Thursday, January 23, 2014

FLASHBACK: Adventures in San Diego (Part Three)

DAY FIVE: Sunday [July 26, 2009]

            I didn’t have con fatigue today. I had con fumes. That’s when you walk around like a zombie, the toll from previous days weighing in heavily. It’s about three steps away from sleepwalking; nothing to do, few faces that haven’t been seen.

            Or maybe it’s because I had to wake up extra early to catch the Doctor Who panel. Yes, I actually made it. Had to get up before 7, had to settle for a free green apple for breakfast, had to walk down to the convention center instead of waiting for the shuttle (which I’ve done a lot during my time in San Diego), had to wait on line for a while . . . but I made it. Granted, my seat wasn’t close to the action, but that’s what the big screens are for. It’s more of an issue about my digital camera . . . .it don’t have that much of a zooming function. But it was a great time . . . David Tennant just wrapped up his final episode, and he was greeted like a rock star, as were the producers who came for the panel. The biggest news was the lack of news: no Doctor Who movie would be announced. However, they showed trailers for two upcoming episodes: “The Waters Of Mars,” and Tennant’s swan song, “The End Of Time.”

            The rest of my time was spent wandering. I didn’t have any other panels to visit. Well, there were panels of stuff I was interested in, but I just couldn’t be bothered. I was done with interviews, though I did have chances to drop off magazines and make new contacts. Honestly, I don’t think I made enough of my press badge. The only time it came in handy was when I went to the press room, and that was a disappointment. The interviews did gave me some semblance of professionalism, though I could have pulled that off without a press credential.

            I wound up ditching out early, crashing and burning on the bed back at the hotel. I went out to Horton Plaza to have dinner, which was about as much of a tourist thing as I could get on this trip. Another regret I have is that I didn’t get to do the tourist bit. I was going to go on a Seal Tour on Wednesday before the convention, but the day of flight hell happened. I’ve been to San Diego three times, and I’ve visited a lot of places: SeaWorld, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Coronado Island (I’m wearing a t-shirt from there as I type this) and so on. Before the trip, I was contemplating going getting out on Sunday to spend time at the zoo, but the idea of walking around for hours after walking around for hours just didn’t seem like a hot idea.

            One more day until I go home. I have a 1 p.m. flight, so I know damn well to get out around 10:30. I’ll be going through con withdrawal, but at least I have time to go over tape of the interviews and get them posted. That should keep me occupied for a good two weeks.

DAY SIX: Monday [July 27]

            It’s actually Tuesday as I type this. By the time I came home around 1:30 a.m., all I was able to do was have Wendy’s for dinner and collapse on the bed for ten hours’ worth of sleep. I didn’t even get my stuff from the trunk of my car.

            The flights were uneventful, save for the bouts of turbulence. I wound up in Salt Lake City for about an hour, my first-ever visit to the Mountain Time Zone. It wasn’t until the end of the flight where things got crazy. First, it took a long time to connect the jet to the terminal. Then I wound up walking for a long time to baggage claim, where four flights’ worth of passengers were waiting for their stuff. Naturally, my flight’s bags jammed up the system, and they had to be pulled out my hand. Once I got my luggage, I had to take it – along with my two carry-on bags – through the halls of JFK, which is a bit of a lonely stretch. Finally, I got to my car, paid the $108 for parking (less expensive then cab rides both ways) and drove home. The end.

           I had fun. Regrets? Of course . . . sometimes, I go out of my way to find them. But the events on Wednesday did give a little perspective. Also, nothing tops the worst con experience I had, which was the Canadian National Expo in 2007, where I managed to lose my sketchbook and camcorder on the final day. While I can smile about my time in San Diego (especially with the 90-plus degree temperature here in New York today), I do have some mental notes to make should I go back to cover Comic-Con next year:

1. Give Myself More Time For Panels

            Ninety minutes should be enough for the bigger stuff, rather than the sixty (give or take a few minutes) I had kept in mind. The Doctor Who panel was a good example; I wound up sacrificing sleep and a halfway decent breakfast, but I made it. I had all sorts of reading material with me, so boredom wasn’t an issue. It’s part of the beauty of a comic convention.

2. Go Outside My Comfort Area

            This doesn’t mean dressing up as Rorschach and posing for pictures the entire day. Panel-wise, I stuck to what I knew, and neglected other stuff. For instance, I forget to look into a panel with Stephen Pastis, the creator of the tremendously-funny comic strip, Pearls Before Swine. I had written out all sorts of panels, but I only hit a few. I actually groaned when I realized that I missed one on graphic novels, since all I do for Beyond Race these days is review those. In retrospect, I should’ve just picked a panel on Sunday and went with it for an hour. At best, I’d learn some new stuff. At worst, I’d get to sit and close my eyes.

3. Take Advantage Of Media Offers

            Once again: if I knew there would be a chance to interview the producers of The Venture Bros., I would’ve taken it, even with no prepared questions at the ready. I did have an opportunity to cover an event centered on Watchmen coming out on DVD, but then something fell through and I couldn’t be bothered with it. Aside from that, I didn’t see anything worth covering that I got e-mail about in the weeks leading up to the convention. This is something I’ll need to correct next time.

4. Dress More Professionally

            I did try to be neat throughout the convention, but the only time I wore the khakis that I had bought recently was at the party at my hotel on Thursday. Other than that, it was t-shirts and blue jeans all the way. I had people tell me that I’d be dying in the heat, but with the weather beings sunny in the mid-70s throughout my visit, I think I got off lucky. But I should get a little more gussied-up next time I go as a member of the media. Even if it doesn’t matter to my press contacts or interview subjects, it’ll make me feel like I belong.

5. Give Myself At Least Two And A Half Hours Between Leaving Home And Getting To The Airport

            Let’s just say I learned about that the hard way.

            As for going back to CCI? I’d love to, but I don’t know if I can pull it off two years in a row. I can settle for Heroes Con in Charlotte, which is a cross between the larger conventions and indie shows. The Canadian National Expo boasts the third-largest show in North America as well as the most anime-based cosplayers that I’ve ever seen, but a lot of things depend on the American-to-Canadian dollar rate. There’s also the fledgling Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo in Chicago, where I haven’t been since 2001. And as much as I’d love to apply for a press badge for the next New York Comic Con, it’s been moved from mid-March, so I don’t have to think about that until October. Of 2010. However, there are rumors that CCI might pack up and bolt for either Anaheim or Las Vegas in a few years, so fans such as myself need to treasure San Diego and the experience while we can.

            I hope you enjoyed this ongoing journal. If you want to drop a line, e-mail me at [defunct address]. While I might recap something a little less nerdy next time, I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

FLASHBACK: Adventures in San Diego (Part Two)

DAY THREE: Friday [July 24, 2009]

            It’s after 8 p.m. right now. I should be at the Eisner Award ceremonies right now. I’ve been there in my two other visits to Comic-Con. But I’m in my hotel room right now as the sun sets. Why am I not at the ceremonies? Con fatigue.

            I still have blisters on my toes. Between the walking and subconsciously readjusting my toes, my feet hurt. My leg was aching. And when I was at the DC Nation panel, I kept nodding off. With the energy that DC’s editor-in-chief Dan Didio gives off in panels, that shouldn’t have  happened at all. So I decided to do the healthy thing, rather than walking back to the hotel right before midnight.

            (Brief Rant: Why are the Eisners held on Friday? This comes the day before most of Hollywood’s entries show their stuff, turning the convention center into a slow-moving mental asylum. And they expect people to go back to their lodgings on a few hours’ sleep? Do it on Thursday, when everybody’s still relatively fresh. Possibly jet-lagged, but fresh.)

            I made it to the Batman: The Brave And The Bold panel. The press pass got me in a little early, but not early enough to beat out a long line. This doesn’t bode too well to me going to the Doctor Who panel. Anyway, the beauty of the series is that it’s for all ages, and it’s gotten quite a following in its first season. The episode that was aired was a musical. For real. “Mayhem Of The Music Meister” has Neil Patrick Harris as a singing villain who forces people to commit crimes. Since Batman is Batman, he’s got devices for immunity, but it was still a lot of fun. I don’t think anybody walked away disappointed. Well, my biggest disappointment was leaving my camera in the hotel room, thereby missing a ton of chances to take pictures of cosplayers, but it’s a disappointment I can live with.

            Aside from DC Nation, I didn’t hit any other meetings. I got three sketches, and my book is currently with an artist. One of the sketches was from Adam Warren, who is among my favorite creators. His current opus, Empowered, centers around an aspiring superheroine who’s prone to being bound and gagged a lot. Empowered (that’s her “supernym”) has managed to grow in the five volumes she’s starred in, and the only thing missing was a streamer of drool coming from me in Warren’s presence. I also interviewed Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim from The Eternal Smile. I wound up waiting as they did sketches and sold books, but they’re popular these days, even if they both deny it.

            I wound up fighting the fatigue by bailing out in the middle of the con by joining a friend of mine for a late lunch. Shawn and me were part of a loose-knit group that posted on message boards for Kingdom Come (which evolved into Comic Book Resources). Some of us got together both times I was there (in 2000 and 2003), but it was just us two for the con, as well as Gail Simone . . . and since she’s a rock star, her availability wasn’t even theoretical. Anyway, I wound up having ribs at a restaurant, shooting the breeze. Shawn’s from Chicago, and he has family in the San Diego area, so lodging isn’t a problem for him. Sadly, he’s done after today, but he’s planning a trip to New York, where could meet me and a few other local online friends.

            I’m beat. While I don’t have any panels to hit right away tomorrow, I should try to get there early for maximum exposure. I did come 3,000-plus miles and spend gobs of money to get here, so I have to get all that I can. And thankfully, Wednesday’s flight fiasco is still the lowest point of my trip here. All in all, I’m having a good time.

DAY FOUR: Saturday [July 25]

            Bad luck caught up with me today. I was having a good time . . . I conducted an interview with Nina Matsumoto, who drew the winner of Best Short Story, “Murder He Wrote,” The Simpsons’ Treehouse Of Horror #14. I was coming out of the DC Universe panel, when I did a random check of my belongings . . . and my tape recorder was gone.

            You have to understand the seriousness of the situation. I never learned shorthand, so I’m reliant on the recorder. It’s not that I don’t keep notes, but I can never keep up with somebody talking unless they’re going really, really slow. Oh, and the interviews I’ve conducted before? On the cassette in the recorder. “Screwed” is about the right word for what I was feeling, losing a single leaf in a vast forest. But the funny thing? I still had it. Turns out it was buried in my backpack. Either I got really lucky, or a higher power took pity on me.

            The other bit of bad mojo came when I stood on line for a panel on Adult Swim programming, which included their hit show, The Venture Bros. I figured to sacrifice about an hour of conning to get in. I wound up getting in the queue about fifty minutes before it was slated to start. I waited. And waited. And the line moved little by little. And I was getting ready for it. But it turns out that the room was already filled, and I was shut out. It wasn’t enough that I was denied, but somebody should’ve counted the people and told them who would be going in and staying out. The line turned into one for screenings of Doctor Who and Torchwood, but I had already seen both. But here’s the real kick in the ass: when I got back to my hotel room and went online, I found a letter from an Adult Swim press person. Turns out interviews would be available prior to the panel. If I received that e-mail 24 hours earlier, I would’ve gotten the most out of my press badge. It would’ve been the biggest interview of the con for me. Thanks, Adult Swim!

            Aside from those two instances, I had a good time. I upped my sketch count to sixteen, met former Doctor Who lead actor Colin Baker and got his autograph, and met four former reality show stars: writer/cartoonist Judd Winick (The Real World: San Francisco), actors/models/goths Kynt Cothron & Vyxsin Fiala (The Amazing Race 12), and Melody Mooney. The latter person was a runner-up on Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, and I did a double-take seeing her as her superheroic alter ego, Hygena. This was about the time I thought my recorder was gone, and I actually came away smiling because I was happy to see her.

            I do have to confess that I haven’t gotten too many comics. My needs are few; all I need are recent issues at slashed prices. I wind up with all sorts of freebies and assorted bric-a-brac. I also wound up with a canvas bag from the Dark Horse booth, which is eco-friendlier than plastic bags. Also, with my camera back, I took too many pictures of cosplayers. I’m thinking about three-quarters of them are showcasing their skills at the Masquerade tonight. It’s not my thing; while I sometimes would like to be somebody else, I don’t have the attitude or the know-how to convincingly pull it off. I do know how to keep one’s sanity at Comic-Con: forget the bigger stuff, concentrate on what you really like. Hey, I like True Blood as much as anybody else who has HBO, but I don’t like it enough to wait on a mile-long line.

            I have one more day left, and the biggest challenge is in front of me: getting into the Doctor Who panel. I’ll have to leave early and get my breakfast on the run, as opposed to staying in and paying $14, including $6 for a glass of orange juice. I’ll have to wait on line for at least ninety minutes. It’ll be a total madhouse, and I’ll be entering the insanity. But everything should be easy after that. I’m dreading the post-con letdown. How can I get used to walking around without seeing people holding “FREE HUGS” signs? How about just walking a half-mile without bumping into sixteen different people and taking a picture of folks dressed as characters from Watchmen? I thinking I’ll need at least three days to decompress, if not an entire week.

Monday, January 20, 2014

FLASHBACK: Adventures in San Diego (Part One)

One of the things that bugs me is that there are a lot of outdated links on my blog. For instance, I found out that Reality News Online no longer exists . . . and while I delight in that due to how I was treated by the other writers, I realize that my recaps are mostly gone. The same goes for material I wrote for Beyond Race Magazine, most of which being graphic novel reviews.

The following is the first part of my experience from my trip to San Diego in 2009. I wound up getting a press pass to Comic-Con International that year, and I wound up writing about a lot over six days. Given how much bigger the show the show gets each year, the odds of me going to CCI are slim at best every year. For instance, this year's show has fans having to buy tickets to individual day, as opposed to getting a four-day pass. Even if I wind up getting admission (or another press pass), I have to worry about a. how to get there, and b. where to stay; both of which can be costly. As I contemplate my plans for one big comic con for this year (Toronto? Boston?), I'd like to share my experience from my last trip to San Diego, two days at a time.


            In the beginning, it never occurred to me to get press credentials for Comic-Con International, the end-all be-all of cmic book conventions. I did what I usually did months before the event; hemming and hawing over whether I should go. It’s not that I didn’t want to attend, but CCI is located in San Diego. I live in New York, some 3,000 miles away, I’ve only been able to get there twice, and not since 2003. And while the New York Comic Con had closed the gap, it was still a far cry from the five-day celebration of all things geek.

            By the time I decided to go, all four-day packages had been sold out. I was prepared to get four single-day passes, making for a total price bigger than the package itself, and shutting me out of the Preview Night preceding the show. It was then that I began to contemplating press credentials. Why not, I thought to myself. After all, I do write for Beyond Race Magazine, and I was the only one who went out of the way to review graphic novels. Let the other talented writers handle movies and albums, and I’d stick to my strengths.

            The application process was easy enough. I mailed a copy of the latest issue to CCI, an issue that included an article on Alan Brody, who wrote and drew White Shaka Boy. I bookmarked the story with a business card, one of many I got from my editor, Dave Terra. In fact, I have too many business cards. I’m set for the next ten years with all the cards Dave gave me. Anyway, I wound up getting an e-mail from CCI. I was in, free of charge. Okay, it wasn’t totally free for me; I had bought tickets for Friday and Saturday in the event I couldn’t get through as an official member of the press.

            Why am I writing about this now? Because I don’t want to merely walk around the convention center for free. I want to earn the pass, by writing an ongoing diary of my time at CCI for I want to see whether the convention has gotten larger since my last visit. I’ll get a chance to interview some of the best and brightest of the comics scene. But most of all, I want to have some fun over the course of six days, or die trying.


9:05 a.m. Eastern Standard Time

            I hate my life.

            Okay, I know I shouldn’t say it, but the people at Delta Airlines make it difficult.

            I got up before 6 a.m. Got dressed. Packed the rest of my stuff. Left for the airpot. Stopped to get gas. Had difficulty finding the entrance to the long-term parking station. Dragged two bags to the air train. Got off in the wrong direction. Arrive at the terminal, where I thought everything would be okay. And then . . . I hit a roadblock.

           It turns out I was too late to check my bags. It was about a half-0hour before the plane was scheduled to depart, and I didn’t give myself enough time. Right now, I should be in the air., San Diego-bound. Where am I? Writing this in my notebook, waiting until 12:30 p.m. That’s when Im allowed to book a flight to San Diego – with a stop in Cincinnati – that leaves at 3:30 p.m,. Right now, according to the clock, it’s 9:11. You can see why I’m ticked off at myself.

            I blew it. Preview Night? Down the drain. No press registration for me, no trip to the comic shop to pick up stuff. An entire day’s plans ruined, all because I didn’t get up early enough. Or maybe I shouldn’t have gone back home to get my razor and shaving cream. Or stopped for $20 worth of gas. As you can see, I love torturing myself.

            I’m trying to look on the bright side. I know there are far worse things that could happen to me. I know Preview Night isn’t as long as the other days of the con. I know there will be a nice hotel room waiting for me. It’s just that I’m now faced with killing seven hours with little to do except eat, sit, and walk around, pushing a cart with my bags. Crap, I got over three hours before I can even check in . . . and then three hours to fritter away after that. It’s just frustrating as hell. And to think one of the biggest problems I had going into today was that the BRM t-shirt I got from Dave was too small for me.

            I should probably stop writing now. I got reading material galore as well as over twenty copies of the latest issue. I just need to remember: if this is my lowest point until Monday, everything else with be great.

11:19 p.m. Pacific Standard Time

            So there I am, on the phone with the hotel, finding out that 1. They didn’t have shuttle service from the airport, and 2. I had until midnight to check in. I began to think that the rate I was going, I’d have to join the ranks of San Diego’s homeless for a night. I get a voice mail from my mother, to whom I bitched to about my situation. She encouraged me to go back to Delta and try to find a connecting flight, using one to Detroit. With nothing to lose, I trooped back to Delta. The lady behind the counter wound up getting me on an immediate flight to Atlanta. It was about as close to a moment from The Amazing Race as I will ever get. I should have tipped the woman. Suddenly, my day was about to be salvaged.

            Getting to San Diego mainly consisted of me trying to nap, watching television, and eating too much biscotti. But I made it to the Westgate Hotel, where everybody was super nice to me. I got into my room. I’m paying $190 a night for it, and it shows. I had to unlock one door to get to another. I have a king-sized bed, a huge bathroom, a mini-fridge (which comes in handy with a 7-Eleven nearby for water-buying purposes), two cushy chairs, and an online connection. I had to sweat out that last one; I didn’t have a wi-fi device, but I was able to get a cable to connect to the phone. This is great, since I had about thirty e-mail messages waiting for me when I finally got online. Press credentials mean getting all sorts of letters from attention-hungry companies.

            So what did I do for Preview Night? Not much, to be honest. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the sheer size of Comic-Con, since I had gone twice. Sure, it’s gotten bigger in six years, but it didn’t completely shock me. The fans were out in force . . . I saw the first cosplayer going as Vixen from Justice League. That was rare . . . not as rare as seeing a girl tarted up as Rufio from Hook on the news (yes, really), but pretty damn rare. I went in, poked around, popped into a few booths, and dropped off my business cards and copies of the latest issue for prospective interviews. I also met Gail Simone; we originally became acquainted back in 1996 on a message board dedicated to the acclaimed miniseries, Kingdom Come. Today, she’s writing Secret Six and Wonder Woman for DC Comics, and she co-wrote the Wonder Woman direct-to-DVD animated movie. Am I jealous? Of course, but I’m proud of her.

            I wound up ditching the con early, and I headed to Mission Valley via the trolley. I knew there was a comic shop near the trolley stop . . . and it wound up being closed. For, like, an hour. Happily, the guy running the place took pity on me and let me shop, and I got most of what I wanted which came out this week. I wound up having Panda Kitchen for dinner (the Orange Chicken was very yummy), got a few things at 7-Eleven, and went back to my room.

            I knew today would be the longest day, but I didn’t know how long. If you figure the naps don’t count, I’ve been up for nineteen hours. It feels a lot longer. But if I put this morning behind me, everything will be okay.

DAY TWO: Thursday [July 23]

            Today was a good day. Not a great day, but pretty good. It’s also weird: ten years ago, I went to my first big convention – Wizard World in Chicago – and David Cone pitched a perfect game. Today, Mark Buehrle tossed a perfecto for the White Sox. It’s also been ten years since John F. Kennedy, Jr. died, so I’m a little freaked that something might happen with Ted.

            I managed to interview two people today: Jeff Lemire and Jamie S. Rich. I had to do both standing up, which is a bitch. I have a tape recorder, notebook and index card, and it’s a bitch to manage all three while upright. I think I did okay; both have books out (The Nobody from Lemire, You Have Killed Me from Rich), and I was able to stay professional and courteous. I also managed to meet a lot of the press contacts I’ve made over the past year, and that was pretty cool as well. Sadly, the press room was just a panel room. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it felt like a letdown. Also, there were people with laptops there. I’d bring mine with me, but that would probably kill my arms with all the weight I’m carrying as it is.

            I spent most of my time wandering the halls, lugging a bag full of comics, a few magazines, and copies of Beyond Race. I have blisters on four of my toes, and I have three more days of heavy walking to do. I also got five sketches; getting sketches is one of my favorite things to do at conventions. I don’t pay that much for them, which is a shame when somebody I wanted to get a sketch from charges $300 for full-body works. It wouldn’t be a total rip-off, and she’s looking to make $900 per day, but it was too rich for me. I did pay $60 for a sketch, and I was supposed to give the artist my book at the end of the con. But then I had to get a sketch from another guy, and he took his sweet time. Meanwhile, I had to go to a panel featuring Vertigo Crime, and I wanted to get the book over to the first guy right away. Finally, I got my sketch, but I had to run to the panel (and got yelled at by security people for that) because I already reviewed two Vertigo Crime graphic novels, and I wanted to get the scoop. Forty-five minutes later, I ran down to Artist Alley . . . and the guy had left for the day. Whoops. Oh, and I think I saw Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer just when I got my sketch completed, but I couldn’t stand around and gawk.

            Panel-wise, I was two for three. I severely underestimated how early I had to wait in line for the Robot Chicken panel, and it got capped before I got there. I did make Gail Simone’s panel, which was packed. Once again: I’m jealous, yet I’m proud. Mark Waid moderated the event; he kept making jokes about not being prepared, and he kept asking questions meant for Jerry Robinson, whose panel he moderated earlier. Gail kept a straight face, going on about her career, from posting online on a Kingdom Come message board to being one of DC Comics’ hottest writers. She went over her whole resume and answered lots of questions. She’s a rock star, I tell you. She’s also let Wonder Woman take over her life. She’s got a Wonder Woman alarm clock, a Wonder Woman desktop, boots, tea set, artwork, and her ringtone is the theme music from the 70s Wonder Woman television show. I wrote three-plus pages of notes for the hell of it, and that stuck out.

            After the con, I got dressed up and attended a party hosted by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. It helps that it was held at my hotel. I mingled for over an hour, talked comics, and paid $4 for a small bottle of water. Then again, I’ve gotten four free bottles of water so far from the hotel, so it all evens out. I can still hear the party. . . they’re outside on a pavilion one floor from my room. I could see my room from there, I’m that close.

            Things should heat up tomorrow. I’m set to interview the guys from The Eternal Smile tomorrow, I’ll try to get to the con early to catch the Batman: The Brave And The Bold panel, and I want to meet Adam Warren, one of my favorite writer/artists out there. Wish me luck, even if it is retroactive.

Next: Days 3-4 (Friday & Saturday)

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Getting Ready To Ex-Plode

I started watching The Real World on and off back in 1992. I jumped off around 1996, back when the cast was in Miami, and the first twist (the kids trying to make money) was added. At the dawn of the Reality Revolution of 2000 (re: the coming of Survivor), I got sucked into all things Bunim-Murray Productions: The Real World (featuring Melissa, probably the most intentionally funny cast member in the show's history), Road Rules (back when the cast got "clues" from an obnoxious Max Headroom wannabe called "The Roadmaster") and Real World/Road Rules Challenge (starting with Extreme Challenge, where I started to turn on Julie the crazy Mormon chick).

There have been times where I should have jumped off the wagon. Over time, the premise of the shows stopped being about what happens when young people "stop being polite and start getting real," but rather about how drunk and horny these people could get. The novelty over castmates hooking up ended, and it became something to expect. Road Rules ended, forcing The Challenge (rebranded along the way) to seek out "Fresh Meat"; people competing on the show without going to The Real World first. Last season, there were eight people to appear on The Real World: Portland, and the one thing I related to was this . . .

Sure, you can question the wisdom of someone (Averey) bringing a cute Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix to run around and poop with impunity. But she was legitimately cute, and any tangent with her was welcomed by me, even if I had to wonder if knuckleheaded Johnny was trying to use Daisy to get to Averey, or the other way around. Also, I'm not ashamed to admit that I sometimes checked her Twitter account.

 So there I am, making myself watch the trainwrecks that were The Real World and The Challenge, trying to grasp onto good things . . . like Daisy, or CT finally winning his first Challenge. I had heard about BMP going back to San Francisco, where they set up shop back in 1994. It was a bumper crop for memorable personalities: AIDS activist Pedro, who  spent his last days on Earth trying to make sure people didn't make the same mistakes he did; conservative Rachel, whose presence predated the "Republican Revolution" of that year; liberal cartoonist Judd, who made a name of himself as a comic book writer; and a certain scabby troublemaker that shall go nameless here. Seven or more people fighting and fucking in the Bay Area . . . what's the big deal? Then they announced the big twist:

In the event that you're reading this years in the future and the trailer to The Real World: Ex-Plosion no longer works, I'll break it down:

1. Seven strangers are brought into a sweet pad in San Francisco. The usual stuff probably happens . . . fighting, feuding, drinking, etc.

2. The castmates are sent away on vacation . . . and when they come back, they find their exes have moved into the house.

To me, this might be -- to coin a phrase -- the shark-jumpingest move in the history of The Real World. Why would BMP go for this format? I have a few ideas.

1. More Drama

Last season, viewers had to deal with Nia, a complete bitch with zero morals. Her major claim to fame was writing a book on how to gold-dig. She wound up feuding with most of the cast and generally acted like a heinous cunt. I know, it's an ugly word, and I have a feminist friend who would clean my clock if she reads this, but I don't care. I'd take the beating. And I'm ready to call her all sorts of nasty things in the next season of The Challenge, which follows Ex-Plosion. And speaking of The Challenge . . . 

2. More Bodies For The Challenge

If MTV cares for a BMP franchise, it's probably going to be The Challenge. The Real World is no longer the marquee franchise for the network, as it's been replaced with dubious crap like Jersey Shore, Snooki & JWOW, 16 & Pregnant, Teen Mom, the humorless series adaptation of Teen Wolf, etc. Aside from whatever programs skateboarding manchild Rob Dyrdek appears on, MTV's original programming is crap. Without Road Rules, BMP has to screen prospective Challengers seven at a time, with the most "interesting" getting a chance at winning big money. They've had two seasons where "Fresh Meat" players were brought in, and it does work for a while. However, the second generation has never won a season beyond Carley winning Fresh Meat II with Landon back in 2010. Also, two of the more notable of the original "Fresh Meat" -- Evan the doughy Canadian and Kenny the Jersey Shore reject -- have more or less been banished from The Challenge after they were accused of putting a toothbrush in a place where a toothbrush wasn't meant to go. Ex-Plosion gives BMP a dozen people to play with, and they get to rip off the "Battle Of The Exes" format used in a recent season of The Challenge.

3. BMP Wants Somebody To Die

Let's go back to the original San Francisco season for a minute. BMP put in a scabby asshole who oozed more than personality with somebody who had a compromised immune system. Now, I'm not accusing BMP of wanting to show somebody dying on-camera . . . but I really, really, really wouldn't be surprised. A while back, when they were filming in Washington, D.C., a drunken Ty got upset and dropped Andrew off a stoop. Had Andrew died that night, I'm convinced co-creator Jonathan Murray  would've called it a show right there and then. Look at the trailer. Fast-forward to 1:25 . . . there's a blonde chick waving a knife around. I'm sure nothing happens, but that is the kind of shit that BMP wants . . . nay, demands from the new crop of cast members.

So . . . with all the fighting, screaming, knife-waving and a pregnancy scare, I have to ask: why would I wind up watching this trainwreck every week? Here's what I came up with:

1. I Can't Quit Anything

That isn't entirely true . . . after three seasons of The Apprentice, I finally decided that I had enough of the Donald Trump Experience. On the other hand, I watched all ten seasons of Smallville, a show on the CW that would've lasted five seasons on an actual network. That show got worse every year, and I'm convinced Tom Weilling was a worse Superman than Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill.
2. I Want To Stay Until The Bitter End

Here, there's the faint hope that the show would end with the 30th season, which would be the next installment. It would be a nice round number, wouldn't it? There aren't awards to be given out for fans who stick through the series, but there's some sort of mental thing involved that I can't really put into words . .  . where it wouldn't mean as much if you bail out way before the plane hits the mountain. By the way, I apparently suck at metaphors.

3. I Hate Myself

Filing The Real World under "self loathing" would be appropriate for myself, as well as scores of other viewers. If there's nothing else on Wednesday night, why not watch barely identifiable assholes make fools of themselves? I could do something constructive with my time, but I also like turning my brain into sludge for an hour.

The odds are good that I'll give Ex-Plosion a shot for a few episodes, at least before the big twist happens. If I have the willpower, I'd quit right before that happens, even if they bring in a dozen Daisies to frolic and poop. And if I watch the whole season, at least I can claim to be killing time before the next Challenge takes place. That's another show I need to quit, but that's an essay for another day.