Pictured: Basically how all this is gonna go down
GateHouse — Having pretty well established over the past two or three weeks that things on Earth are pretty unsalvageably jerked up, I think I’ll go ahead and cut my losses and apply for this one-way flight to Mars thing. I don’t know much about Mars, other than they have an Olympus Mons and we shot a rover there one time, but I’m pretty sure that if 90% of people support something on Mars, the Martian Congress will figure out a way to get it done.
Last week a Dutch nonprofit company called Mars One, founded by an entrepreneur named Bas Lansdorp, because his parents couldn’t think of a more Dutch name to give him apparently, announced it was looking for people to volunteer to become the first humans to live on Mars. They don’t need a lot — just four initial colonists to shoot on over, set up a colony and then, of course, never ever come back. It’s kind of like an interstellar-travel version of a Carnival cruise.
It’s a one-way permanent vacation that probably requires at least a little bit of travel insurance but according to Mars One thousands have already applied because, again, I mean, (makes “I mean really just look around” motion). But there are naturally questions about whether any company can swing the technology and financing, which is estimated to be $6 billion for the first four colonists and $4 billion for each subsequent crew of four, although the 10th crew is free and you get a free colony on your birthday.
Yeah, yeah, I’m working on it.
GateHouse — So it’s totally normal for kids to almost fall off of piers into oceans during trips to the water with their dads, right? That’s a thing that happens pretty regularly? Right? All the time? I’ll take your collective silence as a big yes.
Being a brisk and glorious Sunday morning, and because it had been a gray and pallid Saturday and we were all tired of being in the house with each other, I took my youngest — an 18-month-old mucus production system — out to a local pier for some good old-fashioned rock throwin’. I contend there is no greater activity for children than rock-throwin’, in any capacity. Rock thrown’ into the water, rock thrown’ into the pond, rock throwin’ at a wall. Every Christmas, every single Christmas, we go through this profoundly insane charade of making a gift list, receiving presents from the gift list, opening said presents, writing thank-you notes for said presents and spending a few hours playing with presents that are all like 750% less fun than an average pile of rocks. Geology has given us the perfect toy, and here we are screwing around with Legos and action figures and whatever Monster High is.
So with a day to ourselves we headed to watch people casting nets into the Intracoastal Waterway. We’ve done this a number of times. Once my older son and I came across two fishermen, two youngish guys of probably 20 or so who had not spent a great deal of their day in the field of personal care and at least one of which was, unless he was suffering from a glaucomal condition not readily apparent, probably illegal.
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.
Oh, sure, it looks cute until it starts with the HIDEOUS ROARING
GateHouse — So naturally, there is an animatronic triceratops in my house.
It’s right there, six or eight feet behind me, staring at me with dead Rock-A-Fire Explosion eyes that are currently locked open as if to say “That’s right, go ahead and keep thinking we’re extinct.” It is a large thing, maybe three feet tall from foot to the summit of its crested defensive shield. It’s quite lifelike, or at least as lifelike as a three-foot-tall animatronic triceratops sitting in your office in 2012 can be (and when I say “office” I mean “space that contains one old desk and 1,900 plastic baby toys”).
And being a children’s toy that is in my house, it naturally makes unholy amounts of noise, hideous shrieks and hollers that are quite ill-befitting the animal’s herbivorous nature. When you turn this thing on, it basically becomes a self-aware hell beast that makes robot sounds. It sounds like what would happen if a water buffalo gave birth inside one of those old metal garbage cans that Oscar The Grouch lived in, and it does this several dozen times a day, whenever one of my children activate it, which they do, all the time, constantly, because, in their defense, it is a animatronic triceratops in their house, and it is awesome. It’s just about the best toy ever, and yet here I am, passive-aggressively grousing about it in newspapers. Luckily, one of them can’t read yet, so I’m at least 50% safe here.
GateHouse — I think I speak for everyone in this election cycle when I say: I NO LONGER CARE IF YOU WIN, MR. PRESIDENT, JUST STOP EMAILING ME.
OK, so yeah, full disclosure: I’m voting for Obama. I may have already voted for Obama, depending on when this runs in the printy newspaper. Anyone reading this who just went “Yay!” awesome, let’s have a cross-country fist-bump or whatever. Anyone who just went “Boo” at your paper or personal computer machine reading device, take comfort in knowing that I love in South Carolina, and there’s literally nothing I can do to make my vote count, south of launching a plot to dismantle the electoral college and WHY WOULD WE WANT TO DO THAT WHEN IT WORKS SO EFFECTIVELY.
Seriously, I could vote 50 times in South Carolina and still, nothing. Jack democracy squeedoodle. Last time I voted it was at a retirement community, one of those four million-acre deals with tract housing and street names like Singing Robin Lane and Glorious Waterfall Cul-De-Sac and the fanciest shuffleboard courts this side of Branson. Honestly I was pleasantly surprised my machine even had a button for Obama on it. (Turns out it was a very small button with one of those old green Mr. Yuk stickers on it, and when I pressed it said “Syntax Error.” Finally I had to request a write-in ballot, which also didn’t work because in South Carolina all write-in ballots are delivered by alligator.)
(True story: I brought my four-year-old to vote with me, because, I figured, nothing could divert the sweet, elderly and very Republican South Carolina populace from my nefarious Democratic Voting by distracting them like my adorable mop-topped son, who sang patriotic songs and mispronounced “refrigamator” adorably while I snuck into the voting booth and cast one of South Carolina’s 34 votes for Obama, and then we both sprinted out of there, hoping the locals remained lost in warm nostalgic memories of their own grandchildren before they could realize what we’d done.)
GateHouse — Despite their reputation for being lively and fun, cemeteries are really rather spooky. This is because they’re generally solemn and sprawling and “respectful” or whatever, but I think it’s also because the ground beneath them is stuffed full of dead people? Like, everywhere? Like, you can’t really walk or jog or lay a picnic blanket down without running probably into someone’s “final resting place?” (They also have headstones everywhere, some very large and ornate, that make them extremely inconvenient for baseball games and water balloon fights, but that’s for another time.
I mention this because I’ve spent the better part of a weekend in a cemetery, as I’m staying with relatives in a small town in upstate New York filled with very old and deceased people. The house I’m staying in is a very old house at the foot of a very old cemetery, and its backyard is basically all gravestones, which means the place is almost certainly haunted, but it’s not like you have to worry about the neighbors in the back having parties or anything. (Seriously, to park at the house you need to pass through the cemetery’s very old gate. It’d be a fun story, if I wasn’t too busy jumping four feet in the air at every single last creak and pop while simultaneously, and this is the only word that makes sense here, whorlping.)
The cemetery is very old — the earliest birt date my 8-year-old son and I tracked down was 1771 (“You kids think you have it rough? In my day we had to walk uphill both ways and WE DIDN’T HAVE AN AMERICA you ungrateful hippies”). And it is very large, and there are tiered rises topping its many exhausting hills. And finally — and this is the part that surprised me a little bit — it is AMAZING for hide-and-seek. Like, I will never play hide-and-seek anywhere else again. When my 11-month-old wants to play hide-and-seek in a few years around the house, I will be like “ABSOLUTELY NOT” unless we can get to a nearby cemetery, which will be an entertaining detail he can bring up to the therapist later.