Monday, December 31, 2012

IN AND OUT 2013: Sports

In: Physical education

For sports fans, learning is in: In 2012 we learned about the dangers of concussions, what “blood doping" is, the difference between sanctions and the “death penalty” in college football, and how many owners and hockey players it takes to settle a contract (lots, apparently). And as a result of those things, helmet-to-helmet contact, cycling, bowl games and hockey are all out. Especially if you’re trying to do them all at once. Multi-tasking is out.

We’ve also learned everything there is to know about Fenway Park, which is in thanks to its 100th anniversary. Fenway stands as a testament to the park’s wonderful and storied history, and to the fact that nobody’s ever been willing to put up the dough to build a new one. As to what goes on INSIDE Fenway Park … More of that below under “Out.”

Football, though, is in: Sunday Night Football is the highest-rated show going, even higher than Monday Night Football, because let’s face it, by Monday night we’re already exhausted. Tom Brady remains the in quarterback, with his supermodel wife, perfect little kids and steely good looks. So what if Eli Manning beat him in the Super Bowl? Winning the Super Bowl is out.

In other Patriots news, tight end Rob Gronkowski is in even though he’s been out: Fortunately, even though he’s been off the field, we’ve had plenty of Dunkin’ Donuts commercials to keep us from going into withdrawal. Oh, Gronk, you’ve done it again! Dunkin’ Donuts is in.

We’ve also learned the ins and outs of fantasy football, which is even more in than real football, at least among people looking for yet another way to distract themselves from their families. You know who you are.

Fantasy basketball is out, but real basketball is in, especially as long as hockey is out – if it weren’t for basketball we’d have to watch professional wrestling. (Professional wrestling is out.) LeBron James is back in despite ticking off all of Cleveland because, let’s face it, nobody is really concerned about how Cleveland feels. Cleveland is out.

And finally, we learned the tearful, inspiring back-stories of hundreds of Olympic athletes, who all had one thing in common: We forgot about them as soon as the Olympics ended. The exception is Michael Phelps, thanks to his 19 medals, and those Subway commercials. Subway is in.

In general, though, the Olympics are also in, because otherwise how could we justify them pre-empting all those episodes of “America’s Got Talent”? Talent is out.

OUT: Cheating and skipping class

Claiming that they weren’t really doing it and besides, everybody else was doing it is no longer the in excuse for dopers, steroid users and people who’ve been injected in their buttock regions by friends, co-workers and acquaintances. You know who you are.

Most out of all of these is Lance Armstrong, who has single-handedly dragged cycling squarely into the out column, much like Tiger Woods did to golf a few years back. By the way, golf: Still out.

They didn’t cheat, but when it comes to baseball teams, you can’t get much more out than the Boston Red Sox, who decided about three-quarters of the way through the season that the best way to deal with their problems was to trade away the entire team and put uniforms on the guys sweeping up peanut shells from the grandstands. So far, so good! By the way, manager Bobby Valentine is WAY out, but peanuts are in.

As for the class-skippers, those would include hockey players – although in their defense, they were actually “locked out,” so couldn’t show up if they wanted to. (Being locked out is in.) And technically they really are working, just in Sweden and Finland. Sweden and Finland: also in, but hockey remains out.

For a while, also AWOL were the NFL referees, until their replacements, in a few short weeks, almost managed to turn the entire institution of professional football into a smoking crater. Maybe now we’ll learn to appreciate the real referees! Naaaaaah.

Tomorrow: All the rest

Friday, December 28, 2012

IN AND OUT 2013: Entertainment

Admit it, you want to live with these people.
IN: History
Maybe it’s that we tend to cling to the familiar during tough times, or that nobody’s had an original idea since sometime last century. (Original ideas are out.) But there’s very little in the current world of entertainment that doesn’t seem at least vaguely reminiscent of something that came before, in most cases because it’s EXACTLY THE SAME.

Case in point: Of the top 10 movies of 2012, eight were either sequels, based on books and/or comic books, or, in the case of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” a remake of another movie that came out 20 minutes ago. (Ah, 20 minutes ago … those were the days.)

Of the other two, one, “Brave,” is by Pixar – where the last remaining original thinkers have apparently sealed themselves off from the rest of society, like the final survivors of a zombie invasion – and the other, “Ted,” features a foul-mouthed, sex-crazed teddy bear. Sex-crazed teddy bears are in, God help us.

But don’t worry: The most highly anticipated movie event of the coming years is the production of another three “Star Wars” movies by new owners Disney, which are sure to find new and original ways to ruin your most coveted childhood memories. Ruining things is in. (This means you, Disney and George Lucas, not necessarily in that order.)

Judging by the rockers who got trotted out for the high-profile 12/12/12 Hurricane Sandy relief concert, no one born after 1960 has ever blurted out even a note of rock ’n’ roll: Bruce Springsteen, 63, looked like the model of youth in this bunch, which featured The Rolling Stones, The Who and Paul McCartney (combined age: one meeeeeellion). So getting down to music first recorded four to five decades ago is in; hoping you die before you get old is apparently out.

Of the younger artists, a lot of them tend to sound exactly alike – quick, tell us the difference between Katy Perry and Carly Rae Jepson! See? But there are some glimmers of hope, such as Mumford & Sons and Phillip Phillips, who sound like each other but not like Katy Perry and Carly Rae Jepson, which is a step in the right direction.

Even better, fun., they of the lower-case “f” and unnecessary period, are almost startlingly original, as if they must have escaped from the Pixar compound. Their exact opposite would be One Direction, whom Simon Cowell molded out of clay and animated like an ancient Golem. (Ancient Golems are in.) And Taylor Swift will never, ever, ever find an ex-boyfriend she couldn’t write a hit song about. (Ex-boyfriends are in.)

OUT: Literature

A lot of bookstores (remember them? Bookstores are out) used to separate “Literature” into its own section, primarily to make sure you knew they were the books you had no interest in actually reading. Sorry Nathaniel Hawthorne, but you’re out.

When it comes to books people do read, there are exactly two that are in, neither of which are what you’d call classic literature: “The Hunger Games” and “50 Shades of Grey.” Someday someone will come up with an idea that combines both of those concepts and it will be a huge hit, and also the final sign of the pending apocalypse. Pending apocalypses are in.

A lot of other in entertainment fare isn’t exactly literate either: On TV, the clever and informative shows – such as “30 Rock” and “Rock Center with Brian Williams,” along with any number of other shows with “rock” in the title – tend to be out. Shows featuring “real” people who may or may not have the ability to read, such as the casts of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” “Dance Moms” and “Moonshiners,” are in. Cue pending apocalypse.

But there are some signs that not all entertainment is aiming at the lowest common denominator. Shows like “Modern Family,” “Downton Abbey” and “Homeland” cater to people with brains, while “The Walking Dead” caters to people with brains who like to watch zombies eating brains, but in an intellectual way. And in theaters, the in release of the season is “Les Miserables,” which is almost exactly like classic literature, except with singing. Singing is in.

And not all lowbrow entertainment is in: Adam Sandler is out after a few recent outings tanked, including “That’s My Boy,” which was so bad it may have dragged Andy Samberg out with it. (Although Sandler will always be in on Boston’s North Shore, where he just filmed “Grown Ups 2,” a movie not expected to break his out streak.) And while Tom Cruise is in when he’s driving fast cars and breaking heads, he’s out when he’s singing, at evidenced by “Rock of Ages.” Singing is out.

Speaking of which, Justin Bieber got (temporarily) dumped by his girlfriend, the inexplicably in Selena Gomez, and flopped in the Grammy nomination department – could this mean he’s on his way out? Ha ha! Just kidding, True Beliebers! Remember, coming after people who make Justin Bieber jokes with tiny little pitchforks is out.

Monday: Sports

Thursday, December 27, 2012

IN AND OUT 2013: News & Politics

Another year has come and gone. But what have we really learned about what’s in and what’s out in news, politics, entertainment, sports and life in general? Sit back over the next few days and let us school you on what’s hot and what’s not as we enter 2013. And yes, getting schooled is in.


In: Arithmetic

Former President Bill Clinton – who is, incidentally, perennially in – cited the importance of arithmetic in his remarks at the Democratic National Convention, and it turns out he was right: Sometimes, numbers do add up! Adding up is in.

The primary example of this is President Barack Obama, who will be back in the White House for four more years. The poll numbers said he would win, and then he got a higher number of votes than Mitt Romney – and amazingly, that resulted him being reelected president. At least it was amazing to Mitt Romney and the GOP, who seemed to be basing their entire campaign on imaginary numbers that only they could see. Imaginary numbers are out.

Elsewhere in Washington, crunching numbers to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff” is in. By the time you read this, I’m sure our elected officials will have come up with an effective compromise that benefits everyone. Yes, being delusional is in.

Numbers are also playing a role in the weather: As the temperature continues to tick up degree by degree, like somebody lit a Sterno can under it, the weather continues to go progressively insane. As a result, superstorms are in. Plain, old regular storms are out. Going to bed with a reasonable certainty that your house won’t wash away in the night: also out.

Tweets have been multiplying exponentially, meaning Twitter is the in source of information, both from mainstream media sources and Kim Kardashian. Although being able to tell the difference between the two of those is out.

Unfortunately, waiting a second or two before Tweeting whatever pops into your head is out – just ask indiscriminate Tweeters like rich guy/birther Donald Trump and R&B singer/girlfriend abuser Chris Brown. Being rich, being a birther, being a girlfriend abuser: all out. R&B singers are still in, except for Chris Brown.

The number of people supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage and marijuana keeps going up and up, meaning those are both very much in – especially in Washington state, where they’re now BOTH legal. We know that somewhere, state namesake George “Cheech” Washington and his secret lover James Madison are smiling.

OUT: Communications and Language Arts

Actual communication using reasonable language seems to be out, particularly in Congress, where “reaching across the aisle” has come to refer to elected officials attempting to throttle each other. Elected officials are out, but not enough of them.

Mitt Romney failed to speak to people as people, preferring instead to address them like large, pliable focus groups or, in the case of 47 percent of the population, not at all. As a result, Mitt is out and the 47 percent are in. (And still waiting for our “gifts” from President Obama, thank you very much. Gifts are in!)

And many male Republican candidates also eschewed actual, sensible language in attempting to communicate with women, instead apparently opting to rely on an anatomy textbook written in the 1950s by 12-year-olds. They are, mercifully, now out. Women, however, are in: There are 20 of them in the U.S. Senate, and Hillary Clinton is the most popular person, well, anywhere, ever. Hillary may remain in right through 2016.

No matter who’s in Washington, though, talking about the aforementioned climate and weather changes seems to be out – and by the time it comes back in, Washington may be underwater. Water is in a lot of places where it used to be out, whether we want it there or not.

Hostess executives opted to pull the plug on the operation (while taking big, cream-filled bonuses) rather than talking with the unions, so Twinkies are – inconceivably – out. Little Debbie is in, though, and she’ll bring back the white straw cowboy hat with stampede string as a fashion accessory if it’s the last thing she does.

Apparently talking to your wife is out but talking (and doing other things) to your biographer and/or “unpaid social liaison” is in, at least if you’re a decorated general. (Liaisoning is in, and turning nouns into verbs – a.k.a. “verbing” – is also in.) For the non-decorated, un-biographied types, communicating with your spouse is still in. Especially via text message. Texting is still in. ;)

Finally, the one place where it’s still in to communicate your innermost feelings, as well as your every move and those of your children and pets, is on Facebook. But actually paying for a little piece of Facebook is out: Its stock tanked this year, turning Mark Zuckerberg into a multi-billionaire instead of a multi-multi-billionaire. Quantifying your billions is out.

Tomorrow: In and Out in Entertainment

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Where have I been? Writing an eBook, that's where

In case you've been wondering where I've been as my posts slowed to a trickle these last few months -- anyone? -- I actually have an excuse. I was writing Glory Days: Springsteen’s Greatest Albums, my new eBook from Endeavour Press. Yes, it's short, but it still took me a while to fit all the words together.

If you're familiar with my Springsteen blog Blogness on the Edge of Town, you know I'm a big fan of other people’s Springsteen books — I've reviewed Springsteen-centric titles by Peter Ames Carlin, Marc Dolan, Lawrence Kirsch, Louis Masur and plenty of others in recent years. But now I have one I'm really excited about, because if you buy it, I get money.

In "Glory Days," I analyze in depth eight different Springsteen albums I argue deserve to be in contention for the title of Best Springsteen Album Ever — and then in the last chapter, I pick the one I feel rises to the top of the heap. You’ll definitely want to read it, if only so you can get mad about my choices and send me angry emails.

From the introduction:
OK, admit it: You’ve come here to mock me
After all, it’s pretty clear that choosing the “greatest” Bruce Springsteen album is in many ways a fool’s errand. Just look at what I’ve got working against me: a 40-year body of work, most of it highly acclaimed, almost all of it ambitious and socially relevant. It’s tough even to decide where to start, much less pick the one collection that rises above all the others in terms of artistry, impact and cultural significance.
But I figure somebody’s got to do it, fruitless enterprise or not … No matter what, I hope these essays strike a chord with you, and maybe remind you of why these albums, and Bruce Springsteen himself, meant so much to you in the first place. And most of all, I hope they inspire you – to borrow a line from “Mary’s Place” – to put your favorite record on the turntable, and drop the needle and pray.
And the best part is, it’s only $2.99. (Plus $200 give or take if you don’t have a Kindle yet, but we won’t dwell on that. You can always download the Kindle software for PC or the smartphone/tablet app — hold that phone close enough to your face and it’s just like reading a real book!)

So I hope you’ll consider giving it a spin — and letting us know what you think afterward, of course. Don’t worry, I can take it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Column: A happy Christmas is in the cards

Do you remember mail? It came in envelopes and someone would leave it in a box at the end of your driveway? You’re right, it does sound ridiculous.

Anyway, this is the one time of year when real mail makes a comeback. That’s because many people still send Christmas cards: For the price of a stamp (whatever that is), this allows you to share some tangible holiday cheer, not to be confused with the digital holiday cheer that involves putting someone’s head on a dancing elf. As hilarious as that may be.

Of course there are some questions involved with holiday cards, such as whether you should display them prominently around your house, or leave them in an unkempt pile on your kitchen counter until you throw them away on Dec. 26. Neither of these choices is necessarily correct, except for the second one.

Then there’s the question of what kind of card to send. There are several options, some of which even involve using glitter that spills out of the envelope when someone opens it, which is a great idea if you’re planning to send cards mostly to people you hate. If that’s not the case, though, consider one of the following:

1) Kid cards. Somewhere along the line it became a law that if you had a child between the ages of 0 and college, it was required that you stick their picture on your Christmas card. This made some sense back in the pre-Facebook days, but it’s less necessary now that you digitally document your child’s every milestone and achievement, and also all those times when they’re more adorable than all the other kids, which is always.

I’m among those guilty of using this method, partly because there’s now a certain level of Mutually Assured Christmas Card Destruction: Everyone involved agrees to keep proliferating children-centric Christmas cards so as not to be branded as the one set of parents not obsessively proud of their kids’ sparkling photographic charisma. Who knows what the other parents would think if you sent out a card that shunned your own children in favor of say, the baby Jesus, who is much less likely to be posed in a Santa hat in front of a fake fireplace. Which reminds me:

2) Jesus cards. These are cards meant to share in a joyous celebration of the birth of Christ, and to remind you that at some point you became a godless heathen who puts his own kid on his Christmas cards instead of God’s kid. (And are thus implicitly hell-bound, Merry Christmas.) Of course, you also might not be sending a Jesus card because you’re Jewish. Which brings me to:

3) “Seasons Greetings” cards. Since most families these days are made up of people practicing any number of religions, often at the same time, you might be safer with a “Season’s Greetings” card appropriate for Christian, Jew, Muslim, Wiccan, agnostic and atheist alike. Because even if we have differing beliefs, at the end of the day, there’s one thing we can all agree on: that it is currently a season.

4) Cards with side-splitting comical cartoons in which Santa’s butt crack is showing. Please stop sending me these. You know who you are.

5) Spite cards. These are cards sent specifically to arrive on Dec. 24, thus giving the receiver no time to send a card in response. Spite-card senders have been known to spend months mapping out a delivery timetable so as to ensure maximum guilt for the recipients, which is what the holidays are all about.

Wait, scratch that — I read my notes wrong. Perhaps what the holidays are really about, among other things that may or may not involve guilt, is slowing down long enough to appreciate what you’ve got and share some of that aforementioned good cheer — maybe even by writing out an actual card or two. If you manage to spread even a little old-fashioned holiday joy — real, physical joy that you can touch and smell, not eJoy — maybe it makes all the writing and stamping worthwhile.

But if I see my kids in that pile on your counter, next year you’re getting the dancing elf.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Column: Waiting for the end of the world

“Inmates in a women’s prison near the Chinese border are said to have experienced a ‘collective mass psychosis’ so intense that their wardens summoned a priest to calm them. In a factory town east of Moscow, panicked citizens stripped shelves of matches, kerosene, sugar and candles. A huge Mayan-style archway is being built — out of ice — on Karl Marx Street in Chelyabinsk in the south.”
New York Times, Dec. 1, 2012


Dear U.S. Citizen:

I am Fred Cranston, associate assistant director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). As you have no doubt heard, the world is scheduled to end on Friday, Dec. 21. We know this because the Mayan calendar ends on that date, and the Mayans have never been wrong about anything. This is what makes them so insufferable at dinner parties.

Ha ha! Just a little Mayan humor to help ease the tension that’s bound to go along with knowing the world is coming to an end. I have been asked to write this letter to help prepare Americans for our impending annihilation, partially because of my experience in disaster mitigation, and also because all the other officials are already sequestered on the government’s secret fleet of high-tech flying arks.

Anyway, it is our goal to avoid the mass end-times panic that has already begun in Russia and other areas of the world. Remember, just because the earth is going to open up and swallow us, or we’re going to be incinerated by giant solar fireballs, or the earth’s polarity is going to reverse, propelling us all into space, is no reason to be uncouth. (This means you, Arkansas!)

With that in mind, we ask that you follow the following simple guidelines:

1) Please do not hoard matches, kerosene, sugar and candles, because none of those things will help once you’ve been incinerated by a giant solar fireball (and in the case of kerosene, it will probably just make things worse). Instead, consider using the food and resources you currently have in your home, because they’re bound to spoil quickly after the earth becomes a barren, burning wasteland.

2) Trying to avoid gaping, fiery holes in the earth by driving around them as they open up is not advisable, no matter how feasible that appears in the movies. For one thing, those are typically trained drivers on a closed course; and also, the gaping, fiery holes are added in later using a computer. You’re much better off standing very, very still, and hoping the holes go around you.

3) Please be advised that building tremendous Mayan structures out of ice or other materials is unlikely to stave off the impending apocalypse. That said, I, for one, welcome our new Mayan overlords.

4) We strongly recommend against using your last few weeks on earth attempting to live out your wildest fantasies, particularly if they involve “maxing out” your credit cards, telling off your boss, professing a long unrequited love, or public nudity. On the off chance the world doesn’t end as predicted, any or all of these actions could prove personally detrimental, or at least embarrassing. Consider perhaps some more staid activities, like Jenga.

5) Finally, even though we’ve been unable to pinpoint exactly how the world is going to end on Dec. 21, we feel a need to deny the prevailing rumor that mankind will be wiped out in a zombie apocalypse, which is just silly. However, you should plan to have some sharpened shovels around to chop the tops of their heads off, just in case.

In conclusion, we hope these guidelines will help you adequately prepare for the end of civilization, and if you have any other questions or concerns between now and then, feel free to contact your local FEMA office. A representative who couldn’t fit on one of the arks will be happy to assist you.

Fred Cranston, FEMA

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Column: This year's reasons to be thankful, sort of

As you may recall, every year at this time I like to offer up a list of reasons we have to be thankful. And while it's true that you may be somewhat frustrated with certain developments – such as the election results, or the deteriorating environment, or your inability to tell apart the Kardashians – that doesn’t mean there isn’t also a lot to celebrate.

For instance, you should be thankful for the fact that:

1) You didn’t go into this month believing, in your heart of hearts, that you were somehow going to become the president of the United States.

2) You’ve managed to keep your illicit affair a secret, or if you didn’t at least keeping illicit things secret isn’t supposed to be your primary occupation. Or if it is … we never had this conversation.

3) You didn’t think that hey, maybe it might be fun to manage the Boston Red Sox this year.

4) You didn’t open opposite "The Avengers." ("A Little Bit of Heaven" starring Kate Hudson, we hardly knew ye.)

5) You weren’t chosen to appear in the Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics, which I don’t think ever actually ended – you’d probably still be there, pounding on metal canisters while dressed like a refugee from "Les Miserables."

6) You weren’t the one who had to drive Karl Rove home from Fox News on election night. Awkward!

7) You didn’t get nominated in the same category as Adele. ("Firework" by Katy Perry, we hardly … well, actually we knew you a little too well.)

8) You didn’t invest your life savings in the Facebook IPO. And if you did, don’t worry, because word has it you’ll soon be able to trade your shares for Farmville cash to buy virtual chickens.

9) You have a job. Well, 92.1 percent of you have a job. The rest of you will have to stick with the Farmville cash.

10) Donald Trump has not taken an interest in any of your personal records. Yet.

11) The NCAA hasn’t imposed any sanctions on you. Yet.

12) You’re not dating Taylor Swift, because let’s face it, that wouldn’t end well.

13) You weren’t locked out of your job and forced to work in Slovakia with Lubomir Visnovsky, no matter how much fun it may be to say "Lubomir Visnovsky."
14) You weren’t the one who had to drive Big Bird home from Sesame Street after the first debate. Awkward!

15) You haven’t started any sort of petition or campaign against Ellen DeGeneres, because let’s face it, that’s just crazy talk.

16) While the Fiscal Cliff could wind up pushing the country back into crippling recession, you won’t LITERALLY have to go over a cliff, like lemmings or Toonces, the cat who could drive a car.

17) You’re not the backup quarterback for the New York Jets.

18) You didn’t invest your life savings in "Rock of Ages," the Tom Cruise musical. And if you did, don’t worry, because it might manage to make back its cost in foreign markets where they’ve never heard music before.

19) You haven’t said anything within range of Joe Biden that might make him open his mouth to emit a thunderous guffaw, blinding you with the overpowering glow that emanates from his incisors.

20) Last time you filled in for somebody at work it probably didn’t result in the Patriots losing to the freaking Cardinals and you getting booed by 70,000 drunk people.

21) Clint Eastwood hasn’t gone anywhere near your furniture.

22) You probably won’t be standing between David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen when they finally come to blows, the sheer force of the altercation causing their decrepit bodies to crumble into a chalky dust that smells vaguely of bourbon.

23) You haven’t been rebooted in 3-D.

24) You’re not a candidate for office who thought it would be a good campaign move to tell women you know more about their bodies than they do. And if you are: Dude, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

25) Even if you did go into this month believing that you were somehow going to become the president of the United States … At least you didn’t manage the Boston Red Sox.

Monday, October 29, 2012

AT LARGE FAKE NEWS MONDAY: Chris Christie Praises Sen. Scott Brown, Eats Him

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (CAP) - Sen. Scott Brown was joined yesterday on the campaign trail in Framingham by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of the nation's leading champions of balanced budgets and government reform.

There, Christie praised Brown's bipartisan record and his ability to work with Democrats to solve problems, and then swallowed him whole.

Witnesses say Christie extolled Brown's bipartisan efforts in the Senate, and then unhinged his jaw, not unlike a giant, corpulent serpent, and ate Brown from the head down, slowly drawing the senator into his tremendous gullet and digesting him over a period of several hours.

Christie, who was named the "least scary" and "fattest" potential GOP presidential contender in a USA Today/Gallup poll in August of 2011, has only rarely eaten his fellow Republicans, but today reportedly went on stage hungry after missing his usual lunch of 2,625 pounds of zooplankton.

"I really respect Christie's positions on fiscal issues," noted Cyndi Carlson of Sherborn, Mass., who added that she'd been undecided until Christie's endorsement prompted her to go for Brown. "Until Christie ate him, that is. I guess I'll have to vote for Elizabeth Warren now."

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Monday, October 22, 2012

Column: What did Ella Fitzgerald do to deserve Rod Stewart?

Followers of this column may recall that I am used to receiving emails from famous people — for instance, there was the time that Joan Collins sent me three identical emails about her new jewelry line. Of course that was in 2007 and I haven’t heard from her since, but I’m sure she’ll get back in touch with me if she has anything really important to share, such as another new jewelry line.

But I have to admit I was surprised this week when I got an email from none other than Rod Stewart. At first I wondered what Rod Stewart could possibly want with me — I figured he wasn’t emailing to ask for $5 like Barack Obama and Joe Biden do two or three times a day, since Rod Stewart has plenty of money, which he uses on important charitable activities such as buying himself new wives.

As it turns out, though, Rod was writing me to let me know about his impending Christmas album, “Merry Christmas, Baby.” (I use the word “impending” because “upcoming” somehow didn’t seem sufficiently apocalyptic.) It was the subject line of the email that immediately caught my eye: “New album featuring collaborations with Michael Bublé & Ella Fitzgerald,” a statement so fundamentally wrong that I’m fairly sure I heard the heavens crack open and rain a torrent of bitter tears for all eternity.

I’m not talking about the Michael Bublé part — I don’t know much about Michael Bublé other than that he’d probably be right at home next to Rod Stewart, perhaps even joined with him at the torso, like Chang and Eng. It’s the second part, about dueting with Ella Fitzgerald: For one thing, Ella Fitzgerald died in 1996, and for another, I’m pretty sure her final words were, “Well, at least now I’ll never have to do a duet with Rod Stewart.”

Not that I’m completely against duets with dead people. I didn’t really mind the one Natalie Cole did with her late father, Nat King Cole, which you couldn’t help but think was sweet and moving as long as you’d taken enough Zoloft. But there are plenty of far worse examples, such as the album “Duets” by Frank Sinatra, who was alive at the time but only technically.

But I’ll go on the record as being completely against the idea of a Rod Stewart/Ella Fitzgerald “collaboration,” which is really only a collaboration in the way that eating a hamburger is a collaboration with the cow. First of all, Ella was known as the “First Lady of Song,” and pairing her with Rod Stewart would seem to indicate that he was perhaps the “President of Song.” This is completely and entirely false unless the song in question happens to be “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” in which case he would be running unopposed.

Just so as not to jump to any conclusions, though, I did watch the “trailer” for the album, but it didn’t have any snippets from the Ella duet. (Although it did have a clip of a Christmas video with Cee Lo Green, who looked sort of like Burl Ives, if Burl Ives had been eaten by Cee Lo Green.) It also had plenty of Rod Stewart, shamelessly showing off how he has monopolized the United Kingdom’s entire supply of gaudily colored plaid jackets. Rod is now 67 and apparently can no longer lift his arms above chest level, possibly because his skin has been tightened so many times it’s started to affect his armpits.

Frankly, though, I don’t have to hear it to know that his duet with Ella is a bad idea. I’m not saying Rod Stewart should never sing with other people — for instance, there was that time he sang that song from “The Three Musketeers” with Bryan Adams and Sting, which is still reportedly in heavy rotation at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

But when it comes to Ella — who in her day had mopped up the floor with such duet partners as Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby — he’d be doing himself a favor by sticking with someone more in his league, and alive enough to make the decision on her own.

I’m thinking Joan Collins may be available.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Column: Giant Space Asteroids II - The Revenge!

Like most columnists, I started in this business for one reason and one reason only: to win the Nobel Prize for Column Writing. Then I discovered there was no Nobel Prize for Column Writing, so I decided that I actually started doing it to effect positive change in society. Thus far that’s gone about as well as the Nobel Prize thing, as evidenced by the lack of traction in my campaign to get us all jetpacks.

Until last week, that is. That’s when my column on giant space asteroids elicited a sudden flurry of asteroid-related activity. Not among the asteroids, which are notoriously stubborn and can’t read, but among certain people who, like myself, do not want to be crushed and incinerated by them, not necessarily in that order.

Granted, not all of the activity was useful. For instance, NBC News (motto: “Wait, what?”) ran a story about how the 1998 asteroid movie “Armageddon” was, as it turns out, unrealistic. Fourteen years well spent, I-Team!

Actually, they were reporting on a study out of the University of Leicester, where one 22-year-old master’s student said of the film, “After watching it back, I found myself being more skeptical.” He also surmised that Hollywood might be guilty of “falsification of the science to make movies more interesting.” In response, the University of Leicester changed its name and left town in the middle of the night.

But on other fronts the news was more positive, especially among the one federal agency that might actually be equipped to do something about the problem of deadly giant space asteroids: the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.

Wait, I meant to say NASA. And as it turns out, NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO, and I swear I did not make that up) thinks that we actually have a pretty good chance against an oncoming asteroid – if, that is, we’re willing to spend $50 million on an asteroid spotting system. Just to put that in perspective, I should mention:
  1. “Rush Hour 3” cost $140 million.
  2. See No. 1.
If we were to pony up and start actively searching for oncoming asteroids, that would no doubt come as good news to the Gaiashield Group, one of the few organized bodies out there working to keep us all from being crushed, incinerated etc. They also happen to have what may be the Best Website Ever (, in that it features:
  1. The motto “The Sky Is Falling Now!” over a picture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex running from falling meteors.
  2. See No. 1.
The Gaiashield people, incidentally, are not thrilled with how President Obama has handled the giant space asteroid crisis so far. They even have a personal letter to him on their website, which reads, in part, “The Next Large Asteroid on its way to strike Earth is closing at A Million Miles A Day. Time is simply not on our side here … Tic Toc!” Say what you will about the Gaiashield Group, you have to admit the “Tic Toc!” was a nice touch.

But at least Obama seems to have a general idea that we should probably be doing something about giant space asteroids. According to Dale Brownfield of Gaiashield, who wrote me after reading my column, “I’m sure Romney still needs to be taken to school on this.” Most likely a private preparatory school that frowns upon blacks, gays and giant space asteroids.

Still, that brings me back to my point of last week: If Romney wants to become president, it seems to me all he has to do is come up with the $50 million to fund NASA’s asteroid spotting project. He could probably do that entirely from money he could find today around his house, under the couch cushions and on top of the car under the dog. I bet he’d even have plenty left over to spend on other projects.

I recommend jetpacks.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

At Large Fake News Thursday: Photogs Spy Prince Charles Nude In Stoke-on-Trent

STAFFORDSHIRE (CAP) - Apparently taking a cue from his randy son Prince Harry, Prince Charles is the latest royal to find himself in hot water thanks to some unfortunate photos turning up in the British tabloids.

The Prince of Wales was photographed this past weekend cavorting nude with his wife Camilla Parker Bowles following a game of "strip cricket" in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. In one picture, a stark naked Charles is seen obscuring his genitalia behind a wicket bail.

"You'd think he would have used the bat, just to keep up appearances, wot?" said Nigel Tambling-Goggin, publisher of the London Star-Mirror, which ran the photos on its front page.

In another photo, the naked Charles gives a bear-hug from behind to Parker Bowles, who appears to be wearing a gray leather bodysuit.

"But it turns out that's actually her skin - she's as starkers as he is!" said Tambling-Goggin.

"You'll notice the people retching in the background," he pointed out, before having to turn away to avoid becoming physically ill. "Blimey ... I'm starting to wonder if this press freedom is really worth it," he added, wiping sweat from his brow.

The photos were apparently snapped by a group of pensioners who were in town for the Newcastle-under-Lyme Pottery Festival and Extravaganza. Stoke-on-Trent, part of a conurbation considered to be the pottery capital of Great Britain, is known for the wild antics "one might expect from such a pottery haven," according to tourism brochures distributed by the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NSCCI).

But those antics are not meant to be broadcast beyond the local borders, says NSCCI president Cornelia Trickelbank. "As we say around here, what happens in Stoke-on-Trent stays in Stoke-on-Trent," said Trickelbank. "Or at least doesn't go any further than Newcastle-under-Lyme, or, on extremely rare occasions, Wolstanton.

"You get the idea," she added.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

When Bruce Springsteen met Pete ...

Yes, I know: The title of this post might give you the idea that Bruce Springsteen and I recently sat down over Cabernet and crullers to discuss music theory and world politics. Actually, our encounter was slightly more fleeting — it took place during the final chorus of “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” at Gillette Stadium, when Bruce was running by me at the approximate speed of a charging rhino. But never mind that — what’s important is that it was CAPTURED ON FILM.

Well, maybe not film per se — this is actually a screenshot from a YouTube video. But as you can see, it looks exactly like Bruce has just told me a very humorous anecdote (possibly involving Stevie Van Zandt getting thrown out of some amusement park or another), and I’m responding with a hearty guffaw. Or maybe I was just delirious from my temporary proximity to his sweaty aura. One of those two things.

If you're interested in my take on Springsteen's recent concerts in Boston, I wrote A LOT about it. Check out reviews of Fenway night 1, Fenway night 2 and Gillette Stadium. And check out more (much more!) at Blogness on the Edge of Town.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Column: Where do the candidates stand on asteroids?

I’m very concerned that despite a growing disgust among the populace, the presidential candidates continue to dwell on extraneous topics like taxes and the economy and refuse to address what’s most important to the American public: namely, what they’re going to do to keep us from getting hit by a giant space asteroid.

Personally, getting hit by a giant space asteroid is currently my own top concern, even more so than my concerns over a zombie apocalypse. This is because while the latter is definitely unpleasant, it’s never happened before, whereas it seems there was a time when earth was being pelted practically nonstop by space asteroids, like some giant, unfortunate pinball bumper.

I’m basing my information on a book I’m reading, "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson. It came out in 2003, but since I’m just getting around to reading it now I’m hoping that "everything" hasn’t changed too much during the past nine years. I do know we haven’t been hit by a giant asteroid during that time, because as Bryson makes very clear, I would have heard about it.

For instance, if we were to be visited by a meteor like the one that hit Manson, Iowa 74 million years ago, immediately before it hit "the temperature below it would rise to some 60,000 Kelvin, or ten times the surface temperature of the Sun … Everything in the meteor’s path – people, houses, factories, cars – would crinkle and vanish like cellophane in a flame." And after that, things would get really bad.

I won’t go into the graphic details. (Earthquakes? Check. Volcanoes? Check. "Blizzard of flying projectiles?" Checkeroo.) But you’d think that with literally millions of these things flying around the heavens, protecting us, the citizenry, from crinkling like cellophane would be a no-brainer of a campaign platform. By contrast, Medicare reform does very little to help a senior population that’s been incinerated.

And yet, according to Bryson, "the number of people in the world who are actively searching for asteroids is fewer than the staff of a typical McDonald’s restaurant." About the only good news about that statement is that at least asteroid hunters have advanced degrees and are unlikely to do unpleasant things in the Fryolator.

This is why, if I were running for national office (an experience I imagine is not unlike being hit by a blizzard of flying projectiles), I would do so based almost exclusively on the giant space asteroid platform, making the following promises:

 1) I would immediately create a Division of Asteroid Hunters (DAH) that would employ thousands of people to sit on mountaintops staring through telescopes into outer space. When one of them spotted an asteroid headed in this direction, they would point at it and shout "ASTEROID!" This is what is known as a "job creator."

2) I would order NASA to immediately stop paying all that attention to Mars, which has pretty much no chance of slamming into us, ever.

3) Instead, I would have them start training an elite team of asteroid blower-uppers, like in the movie "Armageddon." I never saw that movie but I’m reasonably sure that it involved Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck blowing up asteroids, possibly while listening to Aerosmith songs.

There are still a few details to work out – for instance, Bryson points out that even if we managed to blow up an oncoming asteroid, it would probably just slam into us in a bunch of pieces, "with the difference that now the rocks would be intensely radioactive." This is what is known as "class warfare."

So here’s hoping that either President Obama or Gov. Romney take up the call – whomever adopts the giant space asteroid platform first is bound to sway the ever-important independent voter who doesn’t want to be hit by a giant space asteroid. After all, if the fact that it’s estimated an asteroid could take out 1.5 billion humans in a single day isn’t enough to sway the public, the candidates can always point out the following:

A certain number of those humans are bound to wind up as zombies.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

At Large Fake News Thursday: Oops! Mars Rover Tech Forgot To Pack The Big Lens

PASADENA (CAP) - In one of the few disappointments so far involving the Mars rover Curiosity - which landed on the red planet last week - several technicians were reportedly horrified to find NASA's F-7000 High Density Lens in a storage closet at their jet propulsion lab yesterday.

The lens, which NASA scientists developed over five years at a cost of approximately $350 million, was supposed to have been mounted to the rear of the rover, where it would take in-depth photographs at a far higher resolution than those that have been transmitted by the device so far.
"I know we certainly intended to put it there," the project's head imaging technician Kris Hanford told CAP News. "I'm pretty sure Carl was supposed to do it."

Carl, a NASA technician who declined to give his last name, said he definitely mounted something there, but now he's thinking it might have been something other than the F-7000, like a piece of PVC pipe.

"The funny thing is, I remember when we stored the lens in there I thought, I wonder why we're putting this in here with all this PVC pipe?" Carl recalled.

The news was reportedly not taken well when it was announced to mission control, where dozens of men broke instantaneously into tears, crying uncontrollably down the fronts of their powder blue golf shirts.

Adam Seltzner, the NASA scientist who had been preparing to study the images that were to be sent back from Curiosity using the F-7000, was particularly inconsolable, given that he now has nothing to do for the next five years.

"F-ing Carl!" sobbed Seltzner, removing his horn-rimmed glasses to rub his bloodshot eyes. "I'm still convinced he was the one who put the bad tire on the Spirit rover in 2010."

"It wasn't a tire so much as an old piece of rubber," recalled Carl. "But I'm pretty sure it was circular."

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

At Large Fake News Tuesday: Springsteen's E Street Band Suffering From 'Exhaustion'

HELSINKI (CAP) - Several members of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band were admitted to the Helsinki University Central Hospital last week, apparently suffering from exhaustion following a concert at Olympic Stadium that lasted anywhere from four to nine hours, according to various reports.

"It was harrowing ... they just started dropping like flies," said Lasse Hamalainen, one of the few audience members to make it through the entirety of the mammoth performance.

Most accounts have keyboardist Roy Bittan, 63, being the first to show signs of fatigue, missing some notes in the piano solo on "Backstreets" around hour five, and then falling unconscious with his head on his keyboard.

"It made sort of a plinky sound," noted Hamalainen.

Others soon followed, including guitarist Nils Lofgren, 61, who collapsed behind the horn section Fender guitar in hand, and bassist Garry W. Tallent, 62, who curled up into a fetal position on one of the stage risers.

Witnesses say that shortly thereafter Max Weinberg's arms froze in an upraised position during "Candy's Room" and the 61-year-old drummer fell over backwards, "sort of like an uprooted Greek statue," said Hamalainen.

All through the carnage Springsteen, 63, continued to rally the crowd, waving his arms, sliding across the stage on his knees and hanging upside down off his microphone stand.

"He never slowed down, except when he tried to crowd surf over the 'pit' in front of the stage and as it turned out most of the crowd had passed out by around hour eight," said Hamalainen.

Luckily for Springsteen, two large men who had managed to stay conscious - identified only as "Aleksi" and "Joonas" - were able to hold him aloft until he could get back to the stage.

Witnesses report that by the 12th encore the entire band was strewn out around the stage in various states of consciousness, from staggeringly dazed (saxophonist Jake Clemons) to full-fledged coma (Steven Van Zandt, looking not unlike his character Silvio Dante in the last episode of The Sopranos).

"When he realized there was no one backing him up anymore, he ran offstage and grabbed his acoustic guitar" - Springsteen's guitar tech had apparently also passed out - "and started doing a solo show," said Hamalainen, who had taken to keep himself awake by pinching himself and burning his arm hairs off with a cigarette lighter.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

At Large Fake News Tuesday: Queen Elizabeth II Can't Believe It's Come To This

LONDON (CAP) - As she surveyed the crowd at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games last weekend, Queen Elizabeth II couldn't help but be gripped by one nagging, overarching question: "What the hell happened?

"There was a time when a monarch was a monarch," she said later during an exclusive interview with CAP News. "Now I'm reduced to presiding over some vulgar melange of Les Miserables and STOMP."

She then stopped for a moment to stare out her window at Buckingham Palace, perhaps remembering a time when a queen could, for no especially good reason, order somebody's head removed.

"I mean, did I really just appear in some half-witted James Bond spoof?" she asked, referring to Danny Boyle's short film depicting her as the newest Bond girl and jumping out of a helicopter with Daniel Craig.  "And that skinny fellow with the wide face - who was that man? Everyone knows Sean Connery is the only true Bond."

Then she paused again and finally muttered, "Wanker," to no one in particular.

But some say the Queen might be engaging in a bit of revisionist history when lamenting her role in the Olympics spectacle. "This type of thing has been going on for centuries," said Walter Fernfrussen, professor of British Studies at Oxford.

For instance in 1878, Queen Victoria made a much-publicized appearance as "Mrs. Cripps (Little Buttercup), A Portsmouth Bumboat Woman" in a special performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore to commemorate the 525th anniversary of the House of Lords, explained Fernfrussen. "She was terrible, but received polite applause," he said.

And in 1936, said Fernfrussen, Edward VIII - in one of the few achievements of his short reign before abdicating the throne - appeared in a series of short subjects with the Peculiar Iddesleigh Brothers, a long-forgotten comedy trio considered to be Britain's answer to The Three Stooges.

"He spent most of his screen time having crumpets thrown at him," said Fernfrussen.

The Queen also told CAP News she was upset that Olympics preparation had been criticized by U.S. GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who apparently would have restructured the entire operation much like he did Wayne Industries.

"Off with his head!" the Queen said of Romney, before being reminded by aides that even if she still had that authority, it would not extend to Romney because he is not a British citizen.

"Oh bollocks," she responded. "How about that Paul McCartney then?"

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Column: These high school grads are hard to picture

I’ve been an editor in chief for a little over a year now, and because of my lofty title you might assume I spend most of my time engaged almost exclusively in glamorous journalistic activities, such as tripping copy boys and berating that Parker kid for not getting me better pictures of that blasted Spider-Man. And you would be right.

But I also have to handle the workaday responsibilities that come up when you least expect them and that cannot be handled by other people, because those people have gone into public relations. For instance, the other day I spent several hours helping a colleague match the names to the yearbook photos of 236 local high school graduates, 235 of whom were named Brittney.

I kid, of course – it just seemed like they were all named Brittney. (Some of them were named Brittnee.) But what really struck me during that exercise was how yearbook photos have changed since I went to high school in the 1980s. For instance, back then about two-thirds of the photos featured a mullet haircut, which seemed completely normal at the time, in comparison to Jon Bon Jovi.

But what the current photos lack in mullets they more than make up for in variety. Back when I was in school they issued us plastic combs and stuck us all in the same pose in front of a standard sky-blue background. As a result all the yearbook photos were basically identical, except that some of us were dressed like Madonna and/or Robert Smith of The Cure. We know who we are.

But these days, it seems, anything goes: Backdrops are black, blue, yellow, red and everything in between; some are outside, some are inside; pictures are taken from above, below and either side; outfits range from ties to T-shirts, with at least three of the students I saw having apparently just stepped off a motorcycle, all of them girls.

As random as the photos appeared, though, I’ve managed to narrow them down into three discernable categories. You may want to keep these handy next time you find yourself looking through your child’s yearbook attempting to decipher the texting shorthand in all the bios (GR8 <3 U HU9 Fibberty-Gibberty!, etc.):

1) Grads In Trees. I’d estimate that a good one in five graduates has opted to pose with a tree for her senior photo. (I say “her” because it’s mostly girls – boys would probably prefer to pose with a manlier piece of nature, such as a big rock, or a badger.) Most of the subjects have one hand pressed against the tree as if to hold it up, and I saw at least one overachieving graduate who seems to be sandwiched between TWO trees, like a schizophrenic squirrel.

2) Grads On The Beach. Again mostly girls, these shots feature a smiling teenager carefully posed so as to feature both sand and surf in the background. It’s worth noting the beach has apparently been cleared of detritus (seaweed, needles, toddlers) and the seniors are, thankfully, fully dressed. At least from the waist up.

3) Grads With Sore Necks. I find it disturbing how many high-schoolers seem to be suffering from acute upper body stress, at least judging from the number of them posing for their senior portraits with one hand awkwardly massaging the back of their own neck. Others have their hands joined together with their chin or face resting on top of them, as if to keep them from strangling people of their own accord like in the movie “The Crawling Hand” (1958). I’m just saying.

It’s all a little disconcerting, especially when taken together with the blurbs describing their high school memories. (So Johnny, what is this “Sticky Taffy Saturday Night,” and does your mother know about it?) But I think in the end I have to come down in favor of the variety: I can’t help but think that when today’s students look back in 20 or 30 years, this mash-mash of styles will represent their graduating classes much better than the uniform images of years past.

But they’ll probably have no idea what <3 U HU9 meant.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

At Large Fake News Tuesday: Romney Condemns Gay Marriage At PFLAG Meeting

WASHINGTON (CAP) - Fresh off his appearance in front of the NAACP, where he was roundly booed for criticizing President Barack Obama, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney appeared before the national chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) to talk about his opposition of same-sex marriage.

"Marriage is between a man and a woman, and that's that," Romney told the crowd yesterday, prompting more than 40 simultaneous "glitter bombs" that left him sparkly for the rest of the speech.

It's one in a series of Romney campaign appearances that have prompted less than enthusiastic responses from the audience. Other recent incidents include:

- A stop at the annual convention for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in Corpus Christi, where Romney said, "What we need is policy that will get all you people to self-deport yourselves. Who's with me?" The statement was met with stony silence, followed by a smattering of boos and finally a wrestler in a blue mask who tried to catapult himself off the ropes on top of Romney and was restrained by bodyguards.

- A speech for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CoP), where Romney told the crowd, "Israel is a great ally of the United States, even if I don't agree with your religion, its odd customs or its lack of special underpants. Also, Barbra Streisand - what's the appeal there?" This prompted the entire crowd to declare "Oy!" and slap its foreheads in unison.

- An address before the National Organization for Women that Romney opened up by saying, "Thanks for taking the time to leave your kitchens and come see me. So what do you chicks do around here for fun?" He was then pelted by burning bras.

- An appearance at the National Poverty Center at which he just said "Get a job!" and left.

Some have questioned Romney's judgment in addressing these groups, but conservative pundits say he's likely offending them on purpose to stir up his base. "Or at least the portion of his base that can't stand blacks, gays, immigrants or women," said TV and radio host Sean Hannity. "You know, real Americans."

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

At Large Fake News Tuesday: Apple, Google Face New Challenger In Fred's Tablet

BOSTON (CAP) - Fresh on the heels of Google's Nexus 7 tablet computer, another tablet getting ready to enter the crowded market promises to offer some of the convenience of competitors' products at a fraction of the price.

"Fred's Tablet" will be available online and at select retail outlets - primarily Richdale convenience stores - for $29.99, a full $170 less than the Nexus 7 or Amazon's Kindle Fire, according to the tablet's designer, Fred Prywatki.

"We're trying to show that families can get a fun, useful tablet at an affordable price if they're just willing to forgo a few of the bells and whistles," said Prywatki, whose tablet is being distributed by Prywatki Electrics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Prywatki's primary business, Prywatki Kia of Pittsfield.

Fred's Tablet will boast a 4-inch, 3-color screen - "red, blue and one other, I think it was yellow," said Prywatki - and weighs in at a "manageable" 4 1/2 pounds. It runs on four "D" batteries and boasts a five-hour battery life "as long as you don't do anything too fancy," Prywatki said.

Though it only features 1GB of storage - enough for about 150 songs or 300 photos, but not both - it's expandable by hooking it up to an external hard drive via a USB cable (sold separately). It does not feature WiFi technology, but does come with a "wicked long cord" to plug into your modem, said Prywatki, and it eschews a touch screen in favor of a plastic knob, not unlike an Etch-A-Sketch.

As for apps, Fred's Tablet will run any of the standard applications available for the Dandroid operating system. "It's just like Android, but with a D," noted Prywatki. Popular games available include Pimple Run, Where's My Wafer? and Angry Turds.

"That last one is NSFW," he warned.

News of Fred's Tablet has been met with skepticism on several fronts, especially given the outcome of Prywatki's most high-profile previous endeavor, Fred's Museum of Science in Woburn, Mass., which closed after three months in 2008. It took Prywatki several years to settle lawsuits with victims of bee stings and falling apples, and one family that was trapped for over three hours under a Barney the Purple Dinosaur costume that fell off its pedestal in the paleontology cubicle.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Column: Where have all the oldies gone?

It's hello Nicki, goodbye Dusty.

I can only imagine what Boston radio listeners thought last week when they turned on Oldies 103 with the full expectation of hearing “Brandy” by Looking Glass and instead heard the opening rap of “Starships” by Nicki Minaj. They probably figured the funky sugar cubes they ingested at that Iron Butterfly concert in 1968 were finally catching up with them, like those health class movies always said they would.

Of course what actually happened was that 103.3 had become AMP 103, a Top 40/dance pop station. I was surprised at how upsetting I found this development, even if Oldies 103 didn’t have the most startlingly original programming — they tended to play the same 10 oldies over and over again, and eight of them were “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac. It also wasn’t really an oldies station, at least not anymore — because if “My Life” by Billy Joel was now an oldie, what does that make ME?

But I did, and do, remember when the station debuted in 1987 and played songs from 1955-1969. Having grown up with New York’s classic CBS FM — thanks to my father, whose first record was Chuck Berry’s “School Days” and who always instilled in us the importance of a saxophone solo and a good guitar riff — I found the new WODS comforting during my early college years. Even if I was the only one in the dorm who knew who the Five Satins were. (Hint: Not a bowling team, probably.)

It didn’t take long for the station to add the ’70s into the mix, and eventually the ’80s. The ’50s songs, meanwhile, disappeared the same way “Music of Your Life” faded out when I was a kid, leaving my poor grandfather to listen exclusively to ball games. His only other option was to risk hearing Kool and the Gang staking out Frank Sinatra’s former airwaves and consequently having to smash his transistor radio with a rock.

I couldn’t quite relate, though, until last week, when Katy Perry weaseled her nondescript little voice into Dusty Springfield’s former territory on 103.3. (The running joke among my kids, ages 10 and 13, is that I tend to ask wincingly “Who IS this?” every time a Katy Perry song comes on the air, as if my brain refuses to store her musical DNA no matter how many times it has the misfortune of passing through there.)

It’s not like I was an everyday listener, but there was something reassuring about flipping on Oldies 103 at a backyard cookout and hearing “These Eyes,” “Sister Golden Hair,” “The Loco-Motion” and all the rest. (Not to mention honest-to-goodness real rock ’n’ roll from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Credence.) If the bass is turned up loud enough on AMP 103, on the other hand, I get the impression it could short-circuit the barbecue-goers’ nervous systems, leaving them flopping around the pool like deranged salmon.

I should mention I’m not completely repulsed by the AMP 103 playlist, Katy Perry aside — my daughter and I recently came up with a list of common-ground songs, and it had Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, that girl who sings about calling me maybe and even some Nicki Minaj. (Yes, I’ve been known to find myself singing “jump in my hoop-de-hoop-de-hoop, I own that” while doing dishes. I didn’t say I was proud of it.) But didn’t we get enough of that on KISS 108, 104.5 XLO, MIX 104.1 — the former WBCN! — and all the rest?

Now the Boston oldies crowd is left with 105.7 WROR, but their promos are starting to tout music from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s “and even a little bit of the ’90s” — which means they’re probably getting ready to jettison the ’60s like a bad batch of patchouli oil.

Fortunately these days there are other options, like satellite, HD and Internet radio (where Oldies 103 lives on) and the omnipresent iPod app. In honor of WODS, I embraced my oldification and downloaded one called the “True Oldies Channel” so I could listen to some Guess Who, Tommy James and Three Dog Night — the whole time thinking that they don’t make ’em, or at least play ’em, like that anymore.

Not that I’ve given up on everyday radio. There’s always the ball games.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

At Large Fake News Tuesday: Romney To Move US In New Direction Via Tugboats

DAYTON (CAP) - Claiming President Obama's policies are bringing us "closer to Europe," GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney says that if elected, he will move the country in a new direction using a fleet of giant tugboats and massive cables affixed to the West Coast.

"Every day, President Obama's failed economic policies are taking us squarely in the direction of Europe," Romney told a crowd during a campaign event in Troy, Ohio. "As soon as I get into office I will start moving this country in a new direction, namely west.
Noticing the horrified looks from his aides, he quickly added, "Er, not me, of course ... other people."

Although he admitted the prospect of dragging an entire country even a short distance was "a massive undertaking," Romney said, "most Americans are looking for a new direction, and as my father used to say, there's nothing we can't do if we have the right leadership and enough tugboats."

Romney said the project would also be a job creator, noting they'd have to manufacture hundreds of massive tugboats approximately three to four times larger than a typical ocean liner, as well as miles and miles of super-high-tensile cable.

"Plus some kind of really long stakes or something to tie it to, probably," he said.

The proposal comes on the heels of criticism that Romney has spent too much time criticizing the president's "failed policies" without offering concrete plans of his own. In recent weeks he has also proposed programs that would:

- Employ thousands of carpenters, woodworkers and tree surgeons to make all the trees in the U.S. the "right height."

- Provide citizenship cards, driver's licenses, voter registration and Spotify accounts to all corporations, on the grounds that they are people.

- Install airtight dog carriers on the top of every American-made vehicle.

"And they work for your grandchildren too!" Romney quipped.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Thursday, June 21, 2012

At Large Fake News Thursday: 7 Arrests In Susan Boyle, Diana Krall Entourage Brawl

NEW YORK (CAP) - Police are still trying to determine the causes and culprits behind last weekend's bottle-throwing brawl between the drunken, swearing entourages of singers Susan Boyle and Diana Krall.

Police have yet to establish what sparked the incident at Manhattan's Carnegie Club Cocktail and Smoking Lounge, but if either Boyle or Krall were directly involved then charges will be filed, said NYPD spokesman Paul Brownie.

"We don't care how emotive your interpretation of I Dreamed A Dream is, or how stunning your contralto vocals are," said Brownie. "You attack a half-dozen smooth jazz and easy listening enthusiasts with bottles, you're going downtown."

Seven people were arrested immediately following the melee, including Krall's yoga instructor, feng shui expert and her two personal Reiki practioners, and Boyle's nutritionist, hair consultant and a woman who follows her everywhere and cries when she performs Autumn Leaves.

According to sources close to the club, Krall had sent Boyle's party a bottle of Chivas Regal, and Boyle, or someone in her entourage, responded by sending Krall a note saying, Don't you think you should sell a few more records before you go spending that kind of brass on boozy-woozy, dear?

"That's when the bottles started flying," said the source.

San Antonio Spurs player Tony Parker, who was at the club after attending a performance of Broadway's Sister Act, was injured when one of Krall's cronies squirted him in the eye with the juice from a lime and elderflower martini.

"I went right to the emergency room," said Parker, wearing an eye patch, a neck brace and some sort of gauze turban, and choking up at the trauma of being caught in the brawl. "Now I'm going to have to watch the new production of Porgy And Bess with one eye," he sighed.

The feud between Boyle and Krall has apparently been long simmering, and recalls the 2011 incident when members of Lady Gaga's entourage shot at "Weird Al" Yankovic from sparklers attached to their bosoms, and another earlier this year when Jimmy Fallon, Brian Williams and Jon Stewart got into a massive brawl over Bruce Springsteen's attention.

"And don't forget the feud between Sting and everybody else in the music business," commented two former members of The Police who declined to be named.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Friday, June 15, 2012

Column: An open letter to beachgoers

Welcome to the beach! Your comfort and safety are of primary importance during your visit here, and with that in mind, we ask that you follow these simple guidelines in order to ensure a memorable stay for all visitors.

1) Blanket location: We value togetherness here at the beach! Feel free to put your blanket as close as possible to the people next to you, even if there’s plenty of space around. If you’re not sure whether you’re close enough, take this simple test: If you were to roll over, would your head be in the lap of the person on the next blanket? If not, you’re not close enough!

2) Music and talking: If you bring a radio to the beach, make sure to play it at top volume. Otherwise, it might be difficult for the people around you to determine whether you’re a fan of punk, hardcore, ska or adult contemporary selections, such as “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes.

Similarly, if you’re using a cell phone, please talk as loudly as possible so as to best share your conversation with your beach-mates. Having a fight with your significant other? Need to discuss your prognosis? Like to swear? We want to know! If possible, please also try to gesticulate wildly.

3) Swimwear: First and foremost, we want you to be comfortable during your time here. That might mean wearing a bathing suit one, two or three sizes too small — the choice is yours! And gentlemen, remember: The lo-rise Speedo is not just for remote Greek islands anymore. (We’re talking to you, Grandpa!)

Also, please keep in mind that you didn’t get all those tattoos so that nobody could ogle them. We’re just saying.

4) Children: When you bring your children to the beach, that’s a great time to take a break — your blanket neighbors will be more than happy to police your youngsters. Also, beachwear is optional for the little ones: A soggy diaper is fine, or just let them go au natural. That means naked!

If your children are playing with recreational items such as Frisbees, baseballs or Jarts, we ask that they try to yell out a friendly “heads up!” before throwing or hitting those items into a throng of sleeping beachgoers, at least every third time.

5) Sand procedures: When running on the beach, kick those toes in deep to best propel sand into other beachgoers’ blanket areas. This is essential to ensuring that visitors go home with soothing ocean sand in their eyes and food and lodged deep into the recesses of their bathing trunks, among other places.

6) Food: Whatever you may bring to the beach to eat — be it grapes or Cheez Doodles or a tremendous sausage sandwich that drips peppers and onions out of the bun onto your bare torso when you take a bite out of it — make sure to leave it unwrapped. That way all your fellow visitors can enjoy the beauty of nature up close when hundreds of seagulls swoop down to devour your leftovers, squawking how you might imagine a thousand burning souls would scream in hell. Fun!

7) Horseplay: When you pick up your girlfriend to drop her in the water and she squeals and squeals and squeals? We love that.

Thank you for your cooperation; by following these simple beach procedures, we’re sure you’ll have a fine and relaxing stay here by the water! As for the rest of us, we’ll be at the movies.