Saturday, August 29, 2009

On the road (movie) again

For my latest Farkakte Film Flashback over at, I look at some random examples of the venerable road movie, if To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar can be considered venerable. Other subjects of this random rewind include The Muppet Movie, which I propose could only be disliked by a sociopath, and From Dusk Till Dawn, which I theorize might have been made by a sociopath:
Technically this is only half a road movie, the other half being a people-turned-into-and / or-dismembered-by-vampires movie. I can’t say I actually like this movie so much as I’m fascinated by it: just when you think it can’t get any more amoral or disgusting, it throws in a scene where, say, a girl has to kill her own brother as he’s being devoured by vampire zombies. Who wants more popcorn?
See the whole darn thing here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

COLUMN: Back-to-school questions? Ask Mr. Education!

Each year around this time, we like to turn over this space to Mr. Education to answer your back-to-school questions.


Dear Mr. Education:

I’ve always driven my son to school, but he wants to ride the bus this year. Should I let him?

Hesitant in Harwich

Dear Hesitant:

Absolutely. He has to learn about human reproduction somewhere, and studies have shown that it’s cheaper to have him hear it on the bus than from HBO.

Dear Mr. Education:

I’m concerned because my kids love to play sports and their schools are increasing their “user fees.” What can I do?

Broke in Bennington

Dear Broke:

Never fear: Most school districts take multi-child families into account, and set rates accordingly. (For instance, one child, $200, two children, $400, three children, $600, and so on.) They also set “family caps,” in which you don’t pay more than a certain amount no matter how many kids you have, as long as you have at least 10.

Of course, some schools charge according to how much equipment is needed, which is why you should encourage soccer, swimming and/or naked rugby.

Dear Mr. Education:

I hear because of staffing cuts class sizes will be larger than ever this year. Will this affect my child’s education?

Concerned in Canton

Dear Concerned:

You may have heard the phrase “the more the merrier.” Well, that’s never truer than in a classroom when a teacher is trying to teach 27 kids of varying temperaments and abilities how to do long division. The “more” in this case refers to the amount of Xanax she is taking, but the principle is the same.

The only problem with larger classes is that overweight children sometimes can’t fit between the desks, but fortunately studies show that of all students, this only affects 70-80 percent. (Or 90, if you also include the ones who are just “big-boned.”)

Dear Mr. Education:

If childhood obesity is such an epidemic, why don’t they make school lunches healthier?

Skeptical in Saugus

Dear Skeptical:

Well, there are several reasons. One, the healthier the lunch is, the more likely it will be thrown at classmates, typically after being ground, with extreme prejudice, into a viscous paste.

Two, government subsidies are reliant upon the school cafeterias sticking to certain approved menus, meaning if they wanted healthier food they’d have to go up against the powerful breaded cheesy fish lobby, which is rumored to have killed Jimmy Hoffa, and then breaded him.

Dear Mr. Education:

I heard because of space limitations, some of my daughter’s classes will be held in school closets! How can she possibly learn in that environment?

Outraged in Ogunquit

Dear Outraged:

It’s disconcerting, but the good news is, most of the hazardous cleaning chemicals usually stored in these closets have been eliminated due to budget cuts. Many schools don’t even use cleaning products anymore — whenever something is deemed “dirty,” whatever janitor that hasn’t been laid off is instructed to simply pour sawdust on it, and wait for June to come.

Dear Mr. Education:

I’ve heard horrible stories about bullies in my child’s middle school. What can I do?

Nervous in Needham

Dear Nervous:

First of all, don’t worry. Most bullies rarely get beyond noogies and wedgies, although some guidance counselors do report seeing a resurgence of the purple nurple.

But you can still look for the signs. For instance, if your child comes home with his hair looking like the kid from Big Boy, you’ll know that, one, bullies have given him a “swirlie” by sticking his head in the toilet and flushing.

And two, they must have installed toilets on the buses.

Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England; this column appeared originally in North Shore Sunday. Follow him on Twitter at To receive At Large by e-mail, write to, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

AT LARGE Monday Night Link Roundup

Just try to tell the real news stories from the satire. I dare you.

• I knew someday he'd go too far: "Dylan Christmas Album 'Last Straw' For Folk Festival Protestors."

• Was public grant money used for this? "Science ponders 'zombie attack.'"

• In case the literal video version left you wanting more, now we have "Total Eclipse of the Heart" -- Flowchart style.

• The Onion must have read my Youkilis column: "Mets Retaliate For David Wright Beaning By Murdering Pablo Sandoval."

• Didn't this happen in a Johnny Cash song? "Man stole motorbike -- part by part."

It was only a matter of time: "Gangland murder tied to Facebook 'Goodfellas' quiz."

What I do in my other life. OK, one of my other lives: "REVIEW: Springsteen has a steamy, spectacular first night in Mansfield."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

COLUMN: Take me out of the brawl game

This past July my family and I had our best Red Sox experience ever: perfect weather, a great game, and we somehow got picked out of the crowd to be spotlighted on the big screen for their “Fan Stories” segment. Our only mistake was afterwards, when we didn’t sell our August tickets and start pretending baseball didn’t exist, like unicorns, or professional soccer.

Because as all parents know, when something goes that well it’s usually pointless to attempt to replicate it. And yet still we try, for the same reason George Lucas kept making all those Star Wars movies: the millions of dollars in merchandising. No, wait, it’s because we’re delusional and desperate.

So we traipsed into the Sox again last week, on what proved, unfortunately, to be the night of the bench-clearing brawl started by Kevin Youkilis. You might have seen it when it was shown on SportsCenter 5,000 times the next day, often in slow motion and sometimes with a commentator drawing X’s and O’s over the participants.

Of course, on TV a good brawl can break up the monotony of a particularly slow-moving baseball game, otherwise known as: a baseball game. But in real life, most of us have never seen anyone get assaulted, and it turns out it’s kind of ugly — particularly when the one doing the assaulting is Youkilis, who has been known to smash cinderblocks into dust with his gigantic bald head.

That was bad enough, but for my son and daughter, age 8 and 10, the crowd reaction was what really threw the night off. It didn’t help that we were stuck at the end of one of those typically Fenway-ish rows in the Grandstands, where the only way to get out of your tiny seat is by pressing yourself through a phalanx of people whose physiques are crying out for a facility with rows of tethered-together Barcaloungers. (Yankee Stadium?)

This is OK usually, but not so much when the 39,000 people around you start screaming “Kill him!” and “Hit him again!” while stomping their feet and waving their fists and other appendages. One minute you think you’re at a pleasant sporting event, and the next you realize you’ve brought your kids to a bullfight in a Hemingway novel, if Hemingway novels featured the F-word and giant beers.

Suddenly kids everywhere were bursting into tears and jumping into their parents’ arms, and mine were seriously rattled — even my diehard Sox fan son. “Why would grownups act this way?” he asked me, apparently genuinely concerned for their mental health, not to mention his own personal well being. I hate it when I don’t have answers for questions like that.

Unable to convince them that we weren’t surrounded by unstable maniacs, we wound up leaving soon after; as a result, we missed most of the game that had cost me, for tickets, food and parking — wait, let me check my records — one meeeellion dollars.

It was frustrating to say the least, and I know it’s too much to expect a crowd in that situation to rap firmly on their bowler hats and declare “Bad form, chap!” But you’d think it would be possible to keep the players from doing things that would, in everyday life, get them arrested. Seems to me if you let them commit assault and battery, the next thing you know they’re getting away with on-field arson, and Ponzi schemes.

My son still loves the Sox, although he now thinks they should trade Youkilis (for anybody — “We’ll take your worst player” is the strategy he says Theo should use), and he defaced Youkilis’ picture on the cover of his Red Sox yearbook in a manner that makes me think I should hide the spray paint when he reaches his teen years. His opinion didn’t soften much when Youkilis half-apologized for setting a bad example for kids: “He should have known kids were there to watch baseball, not a fight,” he said. “Stupid Youkilis.”

We’ll see if the incident has any long-term affects on my son’s feelings toward baseball in general, but it will probably be a while before we go to another game — which works out fine, since it will take me a while to save another meeeellion for tickets. But I hope he’ll believe me when I tell him this was an isolated incident that had nothing to do with what is essentially a fine, upstanding pastime.

Or maybe I’ll just fall back on the unicorns.

Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England; this column appeared originally in North Shore Sunday. Follow him on Twitter at To receive At Large by e-mail, write to, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Five observations about Canobie Lake Park in Salem, N.H.

1) At Canobie Lake, no caramel apple is so caramelly that it doesn't warrant also being covered in rainbow sprinkles.

2) Playing the Blues Brothers at 12:30, 3:30 and 5:30 at Canobie Lake is probably better than playing the talking bar of soap in Blues Clues Live, but not by much.

3) What sick bastard thought it would be fun to sit for three minutes in a gigantic spinning, swinging Frisbee? I want names.

4) If I'm spending $47 to win an 18-cent Homer Simpson doll, tell me again why the economy is in trouble?

5) Molly the Mouse is like Minnie's cousin with the good personality. I'm just saying.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Time-travel movies are on our side, yes they are

My latest "Farkakte Film Flashback" is up on, and in honor of The Time Traveler's Wife, I'm doing a random rewind to great (and a few not-so-great) time travel movies of the distant past. No, not Back to the Future -- that would be too easy.

Instead, I'm talking about films like the classic Unidentified Flying Oddball (1979):
Full disclosure: I have not seen this Disney flick since I watched it in the theater when I was 10. Basically all I remember is that it featured an astronaut and his look-alike robot traveling back in time to meet King Arthur, the astronaut was played by a guy who’d been in every TV show ever made (although wisely didn’t use his real name in the credits to this movie), and that if smartphones had been invented in 1979, I would have probably spent the entire movie texting “WTF???” to everyone I knew.
See the whole piece here.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

You know, you look just like that guy from 'Monkeybone'

Attention all Boston-area Brendan Fraser lookalikes! This is your big chance:

Do you look like Brendan Fraser? Boston Casting is seeking men who bear a striking resemblance to Brendan Fraser (THE MUMMY, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH) for the film FURRY VENGEANCE. If you look like Fraser and are between 6? 2? and 6? 4?, e-mail a photo, contact information and height and weight to by Friday, August 7.

For reference, look at the accompanying picture. I'll be applying, because it just so happens I look exactly like that.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Weird Al Yankovic is SO WEIRD (how weird is he?)

Oh, Weird Al, you've done it again!

The best part about this is the number of White Stripes fans who have no idea who Charles Nelson Reilly was, or vice versa. You're bringing people together again, Al!

(Make sure to watch to the end to see how to put yourself in the video.)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

AT LARGE Sunday Night Link Roundup

Keeping up on satire, commentary and bizarre news from around the Web, so you don't have to: