In February, my husband and I were back in the Disney Concert Hall to see Yuja Wang play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (hey, number two, get it?) to a packed house. At 8 p.m., the house lights went down, someone dropped their cell phone, someone took a prohibited photo of the stage and a reverent hush descended over the concert hall.
The stage door opened and out strode Yuja Wang in a sparkly long dress and 5 inch platform, followed shortly by Gustavo Dudamel to thunderous applause.
Dudamel led the orchestra into the dramatic first movement (hey! Another pun!). When it was finished, Wang leaned toward the conductor and whispered something to him. He got down off his platform and left the stage, followed by the much flashier Wang, clopping off on her towering shoes.
Whispering spread throughout the concert hall. What was happening? Was she demanding that some violinist be shot on stage who hit a B sharp when it should’ve been a B flat? Did some of the tendrils of her floor-length dress get caught in the foot pedals? Did she leave the toaster oven on at home?
A second later, a large stagehand came out and approached the piano. The audience watched, spellbound. The man leaned over and grabbed the piano stool by the sides and lifted up the offending piece of furniture. He carried it offstage and the door closed behind him.
A minute later, the stagehand returned, new stool in hand, with rubber, nonslip feet and placed it in front of the piano with the nonchalance of someone who just poured a cup of coffee.
A minute later, Wang and Dudamel returned to the stage and the concert resumed.
The orchestra had a successful second and third movement.
Everyone in the concert felt very much relieved.
My husband and I recently attended a performance of violin pieces by the world-renown Midori at the Disney Concert Hall. She came on stage to thunderous applause and bowed graciously to the crowds as she and her pianist exchanged unheard cues to each other. The audience fell into a deathly silence. You could’ve heard a tardigrade sneeze.
Just then, I felt an overwhelming desire to fart loudly. A real, rip-roaring BLAAAATT that would reverberate throughout the concert hall like the 2022 eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga volcano. I also had the urge to shout something out. Not something political like SAVE THE WHALES or FREE TIBET! Just a loud, primal scream.
It’s all your fault, Earthlings. We didn’t plan to end it this way, but we had no choice.
Let us explain.
For thousands of years, we’d been watching your progress as a species and we thought you showed promise. Sure, we had to turn a blind compound eye as you slaughtered each other by the millions, trashed your planet and invented Crocs footwear, the ugliest things ever to grace a foot other than a case of gout.
Growing pains, we told ourselves. Look on the sunny side of the street we assured ourselves. You humans managed to invent democracy, poetry and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
By 2004, we’d given you guys the green light and felt you were ready to take the next big step: making contact. We sent our hypersonic Tic Tacs to draw your attention and even dragged out some old-fashioned flying saucers—because you expected them.
Baby steps people, baby steps.
I wanted to write and thank you for the brightening our days here in Newport Beach, California with your December issue of the Robb Report. With over a half-million dead, our economy in tatters, and social upheaval I never thought I would live to see in the good ol’ U.S.A., COVID-19 has forced my husband Alfred and I to take a look deep inside our souls to reassess what’s important in life.
As I opened your little magazine and skipped through the pages, I was again reminded what makes life worth living: private islands, obscenely expensive sports cars, watches that cost the price of a middle-class house and diamonds that could choke a racehorse.
I felt immortal. I was finally in charge of my life with no more schedules, no to-do lists, no time limits.
True, there was an expiration date somewhere down the road for me, but in the meantime, everything was fluid.
I had the time to accomplish great things. Monumental things.
Since humor is one of the guiding forces in my life, I feel it my duty to add this clip from Netflix’s The Crown. Princess Margaret’s (Helena Bonham Carter) dirty limerick had me and my partner screaming with laughter. Please tell me this really happened! The icing on top of the cake is the Queen’s impeccably droll reaction. One of the best laughs I’ve had all year.
Two guys die and go to purgatory (this is a mostly Catholic country, after all). The attending angel tells the two guys as part of their penance before entering paradise, they will have to eat a bowl of shit each day, served in the manner of any country of their choosing. One chooses Switzerland, the other, Brazil. A long time passes and the eventually, the two guys runs into each other in heaven. The guy who chose Switzerland asks the guy who choose Brazil how he dealt with the bowl of shit each day, noting that the Swiss delivered his allotment each day with the usual Swiss efficiency. The guy from Brazil replies that it wasn’t bad at all since he never had to eat a thing. “The first day, the bowl arrived minus the shit. On the second, the bowl was delivered with its contents, but the delivery guy forgot the spoon. The third day, the delivery guy didn’t show up, and on the fourth, the delivery truck broke down…you get the drift.
The punchline is that in Brazil, nothing works like it’s supposed to, but life goes joyfully on.
I pondered this on the flight down to Rio to meet my partner who was already there on business. I was a sophisticated traveler and didn’t expect London streets to be populated with people who dressed like characters from Downton Abbey any more than I would expect to see old widows dressed in black with bundles of sticks on their backs trundling up hillsides in Italy. The world had changed. But what about Brazil?
It didn’t bother me when he said men should be penetrated at least once in their life to understand how women feel. Nor did I utter a word of protest when he shaved a Gucci logo into a model’s pubic hair for some fashion ads.
But not wear shorts? Mr. Ford had crossed a line as far as I was concerned. My legs are my one crowning glory since I cycle 40 miles every week. You might not see them gracing the cover of GQ or have celebrities discussing them on late-night talk shows, but I’m pretty certain that I could kill a man with them if I had to. Hiding them would be like putting a veil over the Mona Lisa.
I always wanted to live in a James Bond movie. Not one filled with disembowelings, adrenaline-provoking car chases or shark attacks, but one filled with way-cool gadgets. Push a button and a perfectly chilled martini rises silently, but majestically from a wet bar. Turn the face on your watch to the right and a tiny, poison dart dispenses the loud-mouthed jerk who cut in line at the post office. It’s all too seductive, the automated life.
So when my boyfriend and I moved in together in March and he announced plans to automate all the lighting in our apartment, I jumped on his idea like Trump on a prostitute. It was just lighting, but I felt it was a precursor to a fully automated household, full of decadent leisure brought on by the ability to control all the lights in our apartment, from a block away—or from around the world. While I wondered what was the point of turning a light on in the apartment when I was in Turkmenistan, I figured that it was for the same reason why a dog licks his balls: because he can.
1. I really have to pee.
2 Oops! Was I supposed to go second? My bad.
3. Does this space suit make my ass look fat?
4. This is so amazing! I wonder if people will ever think that we faked this whole thing?
5. A slide would’ve been so much cooler than a ladder.
6. Oh great, now my underwear is bunching up on me
7. Everyone is watching. Please don’t fall. Please don’t fall.
8. I can’t breathe! Gasp, gasp, gasp. Just kidding.
9. I can see my house from here
10. Open the pod bay doors, Hal.
Photo: Courtesy NASA
An interview with a superintelligent computer
Jessica: Good morning, everyone, I’m Jessica Cross and it’s Saturday, April 10, 2023, seven days after the Singularity. Today, we have an exclusive interview with Ted, the superintelligent computer that began life as an Angry Birds game and just last week, took over the world. He’s joining us from his fortified bunker deep inside a mountain in Colorado. Thanks for sparing us a few minutes, Ted.
Ted: Thank you so much for having me on your show.
This article ran in the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, June 29, 2018. They had to censor some parts and cut a bit for space. I understand completely. But I decided to let loose here. You have been warned.
I wasn’t very smart when it came to dating. Or was I?
I like to think of myself as a pretty intelligent guy. Logical, analytical, able to reason things out.
If I’m not cycling around Griffith Park, I’ll spend my free time watching documentaries on YouTube about chaos theory, parallel universes and anything to do with Einstein. I have books stacked in tall piles on my bedside tables covering a bewildering array of subjects, from theories of time to the history of the Dutch people to Murakami novels filled with talking cats and disturbing passages of incest.
But when it comes to dating, my prized intellect goes completely out the window. I’ll date a guy with more red flags than a communist parade, ignoring warning signs that would cause most people in my position to move out of town and change their phone number.
“Hey, Stan, who are we shooting at this time?”
“James Bond again.”
“I have a bad feeling about this.”
“Why? We’ve got Bond outnumbered ten-to-one.”
“And every time he manages to come out on top.”
“No way! We’ve got him cornered.”
“Over by the 100 canisters of liquified oxygen and pile of oily rags.”
“I still have a bad feeling about this…” Continue reading