Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thank God Peter Jennings
didn't live to see this

Lest you think that ABC News is no longer interested in the big stories, they've come up with something sure to catch the Pulitzer committee's eye, presuming that the Pulitzer committee has an eye for naked pregnant women, and let's face it, who doesn't? Yes, ABC has compiled a photo gallery of naked pregnant woman magazine covers. No word on the rationale behind it -- they're apparently letting the naked pregnant woman magazine covers speak for themselves -- but rumor has it that the intern who got the assignment responded with an immediate, "Sweet!"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

When Kirk says, 'Let's get the
hell out of here,' I still get misty

Sorry to interrupt, but I'm just bursting with excitement and had to share: I just got, not one, not two, but three personal e-mail messages from Joan Collins! Yes, they were all exactly the same, but I do know that they were each a personal message from Joan Collins, because all three subject lines said, "Personal message from Joan Collins," and the "From" line said "Joan Collins." (Her e-mail address is joancollins, by the way, for those of you who want to write to her to rave about "Empire of the Ants" [1977].)

But why would Joan Collins be sending a personal message to me, Peter Chianca? I can't recall ever meeting Joan Collins, or having any business dealings with her, or watching any of her movies or TV shows. (Except of course for her guest spot on "Star Trek.") Well, in her personal message she writes, "Just like all my screen and stage characters, I love making a grand entrance. So I simply can't let the launch of my new jewelry collection go by without a personal word to mark the occasion." OK, but I find it surprising that she'd take time to write me about this, and I didn't hear word one from her when she got that guest spot on "Guiding Light."

Then I read the kicker: "It would be wonderful if you would pass on the news to your readers. Eddie Deutsch in NY can fill you in on all the details for the attached Press Release." Oh, so that's how it's going to be, is it, Joan? Entice me with your "personal message" and then shill for some cheap press. How could you?

Now I know how Peter Holme felt ....

Monday, November 26, 2007

Now, this won't hurt
a bit, Mr. Vice President

This just in: Doctors had to administer electrical shocks to Vice President Dick Cheney this afternoon to correct an irregular heartbeat discovered during a routine physical. Normally a "low-risk" procedure, doctors in this case apparently ran into unsuspected problems and had to shock Cheney more than 30 times. "He took it like a man," said Dr. Zayd Eldadah, an electrophysiologist and director of cardiac arrhythmia research at Washington Hospital Center, adding that Cheney remained stoic even after they had to attach the electrodes to his nipples, his ears and his private area. "But then when we tied him to a board and poured water on his face, he sang like a canary."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

This week's column:
More things to be thankful for

I smell gravy, and you know what that means: It’s the time of year when we should all take a moment to consider some of the things we should be thankful for. Sure, there’s family and friends and good health and all that, but there are also the little things that are so important, like the fact that you live in a country where no one can force you to see “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.”

To that end, take some time this Thanksgiving week to consider the following pieces of good fortune:

  • You don’t have to walk around with an asterisk next to your name.
  • You’re not running against Hillary.
  • Jerry Lewis hasn’t called you any names on national TV.
  • Gen. Pervez Musharraf hasn’t put you under house arrest.
  • No one has illegally wiretapped your phone (that you know of).
To read the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca, click here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

This week's column:
Where no Winona has gone before

Is it me, or does the casting of Winona Ryder in the new “Star Trek” movie — in Jane Wyatt’s old role as Spock’s mother — smack of franchise reboot desperation? It’s sort of like when they were trying to come up with an idea for a fourth “Alien” movie and hired … Winona Ryder. All we’re missing is Jennifer Love Hewitt as a Tribble.

Unfortunately, this is all part of a trend. It seems Hollywood has decided that the stars of the shows and movies of the ’60s and ’70s just weren’t good looking enough, and they all need to be redone with more attractive people. (Or, in the case of Gabe Kaplan, with gangsta rapper Ice Cube, who is slated to appear in a “Welcome Back Kotter” movie. I can’t wait to hear him ask Julie if he ever told her about his Uncle Morty who got a cap popped in his tuchus.)

Granted, “Star Trek” did have one of the most generally unattractive casts in the history of television, presumably to make William Shatner look as good as possible. I’m figuring this was in his contract, along with always having his trailer fully stocked with Joan Collins.

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

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I always knew there was a hidden
agenda to all that holiday cheer

Given that I know kids who spent a good portion of their childhood being taunted on the playground with nicknames like “Sir Fats-a-Lot” and “Chubba the Hutt" (um ... not me, other people), I like to always be sensitive to situations that might make a kid feel ostracized. But I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that most children, even those of the non-Santa-believing variety, can get through a production of “Miracle on 34th Street” with an acceptably low number of emotional scars.

As you’ve may have heard, a Massachusetts middle school principal canceled a field trip to the show after a parent complained, saying that the play’s “basic theme is objectionable” to some members of the school community. At first I wasn't so sure which theme they were referring to: kindness, generosity, tolerance, the effectiveness of the U.S. Postal Service? Throw me a bone here.

Well, of course the offensive theme was Santa Claus, even though we can presume that kids of most backgrounds have probably heard of him by this point. And even non-Christians could probably walk away from the show with a more universal message than “Christianity, good; everything else, bad.” Just like people from all walks of life can still appreciate “Fiddler on the Roof” or “Buddha: The Musical.” (I just made that last one up, but it sounds like a good idea.)

But that’s apparently no longer the world we live in, so I decided I should probably dig out mylist of other offensive plays to avoid, for easy reference by other concerned middle school principals:
  • "Annie," offensive to orphans.
  • "Oliver," also orphans.
  • "Cats," to cats.
  • "My Fair Lady," Liverpudlians.
  • "Oklahoma," men named "Curly."
  • "The Sound of Music," Nazis. Also nuns.
  • "Grease," anyone with taste.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Up next: Chihuahuas on heroin

Sometimes in journalism, we complain when the writer of a particular story "buries the lead." The writer of this story did not do that:

GAUHATI, India — Paris Hilton is being praised by conservationists for highlighting the problem of binge-drinking elephants in northeastern India.

It's nice to see that Paris has finally taken up a worthy humanitarian cause, despite great personal risk: One of those babies inhales hard enough and it's nothing but trunk for Paris.

UPDATE: Remember that whole thing about Paris highlighting the problem of binge-drinking elephants in northeastern India? That story was apparently slightly erroneous.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

This week's column:
Has Springsteen met his Montana?

I’m always looking for ways to bond with my 8-year-old daughter, Jackie. I used to do this by helping her with her homework, until it got too hard for me: Her most recent assignment was to devise and write out her own word problems and then solve them using complete sentences, which I believe is the prerequisite for a PhD in applied mathematics.

Luckily, a new common interest has come up: Our love of music. Not that we love the same music, but it just so happens that her favorite artist and mine currently have the top two tours in the country — I’m talking of course about Hannah Montana and Bruce Springsteen. (And for those of you who think the top tour is Van Halen, all I have to say is that even when he’s 75, I will keep my daughter away from David Lee Roth at all costs.)

My fixation on all things Springsteen, and in particular with seeing him in concert, dates back to the early ’80s, when as a young teen I had a chance to see him with a local youth group. Unfortunately, my parents nixed the idea based on the fact that the bus would get back basically in the middle of the night. “Besides, you just saw that Huey Lewis,” they pointed out. Since then I’ve been searching for a rock critic who has said, “I have seen rock ’n’ roll’s future, and its name is Huey Lewis,” so the scars can start to heal.

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

And to visit my new Springsteen blog, click here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Rupert? What are you doing down there?

In one of the weirdest stories, well, ever, a former priest from Stoneham, Mass. (just a hop, skip and a Hail Mary away from where I live, incidentally) has been arrested for stalking late-night talk show host Conan O'Brien. I'm not positive, but I think stalking is considered a sin, even if it's not one of those seven deadly ones.

The Rev. David Ajemian is being held without bail this week after being arrested in New York for allegedly stalking O’Brien, in a scenario that seems oddly reminiscent of Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy" -- if Rupert Pupkin had been a priest instead of a stand-up comedian, that is. I smell sequel!
He signed many of the correspondence “Padre” or “Padre 009,” and in one dated Feb. 20 said “This is your priest stalker again.” Ajemian went on to write, “This is the way you treat your most dangerous fans? You owe me big time pal. I want a public confession before I even consider giving you absolution. Or else a spot on your couch.”
Oddly enough, that's how Andy Richter got the job.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's scary how much this
captures Massachusetts

You don't have to be from Medford, Mass. (or Meffa, as the locals like to call it) to appreciate 17-year-old Michael Maloney's ode to his fair city, "The Long and Winding Road to Medford." If you've ever known anybody from Medford, have driven through Medford or even just heard of Medford, or hell, even just Massachusetts, this thing will crack you up. Which is probably WROR radio handed him over a $5,000 check for it.

Do yourself a favor and Listen here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

This could have serious repercussions
on the one decent TV show

Oh no! The Writer's Guild of America has gone on strike! Now I'll have to spend my nights watching old "Seinfeld" and "Wings" reruns instead of the networks' highly publicized new shows! Oh wait, I'm already doing that.

Hence the Writer's Guild's problem: It's hard to engender public sympathy when most of the stuff you're writing makes people turn their heads away from the TV screen in a mixture of embarrassment and pity. (Yes, I'm referring to "Back to You." Somewhere, Frasier Crane is turning over in his fictional sitcom grave.)

So here's what I propose as a reasonable settlement, in three easy steps:
  1. Take all the money;
  2. Give it to the people who write "The Office";
  3. That's it.
As for the film writers, here's all I know about that: Somewhere out there is the guy who wrote "Underdog." He should be paying me.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

This week's column:
Yes I like it, SPAM-I-am

As my regular readers know, I like to reserve this space for tackling only the most pressing issues facing our society today. So in trying to determine this week’s topic, I spent hours perusing the country’s finest periodicals, most timely Web sites and most respected newspapers. That’s when I remembered the two-month-old box of SPAM sitting under a pile of papers on my credenza.

Yes, the makers of SPAM sent me this box back in August to promote their new “SPAM Singles,” presumably because they realized that people might prefer their SPAM in handy single-serving pouches rather than in a large chunk that, once opened, might devour an entire city before authorities can freeze it and drop it in Antarctica. But don’t worry, the singles still have the same great SPAM ingredients: ham, pork, sugar, salt and water. And the difference between ham and pork? I’m guessing you don’t want to know.

(By the way, the Hormel company likes to use all capital letters when referring to its SPAM products, to differentiate it from spam, the unsolicited commercial e-mail. They’ve apparently accepted the fact that their product name is now being used as a slang term for one of the most annoying things ever invented, but will only sue you if you try to make money from it. So if you send spam about SPAM, you can get into trouble — better stick to spam about enlarging people’s private areas.)

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

And listen to my official SPAM taste test here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

When there's no more room in hell, the dead will head straight for Lansing, Mich.

Before that pleasant Halloween glow wears off completely, we think it's appropriate to ask one very important question: Should the situation arise, is your city prepared for a zombie attack? Don't laugh: Lansing, Michigan is.
"We have been doing mock disasters and cross training for several years," said Lansing Police Lt. Bruce Ferguson. "People can feel confident, if zombies start invading, we'll know how to close the streets. We can get chainsaws too."
You can only hope that the cities and towns in your area have put in place similar contingencies, and are ready to form their own "coalition of the willing" -- willing to kick some zombie butt, that is!

OK, go back to what you were doing.