Yesterday I flew to LA, after just being there on the weekend and sighting a few minor celebrities. (See yesterday's blog post.) This time I was traveling with my wife, and I was alert to spotting additional celebrities, or at least people who looked like celebrities.
After we got off the plane in LA, we ended up on the escalator behind a guy who seemed to be someone important. He wore clothes that you can't get in Macy's, and a haircut you can't get at Supercuts. We guessed he was an ultimate fighter type, based on his build and the way a guy in a business suit was sucking up to him. I just found his picture on Google Images to confirm who he was. Apparently he's one of the most famous ultimate fighters, Tito Ortiz.
Later in the afternoon, back at the airport, we got in the Southwest Airlines ticket line to try and get an earlier flight. I noticed that the guy in front of us looked a little like actor Danny Glover, but older and scruffier. For fun, I decided to tell my wife it was indeed Danny Glover and let her enjoy the thrill-by-proximity until she realized I was full of shit. So I discretely tapped out the message on my Blackberry: "You are behind actor Danny Glover" and showed it to her. Shelly wasn't going to fall for that, and dismissed it quickly. After all, the guy in front of us was schlepping his own bags, shabbily dressed, and standing in line at Southwest with the common people. He clearly wasn't movie star material.
But when we got a glimpse of his full profile, it sure looked like Danny Glover. I convinced myself it really was. Shelly noticed the initials on his luggage were DLG. As we walked from the ticket area to the gate, she suggested I use my Blackberry to figure out what Danny Glover's middle name is, to confirm the initials. I argued that the odds of spotting a guy who looks like Danny Glover, in a city where Danny Glover works, boarding a flight to an area where Danny Glover lives (The Bay Area) with two-out-of-three confirmed initials for "Danny Glover" on his luggage was sufficient confirmation. Shelly wasn't so sure.
Coincidentally, we ended up next to this potential Danny Glover fellow as we lined up in our designated waiting place at the gate. He was on his cell phone talking in a perfect Danny Glover voice to a business contact about his next movie that begins production in September. I asked Shelly if she still needed me to check his middle name, but she was now ready to accept this as a bona fide celebrity sighting.
The interesting part was watching the reaction from the other passengers and flight crew to this huge star: none. As far as we could tell, no one else in the terminal was aware of his existence. Or if they were, they weren't letting on. Maybe that's how they roll in LA, where there is a celebrity on every corner.
All I know is that when we returned to my celebrity-free suburban town, I felt a little empty knowing it could be weeks, even months, before I saw another famous person from a distance. I already miss my good friends Tito and Danny.
Last weekend I attended the BEA convention, an event for publishers and book sellers. One of my duties was to sign books for an hour at my publisher's booth. Hordes of authors were doing the same, at different times, throughout the show.
I got to the show early and decided to walk around and see if I ran into anyone famous. I've been to a few of these conventions and you can usually count on seeing a minor celebrity or two. To me, celebrity watching is like bird watching, but better because celebrities rarely crap on your head.
The last time I went to this convention, a number of years ago, I talked to Oliver North and saw Heidi Fleiss from a few feet away. Not bad. But on this day all I saw was Jackie Collins. She's famous enough, but I've run into her twice in LA on other trips - once at a restaurant, and once on a TV set. So that was disappointing. I was hoping for something new. And I wondered if Jackie has a house of if she just wanders around in public hoping I see her.
As I rounded a corner, I noticed a long line of people who were obviously waiting for a well-known author. I had about 15 minutes to spare, so I jumped in the line, hoping to see the celebrity before I had to go do my job. I listened to the people ahead of me and tried to figure out who I was waiting for. Man, was I disappointed. They were in line waiting for me. Luckily I am virtually invisible in crowds, so no one noticed me slink away and go to the head of the line to sign books.
The next morning, at the Burbank airport, I was in a gift shop buying a Snickers. A woman asked the guy next to me if she could take a picture with him. It was Mario Lopez. He was flipping through a People magazine, presumably looking for pictures of himself. So I guess that counts as a decent celebrity sighting. But Mario was flying Southwest Airlines, so I couldn't get too impressed. Not that I am competitive, but my boarding pass was an A3, and I doubt he could top that.
I'm in LA today, signing Dilbert books at the BEA (bookseller convention), from 1-3 pm, in the Andrews McMeel Publishers booth. If you want something signed, find a friend who knows a friend who knows someone at the show.
I imagine the tyrant retirement program would provide some sort of international security guarantees and permanent amnesty for the tyrant. That might require some U.N. forces to guard his mansion or island fortress or wherever he decides to retire. And he would have unrestricted travel rights, in case he wanted to get out of the country for his own safety.
Second, the tyrant would be written into the history books as some sort of founding father type. He would be, ironically, the father of democracy, having stepped aside to allow it to happen. The history books would be modified to show the tyrant did many good things in terms of national stability, and then stepped aside to allow democracy to flourish. His multiple genocides would be downplayed. No tyrant wants to get bad press after retiring.
The tyrant would also be allowed to keep much of the money he stole, say up to a limit of $5 billion per tyrant. That's enough to keep him in helicopters and hookers.
You could add some extras, such as putting the tyrant on stamps and currency, or agreeing to keep him on the ones already in circulation. The point is that retirement has to look like a safe and honorable thing.
The story line for the country would be that while a dictatorship made sense while the tyrant was in power, it only worked because of the force of his amazing personality. And since his country couldn't be expected to find another dictator of such compassion and skill, democracy is the best succession strategy. That spin might sound preposterous, but when you consider the things your own government tells you, it's not that different.
I know it will never work. But waiting for tyrants to die takes too long, and killing them is too expensive. There has to be a better way.
My comic on 5/24/08 raised some questions. In the third panel, Dilbert makes a reference to "churning my own butter." Readers wondered if that was intended to be a naughty double entendre. Read it again if you care to refresh your memory.
This comic was written in my usual way. I started with a premise and drew the first frame hoping I would eventually figure out how it ended. I had a notion that it would end with a reference to something old-fashioned, and I expected to cycle through lots of options before landing on something funny. As it turned out, "churning my own butter" was both the first thing I thought (it's the most obvious) and also the funniest, precisely because it does suggest a darker joke. The boss's line, "You make it sound creepy" was the frosting, so to speak.
Wait, I think I just did it again.
I'm in the (long) process of building a house. The house will have solar panels, but it bugs me that I can't be off the electric grid entirely. There's no convenient and economical way to store energy at your own house while the sun is shining. But is that technology imminent?
Some car companies are allegedly coming out with vehicles that operate on compressed air. Here's one.
How hard would it be to convert that compressed air technology to a home generator? My solar cells could compress air during the day and the compressed air engine would produce electricity at night. There would be plenty of waste in the process, I assume, but it sounds feasible to me.
I'd also like to have a house with two elevators that are balanced so that when one goes down, the other is pulled up. And I would only use the elevators for going down, so my weight causes one side to be heavier than the other. To slow the descent, I'd be compressing air into my home air battery. If you need to go up, you use the stairs. It's healthier. I'd have a full-power elevator option for the elderly and handicapped, but everyone else would be an energy producer.
Then I'd put the guest bathroom on the second floor so I gain some electricity every time a guest goes to take a whiz. It wouldn't balance out the water use, but it would make me feel better. And every time my wife or kids asked me where some lost item or other was, I'd say, "I saw it upstairs."