No Snark Sunday: Abundance follies

So they emailed a wrench up to the International Space Station a couple of weeks ago. It’s a small thing, sort of nerdy-cool if you follow that sort of stuff, which I do. But so much that goes on in the space program seems to have little application here on Earth: “Astronauts on the International Space Station attempted to determine how waffles accept syrup in microgravity…” You get the feeling they are just sort of looking for shit to do up there.

When proctologists get this tech, worry

When proctologists get this tech, worry

The wrench thing, however, is going to rock all of our worlds: the ability to create the object you need when you need it the way you want it far from any supply chain. We’ve talked about that before and I can be proud to say Gloucester students are getting an excellent intro in that world with our 3D printing lab.

But maybe you’ve noticed something else disconcerting, that seems like a good thing but everyone is kind of weird about- on my way to the office this morning gas was $2.50 a gallon. That’s good right? You’d think the economy would be on a cheap-fuel drunk as everybody who manufactures, delivers, drives and ships just wound up with a few extra sacks of cash. Instead we’re all looking around going, “Huh?” Weren’t we just running out gas a couple of years ago? Wasn’t it going to five bucks a gallon on the way to ten?

There are a lot of explanations, but the biggest one is in category after category we’re transcending scarcity and it’s fucking everything up.

Our whole economic system, nay our billion-plus years of evolved instincts as living creatures in individual habitats is all about managing scarcity. Supply and demand, energy transfers, efficiency, Adams Smith and The Wealth of Nations, even Marx and his whole ‘surplus labor value’ insight, all of it depends on there not being enough of a particular thing and the folks who provide it to you getting paid for it. funny-clever-joke-Karl-Marx-beardEven Marxism breaks down without scarcity. Seriously.

In category after category the driving forces we depend on to run our economy the way in which we are accustomed are evaporating. Is music scarce? The very computer I’m typing on right now can play pretty much any song ever written without me paying a dime. This is becoming increasingly true across the board. Movies will be next, but soon enough complex physical objects and electronics. There are kids playing with robotic sets that would have made engineers weep with joy to have access just ten years ago. Ideas that were pipe dreams in the recent past are rolling out not as products, but as playthings for open-source communities. No one is getting paid but amazing work is being done.

That is kind of a problem, actually.

Everyone know what Instagram is? Photo sharing app, just bought by Facebook and was recently valued at 35 billion dollars, which is amazing. Until you think that Kodak, the company that essentially created modern photography and film, was at its peak only every worth 15 billion. That’s everything: real estate, manufacturing equipment, distribution networks, it had operations in every state and more than 30 countries. There were 140 thousand direct employees not to mention all the ancillary suppliers and the careers their technology made possible.

If you're going, "What are all the little boxes for" you are young. If you also wondering "And what's that black thing?" you make me want to drink lunch.

If you’re going, “What are all the little boxes for” you are young. If you also wondering “And what’s that black thing?” you make me want to drink lunch.

Instagram has 80 employees. It had 15 when it was purchased. Not enough to make for a crowd at the Rhumb Line on a Monday night. A 35 billion dollar company has fewer people than came to my daughters Bat Mitzvah.

More of that is coming. So much more. I’ve talked in this space about fusion. Since then Lockheed has applied for patents on components in something called a “high-beta fusion reactor” which it turns out a lot of groups have been working on. This is a device that can produce enough energy for 40 thousand homes and is about the size of a tractor trailer box, according to the current plans. It generates zero radiation out past 15 meters (you shield it within that) and can’t melt down like the reactors we have now, the fuel is abundant and easily derived from seawater. It’s essentially the PC of the energy category- computers were big infrastructure things back in the 70s but then small machines with incredible power blew the entire industry apart. It was great, but also incredibly disruptive but the good thing was technology people had other places to go, as the PC technology was essentially the same as the big washing-machine sized computers that filled up rooms back then..

It won’t be the same with fusion. Over a million people work directly in petroleum in the United States. And if these reactors are real, they will be built in a factory somewhere and shipped to sites for use. Today as we speak there are about a thousand dudes (for the non-gender specific value of ‘dude’) getting ready to start work on the new power plant in Salem. Plumbers, electricians, pipe fitters, crane operators, the guy who sells coffee, donuts and weed out of the roach coach truck that shows up for 11:00 break. When this tech comes on line all those people and their families and the people who sell them mortgages, cars and grow lights are all going to be screwed as well. And they won’t be able to all go work in the fusion industry as it will be a single plant making these things somewhere in California, most likely. And is the guy who welds steel going to be able to go work on the fusion reactor line anyway? Don’t think so, it will be highly robotic and specialized. Those jobs will just be lost.

Or you could just go work in the Off World Colonies

Or you could go work in the Off World Colonies

But it probably won’t be here for another 30 years, right? Wrong. Five at the earliest if their approach is valid (and it might not be) then ten at the outside. Great, now everyone who works in every component energy production is going to be fucked.

So petroleum is fucked, energy is fucked, if the 3D printing thing or it’s cousin-on-steroids ‘atomic scale manufacturing’ gets off the ground then China is oh-so-very fucked but so are a lot of industries here (medical devices and defense come to mind. Why make missiles or aircraft parts now if you can just produce them as needed?).

We’re so good at creating abundance that the scarcity needed for our economic model is going away. Shit.

The point is this: We make technologies come to life. It’s what Americans do. We are hands-down off-the-hook awesome at it and it really is our “thing.” I was working on a messaging campaign for a new aircraft a few years ago when an irate person of the foreign persuasion once pissily asked why English is the international language of Aviation, even outside the English-speaking world. The engineer looked at him and said, “If the Wright Brothers had been French, we’d speak that.” Simple enough.

But in our own culture we have to get better at making sure those displaced by the awesome shit we create are not excluded from the technological progress. We don’t and shouldn’t share the spoils of innovation and entrepreneurship equally, but there has to be some kind of better way to respond to someone who’s worked their whole life in the service of an industry and finds that it’s gone away essentially overnight. The disparities created are bad for our economy because fewer and fewer can take advantage of all the great stuff, which is sort of the point of making it in the first place. It’s bad for our culture as more and more folks are getting left behind making for class distinctions that are distinctly un-American. We’re not equal economically, but we’ve always been equal socially and that has to continue for us to be us. We don’t do aristocracy, it was sort of the point of the country to begin with. Here, in America, you get a fair shot and more and more that shot has to be applied in the middle of a life rather than at the start of one.

We also need to be better at managing change for communities, as the example of our own city of Gloucester shows. We let the rust belt go because it was no longer useful, we’re doing the same to Detroit. This always comes back and bites us in the ass when the social ills of poverty start spreading around.

Pre-apocalyptic Detroit. Makes you wonder if they'd notice.

Pre-apocalyptic Detroit. Makes you wonder if they’d notice.

This isn’t a liberal argument, it’s an economic one. Humans are not disposable. You cannot throw them ‘away” because there is no ‘away.’ They will be around, so lets make sure everyone has the opportunity not just to be a service lackey to the new oligarchy, but to be really useful and rewarded for it.

President Obama’s free community college idea is a start in that direction as is universal health care. But we need to do more. Famous economist KT Toomey once said that we need a social safety ‘trampoline’ not a safety ‘net.’ Our culture should be all about helping you bounce back from a changing industry in a positive and optimistic way, not mire you in a web of bullshit and scorn. I loved all the economic geniuses who said that we should have not given unemployment compensation to people out of work in the past five years, but instead send them to North Dakota where the oil fields were in desperate need of workers. Yeah, well now those fields are laying people off in the thousands as the price of crude plummets from $100 a barrel down to $30 so pretty good we didn’t do that, huh?

We need to think bigger than just the next move. We need to rethink the game.

Worst Insult Ever: “I don’t have a TV”

This happens multiple times a week: I’m having a conversation with someone and they inevitably start talking about a TV show. I inform them I haven’t seen it, so of course they start talking about another show and I’m forced to say the dreaded words:

“I don’t have a TV”

It’s as if, in the middle of our discussion, I decided to wave around my genitals while singing “Deutschland über alles“. Later, on social media I see they’ve posted:  “I hate people who are always saying they don’t have a TV, it’s so elitist and rude.”

Fine. Fuck it. I give up.

An open letter to TV viewers who want to talk to me about TV:

How do you want to handle this because apparently what I’m doing isn’t working. You want to talk about TV, I don’t have a TV, but then you get offended when I tell you I don’t have one.

We are at an impasse.

Somethings gotta give. Let’s start with the fact that I’m not getting a TV and you obviously want to talk about TV, thus we need to figure something out.

Not getting one till they bring back 'Lidsville'

Not getting one till they bring back ‘Lidsville’

However, before we go on it’s essential to address the following point because it’s a foundational issue: The blowback against those who verbalize their lacking in this area seems to center around the absurd contention that people without TVs are somehow always telling everyone about it. I suggest the opposite: there are a lot of folks who want to talk about television all the fucking time and we without TV’s functionally can’t, and are therefore forced to mention it to people WHO ARE ALWAYS GOING ON AT LENGTH ABOUT FUCKING TV.

Look back on every conversation you’ve ever had with a non-TV owner and think if it really started with them offering out of the blue, “I don’t have a TV, let me tell you all about not having one…” Is that how it went? Really? You know what, those who don’t practice a particular hobby or activity are not prone to carrying on about their lack of participation. However, those that do a particular thing notably are. We’ve all been bored at a party listening to someone drone on about an interest after it’s been made apparent through easily detectable social cues no one actually wants to talk about that. When you’re talking to me about TV, that’s you.

Examples: No one says “Today I didn’t practice Ikebana, the traditional flower arranging art of Japan because I have no knowledge of its requirements or practice.” Neither do I describe my not boar hunting, my lack of a steam-powered gyrocopter or the fact that I don’t keep an alpine ibex for a pet.

Oh, you don't have one? Surely you'll want to discuss them at length then.

Oh, you don’t have one? Surely you’ll want to discuss them at length then.

Because I don’t watch TV I’m NEVER the one to bring it up as a topic. Why would I? So what do you want me to do after you’ve ask if I watch Game of Thrones? I’ve said I don’t, but THEN you inevitably have to ask if I watch House of Cards. I say, “no.” So then you ask about Sons of Anarchy or Breaking Bad? Are you not getting the picture here?

It’s a similar issue for people who went to Harvard I’ve found (I did not go to Harvard). People ask, “Where did you go to school?” They say, “Cambridge.” The inquisitor then asks, “Where in Cambridge?” and the one being questioned finally has to break down and say, “Harvard.” Next thing they’re dealing with someone going on about “I hate how people who went to Harvard are always throwing it around.” Well, what the fuck are they supposed to say when talking about college? She tried being vague, but you pressed her. Some people went to Harvard, get over it.

So in our imagined conversation I’ve just said I don’t watch the three shows you’ve offered. Three popular shows and I’ve never seen a singe episode of any of them. Huh. Yet the possibility I don’t watch ANY television at all has somehow not made it out onto the stage of the Cartesian theater of your consciousness (which may or may not have been addled by some passive, mindless activity you spend too much time at) so you keep listing shows like some kind of TV Guide girded in human flesh until you, exasperated, blurt out, “What shows do you like then?” And thus cornered I am forced to slap you in your very face with the the fact that I don’t have a TV.

My bad, I guess.

No other appliance seems to muster such affrontery. My foodie hipster friends without  microwaves don’t engender rage explaining their meal-warming life-choices. It’s not an insult for them to heat their coffee on a stove (for the record I have a microwave that I love the shit out of). Tell people you don’t have a stand-up mixer or even a dryer and no one gets huffy about it. But man, mention you don’t have a TV in context and they think you are making some kind of cultural judgement. Full disclosure: I am. But that’s fine, we don’t have to like the same things.

You're not into extreme ironing? That's cool.

Oh you’re not into extreme ironing? That’s cool. I guess.

It’s my choice and I’m happy with it. I’ve tried every possible way to inform you of this without offending you. I’ve nodded along. I’ve hoped you’d change the topic. I even said “I don’t watch much TV,” hoping you’d take the hint. But then you started telling me about the ‘educational’ TV you watch, how you and your significant other are really into ‘binge watching’ this one show, all the food programs you get great ideas from and then on to your ‘guilty pleasure trash reality TV’ you ‘hatewatch’ and you know what? WE ARE STILL TALKING ABOUT FUCKING TV. The only way to get you to shut up about TV is to tell you I have absolutely no knowledge about TV beyond what I casually pick up via cultural osmosis and no desire to obtain more. It’s just not a thing I do.

So how to handle this? Should we come up with some kind of agreed-upon physical gesture I can make when the topic of TV comes up as not to upset your sensibilities? A flashing lapel pin? An app that tells every smartphone in a 50 yard radius a non TV-watcher is nearby so they can avoid talking to me? Semaphore flags? Hipster beard and copy of “Infinite Jest” tucked under one arm at all times?

maybe just show you this?
Should I get this to show you?

You tell me, TV people. I’m all out of ideas.









Nous sommes tous Charlie

By Jim and KT both together

We here at The Clam did not particularly care for the cartoons French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published of the Prophet Muhammad. They were crude, not particularly well drawn and what we found most unappealing was they simply weren’t funny.

Here’s a couple of them. Like we said, they sort of suck.


But note: Those shitty cartoons were stronger than any bomb, gun or blade that could ever be wielded toward their publisher. Did the perpetrators really think they are helping the cause of Islam? I mean, people say that assholes like the Westboro Baptist Church give Christians a bad name but they are simply being hamfistedly hateful toward homosexuals, probably because gays are better at choosing complementary colors for their signs. However it’s worth mentioniong that as vile as the Westboro idiots are, they’re not shooting anyone.

See. Now that's a nice sign.

See. Now that’s an appealing sign design

Can someone answer me this question: Do the attackers and their supporters actually believe they live in a universe created by a divine being who on one hand makes a complex structure like a quasar, spawns a trillion suns, conjures a billion billion galaxies, who creates the laws of physics and chemistry and life itself, but is offended by a fucking cartoon?

Over here at The Clam we get our share of weird threats, unhinged comments and drunk-at-the-keyboard smacktalk one expects online. And we goof on the city we deeply love a lot, but there is always somebody who not only doesn’t get the joke (huffing fiberglass hardener will do that to a man) but who also thinks that we are the one website in the world he or she (it’s often been a she) just has to SET STRAIGHT!

Screen shot 2015-01-07 at 8.54.49 PM

But for all that I find it hard to believe anyone would come in here and mow us down in a hail of gunfire over “Top Ten Gloucester Slang Terms for Sex” [#5: “Going to Annisquam”]. This is because for all the idiocy of our culture at times, we value the freedom of speech above all and our humorists in particular. We might wind up with our tires slashed or somebody might take a swing at us in the bar at some point, but our right to be obnoxious dickweeds was the first thing the founders of this country inked when they sat down to lay out the Bill of Rights. Everyone in the United States recognizes the freedom of the press. Well, everyone but Maryland Legislator Kirby Delauter.

We don’t mean to get hokey but we do take our responsibility, even as not official journalists, sort of seriously. More seriously than a lot of readers might expect (and unfortunately, more seriously than a lot of actual media outlets). Parody has always been a sign of a healthy society going back as least as far as Aristophanes, and his stuff still stands. Our sacred pledge, the thing we try to come back to again, is the satirists duty to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. To do this we are given permission to utter truths the rest of the culture dare not speak. It’s not exactly a superpower, but it is power, and with it comes responsibility.

But let’s be honest, we’re not the ones in danger. Unless that one manchild who was really pissed about Prospect Street Parking puts down his Twisted Tea and rises from his couch (unlikely). So let’s hear it from someone who’s spent his life dealing with this bullshit and who is much, much more articulate than us:

“Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”

– Salman Rushdie

We also stand with Salman Rushdie. Well, more like crouch with him, preferably in some kind of hardened bunker wearing full body armour (that’s an old Dave Barry line).

So fearless disrespect it is. We remember a joke from back in the ’80s: What is the title of Salman Rushdie’s next book? It’s called ‘Buddha Was a Fat Fucker” You know what’s funny about that? Everything. And we want to thank the Buddhists for laughing along with us (and probably at us too for just earning about fifty more rebirths) and not threatening to kill anybody.

Any other major religions paying attention there?

KT’s Wicked Tuna Recap: North Vs South, Episode #5, “Ice Ice Tuna.”

We’re back with another recap of Wicked Tuna, North vs South. If you’re just tuning in, I recap this show so no one else has to watch it. It started off as kind of a dare – “Let’s watch a show about fishing in our town when I’ve never fished on a boat!” And now it’s kind of grown on me like some terrible Stockholm Syndrome where I kind of empathize with some of these folks. Mostly I don’t though, because I’m a sociopath. Anyway, continuing on!

We start off with a man screaming in a Southern drawl. I didn’t even need to type that sentence, I just imagine you all assume, correctly, that every episode starts like that. Let’s just skip that part next time. ‘WE’REJUST OUT HURR AND THE WIND’S LIKE 25, 35, AND WE’RE LOOKIN’ FOR GIANT BLUEFIN TUNA!” No fucking shit. And here I was, thinking this was a PBS special on whatever submersible Woods Hole is working on these days. Thank you for the clarification, good sir.

Anyway I can tell in advance that the entire freakin’ plotline of this episode is going to be based on some storm rolling in. One of the more well-spoken Southern gents explains to us about the inherent dangers of the ocean, and there’s a bunch of clouds in the trailer preview, so I’m guessing there will be more screaming and wacky camera angles than usual. They go on about how you can easily be knocked overboard by a wave and I’m like “arggh wear a lifejacket at least!”

That seems safe.

That seems safe.


Oh my god, the first “We need this fish bad!” And we’re 3 minutes into it. I aim to drink every time they say it. At this rate, with this episode, I may never actually make it to the Rhumbline to continue drinking.  I guess this is the Fishing Frenzy, they get the fish eventually, and emit a lot of unintelligible screaming in the process.

The Wahoo takes a look at the weather, realizes there’s no fish anyway, and says “fuck it” and heads to shore. This is a good and smart decision.

You know what’s weird in this show? No matter how little money they get for the fish or how small it is, they’re always SUPER EXCITED ABOUT HOW MUCH MONEY THEY JUST MADE. It must be some kind of weird contractual obligation.

Hooray. Don't scream until the camera pans away.

Hooray. Don’t scream until the camera pans away.


Over on Stonerboat, a Coast Guard plane does a couple of warning passes, and Tyler realizes they usually don’t just do that for shits and giggles (or maybe they do, I’m no nautical expert here). So, they head in. There’s a cool fast-motion shot of this huge-ass Cloud Of Pain and Snow rolling in.



Fast forward to tomorrow! There’s tons of snow and ice and stuff from this storm! Oh, this makes working hard! The Hot Tuna keeps breaking through ice to get out of the harbor, but it gets real dramatic-like. “It’s super sketchy, I ain’t gonna lie!” You tell it like it is.

“We’re not gonna make it, man!” DUN DUN DUNNNN.

I expected the ending of Titanic, but instead they turn around and head back, and the first mate with the super long last name jumps out of the boat onto the dock and slips on the ice in a hilarious manner slightly off-camera. There’s nothing I like more than slapstick comedy where no one is seriously injured, so that made watching the rest of this hot mess worth it.

Dave Marciano goes on about how easy it is to sink boats and damage them by going out when they’re not supposed to, so they, too, stay in. I’m hoping at this point there’s just a big scene of everyone taking a snow day and going bowling because it would make this more palatable.

Over on Stonerboat, they say “We’re Gloucestermen! Let’s try it!” Which is what I’m going to yell every time I get drunk and do something stupid in the general downtown area (spoiler alert: this is often).

They get to the same spot where the Hot Tuna gave up and tucked tail for Pizza Bagels and Netflix, and Paul Hebert yells “It’s thicker than you think!” I chuckle, because I am twelve. They somehow actually manage to Ice Dance their way out of there, but other boats are more concerned with the old “not dying” trick, so they’re on their own for now. They go to a perfectly timed commercial break as it appears the boat is about to sink, but probably after we come back will turn out to only be a slightly rolling wave hitting it. Reality TV! Hooray!




The Wahoo, which I’ve by now realized contains the more well-spoken and less “shooting our guns indiscriminantly at the water” crew of the Southern boats, catches a fish. I think this is the only boat where they don’t need to use captions.

On the Hard Merchandise, the fantabulous world of double-entendres continues with Dave yelling “Pop ’em off! I don’t wanna lose my fingers!” Which is what all the boys say to me, or something. I’m pretty sure he also yells “you’re too far down in the gap!” But I can’t be sure. I need captions. “All packaged up like a nice Christmas sausage!” This can’t possibly be accidental.

In one of the final scenes, someone says “I hope the curtains match the carpet!” in regards to the inside of a fish.

The Pinwheel stays out kinda late, and almost has engine problems that would have left them dead in the water during a dangerous storm. Man, this is not an easy way to make a living.

Some boats make money. Others don’t.







Top Ten New Years’ Resolutions for Gloucester

We pulled a couple of all-nighters to ask every single man, woman, and child in our city what their New Years’ resolutions were for 2015. In the dead of night, we finished compiling the top ten resolutions Gloucester residents have. Et Voila!

10. Throw Fewer Nips on the Ground. Not “none”, but “fewer.” We’re only human, we can only do so much at once.

9. Put a little more effort into covering our soiled mattresses while they are curbside in front of our business.

8. Stop referring to neighboring towns as “Sexex”, “Shitwich”, “Cockport”, and “Menchest by the Semen.”

7. Cut down on parking directly in crosswalks or intersections.

6. Resist the urge to, just once, rev your Subaru’s engine when the cut bridge is going up, and do a Dukes of Hazzard up and over that thing to sweet, sweet freedom.

5. Don’t punch Tony at Fiesta. Yeah, he deserves it, but don’t punch him. You’re on probation until August.

4. When trying to get a tardy coworker out their domicile at 4:45am on the way to a work engagement, text first and knock second. “Honking in their driveway” is no longer an option.

3. Put a dollar in the “Fuller School” jar every time you mention how its limitless potential was squandered.

2. Wait until at least 20 minutes after a successful YMCA workout before lighting up a Marlboro Red and putting your pajamas back on.

1. Refrain from demanding awkward, unenforceable preconditions to local government appointments.