Thursday, December 31, 2009

AT LARGE Fake News Thursday: Lawsuit claims New Year's Rockin' Eve Not Actually Rockin'

SAN FRANCISCO (CAP) - A California law firm is mounting a massive class action lawsuit against Walt Disney Inc., owners of ABC television, and Dick Clark Enterprises LLC, claiming that the popular New Year's Rockin' Eve television special is, in fact, not rockin'.

"Any event that features an annual segment where you wheel out an elderly stroke victim is, by definition, not rockin'," said Cary Bernstein of the firm Schneider Wallace Cottrell Brayton Konecky. "I'm just saying."

Critics have generally conceded that the special has been less rockin' since Clark's 2004 stroke and the 2005 addition of co-host Ryan Seacrest, who has not had a stroke, say experts. But the lawsuit argues that the special has actually never been rockin', with the possible exception of 1973 when it was hosted by Three Dog Night.

And even then, "after Mama Told Me Not To Come, it was all downhill," says Bernstein.

The suit reads: "The plaintiffs hereby allege that, A) New Year's Rockin' Eve has perpetuated a decades-long fraud upon the American people, promising them an experience that is, quote, rockin', but that in fact has failed to live up to its promotional assertions, and, B) such failures have led to actionably unsatisfactory New Year's Eves for millions of Americans."

The suit seeks compensatory damages of $600 million.

Among the first to sign on to the suit were members of the Chess Lovers of San Bernadino, a California hobbyist group, who say their gatherings to watch the specials have inevitably ended in guests losing interest and being forced to engage in awkward small talk.

"And last year it got even worse when all our Zunes crashed," said Neal Smerlitz, who plans the group's annual New Year's Eve gala. "We had to turn up the TV volume, and after a half hour listening to [co-host] Kellie Pickler, several of our members suffered seizures."

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What's In and Out for 2010: Life in the USA

It's our annual review of everything that’s in and out in society, politics, fashion, the arts and life in general! Today: Lifestyles.

IN:

1) Social networking. Remember humans? You know, those fleshy creatures with arms and legs and eyeballs? No, me neither. That’s because all my friends, even the formerly human ones, are now avatars on Twitter and Facebook. It’s the best way to keep in touch with friends and acquaintances, both old and new, without ever having to actually see or converse with them. Fist bumps are tough, but I’m sure they’ll come up with a virtual one soon. (By the way, both avatars and “Avatar” are in.)

2) Doing it yourself. Used to be when something broke in your house, or you needed new tile in your kitchen, or you wanted a new room to put your widescreen TV, you’d call a guy. Well, no longer: Now you just call the guy after your screw these things up yourself and can’t figure out how to fix it. Luckily, you can no longer afford a widescreen TV, so you don’t need that room anymore.

3) Bargain groceries. Those fancy supermarkets that sell organic vegetables and pre-made gourmet meals and 47 different varieties of hummus (chipotle? really?) are just as suave as ever — and they’re also out. Because the grocery stores with the white floors that have been off-white since 1987 and the bins where you can buy rock-hard caramels for a nickel each are what’s fitting into our budget. Au revoir, semi-firm Gruy√®re!

4) Skinny jeans. If skinny jeans were only for skinny people, I wouldn’t have a problem with this. But it’s the other people, the ones who look like they just stepped out of an industrial strength dryer, that I’m concerned about. Mark my words: The person who invents fat jeans will make a fortune.

Tall boots are also back in — it’s only a matter of time before we’re all dressed like musketeers. But Crocs, alas, are out, as much as you’d think brightly colored plastic shoes with holes in them would be popular for all eternity.

5) Reading. Here’s the thing about books: You don’t need a cable hookup or a satellite dish. You don’t need $12 per person for tickets or $25 for popcorn. You don’t need 3-D glasses or a special plastic pad that you stand on. You just need a book, a couch and, if possible, a cat to sit on your lap. So books are in, and they’ll be really in once people figure out how to distribute them free on the Internet. The Internet is in.

OUT:

1) Eating out. Tight budgets mean more home cooking, which means cries of “Meat loaf again?” in kitchens across America. (Appropriate responses include “You’ll eat it and like it!” and “People are starving in Africa!”)

The one exception is if you can go out somewhere and have somebody bring your food to you in your car, whereupon you unwrap it and eat it in a parking lot with your motor running. As Julia Child would say, bon appetite! Julia Child is in.

2) Beauty pageants. These were already going the way of dog racing and indoor smoking (both out) when Miss USA Carrie Prejean dealt the final blow, dissing same-sex marriage from the pageant stage and then taking her show on the road … before her sex tapes started popping up like rhinestones on a tiara. Unfortunately for Prejean, same-sex marriage is in, and sex tapes are out — on DVD and Blu-Ray, probably. (Blu-Ray is in.)

3) Phones. Having a plain old phone would seem to indicate that you want to talk to people. This is completely unnecessary (see “IN,” above). The in people all have “smartphones,” from which you can text, surf the Web, watch videos, listen to music and taser people at parties. (Tasering is still in.) And with texting in, e-mailing is out, except among deposed Nigerian princes, who simply will not give up on it. Saying “application” instead of “app” is way out.

4) Dog breeds from hell. What is a labradoodle, anyway?

5) Dancing on the graves of newspapers. A year ago, people seemed to be thinking that by this time newspapers would be being used exclusively to make papier mache animal masks. And while there are fewer papers than there used to be, things have calmed down a little bit, and people seem to be realizing that newspapers actually provide a valuable service.

Namely, bringing you this “What’s In and Out” every year. In and Out is in!

They’re in!
This year’s What’s In and Out appeared originally in North Shore Sunday and was written by Peter Chianca and researched by Carol Brooks Ball, Richard Clapp, Myrna Fearer, Lisa Guerriero, Christopher Hurley, Dena Lisle, Dan MacAlpine, Sarah Menesale, Kathryn O'Brien, Kris Olson, Charlene Peters, Nancy Prag, Marlene Switzer, Barbara Taormina and Wendall Waters.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What's In and Out for 2010: Sports

Our annual review of everything that’s in and out in society, politics, fashion, the arts and life in general. Today: Sports.

IN:

1) Celtics. Remember when, if you had the choice between watching the Celtics and banging your head against a wall, you had to think about it for a minute? Those days are long gone, with Doc Rivers’ gang playing consistently riveting basketball. Yes, I just said “riveting basketball.”

2) Yankees. They had to wait nine long, almost unbearable years — let’s face it, an entire generation of newts (lifespan: seven years) died out during that time — but the Yankees are finally back on top again. So rooting for the Yanks is in, as is rooting against the Yanks. Expos: Still out, but oddly more in than the Nationals are.

As for the Sox, we’ll give them one more year of “in” status, but they better win the World Series again next season. We don’t want to have to wait around as long as the Yankees did.

3) Saints. New Orleans could use a break, because it’s only a matter of time before it has another flood, political scandal or annoying celebrity move there to help with the recovery. So even though their undefeated streak may be over, three cheers for the Saints; may no one ever again have to live in their stadium.

4) College football. Wait — where are all the hissy fits and silly dances and grotesque sums of money changing hands? The players shooting themselves in the legs and going to jail for fighting dogs? The celebrity girlfriends to blame losing seasons on? They call this football?

5) Horse racing. If you think Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are Rod Stewart’s 20-year-old wife and the name of a Police album, respectively, then you are out — because horse racing is in, and those are two of the top practitioners of the sport. And yes, that means jockeys are in. Deal with it.

OUT:

1) Tiger Woods. “Out” is probably not a sufficient word to describe what Tiger Woods is right now. Hopefully his actions will lead other billionaire golfers to think twice before cheating on their wives with several dozen barmaids, hookers and porn stars. I’m just saying.

Meanwhile, as goes Tiger, so goes golf — out, that is. I’d tell the other golfers how sorry I am, if I knew any of their names.

2) Bill Belichick. The sheen is off, Mr. Grumpy! Suddenly going for it on 4th and 2 doesn’t seem so brilliant, does it? Now change your darn sweatshirt! (Oh, and if you wind up winning the Super Bowl this year … Forget I said all that.) Also out: Gisele. It’s all her fault, whatever “it” is.

3) Steroids. Thankfully, we’ve finally shed the specter of illegal steroids that has hung like a shroud over professional athletics, particularly baseball. Now, instead of taking steroids, athletes are eating better, working out more, and having acquaintances inject “dietary supplements” directly into their buttocks.

4) Theo. What’s up with the Sox GM? Doesn’t he know you’re supposed to promise the fans a World Series trophy every single year, even if you can’t manage to sign anyone who could hit his way out of a bag of Fenway Park peanuts? Well, “bridge year” or not, he should keep Lowell, one of only two players with the same name as a Massachusetts town. (Any free agents out there named Dighton-Rehoboth? Better yet: Bring back Freddy Lynn!)

5) Tennis. Sure, the sport got a lot more interesting when we found out that Andre Agassi was taking crystal meth (crystal meth!) while playing back in the ’90s. But not that much more interesting. It’s still out.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What's In and Out for 2010: Entertainment

Our annual review of everything that’s in and out in society, politics, fashion, the arts and life in general. Today: Entertainment.

IN:

1) Taylor Swift. Swift is all of, what? 12? 13? But she seems to have taken over the known universe with her pithy country numbers about love stories and white horses and, um — oh, who am I kidding? I’ve never listened to any of the words. But I do know that Kanye West thinks that Beyonce did a better video than she did, and that’s what matters.

But it’s not all-Taylor, all-the-time. Lady Gaga has filled the bizarre outfit gap left when Christina Aguilera started wearing real clothes, and Susan Boyle has sold more albums than The Beatles, Elvis and Slim Whitman combined. And older artists continue to plug away, with Bruce Springsteen coming off one of his most successful tours ever and Paul McCartney still selling out stadiums. Rod Stewart, unfortunately, has now covered every song ever written and has been forced to retire to his yacht with his 20-year-old wife.

2) Vampires. If you’re watching a movie or a TV show or reading a book right now, I can only hope someone in it is getting his or her blood sucked, or else whatever you’re watching or reading is out. Vampires are everywhere, thanks to “Twilight,” “True Blood” and books like the Darren Shan saga — they’re the new black. But 2010 will see the release of the “Wolfman” reboot, so you can expect werewolves to come roaring back in as well. Frankenstein is still out. Sorry, Frank.

3) Smart TV. TV in general is out, although recording shows on your DVR and never watching them is in. But some good TV, including droll dramas like “Mad Men” and “Glee” and intelligent comedies like “30 Rock” and “Modern Family” are in, at least among smart people, i.e., the ones who aren’t watching “Jersey Shore.” As for reality TV, it seems like it will never die — sort of like vampires — but the truly exploitative stuff is out. Sorry, Guidos.

4) 3-D. Let’s face it, unless the characters appear to be reaching out of the screen to forcibly bludgeon you, why would anyone go to the movies? We can only hope that in the future all films are 3-D, even ones like “Julie & Julia,” so audiences of middle-aged women can scream when the boeuf bourguignon flies out of the oven — AIEEEE! (Middle-aged women are also in, as long as they’re Meryl Streep.)

5) Michael Jackson. Turns out dying was, if nothing else, a good career move. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Daffy Duck, he could only do it once.

OUT:

1) Kanye West. It probably goes without saying that he’s out, for interrupting Taylor Swift (see “IN,” above) at the MTV Video Music Awards, which amazingly are still on every year. Although it seems to me we should be thanking Kanye for coming up with the single most spoof-able public moment since Neville Chamberlain came back from Germany waving the Munich Agreement.

But he’s not the only one who’s out. Our tween girl moles tell us the Jonas Brothers have fallen off their pedestal, owing at least in part to their Disney Channel show, “Jonas,” in which they play morons. Nick Jonas is even starting a side band he says he’s modeling on Bruce Springsteen’s; interesting that the Jonas Brothers keep citing influences like Springsteen and Elvis Costello, but they keep making music like the Jonas Brothers. (Elvis Costello is in.)

2) Oprah. Well, it may be a little misleading to say that Oprah is “out.” It’s more like she’s off, as in off her syndicated talk show, which ends in 2011. She says she wants to retire, travel the world and spend more time with her Stedman. Oh, wait, I read my notes wrong: She wants to take over the world with her own TV network (appropriately called OWN). Let me be the first to welcome our new Oprah overlords.

3) Crime dramas. After killing off unfortunate victims using every imaginable method, and some unimaginable ones, it seems oddly fitting that the SVUs of the world would be dispatched by — Jay Leno, of all people. But even though Jay is taking up five hours a week of formerly scripted drama, he’s not “in” either; in fact, most people watching “The Jay Leno Show” spend the whole time waiting for Mariska Hargitay to show up with the autopsy results.

This left poor Conan also out (remember him?), just in time for David Letterman to come out with his sex scandal. The only truly in late-night hosts are Stewart, Colbert and Tom Snyder. Yes, I know Tom Snyder’s been dead since 2007 — that’s how bad it is out there.

4) Creepy 3-D. Remember what I said about 3-D? I meant cool, peppy 3-D like “Up,” not creepy motion-capture 3-D like “A Christmas Carol.” Not that the way Scrooge’s ultra-realistic wrinkly and pockmarked skin contrasts with his glassy, dead eyes isn’t impressive. It’s just not in a good way.

5) Aging actors. Are the John Travoltas, the Denzel Washingtons, the Robin Williamses losing their luster? And did I really just write “Williamses”? Regardless, go see one of their films, for old time’s sake. They’re in all of each other’s movies anyway, so you only have to see one.

Next: In and Out in Sports

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What's In and Out for 2010: News and Politics


With the year — and the decade — winding down, people are busier than ever. In fact, who has time to review everything that’s in and out in society, politics, fashion, the arts and life in general? Not me — I’m swamped!

So to keep things simpler in these tough times, I've narrowed down our list to five things that are in and five things that are out in each category, which I'll spotlight over the course of the week: News and Politics, Entertainment, Sports and Life in the USA. That’s a very manageable 10 each for 2010 — because manageability is in.

News and Politics

IN:

1) Sarah Palin. For better or for worse, you can’t get more in than good ol’ Sarah. Republicans love her because she’s the only member of the GOP who’s able to get a camera crew to follow her around for a reason that doesn’t involve a sex scandal, yet. Democrats love her because she reminds people who they could be stuck with if they dump Obama in 2012. And fruit vendors love her because she helps them move tomatoes.

2) Healthcare headaches. Complaining about health care was in last year; complaining about health care legislation is in this year. But never fear, because the Democrats are determined to pass something, even if they have to make it exactly identical to the healthcare system we have now.

3) Fame seeking. Used to be you’d work hard, study, excel in your given field and, if you were one of the fortunate few, eventually get on a TV reality show. But that was so 2006. Now you get on a reality show by party crashing the White House or pretending to send your kid up in an unmanned balloon. Let’s face it, life these days is just one big reality show audition — so you better start walking around with an egg on a spoon, just in case.

4) Swine flu. Yes, bird flu had its moment in the sun, but never really caught on, mainly because it was made up by the World Health Organization to justify their no-show jobs. (Er, that’s just a theory.) But swine flu, now there’s a disease people could get behind. It’s yet to reach pandemic proportions, but it’s prevalent enough to have people blaming Obama for the lack of vaccine, and pigs for existing.

5) Sexting. What did we do before we could send naked pictures of ourselves over our cellular phones? I don’t remember, but I’m sure it was much less interesting. We probably had to talk to each other. Talking is out.

OUT:

1) Change you can believe in. I’m not positive, but I’m relatively sure President Obama promised that by this time we’d be living in a war-free, prosperous, bipartisan utopia, where the air we breathe would be like the mist that rises off unicorns when they bathe. Turns out change is a little tougher to come by — I know he said it wouldn’t happen overnight, but it at least needs to happen before the world is taken over by killer robots. Killer robots are in.

2) Glaciers. Watching them melt out of existence is now officially a spectator sport; when a frozen dinosaur emerges thawed from one and eats Greenland, don’t come crying to me. But never mind these crazy scientists and all their wild “studies” and “facts” — global warming is a completely natural cyclical occurrence, like margarine and Jessica Simpson’s suntan.

3) War. It’s been almost seven years since we invaded Iraq, and we’re still over there getting the Iraqis ready to police themselves, which is apparently not unlike those film shorts where somebody had to teach the Three Stooges how to be doctors. And now we’re sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, but in order to placate people who are sick of all this occupying, President Obama is having them return home immediately upon arrival. The armed forces have been instructed to slap their foreheads in unison, declare that they forgot their bayonets and get right back on the aircraft carrier.

4) The Great Depression Part II. Turns out reports that our economy was about to collapse in a mushroom cloud of derivatives and credit default swaps were somewhat exaggerated — all it took was a few hundred billion in bailouts and everything’s fine again. Just look at those great Wall Street bonuses if you don’t believe me! There’ s probably an article about them in the defunct newspaper you’re sleeping under.

5) Republicans. You’d think they’d be more popular by now, with the Democrats dithering and “Yes we can” turning into a slogan about the administration’s ability to buy beer for its summits. But the ones we want to forget won’t go away (Cheney in ’12!), and the rest of them keep cheating on their wives while telling everyone else whom they can marry. It’s not a recipe for success, which might be why Lou Dobbs is out of work. Maybe he should try selling tomatoes on the Sarah Palin book tour.

NEXT: In and Out in Entertainment

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009: The year that wasn't


Revisiting the top stories from (fake) 2009. (For the full versions of these stories and more daily news satire, visit CAP News.)

February: Report — Most teens can’t recognize a newspaper

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. (CAP) — A new study out of the Poynter Institute shows that more than 80 percent of teenagers don’t recognize a newspaper even when one is placed directly in front of them.

Presented with a series of publications and periodicals, most of the 300 subjects between the ages of 13 and 17 could identify comic books, videogame instruction manuals and magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Cosmo. But shown a newspaper, the majority said they’d never seen one before and could not identify its purpose.

“Dude, I know that looks familiar,” said participant Josh Zwybeck, 16, when shown a copy of the Orlando Sentinel. “I think I saw a homeless guy in the park sleeping under one.”

“Some of the participants were even a little frightened by them,” said the Poynter Institute’s Dick Edmunton, who noted that several of the teenage girls “freaked out” and had to be calmed down when the ink came off on their hands.

Of the 20 percent who could identify the publication specifically as a “newspaper,” the majority said they had seen one in a movie or on a television show, such as the ’70s-set police drama “Life on Mars.”

“That’s how people would download their news back then,” said Carla Fredricks, 15. “Or, you know, however it got to them.”

One positive finding from the report, though, is that when shown a newspaper and explained what it was for, many of the teenagers thought it was a “pretty cool” idea.

“It would be kind of neat having all those stories and things together in one place, so you could carry it around and stuff,” said Luke Bertinelli, 16. “Plus, I’m pretty sure you could roll a joint with it if you really needed to.”

April: Goldman Sachs accused of unregulated baby trading

NEW YORK (CAP) — A new report out of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) suggests that investment firm Goldman Sachs has been taking advantage of loopholes in trading regulations to invest heavily in the future sale of babies, primarily in Third World and African nations.

“By directing investors toward the baby futures market, they’re basically betting that the price of babies will go up dramatically in the coming months,” explained CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler.

Asked whether this could possibly be legal, Gensler responded, “Well, it’s not technically illegal, if that’s what you mean.

“But it certainly doesn’t seem like a nice thing to do,” he added.

Child advocates agree, saying that investing in the buying and selling of babies is “inappropriate and immoral.”

“With its actions, Goldman Sachs is tacitly condoning the sale of babies to the highest bidder,” said Emma Rodstein, president of Babies Without Borders (BWOB), at a press conference attended by a CAP News reporter and one intern from Babytalk magazine, who appeared to be there for the free vegan beet cubes.

Goldman Sachs officials declined to be interviewed for this story, but one executive said off the record that the corporation has done nothing wrong. “We are investing in baby futures, so really these are just paper babies we’re talking about,” he said. “What could possibly be bad about that?”

He then offered to help invest the CAP News reporter’s entire retirement fund in the burgeoning baby market. “You can trust me,” he said.

[Read the rest at North Shore Sunday.]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

AT LARGE Fake News Wednesday: Gingerbread Man Eaten After 3-County Kill Spree

HORSESHOE BEND, IDAHO (CAP) - A gingerbread man who came miraculously to life in the oven of a little old woman Saturday has been subdued and eaten following a three-county killing spree.

"Apparently the little old woman thought she'd make a gingerbread man," recounted Boise County Sheriff Karl Herrmann, reading from police reports. "She rolled out the dough, and cut out the shape, and she put raisins for his eyes, and peppermints for his teeth, and put icing on his head for the hair. Then she put him in the oven, and when it smelled good, she opened up the door to take a peek and out jumped the gingerbread man, allegedly."

According to the reports, the woman - whose name is being withheld pending notification of family members - called out Stop! Stop, little gingerbread man! I want to eat you!, at which point the gingerbread man beat her to death with her own rolling pin.

"Can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!" he reportedly yelled over her prone body before escaping into the Boise National Forest.

The gingerbread man was sighted numerous times over the next few days at area farms and dwellings, according to Sheriff Herrmann, who said each encounter followed a similar pattern.

"Typically the victim, upon spotting the suspect, would declare something to the effect of Stop! Stop little gingerbread man! I want to eat you!" explained Herrmann. "Then the gingerbread man would bludgeon the individual with whatever farming implement was available at the time, or his bare hands."

Victims included a pig, a dog, a cow, a horse and at least one unfortunate Amway representative, according to Herrmann.

The attacks prompted police to issue the following warning Sunday: "WANTED: Escaped gingerbread man. Considered extremely dangerous. If you see him, do not tell him to stop and that you want to eat him; instead, notify authorities immediately."

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Friday, December 11, 2009

COLUMN: Is it a tradition if you only do it once?


You may recall the song “Tradition” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” in which Tevye extols the importance of his people’s customs and rituals in dealing with the trials of everyday life. Of course, I’m almost positive Tevye never tried to use vanilla frosting to secure the walls of a giant gingerbread house, which might have made him at least think twice about all that singing.

I base this on my own experience in trying to establish a family holiday tradition, which resulted in a gingerbread “house” that looked like the aftermath of a tornado in the North Pole mobile home park. This didn’t seem to faze my kids at all, who were just as happy to eat the remains of the marshmallow snowmen crushed by the gumdrop chimney, but it reminded me of how traditions can be a tricky business.

Yet when the holidays roll around, we feel the need to establish family customs. This is so that when our children have kids they can continue the practice of constructing gingerbread houses or making popsicle reindeer with googly eyes, and think back on what wonderful, caring, tradition-instilling parents we were, and how they really didn’t appreciate us as much as they should have. (Er, not mine. Other kids.)

For instance, in our house the tradition starts with the holiday card photograph. Some families give in and cart the kids off to a professional photographer who’ll pose them expertly in front of a meticulously rendered fake fireplace. These families are what we in our household like to call, “smart.”

Because for some reason we’ve always chosen the other route, which is to put the kids in red and green sweaters, prop them up in front of something festive (tree, wreath, garage door that’s been plastered with cheap wrapping paper) and shoot away. This is especially tough when they’re babies, because you’ll find that in the time it takes your finger to depress the shutter release, they will have propelled themselves sweater-first into the figgy pudding.

One year we tried to establish the tradition of cutting down our own tree, failing, unfortunately, to take into account my lack of acuity with a saw. My wife and kids had long since retreated back to the car and there I was, still hacking through the trunk like Paul Bunyan’s much smaller, manually challenged cousin, the one they trot out at the end of the day to deliver pancakes to all the real lumberjacks.

As for the extended family, we’ve tried the annual “Yankee Swap,” where you can swipe your present from somebody else. This is great fun, in that it takes the bitter subtext of pretty much all family holiday traditions and puts it right up there on the surface. Let’s face it, there’s nothing quite a satisfying as taking passive-aggressive Uncle Lennie’s envelope full of lottery tickets and leaving him with a plastic nutcracker.

Another holiday tradition in our house is the annual lighting of the menorah, although my wife is afraid of burning candles indoors, meaning we take turns screwing in the little orange light bulbs from right to left. Since I’m half-Jewish I tend to get lost about halfway through the prayer — after “asher kid’shanu” I have to ad-lib. Somewhere, my bubbie is slapping her forehead in a perpetual loop.

So some of these customs have stuck and some of them haven’t, but if there’s anything I think I’ve learned from all these attempts, it’s that you can’t manufacture traditions out of frosting or googly eyes. If you just carve out some special time with family or friends this time of year, the rituals that just happen will probably be the ones that stick — and even if they don’t, it’s fun to enjoy them while they last.

Although I can’t for the life of me figure out what I’m going to do with all these nutcrackers.

This column appeared originally in West of Boston Life magazine and North Shore Sunday. Peter Chianca is a managing editor for Gatehouse Media New England. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

And to think, people are starving in Japan

Times are still tough for many, but you know what the economists say: You can tell the recession is lifting when people start throwing food at each other again. Well, have I got some good news for you!

You read right here about the vicious girl-on-girl bagel attack in Cohasset, Mass. All had hoped that was an isolated incident, but no such luck: Earlier this week we also saw a dispute among two teens in Cambridge that resulted in a duck sauce debacle.

When police arrived, they saw the victim “covered in sauce” and the living room “disheveled” and “covered with food.”

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, during Lexington’s Festival Night — an annual event that welcomes Santa to Lexington Center — a police officer was attacked by a man wielding a glazed donut. In that case the perp was charged with disorderly conduct, assault on a police officer and, presumably, extreme irony.

Monday, December 07, 2009

AT LARGE Fake News Monday: Santa Injured In Mysterious North Pole Sleigh Accident


NORTH POLE (CAP) - Santa Claus is reportedly recovering from injuries and lacerations incurred around 2:30 a.m. Saturday when he flew his sleigh into the famous North Pole pole, which is situated about 10 yards beyond the end of his workshop's driveway.

According to North Pole Fire Department reports, he had been extracted from the sleigh by his wife, Mrs. Claus, who came out of their house with a giant candy cane and used it to bludgeon three of Claus's flying reindeer to death in an attempt to free him from the vehicle.

Their identities have been withheld until the families could be notified, but TMZ.com is reporting that the casualties may include Donner, Prancer and Blitzen.

"It's odd, because he's flown past that pole a million times before without incident - literally, a million," said one North Pole resident who asked to be identified only as Hermey. "Also, he's never out that late, except on Christmas Eve, and by that time he's usually flying somewhere over Belize."

The incident comes on the heels of a TMZ.com report last week alleging that Santa had engaged in a protracted affair with an anonymous woman, later identified in Us magazine as 'Doll' from the Island of Misfit Toys. Doll, 45, not only admitted to an affair, she also provided Us with photos and hundreds of "racy" text messages to prove it, such as one in which Santa tells her that she's on his "very naughty list."

She also provided a voice mail in which Santa tells her that Mrs. Claus had searched his iPhone contacts and might be calling her, and that if she did, Doll should tell her she's been involved in a long-term committed relationship with the Charlie-in-a-Box.

Still, Santa's defenders have noted that Doll has a long history of emotional instability, having also been linked to Yukon Cornelius, the cowboy who rides an ostrich and Scott Stapp of Creed.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Thursday, December 03, 2009

COLUMN: God is now a book publicist


Every so often in the humor writing business, you start to get worried that the world may be running out of funny things. This has been especially true lately; my colleague Jeff Vrabel has even suggested we might be in the midst of a full-fledged humor recession. But then you get an envelope in the mail declaring, in big, block letters, “MINISTER BELIEVES GOD DEFEATED CLINTON,” and suddenly all is right again.

The Clinton in question is apparently Hillary, and I know: You thought Barack Obama defeated her, even if he now may be wishing he hadn’t. But one North Carolina minister apparently thinks it was all God’s doing, in order to — and I’m going to quote this to make sure I get it right — “make clear His will for woman usurping authority over men.” In other words, Hillary lost because God thought she was an uppity broad; it’s right there in Timothy 2:11-14, wherein God smites she who be uppity.

Now, without getting too deeply into my personal religious beliefs, I should say that I am generally pro-God. However, I’m also fairly skeptical that God is getting too involved in politics, any more than he cares about the outcome of the Super Bowl. I have this gut feeling he’s more of a soccer fan.

I also doubt that he has any problem with women. Jezebels aside, most of the women in the Bible come off much better than the men — I’d take a Ruth or an Esther over an Ahab or a Nebuchadnezzar any day of the week.

But this minister (who I will decline to name, for reasons that will become obvious) paints a vivid picture of his efforts to derail Clinton’s candidacy, even writing her a letter to tell her that “her candidacy was not in the will of God and she would not be blessed.” He apparently “did not get an answer,” probably because if she responded to everyone who told her that her candidacy was not in the will of God, she wouldn’t have time for anything else.

The minister is apparently working hard to remove women from politics completely, before this whole women-in-power thing gets out of hand. Already, these female politicians are everywhere: “It is believed every state has some,” his release states, ominously. (Yes, even Utah! Although there they’re mostly just getting coffee.) Unless America “repents, puts women back into God’s will, [and] stops hugging gays,” we’re basically doomed, he says. To which I respond: It’s going to take a lot more than that to get Kathy Griffin to stop hugging gays.

Which brings me to the reason this minister sent out a four-page press release in the first place: to spread the word of the Lord! Wait, no, I read my notes wrong — it’s actually because he has a book to sell. Um, and that Lord stuff too, probably.

And not just any book: It’s a book that has basically been published by God. First, he “told the Lord in prayer it would take $25,000” to get it published. That’s right, he asked the Lord for the money up front, like you would with a crazy rich uncle you’re trying to get to invest in your independent film. Well, two weeks later, “the Holy Spirit guided him to a website.” You recall Monty Python’s Holy Hand Grenade? Welcome to the Spiritual Search Engine.

Finally, once he got the book published, he asked God to make it like the Ark of the Covenant, in that it would bring good fortune to any home that kept it, even if people didn’t open it. Translation: We don’t care if you read the darn book as long as you send your check for $29.95. (Payable to the minister, not to God, although his accountant will presumably forward along God’s requisite 10 percent.)

Well, as someone who thinks that if God didn’t want women in politics he wouldn’t have made the male politicians such screw-ups, and who thinks “gays” are perfectly huggable, I’ve decided not to help the minister promote his book by naming him or it in this column. (If you’re that interested I’m sure you can find him through Google, a.k.a. “the Holy Spirit.”) But I have a feeling he may be disappointed, both with his book sales and with the future of American politics.

Still, I think maybe we should lock him in a room with Sarah Palin for a few hours and have somebody write about that. Now there’s a book I’d buy.

This column appeared originally in North Shore Sunday. Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca. To receive At Large by e-mail, write to info@chianca-at-large.com, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: White House Security Breached Again, By Muppets

WASHINGTON (CAP) - The Secret Service is defending itself for the second time in a week today, after news broke that a White House state dinner had again been crashed by uninvited guests - this time by Muppets characters Statler and Waldorf, fresh off their appearance in the Muppets' viral Bohemian Rhapsody video.

When asked how they got in to the affair, Statler said that they had "entered a contest."

"Yeah, and we lost!" added Waldorf, prompting the two of them to laugh riotously.

According to Secret Service spokesman James Mackey, the security failure occurred at the initial checkpoint. He said the Muppets should have been turned away when Waldorf said, "I have our tickets right here," and Statler turned to him and asked, "Are they good seats?" prompting Waldorf to respond, "Sure are - they're on the next train out of town!" Then they both guffawed until they were waved through to the next checkpoint.

"The failure is ours," admitted Mackey, who acknowledged that there hadn't been a puppet on the official White House guest list since Wayland Flowers and Madame visited President Carter in 1979.

Apparently Statler and Waldorf mingled with guests for several hours, even getting into a long discussion with Vice President Joe Biden, who apparently thought they were a wealthy homosexual couple upset about the military's policies toward gay recruits.

"I told him we didn't believe in Don't Ask, Don't Tell," said Statler.

"Yeah, because we were going to tell him how bad the dinner was, whether he asked or not!" said Waldorf. "Wauh-ha-ha-ha!"

[Read the rest at CAP News.]