Results of Our Celebrity St. Peter’s Fiesta Survey



With St. Peter’s Fiesta close at hand, The Clam asked some notable figures to name what they like and dislike about Gloucester’s signature summer event. Here are their responses:


Donald Trump



Carnival games:  An inspirational refresher course in shady business practices

The Greasy Pole:  A strategically placed basin hooks him up with enough hair pomade for the rest of the year.

The Mass of St. Peter:  The priest has promised that, if he tithes enough, the Church will change the name of that apostle no one remembers to “The Donald.”


The Blessing of the Fleet:  A self-made man depends not on divine intervention, but on loopholes in the tax code.

Seine Boat Races:  Similar to the Republican primaries, there’s a lot of jockeying at the start. But, ultimately, they just test the public’s patience while awaiting the main event.

Nightly raffle drawings:  It’s practically communism.


Kim Jong-Un



The Fiesta 5K:  The pained expressions of lean men and women on the move make him nostalgic for the forced marches of his homeland.

70s-era carnival rides:  Yet more proof of the inferiority of American structural engineering

Sunday Mass parade:  A worthy display of jingoism– though not enough goose-stepping, ICBMs, or throngs of weeping children for his taste.


The airborne portraits of St. Peter:  If he ever finds out who painted the iconography of another man, he’ll feed that individual’s hands to a tiger.

The nightly musical entertainment:  Like in all of his public appearances, everyone is just pretending to enjoy it.

Fried dough:  It makes him gassy.


Saint Peter



The ¾-scale statue of himself that gets lugged around:  Christ can sitteth at God’s right hand; Peter much prefers to standeth on the shoulders of strapping Sicilians.  Plus, it really does justice to his cheekbones.

The Seine Boat Races:  Strip away the halo and all the pomp, and at heart he’s just a hardworking fisherman from Galilee.

His cut from the $60 membership dues at St. Peter’s Club:  Life gets expensive when you have a standing poker engagement with an omniscient being.


The “Viva” chant:  He’s got the eternal life thing locked down. How about “Nice pecs, San Pietro!” instead?

Milling around St. Peter’s Square:  With beards and sandals enjoying a moment, he’s constantly mistaken for an art student at Montserrat.

The pirate ship carnival ride:  Gravity + flowing robes = Another prominent Church official on the sex offender registry.


Jurassic Pahk

A lesser website known as “” did a science poll recently where it asked readers is they would rather have the Olympics come to Boston at an estimated cost of about 51 billion dollars, or would they prefer pending about half that to make Boston’s own Jurassic Park.

Showing that the Hub is still the smartest city in the US, residents of our fair region weighed in at the dino park at 86% in favor because, duh. Dinosaurs.

This seems like a good time, then, to unshelve the film treatment I wrote years ago as an addition to the Jurassic Park film franchise. With films about Boston being huge winners in the box office like The Fighter, Good Will Hunting and Star Wars Episode IV, a New Hope (Mos Eisley Spaceport was closely based on Lynn) and dinosaurs being the hugely popular, this is a sure-fire hit.


Today we bring you part I

The lead actor is either Matt Damon or Mark Walhberg or whatever brooding pretty boy native son the studio has on hand.

Interior: We open in the kitchen of a cramped second floor apartment in an aging Victorian in the gritty blue collar metro of Brockton. Our hero, Brian O’Shea, gets ready to start his day as the head of  Paleontology at Harvard University. He packs his lunch into a metal container, puts on his Carhartt jacket over a grey hooded sweatshirt and clumps down the stairs to his rusting Chevy Cavalier. Waiting for him at his car is his childhood friend Joey Sullivan (Ben Affleck).

Brian: Whaddya want Sully, I’m tryin to get to work.

Joey: Why aren’t you returning my calls? You know my boss wants to talk to you. You owe him a lotta money, Brotha. I’m tryin to keep him offa you, but he’s persistent, you know what I mean?

Brian: I told him he can go build his dino pahk without me. I’m legit now. I got a job at Havahad and everything. Look, I’m leaving for a dig in Mongolia next week, we got a whole new species of Ichthyosaur discovered theah. It’s fackin huge. It’ll make me a lot of cash when I publish my papah about it. Tell your boss it’s gonna be in Natcha. I’m all set after that, I sweah.

Joey: I know you’re tryin to make it good, but no way you can pay what you owe him on some egghead salary even if you land a book deal or a special on NatGeo. Weah proud and shit you made it up there with all those smaht kids, you always was a book nerd. And Mista Kelly’s been patient on account of he knows you borrowed that money to pay for youah motha’s canca treatments, but Jesus Shea. Why didn’t she move back down from New Hampshia to Mass when she got sick to where we got health ceah? I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead, but that was just retahted, yaknow?

Brian: She liked the aih up theah.

Exterior- Brian gets in the car and leaves. As he drives off, Joey yells through the window…

Joey: I’m tryin ta help you Shea! Youah not gonna like what happens next…

Interior, Harvard Peabody Museum. Brian is arriving at work and a crowd is gathered around the central display. There are police cars. As he enters everyone turns to look at him.

Brian: Who’s the patie foah?

Dean: It seems our central attraction, the priceless diplodocid skeleton from our foyer has gone missing, but you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you Professor O’Shea?

Brian: Why would I?

Dean: Well, it’s just that the police found…this…near the freight entrance… which you have one of the only keys to.

A police officer holds up a clear plastic evidence bag with a Bruins hat in it.

Brian: What makes you think that’s mine?

Cop [reading autograph on hat]: “To Brian, sorry for hitting you with that slapshot,” signed, “Zdeno.”

Brian: Joey you set me up you fucking fuck.

Interior, back of limousine driving through Everett

Driver (looking in mirror): Hey, ahnt’t you Billy O’Shea’s kid?

Brian: Yah, so what?

Driver: Oh, I thought I heard you was ovah the rivah in Cambridge working with computas or something.

Brian: I’m a paleontologist.

Driver: No shit? I got a big wart on my foot maybe you could look at then. It’s killing me. Right on my drivahs foot too.

Brian: Maybe latah.

Driver: What evah happened to Billy anyway? Wasn’t he working at the Museum as a plumbah?

Brian (laughs): The only thing my fatha unclogs anymoah is the top of a bottle of Canadian Club. He hasn’t been a plumbah since he sold his tools to buy booze. He’s a janitah now, when he rembahas to get out of bed in the mohning.

Exterior, an industrial site in Everett. A natural gas tanker motors lazily through the canal. Brian walks up to Mr. Kelly, who is looking at a set of blueprints with a team of architects and engineers.

Mr. Kelly (Colin Quinn): Brian my boy! Thanks fah comin.

Brian: What choice did I have?

Kelly: Yah, sorry about that. Joey wasn’t bein persuasive enough and I had to up the ante. It’s allright, Don’t worry about your little skellington. I had my boys put it on top of the MIT dome so it looks like it was one of those gay pranks those sissies play on each othah. Youah in the cleah on the dino thing. But befoah you go, we got a debt to settle and I got a way for you ta walk away clean and we don’t gotta do any moah shenanigans to get theah.

Mr. Kelly goes on to describe Jurassic Pahk casino being built in Everett over the Monsanto plant. He tells Brian it’s going to have everything- Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Wooly Mammoth…

Brian (interrupting): Wolly Mammoth was not a dinosaur. It was a mammal and lived hundreds of millions of years after they died out.

Kelly: Fine, whatevah, fuck the Woolly Mammoth then.

Brian: Why do you need me? Just build a fuckin casino, won’t that bring people in?

Kelly (laughs): Brian, you ah smaht, I always said that. But it’s all book smahts. You don’t know nothin about business. You gotta give em something they can’t get anyplace else. There ah casinos in Connecticut, there ah casinos in Upstate New Yohk and in Maine. Every mother-effing convenience store from heah to frikin James Taylah’s hosue out in the Berkshieas is a frigging casino with all the scratch tickets and the Keno… But with you, our hometown genius who knows the difference between a Woolly Mammoth and a fahkin Stegamingus

Brian: Stegasaurus

Kelly: Whatevah. Anyway, you along with the people I got from the biotechs over in the People’s Republic of Cambridge, we’re gonna give ‘em something that’ll smack theih nuts right on theih eyelids. Fuckin Dinosaus, right outa Land of the Lost like when we wah kids. I got Dunkin’s on boahd and everything.

Brian: In Everett? Who the fuck even ever comes out here?

Kelly: You shittin me? Fuck the Chales, Duck Touas will turn north and come up heah to see the dinos. People won’t wanna ride the swan boats, they’ll wanna watch a Brontosaurus get it’s face eaten off by a Pterodactyl or whatevah. Aerosmith is gonna play heah, I got comedy writas making jokes about it aready, about how Steve Tylah will be glad to see dinosaus again because he used to ride them when he was a kid. It’s gonna be bigga than the Hilltop, I’m tellin ya. We’ll get Dr. Spock from Stah Trek…

Brian: Nimoy? He’s dead.

Kelly: We’ll get the new kid then.

Brian: He’s from Pittsburgh.

Kelly: Jesus you gotta stop bein so negative. That’s what killed youah motha in the end, no offense. I’m givin you a shot Brian. You gonna take it now or do I gotta find more creative ways to persuade you? I’d hate for youah dad to lose his job, for instance. He’d be on the street in two seconds flat. You know the only reason he keeps that gig is becuz ah me. I do it out of memory for youah mothah, God rest her soul. But if the O’Shea’s are gonna turn their backs when I’ve always been there for them in their times of need…

Brian: Fine, I’m in, you sonofabitch.

Kelly (smiling): Good to have you aboahd!

Stay tuned for part II

Clam Classic: Drivin’ Up The Wall

Okay, I won’t lie, I had a long weekend of obligations and stuff to do, ending with watching I Am Big Bird over at the Cape Ann Cinema (awesome, recommend), so today we’re going to cop out and re-run last year’s piece about driving like absolute shit.

Okay, Gloucesterites. We have to talk. We really need to sit down and have A Serious Discussion about something, and I want you to listen up – but we both already know the truth here, don’t we? It’s the elephant in the room. Our deep dark not-heroin-or-pregnancy-related-for-once secret.

We’re a city full of TERRIBLE DRIVERS.  Just awful. On the best of days, it feels like driving in a post-apocalyptic nightmarish cityscape where if a man flinches, the churning hordes will innately sense weakness and rend him asunder. On the worst of days, there’s beach traffic.



Because I’m a deeply introspective person who tends to think of the macroenvironment surrounding my collection of dented vehicles, I set out on a spiritual journey to understand WHY we drive this way. And by “set out on a spiritual journey”, I mean I cracked open a beer. What I found on my Vision Quest (Sponsored by Downeast Cider) may explain our curious driving habits. Let us begin.

– The abysmally narrow roads. In a normal city like Somerville or Mumbai, a road twenty feet wide would be either two-way with no parking, or one way with parking on one side of the street. In Gloucester, twenty feet wide means two way traffic with cars parked halfway on the sidewalk in both directions, but you have to pull over where you can and let opposing traffic pass. Or they have to pull over.

Plenty of room to park, seriously.

Plenty of room to park, seriously.

Or, you have a “Gloucester Traffic Standoff” which is like a Mexican standoff but with cars and beeping and sometimes a gentle mist of swearing. Apparently, according to a neighbor who turned her car around, followed me to my house, and openly berated me in my driveway, you should also cede right of way to the person who has lived in Gloucester the longest. I could not make this up if I tried.

It’s a constant monster truck rally. I’ve been here for a decade, my entire twenties, a third of my life. Still, to this day, I am dumbfounded at the subset of Gloucester drivers who carry on as if the roads are their own personal demolition derby. Large, somewhat illegal pickup trucks are a dime a dozen ’round these parts. They come equipped with exhausts that sound like whooping cough, and they screech their tires at any available opportunity like a mating call for the perpetually dense. Almost predictably, these classy stallions of the motoring world are driven by white guys under the age of 35, sometimes shirtless, usually wearing a baseball cap.

Be right back honey, off to get trashbags in my perfectly reasonable transportation.

BRB honey, off to get trashbags in my perfectly reasonable mode of transportation.

Let me regale you with a tale from ye olde last week, when my other half got into a very minor traffic accident. He was driving up the mountainous terrain of Commonwealth Ave at a reasonable speed and on the side of the road one is socially obligated to drive on, on his way to pick up our preschooler. Suddenly, a wild truck appeared, cresting the hill. Naturally, the driver thought, “I can’t see the other side of this hill, so it’s a great idea to just drive in the middle of the road as fast as possible! Wee hoo, let’s see if we can catch air at the top!”

Since my spouse has an innate survival instinct, he pulled to the right as much as possible to avoid being smashed like a beer can on a frat boy’s forehead. Unfortunately, he clipped a mirror, and dented our car a bit more. Of course, the offending truck continued blissfully on its path of dumbassery, blind to the consequences of DRIVING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GODDAMN ROAD, so now our insurance will go up because that guy’s a moron.

Infrastructure designed by sadists. It appears sometime in Gloucester’s past, we may have hired a thorazine-addled Ray Charles as our city’s street planner. Nothing makes sense. We have swirling masses of one-ways that can pull you in over on Washington street and spit you out by Burnham’s Field when you had a preference for ending up on Main. We have fake-rotaries where no particular rules apply and from which a set of makeshift laws governing them have been handed down from generation to generation, an oral history never committed to DOT approved signage.

All roads lead to this.

All roads lead to this.

And for some reason, we have a multitude of completely unsafe, blind, terrifying street intersections and it seems to not even bother people. There’s nothing like the thrill of pulling out of the end of a street where you can’t see more than 15 feet in either direction, and despite “thickly settled” being an understatement, the traffic is going Ludicrous Speed. It’s like a roulette wheel! Most of the time you can get out safely if you whip your head back and forth enough to check both directions without devolving into an epileptic fit, but once in awhile you get nearly pegged by a National Grid truck whizzing around the corner.

People who never leave the island. When I first moved here, I had heard tales of those who never left Cape Ann. I imagined these people as a simple, yesteryear folk who believed trolls, socialists, and hell existed beyond the bridges. And now I am one of those people who barely leave. I am totally part of the problem. I work here, I live here, I shop here – I once went 5 weeks and 2 days without leaving Cape Ann entirely accidentally. But this means that without much outside stimuli, we as a people have our societal habits break down. We forget what it’s like in the big, outside world where you can’t park 2 feet from the corner of a major intersection or take up both lanes of a two lane road because it’s Not Cool elsewhere.

Tourists. In the interest of complete fairness to my people, it isn’t entirely our fault. We have a huge annual influx of visitors, which is wonderful, because our economy needs it to survive and it makes Gloucester awesome. But sweet fuck, tourist drivers are just as bad as the rest of us, if not worse. They don’t use blinkers, don’t wave people through at difficult intersections (THAT’S HOW WE SURVIVE HERE, IT’S THE ONE THING WE DO RIGHT!), and they make sudden movements, like frightened rabbits. They drive 10 under the speed limit all the way to Lanesville because like gosh, Jeff, look at this view, isn’t it just precious? When I see an out of state plate, I have to assume the person behind the wheel has an IQ of “baked potato” and will brake suddenly and swiftly whenever the breeze blows.

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All in all, we have a ways to go as far as our vehicular behavior is concerned. It’s an “all of us” problem – I won’t excuse myself from making questionable-at-best driving decisions (constantly misjudging curbs is my weakness). But with a little humor, and a lot of patience, we can make the roads more tolerable. And by “tolerable” I mean I only shit my pants once in a rolling 24-hour period. We can work towards that. I believe in us, Gloucester.

No Snark Sunday: Drones are better than us

Our history with technology has always been simple: our creations have universally amplified our uniquely human characteristics.  Our desires for food, sex and domination were more easily sated with every advance from stone axes to hydrogen bombs. If you wanted another man’s wife, you could make that position clear by pitching a well-made spear through his chest. If you wanted another man’s country you could request it via bombs rained from the sky. For all our Star Trek vision  of technology making us more noble (The Wright brothers, for instance, believed aircraft would make war impossible because both sides could too easily monitor each other’s troop movements) the reality reveals technology slavishly serving imperfect human masters to their basest whims. It was George Carlin who reminded us the flamethrower was invented by a guy who thought, “That guy over there? I want him on fire.”

Interestingly, though, this is beginning to change. There are places, corners and pockets, where the technology has been given the power to say, “no.” I find this to be a fascinating and potentially hopeful development.

Let us discuss drones (when do we not?). Modern drones are what we call “semi-autonomous” it’s what differentiates them from the remote-controlled aircraft of the past. Instead of using a controller to direct their every action as we would with a TV or a toy car, we instead send a signal of our desire and the device interprets our request based on the internal priorities of the software. The drone has important things its already doing: keeping itself level, compensating for wind, understanding its position and monitoring on-board systems such as battery, distance from origin point and control signals. In every case a modern drone in its normal configuration will override commands from its human operators if those orders conflict with its programmed imperative for self-preservation.

This is kind of amazing.

If it finds itself running out of battery, the drone will abort its mission and fly to where it took off from and land all on its own. If its ordered to travel out past where it knows the signal will get lost, it will not proceed. If it loses signal from the control station it flies home (sometimes with hilarious results). Drones are “smart” technology and as their sensors get better they will have more and more conditions under which they will ignore our orders. Soon they won’t fly into walls and trees. They won’t smash into the ground at high speed and there is even talk of them knowing where airports and sensitive areas such as government buildings and military operations are, and they will refuse to fly there.

These drones, when perfected, will be better than us in some ways. They won’t fly onto the White House lawn. They won’t smash into the groom at a wedding.

Of course you can bypass all this stuff. You can set it to fly it miles away with no account for the battery power it will need to get home and crash it to your heart’s content. And the tech is still young enough that it doesn’t always work so great- but we are so at the early stages. Already we find pilots crashing real planes because they ignored or overrode the aircraft’s warning system which knew better what was going on than they did. Very soon we’re going to be able to apply fail-safes to more and more technology. Should we? And if not, who accounts for those hurt or killed where we selfishly choose to keep our autonomy?

An incredibly short time ago historically we rode around on horses, a similar technology to drones. Under most conditions they did what we said, but they’d look out for their own necks as well. No matter how drunk you were, a normally-trained horse wouldn’t walk off a cliff. Horses know about human limitations and frequently disobey human commands they don’t favor. Dogs are the same way. Humans and dogs have been together for perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, but you still won’t get a standard pet dog to come in from the yard if there is a deliciously decayed dead squirrel carcass out there. As much as it loves you, the dog has priorities built into its software. Our autonomous technology is getting like this.

Very soon your car will resist merging into a lane if there is already a vehicle there. This technology is already being deployed on Mercedes in Europe. They’re deploying it because unlike us, technology doesn’t get tired. Its boss doesn’t chew it out, it never worries about the mortgage. The tech won’t have one too many at its niece’s wedding and plow into a minivan in the rain. The tech can handle getting a text and steering at the same time. In terms of driving cars it won’t be too long until the tech is better than us.

Think about where this will go: You could build a gun that won’t shoot anyone in your family. Small HD camera, facial recognition software, Arduino microprocessor, electronic trigger system. I can almost sketch the circuit out in my head. Is this a good idea? Would you be more or less likely to buy a gun you could program not to shoot the people you care about?

This is a thought experiment, of course. Things called “ski masks” exist and the need for the processing in super-short time frames and chaotic conditions like darkness make this impractical today. But five years from now? Ten? Add to facial recognition a series of identifying features like body mass and heat signature and the question is quickly begged: should your gun warn you if it’s more likely the person crawling in through the window at 3 AM is your idiot son home from a drunken high school party than a member of the Zeta narcogang? Should your gun pause even though you’re desperately squeezing the trigger? Should it vibrate? Give an audible warning? Because very soon guns will be better at identifying targets than we are. They don’t get scared and unlike us their imaginations are profoundly non-vivid. Guns could be made to be better than we are at not shooting the wrong people.

Guns could be made to be better than us.

For all our brilliance at creatively solving problems, we humans suck at the boring stuff. We are inconsistent. We vastly overestimate our abilities and delight in fooling ourselves on topics granular and grand. In contrast, machines excel at the dull. They can do the same job over and over till their servos wear out. The more complex tasks they become capable of, the more they will best their human creators in completing those tasks without faltering.

Already there are robot pharmacists outperforming human ones. There are software radiologists who can find tumors in slides better than humans with the added benefit of being able to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and the first analysis on Monday morning has the same quality as the one at six on the Friday before a long weekend. The planet Mars is inhabited entirely by robots as the conditions there are unspeakably difficult for us meatsacks, with our need for not only atmosphere but water AND food AND sleep making us a less-than-ideal choice for exploration. Leave it to our bots. They are better at exploring the solar system than we are.

Algorithms will get better at identifying risks for negative human behaviors as they have more and more access to “big data.” For instance, recognizing certain patterns of obsession online coupled with some keywords and purchases identified from an IP address could have stopped Adam Lanza and Anders Behring both. Our sense of freedom boils at this, but talk to the parents of the victims and see if they feel the same way. A not-very-sophisticated analysis could have told anyone the 2008 financial crash was a disaster waiting to happen. What responsibility do we have in creating a reporting structure in our bots? Whom do they tell? What actions do we give them the power to execute, knowing our propensity for self-delusion?

There will come a time, not far off, when our devices start telling us what to do, and not because they are evil in a Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster sort of way or a Skynet/Matrix sort of way.

But because we are wrong.