Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Comic-con 2012

San Diego Comic-con International did not fall on my birthday this year. Nice change, thank you. In anticipation of the trip, we went off to the car dealership and bought me a new set of wheels. For the moment, the Odyssey is still in the driveway, but the new chariot is a 2012 Toyota Rav4. It was hard to resist the zero per cent financing, so we did not. Driving it is definitely fun.

The trip to San Diego rarely is.

We were ripped off by The Toll Roads, where the fare taker returned change for a $10, when we paid with a $20. There was nothing we could do at the time, because we were several miles down the road when Len counted the change. I told this to the fare taker on the way home, five days later. He handed me a card and said to call the number. They don't take calls. They tell you to use the website. Where it says you have two days to report a problem. Apparently they get lots of complaints about these things and no longer want to deal with them. I guess that's how Orange County balances its books these days.

What looked like it was going to be a reasonably time trip when it only took about an hour and a quarter to get to Costa Mesa came to a screeching halt when we got to Oceanside and crawled the rest of the way into San Diego. Total time: almost four hours for a trip that runs about 130 miles.

We checked into the Hilton Bayfront Hotel and were told we were getting a room with two queen-sized beds. Len said he requested a king with a fold-out or roll-away. They said we could have a king with a roll-away, but it would be $20 more a night because it had a bay view. We can afford the additional $20. What they didn't tell us was that it was, in theory, a handicap room, with a too-small closet, a too-large bath room, and no tub or way to keep the shower from going all over the floor. The shower curtain didn't cover the entire area because it had been folded over itself--there weren't enough hooks for all the holes. Annoying, but not worth the bother of repacking to go to another room that probably wasn't available anyway. I still think they should have disclosed this little fact to us at check-in. I would have opted for the two queens and Michael would have been happier than on the cot.

Len and Michael headed over to the Convention Center for the preview night opening while I took care of a few things in the room and then I went over, checked in, got my badges (for me and "adopted daughter" Sara) and went looking for my men. I was surprised that I got to the DC both before they did. It turns out that Len fell on entering the Convention Center and managed to bruise himself up pretty well. This was his third fall at a convention this year. He fell twice in Chicago, once because he tried to go over a velvet rope to his signing area--his own fault--and once because a megasized guy backed into him. I'm concerned about him going to other shows this year without a minion to keep him safe. I think that his new requirements for being a guest will have to include at least one minion to help him negotiate the crowds and to make sure he eats.
The floor of the San Diego Convention Center on Saturday morning taken from the DC Entertainment green room on the mezzanine level. Strangely, there is still room to walk around on the floor  on what is usually the most crowded day.
I may have spent the least amount of time I ever have at the actual convention. I don't like trying to move through crowds. I drove up to see the horse exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Natural History, but I didn't bother to go to Mary's Tack and Feed in Del Mar or to the antique shopping areas in Ocean Beach or elsewhere because driving was particularly dangerous this year. My friend Noel had a collision with one of the prolific pedi-cabs in the down-town area (the pedi-cab's fault, I think) and so many streets were closed that getting anywhere other than on foot was pretty hard.
Trying to cross the street into the Gaslamp District for summer is a challenge at any time, not just when the showroom closes each evening.
Adding to the crowds are the right-wing religious crazies who have, over the past three years, decided to let the people at Comic-con know they are damned. It is an unpleasant distraction from what was a rather lighthearted event for many years.
So called "Christians" protesting at Comic-con.
I'm not inclined to stand in front of a church with placards reminding the attendees that the mythology of a zombie god that came out of a nomadic desert people really doesn't fly in the face of modern science because they are entitled to believe whatever they want. Just keep your noses out of text books, leave me the heck alone, and stop impeding foot traffic, thank you.
My spousal unit when he finally showed up for his scheduled panel on Saturday.
The only panel I saw was one Len was on--and he was late for it. Plus, Quentin Tarrantino interrupted it to make a pitch for a movie tie-in comic he would be doing with DC later this year. I don't know why people thought this would be a good idea.
Quentin Tarantino makes a surprise visit to the Before Watchman Panel at SDCC.
It would have been nice to see the panels for The Big Bang Theory, The Game of Thrones, and The Hobbit, but one look outside our hotel window guaranteed that would not happen. I don't sit in lines for three days, thank you. One Twihead died before the convention started because she left her place on the line and then tried running back to it while not paying enough attention to traffic. People were lined up days before the convention started--that's insane. Now, at least, if you don't get in you are likely to find at least the highlights of panels on YouTube or on a studio or network website. Not as much fun as being in the audience, and not as likely to get you a trip into outer space, but it is a solution.
The overflow line for Hall H on Friday morning. These are the folks who aren't snaked under the tents close to the entrance to the Convention Center. The line runs the length of the Convention Center to about the Marriott Hotel and doubles back on itself. Hall H holds about 6500 people. There may have been more than twice that waiting in lines to get in at any time during the weekend.
 Len's convention involved a lot of interviews because of the high profile Before Watchmen project. He deserves the attention and good for him.
Len Wein enjoying himself at Michael Davis' post-Eisner Awards party. Len won a life-time achievement Eisner in 2008. Yes, the leather doublet is supposed to look like Captain America's.
For the past three years, I've been a guest at a party I consider the highlight of my Comic-con weekend. It is thrown by Bill Prady, the co-creator of The Big Bang Theory, and what makes it so wonderful is you never know who will show up and it is in a venue which actually allows people to talk to each other.

The invitation authorizes invitees to invite "other awesome" people. So the first year, I brought Melinda Snodgrass along and last year and this year I also brought George R.R. Martin--a major hit and inspiration for a change in decor at the Leonard and Sheldon apartment, because they now have a replica sword from A Game of Thrones situated where it is shown whenever anyone enters or leaves the apartment. Very cool. (I've seen a number of Len's covers show up around the set and a copy of Legacies was on the table next to Sheldon's seat the last time we visited the set.)

I was delighted to meet Adam Savage from Mythbusters the first time I went to the party and got to speak to him again last year. This year, he was pretty busy talking to other people, including John Landis, and I didn't want to interrupt. But I spent a bit of time talking to Wil and Anne Wheaton, Chase Masterson, Chuck Lorre's assistant Mackenzie Gabriel, and my old friend George. I introduced George to Felicia Day, whom I knew had been dying to meet him for quite some time, and we all got to meet Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca from Star Wars) and Paul and Storm who recorded "Write Like the Wind (George R.R. Martin)" as a plea to George to finish A Song of Ice and Fire. Here's a link to the video.

Here are some of the photographs I took at the party. I know it looks rather like I was there as George's personal photographer (been there, done that), but everyone wanted their photograph taken with George, and I was happy to oblige:

Sam and Topher, a couple of my "adopted children."
George R.R. Martin with Max Landis, a writer-director in his own right and son of John Landis who was somewhere else in the tent.
Felicia Day (Geek and Sundry) with George R.R. Martin.

George R.R. Martin with Wil and Anne Wheaton.
George R.R. Martin with Chase Masterson.
George R.R. Martin with half of Paul and Storm

George R.R. Martin with host Bill Prady.
George R.R. Martin with Peter Mayhew.
Len Wein, Felicia Day, Wil Wheaton, Peter Mayhew, George R.R. Martin and Chase Masterson. How many fans would like to be in this room?
My "adopted daughter," Sara Katz-Scher, with George R.R. Martin.
My "adopted daughter" Dani Dornfeld and Chase Masterson with Brent Spiner.
My most awesome moment at Comic-con in several years, meeting Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Paul and Storm, Wil Wheaton, and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Neil deGrasse Tyson has one of the the coolest jobs in the world: he's the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History in New York. When I was nine-years-old at the start of my enrapture with astronomy, I lived for the day I would be able to visit the Hayden. Even though it wasn't that far away (150-200 miles) and even though we visited family on Long Island all the time, I did not get there until I was 12 or 13. It was a religious experience for me. I have not yet been to a program at the beautiful renovated Planetarium, but I will get there sometime.

I've become a huge fan of Dr. Tyson's over the past few years and was heartbroken when I learned he had done a guest spot on The Big Bang Theory when I wasn't in the audience. When I saw that he was at Comic-con because of a Facebook photograph, I was beyond excited that he might show up at Bill Prady's party. As it happened, Bill did not know he was attending Comic-con until he saw my post and shot off an invitation. He hadn't heard back from Dr. Tyson, but then I got a phone message from my husband, who had to go back to the Convention Center for a meeting, saying that he had just passed Neil deGrasse Tyson who was walking in my direction. Then I got a call from Ginjer Buchannan, who had left the party and wanted me to know she had just touched Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was headed in my direction. When he showed up, I went rather school girl crazy to Mackenzie and then I went to speak to him. Sometimes, it is fun to be a teenager for a few minutes. Len is still jealous, because Dr. Tyson was gone when Len got back to the party.

It turns out there are a tremendous number of people who look at him like he's a Rock God and he got a great reception at what I've been told is his first-ever Comic-con. Here he is at the Starship Smackdown Panel on Sunday. Wish I had been there, but I was trying to get Len out of the Convention Center before it became a mad dash to the doors and the roads became engorged from the traffic back north to Los Angeles.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Aurora, Colorado

First of all, everyone should know that Batman never uses guns. They are what killed his parents. He's smarter than that and his superpower, as my husband likes to say, is that he never loses.

Coming on the heels of Comic-con, what happened in Colorado is particularly tragic to a lot of people I know, and the negative publicity DC, Warner Bros, and the comic book industry are getting because of this one sociopath is unwarranted. Batman is about justice, so I'm pretty annoyed that the news media keeps harping on the killer's Batman poster and doesn't spend a lot of time talking about his being raised in a religious household. The failure to report on this last point is letting Mike Huckabee and others get away with claiming that a lack of religion is what leads to what happened in Colorado. I doubt it, because I've seen ample evidence that an OVERLOAD of religious zealotry leads to many tragedies.

The shooter's background and his behavior in court remind me so much of Edward Norton's character in Primal Fear, a brilliant sociopath who is gaming the system. And I keep wondering if the murderer is color blind, choosing a red hair dye to emulate the Joker instead of the appropriate green color of the Joker's hair. I do not spend too much time thinking about this, however.

What I do think about is the piece that victim Jessica Ghawi/Redfield wrote after barely missing a similar, senseless shooting in Toronto barely a month before she died in Aurora. If you haven't read it, here is a link. I'm sorry her Spider-sense wasn't working last week.


For a long time, I thought we were the only ones who considered 1776 to be a necessary part of celebrating July 4. Facebook and Twitter have made it quite clear we are not alone.

I saw 1776 during its original run on Broadway from nosebleed seats. I'm pretty sure it is the very first show I saw on Broadway. Some group or other at Hofstra had arranged a bus and group tickets and I found out about it because I used to hang out with a bunch of the theatre students who lived in the dorms. It was love at first sight for this history major. When the filmed version opened at Radio City Music Hall a few years later, I had tickets for it. If the show was playing anywhere within my knowing, I would get tickets for it.

Fortunately, when I met Len Wein, I quickly learned he was equally enamored of the show. We bought the restored film when it came out on laser disk. We bought the DVD. We've seen it done in Santa Barbara and in Glendale, and if we had time this close to Comic-con would drive out to Camarillo to see it this weekend.
Roger Rees was in the production we saw at UCLA a few days after 9/11. (We lost the poster signed by the entire cast as a fundraiser in our house fire.) Len may have seen the revival with Brent Spiner in New York on one of his trips east.

As far as I am concerned, William Daniels is the definitive John Adams, just as Howard da Silva was born to play Benjamin Franklin (oh that voice) and the young and handsome Ken Howard was perfect as Thomas Jefferson. No matter how much liberty was taken with the truth, it is an inspiring production that has you worrying that they will never, ever reach their goal of declaring independence from England. Since much of the dialogue was taken from correspondence and other writings of the day, I can't help but long for a time when language was elevated and insults were so much more interesting.

We missed the TMC broadcast during the afternoon because we went out to buy me a new car and because Len had a signing at a local comic book shop for Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1. But we had a few members of the Sunday Super Supper Squad who came over to use the pool and throw food on the grill as a celebration of the Fourth, with the intention of watching the film after supper.

We got the first half of the film in before folks went off in search of fireworks (I was actually able to see some from our front yard) and then when everyone came back, we watched the rest of it. I am always struck by the song Cool, Considerate Men, which Richard Nixon succeeded in having excised from the original film release as "too lefty." Here's an article about the cut from the LA Times in 2001. We are so lucky the film's editor ignored the order to shred the negative footage.

During that pointed song, there is a brief exchange between John Hancock and John Dickinson that rings with irony in this day of the Astroturf Tea Party:  Dickinson had asked Hancock why he sided with Adams when he (Hancock) was a man of property. Hancock tells Dickinson, "Fortunately there are not enough men of property in America to dictate policy," and Dickinson replies, "Perhaps not. But don't forget that most men without property would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor. And that is why they will follow us."  And the chorus finishes the sentence singing "ever to the right."

Come ye cool cool considerate men
The likes of which may never be seen again
With our land, cash in hand
Self-command, future planned
And we'll hold to our gold
Tradition that is old, reluctant to be bold.
We say this game's not of our choosing
Why should we risk losing?

Think about that as you face the upcoming election.