Friday, July 31, 2009

All Spiders Drink Free

Twitter Sonnet #45

One can't gain favour with all centaur clans.
And there's just no pleasing the lycanthropes.
Endless snags plague all this chimera's plans.
Another party of masked misanthropes.
One cannot collect too many shellfish.
But some would impose a limit on gin.
Olives are a quite adequate garnish.
Vermouth's not something you have to put in.
Leaders may unite men against grey geese.
The eight reindeer were always on the roof.
Please tell Obama beer doesn't make peace.
You must drink something at least eighty proof.
They'll stone you when you try to get the phone.
All our operators are made of stone.

After writing about Comic-Con for days, there's naturally a backlog of spider pictures to post. In the garage a couple nights ago, I was about to turn off the light when I saw this fellow lying in wait;

That's the second brown recluse I've seen here this week, the first having been by the front door;

I guess word must really be getting around about me on spider forums.

I watched the new Haruhi Suzumiya and read the new Sirenia Digest this morning with breakfast. The latter contained first a nicely sexual sun/moon myth story that seemed somehow South American to me. And the Digest also contained an intriguing account by a fictional character of his encounter with a painter. It would seem to be another in Caitlin's "observer of an artist" motif. One might speculate there's something narcissistic about them, but they work perfectly fine. This one also features a somehow sinister narrator. And it connects with Caitlin's upcoming novel, The Red Tree.

I did not sleep too well last night. I got up to use the bathroom and Snow was hanging out outside, looking for attention. I can't say no to a cat. I woke up at 11am to-day--I have a feeling I'm going to be back to my nocturnal schedule pretty soon, whether I like it or not. I've finished the first couple pages of the next Venia's Travels at around 10pm the past couple nights, which feels insanely early, which has led to me tricking myself into thinking I can play World of Warcraft for an hour each night. No ill effects so far, though.

I finally got my car registration in the mail to-day, after paying for it more than a month ago, and after the previous registration expired around three weeks ago. Thank you, DMV. It's lucky I planned on taking the trolley to Comic-Con anyway. Now maybe I'll just go for a drive to-day . . .

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Comic-Con Report, volume 4

All the animals come out at Comic-Con. Pirates, droids, archaeologists. Sick. Venal. One day a real rain'll come and wash the scum off the streets.


Normally not much happens on Sunday, and indeed I didn't visit a single panel that day. I wandered the floor, where I spotted Nabeshin;

Shortly afterwards, I came across Peter Mayhew looking very glum. He was alone in his booth, no one was talking to him. He managed a smile when I took his picture;

But, jeez, he's Chewbacca. I should have to fight through a mob to get a picture of him. What happened? I'd been listening to Howard Stern on my iPod on the trolley trip to and from the Con and he'd been talking about a guy he knew who'd been a big fish at his old radio station but was lately reduced to working at his old college station. What a crap shoot is the entertainment industry, and a sense of self worth makes up the stakes more than anyone wants to admit.

But I also ran into Jaime Hernandez, who didn't seem too glum at the lack of attention he was receiving;

I could've stopped and talked to him a while, but I couldn't think of anything to say.

Upstairs, the civil duelling from the day before had disintegrated into all out melee;

I smelled a lot more pot this year than at previous Comic-Cons. Maybe that explains the atmosphere in the anime hall, though the people there seemed more like they were experiencing a sugar high.

All four days, there'd been two bunny girls carrying around "Free Hugs" signs in the anime hall. The Free Hugs people have been getting to be a bigger presence every year. Having two girls dressed in Playboy style bunny outfits brought a sexual aspect to it I'm not sure all participants were comfortable with.

Then again, this line of free huggers;

Later turned into a pelvis thrust conga line which I failed to get footage of. I'm not sure how many of the girls in the anime hall are wearing sexy clothes because they like to titillate or have been conditioned to see the getups as more innocent. They generally seem like good hearted folk, in any case. I think they touched even the heart of this lurking, dedicated parent;

That about concludes all I have to say about Comic-Con 2009. This is the first time I've managed to get through all of it with only four posts--having a camera makes a big difference.

I hung out with Cryptess again that night and I drew a bunch of Wircelias in her new sketch book. In return, she drew her own version of Wircelia, which I rather liked;

My tweets from last night;

One cannot collect too many shellfish.
But some would impose a limit on gin.
Olives are a quite adequate garnish.
Vermouth's not something you have to put in.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Comic-Con Report, volume 3


I'm normally pretty anti-social at Comic-Con, but for some reason, this year, I kept wanting to talk to people and people kept wanting to talk to me. A couple kids approached me in the anime hallway on Saturday to ask me where the 11:45am Ben10 panel was. I brought out my schedule but, as it was already 11:30, I told them, "You're not going to get in. With any popular panel, you have get there at least one panel beforehand and sit through it."

"But it's not that popular," said one of them.

"Ben10?" I said, a little more sarcastically than I meant to.

"Yeah, I guess you're right," she said and sounded pleased. And I realised that I, as an anonymous adult, had just validated her love for Ben10. For once, my reflexive sarcasm actually accomplished something good.

Shortly after this, I took my first cosplay photos of the day, a couple Final Fantasy characters;

I saw a lot of Rikkus this year. Last year there had been a lot of Yunas, which I guess means next year is Paine.

I was sorry again to have missed the Alice in Wonderland panel when I saw these two;

I admired the Hatter's attitude.

I decided to get some lunch, then, and it was on the way back from eating that I saw Linda, the Fiddler. Back inside the convention centre, I ran into this lady with a marvellous costume;

The textures, the patterns--everything about it was well above average. I asked her if she was dressed as any particular character. "Fifteenth century Portuguese," was all she said.

"Cool," I said, "I've been more into thirteenth century myself lately. " She tipped me off about the duelling happening on the mezzanine;

A lot of Star Wars people were hanging out on the mezzanine for some reason, too, and I decided I had to get at least one picture of the many very impressive Boba Fetts roaming the con.

I didn't notice the really jealous looking Zam Wesall back there when I was taking the picture. "Lucas promised I'd be the next big thing in intergalactic bounty hunting, but people're still swooning over fucking Boba Fett. Why's he so special?"

I went to see Ray Bradbury's panel that night. It began with Bradbury's friend Arnold Kunert talking about several Bradbury related posters and t-shirts they had at their booth, and Bradbury complained about a tape he'd brought with him that was supposed to play before the panel started but there'd been a technical foul-up. It turned out to be footage of Bradbury being interviewed by Mike Wallace after the Apollo-11 moon landing, and Bradbury in the footage talked about how space exploration would mean the end of war as it would provide another expression of masculinity--he said boys loved war because it was fun, though it's generally not talked about, and he indicated that space travel would be something that united men with something to replace the fun of war. The interview, of course, was quite old and well before Margaret Thatcher and Ann Coulter came on the scene, though Bradbury didn't say whether he'd amended his opinion on the inherently masculine nature of war.

Here's Bradbury discussing kindergarten text books;

Here Bradbury discusses his inspiration for The Illustrated Man;

Here's Bradbury on burning the internet and being buried on Mars;

Finally, Bradbury takes that perennial question; what advice would he give to young writers?

As I was on my way out, I got a photo of Silk Spectre, who was in attendance;

There were many Silk Spectres and Rorschachs this year.

A human/Ewok hybrid. There's a scene I'm reluctant to imagine.

I went the autograph area next, where a lot of fairly big stars had drawn surprisingly small crowds. Here's a lonely Kevin Sorbo;

And then I came across Virginia Hey, known to me as Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan from Farscape, and getting a chance to talk to her more than made up for missing the Farscape Anniversary panel.

As I approached, she was talking to someone about makeup artists in Australia and how her extraordinary eye for symmetry had often led to her assisting her makeup artist on Farscape.

I asked if I could take her picture, and told her I was planning on posting it on my blog. I gave her one of my Venia's Travels cards, which features the gold title with one of the rose drawings from the main page in the background, and Hey seemed very pleased to see the rose, bringing out her iPhone to show me her rose wallpaper. We talked a bit about the variety of roses out there, and I recommended to her the anime series Revolutionary Girl Utena, which features a great deal of rose imagery.

Hey was displaying several of her pencil drawings, which seemed generally to be portraits of Farscape characters. It's nice to know she's truly passionate about the series, even now. And she seemed very keen on establishing real dialogue with the fans who approached her.

I went back to the anime hall to see if there was anything playing that interested me, but I didn't have much luck with anime showings this year. I did, however, run across Ranma Saotome;

And that about covers Saturday. More to-morrow . . .

Last night's tweets;

One can't gain favour with all centaur clans.
And there's just no pleasing the lycanthropes.
Endless snags plague all this chimera's plans.
Another party of masked misanthropes.

I've been playing World of Warcraft again the past couple nights after more than a week of absence. A wand I'd put on auction had sold for a hundred gold. Now I'm trying to kill centaurs from one clan to gain favour with their rivals, though I also have a quest to the kill the rival clan to gain favour with the one I'm killing. Not sure how it's going to work out. Anyway, it got me thinking about human animal hybrids last night. Probably ought to've mentioned the Ewok. Are Ewoks even really sentient? I say no.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Comic-Con Report, volume 2


That's a Mikuru Asahina and a Haruhi Suzumiya. I saw a lot of Haruhi Suzumiya cosplay, including a big group outside the convention centre inviting people to join the S.O.S. Brigade--but they were hired to be there and you can always tell the difference between the people who dress up because they love something and the promotional people. At least, for me, the latter lack something.

I'd planned on either seeing the Farscape Anniversary panel or the Coraline panel on Friday morning, but I got to the Con too late to see either. So I got in line for the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund's panels, and it was in this line that I met a very nice girl named Lisa, who lives in Portland, Oregon and whose father is a comic book artist, a member of Portland's Periscope Studio. We talked about Comic-Con, radio dramas, and promoting oneself on the internet. Apparently she's friends with artist Steve Lieber, because he stopped to talk to her as he was walking past us.

The first of the two CBLDF panels I saw was "Master Sessions: Expressionistic Atmosphere with Mike Mignola." Mignola told us he wasn't sure if his work was more impressionistic or expressionistic (I'd say expressionistic), but he did say that one of his biggest influences growing up was Frank Frazetta. Mignola drew Hellboy on an overhead projector for us while he talked, and as he made big, angular black shapes for shading and shadows with a marker, he told us how Frazetta would often spot black and that this was something that rubbed off on him. He said he had to develop confidence to lose a lot of the details from his pencils, which, he said, he drew "like colouring books".

He said he even now didn't feel entirely comfortable drawing feet, that his characters often seem to be floating when he doesn't root them to the scenery with foreground objects or effects obscuring their feet. But he stressed the importance of learning to draw even the things you don't want to draw, and he mentioned a Wolverine comic he illustrated that featured several close-up panels on Wolverine removing his boots. Mignola said he took a lot of polaroids of his own foot.

It's a really good thing I befriended Lisa in line because she gave me sketch book paper, loaned me a pen, and was aggressive in getting us seats close to the front for the next CBLDF panel, which was life drawing of Amanda Palmer.

Artists Camilla D'Errico, David Mack, and Terry Moore were on the panel, and their drawings of Palmer were on the projector, but as you can see I was among a group of people quite close enough to draw Palmer, too. Changing clothes right in front of us, Palmer even had Lisa tie her wrist warmers.

Lisa didn't have an extra pencil to lend me, so I just did gesture drawings;

Some doodles in the lower right hand corner from when we were waiting for Palmer to appear. Lisa asked me to draw the main character of my comic, but I somehow wasn't quite sure how to begin Venia with pen.

The panel artists talked about the importance of learning to draw real people for comics--even D'Errico, who described her style as manga and having little to do with realism. She mentioned how little her art teachers encouraged her, and it was to me another example of the general disdain towards the manga style in the western art community--I constantly hear about how manga styles are discouraged.

Well, after this panel, I was pretty much sated. It was only two o'clock, but I could've gone home perfectly satisfied with the day. Instead, I went downstairs and roamed the main floor a while, where I came upon some amazing movie props on display.

I can only imagine the security precautions around this thing.

How I long for the James Cameron of old.

This plush chest burster is not a prop that was used in Alien 3, I repeat, this is not an actual prop. Just so we're clear.

However, this really is the Bat Pod seen in The Dark Knight;

As a movie soundtrack fan, I couldn't help getting a kick out of this poster.

I asked this lady if I could take her picture, and she immediately afterwards demonstrated to me a flipbook that showed her taking all her clothes off. And it occurred to me this must be what heaven's like. This is her web site.

Porn had a bigger presence this year at the Con than I can remember. There was even a big Suicide Girls booth on hand with three scantily clad ladies who were given a lot of space by the masses of socially awkward boys walking past.

Looks like Don Corleone's tailor made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

As I was wandering, I ran into Gene Simmons with a big camera crew and press. I'm not particularly into Kiss (though I have nothing against Kiss), but I kind of felt like I couldn't not take footage;

Indy's ladies. I loved the idea.

That night I saw the live Rifftrax performance by Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy, which was hilarious as usual. They riffed a construction safety video from the late 1970s with music and narration my Waylon Jennings called "Shaking Hands with Danger". They also opened the floor to suggestions for a movie to riff, and the winner ended up being Dragon War, which sounds ideal, though the crowd had actually sounded more enthusiastic about The Super Mario Brothers movie. Which would have gotten my vote. I can still dream . . .

That about covers Friday. More to-morrow . . .

Twitter Sonnet #44

Many heroes are now on the trapeze.
Many places around town are a sith's.
Ate again at the amazing Pokez.
And my waiter sang along with The Smiths.
I shall forever honour Chewbacca.
Nabeshin is a rare and worthy man.
Gizmo by this time might well be caca.
There are hungry ghosts of goats in Japan.
No cure for sober like Wild Turkey.
Unions aren't destroying Subway Sandwich.
Don't give bourbon or mayo to Trumpy.
He's too powerful a tiny sasquatch.
Morning's been pressed into a new sector.
And focus is captive to night's spectre.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Comic-Con Report, volume 1


Okay, so I won't be accused of burying the lede, I'll talk about James Cameron's Avatar right off the bat. I saw the 24 minutes of footage presented by Cameron himself as well as cast members Sigorney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, and Stephen Lang, and I can't say I was impressed. Others have already written about how the cgi doesn't look as revolutionary as Cameron has led people to believe, and indeed it suffers from an eerie, overly clean quality that plagues so much cgi and was reminiscent of what made the Star Wars prequels often less visually interesting than the original trilogy. But the main problem is conscience.

Before presenting the footage, Cameron talked about how he wanted to provide a fun, action packed experience for the audience, but he couldn't do that without giving the movie a "conscience". I was reminded of a line from Ani DiFranco's "The Waiting Song"--"your basic average super star is singing about justice and peace and love and I am glaring at the radio, swearing saying, 'That's just what I was afraid of. '" If the conscience feels like something you're obligated to say, you're doing it wrong. Indeed, the movie feels quite preachy, Zoe Saldana playing the cg love interest native on an alien planet with a curiously Jamaican accent is naturally more in tune with protecting the environment and feeling guilty about killing animals in self-defence than the protagonist, a marine played by Sam Worthington. It's Pocahontas in space--Disney's Pocahontas. Only not as fun.

I suppose it's not fair to review the movie as a whole from only a fourth of it, and yet the scene where Worthington's marine character meets Saldana's native rather clearly presented the film's philosophy, as did Cameron's own comments on the film about its relevance to the current climate crisis. Cameron talked about how, although the Navi, Saldana's people, were aliens, they represented the spiritually superior side of humanity, while the humans represented a corrupted side.

It's instructive to compare, I think, Avatar with a movie that successfully explored the relationship between industrious man and nature--Princess Mononoke. In Mononoke, there was no bullshit guilt when San had to kill an animal to survive, nor was there an attempt to suggest that the anthropomorphic representatives of nature were morally superior to the humans. Both sides were trying to survive, first and foremost, and therefore it becomes a more useful dialogue about two sides addressing needs. Cameron struck me as an artist grown utterly out of touch with himself, and this project came off as an exercise in self-flagellation in response to his earlier work which he seemingly now sees as lacking this "conscience".

The fact that Avatar's visually uninteresting seems to reflect Cameron's own insubstantial grasp of the issues he's attempting to address--Pandora, the forest moon on which the movie takes place, is mostly a riot of green and blue that comes off as noise--again, Mononoke's colour palette did better to emphasise both the wild diversity of nature and the force of its expression. Pandora, meanwhile, seems like a supermarket with shelves lined entirely with plastic plants.

It might also be worth noting that this movie isn't going to make any money. Cameron has attempted to take his rated R space marines from Aliens and put them into what's essentially a modern, socially conscious Disney movie, inevitably alienated both audiences, something which ought to have been obvious to everyone. All the geek guys sitting around me during the presentation were constantly shifting about uncomfortably in their seats.

But I wasn't completely sure what my feelings were about Avatar until Terry Gilliam came out to talk about his upcoming film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and I was reminded what a truly living artist was like.

Before he came out, a short retrospective on Gilliam's career was shown that was obviously put together by marketing to help establish the "Gilliam brand", as it were--it included the predictable "Lands beyond your imagination" title card, which has always looked more like something from a cheesy high school production to me ever since I saw Dave McKean's trailer for Mirrormask at a Comic-Con that had title cards that said something like, "A land not beyond your imagination, because we think you're pretty smart."

Anyway, then Gilliam walked out on stage and found chocolate;

Here, again, is the clip I posted last week;

Following this, Gilliam brought out Verne Troyer, the only Imaginarium cast member who appeared, and began taking questions.

I was surprised Johnny Depp didn't stay for the Imaginarium panel, since he was there for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland panel, which I missed. Though I did see Depp drive by while I was in line for Hall H. He waved at people.

Finally, here's Gilliam talking about darkness in art and stealing ideas from dead painters;

I'd gotten up at 7am on Thursday in the hopes of catching all the Hall H panels, but by the time I got in line for Hall H, the line looked like this;

Of course, this was mainly due to hordes of Twilight fans who'd stayed the night. People were handing out this;

A Burger King/Twilight cross promotion and I have to say I couldn't think of a more perfect match.

There was certainly a significant new element to the Comic-Con populace this year--I eventually did get into Hall H because when the Twilight panel ended there was an exodus from the room of women and girls with bad perms and ill fitting purple and pink clothes.

While I do hate Twilight, there was a backlash against the Twilight fans I couldn't quite get with--I saw on Sunday guys carrying around signs that read "Scream if Twilight ruined Comic-Con". I saw a video of Kevin Smith talking about it the other day that I thought provided some very useful perspective, saying basically that a lot of the things the guys at the Con were devoted to weren't really artistically superior to Twilight, and that Twilight brought girls to Con, which is something the guys really shouldn't complain about.

And it seems to me there was indeed an element of "no-girls allowed" to the guys bitching about the Twilight fans. There's really no other reason Twilight should be the target of more gripes than Naruto and other incredibly lame corners of the science fiction and fantasy world.

On the other hand, I met a nice girl named Jamie in line for Hall H who was drawing a picture of Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter murdering Bella from Twilight in order to reclaim the name "Bella", since apparently this is what Bellatrix was often called for short. Jamie was actually dressed as Bellatrix as well, and I told her to "say something only Bellatrix would say" when I took this footage of her;

Ninety percent of the cosplayers I took pictures of at Comic-Con were girls. You may call me a pig, and I'll readily admit I am a pig, but even if I weren't, I still think I'd mostly have been photographing the girls because they simply had, by and large, the nicer costumes. Maybe the guys just couldn't work up the enthusiasm knowing that, inevitably, they'd still be guys at the end of it--never underestimate the self-loathing of the male geek, particularly male otaku.

The first cosplayer I got a picture of was this 5th Element character with cool hips;

This was on the main floor of the Con after I'd given up on seeing the Alice in Wonderland panel and decided to just wander the floor.

I'm not sure who these people were, but I liked them.

A mannequin cosplays as Asuka from Evangelion.

The Stark Industries booth.

Some really amazing Star Wars costumes--the textures were perfect, down to the oddly rough linen quality of Luke's cloak.

The portfolio review area, which I wisely avoided this year.

Cryptess and The Party Wagon. She'd been hanging out with Peter S. Beagle on Thursday.

I wanted to show her the wonderful Mexican restaurant, Pokez, where I most often eat during Comic-Con, but for once it was too busy that night.

I hadn't eaten lunch there, either, that day, instead choosing to eat at a Greek restaurant where I overheard a young man telling the cashier that Morgan Spurlock was currently casting "The Simpsons on Ice", though he cautioned that he really shouldn't be talking about it. He asked her if she was interested in auditioning, sounding totally serious, and she demured with complete sincerity. It was one of the most flagrant moments of unchecked bullshit I'd ever seen. Though I can kind of imagine Morgan Spurlock making a movie about duping people into auditioning for a Simpsons ice show--from what I've heard about his last film, he just might be that creatively bankrupt.

Well, that about covers Thursday. More to-morrow . . .

Last night's tweets;

I shall forever honour Chewbacca.
Nabeshin is a rare and worthy man.
Gizmo by this time might well be caca.
There are hungry ghosts of goats in Japan.