Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Some Final Notes on SD 2007

Well, now that the dust has settled over San Diego Comic Con Int'l 2007, I had a few brief (and final) comments on the whole rigamaroll – namely, how the whole thing felt like a carbon copy of the previous year’s con, and even more unsettling, seems more and more driven as a Hollywood marketing blitz for upcoming movies, TV series, and direct-to-DVD efforts.

Both comics, and the creators behind them, were clearly marginalized this year by Hollywood’s massive marketing collective which thinks nothing of pouring hoards of cash into (for example) hawking a new NBC series starring Heather Graham only to yank the plug on the whole thing in two weeks if the Biblically-sized ratings some moronic studio exec in LA had expected to show within the series’ first two airings didn’t pan out.

I have no problem with Hollywood playing a part at the Con; it just seems that the industry is taking over the entire show like a creeping plague, in which case I won’t bother showing up year after year to join the mass of idiots willing to throw themselves in front of babies to obtain cheap, promotional crap before the next guy does.

Monday, July 30, 2007

To Thine Own Self Be True

Thursday, July 26, 2007

CHV: Y’know, I saw this cool Padres baseball shirt over at Horton Plaza Mall today, but the price tag said forty bucks.

Mark: Forty for a t-shirt? That’s nuts.

CHV: No kidding. I mean, I have no problem admitting I’m a consumer whore, but even I have standards.

Mark: Good for you.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

CHV: Hello, my good shopkeeper. I’d like that Padres shirt in a size XL. Thank you.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Killing Time & Counting The Bodies

As I write this, it is now 5PM (PST) and my flight leaves in six hours, so as opposed to collecting my fragments of memory from the past few days in southern California when I get home I might as well do so now.

First off, my hotel review…based on various (bad) coverages I’d read online of the Ramada St. James Hotel set in San Diego’s Gaslamp District, you’d think this place was the flophouse from hell. It’s not. Yet the St. Jim was built a year after the Titanic sank in 1912, and is showing its age. Yes, the hotel offers its own—shall we say, unique—charms including the elevators, once clocked as the world’s fastest but now are turtle-like in speed.

But that’s all academic; my chief complaint about the hotel is that my card key kept dying on me, requiring me to go downstairs from the 9th Floor three times to get the problem fixed.

Not fun at the end of a long, hot, exhausting day.

Otherwise, my room was comfortable and clean, the staff nice, and the hotel’s location almost ideal. This said, however, I doubt I’ll come back to the St. James next year. I’m not sure what turned me off about the hotel, but I think it just feels claustrophobic. The halls are narrow, and the elevator cars small and difficult to manage; next time I’d prefer a location in the same area that’s a helluva lot more modern and hopefully as affordable.

Between, Wayne, Brad and I sharing a two-bedroom suite, the final costs per person came down to about $375 per person. Not bad compared to the bill two other pals paid at the U.S. Grant Hotel just two blocks north -- a lovely, posh, and very expensive dig. I had been looking forward to playing the disc golf course at San Diego’s Morley Field for a while, especially for the chance to play in am environment so different from the Midwestern one I’m used to (e.g. maples and oaks).

Jesus, what a difference…

For one thing, the tree coverage is obviously much different in southern California, strewn with notty pines and other mid-sized trees with extremely dense branches.

Translation: they act like spider webs for wayward discs, and are almost impossible to dislodge if caught way up.

I was also unhappy with Morley Field’s terrible design.

For one thing, each tee box features a sign with designates which basket the player should be aiming for among six total – which makes for a confusing course to those who’ve never played it before. Even worse, as mentioned in the previous post, Morley’s final four fairways actually cross each another, making for crowded skies and frequent cries of “Fore!” from all around you.

I have only been disc golfing for a short while, but I’ve never had to deal with any layout like the one at Morley. It was a fucking mess.

Afterwards, Mark and I had some time to kill and did so over at San Diego Zoo, my first visit since 1984. Although I recalled a few things about the zoo’s layout since then, the place is pretty confusing to walk without a map. Unlike Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo (which I have been to countless times and is laid out in a big circle), San Diego’s pathways double-back and loop about as if designed by a drunk on a three-day bender. Still, the day was pleasant, and I envied many of the critters as the sacked out in the cool shade.

The highlight of the zoo visit, though, was the sudden birth of a concept for a brand-new comic strip/book which Mark and I created while poking fun at a guy we knew who was once a very respected indie comic book creator until becoming “born again” – a decision which has since prompted this guy to eviscerate his previous edgy works into happier, more God-friendly versions.

In other words, he took his own, once-beloved children into the backyard, and gave them homemade lobotomies with a hammer and chisel.

Where have you gone, Joe Chiapetta? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you…

Finally, regarding the Con itself, I frankly did not spend a lot of time there. Yes, gorgeous girls abounded, but many of the site’s vendors were the same as in 2007. I did not attend any forums. I did, however, secure many cool books (mostly about Lovecraft) and a t-shirt or six, all of which are now safely packed away in my bags, and awaiting shipment home.

So to sum up, a good time in San Diego was had by all this year.

I will be returning in 2008 for the next big Comic Con; as for the year after that, well, I’ll have to wait and see.

San Diego Is Big Fun; In Other News - Death To Idiots

Am flying home very late tonight from my San Diego trip.

Suffice to say everything has gone swimmingly, and has included much gathering of shiny stuff, disc golf on a course whose design was lacking (more on this later), plus a stop at the SD Zoo (my first since 1984) and Old Town to visit what is alleged to the most haunted site in America -- The Whaley House (for the record, if any ghosts were there during my visit, they were obviously on break).

To cap off the trip, last night I visited the nearby town of La Jolla Cove for dinner with friends, followed by a stroll along the Pacific and a stop by a small sandy inlet (nicknamed “The Children’s Pool” by locals) where we enjoyed watching a group of harbor seals camped on shore. In this same area, however, I also could not help noticing a group of people seated about 40 feet behind the seals, all camped in fold-out chairs and preparing to light a fire in a small Weber grill.

Obviously looking at the same group, local woman beside me snorted under her breath.

When I asked what her deal was, I was told these campers (all white, middle to upper-class citizens of La Jolla) were protesting the seals’ presence on the “Children’s Pool,” in addition to their being restricted by Federal law to do anything about it.

Suspicious that my leg was being pulled (I mean, no one could be that idiotic, right?), I walked up to a San Diego County lifeguard station overlooking the “Children’s Pool,” and asked two officers there what the real story was involving these alleged “protestors” and the seals.

Incredibly, they confirmed it was all true noting that local angst over the seals goes back 11 years, and involves a small, but vocal group of anti-seal crusaders who feel their poor little moppets are being victimized by not being able to fully use the “Children’s Pool” due to the federally-protected animals-- as if the beach-in-question is the only one in Southern California available to kids.

During our talk, the officers even noted this issue is such a hot one in La Jolla that in 2004, one man grew so enraged over the seals that he kicked in the door of the lifeguard station to scream at the cops inside. Thankfully, this gentleman (who hopefully got the shit pistol-whipped out of him back at the local station) is now barred from visiting the “Children’s Pool” by restraining order.

But all of the above simply proves (yet again) that the most dangerous person on earth is a self-righteous imbecile with too much free time on his hands.

God was so wrong when he neglected to include an eleventh commandment beside the original ten, perhaps something along the lines of “Thou shalt not be a fucking idiot” under which all violators may be thrown off the nearest building over ten stories in height - with harbor seals as the executioners in question.

It's my beach, whitey. Deal with it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

In Which I Go West

I’ll be out of town for the coming week – this time, to San Diego for the annual Comic Con International.

Last year, I attended the con for the first time, and was not disappointed, while also making sure to take in such local attractions as the USS Midway, San Diego Maritime Museum, In & Out Burger (ask for a free sticker), and Tijuana, Mexico.

Although I had “gone below” to Mexico before, last year was my first trip to T.J. and what a cultural bombshell it was. Local merchants all but tackled my friends and me as we passed their restaurant/strip bar/shop on Revolution Avenue. Sure, U.S. tourist dollars are the lifeblood of local Mexicans, but Jesus Christo, tune it down a shade.

Otherwise, for those who have not been there, T.J. is a bordertown in every sense of the word. Forget the cheap beer, pharmacies, and donkey shows. That’s to be expected. Seeing Mexican families panhandling (many with toddlers holding change cups) tourists headed home was a starker reality, as were Tijuana’s constant stray dogs, and billboards warning foreign visitors against trolling for child prostitutes.

But despite the town’s rough edges, I do recommend everyone visit T.J. at least once (during the day). It’s a valuable sample of life outside the U.S., which despite its trademark melting pot ethic, seems more culturally isolating every day.

Plus, seeing San Diego and Tijuana on the same day is about as stark an example of who two places can be so different while separated only by a few miles.

But I digress…

I’m looking forward to getting back to San Diego. Too bad the Padres will be out of town again; I really wanted to see their new stadium.


San Diego's Horton Plaza Mall....so many pretty lights...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ass-pocalypse Now

Sore palms, sweaty legs, and an ass to match…the fruits of a rollicking night at the local Russian bathhouse, you ask?

Not exactly.

This past Saturday night/Sunday morning, I joined about 9000 other area bike riders (and a small group of friends) at the annual Chicago LATE Ride covering 25 miles on a course south from Buckingham Fountain (turned off, mysteriously), then northwest along Elston and east on Foster, before finishing south along Lake Michigan (where a beautiful sunrise was shared by all) until ending back at Buckingham.

For the record, I began at around 2AM and pedaled in at a little after five, legs screaming with fatigue and me wishing I had invested in padded bike shorts.

Well, maybe next year.

Besides, the aches were nothing a good 16 hours of sleep couldn’t help fix, and God knows I needed the exercise.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

That Was an 8.2 You Felt Last Week

I hesitate to comment on this at all because the original source is so asinine, but although I’m not Catholic I suspect that seismic meters spiked at the Vatican this past week when Pope Benedict (who bears a striking resemblance to Darth Sidious) issued an official decree stating that Catholicism is the only true religion in the Christian world (and probably the rest of it too) with all others serving as shadows to its sun.

That seismic activity, I spoke of?

The former pope, John Paul II—who, while hardly perfect, based much of his papacy on reaching out to others of all faiths—spinning wildly in his grave. Well, either that or God smacking His forehead in disbelief.

I find your lack of faith disturbing...

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Musical Aftermath

Despite taking what seemed like ages to leave Wrigley Field amidst the throngs of other cattle, last Friday’s Police show, for the record, was terrific.

Sure, I’d never seen so many drunken, middle-aged suburbanites crowded in one area striving to relive their twenties one $6.00 Old Style at a time, but the concert was everything I hoped it might be. The band played for two hours (no backup singers or other musicians) with minimal chit-chat, and despite concert reviews to the contrary truly seemed to be having fun on-stage. In fact, as the show ended, I saw drummer Stewart Copeland happily patting Sting on the back – which for those familiar with The Police’s often nasty history – is a huge step forward for Police relations.

However, while waiting on the Addison Red Line platform for the L-ride home, I could overhear more than one fan grouse about guitarist Andy Summers coming in either too late or too early on a couple of songs. They were right. He did. Yet as for me, musical mistakes (big or small) are part of the fun (and perils) of live music.

I never felt cheated.

Here's that Sting guy at Wrigley

Finally, I indeed got a concert shirt on the way out, and was the subject of much questioning the next day at my pal Bruce’s birthday party. And as promised, those bubbling with envy over my wearable trophy were promptly invited to suck it.

Especially Brad…

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Another Suburban Family (Evening)

When I first heard rumors of a Police reunion tour in 2007, I was—at the least—very skeptical.

After all, following the group’s break-up in 1985—amidst legendary tales of creative in-fighting between Stuart Copeland, Andy Summers, and Sting, not to mention bristled replies from all three whenever questions of a possible reunion arose—I figured that train had sailed. So imagine the world’s surprise—and mine—when this spring hell indeed froze over, and an honest-to-God Police reunion tour of North America and Europe was announced.

That word was more than enough for me.

As soon as show dates were listed online, I nabbed a single ticket for the band’s July 6th show at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Yes, I’ll be going to the concert alone. Why? Don’t I have friends? Yes, I do, but thanks for caring just the same.

However, I didn’t want to risk losing a decent seat while taking time to lobby my pals—most of whom have family budgets—to come along. And secondly, I have no problem going to most events alone. It’s not as if I won’t enjoy myself, as I seem to have a knack for gabbing with strangers around me. Plus, I can tell my friends about the concert the next day while displaying my nifty new Police show-tee at a birthday party we’ll all be at.

Will jealousy ensue? Perhaps, but I won’t care.

They can suck it.