Today’s Excuse For Why I’m Running Late On Everything


I’m very sorry but I have been caught up with the momentousness of ordinary days. Like, particularly: there was one day that one person chose to promote the idea that the decaffeinated coffee should be in the pot with the orange handle. And that every place, ever, that has followed that convention is ultimately following that person’s lead. Think, then, of the day that person picked orange handles. Did they have any idea that this was the day they were going to crush the idea of a green handle, or a handle with one red stripe instead, or any of the other many ways that the information could be conveyed? Did they have rivals whose hopes for alternate conventions were crushed? Did their rivals know right away that their ideas were doomed? Was the orange-handle idea promulgated at a morning or an afternoon meeting? With whom? What did that person have for breakfast?

My guess is tea.

Some Unconventional Beliefs


Here are some beliefs it is fine to have, even if you will never encounter a group of hundreds to thousands of people gathering in a hotel in some affordable hotel space on the outer edge of town for a weekend of merriment and panels and cosplay and frustrated attempts to get a group of six people together to go to the build-your-own-burrito place.

  • That if your mind insists on fusing the songs American Pie and My Brown-Eyed Girl into one massive, never-ending whole, that’s fine. Your mind is your own. You can put not just any songs but any experiences together you like. If you wish to merge Hotel California with the experience of hollering at the movie theater’s automated ticket booth because you just don’t care where you sit to watch Barton Fink reboot origin movie, that’s your right. I mean, of course, if you aren’t at your gig-economy job putting in a few hours being part of the collective massmind. But that’s a special case.
  • That it is the year 2019. By this I mean the ninth or maybe tenth year of the second decade of the current century. There is considerable evidence to suggest that we are instead in the nineteenth year, somehow, of the first decade of the current century. But consider: how is it that we still have eighties nostalgia? The 80s are now so long ago there’ve been, like, five movie Batmans since then? How can we possibly feel any warmth to a time so long ago? If we are still in the first decade of the 2000’s, then that’s just two decades in the past. It makes plausible how, say, people might have any specific warm memories of the Whammy. So let’s take that: we’re not in the year 2019 but rather in the nineteenth year of the 2000s.
  • That you just don’t have the emotional reserve to hang out with your fossa pal. That’s all right. Fossas are great, everybody agrees. They also have plenty of issues. It’s all right to let your fossa buddy march off to whatever it is they’re up to. You can recover your mental energies hanging out with a quokka or maybe a binturong. It’s not selfish to take some time not dealing with somebody else’s bizarrely complicated situation that’s somehow a fractal hyperfiasco, where every part of their fiasco is itself some deeper fiasco that’s just as impossible to deal with. Don’t feel guilty just hanging out with somebody who’s sleeping a lot and smells like popcorn.
  • All right, so the planet is a sphere. What’s so great about spheres? Maybe we just have a sphere because nobody involved in making it put any thought into the question. If we put our minds to it we could probably have a toroidal planet or maybe one that’s a great big Möbius-strip band. And it’d be fast, too. It would take, like, four days at the longest. There’s three-room apartments you couldn’t clean out for moving anywhere near that fast. Anyway nobody is saying this would solve all our problems, or any of them. It’s just an option we haven’t given serious consideration. No, we’re not doing Menger sponges. We’ve totally read the ending of The War With The Newts on Wikipedia.
  • That it would be a heck of a thing if it turned out vampires didn’t mind garlic. Like, maybe one didn’t, and everybody assumed all vampires were repelled by garlic? But it was just that guy’s preference? So what if it turns out vampires see garlic the way anybody might see, oh, Brussels sprouts? Where some just won’t eat them, and some kind of like them, and some love how it looks like they’re giants eating whole heads of lettuce in one bite? And it turns out that vampires actually have an issue with horse radish instead, which is why they only have lunch at Arby’s when it’s part of a long, serious meeting with their financial planner? Anyway you can have that belief and if need be donate that to a needy improv troupe.
  • That the messages that would be on the answering machine, if there were any, would be very interesting ones. They might even change everything, if they did happen to exist. It’s your answering machine. You can have any imaginary messages you like on it.

There are more things you can believe even if they are not commonly held. Good luck.

Who Was In Town


So there was this bit on Either The Daily Show Or The Nightly Show, I Forget Which last week. They wanted to send some correspondents to The Convention, but didn’t have more than subway fare, so they went to the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. There were some conventions going on there but they didn’t want to appear on television for odd comic purpose for whatever reason. That’s fine. But who were they? So I went to the Javits Center convention site and found what recent conventions were there (the link’s contents will mutate in time) and what an amazing mass of prose they offered:

July 17 – 20, 2016

IIA 2016 International Conference

Join us as we celebrate The Institute of Internal Auditors 75th anniversary at the 2016 International Conference. You’ll embark on an educational journey rich with insights for internal auditors at every level. Expand your network with 2,000+ peers from more than 100 countries, deepen your knowledge of internal auditing, and experience the sights and multicultural offerings of New York City as we celebrate “Internal Audit Rising …75 Years of Progress Through Sharing.”

Already I feel the sort of giddy excitement I get from being invited to a LinkedIn group with an interesting name that nobody ever posts to, ever.

Also going on was this set of marketing and menswear:

July 17 – 19, 2016

Vanguards Gallery

MRket developed this area in 2011, launching with a select group of cutting edge menswear brands. Vanguards Gallery has since grown into over 80 booths with two sub-sections: Vanguards Gallery Platinum and MOVE. Michael Macko, former men’s fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue and former fashion director of Details magazine, curates the Gallery as a stylist and menswear consultant and works closely with the brands. Vanguards Gallery is an impactful, trend-driven section of the MRket show. You won’t want to miss it!

While at the same time was ..

July 17 – 19, 2016

MRket

The exclusive show for the menswear industry – a global fashion trade show for discerning menswear brands. Representing the best in classic and contemporary clothing, sportswear, footwear, accessories and outerwear from the US and abroad. We are also very excited to be part of Modern Assembly in Las Vegas– the strategic alliance made up of AccessoriesTheShow, Agenda, Capsule, Liberty, MRket and STITCH.

I hope these rival menswear brand conventions don’t fight each other. Also I choose to believe the latter is a strategic alliance of people dressing up in blue and other-blue garb and rampaging through cities, backing up sewers, reversing street signs, stealing left shoes. That sort of thing. If they’re not I don’t want to know because what else would a strategic menswear alliance even be for? We’re grownups, people.

Me Week: How To Write Out Numbers


When I was barely old enough to understand any of the editorial page writers, I understood and loved Art Buchwald’s Thanksgiving-Explained-To-French-People essay. The love’s stayed with me. A good nonsense explanation is maybe perfectly fitted to my attitudes. I love learning things, and yet, I love seeing the form of exposition smashed and scattered about and rebuilt into gibberish. It’s a tough mode to get right. It needs to have a strong enough factual backbone that the piece has the grammar of explanations. But it also needs a strong enough whimsical and absurdist backbone to carry the reader through.

How To Write Out Numbers, from April 2014, is one of my attempts at this that I’m happy with. In it I get to blend my love of mathematics with my deep interest in copy editing and standard-setting. I know what sort of person this makes me, but maybe you’ll also like it. If you don’t, that’s all right. We still probably have some things we can talk about.

Not Explaining The Convention We Didn’t Go To


My love and I were wondering last weekend when MediaWest*Con might be. This is a small but ancient science fiction/TV/movies/et cetera convention that’s been held in Lansing for the past Like 37 years [1]. We had no idea. We only found out about it last year because a friend was going to it and asked if we wanted to meet up for dinner during a slow stretch. It turned out the convention was being held just that weekend, right as we were wondering when it might be.

We couldn’t go. They only sell 700 attending memberships and were sold out. But we found this magnificent question and answer on their web site:

3. Why do you have Apocryphal memberships and allow pets?

We found some people were buying full memberships for their stuffed critters, so we started offering Apocryphal memberships for stuffed or live critters and for alternate identities so as not to take up already limited regular memberships.

As for pets, we had started bringing our dogs to the con so we didn’t have to board them, which cleared the way for others to bring their pets, as long as they get along with the other animals and members (which goes for the humans as well!). Some people miss their pets too much, and some pets don’t do well without their people.

This is my favorite sort of explanation. It’s clear, concise, and doesn’t explain a thing. That thing: wait, there were so many people buying memberships for their stuffed dolls that it was creating resentment in the standby list? How many people was that? Surely not one, because who’d notice that? Ten? Again, nobody would notice ten people not there because toys were instead. 680? That’s more plausible. It suggests there a time in Like 1994[2], when the convention was twenty people and hundreds upon hundreds of plush dolls dressed in Star Trek, Blake’s 7, and Bruce Campbell costumes. All staring at the people who couldn’t get in. And someone declared, “there must be something we can do! And I know what it is!” And that lone person was a stuffed Vulcan-eared teddy bear dressed up like George Francisco from Alien Nation, and was the voice of reason.

Also I like how pets are allowed because hey, pets.


[1] 35 or 38 years depending on how you count some stuff.

[2] For example 1993, 1995, or possibly 1994.

I Am Too Good To Call This A Shocking Discovery


It was just something I glanced at on the highway, since I was more busy driving than looking at thing on the side. But it was a banner announcing The Battery Show 2015: The Expo For Advanced Batteries. I must admit that doesn’t sound like a thrilling convention topic. It’s got to be less photogenic than a science fiction convention is, and have fewer chances for a good rousing fight than a panel on education reform would. But I suddenly very much wanted to go.

No luck, alas. The show ran the 15th through the 17th, so I just missed a chance to “launch new products, make new contacts and maintain existing relationships” in a global battery industry-related context. And I know this sounds like some of the purest snark to be found outside people asking what the heck is wrong with the characters in the comic strip Luann. But, honest. The web site says “The Battery Show is America’s biggest free-to-attend exhibition for advanced batteries”, which has to make whoever’s in third place feel crummy. And I’d really like to have seen what takes up three days’ worth of convention space.

Well, the web site offers the Latest News, including headlines like “Thermotron Battery Chambers with Added Safety” — your choice what the verb there is! — and “Targray Announces Electrodeposited Nickel Foil For Lithium Ion…” and there’s no bad way that sentence can end. I hope I remember this for next September and get to see what Thermotron and Targray are up to by then.

And Featuring TV’s Frank As The Spirit Of Competition or Fair Play or Maybe Soccer


OK, so this is kind of a strange one, but if the dream world is any guide to go on there’s some big stuff going on. The first is soccer, which apparently is due for one of those big mega-spectacular events that makes people talk about how it’s just about to catch on in the United States, as if it were Doctor Who or health care or something. But this time it seemed to be working, as there was this enormous, sprawling hotel stuffed full of convention-goers getting into every aspect of soccer, from roleplay through cosplay through wait my spell checker has “cosplay” but not “roleplay” in its dictionary? Weeeeeeird.

Meanwhile my father had some kind of role going around the many, many bathrooms and renovating them, which was doing extremely well and extremely quickly, often removing the fixtures in the time between your entering the room and your getting to the fixtures. He’d lay down those really lavish carpets you see in bathrooms of people that make you wonder how they clean them, too, which I hope the hotel wanted. Anyway, he’d also rearrange the fixtures so well that they’d be completely unfindable. This might have been a warning by my subconscious that I shouldn’t have had that last can of Fresca before bed.

Still, the convention was coming to its end, and was giving way to people gathering all a-quiver with excitement for the Bablyon 5 marathon due to start any minute now. As TV stations gathered in anticipation but found it took longer than they predicted, so they cut away to criticizing the plan at the White House ballpark to drum up interest in pinball by lining up a string of machines along the third base line and letting folks play for free. “The place is way too hot and muggy,” critics said, and proved this by pointing to an abandoned lot in Queens.

Anyway with all the soccer-convention people bringing their whole families in there were skeptics, naturally. Frank Conniff was there to help, naturally, in an elaborate and heartfelt if confusing sketch showing the consequences of people not believing in soccer which gave to a doubting child joy at the idea of soccer, or maybe sporting events, or conventions, or whatever it was the sketch was exactly about. And I think to my final dreaming days I’ll remember him, in white gowns and waving a statue, smiling to the kid saying “Thank you, Spirit of Competition … or … Fair Play … or … Soccer” and his answering, “Yeah, just, whatever, kid.” And turning with a twinkle in his eye to head towards the elevator.

I don’t know what exactly it means, and of course I can’t speak for Frank Conniff, but I think he would likely agree that sports, Babylon 5, my father, hotels, and bathrooms are all things which exist.

Another Warning From My Dreams


Do not “just slip out” a couple seconds during a science fiction convention centered around praising the guy who played George Jefferson on The Jeffersons, because everybody else at the con is just going to get together and build a satiric comic set-piece based on his work and it’s going to just rehash the most obvious, base jokes about The Jeffersons in a science fiction setting and it’ll have almost no artistic integrity at all, and you’re going to have a dickens of a time getting back in the convention hall past the defensive screen of people warning you that that’s the guy who played George Jefferson in there and he’s just killing with what you recognize as artistically bankrupt, pandering, fan-written science fiction convention activities. Be safe: go to the bathroom before the convention starts!