THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN BLOGGER BASH: 3.0 ALTERNATIVE REALITIES. It took place earlier this evening, until we were thrown out of the Denver Press Club approximately an hour and a half before I began to type this.
Sketch One: Truly True.
The Press Club was a surprise; relatively newly constructed, after the destruction of the cherished turn-of-the-century, older, building, the modern Club is atop one of Denver's highest skyscrapers, a gleaming modernist vision of steel and glass, with all four outer walls consisting of sheer glass. A fascinating feature was the firehouse-type pole allowing inebriated reporters to drop all forty flights to the exit, always resulting in a completely sober individual, able to return home to spouse and kin, believably claiming they'd not touched a drop that evening.
The bloggers: it's shocking how utterly unlike so many bloggers are like their blogs.
Stephen Green of VodkaPundit: Hippie, dressed in a classically wildly colored tie-dyed tee-shirt, long red dreadlocked hair down to his ass, nonetheless came across as an accountant type, sounding remarkably like Ben Stein, yet with a strange high-pitched nasal drone. Would only engage in serious analysis of issues, typically of their economic impact, with particular concern about the money supply of Third World nations.
Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom: actually not just a devout Catholic, but an actual priest, with a collar. Who knew? Spoke passionately of his devotion to Daniel Berrigan. Announced his intention to soon fly to Baghdad to chain himself to the "biggest weapon" he could find to prevent its use. Also announced that he was intimately familiar with his "biggest weapon," having studied it intently, and that his plan was to render impotent all "large weapons."
Walter In Denver: Indeterminate sexual nature. Waxed passionately on the need to smash imperialism. As a professional bowler, has a plan to do this with Jiant Bowling Balls of Doom. Spoke of the need for the government to supply all Americans with free, odorless, bowling shoes. Couldn't go three sentences without giving a Marxist interpretation of the issue at hand.
Andrew Olmsted: An extremely belligerent Navy man, covered in, so far as could be visibly seen, innumerable tattoos, he never spoke without shouting, as he explained that everyone in the world needed to become converted to pacificism, at gunpoint, or there would never be peace. Explained that he was the man to accomplish this, with his special "600-Rubber-Ducky Fleet."
Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft: midget with an Australian accent. Shouted incoherently of her hatred of the criminal element, her secret life that had something to with "criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot; bats will frighten them!" Explained plan to extend the death penalty to traffic offenses. Also mentioned President Bush's "strong manly looks," his heroic leadership in our nation's time of need, and why we needed to amend the Constitution to allow a third and fourth term for him. Strangely, denounced me for being "anti-criminal." Called me a "libertarian," and Jeff Goldstein an "uber-rightist."
Dorkafork. Impeccable transvestite. Remarkably, completely blind. Tried to sign everyone up for memberships in NAMBLA.
Andy of World Wide Rant: Declared that the only person who could save the nation was John Kerry. Had a plan for Ted Kennedy to accept Vice-Presidential nomination, and then Ted would become confused, and convinced that his brother, JFK, was back in the White House. Drooled constantly.
Darren of Colorado Conservative. Refused to admit anyone, and if anyone got by him, Darren ordered them out of the club, and then beat them. Strangely, then gave everyone a cigar, and ordered them to "smoke it, punk!" Kept stealing drinks.
Tim Berglund of Tim Berglund. Raucous drunk who spent much of the evening copiously weeping that "there is no God!"
Everyone else gets left unsketched either because they were too little in terms of readership to care about, they were completely boring, or they've never donated to my blog, let alone blogrolled me.
Sketch Two: The Deeper Truth.
Jeff Goldstein leaned closely into my personal space, weaving drunkenly, and declared accusingly: "Two and a half years, Farber! Two and a half years! And you've never linked to me once! Never blogrolled me. Ignored me.
You're scum, Farber!"
Brightly: "But I love you, man! I love you!"
Jeralyn Merrit, leaving, was interrupted by Another Blogger, who said "Jeralyn, I'd like you to meet Gary Farber." Jeralyn: "You're Gary Farber! Pleased to meet you! Libertarian swine! Why are you so anti-criminal?!" Conversation ensues. Jeralyn declares she was separated at birth from twin sister, the London-residing Avedon Carol. Asks me "do you know her, then?" Parting, instructs me to stop being so anti-criminal.
Stephen Green, having praised martinis twelve dozen times up to that point in the evening, announces that he is on his fourth. Announces to all that what he loved about Jeff Goldstein's blog is that it is sharp, funny, and cruel.
Jeff declares that, no, he loves Stephen's blog. Stephen intones that, no, he loves Jeff's blog more.
Jeff, choked up, allows that Stephen is the Best. Blogwriter. Ever.
And that he loves you, man, he loves you.
Stephen goes down on Jeff. Jeff goes down on Stephen. Coitus is then initiated. It is noisy, passionate, and terribly, terribly, moist.
Upon consummation both bloggers declare their complete support for gay marriage, and announce their engagement. Their wives are nonplussed, yet seem completely understanding, and unsurprised.
Shortly thereafter Jeff projectile vomits, and then passes out.
Stephen has a fifth martini, allows that he will join those going blubbing, er, clubbing, afterwards.
Sketch Three: You'll Never Believe Me Now, But, Honestly, The Truth, Not Remotely The Whole Truth, But Absolutely Nothing But The, Pinky-Swear, Verbatim, Literal, As Close To Word-For-Word Truth As I Can Recreate, Truth.
Research at the Denver Regional Transportation home page having informed me that the bus trip was actually quite simple, if slightly time-consuming (about an hour and twenty minutes each way), I arranged with Andrew Olmsted to meet him and his wife, Amanda Wilson, for dinner at six, prior to the start of the Bashing at seven.
I was perfectly on time for my busses, but a tad annoyed when the bus driver on the Jump answered that, yes, this was the correct side of the street for the B bus to Denver; yes, absolutely.
Twenty minutes later, my suspicions aroused, I asked the driver of a later Jump who, of course, informs me that, no, the other side of the street was where one catches the Denver-bound bus.
I had planned, however, to arrive twenty-five minutes early, so when I was actually five minutes late for our rendezvous at the Denver Market St. bus station, it happened that Andrew and Amanda were also a few minutes later, resulting in them getting there about three minutes after I did. Clearly, it was Written.
Indecisiveness about dinner locale commences; the Cheesecake Factory is settled upon; lots of young people having drinks; impressively large menus, with every other page consisting of advertising for other businesses.
Food is eaten, conversation conversed, they generously buy me my sandwich and fries, we all get doggie boxes, I carefully forget to take mine out of the restaurant. Possibly for the best; I'm not sure eating crabcake left to sit in a warm room for six hours is terribly prudent.
The Press Club is a highly unprepossessing two-story building that appears entirely undistinguished from the outside.
Inside, a small loungish-bar area, followed by a smallish rectangular area with a handful of small tables further back. Later exploration reveals a small, less crowded, much quieter, room downstairswith a single pool table. Also, restrooms!
Upstairs: mildly crowded, extremely noisy. Walls covered with caricatures of Famous Denver People none of the bloggers seemed to recognize any better than I did (warning: information based upon limited survey; also, don't run with those scissors). Colorful section of wall covered with autographed photos of Presidents of the U.S. Centerpiece picture, three times the size of the others: Teddy Roosevelt. Jimmy Carter has an odd look on his face. George Bush, Senior, beams out just above smiling George Bush, Jr.
Press and bloggers are largely easily distinguishable from each other. Press are frequently, though not always, either older and white-haired, or have that certain Front Page hard-drinking look. I keep an eye out for Rosalind Russell dashing in, talking a mile a minute. Meanwhile, man with invisible fedora on his head begins expounding to me upon how all those Presidents had personally visited here, the glorious history of the Club, the beautiful aspects of this classic, turn-of-the-century building, which, he proudly pointed out, had been on this very spot since at least the 1910's, no less. And here are the glorious portraits of Past Presidents of the Club.
At this point, in a valiant effort to keep my head from uncontrollably dropping to the floor, followed by the rest of my body, I excused myself to get a tasty beverage.
The gathering is in desperate need of name-tags (large fonts; blog-name first). I wander about for a bit in sufficiently confused-looking fashion for someone to take me in hand and begin identifying a few bloggers.
Among those I exchange at least a few words with during the evening, aside from the aforementioned, are ResurrectionSong Guy aka Zombyboy, Stephen Wheeler, Bloodthirsty Warmonger, The Blog of The Century of The Week, Jimspeak, and a few others whose name and blog I didn't catch, along with a few Members of The Fourth Estate, and some hangers-on. Plus a few bloggers whose URL I didn't catch, such as John Orr of Coyote Gulch and Ed Driscoll.
Mostly I tended to do my quiet, shyish, observer thing. I don't really deal very well with crowded, noisy, gatherings. I can never hear what anyone who is more than a foot away from me is saying, and after the fourth repetition of "what?, what was that?" with the clever gesture of cupping my hand to my ear, I grow weary of that, and, eventually, vaguely suicidal. And, honestly, I was only vaguely, or un, familiar with a certain proportion of the bloggers.
A helpful sheet had been done up listing bloggers expected to be in attendence; eight I've not mentioned were listed, but I confirmed that at least neither The Speculist nor Peevish... I Was Just Saying were actually in attendence.
Except that I just lied, there, because I thought I had confirmed that about The Speculist, but I, on the bus home, realized I had cleverly confused him with another science-oriented blogger, asking several people after Pharyngula, undoubtedly confusing the fuck out of people. So maybe The Speculist was there. Which would be a shame. Well, not really, but it would be that I missed him.
Several others were on The List, but I never did get introduced to them. Alas, and alack.
Other people I would have liked to have seen attend: Colorado Luis, Dave Cullen.
Verbatim early conversation with very cute younger woman whose name I didn't get. I'm wearing a tee-shirt adorned with a portrait of the Milky Way galaxy, and various locales and objects within.
Woman: "I like your shirt."
Her: "I like... space. It is... big."
Me: "Expanding, too."
"Yes, and it is filled with so many things, all the way to Pluto, even. Planetoids! It is fascinating." "I hear there's lots of dark matter." "Are you a blogger?" "Yes; are you?" "No. I very much like the blogs, though." "How is it you are here, then?" "My friend blogs. Also, my husband. You would not know them. Do you blog about politics?" "A fair amount." "I could not blog about politics. Perhaps about space."
At this point someone else came up and began chatting with her, and I made the special Move of Mingling.
Not long after, a pleasant conversation with Walter In Denver, and Mrs. Denver, which sequed into a, to me, interminable conversation with a Local Radio Personality about golf. I have appoximately three sentences worth of conversation about golf, none of it remotely interesting; when Radio Guy (named "Gary," actually) came back shortly after escorting Mrs. Denver to the rest rooms, with another fellow eager to Talk Golf, I made my own way to the bathroom. Although not before I had been informed that I could join the Press Club; possibly special group rates at $500/year for three people might be arranged.
Passing through the pool room, I hear bits of a conversation five or so people, who seem to be either lawyers or law enforcement, are having. Bit: "Yes, it's terribly difficult to get men to testify to having been raped."
Considering it was possible one of the conversationalists was Jeralyn Merrit, whom I wanted to meet, I was also thinking I didn't, perhaps, want to make my way into the conversation with a gambit such as "oh, yes, that's a topic of considerable personal interest to me!," and I went back upstairs.
I utilized my First Generation Handheld to take some notes; many people remember this early device as a "notepad," but I prefer to think of it as a highly versatile recording device with a nearly foolproof interface that never, ever, crashes.
My lack of subtlety at this tended to cause ever-increasingly frequent verbal remarks by others along the lines of "oh, shit, he's writing again."
For some reason, my repeated assertions that I was merely making notes for my grocery list were not accepted with uncritical belief.
As the evening wore on, and Jeff Goldstein increased his Weave Level, he seemed increasingly uneasy, and correspondingly increased his imploring that I "make him look good." We at the Amygdala Editorial Board will deal with this in a Special Addendum.
Jeff does, however, get a Golden Quotes Award all of his own. I kinda regret that I couldn't practically follow him around, and simply transcribe the second half of his evening. And, you know, you'd regret it, too, if I could only have gotten some more quotes.
Because, friends, as it happens, just about everyone seemed remarkably like a Live Action, True Personality Included, Version of their blog. It was remarkable. Kinda like seeing a note-perfect live-action version of animated characters. (Conceivably I have that backwards; consultation with Matthew Yglesias and philosophers at Crooked Timber may be necessary.)
Jeff Goldstein personified his blogging style; as did Stephen Green personify his own blogging style, and Andrew Olmsted his own, and so forth.
Stephen: pithy, witty, quotes. (Didn't look so much like his posted picture, though.)
Jeff: um, Jeff. Andrew: soft-spoken, sensible, somewhat to the right of me.
Overheard: "Kerry! He's... him! And I hate that!" -- Jeff Goldstein.
"I'll explain why, but first I must go deliver water to women." -- Stephen Green.
"This guy loves me with the love of a thousand... loves." --Jeff Goldstein, in regard to WalterInDenver.
The evening reached a point of complete degeneration when Jeff Goldstein and Andrew Olmsted begin asking each other's astrological signs, man, and whipping out... driver's licenses to prove to each other they had the same birthday. Reaction by organizer Zombyboy: "And I find myself not caring."
Somewhere prior to that I pompously pontificated to Jimspeak about the politics of blogrolling, tips about increasing readership, and my favorite subject, me, me, me.
Jeff Goldstein begins a rant about how the totally coolist thing about me is, well, it was a tad unclear whether he was saying that I tend to destroy and end blog comment threads by stating the completely and totally obvious, along with other underhanded means, or, as I prefer to interpret it, that often I will sum up the issue in such uniquely pithy, yet comprehensive, and brilliant fashion, there is simply nothing else left to be said. I'm sure he meant the latter.
He specifically cited a comment I made several weeks ago, in Some Blog Or Other, on the topic of Why Jeff Goldstein Is Not A Genius. As it happens, I actually barely rememember making that commnt, which is to say, I had succumbed to Idiotically Commenting While Dead Drunk, And Saying Remarkably Stupid, Intemperate, Regrettable, Things, something I do too often (at all is too often).
Fortunately, Jeff doesn't keep track of these sort of things, and it was around this point that I heard about how I've never once linked to him. Like, ever. Which until this post was true. There was also something about how I had room for every goddam thing Captain Kirk ever said, but no room for him.
It was slightly before this that Jeff said "he said 'bush.' Heh. Bush. See what I did there?"
There were also the, um, requests that I Make Him Look Good. I live to serve.
It wasn't until later that he seemed to be, perhaps, just a bit, channeling a Jewish, pro-war libertarian, Jeff Spicoli.
As well, Jeff said, somewhere around here, and several more times,said "you're going to write about this, aren't you! You're going to go home, and post before you go to sleep!" I may have wittily replied "mm."
Some warnings about "destroying me" if I failed in the "making him look good" thing may have been uttered.
There was also something about the size of his stylus.
This brings us to Jeralyn Merrit.
I frequently remark upon how amused I am at how people will, often, make a quick dash through my blog, come upon a handful of posts, probably because I tend to post in bursts during a given week on something I feel strongly about, and conclude from this single set of samples that I am a socialist/libertarian/centrist/communist/liberal/conservative/obvious-Democrat/obvious-Republican, and so on. It's often a bit of a Rorshach blot function I bring, as part of my glorious mission, to you, oh Gentle Reader.
As is visible on my "you like me" list far down on the left sidebar, a lot of people consider me a "liberal." Fair enough, though I'm definitely stubbornly individualistic about what I do and don't sign on for, in my own non-doctrinaire way, I like to think. But Kinja syndicates my posts as a "conservative," and it's long stuck in my memory that Jeralyn Merrit of TalkLeft (a distinctly Left site, no ambiguity about it), described me a while back (not that, of course, I keep track of this sort of thing) as "a libertarian blogger."
Which makes any actual libertarian roll on the floor laughing, especially given my periodic outbursts against doctrinaire libertarians, my favoring a single-payer national health-insurance plan, support for a wide variety of welfare-state programs, and so on.
Thus, the following somewhat surreal conversation, of which I present a somewhat foreshortened version.
As Jeralyn, whom I'd not met, is leaving, Another Blogger (meaning "I forget") says "Jeralyn, I'd like you to meet Gary Farber."
"You're Gary Farber?"
"It's really nice to meet you. You're a libertarian."
"Y'know, I've been wondering for the longest time, how on earth did you come to that conclusion?"
"Oh, I looked at your web-page and saw that you're a libertarian."
I list my unending opposition to the Bush Administration, my luke-warm support for Kerry, my support for a wide variety of social programs, etc., etc.
"But you're a libertarian!"
I commence banging my head against the handy wooden piller.
"No, I'm not, really, I'm not. I mean, I'm very much for civil liberties, and there are some libertarian ideas I'm for, but...." (I list more reasons why I'm not a libertarian, and never have been.)
Slightly puzzled frown on her face, Jeralyn says something to the effect that she knows there's some good reason she (doesn't quite say "why I never blogrolled you" or "concluded you were One Of Them," but I get the doubtless entirely erroneous impression that she is telepathically broadcasting both)... trails off.
"You're for the death penalty!" she says with relief.
"No, I'm not. Never have been. Well, if God could administer it, I might be okay with it, but since it's just us humans doing it, and we keep killing innocent people, I've always been against it on that basis."
"You said something anti-criminal!," she says accusingly (but in a friendly fashion, honestly).
I don't recall if, at this point, I actually said "what the fuck are you talking about?," or simply enaged my own telepathic broadcast ability, but I think I may have banged my head against the piller some more (thus the slight loss of clear memory here), while emphatically denying ever having said anything "anti-criminal" at any time, and strongly stating that I had no clue what she was referring to.
We then commenced several rounds of "but I know you said something," and "not any of those things," and "but you were anti-criminal!" and "I've been a member of the ACLU since I was a teenager!" and "but I know I read something; what could you have said that gave me that idea?" and I did allow as how I had cautiously, luke-warmly, equivocated on the war, and she allowed as perhaps that was it (I suspect over-interpretation of some of my quotations on my sidebar, as well as the fact that I have on my blogroll Known Right-Wingers and Known Libertarians, along with many Known Liberals and Lefists, as influences here, but I might be All Wet), merry further conversation on Rush Limbaugh (interestingly, she thinks the criminal case against him is bogus, stating that no one else in Florida has ever been charged under that law, which -- I'll assume she's correct, as that's her area of expertise -- does seem quite damning, much as I'd prefer it not be true, because, my goodness, that Limbaugh feller does get my blood pressure up), civil liberteries, this, that, and the other, and her avowal that she will Look At My Blog Again.
Parting words: "Stop saying anti-criminal things!"
I think she was kidding.
Which brings us back to Jeff Goldstein, as I wander into the conversation to hear Jeff exclaim in astonishment (and some, I detected, annoyed frustration) of Jeralyn, "she called me an uber-rightist! I mean, that's, like, someone with a swastika tattooed on his forehead! Does that make any sense!? I've never voted for a Republican in my life!"
Jeff stated several variants of this, dazedly repeating "I've never voted for a Republican in my life!" at least four more times, and then I quietly pointed out that, after all, he was an uber-rightist.
I'm not quite sure if he caught that, or simply ignored it, but I tried to not miss any of several further opportunities to, as the remainder of the evening passed, note that he was, after all, an uber-rightist.
Which is the sort of thing that constantly gets me into either trouble, or stared at incomprehensibly, because when my humor isn't being entirely juvenile, it tends to be so utterly dry that no one else gets it, I'm taken seriously, and so forth. Which is okay, because, after all, it demonstrates to myself that my humor is, indeed, a Higher Humor, a Superior Humor, that mere mortals cannot comprehend my Better, Stronger, Subtler, Humor, which, of course, proves that I'm far more intelligent than they are, which is all that truly matters.
(Meta-notionally, I once explained this "explanation" to an immensely intelligent person who took me entirely straightforwardly, and has apparently actually believed I believe this, completely not getting that I was attempting a meta-joke, that I was pulling their leg, ever since. Oops.)
On the other hand, Jeff did make a funny noise about ten seconds after I observed that my own favorite part of his blog was the Friday Cat-Blogging.
It was about this point that Jeff began pointing to people, and demanding they, beginning with me, state a Seventies tv show, so he and others could sing the theme song.
I said "the Partridge Family," and he warbled off a version with most of the words; I don't believe anyone quite noticed my attempting to insert a verse to the effect of "and I'm anorexic, and you're a drug addict," but I lacked skill in my delivery. I hoped for an opportunity to quickly drop into the conversation the fact that taping of the show once had to be stopped while the producers attempted to figure out what to do about Susan Dey's orange skin, since all she had been eating for weeks was carrots, but didn't pull that off, either.
A couple of other songs were tortured, Jeff then pointed to each of us in turn, and demanded to know our ages, and then announced that we should all chose a song we all truly love, and then sing it together. Somehow we went from a mention of "steely knives" to a drunken (am I being redundant here?) rant from Stephen Green on the background behind this lyric of The Eagles in "Hotel California" by "that asshole" ("Glen Frey"? "No, the other one") Don Henley was why Don Henley was something-to-the-effect-of "the stupidest fuck ever" (quote paraphrased) and "I have no respect to this day for Don Henley" (precise quote).
It was hereabouts that Steve and Jeff began declaring that the other was the funniest, smartest, Best. Blogger. Ever. And "I love you, man!" "No, " I love you, man!" Turning to third guy: "And you, I don't know."
At that point the sun went nova.
SPECIAL JEFF GOLDSTEIN VERSION (Jeff, be sure this is the Only Version you read; trust me): Jeff Goldstein strode into the Denver Press Club like the Greek God he resembled. His muscles rippled manfully, as only those of a truly manful man can ripple, a more manly man than any other manly man ever, putting even Andrew Olmsted's rippling manly muscles to shame.
Jeff's hair was golden, and at least two women fainted as they first laid eyes upon his sexifulness. Others clearly grew weak at the knees, and it was obvious that the eyes of every woman in the club were on Jeff, Jeff, Jeff, and nothing but the studliness of the Jeffness.
While the women trembled, the men humbly agreed with each other that none of them could compare as a writer, a thinker, or a human being, to the greatness that is Jeff Goldstein. Why else was he the most popular blogger on planet Earth, the only blogger to win the Nobel, the Pulitzer, the Tony, the Emmy, the Oscar, and a special plate of finger-licking good "kitchen fresh" KFC chicken?
Jeff Goldstein: no blogger can live up to the standard he sets for us. He is truly a god of bloggers. He looks good.
OBSERVATIONS THAT DIDN'T FIT ELSEWHERE: Melissa Green. Two words: Babe City.
It's a damn good thing they don't do these Bashes more than once a year. I may be lynched at the next one, after this. Or, quite possibly, the mob with torches may show up outside my door tomorrow. No, the day after, after the hangover recovery.
Seriously, I hope neither Jeff Goldstein, nor Jeralyn Merrit, nor anyone else, takes this The Wrong Way; it is sincerely meant purely as good-natured "joshing," and no one should read any of it as some sort of crypto (or overt) personal attack; I'll be very unhappy if I've unintentionally come across in any such way.
Mildly unhappy, anyway.
The crowd was ugly when I said I was drinking lemonade. Yes, I was a wuss. But who posted first, bubbele?
Special kudos, and many thanks, go to the organizers: Walter, Darren, Andy, and Zombyboy.
The statements in Sketch One, the "Truly True" Sketch, were not, in fact, actually true. They were wild falsehoods. The staffer in charge has been sacked. Amygdala deeply regrets this error. Mistakes were made.
I'm doubtless missing typos, and some slight rewordings for grammatical purposes, as well as to avoid libel suits, utterly improve the piece structurally, and completely dodge responsibility for what I've written, may be made tomorrow.
Oh, yeah, I had fun.