Saturday, December 31, 2011

IN AND OUT 2011: All The Rest!

Letting your iPhone (a.k.a. “Siri,” with whom you’re already, let’s face it, a little bit in love) do your thinking for you is in, and doing actual thinking is out. In a related story, inching ever closer to the inevitable robot revolution is in.

President Obama is, amazingly, in, despite caving in to the GOP left and right. But thanks to him, Osama bin Laden is out, so maybe it’s a wash.

The Tea Party is over. Please go back to your militias and wait for the impending government invasion.

Electric cars are still out, because despite the fact that they may save the world, they’re wussy. What we need is an electric car the size of a tank, preferably with machine guns mounted on the sides. Electric-powered machine guns, that is.

Thanks to the Green Bay Packers, cheese is in. And thanks to Tim Tebow, praying is in, and groping women, texting images of your private area and running dog-fighting rings are out. Take that, Satan!

Denying global warming is out, now that it’s too late. Fiddling while the world warms up is in.
Zombies continue to be in, and why wouldn’t they be? But vampires are suffering from overkill (sorry) and werewolves are just plain out. Yes, even “Teen Wolf.” OK, especially “Teen Wolf.”

Oprah is out of sight, but not out of mind. At least not at our house, thanks to our wall-sized Oprah shrine.

And finally, probably owing to the state of the economy, scaled-back versions of in-and-out lists are in. And you know what that means: We’re outta here!

Follow Peter Chianca on Twitter at

Friday, December 30, 2011

IN AND OUT 2011: Sports

In: Collapsing

Just when you thought the baseball season was destined for another ho-hum conclusion, the Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves suddenly and unexpectedly began engaging in a death struggle to see who could suffer the most complete and embarrassing September breakdown. It was close, but Boston pulled it out! Pulling it out is in.

As a result the Sox are out, especially Terry Francona, Theo Epstein and Jonathan Papelbon, who are all now out of town. Boston fans probably shouldn’t have been surprised, though, given the Patriots’ collapse against the Jets in last season’s playoffs and the Celtics’ collapse against Miami in the semifinals. Let’s face it, they all folded like cheap umbrellas. Cheap umbrellas are in.

The exception of course was the Boston Bruins, who managed to ward off the Canucks to take the Stanley Cup. Warding off Canucks is in, and if you don’t believe us, just try spending some time in Canada. This just goes to show you that even though they’re the lowest paid and the most unkempt of professional athletes, if you just give them a shot, hockey players will beat you within an inch of your life.

Out: Working

Actually showing up seems to be becoming a problem in professional athletics, with exhibit “A” being the almost-aborted NBA season. Of course, the players were “locked out” by the owners, who were very upset that the players were making all that money for doing the playing when they felt they should be making more money for doing the owning. We’re paraphrasing but we think that was basically it. Owning is out.

Of course the NFL also had a lockout, but luckily that one occurred during the preseason, when most of the players on the field tend to be strangers who’ve wandered in from the parking lot. (The preseason is out.) Fortunately they were able to resolve that, and now the players are out there playing, with the exception of the Patriots’ defense.

Baseball players have no trouble showing up for work, because, let’s face it, who’s working? Pass the chicken wings!

TOMORROW: All the rest!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

IN AND OUT 2011: Entertainment

In: Everything Old (ideas, that is)

Of the top 10 movies of 2011, eight were sequels and two were based on superheroes who were invented in 1962 and 1941, respectively. And the big family movie of the holiday season featured ancient Muppets (who, granted, never really went away, thank God). Apparently, original ideas are out.

But nostalgia is in! This may be because in a tough economy and with so much unrest in the world, we look back to the things that gave us comfort in our youth — you know, things like the first four “Fast and the Furious” movies. It’s the next best thing to curling up with a blowup doll shaped like Vin Diesel. Blowup dolls are in.

Even the new ideas are old, with TV shows like “Mad Men,” “Pan Am” and “Boardwalk Empire” taking us back to a simpler time, when men were men, and women were stewardesses, and a guy who looked like Steve Buscemi could attract flappers. And in music, top artists include Lady Gaga, who musicologists believe may have stepped out of a time-traveling Delorean straight from 1984, and Adele, who sounds like she just opened for Ella Fitzgerald in Berlin in 1960. (Ella Fitzgerald is still in.)

Musicians who are actually old are also in, judging from the excitement over pending tours by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and even the reunited Beach Boys, who will be performing the entire tour in white tank-top undershirts, too-short swim trunks and black socks with sandals. Sandals are in.

The most original idea of the year, meanwhile, comes in the form of “The Artist,” the Oscar-buzzy black-and-white silent movie set in the 1920s. We can only hope that means silent films are in, because that would greatly improve the next Adam Sandler movie. Adam Sandler is out.

Out: Everything Old (media, that is)

Ironically, even though no one’s had an original idea in years, we’re determined to consume all these old concepts on media that looks like it was beamed here from the planet Zarcon.
That means watching movies in movie theaters is out, watching TV on those boxy old sets that could trap you for days if one fell on top of you is out, and reading things on paper is especially out. If you’re reading this on paper right now, we can only hope it’s as you lay it down on the bottom of your cat box, you silly old coot.

Those seeking not to be out have gone in to their local electronics retailer and purchased an iPad, a Kindle and a 3-D hi-def TV with the relative thickness of a Saltine. DVDs are out, and so are CDs, so the in crowd is streaming its movies and music from “The Cloud,” which is likely to become the name of a Steven King novel you read on your Kindle within the next year. The Cloud is in. (It’s just Netflix that’s out.)

There is one exception to this trend, that being vinyl records, which are in among audiophiles, hipsters and stoners alike. Sometimes all three of those are the same person. You know who you are.

TOMORROW: Ins and Outs in Sports

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

IN AND OUT 2011: News and Politics

Ah, the new year — what better time to take stock of what’s really important? You know, things like what’s in and what’s out in news, politics, entertainment, sports and life in general. But don’t worry, we’ll do all the heavy lifting. Heavy lifting is out.

In: Uprisings

In case you were wondering, we’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore, whatever “it” is. As to who “we” are, it’s basically everybody. Not taking it anymore is in.

Around these parts, occupying was in, whether it was Wall Street, Boston or Wal-Mart on Black Friday. In each case, the result involved pepper spray. Pepper spray is in.

The Occupy movement may not have had a clear agenda, but it did get across at least one important message: the 99 percent are in, and the 1 percent are out. Unless you’re talking about living in mansions, owning yachts and eating fois gras, in which case, it’s the 1 percent who are in, and the 99 percent who are outside, looking in. You know who you are.

Of course, in other places around the world, occupying got a little more hardcore. We’re talking about places like Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, where protests were less about drum circles and portable libraries set up like little literary M*A*S*H units, and more about armed dissidents setting things on fire. In other countries, arming dissidents is in. They eat pepper spray for breakfast in these places. We’re pretty sure we mean that literally.

Standing up for our rights is also in, whether it be same-sex marriage, saying “Merry Christmas” or having a Facebook feed that doesn’t look like the MSNBC news ticker threw up. Granted, not all these carry the same moral weight, but it’s the idea that counts. Moral relativism is in.

Out: Accountability

Taking responsibility isn’t exactly a huge pastime right now. For instance, the Occupiers don’t want to pay their student loans or replace the sod that came up when they pitched their REI tents. And rich people don’t want to pay higher taxes, and by “higher” they of course mean “any.” And Kim Kardashian doesn’t want to stay married. Being married to a Kardashian is out.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of politics, which resembles Khazad-Dum in Middle Earth, except with more Orcs. For instance, you have people like Rep. Anthony Weiner, who thought it was perfectly fine to send close-up pictures of his underwear to strange women and then lie about it. This wouldn’t have been acceptable even if the underwear still had been in its original packaging, although that certainly would have been better.

Then there are the GOP presidential candidates, such as Herman Cain, who dropped out of the race after he was accused of sexual harassment or illicit affairs by … wait, let us check our notes … EVERYBODY. He admitted no wrongdoing, and said instead that he would be going on to “Plan B.” Plan Bs are in.

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, refuses to accept accountability for his previous, more moderate stances, saying that the media have taken his entire life out of context. (Context is out.) To his credit, Newt Gingrich has taken full responsibility for every one of his 230 affairs. Wait, that’s actually the number of people Rick Perry has executed. It’s so hard to keep up. Keeping up is out.

Others who’ve failed to take responsibility for their questionable actions include Casey Anthony, Charlie Sheen, Rupert Murdoch and Alec Baldwin. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for his part, did in fact take credit for the love child he fathered with his maid, but only after the boy started talking in an Austrian accent. Austrian accents are out.

TOMORROW: Ins and Outs in Entertainment.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

AT LARGE Fake News Saturday: Ordinance Renames Manger Scenes 'Holiday Barns'

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (CAP) - A new ordinance passed this week by the Cambridge City Council officially designates that any manger scene placed in public view be referred to as a "holiday barn."

"To see a creche or a manger scene right out in public might offend someone who's not Christian," said City Council President Richard Vanderhaven. "But if you think of it as sort of a holiday petting zoo, it's fun for everybody."

Vanderhaven points out that in order to be fair to all religions, under the ordinance mangers will join the former Christmas tree, now a "holiday tree," and other objects, like a dreidel (now a "holiday top") a menorah (now a "holiday candleholder") and a Kwanzaa kinara (also a "holiday candleholder").

"Referring to them as holiday candleholders doesn't favor a particular religion," pointed out Vanderhaven. "Anybody, no matter what his or her religion, can appreciate a candle holder that you happen to put out during the holiday season. Technically, you could roast chestnuts over it. You know, one at a time."

Asked how people might tell the difference between a menorah and a kinara if they're both now referred to the same way, he answered, "The kinara's the one being lit by a black guy.

"Wait, sorry, African American," he added quickly.

The phenomenon is far from limited to Cambridge, though. In nearby Saugus, an annual trip by Santa Claus to area schools was almost cancelled when the superintendent determined that the visit could violate state law. It was only reinstated when Santa agreed to be referred to as an "overweight holiday visitor" and wear street clothes instead of his traditional red suit.

"It's unfortunate, but we simply can't allow these things in school the way we used to," said Superintendent of Schools Dick Langhorn. "What if Santa came in here with little canisters of holy water trying to baptize the Jewish kids? We could get sued."

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Friday, December 23, 2011

Column: 2011, the year that wasn't

APRIL: Obama budget plan would save ‘One Life To Live’

WASHINGTON (CAP) – President Barack Obama continued to reveal details of his deficit-reduction plan this week, including a controversial provision that would raise taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans in order to save the recently cancelled ABC soap opera “One Life to Live.”

“‘One Life to Live’ is, uh, part of the cornerstone, the bedrock of American culture,” said Obama in a press conference Monday. “How many of us spent lonely afternoons following the adventures of, you know, Bo and Clint Buchanan, and Viki, who suffered from dissociative identity disorder and became Niki, the sexually promiscuous party girl, and Karen and Larry Wolek, who, uh, had control chips implanted in their brains by the evil Dr. Ivan Kipling.”

But potential Republican presidential contender Sarah Palin, star of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” called Obama’s “One Life to Live” plan “redonkulous,” saying, “Who wants to watch a big, dysfunctional family of crazies with dumb names say stupid things and go all over the place having babies and stupid stuff like that?”

Obama did say he was willing to compromise, noting that his plan includes no funding to save the also-cancelled “All My Children.”

“That show is just silly,” Obama said.

JUNE: Previously unknown hockey team discovered in Boston

BOSTON (CAP) – Thousands of Massachusetts residents are reeling at the discovery of a professional hockey team that has apparently been operating unnoticed in their midst for decades.

The team, known as the “Boston Bruins,” apparently in reference to a type of bear, began to appear on Boston residents’ radar screens late last month after suddenly turning up in the Stanley Cup Finals.

“And they’re pretty good, too,” noted a clearly surprised David O’Reilly, a financial advisor from Cambridge. “I watched a few minutes of their game the other night, and that Patricia Bergeron, she was excellent.”

Jon Zincway of Dedham was decked out in a Bruins jersey, baseball cap, temporary face tattoo and foam finger while waiting in line to buy tickets for the Stanley Cup Finals. “If I’d known they were an actual hockey team I would have bought all this stuff much sooner,” he said. “As long as they, you know, won all the time.”

JULY: Whitey Bulger demands return of Metamucil

BOSTON (CAP) – Feared legendary mobster James “Whitey” Bulger seemed to have lost none of his swagger or arrogance in his first court appearance after 16 years in hiding, brazenly asking the judge to “return my Depends and my Metamucil, gosh darn-nabbit!”

He then glared icily at the prosecutor in what could have been a soulless look of pure evil, or gas.

FBI agents captured the 81-year-old Bulger in Santa Monica, Calif., after following him home from the Bay Cities Deli, where the mobster had allegedly eaten some lime Jell-O.

“He was driving very suspiciously,” said FBI Special Agent Josh Harwood, who noted that he was going about 10 miles per hour below the speed limit, cut off two other drivers and then shook his fist at them like it was their fault.

“And his blinker was on the entire time,” noted Harwood.

FBI lured Bulger out of his apartment by sending two young boys onto the front lawn of his apartment complex, ostensibly to retrieve a baseball that had rolled there.

“Get offa my lawn, you darn kids!” witnesses quoted Bulger as yelling at the boys. “Or I’ll give ya something to complain about, gosh-a darn it!”

“That’s when we slapped the cuffs on him,” explained Harwood.

OCTOBER: Family calls 911 from inside Space Mountain ride

ORLANDO (CAP) – A Massachusetts family caused a splash in Disney World this week when they called 911 from inside the Space Mountain ride, apparently fearing they would never make it out.

“I don’t see anybody. I’m really scared. It’s really dark,” the mother told the Orlando 911 dispatcher, yelling over the sounds of the famous indoor roller coaster. “I don’t know what made us do this. It was daytime when we came in,” she added.

The dispatcher patiently tried to explain that if she just remained calm the ride would end by itself, but the woman insisted that they send help.

“I can’t even see where we’re going … I think we may be in space!” she yelled.

The dispatcher then asked to speak to her husband, who said he was concerned because everybody on the ride was screaming.

“I see lights over there, but we can’t get there, we’re smack right in the middle of the ride,” the husband told the dispatcher, although it was later determined that they were only seconds from the end of the ride, and the attendants asking patrons to wait until the car came to a complete stop before exiting should have been clearly visible.

DECEMBER: Focus group finds Mitt Romney hiding under desk

CENTREVILLE, VA (CAP) – A dozen Republicans who participated in a focus group in suburban Virginia, most of whom said they found Mitt Romney “aloof,” also found the GOP presidential candidate hiding under a desk in the corner of the room.

Romney at first denied that he’d been under the desk, according to the group.

“Well, your assessment of my recent whereabouts is just not accurate,” Romney reportedly said. “So, one, we’re going to have to be better informed about whether or not I’ve been under desks, or not under desks. Which I haven’t been.”

After being badgered by the focus group for several minutes, Romney changed his stance, saying that he had in fact been under the desk.

“I have never claimed not to be under the desk, and I’m not sure where you’re getting that from,” Romney told the focus group.

Told he’d just denied being under the desk minutes before, Romney said that after studying the issue and in the face of new information, his stance on desk-hiding had “matured.”

“That’s what you have to do in the private sector, adjust to the situation as it changes,” said Romney, noting that he’d spent over 25 years as an executive at Bain Capital, spending much of that time hiding under desks.

Peter Chianca is editor in chief for GateHouse Media New England’s north-of-Boston newspapers and websites, and an ocassional contributor to CAP News. Follow him on Twitter at

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: Amazon Offers Discounts For Torching Retail Stores

SEATTLE (CAP) - Brick-and-mortar retailers and some legislators are up in arms over Price Burn, Amazon's new mobile "app" that will provide a discount for shoppers who go into a local retailer, use the app to compare the store's prices with's prices for the same merchandise, and then burn the store to the ground.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) called the promotion "anti-competitive" and "an attack on Main Street businesses that employ workers in our communities."

"Plus, I'm pretty sure it's a felony," she added.

"It's wrong to try something in the store and then buy it online," added Leslie Tweedle, who owns a bookshop with her husband in Chicago. "And burning down the store ... that's very hard for a small retailer to deal with."

Tweedle said her husband had to confiscate matches, gasoline and at least one blowtorch from cell phone-wielding customers during Amazon's promotion earlier this month. One patron did manage to burn several copies of Twilight: Breaking Dawn, but "let's face it, that's not a huge loss," said Tweedle.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos defended the app, noting that in the end it helps the consumer find the lowest prices, which is important in a tough economy. Also, he noted that it doesn't explicitly encourage shoppers to burn down retail stores, but rather just notes the types of kindling and accelerants that would be most effective given the kind of store the shopper is in.

For instance, if the shopper is in a bookstore, the readout reads "kerosene," but in a card and gift shop it recommends "mineral turpentine."

"It's really for entertainment purposes only," said Bezos. "Besides, many of those places have more than adequate insurance, probably."

Some legislators were in favor of the app as well. "Amazon is just doing what it needs to do to succeed, which is the beauty of the free market," noted Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who received a $4,000 contribution from Amazon in 2010. "Not a lot of $4,000 contributions coming from locally owned independent bookstores," he added. "I'm just saying."

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Column: The only GOP candidates guide you’ll ever need

Can you believe it’s almost here already? No, not Christmas — the GOP primary season! And if you’re one of those people who hasn’t been paying very close attention, it’s entirely likely you’ll soon find yourself in front of your ballot with no idea which candidate to vote for, and wondering what happened to Herman Cain. (Which, coincidentally, is exactly what Herman Cain is wondering.)

But don’t worry — the following guide should tell you everything an uninformed GOP voter needs to know. And if you are informed, please don’t read it, because I hate getting angry letters.

Mitt Romney

Bio: Romney is a self-made millionaire, starting out with only the shirt on his back and a father who was CEO of American Motors and governor of Michigan. He feels that if he is elected president, he would be president, which would be awesome. He’s been known to heat his New Hampshire lakeside estate by burning $100 bills.

Pros: Odds are if he got elected president, he wouldn’t actually do anything he says he’s going to do, which changes every day anyway.

Cons: May actually be a hologram.

Newt Gingrich

Bio: As a congressman in the 1990s, Gingrich is often credited with engineering a Republican majority in Congress for the first time in 20 years, so you can blame him. He has been a devoted family man with all three of his families. He is known as a straight shooter who says what he thinks and would rip out your still-beating heart if given the opportunity. Those ethics charges were a big misunderstanding.

Pros: Probably too old to have any more affairs, so there’s that.

Cons: Worst president name ever.

Rick Perry

Bio: As governor of Texas, Perry has overseen the execution of more than 230 prison inmates, some of them in his own driveway. He thinks there’s something wrong in America when gays can serve openly in the military, but if you go to church on Christmas, President Obama will bludgeon you with a crowbar. (Paraphrasing.) Perry has several far-reaching plans to change the scope of government, some of which he can even remember off the top of his head.

Pros: Would actually make George W. Bush look pretty good in retrospect.

Cons: How much time have you got?

Michele Bachmann

Bio: Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, have taken dozens of foster children into their Minnesota home, where they work hard to “pray away” any potentially embarrassing personal traits. Since declaring her run for the presidency, Rep. Bachmann has immersed herself in the important issues facing the country, such as where the Revolutionary War was fought, and what it was. Fun fact: When in the same room with Michelle Bachmann, no matter where you go, her eyes seem to follow you.

Pros: It’s about time the United States had a woman president.

Cons: Just not this woman.

Rick Santorum

Bio: Santorum is a former senator from Pennsylvania known for his fiscally and socially conservative views, and for being a secretly gay man. He’ll soon be discovered in a compromising situation with another man, possibly in an airport bathroom. A lecture tour with former Sen. Larry Craig and Rev. Ted Haggard will likely follow. You heard it here first.

Pros: It’s about time the United States had a gay president.

Cons: One who’s a little less self-loathing would be nice.

Ron Paul

Bio: Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is a well-spoken physician and organized campaigner who polls well across the nation, has a lot of common-sense ideas for putting the United States on the right track and a large, extremely devoted following of dedicated constituents and campaign workers. So naturally nobody takes him seriously.

Pros: No more wars!

Cons: He’s a weirdo.

John Huntsman

Bio: Former Utah Gov. Huntsman has … I’m sorry, who were we talking about?

Pros: He’s smart, funny, has vast experience with international diplomacy, has a solid business background and probably stands the best chance of beating Barack Obama next November.

Cons: I’m sorry, who were we talking about?

Hmm … Reading these over, it seems possible that it may still be difficult for people to pick a candidate. But even if the choices don’t seem ideal, remember: There’s always hope.

After all, Herman Cain may run again in 2016.

Peter Chianca is editor in chief for GateHouse Media New England’s north-of-Boston newspapers and websites. He wishes there was going to be a Democratic primary, so he could make fun of them too. Follow him on Twitter at

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

AT LARGE Fake News Wednesday: Nicole Scherzinger Sobs Her Way To Success

HOLLYWOOD (CAP) - You've seen her on TV's The X Factor, where she's cried and hugged her way into the hearts of millions of viewers. But who is the real Nicole Scherzinger? And how did she become the beloved reality show judge who can't make a decision that we know so well?

"Nicole is completely genuine," insists fellow judge and X Factor producer Simon Cowell. "By that I mean, she's the same dithering emotional wreck in her everyday life that she is on the show. I mean, really."

Cowell cites an incident in Starbucks prior to a recent taping. "She couldn't decide between a Shaken Iced Green Tea Lemonade and a Cinnamon Dolce Frappuccino Light," Cowell recalled.

"I can't make this decision," Cowell recalled a teary Scherzinger saying, before she made her way behind the counter to hug the barista.

"I had to tell her, please, Nicole, there are people waiting for their bloody coffee," says Cowell. "Since then I just send my servant to get my espresso."

The scene was of course reminiscent of the recent X Factor episode where an emotional Scherzinger used her vote to create a deadlock between performers Marcus Canty and Rachel Crow, eventually resulting in viewers voting Crow - an emotionally unstable 13-year-old special needs child - off the show.

Scherzinger said at the time, between jags of crying and rending her sheer, clingy garments, that she couldn't make the decision because she'd "been up there and I know how it feels." Scherzinger scholars say she was probably referring to an incident that happened to her in 1992, when she was 14.

"It was down to Nicole and one other girl for the top prize in the Louisville Singing In Garters Competition," recalled Karl Munson, then-president of the Louisville, Ky. Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the contest. "When they announced the other girl's name, Nicole broke down uncontrollably.

"She was curled up in a ball on the stage, and you could see the tears pooling up on the top of her bustier," said Munson. "It was very awkward."

But many believe that experience fueled her determination and helped her eventually land a spot as lead singer for the Pussycat Dolls, where she got to sing in garters in front of all of America. Famous for its dynamic live shows, the group was known for ending concerts with a sobbing, lingerie-clad Scherzinger hugging every single member of the audience.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Monday, December 12, 2011

Friday, December 09, 2011

AT LARGE Fake News Friday: Rick Perry Vows To Continue Alienating People Until Elected

AUSTIN (CAP) - Following his universally reviled campaign ad entitled "Strong," presidential contender Rick Perry vowed to continue alienating huge swaths of the populace until he is chosen as the GOP nominee.

"And after that, I will continue to horrify and disgust people until I'm elected president," said Perry, reviewing the ad at his campaign headquarters this week. "That's how I roll."

In the ad, Perry says "there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." The ad has almost 1 million "dislikes" on YouTube, has inspired Internet parodies in which Perry slaughters puppies and bunnies, and has resulted in a spate of injuries throughout the country when people's jaws literally struck their desks while watching the ad on their computers.

"He seems to be taking the strategy of being a complete a-hole," said Yale University political science professor Grayson Vaughn, who noted that the approach has not been particularly successful with presidential candidates in the past. "Just ask John Kerry."

Still, Perry seems undeterred, releasing partial transcripts of the next several ads in his "something wrong in this country" series. These include statements such as:

- "There's something wrong in this country when blacks can marry white people but you can't beat one up without getting arrested."

- "There's something wrong in this country when someone who doesn't even speak English can waltz in here and take our jobs, but we can't eat their children."

- "There's something wrong in this country when you have get off a woman just because she says no, but if you go to church on Easter, President Obama will bludgeon you to death."

Perry said he also plans to release ads attacking Jews, the handicapped and one more group he couldn't think of at the moment.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Column: The people versus my dogs

To: “Penny,” “Sally,” “Lilly” and “Corona”

From: Ronald Effinger, Attorney at Law

Dear Mesdames Penny, Sally et al:

Please be advised that I, Ronald Effinger, Esq., acting as licensed attorney for Peter Chianca (heretofore referred to “your owner”), am hereby presenting you with an official request to CEASE AND DESIST your constant and deliberate efforts to make him look stupid, which has caused him significant pain and suffering.

As substantiation of our claim of suffering we put forward the following evidence.

1) On Nov. 28 of 2011, shortly after your owner let you out into the enclosed area at the front of your property, Penny scratched on the door, presumably to request re-entrance into the home. Upon your owner’s opening the door, Penny stared at him quizzically and refused to enter, instead returning to the yard to retrieve a muddy bone and continue barking at her own echo.

This is a pattern of harassment that has continued on a daily basis for at least the last three (3) years and has left your owner subject to the ridicule of neighbors, who have been known to observe the scene and shake their heads, as if to indicate that your owner has lost control of his own pathetic life.

2) Despite the fact that your owner has provided you, free of charge, with full run of his household — including use of numerous couches, beds and ottomans and unfettered access to the area beneath the dining room table — several of you have insisted on bolting through open doors without the slightest provocation.

This has resulted in your owner having to seek you out on foot, at times traipsing through the yards of disapproving neighbors (see No. 1, above), and at other times driving slowly down the street in his wife’s Saturn Astra, shaking a box of Milk Bones out the window like a “demented maraca player” (to use his term).

3) During your nightly excursions with your owner into the backyard, you have refused to cooperate in an orderly fashion unless he provides you with a “cookie” (Milk Bone, Pup-Peroni, etc.). Over time this has resulted in a proliferation of said treats in your owner’s pockets (of coats, jackets, sweatshirts, ponchos, etc.), making him smell vaguely of beef, chicken and lamb. This has caused him embarrassment in several personal and business settings.

They have also caused him to smell of bacon, which we are willing to overlook, because he doesn’t really mind that.

4) Several times during walks in public parks and woodlands, your owner has given in to your entreaties to be allowed “off-leash” (delivered by you in the form of big, sad eyes and insistent pulling). But on more than one occasion you have failed to live up to your end of the agreement, which requires you not to bolt toward advancing walkers and greet them with jumps, licks to the face and sniffs of their personal regions.

To the contrary, you have engaged in this behavior frequently, most often with walkers of greater apparent size and strength than your owner, some of them armed.

Between that, and your tendency to take advantage of the times your owner has forgotten to bring along a plastic bag by “doing your business” in the most public possible areas (sidewalks, centers of soccer fields, on veterans’ memorials, etc.), walking with you has often become a traumatic experience.

Despite your otherwise unconditional devotion, your constant companionship and your irreplaceable contributions to the family unit, if you do not cease and desist in your efforts to undermine my client’s self-esteem and personal standing, we will have no choice but to seek compensatory damages.

Also, you’d better get in the darn car if you want one of these Milk Bones.

Peter Chianca is editor in chief for GateHouse Media New England’s north-of-Boston newspapers and websites. Follow him on Twitter at

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

AT LARGE Fake News Wednesday: Focus Group Finds Mitt Romney Hiding Under Desk

CENTREVILLE, Va. (CAP) - A dozen Republicans who participated in a focus group Thursday night in suburban Virginia, most of whom said they found Mitt Romney "aloof" and "unapproachable," also found the GOP presidential candidate hiding under a desk in the corner of the roo

"My pen rolled under there, and when I bent down to get it, there he was, plain as day," said Sue Gramm, a 61-year-old retailer from Ashburn, Va. "He was all crouched up in his suit, holding his knees so he'd fit."

It took several focus group members about 20 minutes to get Romney to come out from under the desk, at one point trying to coax him out with truffles and foie gras, to no avail, according to Michael McConahey, a 54-year-old consultant from Herndon, Va.

"At first he just ignored us, as if we might just go away," said McConahey. "Finally he made like he'd just found a contact lens and tried to excuse himself from the room."

Confronted by the focus group, Romney then denied that he'd been under the desk.

"Well, your assessment of my recent whereabouts is just not accurate," Romney reportedly said. "So, one, we're going to have to be better informed about whether or not I've been under desks, or not under desks. Which I haven't been."

"So we told him that we'd seen him under the desk with our own eyes," said Leann Dunne, a 43-year-old homemaker from Vienna, Va.

"There's no question that people are going to take snippets and take things out of context and try and show that I've been under desks, or created the foundation for Obamacare, or changed my stance on climate change, abortion, immigration, sex, Harry Potter and my magic underwear," Romney allegedly responded. "I say phooey on them."

After being badgered by the focus group for several minutes, Romney changed his stance, saying that he had in fact been under the desk.

"I have never claimed not to be under the desk, and I'm not sure where you're getting that from," Romney told the focus group.

Told he's just denied being under the desk minutes before, Romney told the group that after studying the issue and in the face of new information, his stance on desk-hiding had "matured."

"That's what you have to do in the private sector, adjust to the situation as it changes," said Romney, noting that he'd spent over 25 years as an executive at Bain Capital, spending much of that time hiding under desks.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Monday, December 05, 2011

AT LARGE Fake News Monday: Facebook Fined For Violating Privacy Of Stupid People

WASHINGTON (CAP) - The Federal Trade Commission has levied steep fines against Facebook, alleging that the social media powerhouse has unfairly violated the privacy rights of millions of stupid people.

"Facebook knowingly took advantage of the fact that a large percentage of its users are idiots," read the commission's report.

The report continued, "Facebook's privacy settings virtually guarantee that when a moron uploads a picture that no thinking human being should be sharing, or makes a comment that someone of even rudimentary intelligence would know was dumb or embarrassing, that person is bound to suffer ill effects."

Not surprisingly, the decision was met with approval from imbeciles all over the world.

"It's about time," said Josh Elkind, 21, a Tufts University senior who uploaded pictures of himself in bed with a girl in his dorm room while his roommate was sleeping, and posted a status update about the "hot boobs" on the actresses in the '80 sex comedies he was watching on Netflix.

"My girlfriend was so pissed! Facebook should have told me that she might see those," said Elkind, whose girlfriend, "Donna," is Elkind's friend on Facebook, where the couple actually shares more than 150 mutual friends.

"He's such a stupid idiot," said Donna, adding, "It wouldn't have been so bad if I was the one in the pictures."

Marc Fenderson, 17, who was fired from his job at the Hardees in Effingham, Ill., when he posted on Facebook that he had put his own bodily fluids into the fry vat, also cheered the decision.

"Facebook never told me that if I posted that my boss would read it, and my mom, and my priest, and everyone at my school," said Fenderson, commenting that he was lucky that at least potential future employers wouldn't see it.

Told that any potential employer would most likely be able to find the post in a matter of seconds, he balled his hands into fists and screamed to the heavens, "FACEBOOK!"

For his part, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seemed contrite in the wake of the controversy.

"Overall, I think we have a good history of providing transparency over who can see your information," he wrote in a blog post. "That said, I'm the first to admit that we've made mistakes. For instance, we never realized that people would be stupid enough to upload photos, videos and statements that could damage their relationships, reputations and careers.

"Our bad," he added.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Column: 30 reasons to be thankful, sort of

Some years back I kicked off an annual Thanksgiving-week tradition of listing reasons why people should be thankful. I figured that by 2011 compiling the list would be extremely easy, given that we’d all be millionaires traveling by jetpack.

Unfortunately it’s only gotten harder, but that’s not to say there isn’t room for hope. (And change, but mostly the hope part.) For instance, you should be thankful for the fact that:

1. Seal Team 6 has no reason to know where you live.

2. No one has “occupied” your driveway. Yet.

3. You’ve never had to work at the National Restaurant Association. Or if you have, at least you probably got a settlement.

4. Michele Obama hasn’t snuck up behind your kid and confiscated his Twinkies. Yet.

5. You don’t live on a fault line, or next to a nuclear power plant, or on a fault line next to a nuclear power plant.

6. Rick Perry isn’t in charge of remembering your locker combination, or your email passwords, or your kids’ names.

7. Your September collapse wasn’t broadcast on live television.

8. Your marriage lasted more than 72 days, probably.

9. Rupert Murdoch has no reason to know your voice mail number.

10. You didn’t have Eddie Murphy scheduled to host anything for you (kids’ birthday party, PTA spelling bee, bar mitzvah, etc.).

11. You’ve never been Tweeted by Anthony Weiner. Unless you have, in which case … Ew, gross.

12. Your power’s back on and you’re not trapped under a branch.

13. Michele Bachmann isn’t trying to pray away any of your personal traits. At least not to your face.

14. Your approval rating among your constituents is way above 9 percent, and that’s including your in-laws.

15. The last time you went to a Broadway show, Spider-Man didn’t fall on your head.

16. You don’t need approval from Congress to raise your debt ceiling. (Actually, that may not be such a good thing.)

17. Nancy Grace has no reason to know you exist.

18. You didn’t try to raise your prices 60 percent and figure nobody would notice.

19. Even if you’re not in a profession that features women in tiny shorts dancing around you while you do it, at least your job probably didn’t get canceled this year.

20. Nobody spotted you on the pier in Santa Monica.

21. The GOP isn’t twisting itself into a pretzel to find someone, anyone to nominate instead of you. (See numbers 3, 6 and 13, and Newt Gingrich.)

22. You’re not a Colts season ticket holder.

23. Even if you did get fired this year, at least you didn’t travel around the country doing a one-man show about it.

24. You’re not the guy left in charge of Apple.

25. No one is out to depose you. Or if they are, they’re probably not armed.

26. Donald Trump has absolutely no interest in your birth certificate.

27. Your wedding didn’t wind up being all about Pippa.

28. You got out of that corn maze without any help from local authorities.

29. Even in drag and a fat suit, you would still be more appealing than Adam Sandler in “Jack & Jill.”

30. At this very moment you may be unemployed, in foreclosure, being pepper-sprayed, floating on a rapidly melting ice flow and/or standing on a dais between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul — but no matter what, things are bound to get better in 2012!

Although you better stay on Nancy Grace’s good side, just in case.

Peter Chianca is editor in chief for GateHouse Media New England’s north-of-Boston newspapers and websites. Follow him on Twitter at

Monday, November 21, 2011

Column: Where was Fozzie when I needed him?

We make them all the time — those little parenting choices that don’t seem like a big deal, but wind up having serious, long-term implications. I’m thinking of things like letting them crawl into our beds (“just this once”), or allowing them to find out about Twinkies, or suggesting they might want to try ice hockey.

I made one of those choices back in 2005, when I suggested the family watch the new Muppets TV movie, “The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.” I’ll admit my motives were selfish; the Muppets were probably the single greatest influence on my sense of humor (which, if you know me, explains a lot), and I wanted my own kids to experience the joys of wisecracking frogs and bears in their natural habitat (a Studebaker). Plus, I’ve been told I look like Fozzie (which also explains a lot).

Unfortunately, “The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz” was not what you’d call a good movie, or even a good Muppet movie. But something about Kermit, Fozzie and company struck a chord with my son Tim, then 4. After that night, for Tim, it was all-Muppets, all-the-time.

And that’s where our troubles began.

It wasn’t too hard to dig up the other movies, which had long since been available on DVD. But as any parent of a 4-year-old knows, no entertainment experience is complete unless it can be complemented by accessories, namely toys, games, stuffed animals and T-shirts. And this is where having a child obsessed with a 25-year-old phenomenon gets a little tricky.

Unlike, say, the mid-’80s, by the 2000s toy store shelves were totally bereft of Fozzies and Gonzos. Muppet merchandise was so rare that when Timmy spotted a giant Kermit hanging from a booth at the 2005 Topsfield Fair, he reacted like Ponce de León stumbling on the Fountain of Youth. This would explain why a phalanx of his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins felt compelled to plunk down the gross national product of Bolivia until we finally won it — the only other option would have been to leave Timmy behind with Kermit to pursue a career as a barker.

Naturally, we soon found ourselves resorting to eBay, which resulted in a small but growing collection of stuffed Muppets that smelled vaguely of the ’70s. One particularly intense Sunday afternoon saw us in a bidding war for a vintage Rowlf doll: “I WILL PAY ANY PRICE!” my mother-in-law declared, in that voice a grandmother uses when she feels her grandchild might be deprived of something that somebody else’s grandchild has, or might someday have.

It may have gotten ugly at times (and if you think that’s ugly, you should see the dancing girls), but our efforts were worth it to see Tim perform full-on productions with his Muppet collection, which he carried with him from place to place in a little plastic suitcase. This was convenient until the entire lot managed to get lost (Have you tried Hare Krishna?), or at least left behind, on a beach in Rockport. All I know is, when you become a parent nobody tells you that someday you’ll be driving to a beachside motel after work to retrieve a suitcase full of Muppets.

Of course, eventually Timmy discovered the Red Sox, and his coveted Muppets became less a part of our everyday lives; poor Rowlf wound up getting dragged outside by one of our (real-life) dogs, where we found him later that winter unceremoniously encased in snow like some ancient Bigfoot. But both Tim and my daughter Jackie still perked up when a Muppet turned up on a commercial or a new YouTube video, and we all reacted with excitement — and some disbelief — when we heard a new Muppet movie was finally in the works.

The Muppets” opens Nov. 23, and as a result you now can’t throw a boomerang fish without hitting Muppet merchandise. Better late than never — early reports say it’s a throwback to the Jim Henson era, when the driving force behind the Muppets was equal amounts heart and twisted wit, rather than corporate synergy or whatever the driving force was behind that awful “Wizard of Oz.” I have my fingers crossed; we’ll find out when we hit the theater on opening night.

I bet I’ll be the only guy there with a Hefty bag full of Muppets in his basement, and whose kids feel like they’re reuniting with old friends.

And who looks like Fozzie.

For more Muppets, see my Gatehouse Media story rating the Muppet movies from first to worst.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: Feds Seek To Prosecute Sandler For 'Jack & Jill'

WASHINGTON (CAP) - The U.S. Attorney's Office announced this week that it is seeking indictments against Adam Sandler, along with fellow producers Todd Garner and Jack Giarraputo, over their new film Jack & Jill, calling it "a crime against humanity."

In the movie, Sandler plays both Jack Sadelstein and his frumpy sister Jill Sadelstein, who throughout the film is subjected to a litany of derogatory remarks about her looks, her weight and her general lack of intelligence. It currently has a 3 out of 100 rating at, making it officially one of the worst movies ever made, including snuff films.

"Even Good Luck Chuck got a 5," noted Jeff Giley of Rotten Tomatoes.

But according to prosecutors, the film's offenses go far beyond just being unentertaining.

"Our prosecutors will argue that Sandler and his fellow producers have committed at least several actionable offenses," according to Richard Millburn of the U.S. Attorney's Office. "Attorney General [Eric] Holder has given us full authority to seek indictments on charges of fraud, extortion and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and that's just to start off."

The fraud charges stem from Sandler's attempt to pass the movie off as an "object of legitimate entertainment," rather than "a steaming pile of cow dung," said Millburn, who noted that only the first of those two phrases is a legal term.

The extortion charges are in response to the targeting of advertisements at young children who in turn badger their parents to see the movie, and the delinquency allegation refers to the tendency of the film to turn otherwise well-behaved youngsters into children "who act ... well, like Adam Sandler," said Millburn.

"My [7-year-old] grandson went to see this movie," added Attorney General Holder, who is considering personally prosecuting the case. "You know what he said when he got home? Hey Grandpa, Grandma's fat and ugly - high five! Then he farted."

There have also been at least three reports of people dying while watching the film, presumably from boredom, but Millburn said there isn't enough evidence to support a murder charge.

"Although we've been trying to pin one on [Sandler] since someone choked on nachos while watching Little Nicky," Millburn admitted.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Column: Power outages and zombies don’t mix

The power outages following the freak October snowstorm have revealed a few very important lessons: One, we need to protect our power lines from hazards such as tree limbs, stiff breezes and particularly heavy butterflies. But more importantly, we are woefully unprepared to go underground following the impending inevitable zombie, robot and/or alien invasion(s). I’m just saying.

I’m speaking of course of the people who are complaining about being without power for a measly five or six days, just because they don’t have heat or light and all their food went bad, including their insulin. These people need to buck up! (And yes, I realize this is coming from someone who suffered severe panic after losing cable for a couple days, but that was different, because it happened to me.)

I’m not just saying this because it’s become clear that our power companies now consider actually delivering the power to be optional, like a side of French fries, or yield signs. I’m saying it because the first thing that’s going to happen when the zombies, robots or aliens attack is that the lights will go out, and we’ll be left to fend for ourselves with just our wits, along with sharpened shovels, enormous gas fireballs or deadly Earth viruses, whichever is most appropriate for the occasion.

I know you may be thinking that I’m overreacting. “What are the chances of us actually being attacked by zombies, robots or space aliens?” you may ask. And while it may sound far-fetched, the chances are … wait, let me check my notes … 100 percent.

After all, just take a look at the latest development by scientists apparently eager to welcome our new robot overlords. At Seoul National University in South Korea, they’ve developed a Venus flytrap robot that traps bugs and converts their little bug bodies into electricity. This will clearly lead to a robot that will be impervious to our main defense against sentient killer man-machines, which is unplugging.

Personally, I question why any scientist would develop technology that would make it more attractive for robots to eventually want to eat us. Nature already has bears for that.

As for the aliens, researchers at Harvard and Princeton are so antsy about attracting aliens here to invade our cornfields and national parks that they’ve suggested we start scanning the universe for the artificial light given off by their cities, since apparently modern telescopes can tell the difference between light from a distant star and, say, an alien disco ball. Of course, this would require the aliens not to be living in underground cities inhabited by mutated creatures with psychic powers like in “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” which, let’s face it, seems unlikely.

And the zombies? I will admit that there’s very little in the way of concrete scientific evidence that the dead will rise and prey on the living with an insatiable appetite for brains. But is there concrete scientific evidence that they won’t? There is? OK, forget about the zombies.

Still, next time the power goes out — which, given recent history, should be in about 20 minutes, or whenever a squirrel wanders into an electrical substation, whichever comes first — I think people should take the opportunity to embrace the rugged, survivalist, anti-robot side of their personality, just in case. Hunker down, board the windows, start luring in small rodents for food, and hope that if the choice comes down to converting us to electricity or displaying us in zoos, the robots and aliens (or robot-aliens) opt for the latter.

After all, those might at least have cable.

Peter Chianca is editor in chief for GateHouse Media New England’s north-of-Boston newspapers and websites. Follow him on Twitter at

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

No emergency! Nothing to see here! Unless there is

Please do not panic when the Emergency Alert System kicks in at 2 p.m. this afternoon. It's just a test to show how the government has everything completely under control. Well, most things. From the release:
On Nov. 9 the public will hear a message indicating, “This is a test.” The audio message will be the same for all EAS participants, however, due to the limitations in the EAS, the video text message scroll may not be the same or indicate that, “this is a test.”
So it's true that if you have the volume down, or are hearing impaired, there may be no evidence that it's a test, and you will assume that the missiles are on their way. But wait, there's more:
In addition, the background image that appears on video screens during an alert may indicate that “This is a test,” but in some instances there might not be an image at all. The test is expected to last three minutes.
So just to reiterate: There may be a scroll, or not, and if it does it may say that it's a test, or not, and the image may also say that it's a test, or not, or maybe there won't be an image. Also, we can presume that in some cases it will last three minutes, and in others it will go on for all eternity.

But don't worry, the government has a plan:
FEMA and the FCC are reaching out to organizations representing people with hearing disabilities to better prepare that community for this national test.
So if you know any deaf people, please tell them to remain in bed. Also, let's hope this doesn't somehow end in a conversation like this:

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: Mass. Electric Finishes Restoring Power From 2008 Ice Storm

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. (CAP) - Representatives from National Grid/Massachusetts Electric announced this week that workers have finally finished restoring power to those left in the dark by the vicious ice storm of December, 2008.

"It took crews working 'round the clock, except for nights and weekends, for almost three years, but we finally got it done," said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid Massachusetts. "We couldn't be prouder of the men we had dedicated to this difficult job - both of them."

"Although it will probably be closer to 2014 by the time we get to that last one," said Reed.

Still, "we're taking these outages very, very seriously," Reed added, noting that they were the subject of a seminar at a week-long junket National Grid executives attended recently at the Tierra Del Sol Resort and Country Club in Aruba.

"We devised some very useful strategies there," said Reed, declining to name any of them specifically.

Reed said power outages resulting from the 2010 nor'easter should be resolved any month now, and asked residents without power to be patient. "We're working as fast as we possibly can, kind of," she noted.

Bob and Sheila Fernmeyer of Athol, Mass., who had been without power since Dec. 11, 2008, said they were "thrilled" to finally get the lights turned on this week.

"I can't say it's been easy," said Bob Fernmeyer, who noted that the couple took to burning household objects around February of 2009, and that there's very little left in the way of usable furniture and room fixtures. Also, they'd learned to subsist almost exclusively on foods that could be stored at room temperature, like potatoes and Spam.

"Plus we have no idea what's on TV anymore," added Sheila Fernmeyer. "Is My Own Worst Enemy still on? That Christian Slater is dreamy."

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

AT LARGE FAKE NEWS TUESDAY: Scientists Discover Snow Turns Drivers Into Idiots

CAMBRIDGE (CAP) - Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered a brain disorder that causes drivers to forget the most basic rules of driving the minute snow starts to fall.

Dubbed Seasonal Driving Disorder (SDD), researcher Roderick Crawford describes it as a neurological syndrome in which the presence of snow literally causes synapses in the brain to cease firing. In turn, people suffering from the disorder lose the ability to recall even the simplest driving procedures, such as how to maintain a consistent speed, or what the brakes do.

"We've all seen it out on the highways during a snowstorm," remarked Crawford. "Suddenly people are speeding up and slowing down indiscriminately, failing to brake properly, spraying out gallons of wiper fluid for no apparent reason, etc.

"For years most assumed these drivers were just stupid, or perhaps intoxicated," he explained. "But now we know that these people have a serious brain disorder."

And its effects are far from isolated, Crawford added. "We have reason to believe SDD affects millions of people in the United States alone," Crawford said. "If you don't believe me, just drive up Route 128 in Boston during a flurry."

There was evidence of the disorder just this past weekend, when unprecedented early snowfall hit the Northeast. This caused some especially severe SDD reactions, given that our brains are conditioned not to expect snow until December, Crawford explained.

"Our experience was that drivers throughout the region simply refused to acknowledge that it was snowing," confirmed Karl Amero of the Massachusetts State Police. "A good number of them clearly sped up and started texting more."

One driver, Fred Hammerstein from Holden, Mass., was hospitalized with frostbite after being discovered packed in snow in his Fiat 500 convertible. "I do not close the top before Nov. 1, dammit," he told EMTs before slipping into a coma.

"It's a classic case," said Crawford when told of Hammerstein's symptoms. "It's amazing we don't see more snowstorm convertible comas."

SDD may even affect drivers outside the car, said Crawford, pointing toward the large number of people using small children to save their parking spaces as possible sufferers. "And the preponderance of snow in Alaska could go a long way toward explaining the Palin family," he added.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

AT LARGE Fake News Wednesday: Wall St. Protesters Mistake Old Homeless Man For Pete Seeger

NEW YORK (CAP) - Occupy Wall Street protesters followed an elderly homeless man more than 20 blocks Friday night, apparently thinking he was folk music legend Pete Seeger.

The man, later identified as Fred Goreham, 72, was apparently panhandling near the Symphony Space at Broadway and 95th Street, where Seeger has been performing with Arlo Guthrie and others. Someone spotted Goreham and yelled "Look, it's Pete Seeger!" A crowd formed around him immediately.

"We were like, this is so cool, he's like a legend!" recalled P.J. Franks, 22, of Queens, who was marching next to the man he thought was Seeger. "Although it seemed odd that he didn't seem to know the words to any of the songs we were singing."

According to several people who were there, the crowd started up spontaneous versions of Down By The Riverside and We Shall Not Be Moved, but "Seeger" kept singing the lyrics to Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

"He also kept asking if anyone had any muscatel," recalled protester Amy Weinberg, 24, of Oyster Bay. "We just thought he must have been parched."

The crowd of about 600, including several who joined in from the Occupy Locker Room NBA labor protest, apparently followed Goreham from 95th Street all the way down to Columbus Circle, eventually touching on a song "Seeger" seemed to know, This Land is Your Land.

"But after he sang This land is your land, this land is my land, he just keep going, This land is her land, this land is his land, this land is whose land ... and pointing at random people in the crowd," said Franks, who had handed the old man his guitar. "He strummed it a few times, but then he began sort of humping it. It was very awkward."

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Column: You too can be a nuclear scientist!

As my devoted audience — primarily my mother and a guy named Fred who added me to the mailing list for his conspiracy theory e-newsletter — may have noticed, I recently took about a five-month sabbatical from writing this column. I’d like to say I spent the time writing a novel, but unfortunately, certain circumstances prevented it. Damn you, Angry Birds!

Regrettably, though, it seems my break had an unanticipated side effect, namely that, from what I can tell, there was no local columnist available to comment on the Swedish man who was arrested last August after trying to split atoms in his kitchen. Fortunately his efforts didn’t result in a worldwide nuclear catastrophe, meaning I can still weigh in today on the concept of home atom splitting. So here goes: Don’t do it.

According to the Associated Press, Richard Handl, 31, spent months setting up a nuclear reactor in his home, and “only later did he realize it might not be legal.” This is very similar to the defense used by the guy who created Napster, except that a shared song file never carried with it the threat of mass annihilation, with the possible exception of “Heartbeat” by Don Johnson.

So what would make an otherwise normal, average, 31-year-old Swedish man bring radium, americium and uranium in his kitchen and use it to provoke a nuclear reaction? Apparently, he told the AP, he was only doing it “as a hobby,” and I can see how, much like fishing or macramé, it would be very satisfying for that split second before you’re incinerated.

But it’s worth noting that Handl didn’t just conduct illegal nuclear experiments: He also blogged about it, presumably hewing to the common truism, “If a man builds a nuclear reactor in his kitchen and nobody is there to blog about it, does it stiKABOOOOMMMM!!!!!” (Personally, I’d like to take this opportunity to note that blogging is perhaps the lowest form of personal expression, and that you can access mine at

Beyond the blogging, though, I have my own theory as to why someone might attempt to tackle do-it-yourself nuclear science: It’s part of living in a society where people have been conditioned to believe they can do pretty much anything without the need of professional intervention. Publisher, recording artist, developer of video games where drug dealers beat up strippers — all of these used to require years of specialized training. Now, there’s an app for that. (And by “app” I of course am using the modern shorthand for what used to be more commonly known as … wait, let me check my notes … “appaloosa.”)

Coming at it as I do from my perspective in the newspaper industry, part of me finds it to be a comforting development: Why should I be the only one getting put out of business by amateurs working from their kitchens? Let the nuclear physicists share some of the pain — by the end of the decade, I’d like to see every American making nuclear reactions in his bathtub, or barring that, gin. Which I do not believe is illegal, as long as you blog about it.

But on the other hand, I think in the end we’d be better off convincing these usurpers — the self-publishers, the would-be physicists, the wealthy fake astronauts, the people filming themselves in hotel rooms with night-vision cameras (you know who you are) — that all of these activities are better left to professionals with the training and expertise to do the job correctly.

I’m talking to you, Fred. Now please take me off your mailing list.

Peter Chianca is editor in chief for GateHouse Media New England’s north-of-Boston newspapers and websites. Follow him on Twitter at

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: Family Calls 911 From Inside Space Mountain Ride

ORLANDO (CAP) - A Massachusetts family caused a splash in Disney World this week when they called 911 from inside the Space Mountain ride, apparently fearing they would never make it out.

"I don't see anybody. I'm really scared. It's really dark," the mother told the Orlando 911 dispatcher, yelling over the sounds of the famous indoor roller coaster. "I don't know what made us do this. It was daytime when we came in," she added.

The dispatcher patiently tried to explain that if she just remained calm, the ride would end by itself and they'd be able to walk out under their own power, but the woman insisted that they send help.

"I can't even see where we're going ... I think we may be in space!" she yelled. "What if we run into a satellite or something?"

The dispatcher then asked to speak to her husband, who said he was concerned because everybody on the ride was screaming.

"I see lights over there, but we can't get there, we're smack right in the middle of the ride," the husband told the dispatcher, although it was later determined that they were only seconds from the end of the ride, and the attendants asking patrons to wait until the car came to a complete stop before exiting should have been clearly visible.

Disney World spokesman Joe Hackney said that people do panic on the theme park's rides occasionally, but none had ever called 911 before.

"Screaming, jumping off in the middle, vomiting, having a slight allergic reaction to the Disney swine flu vaccine - those happen all the time," said Hackney. "But we discourage guests from calling the police, because we have an experienced security force here that would be more than happy to interrogate them about any issues they may be having.

"I'd just like to note that this was an isolated incident and for the vast majority of patrons, a trip to Disney World is a fun and magical experience," Hackney added. But when asked by a CAP News reporter about the alleged Fast Pass Riot of 2007, Hackney declined to comment, and Disney security forces dragged the reporter through a trap door into one of the park's secret underground tunnels.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Column: Taking lumps at Tufts with Scott Brown

“Bottom line is, you know, I didn’t go to Harvard … I went to the school of hard knocks.”

Sen. Scott Brown, Tufts University Class of 1981

As a fellow Tufts alum, I can vouch for Sen. Brown’s assertion that Tufts was, in fact, “the school of hard knocks.” In fact, I believe the wrought iron gate at the bottom of the Memorial Steps bore the words “Tufts University, a.k.a. The School of Hard Knocks,” with the phrase “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here” underneath that, in smaller letters.

I recall walking up those very same steps on more than one occasion, battered by wind and rain, or at least drizzle, and thinking, “This is a living hell! Damn those Harvard students, being carried to and from campus in solid-gold sedan chairs!” But it built character, and I usually just caught the free student shuttle anyway.

I remember when I arrived for student orientation in 1986, the university president, Dr. Jean Mayer, told us, “You are about to enter the toughest four years of your life. You’ll have to fight for every scrap, and the world will knock you down at every turn, and you’ll learn lessons the hard way, by being beaten within an inch of your life.” Actually I’m not sure what he said, because he had a fairly thick French accent and I was daydreaming about the buffet that followed the event, but I’m sure it was something like that.

It wasn’t long before I started receiving the hard knocks that Scott Brown would no doubt have warned me about if he hadn’t clawed and scraped his way out of Tufts and never looked back. For instance, I found that if you didn’t get to the dining hall early, sometimes they would run out of soft-serve ice cream. And once, when I forgot to bring an assignment to class, the professor gave me a pretty icy glare before telling me I could give it to her tomorrow.

We were a hardscrabble bunch, we students there at the Tufts University School of Hard Knocks and its affiliated graduate schools, such as the Tufts Veterinary School of Hard Knocks and the Fletcher School of Hard Knocks and Diplomacy. (The vet school was actually on the Grafton campus, which I can only assume had even harder knocks, some of them involving tramplings.) We were a lot like the characters in Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” except instead of drowning in a muddy gutter we were spending four years on a lush university campus. But inside, where it counts: gutter drowning.

I can only imagine how hard the knocks were when Brown attended Tufts a few years earlier. Did the dining halls not even have soft-serve ice cream? Did even fewer students have their own parent-provided cars for easy travel to local attractions? Were there even more 8 a.m. classes, seriously inhibiting your ability to stay up until 2 a.m. the night before, holding contests with the guys in your hall to see who could eat the most “suicide spicy” buffalo wings? I’m sure only the strong survived.

Luckily for Scott Brown, he had grown up on the rough-and-tumble streets of Wakefield, Mass., where people lived in constant fear that at any moment, Wakefield native Israel Horovitz might have jumped out of a cul-de-sac and put them in one of his plays. Brown’s childhood there no doubt prepared him for his years getting knocked down and getting up again at Tufts, followed by his stint at Boston College Law School of Hard Knocks, where he no doubt learned that hard knocks can be just cause for a serious personal injury suit.

But clearly Scott lifted himself up by his bootstraps, because he’s now a United States senator. And even if he didn’t mention Tufts by name when referring to the school of hard knocks he attended, it’s nice to know that despite all his success, his alma mater is still so close to his heart.

Even if he has aides to get him his ice cream now.

Peter Chianca is editor in chief for GateHouse Media New England’s north-of-Boston newspapers and websites. Follow him on Twitter at

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Column: Revealing some trade secrets

I should start off by saying I am not what you’d call a hoarder. Come in to my home and you’re unlikely to find the rooms and hallways piled up with old newspapers, products purchased from the Home Shopping Network and desiccated animal skeletons. Except for the old newspapers.

What I do have is an overabundance of entertainment items that somehow made their way onto my shelves despite their clear lack of artistic merit. There are the CDs I got just because the BMG Music Club was offering them for 1 cent (back when you used to have to pay for music), and the DVDs we bought for my kids when they were toddlers, because they pointed to them in the supermarket and we wanted to keep the shopping experience moving along smoothly, without having to involve security.

I know I could sell them on eBay (the CDs and DVDs, not the kids), but I don’t think I’m ready to become a full-fledged online retailer. I picture myself in my garage surrounded by boxes and packing tape, sifting through email orders and trying to squeeze in trips to the post office, where the clerks greet me with cries of “Hey, it’s eBay Guy!” I was hoping to save that for my retirement.

That’s why I was so intrigued when I heard about something called, which allows you to trade your stuff to other people in exchange for their stuff. This was more like it: It seemed somehow purer than just selling these things, and I figured it would prepare me for the inevitable period somewhere down the road (Tuesday?) when the world economy is based exclusively on barter, and banks are used primarily to house grain.

So I signed up, but immediately hit some unexpected bumps. For one thing, people seemed generally reluctant to trade me the cool stuff I wanted in exchange for the crap I had been considering throwing away. I was highly offended — who wouldn’t want to trade their copy of “40: A Doonesbury Retrospective” (list price: $100) for my copy of “Andre,” the 1994 movie about the seal who wears sunglasses? Or the “Karate Kid II” DVD I won in a PTA raffle? Or the Jonas Brothers CD we bought for our daughter during that tiny sliver of the pop culture time continuum when they were cool?

What’s even worse, several of the items I listed are being sought by absolutely no one in exchange for anything — for instance, not even a single shut-in was interested in my copy of “Rickles’ Letters” by Don Rickles. It was one thing when nobody wanted anything at our yard sale, since the audience for that stuff was limited to people in the general vicinity. But when you find out that the entire world finds your stuff even more useless than you do, it makes you start wondering where you went wrong in life.

Before long, you give up completely on your “want” list and start trolling the “What can I get?” list for anything that might remotely validate your self-worth. Only in my case that just made it worse, since it appeared that the only thing anyone was willing to trade me for my stuff was old Jennifer Weiner novels. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Soon I settled in, though, and I’ve now done several successful swaps, acquiring such things as the “Watchmen” graphic novel, a Gram Parsons CD and a DVD of “The Maltese Falcon.” None of them were on my “want” list, but I feel like I’m expanding my horizons, while at the same time getting rid of things like my DVD copy of “You’ve Got Mail.” (Which I suspect was carried into my home by romantic comedy elves and is not indicative of any sort of crush I might have once had on Meg Ryan. Or Tom Hanks.)

And the good news is, apparently will soon be expanding so that you can trade ANYTHING, not just entertainment items. When it comes to getting rid of your old stuff, that’s a game changer. I can only imagine the possibilities.

What do you think I can get for a pile of newspapers?

Peter Chianca is editor in chief for GateHouse Media New England’s north-of-Boston newspapers and websites. Follow him on Twitter at