Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Column: Confused about commerce? Ask Dr. Business!

This week, we turn our column over to Dr. Business, our expert on finance and the economy, to answer your business questions.

Dear Dr. Business:
What will the proposed merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation mean for concertgoers?
Music Fan in Mashpee

Dear Music Fan:
Well, essentially the merger will create an entity so powerful that it will be able to make you see any concert it wants, so be prepared to be sitting in the 12th row for the Dexy’s Midnight Runners reunion tour, having paid $300 for your ticket and not knowing what hit you.

Also, all tickets will be sold by auction, meaning admission to a Madonna or Bruce Springsteen show might wind up costing thousands of dollars. But on the plus side, if you go see Journey with the fake lead singer, they might wind up paying you.

Dear Dr. Business:
What will the new stimulus package mean to me and my family?
Hopeful in Hopkinton

Dear Hopeful:
If you’re an average, middle-class family, you should wind up seeing an extra $13 per week in your paycheck. But if you really want to stimulate the economy, you should take that $13 and use it as a down payment on a $2,500 HDTV, and then when you find that you can’t make the payments anymore, just stop answering your phone. Trust me, I think that will work this time.

Dear Dr. Business:
I found out my credit score is in the high 500s. Do you think I’ll be able to get a loan?
Desperate in Dorchester

Dear Desperate:
It’s too bad you weren’t asking me that question a year ago, when you could have walked into the bank with that credit score and the loan officer would have issued you the loan, given you a case of fine champagne and, in some cases, kissed you full on the mouth, like the Bikini Girl did to Ryan Seacrest. But these days, she is more likely to take out her book of actuarial tables, look through it slowly and carefully, and then use it to bludgeon you to death.

Dear Dr. Business:
How might I know if my company is planning to lay me off?
Worried in Wellesley

Dear Worried:
There are a few telltale signs, such as being asked to cover the front desk so the receptionist can attend the all-staff meeting. But another thing to watch out for is if, while passing by your boss, you hear her mumble, “Dead man walking,” and when you say, “What?” she says, “Oh, nothing” and then snickers to herself. Boy, did I find that out the hard way.

Dear Dr. Business:
Is it true this is a bad time to try to sell my house?
Cash-Strapped in Canton

Dear Cash-Strapped:
Frankly, there is not much chance anyone will have an interest in your house at this time, unless you abandon it in the middle of the night and leave the door open and unlocked. And even then it’s unlikely, because people will figure you’re just setting a trap and plan to lure them into a pit in your basement.

It is, however, a good time to sell your car, assuming you’re selling it to be used as a house.

Dear Dr. Business:
I read how executives are complaining about having to limit their salaries to $500,000 if their companies take government bailout money. How can they possibly not afford to live on $500,000?
Skeptical in Scranton

Dear Skeptical:
You’d be surprised how fast that $500,000 goes. For one thing, they might need to buy concert tickets.

Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England. Find more at North Shore Sunday, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca. To receive At Large by e-mail, write to info@chianca-at-large.com, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”

Monday, February 23, 2009

Luke, I have a bra dryer on my head

I'm a little concerned that the bra dryer looks like Darth Vader:

Publish Post

Wait, no, my mistake. That's Wall-E. Whoa, even more disturbing.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Now when I say I'm an 'award-winning columnist,' it won't be something I just made up for my resume

I don't usually like to toot my own horn, because frankly I think that might be illegal everywhere except Nevada. But on Feb. 7, I snagged a first-place award for Best Humor Columnist from the New England Press Association. Which proves the journalistic truism: The more newspapers go out of business, the better I do in these contests.

Anyway, below is one of the columns the judges cited, from last June:


The other day I actually used the phrase, “Do you kids think I’m made of money?” And I did it without even a hint of irony — I was genuinely wondering what could have given my children, ages 6 and 9, the idea that I had the expendable income to afford, say, a hot tub, or a wall-mounted HDTV, or gas.

Then I thought, “My God, I’ve become my father.”

Like so many other aspects of growing older, I figure this must have happened gradually — it’s sort of like becoming a regular Oldies station listener, or reaching the point where you should probably be shaving your ears. But I knew I’d made the transformation when I realized I’d somehow inherited my father’s incredulity at his children’s seemingly complete lack of knowledge about the cost of, well, anything.

He found it particularly galling when my siblings and I left lights on, which we never understood — after all, we might want to come back into that room at some point, and leaving the light on would keep us from having to expend the extra effort required to flip the switch again. But now, suddenly, I find myself brimming with indignation when I come upon a lit light bulb in an empty room.

“That’s electricity … that we’re paying for … that no one is using!” I declare to no one in particular, since my kids are of course not there anymore, having moved to the other side of the house to determine the best spot for the wall-mounted HDTV.

That isn’t the only clue that I’ve morphed into my father — there are the flecks (OK, swaths) of gray that have appeared in my hair, and I’ve also become the family member suffering through a small cup of sherbet while my kids are scarfing down ice creams the size of their heads. I always felt bad for Dad when we went out for ice cream, and now, sure enough, I feel bad for me.

Not that I’m an exact clone of my father. First of all, Dad was (and remains) blessed with a swarthy Sal Mineo mane, whereas mine is starting to look like I skipped turning into my father and went directly to turning into my grandfather. He also knew how to put his foot down, while I still find myself negotiating with my kids far too often — they’re so adept at it I think they might be sneaking out of bed at night and watching “Boston Legal.” My son’s even starting to sound like Shatner.

“But Dad,” their arguments always start, followed by a lengthy diatribe about how I, say, told them they could stay up until 9 p.m. but that it was currently 8:56. Their logic is unassailable, but somehow my father would have found a way to assail it, and us, right into bed. I also made an error my father never would have made, namely to declare that “My name is NOT ‘But Dad.’” This led my son to associate “Dad” with his favorite word, “Butt,” resulting in no end of hilarity. (“Dad-Butt-Dad-Butt-Dad-Stinky!-Butt,” etc.)

But the fact of the matter is, the older my kids get, the more I find myself engaging in the activities I most associate with my father: running alongside bicycles that have been recently sheared of their training wheels; throwing and catching baseballs while explaining the arcane rules of a sport that makes no apparent sense; poring over homework assignments that bear no resemblance to the ones I got as a kid. (What happened to carrying the one?)

And I don’t know about all the other fathers, but when he wasn’t complaining about the electric bill, mine was doing all of the above with no questions asked — in fact, it was understood that there wasn’t anything off limits when it came to leaning on Dad. And come to think of it, there still isn’t.

So as I sit here writing this on Father’s Day, I realize that maybe turning into your father is just part of being a father, period — and in my case, if I can embrace those fatherly activities with half the patience, love and aplomb that my father did, I’m probably in pretty good shape. In other words, if in the end I have to turn into somebody … there’s nobody I’d rather be.

And just to show I mean it, Dad, next time I visit — I’ll get the lights.

Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca. To receive At Large by e-mail, write to info@chianca-at-large.com, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I have never once run a picture of a goat. OK, maybe once

As if we people in newspapers don't feel bad enough, now Paul Rudd is making fun of us. Paul Rudd!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Column: 25 random things about Fred

If you’re on Facebook, the social networking Web site, odds are someone has asked you to engage in the exercise where you share 25 personal facts about yourself. But I started to get concerned that maybe the practice had gone too far when I read the effort by my Facebook “friend” Freddy Frackelton of Woburn, Mass., which I reprint for you below.


Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits or goals about you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

1. My left big toe is bigger than my right one. It might not sound like a big deal, but I think it’s starting to affect my balance. It’s either that or all the drinking.

2. I don’t know what “whist” is, and I’m too embarrassed to ask. And don’t suggest I look in the dictionary — who has that kind of time? I don’t know about you, but I work for a living.

3. I can play all 23 minutes of “Gates of Delirium” by Yes on the accordion.

4. I was the only one in my Cub Scout troop who was able to successfully field dress a deer. Unfortunately I did it during our hike at the wildlife sanctuary, which is why I never made it into Webelos.

5. I’m very close with TV’s “Law and Order” star Mariska Hargitay. In fact, if it weren’t for the restraining order I think I’d be seeing her pretty much every day.

6. When I was a child I had an imaginary friend named Pootsie whom I loved. But now she’s starting to make me nervous, because I think she may be responsible for my neighbors’ cats disappearing.

7. I own Michael Bolton’s entire recorded output. Not because I like it — I play it to try to get Pootsie to leave my apartment.

8. My great-grandfather survived the Hindenburg disaster, only to choke to death a few years later on a zeppola. Isn’t that ironic?

9. I have some funny hobbies. For instance, I collect vintage Coca-Cola signs. Also, I enjoy knitting! Plus there’s the porn.

10. I have a recurring dream in which Rachael Ray is trying to layer me into a giant chicken taco nacho. If I ever meet her in person I’d love to tell her about it, but that’s highly unlikely because of the restraining order.

11. When I eat shellfish, my face turns red and my head blows up like a balloon. I can’t for the life of me figure out why my mother keeps sending me those Red Lobster gift cards.

12. I dabbled in nudism for a while, but mall security kept hassling me so I had to give it up.

13. I used to have Patriots season tickets, but they were rescinded — something about the way I would try to paint the other fans’ bodies whether they wanted to be blue or not. Some people have no team spirit.

14. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but now I realize the six months I spent in juvie was one of the most productive times of my life. For instance, I learned how to kill a man with just one punch to the kidney. You know, hypothetically.

15. You know that Kevin Spacey character in “Se7en”? I don’t relate to him at all. Nuh-uh.

16. The last time I did one of these lists on Facebook, most of my “friends” wound up un-friending me. I’m afraid they didn’t realize I was just kidding about a lot of the stuff. For instance, I don’t really enjoy knitting.

17. I didn’t put down anything for 18-25, because the voice told me not to. No, not in my head — I was talking about Michael Bolton.

Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England; this column appeared originally in North Shore Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter without risking a restraining order.

Looking for my own 25 random things? Click here.

And right now, Google is doing this to you through your bedroom window

Want to kill a few hours? Why not zoom in on EVERY SINGLE PERSON at the inauguration? I know Oprah is in there somewhere.

Secrets of the universe revealed

Watch and learn!