Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Paul Revere's Time Capsule Totally Sucked

Officials opened a time capsule in Boston Tuesday, more than 200 years after Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and William Scollay buried it there…. It took more than four hours for officials to loosen the screws on top of a time capsule they were set to open on Tuesday night, said Pam Hatchfield, the museum’s head of objects conservation.  Hatchfield said the tools she was using to remove objects from the time capsule included a porcupine quill, a bamboo tool and her grandfather’s dental tool. Officials removed newspapers, a Massachusetts state seal and at least 24 coins from the time capsule, including half-cent, one-cent, half-dime, 10-cent and 25-cent coins….One question still remains…. Will officials put anything new in the time capsule before they put it back?
--January 6, 2015, CNN Wire

Dear Readers: 

I realize that I’m not one of the officials nominated for the 2215 Time Capsule team.  But that hasn’t stopped me from coming up with my own answer to the ONE REMAINING QUESTION.   Because I think I speak for all Americans when I say that this is big shit.  We can't wait for Massachusetts to get organized.   

The fact is, the Founding Fathers left several important legacies, even before they left the time capsule, and they did so without a standing army, or a national government, or even a single modern dental tool.   For example:

-- They threw off the imperial yoke and helped to reimagine the meaning of freedom for the entire nation of white men, and (work in progress) other people.  
-- With visionary precision and clarity, they created a legal framework for democracy which has kept our republic working smoothly for 200 years, except in the case of about ten key amendments.
--  And nobody gave more to the Revolution than the time capsule guys --Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and William Scollay (whoever that is) -- except for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and John Adams. 

Given these important legacies, I'm still a little surprised that unlike LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (work in progress), this time capsule totally sucks.  

Look.  I’m the last person who wants to call out these Founding Fathers on their crappy capsule.  If it were up to me, my kids would still observe President’s Day at school.  But -- 24 coins, a state seal, newspapers, and a pine tree shilling?  WTF, Paul Revere?   Did you throw out all the good shit with the tea?  

No, big job, I get it.   Enclosing something really unique would’ve required a huge feat of imagination.  Way bigger than the Founding Fathers of the world’s most famous democracy had at their disposal.   Also, you grew up in colonial America, where people were hung by their fingernails, burned as witches, and enslaved as human chattel.  Nothing interesting to comment on there. I’d have gone with the coins, too.  

Perhaps I’m in no position to comment on this.  Although I have a PhD in 19th century American history, nobody ever asked ME to lead a country.  But in fairness, nobody asked Paul Revere either. 
He's just the guy who made those controversial copper plate engravings of the Boston Massacre.  A lot of those events didn’t even happen, and he knew it, and he hammered them out anyway.   He’s the hot piece on the Samuel Adams beer bottle, his naked chest busting through his buttoned down shirtsleeves.  He’s the guy who, when he wasn’t shouting at Middlesex county from atop a borrowed horse, sired sixteen children with two different wives, and a single bayonet.   Should we really be surprised that Paul Revere didn't put together a better time capsule?  Should we really be surprised that after waiting more than 200 years, and then standing by for four hours while the librarian pried open the top with her grandpa’s gingivitis trimmer, we got coins?  Not to be harsh, Paul, but maybe this is why you’re on a beer bottle, and not currency.  Nothing ignorant I say could possibly make this situation worse.

Being a modern American, admittedly, I was hoping for more smut and sensation.  I mean, c'mon.  Tell us that Brutus, rather than being an anti-Federalist pseudonym, was James Madison’s cross-dressing alter ego.  Send us a dried-out blunt from Thomas Jefferson’s library, used for “strictly medical purposes.”   Dash off a mysteriously-coded note on a scrap of parchment, revealing trashy celebrity scandal at the Continental Congress: OH at signing of the USDOI.  TJ told JH he has a fab signature, then BF called them “gay.” What did he mean?!? CC is no friendapalooza.  More deets later.  BFN.    

Upon further reflection, though, I decided that this time capsule actually taught us the perfect historic lesson.  Exactly the lesson that the Founding Fathers probably wanted us all to learn.   With characteristic foresight, they set the time capsule bar SO LOW, that we are now under NO pressure whatsoever to make the 2215 Time Capsule good.  Like, AT ALL.  True to their overall legacy, they showed us that truly great men can totally fuck shit up for a lot of other people.  And continue disappointing them -- over and over again -- well into the future.  

Personally, although nobody asked me, I think we need to honor that example.  (We basically have to, anyway, because the only thing dumber than refilling a time capsule with lame shit and burying it is not refilling it, and putting it back empty.  Who even came up with that question?) So I hope the officials on the 2215 Time Capsule team will take heed and NOT fill it with relics or mementos related to: climate change, Nigerian schoolgirls, political cartoons, grand juries, missing airplanes, apocalyptic terrorists, the fate or modern universities, or the ongoing constitutional battle over same sex marriage.  

All coins welcome.



Monday, February 2, 2015

The Wisconsin Dells is the Zombie Apocalypse of Vacation Destinations

I have never personally lived through a zombie apocalypse.  I can’t say with absolute certainty how the zombie attack will unfold, or who they will target first.   I have my own picks for favorites.  But scientifically speaking, I’m pretty sure that one of the first places will be the Wisconsin Dells.   

I know.  That sounds harsh.    The kiddies love the water parks.   It’s perfect for birthdays, gymnastic team retreats, and couples who want their kids entertained while they drink 80 ounce margaritas made of rail tequila and corn syrup.  The Dells has everything!  Long hallways.   Wild unsupervised running.  Tats on tats.  Air hockey.  No pants.  If only there was a hotel with hair weaves and a live baby tiger, it would be perfect!

But the facts are unavoidable.   According to zombie apocalexperts, human civilization will eventually be destabilized by its basest elements, and taken over by the undead.  The VERY first to go will probably be lazy professors, and then people who drink broth for every meal, because "the cavemen did."  Eventually, the zombies will also take more important people, like trust funders, people with lip implants, and anyone who paid to see Katy Perry film that live halftime episode of Yo Gabba Gabba.  That super bowl show reminded me of the Dells.  Wild running. Concussions. Tats on tats.  Big sharks.  No pants.

Nobody will be spared in the zombie apocalypse.  Except Giselle.  She’s the goodwill ambassador to the UN Environmental Program.   With that kind of indispensable job, she and her little Bundchens will probably be given a private, zombie-free island, where she will grow vegan chia seeds, and Tom will blast coconuts at any zombie who tries to swim in and eat her.  Other than Giselle, though, the only ones left to resurrect humanity will be people with guns, paranoid traits, and weird loner personalities.  So, basically, humanity will be saved by Alaska.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Because my point is that shortly after the zombies get the professors and the broth drinkers, they will take the Dells.   How do I know this?   Well.  Just think about it.  It makes perfect sense. 

First of all, if zombies know what’s good for them -- and I think they do -- they will attack highly populated areas first.  To get early recruits.   Any single waterpark in the Dells, in the off season, probably holds 10 thousand people, not counting the people snuck in to save money.   You know you’re jam packed into a building when you leave your hotel room at 9 o’clock in the morning and find a stream of humans in the hallway so long, vast, and already smelly, that you are almost impelled to call the International Committee of the Red Cross. Wailing children in swim diapers.  Shoeless masses, eating Pringles while they walk, for breakfast.  The scene is like a war zone, where the refugees have nobody to blame but themselves.

Once inside the waterpark compound, the zombies could easily mount a sneak attack.   In fact, they could easily mount any kind of attack.  Between the air guns, the rushing water, the industrial fans, and all the inappropriately-loud people screaming over all of these noises, you can’t hear a fucking thing in there.  After about 2 hours in the waterpark, our voices were hoarse from yelling short, pointless conversational phrases at each other’s faces.   I’d say to my sister: “I’M GOING TO THE BATHROOM!”  Then she’d say, “WHAT?!”  Then I’d say, “YOU TAKE THE KIDS DOWN THE SLIDE AGAIN!”  Then she’d say, “WHAT?!!”   Although we cherished this time together and will never forget it, we usually just yelled until one of us gave up, and sought out the rest of humanity in the hot tub.  Or maybe it was a large outdoor toilet.  I guess we’ll never know.  

The most compelling advantage for the zombies, though, is that once they start chasing people, the place will descend into complete chaos.  Because other than the lifeguards, who were hired to save people from water and not zombies, nobody who works at the Dells will tell you anything you need to know.  It’s almost like they don’t care.  Which -- and I hate to say “I told you so” -- is exactly the kind of uncooperative attitude that will cause the zombie apocalypse in the first place.

Before driving down, my sister called the condo, to ask what kind of coffee machines were in the hotel rooms.  She wanted to bring coffee, so we didn’t have to drink the bagged kind that tastes like dirty window washer fluid from a gas station.  They couldn’t tell her.  She brought fancy Sumatra coffee anyway, which we attempted to place inside the bag.   Survivalist fail.   Mike got us Starbucks.

But the coffee was just the beginning.  When I checked in, I asked the woman handing me a ream of maps and coupons if the condos had knives, so we could slice my daughter’s birthday cake.  “I couldn’t tell you that,” she said.   When she handed me the key card, she pointed out that we would need them to to turn on the lights and heat.  “But isn’t the heat already on?” I asked.  “It’s 18 degrees outside.”  To which she replied: “I couldn’t tell you that either.”  Can you imagine how helpful this woman would be in a zombie emergency?

Ultimately, the zombies will have the upper hand.  Because if they haven’t rounded you up by then, you will voluntarily surrender to them at the end of the day.  After several water slides, a go-cart ride, a game of laser tag, a few rounds of lazer maze, and a husband-wife skee ball match, we sat down with the kids to have a late afternoon snack.   During that 45 minute rest period, my daughter asked me 8 times if we could do the ropes course.  Since it was her birthday party, and I was tired of saying no, I said yes.  We fit the ropes course in before going out to dinner.  But we were so exhausted after that, we didn’t even want to go out to dinner.  We just slogged back to the room – us, and five thousand of our best friends --  to order pizza.  My sister was sick with a cold, and felt faint.  Or so she said.  For all I knew, she was a zombie.     I’m not a zombie apocalypse expert.  But these are the facts.

My advice to anyone thinking about a weekend in the Dells?  Go there!  Have fun!  The kids will love it!  The rooms are pre-heated.  Even in the winter.  My sister says the coffee filter size is probably 2 or 4 (basket style, not cone).   She could tell by just looking at it with minimal time and effort.    Also, there are plenty of sharp knives there for cutting birthday cake.  

The only down side to that whole scenario is that when you go there, you might be turned into a zombie.   So hopefully, you’ll pick the right weekend.