a naked space alien, but rather the subsequent forgotten TV series starring Robert Hayes, who may or may not have been naked, or an alien -- you'd have to infiltrate one of the International Starman Month cotillions to find out for sure.

For the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

And if they could make 'Family
Guy' dirtier, we're sure they would

When I heard that the Parents Television Council had slammed six Fox shows on its annual list of the least family-friendly programs, I couldn't help but think: Only six? Fox must be losing its touch. I remember the day when it could fill all 10 slots just with "Married With Children."

Anyway, I'm sure it will do better when it launches this year's mid-season replacements, including:
  • Shasta McSex
  • That Sex Show
  • Who Wants to &%$#! a &%$#! &%$#!
  • The O-Sex
  • Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex
  • When Animals Devour Small Children

Monday, October 17, 2005

There ain't gonna be no
rematch! Oh, OK, just one more.

As you’ve probably heard by now, because I’m sure it led all the newscasts, Sylvester Stallone is taking time out of his busy schedule to make "Rocky VI." Although he’s actually calling it "Rocky Balboa," presumably because he assumes most people’s Roman numeral skills only go up to V, and even then it’s iffy – a lot of people still think the last movie was named "Rocky Vee."

Anyway, this blog has just acquired exclusive rights to the trailer for the new film, which we transcribe here:

Announcer: His whole life was a million to one shot ... Like that time he went the distance with the world champion. And the time he beat the world champion after running after a chicken. And the time he beat Mr. T after Mickey died and he ran on the beach with Apollo in a very manly, heterosexual way. And the time he beat that big blonde Russian and then gave the speech ("If I can change, you can change") that sent movie audiences across America scurrying under their seats in embarrassment. And that time he beat whoever he beat in "Rocky V," which was viewed only by the guy who played Paulie.

But now he faces his biggest challenge ever ... beating the guy who keeps taking his socks in the assisted living facility.

Rocky: Who took my socks?
Clubber Lang: I pity the fool who thinks I took his socks!
Mickey: This guy ain't just another fighter! This guy is a wrecking machine! And he's hungry! He'll knock you to tomorrow, Rock!
Rocky: Mickey, I thought you was dead!
Mickey: I am, you idiot – you’re talking to your potted plant again.

Announcer: "Rocky Balboa" -- It's his biggest challenge ever. Well, except for that enlarged prostate. And the whole thing with the fiber, but the Metamucil pretty much took care of that. But it's a big challenge. Um ... Is this thing on?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

This week's column:
The Columbus you never knew

More than 500 years after his death, Christopher Columbus remains one of the most controversial figures in history. Some think of him as a great seaman, others as a ruthless imperialist, and still others as the reason we didn't get mail on Monday.

Thanks to an important recent discovery, however, there is no longer reason to conjecture. This newspaper has learned that the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem has found the long-lost diaries from Columbus' initial voyage, hidden behind a box of old fans and a rare 17th century La-Z-Boy recliner.

But does the diary resolve all of those burning historical questions about Columbus, such as: Why would anybody wear tights on a ship? For answers, we turn to the following exclusive excerpts:

July 26, 1492 -- Just a week to go until I embark on my expedition to find a western route to India. Starting to regret making this bet with King Ferdinand. Reminder to self: No more wine coolers at Isabella and Ferdinand's mutton parties.

For the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Although since I'm a guy,
I'm thinking the buttocks
might make more sense

OK, I've given this a lot of thought, and here's what I've decided:

Breasts -- good.

Breast implants -- bad.

Breast implants that store and play a person's entire music collection -- good.

OK, I'm glad I got that off my, well, you know.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

You should have given me
that extra treat, a&%$#@!

This just in: A criminal in Germany has been turned in by his own dog. Most likely a criminal who made his dog wear sweaters and a little helmet. I'm just guessing.

Meanwhile, in other crime news, a man in Italy has chosen jail over putting up with his wife's nagging. Now, what man in his right mind would do that? I'm married so I'm not allowed to say.

But most likely she made him wear sweaters and a little helmet.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I will also strongly consider adding
a little 'i' to the front of my name

OK, it seems that Apple made $1 billion in profit in fiscal 2005. Just to put that into perspective, that's more than a million, although still slightly shy of a kajillion. Regardless, it's what economists tend to refer to as a "buttload" of money. And yet, they somehow have not seen their way into sending me a free iPod. Can anyone tell me why that is?

In the interest of moving the process along, I'd like to remind Apple that it would do their company a lot more good if people were to spot me grooving to one of their hip machines than to the 5-year-old Sony Discman I'm currently employing for my portable music needs. But if they need more incentive, I promise once I receive my free iPod I will post the banner ad of their choice on this very blog, and keep it there until I die or the blog is acquired in a hostile corporate takeover, whichever comes first.

Meanwhile, I will continue to work on Plan B, which is to buy one. I just have to convince my wife it's worth going two weeks without groceries first.

Monday, October 10, 2005

These are bound to go
over big in coal mines


Plus they have the added bonus of
making mice think that a train is coming.


October's Invention of the Month award goes to Brightfeet Lighted Slippers, which are slippers with little flashlights inside of them. This is the product that I predict will finally stem the tide of people waking in the middle of the night, slipping on their non-lighted slippers, and walking off a cliff to their gruesome and painful deaths.

I know personally when I get up at night I'm constantly stepping on things that have been left carelessly in the middle of the floor, like trucks, Barbie dolls, dogs, furniture and closed doors. These would definitely help me to avoid such obstacles, if only there was a light that could help me find the slippers in the first place. Maybe something that would make my toes light up like 10 little radioactive isotopes. Get on it, Brightfeet!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

This week's column:
Family a-fair -- a Topsfield Fair diary


3:48: Arrive at the fair late in the day, when we figure it will be less crowded. Jockey for parking spaces with the thousands of other visitors who had the same idea.

4:01: Enter directly into Kiddie Land. Make mental note to next year find entrance closest to vegetables.

4:13: Kids get $8 face painting; for that price I wonder if the paint is guaranteed to still be visible at their high school graduation.

For the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Better stick with the pork

You may recall how last winter, when I warned everybody about the Asian bird flu, everyone laughed at me. But now, the entire world is in a panic and scrambling to deal with it before it kills millions. Ha! Although I kind of wish I'd been wrong.

I give President Bush credit, though -- he appears to know quite a bit about this issue, unlike some other issues that when he speaks about them he gives the distinct impression that he's reading off the back of a cereal box. But as if he didn't have enough to worry about right now (Iraq, Katrina, nominating Bea Arthur to the Supreme Court), Forbes reports that he blew it when it came to stockpiling vaccine: "If the Bush administration had placed the order a few months ago, Tamiflu maker Roche could have delivered much of the United States' supply by next year."

Hey, better late than never! Except not really.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Unfortunately, 'Kal-El' is already taken

Highlights from Tom Cruise's inevitable upcoming Today show interview regarding his impending baby with fiancee Katie Holmes:

  • "I know diapers, Matt. I‘ve powdered tushes, OK? Have you ever powdered a tush, Matt?"
  • "Please, Matt, Don't try to tell me about Barney. I know Barney, OK? I‘ve worn the Barney suit, Matt, I didn't just sit around talking about it. Did you ever wear a Barney suit, Matt? Or do you just talk about it on TV?"
  • "Don't talk to me about spit up, Matt. Have you ever even spit up? Because I've spit up, Matt. And for you to insinuate that spit-up is no big deal ... You're very glib, Matt. Very, very glib. And facile. Glib and facile. Matt."
  • "Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt. Do you even know what's in Gerber Rice with Apple Bits and Cereal Crisps, Matt? Have you ever done a chemical analysis of those bits and crisps? Because that's what I did. I built a lab in my basement and tested those bits and crisps myself. Until you've tested those bits and crisps Matt, I don't think it's responsible for you to be on the Today show talking about Gerber Rice with Apple Bits and Cereal Crisps."
  • "Now I'm going to jump up and down and sing a little fatherhood song. Don’t talk to me about jumping up and down, Matt. Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

And why don't we think
Siegel and Shuster are seeing
any royalties from this, either

Rejected names for Nicolas Cage's baby, Kal-El Coppola Cage:

  • Mr. Mxylplyx Coppola Cage
  • Funky Winkerbean Coppola Cage
  • Kudzu Coppola Cage
  • Marmaduke Coppola Cage
  • Hi and/or Lois Coppola Cage
  • Mutt and/or Jeff Coppola Cage
  • Dormmamu Coppola Cage
  • Barney Google Coppola Cage
  • Wee Willie Winkie Coppola Cage
  • Little Nemo in Slumberland Coppola Cage

Monday, October 03, 2005

Nipsey Russell is dead?
I didn't even know he was [BLANK]

He didn't make too many movies
And he was not often praised highly
but when it came to Match Game guests
He sure beat that Charles Nelson Reilly!

Rest in peace, Nipsey Russell. I'm sure there was a place waiting for you betweeen Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost at that great poetry roundtable in the sky.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

This week's column:
This Bible may come up short


When I heard that someone had come up with an abbreviated version of the Bible I thought, this seems a little bit backwards. In this age of the director's cut, shouldn't they be making it longer? I'm sure there are a lot of extraneous subplots they could insert, like maybe a part where Abraham and Ishmael form Abraham & Son Jewelers. (That's not to mention the bloopers -- you just try saying "Nebuchenezzer" right on the first take.)

Apparently the idea behind "The 100-Minute Bible" is to make it so the average person can read it in, yes, 100 minutes. This is in direct contrast to the actual Bible, which to read cover to cover would take you until the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood (approximately). Granted, I suppose even a little Bible is better than none, but it seems to me there's got to be a reason God included all that stuff in the first place, or dictated it, or however it got in there.

Besides, I'm sure it would be a daunting task to determine what to leave out. It probably took long, heated debates among biblical scholars, all of them weighing the import of each individual chapter and verse. Unless the publishing industry was in any way involved, in which case it was decided by randomly chosen focus groups made up of people who, given their druthers, would rather be rating shows for UPN.

To read the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

They'll always have
Paris. Well, not really.

THIS JUST IN: Paris Hilton and her fiancee, Paris not-Hilton, have broken up. I'm sure she's devastated, and would write about the experience in her next book, if it had actual words in it.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I accept PayPal

It's my birthday again, which at this stage of my life means primarily that I’m another year closer to my encounter with the inescapable specter of doom. Plus, cake!

Send presents care of this blog.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

He's more machine than
man now ... twisted and evil

When will people come to their senses and realize that George Lucas is the devil? Barely a year after releasing the original (updated) Star Wars trilogy on DVD, he's releasing it again, for the same price, with less special features, with different packaging. Yes, he wants to see if he can get us to pay $49.95 for a cardboard box. It's this type of twisted scheme that makes Darth Sidious look like Mary-Kate Olsen. Or Ashley Olsen. Whichever one is less evil.

Personally, I think it should be against the law to take such blatant advantage of unsuspecting, impressionable Star Wars geeks. They're so helpless with their little plastic lightsabers and brown hooded bathrobes, or whatever they are. Somebody has got to stand up for these people.

So George, wherever you are, we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore! Unless you decide to make Episodes VII-IX, in which case we'll wait on line for days to watch them suck.

UPDATE: On the other hand, if the end product of George Lucas' life work turns out to be simply this, it will have all been worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

How many documentaries,
must one man watch ...

Little-known facts you missed if you didn't watch the new Bob Dylan documentary on PBS:
  • As a child, played "Froggy" in the "Little Rascals."
  • Newport folk festival crowd was actually booing because the refreshment stands ran out of Nehi.
  • Text of note slipped to hospital attendant by Woody Guthrie: "Please get this strange little man out of my room."
  • Dylan credited with popularizing the Jewish Afro, a style single-handedly killed in 1975 by Gabe Kaplan.
  • Took his name not, as many think, from Dylan Thomas, but from Luke Perry's character on "90210."

Um ... OK, I didn't actually watch it. But I plan to get the DVD.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Plus if you go high enough he'd
probably agree to be your butler

Only three more days to bid on the collected worldly possessions of some guy from England who's trying to auction off everything he owns. As of this writing it's up to £5,100 for the entire collection; I'm not up on the current exchange rate, but I believe that's enough for several tanks of petrol.

On the one hand, I give him a lot of credit -- if I tried the same thing I'd be worried that I'd get about 80 bucks for the whole lot, and that's if I included my car. (You'll recall what happened at my yard sale, where I wound up offering people money to steal the stuff while I pretended to be tying my shoe.) Of course, he has a lot better stuff than I do -- I mean, does anybody really need an Xbox, Ps2 and a Gamecube? How many joysticks can one man manipulate?

Anyway, if you have a bunch of extra pounds lying around, give it a shot. According to the listing, "escrow is available," which is the perfect way to get some other guy's electronic equipment, furniture, clothing, DVDs and a "Fluval Duo Tropical Aquarium with base (fish included if requested)." Do it for the fish.
(Thanks to Steven Hartwright)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

This week's column:
Shhh! The kids have ears

There are lots of things nobody tells you about before you have kids. And I'm not just talking about those sights and smells from the early years that come back to you long after your children are out of diapers, making you jolt upright in bed like an old soldier flashing back to Tipperary.

No, I'm talking about the realization that, despite all the time and effort you put into feeding and clothing them and bringing them to blow wildly expensive bubbles at Gymboree, kids eventually grow to be little spies reporting all of your family secrets to the highest bidder, or at least anybody who seems the least bit interested.

That's right, moms and dads: Don't look now, but you're living with Donnie Brasco.

To read the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

And yet the Heidi Klum
front remains oddly silent

It's time to choose your favorite supermodel news story of the day:
  1. Kate Moss is ostracized by the modeling community, such that it is, when it's discovered that the progenitor of "heroin chic" has used ... cocaine! Why couldn't she just stay skinny by forcing herself to throw up, like everybody else?
  2. Tyra Banks (right) has herself felt up by a plastic surgeon on TV to prove that her breasts are real. Next week she plans to have a brain surgeon feel her head.
  3. Rebecca Romijn announces plans to marry Jerry O'Connell, as her ex-husband continues his exhuastive search for another model to attach his Stamos to.
  4. John O'Hurley wins "Dancing with the Stars" rematch, but withers under Kelly Monaco's subsequent glare of death. (OK, I know he's not a supermodel. But I felt this needed to be mentioned.)

Vote in the comments section, or, if you'd prefer to show your solidarity with America's put-upon supermodels in a more meaningful way, stop eating and grow six inches. OK, go!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Does Jesus know about this?

When I heard that a British reverend had written an abbreviated version of the Bible that can be read in 100 minutes, I couldn't help but think, how do you decide what gets left out? Focus groups? I can see the comment cards now:
  • "Dude, I was snoozing during all those begats."
  • "When that Job guy got all the sores? Ew."
  • "Mark, John, Luke -- one version is enough, for crying out loud!"
  • "I think four days and four nights would be plenty. I mean we get it, it was wet."
  • "More Sodom & Gomorrah! More Sodom & Gomorrah!"
  • "Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego -- it takes about 10 minutes just to get through those names. What's wrong with Moe, Larry and Curly?"
  • "That whale would be a lot cooler if it was a killer whale."
  • "Come on, 40 years in the desert? I mean we get it, it was hot."
  • "Cut that whole 'God created the heavens and the earth' part down to two days and you've got yourself a hit on your hands."
  • "That Revelations stuff ... I don't know, I think that could have waited for the sequel."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Better keep the cat in for a while

Well, I suppose it was only a matter of time before they started to find alligators in my home state of Massachusetts. Now I can add it to the list of things that make me want to never leave my house, like EEE mosquitoes, nor'easters and Ted Kennedy.

They're not sure where the gators came from, but according to one eyewitness they were "making this weird croaking and groaning sound." No need for alarm, though -- everybody talks that way up here. It's wicked annoying.

Monday, September 19, 2005

'Pass the oxygen, boys -- I've
almost reached the belly button!'


Why? Because it is there.

For those of you who don't think America's Draconian zoning regulations aren't strangling the lifeblood out of this country, consider this: In the entire nation, there is not a single hill, knoll or mountain range with a 200-foot pink bunny sprawled across it. And they call this the land of the free.

Luckily for the inhabitants of sunny Italy, their government has no such problems. There, on the side of the 5,000-foot Colletto Fava mountain, the Viennese art group Gelatin (motto: "There's always room for a 200-foot pink bunny") has erected just such a rabbit. And it certainly is majestic, even if it looks like it's just been clubbed to death by Jennifer Lopez on its way to being made into a stole.

But it's not just for show; according to Ananova.com, "they are expecting hikers to climb its 20-foot sides and relax on its belly." Thus proving, in case it wasn't obvious before: Europeans have way too much vacation time.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

This week's column:
Who let the robot dogs out?


Those of you who recall my declarations that I'd never use a cell phone or a car DVD player know that my word means nothing. But this time I want you to hold me to it when I say that I will never, under any circumstances, get a robot dog. (Also, keep me away from that new iPod nano -- I'm afraid I could accidentally swallow it.)

Sure, I could see why someone might want a robot dog -- you could leave it alone for days on end, they don't chew toys, furniture or each other, they don't emit anything that might lead you to need the services of someone with "The Ruginator" printed on the side of his van, etc.

Also, they would never need a retainer, unlike my family's black Lab, Lily, whose teeth were growing in wrong and needed a specially molded piece of plastic grafted to them, at a price that would indicate it was made via a process involving cold fusion. It's developments such as this that leave thoughtful pet owners to wonder: Do the vets ever stop laughing at us?

To read the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

And yet no one seems particularly
interested in punishing her for 'Gigli'

Watch out, horse -- you may be next.

This just in: Heather McCartney has announced that she will begin stalking Jennifer Lopez until Lopez realizes that it's wrong to wear fur. Now, how come when the wife of a billionaire ex-Beatle stalks Jennifer Lopez it's considered a valiant fight for a noble cause, and yet when I do it I'm threatened with restraining orders? I'm speaking hypothetically, sort of.

For her part, Lopez has said in the past she was unaware of exactly how fur was made. Although it's safe to presume she had a vague idea that it had to be forcibly removed from the animal in order to be worn -- otherwise her chinchilla bustier would be trying to claw her to death.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Admittedly, without Pedro and Don
Zimmer it's all much less interesting

As a native New Yorker living in Boston, this time of year leaves me with something of a personality crisis. On the one hand I come from a long line of Yankee boosters (even if as a kid I could relate better to the Mets, who shared with my little league team an almost stunning propensity for ineptitude); on the other hand, my decade-plus in Red Sox country has given me a certain appreciation for followers of the Old Town Team, even if I always knew that when push came to shove they'd crumble like a stale Triscuit.

Of course, this all changed last year. Now, all bets are off, and a headline like today's "Yankees crush Devil Rays, close gap on Red Sox" -- which used to be an indicator that the Yankees were revving up to stomp over the Sox on their way to October glory -- could mean that by next month, after a hard-fought season, both teams will have been kidnapped by space aliens. That's how topsy turvy the baseball world has become.

Regardless, we should all heed the words of Jason Giambi, who managed to keep his biceps from exploding long enough to say that this time of year, "You leave it all on the field, because if you don't play in September, there is no October." (Although technically there is an October, even if Giambi is spending it lying on the couch hoping he doesn't grow bosoms.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Maybe Celine Dion can join in
and really buoy their spirits

BBC News reports that Mariah Carey will perform on Michael Jackson's charity single for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

My God. Haven't these people suffered enough?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Fortunately, long lines,
overpriced souvenirs and
screaming children are universal

Overheard at the new Hong Kong Disneyland theme park (loosely translated from the Chinese):
  • "Will those small animatronic children never stop singing?"
  • "The large clumsy creature frightens me! Is he horse or dog?"
  • "This frozen 'Mickey Bar' is harder than the hardest iron deposits at the mines of Bayan-Obo."
  • "Shark-fin soup? I wanted Toll House cookies."
  • "I could be mistaken, but I believe this Jungle Cruise guide is mocking me."
  • "Will those small animatronic Tiki Birds never stop singing?"
  • "Wait, that is Minnie? Is it me, or do all of these mice look alike?"
  • "That humorous Pooh Bear! He cannot resist the honey when there is a rumbly in his tumbly!"
  • "Tea cups with handles?"
  • "Those animatronic presidents are eerie and disturbing! Oh wait, that's Michael Eisner and Bob Iger."

Sunday, September 11, 2005

This week's column:
Now and then there's a fuel such as I


With all the suffering going on in the world, it seems kind of petty to complain about something like gas prices. Fortunately, that's never stopped most of us before -- if we didn't complain about petty things we'd spend most of our time staring at each other, cursing the awkward silence.

Still, I'm determined to find a silver lining to the cost of fuel. For instance, take my 1998 two-door Chevy Cavalier, which seemed small when I just had a dog but with an entire family feels almost comically diminutive, like a clown car. These days, though, people look at me in it like I was some sort of prescient genius -- a single guy could actually use this car to pick up women now.

However, even with a small car the gas prices have seemed onerous. This could have something to do with my until-recent tendency to buy gas $5 at a time, which today would get me approximately as far as the next pump.

To read the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Come on, rise up ...

Victims of Hurricane Katrina still need your help. If the Red Cross isn't your bag, you can pitch in to a grassroots movement started by some Bruce Springsteen fans by clicking here.

And yes, I got tickets for the Boston show. No thanks to Bruce, who has yet to send me my free tickets. I'm sure he's just busy.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Could be worse -- after all, Cheney
doesn't care about anybody

This just in: In the wake of the spectacular reaction to his remarks earlier this week, Kanye West has released a list of other people George Bush doesn't care about:

  • Short people
  • Fat people
  • The Baldwin brothers
  • People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • People who can pronounce "subliminal"
  • The (Luke and Owen) Wilson Brothers
  • People up there in those blue states
  • Umpires
  • Guys with girls' names, like Leslie -- what's up with that?
  • The Statler Brothers The Wayans Brothers
  • Carp (not technically people)

Personal note: I'm no fan of Mr. Bush, but I think it's kind of ridiculous to say that he doesn't care about black people. Everybody knows it's poor people he doesn't care about.

Someone's not getting his bonus this year

Breaking news: "Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is being removed from his role managing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, according to the Associated Press."

Well, that's certainly not going to look good come performance review time.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

And now I'm just waiting for the
endorsement offers to come pouring in

Thank you for all the cards and letters of congratulations. Yes, it's true -- I got a new blog profile picture. I was going for suave and debonair, although I think I might have fallen a little short and may have to settle for "suffering stoically through gas pains." (Next time I should probably add a pipe or bite on the earpiece of my glasses -- that spells "class" every time.)

Anyway, your comments are welcome, although I should mention that I already know I look sort of like a human version of Fozzie Bear. We don't need to go dredging all that up again.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

We can only hope that
somewhere, the Skipper is
slapping him with his hat


RIP, Bob Denver. Thanks for bumbling your way into our hearts.

Crikey! That gator just
drank my last Crown Lager!

Pop quiz! If you saw an alligator swimming in the Allegheny River, what would be the proper course of action?

1) Call your local animal control officer;
2) Run away screaming and waving your arms wildly in the air;
3) Capture it using techniques learned by watching the television program "Crocodile Hunter";
4) Shoot to kill.

Actually, any of 1, 2 or 4 are acceptable, but yes, No. 3 is the method tried by a Pennsylvania girl who found herself in just that situation. Apparently she grabbed the animal's snout and held its mouth closed so her friends could put it in a beverage cooler. They then gave the cooler to police, but it would have been funnier if they'd left it at a frat party. ("Dude, want another MichelAGGHGHGH!!!")

Monday, September 05, 2005

Another reason to buy that unicycle

The gas prices have got me nervous, and not just because what I just spent on gas for my Chevy Cavalier could two weeks ago have filled up Arnold Schwarzenegger's Humvee. No, I'm concerned that the next possibility is a full-fledged gas shortage, which would give me another reason to have disturbing flashbacks to my 1970s childhood. (The pants ... Oh, the horror of the pants!)

Fashions aside, the last thing I want is another situation like when I was a kid, when people would wait in gas lines for hours listening to AM radio (I think Imus had both his lungs back then) and swearing out the window at no one in particular. Personally, nothing drove the fuel shortage home like two hours waiting in the back of my mother’s Monte Carlo, sitting between a brother and sister who were taking advantage of the extra time in the car to devise new ways of strangling each other.

So I'll pay the prices for now, but mark my words: If the lines at the gas stations go more than three cars deep, I'm going to Alaska to drill myself. Who's with me? C'mon, Dick Cheney, I know you want to!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

This week's column:
This family needs to get in more


I don't tend to consider myself a big traveler. Not so much by choice - it's just that I have young kids, which makes traveling daunting. I look at how it's difficult to even make a trip to the supermarket without someone coming home covered in cheese.

And yet somehow, this past summer proved to be particularly travel-heavy for my happy brood. We made our usual jaunt to Storyland; had an extended-family vacation in New York; and had an extended-extended-family outing at the annual (except for 1983-2004) "Chianca Family Reunion." Then most recently we borrowed a cottage in New Hampshire which had a beautiful view of the all-day rain, a situation which would make any parent contemplate the most preferable outcome to "Live Free or Die."

All this travel has led my wife and me to an important conclusion: Next summer, we need to stay home. Unfortunately, we know that once we're coming out of another New England winter we'll forget that, and instead feel ourselves tempted by the siren call of hotel pools filled with so much chlorine that children tend to bob gently on the surface, like in the Dead Sea.

To read the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

ABOUT THE CARTOON: Marty Riskin is the talented cartoonist and illustrator who provides the cartoon that accompanies my column in Herald Media publications each week. Check for a new one here with my column every Sunday.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Well I got this blog, and I
learned how to make it talk ...

Things I'm willing to do to get tickets to see Bruce Springsteen, the greatest live performer in the history of rock 'n' roll:
  • Wear a headband for the better part of a decade;
  • Disregard years of grammatical training in the hopes that these badlands might actually start treating us good;
  • Sunbathe in my underwear with Patti Scialfa;
  • Listen to "Human Touch" straight through (I've actually done this recently -- it's a lot better than you remember. No, seriously.);
  • Do an awkward white-man dance with Courtney Cox;
  • Vote for John Kerry;
  • Let my ramrod rock (just not in public);
  • Volunteer to be the guy who tells unruly crowd members to shut the &%#@! up;
  • Pick a random person out of my life (boss, mailman, distant relative) and refer to him exclusively as "The Big Man";
  • Promise to seek out and destroy every remaining copy of this picture.

Bruce, please send the tickets care of this blog. I'll just sit here and wait.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I'll never look at a can of
Contadina the same way again

Ah, those wacky Spaniards. When they're not being voluntarily trampled by bulls, they're apparently pelting each other with 130 tons of ripe tomatoes. Next I expect to see them taking turns jumping off the Puerta de Alcalá into vats of flan.

Apparently the tomato fight tradition, which involves thousands of people in Madrid hurling truckloads of tomatoes at each other every August, began back in the 1940s. It seems like an odd time to start such a tradition, but who knows? Maybe they were preparing to throw fruit at the Nazis when they marched in from France. If there's one thing Hitler hated, it was a tough stain.

Anyway, while I'm sure being covered in tomato goo must break up the summertime blahs, I have to say I'm against it. It's a waste of good tomatoes that could otherwise be used more productively, for instance, as projectiles at a Clay Aiken concert. (But not until after "Bridge Over Troubled Water" ... That always chokes me up.)

And now for something
completely different ...

We interrupt this blog's daily ridicule of life's little absurdities for the following important (and, actually, serious) message: You can help the victims of this week's hurricane. Please visit the American Red Cross and give what you can.

We now return to the hilarity already in progress.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

There's no place like
Grand Rapids, Minn.


Hey you! In the red shoes! Hold it right there!

Just when it seemed the criminal element couldn't get any lower, police report that someone has broken into the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn. and stolen Dorothy's ruby slippers. Yes, I know what you're thinking: There's a Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn.?

Grand Rapids was apparently Garland's hometown, and the famous shoes were on a 10-week visit to her namesake museum there when they were swiped. Unfortunately, "There's not a whole lot of evidence," according to police chief Leigh Serfling. "We're hoping that someone in the community has seen something." For instance, residents are asked to be on the lookout for them sticking out from under a house.

All I know is, that thief better lay low -- I suspect Judy Garland's fans are mobilizing and may even go searching for the ruby slippers themselves. And if the slippers don't turn up, they may go searching for a nice new pair of Tsubo Yocto sneakers along with black fitted jeans, a matching silk T-shirt and a charcoal summer-weight gabardine blazer. Fabulous!

Monday, August 29, 2005

If you're very quiet, you may
be able to hear them bickering


Memo to guy on left: Cut down on the nuts and berries, pal.

Hey, where was I when they posted this ad? It seems the London Zoo, following an exhaustive Internet search for volunteers, has opened an exhibit called "Human Zoo," which is meant to show the "basic nature of human beings." And apparently our basic nature is to sit around all day in our underwear. To think, all this time I thought that was just the men part of the human beings.

Yes, the exhibit features scantily clad people sitting around in their natural habitat: a bunch of rocks. This is a good start, but it seems to me it would have made more sense to place them in cubicles and in front of Xerox machines. Ten to one they would be willing to do little tricks for coffee and crullers.

Anyway, some might say this is demeaning, but I say, it will make us all the more prepared when the aliens come to gather us up for display on their freakish homeworlds. Or eat us.

(Thanks to Digital Doorway.)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

This week's column:
This 'Battle' may make you cry

You may have heard about the disgruntled Star Wars fans who've asserted that George Lucas did to their childhoods what the "Law & Order" writers do to the victims on "Special Victims Unit." (I'm paraphrasing.) Personally I think that's a little harsh -- even if the new movies stink, without them we'd never know what Yoda looked like kicking butt with his light saber, except in our own little fantasies. Not me, other people.

So I didn't truly know what they meant until I happened to see an ad last week for (brace yourself): "Battle of the Network Reality Stars." After I returned my jaw to its upright position, I could only think: Does Hal Linden know about this?

Because for people of a certain age, the whole idea is sacrilegious. Nothing could possibly reproduce the grandeur of the combat that took place among the "Big 3" networks in those heady pre-cable days. (Of course, any thinking "Battle" fan rooted for ABC, since it had "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley," and it didn't have "M*A*S*H" - boooooring! Especially when you're 8.)

To read the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Well, here's the problem
-- this says hair spray!

In Alaska this week, a man apparently owes his life to his faithful Brittany spaniel, who helped him fend off an attacking grizzly bear. I love my dogs, but I can't help but wonder if they'd actually fight a bear for me. What do you think?

(Personally, I suspect my golden retriever would be of the most assistance if the bear tripped over her while she was sleeping, and as for my black lab puppy, maybe she could chew the bear to death. It works with Barbie dolls.)

Still, I know they'd do their best, just like the dog in Alaska. Although the owner is apparently not taking any chances: According to the AP, "Paterna said he plans to carry a larger can of bear spray in the future." I've never heard of bear spray, but of course, I live in Massachusetts -- I bet in Alaska they carry it in the 7-Elevens, right next to the Moose-Be-Gone.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'm sure he'll put the award up on his
mantel, right next to his '80s headband


You think Norah Jones has a tush like that? Please.

As a longtime Springsteen fan, I've been harboring what you might call a deep resentment that Bruce was denied his Album of the Year grammy. And not just for "The Rising" in 2003 -- I'm still smarting over the stunning 1985 loss to Lionel Richie. ("Hello, is it cheesy fake R&B pop songs you're looking for ..." No, I'm not bitter.)

So, taking whatever consolation I can, I'm happy to report that SPIN magazine has apparently honored Springsteen by choosing his butt as one of the 25 "most incredible" rock star body parts. I didn't see any of Lionel Richie's or Norah Jone's body parts on that list, and believe me, I looked. And so what if the judges were probably basing their opinion on Springsteen's '80s butt? I'm sure his current butt is doing just fine, thank you.

Unfortunately Springsteen's butt didn't top the list; that honor went to Madonna's navel, which, according to SPIN writer Marc Spitz, is "what first marked her as a mainstream provocateur." And yet when I gyrate my navel in public, I'm threatened with incarceration. Life is unfair.

Anyway, congratulations to Bruce. Even though I can't say his butt has bettered my life in any particular way, I'd still rather have it honored than some lesser artist's butt. Meanwhile, if he doesn't win a Grammy for "Devils & Dust," I'm going to Norah Jones' house and gyrate my navel at her stupid piano.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Thus severely straining the
definition of the word 'bravo'

This Wednesday you'll be able to tune into the new "Battle of the Network Reality Stars," in which fake celebrities desecrate another of my fond childhood memories. (Just like that darn Johnny Knoxville.) But what's surprising to me is that this sham of a show is on Bravo. Didn't they used to have classier programming? I mean besides the "Colombo" reruns.

Now they run the likes of “Being Bobby Brown,” which I’ve watched several times and which, as far as I can tell, is about the Houston-Brown family going out to dinner. OK, that’s not all it’s about. Whitney also wears funny hats.

If someone can explain to me what's going on in that family, and also why I'm strangely drawn to their off-kilter antics, please do. Meanwhile, I have one question: Dionne Warwick, why didn’t you warn Whitney? Some psychic friend you are.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Unfortunately, that date
stamp hurts like the dickens


Shhhhh! You might wake our Muslim!

Well, I suppose it was only a matter of time. It seems libraries have started lending out people. Thankfully for humanity, it seems this library, which is in Holland (motto: "Wackier than Belgium") is not lending people out for odd jobs or activities I can't mention without setting off the adult content filters. Rather, it's doing it to challenge stereotypes. That was my next guess.

According to Ananova.com, "People can borrow gay people, gypsies and Muslims for an hour and talk to them about their lives." Says the director, "Clients can lend out a Muslim woman in a head scarf and ask her the questions they wouldn't dare to if they met on the street." Presumably questions like, "Is that your protective dust cover?"

I jest, but I think this type of program is important and has vast potential, even outside Holland's borders. For instance, here in America I hear they're considering the same concept with Hooters waitresses.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

This week's column:
Putting his bare foot forward

You may have read my column a few weeks ago in which I declared I had never worn flip-flop sandals. By “you” I mean the handful of people who read this column who are not my mother or a frustrated copy editor who’d rather be working on his novel.

Anyway, that column garnered a sizable response from readers concerned that my aversion to flip-flops was some sort of cry for help. In fact, the column hadn’t been in print for more than 20 minutes when I got an e-mail from someone named Barefoot Ted, who offered the following piece of advice: “Dude, take off your shoes and learn to live a little.”

It’s a simple statement, but I have to say it came as something of a wake-up call. I was particularly moved by the way Barefoot Ted referred to me as “Dude” — it was like he was admitting me into his inner cabal, offering me a glimpse into the very heart of his Barefoot Tedness.

To read the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Friday, August 19, 2005

In a related story, Michael Jackson
has admitted to being a little weird

I'm so sorry to be the one to have to tell you this ... I hope you're sitting down. It seems that, well ... Courtney Love has admitted to using drugs.

I know, it's disillusioning. Sigh ... This is just how I felt when I found out Liberace was gay.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

They were finally issued after months
of grueling tests with Christina Aguilera

You've got to hand it to the British. First they made all those amazing advances in tea, and now they've issued their soldiers germ-fighting underwear. If only I'd had those in the fifth grade, my entire social life might have been different. I'd rather not get into the details.

But the underwear does more than keep germs out of your underpants, which, frankly, would probably be enough. According to a representative of the Ministry of Defense, the underwear "is coated to prevent bacterial infection and we have tried to arrange the seams so that they don't chafe." This would come in especially handy in foxholes, or for civilians, spending an entire playoff season glued to your couch in the same shorts and lucky "Pat Patriot" T-shirt.

Meanwhile, it's safe to assume that terrorists are cursing this blow to their plan to give the entire free world a nasty rash.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

So Johnny, if you're ever
exposed to gamma radiation
and turned into a hulking monster,
remember, that's no reason to be rude


Mmmmm! Hamburgers make Hulk forget he's
a mindless creature consumed by rage!


Now, if I remember my comic books correctly, the Incredible Hulk was raging, violent maniac, prone to smashing anything (cars, buildings, that supervillain with the huge forehead) that got in his way. So should I find it disturbing that there appears to be a series of children's books in which the Hulk helps kids learn good manners? In a treehouse? While eating hamburgers and french fries? With "Spider-Girl"?

I'm against the whole thing. First of all, Hulk wouldn't be caught dead in a treehouse, unless he was smashing it into little splinters in a gamma ray-induced explosion of anger. Second, he wouldn't say "please" or "thank you" under any circumstances; he would say "Hulk smash!" Or if it was the TV show he would say "ARRRRRGHHH!" But not in a polite way.

All I know is, if the Hulk of the comic books, or the TV show, or the horrible movie in which Nick Nolte turns into a giant, energy-sucking jellyfish, acted in a polite manner, that wouldn't have been good for anybody. Except possibly those people who kept beating up Bill Bixby every week.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Could be Jesus ... Could be
Gabe Kaplan. You make the call.

Now, I'm no theologian, but even if I was I think I would be hard pressed to figure out why Jesus has taken to appearing on pierogis. If the question is, "What Would Jesus Do?", is it really possible that the answer is, "Appear on a Polish dumpling in Toledo"?

What's even more disturbing, though, is that the pierogi in question has been snatched up by GoldenPalace.com, the same Internet casino that bought the cheese sandwich that looked like the Virgin Mary. If Jesus were among us today, I don't think he'd like the idea of Internet casinos any more than he liked money lenders hanging around the Temple. Actual casinos he probably wouldn't have a problem with, because at least at those there's a floor show.

Anyway, all I know is, if Jesus shows up on a knish next, I'm going to be really confused.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

This week's column:
In N.Y., no west for the weary

Living so close to Boston, I can't help but feel connected to the early history of our country. Bostonians are acutely aware of the path our Founding Fathers took toward independence, primarily because it's conveniently painted red so you can find it again if you take a detour to ride on the Duck Boats.

But one era I don't feel in touch with is the Old West - this despite the fact that my daughter's new idol is none other than Charles "Pa" Ingalls of "Little House on the Prairie." (Whom I recently discovered took his family to the Kansas prairie to escape the hustle-bustle of ... Wisconsin? That Pa really must have had a really low threshold for hustle-bustle.)

So with Pa as inspiration, last week I took my family and headed west. To New York.

To read the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

It's a good thing he wasn't a
Looney Tunes fan, or someone
would be under an anvil right now

I always said those Stooges would lead to no good. If that boy had had access to a roomful of pies and a seltzer bottle, who knows what damage he could have done.

(I was always more of a Marx Bros. fan myself.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

As Chewbacca said when he
was trying to repair the hyperdrive, 'WAAAAAUUUUUUGGGH!'

I don’t believe it. Somebody beat me to the idea of doing a one-man show that reenacts the entire Star Wars trilogy. And after all these years I’ve spent practicing it in the shower.

Still, I’ve got to hand it to Charles Ross, who seems to actually be making a living by acting out his geek fantasies, unlike that poor “Star Wars Kid” whose light saber battle was distributed all over the Internet a few years back. All he got was a painfully embarrassing adolescence. I mean, even more painfully embarrassing than all the other Star Wars fans.

Anyway, they won’t catch me off guard twice. The Star Wars idea may be taken, but watch for my one-man reenactment of the entire 1980s output of John Cusack coming soon to a theater near you. A few more months practicing holding that boom box over my head and I should be all set.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Monday, August 08, 2005

What the boys didn't know
was that Uncle Jesse was
cookin' up a plan of his own ...


Now, those are Dukes!

Well, "The Dukes of Hazzard" is a huge hit at the box office, despite the fact that the guy who played "Cooter" on TV said that people should't go see it. Thus proving a cinematic truism: Nobody listens to the guy who played "Cooter."

The former Cooter's problem was that based on a script he'd seen, he thought the new version did too much sexing up of the wholesome family show he'd been a part of. (You know, the wholesome family show about moonshiners who may or may not have been in love with their barely dressed cousin.) Not having seen it I can't speak to whether or not it's trashier than the original, but I think it's safe to say the fans concerned that it might overdo the psychological ennui can breathe a sigh of relief.

Personally, as someone who after watching the show at age 11 has spent the rest of his life battling the urge to enter and exit his car through the window, I tend to agree with Cooter that the original is not to be trifled with. (I think we can all agree that Johnny Knoxville is no Mr. Tom Wopat.) But I'm still glad it's a hit, if only because that could possibly lead to a big-screen "BJ and the Bear."

Casting suggestions, anyone? I see Nicholson as Sheriff Lobo.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

This week's column:
Science sticks it to the dieting craze

I’d like to announce that, for the first time in recently memory, I’ve managed to drop several pounds. (By "several" I mean more than two, less than a regulation-sized bowling ball.)

Unfortunately, it seems my timing couldn’t be worse. After spending weeks dropping the weight by giving up some of the little treats that I love so much, like insatiable binge eating, I read that I could have done it by just getting a needle in the stomach. And you know that old saying: Who needs a healthy diet when you can get a needle in the stomach?

Yes, Reuters reported last week that researchers at Imperial College London believe an injection of a natural digestive hormone into the small intestine could actually help people lose weight. Primarily obese people, but remember, studies show that in America that will soon include everyone except Paris Hilton. (And how long can she hold out? One Big Mac and she’d probably blow up like the blueberry girl in Willy Wonka.)

For the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Like 'City Slickers,' except
I'm coming from a suburb

Off, inexplicably, to a dude ranch in N.Y. for three days with the family starting tomorrow. I know I am in fact a dude, because about 20 minutes after my recent column on the dangers of flip-flops was published, I received an e-mail from a gentleman by the name of Barefoot Ted that read, in full, "Dude, take off your shoes and learn to live a little."

Apparently Barefoot Ted likes to climb mountains without shoes on; this reminds me of the people who insist on climbing Mt. Everest without the little oxygen tanks. They all need to get in more.

Regardless, if I wind up riding a horse, barefoot, bareback or otherwise bare, you'll read about it here this weekend. If I get trampled, you'll know why you haven't heard from me.