Archive | June, 2012

Artomatic: A Photo Essay

24 Jun

One of my favorite DC events is something called Artomatic. It’s a month-long art festival held every 1-3 years (depending on their ability to get organized and secure space) – usually in a building that’s under construction or slated for demolition. This year’s festival occupied ten floors of an old office building in Arlington and featured more than 1,000 artists.

Pretty awesome, right?

The event is not juried, so it’s a mishmash of stuff – some is Art with a capital-A, while other stuff looks like a classroom of kindergarteners could produce it.

Since the building is otherwise vacant, it’s easy to get lost. Fortunately they have bars on almost every floor, so you’re usually well fortified for your wandering. And there’s a stage area for entertainment on each floor – everything from poetry readings, to garage bands to fashion shows.

Last night was this year’s closing night, so my friend Betsy and I went over to check it out. Here are some of the more bizarre highlights:

There almost an entire floor dedicated to dioramas made from Peeps. This was my favorite because it was a fairly accurate portrayal of the Occupy movement in DC:

Peep Show

This was an entire room decorated bizarrely. Kind of what I assume a crack den looks like:

The End Is Near?

Not exactly sure what’s happening here, but it’s the only clown exhibit that didn’t completely terrify me:

Maybe because the hands are more creepy?

I took this mainly to taunt my sister, who offers to knit me things. If you REALLY loved me, you would make me a body-sized glove. Or a mitten. I’m not that picky…

Ain’t no needles large enough…

I’m pretty sure this is some kind of Cat’s Cradle reference, but I named him MC Knittin’ Kitten.

Let’s raise the roof.

I’m not sure what makes this art. Did the guy make Godzilla’s body from scratch? If so, I’ll put a tick in the “art” column. If he simply chopped holes and stuck frightening baby arms out of a dinosaur? Not so much.

How evolution really started…

Um… anyone want to attempt to interpret this one?

At least give her more nipples.

Forget about the goose who lays the golden egg. I want to birth a solid gold baby.

When gold-diggers get pregnant.

I didn’t take this photo for the message, though I do like the “Buy car, kick tires” idea. No. I liked this because the little drip of paint running down from his crown reminded me of the stick that holds up opera glasses. Very delicate for an Abe Lincoln skull.

Kick those tires!

Back on the Peep floor – someone had constructed a Peepmobile for kids to play with. What you may not be able to see – in this photo, it is a large fifty year old man in there driving.

When you can’t afford a corvette for your midlife crisis…

So Artomatic. Aren’t you sad you missed it? I swear – there is also REAL art there. It just didn’t photograph well.

Also? There was a fashion show with legitimate models walking a catwalk in ridiculous shoes. Knowing my obsession with models falling, any guesses what I spent my time doing? Standing with my iPhone filming, hoping I’d get footage for my own YouTube wipeout. Maybe next year.

A girl can hope.

When Conference Calls Go Wrong…

21 Jun

If that headline means nothing to you, then you clearly don’t work in business. Or are still in high school. Because otherwise, you know: conference calls are recipes for disaster.

I mean, even a routine weekend call with my parents holding separate extensions in their home usually has at least one snag. (Namely, my dad deciding to take that moment to untwist the cord, which makes a crackling noise, prompting my mom to yell, “John! What the hell are you doing?”)

So take many people, put them on a shared line for 60 minutes and see what happens.

First, there is always THAT PERSON. You know the one. The person who – no matter how long s/he has worked at the company and how many calls s/he has been on – forgets the cardinal rule: Never Put The Call On Hold.

When pushing the HOLD button, that person sends a complex message, kind of like:

  • I’m the most important person on this call, so just cool your heels until I’m back.
  • I don’t know how technology works.
  • Sorry, I have REAL work to do, suckers.

Personally, I believe companies should have some forum where public shaming can occur in the wake of an incident like this. I mean, I’m not advocating disciplining or firing someone. No. But if peers could trash talk him/her for 24 hours without consequence, where a photo could be uploaded for a Dumbass Caption Contest?  Probably pretty effective at putting an end to that behavior.

I will go on record and admit: I have been that person. And I was publicly shamed. And it didn’t happen again. Which might be why I support that method.

You know who else there is? The person who doesn’t know how to mute his line. And who also happens to be related to Darth Vader. Or big on crank calls. Because without fail, there is always one person who breathes into the phone like it’s an oxygen mask, who makes people believe the call will be interrupted at any moment with the words, “Luke. I am your father.”

And if you’ve never heard that guy on your call? Sorry: it’s YOU. Find your mute button.

And yet, I can’t be too hard on him. Because I’ve also had issues with my mute button. I once ran to the bathroom when I thought I was both a) muted and b) on hold. Turns out neither was true. Fortunately, I’m good with improv so I think I successfully played it off as if I were washing dishes. Or owned a horse.

If you’re still not understanding what I’m talking about, watch this as a primer:

So today I was on a series of calls. On one call, to help people understand how excited her team was about something, my friend used a phrase like, “They lept up and squeaked like dolphins.” I appreciated the unique simile – it’s not every day I have to step back and think about what something might’ve looked like. So much better than a meaningless corporate cliché.

About that time in the background you could hear another person exiting their car, given away by the tell-tale beep signaling keys in the ignition. “What is that noise?” one of my colleagues asked.

“Sonar,” I told her. “Someone is approaching the office.”

On another call – one I was leading – I got all wound up and started pulling vocabulary words like I was playing Scrabble. Only in editing the recording did I realize I’d used the word “penultimate” incorrectly. Turns out, it doesn’t mean “the most amazingly awesome thing ever.” In Other Disappointing News, it means: next to last.

As in, that is the penultimate time I ever use that word.

And now for the part I really wish I were making up…

I was on another call today – a smaller call, with only about ten people in attendance. We were working out all aspects of a large program that is set to launch on Monday, so it was a pretty tense call. We were mapping out timelines, confirming action plans, working out worst-case scenarios.

As we wrapped up the call, a lot hung in the balance. Based on how each person leaving that call performed their piece – and any technical bugs they encountered – we would reach a “go” or “no-go” decision the next day. After recapping commitments, I thanked everyone and went to close the call by saying, “I’ll be waiting for your updates with bated breath.”

Except I got a little tongue-tied.

And instead, I closed the call by telling everyone, “I’ll be waiting for your updates with bated breasts.”

Speaking of mental images…

I can’t make this up people. There is actually a website that sells boob hooks.

How My Sister’s Brain Works

18 Jun

A few weeks ago, I shared how MY brain works. For contrast, here’s my sister. While I don’t have her inner-monologue to accompany this, I’m pretty that sure what you see is what you get. And if you don’t have Facebook or understand targeted ads and how inane they are: this will make no sense so you might just want to skip it. Anyway… 

This sponsored ad apparently appeared on my sister’s Facebook page recently. The comment/caption at the top is from her:

When I saw it, I thought it was an astute observation: a bucket with a spigot does NOT exactly spell fun. I should’ve realized it was the first indication that she had an axe to grind with their message.

Have I mentioned that Alicia knows Photoshop? And is like a dog with a bone when something sets her off? So while the ad above is real, it prompted her to create the following spoofs, which she then posted in rapid succession:

Calling all party people, indeed. Too bad I just missed her birthday. Otherwise, I would’ve sent her a rock.

And somehow, I think she would’ve actually found it wicked sick.

Your help is not needed. Or appreciated.

16 Jun

The other weekend Alan and I hit a Nats game. If you don’t know what that means, you probably A) Don’t live in the United States, B) Hate Apple Pie, or C) Were home reading The Communist Manifesto.

Actually, I’m not a huge baseball fan myself, but I do love any excuse to sit outside in gorgeous weather with something resembling a purpose. And it turns out? The Nats are actually pretty great this year. Although they ended up losing the game, the first two at-bats resulted in home runs, which is an amazing way to kick off a game.

The over-arching theme of the day, however, was not baseball. It was unhelpful jobs. As Alan said, “This whole idea of re-training the workforce might have gone a bit too far.” Everywhere we turned, there was someone in a somewhat unnecessary job, trying to demonstrate their expertise.

Maybe I’m over-reacting? Here are two examples – tell me what you think…

When we popped up out of the Metro station, a woman was standing in the middle of the closest intersection, indicating when it was safe for pedestrians to cross. It’s no secret that I have no use for crossing guards – usually they’re about 20 seconds behind me in realizing the light has changed, which breeds an inefficiency that drives me nuts. This woman did nothing to help the cause.

We stood at the corner, obediently waiting, despite the fact that there was no traffic. I’d normally just jaywalk, but with cops everywhere, I was worried I might actually get a ticket. (It’s worth nothing that we were in something of a hurry because we were supposed to meet someone in front of the stadium to pick up tickets, and we were cutting it pretty close.)

So we stood. And waited. And watched the minutes tick off. And in my mind I could practically see the ticket dude (whose only descriptor was that he had an all-white beard and would be wearing a Whole Foods beanie) scalping our tickets. Or – even more dramatically – just holding a lighter to them when we no-showed the rendezvous on time.

As soon as the light changed, I stepped off the curb, deciding to obey the crossing signal rather than the crossing guard. And of course I wasn’t disappointed. No sooner  had I done that, than the woman blew her whistle and yelled, “Ma’am! Ma’am! Back on the sidewalk. You have to wait for the light!”

And without slowing down, I pointed at the light and said, “We’re good,” as I kept walking.

Alan apparently felt I was being an ass, because he yelled out, “Thank you for looking out for us.” I shook my head.

Once we were in the stadium, we scored a sausage and a beer just as the game was getting underway. We headed to our seats and were stopped by an older man wearing a jersey that said, “Ask me” on the back.

Without my asking, he said, “Can’t let you down while there’s a batter in the box,” he told us.

Alan and I traded a confused look. We’d never heard of that rule before, but it sounded polite, so who were we to argue? We waited patiently while the batter swung, and swung and swung. It might seem like a batter is up for only a second, but if you’re holding a sausage and feeling it grow cold while you wait, trust me: it feels like an eternity.

Meanwhile, a line of people was building behind us, all of whom were equally confused. “Can we slide past you to get to our seats?” one man asked, thinking we were just hanging out for shits and giggles. We explained why we were waiting. “Wow. I’ve never heard of that,” he said. “Didn’t realize we were so polite at the ballpark.”

We shrugged and shared a smile, looking at Mr. Ask Me for permission to proceed. He shook his head. Behind us, more people piled up. “Do you suppose there are places in the ballpark where this rule isn’t in effect?” I asked Alan.

He nodded. “Yes. It’s called Everywhere Else.”

You might expect me to round out an entry about useless stadium-related jobs by highlighting the mascots. But I’d actually argue that they serve a purpose. If I can define “purpose” as “entertainment.”  Especially in DC, where the Presidents’ Race is a game day favorite. (Not familiar with it? Check out this Wikipedia entry and specifically read the section about Teddy Roosevelt.)

Also? Sometimes they do stuff like THIS, which is why I’ll always petition to fund the mascots:

In fact, perhaps if Mr. Ask Me or the Ms. Traffic managed to moonwalk off a dugout, I’d be defending their jobs too.

That awkward moment when…

7 Jun

Sometime in the past year it has become popular to share a status update that begins with, “That awkward moment when…” and then recount something horribly embarrassing. Apparently it’s become so pervasive that my brain now does real-time narration of situations to let me know it’s been an awkward moment.

Or perhaps I’m just lucky enough to always find myself in awkward situations, and I now have a catch-phrase for it. In any case, without further ado, here’s my list from just THIS WEEK:

That awkward moment when your male boss walks out of the women’s room. And you realize the bathroom is actually mislabeled and you’ve been peeing in the men’s room for three months.

[Smack your head moment: So THAT’S why the toilet seat is always up!]

That awkward moment when everyone is trying to pinpoint where the “patchouli” smell is coming from and after proclaiming that you HATE patchouli because it reminds you of stoners who don’t shower, someone produces your new vial of perfume and says, “FOUND IT!” 

Perhaps I should start smoking weed. 

That awkward moment when you’re surrounded by a 55 Scottish bagpipers and you realize you’re a) the only woman, b) the only American accent, and c) likely the only person wearing underwear in the room. 

Well, I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to be a minority. 

That awkward moment when someone identifies the odd smell on the elevator as BODY ODOR right as you call it out as BASIL.

Kind of makes people wonder a) what you eat for dinner and b) what your armpits smell like. Perhaps this explains my attraction to the nasty patchouli perfume? 

That awkward moment when the gap in the stall door is wide enough for you to see someone sitting on the toilet – and you realize they are praying.

True story. Happened to me in Logan Airport. Fortunately, my flight had just landed. Otherwise, I would’ve thought some jihadist was in there making her peace before getting ready to take out my plane. And I would’ve had to kick her stall in. But since I’d landed safely, I figured, “Probably just a nun pooping.”