Friday, July 30, 2004

Still More Con Reporting: The Grooism

And now for my new Most Embarassing Convention Moment:

While walking the con floor Sunday, I glanced over to my right just in time to see something fall out of the backpack of a person waiting in a line.  Trying to be helpful, I picked the trinket up, tapped the shoulder under the long hair, and as politely as possible said, “Miss, I think you dropped this.”

It was a guy.

Mortification would be an understatement.  I wanted nothing more than to have the earth open up under my feet and swallow me whole right there in the middle of the San Diego Convention Center.  All the earthquakes in southern California, and never one when you need it.  At least the gentleman was very nice about my faux pas and acknowledged that it’s an honest mistake looking at him from the back. 

Thursday, July 29, 2004


According to my post counter, this is Post #400.  Thanks for tuning in to my random thoughts and what I hope is insightful commentary.  Here's to another 400!

Well, Duh!

As the clock radio woke me up to NPR this morning, the person reading the news said that John Edwards' speech to the Democratic Convention last night focused on undecided voters because they're going to decide the outcome of the election.  Ya don't say?  When the decided voters are pretty much split down the middle, that kind of has to be the case.

More Con Reporting: The Peanuts Incident

On Sunday, I happened across the Peanuts booth while Jeannie Schulz was signing.  She does the appearances now, and graciously gave me a moment of her time even though I did not have anything for her to sign.  At the various comic cons I’ve been to, I’ve met quite a few famous people, but I’ve never been choked up talking to any of them like I was with Mrs. Schulz—then again, none of them have been representatives of childhood institutions.  I told her about how, when I was about 5-7 years old give or take, my big sister used to read some of the Peanuts strips to me because, though I could read most of the funny pages, whenever Spike made an appearance in Peanuts, Spike wrote in cursive.  She looked shocked.  Charles Schulz drew Peanuts for 50 years, and until just that moment, no one realized that little kids don’t know how to read cursive.  She seemed so horrified.  I shouldn’t have said anything.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Girly Stuff Alert

I'm not sure, but I think I may now be legally bound to "be the next Arthur C. Clarke," having declared that intention to my gynecologist while I was wearing some sort of cocktail napkin.  I must say that it is rather odd to have a casual conversation about the latest Harry Potter book during a pelvic exam.  You know, on the day they send all the boys out of the classroom, the teacher really ought to cover how to make appropriate small talk after the gynecologist breaks out the speculum.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Con Report: ME's Panels

Thursday, we had the Sergio and Mark Show, an annual panel given by the entire creative team of the Groo comic books.  Groo holds the distinction of being one of the (if not the) longest running comic series with the same creative team.  For 20 years, Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai, and Tom Luth have put out Groo together.  They’ve had 4 publishers in those 20 years and go through editors faster than I go through boxes of Q-Tips, but have only had one change in the creative team:  Tom Luth replaced the colorist after the first issue.  (Gary, chime in if I got any of that wrong).  This year at the Groo Panel, they announced three upcoming Groo projects.  In addition to the 12-issue miniseries, they’ve finally consented to a crossover.  Get ready for Groo Meets Conan and Groo Meets Tarzan.

Saturday was the huge panel day, partly because that was the day of all the best panels, and partly because Saturday is the day with the biggest attendance, so it behooves one to stay off the floor if there is anything else one wants to see. 

After a quick stop in the Stargate SG-1 panel, I headed over to Quick Draw!  Cartoon Improv, which lived up to its reputation as a not-to-be missed panel.  We missed the unveiling of the title of the new Star Wars movie (Revenge of the Sith), but then again, the people unveiling the new title missed a hilarious panel of improvisational cartooning.  ME moderated, throwing out ideas to three of the quickest pens in the business:  Sergio Aragones, Scott Shaw! and Jeff Smith (author and artist of Bone, not the Frugal Gourmet).  If you’d ever wondered what Pictionary would be like with professional comic book artists, this is the place to go.  Also, we got a hilarious look at The Hulk’s new career as a proctologist, taxidermist, and tax attorney.  My favorite, though, was when they played “What do you get when you cross…”  To Sergio, they threw the prompt “What do you get when you cross a rhino with a zebra?”  Sergio drew a rhino, and you could almost feel the disappointment in the packed hall as everyone thought, “He’s just going to put stripes on a rhino.  What’s the fun in that?”  Then Sergio drew a second rhino, looking at the first, and this rhino looked as pissed off as a cartoon rhino can.  In front of the second rhino, he drew a third, smaller, baby rhino.  This rhino had stripes.  But that was not the end of it all.  Bushes sprouted in the background, and hiding in the bushes was a very nonchalant looking zebra.  So what do you get when you cross a rhino with a zebra?  A pissed off daddy rhino!  I must emphasize that this whole scene fell off his pen in probably under 2 minutes.  This is why they call it Quick Draw.  Another fun moment came as ME asked Jeff Smith to draw his character, Bone.  Jeff Smith just put out a 1,300-page collection of all the Bone comics, plus he’s drawn innumerable unpublished Bone drawings and sketches for fans, so drawing Bone wouldn’t be too challenging for him.  He tossed off a casual sketch of the character sitting on a log with a flower.  Then out came the blindfold!  Following the blindfold, the challenge to reproduce the previous sketch.  The consensus among the hall was that we couldn’t draw half as well with our eyes open as Jeff Smith did blindfolded.

That was just Panel 1.  Panel 2 was a group panel by some of the top cartoon voices in the business today, with a nod to the star of Panel 4, June Foray (the woman about whom legendary animator Chuck Jones once said, “No, you’ve got it wrong.  June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc.  Mel Blanc is the male June Foray.”).  June Foray was sitting right in front of us for much of the panel, though she did get up partway through, leaving the panelists gesturing to a short Asian man every time they mentioned June Foray for the remainder of the hour and a half.

I leave you with a word from Panel 3, the Ray Bradbury hour.  Every morning, the universe has decided to give you another day to live.  Prove yourself worthy.

Con Report: Preview Night

After checking into our hotel, (which was neither near the convention center nor convenient to the San Diego trolley system as the website suggested, but from what I hear, we had it better than a lot of people) we headed over to the convention center for Preview Night.  Preview Night is a 3-hour block given over to pre-registered con attendees.  We could get the lay of the land, check out a lot of the booths without the huge crowds that gathered later, and (most importantly) start collecting the primo freebies.  We went right through the registration line, though I understand there were some problems later on in the evening, so we got the entire 3 hour block on the floor.  Man, was that place HUGE.  Huge doesn’t even begin to describe it.  The front of the convention center occupies I’m guessing about 3-4 city blocks, and it was full to overflowing wall-to-wall with exhibitors, distributors, artists, and vendors—and that was just the first floor!  The second floor (or possibly third, it was a little confusing) had the autograph area, speaker’s rooms (more later on that, including plugs for ME’s panels), art show with Kaytee’s award-winning beadwork, and a few other things we never quite got to.  I only got to the top floor once, for the Robert Heinlein blood drive (see Day 3 for more on that), but that was also fully occupied by things I did not see.  Also at the con were about 6,000 Mrs. Fields cookie stands.  Judging by the snack stands, comic fans subsist on Mrs. Fields cookies, soft pretzels, and shots of Starbuck’s Light Mocha Frappucino (given away free at one of the booths).  At $8 for a deli sandwich, no wonder that free Frappucino shots were a primary source of nourishment for some.

Preview Night also has one other distinct advantage for the con:  it is the least gamey smelling part of the con.  Some people try to save a few bucks on lodging and sleep in their cars, others probably couldn’t find a hotel room this side of Tijuana, and others seem to believe that because there are people walking around dressed as Klingons, the normal standards of hygiene no longer apply.  By some estimates, there were 80,000-plus people there at the peak of the con.  My guess is 60,000 of them bathed.  Particularly by Day 4, it became apparent that some people were considering one or more of the three essential elements of conwear—soap, water, and antiperspirant/deodorant—to be optional equipment.  At least on the first day, even these people are reasonably April fresh.

And Now, a Brief Interlude

Before I get back to the convention reporting, I must explain why my distaste for dentists has been reinforced yet again today.  The root of my dentist issues lies partially in the fact that I find the state of dentistry and dental hygiene to be absolutely barbaric.  Have you ever just looked at the implements your dentist and hygenist uses?  Metal hooks and string (yeah, it sounds better calling it floss, but it's still string).  How many millennia of human evolution and the best we can come up with are pieces of string and metal hooks?  For goodness sakes, we stopped drilling holes in people's heads to release the evil spirits.  Can't we progress beyond Paleolithic dentistry?  And while we're on the subject of cleanings, I'm still waiting for some proponent of Intelligent Design theory of human origins to please explain to me what sort of intelligence designs so many hard-to-reach crannies in the most bacteria- and dirt-laden part of the human anatomy.  I've also never had a hygenist explain how they got into the wonderful field of scraping other people's plaque, but that is another story.

I brush, floss and Waterpik with diluted Listerine daily, so my dental issues cannot be the product of bad in-home oral hygeine.  Still, my dental hygenist will not be happy until one hand is doing nothing but flossing 24 hours a day.  Again, that is not the problem.  I have the kind of teeth that dentists look at and have a "Eureka!" moment, having solved the problem of how to send their kids through graduate school.  Today at the dentist, I found out two very disturbing things.  First, my dentist wants me to have my wisdom teeth removed and to get braces, in spite of the fact that neither my wisdom teeth nor my crooked tooth give me any problem and that I have agreed to the work if any health problems arise.  Second and more distressing, though, I found out that I have 8 composite enamel fillings.  I 'd lost count of the exact number of fillings I have (every dentist I've ever been to has found at least one tooth to drill and fill).  Nonetheless, I am positive that at one point at least two of them were silver.  The hygenist says that the silver fillings must have been in baby teeth, which I am sure is not the case.  My parents seem to think it slipped their minds to tell me my fillings had been replaced.  However it happened, I find it very upsetting that someone did something in my mouth without telling me.  Shouldn't one be aware of what is going on in one's own bodily orifices?

You Call That a Convention?

I watched part of the Democratic National Convention on CNN (or maybe C-SPAN, I was still groggy).  My convention was much more fun.  Political parties should model their conventions after Comic Con. Ours looked so much more fun than theirs.  All they had was people giving speeches and a couple musical numbers.  Just imagine how much more exciting that could be with movie screenings, announcements of the very latest mocie and comic book projects, free books and t-shirts, and a costumed Snoopy walking around.  Hey, we all know who will end up being nominated at the Democratic Convention.  Who saw "Revenge of the Sith" coming?

For those who, for reasons utterly beyond my comprehension, do not yet know, "Revenge of the Sith" is the title of the last Star Wars movie, coming out in May.  They revealed the title at a panel at the San Diego convention.  More on that later.

Monday, July 26, 2004

I'm Back!

Well, I'm back from Comic-Con International in San Diego, the world's biggest comic book convention.  It was positively incredible!  I was awestruck for the first two days before I got a handle on the overwhelming hugeness of it all.  I'll write more in the coming days when I'm not hopped up on motion sickness medicine, but here's a preview of coming attractions:

What happens when you cross a rhino with a zebra.

My newest Most embarrassing Convention Moment.  This one puts to shame the really stupid thing I said to Adam West in the autograph line.

The futility of packing t-shirts

Panel discussions, or why it took me two days to realize that "Revenge of the Sith" is the title of the next Star Wars movie
Posting starts tomorrow on that.  Tonight, I sleep off the Bonine (Bonine is chewable, raspberry flavored motion sickness medicine--far superior to Dramamine).

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

See You Next Week

I'll be offline for a few days. Check back for new entries early next week. Until then, check out the links at the right. Mr. Grooism has said he intends to start posting once again to the blog he left languish since April (How's that for pressure, Larry?). If you want to read what I would be commenting on if I were online, check out Slate, Salon (subscription required), the New York Times (registration required), Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Satellite of La Mancha

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza ride again. This time, they're satellites Spain is planning to launch in 2010-2015, and the one christened "Don Quixote" is set to smash headlong into an asteroid while Sancho Panza watches to see what happens. It's a test run to see if we can prevent a repeat of the asteroid-induced extinction of the dinosaurs. No one thinks that Don Quixote will actually destroy an asteroid on a collision course with Earth; the point is to nudge it far enough off course to let Earth get the heck out of the way.

Satellite-naming issues aside, at least someone is looking for a way to save the planet from the 1000 or so pieces of space crap that may one day smash into our little corner of habitable space. Here's the link to the Reuters article about the satellites.

We Couldn't Anticipate Feline Complications

Thank you to everyone who has expressed concern over my feline-induced injury. I'm healing nicely, though I must remember that next time I require large-scale bandaging, I must do it in winter. I'm itching like crazy.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

Since Sonja was meowing and pawing at my leg with her two declawed paws, picking her up just seemed to be the thing to do. Unfortunately, as soon as all four paws--including the two rear ones that are still armed with claws--cleared the floor, Chessie snuck up and freaked her out. Not a good situation for soft tissues. Elie says that I look like I tried to commit suicide with a bunny. All this less than a week before the comic book convention. I'm going to look like Princess Leia from the hair up, and from the elbows down, I'll look like I got stuck in a Cuisinart.

Friday, July 16, 2004

More on Black Holes...

In the previous entry, it slipped my mind that, in revising his theory on black holes so that information can escape the event horizon, Stephen Hawking has lost one of physics' most famous bets (then again, can you name another bet between physicists?). Dr. Hawking now owes an encyclopedia set to John Preskill of Caltech.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

A Brief History of Timing...

Now, after I have read and, armed with nothing more than a 100-level college physics class, managed to more or less understand Stephen Hawking's book, A Brief History of Time, he's gone and changed his mind about one of the paradoxes of black holes. Reuters reports that Dr. Hawking will present a solution to the black hole information paradox at a conference next week. Just when I thought I had a grip on this.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Poached Decaf and Brazil's Toast

It's my 4th anniversary (and a happy 57th to my Grandma and Grandpa!), so I'll make it short today. Here's a link to a bizarre Reuters article. Ethiopia is accusing Brazil of poaching coffee, specifically stealing beans from a coffee plant that produces beans with negligible levels of caffeine.

Monday, July 12, 2004

More Senate Stuff

For what it's worth, the U.S. Senate just agreed to vote on SJ RES 40, aka "The Marriage Amendment," on Wednesday, which is also the fourth anniversary of the day a county court judge declared Elie and me legally husband and wife.

Mr. Smith Emails Washington

I've got CSPAN-2 on in the background as I clean the house. Trent Lott is talking about why marriage is such an important issue that the Constitution of the United States must be amended to limit access to this institution to heterosexual couples. This is one of those hot-button issues that people are pretty much set on, so I won't rehash the debate. I've already done that in several previous entries.

Trent Lott just passed off the lectern citing laryngitis, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is talking about how, by declaring various state DOMA laws unconstitutional, the judiciary is taking citizens out of the process of determining state laws, and how a vote in the Senate is the only way to bring the people back in. I say, go with him on that. Whichever way you fall on this issue, take 30 seconds and click here to go to the U.S. Senate web site. There's a nifty drop-down menu from which you can select your state, and your two senators' names will pop up along with their office address. All you need to do is click on the name, and his/her website pops right up. They have a easy link to "contact," and once you click that, it's simply a matter of filling in the blanks to tell them who you are, verify that you are a constituent, pick a subject, and leave a brief comment about how you think your senator should vote. Repeat the process with the other senator. It really is that easy. While you're at it, here's the link to the U.S. House of Representatives where you can look up your congressperson by your ZIP code. The process is much the same, and the debate will get around to them sooner or later.

Senator Rick Santorum is now making some of the least persuasive arguments I've heard yet on this subject. Whoa! Back up the trailer! I am reasonably certain that Rick Santorum just implied that we need to keep homosexual couples from marrying because women have joined the workplace, depriving men of their traditional roles of "Provider and protector." I'm willing to entertain anyone's analysis on how that makes sense. I'm also willing to listen to an explanation of how machismo became a constitutional entitlement. I must not be getting all my memos.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

How to Make a Banana Penguin

Take 1 banana with a stem end. Peel down partway to in 4 sections, so you have 4 strips of banana peel that are still mostly connected to the banana. Eat the top inch or so of the banana. Hold banana so the stem section of the peel is away from you. Tuck the peel section nearest to you (the one opposite the stem part) over the banana. Let the two side sections of peel fall naturally to the sides to create flippers. Bring the stem part of the peel forward over the tucked-in peel so that the stem creates a beak.

Thanks, Mom. She's still trying to get me to eat my fruits and veggies.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Cola Challenge

Before I start my carbonated beverage review, I will point out this map of where in the U.S. people call it "pop" and where they call it "soda." Though I have lived deep in "pop" territory for almost my entire life, all of my forbearers hail from "soda" territory, and I married a man from a separate "soda" zone. I have never called it "pop" and refuse to start now. This post will be about soda.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I don't particularly like colas in general. My distaste stems from one of the least amusing anecdotes that involve me vomiting (not from the cola--quite the opposite, in fact, but as I said, it is one of the least amusing of those tales). Anyhow, if I have to choose, I prefer Pepsi, but I would drink a whole lot of things before I would drink either Pepsi or Coke.

That notwithstanding, I have now tasted both Coke and Pepsi's latest efforts in the world of caramel-colored fizzy beverages: Coke C2 and Pepsi Edge. If you haven't been paying attention--and who has time to keep tabs on the cola wars these days?--both companies have rolled out "lower carb" versions of their flagship colas by using half high fructose corn syrup and half fake sugar. Pepsi uses Sucralose and Coke uses aspartame to cut out some but not all of the calories and carbs of regular soda. The result: both have managed to come up with formulations that play the corn syrup off the artificial sweeteners to enhance the most repulsive aspects of each. They have somehow created beverages that simultaneously have the overwhelming syrupiness of regular soda and roughly five times the bitter aftertaste of diet (and I like diet soda!). The main difference is that one tastes like diet corn syrup with a hint of Coke, and the other tastes like diet corn syrup with a hint of Pepsi. However, unlike the person who emailed ME over here, I did not detect the taste of either monkey or rhino urine.

Cell Phone Etiquette

Sprint has declared July National Cell Phone Courtesy Month. Click here to take their 14-question Wireless Courtesy Quiz. I scored 89 out of 100, which is very disappointing considering that I don't even have a cell phone to be rude on. Of the 1317 people who have taken the quiz so far, 29% scored 90-100 (extremely courteous), 34% scored 80-89 (quite well), 26% "got some right" in the 70-79 range, and 11% scored less than 70 and "need to rethink" their public cell phone use. Somehow, I think more than 11% should be in that last category.

Now, I know you all are very courteous on your cell phones and never interrupt live in-person conversations to answer your cell phone unless you have warned the other party in advance that you are expecting a call that you absolutely must take, but we all know people who have held taken cell phone conversations in the restroom. I'd like to go on record as saying to these people that it is most disconcerting to be in the stall next to you as you carry on a one-sided conversation at top volume. For those less than courteous people, Sprint has a handy page outlining Consumer Tips on Wireless Etiquette. That list should be preprogrammed as the default ring tone on all cell phones.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Fantasy Press conference Question...

A spokesperson for President Bush's campaign is quoted this morning in the New York Times as saying, "We think it's important that people understand that this is a ticket of John Kerry and his second choice," to explain why the Bush campaign is using John McCain in Bush campaign ads highlighting the fact that Kerry made overtures to McCain about possibly being his running mate before selecting, as rumors now have it, John Edwards.

So, in my fantasy world right now, I'm at a press conference with President Bush and am asking him the following question:
"Mr. President, as someone who, four years ago, painted himself as a 'uniter, not a divider,' is it really wise to point out that your opponent was willing to cross the aisle to consider a Republican for his Vice President, and that the Republican rejected the offer?" Followup questions: "Why did you not cross party lines in your VP search four years ago?" and "Would you consider trying to unite the country by dropping Cheney and picking a Democrat running mate?"

Since I'm not a reporter anymore (and when I was, I covered things like suburban city council meetings and sewage treatment), I lay the responsibility for asking those questions on the professional news media. They're great questions. Someone has to get answers for them.

Monday, July 05, 2004

What Happened to Summer...or Autumn?

I just got a mailing from Hallmark inviting me to come in to their stores July 10-11 for their ornament premier weekend. At least they're still giving us six months off from the Spirit of Christmas. Really, how long does it take to decorate the tree?

And Now For Something Completely Different...
According to the highly unscientific review you can read at by clicking here, I have good taste, at least when it comes to quasi-meat items. Until a few years ago, I couldn't stand to eat hot dogs at all. Now, I've worked up (or down) to being able to stomach Hebrew Nationals and Oscar Meyer All Beef, which come in at #2 and #3 respectively in Slate's hot dog taste test.

Friday, July 02, 2004

New Way to Waste Time on the Internet

Let me preface this by saying that I found this website while searching for a Reuters article on a protest by nursing mothers at a Houston area mall. A security guard at the mall noticed a group of men were ogling a woman's Janet-Jackson-naked breast as she nursed her child and tried to tell her that naked breasts in the middle of the mall might not be such a great idea, at which point the woman, obviously hopped up on the postpartum hormonal roller coaster, rallied 50 lactating women to hold a nurse-in protest at the mall. I think I may have pointed out before after a similar incident that this was an episode of "Married...With Children." There is a way to subtly tell these women that "shirt and shoes must be worn" policies also apply to nursing mothers: since they're exposing their breasts in public places where they have no reasonable legal expectation of privacy, there is nothing stopping someone from snapping digital pictures that include them nursing and posting the photos on the internet. I do not suggest Googling "lactation fetish" to find out why this could be effective method of encouraging these women to throw a scarf over their shoulder.

Anyway, that was what I was doing when I found this page, an actual part of the KHOU Channel 11 News website dedicated to a daily "Guess the 'Hairline of the Day'" contest. Yes, you read that right. An actual news station posts a famous forehead, and you guess which prominent person it belongs to.

Independence Day Weekend

In anticipation of Independence Day, I'm posting a link (click here) to the portion of the US Code that deals with proper display of the American flag. Fathers of the world, feel free to notice that the list of days that we should make certain to fly the flag includes Mother's Day but not Father's Day.

If you know anyone who flies a flag from their car, kindly point them to Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7(b), which reads in part: "When the flag is displayed on a motorcar, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender." Those who are mechanically inclined will note that windows are neither chassis nor fender. Those patrioticker than thou people who fly enough flags from their SUV windows to supply a motorcade of the Joint Chiefs are only graphically demonstrating how little they really pay attention to the etiquette of displaying the primary symbol of our nation.

Head for the Hills!

The zucchini are coming! The zucchini are coming! Yesterday, I witnessed the first zucchini transfer of the summer, which can only mean it is time to grab the pets/kids and take cover until autumn. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against zucchini. I like a good breaded fried zucchini with ranch sauce, or steamed with ginger dip, or even zucchini bread, but every summer seems to be plagued by Zucchini Overload. There's something about a zucchini plant that seems to produce bumper crops every year, leading otherwise normal people with backyard gardens to go to great lengths to get rid of the stuff (yet they plant it again the next year). I've known people who have resorted to the Zucchini Drop. This is not a baked good, but rather an insidious technique Zucchinistas use to divest themselves of zucchini by leaving bags of it on random front porches in the dead of night.