Archive for October, 2011

friday robots

“I am having an affair with a random computer.”
Rolling Stones, 2000 Man

best autograph ever

I have been fortunate enough to get a number of my favorite cartoonists’ autographs.  I am by no means an autograph hound, or autograph seeker, or autograph fanatic.  If I’m at a convention where, say, Craig Thompson is signing his latest book, for sure I’ll get his John Hancock.  But I’m not going to track him down on the streets of Portland and throw the hefty tome at his right hand in the hopes he will spontaneously sign it.


Cartoonists are, as a general rule, nice people.  This attribute, along with a few other circumstances, created a perfect storm of sorts to get me my favorite autograph.   James Kochalka, (who is now Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont!), was in Chicago signing a little book he co-wrote with Craig Thompson.  My friend Charlotte was kind enough to stop by the comics shop and get James to sign the book for me.  I hadn’t had the chance to meet James and he was (and still is) one of my favorite cartoonists.  Wondering why?  Go read American Elf, then report back to me.


Charlotte arrived at the shop late and the signing was winding down.  James and Craig were nice (there’s that word again) enough to sign the book despite their exhaustion and massive hand cramping.  James was so tired, in fact, that he signed the book to himself, from me.  It took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on when I got this book in the mail:

Once I did figure it out, I loved it.  I have many autographs of other cartoonists, but so far I only have one autograph of myself written by another cartoonist.

my parents go to the AARP convention

The world is a big place, with lots of convention halls.  There is space in this country alone for thousands of types of conventions.  Star Trek conventions, Star Wars conventions, Battlestar Galactica conventions, Doctor Who conventions, conventions about that robot in Forbidden Planet and of course scrapbooking conventions.
It should be no surprise to any of us that there are conventions for old people.  Old people, like Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, should have their own conventions.  I never dared dream I would know what an old person convention looks or smells like before I myself became old, but my dream came true prematurely when my parents attended the Los Angeles AARP convention a couple weeks ago.

When my parents told me that my aunt and uncle persuaded them to attend, I was overwhelmed with joy.  I asked my mom if she could take pictures and document their trip.  To my great delight, she agreed.
My father, normally a dour man with a penchant for silent brooding, was all aflutter.  They screened a movie about a young man and his dad.  Many of the male participants of the AARP convention could identify with the “dad” character, but could also relate to the young man as they themselves had once been young.  Long, long ago.  The movie was great, my dad said, but what really got him excited was the theater itself.  Big plush chairs, crystal clear digitally-projected images; these are the things that my dad gets into.  He compared the picture quality to Avatar, except better.
Inside the convention center, my parents found numerous healthcare-related booths.  Walgreens was there in force, giving mandatory flu shots and screening all attendees for smallpox and various other old-timey ailments.  They were also selling pretty purple canes.
I asked about prescription drugs.  Was there a booth where you could get free samples for prescription drugs?  My parents said no, and to stop asking impertinent questions.
After a certain point in your life, your joints fall off and you need new ones.  That is why phony (or, “prosthetic”) joints were on prominent display at the convention.  No matter how old you are, you still want your knees to work.  I myself look forward to the day when all my bones are replaced with a hi-tech poly/titanium blend material.  The day scientists announce it is possible to replace your skeleton with titanium, I’m going to be first in line for that procedure.

Not everything at the convention was geared toward making you healthier.  Old people, just like younger folk, enjoy drinking wine.  The difference is, old people can afford the good stuff.  Their palates are more refined.  They will not be caught dead in a Trader Joe’s, Two Buck Chucks clutched under each arm.  Old people take their time selecting wine.  They go to places like Napa Valley.  They understand that for all good things, you must have patience.
My parents had an amazing time at the AARP convention.  It showed them that old people are people, too, with all the rights of younger, hipper people.  They needn’t resign themselves to a life of daytime television and voting in every single election they possibly can.  Talking to them on the phone, I sensed a breath of life that hadn’t been there previously, as if, by associating with even older, decrepit people, they discovered they aren’t really that old.  I have a hunch the next convention they attend won’t even have a booth where you can take all the multivitamins you need for the rest of your life.  It will be a hiphop convention.

My parents are definitely attending a hiphop convention next.

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