Category Archives: GateHouse

AspireAssist: The stomach-emptying foodbag that’s officially preferable to exercise


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.

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My ancient Chinese secret to classroom volunteering

fortune cookie

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.

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87 reasons dads should never touch “Angry Birds Star Wars”


For real, I've been laughing at this for three weeks straight.

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.



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I am unsettled by the appearance of this triceratops in my home

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.



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How I committed adorable voter fraud in South Carolina, not that it mattered much

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.)



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Oh, Just Spending Some Quality Time With My Son in a Graveyard

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.

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GateHouse — For real, and I can say this because I have no particularly well-carved feelings on the Green Bay Packers, I felt terrible for the terrible replacement refs. Awful for their awfulness. Miserable for their miserable-ity. Sad for the sadness they brought upon us all, but also the melancholy must have felt slumping back to the locker room, hearts pounding, heads down, knowing that they had to hustle out of the stadium as speedily as they could, probably to get to their shift at Dunkin Donuts.

Seriously, how can you not have felt bad for these poor schlumps? Imagine their situation, that you were walking down the street, whistling a merry tune, a donut in your hand (sorry, totally stuck on the donut daydream now), and someone walks up to you with an oboe. They jam the oboe in your face and tell you in no uncertain terms that you’re playing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that night at 8 p.m. And you’d better be at the top of your oboe-game, and the world’s most elite oboe players (oboists? Obots? Barack Oboemas?) would all be in attendance, affected by your every low note, and also 90 billion people would be watching, waiting for nothing else other than to see you jack something up so they could whine about it on AM oboe radio.

(And then maybe one time you get to the end of a symphony and you still haven’t figured out the first thing about your oboe and you end up screwing the pooch on the grand finale so badly that it ends up sounding like Hungarian death metal and everybody hates you, at least as much as everyone can hate an oboe player. Also note: The hypothetical orchestral terror is effective on the likely chance that you, the reader, are not an oboe player. If you, the reader, are an oboe player, please put this column down and turn to Marmaduke at once, which, I am told, is usually pretty low on oboe jokes.)


See, this is what I’m talking about right here.


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“Most Interesting Man In The World” holds Obama fundraiser, so naturally there is shrieking

GateHouse — You could, when illustrating your support for or opposition to a political candidate or party or ruling junta or cat running for mayor in Nova Scotia — seriously, why is Canada better than us at everything — simply like that person.

You could do so thoughtfully, intelligently, in words and deeds and money if you’ve got it and wish to receive 4,500 text messages a day for the rest of your life. You could even slap a free bumper sticker on your car and hope you’re right, because those things are murder to scrape off with an Exacto come December, and yes I’m looking at you, Dad’s Dukakis/Bentsen sticker, you infernally adhesive little bastard.

Failing that, you could lose your spongy mind on the Internet about beer. Whichever, I guess.

I speak of Dos Equis, which I know as “the beer my college roommate Sean graciously bestowed upon us several times a month” and “the beer we kept having to mop out of the couch on those occasions we felt like having a clean couch, which were rare.” You, however, probably know it as the beer from the commercials with The Most Interesting Man In The World, the bearded awesomesmith who flips omelettes with tigers in his customized kitchens as a way to peddle alcohol to college students with filthy couches.

Well, it turns out The Most Interesting Man In The World is not just a focus-grouped construct designed by a team of skilled marketers firing at a younger demographic, but an actual human person with feelings and beliefs, one of which is that he likes this “Barack Obama” character who is currently sailing towards re-election against the worst political opponent in the history of anything, real and fictional, and yes I’m counting President Skroob from “Spaceballs,” who at least had the smarts to keep a three-ring circus and some escape pods on his flagship.



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Paul Ryan’s marathon lie: Great, here’s another politician who’s apparently not Kenyan

Pictured: Congressman Ryan


GateHouse — Let’s get this out of the way: Paul Ryan’s for-realsies marathon time — the four-hour one that an official timer clocked officially in official 1990 using an official 1990 stopwatch, which played Bell Biv DeVoe music — totally beats mine. Hell, Sarah Palin’s marathon time beats mine, and trust me, this is not information that makes it easy to get out of bed every morning.

We could spend the better part of the afternoon inventorying the politicians who have run faster marathons than me — it’s actually most o of them, with the exception of Al Gore, who I shall now take to calling “An Inconvenient Turtle.”

But that’s the point: We can do that because I remember mine. Everybody remembers their own PRs, whether they’re two hours or seven. We love them unconditionally, we spend loads of time awkwardly shoving them into conversations that go on to cover the status of our knees, the contents of our running mixes, the number of packets of nutrient-rich goo we forced ourselves to absorb, the emotional attachment we have with our shoes (the majority of which do not love us back), and if you’re really lucky, some details about bathroom breaks. Point is, PEOPLE REMEMBER. God, you could start a second Instagram with the number of shoe-pictures alone. (Note: <– OH GOD, NO ONE DO THIS.)

Which is why when Ryan told a radio host that he couldn’t remember his marathon PR — “under three, high twos, I had a two hour and 50-something” — my eyebrows immediately went up. And not just my eyebrows — which was good, as I burned most of them off in a 1996 silver-nitrate-related chem-lab mishap — but the eyebrows of my actual running friend Jamey, who has run Boston three times and has been to known to talk an awful lot about his socks. Which WICK MOISTURE! Y’all aren’t even ready for the amount of moisture they can wick.



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Innocent Mars rock becomes most famous space-laser-debut victim since Alderaan

Actual footage


GateHouse — Is there some reason the Mars Curiosity rover isn’t the lead news, the 720-point dominant headline, the screaming neon BREAKING NEWS ALERT of the day, all day, every day? Is anything else truly happening that resonates on such a primal, galactic, mysterious, steam-shooting-out-of-your-ears level? Paul Ryan? Preseason football? A guy from “Saturday Night Live” talking about tax policy? This is all you’ve got? Nothing else that can match, in pure wonder and damn-right impressiveness, a sedan-sized space car that we parked on a DIFFERENT PLANET? Oh wait, according to this Major American News Website, “Boy’s head lodged in guardrail.” Sorry, professionals! Get back to work!

Well, while the TV networks clamor to see if anyone might show up with a saw, here’s the latest news about the Mars Curiosity rover: It is shooting Martian rocks with laser guns.

To recap: Last fall, we sent a thing to Mars. Shortly after, it arrived at Mars. If this was the end of the story — Thing We Shot At Mars Actually Freaking Made It To Freaking Mars — it would be cause enough for a joyous celebration tinged with childlike wonder, the turning over of some cars, and, I don’t know, probably some half-naked frolicking in the streets of whatever place space people hang out most — I guess that would probably be New Mexico? Where do nerds hang out these days? Is GenCon still happening?

Yet you likely do not know this story, which appears currently on a Major American News Network’s Web Site next to another headline that reads “Man floats with dog to ease its pain.” Which is sweet, unless he’s floating with the dog by holding onto it, which I have to surmise would cause more pain that it would ease, what with all the thrashing and wet-dog smell.


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