Saturday, May 31, 2008

Column: How I learned to stop worrying and love the high gas prices

As you may have noticed over the last few weeks, people have different ways of reacting the first time they see gas on sale for more than $4 a gallon. For instance, some stop in the middle of the road and bang their head against the steering wheel; others sit in their cars and sob uncontrollably; and still others take a nine iron to the hood of their Chevy Suburban, like Jack Nicholson might do to a car that cuts him off on Hollywood Boulevard.

But me, I just smiled. That’s because I see the silver lining in devastatingly high gas prices, and with a little positive thinking, you can too. So when you feel yourself start to hyperventilate at the pump, just keep the following 10 things in mind:

1) You have the perfect excuse for not mowing your lawn, now that you’ve worked your way through all your other excuses (it just rained, it looks like it’s going to rain, it will just grow back, etc.). Of course, there are people who will remind you that if you’re concerned about gas prices, you can still use a manual push reel mower. I hate those people.

2) No more of those pesky summer family vacations featuring long, boring drives to faraway places. Now you can get on each other’s nerves and yell at each other in the comfort of your own home, just like the rest of the year.

3) You don’t have to spend your nights worrying that the Saudi royal family will be unable to handle the skyrocketing cost of hummus.

4) You can avoid that vague but undeniable taste of petroleum in your hamburgers by shutting off the gas grill and cooking meat the way our forebears did: on top of a pile of charcoal briquettes that have been soaked in so much lighter fluid that when you toss the match in, they generate a fireball like the ones that unfurl behind Bruce Willis in the “Die Hard” movies.

5) More people will be inspired to walk places. In fact, I predict it won’t be long before hundreds of SUV owners are walking to work down Route 128, dodging Priuses and deer.

6) Having to shell out 50 bucks to fill your tank will keep you from wasting that money on expensive frivolities, like milk.

7) You can console yourself with the widely reported fact that gas is still much cheaper than Starbucks coffee, which actually comes out to $70.88 per gallon. No word on how this is expected to affect the sales of the new 2009 Toyota Macchiato, not to mention the job prospects of a whole generation of snooty and condescending “fuelistas.”

8) If you happen to live next door to an executive from Exxon-Mobil, you might be able to sneak into his yard and use his Olympic-sized outdoor heated pool and Jacuzzi spa while he’s wintering in the Maldives.

9) When people notice how much you smell like french fries, you can tell them it’s because you drive an environmentally friendly car powered by cooking oil from fast-food restaurants. You’ll still have to come up with your own reason as to why you smell like bourbon.

10) We’ll finally be motivated to give up on our oversized vehicles and come up with reasonably priced, environmentally sound alternative energy sources that reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Ha ha ha! Just kidding about that last one — a little devastatingly high gas prices humor. Now if you need me I’ll be outside soaking my briquettes.

Peter Chianca is a CNC managing editor and the brains behind “The At Large Blog” ( and “The Shorelines Blog” (

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And at the end of the day all of our faces will melt off, like the Nazis at the end of 'Raiders'

In what I'm fairly sure is not a joke, climate-change debunker is launching the first-ever "Carbon Belch Day" on June 12. This is the day they'd like every American to emit so much carbon that you will actually be able to see it rising over the landscape like a giant carbon mushroom cloud. They didn't say that exactly, but I'm betting there would be high-fives all around over at Grassfire headquarters if it happened.

According to President Steve Elliott, the Carbon Belch "will be symbolic of our release from the absurdity of green extremism." Elliott says that "you can increase your carbon belch simply by hosting a barbecue, going for a drive, watching television, leaving a few lights on, or even smoking a few cigars." As long as you do it in Al Gore's general direction.

Anyway, you can calculate the best way for you to unleash your maximum carbon potential using their Carbon Belch Calculator. (And no blaming it on the dog, because we know it was you.) As for me, I'm going to expel my carbon the old-fashioned way: by burning 2.5 billion tons of coal.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Unlikely Awesome Sequel

At first I want to throttle critics who can't bring themselves to like a movie like "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which just provided me with the most fun I've had in a movie theater since ... well, maybe since the last Indiana Jones movie. Let's face it, what film has come out in the last 19 years that has been any fun at all? I've basically stopped going to the movies out of fear somebody will be forced to cut off his own arm with a hacksaw. And that's just in the audience.

But I found the latest Indy adventure to be fun, funny and exciting -- maybe it's because my expectations were lowered by George Lucas' last attempt at revisiting a beloved old franchise, but I actually found it more enjoyable than the last two. Part of that could be the fun of watching my son Tim enjoy the movie so much, just like I loved "Raiders" 27 years ago. But it could also be that if we ever needed Indy cracking that whip again, it's right now. Without him all we've got for heroes are those kids from Superbad and Robert Downey in a metal suit. Robert Downey!

So you fuddy-duddy critics looking for a plot that made sense and an age-appropriate Indy who would crumple the first time a bad guy hit him in the jaw can go take a flying leap off three successive giant waterfalls. I'll go with critics like the Flick Filosopher, who summed it up this way:
All I know is this: I sat through two hours of Crystal Skull and when it was over, my jaw was aching, because I hadn’t stopped grinning like a little kid the whole time. I love this movie. I love it.
Or the great Roger Ebert, who noted: "I can say that if you liked the other Indiana Jones movies, you will like this one, and that if you did not, there is no talking to you."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

You will believe a penis can fly

So have you seen the video of Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov being attacked by a remote-controlled flying penis? You haven't? Man, are you lucky to have me around.

I particularly like the part where Kasparov's burly bodyguard jumps up in the air and swats wildly at the flying penis, not unlike King Kong on the top of the Empire State Building, if King Kong had been being attacked by penises.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Not to be confused with the spunky waitress on 'Alice'

For some reason I'm not sure how to feel about the fact that National Grid has created a virtual polar bear character named "Floe" who can "help National Grid customers analyze and measure the environmental effects of their routine daily activities." Such as, for instance, powering up your computer in order to play with a virtual polar bear.

The best (or most horrifying) part is that as you enter your bad energy-consumption habits, the already precarious ice floe that Floe is standing on melts further away. I can only assume that if you waste enough energy, Floe will eventually fall into the water and drown -- I'm sure the Grand Theft Auto crowd will keep at it until they can figure that out. (Meanwhile, if you admit that you have, say, a digital photo electric picture frame that you keep plugged in all day, Floe will come to your house and maul you to death.)

In a related story, make sure to check out this exclusive report from CAPNews, on how the president has figured out a way to give the polar bear the protection environmentalists say it so direly needs:
"The experts say the polar bears need protection," continued Bush, "and nobody gives protection like these Secret Service guys, lemme tell ya. For one thing, they always make sure to take your keys away if you're tanked."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What do you want for $100 million?

Speaking of Speed Racer (as I was the other day), they really ask for way too much from these Hollywood directors. Do you think it's easy to make a half decent movie for only $100 million? No, it isn't -- just ask the Wachowski brothers, who seem to have spent exactly that amount on what is essentially the world's longest and most expensive Mentos commercial.

But it's not their fault, as you'll read in this exclusive report at CAPNews:
"First of all, nowhere in our contract does it say the movie had to not suck," said Larry Wachowski. "If anybody had mentioned that they didn't want the movie to suck, we would have definitely made that a priority, or at least talked about it."

"Larry's right," said Andy Wachowski. "We had this whole checklist of things to do with this movie, and if they had told us they didn't want it to suck we would have put that right near the top."
Maybe they'll have their next time, when they helm their $150 million version of Battle of the Planets.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

And she's, well, Janet, dammit!

I haven't seen "Speed Racer" (just like pretty much everyone else, apparently), but I can pretty much tell you right off the bat what the most unrealistic part of it is. No, not the crazy colors or the monkey or the cars that seem to defy gravity. It's that John Goodman could wind up landing Susan Sarandon.
He looks like a cross between Fatty Arbuckle and the guy from the W.B. Mason ads, for crying out loud.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Help the monks help cyclone survivors

At Large fans are a generous sort — I can tell by how often people click on that little "Make a Donation" button on the right of the screen. Oh wait, no one ever does that.

But I do know that even if you don't want to send me your hard-earned cash, you’d want to help out in Burma, where more than 100,000 are feared dead in the wake of the recent cyclone. But how to get the aid to that country when it’s common knowledge that the government there is brutal, corrupt and not particularly interested in helping its own people? I have one word for you: monks.

So says the independent global campaigning organization

Humanitarian relief is urgently needed, but Burma’s government could easily delay, divert or misuse any aid. Today the International Burmese Monks Organization, including many leaders of the democracy protests last fall, launched a new effort to provide relief through Burma’s powerful grass roots network of monasteries—the most trusted institutions in the country and currently the only source of housing and support in many devastated communities. Click below to help the Burmese people with a donation and see a video appeal to Avaaz from a leader of the monks:

Giving to the monks is a smart, fast way to get aid directly to Burma’s people. Governments and international aid organizations are important, but face challenges—they may not be allowed into Burma, or they may be forced to provide aid according to the junta’s rules. And most will have to spend large amounts of money just setting up operations in the country. The monks are already on the front lines of the aid effort—housing, feeding, and supporting the victims of the cyclone since the day it struck. The International Burmese Monks Organization will send money directly to each monastery through their own networks, bypassing regime controls.

We now return to your regularly scheduled humor blog, already in progress.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

They promise it will be strictly softcore

Believe it or not, I hadn't been looking especially forward to "High School Musical 3." This could have something to do with having watched "High School Musical 2," which was what I imagine it might feel like if Satan came up from the fiery pits of hell and threw balls of flaming sulfur in your eyes.

Still, if this report by the reputable news organization CAP News is any indication, volume 3 may actually be kind of interesting:

Disney CEO Bob Iger pointed out that those scenes may not make the final film, and besides, with High School Musical 3 headed for the big screen rather than Disney Channel, Disney felt a need to make it "edgier," he said. This would explain rumored plot turns such as Troy and Gabriella's steamy tryst in Troy's secret garden hideaway at East High, Sharpay's embarrassment after a nose job gone horribly wrong and Corbin Bleu's character, Chad, coming out as gay. "Like that wasn't completely obvious," said Iger.

"It's more sophisticated, but let's face it, the audience has gotten older," Iger added. "Some of them are 8 now."

Monday, May 05, 2008

I'm an idiot

Yes, that's right. At first I thought Elvis Costello was so clever, putting out an album on vinyl only, but including a code to download the whole album as well. That way you get the retro thrill of placing the needle on the record to hear that first song, but still be able to take it in your iPod when you're out jogging or riding the train. I don't do either of those things, but I like the idea of being able to if the opportunity arose.

And I'll admit I did get a kick out of sliding the album out of its sleeve and putting on the turntable -- until I realized that instead of the first song on side 1, it was playing the first song on side 2. That's right, the album was pressed wrong -- side 1 was missing and I had two side 2's. But at least I would have the download, right? Wrong -- the code didn't work.

So now I have half an album and no downloads. (Not that the downloads would have helped -- turns out the format isn't iTunes compatible anyway.) And that part about not releasing it on CD? Elvis was just kidding -- that's coming out next week.

This is the last time I get caught up in nostalgia. If anyone catches me waxing wistfully about my old Betamax, just hold me down until the feeling passes.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Not the luncheon meat -- that's 71. You know, like McCain.

Spam is 30!

Time certainly flies ... It seems like just yesterday I got my first notice about how I could enhance my manhood and bring my partner more pleasure to keep her from laughing at me behind my back.

Friday, May 02, 2008

This must be that last-chance power drive you’ve heard about

First there was the woman who stabbed her boyfriend when he wouldn’t let her listen to Springsteen music (”I mean, who doesn’t like Bruce Springsteen?” she asked the arresting officer, and frankly, I had to agree).

And now, another story tying The Boss to criminal activity: A man in France was stopped by cops going 125 mph while watching a Springsteen DVD on a player he had mounted to his dashboard.

An officer said: “He said he had a long drive to Paris and was bored.”

Understandable, but I don’t understand why he couldn’t have passed the time doing what everybody else does when driving long distances: Texting.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Parents, lock up your machetes!

It seems a lot of people are concerned about kids getting their hands on the latest Grand Theft Auto game, and you could see how it might happen. After all, how is a parent supposed to know that a game whose box features pimps with guns and women in tiny bikinis making suggestive tongue movements (not to mention the giant "M" and "17+" warnings) would be bad for a 12-year-old?

But bad it would be, as I uncovered in my exclusive report for CAP News:
A new study out of Harvard Medical School suggests that since the release of the first Grand Theft Auto video game in 1997, incidents of 12-year-olds involved in carjackings and hooker beatings have gone up almost 1300 percent
That explains so much. But if you think that's bad, wait until you see Volume V.