Al Gore is not boring, but his movie kind of is.

There’s an episode of The Simpsons in which Martin, one of the nerdy kids, spends his last ten bucks on a talking Al Gore doll. “You are hearing me talk,” says the doll. It cracks me up every time. Plus, it’s a fairly accurate assessment of the production version of Al Gore. Stiff, not that interesting, but honest, very very honest.

Last night I attended a screening of Al Gore’s new movie, An Inconvenient Truth. It’s a film version of Al Gore’s slide show on global warming. His science is undeniably thorough and accurate. His passion about the issue is palpable, even on screen. This man has done his homework, exhaustively, and when the movie is over you have no doubt that his case is clear and that action is essential.

But I fell asleep in the middle anyway.

Granted, I am still in the throes of jetlag and staying up past nine at night presents some serious challenges, but I was still more than a little bored. There’s some good stuff in there, but a lot of it feels like sitting through a Power Point presentation at a meeting you don’t really want to be at. The interspersed footage about Al Gore’s personal life is supposed to illustrate how he came to be so passionate about the issue of global warming, but it struck me as somewhere between maudlin and a little bit vain. And also, beside the point.

All this is too bad, because you know what? Al Gore quite a good speaker and he is not boring at all.

I got a call at the last minute instructing me to rush to downtown Seattle where I’d get to see the movie and hear some local politicians speak briefly about the issues. Ron Sims and Greg Nickels – introduced by KC Golden from Climate Solutions – were there and talked about the work they were doing in King County and Seattle to reduce the region’s contributions to global warming. Then after the movie… surprise! Christine Gregoire and the man himself, Al Gore.

There are a few amusing bits in the movie. Mr. Gore introduces himself and says, “I used to be the next president of the United States.” Ouch. There’s another funny little thing with a scissor lift. It’s cute but also kind of controlled. But in person, unscripted, Mr. Gore is entertaining and funny and on fire about the issues. His voice gets louder and his hands wave around and he is inspiring. Here are just a few (probably inaccurate and not as good to read as they are to hear) quotes.

“We borrow money from China to buy oil from a region that is so unstable that we end up sending troops there every few years… this is NOT sustainable! “

“There seems to be some kind of puritanical underpinnings to the movement that wants to make us feel BAD about buying STUFF. I LIKE going to Costco. I am not going to stop going to Costco. “

“One day, we will be able to go places without taking 3000 pounds of metal with us every time. When we look back on this time, we’ll say, wow, that was weird.”

I was hopped up, and sitting on the edge of my seat while I watched the VP take questions and pace back and forth. He’s got good stuff to say and it’s interesting to hear him say it. Pity there wasn’t more of that Al Gore in the movie.

There’s a lot of hype out there about how you need to see this movie. I’m not totally convinced that you do. After all, here you are, reading me, so I suspect you’re already part of the choir. The real reason you need to see this movie might have more to do more with marketing than your need to be converted to the faithful. If you pack the house on opening weekend, the movie will get some decent press and then, maybe folks who actually do need to see the movie will get themselves to the megaplex.

That said, if you decide to go because you feel like you just don’t know enough about global warming, prepare with a good strong blast of caffeine. The other thing you can do, which may be the more compelling story in the long run, is to sign up to be a presenter of the Al Gore show. After seeing the movie and then hearing the man live, I think it’s better to go the live route. If you are the sort who could be a passionate voice for the crisis of global warming, you may be able to effect more change than a documentary about a politician giving a slide show.

Unexpected Loophole

Get a load of this:

Cecelia Fire Thunder, a former nurse who is the first female president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said it was “an eye-opener” when legislators approved a law that prohibits abortion in nearly all cases, even when the pregnancy is the product of a rape or incest. The only exception is to save the mother’s life.

“An Indian reservation is a sovereign nation and we’re going to take it as far as we can to exercise our sovereignty,” said Fire Thunder, whose Pine Ridge Reservation encompasses 2.7 million acres in southwestern South Dakota. “As Indian women, we fight many battles. This is just another battle we have to fight.”

Because federally recognized tribes are not, in many cases, required to abide by state law, a clinic could operate lawfully at Pine Ridge even with a ban in place, said South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long.

The entire article is here.

Expedia Eats a Little Crow

Honestly, the number of people that give up must be staggering. Who wants to make all those phone calls? And even when you KNOW, you just KNOW you’ve been wronged, if you can’t get the right person to help you, you’re just, well, you’re f*cked. I have endless persistence, a high speed internet connection, and a handy sense of search. That’s how I found the National Geographic Travel Ombudsman who helped me get this resolved. But I’ll bet nine out of ten screwed consumers just give up. Here’s to the other ten percent.

Ms. Nerd’s Eye View

I apologize that there has been a delay in our response to this matter. I would like to assure you that your matter has been looked into and researched fully.

We have received your complaint made to Christopher Elliott, ombudsman for National Geographic, via our Public Relations department. I have personally researched your case and noted that, while our agents did provide you with correct information with regards to the usability of your reservation, they did not recognize that this information was not made clear to you prior to purchase.

After a review of our website and your itinerary, I can see that the fare rules for only one portion of your ticket was displayed; ultimately, the rules indicating that your ticket could not be changed were not made available. For this, I cannot apologize more.

It is never our intent to mislead or miscommunicate to our customers, nor it is our intent to cause such confusion or inconvenience. In light of this, I would like to assist you with making accommodations for your return flight from Vienna to Seattle, at no cost to you.

Administrative stuff here.

So. There. Ha.

Jane Says

Dress and Serve Greens

“In a series of narrative images ­ a sexy game of cards, a scantily clad lawn mowing seductress looming over a lawn-chair lounging TV dad, Richlovsky explores how desires for excessive consumer goods ­ a suburban house, a nuclear family ­ are in essence sexual desires. In constructions inspired by magazine advertisements from the 1950¹s, she attaches rectangles of painted patterns to the images. The abstract patterns contradict, reinforce, or parody the content and formal qualities of the ambiguous narratives with which they are paired.”

Anyhow, that’s how her press release reads.You maybe don’t even need to know all that to know that you should go see her show. What you should know is that she is an amazing painter. Just go.

Ballard Fetherston Gallery
818 E. Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98122
Gallery Hours:11:00a.m. ­ 5:00p.m.
Tuesday-Saturday and by Appointment

Exhibition dates: April 7th -May 6th
New Paintings by Jane Richlovsky
Artist Reception: Friday April 7th 5-7pm
Artist Gallery Lecture Thursday April 20th 6pm

Outrage II: The Customer is Always Wrong


Pulled from the ‘Rules and Restrictions’ portion of my ticket. Emphasis is mine.

I purchased my British Airways ticket on Expedia in late summer. All fine, decent fare, reasonable terms, yadda yadda. I always buy a ticket that permits changes, my bicontinental lifestyle requires it. Fast forward to last week, when I accepted a two month contract at Sony in Salzburg and attempted to change my ticket.

  1. I take my intinerary to the travel agent. The agent calls British. British says they won’t do business with an agent as it’s an individual purchase.
  2. I call British. British tells me my ticket can not be changed. I quote them the terms you see above and they disagree with my interpretation of the text. They tell me changes are not permitted after my outbound flight. They tell me I may apply for a waiver by faxing the above terms to British. I ask them if they are kidding me. Faxing? What? I ask for a supervisor.
  3. The supervisor tells me I must settle the deal with Expedia and that the ticket as seen by British is not changeable. They say Expedia must pay for any changes.
  4. I call Expedia. The agent says, “Sure, I can go ahead and make that change,” but is then unable to do so. I ask if she sees anything that tells me I can not make the change and then, she says no, but British must make the change because travel has already started. She connects me with British and leaves me there. Lather, rinse, repeat.
  5. I call Expedia. The agent says, “Sure, I can go ahead and make that change,” but is then unable to do so. She does some further research and says that my ticket has “two fare rules and that they are required to apply the most restrictive rule.” I ask, rather politely, I think, where that information is available to me and she concedes that it is not. I ask for a supervisor.
  6. The supervisor tells me, repeatedly, that the terms of the ticket are clear and that changes are not permitted after my initial outbound flight. I ask, repeatedly, where where that information is available to me and she concedes that it is not. She finally says she can contact British to apply for a waiver.
  7. I call Expedia. The agent reviews my case but says that the British has not yet been contacted and asks me to hold. I refuse. The agent, who is actually trying to be helpful, agrees to contact British and request the waiver and tells me to call back.
  8. I call Expedia. The agent says “Sure, I can go ahead and help you with that. Changes are 75 dollars.” (What? Huh?) I explain, again. The agent, who is actually trying to be helpful, reviews my case and sees that the request has been made, but has been denied by British. The agent has a suggestion for me, however. She says that the flight schedule has been changed and it’s my right as a passenger to refuse that change and ask for a different flight. She suggests I try that route with British. She then offers me a 75 dollar credit on my Expedia account. I say, rather politely, that is insufficient to cover my expenses and time, and if British refuses again, I will incur additional hassle and expense. I say that Expedia is responsible for all this hassle and that I want them to resolve the issue. The agent concedes that it’s a drag, but says that if she contacts British, they will resist because “they know she knows the rules.” She says it’s really best for me to do it and insist upon my rights as a passenger. The change which allows me this loophole? A delay in an outbound departure.
  9. I call British. British tells me that, yup, I’m correct about the rule, but the schedule change has to be a two hour minimum. My flight change? 20 minutes. (Still, good to know. Fliers, keep that in your pocket should you ever need it.)
  10. I call Expedia. Luckily, I get the same agent again. She asks me what I want her to do. I tell her that Expedia needs to either compensate me for the half of the ticket that I can not use or provide me with a new flight. She connects me with a supervisor.
  11. The supervisor says that because I was informed that the ticket was not changeable, there is nothing she can do and she offers me a 100 dollar voucher. I tell her that actually, I was informed that the ticket was changeable by several Expedia agents, who happened to also be wrong. The conversation devolves, I kid you not, in to a “no you didn’t” – “yes you did” sort of thing. I suggest she review the tapes of the conversation, but she insists that I was never told that the ticket was changeable.I ask to speak with her supervisor. She puts me on hold after stonewalling me about how her supervisor will tell me the same thing. Worn out for now, I hang up.

I do actually undertand that I’m in the wrong about the terms of my ticket. But so were several Expedia agents, so it’s not really surprising that I didn’t get it right. The terms as stated are not clear – it does not say anywhere that changes are not permitted after travel has commenced. Are the terms intentionally obfuscated? I can’t help but wonder.

Nonfamousi, do you know anyone at Expedia? I’d like to, um, get in touch with them.

The Raj

Possible reasons for this business with India:

  1. If we don’t hurry, China will take all the best seats.
  2. Indian troops needed for Afghanistan Iraq Iran.
  3. Job is moving there anyway, going early to open a bank account and find an apartment.
  4. Forming an alliance so we don’t get voted off the island.
  5. Danish cartoons not divisive enough, need to send Bush to regions with large Islamic populations.
  6. Told Musharraf we want to “see other nations.”
  7. American consumers no longer buying our offshore produced goods (See #3).
  8. Visiting those temples with the sexually explicit scuptures is culture, not porn.
  9. Mad cow Bird flu means we’d better learn how to be vegitarian from experts.
  10. Bollywood actresses are way hot.

Okay, seriously, I don’t get it. Bush said on the news the other night that he hoped India would “open their markets to US agricultural products.” India? They need to import agricultural products? What? Huh? The more I read, the less I understand. Admittedly, I’ve been in a Eurocentric stupor, but now that I’m waking up, a little help, anyone?

Drag Queens and Drunk Mozarts

We were in town for not 10 minutes when a tall man in a dirdnl and a blonde wig walked right up to me and kissed me on the cheek. No introduction, nothing, his arms spread out, his hands facing upwards as though he was greeting an old friend. His companion, a similarly attired person of less height wrapped an arm around my shoulder and leaned it to tell me something unintelligable.

On the stage in the center of town, two bewigged women lip sycnched to painfully bad German pop songs while the MC, in a used car salesman jacket, riffed on the song titles. From up the street came the sound of drumming and handclapping. The Trommelweiber – men dressed in white bonnets and skirts practiced their marching routine, swilled beer, and smoked, their masks tipped up on top of their heads.

Tina and I squeezed through the main square to find the Fetzen and the Fishchermen. (I give random ukulele lessons to Tina’s son, Alex.) The Fetzen-Frau joked with Tina about trading for her orange scarf. The Fisherman waved their baited hooks around – some of them had candy on the line and were able to catch a few small children, others had actual bits of fish and you had to be careful to avoid not getting whacked in the face with a bit of sardine. They were followed, finally, by the Flinserln – this is what we’d come to to see. The musicians, up front, played a string tune. They were followed by a large troup in elaboroate sequined and appliqued costumes. The sun hit the little sequins, sending bits of light out in to the street. Flinserl roughly translates to “tinsel” – the sparkly stuff with which the costumes are covered.

In the center of town, the Flinserln gathered little groups of children and taught them the Fasching rhyme, at the end of which they’d all shout “Nuss!” (Nuts!). The Flinserl would then toss walnuts or tangerines in to the air, and the kids would scramble for the treats.

“Heut ist da Faschingtag,
heut sauf i was i mag,
heut mach i ‘s Testament
‘s Geld geht zan End.”

We went hunting for a cup of coffee and ended up in the private party of the Trommelweiber and the Flinserln, unmasked now, drinking champagne and eating Faschingskrapfen. “Look, it’s the governor!” said Tina, making her way between the packed humans to snap a photo. We snaked through the tight crowd at the Levandovsky, usually a staid, civilized coffee house, now full of clowns and jesters, but were unable to find a table. “No matter,” said Tina, “Let’s go to the bar, we’ll find something there.”

Inside a blurry trio of Mozarts drank beer. We sat on a bench with a handful of costume punk teenagers. Tina (she teaches kids just this age) asked them to repeat the Flinserln rhyme and baited the boys. “Ask that woman where she’s from,” she said. My neighbor, a 15 year old in a torn white t-shirt, turned to me and I told him. “George Bush is an asshole,” he said. “Nice to meet you,” I responded, and shook his hand. Another boy, across the table from me, proceded to list all the places in America he wanted to go. His sidekick, a quiet kid with a spectacular mohawk, leaned forward to let me touch his hair when I reached out my hand towards his head. One of the Mozarts stumbled over and slapped a piece of paper on the table in front of me. “My autograph!” he said. I turned the paper over to read “Wolfi” scrawled in ball point pen.

The Mozarts bid us good day and we headed back to the car, winding through a crowd of fur coated ladies, wasted pirates, stray Flinserln, witches, little princesses, old men in traditional hats, television camera men, and tourists.

You want pictures, right? They’re here.

Ah, Venice, II

Last year around this time, Paulette wrote beautifully about her trip to Venice. I got back from Venice last night and I’m not even going to try to match Paulette’s eloquence. Plus, in an unusual state of affairs, I find myself at a loss for words. Instead, I’ll post a link to my Flickr photos. Oh, I will say this: I am a feet on the ground kind of person. I’m not dispassionate, but I’m so not a crier. But when we headed out on the Grand Canal and I laid eyes on Venice for the first time, I got weepy. I was overcome by how beautiful it is.

My tombstone will read, “It’s okay, I saw Venice.”