I’ve never stayed in a hotel room with its own wine locker.
I’m at the Ritz-Carlton just south of San Francisco.
I have a standing policy that if Google invites me to a 5 star beach resort, I say “yes” to that. I suggest you do the same.
They brought me here to speak at an off-site conference dinner event.
…I suppose “speak” is kind of generous. I wasn’t asked to give a lecture or anything. I stood up in front of a bunch of people and explained who I am – which, I soon learned, was entirely unnecessary. They knew exactly who I am.
I showed a video I just finished making with Google Earth. Not the one I put up last month. This is different. It’s a project I’ve been meaning to do for ages. Working with the Google Earth folks inspired me to pick it up again and I finally had the time to follow through on it.
It’s pretty neat. I can’t put it up right now cause I don’t have music clearance and I don’t feel like getting my butt kicked by the Johnny Cash estate, but there was no harm in showing it at the event and they were a receptive audience.
Thanks to Chi for inviting me down and Sri for hosting me.
After the dinner I posed for pictures and drank fancy booze. The Googlers flittered away in different directions to play poker and board games. I got sucked into something called Ticket to Ride. It’s one of those numbingly complex sprawls that takes a solid hour to learn and another four to finish. As a videogame designer, I’m conditioned toward the sensibility that if the rules aren’t immediately self-explanatory, something has gone terribly wrong. Once I let go of that, I dug it.
This is not a sneakily embedded product endorsement (though I’m not above that). I just felt a visual aid was needed and I forgot to take a picture.
Speaking of which, one of the “Googlers” dropped a comment that keeps echoing in my brain. Apparently she heard a rumor that I’m fake.
“I’m not saying I think you’re fake. That’s just what someone told me.
“Okay, but what does that mean?”
“Well, the video and all that.”
“Ah. The thing about how I stood in front of a screen and didn’t actually go anywhere? Yeah, people have been saying that from the beginning.”
“No, not that. The story that you quit your job to go traveling and a sponsor just rung you out of the blue. I heard that’s made up. That it was planned out by the company.”
On consideration, I have to admit that all the revelations of contrived phoniness render the theory plausible. The rapidly aging term “viral marketing” is almost synonymous with duping people at this point. If I were born out of a corporate brainstorming session instead of a postmature Caesarean, I’d just be one more for the heap.
But here’s the thing: let’s suppose for a moment that my story is made up and I’m actually posing as someone I’m not, doncha think the person I’m pretending to be would be a little more…demo-appropriate? Wouldn’t I have higher cheekbones? Better haircut? Rakish man-stubble? Wouldn’t I hold up better in interviews and not do things like forget to mention who sponsored my trip on the Today Show?
Why would anyone conspire to produce so shoddy an operation as the one I’m running? My ineptitude as a media entity is bona fides.
I had an idea I wanted to try on the flight down here. I just got Flight Simulator X and I’ve been learning to fly. I opened it up on the plane, set my departure airport to SeaTac, set my destination to San Francisco International, set my plane to a Boeing 737-800, then replicated the flight I was on from my seat. I watched Rainier go by, then Mount St. Helens. Things were going well as I neared the border with Oregon, but then Vista pulled its usual crap and my whole computer shut down.
If there’s anyone out there on the fence, please don’t make the mistake I made. Do not switch to Vista. It’s a sputtering, bloated monstrosity that should never have been released to the public. We’re 6 months into release and it still takes a solid minute to load up a video file on my brand new machine. Attempting the Sleep function is still tantamount to a cold reboot.
I won’t be going to Burning Man this year. My request to shoot a dancing clip was rejected. They say it’s because I’d only be using Burning Man as a backdrop, rather than “exploring the event and its participants.” The sponsorship thing certainly doesn’t help either, and, in all fairness, I missed the request deadline by a few days.
It’s irksome. I am irked. I wanted to see Burning Man, but if I can’t shoot a clip, it’s a whole lot of time and expense that I’d rather put toward something else.
I also find myself unable to adopt the spirit I’m told is necessary in order to appreciate the event. I must be open. I must be involved. I must be ready to embrace and immerse myself with wild abandon.
I’ve never been to the thing, so it seems like a lot to ask in advance. It triggers a wariness, deeply ingrained, of all things cultish.
I’ve always had great difficulty joining groups and being a part of enterprises beyond my control. In high school, chess club was a carefully measured commitment. I prefer to either observe or abstain. Participation is something I can only do once I’ve dipped my toe, then my ankle, then my knee, then experienced the full-body shiver subsequent to genital immersion.
Burning Man seems to demand a belly flop. I’m not comfortable with that. And if it means I’m spiritually inferior, well, okay then.
I was ready to take the leap if I could come back with a good dancing clip. But they’ve decreed that what I’m doing doesn’t fit with what they’re about. So I’m reciprocating.
I’m getting ready for the North America trip. It starts September 5th and goes for about three weeks. It’s going to be as whirlwind as any traveling I’ve ever done. I’m trying to hit the big population centers, so if you’re in the states and you haven’t signed up for an invite to come out and dance, please do so.
As it says on the sign-up page, I’m not announcing dates and locations. You’ve gotta tell me where you are and then I’ll tell you if I’m going there. Sorry. That’s just how it works.
I got a ride to the airport this morning from Bud. Bud has become my cab driver of choice in Seattle. I have his personal cell programmed in so I can ring him directly. Bud is just about the most interesting person I know.
Bud is a fruitarian. He lives on two apples a day.
Bud says the local taxi business has been taken over by the east coast mob. They’re squeezing out all the career cabbies and filling their seats with indentured and easily exploitable Ethiopian drivers.
Bud says Hitler didn’t die in Germany. He escaped to South America and then pressed onward to Antarctica, where there is a warm, lush region the size of Texas. Hardly anyone knows about it. He says that shortly after World War II, the US sent 3000 troops to Antarctica to hunt down Hitler. He says they were all killed and the whole thing was hushed up.
Bud says civilians aren’t allowed to set foot on Antarctica. The whole continent is off-limits to all but a tiny group of scientists and military personnel.
Bud told me about the Hollow Earth theory. Apparently there was an Antarctic expedition in the late 19th century, decades before Shackleton, that discovered a tunnel leading straight up to the north pole. The planet, he says, is actually donut-shaped.
I suppose that means Hitler could be anywhere by now.