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.