Saturday, July 31, 2004
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
The most excitement of the day came on the dullest ride I rode. Some sort of bicycle cart thing, that we waited an hour to ride, and which really sucked. But during the long line-up, this five-year-old kid was running amock, bugging various people in line the whole time. The mother was just watching this and smirking. Which is particularly galling because they actually have a play area where kids can build with legos while the parents wait in line nearby. Eventually, the kid stars hitting my sister, she tells him to stop. He sticks his head under her arm and looks up at her, and she yells at him to stop and stop bugging her. That shut him up a little bit. We get on the ride. When we get off, she is just finishing arguing with the ride operators, who would not let her ride with her infant (the dozen or so "Must be 48" to ride" signs apparantly don't mean much if you're illiterate). As we're leaving, Michelle in the back, the woman starts talking to her, which I can't at first make out. Turns out she's arguing with her for talking to her child. When Michelle repeatedly points out the terror her son was raising, she doesn't deny it, just keeps saying, "You shouldn't talk to a child like that." After she repeats that three or four times, I say, "Maybe you should control your child." She didn't like to hear that. She goes off on me, How dare I and such. She's shouting at me, picking a fight, while holding her infant child in her arms. Now that's responsible parenting. So I'm yelling at her to stop ruining the park for everyone else, being careful to remember I'm in a children's amusement park, and as such should not use profanity. I also am careful not to physically touch her. So I'm arguing, she's being nasty, and her kids get off the ride, and her 12- or 13-year-old daughter runs up, "Get away from my Mom!" So I roll my eyes, but stand my ground, when the mother asks, "Why the Hell are you even here? You don't even have kids with you!" So that pisses me off even more, and I tell her that we have every right to be there, and she responds, "Hey, I'm 29 years old, I have an excuse!" Which surprises me, and I puzzle over what she means, when she adds, "You're in your 40s and you're here." At which point I have no choice but to ask, "Are you retarded?" In retrospect, I realize I should have just kicked her ass, the police would be looking for a white male in his mid-40s. But I digress. This actually diffused the situation a bit, since now I realize she's a moron, who apparently cranked out her first kid at 16 and decided two more bundles of joy could only improve her life, and the humor of the situation was a little more apparent. We exchanged a few more choice words, and went our seperate ways, where she would no doubt find other ways to endanger the life of her infant child. The more I thought about it, the more disturbed I was by the callousness with which she treated her baby. She even egged me on at one point, encouraging me to hit her so she can call 911. But, whatever, fuck her. One less person I need to brake for crossing the street. I just hope I put her in as nasty a mood as she did me.
But as for Legoland itself, I must again say it wasn't as dull as I thought it would be. Obviously a place for kids, but adults with the right attitude might enjoy themselves (though at full price, its questionable).
So that was my week. It's Wednesday now, and I'm still a bit worn out. My foot is bothering me now, so looks like I was a tad premature saying that was better. Maybe this week I'll find myself a sports podiatrist, and make an appointment. Seeing the Edward Gorey exhibit this afternoon, at last! Just booked a room in Vegas for November. My sister is going for a wedding, so I'm meeting them there. Works out good; there's a convention in town, rooms are hard to find and very pricy, but I was able to get two free nights at Bally's (hoping to upgrade to a suite when I get there). My sister has challenged me to a ride on the mechanical bull at the New Frontier...I thought the web would have lots of tips on how to ride one, but the closest I've come are ads for mechanical bull classes. But then the point of riding a mechanical bull is looking like a jackass, so I guess ignorance is bliss in this situation.
Monday, July 26, 2004
I got in from Vegas Wednesday, so there was no going to preview day for me. But I was there bright and early Thursday, with my sister and brother-in-law. Parking wasn't too hard to find, though it was $15. We had a bit of a walk to the convention center, and no sooner than we had lined up to pick up our passes then they opened the doors to go upstairs and check-in. Advanced registration pick-up was quite efficient, and in less than five minutes we had our badges on and were waiting for the doors to open at 9. Despite the crowd, things went very smoothly. And no sooner had I entered the main hall, then I saw Keith Knight's booth, right by the rear entrance. So I bought his collection of (Th)Ink strips, making my first purchase less than a minute after entering Comic-Con. I decided to walk to the North end and make my way back, but on the way saw the Unshelved booth, where they were selling the "Mad About Reading Cow" T-shirts, which I knew I had to have. Got a shirt, talked for a minute with cartoonist Bill Barnes, and got snookered into buying some books, too. I see on the web site that the T-shirts at Comic-Con are going to be rarities; on the main run of the shirt, the Cow's book, "Cud: A Love Story," is changed to "Clover: A Love Story." No accounting for tastes. I spent most of that morning on the floor of the convention center, shopping, and bought a fair amount of stuff. I got a real good deal on The Comic Art of George Herriman, which was exciting both because the book is awesome, and because co-author and Mutts cartoonist Patrick McDonnell would be signing later. I spent a fair amount of time at the booths selling animation cels, hoping to find a good Simpsons cel to pick up with my Vegas winnings. But I never saw one I liked enough to justify the hefty price. I did take an immediate liking to the Futurama pulp fiction covers, limited editions based on season one episodes. Really cool, and as an added bonus, a lot cheaper than an animation cel. I knew I wanted one, but picking which one would take several days. I did a good deal of shopping, hoping to get as much done on Thursday as I could, because I had to keep a tighter schedule the other days. But I did go to two panels Thursday; one was on general DVD releases coming up, and the other one, a real highlight of Comic-Con, was the Freaks & Geeks panel. They screened "Discos and Dragons," talked a bit, and took questions. Paul Feig was there, as was John "Sam" Daley, Samm "Neal" Levine, Martin "Bill" Starr, Steve "Kowchevski" Bannos, and Natasha "Cindy Sanders" Melnick. When Melnick chose to speak, it was a bit painful, but overall a great experience. After the panel, I hurried to the autograph area, but by the time I got there, the line was already pretty bad. They warned us at the time we weren't guaranteed an autograph, but after a wait of just over an hour, I got them all to sign my yearbook. So that was exciting. After that, we had dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory before heading back for the evening festivities. My sister and brother-in-law attended the Star Wars Fan Films Awards, while I planned to watch Bubba Ho-Tep. I watched Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back to kill time, and went to the bathroom between movies. While heading back to see the movie, I peeked in another room, and quickly got sucked in by a bizarre Kung-Fu movie. It took me some time to figure out what I was watching, but what I mistook for a remnant of '80s USA Up All Night-style film was actually a new independent film seeking distribution, All Babes Want to Kill Me. I hesitate to say it was good, exactly, but I enjoyed watching it. Really poorly edited, it seems to me, with huge gaping holes and contradictions in the plot, but does it really matter. The cast and director were there, and were very nice, and signed autographs afterwards. Worth seeing if you get a chance (they are apparently near a deal for theatrical distribution). A good way to end the day.
Friday we decided to take the trolley, because the web site said the special green line, which services the stadium during Padres games, would be running. But turns out it was not. So it was a minor ordeal taking the trolly, waiting about 40 minutes for a train, and then having to transfer. So I was late, and missed the Bongo Comics panel. But I did more shopping, bought one of the aforementioned Futurama pulp fiction covers, among other things, got things signed at the Peanuts booth, and in the afternoon attended some panels. The two panels that warrent mention include "Why We Love Peanuts," where Jean Schulz, the Hernandez brothers and Chip Kidd, as well as the head of Fantagraphics, discussed Sparky's legacy. That was immediately followed, in the same room, by an interview of Patrick "Mutts" McDonnell, who was asked questions by novelist Glen David Gold and the audience, showed some slides, and drew some of his characters for us. We left soon after that; nothing much going on that evening, so we had dinner with Mom.
I knew Saturday was going to be a busy day, and there were lots of conflicting things to do at the same time. Unfortunately, by Saturday I was truly exhausted, and not quite up to the task before me. But I got the most important things done. I had seen the day before that Ruben Bolling of Tom The Dancing Bug would be signing at 10, so I was very disappointed when I didn't get there until about 10:10, and dreaded the long line. Turns out there was no one there, and he hadn't sold a book yet. Seemed happy to see me, and was very kind and funny, and it was one of the more comfortable autograph sessions of the day (I always feel weird getting someone's autograph, and never know what to say). Bought two of his books (paid $10 each, later looked on-line and saw that they go for far more than that, being out-of-print), and pre-ordered his new book coming out this fall. If you don't read his strip religiously, you should. Then I met up with an internet friend and got her to buy some books from him, as well. Then we lined up for the Patrick McDonnell autograph session. The line wasn't bad at all when we got in it, but got pretty long soon afterwards. Once he started signing, the wait was probably less than twenty minutes, and he was very nice, signing two books and a poster for me. Then I headed to the Simpsons panel, which was underwhelming. A montage of clips, basically extended cuts of things that have already aired, followed by a French laundry detergent commercial, in which you could see Bart's penis (still quite small, even on the big screen)...what Matt Groening said was a real Comic-Con exclusive. Some nice little snippets of information on what to expect this season (I won't reveal any of the surprises). I left not long after the Q&A portion started, to get to the second Peanuts panel, but turns out I had the wrong time, and was 30 minutes early. So I went back to the floor, looked around a bit, and headed back to the Peanuts panel, only to find such a line to get in, I decided to skip it (I knew from the previous days the room it was in was small, and I doubt everyone fit, comfortably, at least. So back to the floor I was. As I mentioned, I was very tired, and found myself getting a bit punchy. Just basically walking with no destination. Which, while not the most productive way to see Comic-Con, is not necessarily a bad thing. I found lots of interesting things I missed the first few times. Even stumbled upon Billy West's booth, and bought his CD. Headed up to get Matt Groening's autograph at 3, but the line was just too long, and I knew there was no chance of getting an autograph, especially since I had a panel at 4. That panel, with voice-over goddess June Foray, was a suprise highlight of Comic-Con. I figured it would be good, but it really was great to hear her stories, see clips of her wide range of work (I never realized she was the voice of Talking Tina on The Twilight Zone). And when she did Rocky, she sounded exactly as she did on the show. They even brought in some other voice-over actors to re-enact an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle, including a Fractured Fairy Tale. Fun times. Of course, my camera's batteries died right as I tried to record part of the script reading, so I have no clip of that to bring you. But trust me, it was great. That was immediately followed, in the same room, by the Adult Swim panel. I of course had to attend, but I must say the audience the Adult Swim panels draws disturbs me. Lots of bros. Lots of people hooting a lot and asking really, really dumb questions. The clips of coming programming, though, is what you come for, and even that was troubling. The clips for existing shows were pretty awesome. The Aqua Teen Hunger Force clip lambasting standards and practices (it's strange; Cartoon Networks lets them get away with a lot, yet even gentle blaspheme--i.e., the quote from Futurama, "Sweet Zombie Jesus!"--is excised) was possibly the single funniest thing I saw at Comic-Con. But they showed new shows, as well. And while I will withhold judgement on Squidbillies, I must say that Stroker and Hoop looks absolutely awful. I didn't care for the pilot of Venture Brothers, but the clips they showed looked interesting enough to give it another chance. And as I already suggested, the Q&A portion was painful (thank god M.C. Chris was there to keep things fun). Q&A at Comic-Con is always a bit painful, at least at anything that attracts a wide audience. Lots of questions that aren't questions at all, for instance. Just like last year, I'm happy to report the worst question I heard came from the Adult Swim panel. A young man complained about the departure of Captain Murphy from Sealab 2021, and asked how they could commit such blaspheme. The crowd groaned, and Kate Miller, the voice of Debbie, explained as gently as she could that the actor who portrayed Captain Murphy, Harry Goz, died. He explained that he did not know that, and then asked a follow-up question that was almost as painful. Really bad to claim to be a fan of that show, a big enough fan to go to Comic-Con and ask that question, and not know he died (to be fair, it was the same week Johnny Cash and Warren Zevon died). They gave out decks of cards after the panel, I managed to get two. So that was pretty sweet. And that's how Comic-Con ended for me. We didn't go Sunday; Eric wanted to see Legoland. But that story will have to wait for tomorrow.
That's Comic-Con, in broad strokes. Should have documented it better as it happened, but as I mentioned, I was wore out. A week with a pretty bad flu, a trip to Vegas, and then Comic-Con was a bit too much. Lots of walking. Next year, I hope to be more rested and ready. One plus, I was on my feet and walking a lot, and my foot doesn't hurt. So maybe I'm ready to resume running. Pictures of Comic-Con won't be up tonight, just posting this took longer than I thought. A lot of my pictures didn't turn out, but those that did are pretty cool. And I have a good Legoland story, maybe I'll have time to post that at work tomorrow.
But soon enough I was in my room. This was my second time staying at Bally's, and the second time I was impressed. The room, 15th floor in the North Tower, was quite large. King bed and a very nice sofa, glass coffee table and marble desk still left plenty of room. A large, fake plant in the corner added a little color, and was a nice touch. Color scheme was a little odd, but not as bad as the Flamingo. Nice bathroom, lots of marble. No separate tub and shower, but the toilet was sort of offset in a semi-WC, and was certainly adequate for my needs. The view had a lot of potential. I faced the strip, and looked out directly onto Bellagio. The one problem was, the South Tower was between me and Bellagio. (The South Tower has the nice views, but is a real pain to get in and out of, and the rooms are smaller, I hear). I could still see the sides of the property, and when the Fountains of Bellagio went off, I could see a bit of the show. The one thing that always aggravates me is the $3/day charge to use the in-room safe. "For your convenience, you can make sure we don't steal from you, and it only costs $3!" Considering the casino cage offers the same service for free, it's a real rip. I was going to use my safe anyways (convenient, and I can always pay the fee with my comp dollars), but mine was out of order. So I figured I'd save $6 rather than complain, and just did without this trip. Of course, my room was free, but I see some good bargains for Bally's during slow times, and considering its location and quality, seems an excellent value for those who pay for their rooms in Las Vegas (I used to say the same about Treasure Island, before they ruined it).
After resting, I took to the tables at Bally's, where I had a total of $200 in match play coupons (i.e., bet $25, if you win, you win $50). The offer I was staying on offered $100 in match play, but if I went on particular days (i.e., last week), they would double the offer. They gave me $25 coupons, which were doubled to be worth $50. Lost the first two hands, but won the rest, including a blackjack on the last one (my bet was paid at 3:2, the coupon only pays even money, $50). So I was immediately up. And that never changed this trip. I won't go into great detail about the gambling, becuase it wasn't particularly interesting. I won, I won again, I lost occasionally, but mostly I won. Bally's was good to me, Paris was (appropriately) indifferent , Stardust was berry berry good to me. I entered the New Frontier for the first time in my life. I'm not sure why I'd never been there before, but I was walking to the Stardust from Caesar's Palace, and the heat was finally getting to me, and I had to get into the New Frontier and the A/C. It was nothing special, like a little bit of downtown on the strip. Gotta wonder about any Strip casino where the entertainment is based around the mechanical bull in the bar. I played a little bit, lost a fair amount, won it all back, and left up just a bit. Not a bad place, but I don't see anything it has going over the Stardust (a very slightly better location, perhaps, but not by much).
One exciting development since my trip in June was the opening, at last, of the Las Vegas Monorail. I bought a 24-hour pass, and ended up riding the thing only twice. It runs smoothly and conveniently, with trains every five minutes in each direction. Depending on where you are and your destination, it can be very convenient. But it didn't really help me out. I took it from Bally's to the Flamingo, and probably had to walk more getting to and from the monorail stations than I would have had I simply walked to the Flamingo. But I knew that would be the case, I just wanted to check it out. $3 one-way, $5.50 round trip, $10 for a one-day pass. Not unreasonable. Makes the Las Vegas Hilton much more accessible. If it succeeds and is expanded to downtown, it will be a real boon. I took it later in the day from Harrah's to the MGM Grand. That was a time-saver. Of course, I had no business at the MGM Grand, just wanted to see that end of the strip (I don't make it down that way often). But I enjoyed the sights, and stopped off at the M&M Museum while heading back to Bally's (on foot). I had to pay $2 (I think) for the 3-D movie last time; now it's free. Unfortunately, they replaced one of the live actors with a video. So the Al Roker-esque character who sang "The Candyman" last time I was there, was gone. Last time I was there, an audience member asked me, "Is this in 3-D? Because I paid for a 3-D movie." I responded, "Really? Becuase I paid to watch this jackass sing and dance." I learned later in the show that the guy I was talking to was a plant, part of the show. So I was a little embarassed. It was still fun, though, in a really, really cheesy way. For free, it's hard not to recommend, though now that it's free, it's a lot more crowded (five people last time I did it, close to 100 this time). So that was my tourist moment this trip. Though I also watched the Bellagio fountain a few times. And though I didn't see it, I did here them using the soundtrack from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly again, so despite no mention on their website, that appears to be in the rotation, hopefully for good (it's awesome).
One nice thing about my hotel offer this trip was that, in addition to the free room and match play coupons, I received a $100 dining credit. Being alone this trip, I thought that would be more than enough. Bally's dining, however, is on the pricy side. The credit was good at both Bally's and Paris, so I had the Paris buffet, my favorite in town, the first night. It has its flaws, I must admit. But what is good there is absolutely fantabulous. For instance, desserts, in general, are a disappointment. No real ice cream (only soft-serve), the bananas foster not made to order (and this at one of the more expensive buffets in town), and the pie and pastry selection paltry for a french-themed buffet. But how can you dwell on that while eating a blueberry crepe with raspberry sauce from the crepe cooking station. Lots of seafood. People were lining up for the crab legs, cut vertically so you don't have to deal with the shells, but I passed them by to get the smoked salmon. Some sort of cold scallops salad with cous-cous was really good, as was the hot cous-cous. Too many good foods to mention. The bouillabaisse was a bit disappointing, since its the most memorable part of the buffet from the first time I had it, with my dad, but it was still pretty good. I highly recommend it, if you aren't too put off by the price (which it's worth). I had breakfast at Bally's coffee shop twice (I intended to have their buffet my last morning there, but it was closed for maintenance). Good, but way, way over-priced. If I wasn't trying to use up the credit they gave me, I would not have eaten there. But I have no complaints with the quality. The scrambled eggs with smoked salmon was particularly good. I did order what the menu described as "mixed seasonal berries," so I was surprised when there was nothing but strawberries. But there were a lot of them, and they were of a high quality. I hear the Paris cafe is much better, but the line was always long, and I never would remember to ask the pit boss for a line pass when I was playing (I did get to cut an absolutely heinous line at the Paris buffet, though). So I didn't try it this trip. I did have some pretty good sushi at Hyakumi at Caesar's Palace (are you picking up on my fondness for seafood?). A good choice if you're already there, but I prefer Sushi + Sake (which, though no bargain itself, is cheaper) at Green Valley Ranch. Managed to make a big dent in my food credit there, I thought, until I later learned, that while I had room charging privledges at all the Caesar's properties, the food credit was only good at Bally's and Paris. So I had to use my remaining comp balance for the sushi. But that left more money for my most expensive meal of the trip, at Al Dente at Bally's. I'd hoped to eat at Chang's, but it was closed Tuesdays. Al Dente was nice. I dressed up for dinner, but found I forgot to pack shoes, so I was highly self-conscious in my sneakers. Turns out everyone else was in jeans and T-shirts and the like, so I needn't have dressed up at all. But it was a nice looking place, not as dark as it seemed from the bar. The pasta disappointed, I must admit, but the appetizers (baked mussels, keeping to the trend) and dessert (tiramisu) were phenomenal. And the pasta was reasonably priced. I believe my meal was just under $40 (with water to drink). Not a bargain, but if you're at Bally's and looking for a swank but reasonable dining experience, you could do worse.
So I've probably gone on far too long about the boring details of the trip. Thing is, looking back, I don't remember any great funny stories or anything to tell. It was a boring trip, somewhat. I had a good enough time, and I won more than I could spend at Comic-Con, so I'm glad I went, but it's the sort of trip you forget quickly enough. One thing just came to me, though. The awful woman at Legoland (that story later) made me forget this rude dealer. As I mentioned, I had a coupon for $100 in match play, and they doubled it to $200. I used mine at Bally's, but later in the trip, I was playing at Paris, and someone had the same coupon (only his was $50 doubled to $100). He used the first coupon, lost, and the dealer took both the match play coupon and the doubling coupon, and tried to drop both. Now I knew from my experience at Bally's that they were unfamiliar with the doubling coupon, so I corrected the dealer, who rudely informed me I was wrong, and before I or the other player could say anything, dropped the coupon down the slot into the Vegas box, effectively indicating debate was over. I let the player know he was being ripped off, but I figured it was his fight, and he seemed to not want to fight it, so that's his problem. But it always makes me mad to see someone getting ripped off in Vegas. The casino's have a high enough edge with most players, why burn them even worse? So that annoyed me. Gave me something to grouse over on the drive home, stuck in traffic at least half-way. Johnny Cash, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and Meat Loaf provided the soundtrack for that drive.
So was this the greatest trip to Vegas I ever had. No. Am I sorry I went? Hell, no! Even a mediocre trip to Vegas is pretty sweet! And this trip funded my shopping frenzy at Comic-Con! I'll post that story soon (probably tonight).
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Friday, July 23, 2004
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Sunday, July 11, 2004
Saturday, July 10, 2004
I just got home from a rousing evening of shuffleboard. I again held my own, winning two games out of three. As usual, I fell apart in my last game (I tend to break down after two games), and was trailing by fifty points before finally getting my stuff together and rallying. We were playing to 100 points, and I had come up to about 85, when Cecily just needed to score to win. She landed her last puck in the seven-point quadrant, so I had to knock her out to have a chance (a fairly good chance, especially if I could get in the seven-point quadrant myself) to win. And I connected squarely, got the points myself, and send her flying. Then I heard a mighty metallic thud, from her puck hitting the poles that adorn the shuffleboard court in Balboa Park (they at one time supported an awning, or at least that's what I think they were fore). And the puck ricocheted back, coming to a rest squarely within the seven-point region, giving her the game. So that hurt a bit. Followed that up with a viewing, finally, of Kill Bill, Vol. 1. Was surprised by how little an impression it made either way. Interested me enough to want to see Vol. 2, so I guess it has something going for it. Just figured my time would be better spent watching some of the films that influenced Tarantino than the film itself. Guess I just don't find profusions of arterial blood every five minutes either gleefully fun or horrifically shocking.
Went to Viejas yesterday. A sudden change of plans left me with some free time, and so I decided it had been far too long since I'd played poker. Took an Omaha seat while I waited for them to start a 3-6 Stud game. Lost about $50, mostly because I played a few too many hands (tough to throw away a suited connector when the bad beat jackpot for Omaha was at about $80,000. Then I got a stud seat, and for awhile things followed the same pattern. But things soon turned around, winning quite a few hands; scopping pots where I was going low, when one pair would hold up. I lost one or two big pots that could have really made me some money. I also had a dark moment with a near-miss of the low jackpot. For the jackpot, you need a 6-4 beat by a wheel, and I had a wheel, when I got into a raising war with another player. We all discussed how nice it would be to hit the jackpot, but instead of turning over a 6-4, the other player also had a wheel. So no jackpot. I still won half the pot, and made a small profit, though (the same situation had occured to me once before, but that time another player had a flush, so I only got 1/4 of the pot and actually lost money--you'd think I was playing Omaha). But I walked away with a tidy sum to take to Vegas with me in a few weeks. And I had enough on my player's card to cover my dinner. And I saw the usual suspects who have been playing stud there for some time, who claim to have missed me in the time I've been gone (I probably hadn't played poker in almost six months).