Thursday, August 30, 2007

Completed UEMA Spots Online

For anyone that is interested, last summer's stint on the "B All Over" show is currently in limbo while KJZZ figures out what to do about a second season. In the meantime, I recently finished up a series of spots for the Utah Emergency Management Association. They were co-written by my former student Dawn Black, who recruited me for the job after taking my accelerated Summer English 2010 course (the one where we met five consecutive Fridays from 8am to 3pm).

Anyhoo, here are two of the spots, a pair of "Public Service Announcements" dealing with Emergency Preparedness.

You can also link here to see a third spot, a Man on the Street piece we filmed in downtown Salt Lake.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Kris Novoselic is my hero!

Came across this one a couple of days ago. It is probably the only "memorable" moment of the MTV Video Music Awards I ever caught live. Watching it again brought back a few memories, and inspired the following observations:

1. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Kurt Cobain. Honestly, I never really got into Nirvana past a certain point. Their music was pretty good, but I never liked it enought to actually buy a CD. Still, I will always be grateful to Kurt and Co. for almost singlehandedly driving the world of Butt Rock into an oblivion of reunion tours and reality television.

2. Kurt wants to be cool by looking like he doesn't want to be cool. With all due respect to the dearly departed, Kurt's half-cocked guitar smashing and amp tip-over at the end of the song is unbelievably lame. Besides being flat out ineffective and 25 years past its time, Cobain himself acts like he doesn't even want to do it. It's as if someone paid him off to be wild on stage and in the heat of the moment he decides, true to his nihilistic nature, to only sort of goes through the motions. Weak, very weak.

3. Dave Grohl's "Hi Axl" taunt is both hilarious and oddly ironic. While Cobain is halfheartedly tipping over a stack amp and Kris Novoselic is staggering around the stage (see item #4), Dave Grohl inexplicablly approaches the front of the stage and starts taunting Axl Rose. Now, besides just being funny, what I find interesting about this move is that it was supposed to be symbolic (I assume) with the young rebel calling out the staid pop icon (think Sex Pistols vs. Pete Townshend and "Who Are You"). But nowadays Grohl heads a mainstream band himself, and would be ripe for the picking should a hot dog young drummer decide to give his medicine back to him. Curious...

4. Novoselic clocks himself: best all-time Nirvana moment. There's really only one reason I'd even bother posting this clip on my blog. Not out of honor to Cobain. Not because of the "Hi Axl" taunt. Not even because it's an example of how the "new rebels" paled in comparison to the "old rebels". Nope, this clip gets a spot of honor simply because at the end of the song bassist Kris Novoselic tosses his guitar to the sky and watches helplessly as it comes down and knocks him out cold. Seeing him stagger around the stage like a dazed boxer was so funny I couldn't even laugh at it. It was too hard to believe. You just sat there staring, wondering, "did he really do that"? "Could he be faking it?"

Nope, it was real. One of the few real moments the MTV VMA's have ever seen.

Confounding the Uber-Nerd

By normal standards, my nerd resume is pretty full.

1. I wear glasses.

2. I don’t tan.

3. I love Star Wars (I saw “Return of the Jedi” 19 times during the summer of 1983, though granted, I was seven at the time).

4. I waited in line at Wal Mart for an hour and a half at 1AM to buy the seventh Harry Potter book, and read it within four days.

5. Worst of all, I just got back from driving 1,000 miles to San Diego so I could meet SciFi author Ray Bradbury at a comic book convention.

That stuff is really just the tip of the iceberg. But even a full nerd resume would reveal at least one gaping hole: gaming.

I’ve never really embraced video games. Lots of my friends have. They seem quite happy about it, also. Even jocks love video games. But I don’t.

I had my moments. One time in a burst of spontaneity my parents picked up an original edition Nintendo, to the utter shock of my sister and I. For years our friends and acquaintances had been stockpiling a three-year supply of gray game cartridges to go with their families’ food storage, and Katie and I had only occasionally sampled their wares.

For the next two months I became obsessed with Super Mario Brothers, until I finally passed the dumb thing while staying home sick from school. I was so excited I jumped up off the floor, swore, and knocked over my glass of orange juice. Such was the joy of getting past that stupid dragon in world 8-4.

I played Super Mario 2 and 3, but never put any real time in on them, and eventually my interest in Nintendo gave way to my wistful dream of winning Super Bowls as a DB with the Oakland Raiders. But I never made it to the NFL, either.

What I did do was eventually parlay my childhood interest in art into an interest in computers, which eventually led me to buy a Mac. I picked up a G4 in 2000, then paid cash for an Intel iMac last November. When I did, I soon discovered a feature called “Widgets”, little icons for your desktop that perform random functions. Things like mini-calendars, quotes-of-the-day, stuff like that.

A quick perusal of the Apple Web site revealed a number of free Widgets to download, and soon I filled my computer screen with them. I had the animated lava lamp, the Chuck Norris quote machine, and a special meter that showed me the “cheapest” gas prices in my area.

But I also picked up one that let you play the old Atari game “Asteroids”. It was a simple little thing, with basically the same display as the original from 25 years ago. You were no more than a little triangle in the center of the screen that shot at the blobs that came at you. I loved it for its simplicity; it was almost an anti-game for the anti-gamer.

But then I loved it too much. What first was a novelty quickly became a toy for break time. Then I started firing it up when I just didn’t feel like working. As my scores climbed past 100 and 200,000 I began to gain confidence, and refused to stop until I had achieved certain base-level scores. My competitive instincts began to flare up, and soon I was mouthing off to my computer, as if it were responsible for my humiliation and poor showing. On a couple of exciting runs I blasted my way past 300 and 400,000 points, only to be thwarted by an overwhelming barrage of asteroids and those teeny little ships that would fly around the screen and shoot at you while you desperately tried to hit them with your painfully inaccurate blaster.

Finally I realized what was happening to me, what might continue to happen to me if I didn’t stop. I was a well-rounded guy, I played sports, I dated. But if I allowed myself to get into this, if I even hinted at becoming a “gamer”, it would all be over. I couldn’t face complete and total nerd-dom. More importantly, I couldn’t let a Widget keep me from the work I was supposed to be doing.

So I sat down for one final round, vowing to delete the Widget as soon as I was done. I wanted to make one more good run, and not get blown up by some errant asteroid fragment or because the computer didn’t re-start my new life until I was just about to get shot by one of those mini-ships again. No, my last hurrah would be legit.

Round by round I pulverized the lo-tech asteroids that flew through the screen. Loud booming crashes sounded from my computer speakers and sub-woofer as big asteroids were shattered into little ones. Wails came from the little spaceships that tried to gun me down, but I destroyed them all as I marched towards my finish line.

As if to tempt me, as if to say, “Josh, you have a future in this…keep playing!”, I reached 445,200 points before losing my last man. Only the second time I ever got past 400,000. It may have been my all-time record, but thank goodness I never got into this thing enough to actually write down my final scores.

Satisfied, I clicked on the “Manage Widgets” button at the bottom of my screen and trashed “Asteroids”. The day may come when I opt to fully embrace the total Uber-Nerd inside me, when I can no longer resist the temptation of full membership.

But it will not be this day.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Retro Review: The Wonder Years

3 ½ stars out of 4

Thanks to the miracle of modern DVR technology, I’ve been able to watch about two-dozen old episodes of “The Wonder Years” over the last week. It’s been great to catch up with an old favorite—the shows haven’t aged at all—but it does bring to mind some frustrating issues.

I’ve always felt a kinship to the Kevin Arnold character: we were both about the same age, we were both short, we both had friends but never widespread popularity, we both dug 60’s music, and we were both delusional optimists. The only real difference was that while he actually got to date Winnie, my only female interaction was staring at (name deleted)’s legs between 3rd and 4th period.

I never had an older brother (or a blonde hippie older sister), but Wayne was a great metaphor for how you always seemed to take it in the nuts when you were that age. At work, at school, with girls, everywhere. Junior high is truly an era we’d all like to forget on one hand, and at the same time the source of some of our fondest memories.

Watching all these old episodes made me smile a lot, and actually laugh out loud a time or two. But one issue kept popping up again and again, and refused to go away:

Why, why, why didn’t Kevin ever just go after Madeline Adams?

I don’t know, maybe it was in Winnie’s contract. Maybe they couldn’t figure out how to take her footage out of the opening title sequence. But for the love of all that is holy, could someone explain to me how when given a choice between a cute girl that dumps you on a regular basis and a drop-dead gorgeous girl that is constantly vying for your attention (yet has the mature presence of mind to sneak you back your engraved bracelet in a way that your girlfriend—her competition—won’t be suspicious), Kevin constantly chose Winnie?

Let me emphasize here: this woman basically looked 21 when she played 14. The photo at right is pretty much exactly how she looked at the time. But again, it wasn’t even just looks. With Winnie, it was all drama, all the time. All miscommunication and bizarre behavior, past issues leading to lash outs and multiple scenes where “God Only Knows” played in the background while Kevin watched her leave and Daniel Stern intoned, “she was gone”. All Madeline ever did was ask Kevin to taste the chocolate mousse on her finger and tell him to man up and make a choice.

I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.

Yeah, yeah, I know: Kevin loved Winnie. They were lifelong friends. He was a masochist. And yes it’s true; at thirteen, you really don’t get it all the time, if ever.

I’m sorry, but it’s just depressing.

Kevin should have given Winnie the heave-ho and gone headfirst into Madeline World. He probably would have gotten the shaft once they got to high school, but how could that have been any worse than what Winnie put him through? Winnie could have started dating Paul (they actually did in one episode—kind of), and might have saved him from becoming Marylin Manson.* Wayne might have actually respected Kevin for his hot girlfriend and spared him years of mullet-enhanced abuse, which would have created a stable home life that Karen might not have rejected for all her hairbrained hippie ideology. She might have stuck around, got a teaching degree, become a Mormon, and married me.

Now that would have been a great show.

*Paul isn’t really Marylin Manson. The kid from “Mr. Belvedere” is.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Brand-New Metaphor for Dating Woes

In a recent conversation with her bishop, my sister lamented the state of dating in her student ward, and in the general singles scene. It seems that the young adult population is filled to the non-alcoholic brim with eligible young males and females, and yet only a small percentage of said candidates are hooking up.

His inspired response was to comment that there are a number of single females out there that are like computer software: everything is programmed, packaged, and ready to go; all they need is a computer to upload into to get started.

As I reflected on this metaphor, I realized that not only does it serve as a comfort to the eligible female tired of waiting for Mr. Right, it also explains why I too am still single, despite my eligible-young-male-who-on-more-than-one-occasion-has-been-said-to-look-like-Bruce-Willis-status.

Simply put, in a world of PC's, I am a Mac. Which means...

1. I attract only 4-5% of the market. Apple has consistently only tallied a small percentage of total computer sales. This year they are showing a 26% increase overall, but this only brings their total market share up to about 5 and a half percent. In dating language, this means that in spite of obvious style and performance advantages, most girls are still going after Dells (accountants).

2. Most girls are not compatible with me. Most software is only designed for PC's. This is obvious from any stroll through CompUSA. The vast majority of the population couldn't "get" Mac's even if they wanted to.

3. I possess superior styling, performance and charm, but girls fear change, and thus stick with the cheaper product. It is well documented that Mac's cost considerably more than PC's, which is an understandable deterrent. But if you want to do anything with your computer other than run TurboTax, a Mac is the way to go.

4. I am most compatible with people that appreciate the arts and media. Visit most any advertising agency, graphic design company, or film studio, and you will see without fail: they use Macs. Visit an office full of civil servants, and you will see PC upon PC, running subtle variations of a staid Windows display. (Funny exception: often on TV and in movies, government employees use Macs. I have been a government employee. They never use Macs.)

5. After fifteen years of dating, I have stooped to using computer metaphors to justify my single status. That's the bad news. The good news is that thanks to innovative cross-compatible products like iTunes, iPod and iPhone, (IE, my great taste in music/culture and an increasing awareness of my improved practicality), Macs are catching on, and making steady gains in the market. So the short term may look bleak, but the future is an LCD million-color dream.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Juror #39 has left the building

For most of my life, Jury Duty was one of those running gags that other people had to deal with, like death and taxes. Technically I always knew it would be a possibility, but so was getting called out of the crowd to play point guard for the Jazz, so I dismissed it.

Then late last spring I got my first call to duty. I wasn’t thrilled with it, but at least I figured I could probably work it in, since I was just about to walk away from my “regular” full-time job and start a freelance run.

The first call turned out to be a false start: my assigned case never went to trial, and the nice recorded voice on the Frank E. Moss Courthouse answering machine told me they’d try me again down the road. Then two weeks ago they nailed me again, and this time I actually had to show up.

I started to feel the ambivalence of jury duty: the feeling of obligation to one’s country clashing vehemently with the selfish desire to be left alone. Every experience I’d had in court was a negative one. After Judge Jensen passively charged me forty bucks for driving across Smoot Park on Prom Night when I was seventeen, I’d never been given any slack in traffic court. Plus I hated “Matlock”.

According to some of my lawyer friends, I still had a good chance of squeaking out of duty, though. My friend Nathan told me he’d never put me on a jury, because I’d over-analyze everything. Plus they always called in about four times more people than they needed, so the numbers were on my side, too.

Finally last Tuesday morning I showed up at the courthouse, resigned to do my bit if called on. I was reminded of Jack Warden’s character in “12 Angry Men”, the guy with baseball tickets that wanted to rush through the deliberation so he could make the opening pitch. I wondered if viewing that film in every English 2010 class I taught would make the lawyers hesitant to get me on their jury.

I toyed with some remarks I might use to rile things up a bit:

“Your honor, I believe in true equal opportunity under the law. I am prejudiced against all races, creeds and classes equally.”

“I would never trust any lawyer with a goatee, and especially one who advertised on the cover of the phone book.”

"If we vote in favor of the death penalty, can I stick the execution on my YouTube page?"

But once I arrived, I knew I didn’t have the heart to use them. From the time I arrived at the front security check-in, I was overwhelmed by how graciously everyone acted. Even the security guards seemed to be grateful that I was taking time out of my “busy” day. The orientation lady practically gushed over our willingness to show up, as did all the bad actors on the orientation video.

Most surprising of all, the judge himself bent over backwards to tell us how good we were to come down, and how grateful he was for our different sacrifices. Besides Judge Jensen, every traffic court judge I’d ever met looked at me like I was a worm, though after sitting through the few cases I’d heard before me, I could hardly blame them. But this guy was actually happy.

We’d all been assigned juror numbers before entering the courtroom, and after briefing us on the circumstances of the case, Judge Kimball had us all stand up and introduce ourselves, so he and the attorneys could get a feel for whether we’d be good jurors. It was a broad cross-section of mainstream America, though surprisingly at #39, I was the first person of the group to have a graduate degree.

Since the case involved law enforcement testimony, I told the lawyers during the side bar that I’d been teaching firefighters for two years. But it turns out that even that didn’t matter, because when the Judge read off the names of the winners, they all came from the first twenty in line. They never would have got to me anyway.

So five minutes later I walked out of the building with the other “thanks, but no thanks” folks, not sure whether I should be happy to have gotten out of the case. I was grateful that I still had most of the day to get some work done, but at least I felt that I would have gone through with the task if called on. Jury Duty still didn’t sound like a fun option, but it was good to know the people involved were so understanding about all of it.

Judge Jensen would have been proud.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bourne is the New Black

The Bourne Ultimatum
Three stars out of four

My buddy Spence didn’t like the first “Bourne” movie. We discussed the matter while riding longboards through the streets of Huntington Beach, California at 1AM. While he felt the film lacked coherence and personality, I enjoyed it enough to lay down ten dollars to see it a second time up the coast in San Francisco.

That was five years ago. I haven’t gotten Spence’s feedback on “Ultimatum” yet, but all I can say so far is that I dug it. A lot. Enough to spend $8.25 to see it a second time at the Layton Hills Cineplex Odeon the day after I saw it the first time. (I don't know whether to be happy that five years later Utah's ticket prices are still $1.75 cheaper than SF, or to just be mad that I have to cough up eight bucks to sit in an uncomfortable chair and watch five Coke commercials and put up with text messagers for two hours).

For me, the Bourne series has gotten better as it has gone along. As much as I enjoyed the first installment, “Identity” has continued to pale in comparison to the subsequent films. Mostly I think this is because the first film had the burden of establishing the story, whereas the other two just got to run with it.

Too bad that wasn’t the case with all sequels.

Like “Supremacy”, then, “Ultimatum” benefits from an established background and rewards us with lots of chase scenes and intense action, mixed in with a bit of plotting here and there. Matt Damon does his cold ex-assassin thing as usual, dispatching bad guys (but not killing them) with efficient precision on his way to finding out what made him such a tough guy in the first place. He also keeps up his pattern of always wearing all black all the time, which as far as I can tell makes him much more intimidating and "assassin-like".

Now that he’s figured out who he is and apologized to the last remaining family member of his first victim, “Ultimatum” is all about recreating Bourne’s initial decision to enter the original program. Without giving too much away, it involves Albert Finney, who turns in a brief but stunning performance that further cements his place on my all-time favorite actor list (along with Gene Hackman, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, and several other entertaining old white dudes).

Incredibly, the third film manages to amplify the breathless pace and brutal (yet bloodless) violence even more than the high standard “Supremacy” set. A bathroom fistfight with another “asset” (insider code for “brainwashed dude who’s been turned into a black ops killing machine") leaves the viewer stunned, as well as Julia Stiles, who plays the sort-of love interest this time around.

Ideally, “Bourne Ultimatum” should be paired at the drive-in with “Live Free or Die Hard”. The latter is a great example of a fun over-the-top action flick with tongue firmly planted in cheek. The former is the same thing with less tongue. Both are a blast.

“The Bourne Ultimatum” is rated PG-13 for brutal fisticuffs (which means fist fights, I think), tons of broken glass and screeches, cold stares from Damon and 120 minutes of hand-held camera work.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

God Bless You, Mr. YouTube

On a hunch I decided to see if one of my old obscure favorites was on YouTube. As is usually the case, it is.

The following is a parody of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" which originally was featured on the VHS parody compilation that included "Hardware Wars". In the time since, "Hardware Wars" has been released multiple times, but "Closet Cases of the Nerd Kind" vanished into obscurity (unless you could cough up the hundred bucks to buy an old VHS copy on eBay).

But again, thanks to YouTube, here you go. Enjoy.

This is part one:

And here's part two:

But that's not all...the same compilation included a parody of "Apocalypse Now", which made absolutely no sense whatsoever to me at the age of eight, but instantly became hilarious after reading Heart of Darkness in Nona Horsley's AP English class at Viewmont High School and subsequently watching "Apocalypse Now" at 2AM following a Phil Collins concert.

Here it is, in three installments:

And last but not least, the shortest member of the compilation, "Bambi Vs. Godzilla".

God bless you, Marv Newland. And God bless YouTube.

Monday, August 13, 2007

See everyone? Prison can be FUN!

This footage comes from a prison in the Phillipines where apparently part of the rehabilitation process is forcing inmates to re-create choreography from Michael Jackson videos.

I'm just trying to picture the scene in the lunchroom where one guy goes, "hey everyone, I've got an idea! Let's do a re-make of 'Thriller' and stick it on YouTube!" Two tables over, another guy goes, "I want to play Jacko's girlfriend!", and the ball is off and rolling...

Nostalgia Strikes Again: Air Flight 89’s and Godfather Metaphors

A few basketball-related thoughts and observations from the last few days:

1. Back in the eighth grade I could identify 75% of the male population of Centerville Jr. High by the basketball shoes they were wearing. This came partially from the fact that I spent most of my Jr. High experience looking at the ground out of fear and a maladjusted puberty-inspired inferiority complex, but mostly because in the heyday of the Nike/Reebok/Converse era, basketball shoes made the man, especially the prepubescent man.

The reason I bring this up is that last weekend I caved in to one bit of unfulfilled business left over from that era: the Nike Air Flight 89’s. Back then the 89’s held second place only to my coveted Air Jordan IV’s on my list of “basketball shoes I wanted but couldn’t afford”. The Jordan’s were up in the $115 range, and were way too far out of bounds for a kid who struggled to work enough at his summer farm job to pull down $25 bones a week. But the 89’s were more in the $90 range, and thanks to an inside tip, $65 if you ordered them through the local Village Sports Den outlet.

$65 was within range, but in a harsh twist of fate, the Village Sports Den option never panned out, and I was left only with a dream, along with a pair of Adidas low tops that were functional—and black—but just not what I wanted.

Until last weekend. In recent years, Nike has re-released a number of their old classic models with slight style modifications in an effort to cash in on the retro trend. (Also, I suspect, because 95% of their shoe designs over the last fifteen years have sucked). To my surprise, the Air Flight 89’s were reborn, and up at the Layton Hills Mall Foot Locker, I completed the circle that started eighteen years ago.

2. The NBA has been up to its composite-grain eyeballs in controversy in recent weeks, what with the refereeing scandal and the Garnett trade. I’m actually rather pleased with the ref scandal, since it’s called attention to so many bogus non-calls over the years (Jordan pushed off in ’98!)

But the story that makes me smile is hearing that Penny Hardaway signed with the Miami Heat, bringing him back together with Shaquille O’Neal for the first time since their early days in Orlando back in the 1990’s. It reminds me of one of my favorite Shaq-isms, where he compares his NBA sidekicks to Vito Corleone’s sons in the Godfather movies. Kobe Bryant is Sonny, Dwyane Wade is Michael, and Penny is poor Fredo.

I’ve often thought that my mission greenies—my own “sons”, if you will—fit into the same pattern. To do so I have to omit one of them—I had four greenies—and so Hamilton is out. We’ll just assume he was in his home town of Valencia when Jack Bauer failed to stop the nuke on “24”, taking him effectively out of the picture.

Which leaves the following:

Sonny: In “The Godfather”, Santino was Vito’s firstborn, a passionate hot-tempered James Caan who punched first and asked questions later. In fact, he even asked questions when he shouldn’t have, too, which led to Solozzo’s attempt on Vito’s life when he was out in the street shopping for oranges. My second greenie, Elder Vinson, was actually two years older than me, and was similarly passionate. We never got into any fistfights with anyone while we were together, and I was never shot next to an orange stand, but by virtue of his age and his temperament, Vinson is my Sonny. If I had any companion who would be most likely to get shot 56 times in retaliation for beating up his sister’s abusive husband, Vinson’s the guy.

Fredo: Poor, poor Fredo. He always wanted to be someone big in the family, but things just never worked out for him. In fact, bad things always seemed to happen around him. He was on guard when Vito got shot, and he gave in to Roth and the others when they tried to assassinate Michael in “Godfather, Part II”. Based on his good intent and unfortunate track record, Elder Clark gets my nod as Fredo. In our three months together, Clark got hit by three different cars. He got two flat tires within sixty minutes of each other. He shredded a brake cable. I’ve never seen anyone shred a brake cable. And this is after spending part of his childhood in a nudist colony. When I think back on most of my companions, I wonder what they’ve accomplished in life: whether they’re married, if they have kids, where they’re working, etc. When I think about Elder Clark, I wonder if he’s dead.

Michael: This choice is easy. Michael was Vito’s youngest, and Elder Tubbs is my youngest. His combination of humility and confidence, not to mention natural ability, makes Tubbs the easy nod for taking over the family business. The scary thing is that after two months of pounding the pavement in South Chicago together, I realized that down the road if I could find a much more attractive female version of Tubbs, I should marry her. That’s how well we worked together.

3. Last night I had an existential experience playing “Around the World” in a friend’s backyard. I’m trying to decide whether the experience represents any kind of eternal truths, and if so, which ones.

For the uninitiated, “Around the World” is a simple basketball-related game where participants take turns shooting baskets from a semicircle of predetermined positions around the court. When you make a shot at spot #1, you move on to spot #2, and so on. Once you make it all around the semicircle, you work your way back, and the first person to successfully do so wins the game. If you miss a shot, you lose your turn, unless you decide to take a “chance” shot. If you make your chance shot, you move on, but if you miss it you have to go back to the beginning and start over on your next turn. You can also take a “life” shot, which offers the same reward if you make it, but eliminates you from the game altogether if you miss it.

So here’s what happened: over the course of an hour, I won. I didn’t win because I was a better shooter; in fact, I don’t think I was even in the top three or four judging by pure ability. I won because I was the only one who refused to shoot “chance” shots. So I doggedly stayed in my peak position—even if it took me four or five turns to advance—while everyone else kept blowing chance shots and going back to the beginning. Plus the two best players eliminated themselves by missing “life” shots. By the end of the game, several other players took—and missed—“life” shots simply because they were bored with the game and wanted it to be over.

Now, I know that there are many times in life where you need to take risks in order to grow and progress. But given the outcome of last night’s game, I wonder if the “chance” shots didn’t represent those kind of risks, but rather the kind of irresponsible risks associated with “straying from the straight and narrow”. If that is the case, then you could say my victory—and, by consequence, eternal salvation—came by virtue of keeping my “eye on the ball” and “enduring/persisting to the end”, in spite of the many people nagging me to take chance shots who wound up eliminating themselves on life shots later on.

Or maybe it was just a simple game of “Around the World”.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Manly Guide to Hiking the Zion Narrows!

Of all Utah outdoor opportunities, hiking the Zion Narrows is a must-do. As an official Narrows “two-timer”, I’ve compiled a helpful guide to hiking this national treasure.

Maximize Your Experience

The entire trek spans sixteen miles of winding river terrain. Many choose to hike up a mile or two from the bottom and take a few pretty pictures. But real outdoorsmen navigate the entire stretch, from Chamberlain’s Ranch down to the River Walk. To maximize your experience, my recommendation is to attack all sixteen miles in one day. This will guarantee enough bruises, sprains and hemorrhages to convince anyone you’re a real trooper.

Bring proper equipment:

If you really think you’re going to make it through the Narrows in one day, you’d better bring the right equipment, otherwise Search and Rescue will be hauling your sad corpse out of the river by .

Shoes: Technically you can make it through the Narrows in a pair of tennis shoes. Of course, technically you can put out a forest fire if you pee on it long enough. By renting special quick-dry hiking shoes, not only do you uphold your true outdoorsman image, you also get to look like a dork for the whole hike.
Walking Stick: In the city, this is the tool of old men and pimps, but in the Narrows, anyone who doesn’t bring a walking stick should wear a sign that says “get ready to watch me fall on my butt”. That loud snapping sound you hear is coming from their ankles.

Ugly Shirt: If you feel self-conscious walking around with a cane and moon boots, try distracting your fellow travelers with an ugly shirt. Bright colors are easy for rescue workers to spot, too. No one will notice your geeky shoes if they’re staring at your green “Cuban Soul Revival” T-Shirt.
Dry Bag: Only stupid people try to haul complex electronic equipment like digital cameras on a river hike without bringing a dry bag, and no one sympathizes with them when their stuff is fried by the end of the hike. On the contrary, people do sympathize with a person whose dry bag doesn’t work, and dumps out a liter of water when it’s opened at the end of the trail.

Leave Early

It’s true that a typical marathon takes about three hours to run, but it’s also true that typical marathon runners are hyperactive alien-types with metabolic rates high enough to burn a Taco Bell burrito in 3.5 seconds. Most marathons aren’t run through rivers over algae-covered stones, either. So it’s best to start early, when you’re too disoriented to realize the pain you’ll be encountering later in the day. 5AM should work, but don’t tell everyone in your party. Half the fun is watching the non-morning people reveal their hidden talent for profanity when you wake them up.

Walk Downstream

Hiking the Narrows involves complex navigation through slick rocks and powerful currents, but one factor is working in your favor: it’s very hard to get lost. If you keep moving downstream, eventually you’ll wash up at the end of the trail. If you suddenly notice that your comrades have all turned into spawning fish, you probably should’ve stuck with your treadmill.

Beware of Rocks
The Narrows is famous for its soaring cliffs and dramatic rock formations, but if you spend all your time gazing at them, you’ll snap your ankles like twigs on the slick rocks under your feet. Halfway down the canyon these rocks become more slippery and harder to see, but with a little Ibuprofen, you won’t feel the consequences for days after your trip.

Document the Rich Landscape

No one will believe you hiked the Narrows if you don’t provide photographic proof, and even then they’ll be suspicious in these days of PhotoShop. So make sure to bring a nice expensive camera to document the landscape over the first two-thirds of the hike. No one photographs the last third; they’re too busy staggering over the rocks on swollen ankles to worry about photographing a bunch of stupid rocks.

Take Time to Have Fun

Even if you try to hike the Narrows in one day, you should try to make the most of your time in the canyon. However, even if the water seems deep enough, DO NOT DIVE OFF THE ROCKS. You never know what’s lurking under the surface. And since jumping off the rocks is officially prohibited by the park, ABSOLUTELY DO NOT LET ANYONE PHOTOGRAPH YOU JUMPING OFF THE ROCKS. These kinds of photos make insurance claims really, really tough.
Have fun!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Comic-Con Experience, Chapter V: The Pilgrimage

When he was twelve years old, Ray Bradbury went to a carnival and met his destiny. An energetic performer named “Mr. Electrico” worked the crowd with bravado, backed with a dazzling electric lightning show. When he spotted young Ray, he drew his electric sword and knighted him on the spot, commanding him to live forever. Bradbury went home and started writing stories, and never looked back.

He took my dad along with him. Fifty-two years after Mr. Electrico gave Bradbury immortality, my dad added a copy of “Dinosaur Tales” to his already impressive collection, and introduced me to the most influential author of my youth in the process. He’d been a fan since childhood, and I’d noted all of the exotic Bradbury titles on the bookshelf in our den. But until I saw this strange book with an astronaut facing down a Tyrannosaurus Rex on the cover, I’d never cracked one.

Twenty-three years down the road, the “World’s Greatest Living Science Fiction Writer” was still making the most of his gift of immortality, and when my sister Katie discovered he’d be making a cameo appearance at Comic-Con 2007 in San Diego, we knew it was time for a road trip.

Like George Lucas and J.R.R. Tolkein, Ray Bradbury possessed a mastery of imagination that resonated in everything creative I did, from my primitive monster drawings at age five to my graduate thesis at age twenty-seven. I’d even loaned a copy of “The Martian Chronicles” to my eighth grade English teacher in my zeal. For years I’d read and re-read his tales of Mars and rockets and aliens and goblins, astounded at the way he wove nostalgia and horror and science fiction, all with the same enthusiasm he took to meet Electrico at age twelve. If there was a chance to meet him, I had to take it.

So Katie and I packed up my car and drove a thousand miles into Southern California, braving Death Valley heat, gouging gas prices and hordes of comic book geeks to see our hero. We packed copies of our favorite Bradbury books, hoping to bring them to the feet of their creator and tell him how much his work had influenced us.

Our only concern was that our $30 registration fee only got us in the door of the conference. Individual forum attendance was first-come, first-serve, and so we spent the day in a state of semi-paranoia, only wandering so far to explore, careful to stay within striking distance of Bradbury’s scheduled afternoon auditorium.

We tried to keep our hopes modest, but when we won two of the hundred passes to actually meet Bradbury after his presentation, we suspected that all the pieces were falling into place, but we still didn’t relax until we saw him wheeled into the conference room just after 4PM.

When he rolled onto the floor in his wheelchair, the audience spontaneously erupted into a standing ovation. I was immediately struck by how different his presence felt than that of the other conference guests I’d seen. Bradbury seemed more like everyone’s grandfather, or even a beloved religious leader, so much more than a regular celebrity.

He shared the stage with longtime friend Ray Harryhausen, the mastermind behind “Clash of the Titans” and “Jason and the Argonauts”. The two met when they were eighteen, and celebrated a friendship of nearly seventy years.

Over the course of an hour, the old friends took turns updating us on their current projects and the anecdotes behind some of their old ones. Bradbury waxed nostalgic on encounters with Walt Disney and Katherine Hepburn, while Harryhausen told us about his efforts to restore and improve some of his pioneering monster movies from the 40’s and 50’s.

Bradbury went on about the Paris club he used to haunt with all of his science fiction writer contemporaries, outcasts who’d been warned against publishing in magazines like Weird Tales and spending their time on topics of fantasy, shunned dreamers who gathered with each other because no one else wanted them around.

As he began addressing audience questions on the inspiration for “The Martian Chronicles” and “Farenheit 451”, Katie and I slipped out to get into our autograph line, hoping that in spite of his 87 years of age, Ray would be up to the task of meeting all 100 of the drawing winners.

Within minutes Bradbury emerged onto the conference floor in his wheelchair to a second ovation, and he was quickly wheeled around to a signing table and given the first of many treasures to sign while his fans looked on.

Katie and I nervously waited as the line shuffled forward ahead of us. We waited with baited breath for the accursed words, “Mr. Bradbury is not feeling well; he has to go”, that would cut our pilgrimage short by mere inches. I had painful flashbacks of getting within inches of meeting my childhood basketball idol Darrell Griffith of the Utah Jazz, only to have his publicist pull him away from the autograph table just as I reached it.

But Ray plowed on through the line with the same vigor that has pumped out a new story every week for 75 years, even though his signature poured so slowly out of his aged right hand that we felt almost ashamed to put him through the effort.

Finally, Katie and I arrived at the head of the line, and delivered our books almost as an afterthought to the chance to meet our muse. Even in his advanced age, his enthusiasm still shone through his bright nasal voice and gleaming eyes that still peered through those same horn-rimmed glasses I’d seen in photos for over two decades.

After he finished signing my brand-new copy of The Martian Chronicles, he looked up at me as I mouthed “thank you” and extended his left hand, almost as if he knew that I secretly wanted him to tell me to live forever too, just like Mr. Electrico had done for him so many years ago. I took his hand and shook it delicately, feeling no bolt of lighting aside from the simple satisfaction of getting to say thanks to a man who’d touched my life for so many years. It was a moment that never could have taken place without a sister’s sharp eye and a father’s enthusiastic influence.

And at that moment, the pilgrimage was complete.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Comic-Con Experience, Chapter IV: The Autograph Paradox

I’ll never forget the time I saw Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band up at the Dee Events Center in Ogden back in 1999. it was incredible to think that the short fellow in sunglasses hopping around a stage a few yards away was a real, living Beatle. Even if it was just Ringo.

At the same time, it was kind of sobering. Instead of a face on an album cover or a figure in old footage from “Help” or “A Hard Days Night”, Ringo was suddenly mortal, a regular guy like me, only with a lot more money and much larger nose.

Meeting your heroes seems to be a mixed bag, and getting their autographs can be uncannily awkward. As my sister and I collected a few signatures at this year’s Comic-Con, this point was driven home loud and clear.

A large portion of the upstairs section of the San Diego Convention Center was partitioned off into little booths where various guests could camp out and wait for dedicated fans to seek them out. According to the conference program, each special guests was obligated to sign one attendee item free of charge. If the attendee chose, they could purchase an 8X10 glossy photo of the guests for them to sign as well.

This had a strange effect on the proceedings. Instead of just approach a celebrity and ask for an autograph—already an odd gesture now that I’m thirty years old—there was also an awkward moment where I made eye contact with the celebrity and had to pass on one of their glossy photographs, basically telling them that I enjoyed their work, but only as long as it was free.

In most cases, these celebrities are not hurting for money, at least as far as I know, but some of them are obscure enough I wondered if this is the only way they are milking out a profit from a long-passed career, and so my admiration became mixed with guilt.

This situation was enhanced by the extensive lines to get to certain celebrities, and the complete absence of fans clamoring to meet others. Given the age of most attendees, the hottest signatures are coming from celebrities who’s shows/movies/comic books are current, while the heroes of yesteryear sit quietly at their booths with an agent or a friend, stacks of 8X10’s in front of them, waiting for an interested customer.

Sadly for my conscience, but luckily for my feet, most of the people I wanted to meet fell into that latter category. While dozens of patient fans waited in line to meet “Spawn’s” Todd McFarlane, I walked right up to the guy that played “Boomer” on the old “Battlestar Galactica” and got his autograph in less than fifteen seconds.

I wondered for a moment whether to tell Mr. Jefferson that as I child “Galactica” was one of my favorite shows, and how in my infant ignorance I chose to refer to the show as “Battlestar Galac-alac-alaca.” I could have told him that at the age of five I decided to change my name to “Starbuck”, but that seemed asinine, so I gave him a sincere thank-you and moved on.

When I met Erin Moran—“Joanie” from “Happy Days”—I wondered whether I should ask her about Scott Baio, and see what she thought of his new VH-1 program “Scott Baio is 45 and Single”, but the question struck me as strangely too personal and I didn’t want to insult her, so instead I moved on and got the autograph of Cindy Morgan, who played the love interest in “Caddyshack” and “Tron”, barely getting in a “Thank you very much” before scurrying away quickly.

Elsewhere I met up with Irwin Keyes, who played “Wheezy Joe” in the Coen Brother’s film “Intolerable Cruelty”, and all I could really say was “Hey man, I loved you in ‘Intolerable Cruelty’.” I told myself that I didn’t have the money to spend $20 on each of these people for the sake of my conscience, but the truth is that even if I did have the money I don’t think I would have laid it down. These people were attached to bits of my youth, but they weren’t really my heroes. I approached them because they were familiar, and they were accessible. I almost felt ashamed asking them for their signatures.

Then I walked up to Brande Roderick, the former Playboy Playmate who famously dated “good Mormon boy” and ex-BYU placekicker Owen Pachmann, and got her autograph. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask her if she was still dating good Mormon boys, but when I did, she didn’t get the joke, and now I don’t know whether I can say I was rejected by a Playboy Playmate. I didn’t hang around to ask her, or her two kids that were hanging around with her. It was just too weird.

Later in the day Katie and I went down to the expo floor in search of memento’s, and discovered through trial and error that if a celebrity is a guest of a vendor instead of the conference itself, you have to pay for any autograph at all, which is how I wound up spending $30 to have Darth Vader’s body (David Prowse) sign the cover of my program. When I found out that the signature on my program was not free, I was confronted with a choice: suck it up and move on, or stand around arguing with the guy that played Darth Vader’s body.

I moved on.

After the Prowse experience, Katie and I knew better than to impulsively ask LeVar “Geordi La Forge” Burton for his autograph. Instead Katie asked if we could get a photo with him, to which he replied, “Sure, it’s ten dollars.” This left Katie with a choice of her own: get the photo and cough up ten bucks, or tell Mr. Reading Rainbow that with all due respect, a photo with him wasn’t worth that much to her, and that he didn’t have to take her word for it, cause her brother didn’t think he was worth it, either.

But you know what? Katie and I are good people. Good, guilty people. So I hopped into the picture so we could split the cost, and the two of us helped LeVar pull a little more action out of his day in San Diego.

Ironically, I had to pass up the one autograph on the expo floor that I would have paid for: George “Mr. Sulu” Takei, who I spied earlier in the day as we were wandering the floor. I was recently miffed to find that the Red Iguana had taken down his autographed photo from their “Wall of Fame”, so a shot of my own would have been nice. But his line was too long, and we were pressed for time, so I took a clandestine photo paparazzi-style and cruised for the exit.

However, one of these encounters made the awkwardness of the others worth it. Scanning the list of guest signers, one jumped out above the others: Marc Singer. It was too ironic, too perfect. Only a month ago a group of friends and I had made our way through two “V” mini-series from the early 1980’s, both of which starred Singer as Mike Donovan, token hunk and leader of the human resistance to the alien invaders. Now here was I guy I really wanted to meet.

When Katie and I found his booth, he was just kicked back on his own while a line had formed to meet the “Blade Runner” producers a couple of booths over. With a big grin on my face, I strode over and stuck out my hand. He responded with an equally big grin and a firm handshake. Then I introduced my sister and chatted for a moment before pulling out my program for a complimentary signature.

But as I looked through my program at the free autographs I’d already collected, I realized that Marc Singer was different. Screw it, I thought, I can’t just get a free scribble on some random page from Marc Singer. This guy was the “Beastmaster”, for Pete’s sake.

I picked out the best “V” 8X10 he had, and was more than happy to hand over the $20 for his personalized signature. Well, actually Katie handed over the $20, because I was almost out of cash. Then both of us got photos with him and made small talk about whether there was going to be a new version of the mini-series coming out next year.

Looking back at it now, I wish I had hung around and shot the bull with him for a while longer. He was such a cool guy, I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded. Besides, he seemed to think my sister was cute, so I don’t know why I was so bent on hustling off to have another awkward moment somewhere else.

Coming face-to-face with a celebrity reveals in no uncertain terms that the hero in question is a real human being, for better or worse. This I understood going into the conference. What I didn’t understand was that I would feel a stark conflict of admiration and pity when I’d meet many of them.

Maybe I should have just approached the people I really admired, like Marc Singer. Maybe I should just skip the autograph thing altogether, because meeting someone is more meaningful than getting a signature on some picture. Maybe I should get famous myself and sit on the other side of the table for a while.

If I do, I hope I greet everyone with a smile and a handshake, free of charge.

Next chapter: The Pilgrimage.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Four movie reviews in 300 words or less…

One star out of four

The first time they made a “Transformers” movie they killed off all the main characters and introduced a whole new line so parents would get stuck buying their kids new toys. It was a harsh introduction to the world of marketing, and sad to say, the brand-new CGI version hasn’t restored my faith.

In the time that has passed since I saw this film (three weeks?), I’ve come to a realization: it sucked. At first I tried to convince myself that I enjoyed it, kind of like how at first I tried to convince myself that I didn’t hate the Dave Matthews Band. But eventually I had no choice but to be honest with myself; therefore, “Transformers” sucks, and so does the Dave Matthews Band.

Thing is, I knew going in that I was paying for a Michael Bay film, which meant lots of slow-motion action, overly-dramatic music, dumb one-liners and an explosion/dialogue ratio of about 7 to 1. For a while it was fun, but after a point I just couldn’t take it anymore. Maybe I was just angry that they turned Bumblebee into a Camaro instead of a Bug, and Jazz into a Pontiac instead of a Porche. Maybe I was steamed that Soundwave looked like a tinker-toy version of the Terminator endo-skeleton. Or maybe it was just that I couldn’t buy the idea that a 20-year old cover girl blonde with heavy makeup (and an even heavier New Zealand accent!) could get a job as a high-security CIA analyst.

“Transformers” is rated PG-13 for tons of CGI violence, bad dialogue, a ridiculously scantily-clad leading “lady”, and the methodical alteration of most of what I remember about the “Transformers” of my childhood.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Two and a half stars out of four

I’m betting that if I hadn’t read the book before seeing this movie (a first for me), I would have given it three stars. “Harry Potter 5” is a lot of fun, and well worth seeing, but after cruising through nearly 900 pages of source material, I wanted to see more than two hours and twenty minutes of screen time.

This is a perfect example of what’s in is good, and what’s missing could have been better. Part of the problem as well is that after finishing book five, I forged on into book six, and was more interested in seeing “Half-Blood Prince” on the big screen. Just have to be patient I guess.

One thing I will say, though, is that this is the first Potter movie I’ve seen where I enjoyed the back nine as much as the front nine. Usually I’ve enjoyed the first two acts, but lost interest by the time the obligatory good/evil showdown took place. This time the showdown fit the bill.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is rated PG-13 for general moodiness and excessive British accents, not to mention some scary bits and periodic cringes every time you remember that Harry has a nude scene in some play he’s doing in England.

The Simpsons Movie
Three stars out of four

Confession time: I’ve probably only seen two or three brand-new Simpsons episodes over the last five years. From ’89 to ’95 I watched the show constantly, loyally, and kept on going for several years after returning from my LDS mission to Chicago. But in the last few years, I’ve gotten a bit bored with the show, and, dare I say it, suspected that I was seeing the same storylines played out in new clothing.

That being said, the movie more than delivers, and is worth the wait. Ultimately it’s nothing you can’t already see on TV, but if nothing but for the novelty, it’s worth seeing on the big screen. The writing may be getting a bit redundant from week to week in TV land, but Homer and the crew brought their “A” game for the movie.

For some reason, my favorite part of the movie is a quick clip of the "cat lady" rubbing a bunch of disoriented felines on a washboard next to a toxic-waste infested lake before tossing each in a laundry bin with the obligatory "mmrrew!". I really don't know why.

“The Simpsons Movie” is rated PG-13 for slightly amplified examples of the stuff that got half my parent’s friends to forbid them from watching the show back in 1989. Plus they show Bart’s animated wee-wee.

Live Free or Die Hard
Three stars out of four

In all seriousness, “Die Hard 4” may be the best movie I’ve seen this summer. And I’m not saying that because it’s been a bad summer. It’s just that good.

“Live Free or Die Hard” works best in the “Rundown” and “Walking Tall” category of films: movies you watch just because you want to see the lead guy beat up everyone in the room and destroy everything in sight. “Transformers” could have been that, but was just too stupid. “Die Hard” is certainly stupid, but the difference is it wants to be. “Die Hard” embraces stupidity, and revels in it. And the audience loves it.

It’s good to see Bruce Willis playing Bruce Willis in a character that is appropriate to the mold. I still don’t like it as much as his David Addison on “Moonlighting” (nor do I want to see a big-screen adaptation of “Moonlighting”), but it’s still a lot of fun. And without giving too much away, let me just say that in act three Willis may just out-Jack Bauer Jack Bauer.

Best part: I watched “Live Free or Die Hard” at a Drive-In. There was something undoubtedly American about the whole production. What a great night.

“Live Free or Die Hard” is rated PG-13 for non-stop mayhem, gunfire, explosions, mid-level profanity (except for the obligatory franchise catch phrase), excessive Bruno coolness and a touch of sorrow that they didn’t bring back Roc from the first movie to play a cop again.

The Comic-Con Experience, Chapter III: Less Comic, More Con

When people ask why I hate Carl’s Jr., so much—and they constantly do—I tell them, “false advertising”. Every ad shows a burger that looks like it would be about six inches high in real life, but every burger I’ve had from Carl’s Jr. looks like Paris Hilton ran it over with that car she was washing.

Granted, I am well aware of the fact that advertisers stretch the truth when constructing visuals for their ads, say, by substituting glue for milk in cereal commercials and dubbing vocals for athlete spokesmen who we know can’t really speak English. But the Carl’s Jr. ads, for some reason, just crossed the line.

I don’t hate Comic-Con—far from it. At the same time, the biggest surprise I had from attending this years conference—other than running into Marc “Mike Donovan” Singer from “V”—was realizing that hardly anything at Comic-Con has to do with comic books.

Of course, the very reason I was going in the first place was to see Ray Bradbury, a world-renowned science fiction author who, to my knowledge, has never put out a comic book. But I was still surprised to see how little of the conference was rooted in the comic tradition.

Many of the booths on the merchandise expo on the main floor were dedicated to comic companies or individual artists, but there were plenty of other booths that had nothing to do with comics whatsoever, like the row of custom painted Darth Vader helmets. (My favorite was “Carmen Miranda Vader”.)

It seems that over the years Comic-Con has grown past its roots and become more of a general pop culture conference, which is fine. I’m not going to complain about a group of people who’s combined efforts give me the chance to see my favorite childhood author.

It was also fun to get sneak previews of some of the upcoming events in the pop culture world, even if my sister and I stumbled onto them by accident. Immediately after arriving and registering, Katie and I cruised over to the room Bradbury was scheduled to speak in, not knowing whether we’d have to stake out a spot in the room from 9AM on in order to assure our attendance. When we entered the room, we found ourselves watching the pilot episode of the “highly anticipated” fall TV show from the creator of “Heroes”: “Pushing Daisies.”

We sat down and I promptly began digging through my program to start strategizing, but eventually I turned my attention to the screen, and in no time was enjoying what looks like a really fun show. “Pushing Daisies” has a very fairy tale-esque feel to it, much like “Amelie”, which also happens to be one of creator Bryan Fuller’s favorite films.

Halfway through the showing, a guy turned a TV camera on my sister and I, and I quickly tried to stop Katie from text messaging. I figured we’d been busted. It turned out the entire cast was sitting right in front of us.

Once the showing was over, the cast—along with Fuller and producer Barry Sonnenfield—took the stage to answer questions. The first question came from one of those guys I figured this conference would be swarming with, a short fellow who dropped a bomb of an existential question on the cast about the style of the show, inventing the word “symmetricality” in the process.

In the afternoon, we caught the “Family Guy” presentation in the same room. To be honest, I don’t really like “Family Guy”; it has it’s moments, but for the most part I see it as a pale imitation of “The Simpsons”, trying too hard to be shocking rather than putting the focus on the social satire and letting the shock happen naturally. But they did show a clip from this season’s premier episode—featuring a cast re-enactment of “Star Wars”—which was pretty funny, and creator Seth McFarlane seemed like a pretty cool guy, so I humbly agree to disagree.

The “Family Guy” forum was followed by a similar spot for “Supernatural”, which from what I could tell is basically an “X-Files” knockoff with two beefcake brothers substituted for Mulder and Scully. This might explain why I have yet to watch the show.

My only real exposure to the comic scene was later in the day when Katie and I tooled around the expo floor trying to find souvenir gifts. There were a lot of artists who’d staked out individual booths to show their personal work, though I really couldn’t tell if it was published stuff or just stuff they wanted to get published. I didn’t feel much like striking up any conversations, mostly because I was still in shock from having spent $30 for David “Darth Vader’s Body” Prowse’s autograph (more on that in the next chapter).

Comic-content or no, the convention was no Carl’s Jr. In fact, given my initial reaction to the notion of attending a comic book conference, my visit was more like seeing the flat burger on TV then getting the six-inch specimen in real life.

It’s all about symmetricality, you see…

Next chapter: The Autograph Paradox