Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Whoa, Man!

"The stories are like drugs for children, you know? It's like, 'Whoa, man.'" --Tim Burton on his next project, Alice in Wonderland

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sometimes, Dumb Things are Endearing

Just a little over a year ago, I was in London, during the annual "Poppy Appeal." For any non-British people reading this, the Poppy Appeal is the fund-raising campaign for veterans, and, all over the country, vendors sell paper poppies for the nation's collective lapel. Every year, there's a big deal in the media over the white poppies, which are the pacifist version, and the traditional red poppies, with the spokespeople for the latter maintaining that there is no connotation of being pro-war in a red poppy. Oh well, it gives the pacifists something to argue about.

At the train station as I left for Gatwick airport, I spent the last of my cash buying a poppy. Five pounds, now that I think of it, which is a lot for a paper flower -- they should have given me an entire lei for that price. So, considering that my sizable donation ought to roll over, I wore it again this year, and, of course, no Americans know what it means.

As I stood in line at the cash register at Trader Joe's, I heard the cashier say, "I like your bustier." I'm always eager to see lingerie worn in public, so I looked around, but it became apparent that she was addressing me. I gave her a puzzled look, and then suddenly twigged that she meant my "boutonniere."

To her credit, when I laughed and explained it to her, she laughed too.

Friday, May 04, 2007

No Smoking

There is no smoking at Portland bus shelters. "The no-smoking rule," says a TriMet press release, "is enforceable by a warning, $94 fine and/or exclusion."

This is a picture of a Portland bus driver, smoking at a Portland bus shelter.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I used to volunteer at a local arts co-op, where I worked one shift a week. There was another staffer there who often came in to use one of the the computers. Over the years, he had carved a wee niche for himself making posters for local bicycle events, so he was always around, scanning his ink drawings, cleaning them up and colorizing them in Photoshop.

The thing about him was, he was easily distracted. The tiny drama which played out three or four times an evening went something like this. I would get an email from a friend with a link to a video; I would follow the link; the video would begin playing; and the bike posterer would ask "What is that?" I would reply, "I don't know yet; it's a link someone sent me..." Then he would ask, "What is that duck doing with that harmonica?" (or whatever), and by now, the video is about a third of the way through, and I haven't watched any of it, so I obviously can't tell him what it's all about, so I would pause it, and explain that I can't possibly know what it is until after I've seen it. Three or four times an evening.

So. Months of this go by, and then, one night, he and I are both there after hours. The co-op is closed, and I'm going to enjoy listening to the current episode of the new series of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I know that if I don't give him a long, elaborate explanation of the whole thing in advance, he is certain to interrupt. This is a half-hour long episode, played in RealAudio on a Mac, there's a good chance that he'll interrupt, say, ten minutes in, and the only way for me to listen to the whole thing will be to start over from the beginning.

So I say:

"Hey, I'm going to listen to Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, and it's a new production on the BBC with the original actors from the original series..." And I really lay it on. I tell him everything he could possibly ask. At the end of this long spiel, I say, "...and it's a half hour long, and I'd like to listen to the whole thing all the way through without any interruptions, so if you have any questions about it, ask me right now, not while I'm listening, please."

He gets a bit huffy at this, but agrees.

So I'm listening away, and I'm really into it, because I'm a geek. The story builds to its climax, I'm seeing it all in my mind's eye, and it's quite good, and I hear a odd sound:

"Psst! Psst! Dan! Hey, Dan!"

Who could that be? We're closed, it's after hours, the only people here are me and... oh yeah, him. Didn't I tell him not to interrupt? I wave him away impatiently, keeping my attention on the radio. Again comes the sound.

"Psst! PSST!"

I look at the timer on the RealPlayer -- two minutes left!


"WHAT?" I shout at him.

He replies, still whispering, "I'm going over to the store to get something to eat; do you want anything?"


"Well, you told me not to disturb you..."

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Overheard in a coffee house:

"Oh boy, if I had a million dollars for every time he said that..."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Two dumb things.

At the neighborhood Trader Joe's, I saw a guy kind of gliding along down the aisle. When I looked more closely, I saw that he was riding his skateboard. Indoors. In a grocery store. He had that blank look indicating that perhaps the thought had never occured to him that nobody rides skateboards in grocery stores. He wasn't some rebel who realized that he was doing something wrong and didn't care -- which you could almost respect. He was just a thoughtless schmuck. Occasionally, he would step off his skateboard and wander away from it, just leaving it in the aisle as he stared, slack-jawed with his teeth in his mouth, at the frozen foods.

So, fortified with what I though was my daily dose of stupidity, I went on my merry way.

An hour or so later, as I crossed Burnside at NW 23rd, I saw a skateboarder who made the first guy look like a complete brainiac. My new hero came zipping down the hill in the left hand lane! He swerved there from the right hand lane to avoid a stopping bus! Oh, it gets better. He reached the intersection, and he rode through it swerving over into the oncoming lanes and then the sidewalk!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Nothing Works in England

I'm in London for a speaking engagement, and I had some free time last week. I went to the Victoria & Albert museum. British museums are really warm and stuffy, so I asked a guard in the plaster casts gallery if there was a drinking fountain. "I'm sorry, sir," he said, in a tone that sounded slightly like Marvin the Android, "We did have, but it's out of order."

Okay, that's not so much dumb as it is a roundabout way of saying, "Sucks to you!"
However, the next incident has the double whammy of being both inconvenient and dumb.

For some reason, the WiFi card in my laptop stops working at the venue where I'm speaking, so I ask one of the event organizers if I might use an office computer to log onto my email and maybe have a brief online chat with my girlfriend back home. "Um, okay, yeah, sure, yeah, come with me, you can use the computer at my desk. Okay? Yeah." So up we go, up three flights of stairs and through the security doors with swipecards, up to her desk... All the way up there, I'm making small talk about how I miss my girlfriend, and boy, won't it be nice to get some email from her, and thanks for letting me use your computer to check my email and won't an online chat be great to keep the old home fires burning, and she absently replies, "Yeah, no problem, no, yeah, uh-huh..." So I sit down and attempt to log on to my web-based email, and it doesn't work. Now this organizer is a real hustle-and-bustle gal, always on the go, so she's speeding towards the the door by now, and I shout, "Hey, it's not letting me log on." She shouts back, "Oh, well, it wouldn't do, would it? We have a firewall; you can't log onto email."