Friday, December 31, 2010

IN AND OUT 2010: Entertainment


1) Zombies vs. Vampires. Forget about Team Edward vs. Team Jacob. “Twilight” might still be in among a certain segment of the population (the segment who won’t date any boy who doesn’t “sparkle”), but these days it’s all Team Vampire vs. Team Zombie. Both undead types have taken over TV, with “True Blood,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Walking Dead” tearing up the screen, often literally. Meanwhile, werewolves are out — just ask Benicio Del Toro.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that vampires and zombies are the only game in town. Superheroes are more in than ever, with “Iron Man 2” leading the way for movies starring Captain America, Thor and eventually The Avengers. If they ever get around to Rom: Spaceknight, you know we’re in trouble. (And if you know who Rom: Spaceknight is, you’re as much of a nerd as I am.)

Pixar remains in thanks to “Toy Story 3,” and Harry Potter will be bowing out when the last movie turns up next summer. Movies that are too cool to be understood are also in, judging by flicks like “Inception” and “Shutter Island.” Leonardo DiCaprio is also apparently too cool to be understood, but he’s still in.

2) Pop music. Taylor Swift has taken over the world, but she’s not alone. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry are giving her a run for her money and might get the edge by wearing meat and flashing Elmo, respectively. Flashing Elmo is in. You know who you are.

And Justin Bieber is in as the immensely popular source of derision among hipsters. Personally, I think he’s pretty cool, at least until his inevitable press conference when he peels off his face and reveals himself to be a fire-breathing, soul-stealing demon from the depths of hell. Soul stealing is in.

3) TV with a brain. What is it with all these shows that don’t insult your intelligence? Programs like “Mad Men,” “Modern Family,” “Parks and Recreation” and “The Big Bang Theory” are giving the entire mindless medium a bad name. Luckily, we still have “Two and a Half Men,” which more than fulfills our quota of smarmy, obvious sex jokes told by losers. Speaking of which, women inexplicably continue to come within 100 yards of Charlie Sheen, which must mean he’s still in. No, not prison.

The smartest, funniest character on TV is, of course, Conan O’Brien, who might not be on NBC anymore but is all the more in because of it. Thanks to Conan, TBS is also in. George Lopez? Maybe next year.

4) Book series. Call it the Potter effect: One book is simply not enough anymore. These days “To Kill a Mockingbird” would just be the first book of a seven-part series in which Scout and Boo Radley outwit rednecks.

Harry and friends have gone off to that big publishing house in the sky, but dozens of other series have popped up to take their place. Like “The Hunger Games” trilogy, in which futuristic teens must battle each other to the death. It’s sort of like a post-apocalyptic “Henry and Beezus.” (Henry and Beezus are out, but Ramona and Beezus are in, thanks to the Selena Gomez movie adaptation. Selena Gomez is in, somehow.)

For younger kids, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (up to book five and counting!) has paved the way for dozens of other books that mix prose and cartoons. For grown-ups, the creepy and violent “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series is in, even though it doesn’t have any cartoons, thank God.

5) Game time. No, not board games — not only are they out, but no one has even seen one since the early ’90s. Those board game displays you see at Toys R Us are actually just the false front of the entrance to the secret underground employees-only paintball field.

No, I, of course, mean video games, such as “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” which certain people have been playing nonstop since its release, taking only short breaks to eat, sleep and twitch uncontrollably. But not every game is a high-def graphics extravaganza. Smartphone users of all ages are hooked on “Angry Birds,” our latest excuse for never actually having to look up. Looking up is out.


1) 3-D. When 3-D is good, like in “Toy Story 3” or “Despicable Me,” it’s neat, or at least not distracting. When 3-D is bad, like in “Clash of the Titans,” it’s like you’ve just paid 15 bucks to spend two hours in a giant migraine machine. And when the 3-D and the movie are both bad, like in “The Last Airbender,” you might find yourself overtaken by an uncontrollable desire to go to Hollywood and pummel the producer with a paddle ball.

Thankfully, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” eschewed 3-D, but Part II will apparently use it. Better be prepared to get poked in the eye by a wand. Poking is in.

2) Pop music. Wait, did I say pop music is in? I wasn’t taking into account Miley Cyrus (a.k.a. Hannah Montana) or the Jonas Brothers, who seem destined to be lifetime residents of the Disney ghetto, sharing a room with those squirrelly boys who play Zack and Cody for all eternity, like a tween Sartre play.

And poor Christina Aguilera flopped both with her comeback album “Bionic” and her movie “Burlesque” with Cher. Could Cher finally be … out? Naaaaaaaaah.

3) Stupid TV. So “30 Rock” is too smart for your tastes? There’s always its time slot competitor “$#*! My Dad Says,” which is worth hating simply because it was based on a Twitter feed, and nobody has approached you about making a TV show out of your Twitter feed. But the jokes are another good reason; this is the bad William Shatner, the one from “Kingdom of the Spiders.”

But most of the stupid people on TV are, sadly, real. Kate Gosselin, David Hasselhoff and a certain former vice presidential candidate fond of skinning caribou are all giving reality shows a bad name, which is not easy to do. And poor Jay Leno and his obvious humor are finally out, even if he’s back in his old time slot.

3) Talk show hosts. Oprah is still on her way out, although as we all know she’s really on her way up, to a giant plush couch in the sky where she will be crowned queen of the universe. Larry King will probably not have the same fate. He’ll likely just kick back and spend some quality time doing things like attending his kids’ Little League games, where he can tell the other parents about the time he asked Ty Cobb whether it was true that he invented the Cobb salad.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are in but not as talk-show hosts. As the only people reporting the news of the day in a format that provides actual facts and context, they’re the in newsmen. All the other newsmen are out. Sorry, Katie Couric.

5) Youngsters. Miley might be tanking, but 61-year-old Bruce Springsteen’s “The Promise” boxed set is selling like hotcakes, and Rod Stewart, 65, has now gone platinum with every song written between 1940 and 1955. Our biggest movie stars are Johnny Depp, 47, Robert Downey, Jr., 45, and Leonardo DiCaprio, the baby at 36, while Sylvester Stallone, 64, and his aging cronies had one of the biggest hits of the summer with “The Expendables.” The comedy world is mourning Leslie Nielsen, who passed away at 84, and who could be more in than Betty White, still baking her muffins at 88?

The exception is anyone who’s the progeny of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. The Smiths are in.

TOMORROW: In and Out in Sports

Thursday, December 30, 2010

IN AND OUT 2010: News and Politics

Sure, times are tough, and everybody is angry at the government, corporate America, the entertainment industry and each other. But is that any excuse for not keeping up with what’s in and out in politics, arts, culture and life in general? Of course not.

So as the year winds down, let’s put our differences aside and take a look at the things we’ve declared to be in and out in the categories of News and Politics, Entertainment, Sports and Life in the USA. Then afterwards, we’ll hug.

Today's installment: News and Politics.


1) Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. Ah, Sarah Palin … Is there anything she can’t do? She survives encounters with grizzly bears on her reality show. Her daughter gets to the finals of “Dancing With The Stars.” She makes up words, and we add them into the dictionary. So what if she doesn’t know the difference between North and South Korea, wants to stifle the press and, if elected president, would probably sign a law making it legal to club liberals to death like baby seals? She’s got moxie, baby!

She’s also got major cred with the Tea Party movement, which hates profligate government spending, except for the eight years when George Bush was doing it. They’re going to take the country back from President Obama, who somehow snuck into the White House despite being the world’s first Kenyan-born socialist fascist Marxist, whatever any of those words mean.

As for Sen. Scott Brown … He’s not only in, he’s dreamy. There, I said it.

2) Leaking. It seems only appropriate that in an age where we regurgitate every previously private fact and facet (and photo!) from our lives via our phones and computers, someone should be out there doing the same thing for the government. Sure, eventually WikiLeaks will probably release something that will threaten our national security, but it’s worth it to know (for example) that our diplomatic corps thinks that Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.” If that involves green briefs and a yellow-laced red bodice, count me in!

3) Patting and probing. Along the same lines, given the number of people broadcasting pictures of their personal, er, information via their cell phone cameras, it’s probably not surprising that most people are perfectly willing to submit to full-body scans in order to get on a plane. We’re a little nervous about the people who choose the “enhanced pat-down” option, though, particularly the ones who tip the TSA agent afterwards. Being a TSA agent is in.

4) Marriage. Marriage is in among people of all stripes and sexes, and it’s only a matter of time before any two people who love each other, in any state, can become legally bound for life. Or at least until they get tired of each other, at which time they’ll all have equal opportunity to pay attorneys exorbitant amounts to sort out who gets the furniture. Attorneys are in.

5) Ash. As in volcanic ash, which made big headlines when it grounded planes all over the world, forcing people to spend days stuck in airports, getting extra pat-downs. The good thing about the ash that erupted from the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier (or as Sarah Palin pronounces it, Eyjamacallit) is that we’re pretty sure it’s not our fault, unlike everything else up there destroying the environment and warming the planet. Not that that’s stopped Al Gore from going on the road with his “Inconvenient Volcano” PowerPoint presentation. Al Gore is out.


1) Hope. Also change. President Obama has had two whole years to reform government, get everybody jobs and health care and turn Washington into a bipartisan utopia where politicians as diametrically opposed as Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner can work together and, eventually, kiss passionately. The fact that he hasn’t is the fault of the Republicans, who have blocked the president at every turn by glaring icily at him, at which point he considers giving them a stern talking-to, and then immediately caves in. Caving in is in.

Democrats are out — out of style, out of office and generally out of sorts. Take New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, who’s looked a little queasy ever since being “censured” by Congress for ethics violations. Luckily all that money he saved not paying taxes on his rental property in the Dominican Republic can buy a lot of Pepto-Bismol.

2) Working. More and more people are opting not to work, “opting” meaning getting laid off, searching unsuccessfully for another job for 16 or 18 months and then collapsing from exhaustion. But the government will probably keep extending unemployment benefits, as long as the Republicans in Congress can verify that no one is abusing the system by actually using them.

3) War. Well, war itself isn’t out per se — we’re in at least two of them right now, I think — but talking about them certainly is. Not a single candidate made our armed conflicts an issue in the mid-term elections. That’s probably because everyone is in universal agreement about the importance of our mission in Afghanistan, whatever that is.

The troops are, of course, still in, even the ones that are out — of the closet, that is, now that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has finally been repealed. Now gay people can be just as open about it in the military as they are in other careers, like musical theater or construction.

4) Oil. It costs a fortune, it imbues our Middle Eastern adversaries (and even our allies) with unfair leverage, and when it spills, it gets all over our turtles. We might finally be at the point when we realize that oil is just not worth it and start coming up with alternative sources of energy, just as soon as someone perfects an invisible wind turbine. Having to look at wind turbines from your yacht is still out.

5) Taxes. OK, when is everybody going to get this straight: The less rich people pay in taxes; the fewer poor people there are. It’s a scientific fact, or something. So leave the rich people alone with their tax cuts and get back to looking for a job already.

Incidentally, despite coming this close to wrecking the entire world economy and plunging society into a global depression, rich people are still in. We’re still not quite sure how they pulled off.

TOMORROW: In and Out in Entertainment

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

COLUMN: Resolving to keep things close to home

It’s almost time to start another new year, meaning soon we’ll all be making resolutions to be better human beings, or at least eat fewer fried pork products. These resolutions will only last until halftime of the first New Year’s Day football game, but at least we’ll feel good about ourselves for those few hours.

But I had an idea for some other kinds of resolutions when I took my parents to the House of the Seven Gables in nearby Salem, Mass., and all the other visitors were from Switzerland and Germany. Apparently people from this country have already seen all the gables they need to, or they were all at Target.

With that in mind, I’m resolving this year to take advantage of some more landmarks of Boston's North Shore that I’ve yet to experience. You’re my witness — in 2011, I will:

1) Go somewhere that has “witch” in the title. Speaking of Salem, it’s amazing that I’ve gone this long without ever setting foot in the Salem Witch Museum, on a Salem Witch Tour or in a store where you can buy newt, eye or otherwise. I figure if I can come home with one $7.99 plastic witch tchotchke, those women will not have been hanged in vain.

2) Ride the OGO. The OGO, as I’m sure you know, is a giant plastic ball that you climb into, at which point they roll you down a mountain, where you’re buffeted around inside it like an unfortunate hamster. The Amesbury Sports Park bills it as “like being in a washing machine and on a roller coaster at the same time,” so if people aren’t flying in from Germany to do that, they’re reading the wrong tourism brochures.

3) See the “Spirit of ’76.” This famous painting of a Revolutionary-era fifer and drummers is on display in the Selectmen’s Room at Abbot Hall in Marblehead, Mass., so I have no excuse for not going over there and trying to take a picture of it, at which point the selectman on duty will tackle me and smash my camera with an authentic 18th century nose auger.

4) Go to Gloucester in the middle of the night and have my picture taken hanging off the Fisherman’s Memorial statue. I actually did this with a bunch of my friends in 1987, when I was in college, and I learned a valuable lesson: Gloucester Police do not take kindly to college kids hanging off the Fisherman’s Memorial statue.

There are plenty of other North Shore activities I could resolve to do — things like riding the manacled elephant at the Topsfield Fair, or eating dinner on top of the Newburyport Rear Range Lighthouse (even if in both cases I have a distinct fear of falling off). But the idea is, taking part in these local activities is convenient, enriching and easier than giving up fried pork.

Although this year, I think I’ll be sticking with another fried product. After all, I’ve never had a Woodman’s clam, either.

This column appeared originally in North Shore Life magazine. Follow Peter Chianca on Twitter at To receive At Large by e-mail, write to, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: Stan Lee Was 'Just Kidding' About Spider-Man Musical

NEW YORK (CAP) - Spider-Man creator Stan Lee, 87, admitted this week that he was "just kidding" when he suggested that producer Michael Cohl mount an elaborate multi-million-dollar Broadway musical based on his web-slinging character.

"I met Michael and Julie [Taymor, the director] at a party," recalled Lee. "I was just making conversation and I said, 'You should do a Magnificent Marvel Musical about our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man - he could swing stirringly from the ceiling and sing songs, and you'd have the combined might of Marvel's Merry Marchers behind you. Excelsior!'

"Even I have no idea what I'm talking about when I say this stuff," said Lee.

"I remember thinking, if Stan Lee thinks this is a good idea, maybe we can make it work," says Cohl, whose Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark has gone millions over budget and been delayed four times thanks to technical snafus and cast injuries. "I figured this is a man who's really a pioneering creative genius."

Reminded that Lee's company Stan Lee Media actually had to declare bankruptcy in 2001, Cohl responded, "Well, I know that now."

Taymor said she was also impressed by the fervor of Lee's pitch. "He was absolutely right - Spider-Man is a genuine American myth with a dark, primal power," says Taymor, who directed the hit Broadway adaptation of The Lion King. "But as it turns out it's a lot harder to make a real guy fly around a theater than a cardboard bird."

The show is meant to feature elaborate acrobatic battle sequences, and rehearsals have resulted in several concussions, two broken wrists and various strains and sprains among cast members, along with an allergic reaction to the chemicals and adhesives in Spider-Man's webbing that sent three stagehands to the hospital and required the response of a New York City HazMat team.

"It's a veritable bloodbath," said the New York Observer's Rex Reed, who has covered the city's theater scene extensively. "Broadway hasn't seen this many injuries since Rex Harrison turned up soused to a performance of My Fair Lady and passed out on Julie Andrews and Robert Coote.

"Sometimes I crack myself up," added Reed.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Friday, December 17, 2010

COLUMN: Some Santa Ho-Ho's and No-No's

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.

Instead, we recommend you listen attentively to the children, nod, and affect a blank stare devoid of any emotion, particularly fear. They can sense fear.

2.) Please keep in mind that not all children believe in Santa Claus or celebrate Christmas. However, please make no attempt to determine this based on physical cues, such as yarmulkes or “Proud Jehovah’s Witness” T-shirts, as this would be considered profiling. If you have any questions, please consult the mall’s attorney, who will be standing behind the fake snowman.

3.) Plump Santas are no longer considered “jolly.” Instead, they serve as a bleak reminder of our nation’s struggle with obesity and are a poor role model to our increasingly overweight and inactive children. Please make every effort to appear slim and fit, and to encourage children to leave you celery and soy products rather than cookies and hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. Also, please note that smoking is permitted in the break room only.

4.) Please do not promise children that Santa will bring them anything in particular, as promising a gift that the parents cannot afford or do not approve of could result in a lengthy and expensive lawsuit. Be pleasant but non-committal. If the child is persistent, try to distract him with one of the celery sticks we now give out in lieu of candy canes; if that doesn’t work, send him behind the snowman to speak to the attorney.

5.) It has been deemed inappropriate, and a serious legal risk, to have children sitting on a strange bearded man’s lap. This year the children will sit on a stool, separated from you by a sheet of soundproof Plexiglas. This also serves the purpose of keeping you from being able to hear their gift requests (see No. 4).

6.) Scientists have determined that eight flying reindeer traveling around the entire world in one night would emit more than 40,000 tons of greenhouse gases, which would have a profound effect on global warming. As modern children are particularly sensitive to this issue, it is important that if they ask about the reindeer, you tell them politely that they are all dead.

7.) The concept of elves has been determined to be offensive to a host of protected groups, including little people, pointy eared people and people with high squeaky voices. However, so as to give you the support you need, we are looking at several possible replacements. Right now we’re leaning toward attorneys.

We’re sure that if you follow these simple guidelines you will succeed in making the children’s visits with Santa as unremarkable and non-offensive as possible. Welcome aboard the team here at the mall, and have a merry … a happy … Oh, whatever.

I'm currently driving around the mall parking lot looking for an open space; this “Best of Chianca” column is from 2007. Follow me on Twitter at

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AT LARGE Fake News Wednesday: Dylan, Waits, Cohen Record Christmas Album

MALIBU, Calif. (CAP) - Following the surprise success of his 2009 holiday album Christmas In The Heart, Bob Dylan has teamed up with two fellow gravelly-voiced troubadours, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, for a new release, Hallelujah! Christmas In The Heart Of A Hooker In Minneapolis.

"Well my daddy, he didn't leave me much, you know he was a very simple man, but what he did tell me was this," Dylan told CAP News during a joint interview with his new collaborators. "He did say, son, he said, you know two mouths are better than one mouth, and three mouths ... well, there you go." Then he leaned back and took a puff of his Chesterfield, taking a moment to tap the ashes off with a shake of his jade quellazaire.

Christmas In The Heart sold more than a million copies, and Dylan's versions of "Silver Bells" and "O' Little Town of Bethlehem" have become standard fare in shopping malls and at Christmas parties across America.

"I love it when he sings 'the hopes and fears of all the years' in that croaky wheeze that he's got - it sounds sort of like a death rattle, but in a festive kind of way," said Sally Fender of the YuleTunes blog, which gave Christmas In The Heart a four Figgy Pudding rating.

Dylan approached Cohen and Waits about the follow-up album, and the pair was apparently more than happy to oblige.

"One thing I learned during the years I spent living among Buddhist monks is that enlightenment comes in all forms, and speaks in many voices," said Cohen, sitting with Dylan and Waits outside Coogie's Beach Cafe in Malibu. "And one thing I learned when my manager stole my retirement fund was that you don't turn down an offer to make an album with Bob Dylan."

"This album will be colder than a ticket taker's smile at the Ivar Theater on a Saturday night," added Waits in a guttural mumble, prompting both Dylan and Cohen to stare at him blankly for several seconds before changing the subject.

Hallelujah! Christmas In The Heart Of A Hooker In Minneapolis offers an eclectic mix from the trio; for instance, Cohen contributes a version of "Ding Dong Merrily On High" which he says is actually a reference to a sexual liaison he had with Janis Joplin in the late 1960s. "She was, alas, often merrily on high," said Cohen, wistfully with a touch of literary mischievousness.

As for Waits, he contributes an original song entitled, "If It's Christmas, Those Must Be Whores And Bourbon." He admitted it's not typical holiday fare, but explained that while writing it, "I got caught in the middle of a pimp war between two kids in chinchilla coats, they couldn't have been more than 13 years old - they're throwing knives and forks and spoons out into the street."

"Riiight ..." responded Cohen, and Dylan just rolled his eyes.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

COLUMN: Wishing you an off-kilter Christmas (movie)

When I was a kid, every year around this time I would watch “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” I did this despite the fact that critics regularly put this 1964 movie on their list of the worst films of all time, probably because of its inane plot, juvenile dialogue, bargain-basement costumes and the fact that it appears to have been filmed entirely in a single room that may or may not have been made of cardboard.

I think I may have watched it because as a child, it’s comforting to know that Santa, in addition to bringing you toys every year, is also capable of warding off an alien invasion if necessary. Also, New York’s Channel 9 scheduled it on a Saturday afternoon every December — your choice was either that or reruns of “Hee-Haw” on Channel 11, and Roy Clark certainly never conquered any aliens, with the possible exception of Minnie Pearl. (Incidentally, the entire “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” is embedded below via Hulu, if you ever have a spare 80 minutes and have a choice between watching that and hitting yourself in the forehead with a plank.)

Of course, there are plenty of other holiday-themed movies that don’t seem to quite get the spirit of the season. Some are downright horrifying, like “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” or anything starring Tim Allen. But others are only just slightly off, like a sugarplum left under your pillow one night too long. (Or wherever the heck those sugarplums were.)

One that comes to mind is “Gremlins,” the 1984 Joe Dante film about horrible little creatures that terrorize a small town at Christmastime, and breakdance. It’s noteworthy not so much for the scene where a Gremlin explodes in a microwave oven (no matter how many thousands of important microwave experiments it may have inspired among America’s youth) but for Phoebe Cates’ speech about the time her father dressed up as Santa Claus and died a horrible death while coming down their chimney. Sadly, no transcript of the speech was included with the thousands of Gremlins dolls under 5-year-olds’ Christmas trees that year.

Another is John Hughes’ “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” (1992), in which cute (by which I mean possibly sociopathic) Macaulay Culkin gets left behind at Christmas by his parents again, this time in New York City. I thought the first “Home Alone” movie was just stupid, but in watching the second one I realized it teaches children a valuable Yuletide lesson: If Joe Pesci ever tries to break into the house, electrocute him.

And I was particularly disturbed by 2004’s “The Polar Express.” Much has been made of how creepy Robert Zemeckis’ animated characters look, which is exactly the kind of press you want when you spend $166 million making a movie (which, granted, included Tom Hanks’ standard salary, $164 million). Personally, I saw this entire film and don’t remember a single shred of the plot, and yet the Steven Tyler-inspired Aerosmith elf who pops up at the end haunts my dreams, with those pointy ears and gigantic lips — I have visions of him jumping out from behind my Christmas tree and gumming me to death.

The good news is, over the last few years I’ve been able to introduce my kids, now 9 and 11, to a few holiday movies that are outlandish enough to rise above, say, the goop on ABC Family’s “25 Days of Christmas” (in which a grouchy businessperson or Tom Arnold learns the true meaning of the season), but not so bizarre as to keep them up Christmas Eve, not from excitement but from the fear that they will be attacked by Gremlins, or Joe Pesci.

Their hands-down favorite is of course Bob Clark’s “A Christmas Story” (1983), which does off-kilter Christmas just the right way: with fake swearing, almost shooting your eye out and eating mashed potatoes like a piggy. It shows that it’s possible to make a holiday movie that’s funny, moving and even a little bit subversive without being gross or stupid.

If only the Christmas goose had exploded in the Chinese restaurant microwave, it would have been perfect.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: Palin says 'Alaska' Dog-Clubbing Footage Taken Out Of Context

WASILLA, Alaska (CAP) - Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is saying leaked outtake footage from her TLC reality show Sarah Palin's Alaska has been taken "out of context," particularly the scene where she clubs and skins a miniature schnauzer, mistaking it for a baby seal.

"Ya know, out in the tundra things happen pretty quick," said Palin. "When that snow's comin' down, a schnauzer and a seal are basically indristinguishable."

Critics have pointed out that the "tundra" where Palin skinned the dog was actually the Bluff Park Farm in Knik-Fairview, and that before clubbing it she shot it from a helicopter using high-powered rifle with an infrared scope.

"Plus an old lady was walking it," pointed out People for the Ethical Treatment Of Animals spokesman Dan Sharon.

Sharon also said the excuse that Palin mistook the dog for a seal is "no excuse at all," since the practice of seal-clubbing has long been maligned as inhumane. The practice was targeted in a series of mid-'90s PETA magazine ads in which Pamela Anderson was shown clubbing a tiny Photoshopped version of Ted Nugent.

"Well, maybe beatin' a seal to death sounds unearthadox to those high falutin' big-city PETA elites, but out here in the wilderness, that's how we roll," said Palin while signing books at the Walmart Superstore on South Seward Meridian Parkway in Wasilla.

"Maybe the PETAs should spend more time gettin' all naked and beatin' up on Santa's fur cluffs," said Palin, possibly meaning "cuffs."

In other outtake footage, Palin is seen taking a rifle she purchased at a Wasilla gun shop and shooting out author Joe McGinniss' car headlights. Palin has criticized McGinnis for moving next door to her in Wasilla while researching a book on her.

"Well, maybe he shouldn'ta shined [his headlights] on my property," she's seen telling Wasilla Sheriff Karl Plastow as he confiscates the weapon. "The Russians mighta seen 'em and attacked us with their, waddayacallem, Moogs," possibly meaning MiGs.

There's also footage that appears to have been shot from another room where she's seen advising her daughter Bristol to whack her fellow Dancing With The Stars contestant Brandy in the knee with a crowbar.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

COLUMN: Waiting for the end of the world ...

Ah, it’s that time of year again. The weather’s turned chillier, shoppers rush hurriedly from store to store, and a particular phrase is on everyone’s lips: “THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH!” This statement may or may not be followed by an anguished wail and/or rending of garments.

I’m referring of course to a press release I received recently from the “Hourglass Watchman” of the eBible Fellowship with the heading “A Message to the Media of the World,” which apparently includes me. Not one to bury the lead, the Watchman gets right to the point:

“May 21, 2011 — Judgment Day. God will begin to destroy the World and this Universe with a worldwide earthquake. October 21, 2011 — The End of the World. The World and the entire Cosmos will be totally destroyed by fire.”

Considering most of the press releases I get include either the phrases “craft fair” or “ham and bean supper,” this would obviously be considered Big News. But oddly enough, I’ve yet to see reportage on this by any of the rest of the Media of the World, which must still be busy tracking the Black Friday tramplings. So it seems it’s up to me to bring up some of the obvious questions raised by this announcement, such as:

1) What happened to 2012? Can’t those stupid Mayans get anything right?

2) Five whole months to destroy the earth? I think God needs a new contractor.

In order to better help us better understand our impending annihilation, I thought I’d walk you through the highlights of the 18-page (!) e-mail, which I decided to print out on the grounds that preserving trees is now no longer necessary, and also I only need my ink cartridges to last another 11 months. (Or maybe even six months, assuming that printing things becomes less of a priority after the giant, world-destroying earthquake.)

First, the release insists that it is “not unusual that God’s people have been given insight into the timing of the end of the world.” Apparently it’s also happened those other times when the world was supposed to end but didn’t, leaving all the people holding “The End is Near!” placards to just mill around sheepishly, like Springsteen fans still waving a “Play Thunder Road!” sign after the lights go up.

As for the time between Judgment Day and the actual End of the World, apparently that’s to provide those of us who haven’t been called up into heaven with “the most horrific period of five months of torment, misery, sorrow and unspeakable hell on earth,” or, as we call it here in New England, “winter.” (Just a little End of the World humor there.) “How awful!” the Watchman then declares, just to drive the point home in case we haven’t been paying attention.

It’s worth noting, though, that although we will be annihilated in fire and cease to exist after the five months, the e-mail asserts, “there will not be a conscious suffering in a place called hell.” That sound you just heard was Charlie Sheen exhaling and ordering another round of drinks.

Personally, I’m hoping that God isn’t really planning to save just 200 million chosen people and leave the rest of us to “die like a beast” rather than rise up into heaven. Because for one thing, I’m counting on beasts being allowed in heaven, because when I die I’m going to have a lot of catching up to do with my dogs. And second, judging by the typical criteria, I’m guessing the 200 million saved people will include the likes of Sarah Palin, George W. Bush and Glenn Beck, who I’m guessing will not want to lick me or catch my Frisbee.

Still, even though I’m skeptical, the Hourglass Watchman asks that I “please consider publishing an article … regarding this awesome urgent and important matter,” so that’s what I’m doing. Just like I do when people send me their ham-and-bean-supper notices.

Which reminds me: If you’re planning one, you may want to schedule it before next October, just in case.

This column appeared originally in North Shore Sunday. Follow Peter Chianca on Twitter at To receive At Large by e-mail, write to, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”