Comic-Con Blog

From Paradise to the Geek Prom

Darkness Before Dawn

It’s 3 a.m. PDT. I just had a weird dream about an underwater park. Not a park dedicated to oceanography, but a regular ol’ neighborhood park that just happened to be underwater, and enjoyed in that state. And now I’m awake and can’t get back to sleep. So I figured I’d update just to wrap up our Friday at Comic-Con. We’re supposed to be up in under two hours anyway.

The Entertainment Weekly “Visionaries: The Showrunners” panel was great. With five other TV shows represented on the panel, I was sure “LOST” was going to be only periodically mentioned. But I clearly underestimated the power of “LOST” fandom. Jeff Jensen, the moderator, actually started the event warning fans not to ask boneheaded questions about “LOST.” Even the other (essentially sidelined) panelists joked about “LOST” — said one, “I feel like a Pip.” And when the line for the microphone opened up, the members of the panel jokingly counted them out: “That one’s for ‘LOST,’ ‘LOST,’ ‘LOST,’ ‘Gossip Girl,’ ‘LOST…'”

Some of them were familiar names: “Tapdawg,” who’s been a video madman, and fellow “LOST” podcaster Jo of “JOpinionated.”

Overall, a bad scene for fans of “Pushing Daisies,” but great for “LOST” fans like us.

Memorable moment? Damon Lindelof was talking about the “LOST” universe outside of what’s shown on TV: mobisodes, ARGs, and the like. He said something to the effect of, “Average viewers aren’t going to give a shit.” As his answer continued, the next panelist pointed at a note on the table in front of them, and he trailed off and then read it out loud. “Please be aware that some members of your audience may be under 18 years of age.” So no cursing? “You guys are fucked.”

After the panel, “Podcasters Row” regrouped outside and plotted their next steps. Many were going to join the line right then for another EW panel at 6 p.m., then stay in place for a Kevin Smith appearance to follow. Jen and I, knowing an early morning awaited us on Saturday, opted out of any more programming and wished everyone well.

I ended up grabbing a spot on the floor in a large hallway next to a power outlet to quickly upload the audio from the “Showrunners” panel. Well, sort of quickly. I used my EVDO modem rather than the Convention Center’s overtaxed free Wi-Fi, but it still took over 40 minutes. While I did that, Jen braved the expo floor to do some shopping for the kids.

She came back with a couple of boxes of LEGO for the boys, and a stuffed “Pea” and matching necklace for Katie. The “Pea” was basically a green dot with legs. Jen had no idea what it was but thought it looked cute. We visited the website, and found a lot of “Pea” jokes. If you know what I mean. I thought it was cute, too, but we’ll see how Katie reacts. I think it’ll just further reaffirm her frustrated lament, “My parents are weird.”

We then headed out to find dinner. Our first thought was to jump the trolley to Mission Valley to see what the dining options were there (and end up at In-N-Out if it came to that). But after seeing a mob at the trolley station, we decided to walk The Gaslamp District instead. And I’m glad we did. Definitely a flashy, noisy, touristy area, but still an interesting place with great energy. We walked past dozens upon dozens of restaurants, nightclubs and bars, and stores (including a Hilo Hatties and a Longs Drugs!).

Jen spotted a pizza place, and that was it. We crossed over to Ciro’s Pizza on Market Street and 6th, where we got two slices of New York-style pizza and a 20 oz. drink for $6. Considering what we’d paid for our romantic dinner on the waterfront the night before, it was a fantastic deal. We sat out on the sidewalk and watched the Geek Parade flow past.

When we finished, we decided to undo all our dinner savings and hop a cab back to the hotel rather than finding and taking the trolley. Finding a cab, though, was an adventure as well. Every time we spotted one or two on a nearby corner, we’d walk there only to find none. Finally by chance, one dropped of a fare where we were standing, and we hopped in.

He warned that rush-hour traffic was upon us, but we didn’t mind. We whipped through downtown and onto Highway 5 north. About 20 minutes later we were back at Hazard Center. It cost about the same as our trip from the airport, which made sense only when we passed the airport en-route. I clearly haven’t quite figured out the layout of this city.

Back at the room, we just stretched out and relaxed. Then, on a whim, we decided to check out the pool. The heated indoor pool. It was wonderful, and we had it all to ourselves. Then we hopped out and jumped into the jacuzzi, where we met another nice Comic-Con couple that had come down from Northern California.

Of course we talked about Comic-Con. They were pseudo veterans of the event, attending since the days it was held at the Civic Center (but not in the dim hotel basement). They confessed to being disappointed this year, primarily because of the crowds. Each year Comic-Con gets larger and larger, this year being the biggest yet. They said the lines were unmanageable and left thousands of fans unfulfilled… something we certainly saw time and time again. Their experience today with the autograph line for “Red Sonja” was exactly the opposite of our (much more modest) experience with Richard Hatch. In short, standing in line for two hours in advance of something you wanted to see was no longer enough – this year’s average mark was probably four hours. That knocks out half a day for one thing, and that one thing may fill up anyway.

We confessed we’d be there before 6 a.m. this morning, but that we’d be behind hundreds of people that were camping overnight. They said the turning point was the year when Angelina Jolie showed up. From their description of the madness, I believe it. Back in 2003, attendance was an eye-popping 80,000. This year? 120,000.

And the problem, they said, really wouldn’t be solved by more space. Hall H is already cavernous and is devoid of any of the intimacy and direct contact Comic-Con was once known for. And Comic-Con would be drowned into insignificance in a place like Las Vegas (whereas it becomes a keystone event for the city of San Diego), and would be surrounded by “really bad things” in L.A.’s Staples Center (whereas San Diego is just beautiful). Basically, registration would have to be limited… either by numbers smaller than the caps set for this sellout year, or by raising registration prices.

I had to admit, paying $75 for four-day access seemed like a steal. I’ve attended conferences that cost $500 to attend, and ran conferences that cost $7,000 to attend. And none were as huge or chock-full of stuff as Comic-Con. While clearly young kids with limited resources might be priced out, I could easily see paying $300 for our four-day pass.

It was nice to get a historic perspective and a local’s view of Comic-Con (they were originally from San Diego). And in yet another small-world moment, the wife had once lived in Hawaii.

As the sun set, we headed back up to our room for a hot shower and more unabashed lounging. After a quick phone interview with Burt “Bytemarks” Lum and L.P. “InfinityPro” Faleafine (also starring fellow con-er Jonathan “HAWYN316” Wong), we turned in and slept like babies.

Until my weird dream.

Here’s one of the only non-iPhone photos I got today:

Trip

More photos here!

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July 26, 2008 Posted by | Updates | , , | 5 Comments

Stumbling Towards Geekery

We’re in the animated “Spiderman” panel. It’s a full house now, though we just walked in during the “Marvel/B.E.T.” panel. We were bad and saved seats, and are now with Jay and Jack Glatfelter, Colleen McAllister, John Norton, “Chris In Boston,” Clif, and Adam McLearan from San Francisco. It’s podcaster’s row! Also in the room is Jo “JoJopinionated” and Anil “TheODI.” And plenty others of course.

We’re all here waiting for the EW “Showrunners” panel with Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse of “LOST” (plus folks from “Chuck,” “Gossip Girl,” etc.).

We thought we’d get an earlier start today. Woke up and headed out before 8:30. Decided to try and find breakfast at Fashion Valley, so took the trolley one stop over.

Turns out the mall opened at 10 a.m.

We went back to the trolley station, and got a first taste of the Friday crowd. The platform was full. the first trolley that came by was so full, no one got on. We squeezed onto the second.

Our second idea was to breakfast at Old Town again, but we knew if we got off we’d never get back on. So we rode all the way in. Sure enough, by Old Town, no one was getting on (or off).

We talked to a Pouson Ivy and Harley Quinn on the trolley. They were working Comic-Con and would be working G4 in a couple of weeks, too. We gave them nuts. Harley said she was going to visit Hawaii next week!

The crowd around SDCC was the biggest yet. We headed in the opposite direction to get breakfast, reading Twitter reports of the madness inside. We ended up at the first restaurant we saw, Soleil-K.

It wasn’t very good. A Tweet that came in recommended Hash Hash a Gogo on 5th for next time.

Eventually we headed in and surprised ourselves by mostly knowing our way around. We walked the expo floor just for a taste, then headed over to the meeting rooms.

On out way through the Sails Pavilion, Jen spotted Richard Hatch just setting up for his autograph session. So, on a whim, we jumped in line. Curiously, he unpacked and laid out his own stuff.

He was very nice. He took time to talk to everyone. One fan had his girlfriend on the phone and Richard had a long conversation with her.

We gave him some macadamia nuts and he tore right into them. He said he loves Hawaii, visits Maui often. He signed a photo and then took a photo with us.

We took a deep breath and headed to 6CDEF. How long was the line?

There was no line. We walked right in. It was the “Marvel/BET” panel. An we waited.

When the panel ended, Jen and I nervously tried to hold seats. It’s not allowed, it’s done all the time, but I’m a big chicken. Everyone ran up from the back of the room, and… Here we are.

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July 25, 2008 Posted by | Updates | , , | 1 Comment

The Transmission Special Report: Thursday Half Day

This special Thursday edition covers the first official day of Comic-Con… but we only spent half the day there. We saw some sights (including breakfast in Old Town and dinner on the San Diego waterfront), but still managed to get into the DHARMA Initiative recruiting booth. We wrap up by setting the stage for the next two days.

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July 24, 2008 Posted by | Updates | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Whew

The “Dexter” panel was a lot of fun. Michael C. Hall was great, Julie Benz was too, Kristen moderated well, lots of audience questions.

The Season Three trailer was a hit, they were buzzing with the Emmy nominations, and hints were dropped of a big twist in the premiere.

We like what we’ve seen a lot. Though to be honest Jen gets freaked out and can only watch now and then. We’ll definitely get the Season 2 DVDs out in September.

The panel ended with Mark Ecko (?) talking about the “Dexter” game. Exclusively for iPhone/iPod Touch. Not everyone was happy to hear that. But imagine “stabbing” someone with your iPhone? It’ll also be serialized, ARG style.

Afterward, things wound down. The expo floor was being cleared. None of the night programs inyerested us, so we just struck out into the city.

The sun was setting and we followed it west. At that hour, any city is pretty, but San Diego looked great. The air was cool, locals were out walking their dogs, and we walked pass reflecting pools and sculptures.

I’ve wanted to see the waterfront since we arrived, so we walked to Seaport Village. Picturesque, golden, peaceful. Hungry, we ducked into the nearest restaurant: Harbor House.

We splurged and started with the oysters. Then, peppered ahi salad and a roast beef sandwich. With lemonade. Romantic. Delicious.

After sunset, we walked to the nearest trolley station, passing the half-operational “Top Gun” bar, Kansas City Barbeque. After nearly getting hit by a trolley (those intersections are confusing!), we headed back to Mission Valley.

Well, we’re still en route. Green line, Santee-bound.

Man. This was a half day. Half Comic-Con day. Take it easy day. And I’m exhausted. Friday and Saturday may kill us.

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July 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Descent

When we arrived at the Convention Center, we got in at Gate A, and stepping into the expo floor… it was almost calm. Huge crowd, but lots of space, and I was starting to feel relieved. Perhaps somehow Preview Night was just unusually frantic.

Then I realized we walked into the comic book end of the hall.

Sure enough as we pushed into the center, it was wall to wall people. Hogs masses trying to move past or each other, gridlock at every row, people futilely trying to clear space to take a photo or watch a presentation.

It was as crazy as everyone warned.

And it’s only Thursday.

People were handing things out everywhere. And people were in costume everywhere. Overwhelming.

We hit the booths we had to hit to pick up stuff for friends back home, then headed back to the DHARMA booth. There was a second set of appointments to give out at 1 p.m.

There was a mob waiting. They weren’t allowed to have a line, so, a mob. The crew seemed nervous.

By magic (not really), we got the second and third slots. We saw Jay Glatfelter fight his way through, nabbing the 5 pm slot. In a flash, they were booked up.

Jen took the Ganymeade (?) test, I took Amalthea.

What was your first live concert? What is the sound of terror? What was the first album you bought? Who is your constant? What is the sound of red? When were you last truly happy?

Word association for photos: a tree-lined road at night. Skeletons. A child in a sprinkler. Little red riding hood in bed with the wolf.

We both passed and got our super secret access cards. the cards are for Phase II of the ARG, though apparently our tests (which were videotaped) could turn up at the Saturday panel (and be published or “otherwise exploited” by ABC.

Exploit me!

At the DHARMA booth, we met a woman from Mexico. She’s going to camp overnight to get into Hall H for “Heroes” and “LOST.” I’m worried.

Out of curiosity, we picked a panel at random: “Middleman” with former “LOST” scribe Javier Grillo Marxuach. Big crowd, a top show on ABC Family. Funny!

The “Dexter” panel was three hours away, but the line for Room 6CDEF was already wrapped around the building. Since rooms aren’t cleared we weren’t sure what our prospects were. So, we joined the line.

After about 40 minutes, the “Red Sonja” panel ended and a crowd flowed out. After that, the line zipped ahead. And we found ourself in the “Street Fighter IV” panel.

Huge, enthusiastic crowd. Video clips with loud applause. Some poll where “Cami” won. I don’t have any idea what’s going on. But it’s exciting to be around people excited about something.

And I had time to blog!

“True Blood” is up next, then “Dexter.” What’s “True Blood”? I guess I’ll find out!

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July 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 7 Comments

Meandering

Taking our sweet old time today. Slept in, for one… didn’t get out of bed ’til almost 9 a.m. It was odd to not have little people jumping on our heads for not waking up by 7 a.m. Showered, then headed out.

The first people we saw? Two dead ladies. Welcome to Comic-Con!

We decided to visit Old Town, a historic district halfway between our hotel and SDCC. Pretty, Mexican frontier town on another gorgeous day. It was kind of like a living theme park… a real town but impeccably maintained. We ate at the Coyote Cafe, where the peeling paint and exposed red brick was painted on. But, the food was good.

We walked through the historic state park, checked out old offices and schoolhouses, and walked past a Chuck Jones gallery and dozens if shops and restaurants, most blaring Mexican music onto the street.

Now we’re finally heading to Comic Con, to hopefully not get trampled on the expo floor. I have a couple of booths to somehow find to pick up stuff for friends. We may then hit random panels… As the only one Jen highlighted was for “Dexter” late this afternoon.

I hear there’s now an animatronic dinosaur at the DHARMA booth, too.

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July 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Recharging

Trip

The last leg of our journey was surprisingly short. The commuter terminal at SAN is about as small as the commuter terminal at HNL, so after a short walk we were waiting for a cab in the San Diego sunshine. We got to talk to the kids on the phone, but had to talk over the airport announcer explaining why there were police cars and fire trucks everywhere. (A passenger on a flight had a medical emergency.) Soon enough, our cab whisked us onto I-5 and into Hazard Center at Mission Valley. The trip on winding, Red Hill-like highways took ten, fifteen minutes tops. The fare was $20 even.

I’m sitting in the dark right now (hooray for blackout curtains, though they can be a disaster for chronic oversleepers). Jen’s recharging with a midday nap, while my gadgets recharge in assorted corners of our hotel room. We’re at the Doubletree in Mission Valley, a nice hotel that just happened to have a University of Hawaii Travel Industry Management graduate at the front desk. And he’s going to Comic Con too, albeit just on Friday. Nice guy. His family is from Ewa Beach.

I’m glad I sprung for this hotel rather than a couple of others that were closer to the Convention Center but of decidedly lower star ratings. It’s no Mandarin Oriental, but it’s clean, cozy, and little touches — like a warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie handed over with your room key — made a good impression on a hungry Jen. Of course, they get high marks from me simply for arranging early check in for us with one breathless airport phone call. Rather than loitering in the lobby with our luggage until 3 p.m., we can grab a shower and a nap in a big, cool, fluffy king-size bed.

So far, so good. Since arriving in California, the virtual welcome wagon has turned out in force, with an early phone call from Ralph of “The Dharmalars” (kindly offering any advice or help should we need it), plenty of greetings and well wishes from several Twitter contacts, and text messages from other friends, including Jay of “The Jay and Jack Show.” We’re hoping to meet up with him and Jack this evening, finally, after over two years of near misses in the “LOST” fan space.

Of course, Jay and Jack are traveling with their posse, which will include their friend Clif and Colleen and John (from “Metrobuzz“)… again, all great folks we look forward to meeting.

So far, no one knows when we can start picking up our badges at the Convention Center for “Preview Night.” It’ll be the least crowded hours on the massive expo floor… a floor that should include a DHARMA Initiative recruiting station. I told Jay I was thinking we’d be down there at 4 p.m. or so (doors open at 6 p.m.) at the latest. Since it’s 11 a.m. now, that should leave a fair amount of time to catch up on our sleep.

Especially since I don’t think we’ll get much during the rest of our time here in San Diego.

July 23, 2008 Posted by | Updates | , , , | 3 Comments

Here Goes Something

I’ve set up this WordPress.com blog to serve as my all-things-Comic-Con writing space. I want to be able to share all manner of thoughts and news during this trip, from straight reports on news from Comic-Con events and panels to where I’m having dinner. Jen and I have never been to Comic-Con, and we’ve never traveled as a couple since becoming parents over a decade ago. I hope to be bursting with stories and observations to tell.

As with everything, of course, I’m overthinking it. And burned most of my braincells today pondering whether a separate blog made sense… considering I’ve already got a bazillion websites out there. But friends and followers on Twitter seemed to think this would work, so I’m giving it a shot.

What about Twitter? True, I have my Twitter account to collect stray thoughts, but I might want to share a little more than 140 characters… and Twitter has a poor track record of uptime, especially surrounding big events. (Not that Comic-Con is the iPhone launch, but still.) Also, I’d love to include more than words: photos, or videos, or audio reports.

What about “The Transmission” or “Hawaii Blog“? Our “LOST” podcast and blog is the main reason we’re going to Comic-Con… but I don’t want to clutter that space with the other stuff we see or do at Comic-Con or in San Diego. I figure “LOST” fans want “LOST” scoops and not too much else. Of course, I will be posting to “The Transmission” when I have something “LOST” specific to share. As for my Hawaii blog? True, it’s supposedly as much about me as about Hawaii, but Hawaii is the underlying theme, and secondly, I post quite infrequently there. (Don’t even ask about my old online journal.) It’d be a heck of a change for some readers to suddenly see several posts a day turn up from San Diego.

What about Flickr? I’ll be posting plenty of photos to Flickr. Most from my iPhone, but some from my “real” digital camera, too. And there’ll probably be a lot more photos posted to Flickr than will show up as part of an entry here. But when I’m in the mood to share more than a few words about something I’ve seen, I’ll have a good space to do it.

In short, I’m hoping to be posting all kinds of things, from Twitter posts to Flickr photos to YouTube videos to Utterz calls. You could probably visit all of those places to get it all. But a blog (and its allmighty sidebar widgets) seems like the perfect place to bring it all together.

Now to see if this entry is posted to Twitter by Twitterfeed.

July 22, 2008 Posted by | Updates | , , , , , | Leave a comment