Sunday, July 31, 2005

This week's column:
Flipping out over footwear flop

You probably noticed that I hadn’t weighed in on the controversy over the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team wearing flip-flops to meet the president. This is because I’ve been carefully considering the issue, and also because I know the average women’s lacrosse player could take me in a fight, even without the stick.

Still, I’ve decided that I really must speak out and declare: Flip-flops are just wrong. Not necessarily for meeting the president — with his track record, he’s lucky anyone visits him at all. No, I’m against flip-flops in general, because I believe it’s fundamentally wrong to declare two slabs of rubber and some string to be actual footwear. What would Florsheim say?

Granted, I’m no expert, being as I’ve never worn a flip-flop in my life. I suppose there’s a chance that if I did I’d be overcome by exhilaration, reveling in the freedom I felt as I skipped down the road in my practically-bare feet, my rubber slabs slapping the ground like hands joyously smacking against a bongo drum. But I doubt it.

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

Friday, July 29, 2005

I better shape up,
'cause she needs a man ...

Hopelessly devoted to ... well, you know.

So, why do you suppose I felt that odd rush when I got the e-mail from the Lowell Memorial Auditorium announcing an appearance by Olivia Newton-John on Oct. 20? Could it be I flashed back to when I was 11, sitting in the Cameo Theater in Brewster, N.Y. watching "Xanadu"? No, I'd pretty much successfully managed to wipe that from my memory. Maybe it's because I recalled "Timeless Tales from Hallmark," her 1990 TV series meant to to promote environmental awareness among children? No, I actually had no idea that existed. Her valiant battle against breast cancer? Admirable, but again, no. Hey, wait ... could it be ... That trampy black outfit from the end of "Grease"?

I'm so ashamed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Well, what a coincidence --
that's the kind I have!

Good news: Scientists have discovered the existence of "good" bacteria that actually fights bad breath and stinky feet! So all of you sucking down Listerine Oral Care Strips like they were jellybeans, cut it out -- the bad breath- and stinky feet-fighting bacteria you kill may be your own.

According to CBS News, "More studies on the topic may lead to a natural way of reducing bad breath and smelly feet." No word yet on whether those studies will be able to determine why people in need of such remedies always sit next to me on planes.

But as scientists work to harness the power of good bacteria until millions of them can be held on little leashes and trained to attack and destroy all things stinky, you'll have to come up with another way to keep from offending people in your general proximity. For instance, "practicing good hygiene may help."

Ha ha! No, seriously, I'm figuring a needle in the stomach might be good.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Please excuse the intrusion. This
may come as a surprise since you
don't know me, but OW! OW! OW!

I'm not sure quite how to feel. On the one hand, when someone gets beaten to death in his own apartment, that's a bad thing. On the other hand, when that person happens to be someone responsible for sending spam to 14 million Internet users, well ... If you're not asking for a deadly beating, you must at least know you're at risk for some serious wedgies.

Apparently over in Russia, where the beating occurred, there were no such mixed emotions. Headlines there included “An Ultimate Solution to the Spam Problem,” “The Spammer Had it Coming" and “Ignoble Death Becomes Russia’s Top Spammer." Which tells you one thing: Russia needs a good New York Post. (Suggested headline: "WHAM, BAM -- NO MORE SPAM!") We can be thankful that the old Pravda's gone, though. ("Spammer happy and healthy, salutes Soviet ingenuity.")

So the question remains: Should spammers be put to death? The jury is still out, but the way I see it, if I get one more Cialis ad, no jury in the land would convict me.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Even though it's in Utah, he says
he'll stop at three wives, tops

Oh sure, back when I was single all my friends said they'd help me meet somebody. "I'll set you up with my cousin, who has almost all her original teeth," they'd say. Or, "Would you like to go out with my wife's friend Marnisha -- she has two more weeks before she has to get back to the Israeli Army." Or, "I know a girl who's perfect for you; she's really, really desperate."

But for whatever reason, none of them erected a billboard in my hometown soliciting women to date me. And they called themselves my friends. Bastards.

Fortunately for Lance Archibald of Linden, Utah, his friends apparently care more for him than mine did for me. They have not only set up such a billboard, but also a Web site -- -- to attract women for their 31-year-old and yet somehow unmarried buddy. Now, that's what I call friendship. No, I'm not crying ... There's just something in my eye.

Anyway, I hope Lance finds what he's looking for, namely, the type of woman who'd date a guy she saw on a billboard. Or, barring that, a woman whose friends would set her up with a guy they saw on a billboard. One of those two things.

Oh good! A needle in the stomach!

For a while there I thought I was going to have to exercise.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

This week's column: A new
spin on family vacations

In the endless litany of things that remind you that you’re getting older — your hairline, Top 40 radio, your body’s outright rejection of the Big Mac — I’ve decided that high on the list should be a visit to one of America’s fine theme parks. Also carnivals, but there the feeling is trumped by the sensation that at any moment you might be jumped by a deranged carny.

But theme parks, they’re supposed to be joyful and fun — even the ones my family visits, which tend to look like that they were built entirely out of papier maché in the 1950s. It seems to me this feeling shouldn’t wear off just because you’re old enough to suspect the guy piloting the Buccaneer Pirate Ship is not an actual pirate.

I was especially looking forward to visiting Santa’s Village and Storyland last week, given that my kids are outgrowing the need to tromp repeatedly through the Three Bears’ House, where they try out beds that have already been laid upon by the entire under-5 population of northern New England. Instead they’re getting into the various roller coasters and tilt-a-whirls, which I figured would be more fun for me — at least until I actually went on one, and was surprised at the end of the ride to find that my stomach was sharing a car with an entirely different family.

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

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Although I had my
suspicions about that Q*Bert

It's good to know that Hillary Clinton and parents all across America are springing into action to get "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" out of the hands of children. They're doing this now that they've found out the game can depict graphic hubba-hubba if you modify the game code, which to you and me seems about as likely as building a thermonuclear device out of old tomato cans, but for anyone under 20 is second nature -- it's like their ability to operate a PlayStation joystick in the first place, which requires thumb ligaments that didn't even exist prior to the Clinton adminstration.

I'm just wondering where Hillary and Co. were when you could just use "Grand Theft Auto" to decapitate police officers, kill them with a sniper rifle, massacre them with a chainsaw and set them on fire. Apparently that's OK with everyone, including Wal-Mart, as long as nobody is getting any illicit lovin' in-between dismemberings.

All I know is, I miss the Space Invaders. They just disappeared in cute little pops when you shot them, and having sex with them was certainly out of the question. At least I hope it was.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Interestingly, Oliver Stone
had also promised he'd
never release 'Alexander'

Was he wearing the shower cap in the
sex video? The world may never know.

Poor, deluded Colin Farrell. When will he and all the other celebrities who film themselves in flagrante delicto (literally, "flagrantly, in a delicatessen") learn that those movies never, ever, ever remain private, particularly when you're a celebrity and the other "performer" is, say, a Playboy Playmate. (Who, in this case, a quick Google search will tell you has never been on the Internet not naked. This is your first clue that "discretion" is not especially prevalent in somebody's vocabulary.)

According to the lawsuit filed by Farrell to keep the tape out of the hands of celebrity sex tape collectors everywhere, "The videotape was created by two individuals solely for their private use and enjoyment." Which begs the question: Why a sex tape? Why not, say, decoupage?

Anyway, if there are any celebrities out there who can explain this phenomenon to me, I'm all ears. We get that you're fabulously attractive and all that, but do you really need photographic evidence of everything? Seems to me it's about time celebrities started being ashamed of their bodies like all the rest of us.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Sunday, July 17, 2005

This week's column:
A toned-down Jones?
Say it ain't so!

Peter Chianca returns with new columns next week. To close out his vacation -- and to mark Tom Jones' stop in Boston this past weekend -- here's a column from the At Large archives:

Unless you're completely oblivious to important current events, you've no doubt heard the following piece of news: Tom Jones has given up wearing leather pants. Yes, I know, I'm just as disturbed as you are.

Not that I'm a fan of leather pants — I think if I ever tried to wear them my body would simply reject them outright, like a bad kidney. But for Tom, they work; after all, if he got up on stage singing overwrought, cheesy love songs wearing regular polyester slacks, he just wouldn't be Tom Jones. Neil Diamond, maybe.

But the pants aren't all he's giving up; he also says he's going to stop wearing open shirts and picking up the women's underwear thrown at him while he's on stage. Something must be done — if he also decides to stop swiveling his hips I'm concerned he could wind up turning into Jim Lehrer.

To read the rest of At Large by Peter Chianca, click here.

Friday, July 15, 2005

To really pay tribute to the
cows, eat at least five pints

If ice cream could be turned into a living-dead
zombie, it would probably look something like this.

Ah, summertime — when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of eating. A young woman’s too. Basically, I'm referring to anybody willing to scarf a pound of fried scallops and wash it down with a pint of ice cream, which in the winter would be considered self-abuse but in the summer is just part of the seasonal fun, like exposing your pasty white skin to intense UV radiation.

If you don’t believe me, just stop in at your local Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which is sponsoring “Cow Appreciation Day.” And what better way to appreciate a cow than to eat one on a sesame seed bun? Ha ha! I jest of course. The best way (say B&J) is to ingest ice cream made with milk from cows who have not been injected with synthetic growth hormones. (Particularly ice cream with names like “The Gobfather,” “Fossil Fuel” and “Appley Ever After.” So much for vanilla.) I'm sure the ice cream will taste that much better given the lack of artificial hormones, but it's worth noting, it still came out of a cow.

Meanwhile, over at Baskin Robbins (where I suspect nobody’s particularly concerned about synthetic growth hormones), they’re doing their annual search for a “Master Taster.” That’s right, you yourself can enter the blindfolded taste-off, wherein 10 ice cream fanatics per region test their ice cream flavor identifying skills. Presumably, the first one to declare “Hey, is this Appley Ever After?” will be forcibly ejected.

Or, you can top of your meal of grilled salmon and collared greens with a bowl of fresh strawberries and a few ounces of tasty sorbet. Ha ha! Again, jesting. Pass the fried dough.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Yes, yes, I know -- I'm a
muggle. Let's move on.

Beware, Harry! It's a green, glowing ... uh ... thingie!

Book titles that will be a sure sign J.K. Rowling is running out of steam:
  • "Harry Potter and the Kidney Stone"
  • "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Thinly-Veiled Rumors"
  • "Harry Potter and the Layover in Phoenix"
  • "Harry Potter and the Gimlet of Vodka"
  • "Harry Potter and the Family Stone"
  • "Harry Potter and the Janitor of Azkaban"
  • "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Sausage"
  • "Harry Potter and the Sharon Stone"
  • "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Commerce"
  • "Harry Potter and the Burger King Tie-In"

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

As long as this doesn't somehow
involve my swimming pool, I'm in!

In my line of work, you get a lot of requests. Most of them are not significant enough to fit into my busy schedule, but every so often you get one that makes you stand up and take notice. And more often than not, it's one with a subject line that says "Spirit Quest Giant Squid Survey Briefing Invitation."

So sure enough, when I received an e-mail titled just that earlier today, I immediately skipped over all the ones requesting I send my bank information to someone I've never met in Nigeria or take an herbal supplement that would guarantee a certain physical state that would be embarrassing at Rotary Club meetings, and read on.

The note read, "A world media event to succeed in filming the Giant Squid alive in its own natural habitat is underway. This will be covered by major broadcasters globally. Needed now are sponsors, investing co-directors and interested professionals." Well, let me just say to the folks at Reverie Productions that I sincerely doubt they will find a professional more interested in Giant Squid Survey Briefings than myself, and I hereby pledge to do whatever I can to further the cause, short of donating any actual time or money.

And to the giant squids, I can only say: Hang on. We're coming.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

But we better keep eating
those corn dogs, just in case

Nice going, men! Scientists have finally determined that obese men are more obese than obese women. Just add it to the list of other things we're better than women at, like war, channel surfing and painting our bodies blue for football games.

Um, and being competitive. There's always that.

Monday, July 11, 2005

And if big bosoms were
part of the criteria, Evander
Holyfield should have won

If only John O'Hurley had shown more navel ...

I've held my tongue up until now, but ... Blast you, Kelly Monaco! Blast you and your "General Hospital" fan base! Blast your bare midriffs and your deft handling of your wardrobe malfunctions! Blast the way you won over that catty Bruno Tonioli! Blast you for reducing the heretofore stoic Carrie Anne Inaba to gushing "You go girl!" platitudes! And blast you for winning me over in the end, you spunky underdog!

OK, I feel better now.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

This week's column: Alien
hunters are just taking up space

You've probably read by now that experts predict they'll make contact with intelligent alien life by 2025. Given that, I'd like to take this public forum to express what I consider to be an important and relevant thought:

ATTENTION ALIENS! I hereby renounce my earthly governments and submit to your subjugation! Please do not fry me with your death ray lasers!

There, I feel better.

To read the rest of this week's At Large by Peter Chianca, click here.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

And get this: Anakin
turns out to be Darth Vader!

Well, I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me seven weeks to do it, but I finally saw "Star Wars Episode III" today. And I'd just like to thank George Lucas for realizing what the people wanted and actually giving it to us. Yes, I'm talking about more scenes of Yoda kicking Sith butt. And Wookiees. Lots and lots of Wookiees.

In fact, the only suggestion I have would be to release a special edition with all footage of Natalie Portman replaced with a different actress speaking different dialogue. Almost anybody would do -- I might suggest splicing in Sissy Spacek from "Coal Miner's Daughter."

By the way, I get that the Sith are supposed to be Republicans, but exactly who is the Emperor? I think I've got it narrowed down to Rumsfeld and Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The trip may be over, but
I can still taste the chocolate
milk and grilled cheese

Do you like the look? I'm going for
a George Hamilton kind of thing.

Ten things that occurred to me at Storyland and Santa's Village:
  • Is it me, or has Humpty Dumpty has been getting busy with the Clinique Self-Tanning Body Mist?
  • There’s no tantrum that can’t be cured by a few minutes in the mist tent.
  • Remember when you were 14, and could go on any roller coaster or tilt-a-whirl, and it didn’t affect you at all? You’re not like that anymore.
  • Judging from “The Hum Bug” ride, in which riders take turns shooting giant bugs, it seems that in New Hampshire it’s not Christmas unless you've handed a 4-year-old a plastic firearm.
  • Disney can take its Splash Mountains and Towers of Terror. In the end, nothing beats a crater filled with plastic balls.
  • When you walk into a theater on a humid July day, after having just heard “Oh Holy Night” over the loudspeakers for the fifth time, and watch a show in which an elf named Fruitcake sings “The Candy Man,” you think, this is what LSD must be like.
  • The “Crazy Barn” is not crazy so much as nauseating.
  • When maneuvering your kids through the gift shop that’s been placed strategically in front of the only exit, keep their heads down and shuffle them forward forcibly, like when running through hail.
  • No matter how many rest rooms they build, there will never, ever be a potty close enough when you really need it.
  • I would guess that theme park workers are probably, by capita, the most likely people in the world never to have children.

Monday, July 04, 2005

We're 10 hours from the &%#@!
fun park and you want to bail out.
Well I'll tell you something. This is
no longer a vacation. It's a quest.

I'm off with the family to Storyland and Santa's Village in N.H., two of the finest fun parks ever to be made entirely from paper mache during the 1950s. If I survive, I'll post about it at the end of the week. In the meantime, if you're at one of those two parks and see a guy in a yellow plastic rain poncho trying to fish his kids out of the ball pit, it's probably me.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

This week's column: Give
'em a yard, they'll take a mile

I should start off by mentioning that I've always thought of yard sales as part of an elaborate, underhanded plot to get strangers to pay for the privilege of taking away your garbage. It's like a Ponzi scheme with old lamps.

So with the idea of unloading stacks of household detritus while at the same time taking money from our friends and neighbors, we decided to hold a yard sale last weekend. This actually took quite a bit of preparation, most of which involved negotiating with my wife, who thought it appropriate to sell anything we hadn't actively used in the last 40 minutes. I, on the other hand, was able to come up with a sentimental attachment to almost everything she pulled out for the sale, including the price stickers.

In the end, though, we were able to reach some compromises. For instance, I agreed we could sell the wine rack, given that we don't actually drink wine and have spent the last several winters using it to store hats. Also, I offered up a box of my old yellowed comic books, after carefully culling any I thought my son might someday want or that would make good reading material if I ever found myself locked in the basement.

To read the rest of this week's At Large by Peter Chianca, click here.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

G8 get kick in pants
from Madonna, declare,
'What were we thinking?'

Paul McCartney, right, stated today that he
will do his part to end poverty by giving all
the little African children on stage with him
crisp, new $20 bills. And Bob Geldof too.

Isn't it good to know that by the end of the week, the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations meeting in Scotland will have pledged a cool $1 million to each resident of Africa, starting by emptying their own personal bank accounts? This will happen after they smoke some ganga and declare that if Pink Floyd can get back together, well, anything is possible. Then Junichiro Koizumi will hold his lighter in the air while Gerhard Schroder and Silvio Berlusconi join arms and sway, ever so gently. Personally, I can't wait.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Unfortunately, science has
yet to develop a convincing
robot 'Shrimp Lover's Combo'

This is not the actual robot lobster. But you've seen
one robot lobster, you've seen 'em all, I always say.

This week's Invention of the Week award goes to a robot lobster designed by an inventor at Northeastern University, who apparently somehow found time to invent it in between Red Sox- and Patriots-inspired street riots.

The lobster, an entry at Wired Magazine's annual NextFest in Chicago, is meant to troll the sea floor for mines. What it does with the mines when it finds them is unclear, although "crush them in its vice-like grip" would be a fairly cool option.

While real lobsters might feel threatened by such a development, it's worth pointing out that, despite the robot lobster's very expensive mechanical muscles made from the same metal mesh material used to make the stents implanted in heart patients, you still wouldn't want to eat one. Well, at least not without a lot of melted butter.

This is what the Blizzard
of '78 must have been like

Just got reconnected after two days without Internet. Now I know how those Puritan women felt when they ran out of wax.