Comic-Con 2008

When I was a little middle school boy, obsessed with Wolverine, Jim Lee, and all things Marvel, one of my dreams was to attend Comic-Con in San Diego. I'd read about it in Wizard magazine -- fellow nerds dressed up as their favorite superheroes/villains, rows and rows of cool merchandise, and the rare opportunity to shake your favorite artist or writer's hand and get an autograph to boot.

Well, now I'm old. I don't read comic books anymore. I no longer aspire to be a comic book artist. While I can appreciate the effort and detail put into actually making a costume, I find that the people who wear them are a little disturbing. And merchandise? What can't I find on ebay, google, or scour? Ah, but San Diego is so close and my roommate was kind of enough to get me a shiny industry pass.


We planned on leaving Los Angeles between 7:00 am - 7:30 am and arriving in San Diego sometime around 9:00. Of course we got a late start and ended up in the city around 10:00 am.

The first panel that we wanted to check out was for the upcoming Watchmen movie. Panels are like the meat of the convention -- forums where the creative element hold court, tell stories, and answer questions from fans. And (most importantly) show preview footage of upcoming releases and hand out free swag.

The Watchmen panel started at 11:55 am in the biggest hall the San Diego Convention Center had to offer. Lining up only an hour or so before wasn't going to cut it:

This line snaked up and down, to and fro, all the live long day.

Lesson learned: getting into any panels that were worth checking out would require at least two hours of wait time. Probably more like three or four.


If you're not checking out panels, you're walking the convention floor. At your own risk. Dodging giant fake swords and guns, whiffs of B.O., baby strollers, and assholes on Segways we perused all the merchandise that the convention had to offer. And perusing is about all we did. Between the three of us, I think we spent about $30 on merchandise. I was very tempted to drop $25 on a glow-in-the-dark Bender piggy bank.


Costumes make up a major portion of the Con -- the Heath Ledger Joker was predictably popular. An Imperial militia could be made up from all the Stormtroopers, Darth Vaders, and Boba Fetts that were present.

Some character I'm not familiar with (Maverick?) and a chubby Iron Man

I thought there'd be more babes, of both the booth and costumed variety. Sadly, babes were few and far between. But here's a gaggle of Slave Princess Leias:

(I stole this image from someone else's Flickr)


In conclusion:

-Panels are the way to go (we ended up attending a few, which were fun and informative), but be prepared to wait in line for up to five hours to get into the GOOD stuff. I had planned on attending panels for Futurama, Watchmen, Terminator 4, Kevin Smith, Judd Apatow, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Joss Whedon, World of Warcraft, and The Office. We ended up getting into only one of those.

-Tons and tons of cool merchandise to waste your money on. However, I actually exhibited some self-control and only ended up spending $5 on a Star Wars magnet. Also, note to vendors -- official Comic-Con t-shirts were sold out on the second day. PRINT MORE SHIRTS.

-Roommate's brother had a great suggestion -- in addition to all the keychains, posters, and bags they hand out, maybe Axe or some other deodorant company should hand out free samples. Breathmints would be good too.

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It's over!

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What, they never heard him sing before?

From Wiki:
Though never released as a single, [Slaves & Bulldozers] has been applauded for Chris Cornell's outstanding vocals on it. Producer Rick Rubin played the song for the former instrumentalist members of Rage Against the Machine, to showcase Cornell's strong vocal ability before he joined them to form Audioslave.
On a semi-related note, I was listening to a wicked Tom Morello solo and wondered why the Grammy's rarely reward individual instrumentalists. The always shitty Grammy Awards pick a Best Male and Female Vocal performance for various genres and they also have the vague Best Rock Instrumental Performance. How about separate awards for the guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboardist, et al? I know the Grammy's are mostly about glorifying pop-centric front men/women -- maybe they can hand these awards out the night before, a la the Scientific and Technical Academy Awards.

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It's over.

Good bye, immortality. No perfect season. More importantly, no Super Bowl championship. It was supposed to be the greatest season in NFL history. There was supposed to be a validating end to an amazing, controversial, exciting, tumultuous, hard fought, highly scrutinized, awe-inspiring season.


Unlike last year, I can wait for a new season to start. This one will sting for a while.

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The Godfather of Green

938 victories. 9 NBA championships. The architect of the greatest franchise in professional basketball, the Godfather of the NBA, the greatest coach in league history. There are three coaches with more wins (Lenny 'I also have the most losses in league history' Wilkens, Pat 'Backstabber' Riley, and Don 'I was a Celtic so I don't incur the ire of the author' Nelson) and another with the same amount of championships (Phil 'I act like I invented modern basketball coaching when in fact I swooped in on already good teams and Tex Winter was the one who actually implemented the triangle offense' Jackson), but nobody came close to combining Red Auerbach's strategy, gamesmanship, scouting, and love of Chinese food. The stories are legendary:

-Red and Celtics owner Walter Brown traded two All-Stars, Cliff Hagan and Easy Ed Macauley, and two weeks worth of Ice Capades shows (which Brown owned) to the St. Louis Hawks for the draft rights to Bill Russell, the anchor of 11 championship teams.

-In need of a new center after Russell retired, Auerbach sought a replacement through the 1970 draft. Russell recommended that he take a look at Florida State center Dave Cowens. Although undersized at 6'9", Cowens was an excellent rebounder and defender. Red had yet to see him play in person, but he knew that any player he scouted would suddenly move up on his rivals' draft charts. He traveled to a game, stayed for ten minutes, then left grumbling about what a waste of time the excursion had been. Other scouts at the game noted Red's early exit, and quickly wrote off Cowens. In fact, Red had seen plenty and later drafted Cowens, making him the lynchpin of the 70's championship teams.

-The Greatest Trade in NBA History.

-Auerbach pulled out all kinds of tricks for home games. If the weather was hot, he'd instruct the equipment manager to crank up the heat in the visitor's locker room. On the many cold winter days, the windows would be left open, the heat turned off, and wet towels were left for opponents. These less than savory acts and Red's penchant for showing off didn't endear him to opponents. The franchise that the Celtics tormented the most, the Lakers, certainly didn't appreciate his antics. Today's Los Angeles Times article on his passing started off with:

"It was bad enough that the Lakers never beat the Boston Celtics, a string of words Jerry Buss once called "the most odious sentence in all of sport." But did Red Auerbach always have to rub their noses in it?"

As a Celtics fan who grew up in the era of Dino Radja, A.C. Earl, and Greg Minor, it's tough to imagine a time when the Celtics vied with the Yankees for the distinction of being most successful franchise in American pro sports -- 11 out of 13 titles from 1957 to 1969 (including 8 in a row and a 7-0 record against the Lakers in series that mattered), 16 championships in all. But unlike the Yankees, the Celtics always had that tangible, physical presence of the man who started everything. Red Auerbach was the patriarch of a dynasty, a cigar smoking reminder to young 'uns like me that, yes, Celtic glory was a real thing.

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It's funny cause it's true.

Fry: So you're saying these aren't the decaying ruins of New York in the year 4000?
Professor Farnsworth: You wish. You're in Los Angeles.
Fry: But there was this gang of ten-year-olds with guns.
Leela: Exactly. You're in L.A.
Fry: But everyone is driving around in cars shooting at each other.
Bender: That's L.A. for you.
Fry: But the air is green and there's no sign of civilization whatsoever.
Bender: He just won't stop with the social commentary.
Fry: And the people are all phonies. No one reads. Everything has cilantro on it...

(I can't believe I haven't posted a damn thing in two months. I'll try and update with something soon...)

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A Boring Poker Story.

From my recent trip to the Hawaiian Gardens Casino:

My first foray to a casino in California. I went with my friend Robin, who was visiting from San Diego. He assured me that the poker games at Hawaiian Gardens were easy to beat. The game of choice was No Limit Hold 'Em, $20 max buy-in, with $1 blinds. With blinds that high in relation to the buy-in, $20 could go very fast. It sounded like a game designed to part casual players from their twenty bucks.

The casino is located near Long Beach, which is about thirty minutes from Los Angeles. The place is pretty nondescript -- none of the glitz or sheen of Vegas, or even Foxwoods. The poker room itself is pretty large and the tables are spaced out nicely. Most of the residents in the area are Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese, and as such most of the staff and half of the customers are Asian. Robin and I didn't have to wait long for a seat. We were seated at neighboring tables.

I sat down and bought my $20 worth of shitty chips -- thin clay composites with little heft. At first I had to battle nerves. It had been a while since I played No Limit at a casino, and that session ended with me getting busted in 20 minutes. I had been way too concerned with outplaying my opponents and 'getting fancy' when I should have realized a few things:

1. At the lowest levels of poker, people don't recognize moves and generally play straight forward poker.
2. There are a lot of people just looking to mess around and have fun.
3. I'm really not good enough to outplay too many people.

Now that I understood these things, I decided just to play straight forward poker, almost as if this were a Limit game.
Problem was, I wasn't catching anything in the early going. Lots of garbage like 4-9 and 3-8. The few times I had a so-so hand, somebody would raise it up and I'd have to dump. People were raising and calling with very speculative hands too. After an hour or so, I had to rebuy. Robin, after some initial victories, eventually lost his original buy-in too. He decided to call it a day and got a ride from a friend.*

Around that time things started turning around. Some of the wilder players had left the table, allowing for more limping (calling the big blind). I started catching cards and hitting flops. Pretty soon I had doubled my money. My confidence was high and I started feeling very comfortable at the table.

Then I was dealt pocket aces on the button.

A few people limped in and action was on me. I raised it up five times the big blind ($5), having the best starting hand and the best position. The older gent in the big blind, who was dubbed 'Mr. Slowplay' by another player, smooth called my raise and everybody else folded.

The flop: 2s 3s 4h

Looked harmless enough. Mr. Slowplay checked. I fired out a $5 bet and he called. Since Mr. Slowplay generally liked to play drawing hands, I figured he had a spade flush draw. Very poor judgment on my part.

The turn: A of hearts

I now had a set (three of a kind) of Aces. The only hand that could beat mine at this point was a straight. He checked again. I wanted to end the hand right here and bet out $10. Mr. Slowplay very calmly went all in. I stopped and thought about it. Maybe he hit a straight holding pocket 5's. Maybe he was still on his flush draw and was semi-bluffing by coming over the top. Maybe he has AK, AQ, or AJ. What made the most sense to me was that he had pocket 2's, 3's, or 4's -- he had his own set, figured that I had something like AK or AQ and would call his all-in now that I had a hand. If by some deranged miracle he had a straight, I had a very slim chance of making a full house or quads if the board paired on the river. Since he had more chips than I did, I called with my remaining $40.

The river: 7 of diamonds

I flipped over my aces. The table oohed and aahed. Mr. Slowplay, with a weird smile, turned over 5-6 of diamonds, giving him the nuts -- a 7 high straight. One could construe his action as a slowroll -- I called his raise, therefore he has to show first and he had the nuts. In a fit of rage, I grabbed my chips and flung them in his direction, then berated him for calling a big raise with 5-6. Actually, I tapped the table and said 'nice hand.' Mr. Slowplay/Slowroll had one of the best hands to go up against Aces or any other premium hand (granted, he was still an overwhelming underdog before the flop with roughly a 23% chance of winning). He had played the hand well and trapped me. It's poker.

*If Robin had stuck it out for a little while longer, he could've been involved in the Badbeat Jackpot that took place at his table. A lot of big poker rooms have Badbeat Jackpots and they work thusly: the casino will set a certain hand as the minimum for the badbeat. At Hawaiian Gardens it's Aces full of Tens (a fullhouse with A-A-A-10-10). If you have Aces full of Tens or better and get beat by either a better fullhouse (say, A-A-A-J-J or higher), quads (four of a kind), or a straight flush, then the Badbeat Jackpot gets paid out. The Jackpot depends on the day of the week and the time of day -- when the Jackpot hit it was around $9000. The winner gets 20% of the Jackpot along with the pot, the loser gets 60%, and the rest of the table splits the remaining 20%.

The player who sat in Robin's seat had A-7 and the player to the left of him had 10-something. The board was A A A 10 4. Four Aces beating Aces full of Tens. If Robin had stayed and played that hand, he would've won at least $1800 as the winner. $1800 at a $20 table!

This could've been Robin, divided by about 4100