Friday, July 22, 2011

Comic-Con Report (in progress)


So, here I am, sitting where I was a year ago, and doing what I did then. Stability, I suppose. Or pathetic, if you’re the other kind of person.

I ought to take the hours I have waiting for Steven Spielberg’s panel, and write about my experiences in the last day or so, but in the time it took me to walk here, I couldn’t help but come up with an idea for a story, where a kid gets a cellphone and gets a very short message in a stranger’s voice (from no readable number) that says, “Don’t change your phone number. No matter what you do--” Then it’s over. He listens to it, and is pretty sure the voice is familiar, but he doesn’t know who it’s from.

No second call comes . . . for a year. Once again, he wakes up and there’s another message on there for him. This time, it’s twice as long. “Make sure you keep the same number, as long as you can. I’ll call again, but this is the only number I have for you. Chad, this is--” Then it’s over. Again, the voice is familiar (he no longer has last year’s message to compare them), but he can’t place it. The man’s voice sounds older, but concerned, deadly serious.

Chad’s phone breaks, but he does insist on keeping the same number when he gets a new one. But the guy doesn’t call back. For a year.

This time, when Chad wakes up, he realizes it’s about the same time as the guy called last year. Might even be the same day. He checks his messages, sure enough, exactly one year later. This time, the guy talks longer (twice as long as before). “Alright, here I am again. Got your message, so you still have the same number. Keep it. Chad, I’m calling from the future. I don’t have much time, but I want to give you some advice. In 2013, you get invited to go to the Grand Canyon with your friend Nathan. Don’t go. In 2016, a coworker, Annie, offers to split a lottery ticket with you. Do it. In 2012 or so, be careful with--” But the message ends.

He plays it for his friend. The friend says, “How did you do that?” “Do what?” “With your voice.” He realizes that the voice IS familiar. His friend thinks it’s a joke, but Chad doesn’t. Sadly, 2012 is coming right up. He breaks his leg in a motor biking stunt. He wonders why future him didn’t think to warn him about that. Douche. He’s saved the last message, and waits for the year to come around. He stays up, by the phone, but falls asleep at his desk, waiting. He is awakened by the ring, but, confused, knocks the phone off the desk. He scrabbles for it, but misses the call.

A message is left, though, longer this time. “Chad, it’s me calling again. Call me your future advisor, or something. I’ve got things to warn you about, but I wonder if you need me to repeat the last three. They were Grand Canyon, lottery ticket, motor biking. So, let’s see. There’s a girl, named Helena, that you meet in the summer, same summer as Nathan’s trip. She really likes you. Don’t screw it up. Your cousins sell you a car in 2015 or so. It’s a lemon, pass on it. There’s a job you get around the same time, maybe a year before or later, called Omnitek or -trek or -corp or something. They go out of business and you don’t get a couple checks. I’d skip that. You lose your sister’s engagement ring the day before her wedding. Just don’t offer to ke--” Click. That’s the whole message.

His sister is twelve. He has a lot of cousins. He’s a teenager, not looking for work. These didn’t help him. Especially the damn motor biking one. His friend Nathan does invite him to go to the Grand Canyon with him, but he declines. Nothing happens. No disaster, nothing. He missed out on a sweet trip, is all. But the next year, he stays up chugging energy drinks, and when the phone rings, he answers it. “Chad?”

. . .

Rish here again. So, I would’ve been here a while ago (and hence farther up in the line), but my alarm didn’t go off. I was paranoid about it last night, because my uncle said you could use your cellphone to wake yourself up, and I figured I’d try it, but he woke me at five-something the next morning, and I was in the shower when my alarm would have gone off. So last night, I set up the alarm to go off in five minutes. It worked fine, so I set it for one hour. I went to sleep, and sure enough, it woke me, and I got up and got everything ready for the next morning. I set the alarm to wake me . . . and it didn’t go off. I overslept (though not by even an hour), but it pisses me off and vexes me, that the alarm works fine when it doesn’t matter, but doesn’t work when I need it to.

Now I’m sitting outside on their poor excuse for grass (astroturf, by comparison, is much more green and realistic), typing this. I had prepared last night by opening several submitted stories in several windows, so I could be reading them in this line, but when I turned on my computer, the windows all became “Server Not Found.” That doesn’t happen at home; they bring up exactly what you were looking at the last time you shut down, and only needs an internet connection if you refresh the window. So, sorry to you submitters, we won’t be accepting/rejecting your stories soon.

It was about this time last year (perhaps this very weekend) that I first began to call this device “my craptop.” I was so angered last summer, sitting here, typing something, only to have the computer restart (for no apparent reason), that I’ve been saving every minute or so whilst typing this (though it hasn't restarted yet). Also, I remember being really, really frustrated with not being able to get on the internet last year, despite the system saying I was connected. Once I was inside Hall H, it would connect, then disconnect thirty seconds later, with no warning or reason (after all, I was sitting still, not moving even an inch, so how was I losing the signal?), unable to send an email without losing the message.

I still call it my craptop, though.

This is really strange. Even though the idea of Comic-Con is a huge gathering of losers, virgins, and geeks, I’ve seen genuinely attractive girls in the double-digits. There are three within view in this very line. To be honest, I’m usually REALLY suspicious of a pretty girl at a convention like this. The first conventions I went to were little ones in Los Angeles, and I found that the hot women were all paid to be there, and resented the hell out of us overweight/skinny mouth-breathing lower lifeforms. It bummed me out to find that, if one was being nice to you, it was because she wanted you to buy something. Sigh.

But here, there are some cute girls who SEEM to genuinely like Anime, or Batman, or Star Wars, or Phineas and Ferb, or at least “Twilight” and Super Mario.*

This Comic-Con was much more difficult to attend than years previous. I never knew how good I had it, because I came in 2005, did a little work, and was invited back every year since. Except this year. I had no ticket, and as the days neared, I realized I’d have to spent a tremendous amount of money to buy a scalped one. Luckily, I got the potential for some cash on Saturday, and that decided me. I still spent an obscene amount (not that I don’t every year, but this was before I even left), for a ticket, and I sort of shake my head at my own naivete, since I paid a guy to meet with me and give me his pass, trusting that he would go out of his way to meet me, give it to me, and we'd go our separate ways.

But, that’s how it worked out, and I guess I got lucky.

The sun is shining, but it’s not at all hot. In fact, there’s a breeze constantly blowing from the Pacific, that makes it almost cold at night or while driving. Nevertheless, I did get sunburned, from my many miles of walking, but not badly enough to hurt much. The crowds have been thick--as usual--but not nearly as smelly as I remember from years past. Perhaps that will change as the hours become days. The one thing I’ve always hated about this thing has not changed, and that’s the thick crowds of people jammed into the convention hall, barely moving, and then the person in front of you stops, to check their phone, to take a picture, to gawk at a chick dressed as Itchy, Chewbacca’s father. There are many, many things I hate, but that’s up there really high on the list. I hate it so much, it makes me very nearly fill with the uncontrollable urge to kill.

But I digress. If you’ve been to SDCC, you know what I’m talking about.

So, right now, I’m here in the line to Hall H, where the TINTIN panel will soon begin. I don’t give sailor’s moon about the Tintin franchise or characters, but its director, Steven Spielberg, is going to be here, and that’s kind of special. There’s a little kid in line behind me, and I’ve chatted with him a bit. He’s kind of lost and tired, since you’d have to be as a six year old at Comic-Con. He recognized the ship Serenity on my t-shirt and told me he was at the “Castle” panel last year and asked Nathan a question. I vaguely remember a child dressed as Mal Reynolds, and that was him. I told him that he’d be able to tell his grandchildren that he saw Steven Spielberg once, since that’s going to be significant forty years from now.

I think a bit about bringing a kid to something like this, like my niece or my nephew. It SEEMS like it might be fun, but probably wouldn‘t be. I did pick up my nephew a couple of lightsabers to break like he did the last three I bought him. I try to be a good uncle.

So, the line moved MUCH faster than last year’s, and here we are, in Hall H, waiting for the panel. Unfortunately, my craptop still hasn’t found the internet signal yet. That frustrates me, but it serves me right for not spending a thousand dollars on a real laptop.

For a few minutes, I was able to connect, but the presentation started before too long. Luckily, I was able to call up those stories to read in the next little while. The panel I saw was the TINTIN one, and both Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson were here. I’m a fan. Until the SPIDER-MAN panel many hours from now, there’s nothing I’m particularly excited by, but I’ll sit for a while and type and watch, because once you leave, you’re done. At least, that’s how it was last year. Perhaps it’s different this time. Yesterday, I walked right into Hall H, with absolutely no line. Of course, nobody cared about the panel that was starting (and it wasn’t advertised). Anyhow, I’m stuck here for a while, and may type a bit more.

The folks next to me are criticizing J.K. Rowling’s writing style. I don’t know how that’s possible, unless you’re talking about “Ron said darkly”s. But ah well, not everybody has to love everything else. I remember having a conversation with someone who loved the Dakota Fanning WAR OF THE WORLDS and the MATRIX sequels, but hated the LORD OF THE RINGS flicks.

‘Course, that guy was something of a nutsack, but ah well.

Saw the FRIGHT NIGHT panel. You know, I’m no fan of 3-D , but what I hate more is when somebody acts like I’m old or no longer “with it” for saying 3-D doesn’t work. It’s not like saying “Twilight is stupid” or “Bruce Campbell is handsome;” in the footage they showed, you could see four headlights when a car turned its lights on. There’s no way you can tell me that I’m wrong in that. There should only be two headlights, sunshine. Go eff yourself.

Chris Sarandon was the moderator for the FN panel, and he REALLY didn’t want to be there. It was like a cheerleader waking up in my bed, folks. He might have been quite ill and on medication, maybe that was it.

So, I used to want to make movies for a living (and just between you and me, I still do). But watching this stuff makes me wonder. They put the writers on some of these panels, and nobody wants to ask them questions or hear what they have to say. Kind of a microcosm for how it actually is with writers, I guess.

It is starting to really smell here. I guess that is inevitable with this many people in such a small space for so long. I wrote a story about a bunch of men in a prison cell for two months, and honestly, how awful would the smell be? Maybe your nose would no longer detect B.O. and feces and bad breath after that long, like people that grew up on a dairy or an abattoir.

I dislike people as a rule, but I wonder what it would be like to be my friend Jeff, who openly despises people, to be stuck here, jammed in with other folks in an area that would comfortably fit half as many. Did I ever mention the guy I knew who elbowed a child in the face at Comic-Con 2009? Despite there being free pins and bright colors and people dressed as heroes and complimentary attendance for children, the kid was wailing and making a scene. My friend saw this little shit throwing a fit surrounded by hundreds of other uncomfortable, upset, tired, aching, irritated people, and he just threw out his elbow, almost reflexively, to “give the brat something to cry about,” as my dad used to say.**

Comic-Con is not for everybody. Having had to sacrifice money, gas, time, and leisure pretty much every visit here (except for the first time, when I just drove down from Los Angeles), I feel like I’ve demonstrated my . . . I don’t know, worthiness, to be here. And there are folks who have given up a great deal more--like the guys in front of me in the line today who flew here from Australia--just to experience it.

Then there’s the people who drove up from Chula Vista, or rode the trolly in from their place here in San Diego, that complain. It’s like the people I’d meet in L.A. that were from Canada, or Britain, or India, or Venezuela, or Ireland, who thought our country was so lame, or so unfair, or so ugly, or so racist, or so unfriendly, or so political, or so cramped. I’d always think, “Well, go the fuck home, then. Seriously, sir or ma’am, if your home planet of Hoth was so much better, get on the first space cruiser back and start to civically improve those snowfields."

So, the panels I saw today were myriad. TINTIN. 30 MINUTES OR LESS. UNDERWORLD 4. TOTAL RECALL. FRIGHT NIGHT. THE RAVEN. ATTACK THE BLOCK. HAYWIRE. GHOST RIDER 2. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. I guess TINTIN was my favorite, but as it was the first panel, I wonder how much of it was that.

One of the panels had a bunch of young “comedians,” all of whom are successful and have TV shows or movie roles under their belts, not to mention fan followings, and seriously, not a single thing they said was funny. Yet, everything they said got a laugh from the crowd, and I guess that also makes me old, just like the 3-D and the Michael Bay editing. Yet, Bryan Cranston said one very dry thing, that struck me as terribly funny, and he’s a serious actor.

Although, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish busted each others’ bollocks in their panel, and the stuff they said was really funny. So, maybe it’s all relative.

Oh, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN really is a reboot. Sad.

I’m tired now. I guess I no longer care to try and reconnect to the internet for the hundred and eighth, ninth, or tenth times. I need to get a job and buy a better laptop, a better camera, and one of those phone/padd/videogame system/things.

What have I done with my life?

Rish "Prince of Geeks" Outfield

*Let’s talk about this for a minute. I speak the truth, when I say that there’s no such thing as a pretty fangirl. But, I’ve seen lovely, thin, shapely, or actually beautiful girls at this Con--and in this line--who seem to be here by choice, and smiling while standing in the line or taking a photo with the dude dressed as Killer Croc. So, it sounds like I’m wrong. Except that I’m not. It’s like the chupacabra or Nessie . . . they MAY exist, but it’s too hard to verify.
And it’s because of the difference between girls and boys. And the differences in life. A pretty girl has doors open up and venues present themselves to her that are far from reading Fantasy books and dressing as She-Ra for Halloween. Just like, if I had been born good-looking, I never would have focused so much attention on comic books, or "Star Trek," or writing, or anything above the waistline, mister. And it’s not really fair, but that’s the way it is. I once saw a movie--and I’ll not mention the title--but they cast this beautiful actress to play this geeky comic book lover, and it rang falser than me with a big bra on. It bothered me much more than it should have, to hear this girl deliver this comics-fan dialogue, because you could tell she didn’t know what she was saying, but just reading memorized lines, and it, frankly, ruined the whole movie for me. Because it wasn’t real. Surely, you’ve seen that before, whether it’s Denise Richards playing a nuclear scientist, or Sofia Coppola playing a mafia princess, or Megan Fox in any English-speaking role. Life has taught me that these are not genuine performances. So you can say that you look like Paulina Porizkova but you absolutely adore "Robotech Macross," but I will never, ever believe you. Sorry.

**This is not (for once) a criticism of my dad. I cried way too often and easily as a boy, and I’ve noticed it around my niece and nephews, that there is a temptation to provide a reason for them to be crying, if they’re crying anyway. I am quite fond of my nephew, but there are times when he is being loud, or just being bad, or in want of attention, and there is the temptation to spank him, as a sort of way to release the pressure of being around somebody throwing a fit like that. Have YOU ever sucker-punched a strange child at a comic convention?
I know I have.


Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clutron said...

Rish, I LOVED the story...I'm so mad you left me hanging! I'm hoping this is going to be finished on The Dunesteef?

Rish Outfield said...

Shoot, Clutron, I'm sorry. I saw your comment and had to read the blog post to even know what you're talking about. I guess what happened is that I was typing that until the line moved, and then I started typing on something else. And sadly, I had almost no memory of the cellphone-from-the-future story, let alone how it was supposed to end.