Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Comic-Con Picture Game (belated)

Wow, I can't believe I forgot to post this. It's sort of a tradition to post some of my terrible SDCC photos, and see how recognizable celebrities are. I had the pics, but never stuck them on here. So, see how many you can identify.




Thursday, July 19, 2012

Comic-Con Day 4 (Hall H Part Three)

It's been really slow-going getting these Hall H pages published, partly because as the day went on, I typed less and less, and partly because I took so many pictures, it's hard to wade through them, finding one or two that doesn't suck.

Then, it was THE HOBBIT.  It turns out, I ain’t so jaded after all, kids.  I cried through half of that.  There was lots of magic in what they showed, both literally and figuratively.  We saw some specially-produced behind-the-scenes footage for us, then Peter Jackson came out, then they showed eleven minutes (I believe they said) of the movie (with a tiny bit from movie two sprinkled in*).  It was really great.  Emotional.  Then out came Phillipa Boyens (writer/producer), Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Andy Serkis (Gollum/2nd Unit Director), Richard Armitidge (Thorin), and Sir Ian McKellan (You shall not pass).  It turns out Elijah Wood was in the audience, so they had him come up and join the panel.

    Dang, this new movie looks like such an experience.  I really loved the LORD OF THE RINGS movies, coming to them as a non-Tolkien fan (still am), but now, my expectations and emotions will put me in a totally different place than I was in 2001 (I was so unfamiliar with the book that I believed Gandalf was truly dead).  Maybe it’ll be like the (first two) Star Wars prequels, and my love for the franchise will enable me to enjoy them.  Or heck, maybe it’ll just be that good, and I won’t have to strain myself internally.

Hey, it worked for AVENGERS.

Unfortunately, my battery is almost dead.  I have tried, though, to keep up with the panels and keep writing in this (though I’ll admit I become paranoid when the lights dim that this screen will do to me what cellphones in movie theaters do to me, so I stash it as fast as I can).

The Marvel Studios panel ended the day.  The footage for IRON MAN 3 looks good, but it’s hard to say whether it’ll be a good movie or not.  Did you know that when AVENGERS came out and made so much money, that Marvel raised the budget for IM3, just because they could?  To me, this was a head-scratcher.  Having twenty-five extra million dollars doesn’t make a movie better.  Six months extra to work on the script, sure.  An inspired screenplay and a really visionary director, definitely.  But just throwing money at a film isn’t a way to improve it.  For example, the 1997 STAR WARS cost exactly twice what the 1977 STAR WARS cost (twenty million versus ten million).  How much better was the Special Edition than the original?

When AVENGERS made a buttload of money, some of that money should have gone to bankrolling a future film (or films), and some probably should have gone to the people who made it such a success.  But I’m no businessman; it’s possible that most of that money was already spent when it came in, and they’re just now making a profit, which will be spent on real estate, narcotics, and underage prostitutes.

Speaking of which, Robert Downey Junior is really, really gung-ho about the Tony Stark character.  He has so much charm and coolness, as well as arrogance, playfulness, and a healthy irreverence, he seems as much that character in real life as Christopher Reeve did as Superman.

Ugh, now I’m thinking of MAN OF STEEL again.

The end of the Saturday night always brings us a panel with Kevin Smith.  He is a vulgar dude, but he’s not at all full of himself, and is so passionate that I’ve never once been bored listening to him talk.  And oh, he loves to talk.  He weaves a tapestry of colorful language that is merely talk of penises and obesity and love of bottoms when you look at it up close, but when you step back, seems to be a work of unique art.  And just between you and me, that is exactly what art is.

Smith had no projects to promote this year.  He has his TV show and his podcast, and another podcast (Hollywood Babble-on) is soon to be a TV show as well, but he seems to have retired from the movie- and comic-making business, and is all about selling what he does best: talk.  It’s inspiration, boys and girls.  Because I’m a podcaster too, and I always seem to be able to put out way more episodes of just me talking than the ones of stories and music and sound effects and acting.

Gasp. It’s like the difference between scripted television and reality TV. I guess that makes me a whore too. Sorry, Mom. Please donate via the PayPal button on your right.

Kevin Smith inspired the heck out of me last year, telling us how he was no longer surrounding himself by people who criticize his stupid ideas (I think the head of The Weinstein Company was very high on that list), but choosing instead to spend his time with people who encourage him to do what he wants. Eww, writing that, it sounds like I was inspired to surround myself with yes-men. But he basically was saying that there are too many people who bring you back down to earth, and few who will encourage you to soar.
That's what I chose to take from it, and it helped me accomplish one or two things last year, before I eventually reverted to my regular, miserable self. Which reminds me, I was going to produce a really horrible little audio drama on the show, and I never did. Hmmm. The problem with that is, if I know it's stupid, do I want to waste my time on it? Not without a guarantee of some sort, either that people WILL like it, or that huge piles of money will come of it. See, that's what a whore is.

Also, Kevin Smith talked about being in his forties, and that there are fewer days ahead than behind.  He inspired me last year by talking about choosing to be around people who say “Why not?” when he pitches them an idea rather than the ones who say “Why would you want to do that?”  Evidently, Harvey Weinstein was either THE person he was talking about, or one of the people who would ask him why, and he hasn’t talked to Harvey in a couple of years.
What Kevin really ought to do is hire somebody to direct something he wrote, where he can concentrate fully on his writing, and that person (preferably someone young and hungry) can concentrate on turning the words into interesting visuals, but if Kevin is making good money just putting out podcasts, I can totally understand him doing only that.  I had a conversation with Big once about making money with our podcast, that if we were making enough money with it that he could quit his day job, would podcasting start to feel like work instead of play.  He said, “Of course it would.  It already feels like work instead of play.  But not as much work as what I’m doing now.”

It would be pretty great to get paid to tell stories, or write them, or just to complain about things on the internet.  But I don’t have the ambition to do what is necessary to make that happen.  Heck, I could barely tell people to go out and vote for the story I have in that Masters of the Macabre contest.  And maybe the squeaky wheel gets to win that contest, just like the many Oscars that Harvey Weinstein has won/bought by his constant jockeying for awards and politics.
Heck, maybe I’ll still win that contest (since the deadline for voting is still out there**) because my story is the best.  I don’t know, I haven’t listened to the other contestants.  If it does, I’ll know that it was because people liked it better than the other four, and not because I brow-beat people (friends and strangers) into voting for me.

I did recently win a writing contest, and I’m terrified that people will think I cheated to get there.  I’d like to think that the story speaks for itself, and when they read it, they say, “Well, okay, that was a pretty great piece of work there,” instead of saying, “That Outfield douche bought the election, ‘cause so-and-so story was way better than his.”
You know what, fuck those guys.  I know I won fair and square, and that really should be the most important thing at the end of the day.

Man, I need to grow a pair.  That I could have lived this long with such a thin skin is appalling to me.  I need to grow a Piotr Rasputin-like shell around me so I can send stories anywhere, and not care if someone thinks they’re weak, and ask any gal to the malt shoppe, and not care if they say they’re washing their beehive hairdos that night.
The only way I can see to do that is to continue to send my work in, and do whatever I can to make this year’s stories better than last year’s.

Or to get a personality transplant.  Maybe with Robert Downey Junior.  That would be nice.

Rish “Rambling Man” Outfield

*Now there's three films, but who knows how they managed to decide that, and where to split things.

**At the time I wrote this, the contest was still going.  By the time I published this blog post, the contest had ended, and I had indeed lost.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Comic-Con Day 4 (Hall H Part 2)

I’m now sitting in a seat.  I was talking with a dude in the line about STAR WARS, and suddenly, an hour had passed.  The line started to move, and I was so caught up in our conversation that I hadn’t even gotten my badge out when I got to the door.  So I had to stop and let twenty or so people through ahead, and never saw that guy again. 

Ah well.

I got a fairly good seat, and am doing what I can to make myself comfortable.  I finally have a Wi-Fi signal, but I haven’t been able to get online yet.  I didn’t call this a "craptop" two Comic-Cons ago for nada. My cousin keeps telling me I need to get an I-phone, but I am hesitant.  Sure, I’ve seen the fun he’s had with it, but his work paid for his data plan, and even if it didn’t, he has a lot more money coming in than I do.

Still, it would be nice to just be able to look things up on the internet anywhere I go.  Instead, for example, of having to write or read when I go somewhere.  Who needs that?

To be honest, I’m not very excited about most of the panels today.  Last year, I was pretty disgusted with the schedule, and only stayed because I really wanted to see some late panel (I can’t even remember what it was for now).  Today, there’s not much I care about early on (DJANGO UNCHAINED doesn’t appeal to me, I loathe everything about END OF WATCH, and there are two hours of trailers to kill time in between studio panels (what, did SKYFALL cancel at the last minute?), but there is HOBBIT, MAN OF STEEL, and IRON MAN 3 to hope for.

So, the first panel I saw was for DJANGO UNCHAINED.  I realize I’m the only person in America who responded poorly to INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, so it might explain why I was wary of Quentin Tarantino’s new film.  But he’s so personable, and seems to have such a unique perspective and story he wants to tell that I couldn’t help but be sucked into it all.  I sort of want to see the movie now.
And Christoph Waltz is impressively cool, with an unplaceable accent (he's from Austria, but sounds more like James Spader than Schwarzenegger).

Afterward, there was a panel for END OF WATCH.

It’s a Los Angeles-set police drama that would normally appeal to me, except for it’s shot found-footage style.  Except for when it isn’t.  That pretty much guarantees I’m not ever going to see it, but the director came out and he talked about his vision for the movie, and that they shot it really cheaply in exchange for more creative freedom, and I had to respect that.  When somebody makes a movie responsibly, I feel they should be rewarded, even if the odd style they’ve chosen to make it in is repellent to me.

A couple of years ago, I thought ahead, and made myself sandwiches the night before Hall H, then had them in my backpack for when I got hungry (they ended up truly, horribly smashed, but I didn't care by that point).  Unfortunately, I hadn't thought to do so this trip.  I don't know if I mentioned it, but my sister decided to follow me to San Diego with her family, so she could take her boys to the beach, and we could all go to Sea World together.  They ended up staying at the same motel I got reservations for, and since I booked a double room when I made my plans, I ended up staying in their single room and they stayed in mine.  That's a round-about way of saying that I was even more distracted than usual this trip, trying to hang out with my nephews in the little time I wasn't at the convention, soaking my feet, or sleeping.

So, like I started to say, I hadn't thought to bring food with me, so I had the choice of either eating nothing, or eating what they were offering in the lobby (there was technically a third option, which was to give up my space, go grab lunch, then get back in line for Hall H again, and hope I made it back in somehow).  I took the opportunity, about halfway through END OF WATCH, to get up to grab food during the panel, and the food line was so long, that I missed the SILENT HILL 2 panel, or nearly all of it.  I quite liked the first SILENT HILL movie, even though I choose to blame it for the downfall of my horror movie review website.  Plus, it had Sean Bean in it, so that's a point in anything's favor.

Except for EQUILIBRIUM, that is. 

So, I got a pizza and a hot dog, choosing the latter over a soda.  One of the girls in front of me in our morning line brought me a Pepsi from their Starbucks run at 6:00am, and I might have had difficulty justifying four dollars for a Coke anyway.  The food is legitimately awful, but it’s the only show in town.  It was either that, or starvation, but I’m not sure I made the right choice.

Somebody in the SILENT HILL asked about elements from the game ported over into the movie.  That's got to be one of the hardest things about adapting a game for a film, and there's got to be pressure from the fans to include as much as possible, which seems like it would hamper your storytelling ability.  Of course, somebody who doesn't care about comic books but was writing a comic book movie might feel the same way about supporting characters or colorful costumes. 

That panel ended, and the girl sitting next to me had to take off.  They told the audience to let the ushers know if there was an empty seat next to us, so that one of the people in the line outside could come forward.  I‘ve been that guy in the line not getting into panels before, so I keep trying to get the attention of the usher nearest me.  This guy, however, is a huge jagoff, and actually looked at me waving my hand, then turned to look the other way.  I wonder how much I need to beat myself up to fill this seat.  I will try one more time.

A different usher gave me a thumbs up, and I wonder what he thought I was trying to say.  I pointed at the seat and smiled.  He shook his head at me.  Sigh.

So, the next panels were supposed to be us watching trailers, but they were running so late, they just went ahead with the Warner Bros. panels.  First up was PACIFIC RIM, which Guillermo Del Toro directs, that is a giant piloted robots versus giant monster flick.  I like Del Toro a lot, but it was strange to hear him talk without referring to ejaculate or vaginas.  Maybe next time. 

Then they showed some GODZILLA teases, for an upcoming feature directed by Gareth Edwards, who did the low-budget monster flick MONSTERS.  I’m not a fan, so I can’t say how that will go. 

There was also a panel for THE CAMPAIGN, with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifinakas.  It was interesting to see the two of them try to be funny in answering their questions, since they have different comic styles and timing.  A fan asked them to give a campaign speech in character, which totally flummoxed Zach.  He did it, after some hemming and hawing, and then Ferrell did his, building on what Zach had said.  My buddy Big hates Will Ferrell, so I was impressed by his improv skills.

After that, I was excited to see the MAN OF STEEL presentation.  They showed the teaser (they claimed it had extra stuff in it for us, so I’ll see next week**), and the audience seemed to eat it up, but I couldn’t tell for sure.  I was just reeling from how cold it left me.  There was pretty much nothing I responded to, whereas the SUPERMAN RETURNS footage I saw years ago left me weeping.  Everybody loves Nolan’s Batman films, and I understand that, but to take that sensibility and put Superman through it totally doesn’t work for me.  I guess that makes me a douche, but the only thing I liked about the trailer was the really phony-looking computer-generated flying effects.

No, wait, not that either.  What I responded to was seeing Amy Adams as Lois kissing Superman.  And I’m no Amy Adams fan.

Zack Snyder, the director, came out, and talked for a minute.  Then Henry Cavill, who plays Superman, came out.  I was impressed by him, since he was so darn handsome--I mean, he looked like Superman--so I guess I’m willing to give him a chance, but my guess is, I feel about MAN OF STEEL the way most people will feel about the next, post-Nolan iteration of Batman.
The highlight of that panel for me was when a guy stood up to ask a question, but just started crying.  It wasn't just a bit of emotion, but some kind of flood of tears and gibberish that had me looking away uncomfortably.  Finally, the moderator came down and hugged him, and though he was sort of laughing at him and not with him, he helped him get his question out.  We at least clapped for the guy.

Superman means a great deal to people (though the weeping fan may represent the extreme), and he means a lot to me.  By my count, he has one fewer bad movies under his belt than does Batman, so I hope I end up wrong about MAN OF STEEL, and the numbers don't even out.

Even though I typed up some of this on the day, it has taken me a long time to get it posted, so I think I'll quit here, and work on getting the rest out later.  That way, at least one of my posts makes it up before August.

Rish Outfield
*That reminds me, when I saw all the sleeping forms on the sidewalk as I got out of my car, I thought, "Oh no, how can the line possibly stretch all the way out here?"  It didn't occur to me that there might be that many homeless people on the street, and that they'd choose to sleep in such close proximity to one another.  A community, I suppose.

**Turns out the teaser before DARK KNIGHT had almost nothing in it.  Just a couple of seemingly-unrelated images, voice-over, and then a reveal of Superman and his new logo at the end.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Comic-Con Day 3 (Hall H Part 1)

July 14, 2012

So, after the grand disappointment that was yesterday, I was determined to make it into the Hall H panels on Saturday, which I have managed to get into the last two years.  Last year, if I recall, I depended on the motel to wake me up, and they didn’t call me, so I only managed to wake myself up out of worry, and barely made it in time.  The year before, I had thought to bring an alarm clock.  This year, no such luck, but I did program my phone to awaken me, and had, as stupid as this sounds, an egg timer as a backup.  The damn thing went off every ninety-nine minutes (which is its maximum), and I would awaken, look at the time on my phone, and then start it over.

I needn’t have bothered, because nerves kept waking me up to check the time, and I was already awake and waiting to see if my alarm clock went off when it finally sounded.  I chose to err on the side of caution, so set my alarm for 3:30am, two hours or so earlier than the last time. 

I got up, and got going, only a bit groggy, getting to an excellent parking spot and on my way by four.  It’s dark and humid as he--actually, I don’t imagine Hell (the location) will be this humid.  It was surprisingly quiet, with almost no vehicles on the street, and only the homeless around to remind me that life (or “life,” if you prefer) goes on.*

Convention Center around 4:00am.
I walked across the bridge to the Convention Center, and there the masses were.  Hundreds of people, nearly all of them sleeping, could be seen, on the sidewalk, on the grass . . . and snaking off into the distance. 

Unlike the last two years, they didn’t allow people to pack in like sardines in the queue for Hall H.  Amusingly, because of fire laws, they spread people out so greatly that the end of the line wasn’t near the Convention Center, but down the sidewalk blocks away, right (literally) alongside the ocean. 
It’s pretty daunting, but having seen the front of the line, I understand that once people awaken and start lining up proper, I’ll move up at least a block. 

So, I sat down and fired up ye olde craptop.  There are hundreds in line ahead of me, and in the few minutes I’ve been sititng here, another hundred have lined up behind.  There is a faint, pleasant breeze blowing onto me off the water, and the dudes next to me have all gone to sleep.  I chuckled to discover that the battery on my craptop, if I sit here and type constantly (it doesn’t pick up the wi-fi signal way over here), won’t even make it until the doors open.  I bought this one specifically because it had such a long-life battery (or maybe I just bought it because I'm cheap).  Sigh.

So, I can come up with something to write, or I too can go to sleep.  Not sure which to choose.  Maybe both, since I’m stuck here a long time.

I laid back for a few minutes, and the breeze blowing was really, really nice.  Some are complaining that it’s cold, but I think it’s pretty much perfect.  I might have been able to sleep, except the group I’m sitting with are pretty chatty, and there are a couple of loud talkers among them.  I’m not complaining, they seem like cool folks.  They were going through the schedule, mocking the panels that sound stupidest.  Some of the ones I’ll be sitting through to get to IRON MAN were among them.

A few minutes after that, the sprinklers on the grass near us went off, spraying several of those who were sleeping, so it was fortunate I hadn’t let myself get too comfortable. 

Not long after, the sun started to come up, and it was pretty.  Now the sky is the same color as the water, a sort of combination of grey and white. Of course, I could be an idiot and the water is just reflecting the sky.  Sorry.

As it got lighter, I discovered that I'm near the marina, and that there are several boats moored right behind the Convention Center.  One is a huge yacht with a helicopter on a pad, and the folks ahead of me joked that it either belongs to Tony Stark or Robert Downey Junior, whichever one is real.

I’ve seen two middle-aged women dressed as Merida from BRAVE this morning.  One might have actually been old, not middle-aged.  That amuses me.

It is now nearly six am.  I’m not tired, and not cold, and am in high spirits.  If you know me at all, I tend to be either really up or really down, and apparently, the roller coaster as gone up the ridge again.  I just saw a legitimately-attractive girl go by, dressed as Silk Spectre.  Miraculously, that did not push me into the realms of despair.

Now, it’s later, and amazingly, the people keep on lining up.  I do not exaggerate when I say that the line now goes off into the horizon.  The girl next to me joked that eventually, they’ll be wading, and only people with kayaks will be in line.

The very small people are at the tail end of the queue.
More time passed.  I wrote a sketch for the Dunesteef.  I tried to get online and couldn’t. I turned this off and talked with the people around me. The guys behind me said that they don’t even go onto the show floor, or buy anything from vendors, but merely sit in panels all day (which seems pretty fun).  I listened to the girls ahead talking about tampons and womens’ restrooms.  One of their friends "rage quit" the convention after seeing the lines on Thursday.  Funny, the only other time I'd ever heard that term was regarding my podcast. 

Right before eight o’clock, the people with sleeping bags were forced to line up (taking their bedding back to their cars, or motel rooms, or simply tossing it into the Pacific), and we moved forward for twenty minutes or so, filling the tents more than three blocks away.  Now I am under the second tent, surprisingly close to the front of the line.  It’s possible that people that showed up an hour or three after I did will actually get in.  And good for them; it sucks that anybody today would get turned away like I did yesterday.

Unfortunately, the grass below me is wet and disgusting.  I can’t figure out how the grass could get this mashed down and muddy unless people urinated on it day after day.  I also smell tuna fish.  At least that’s what I think it is.

Not having a blanket, I ended up tearing about twenty pages out of my program and sitting on them, eagerly awaiting the moment that the wetness soaked through and I felt it on my pants.  But I lucked out, and it only soaked partway through by the time it was time to stand.

I’ve seen a lot of cool costumes.  I saw a Judy Jetson and Rosie the Robot.  Several Poison Ivys, Katniss Everdeens, and Meridas.  A remarkably gorgeous girl in a simple Batgirl costume.  Lots of Jokers and Batmans and Thors (including at least three lady Thors).  Way too many zombies.  A guy just walked by with a faded Captain America shield t-shirt.  Wow.  A handful of Marios and Luigis.  A couple of Mal Reynoldses, Doctor Horrible, Stormtroopers, Master Chief, Star Trek uniforms, Sailor Moons, and one of those “I’m Sexy and I Know It” Rapebots.  I saw a really impressive He-Man yesterday (it was real muscle, but he was only half the size of the cartoon He-man).  There was a two year old dressed as Snow White walking with her mom in the main hall, which surprised me because there’s no way a child can walk in there and not get stepped on. 
Last year, those manatee-fuckers from the Westboro Baptist Church were out picketing the show, telling us who was going to burn in eternal hellfire and who really pisses God off.  This year, they have been replaced by a bunch of more non-descript Christians with signs and megaphones, apparently (at least from their words and tone of voice) trying to save our souls and let us know the Good News.  You know, I don’t really appreciate them being here, but they’re so much less caustic and hate-dripping that I don’t wish them ill at all.  I do wonder why they chose to come here:  because they are seeking publicity (which the Westboro defecants also sought), because they think we’re doing something wrong, or because they know there will be crowds and they think some of us may listen to what they have to say?  I’m not really complaining about them, mind you, and I guess it beats going door to door, I don’t know.

Oh, I was going to mention, though, that last year there were counter-protesters at the Westboro thing (people holding up signs that said “God Hates Vampires” and “Odin Hates Straights” and such), but that I did see a couple of similar signs this year, one of which read “GALACTUS IS COMING.  Are you prepared?”  There might have been a scripture too, like FF Vol 1:49.

This Beta Ray Bill costume was one of the most-impressive of the con.  Unfortunately, he wouldn't stop moving for anyone to take his picture, and this was the best I could get.

Big sent me a message yesterday, wishing me a happy birthday, and declaring that I was at the place where I am happiest.  I don’t know about that (I could be in Malibu right now, trying to help Anne Hathaway grow her hair back), but I do feel like there are more people who are like me in this crowd than anywhere else.  You see some real psychos, don’t get me wrong, but I genuinely think that most of these are good people (or at least decent people, in the upper fiftieth percentile as opposed to the other half).  They’re passionate about something (many somethings, in many cases), and willing to sweat and strain and spend their money to express it (or be around those that do).

I don’t have kids, but if I did, I’d try to bring them to stuff like this (though maybe not the SDCC, since it’s just too darn big and too darn difficult), to show them the sights and the passion, and let them know that if there’s something they enjoy, they can explore it as deeply as they like.  I think it would be wise to help them express why they enjoy something, and be able to defend it to somebody who doesn’t.  ‘Cause that’s the thing: any kid who had me as a parent would be bound to get picked on or mistreated in some way, and it might be good for him/her to know how to react to that.

Maybe he'd have to get some hand-to-hand combat lessons somewhere in there too.

There was a really impressive Beta Ray Bill costume walking around that I tried hard to get a photo of, but he wouldn’t stop for pictures.  I’m not saying he was a jerk or anything, but if you put in a lot of work on a costume, you want people to notice you, right?   It’s like a woman who gets breast impla--

Well, maybe not.

I did turn this off for a while and attempted to write something in my program, writing in the margins like a notebook.  I hate many things about myself, but one of the big winners is that, when I am someplace I cannot write, my mind goes to a creative place, coming up with stuff I would write if I could.  But once I’m in front of a computer or notebook, my brain empties like a waterballoon with holes in it.  I wrote for ten or fifteen minutes, never with a goal, or even a good idea.  I think I’ll have to throw away everything I wrote on those pages.

Of course, I might forget I wrote them, throw it away, and forever wonder what great stuff was in there, lost forever.

. . . To Be Continued . . .

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Comic-Con Day 2 (July 13th)

July 13, 2012
So, this day ended up pretty much blowing. I got up fairly early, my legs aching (but at least I had been able to sleep, which was something I was a bit afraid of, whilst typing my “I am old” post), and made my way down to the Convention Center. I ended up getting a better parking spot than the day before, which was still a mile away, but that was the only thing that went well during the day. Wait, I take that back. I discovered a cafĂ© only two or three blocks from the Center that had really good, really affordable Mexican food. I wish I had known about it ages ago, as I’d eat there every day.

The doors opened at 9:30, officially, but they ended up opening ten minutes early, and I went immediately to the line to Ballroom 20. As I approached the Convention Center, I saw two lines snaking off into the horizon (instead of the normal one). The first was, obviously, to Hall H. The second, though, was a mystery. It turned out to be the Ballroom 20 line. Somehow, even though the doors didn’t open until 9:20, there had been people lined up there all night, stringing out of the Convention Center and down the road toward the Mexican border.
I stood in line for only a few minutes, knowing that I probably wouldn’t get into the “Community” panel, but hoping against hope to get into the “Firefly” 10th anniversary reunion--the panel I most wanted to see this year. Suddenly, the line started to move. That made me optimistic, but that was soon squelched when organizers came through the line and said, “If you didn’t get in this line before seven this morning, you’re not getting in.” Somebody asked him about the people who leave after the “Community” panel, and he said, “Where you are in the line, everybody in Ballroom 20 could die, and you still wouldn’t get in.”

Hence, the line was moving as hundreds (of the thousands lined up) fled for balmier climes.
Well, I was bummed about this. I had exactly two panels I really wanted to see that day, and I was out of luck. I had gone to the Hasbro ticket line to get a chance to buy stuff at their booth, and was told that, even though the convention had only just officially opened, the tickets were long gone.
This too vexed me. I considered just leaving, since there was nothing else I wanted to try for (there was a “Game of Thrones” panel in five or six hours, but the thought of competing with the hoardes that actually watched the show was just depressing.
I wandered around for a while, spending money, trying for freebies, fighting with the crowds (I know I say this every year, but the thing I hate most about Comic-Con is when there’s a huge clot of people, all trying to slowly move through the main hall, and the person in front of you stops to look around or check their phone or scratch their glutes. I could minor in Poetry and still not have the words to express how much I hate that.

It just occurred to me that it was Friday the 13th, so maybe that’s why my luck was so great. Of course, I was born on a Friday the 13th, so the world was the unlucky one for that one.

I originally ended the post like that (and worse, I included it with the last post by mistake), but now that I have a bit of distance on it, hey, I was in California, and Lucasfilm had built a glass case to promote the Indiana Jones films (on Blu-Ray) that had the Ark of the Covenant and a bunch of real snakes in it, and I was in a place where people where costumes like this one:

So, it's a bit hard to see why I'd feel so sorry for myself.  Except I've had so much practice that it really comes easily to me.

Ultimately, I'm not going to remember this birthday as opposite-of-fondly as the time I got together at an L.A. bar with all my buddies for my birthday and none of them showed up.  The sun was shining, a breeze was blowing off the ocean, and Comic-Con had decorated Petco Park next door in honor of "The Walking Dead."  You could pay eighteen dollars to walk around in there and watch actors dressed as zombies duke it out with actors dressed as humans.  Or, you could pay eighty dollars to be one of the survivors, in a kind of Live Action Role Play scenario.  Had Big or my Cousin Ryan gone down with me (both briefly considered it, I believe), that might have been worth checking out.

Display outside Petco Park promoting "Walking Dead."
I probably won't always be able to drive down to San Diego every year like I have these past few years (one year, I even flew home so as not to miss work on Monday), and it was a heck of a lot easier to get a ticket this year than it was in 2011. Also, my mother had freaked me out about driving down to San Diego alone in my car, insisting I get the oil and air filter changed, check the fluids and air pressure, have the tires rotated and pack a gallon of water in case I broke down (and a pointed stick to fight off the dingos), but I had arrived without a problem, even making the drive in shorter time than the computerized map predicted. 

So, I was unhappy at the time, but I'm already over it.

That's me, sharing the drink they call loneliness with a zombie.
Oh, and somebody recorded the whole "Firefly" panel and posted it on YouTube, so there's that.  I saw it, and virtually nobody in Ballroom 20 had to die.

Rish "Grass Half Full" Outfield

Friday, July 13, 2012

Comic-Con Interlude (July 13, 2012)

“We are young, so let’s set the world on fire.”
(a band that dares call itself fun.  Lowercase, with a period at the end)

My legs are really hurting me, the muscles tight and aching, from all the walking I’ve done today.  If I somehow had a pedometer reading of how far I walked, I'm sure I would be shocked (either because it’s so much more than I imagined, or so much less).  That’s one reason my legs are in such pain; I loaded myself up with Comic-Con purchases, then trekked all the way back to where I had (poorly) parked my car, unloaded, then walked back.  Another reason, though, is how fat I’ve gotten.  I just took an unwise look at myself in the mirror and was startled to discover that I’ve gotten wider than I used to be.  Somehow, my body has expanded, not just on my belly, but everywhere.  I look like Wolverine, if his bones were laced with bacon grease instead of adamantium.

But the other reason my legs are so hurting me is that I’m getting older.  Today is my birthday, and I’ve journeyed another mile or ten toward oblivion.  A few minutes ago, I was trying to watch “True Blood,” but wasn’t really following it, so I turned it off and decided to go to sleep.  But something on there struck me, and I had to turn the light back on and write this down.* 

On the show, one of the main characters has just become a vampire, and is bemoaning that fact.  Another newly-made vampire comes to her and tells her that she understands her pain and confusion, but that there’s another side to their situation, a positive side.  “Don’t you understand,” the slightly-older vampire says, “we’re gonna live forever.  We’re gonna be young forever.”  This sort of does cheer the other one up, but it sure didn’t cheer me up.

That’s got to be one of the great draws of vampire fiction--the idea that somebody could not only stay alive, but stay young forever.  Imagine what you could accomplish.  Imagine what you could learn.  Imagine going to fuggin’ high school again and again, moving from town to town, taking Algebra and Biology and Civics and P.E. and Remedial Tic Tac Toe for a century.

Oh, wait, that’s a terrible idea.

But for others, the draw of never getting older, never getting sicker, never getting weaker, has to have enormous appeal.  What’s more, you get to be more powerful than you ever were, and just maybe, one of the beautiful people.  Pretty sweet deal, even if you have to contend with the Slayer and her posse sometime in the future.

I have wasted an awful lot of my life, letting cowardice and apathy and sloth pull me from my goals and dreams.  I could have accomplished so much, I could’ve been somebody, a contender.  I could have worked on my Irish accent, instead of still imitating the long-dead Jimmy Stewart and long-retired Sean Connery.

That’s not to say that every day of every .  . . what is it called when days are strung together? . . . has been wasted.  I have managed to pod cast, and make a little money, and bond with my nephews, and write several new stories (though Bill Shakespeare only knows if I’m actually getting better, since I’d rather stagnate than put myself out where someone could criticize me), which seem to be positives.

I often fantasize about going back in time and helping my younger self out.  Sometimes it’s with financial advice, knowing what to invest in, as long as it’s something small and fun, and nothing so lofty as lottery numbers and football scores.  But other times, I’m telling myself what not to do, and trying to inspire myself to go out and try more often, to stretch just a little to maybe grasp onto more than I have done.

It’s probably a common fantasy, though not quite as common as the one where I’ve discovered some mystic pheremone that seemingly gives me the charm of George Clooney,  the face of Brad Pitt, and the buttocks of Josef Stalin.

You know the one.

The fact of the matter is, I’ve made stupid choices, and developed stupid personality traits that have helped me get to this lonely, useless place in life.  But I can either wallow in my despair (and really uncomfortable left leg), or I can choose to keep on keeping on, just to see if I can’t still learn something, and maybe even change, improve one or two things that I don't do so well.

I saw a girl dressed as Disney’s Pocahontas today.  While it’s not one of my favorite films, I do remember her claiming that something great, something unexpected, something amazing, could be lying just around the river bend.

Happy birthday, Harrison Ford and Patrick Stewart.  Hopefully, you can go to a “Firefly” reunion today too.  Or something you’ll dig just as much.

Rish Outfield

*Also, I got a bit of a leg cramp, and I sort of put two and two together.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Comic-Con Day 1 (July 12)

So, here I am in San Diego again, and the space bar on my craptop seems not to work at all.  For example, thissentence waswrittennormally, with no attempts to make it not work.  Hmmm.  Maybe it works sporadically.

It’s Comic-Con time again, boys and girls, and I’m doing what I can to stay positive and patient.  It’s very, very humid, and has been record-level hot over the past few days.  I got little sleep, and I’ve blown an obscene amount of money today (I had to call my credit card company and ask them to please allow me to spend above and beyond what I normally do--then the damn thing ended up still getting declined one of the times I tried to use it).  I spent the night at my uncle’s place, and he had already been up an hour when I awoke at six.  Last night, I asked  him if he still got up super-early, and he said, “Not super-early, no.”  The power was out at his place, and it felt about two hundred degrees in there. Turns out it was only one hundred.
I often worry about the choices I’ve made in my life, and where my priorities lie, but then, July arrives, and I can’t wait for Comic-Con, despite the myriad headaches, frustrations, and buggery that goes on here. 

This should be the logo of Comic-Con, not that eye thing.
Is it that there's something magical about the SDCC?  Or is it that I'm surrounded by so many like-minded people?  Or do I just like free stuff and the chance to buy things no one else can get?
I'm not really sure why this amused me, but it did.
Today, the crowds were ginormous (as usual), and I had to walk so far from the parking spot I found that I was a sweaty, suffering mess when I got inside.  Then, I was so weighed down with boxes and shite that I chose to walk all the way back to stick it all in my car.  I decided to do this just a little too late, unfortunately, as the big bag I was carrying down the sidewalk broke (everybody who bought a pass got a big vinyl Warner Bros. bag that should have been able to safely carry a small child around inside).  I turned around and went back inside, telling them my bag tore and asking if I could have another one.  They told me I could trade the torn bag for a new one, but as I was transferring all my stuff from the one bag to the other, I realized that this new bag was probably going to have the same problem.  Ultimately, I put most of my acquisitions in the new bag, and some of the light stuff in the torn bag, so to balance it out a bit more, then took off when no one was looking.

The positive of all that walking and straining is that I’m bound to have lost a pound or two with all the sweating and exercise.  Heck, maybe this weekend is the equivalent of a marathon.  I ain’t saying I’m in shape to run a marathon, but walking several miles in miserable heat, carting bags of collectible poo, that’s gotta mean something.

Luckily, I got a new camera since the last convention, specifically choosing a more expensive, more professional one than before.  Alas, while that means I'll have more photos I can be proud of, it also means there will be far fewer pictures like this one:

It was always fun to play the Identify This Famous Person game when most of my photos came out badly.

I did get out to one panel on this day, and it was in Hall H, which is usually quite an ordeal to get into.  There was an EXPENDABLES 2 panel, and I was kind of curious and excited to see the two "headliners," if you will, of the panel, who were Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

These two icons of Eighties Action movies had been (apparently) friends for a long time, and now they're able to work together, and play off each other in panels.  They tried to one-up one another, and talked about how fun it was to make the movie (and THE TOMB) together.

Maybe I should mention that I didn't think the first EXPENDABLES was a great movie, but there were a couple of moments in there that were great.  And I think it's possible, that since Stallone is not directing the sequel, that the second one will be better.  At least, he seems to think so, talking about the things that worked in the first flick and building on those for the second one.  The best sequels are not the ones that try to replicate the original, but take the relationships and situations established in the first film, and expand from there, maybe even, dare I say, going in a new direction.

Actually, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how impressed I was by Terry Crews.  He seemed humble, friendly, and really, really cool, and I hope that somebody somewhere who is in charge of a Luke Cage movie thinks of this guy first.

The picture I took really sucked.

Also on the panel were Randy Couture and Dolph Lundgren.  It's the job of the moderator of a panel like this to ask everybody on it a question, so they don't just sit there the whole time, feeling like I do.  But once the Q&A section of the panel began, every single question was only for Stallone and Schwarzenegger.  And those two do a really good job of these press things.  They're funny, they're enthusiastic (Arnold maybe a bit too much so), and they seemed to appreciate all the adulates the fans gave them.

I often talk about my favorite moment in my Comic-Con experience being when somebody asked Samuel L. Jackson if those snakes (on the plane) deserved to die.  Well, we got a very similar moment in this Q&A when a fan (dressed as a Viking) asked Arnold THE question.
My question is for Arnold (he said in a mock Austrian accent).
Could you tell me please, what is best in life?
Well, the audience applauded, and Schwarzenegger knew what we wanted to hear.  THAT was cool.
He still remembered the three things.
Unfortunately, he did it four or five more times throughout the panel, saying "Hastalavista,baby!"* and "It's not a tumor!" and "I'll be back!"  I think Big would have been disappointed to find out he didn't say, "Ice to see you, to cone a phrase."
A lot of the guys who got up to ask questions had built their lives around the flicks these guys made back in the day, and Terry Crews said that he had not only grown up watching Stallonzenegger's films, but that they used to watch Rocky and Terminator movies the nights before his NFL games. And the second-best audience question was "If all of you got in a fight, who would win?"

They pretty much unanimously said that Randy Couture would win. Wonder if that got him laid that night.

Schwarzenegger came out again afterward to get one of those Inkpot Awards I've seen them give out.  He said a few words, and while it was insanely self-serving, his story of coming to America and being told he would never be a leading man because of his accent and name and musculature and then proving them wrong was quite inspiring, in its way.

And that was pretty much it for that day.  I usually try and catch a screening or two at night, but I was tired, and nothing they were showing grabbed me, so I called it a night, heading back to the motel (I still had to check in), soaking my feet, and writing a few things up on ye olde craptoppe.

Maybe I'll post some of that on here.


*That reminds me of the time I watched TERMINATOR 2 in Spanish.  You know what he says right before shooting the frozen T-1000?  He says, "Sayonara, baby."  I actually found that pretty darn impressive.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Master of the Macabre? Electric Boogaloo

This is the second time I've tried to post this; the first time it seemed to publish an empty file, even though I'd written it to the end.

So, last year I had the opportunity to participate in a writing contest called "The Masters of the Macabre."  It was organized by Horror Addicts (http://www.horroraddicts.net/) and had a theme (Phobias) and each person who entered was given a specific phobia to write about.  To qualify for the contest, you had to 1) Register your name, 2) submit both the text and an audio file, and 3) have a penis.  Size, apparently, wasn't an issue.

I wrote a story called "Friends in Paradise" that, while not great (or even good?) was fairly easy to create, and would never have been written without their prompt.  I didn't win, but I had fun, and that counts for a heck of a lot.

This year, when they announced another contest, I grabbed my aforementioned penis and volunteered once again.  The theme this year was Curses, and I was given A Cursed Story of the Romany.  Apparenty, in Gypsy circles, there's such a thing as a story that curses the listener, and can only be broken by telling that story to another.  I went to work on it, but everything I wrote felt chillingly similar to the movie RINGU (that's THE RING to you round-eyes).  My heart just wasn't in it.

Luckily, the contest had an escape clause, and I asked for another curse to write about.*  I was given The Curse of Macbeth (aka The Scottish Play).  You probably know that it's considered bad luck to say the name of that particular Shakespeare play when you're doing a production of it, but in reading up on it, there are a handful of theories as to why the play is supposedly cursed.  One of those theories really amused me, and the story fell into place quite easily.

My story is called "The Scottish Scene," and tells of Sammie, a high school girl who volunteers to do a dramatic reading from Shakespeare for her English class.  She (and two female friends) of course choose the witch scene from that play, and end up getting cursed.  My conceit is that even doing an excerpt from the play is enough to stir the witches' wrath.We were to write a horror story based on our curse, and mine ended up being "The Scottish Scene," about a high school girl who, along with two friends, chooses the witch scene from that particular play to perform as a presentation for her class. The trio discover that an individual scene can be as cursed as the whole play. Hilarity ensues, yada, yada.

Unfortunately, there was a length limit on this year's entries, so when I finished, I knew I'd have to do some trimming.  Even worse, I discovered that I'd misjudged the time, and the deadline was that Friday.  Not just to send in the story, but to submit an audio recording as well.

So, I cut it down significantly**, and didn't have time to do the full cast production I had planned.  I had asked Renee Chambliss to voice the main character, and wanted Big to narrate, but I ended up just reading it myself, and asking Renee to perform all the female parts.  She was hip-deep in actual paying work at the time, but she kindly took a few minutes and recorded some really excellent voices for me, managing to sound different for all three girls.

The damn thing was still too long, and I tried speeding the file up enough that it would fit the length, but it was too obvious, so I hacked it again and re-read certain passages a lot faster.  Just between you and me, the deadline loomed before I ever got it short enough, so I just sent it in, hoping that forty seconds or so wouldn't matter.

I don't imagine this will be what the listeners of Horror Addicts like, since they tend to go more for the die hard cannibalism, demonic possession, meat cleaver, acid bath type of Horror.  My tale is pretty light, simplistic, and PG-rated, but it's what I enjoy writing, and I like this story way more than the one I wrote last year.

The entries (there's only five of them this year) were posted today (at http://mastersofmacabre.wordpress.com/), and you're welcome to go there and listen to the stories.  The contest ends on July 27th, so you can vote for the one you prefer.

Again, I doubt I'll win, but that's not what this was about.  I was motivated to write a story I never would have come up with on my own, I finished it, and sent it in, and that makes it worthwhile, to me anyway.

I fully plan on doing it again next year, and wish I knew about five or ten similar contests, just to get me to put pen to paper more than I usually do.  Until that happens, I think I'm still a journeyman of the macabre.

Maester Rish Outfield

*Ominously, the rule was that you could swap for another curse, but were not allowed to go back to the original curse if you ended up liking that one better.

**I ended up eliminating four characters (three male, one female) and all their parts, and it made a pretty big difference.  I still hate to have to cut down my writing, but that wasn't a bad way to go.