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:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This week's column
Take a walk on the pirate side

Even centuries after their heyday, it’s hard not to appreciate the appeal of pirates. After all, who can’t relate to roving bands of felons who, according to Wikipedia, “ate poorly, did not become fabulously wealthy, and died young.” (Keeping in mind, of course, that everything on Wikipedia is made up.) Also, they’re among the few brands of criminals who actually had their own flag, so you knew when they were coming. Nobody ever said they were bright.

My own personal exposure to pirates is limited to my role in my high school’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” in which I played the pirates’ nemesis, Major-General Stanley. But even though I knew it was only a play, I couldn’t help but feel an affinity to all the real-life 19th century major-generals whom pirates tried to murder while singing snappy Gilbert and Sullivan librettos. (In their defense, if I had to listen to all those verses of “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General,” I would have wanted to kill me too.)

I bring all this up because this is a busy time of year for fake pirates. First, Sept. 19 is “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” the day on which we’re encouraged to walk around saying “ye” instead of “you” and creating contractions that would make William Safire blush (or, say, “turn red’r th’n a buck’t o’ chum”).

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

Thursday, September 13, 2007

And we're not sure of this, but we think he may have been at the Watergate in 1972

Pivotal moments in Bill Belichick history:
  • March 16, 1960: Bill turns in a math test that looks remarkably similar to that of Suzy Cranmore, the girl who sits at the next desk. His teacher, Ms. Fran Seliwinsky, moves him to the other side of the classroom next to Bob "Stumpy" Federman. His grades slip immediately.
  • June 12, 1963: Bill's neighbor Frankie Driscoll accuses Bill of failing to acknowledge direct hits during a game of battleship. When he attempts to look at the board, Bill feigns tripping into it, knocking all the pieces loose. They wrestle.
  • Oct. 23, 1969: Bill's first girlfriend, MaryLou Stetson, finds an unfamiliar shade of lipstick on the collar of his letterman jacket. Bill pleads ignorance. She fines him $500,000 and two draft picks.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I blame global warming!

Am I the only one concerned about the spiders banding together to build a giant web in Texas? This can lead no place good.

If you haven't heard, the usually independent arachnids have been working together in harmony, creating a web that could, with relative ease, snare a Humvee. So why have they decided that now is the time to unionize? Some entomologists think it might be a fluke, but on the other hand, they probably never saw "Kingdom of the Spiders" (1977), starting William Shatner. Yes, I know: You'd think that would be required viewing in entomology school.

Then there's this choice quote:
"At first, it was so white it looked like fairyland," said Donna Garde, superintendent of the park about 45 miles east of Dallas. "Now it's filled with so many mosquitoes that it's turned a little brown. There are times you can literally hear the screech of millions of mosquitoes caught in those webs."
As much as I hate mosquitoes, it's only a matter of time before those mosquitoes are replaced by Rotarians. Don't say you weren't warned.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

And they don't mean it's making them happy

OK, I promise, this is the last post on "High School Musical," at least until they announce the next sequel or until another cast member poses naked. But I felt obligated to report this latest development: "High School Musical" is turning our children gay.

Suddenly, it all makes sense.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

This week's column:
NASA just needs a little space

OK, I’ll say it: NASA needs some better P.R. Between the astronauts wearing diapers and plotting murders and the ones getting toasted on flight days (“Drink up, dude, I’m taking this thing to the frickin’ moon!”), it seems we’ve forgotten what NASA is all about: spending billions of taxpayer dollars to take blurry pictures of, I don’t know, nebulas.

Just to recap, the alleged diaper-wearing, murder-planning astronaut, Lisa Nowak, has pleaded temporary insanity, saying that she has a variety of diagnosed mental illnesses that NASA somehow managed to overlook. In its defense, though, NASA did a fine job of making sure she was qualified for the 8-by-10 color shuttle crew glossy. (Say what you want about Nowak’s homicidal tendencies — you have to admit she looks smashing in orange.)

But in reviewing the Nowak matter, one investigator turned up reports of astronauts flying into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket while intoxicated. (Damn those cosmonauts and their well-stocked liquor cabinets!) NASA has since launched an internal investigation and declared the report to be an “urban legend,” which would also explain the astronaut who allegedly exploded after eating Pop Rocks and Coke.

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

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Damn those digital cameras!

OK, so it turns out I was totally wrong when I decided not to believe the Vanessa Hudgens naked pictures rumor. Her publicist has released a statement saying that the picture now circulating around the Internet is indeed the "High School Musical" star, but that it was "taken privately,” and "it is unfortunate that this has become public.” Proving once again that no matter how much publicists get paid, it's not enough.

So instead I've decided to take a different tack and declare that it's no big deal, on the following grounds:
  • These days, everybody has naked pictures of themselves on the Internet. This is why Al Gore invented it in the first place. If they'd had the Internet in the '80s, we'd have all had to suffer through naked pictures of Jeanne Kirkpatrick.
  • Given everything that Lindsay and Britney have done, a naked picture actually seems kind of quaint, like flapper skirts or Ingrid Bergman's pregnancy.
  • This may prompt Disney executives to take a good, hard look at the policies surrounding their performers, and finally decide to chain them in boxes and make them sleep in the studio.
Meanwhile, we can only hope that people will preserve the magic that is "High School Musical" by ignoring the offending image, which shouldn't be much of a problem. Those of us over 19 only have eyes for, well, you know.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Can I trade my old one in?

Well, Apple has done it again. That is, annoyed everyone who's shelled out big bucks for an iPod, only to have Apple release a better version a few months later. This is why I've always said you should put off buying an iPod, ideally until you are dead.

Meanwhile, that sound you hear is the thousands of people who bought their iPods yesterday slapping their palms against their foreheads. Of course, consumers won't stand for this forever. Someday we're going to stop greeting every new announcement by Steve Jobs with thunderous applause and sleeping on sidewalks for the first crack at the latest piece of Apple technology. Just not today, apparently.

To top things off, Apple cut the price of the just-released iPhone by $200, ostensibly to goose sales, but more likely to make the aforementioned sidewalk sleepers feel like idiots. 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.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Or (5), 'All of the Above'

Jerry Lewis' Greatest Hits -- Pick your favorite!
  1. "Jessie, the illiterate fag." (last weekend)
  2. "You don't want to be pitied for being a cripple in a wheelchair? Stay in your house." (2001)
  3. “A woman doing comedy doesn’t offend me, but sets me back a bit. I, as a viewer, have trouble with it. I think of her as a producing machine that brings babies into the world.” (2000)
  4. "Hey, laaaaaaaaadddddyyyyyy!!!" (1949-1972)

Monday, September 03, 2007

This week's column: An
impressive out-of-body of work

Here’s the thing about scientists: While most of us can only imagine advancements that would better humanity — like, say, a TV remote that would come when you called it — scientists actually find a way to make those advancements a reality. They do this because they want to make the world a better place, and also because they’ve got a lot of grant money.

Take this latest endeavor, for example. Apparently, scientists in Switzerland and Sweden have managed to induce out-of-body experiences in the laboratory. And you know what that means: Soon we may be able to have out-of-body experiences whenever we want them, instead of just sitting around hoping they might happen — say, when a certain co-worker corners you in the break room.

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