March 7, 2007

TED2007, Day 0.

On the flight down I saw NY Mac guy and his wife Lucy Liu during my layover at the San Fran airport, waiting for the puddlehopper to Monterey, jack. I never get tired of that joke.

I can now reveal Lucy's real identity, because she's in Vogue this month, and damn that's pretty cool. Since last TED she started a brownie business and, from my vantage point, it seems to be doing pretty well. Again, from nothing to Vogue in one year. Besides being really amazing brownies (and I don't usually eat sweets -- I find them cloying), with just the right combination of fudginess and cakiness (these are actual industry terms I just made up), she independently hit on the clever idea of having the actual brownies be really tiny, so you could eat one without getting a billion-zillion calories.

The funny part was her entire carry-on appeared to be filled with brownies, like some kind of crazy person, who understands people might have luggage but doesn't understand what normal people do with it. So, at the airport, she was all, "try a brownie!" and I'm thinking, sure, when I get back to Seattle maybe you can send... oh you have a suitcase full of them. That is a perfectly rational thing. For example, my suitcase is entirely full of software.

No, not really, it's mostly underwear. I don't know why, but underwear is the most massive thing in my suitcase. This is just a comment on my packing, really, not my package. I seriously thought, "Boy, I hope I don't open this in front of people, because pretty much it's gonna look like I'm an underwear gnome."

Look, I like to feel fresh, ok? Stop hassling me.

Anyways, Mari (it can be revealed as her real name) had a suitcase full of brownies, which suddenly seemed incredibly clever to me, because if you're going to a party what better way to be the most popular person than to bring a hojillion bite-sized treats?

Apparently going through security was interesting, because Mari had placed the stacks and stacks of brownies in a matrix and wrapped the whole thing in layers of plastic wrap, and this sort of configuration of confection and cling wrap looks exactly like a bunch of C4. But after she calmly explained to the TSA lady that it was just brownies, they swabbed her bag and let her through. (I feel like there's an Arrested Development joke in here somewhere, but I'm too tired to go for it.)

Now, I'd like to point out that for some fucking reason the TSA makes us place all our cosmetics (no more than 3 oz, otherwise lip gloss can kill!) inside of a single ziploc baggy or throw them out, because, you know, of all the times planes have been taken down by terrorists wearing too damn much mascara and lip-liner, but if you go through with an entire suitcase full of what appears to be one of the most explosive substances civilians could reasonably get ahold of, THEN they just swab the outside of your damn suitcase and you're done. It's like the famous Ernie and Burt sketch where Ernie has a banana in his ear to keep away alligators: they can't use the swab test to detect explosives in cosmetics, because the swab test has never worked before detecting explosives in cosmetics, because NOBODY ACTUALLY PUTS FUCKING EXPLOSIVES IN THEIR COSMETICS. WE ARE NOT LIVING IN A STATE OF SIEGE. WE JUST INVENTED IT.

The real explanation must be 9/11 9/11 9/11, like the answer to most crap these days.


I decided that the only fair way for Mari to give out her brownies was for us to sidle up to people at the conference and say, conspiratorially, "Psst... Mari has brownies. Today's password is Maverick. Pass it on." And then, those who approach her each day with the correct password get a brownie, subject, of course, to her daily limit of a third of a hojillion, because her luggage is finite. (Note to people at TED: today's password really is Maverick.)

The problem with this idea, I realize in the cold, headachy light of the morning after drinking too damn many Grey Goose (an official sponsor of Not Learning Anything At TED) cocktails, is that this is going to be like the world's largest game of "telephone," and eventually it's going to get back to me when someone sidles up and whispers, "Mary is frowny today, the last word is cadaver, bless zion."

And I'm going to be all, "Gimme the blue pill. Seriously. Blue one. Don't fuck around."


At the hotel Meg Ryan and Daphne Zuniga were checking in together. Both were at TED last year, but I hadn't spoken to Meg because she seemed like she didn't want to be bothered, and, you know, I don't want to be That Guy. She was again In Disguise today, meaning she was wearing dark John Lennon glasses, which I thought was funny, because it's like, "Hey, who's that blonde everyone is staring at in the Lennon glasses? I can't quite make out... if only I could see her eyes... there's nothing distinctive about her face or hair or body to indicate it's Meg Fucking Ryan, America's Sweetheart... Hmm, oh well, probably nobody, move along."

Anyways, I did briefly walk up to Daphne and try to continue my joke from last year: I was all, "Hey, Ione Skye! I'm so glad you came back!"

Seriously, her response could not have been any more polite and/or flattening: "Oh, I'm so sorry, I don't remember you... did you make that joke last year?"

I was all, uh, kind of, I mean, uh, I have to go now bye.


Teach me to be a smart-ass.


It probably won't help my reputation as an alcoholic to admit that last night, after not eating much all day, I went to the "TED Virgins" party (sponsored by Gray Goose!) and had too many gray geese concoctions (DAMN YOU GEESES... TO PIECES!) and got seriously LOUD. No, I know, you're shocked, but I did.

Normally the wall-flower, I think I started yelling at the new attendees about matters sexual. I might have tried to take my shirt off. Then, Matt Groening showed up.

Ok, look, this next part, I'm not going to try to make into a story, because I just have to write it down as quickly as I can: Matt remembered me from last year ("the guy who was yelling about killing the dog in Futurama!") and it turns out he'd Googled himself after TED and read my blog. And he was all, "hey, your blog is really funny."

Now, I'd like to repeat this, MATT FUCKING Groening THOUGHT MY BLOG WAS FUNNY! The Simpsons guy! The Futurama guy! The funniest man who ever lived, or ever will live, and I'm not just saying this in case he googles his name again and comes across this blog again and is reading it right now so I can totally suck up to him. I'm better than that. I'm ashamed of you for even thinking it. (But if you are reading, Matt Groening, I'd like a pony. Matt Groening Matt Groening Matt Groening c'mon Google give me some love.)

I'd love to sit here and tell you that I finally had a rational, sober conversation with Matt, but, again, by the time he showed up I'd been goosed to the point of incoherence. I don't actually remember a lot, except damn Matt's a handsome, handsome man, with great taste in blogs. I'm really hoping I didn't start screaming jokes about butt-sex, as I'm wont to do when sloshed.

For months I've been thinking, "Oh, man, next time I see Matt I'm going to ask him all these really insightful questions about his career and life, and he's going to be so impressed with how clever they are that we're going to be best buds forever." I honestly couldn't remember one question last night, and, to make things worse, now I can't remember what I *did* say. I'm pretty sure I asked, "Is your girlfriend totally hot," which, you know, wasn't one of the planned ones. Oh, and I asked him if he'd adopt me. I remember that now. I'm not really sure where I was going with that. I like to play the long-shots, I guess.

When talking to Matt I remembered I had an extra, secret Mari brownie stashed in my pocket, and, you know, it seemed totally natural to give it to him. I mean, you know, he's Matt Groening. Of course he wants a brownie that's been in my pocket for a couple hours. It naturally follows. Matt... brownie... pocket... Ok, it made perfect sense.

Matt's response was, seriously, like a moment from his TV show. I handed him the brownie and he was all, totally deadpan, "Wow... thanks... warm pocket brownie... that's exactly what I needed."


Mmmm, pocket brownie.


Matt told several funny stories in between my shouting sessions -- he is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a natural story-teller. One was about his family, so I don't think it's fair game to repeat in its entirety, but it had the hilarious punch-line "Well, did Seth McFarlane buy you an X-box?" No, seriously, this killed.

Seriously, though, Matt had to shush me several times to get his stories out. This is how drunk I was: I was talking over Matt Groening. He's like, "Oh, I have a funny story about--" and I'm all, "FUNNY! YOU WANT TO HEAR FUNNY! HAH! LET ME TELL YOU A STOR..."

We did talk a bit about him working for Fox, and the difference in their politics (eg, kooky-loony-nuts-ann-coulter-frothing-mouth-crazy) from his (eg, sane). Matt is an incredibly open guy, and he said he'd shopped cartoons around to other networks around the time The Simpsons came out, and none of them would touch his stuff. (Note to network executives: GOOD MOVE, GENIUSES! WOW, YOU SURE CALLED THAT ONE CORRECTLY!)


After the beach party, several of us stumbled to the "Pig and Whistle and Crown and Anchor and Steamboat and Shanty and Sea Captain" or whatever the local pub is called. It's some damn Olde Tymey name.

Drinking is a particularly dangerous folly because it enforces itself in a positive feedback loop -- once drunk you lose the ability to say, "Hey, I'm already drunk and yelling at famous people, maybe I should now STOP drinking." So, going to a pub seemed like the natural thing to do at midnight the night before a conference we'd all paid a ton of money to attend. What could possibly go wrong?

Matt excused himself with calling his kids (diligent father AND good way to get out of being stupid!), so a group of people who I fuzzily remember now as "that guy who had the car bomb with me" and "the guy who looked like that jewish actor from LA Law" and "some guy with a face" went in alone. Except, at TED, you're never alone -- we soon ran into the guy who invented YouTube. No, serious, there's a guy. He's, like, young and shit. Handsome, well-dressed, well-spoken (when he gets a chance to talk in between being yelled at). I actually pulled his sportcoat out to look at the label, even. This did not, at the time, seem like a massive invasion of the man's personal space. (I'm pretty sure I refrained from checking what kind of underwear he was wearing, under there.)

I was kind of dumbstruck that here's this guy, who's the damn CEO, and he invented the whole damn thing. Youtube. And here's the guy who coded it, sitting to his right. AND THEY ARE BOTH FUCKING YOUNGER THAN ME. Not that I'm a bitter about that. I don't know why I typed in all caps there, really. I think my, uh, shift key thingy got sticky. It's an old keyboard.


So Jehane walks into the bar... no, this isn't the beginning of a joke. (If it were, the bartender would ask her, "Why the long face?" and she'd say, "Sorry, I've been talking all day and I'm a little horse." And he'd be like, "An Egyptian? Horse? What are you, The Black Stallion?" And the Jehane would be all, "Nay, nay.")

No, she really did walk in. As you may recall from last year, she's my putative fiancé. I know I use the word putative too much, but there aren't many other words to describe our engagement. Possibly, "nominal fiancé" is accurate.

So I was all, "Darling! You came!" or something. Honestly, at this point I was really blitzed, and I have no idea what I yelled. Again, I'm hoping it wasn't about butt-sex. I really have to reign that in.

She sat down and asked me to buy her a drink that's a relative of the mojito but not exactly the same that I'd happened to just learn about two days ago (kismet!) but now I've forgotten its name again. It's like a "cosmipo" or some damn thing. Anyways, the bartender had no idea, so I fell back on mojito. I thought I'd impress Jehane with my mad rum-picking skillz, so I ran through a list of rums that were good enough for my betrothed, only some of which were made up ("Pyrat? Don Chevez? Ron Mapplethorpe? Guy Cesar?"), but he was like, "Look, we have Bacardi."

Alas. But I realized if I were to stand any chance in my continued wooing, Jehane needed to be a lot drunker, quickly. Because drunk people are Not Funny to sober people, just as high people are Not Funny to drunk people or sober people. It's a mathematical invariant, which can be expressed using the special "not funny" operator I just made up:

high !:P drunk !:P sober

Jehane and I moved from the bar to go talk to the Youtube guys, and since they may no have been apprised of our engagement, I took the opportunity to loudly re-tell the story, partly for the benefit of Jehane, because, you know, when she agreed it was really late and she was really drunk.

I pointed out to all and sundry that her "Sure, why not" is legally binding and that, were I a litigious man, I could use the courts to force her to go through with it. Everyone agreed this was a sane and rational position, and not the babblings of a possibly dangerous crazy person. This became a meme in the conversation, which I think may end up being a clever new strategy: I convince every guy in the world that Jehane really is engaged to me, and thus they'll all stay away from her, and she's pretty much left with no alternative but me, since I'm the only guy left.

I see no way in which this plan could fail. Triumph Napolean!


Honestly, though, it was the first time I'd really gotten to sit down and just talk to her, and I'm disappointed to say that she's every bit as charming and witty as I'd initially feared. Seriously, smitten, people. Ok. there, I admitted it. I know I've been dancing around the issue, and you've all been wondering, "Well, what does Wil REALLY think of this gal?" Now you know. (Next week on my blog: I reveal my secret feelings about George Bush!)

Seriously, I got to talk to her about what motivated her to make films, which was really neat. It's fun to crush on someone really brilliant. You get to stare at her AND talk to her! And drink! It's the tri-fecta!

I won't repeat our whole conversation, largely because I don't remember much and am even slightly worried that it was entirely hallucinated, but I do have a couple snippets: one was me telling her that I knew she had a busy life, and I didn't want our marriage to destroy that in her what made me admire her, and thus I'd resigned myself to seeing her only a couple months of the year, but that a couple months with her would be better than a lifetime with any other.

What, you think I was laying it on a little thick? Hey, look pal, I was drunk and I've got three nights to convince this gal I'm the greatest man in the world before she flies back to New York, ok? Let's see you do better after two mojitos not made with the good kind of rum. And a shot of Macallan 21-year. And a car bomb. And a flock of geese. And a brownie. Oh my god my head hurts.

A photographer of some note was there; he'd already photographed the wedding of another TED speaker this year, and he offered to do our wedding if I paid expenses. Damn! I've already lined up a photographer! I'd like the record to show that I am ACTIVE in the planning of this thing. I'm not just leaving it all to her, like that loutish guy on The Office. It's a partnership, dammit.


Jehane mentioned again that her dad read my blog after the last TED and really enjoyed being mentioned. So, hello again to you, future dad (I hope I can call you that), and may I again compliment you on your daughter-making abilities.

Seriously, patent that shit. Bottle it up and sell it. America needs you.

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