|Art by Mike Lee|
End-of-the-Century Neo-Hun All-You-Can-Kill Blue-Lite Special: You got yer war kill, peace kill, brown kill, black kill, white kill, love kill, hate kill, kill kill. All at discount prices; zero percent financing. Fight or flight? Fight whom? Fight what? Me? You? Us? Them? And flight: the unbearable whiteness of fleeing to such suburban sanctuaries as Littleton has begun to lose some of its bleachy charms, I hear.
So where can a fine, upstanding, nonmurdering citizen like yourself go for some quote rest and relaxation unquote?
Away. Richard Branson, owner and chairman of Virgin Group, recently registered a company called Virgin Galactic Airways, by means of which he plans someday soon to shuttle citizens in groups of 10 to his Virgin Space Hotel, located somewhere in outer space. Branson expects the spacefare will be something around $100,000 per seat. So in lieu of sending intelligent life into space, Earth offers Armani-clad lobster-chompers. (I do hope Branson pays author Douglas Adams a few million pounds before opening the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.)
Having grown up assuming that there are forms of life in the galaxy far smarter than even the dolphin, I don't spend much time thinking about it. For the record, your classic Globe and Star lead-story extraterrestrials who, after traveling millions of miles to reach our planet, touch down in Kentucky trailer parks and Iowa corn fields do not, in my humble opinion, seem particularly intelligent. If you were going to bother visiting other planets, you'd probably either want to a) let yourself be known, or b) not. Perhaps such interstellar hillbilly peekaboo is some sort of brilliantly complicated plan that serves the higherly intelligent ones in ways we could never imagine. Perhaps this would account for the popularity of such things as mechanical bulls and Reagan.
But a visit from otherworldly beings -- even ones drawn to double-wides -- might provide us with a welcome (if not necessary) dose of humility:
"Y'all from outer space?! No way!! Us too!!"
As "Earth's Exclusive Registry for Martian Property Claims," the Martian Consulate, LLC (http://martianconsulate.com/home.phtml) sells 11-by-14-inch certificates that it claims entitle the owner to one square mile of "real estate" on Mars. For $30 (two for $47, three for $60) plus shipping and handling, you'll receive not only a certificate "personally signed by the Martian Consulate Registrar" but your name and plot location entered in the Martian Consulate's Official Deed Registry, currently locked up in Geneva. (They also sell T-shirts and coffee mugs.) Wonder what makes the Martian Consulate, LLC , unique? "As of the present, there is nowhere to go to stake a claim for property on Mars and have that claim be legally binding. What makes the Martian Consulate, LLC, unique is that we are organized to wait however long it takes."
When we finished our Space Food Sticks, we grew thirsty for Tang. And when we awoke, we opened our Quisp, the '70s breakfast cereal that's better than Quake. Quisp is once again available in Chicago, Milwaukee and upstate New York. While Quisp is made out of essentially the same half-baked grain ecto-goo that went into Quake (and Freakies and Cap'n Crunch and so on), Quisp tasted better, because while you ate it you looked at the big, bright portrait of Quisp on the box. A complete, 2.5Mb Quisp Cereal TV commercial (www.rt66.com/dthomas/70s/video/quisp.avi) might better explain.
If you've been watching tubes or LCDs of any kind in the last few weeks, you've heard about the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at Home (http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/), the biggest distributive computation project in history. As we go to press, about 350,000 computer-abusing freaks such as myself have begun running the Mac, UNIX and even Windows extraterrestrial-detection software (available free at the above URL). Running as a screen saver or background application, the client software downloads a 350Kb chunk of data from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, analyzes it for spaciness/funkiness and uploads it to SETI@home for double-checking. SETI@home then downloads another chunk, and the fun begins all over again. Great for keeping your computer busy while you're out buying guns.
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