Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sex and the City 2 is coming -- run!

I have no intention of seeing Sex and the City 2 -- my wife is sparing me and plans to see it with friends instead -- and yet I anticipate its coming with an almost palpable, existential dread. Am I the only one who looks at those women and sees the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

OK, maybe I'm overreacting. I'm sure it's two hours of bubbly fun. Let's look at the synopsis from the Patriot Ledger's Ed Symkus, who sat down with the stars in the shoe department at a Bergdorf Goodman and, apparently, lived to tell about it:
Though all four characters are tackling an issue, “Sex and the City,” as fans know, centers on Carrie. Her story is always just a little bigger and glossier; her troubles run a bit deeper. She’s going through what she believes is a rough patch with Big, and when the plot sends the four women on a Middle East adventure, the Carrie-Big relationship gets even more complicated, thanks to a chance encounter with an old flame.
Well, actually that sounds like an entertaining twist on the usual OH PLEASE GOD MAKE IT STOP!!! Sorry, I'm better now. Sex and the City 2 opens everywhere (and I mean everywhere) tomorrow. Start barricading yourself in your basement now.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: National Day Of Wishing To Replace Day Of Prayer

WASHINGTON (CAP) - Although claims that the annual National Day of Prayer may violate the First Amendment didn't stop it from happening this year, the White House has proposed changes to the holiday for 2011, enacting instead a "National Day of Wishing."

"For what is prayer if not a form of wishing - for mercy, forgiveness, to win the lottery or that something horrible will befall our enemies," noted President Obama, speaking to reporters at the White House yesterday. "And by enemies I'm not specifically referring to [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell."

Obama noted that it would no way violate the separation of church and state to ask people of all faiths - or no faith - to engage in a nationally sponsored day of abject begging to no one in particular. "Or as we refer to it in Washington, Tuesday," said Obama. "Just a little Beltway humor there."

The announcement drew immediate criticism from the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a privately funded group with strong ties to the Evangelical Christian movement and an armed militia believed to number about 30,000.

"The National Day of Prayer provides an opportunity for all Americans to pray voluntarily according to their own faith," said task force chairwoman Shirley Dobson, wife of former Focus on the Family CEO Rev. James Dobson. "It provides an excellent opportunity for those of us who are going to be saved to pray for the doomed souls of those who oppose us, as if we would do that."

But many, such as The End Of Faith author Sam Harris, applauded the move. Appearing on HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher, Harris called it "a fine first step" toward dismantling all of America's houses of worship and bringing on a godless society based strictly on intellect. "

"Maybe we could turn all the churches into marijuana bars!" suggested Maher, and they high-fived.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

COLUMN: A Facebook privacy primer (they know where you live)

Dear Facebook member:

It has come to our attention that certain users have raised concerns over our privacy policy. We’d just like you to know that here at Facebook, it’s extremely important to us that your information is kept private, to be shared only among your friends, networks, fans, people who “like” the same things you do, and users of applications you don’t realize you’ve signed up for.

It’s true that it’s in our best interests, for growth and advertising purposes, to make as much of your personal information as possible freely available over the Web. But we make a promise never to share what’s on your profile unless you have expressly authorized us to do so by not un-checking an arcane series of hard-to-find boxes, some of which don’t exist.

So just to make sure you understand your privacy rights as a Facebook user, we’ve put together the following easy-to-follow guidelines:

1) Default settings. Just to make things easier, our default settings make your personal information, photos and videos accessible to everyone on the Web, including your mother, your second-grade teacher and the guy who, at this very moment, is Photoshopping the heads of strange children onto the bodies of centaurs.

However, you can easily modify these settings. For instance, you can make your information visible only to certain networks, certain friends, or “only you,” if you want to be just as much of a lonely loser as you were before you joined Facebook. Your call.

2) Photos. We understand why you might have concerns over who can see photos of you that you’ve posted, or that are posted by your friends, or by an old boyfriend or girlfriend who swore the pictures were just for their own personal viewing. Boy, did we find out about that the hard way.

But the rumors that embarrassing pictures of you hunched over a toilet or wearing a Sexy French Maid Halloween costume are automatically visible to your boss and your priest are entirely untrue. Assuming you’ve checked and/or unchecked the right boxes, they can only be seen by friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends and all the other people who play Farmville.

3) Personal information. We want to state unequivocally that we do not sell your personal information to third parties. In fact, we give it to third parties in exchange for drugs. Ha ha! Just a little Facebook humor there. (Just the part about the drugs — the part about giving your information away is true.)

4) Instant Personalization Pilot Program. This is the program that allows other websites, like Yelp and Pandora, to access your profile information. However, you can opt out of this program, and at this very moment we have a team of engineers trying to determine how one might go about doing that.

“But Facebook, why would you ever presume that we’d want you to share our information with other websites without our permission?” you might ask. To which we’d respond: “Shut up and play some more Farmville.”

5) If you’re embarrassed about people seeing your “Like” list, maybe you should stop liking things like Barry Manilow and “Jersey Shore.” You know who you are. And so do we.

Finally, we want to remind you that, if you’re that concerned about people seeing the information you somehow thought would remain private just because that’s what we told you when you signed up, you always have the option of deleting your account.

Good luck figuring out how to do it.

Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England. This column appeared originally in North Shore Sunday. Follow him on Twitter at (You can try to friend him on Facebook, but he’ll probably ignore you.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: Craigslist Reports Craigslist Killings Down Almost 5%

SAN FRANSICO (CAP) - The online listings service Craigslist reports that the murder of people that either place or answer ads on the site was down 4.76 percent in the first quarter of the year.

"Craigslist prides itself on ease of use, effective service and its users not getting killed," noted site founder Craig Newmark in a press release this week. "This is one of those cases where two out of three actually is pretty bad."

The company is touting the decline in Craigslist killings as a sign that its efforts to discourage wanton murder among its users are working. Among the steps the site has taken to curb Craigslist killers are prominent posts noting that listings must be truthful and used for the purpose intended, and that using them to lure or determine likely victims is a violation of the site's terms of use and can result in users being banned or moderated.

"We want people to feel somewhat comfortable that when you place an ad listing, say, a diamond ring for sale, there's a reasonably good chance four guys won't come to your house and kill you for it," wrote Newmark. "That's our pledge to you."

The company is also cracking down on other crimes facilitated by Craigslist, such as prostitution.

"When you place a listing offering 'a good time' in quotes and include a naked picture of yourself and hourly rates, we are counting on you not to be offering prostitution services," reads another warning on the site. "Please don't let us down."

"We are dedicated to reducing to acceptable levels the number of Craigslist-related crimes, be they prostitution, robbery, fraud, extortion or pederasty," wrote Newmark in the release. "But we're concentrating primarily on reducing murders because, let's face it, that's bad for business."

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Thursday, May 13, 2010

COLUMN: Something’s off when TV’s not on

In case you somehow missed it, the nation recently celebrated “TV Turnoff Week.” This is the week when families all across America turn off their TVs and sit around their kitchen tables staring at each other like frightened bullfrogs.

That’s because as we all know, TV is the glue that holds families — nay, societies — together. For instance, without TV, nobody would have any idea who Barney Fife is. What kind of world would that be?

Despite that, though, my wife Theresa and I decided to try TV Turnoff Week this year after we read a few disturbing facts that left us concerned about TV’s effect on our kids. Things such as:

· 45 percent of parents say they use the TV to occupy their children. I’ve done this, but usually by giving them a screwdriver and suggesting they try to figure out how the TV generates all those magic pictures from outer space.

· Children 6 and under spend an average of 14 hours a week watching TV, but only 38.5 minutes engaged in conversation with their parents. Even less if you don’t count the time spent talking about what’s on TV.

· 97 percent of children have products based on characters from TV shows. This would explain why, if we had to send our kids to one of those Montessori schools that bans character logos, we’d have to cover their clothes almost entirely with masking tape, and then pray that their underwear never makes an appearance.

· 59 percent of Americans can name The Three Stooges, while only 17 percent can name three Supreme Court justices. In our defense, though, that number would skyrocket if the president appointed somebody named “Shemp.”

Unfortunately the TV turnoff began inauspiciously in our house — first of all it was raining, which should be an immediate deal-killer for TV Turnoff Week, like when NASA scraps a shuttle launch. Also, my wife was working the first night, and she’s much more ambitious than I am about planning family activities. For instance, she might organize, say, arts and crafts projects, whereas I might suggest hide and seek and then wait for my kids to realize I’m not actually “seeking.”

But I did my best, actually going out and buying a new board game, which I believe is how Amish people pass the time when they’re not building barns. Unfortunately, it seems I picked a game that was a little too easy — it occupied a total of about 20 minutes, leading me to wish I had engaged them with something more complicated, like Monopoly or the U.S. tax code.

On the second day Theresa again got them through the after-school hours without any TV, apparently without the use of tranquilizers. And after dinner we decided to try bike riding, which I admit is more productive if your kids have actually mastered pedaling; otherwise you have to spend the whole time pushing them down the hill in plastic Little Tikes cars, which tend to hit the side of the driveway and roll over like a Ford Explorer negotiating the Autobahn.

In fact, we made it through pretty much the whole week, although we did have to bring their bikes to increasingly exotic locales to keep them interested; I thought we were going to wind up driving town to town in search of a half-pipe. We also read more and listened to more music, and I admit that at one point around Thursday I considered commissioning a mime troupe.

Then on Friday night we sat the kids down to congratulate them. “Even though TV Turnoff Week is over, we proved that we didn’t need television to have fun, right, guys?” I started to say, although I only got through the “over” part before they trampled me on their way to the Disney Channel.

Still, we must have done something right, because they seem a bit more willing to turn off the TV and head outside this week. Also, a subsequent informal poll showed that my kids are, for now at least, among the 46 percent of children who say they’d rather “spend time with their fathers” than watch TV.

Presumably, provided I start putting a little more effort into the whole “seeking” thing.

Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England. His original column runs every other week; this “Best of Chianca” column is from 2006. Follow him on Twitter at

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The AT LARGE Wednesday Link Roundup

My latest list of the seven most important things on the Internet at this very moment:

Tetris, is that you? Apparently someone has filmed my recurring nightmare from 1983.

I predict this will be the decoupage of the 2010s: Portraits made with cassette tapes.

Oh good, I was starting to worry that Sting wouldn't get around to ruining every song he's ever written.

Meep! Watch Muppets Bohemian Rhapsody with commentary from Kermit et al. (BONUS: Muppet cupcakes.)

Apparently this is what happens when you repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

CARTOON: It's time to reclaim America from illegal immigrants.

Why doesn't my bank ever do anything cool like this?

Worst Facebook 'Like' Ever

They like me! They really like me!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: Gulf Oil Spill Boon To Giant Sponge Industry

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP) - The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico threatens an economic and ecological disaster on tourist beaches, wildlife refuges and fishing grounds in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. But it's not all doom and gloom in the Gulf - the accident has proven a godsend to one ailing business, Giant Sponge Unlimited LLC.

"They say there's always a silver lining, and in this case I have to say that spill really saved our bacon," said the company's founder, Fred Prywatki, who so far has provided more than 1,000 giant sponges to the cleanup effort. "My mother always asked me, who's ever going to need that many giant sponges? And I never really had a good answer for her.

"Until today," said Prywatki, smiling broadly and folding his arms behind his head.

The company responsible for the spill, BP Global of Great Britain, "will pay us pretty much whatever we ask," explained Prywatki, whose company is the only manufacturer of giant sponges (many of them roughly 100 feet in diameter) in the Western Hemisphere.

He noted BP's willingness to pay handsomely for his product represents a big change from his last venture, Fred's Science Museum in Woburn, Mass., which closed after three months. "There it was tough to get people to pay a measly four bucks admission, even when we threw in Pizza Hut coupons," he explained.

BP has tried numerous methods to contain the spill, including Prywatki's sponges, a giant metal dome lowered over the spill area, and millions of rolls of Bounty paper towels dropped from helicopters.

"We had to stop that last one because they were knocking the oil-covered turtles unconscious," explained BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward, looking noticeably pale while lighting a cigarette with a shaky right hand. "That's considered bad form among environmentalists, evidently."

Taking a long drag and then rubbing his furrowed temple with his free hand, Hayward added, "It's a good thing I got a $32 million bonus last year, or this would all be very hard to stomach."

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

COLUMN: Betting on turbines and casinos in Massachusetts

For those of you out in the rest of the country who may be wondering, there’s more to Massachusetts than just taxes and liberals. We also have clams. And lately, we have two controversies that have been dominating discussion here: the debate over whether to allow wind turbines and casinos, unfortunately not together.

I’d been waiting to weigh in on these subjects until I’d done the proper research, by which I mean, until I’d seen a headline about them on the front page of the Boston Herald. I’m still waiting, unless wind turbines or casinos happened to be the subject of the recent cover story entitled “Button-down Mayor Says ... Screwgle Google,” the latest proof that ink fumes have permeated the building.

As far as the turbines go, though, I can’t help but wonder why people hate them so much. I find them to be kind of soothing — it’s like looking at a giant pinwheel. A giant, monstrously expensive, bird-annihilating pinwheel.

Now, we all know that the late Sen. Ted Kennedy didn’t want them marring the view from his Hyannisport compound, but let’s face it: It’s not Ted Kennedy’s view, it’s the people’s view. This would explain why Scott Brown has mounted a wind turbine to the back of his pickup, right next to the Truck Nutz.

And personally, I’d love to look out on a series of wind turbines from my compound, because that would mean ... I’d have a compound. Right now all I see when I look out my window is the guy across the street looking back at me, and frankly, it’s starting to creep me out.

Now, some say the energy we get from these babies will actually be too costly to justify the expense of building them, so I’m hoping they figure that out before they start construction, even if that would violate the state’s massive infrastructure projects credo (“Build first, ask questions later”). Also, they should make sure they don’t hire the people who did the Big Dig, unless they want the turbines to take 16 years and then fall over.

But the one argument I’ve heard that actually makes some sense (no, not the part about the birds —they need to start looking up, for crying out loud) is the following: Members of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe have said the turbines would desecrate tribal burial sites. By which they presumably mean “potential sites for future Indian casinos,” whose swimming pools will be filled with re-animated corpses and Craig T. Nelson.

Which brings us to the casinos, which I’m still not sure how I feel about. On the one hand, they could prove disastrous for compulsive gamblers and their families. On the other hand, maybe Tom Jones would come! So I’m torn.

One thing I’m definitely in favor of, though, is the idea of warning labels on the slot machines. I pictured something informative but catchy, like: “NOTICE: For best results, place your life savings, your clothing and your portable oxygen tank into the slot below. An attendant will be along shortly to carry your wrinkled naked body back to the bus.”

So you can imagine my disappointment when I heard that the Massachusetts House of Representatives had rejected that particular amendment. Seems there was an issue with the proposal: According to the State House News Service, the warnings “would require the listing of so many odds that the sign would be up to three times larger than the machine itself.” Which means the warnings about the buffet would probably have to blanket the entire building like a giant field tarp.

Regardless, both casinos and wind turbines sound on paper like fine ideas; the first one will bring in tons of tax revenue, and the second will help the environment, not necessarily in that order. You might quibble over the details, but at the end of the day, what could possibly go wrong?

With the possible exception of Massachusetts taxpayers getting screwgled.

Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England. Portions of this column appeared previously on The Wicked Local Blog. Follow him on Twitter at