Thursday, July 29, 2010

Notes on Comic Con 2010

2010 was my first year attending the San Diego Comic Con. I, of course, have been an ardent follower of Comic Con news for many years. In the last decade, it's become the mid-year source for news and trendsetting in all aspects of the entertainment industry.

Despite this, I'd been reluctant to go. I'm not much for crowds, and SDCC is nothing if not one giant crowd (with an estimated 140,000 attendees this year). Also, being on the ground level at the Con, you're not going to get the eagle-eye overview that, say, G4's coverage provides in the comfort of your own home. But during this past year I've been working a cool job that qualified me and a guest (that would be Helby) for free admission, which is a roughly $200 value. I couldn't pass it up. Plus, with fancy technology like "the internet" and a "digital video recorder," I could still get caught up on all the news I missed.

Here's what I learned from my first year at Comic Con...

1. Take the train!

I've made the drive from Los Angeles to San Diego many times since moving to California. It's about two hours. But apparently during the Con, the freeways between the two cities become one giant L.A. rush hour. Not fun, and it certainly ruins any plans you'd been making for your first day. If you're an L.A. resident (and, statistically, most SDCC attendees these days are from L.A.), I'm going to give you the advice that no one gave me: take the train. You'll arrive quicker, with less stress, and on a reliable schedule.

Despite giving ourselves nearly four hours, Helby and I didn't make it in time to check in and get our badges on our first night, which meant all we could do was go out to dinner and hang out in the Douche District (aka Gaslamp Quarter). Next year, I'm taking the train.

(We ate at Kansas City BBQ, where the piano scene in Top Gun was shot)

2. Call off from work and go on day one.

Comic Con traditionally opens on a Thursday, and has a "preview night" the day before. To get the most for your time and money, plan on attending those days. We didn't go until Friday and, having gotten shut out of Friday night's activities due to our late arrival, only had Saturday and Sunday to attend panels and other events. And really, Sunday's activities are few and low-key. The big thing to do on Sunday is explore the main floor and try to get discounts from merchants. The big press releases, the big preview clips, the big interviews, the big autograph signings... those are all happening before Sunday. Go early.

3. Get a full-access shuttle pass.

Honestly, I don't know what the alternatives are. All I know is, as part of our package deal with the hotel, we had full access to the shuttle system for the duration of the Con. We could go to and from the convention center as often as we wanted, as well as hopping buses to friends' hotels. We didn't have to worry about buying a new pass every day, or being restricted to only one shuttle line. That kind of freedom keeps stress to a minimum while you're there.

4. Nerd stereotypes are NOT exaggerated.

These guys both exist.

Comic Con is primarily for geeks. Geeks and nerds are not the same thing, but there's a lot of overlap. And when you happen upon that perfect nerd archetype, it's hilarious how accurate the stereotypical representations are.

5. There's not as much skin on display as you might be expecting.

...Or at least not as much as I was expecting. Which is pretty disappointing. Yes, there is some of this -

- but not as much as the media would have you believe. I should've known better. Of course they're going to zero in on the few dozen people dressed like that and put those front and center on highlight reels and photo spreads. But "a few dozen" is less than 1% of the total number of attendees.

That being said, the more modest costumes can still be plenty hot. And there are lots of those.

6. Geeks are not to be effed with.

Considering there are booths that sell swords and chain maces, you might want to think twice about fighting for a seat.

Fans react to Hall H Comic-Con stabbing w/ costumes the next ... on Twitpic
7. If you think you might like it, then just go.

As I said, I'm not a crowd person. I also hate hotels. And now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not really a fan of public transportation either. But if you're into comic books, movies, TV shows, video games, collectibles, art, toys, costumes, or culture in general, you're going to have a good time at the Con. I'm glad my reluctance didn't win out. San Diego Comic Con is an experience well worth having.

And now, the slide show...

Or click here for the album.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Prius Ahead of Me

[ Originally published June 8, 2006 on MySpace ]

On my way to work this morning, I ended up behind a Prius at the intersection of Wilshire and Highland. (Are there enough Priuses on the road by now to balance out the environmental destruction from all the Hummers?) Now, although I myself would like to have a Prius (or whichever hybrid car), the first thought that pops into my mind whenever I see one is "Hippie Hollywood Wuss." I'm not proud that that's the first thing I think of. Have I been brainwashed by Big Oil? Or maybe Big Tobacco? Probably Big Tobacco. Always Big Tobacco.

Well, it just so happens that, in this particular instance, the driver of the Prius ahead of me actually IS a hippie Hollywood wuss. He had a vanity license plate that read "IMDB_ME." I'm not making this up. Furthermore, the border surrounding the license plate said, at the top, "Or go to my web site..." and at the bottom, ""

Wow. No, seriously... wow! Now, I'm as much of an attention whore as anyone else in L.A. (you don't run a blog and not want people to pay attention to you), but this crosses the line. I mean, why not just have someone manufacture a bright red arrow that you can attach to the top of your car so that it will always be pointing down at the driver's seat. Then you would KNOW that all eyes are on you.

SIDE STORY: A couple years ago, while on a run for work, I ended up behind a convertible with a Colorado license plate that read "SCRNWRTR." Now, as someone who pays attention to more than just the actors in movies, I thought I might be able to recognize this guy. And since he was in a convertible, I figured it would be pretty easy to get a good look at him. Unfortunately, I was unable to pull alongside him. In my quest to get as good a look as possible of him in his rear view mirror, I inadvertantly gave this man the impression that I was riding his ass. So, right there in the middle of one of the busiest sections of Lincoln, he brought his car to a complete stop, stood up slightly from his driver's seat, and very dramatically swooped his body around to shoot me a glaring look.

Nope, I didn't recognize him.

Now, apparently this guy was pissed at me for tailing him. I almost started to feel guilty. But then I reminded myself -- and, by God, I wish I could have told him to his face -- that when you advertise yourself, when you go out seeking attention, fame, and glory, you're going to have to deal with, you know, attention, fame, and glory. If this guy hadn't hi-lighted the fact that he was a screenwriter by stamping it into sheet metal on his car, I would have had no idea. He would have been just another asshole on the road, getting in my way as I tried to make a delivery to someone far more famous, important, and rich than he is. If you go out seeking attention, you don't have permission to be pissed off when you get it.

End rant.

Today, I had no intention of similarly tailing this Prius. There was no way it was going to be someone familiar. People who are already famous don't need to put "Look at me, I'm famous" decals all over their cars. Do you think Leonardo DiCaprio would put an "IMDB_ME" license plate on his car? (But how cool would it be if his plates said "DEE_CAPP"?) I did, however, have no choice but to IMDb him when I got to work. I needed to see the tool who demanded this much attention. And wouldn't you know it?... previous circumstances had conspired to actually make me familiar with this guy.

On the night of the second season finale of "Lost," I had a small gathering of fellow "Lost" fans from work. One of my guests informed me that she knew someone who worked on "How I Met Your Mother," and went on to say that it's a quality show. I've heard many times that it's a quality show, and I had been meaning to check it out. A few nights later, when I was flipping through the TV schedule, I saw a listing for "HIMYM" and decided to record it.

The episode was about New Year's Eve, and the ensemble cast wanted to hit five different parties, and then return to the best of the parties by midnight. At one point in the episode, they see Moby walking down the street and start talking to him. They invite him into their limo and take him to one of their parties. As the man starts talking crazy and pulls out a gun, they discover that he was, in fact, not Moby.

And if you IMDb J.P.Manoux, you will discover that he is, in fact, Not Moby on "How I Met Your Mother."

How crazy is it that I've only seen one episode of that show, and it just so happens to be the episode featuring the glory-hound in the Prius ahead of me?

There's a screenwriter named John August. John August is a scrnwrtr I'd actually recognize if I saw him in the car ahead of me. (Come to think of it, John August bears a bit of a resemblance to Moby too.) August does Q&As for aspiring screenwriters on his website. When they ask him if moving to L.A. is a requirement for success, August is fond of pointing out that, in L.A., the guy in line behind you at the grocery store could very well be a reputable producer. You just never know who it is you're crossing paths with out here.

John August

But the people who really want you to know can just get vanity license plates for their cars.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's Only a Movie by Mark Kermode

Like many of us, Mark Kermode wonders what a movie based on his life would be like. In these memoirs, Kermode fashions his hypothetical biopic thoroughly - the way the movie would progress, the stories from his life it would touch upon, and even who would be cast in the major roles.

So who is Mark Kermode and why would you want to read his memoirs? (Don't worry, I had no idea either.)

Turns out Kermode is one of the most prominent film reviewers in England. He's the guy who was conducting the legendary interview wherein Werner Herzog was shot by an unseen assailant, and then continued the interview anyway. Film geeks know exactly what I'm talking about. The rest of you can watch by clicking here.

The good news is, it doesn't matter how much or how little you know about Kermode; this is an enjoyable book regardless. As a good autobiography should, this book tells you everything you need to know about its subject; no additional research or prior knowledge is required. A well-told story of an everyman film lover who made a career out of being an everyman film lover. The book is, above all else, a work of humor. Add it to your reading list or, better yet, do what I did and listen to the audiobook. You'll have the added bonus of hearing the author's natural inflections, which certainly adds a layer of humor to the proceedings.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Podcast Rollcall: Stuff You Should Know

Genre: Information and sociology

What It's About: A spinoff of the website How Stuff Works, Stuff You Should Know is an audio barrage of facts and trivia. Each episode selects a random topic -- from How Swearing Works to How the Mafia Works to How the Muppets Work (a favorite!) to How OCD Works -- and expounds upon it at length. Hosts Josh Clark and Charles "Chuck" Bryant run the show with a mix of prepared material and improvised interplay, batting facts and wit back and forth, resulting in an entertaining and educational listening experience.

Why You Should Care: Because you'll always learn something new. Whether it's a topic you know nothing about ("noodling"?), a topic you knew only a little about, or a topic you thought you knew everything about, there's always something new to learn. The cumulative effect is an awareness that the world is a far more fascinating and complicated place than you ever imagined... even if you can imagine quite a bit.

Frequency: Twice weekly

Average Length: 30 minutes

As always, if you become a regular listener to a podcast that solicits donations, try to find a way to make the occasional contribution.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Crazy 4 Cult" at Gallery 1988

Last Friday was opening night for the fourth annual Crazy 4 Cult show at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles. Clued into this event through the promotional efforts of Kevin Smith (who always bails after an obligatory 20 minutes), I've managed to attend all four years on opening night. It's always a blast.

(Year one poster, 2007)

Gallery 1988 specializes in exhibiting pop culture-themed artwork by new and emerging talents. Crazy 4 Cult is their flagship show, featuring works based specifically on cult films... such as the oeuvre of Kevin Smith. Opening night is always crowded, with a line down the block, celebrities in attendance, and excitement all around.

The artwork, as you'd expect, is a lot of fun. There's always a good variety of technique - oil paintings, pencil sketches, cardboard cutouts, small sculptures (there's limited space), and sometimes fabric work. The pieces range from straightforward recreations of movie scenes to reinterpretations of movie iconography to every sort of movie mashup imaginable.

One of my favorite mashups, from year two (2008), was so good that I had to buy a print. The piece places Alexander DeLarge into the titular scene from Singin' In the Rain, for reasons Kubrick fans will surely understand.

As an added bonus, Gallery 1988 shares a wall with Golden Apple, one of L.A.'s premiere comic book stores. Golden Apple is known for hosting public appearances by the best of the best in the comic book industry. On Crazy 4 Cult's annual opening night, Golden Apple throws its doors wide open, offering free booze and snacks to the crowd. This partnership effectively creates one big super-event for geeks, the crowd alternating between the two storefronts. Add to that the concurrence with San Diego Comic Con, and SoCal in July is the place to be.

On a personal note, I usually take advantage of Crazy 4 Cult night to begin a new graphic novel series. Past titles included "Girls" and "100 Bullets." This year, the honor goes to "Pride of Baghdad," which I know little about other than it's written by Brian K. Vaughn who is always awesome.

Crazy 4 Cult runs through August 8. If you miss it this year, or you want to check out opening night next year, subscribe to Gallery 1988's blog for updates.

Here's a slideshow from this year's visit. Thanks to Helby for the camerawork.

Finally, here's some video from year one, by YouTuber horacechincer.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

People Taking Pictures of People at Pink's

Pink's Hot Dogs is a world-famous Los Angeles landmark. At least that's what Angelenos seem to think. The truth is, no one's really heard of Pink's until they come to Los Angeles and have their Angeleno friends tell them that they have to go to Pink's because it's world-famous. Oh sure, Pink's has popped up in numerous movies, TV shows and music videos, but so has every other square inch of this city. It's all background noise to people who don't live here.

Pink's is located on the busy intersection of Melrose and La Brea. They've been in the same location since 1939, first as a hot dog cart, later as brick and mortar. Their walls are lined with signed-and-dedicated headshots of all the celebrities who have eaten there throughout the decades. But their biggest claim to fame is the line of people in front of the store. The line is always long, and it's always present. It's a self-perpetuating advertisement; many passers-by decide to check out this place because it's apparently so popular, and then they become the reason that more people decide to check it out.

You really only need to go to Pink's once. I mean, it's just a hot dog. No matter how good it is, it's still just a hot dog. I, however, have been to Pink's three times. The first time was just to say I did it. The other two times were becauses of bosses who wanted the hot dogs but didn't want to wait in line. Being on the clock makes standing in line for an hour and a half at a hot dog stand relatively tolerable.

When you're waiting in line at Pink's, it's easy to determine who the locals are and who's new to the area. The new people gawk at the tremendous line with equal parts amazement and curiosity. The locals are old hands at this; they don't even notice the lines and are just trying to get where they're going.

But I was particularly amused at the number of people who take the time to stop, pull out their cameras or cell phones, and take a picture. A picture of people standing in line. A picture of people standing in line at a hot dog stand.

So I decided to start my own little project. Without further ado, Your Daily Joe proudly presents: Pictures of People Taking Pictures of People In Line at Pink's. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Podcast Rollcall: Fresh Air

Genre: Interviews

What It's About: In-depth interviews with guests from a wide variety of fields and specialties - political figures, historians, scientists, authors, filmmakers, athletes, doctors. Any and every field of interest is covered in this show.

Why You Should Care: Terry Gross has over 30 years of experience as an interviewer. She and her excellent research team find interesting angles on their subject, uncovering new information on even the most well-worn topics. Gross can be unexpectedly tenacious when she needs to be, not letting guests off the hook when they try to dodge a question or hide behind doublespeak.

Frequency: Every weekday

Average Length: One hour

iTunes Link:


As always, if you become a regular listener to a podcast that solicits donations, try to find a way to make the occasional contribution.