No Snark Sunday (with some snark): Christmas, the Never-ending Frontier

So, imagine you don’t like Star Trek.

 I know, I know, that’s a big ask. I mean here you are at The Clam where we generally assume that you, our reader, are at least semi-literate in 80’s post punk, 18th Century maritime jargon and pretty much the entire mainstream Science Fiction cannon in order to comprehend any given post. I mean, why else would you be here? But just imagine for a second that Star Trek is just not your “thing.”

Oh Jesus, not you too.

Oh Jesus, not you too.

Now further imagine that for reasons unknown our culture gave the entire month of March over to the love of Star Trek. It was everywhere, all over TV, the radio and the Internet. Four to six weeks of it, pushed by every major aspect of the culture but especially retail and media marketing which fed back into a massive consumer consumption machine.

 Large, inflatable starships bearing the registration number “NCC-1701” are on lawns. Romulan Birds of Prey hang in doorways, if you’re caught under one you have to finish an entire glass of kali-fal. The whole freaking town decks itself out in full Federation livery starting at a ceremony in mid-February where the Mayor, local leaders and townsfolk gather to ceremonially launch the Enterprise out of Drydock while all the various school bands have to come and play “Where No Man Has Gone Before” by Alexander Courage. Frigging Spock is everywhere.

[Clameditor’s note: The original draft of this post read “Kirk is everywhere” but Carolyn Kirk is actually the name of our Mayor. So it’s Spock. That’s why.] 

Everywhere you go people are speaking in Klingon, shooting fake phasers at each other, talking about their favorite episodes and the office is full of cupcakes shaped like Tribbles. In fact they have a whole day where you had to dress up like your favorite character and exchange Trekkie-related gifts. Oh, and the only performance your drama-inclined kid can be in during March is “Wrath of Kahn, The Musical” (featuring the songs “KAAAAAAHNNNN!” and “Put Some Jiffyspock in the Microwave, Baby!”). Of course there is also “Fleet Fest” at  school and at work you have to be a “Secret Betazoid” to someone, figuring out what they want and getting it for them. Every. Damn. Day.

And remember, you don’t hate Star Trek. You just never really got into it.

Worse, what if what you really like is 70’s BBC produced Space 1999, the show about Earth’s moon blasted out of orbit and the people living on the base there get shunted around the galaxy having all kinds of adventures? Well-meaning people attempt to assure you Star Trek month is really about that too (and maybe they shove an Eagle somewhere on one of the tables of decorations next to the shuttlecraft), because they are basically the same, right? THEY ARE NOT THE FUCKING SAME! You’d obviously celebrate Space 1999 on September 13, the day that Moonbase Alpha broke away from Earth orbit and began its journey through the cosmos. Sure, March is the month where they discovered Maya and she’s cool, but for a 1999 fan, nothing can beat September. And the assholes over at Fox News don’t want anyone to say, “Happy Science Fiction Month” anyway because March is about Star Trek, dammit and nothing else, but nice try with that.

Just no.

Just no.

So here you are, stuck with Trek month. How tedious do you find all this? Our guess is pretty fucking tedious.

This is our culture right now. It’s a massive tailgate/cosplay dedicated to one particular fan group. And unlike real tailgate parties and cosplay events, it’s not taking place at an isolated stadium or in a conference center, it’s happening everywhere making it impossible to avoid. And let’s be honest, that’s all this is: a big tailgate/cosplay event. If it were a real religious holiday people would be kicking each other’s asses to buy discount mangers at Wal Mart, but the religious aspect is at best a side-nod. The parts people pay attention to are the secular manifestations- the trees, decorations, gifts and so on. Those may be traditions people enjoy, but they are not commanded by any holy text or scripture.

All I have to say to the Internet here is "Thank You."

All I have to say to the Internet here is “Thank You.”

The basic rule for fan cultures is this: It’s opt-in, not opt out. No one has to like Firefly or Buffy or Fursuits, but if you’re into it, that’s great. We all know that in order for our own particular fandom to be respected we have to make room for everyone’s. And you might admit, even if you don’t personally get into it, that steampunk shit looks pretty cool. Encouraging diversity and individual expression is where creativity comes from, but that only happens when people feel included rather than excluded.

So it’s time to tell all the overenthusiastic Christmas boosters to dial it back on the enforced Yuletide inclusion. Everybody: the media, Wallgreens, that one chick in the office who blows the entire snack budget for the month on nogg. This is especially important during the first two weeks of December. Let people not participate. For those who do, find out how they want to engage, don’t just make assumptions. Especially don’t hand someone a Santa hat and some red and green beads (why are there beads now with everything?) and expect them to appreciate having to be “festive” in the way you like to be. There is nothing worse than a cheerleader who can’t shut up about how awesome the team is for five seconds. It makes outsiders assume they are masking deeply repressed doubts.

The Children Will Achieve Perfection

The Children Will Achieve Perfection

Oh, and that Borg on the Shelf thing has to stop. That shit is just creepy.



The Clam’s top reasons Thanksgiving 2014 is going to be the best ever!


Just like mom…

You already know which of your family members are racists from the past few days on FaceBook

Because it has become out of fashion to go shopping on Black Friday, it’s totes cool to do it ironically now.

If you live in the Northeast winter storm “Valid Excuse” produced some really treacherous weather maps that could easily be texted as jpegs.

You no longer have to be pissed off when a JetBlue plane taxis ahead of yours. Those bastards are suffering just as bad as everyone else.

The increasing awareness of violence and head injury in the NFL will make a nice follow-up conversation to your previous points about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. 

Always room for a surprise guest

Always room for a surprise guest

First year since the Carter Administration Uncle Burt won’t inflict his Cosby impression on everyone when pudding is served at dessert.

Trust me, they’re just going to loooove it when after going out as a family to see “Theory of Everything” you explain how quantum effects at the event horizon via hawking radiation proves black holes lose mass over time.

If your Thanksgiving celebration includes citizens of the United Kingdom you can wink at them and say, “Imagine if you still owned this shitshow, huh?”

This is the first Thanksgiving in 80 years where you are at zero risk of having Joan Rivers burst in and make a crude comparison regarding the “dryness” of your turkey skin. 

He's going to talk about Benghazi the whole time, isn't he?

He’s going to talk about Benghazi the whole time, isn’t he?

It’s going to be great watching your teenage cousins squirm while you explain how Snapchat’s redundant server architecture means nothing is ever actually deleted. 

Last chance to pumpkin spice the great hairy bejesus out of everything.

There is a door we always leave open

A couple of years ago my aunt decided to marry a guy she had a crush on in high school and asked to have the rehearsal dinner at our house. She’s 70, I should mention. The only answer to that is “Fuck Yes!” right? But we had this little issue before we could host. Our back porch, which was to play a critical part in this operation, was…how does one put it? There were a couple of “soft spots” in a few places I had noticed in the six years we’d owned the house. It needed some TLC, I figured.

But it’s cool. I volunteered on the Schooner Adventure during the dark “rotting next to the dock” years of the mid ‘90s and I’m handy with my Irish Miter Box (sawzall) and what Douggie Parsons dubbed “Schooner in a Can” (Bondo). I figured I could fix it. So I got out the crowbar and pulled back the sheathing to expose the structure.

This Old House, Off-World Colony ediiton

This Old House, Off-World Colony edition

Remember that scene in Aliens when Sigourney Weaver winds up in the room with about one million carnivorous aliens, eggs everyplace and that giant queen thing she eventually goes all WWF on with the exosuit/forklift deal? Yeah, it was like that but I didn’t have the sweet pulse rifle/flamethrower combo. Ants. Almost everything I thought was holding up my house had been rotted and eaten away. There was creepy terrible shit everywhere. I started carving the larvae away with the end of my crowbar until I realized those white puffy bits might be doing most of the load-bearing with so much wood gone.

Today, on the day when I realize we as a culture are pretty much okay with authority figures regularly shooting unarmed black kids, I find myself with the same feeling as I did after exposing the maze of tunnels in the dark, wet wood next to the sill. It’s one of those words we don’t have in English but what I’m going to call “retroactive dread.” It’s the realization that the little problem you thought you had is actually a huge, systemic horrorfuck of Lovecraftian proportions and that your complacency in the matter up to this point has made things worse.

I find myself today in a sea of mental gymnastics, along with a lot of people doing internal bargaining. It’s the same feeling as when the little bastards started spilling out in writhing fountains all around my ankles. You go down a lot of cognitive dead ends, direct blame all over the place- mostly to irresponsible stewards of the past. Fear and panic make their traditional appearances.

But as I did, eventually we will all, as a culture of mostly good people, come back to the cold, hard reality: Something is broken. Something is really, really fucking broken.


And making the decision about what to do, or really “if” to do was similar as well. In my case it was between fixing the porch or just nailing the back door shut and stringing caution tape all over everywhere. It’s a natural tendency (Here in Gloucester, it’s not only natural, it’s default) to just compartmentalize and move on. I could have just sealed it. I could have just put the plywood back and ignored it, hoping it wouldn’t collapse under the weight of a dozen odd tipsy septuagenarians. But I took a step back. I took a deep breath and said, “I can fix this.”

Obviously, that was the stupidest thing any human has uttered since: “Zune? I like the sound of that!” What the fuck was I thinking? I’m not a contractor. I’m not a carpenter. This was a statement of profound dumbassery.

Like a lot of challenges we agree to take on with insufficient detail of what would be required (being a parent comes to mind) this was way beyond my skills. Doing it right would involve shoring up the supports, installing a full compliment of new beams, at least one new post, all new decking and railings. To even physically get access to the stuff I needed to work on the actual roof had to be jacked up a foot. I did not possess the skills nor the tools required. I didn’t have the money, the time or a professional who would work over the long holiday weekend. I was fucked.

But once you start trying you send out a powerful signal. In my case the signal was the screech of saws and a steady stream of curse words that would have made a phone-sex operator blush. My neighbors started to wander over over like zombies to a MENSA meet-up. They came at first to make quips like, “You don’t need a carpenter, dude. You need E.O. freakin’ Wilson;” (NPR has ruined these people out here) but then they offered advice, came back with gear, dug in to help and even brought the most critical of necessities: beer. One dude had bottle jacks for the roof. Another had wood hardener for the post I wanted to salvage. The guy down the street leant me his truck so I could go to Rockport and buy a sixteen-foot pressure-treated 6X6 for that would have collapsed the roof of my Subaru like a lead pipe into a Market Basket birthday cake. We are not alone in this world and there are always people who will help.

But we have to start.

As bad as it was, finding this would have been worse

As bad as it was, finding this would have been worse

In the case of my porch we got it fixed though it was exponentially harder and more expensive and scarier than I figured when I put my hands on my tool belt and and implored to my wife, “I got this.” I wanted the party to happen as planned. I wanted the house to be healed.

But mostly I didn’t want to be the kind of person who nails the back door shut, as far over my head as that puts me sometimes. I don’t ever want to be that guy. Not then, not now.

I know we say this here a lot, but it’s important to stress that we are not a frightened people. We are not afraid of terrorists, though they attack our city. We are not afraid of Ebola even though it’s foreign and scary-sounding. We’re not afraid of our kids mixing with new ideas and different social classes and cultures because this is what will make them real people not just another set of clones blithering around a mass-produced consumer culture.

We are not afraid because each of us is descended from brave people who risked everything at one point or another. We owe our civilization to those who pushed back against the darkness. Who stood for justice and equality in the face of what then looked like insurmountable odds. Their blood flows in our veins and their DNA is what 3D printed us out into this crazy place and time. We have the tools. We have the people who know what needs to be done.

So take a breath. Roll up the sleeves. This is going to be hard.

But the fucking door stays open.

And the Crappiest Intersection in Gloucester goes to…


Well, we’ve finally made it. We started with 16 of the crappiest intersections in town, and eliminated all but the Absolute Crappiest. Our final contestants were Flannagan Square and Maplewood/Railroad/Prospect, and the votes are in: Maplewood/Railroad/Prospect took it by a runaway margin!

Let’s face it: it was pretty clear to begin with that this was the absolute worst intersection Gloucester had to offer. You stick a buoy dead in the middle, you add in some broken pavement, crosswalks that have all but disappeared, 15 minute parking spots in front of Ocean Garden, then mix up a whole bunch of angry drivers who don’t know how to not block an intersection, et voila! That clusterfuck we know and love.

Blue ribbon 2Huzzah, Maplewood/Railroad/Prospect. You’ve earned your place as the worst godforsaken meeting of roads in this entire fuckin’ city. Good for you. What would we do without your lack of stop signs, your ability to confound tourists, or the ability of the intersection, through abysmal design, to completely lock up traffic if one person fucks it all up?

Thanks to all who voted in our contest. I’m sure our winner will bask in the glory.

Thanksgiving Mad Lib

This week families get together to celebrate Christmas’ younger and distinctly more chill sibling, Thanksgiving. Sure it’s only one day not a whole ‘season’ and there are only a couple of TV specials and that one Adam Sandler song everyone pretends is funny (it is not funny) but there is certainly parity in both holiday’s ability to leave you stranded in transit with nothing to do. Whether you’re splayed out across the terminal seats at a crappy regional airport or stuck in the off-smelling waiting area of a small-town service station held-up until “Chester” can look at your Honda after it started making that weird grinding noise on the Interstate, we’re here to help. You and your traveling companions can while away some fruitless minutes with:


Not pictured: small pox

Not pictured: small pox

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! It’s a special time to get the whole clan together for meal fit for a [title of William S. Burroughs Novel]______________________. Our family has many traditions, some you’d recognize and a few carried over from [unfashionable foreign country] ______________.

We’re a little old-school, so around here the [exploited group] _____________ are up early to start cooking first thing Thursday morning. By noon the house is full of delicious smells and [negative emotion typically responsive to medication] _________________.

 Soon the family begin to arrive. Some travel by [unaffordable and unnecessarily oversized vehicle] ____________________ others we have to pick up from [neglected public transportation hub] _______________. Uncle [first name of 20th Century European dictator] ___________ will no doubt pour himself a glass of [mass-produced brown liquor] __________________and tell his story about the time he shared an overcrowded restaurant table with [regular guest cast member from Love Boat] __________________ when visiting Los Angeles.

Soon we’re sitting down at a table full of meats dripping with [human hormone] _______________ and and roasted [vegetable that will inevitably be passed over in favor of potatoes] ______________. Also, there is always plenty of [different vegetable with some kind of processed sugar added to make it remotely palatable] ___________________! And let’s not forget a big bowl of [food in the “NEVER” column on the list handed to you by the cardiologist] ___________________with lots of butter. Every year we try a new stuffing recipe. This year will be one featuring [nut and dried fruit combo on sale at Trader Joe’s] _________________________!

 To remind us of the true origins of the holiday Mom reads a prayer by [Native American chief, but it was actually written by a white college professor in the ‘60s] _______________________reminding us of our connection to the Earth and all we have to be grateful for.

 Now it’s time to eat! We always have lively conversations about [topic that is not: immigration policy, climate change, the statistical unlikelihood we live in a universe controlled by a just god and the nature of the relationship of the female “friend” your sister has brought for the past three years running] ___________________. There are a variety of opinions, but the one thing we always agree on is desert! [Person who actually has Master’s Degree in topic everyone else is spouting off uninformed opinions about] _____________ will always be the first one to say, “Hey Mom, isn’t it time for [heated combination of dextrose and carbohydrates] _________________?”

 After the meal we all sit down to watch [Screw it, just write ‘football’] ____________ . Dad always likes to comment on his love for his favorite player [Athlete with multiple arrests and a history of violent behavior] ________________. It’s always great to see our guys out on the gridiron not matter if they wind up with a win or a [permanent, debilitating injury] __________________. Sometimes cousin [overused millennial name like ‘Justin’ or ‘Ashley’] ___________________will suggest we head outside to play a little ‘touch,’ but it usually depends on the [thinly veiled excuse] ______________ if we actually make it out or not.

Eventually Dad succumbs to [chronic, unacknowledged medical condition] ________________ and falls asleep on the couch while mom cleans up and listens to [band that reminds her of a carefree youth oh so many years ago] __________________. That’s the signal head downtown and catch up with old friends. Maybe you’ll even run into [the girl who said, “I’ll wait for you’ and then when you came home from freshman year told you she was confused about her feelings for ‘Jake’ and you’re like, “Who the fuck is Jake?”] ____________________!

 I hear they have two kids now.