Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Life Unknown: My experience at Comic Con 2008

My first experience with people dressing up in costumes for an event goes back to the days of the Renaissance Fair where my cousin dressed as the town drunk, got drunk, and ran around drunk off of mead people had prepared. I remember the bewilderment I felt as I walked through this small valley and people were dressed in clothing I had never seen before, speaking in a language unfamiliar to me. It was so intriguing to me that I wanted to be a part of it when I was old enough. Unfortunately for this story, years passed by and so did my interest in the Renaissance Fair. I haven't been in years, nor do I really have the desire to attend it any more. I guess I feel like adults dressing up for a particular theme and really going after their role for no good reason other than to do it is boring and really not my cup of tea.

That being said, if the renaissance fair isn't my cup of tea, Comic Con is my cup of coffee.

I attended this event Friday and Saturday. The friends of mine from college who were there had been there since Wednesday, going around to see as much as they could because they had specific goals for the trip. One of my friends collects vinyl toys, many of which were being sold in limited editions at the event. Upon my arrival, I had no idea what to expect. I had seen a few pictures and heard about how many people show up, but I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

Day One

We arrived fairly early to get a good start, which was around 10am. As soon as we stepped on the train, I knew we were in for a treat as there were 2 Ghostbusters already on. They had their proton packs on with their name tags on front, ready for any ghosts they might encounter. As the train crept closer to the convention center, more and more people were getting on the train who OBVIOUSLY were going to Comic Con. As far as the train is concerned, there were a lot more men than women dressed up for it, as was expected. I had been told earlier that quite a few women dressed up for this but I was a bit skeptical as all of the girls I knew growing up and still know really never had much interest in comics.

So we arrive at the center and it was packed.

I had never been to the San Diego Convention Center before, so I didn't know what to expect in terms of size. I had been to an activities director conference at the town and country a few years back and thought that was huge. When we went inside I soon realized it paled in comparison. There were literally blocks set up with giant signs indicating where you were. The blocks ranged from 100 all the way up to 5000. There were huge booths set up for the big vendors like Marvel Comics and Disney. Lego had a big area, as did some of the network TV stations. There was a Dharma Initiative station for those who are addicted to Lost, there was a booth for shows like The Office and 30 Rock, and there were a ton of random movie stars, musicians and athletes there as well.

As we wandered around the convention, I noticed many things. Obviously, there were a ton of people in costume. There were singles, couples, and families wandering around dressed as their favorite cartoon, comic, or movie character. The most popular costumes were Batman and Robin, the newest Joker, and a bunch of anime characters whom I had no idea who they were. There were also a ton of Star Wars characters, which were my favorite. Here are a few of the pics:

Mr. Hustle has a posse

The pictures above were the norm for the convention. While the plain clothed outnumbered the costumed, there were so many people in some form of costume that I sometimes was unable to tell if someone was wearing a costume or not, but that soon became irrelevant as I suddenly found myself at ease with all of these costumed fans. I will post a link to my flickr page where you can view the photos in their entirety at the end of this post.

As you will see in the photos, there was quite a large amount of teenagers in attendance. "Of course Mr. Hustle", you might say, "it's a comic book convention." Yes yes, I know that teenagers love comics. What I mention it for though is not my amazement at their attendance, but more of the choices they made while they were there. I was disturbed by the volume of signs I saw these teenagers holding that read, "FREE HUGS" or "Hug meter low, in need of affection". It was odd to see kids, much like those I teach, asking complete strangers for hugs. Or hoping that they would be asked for a hug. For a minute, amidst the drugs and the bright lights and costumes, I thought I was at a rave. I remembered those sweet days and nights of ecstasy and mushrooms and grass and loud music and candy ravers hugging you until you felt your heart would explode from all the fucking love surrounding you. At those parties teenagers hugging complete strangers was somehow okay because you were high and nobody gave a fuck and it was all about love and feeling each others' auras (but mostly getting fucked up). Now though, as I walk around this convention center, surrounded by the oddest folks I've ever been surrounded by (aside from my recent venture into Alaska), it didn't feel right to have these children asking for hugs from strangers. Am I wrong for letting this disturb me? I mean, a hug is what you make of it, but if I had a teenage daughter or son and they were giving out free hugs to complete strangers I would be a little bothered. Maybe that's my conservative side, but it was weird. Here's a few shots:

While in San Diego, I also learned about a few things that may or may not be of some interest to you. The first is pretty basic and it is referred to as "cosplay". Apparently, cosplay is short for costume play, where you dress up as a character and act like them. Hence the storm and scout troopers constantly talking about finding "those pesky droids". Maybe this is old news to anybody reading this, but I had never heard of cosplay. The closest I had heard was some weird sexual thing called plushies where people put on huge furry costumes and hump each other. HBO had some weird special on it and I got kinda freaked out so now I avoid all furry costumed people.

Another term I learned about, which I was able to witness on one occasion, was "LARPing". LARPing stands for "Live Action Role Playing". This is where people are dressed up in the costumes and there is a story teller who essentially tells them what to do and how to do it. Like, if there are two people dressed up as knights, and they are fighting each other, the storyteller would say something like, "The black knight struck down the green knight and took 5 energy clouds away from him. You must fall down." And then, the green knight would get hit hard by the black knight and fall down, moaning. Or something. I don't really know. But there were groups of people dressed as special forces soldiers with really real looking guns running around using hand signals and shit and it was kind of freaking me out until my friend Jim explained what they were doing. That being said, LARPing still freaks me out. It's like a super duty Dungeons and Dragons for adults.

At the end of the first day something rather odd happened, which I will retell in a different post.


Day two was much more mellow. We walked around for a while and I took a ton more photos. I also spent a lot of money on random little things because I have some weird obsession with collecting crap that serves no real purpose. I did however get some pretty cool posters that are giant, basic, comic strips. They will look nice once they're framed in my house.

At the end of the day, we went to the masquerade. The masquerade was incredible. Only people who made their own costumes were allowed to enter. We showed up late and left early, mostly because we were in the back row and it wasn't that great. However, by some divine act, we witnessed the majority of the winning costumes parade across the stage. Here is a short clip of the costume that won the masquerade.

I would post the video, but I have no idea how.

All in all, the Comic Con experience was fun and like nothing else I have ever experienced. If any of what I have written is appealing to you or anybody that you know, please do not hesitate to check it out next year. San Diego is a fun town and the Comic Con experience is insane. In order to get a better understanding of what I am talking about, you have check out the link to my flickr page and view the Comic Con set.

I hope you enjoy this.

Hawk and Dove: The Ambiguously Gay Duo

Monday, July 28, 2008

Email Subject

I was just thinking about what I title my emails to friends. Sometimes they are clever and creative, but looking through my outbox I have realized that the majority of my emails to friends have been titled "Hey" or "Hi". Now, emails in and of themselves are pretty impersonal. I mean, when I was growing up, handwritten letters were awesome. Girls would decorate them and put shit in the envelopes so when you'd open them glitter and stuff would fall out and while that seems annoying, it was the best feeling because it meant that someone had spent time thinking about you, writing you a letter, and thought it would be a nice surprise for you when you opened it. Unfortunately, those days seem to be gone.

But in terms of email subjects, "hey" and "what's up" are so boring and I feel like such a loser when I do it but how does one really come up with a clever title? I mean, with email, do people really think about what the title says or do they read the name of who is sending it and just open it without giving any thought to the subject that someone may have spent a considerable amount of time developing? I have written short stories and attempted (quite unsuccessfully) to write a short novel and when pressed with creating the titles have had a very tough time. I mean, when it comes down to a book or story, the title can make or break you. Is this the case with an email? I mean, I will read anything that is written to me (or to someone else) no matter what the title, but I am definitely more apt to read with enthusiasm when there is a clever title. Like when you read Flannery O'Connor's "Everything That Rises Must Converge" you want to know what is going to rise, what will converge. At least that's what I think about when I read that title. (read it here)

But in terms of email, how does one create a clever title? do you write the first half of an obscure sentence and then complete it as the first line in your email? Do you pose a question? Do you develop a catchy rhyme? I am really at a loss because I find myself constantly struggling to come up with some better way of personalizing an impersonal message, yet always end up with "hey". Here's an idea I would like to see come to fruition: Let's stop emailing each other for a whole month and instead write letters. Now, for obvious reasons, this isn't totally possible because you have to use email now in order to get things done in a timely fashion. But what about those hey letters? I mean, think about the last time you received a handwritten letter in the mail and how good it made you feel? Fuck, forget the letter itself, just receiving an envelope with your name handwritten on it is good enough. Mixed in amongst the bills and solicitations and crappy oriental trading co. and j.crew catalogs. Maybe we should write emails, print them out, and mail them in a hand addressed envelope since writing actual letters takes so long. Then we get to utilize technology AND know that someone is smiling when they get the mail. I actually don't like that idea at all, but it seems as if all people want to do these days to communicate with each other is through email and text messages, which drive me in-fucking-sane. If you're going to say something to me, call me. Don't send me some obscure text saying maybe we should hang out and then not call but get mad at me for not calling (you know who you are).

All of this aside, I think there needs to be more thought put into email titles. that's all. Let's personalize the impersonal.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Any Plans This Weekend?

Oh yeah. That's right. I am going to Comic Con in San Diego, the world's largest comic book convention. I fly down this evening at 6 and don't return until Sunday evening. It is shaping up to be one of the most interesting weekends of my life. I am going to be staying with my friends who I haven't gotten to see for a long time, some as long as 6 years. Needless to say, I am a bit excited.

Now, I used to read comic books all the time. I actually had a cool little collection of a few fairly significant comic books that I was really proud of. My friends Nelson and Jordan got me into collecting them and we would go to the store together and buy a bunch of books, go read them, and trade. Then we'd talk about them too. It was kind of like a 5th grade book club without the pretense of academia as all book clubs I have participated in as an adult end up. I had The Maxx number 0, as well as a plethora of X-Men. Now if I read a comic it is usually in the newspaper. Boo,I know. I am reverting back to my old ways though this weekend and will be getting crazy with the comics. Yeah. I just said getting crazy with the comics. I am a geek. And that's fine if you think so.

The one thing I am not looking forward to about this weekend is the running I am going to have t do while I am down there. In preparation for this half marathin I am running, I have to run on a regular basis and some days run for a long time. Of course my 8-10 mile run coincides with Comic Con and Party weekend with some of my best friends, so I get to wake up early on Saturday after an evening I can only assume will be filled with way too much debauchery for one person to handle, and run for 8 miles. Right now I am running like a 10 minute mile, so if I want to get the most out of Saturday, I am going to have to get up around 7:30 and run. In the San Diego heat no less. I am sure it isn't too bad, however I live in San Francisco and I run in the fog. When the sun comes out I like to hide in the shade.

Either way, Comic Con is gonna rock and the marathon is a week away and I am a little freaked out by my attendance at both events.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I love food. Really. Ever since I can remember I have loved making food, watching others make food, eating food, watching others eat food, etc. I love going to restaurants and seeing the different ideas that chefs come up with and how they present their dishes. I love going to restaurants and enjoying a good meal with friends because there is nothing like a full stomach in good company. I am sure most would agree with me when I say that food is our common ground, a universal experience(I wish that I could take credit for coming up with that own my own, but it was said by James Beard, quite possibly the foodiest dude America has ever seen).

I have thought long and hard about my favorite types of food, my favorite dishes, my favorite beverages to accompany these dishes, and what each dish really does for the palate. Many people who know me, most likely the only people who read this blog, know that I have a love for bacon. I mean, I am a guy, and if you are a guy and you eat meat but you don't like bacon there is something seriously wrong with you. That is, of course, unless you don't eat it for religious purposes.

I know that bacon isn't the healthiest of choices when it comes to breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but the proper serving every now and again can do wonders for your taste buds.

It is with this love for bacon and food that I have come up with an idea for a restaurant that I would like to one day open. It's name will be Tocino. Tocino is Spanish for bacon. I came up with the idea for the name just the other day while I was driving around the city thinking about food. This is something I do on occasion for no real reason. I don;t go out in search of a place to eat, instead I go out and just look at the restaurants that are out there. I don;t look at menus, I don't pop my head in for a drink. I just drive around, taking it all in, thinking about where I would like to go and why they chose to decorate with a bright green awning when it is surrounded by darker shades of red and brown.

The restaurant will obviously have bacon in many of the dishes. Not in every one, because that would be a bit ridiculous, but there would be many dishes. The following are a few ideas I have for dishes, in rough form:

First Course

Bacon wrapped scallops

Wild duck breast (preferably mallard that I have shot) wrapped in bacon with a slice of fresh jalapeƱo tucked inside

Mini BLT sandwiches using fresh baked sourdough, heirloom tomatoes, and Arugula leaves

Polenta with coarsely chopped bacon and basil

Bacon and Egg Empanadas

Bacon and Green Chili Quiche

BBB Salad (Bacon, Beets, and Bibb lettuce)

Spinach Salad with Bacon vinaigrette

Main Course

Blue Cheese and Bacon Burger

Bacon wrapped Meatloaf

Bacon and Swiss Chard Pasta

Pan Fried Halibut with Bacon


Mac and Cheese with Bacon sprinkles
Jalapeno Cornbread
Bacon and Cheddar Biscuits
Creamed Spinach
Potatoes with truffle oil


Chocolate dipped bacon

Bacon infused ice cream

Bread Pudding

Any dish can be ordered wrapped in bacon

Now obviously this is a very rough start with a very rough menu. To be honest, I don't think much of what I have just listed would actually make the final cut (no pun intended) for the menu because I would most definitely hire a chef who shares my love of bacon. I would do my best to prepare the meals, but I am sure if I wanted to keep a restaurant afloat such as Tocino I would have to appeal to quite a few different palates. I know my palate, and I know the palates of most of my friends, but the general public is completely foreign to me. I have read reviews of restaurants I love where people just smash them and I have read reviews of restaurants I have hated where people can't stop glowing.

While right now this is just an idea, a dream, who knows. Maybe I will receive enough encouragement and win the lottery at some point in the next 5 years and do something about this. If not, I will still continue to eat meals with bacon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

French Press

So I just purchased this delightful toy yesterday and am already at the point where the experiments to discover the perfect cup are through. Upon purchase, I immediately drove home and began the process of grinding to different textures and tasting each one. This morning I drank two presses full because I could not stop myself. I could not stop drinking this delicious coffee. I am actually fairly certain that my days of drip are done. So much flavor is delivered with each sip it makes my taste buds dance. That might also be due to the amazingly delicious and magical coffee beans I am currently infatuated with (see my yelp review), purchased at nowhere other than the Blue Bottle Coffee Company. The combination of a french press and Giant Steps beans has made for the thickest, most perfectly black cup of joe that I cannot stop. Yes, I am an amateur when it comes to handling my coffee. If I have more than 2 cups in a row I am going to get a little excited. I might even break into a little dance to whatever music is on. Hell, I might even start rapping about the cup I just enjoyed and how I should probably just sit down and chill out, but you know what? I won't.

As for the company that makes this beacon of brilliance, they are international. Bodum makes a ton of different kitchen necessities such as coffee presses and glassware, among many other items of which I can only dream are as useful and beautiful as the products I already possess of theirs. My first foray into the world of Bodum was with these glasses that have a space between the liquid and the outer shell in which you grasp the glass. This works incredibly well for keeping iced drinks, such as the scotch I enjoy from time to time, incredibly cold. I have yet to experiment with warmer beverages, but I would assume it can have the same effect and keep your hand at a comfortable temperature. Very convenient. They also look good.

You can check out Bodum by clicking on the name and you can check out Blue Bottle by clicking on their name. Enjoi.

Summer Vacation (with a bonus story!)

I love teaching. And summer vacation really has nothing to do with it. Well, I guess I could say that it has a little bit to do with it. This is now my third official summer vacation while employed as a teacher and I must say it has been the best yet. I have gone fishing, been in weddings, I am training to run a half marathon, and I am getting to meet all kinds of new and interesting people. I was talking about it with my mom the other day and I had just finished telling her about how I am flying down to San Diego this weekend to check out Comic Con. Comic Con is the world's largest comic book convention and I get to check it out. I will most definitely be posting some photos and writing about that later on as it should be quite the experience. I am going with a few friends of mine from college, some of whom I haven't seen in 3+ years. Don't get me wrong though. I haven't picked up a comic book since I was about 12. I am now kind of drifting into the realm of collecting hard to find vinyl toys, such as limited edition Maxx dolls and acquiring the entire collection of fat caps from Kid Robot. I am not sure where this mild obsession comes from, but I clearly remember where it began.

In 2001, I studied abroad in London. I took a Media Studies course at City University, mostly because it was the only non-business course being offered, as well as a few classes my school had set up and an incredible course at the remodeled Globe theater that was all about Shakespeare. I actually performed a monologue from Sir Thomas More on the stage as my final, which was just about the raddest thing I could ever do in my entire life. I have it on high 8 tape, except the friend of mine that filmed it was drunk and he thought it would be hilarious to zoom in on my junk for half of the performance. But I digress.

The obsession was sparked by these fascinating hollow eggs called Kinder Surprise. They were made out of chocolate, milk on the outside and white on the inside, and inside of the hollow eggs were these pill shaped containers. The containers had all sorts of toys and games and puzzles that you had to put together. Soon I realized there were entire sets of these toys that you could collect and have together. Around Halloween there were these vampire bats that were in all sorts of weird positions. One would hang from a light post that when you pressed down on it the light would actually flicker, another was a baby in stroller with enormous fangs, etc. There was an airplane set, a car set, a vespa set, a smurf set (see below), a weird worm in fruit set, the list goes on. By the end of my stay in London, I had amassed a collection of over 200 kinder toys, excluding all of the multiples I had gathered.

I shared a flat with 6 other people, all of whom I knew from school. I shared a room with two of my good friends, who actually thought I was a total freak for collecting these things but they let me do my thing. I understand now that it was pretty disturbing to see me collecting these little toys. It got to a point where I wouldn't even eat the chocolate. (That is actually a lie. I ate all of it and that's how I gained 45 pounds.) But in this flat we had a communal living room area that had a bookshelf. We all enjoyed reading so we kept our books out there for each other to read and share. When my collection had overgrown my end of the dresser, I decided I would have to make a new home/display for my collection because it had become show worthy at this point. So I did what any roommate at a turning point (read: crisis) in their life would do and moved people's books off the shelves and meticulously organized my kinder toys into sets. And not just random sets. I followed the pictures of the sets as they came in the eggs. It was perfect.

SIDE NOTE: One day I came back from a weekend away to find them all gone. I actually lost my mind. I started yelling and got really mad at a good friend of mine. In their place was a typed letter addressed to me thanking me for my donation of toys to a children's charity for Christmas. In my berserker state of mind I really thought that the toys were gone, even though the letter was highly suspect. I went out and got tanked and stumbled home. When I got in bed I was very uncomfortable because my friends had put all of my toys in my bed while I was gone and made the whole thing up.

So now it is a few years later and I still have the toys, although they are not set up anywhere. They are tucked away into my storage and will one day be worth tons. I am sure of it.

Now this post obviously came a bit undone from it's original topic of summer vacation, so I will attempt to steer back.

It has been an awesome summer and it's going by way too quickly. I feel like I have a week left before school starts even though I have a whole month. I get so anxious thinking about it but not in a bad way. I am just ready for it to get under way again. Meeting new kids, new teachers, teaching new books. It should be a good year. I will have a new classroom as well as new office for Student Activities, which is gonna be sweet. But with my new classroom and office comes new responsibility. I will be given an outdoor key with my own alarm code. It'll be good because I have to get into my classroom on a somewhat regular basis, no matter what day or time it is, but my old classroom was so awesome because it was completely detached from the building itself. Kids would stop by on their way home, teachers would duck in and say "hi" and I could come and go as I pleased without running into too many people I had to talk to. Not that I don't enjoy talking to my coworkers or students, but sometimes it's nice to be able to do your thing and bounce every once in a while. Oh well. Hopefully I will get a bit more settled and keep my classroom more clean than it has been in the past. I tend to let things pile up.

I have also been playing a bit of golf. I never thought it would be a sport that I would enjoy, but it really is quite fun. Of course, sometimes I want to throw each and every club as far into the ocean as possible, but it's a great way to spend time with people and when you hit a ball the right way and it goes where you think it should, it feels really good.

Summer vacation is pretty awesome.