ILLEGAL IN GREAT BRITAIN
GateHouse — It’s generally regarded as a fact of childhood that most kids will have a best friend. They will also have invisible friends. And imaginary friends, some talking animals, a superhero alter ego and at least one fictitious sidekick (mine was Han Solo, obviously, because I was awesome). They will also have several other best friends, several other non-best friends, some regular friends, passing acquaintances, people they sit next to because their last names start with the same letter, bus kids, basic deskmates, nondescript lockerneighbors and at least one arch-nemesis. I had all of these, especially the latter: His name was Chuck, he thought he was smarter than me and we faced off regularly in things like spelling bees, all of which I won because when it came to the primal ferocity of the fourth-grade spelling bee, I was not to be jacked around with.
But as I understood it, that’s what school was for, learning about “The Tempest” and the quadratic equation and covalent bonding and other things that you literally cannot go a day without referencing, but also stumbling around and attempting to carve out some social structure that you will go on to one day to apply to your adult life, assuming you don’t grow up to be someone who regularly comments on websites.
Yet this is apparently not what school is for in Britain, because as everyone knows school in Britain is about one thing only: defeating Lord Voldemort. Indeed — or I guess “prithee” or “to wit” or “I say dear boy” or however British people write transitions, I feel like it should include the word “fortnight”— in a story that almost certainly contains layers of subtlety and is born from psychological research but has been boiled down to “KIDS NOT ALLOWED TO MAKE BEST FRIENDS” in America, where most news is delivered in four-word increments adjacent to articles about actors who resemble cats, schools in parts of England have banned kids from having best friends. (The kids are instead encouraged to interact in larger groups.)
The gentlemen on the left once got fired for choking a dude, and now he sells mall food.
GateHouse — As is customary, I’ve been watching a lot of the NCAA tournament with my sons: the 18-month-old, who for the second consecutive year failed to turn in a bracket I could read, and the 9-year-old, who is making observations nearly as astute as those offered by professional sports commentator people. (So, to recap, you need to come back *after* halftime and play another 20 minutes? Will you need to shoot baskets during this time?) Several of them follow:
• I graduated from Indiana, so naturally they’re the house favorite. But the 9-year-old seems to consider a 1 seed as an incontrovertible golden ticket to guaranteed dominance, not only this in tournament but basically those in the next four to 30 years. And no evidence can convince him to the contrary, because 9-year-old minds are not equipped to process logic; happily, they make up for this shortfall by also being 100% unchangeable. I once had an argument with this kid about which pronunciation of the word “tear” I was supposed to be reading. I cannot tell you how right I was in this argument, nor can I convey how badly I lost it. I guarantee you he’s still upstairs shaking his head sadly and calling me a nincompoop.
• “No, see, Indiana is in the East even though they’re in the midwest, and Kansas is in the South even though they’re in the Great Plains, and there’s no North because the north sucks at basketball, and you’re right this doesn’t make any sense. This is why I haven’t explained the BCS to you yet.”
See that just doesn’t look safe
GateHouse — The 9-year-old and I recently had a Saturday evening to ourselves, and when presented with such a rare opportunity for unperturbed bond-reinforcing time we did what any rational father-son combo would do: Watch something like two-plus hours of “Tom and Jerry” cartoons on DVD.
We did this for a many reasons: 1. I canceled cable a few weeks ago, so “MythBusters” and “Deadliest Catch” and “Duck Dynasty” were out. 2. The show “Duck Dynasty” is about a curious and bearded family of boss-level rednecks, which is the most disappointing possible outcome for a show with that title. 3. “Tom and Jerry” beat his usual preferred activity, which is telling me the numerous reasons I’m playing Lego Racetrack incorrectly. 4. What better way is there to share time together than watching 70-year-old cartoons predicated on incomprehensible violence?
Because I’m a grown-up, I remembered that “Tom and Jerry” was constant with the hitting and punching and concussing and stabbing and gun-toting and anvil-dropping and whatever it’s called when you shove a cat’s tail into a food processor. But merciful heavens I guess I forgot that for a while there in the 40s it was OK to insinuate that one-half of your star duo just got decapitated via guillotine, and then to show the other half shrugging and bopping off into the sunset. Like, I get that it’s a cartoon, and I think this was a parody of “The Three Musketeers,” but I’m just saying that was a pretty realistic ka-thunk sound effect happening there.
As someone who was literally called “Spock” every day of my life from 3rd through 10th grades, this picture is highly gratifying.
GateHouse — Welp, late last week the President went on TV and mixed up a “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” things, and then the Internet died, keeled over, that very second, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Obviously we’re still hashing out whether this was a negative or a positive.
First things first: Here is what Obama said, and I warn you that if you thought his swearing on a fake Muslim Bible in his first inauguration was bad, the following may actually give you appendicitis: In a press conference about something having to do with a 400-year-long slap-fight with a sobbing John Boehner and those angry hobgoblins who work for the government who also hate the government, Obama started talking about science fiction movies, exactly all of which are more likely than a reality in which a theoretically functional government elects to install a land mine in its own front yard, then wakes up one morning and waddles right out on top of it. (That’s right: ALL sci-fi movies. “Lawnmower Man?” MORE LIKELY. “Spaceballs?” CONSIDERABLY MORE LIKELY. “The Running Man?” I’M PRETTY SURE WE HAVE THAT ALREADY.)
Obama, out loud, said the following:
“I’m presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don’t take it means that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right.”
For those of you who learned to unclasp a girl’s bra before the age of 27, this is a GRIEVOUS AND GHASTLY ERROR, on the order of that time he meant to write “Socialist” on his presidential paperwork and wrote “Democrat” instead, one that CONFUSES the “Star Wars” Jedi mind trick, most famously used by Obi-Wan Kenobi in order to get the galaxy’s most wanted teenager past the desert-planet equivalent of mall security, and the “Star Trek” mind meld, which is when Spock touches your brain and learns your bank passwords.
Not entirely sure this will fit in the outbound tube
GateHouse — There are lots of ways to lose weight these days. You could have part of your stomach clamped off, you could binge n’ purge, you could sample any number of delicious chemical medications, shakes, cocktails, injections, pudding cups, synthetic meals or genetically modified livestock. You could also consume fewer calories than you burn off in daily activity or exercise but ha ha come on who seriously would do that it’s just madcap whackadoo crazy talk.
Far less crazy is the idea of the AspireAssist, a new product from the world’s fledgling over-the-counter weight-loss medication industry and the latest magic bullet for the admirably tenacious chunk of the country’s food aficionados who, bravely in the face of hundreds of years of medical science, expert analysis and that kind of good old-fashioned common sense that everyone’s grandpappy apparently had, believe it’s possible to drop pounds without modifying one’s portion size or occasionally going for one of those walks your grandpappy told you about.
The AspireAssist, and I have to reiterate that this part is real, takes the food you’ve decided to eat, since you’re theoretically a sentient adult who isn’t being force-fed a kids’ wagon full of blueberry pies (unless you are, in which case try to escape immediately, forced-pie-eating crimes are on the rise), and vacuums it right out of your stomach before it’s converted to fat and sadness. If it works, the machine makes it so you only absorb about a third of the calories in the food you eat, and I think we can all agree that attaching an electronic machine to your body to slurp out 2/3 of the material you consumed is immeasurably more convenient and uncreepy than not eating it in the first place.
Whatever, this is NOT food.
GateHouse — Because I’m idiot-lucky enough to work either at home or at coffeeshops — such as this one, next to two guys currently talking with spirited middle-aged titillation about real estate in North Dakota and its connection to fracking, and if any of this makes sense to you you should be putting a down payment on something in Fargo RIGHT NOW, you’re welcome — I’m able to volunteer semi-regularly in my older son’s classrooms. It’s one of the best things about my work arrangement, because I can feel like an attentive, mindful part of my son’s education, and also because I can totally spy on him.
In recent years I’ve brought in and operated an iPad for a presentation about the weather (my son can’t be trusted to bring home both of his shoes every day, let alone something shiny and fragile), and served as a mentor for “Junior Achievement,” a five-week program on first-grade level economics that ended up being primarily about coloring pictures of fruit carts. Once I gave a short talk about my great-grandfather’s immigration to Ellis Island, a colorful and historically accurate speech memorable mostly for being interrupted by a classmate named Olivia who really, really likes Chee-tos.
So right before Christmas my son’s class hosted an International Food Festival to commemorate the holidays. His class comprises a pretty equitable cross-section of backgrounds, so I was looking forward to sampling some authentic cuisine, while subconsciously revealing to him that there exists a bright diaspora of food outside the that which comes in nugget form. Naturally this was a hysterical failure but whatever.
My son’s chosen culinary homeland was China, and as a parent volunteer my job was to deliver the authentic Chinese food he insisted on bringing: fortune cookies. I know. Also, I know. And yes, we repeatedly told him repeatedly, in repeated form, that fortune cookies are less from China and more from the Chinese restaurants that can be found in strip malls under bright usually broken neon signs that say CHINESE and are usually next to Shoe Carnivals. But he insisted on them, because, I suspect, they are fun.
For real, I’ve been laughing at this for three weeks straight.
GateHouse — The thing that I love most is how the 8-year-old hands me — me! — the iPad to clear a level of “Angry Birds: Star Wars,” like that’s something that I can do better. Like because I am a Grown Person with my own retirement account, flood insurance and cholesterol medicine (ha! just kidding about the retirement account, and possibly flood insurance) I possess magic Angry Birds-Flinging powers available only to graying people whose bones make weird noises when they get up in the morning.
I suppose I should be thankful for this, that at the age of near-9 my son still holds me in enough esteem to shovel me problems he finds insurmountable and I, being a dynamic and powerful father, will not hesitate to squoosh a junta of cartoon pigs who are wearing stormtrooper masks. I should also be thankful that we haven’t encountered any Insurmountable Problems that involve, say, removing a snake from someplace confined and damp, or attending to something in or around an engine block.
But most of the time, I’m just watching the kid squish birds. Actually, I’m sort of watching him, because my aging eyes cannot adequately track his fingers. All they see is hands moving, going from one spot to another without apparently visiting the space in between, like a skinny ninja who cannot remember to brush all of his teeth, and then some pigs explode. He’ll fling a bird and evaluate in mid-flight whether or not the bird’s trajectory is pleasing to his little spongebrain, and if it’s clear the bird isn’t going to splat where it’s supposed to splat he’ll have paused, canceled and restarted the level basically before I’ve realized that the iPad is on. One would think someone with this kind of preternatural grasp on physics and trajectory would be able to walk up a door marked PUSH and not pull it, yet here we are.
This image contains coded patterns which mystically herald the coming of the Apocalypse or some crap.
Island Packet (Stolen Hastily From November 2009) — ‘What do you think about this 2012 madness?” Paul Mitchell asks me via the newsroom’s instant-message system earlier this week. Paul Mitchell is a line of high-end hair care products, but he also is an actual human person who works in the newsroom. At one time Paul, being of a considerably younger vintage, failed to correctly identify Bruce Springsteen on the television. Illogically, we’re friends anyway.
The movie looks like silliness, I reply, but on the other hand, “Independence Day” was a pretty great movie in which many objects were indiscriminately exploded, such as the White House and Lone Star from “Spaceballs,” so it might be fun.
“Not the movie,” Paul says, an icy fear creeping noticeably into his online voice. “All I gotta say is I’m panicking if that mess comes my way in three years.”
Paul was, I surmised, referring to the Mayan prophecy that says the end of times will take place in the year 2012. It’s also the hook of “2012,” a new movie by destroyed-landmark fetishist and director Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow”) that stars John Cusack, both of whom, it turns out, appear in a strong percentage of Mayan prophecies. In their lore, Cusack is actually immortal.
South Magazine — Everything you know about paralyzed athletes, says Carlos Moleda, is wrong.
“Some people, for whatever reason, have a picture of people in a chair and think that they’re unhappy or depressed,” says Moleda, a former Navy SEAL who was paralyzed in a 1989 raid. “It’s totally the opposite. Of course there’s a phase where they have to relearn things, but once they have a grasp on who they are and what the possibilities are, they’re the greatest people to have around. They have a tendency to look at the good, because they know that things can change in the blink of an eye.”
Read the full story in the current issue of South Magazine.