Thursday, December 27, 2007

At Large Special: What's In and What's Out for 2008

Let’s face it: It’s harder than ever to keep up with what’s in and what’s out in this ever-changing world. Fads take off and burn out before you even have a chance to notice them, raising the question: If a fad burns out in the forest and people are too busy programming their DVRs to notice, is it still a fad?

Be that as it may, you can stop worrying: Your guide to society, politics, fashion, the arts and life in general is here. Just be forewarned — these may all have changed by 180 degrees by the time you read this. Flip-flopping is in.

See the regular version here, or (for you brave souls with enough bandwith) the entire 7 MB PDF package here.

Monday, December 24, 2007

This week's column:
Singing a new 'Christmas 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,” including 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.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

This week's column:
Don't let holiday stress go to your head

As you may have heard, the holidays are a stressful time. For instance, there’s the stress of accidentally referring to them as something other than “the holidays” and offending someone who actually celebrates, say, Boxing Day. Boxers are notoriously touchy.

But that’s not the only source of holiday stress. There’s also a lot of financial anxiety, particularly in my household where we’ve made a pledge not to use our credit cards for holiday shopping this year. This is proving problematic, unless we can turn up retailers willing to exchange gifts for colorful beads. Or perhaps you’re anxious about how your neighbors had, by Thanksgiving, meticulously placed thousands of tasteful holiday decorations around their property, while your single strand of shag lights remains tangled in your garage, possibly inhabited by rabbits.

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

If only they'd mentioned something sooner

'Tis the season -- no, not for holiday cheer, although I've heard tell of that too. I'm referring to the annual announcement of the wackiest warning label! Yes, it's here already.

And this year's is a keeper: A label on a small tractor that warns, "Danger: Avoid Death." I like how it has almost a homespun quality, like something your old Pappy might have imparted from his front-porch rocker before your first go-around with the family thresher.

And it of course serves its ultimate purpose, which is to avoid a lawsuit. Not so all those other products that don't include a warning against their death-causing properties, namely ... well, anything that can be half-swallowed, dropped on your head from a great height or accidentally inserted into an artery.

The other winners include "Do not iron while wearing shirt" and "Do not put child in bag," but I'm still waiting for the one that says "Danger: You are an idiot." Actually, that would make a good T-shirt.

Monday, December 03, 2007

This week's column:
Some Santa ho-ho's and no-no's

MEMO
To: Mall Santas
From: Management

Welcome aboard in your new role as one of “Santa’s Helpers.” Please review the following guidelines carefully, so that the mall and its patrons can have a happy, healthy and non-litigious holiday season.

1.) As you’ve no doubt heard, “Ho Ho Ho” is no longer considered an acceptable holiday greeting, having been deemed potentially offensive to women and gardeners. The substitute “Ha Ha Ha” has also been banned, as it is possibly damaging to a child’s self-esteem. Also, Santas overheard saying “Merry Christmas” will be summarily removed from the premises.

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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thank God Peter Jennings
didn't live to see this

Lest you think that ABC News is no longer interested in the big stories, they've come up with something sure to catch the Pulitzer committee's eye, presuming that the Pulitzer committee has an eye for naked pregnant women, and let's face it, who doesn't? Yes, ABC has compiled a photo gallery of naked pregnant woman magazine covers. No word on the rationale behind it -- they're apparently letting the naked pregnant woman magazine covers speak for themselves -- but rumor has it that the intern who got the assignment responded with an immediate, "Sweet!"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

When Kirk says, 'Let's get the
hell out of here,' I still get misty

Sorry to interrupt, but I'm just bursting with excitement and had to share: I just got, not one, not two, but three personal e-mail messages from Joan Collins! Yes, they were all exactly the same, but I do know that they were each a personal message from Joan Collins, because all three subject lines said, "Personal message from Joan Collins," and the "From" line said "Joan Collins." (Her e-mail address is joancollins @atlanticoptical.co.uk, by the way, for those of you who want to write to her to rave about "Empire of the Ants" [1977].)

But why would Joan Collins be sending a personal message to me, Peter Chianca? I can't recall ever meeting Joan Collins, or having any business dealings with her, or watching any of her movies or TV shows. (Except of course for her guest spot on "Star Trek.") Well, in her personal message she writes, "Just like all my screen and stage characters, I love making a grand entrance. So I simply can't let the launch of my new jewelry collection go by without a personal word to mark the occasion." OK, but I find it surprising that she'd take time to write me about this, and I didn't hear word one from her when she got that guest spot on "Guiding Light."

Then I read the kicker: "It would be wonderful if you would pass on the news to your readers. Eddie Deutsch in NY can fill you in on all the details for the attached Press Release." Oh, so that's how it's going to be, is it, Joan? Entice me with your "personal message" and then shill for some cheap press. How could you?

Now I know how Peter Holme felt ....

Monday, November 26, 2007

Now, this won't hurt
a bit, Mr. Vice President

This just in: Doctors had to administer electrical shocks to Vice President Dick Cheney this afternoon to correct an irregular heartbeat discovered during a routine physical. Normally a "low-risk" procedure, doctors in this case apparently ran into unsuspected problems and had to shock Cheney more than 30 times. "He took it like a man," said Dr. Zayd Eldadah, an electrophysiologist and director of cardiac arrhythmia research at Washington Hospital Center, adding that Cheney remained stoic even after they had to attach the electrodes to his nipples, his ears and his private area. "But then when we tied him to a board and poured water on his face, he sang like a canary."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

This week's column:
More things to be thankful for

I smell gravy, and you know what that means: It’s the time of year when we should all take a moment to consider some of the things we should be thankful for. Sure, there’s family and friends and good health and all that, but there are also the little things that are so important, like the fact that you live in a country where no one can force you to see “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.”

To that end, take some time this Thanksgiving week to consider the following pieces of good fortune:

  • You don’t have to walk around with an asterisk next to your name.
  • You’re not running against Hillary.
  • Jerry Lewis hasn’t called you any names on national TV.
  • Gen. Pervez Musharraf hasn’t put you under house arrest.
  • No one has illegally wiretapped your phone (that you know of).
To read the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

This week's column:
Where no Winona has gone before


Is it me, or does the casting of Winona Ryder in the new “Star Trek” movie — in Jane Wyatt’s old role as Spock’s mother — smack of franchise reboot desperation? It’s sort of like when they were trying to come up with an idea for a fourth “Alien” movie and hired … Winona Ryder. All we’re missing is Jennifer Love Hewitt as a Tribble.

Unfortunately, this is all part of a trend. It seems Hollywood has decided that the stars of the shows and movies of the ’60s and ’70s just weren’t good looking enough, and they all need to be redone with more attractive people. (Or, in the case of Gabe Kaplan, with gangsta rapper Ice Cube, who is slated to appear in a “Welcome Back Kotter” movie. I can’t wait to hear him ask Julie if he ever told her about his Uncle Morty who got a cap popped in his tuchus.)

Granted, “Star Trek” did have one of the most generally unattractive casts in the history of television, presumably to make William Shatner look as good as possible. I’m figuring this was in his contract, along with always having his trailer fully stocked with Joan Collins.

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

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I always knew there was a hidden
agenda to all that holiday cheer

Given that I know kids who spent a good portion of their childhood being taunted on the playground with nicknames like “Sir Fats-a-Lot” and “Chubba the Hutt" (um ... not me, other people), I like to always be sensitive to situations that might make a kid feel ostracized. But I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that most children, even those of the non-Santa-believing variety, can get through a production of “Miracle on 34th Street” with an acceptably low number of emotional scars.

As you’ve may have heard, a Massachusetts middle school principal canceled a field trip to the show after a parent complained, saying that the play’s “basic theme is objectionable” to some members of the school community. At first I wasn't so sure which theme they were referring to: kindness, generosity, tolerance, the effectiveness of the U.S. Postal Service? Throw me a bone here.

Well, of course the offensive theme was Santa Claus, even though we can presume that kids of most backgrounds have probably heard of him by this point. And even non-Christians could probably walk away from the show with a more universal message than “Christianity, good; everything else, bad.” Just like people from all walks of life can still appreciate “Fiddler on the Roof” or “Buddha: The Musical.” (I just made that last one up, but it sounds like a good idea.)

But that’s apparently no longer the world we live in, so I decided I should probably dig out mylist of other offensive plays to avoid, for easy reference by other concerned middle school principals:
  • "Annie," offensive to orphans.
  • "Oliver," also orphans.
  • "Cats," to cats.
  • "My Fair Lady," Liverpudlians.
  • "Oklahoma," men named "Curly."
  • "The Sound of Music," Nazis. Also nuns.
  • "Grease," anyone with taste.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Up next: Chihuahuas on heroin

Sometimes in journalism, we complain when the writer of a particular story "buries the lead." The writer of this story did not do that:

GAUHATI, India — Paris Hilton is being praised by conservationists for highlighting the problem of binge-drinking elephants in northeastern India.

It's nice to see that Paris has finally taken up a worthy humanitarian cause, despite great personal risk: One of those babies inhales hard enough and it's nothing but trunk for Paris.

UPDATE: Remember that whole thing about Paris highlighting the problem of binge-drinking elephants in northeastern India? That story was apparently slightly erroneous.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

This week's column:
Has Springsteen met his Montana?


I’m always looking for ways to bond with my 8-year-old daughter, Jackie. I used to do this by helping her with her homework, until it got too hard for me: Her most recent assignment was to devise and write out her own word problems and then solve them using complete sentences, which I believe is the prerequisite for a PhD in applied mathematics.

Luckily, a new common interest has come up: Our love of music. Not that we love the same music, but it just so happens that her favorite artist and mine currently have the top two tours in the country — I’m talking of course about Hannah Montana and Bruce Springsteen. (And for those of you who think the top tour is Van Halen, all I have to say is that even when he’s 75, I will keep my daughter away from David Lee Roth at all costs.)

My fixation on all things Springsteen, and in particular with seeing him in concert, dates back to the early ’80s, when as a young teen I had a chance to see him with a local youth group. Unfortunately, my parents nixed the idea based on the fact that the bus would get back basically in the middle of the night. “Besides, you just saw that Huey Lewis,” they pointed out. Since then I’ve been searching for a rock critic who has said, “I have seen rock ’n’ roll’s future, and its name is Huey Lewis,” so the scars can start to heal.

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

And to visit my new Springsteen blog, click here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Rupert? What are you doing down there?

In one of the weirdest stories, well, ever, a former priest from Stoneham, Mass. (just a hop, skip and a Hail Mary away from where I live, incidentally) has been arrested for stalking late-night talk show host Conan O'Brien. I'm not positive, but I think stalking is considered a sin, even if it's not one of those seven deadly ones.

The Rev. David Ajemian is being held without bail this week after being arrested in New York for allegedly stalking O’Brien, in a scenario that seems oddly reminiscent of Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy" -- if Rupert Pupkin had been a priest instead of a stand-up comedian, that is. I smell sequel!
He signed many of the correspondence “Padre” or “Padre 009,” and in one dated Feb. 20 said “This is your priest stalker again.” Ajemian went on to write, “This is the way you treat your most dangerous fans? You owe me big time pal. I want a public confession before I even consider giving you absolution. Or else a spot on your couch.”
Oddly enough, that's how Andy Richter got the job.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's scary how much this
captures Massachusetts

You don't have to be from Medford, Mass. (or Meffa, as the locals like to call it) to appreciate 17-year-old Michael Maloney's ode to his fair city, "The Long and Winding Road to Medford." If you've ever known anybody from Medford, have driven through Medford or even just heard of Medford, or hell, even just Massachusetts, this thing will crack you up. Which is probably WROR radio handed him over a $5,000 check for it.

Do yourself a favor and Listen here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

This could have serious repercussions
on the one decent TV show

Oh no! The Writer's Guild of America has gone on strike! Now I'll have to spend my nights watching old "Seinfeld" and "Wings" reruns instead of the networks' highly publicized new shows! Oh wait, I'm already doing that.

Hence the Writer's Guild's problem: It's hard to engender public sympathy when most of the stuff you're writing makes people turn their heads away from the TV screen in a mixture of embarrassment and pity. (Yes, I'm referring to "Back to You." Somewhere, Frasier Crane is turning over in his fictional sitcom grave.)

So here's what I propose as a reasonable settlement, in three easy steps:
  1. Take all the money;
  2. Give it to the people who write "The Office";
  3. That's it.
As for the film writers, here's all I know about that: Somewhere out there is the guy who wrote "Underdog." He should be paying me.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

This week's column:
Yes I like it, SPAM-I-am


As my regular readers know, I like to reserve this space for tackling only the most pressing issues facing our society today. So in trying to determine this week’s topic, I spent hours perusing the country’s finest periodicals, most timely Web sites and most respected newspapers. That’s when I remembered the two-month-old box of SPAM sitting under a pile of papers on my credenza.

Yes, the makers of SPAM sent me this box back in August to promote their new “SPAM Singles,” presumably because they realized that people might prefer their SPAM in handy single-serving pouches rather than in a large chunk that, once opened, might devour an entire city before authorities can freeze it and drop it in Antarctica. But don’t worry, the singles still have the same great SPAM ingredients: ham, pork, sugar, salt and water. And the difference between ham and pork? I’m guessing you don’t want to know.

(By the way, the Hormel company likes to use all capital letters when referring to its SPAM products, to differentiate it from spam, the unsolicited commercial e-mail. They’ve apparently accepted the fact that their product name is now being used as a slang term for one of the most annoying things ever invented, but will only sue you if you try to make money from it. So if you send spam about SPAM, you can get into trouble — better stick to spam about enlarging people’s private areas.)

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

And listen to my official SPAM taste test here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

When there's no more room in hell, the dead will head straight for Lansing, Mich.

Before that pleasant Halloween glow wears off completely, we think it's appropriate to ask one very important question: Should the situation arise, is your city prepared for a zombie attack? Don't laugh: Lansing, Michigan is.
"We have been doing mock disasters and cross training for several years," said Lansing Police Lt. Bruce Ferguson. "People can feel confident, if zombies start invading, we'll know how to close the streets. We can get chainsaws too."
You can only hope that the cities and towns in your area have put in place similar contingencies, and are ready to form their own "coalition of the willing" -- willing to kick some zombie butt, that is!

OK, go back to what you were doing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Is there anybody ALIVE out there? (Vol. II)

So what did you get? We got about a hundred Kit-Kats, several gummi body parts and a lot of Twizzlers. Also, stomach aches for everybody!

Hope your Halloween was rockin', like it was for the folks lucky enough to be at the L.A. Sports Arena last night:












Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Miley Cyrus' real name is 'Destiny'! Give me tickets!

The kerfuffle over the quick sellouts and huge scalper prizes for Hannah Montana tickets (at last check hordes of suburban mothers had trapped Ticketmaster executives in their West Hollywood headquarters and were waiting for them to come out in search of food so they could kill them and eat them) has yielded at least one good suggestion: Someone has proposed asking people questions about their favorite artists which they must answer correctly before they're allowed to buy tickets.

I want to go down on the record as wholeheartedly in favor of this idea, and not only because I'm tickled at the thought of people holed up in their kitchens cramming Van Halen trivia like Ralph Kramden preparing for his appearance on "The $99,000 Answer." No, I just want someone to finally reward me for all my useless and pointless knowledge. (See -- just knowing that last phrase could have gotten me into the last Dylan concert.)

I'm still in the building


Well, the annual list of top-earning dead celebrities is out, and once again Elvis made more money than me, despite being deceased. On the other hand, he's still dead, so I do have that over him.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Wait ... Was he one of the Wonder Twins?

Seems to me I should be more excited about the Green Lantern movie. He's green! He flies! He shoots a big green hand out of his ring! He's impervious to everything except half-naked space tramps! Wait, I meant to say he's impervious to everything except the color yellow. My bad.

But something about him never seemed that cool to me. Maybe it was the fact that he got all his power from a ring, which means pretty much anybody could be a Green Lantern. That said, I'll still take Green Lantern over certain other superheroes. I think you know who I mean.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Somehow I thought it
would be a little warmer here

Excuse the lack of blogging this week: I forgot to mention that I'm on vacation. I'm currently on a tour of the extensive cave systems of Borneo with my native guide, Ibnu, and definitely not sitting on my couch in my pajamas watching the Red Sox trounce Colorado. Anyway, I'll be back in regular posting mode next week. In the meantime, rock on, viral video stars!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Faith will be rewarded



Spotted on the message board at Backstreets.com, the Springsteen fan site:

For anyone interested, the topic of discussion at the First Parish Universalist Church in Stoughton, Massachusetts on Sunday, October 28 will be "Springsteen's Magic". Come on down and listen to some of Bruce's music (and a thoughtful consideration thereof) in a far-from-usual setting. All are welcome. The service starts at 10:30 (that's AM), and the church is located at 790 Washington Street in beautiful Stoughton Square (at the intersection of Rt. 138, 139 & 27). Free coffee and goodies afterwards, too. And good conversation. Thanks! Rev. Jeff S.

See, now that's how you get parishioners down to church. None of this "going to hell" stuff. Unfortunately the post has drawn some mindless U.U. bashing, which just shows that there are even morons among Springsteen fans. They're the same ones hoisting jumbo beers and high-fiving their former fraternity brothers as they scream "Play 'Thunder Road'!" during the slow songs.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

This week's column:
Take my robot wife, please

You can stop wondering, because the rumors are true: In the future, people will be allowed to marry robots. Finally, we’ll be able to avoid all the drawbacks that come with marrying another human! This will surely be worth the minor tradeoffs, like increased risk of electrocution.

Yes, according to artificial intelligence researcher David Levy, robot marriages are inevitable. He cites the fact that human affection was at first reserved only for other humans, “then it expanded to include pet animals, then virtual pets,” with robots being the logical next step. Levy expounds upon this theory in his new book “Love and Sex with Robots,” which is one of those books you probably don’t want to leave out on the coffee table if Mom is having her friends over to play Mah Jongg. (“Nu, sex with robots?”)

Granted, there are certain issues you can take with Levy’s logic. For one, you don’t hear of many people wanting to marry their pets, even if they do love them more than their actual spouses. As for virtual pets, the reason people love them so much is because they don’t have to follow them around with a plastic bag — that seems like setting the bar a little low when it comes to choosing a life mate.

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

Saturday, October 20, 2007

We should have known this would happen

R.I.P., Iggy.

I don't know ... You'd think
he'd be much better groomed

This just in: J.K. Rowling has announced that Dumbledore is gay! Because apparently she thought that she could be just a little more unpopular with devout Christians.

In a related story, Rowling has decided that now that she doesn't have anything left to write, she's just going to spend the rest of her life just messing with us.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Although I guess what I
really miss is Lee Majors

I finally got around to watching a little bit of the new NBC hit "Bionic Woman" show last night, and I have to say, I'm still a little disoriented, like I just got off the teacups at Storyland. Is it me, or was bionic action a lot easier to follow back when they did everything in slow motion?

Also, what happened to that beep-beep-beep sproing-sproing-sproing sound you used to hear whenever Jaime jumped over a wall or threw somebody across a room? I liked that beep-beep-beep sproing-sproing-sproing -- it let you know what was happening even if you were only sort of half paying attention. Say, if you were also doing a Mad Libs and drinking Tab.

Sigh ... I miss the '70s.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Also, Ellen has threatened to cry again

I know that yesterday I neglected to comment in detail on the controversy over Ellen's dog, enamored as I was with the news of the new Hardee's Country Breakfast Burrito. And while I still think that the latter is easily the most important Breakfast Burrito story so far this year, I can no longer remain silent on the Ellen-dog issue.

You have probably heard that the Mutts and Moms dog adoption agency (motto: "Just try to get one of our dogs") is now receiving death threats after refusing to return the dog, Iggy, to Ellen's hairdresser. To which I respond: What did they expect, messing with Ellen fans? These are violent, desperate individuals. If "Ellen" had been on in 1969, these are the people they would have recruited to do security at Altamont.

We can only hope this ends peacefully, and not with Ellen's studio audience marching on Mutts and Moms with torches and pitchforks, like they do every Friday afternoon at Anne Heche's house.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This is what God had in mind
when he invented the burrito


Yes, I know there are important things happening in the world today, such as the crisis over Ellen DeGeneres' dog, in which the dog was removed from the family of Ellen's hairdresser because it is a lesbian.

But how can we dwell on such things when today also happens to be the day that Hardee's unveiled its 920-calorie, 60-grams-of-fat Country Breakfast Burrito? (It of the two egg omelets filled with bacon, sausage, diced ham, cheddar cheese, hash browns and sausage gravy, all wrapped inside a flour tortilla. No, it's not deep fried -- yet.)

Hardee's is just tickled with itself at having come up with this idea, noting that "It makes this big country breakfast portable." This comes in especially handy for farmers who'd like to eat their two egg omelets filled with bacon, sausage, diced ham, cheddar cheese, hash browns and sausage gravy while driving their tractor, so they can get all their plowing done and still have time for their heart attack.

But leave it to the namby-pambys at the Center for Science in the Public Interest to rain on Hardee's sausage and diced ham-filled parade, calling fast-food items like the burrito "food porn." Which is absolutely, definitely a movie I don't want to see.

Monday, October 15, 2007

You know, I'm starting to think she says these things just for the shock value

This time Ann Coulter has gone too far.

Key quote:
"What's the deal with all these orphans?" she asked. "Do these dirty little losers think they actually deserve parents?"

Somehow, Bill O'Reilly will
find this anti-American

So Springsteen invites members of Arcade Fire up on stage with him in Ottawa -- and then sings one of their songs. In a related story, the guy from the Hold Steady's head exploded from jealousy.

Here's the fan video:

Sunday, October 14, 2007

This week's column:
Suing my way to a better life

Looking at my bank statement last month, I couldn’t help but wonder why there wasn’t more money in there. At first I thought it might have something to do with my lack of ability at anything particularly lucrative, or my debilitating shortage of ambition. But then I realized it’s probably due to the fact that I’ve never sued anybody. What was I thinking?

Why I’ve been so determined to navigate life’s challenges in a non-litigious fashion is beyond me (probably a poor upbringing), but I’ve decided that from now on, my soon-to-be-procured lawyer will be No. 1 on the speed dial I have yet to figure out how to program. That way I too can be like the Croatian woman who, according to Ananova.com, is suing her 10-year-old son’s teachers for giving him bad grades. If this works out I suggest that she follow up by suing Croatia, just for existing.

Of course, the teachers have a slick legal defense, namely that they gave the boy bad marks because he is a poor student. Now, we know an American jury would see right through that flimsy excuse, but we can only hope that the Croatian justice system is as perceptive. On the plus side, I’m guessing that in Croatia the teachers are much more likely to be given a punishment involving wall shackles.

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

Thursday, October 11, 2007

We're living in a material world,
and she is a material ... something

Thank you, Live Nation! Thanks to your $120 million deal with Madonna, we've pretty much been assured that we're going to look up in 20 years and see a wrinkly old lady dancing around in a cone bra.

Please, everyone, close your eyes and pray that she reinvents herself as a folk singer. She can just sit on a stool for that.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

But if the mistress turns out
to be Larry Craig, all bets are off

Yes, we all know that the last time I chose not to believe something reported by the National Enquirer, they made me look like an idiot. But as I've said time and time again: That is not hard to do.

So I am choosing again NOT to believe their latest report, that John Edwards, the Southern Baptist with a wife battling cancer, had an affair on the campaign trail. Not that the Enquirer doesn't have a reliable source: an unnamed woman who forwarded e-mails from the alleged mistress, who refused to comment about the story. You'd have to be a technical genius to fake an e-mail from someone nobody ever heard of.

The story came to light when Ann Coulter mentioned it on MSNBC, just before rubbing her chalk-white bony hands together and eating a live weevil. But until I hear it from someone reliable, like the guy who sold his soul to the devil to run TMZ.com, I'm going to continue to believe that John Edwards cares only about the poor and the disappearing middle class, as opposed to harlotty campaign strumpets.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Of course, I missed the beginning --
it took me 20 minutes to find MSNBC

Quick thoughts on the Republican presidential candidate debate:
  • GOP savior Fred Thompson turns out to be about as charismatic as your old high school social studies teacher who couldn't get enough of hearing himself talk about feudalism.
  • Mitt Romney is shocked and appalled. About what? Whatever you want him to be shocked and appalled about.
  • Within minutes of Rudy Giuliani's election as president, Tehran will be a smoking crater.
  • Ron Paul -- he's a Democrat, right?
  • I may have dreamed this, but I would swear Mike Huckabee said he plans to institute a pimp tax.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Meanwhile, Billy Ray Cyrus tickets
continue to sell for 1/3 of face value

OK, so let me get this straight: Ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, I've been watching Springsteen shows sell out in eight minutes (often to my own person exclusion) only to see tickets pop up online minutes later for the price of a used Volvo. But no matter how much Eddie Vedder and I complained, law enforcement refused to do anything about it, claiming they were too busy prosecuting, you know, crimes.

But a few kids miss out on Hannah Montana tickets, and suddenly, the entire justice system is up in arms. Attorneys general in Connecticut, Missouri and Arkansas are launching investigations, and scalpers beware: At least one of those AGs -- Dustin McDaniel of Arkansas -- has a daughter who watches the Disney Channel. And you know what they say on the street: Keep Hannah Montana tickets away from an AG's daughter, go to jail. Or something like that.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

This week's column:
Scaring up a costume drama

Halloween costumes just aren’t what they used to be. I think I first realized this when I was telling my 6- and 8-year-old kids Tim and Jackie about my go-to childhood get-up, the venerable “Hobo.” “What the heck’s a hobo?” they asked simultaneously, with that dubious look they get whenever I try to explain something from my long-gone childhood, like the LP or broadcast television.

“Well, it’s sort of …” I began eruditely. “I guess you could say it’s a person …” It was there, in mid-sentence, that I realized I was about to explain to my children about the times I went trick-or-treating dressed as a homeless person. Never mind that it was back when vagabonds were romantic and endearing, like chain smokers: These days, that’s a tough sell.

Of course, the downtrodden are no longer considered acceptable costume fodder. But you can (and, most likely, you will) get your kids basically anything else these days, from princess to pop star to Power Ranger, all with the most sophisticated accoutrements.

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

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bruuuuuuuuce

OK, I've been listening to "Magic" for two days now, and I have to agree with EW: Bruce Springsteen is back in the masterpiece business. Yes, yes, I know, I'm the guy who loves his mumbly solo acoustic albums, who downloaded his duets with Sam Moore and Jerry Lee Lewis, who did little giddy backflips over his Pete Seeger covers. But I am somewhat discerning: I didn't start liking "Human Touch" until about 2002. (What? "Soul Driver" grows on you.)

But what I'm really looking forward to is the live show, which hits Boston Nov. 18-19. Apparently he's planning some interesting tour debuts.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

We know you need to justify
all the grant money, but come on

Further proof that paleontologists are just making things up as they go: Now they've gone and "discovered" a giant duck-billed dinosaur with more than 800 teeth. "It really is like the Arnold Schwarzenegger of dinosaurs — it's all pumped up," ad-libbed Scott Sampson, curator of the Utah Museum of Natural History, before trotting off to high-five his paleontologist buddies and come up with more dinosaurs out of thin air. (Suggestion: How about one with giant flippers and the head of Fred Thompson? Now that I'd like to see.)

Monday, October 01, 2007

I think Helio Castroneves
was one of the Three Tenors

I'll admit it: I have no idea who three quarters of the people on "Dancing with the Stars" are this season. Yes, I'm aware of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and Marie Osmond (who used to be a little bit country, but is now a whole lotta annoying), and of course Wayne Newton, whose signed copy of "Mr. Las Vegas" I most assuredly do not have under my mattress. I don't care what you've heard.

But I wouldn't know the rest of these people if I paso dobled over them. So does that make me hopelessly out of touch, or is it possible that ... they're not actually stars? Naaaaah.

Meanwhile, this won't be a dilemma next season, which is already slated to include some real stars.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

This week's column:
Setzer's in a classical by himself

Sometimes I find myself wondering, what is it about me that I can’t truly appreciate classical music? Is it a gene thing? Did Mozart make a rude gesture at me during a past life? As a small child, was I frightened by an oboe? It’s a mystery.

Regardless, I can’t seem to listen to it for more than a few minutes at a time without my mind wandering and my vision starting to glaze over — sort of like when I try to listen to BBC Radio on NPR, which on more than one occasion has caused me to almost drive into a ditch. Not that I don’t think classical has its time and place, such as during that scene in “Die Hard” when they open the giant safe. I’m not a complete philistine.

So I admit my curiosity was piqued when I heard that the Brian Setzer Orchestra would be releasing an album made up entirely of big-band swing versions of famous classical compositions. I mean, just the concept alone raises a lot of questions, such as: If you listen to it closely enough, will you be able to hear Leonard Bernstein angrily smacking on the top of the coffin with his baton?

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

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rant of the week


Question: How is "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" still at the top of the bestseller list? Could there possibly be that many people just getting around to buying it now? ("Hmmm, this Harry Something-or-other book looks interesting ... Maybe I'll give this a shot!")

People, this has got to stop. There are other books out there. Case in point.

OK, keep buying Harry.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Is there anybody ALIVE out there?

OK, I can stop sweating now: I got behind-the-stage seats for Springsteen at the Garden in Boston. Behind-the-stage is fine with me -- it puts me in perfect position to yell out a warning in case it looks like Max is going to fall off his drum kit.

Still, the show sold out in what seemed like about eight minutes, with floor seats (or floor tickets, I should say, since Bruce makes all the people on the floor stand for the whole show, even though we're all old and have bad knees) going faster than you can say "convenience charges." Given all that, I find it particularly galling that Ticketmaster includes this advisory on the event page:
There is a FOUR (4) ticket limit during the first 3 hours of onsale; after the first 3 hours, there is an EIGHT (8) ticket limit per person.
The irony of course being that by the time three hours have passed, the tickets have long since sold out and the Ticketmaster executives have gone home to use the indoor pool they bought with all the "building maintenance" fees. This is clearly Ticketmaster's idea of humor, along with those stupid words they make you type in for "security," like "beshine."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

This week's column:
Stuff I learned this summer

Every year as the official start of autumn approaches, I like to take stock of the summer gone by. In years past, I’ve found that there are often valuable lessons to take away — things like, whether you order a “kiddie,” a “small” or a “large,” you will still be handed a soft-serve cone bigger than your head.

With that in mind, here’s what I learned this summer:

1.) The Disney trip never really ends. My family’s summer started with a trip to Walt Disney World, and almost three months later we’re still talking about it. On the one hand this is a good thing: It helps justify the inordinate amount of money you spent there on things with Goofy’s picture on them, even though they begin to taunt you the minute you take them out of your suitcase. (“I cost 80 dollars! Hahahahaha!!”)

On the other hand, it’s also fueled incessant conversation among my children about when the next Disney trip will be. They’re thinking next year, whereas I have it narrowed down to either when I’m a grandparent, or when I’m a time-traveling astronaut exploring its partially preserved ruins.

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

Thursday, September 20, 2007

That'll do pig ... That'll do

OJ, OJ, OJ ... Is there nothing else going on in the world? It's depressing ... If Larry King hadn't had to talk about this for the last three nights, he could have easily squeezed in at least one visit from Don Rickles.

Meanwhile, I vote for a complete OJ boycott in lieu of more important news stories. For instance, stories involving Chinese guys painting pigs' butts -- with photos!

Follow the link for details, but here's the key quote: "'The painted pigs, when they move around in a limited space, form many unexpected images,' a spokesman told the China News Network." I'm sure PeTA will love that; in fact, I hear Alicia Silverstone is on her way to China naked even as we speak.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

We hear 'casinos,' we think 'tasteful'

Attention gambling lovers of the Northeast: If you want your kids to be ready when three shiny new casinos open somewhere in Massachusetts, better get yourself to an arcade up in Salisbury or Hampton Beach. Did you know they have actual Las Vegas slot machines now? And I don't know about you, but nothing warms my heart like seeing my 8-year-old daughter feeding tokens into the Double Diamonds. All that's missing is the cigarette and the portable oxygen machine.

Meanwhile, you can find the latest on Gov. Deval Patrick's casino proposals here. I know it's making everybody nervous about things like gambling addiction, crime, prostitution and the possibility that at least one of them will be run by James Caan, but don't worry: The governor only wants casinos that are “tasteful and appropriate."

Clearly the governor has not been to Vegas lately.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I'll take '3'

A pre-autumn quiz: What's the best part about the end of summer?
  1. Less sand in your trunks.
  2. Britney stops wearing sequined bikinis in public.
  3. People aren't allowed to yell at you if you bring your dogs to the beach: