Monday, April 19, 2010

Adventures In Chicago: Day Five

Well, I can't say anything exciting happened to me today. Unlike last year, I didn't find myself in a parking lot after midnight, getting ready for an hour's drive home. Thankfully, the cab fare from Newark to Staten Island isn't as steep as with JFK, so I got to go home the same way I flew . . . going in and out of a coma. It's weird . . . I never feel a need to nap during a comic con, but as soon as it's over, I plop on the bed at the hotel and chill for about an hour.

It was nice to come home, where I found a "No Video Input" indicator on my television, and where I was greeted with over seven hours of darkness on tape where televised programs should be. Now I'm thankful to Bob and Kathy for letting me watch Survivor at their place, because I would have missed that. I need a DVR. I'd ask my mother about me pitching in money per month, but a. It might be a lot, b. I seldom find myself needing to watch two programs at the same time since I got videotape, and c. After shipping my meds overnight -- her idea, by the way -- my mother might hold that against me.

Once again, I question whether I'm getting too old for conventions. My mother didn't say anyth ing about it, though she did make fun of a guy in a picture that I took who dressed up as Sinestro. I like going to cons, and I like having adventures, even though I usually get bored half of the time. As for the stuff that goes wrong? I need to stop hurting myself by being more responsible, cutting down on my mistakes along the way. I guess that in the big picture, I still like going to conventions, problems and all.

I'm going to decompress tomorrow. Wednesday, it's back to the grind of looking for work and working out at the gym. Oh, ad uploading all of the sketches onto my Flickr and ComicArtFans accounts. That alone should keep me busy for days.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Adventures In Chicago: Day Four

I am a lucky guy. About ten minutes ago, I was on my way back to the hotel from dinner, and I felt my pocket. My cell phone wasn't there. I got to my room, emptied my bag and pockets. No phone. I called the phone number. No answer. I called the bar where I went for fried shrimp and onion rings. It wasn't there. I called again . . . and it rang. In my room. It was behind my laptop. Either I didn't take it with me, or a higher power cut me a break.

The convention? It was boring in its final day. Actually, that's not really fair. It was one of those deals where I was hunting for stuff, and I forgot to check on panels' start times. Regrettably, I also failed to catch Gail Simone and her husband before they left. It wasn't just a matter of, say, finding out if they were coming to Manhattan for New York Comic Con in October. We like each other. I kinda owe them a hug. Well, just Gail, anyway. In other news, I totally failed to go to panels outside what I'm comfortable with. I meant to check on Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears and a panel on local creators. I wanted to know if there was historic precedent for superheroes in the Windy City. Oh, well.

Sketches? I wound up with nineteen. Nineteen. And that's not counting stuff in or on books (including a Fozzie Bear drawing on an issue of The Muppet Show comic, which was surprisingly good). To give you an idea on how many that makes, I got twenty at Comic Con International last year, and that was over a four-day period. I regret only one; if you're going to ask for a Legion of Superheroes character, don't let it be Brainiac 5 unless you have it colored. The guy has no distinguishing logos at all, and I dunno what I was thinking. Sadly, I found a colorist, but that was about five minutes before closing time.

Like I said, I was bored most of the time, mainly because I gave my book to an artist for my "Poison Ivy In Front Of Ivy-Covered Wall At Wrigley Field" idea. It's not a fair conclusion that C2E2 was boring, but it wasn't anywhere near as hectic as Reed Exhibitions' other big show, NYCC. While there weren't any "must wait on line for 40-60 minutes" panels, I'm happy to say that weren't any lines to get into rooms at all . . . not even the Doctor Who screening, which had a one-night jumpstart on the official U.S. airing on BBC America. There was a line, but it wasn't that long as far as I can remember.

So what can I take away from C2E2? Well, they need to have more stuff, and have it a little less spread out. I got lost on Friday, but mostly because I let myself do that. It's a blend of blind faith and living dangerously. I'd throw in shuttles into the city; like NYCC and the Javits Center, it's some distance from the heart of Chicago, and I don't think the subway/El goes out there. As it is now, C2E2 is second-tier, which isn't bad for a first-year con, but I'm not sure I'd want to come back next year. Oh, and they should move it to August, to compete directly with the Chicago Comic Con run by Wizard Entertainment, as retaliation for Wizard moving their Big Apple Comic Con to the same dates as NYCC. I've been to Rosemont on two occasions. There's barely anything out there beyond hotels. C2E2 would kill Wizard, I'm sure of it.

I'm going home tomorrow. I got way too many freebies and books for my own good. I have to say that after Friday, things got a lot better. Sure, I wonder if going long distances for conventions is getting old, but I enjoy meeting people, from passing conversations with strangers to talking with professionals. I honestly feel I'm getting better at interacting with people. Bob and Kathy welcoming me into their home didn't hurt, either.

As for my next adventure? I might go to Baltimore for the city's two-day con. That's a trip, since I just drive down there and chill at a cheap hotel with access to the local light rail. I'd love to go to San Diego next year, but I think I need a job first to even think about getting lodging and tickets. And, of course, I got my reservations to NYCC. Who knows? If you're reading this, we might be meeting up in October.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Adventures In Chicago: Day Three

I'm in the middle of my trip, and I'm feeling much better. Last night was miserable, especially after I logged off and discovered that I had lost my copy of Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Vol. 3, which I paid half-price for. I think I lost it at at Doctor Who viewing; what I think happened was that I was reading it, and I put it down, and it slipped out of my bag. I checked with security today, but nobody checked it in.

Instead of a prolonged walk to McCormick Place, I took the shuttle bus like a sane person would. The convention center became a little more manageable, though it was still a minotaur shy of a labyrinth. Maybe it was the medication in my system, but I was feeling better. The bad news was that I was suffering from con fatigue. Basically, it involves wandering the floor, feeling a little numb, energy drinks not combating the tired feeling. And I had to wait a few hours until Jamal Igle was done sketching in my book. But after that, I wound up getting ten more sketches, all free. I think it was a personal one-day best for me.

Not that the day was without hitches. I only managed to go to a few panels. The first had me napping, the second was a bit boring and over my head. On the bright side, my plan to pack tuna fish and crackers in my backpack worked out well enough, and it saved me money for lunch. I had fun, but I felt like I should be having more fun. But since that's par for the course for me, I'm not worried about it.

And that's about it. I wound up having sweet and sour Berkshire pork for dinner at the local restaurant. I'm thinking that tomorrow, I'll take the shuttle back to the hotel, take a 30-60 minute nap, then take the train into the city for a last night of grub. The way I'm feeling, maybe I can get a happy ending out of this trip after all.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Adventures In Chicago: Days One & Two

Thursday, 9:40 a.m., Eastern Time

Do you ever pack for a trip, and you just know you're going to miss something? Well, I was intent on not letting that happen on my trip to Chicago and C2E2 (a.k.a Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo). Short- and long-sleeved shirts? Check. References for sketches? Check. Laptop? Check. And it doesn't occur to me until about ten minutes after I'm riding in the cab that I left my antidepressants at home.

Oh, crap.

One of the last things I wanted was to go through withdrawal for the next few days, but it looks like I might not have a choice. Granted, it could be worse. Nine months ago, I arrived at the airport too late, and I wound up missing my scheduled flight to San Diego. Not a fun start for my trip to Comic-Con International. I did get there, have fun, and wrote about my adventure, and I'm hoping this trip goes as smoothly, withdrawal or not.

C2E2 is my big convention adventure this year. CCI is still the main event, but it's too far away, too expensive, and the tickets sold out in December. This is the first C2E2, but it's run by the same guys behind New York Comic Con, so I'm expecting good things. And hopefully, I can do some tourist stuff. In fact, not only am I planning to go to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play in almost nine years, I'm having dinner with folks from the Television Without Pity forums. At least I'll save some money on a meal tonight.

It's almost boarding time here at Newark. Hopefully, the weather will be nice, the hotel will be cushy, and the lack of meds will be the biggest stumbling block on my big adventure.

11:56 p.m., Central time

Well, I don't have to worry about my medication. My mother sent it out for overnight delivery, and I should get them tomorrow. Plan B would've had my psychiatrist send my prescriptions to a drug store, but I don't know the neighborhood. Hell, it took me a while to find a supermarket to get dessert tonight, so looking for a pharmacist would've been a nightmare.

I wound up getting to Wrigley Field a little late, getting a decent seat behind the plate, a prime place for picture taking, albeit near some rowdy Brewers fans. The Cubs had one helluva game today, with both teams going back and forth. I didn't do that much exploring. I went to get my mother a keychain at the clubhouse store, and Aramis Ramirez wound up homering to tie the game up. The game had everything: lead changes, home runs, disputed plays, an ejection, and the Cubs losing with the tying run at the plate, 8-6. Ironically, the save went to Trevor Hoffman, who I saw in San Diego in 2000. He's older, but he can still get the job done.

After the game, I met up with Kathy, a.k.a. "Kaffyr" from the TWoP forums. To say that she and her husband Bob (along with their three cats) were gracious hosts would be an understatement. They welcomed me into their humble home, and Kathy fed me her Texas-style chili, which was filling. Turns out Bob and Kathy are old-school nerds; they met when Kathy was going from Nova Scotia to Los Angeles. They were into all sorts of fandoms back in the day, and they still remain involved today. They even let me watch Survivor when I asked, and they gave me a ride back to my hotel.

Ah, the hotel. It's not going well so far. Right now, the LAN is acting screwy, so I can't post this right away. It took about 45-60 minutes for somebody to figure out how I could connect my laptop to the Internet. It took almost as long for my bags to be brought up to my room. I walked in and found water dripping from a faucet into a quarter-filled tub. I believe in omens, and I'm not liking what I've seen so far.

Well, enough out of me for one day. Tomorrow, I'll be doing something touristy, and then I'll hit C2E2. And maybe all these bad vibes will clear up with no problems.

Friday, 11:16 p.m.

Did I say "no problems"? Turns out I had a lot of problems besides lack of antidepressants. Maybe I'd feel different if the stuff was in my system, like they'll be tomorrow (yep, they came today). but I doubt it.

I wound up going to the Shedd Aquarium. I should have gone to the local museum of natural history instead. Well, I do like live animals. And it was fun to see otters getting fed. Also, I saw dolphins, beluga whales, penguins, a semi-crippled turtle named Nickel (they found her injured and with five cents in her system), etc. I was expecting polar bears, though I don't know why. Maybe they're in the aquarium at Coney Island? Anyway, after a few hours, I got bored and opted not to see the big dolphin show. So I walked to the convention center. And I wandered. And I wandered some more.

Here's what I've found out about McCormick Place: it's a maze. It's a giant damn maze. Imagine the scene from This Is Spinal Tap, where the band is trying to find the stage. Now multiply that by about fifty. So there I was, walking through an emergency exit and onto the show floor, trying to briskly walk to the regular entrance before anybody caught me.

Then things got worse. At the spotlight panel for Kevin Conroy (the voice of the animated Batman for almost two decades), my digital camera died on me. My old camera had batteries that could be replaced. The new one has a battery pack that needs to be recharged. And guess who neglected to bring the charger? Seriously, when the "low battery" indicator went off yesterday at Wrigley, I thought I had a few days. Turned out I had about one day. And I wasted power on whales and otters. I wound up having to buy a disposable camera, and I have no clue if I can find a way to upload them to my Flickr gallery.

Anyway, while I distracted myself with my woes and various freebies, Conroy entertained his fans. Turns out he did some volunteer work as a cook in Manhattan in the days after 9/11, and he managed to make a guy's day when the fella recognized Batman's voice. Then Conroy did his "I am vengeance! I am the night! I AM BATMAN!" scthick to some disbelievers. I'm probably botching the story, but it was funny.

Sketches? It was a mixed bag. Some artists charge a lot of money, and it's more than what I'm comfortable paying out. Nobody sinks my heart faster than asking for a rate and hearing that it's $100 or something like that. Also, Danielle Corsetto -- my "go-to" webcomics gal -- isn't doing any hardcore sketching, so there went my primary plan to get a sketch of Poison Ivy in front of the ivy-covered walls at Wrigley. I did get a quick sketch of "special" cat Sprinkles from Girls With Slingshots, so it wasn't a total loss. I found a Doctor Who fan in Amy Mebberson at the BOOM! Studios booth, and I got Leela from her. And I got a Gena Ha sketch (Flash from Kingdom Come) for the first time in almost ten years. Hopefully, I can get more inexpensive sketches in the next few days.

I wound up making another mistake. I reunited with writer extraordinaire Gail Simone and her husband. And what do I do instead of tagging along with them to go to a restaurant? I go to a screening of two episodes of Doctor Who, episodes that I had seen before but could barely hear because I saw them in a large crowd at a restaurant. Nothing terrible about that, but by the time the screening ended, I wound up flailing for a random exit, and realizing that short sleeves and Chicago nights just don't mix. Took me at least twenty minutes before I caught a cab to go back to the hotel.

I keep telling myself that it's going to get better, but I keep thinking that maybe I made a mistake coming out here. I got two days to turn it around, though, so hopefully things can . . . will get better.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Reality Rant: Russellmania II

On the Television Without Pity forums, you cannot talk about the forums on episode or character threads. Therefore, you cannot say something along the lines of, "I don't get why everybody feels this way." And like the good poster that I am, I try to follow the rules. However, if the policy was not put in place, I would have to say the following to those who are contemplating abandoning Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains now that Rob Mariano has been voted off the show . . .

*clearing throat*


Whew! Man, I am glad that's out of my system.

I admit that a few episodes ago, I was pissed off. Tom Westman, perhaps the greatest player of all time (if not merely in the top five) got the boot over an injured James and an injured and fat Rupert. And I was pissed off. I got even more steamed the following episode, when the Heroes were forced into Tribal Council again -- as part of a double execution -- and decided that now was the time to get rid of James instead of Colby, who had more or less rolled over and declared himself to be dead. But the Villains had to lose somebody as well, and the viewers turned to the one man who has kept this show interesting since the previous season: Russell Hantz.

Look, I know that Russell is a scumbag. Anybody that lies about losing a dog to Hurricane Katrina deserves to be worked over with a crowbar by New Orleans residents. His tendency to create chaos at camp shows that he's a borderline sociopath, if not full-fledged. But dammit, you can't help but admire his gameplay, even if luck plays a huge part of it. He made Samoa fun to watch because damn near everybody was too stupid to play the game. The man is a troll forever looking for a bridge to live underneath, but you develop Stockholm Syndrome watching the show. Suddenly, he becomes a semi-attractive antihero.

For instance: when the Villains had to vote somebody off, the two choices were Russell and his alliance mate, the "lovely" Parvati, who had lucked her way into a million bucks two years ago on Micronesia -- Fans Vs. Favorites. Rob was safe because he had won individual immunity, and he was itching to get Russell and Parvati the hell off the show. At this point, he had become Saint Robert of Boston, a man who could do no wrong to the fans, as he pitched in around camp and helped the tribe win immunity and rewards galore. Barely everybody forgot his thuggish debut in Marquesas and his way-too-fortunate run in All-Stars. It just seemed to me that the posters I read were a little too eager to shine Rob's nuts.

Anyway, a plan was hatched out of suspicion that Russell had found the hidden immunity idol: the six person majority would split their votes between Russell and Parvati. If one of them played the idol, the other would be tied with the minority bloc, and whomever was left would be zinged on the revote. But Russell got to Tyson and lied about voting for Parvati, convincing Tyson to join in on a pile-on. And at Tribal Council, Russell got up, went to Jeff Probst, presented the idol . . . then decided against it and gave it to Parvati. And sure enough, Pavarti had four votes against her that was negated. Russell himself got two votes. And guess who Russell, Parvati and Danielle (who? Exactly!) voted for? Tyson. In other words, Tyson voted himself out of the game. Never mind that this ruined my prediction that Tyson would win the game. All I could think of was the same thing I thought the previous season: "How can Russell walk around with balls that big?" I figure it would be something like this (1:03 mark; really not for the faint at heart).

Fast forward to the latest episode. The Heroes rebounded, winning both reward and immunity challenges, sending the Villains to tribal council again. This time, though, Jerri decides to cast her lot with Russell. Coach, being an asshole about "honor" and such bullshit, sticks to his word and votes Courtney (again . . . who?), leading to Rob getting boned, 4-3-1. And the funny thing? It was mostly Rob's fault. He could have heeded Randy's "warning" vote over Parvati in the third episode. He could have tried to solidify the split vote plan and made sure Tyson (a close yet dim ally) wouldn't go rogue. And he could have tried him damnedest to keep Jerri in the fold. He did not trust Russell . . . which was smart, since he was an unknown factor. But he screwed up damn near everything else. It's like he couldn't operate with smart people. Put him on the Heroes tribe, and he would've had the likes of JT, Amanda and Rupert around his finger. But all Rob could do was get up, call Coach a "little man" (devastating, given Russell's stature) and get his torch snuffed. Even more delicious: Rob goes straight to the Loser Lounge, perhaps the last people to be eliminated from the game before the jury phase begins. That means he can't make pissy faces on the sidelines, preparing for his huge "My question is: you suck" speech on Day 39. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go back to the arms of your wife and little bambina, a loser for the fifth time . . . sixth if you count the bullshit "America's Choice" vote after All-Stars which was rigged to give Rupert $1 million he clearly didn't deserve.

So what's the up side? Simple . . . without Rob at camp to lead them, the Villains will fall apart . . . at least according to the teaser for next week's episode. Meanwhile, the Heroes (lead by a resurgent Colby) are on the rebound, and it is possible that a misfit fivesome consisting of the strong (Colby), the seat-filler (Candice), the dumb (JT), the dumber (Amanda) and the dumbest (Rupert) can go far in the game. Without the Villains imploding, the game becomes uninteresting and stale. And you need a villain like Russell to have around. That's one of the reasons The Amazing Race is sagging a little . . . there's nobody to hate. Sure, there's been a huge douchebag move (the narcs Blind U-Turning Joe & Heidi as a "fuck you" gesture), a callous couple (lesbians Carol & Brandy) and a team (Brent & Caite) that couldn't walk and eat a baguette at the same time, but there's no team to root against. Over on the upcoming Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Fresh Meat II, there are two villains in Wes and Kenny, but you can't really root for one against the other. You can only home they both get hit by a bus at the same time.

Bottom line? Survivor is must-see television again, and if that means Rob's head joins the rest of Russell's victims mounted on the wall, so be it. Besides, given Russell's meltdown at the Samoa reunion, the odds are pretty good that somebody is sizing him up for a trip to the taxidermist. And maybe the Stockholm Syndrome I have will wear off in time for the reunion.