March 9, 2007

TED2007, Days 1 and 2

More stars: Forest Whitaker is here this year, as is Cameron Diaz. I haven't talked to Cameron at all, once again going on the assumption that it's probably rude to just get all up in her face just because she's famous when I really don't have anything particular to say to her except, "Gorsh, you sure be pretty."

I've seen her around a bit, but all I know is that she's pretty nice looking in person. I haven't even been close enough to hear her voice. Today she was crossing the street wearing Ugg boots and I thought I'd grab a picture, but the sun was really bright and I couldn't really see so this is what I got. Sorry if it's a bit of a disappointment.


I did walk by Forest as some guy called out, "Hey, congrats on the Oscar," (to him, not me) which I guess he's getting a lot of this week. He seems like a really, sincerely nice guy -- I mean, sure, he's an actor, so maybe he's just really good at faking it, but it seemed like he was actually touched.

I asked him, "Hey, does anyone every say NOT congrats on the Oscar? You know, like, 'Damn, you really didn't deserve that.'" Forest actually thought about it, and his face furrowed up in a way that you can probably kind of see in your head if you've watched his movies. "No, but that would really suck, huh?"

Some friends and I were later talking about Forest's Oscar, and we agreed we were pretty happy about it because he's actually an actor, not a caricature. We're not paying to see Forest The Legend get up on screen and be himself, we're paying because we know that he's going to actually be the character he plays. Frankly, I'm sick of Cruise and Schwarzenegger showing up and smiling and being smarmy and calling it a day.


I should mention at this point I am actually kidding about being engaged to Jehane. I know humor isn't always clear in blogs-- I really do understand we're not really engaged, ok? She seems like a nice gal and everything, and it's fun to flirt, of course. But please don't worry about me having totally lost touch with reality. I mean, not in that one specific way. Other ways, sure.


When you get to TED you get a couple gift bags -- this year it's a shopping bag full of loot plus a bright red suitcase full of more loot. Plus, you get to keep the suitcase, which seems like a deleted scene from Austin Powers. ("It's a really nice suitcase." "That's not the point, the point is might not have wanted to spend the money on a suitcase...")

One of the coolest things we got this year was a copy of Aperture, which would be awesome except I just bought it, so I feel stupid. I was sitting at the bar tonight with Richard Kerris (now from Apple, once from Maya, and a really good guy) and, in my fashion, I started yelling really loudly, "DAMN YOU FOR GIVING THIS AWAY JUST AFTER I BOUGHT IT!" Completely deadpan, Richard didn't even pause before he shrugged ever-so-slightly and said, "mehyoucanaffordit," like it was all one word, which everyone thought was pretty awesome. I mean, companies need employees who tell it like it is.

I've gotten extra bonus swag just by talking to other TEDsters. I met a guy from Netflix and told him I owned stock and loved them and wanted him to destroy Blockbuster, and he basically confirmed my basic faith in his company. He was really nice and said he'd send me a free one-year subscription when I got home. Sweet.

I also met a man who is a VP at Chik-Fil-A, which is a chicken sandwich chain (mostly in the Southeast) which makes the best chicken sandwiches ever. I told him how I grew up in Georgia loving those sandwiches to death, but I couldn't get them in Seattle, and twice I'd actually had friends who were traveling bring me back five or six of sandwiches in their suitcases.

He was really happy to hear this, and he said, "You know what I'm going to do for you?..." and pulled a little card out of his pocket, good for one free sandwich. "Now, if you're ever in a state where they have a Chik-Fil-A, you can get a free one. Note that there's an expiration date, but you can just ignore that and point out my name, and they'll honor it."

Sure enough, it actually had the name of the VP on the little free sandwich card. For some reason this struck me as really, really strange.

I contemplated for a moment the economics of taking a plane trip to a state where they have Chik-Fil-As in order to cash in on a single free sandwich, and then further the idea of telling the employees, "Look, I know this has expired, but I've flown across the fucking country and check it: this is signed by a damn V.P."

But, honestly, he was being really sincere and I accepted his offer graciously, in the spirit in which it was given. Also, I seriously fucking love those sandwiches.


I met a dude here who's got some gorgeous sculptures on display, and we've been drinking together the past two nights, bonding over how nuts we both are. He's got me somewhat beat in the first part of his life, having A.D.D. so bad he dropped out of high school to become a ne'er-do-well before he discovered prescription drugs at the same age I did. Now he works as a 3D animator for movie trailers (seriously!) and welds sculptures at night. His work is moving and incredible -- frankly, I'm considering buying one of the pieces here at TED.

Last night he and I were at the "Crown & Anchor" (WTF does that name even mean? What has both a crown and an anchor? Am I on the king of all boats? Or some floating sovereign?) where all the TEDsters go after the parties, and across the bar I saw Matt Groening again.

I said to my new friend, "Hey, there's Matt, I should go do some starfucking!" He was curious about Matt, too, and honestly asked, with wide-eyed sincerity, "Is it cool if I starfuck too?"

I'm a magnanimous man: "Of course! Starfucking is for everyone!" (Note: I don't actually know if it is, but it sounded good.)

I ran across the pub in slow motion with my arms open yelling "Matt! Matt!" like that guy in Wuthering Heights. Sadly, pretty much nobody saw this, so I felt like a giant idiot after doing it.

Matt was surrounded by what can only be described as a bevy of bodacious babes. I'd like to take this opportunity to state, clearly and for the record, and especially for his girlfriend who apparently sometimes does searches for his name: Matt did nothing with these admirers that would give any rational partner cause for jealousy. (Also, if you are reading: Hi, Matt's a really nice guy, hope you like my little blog, please realize I'm going for humor here.)

One of the girls was actually the bartender from a previous party, but she had recognized Matt and apparently asked to come along. The other I think had already been in the pub when he got there, and had glommed on to him in the way that some people (-cough-) do. Today at TED Matt told me that he had been hoping I would come into the bar last night, so he could show off his little mini-posse and pretend that he really rolls that way when in fact, I guess, he doesn't. Well, not EVERY night.

Now, here's the thing about Matt: he's so nice to everyone around him that I honestly have no idea if he was just messing with me or not. I mean, maybe he was just saying that because he thought it'd make me feel special, and he's the kind of guy who likes to make people feel special? I'm not sure.

So, let me shift gears to seriousness for a second, because I noticed something interesting. All night he was surrounded by people who simply loved him and his work. And he constantly shifted the attention back on them. And it wasn't just because he was shy: he actually paid attention to the people around him. Someone would start talking about how great he is, and he'd say, "Hey, so this is Anita, and she's speaking tomorrow... I want to hear about that..." and he'd really listen to her. He knew the names and professions of every person around him, all night, and he'd introduce everyone to everyone else as if he were hosting a little pub-based dinner party. "Wil, I want you to meet Sally, she's a student here in town..."

And, unlike my assumptions of how famous people act, Matt doesn't prefer to be around other famous people. The whole conference I've seen him pretty much hanging out in the common areas and talking to people from every walk of life. He's doesn't seem to need to feed his ego by talking to other people of high status. He just wants people around him to be happy, whoever they are.

In light of how cool this is, I guess my starfucking seems, well, kind of shallow. But let me offer this defense: I don't talk to Matt because I want people to see me with him. If I were trying for that crap, I'd be following around Cameron Diaz, anyways.

I talk to him because I used to read his comics when I was a kid, and they spoke to something deep inside me ("at night, the ice weasels come"), and then I watched The Simpsons on the Tracy Ullman show, and then on Fox, and then I watched Futurama, and I loved them all and they made me laugh and they challenged society and they sometimes really touched me as well.

And I just really, really want to get to know this person who can do this. I am just intensely curious about someone who can touch not only me, but every single person I know. Who can do that? What kind of man is this?

So there.


Yesterday I said hi to Peter Gabriel again briefly and told him that Delicious Library 2 was in the swag bag, and I hoped he'd enjoy it. He introduced me to his unbearably lovely wife, who was so pretty she made my toes ache. I knew he was shy and didn't want to hassle him so I was all, "Well, anyways, now you've saved $60 in upgrade fees, and I know that's probably pretty damn important to someone in your position."


Part 2: In Which I Show Meg Ryan What A Really Big Penis Looks Like


Tonight a group of us were watching the TED prize winners in the simulcast lounge, including Matt and one of his genius writers (I don't know if he wants his name used or not) and his writer girlfriend. Interestingly, I met her first -- it turns out she worked on Arrested Development, the Best Show Ever.

Someone commented, "Wow, you guys must have some AWESOMELY funny pillow talk," but, you know, lives are never as glamorous as we imagine. She said, "Honestly, most nights we're so exhausted it's just like, 'Your turn to go take care of the fussy baby.'"

Ha ha! And the larfs don't stop!

An odd thing is I kept seeing the writer (before I knew who he was) around TED, and he looks so much like a younger, taller version of Matt that I'd think it WAS Matt for a split second. I've never seen anyone with Matt's haircut, so the idea that two people in the same office have that haircut was mind-boggling. Maybe it's an LA thing?

I asked Matt if he or the writer was funnier, just to see if I could stir up trouble, but he basically just kind of growled at me to not be bad, the way the dad lion gently swats his cubs when they try to bite his ears too many times. I guess I'd forgotten he has a 14-year-old -- I'm seriously outgunned in the goat-getting department.

While we were watching Meg Ryan came in to our little area, and she wasn't wearing her glasses, which I guess was her signal that she was in the mood to be more social. She smiled nicely at us as she sat down. I wasn't sure if she was just saying hi to Matt (the famous one) or all of us, and since I'd already twice today done that thing where someone smiles at me and I smile back really big and then realize they are totally looking at someone behind me and I feel like a total asshat, I didn't really smile at her, but tried to, you know, keep my eyes bright.

She's really pretty close up -- very slender and small. Our group (Matt and the two comedy writes and a couple of drinking buds) were all joking around a bit, especially after a waiter came by with some champagne, and although Meg and her friend were sitting a bit apart from us she kept looking over and laughing with us.

When there was a pause in the on-screen action, Meg and Matt talked and Matt announced she had a part in an upcoming show, and Meg said excitedly she has room to come back, too. This brought our two groups together, and we all started making jokes. At one point someone made a reference to an amazing picture we'd all seen that afternoon, of a whale mating ritual, which featured an ENORMOUS RED WHALE PENIS. So I rolled my sleeve up and held my arm up high with a fist at the end, imitating almost exactly what we had seen jutting out of the water earlier, except less red and slightly less filled with sperm (although I admit it's been a little while).

Somehow the topic of conversation turned to my butt, as it always does, and I mentioned how rock-hard my butt is to all and sundry. I asked my welder-artist cohort loudly if he had, indeed, touched my butt the night before when I'd been showing it off, and he denied it. Those new to my butt expressed disbelief that I would brag thusly, but I expounded on it with such force that they were eventually converted: my butt is a force to be reckoned with; forged of the strongest steel. I don't remember the exact words, but I remember looking Meg in the eye and saying with an almost straight face, "Look, I know it seems weird to tell people to feel my butt. But it's not squishy like you might think. It's just like touching a stone."

Then she demonstrated some game to Matt called "Magic Touch" whose rules I did not catch (apparently it involved walking by someone and bumping elbows?), and said the group should play it later. But then she lamented, "I'm probably going to end up touching Wil's ass."

I feel like that would be a fine thing for my tombstone. Although, by that time I guess it will have happened or not.

I told other jokes, as well; I don't remember what. Maybe some were actually funny. Finally Meg rolled her chair over next to mine and asked to see my badge, "Are you a comedian or what?" I told her I was just a software developer, but I was actually thinking of doing a little stand-up as a hobby. She said I should, since I had a certain presence.


No, I'm not serious, I love Tom Hanks and I know she was just being nice. But, still, that was a really flattering compliment from a very charismatic lady. And you know what? I'm going to go ahead and feel good about it. Yah, that's right, I'm going to sit here enjoying it. I'm going to roll my ego in it and let it soak into all the places with the little dings and scratches from 37 years of occasional rejections or insults or slights.

First the funniest man in the world says I'm funny, then America's sweetheart says I have presence. Who knew stars were so full of compliments? At this point I really wouldn't be shocked if I met Carrie Fisher and she was all, "You know what? Actually YOU are my only hope."

Anyways, Meg and I talked seriously for a little while about life and stuff; I spoke about my big breakup and putting myself back together afterwards -- it would be an invasion to repeat her part of the conversation, but I was really struck by two things: One was that she kept turning the spotlight back to me, and I kept feeling incredibly embarrassed to be telling Meg Ryan stupid stories from my life, but she kept asking questions about me every time I'd turn it around.

The other was that she was, in fact, a real human being, who had the same dreams and fears and insecurities that we all do. Because we are all really pretty much the same. There is just so much more that we have in common than we have that is different. I keep re-learning this.


Remember this, if you ever meet me. I'm afraid of you. I'm afraid I won't live up to your expectations, I'm afraid you'll think I'm ugly, I'm afraid I'll look like a nerd or do something inappropriate and you'll disapprove of me. If I act aloof it's because I don't have the inner strength to risk being rejected that day, not because I don't care about you as a human being.

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Anonymous Sharon said...

You are hilariously funny- and very lucky (Going to Ted, making celebrities laugh and feel your ass)

. Did you tell Meg about your blog? It's pretty close to stand-up comedy!

If your looking to unload your Aperture copy (or extra little brownies...), I'm sure I could find a good home for it ;)

March 09, 2007 4:57 AM

Anonymous Alyn said...

So today's entry was the one of the few times I've ever read a blog entry outloud to my wife (a huge accolade) because she was wondering why I was laughing out loud so early in the morning.

Thanks for updating the blog - we appreciate the time it takes. I'm loving being at TED (albiet vicariously via your posts). And your last paragraph was a nice end to a great post.

March 09, 2007 5:08 AM

Blogger rob said...

I think a name like "Crown & Anchor" comes from an era of low literacy. Even if you couldn't read, you could identify the pub that had a sign out front depicting a crown and an anchor.

March 09, 2007 5:49 AM

Anonymous Enzo90910 said...

Seems I should take 4 days off at the same time as Wil, just to follow his adventures. Your TED tales are really funny, Wil, keep them coming and thanks a lot.

March 09, 2007 6:13 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Wil:

While I differ from you politics I fully appreciate you as a person and think you are a truly intelligent, funny and talented individual. I love your TED adventures. I will also gladly take that extra copy of Aperature off your hands.

Your last paragraph brought me to tears because it describes what I feel is my situtation in life (and probably more people than we realize). Thanks for articulating something complex so clearly and simply.

I will gladly put up with your political rants to get the occassional nugget of wisdom, humor and clarity. Because, as you say, we all have more in common than we realize.

Thanks for both entertaining and enlightening me this morning.

March 09, 2007 6:17 AM

Anonymous Daniel Jalkut said...

This is hilarious and awesome. I love the way you're capturing the "small fish in a big pond" feeling that must be hard to contend with, running around chit-chatting with people like Matt and Meg.

More, please! You have a certain presence :)

March 09, 2007 6:39 AM

Anonymous Thomas Aylott said...

Frankly, I'd be more impressed and self conscious meeting you than I would Cameron Diaz.

March 09, 2007 6:53 AM

Anonymous Scott said...

Wil: "Crown and Anchor" is a dice game that used to be popular with folks in the British navy.

March 09, 2007 7:46 AM

Anonymous Andrew N. said...


These TED entries are incredible. Thank you for blasting through my dull days with such ferocious humor.

You're absolutely right-on about Chick Fil-A. If you haven't been in a while, make sure you try one of their shakes next time you go. Absolute best ever. I developed a three-shake-a-week habit when they were first introduced.

March 09, 2007 8:05 AM

Blogger Daniel said...


These entries are fantastic, and I find myself laughing out loud.

Keep it up!

March 09, 2007 8:32 AM

Blogger Michael said...

again. hilarious. bestest post ever.

March 09, 2007 8:54 AM

Blogger Izzard said...

I'm sure there's quite a few Wil Shipley fans who would feel just as you describe if they got to meet you.

March 09, 2007 8:56 AM

Blogger Diggory said...

Re: Crown and Anchor - I would assume that that pub name is a hang-over from English pub names. There are many 'Crown and Anchors' in England, probably due to very old pubs in harbour towns, like Chatham. The Crown refers to the Crown (i.e. the monarch) who personally used to control the military, including the Navy. (/English bore) (p.s. had to use brackets instead of angled brackets due to Blogger being a bore.) (p.p.s. boring semantic statement about American vs. UK usage of the word 'Bracket' vs. 'Parentheses' removed)

Your homework tonight is to work out why there are so many pubs in the UK are named 'The White Hart.'

March 09, 2007 9:22 AM

Anonymous Ajay said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences. You're awesome.

March 09, 2007 9:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

She was right, Wil. Anyone who can come up with a line like "Google employees are the Kobe beef of programmers" probably should do some stand-up once in a while.


March 09, 2007 9:47 AM

Blogger Chris Foresman said...

I wondered how long it would take for the conversation to turn to "Shipley's Ass".

March 09, 2007 10:31 AM

Blogger Phil said...

Forest Whitaker is great, you should see "Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai". (It's not the same as "Snow Dogs", which is why my then wife-to-be thought I was crazy a few years back for liking it). He plays the character with such subtlety and precision that the whole film just has an odd feel.

March 09, 2007 10:51 AM

Blogger vortech said...

So…having just bought it you have a receipt. And an unopened copy of the software. You may see where I'm going. Feel free to give me DL2 out of the money I have saved you.

March 09, 2007 10:53 AM

Blogger Step said...

wow. last paragraph - that was pretty awesomely transparent and honest.

March 09, 2007 11:58 AM

Blogger webby said...

Note to self: somehow get into TED 2009.
Awesome stories Wil, believe it or not I think the compliments were weren't, you actually are a funny guy. And I almost never say that to anybody.

You wanna maybe tell us about the actual, you know, stuff you've seen/heard at TED so far? I'm kind of curios if its as awesome as it sounds in that regard as well.

March 09, 2007 12:33 PM

Blogger _WTH__ma77yg said...

Fanstastically funny posts Wil, really, you keep outdooing yourself. Keep up the TED posts, I love 'em!

March 09, 2007 12:51 PM

Anonymous Marco said...

Wil, you are a courageous person. That last paragraph said it all. Chapeau.

March 09, 2007 12:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really great post. I especially enjoyed the ending. It reminds me of a quote I read a very very long time ago in Esquire I think it was. It changed the nature of dating for me and I guess it applies to everyone. The gist of it was a mother's advice to her son:

If you are at a party, go ahead and talk to the prettiest girl in the room. Chances are that she hasn't been talked to that often and her heart may flutter a little when she sees you approach. She may ask herself what she will say or wonder what you will say. But the last thing on her mind will be "I am too pretty for this boy".

We all have insecurities. The best way to get around them is to make every effort to ease the insecurities of everyone around us. Make them feel important and listen to them! Sounds like the people you're meeting have a real knack for it.

March 09, 2007 1:33 PM

Blogger Rusty said...

Did you just mention that Delicious Library 2 is floating out in the wild? What is wrong with you? Where is the love?

March 09, 2007 1:57 PM

Blogger Jack said...

Wil, you rock. :D

In a few years' time, there will be blog readers at TED gushing over you. They will be all like, "Wow Wil turned out to be this totally genuine and modest guy apart from the fact that he really likes his butt."

March 09, 2007 3:24 PM

Anonymous Darrell Brogdon said...

I'm a GA boy myself transplanted to Denver. Luckily we have Chik-Fil-A's here. Unluckily we don't have Krystals so I feel your pain.

So Wil, if ever you want to put that free-meal coupon to use just let me know. You can get your fix and I will pretend they are the worlds smallest square morsels of goodness.

March 09, 2007 3:33 PM

Blogger Devon said...

You know, this comment is going to be ridiculously inadequate for the quality reading I've just had, but Chick-Fil-A is the greatest fast food joint on the planet. Also being a Seattle native, I didn't learn of it until I traveled to North Carolina to work on music with friends. It was 11 in the morning, we hadn't slept at all, wandered aimlessly into the mall and there it was. Now living in Missouri the closest one is 30 miles away -- promting me to create a group on Facebook called "I go out of my way for Chick-Fil-A."

March 09, 2007 8:55 PM

Blogger Bryan said...

oh and i have too say i was at a party with Meg 10 years ago... unlike you I was chicken shit to go up too her... she was hot then, even hotter now....

March 09, 2007 9:25 PM

Anonymous Matt said...

Wil,thanks for the posts on TED. They are insightful and hilarious, and somehow just what I needed about now.

March 09, 2007 10:01 PM

Blogger Victoria Wang said...

I second Thomas Aylott's comment. You seem like an incredibly interesting and wonderful person. Thanks for giving us these cool stories.

March 10, 2007 5:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wil - Regarding your 'insecurity' etc. Look on the bright side - a massive inferiority complex makes you work twice as hard as everyone else, if not more, and you end up... well, where you are now. Self-employed, successful, and invited to events like TED. You are a rock star to many.

March 10, 2007 8:55 AM

Blogger Lil swimmer at heart said...

I so enjoy reading your posts! I smile and laugh everytime. Mostly, your last part - being afraid of the people you meet - well I TOTALLY understand. Thanks for the laughs! Keep them coming - PLEASE!

March 10, 2007 8:17 PM

Anonymous Jussi said...

Despite a weird almost Francophone name, Chick-fil-A sounds like a good place to please the fast food demons.

I checked their site and was reminded of the hard facts of life. Why, oh why, are the websites of most American fast food franchises so butt ugly and in need of instant redesign, both information and looks wise?

Subway, McD, JitB are the prime examples of terrible pages, Pizza Hut has aesthatically pleasing front page, but when you want to see their offerings they fall back to same category as the previous. I won't even start about the flash hell of Taco Bell.

It really should not be question of money. Are they just the Microsofts of fast food, big corporations without any taste?

March 11, 2007 10:27 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings Your Bloggyness!

Kinda sad that you won't be taking comments anymore, but I totally understand. I did notice some weirdly contentious ones - that's gotta kick the air out of your sails, to mix a metaphor.
Just know that some of us are in awe of you too, in a "Will he think my comments are dull and stupid?" kind of way, because you are hella funny and touching too. I hear those mean voices too sometimes, well, mostly ALL the time (whether it's my hostile rascist neighbors commenting on every move I make, or me sarcastically narrating my own life) and know how deflating they are, to say the least. Let me say I'm still in love with you, from way afar. If we ever meet let's not be afraid.

March 13, 2007 1:41 AM


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