Jason and I attended Comic-Con International in San Diego for our fourth, and probably last, time recently. Allow me to cover why we keep going back and why we, most likely, will not be attending again.
Definitely a blast from the past.
San Diego Comic-Con is unlike anything you have ever witnessed. The crowds are suffocating. The lines are boggling and beyond reason. The stars are ubiquitous. The scene is entirely saturated with marketing hype. Does that sound like something only a loon or a martyr would voluntarily put themselves through even once? Yup, I’m practically a saint but you already knew that so let’s move on to analyzing the pros and cons of this affair.
Yes, we met Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor. He was sweet but a little awkward around so many groupies.
First, let me explain what gives the most notable of comic conventions that distinction, starting with the exhibit floor. If you are into graphic novels, superheroes, sci-fi, anime, videogames, Legos, cosplay, cartoons, action figures, fantasy, or board games, basically anything pop culture, you will be awed and amazed at the caliber of booths and merchandise at this event. Products more mystical than a lion turtle and less likely to exist are available for purchase on an exhibit floor that seems to stretch all the way into the Delta Quadrant. Exclusives are everywhere, if you are willing to wait, sometimes for hours, to get them. Authors, artists, and actors are present to sign your finds. We bought some fantastic original art, autographed comic books, t-shirts, dresses, and even a d’k tahg letter opener this year.
Benedict Cumberbatch, a fan favorite, was among the DreamWorks guests.
From Lord Dark Helmet to Lone Starr, these Spaceballs were certainly in need of some air.
Celebrities come in throngs to San Diego Comic-Con, making many of its panels more star studded than those blingy pants that we all, regretfully, wore not too long ago. We attended a DreamWorks presentation featuring both Benedict Cumberbatch (His first appearance at Comic-Con.) and Jim Parsons. Yes, the fangirl shrieking did hurt my ears and my mouth. We heard Lois Lowry and Jeff Bridges talk about The Giver, a movie I’m going to see as soon as I get a chance. During WB’s movie night, we watched premiers of the new Flash show and Gotham, an upcoming Batman origins series. Heck, WB even gave us popcorn and drinks to nibble during those maiden viewings. The cast of The Legend of Korra impressed us with their passion for the cartooning craft. We learned about zombie myths, geek fashion trends, and marketing to nerds. On that note, did you know that superfan, i.e. nerd, merchandise outsells sports fan merchandise? And that 37 of the 50 highest-grossing movies of all time stemmed from comics or other sources in the geek universe? These are the type of exciting facts that you might learn at Comic-Con. And, incidentally, my fellow nerds, I am proud of and humbled by those statistics.
Batman is celebrating its 75th anniversary. DC had an impressive spread of props and tribute items in their booth to commemorate.
Beyond just seeing icons up on stage, Jason and I met and got photos with Matt Smith, sans TARDIS. Yes, I had my arms around that raggedy man. We also encountered another doctor, Robert Picardo, from Star Trek: Voyager, my favorite hologram.
Robert Picardo, as The Doctor, was my favorite Voyager character.
As sublime as the upside of this star-laden pop mania may sound, Comic-Con, like Vader, has a dark side. If you’ve any hesitations about crowds or compactness, Comic-Con can literally be nightmarish. At the exhibit hall’s busiest moments, the layers of humanity are so densely packed that no one can really move. It’s as if one more body added to the heap would send everyone flying into the air like popping corn.
Jeff Bridges and Lois Lowry made for an interesting duo at The Giver panel.
I don’t usually dwarf the King of the Monsters.
And those marvelous panels I talked about earlier? Often not super simple to get into. In fact, the panel situation seems to get worse every time. For instance, Hall H this year, on its most popular day, required at least a 12-hour wait to secure entrance. Want to be less than 6,000 people away from your favorite actor or director? Acquiring prime seat space necessitated up to 20 hours of camping on the sidewalk. For a few people that may sound like fun but, for most of us, it seems about as appealing as hanging out forever in the Fog of Lost Souls. Jason and I almost fell into Hall-H-line purgatory with a group of our friends but, ultimately, we decided against it. No regrets there.
How does someone walk around a crowded hall dressed like this without proving why dinosaurs went extinct?
Getting a convenient hotel room in San Diego during Comic-Con is nearly impossible, unless you are willing to pay an arm, a leg, a quart of blood, your firstborn, and a spare kidney. That’s basically what we spent to stay at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, which is right next to the convention center. (I’m okay having a one-armed husband.) The proximity of the Bayfront, in addition to attracting ridiculous prices, does attract many celebrities though. Often, upon entering our hotel lobby, we would discover some icon being bombarded by their stalker fans. It made me feel pretty dang sane by comparison. By the way, you can find cheaper hotels during Comic-Con if you are willing to take shuttle busses back and forth to the far reaches of the city but don’t expect even the homeliest of hostels to go for the normal asking price.
Although Avatar costumes were common at Comic-Con, these were the only Mako and Bolin ones we saw.
Mattel had one of the craziest lines at the convention. Perhaps they brought in the violinist to soothe their stampeders.
So, with Comic-Con being its usual mix of awesome and awful, why was this year, of all years, potentially our last visit? Since we’ve attended this convention many times, it’s lost a little of its initial wonder. The nearness of stars and the novelty of being at the gooey core of the pop melting pot doesn’t impress as much as it used to. Even though we always have an exhilarating time, that exhilaration doesn’t quite make up for the associated expense and chaotic hassle anymore. And I don’t ever want our attitudes to match the excessive levels of jadedness that Comic-Con seems to exude. Nothing but the newest hotness appears to excite most of the attendees; it’s a bit sad and a bit too Hollywood. Also, now we have an ample supply of local cons to entertain us, ones that just keep getting bigger and better. Locally grown geek is always fresher.
Our hotel was close enough to the convention center to allow us to return to our room during the day for some brief, and much needed, silence.
Comic-Con, you’re a delicious and repulsive mass of stinky geeks, glorious swag, exclusive merchandise, smug celebrities, informative panels, elusive collectibles, and costumed fanatics. Even now, after I have avowed to be done with you, your BO-perfumed halls and perpetual propaganda still threaten to fill my heart with irrepressible nerdish delight. Who knows, maybe next year Jason and I will again find ourselves in your strange mix of Shangri-La and sarlacc. Less probable things happen every day in this genre.
I like to plan unusual activities in honor of Jason’s birthday. He’s an amazing guy that deserves all of the creativity I can muster. This year, for my innovative party scheme, I decided to invite a few friends to saddle up with us in the Red Ledges area of Heber Valley at KB Horses. Since Jason is not exactly an equestrian expert, this outing certainly was a celebration surprise for him, hopefully a pleasant one.
The route we rode went over footpaths, dirt roads, rocky hillsides, and pavement.
I arranged for everyone in our party to have an hour-long trail ride at KB with a training session beforehand, which seemed about the right length to get the saddle without the sore. As it turns out, quite a few among us had never ridden a horse before. Since my youth was spent in a rural area, amply supplied with all sorts of mounts, this widespread inexperience flummoxed me but I was pleased that the greenies were finally getting a chance to give it a go.
My horse was named Dee Dee. Out of all the ponies, the wranglers loved her best.
With eleven of us in total, our company of buddies was slightly too large to all ride together. So, instead, we split into two groups with Jason joining both bands. The morning of our adventure, the temperatures were a little on the uncomfortably hot side but everyone seemed cool with that, especially the bunch of us that had shrewdly volunteered to sacrifice sleep and take the earlier of our two riding times, leaving the muggier slot for the sluggish chumps.
Our party had to be split into two riding groups due to our size. This gang was the first bunch of riders.
This descent included enough stones and dips to make it pretty interesting.
In contrast to some of the steeds I’ve straddled on trail rides before, the ponies at this ranch weren’t mechanical mounts. They had unique personalities and a zest for life, sometimes a naughty zest. One of them liked to bite the others and another, Maverick, kicked anything that strayed too close to his rear. A few tried frequently to taste the sweet grasses along the way and Lee’s horse, Howdy, decided to lay down and take a nap while Lee was still on him. Oopsies! Fortunately, Lee was not harmed. Yes, like their riders, these were an amusing bunch of animals.
Jason is definitely no expert when it comes to horses but he managed pretty well on Shiloh.
After our equine adventures, we stopped for lunch at the Spin Café in Heber. Their fries weren’t quite their usual goodness that day for some reason but their gelato did not disappoint.
Our second group consisted of Lee, Aimee, Tom, Jacob, Sara, and the birthday boy.
Life goes by faster than a yeehaw on a yardstick. One day you’re finally big enough for He-Man Underoos and the next you’re onto big-boy diapers. It all passes too quickly not to stop and ride the horses. Happy birthday Jason!
P.S. I would recommend KB Horses. They seem to treat their animals well and their guides do a great job.
The ladies in my family gave the entire gang of boys a group gift for Father’s Day this year: a golf outing together. After all, boys, bonding, and big sticks belong together.
Everyone’s got their own swing; Drew’s just looks more absurd than most.
According to the family rumor mill, the men quite enjoyed themselves, although it was pretty hot. My dad’s team, despite his partners being the youngest members of this masculine consortium, won the game.
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Despite his seeming glumness, Benson did have a good time.
Breakfast at IHOP followed this prestigious match so that those trounced could drown their losses in syrup, one of the better balms for defeat.
The little guys were spent by the end of the tournament.
Drew decided to coach Jadon at the end of the game when his pointers were pointless.
I guess it just takes a little turf and some pars to tie a family together.
Sometimes, as adults, we think we’re too cool or grownup for “childish” pursuits. Fortunately, I don’t think I’m too old or hip for anything so when Jason suggested that we continue celebrating my birthday way past the point of reasonableness with a trip to Hogle Zoo, I consented. Neither of us had been to our local zoo for at least fifteen years so we both felt like it was about time we revisited it.
Maturing past wonder may be a common phenomenon but Jason and I plan on never letting amazement seep away, no matter how ancient our bodies become.
Hogle Zoo has changed substantially since the last time I was there. They’ve made use of the Zoo, Arts, and Parks tax to overhaul most of their habitations. Overall, they actually appear to have a lot less animals than previously but the species that they do possess have much larger habitats now and seem to be significantly more content.
These grizzlies are siblings and they certainly acted like it.
The day we went to the zoo, the sun’s blasting rays felt more like death rays. We were there from about 11:00 to 2:00 and I was literally dripping with perspiration by the time we left. Becoming a human faucet felt a little undignified and gross but the beasts didn’t seem to mind.
Another fake nest = another opportunity for silliness.
In general, it was a pleasant afternoon. It took Jason and me a bit to recover from our heat exposure but, now that the sweat marks have been washed out of my clothes, I’m feeling pretty good about the experience. I’d argue that you are never too aged or sophisticated to laugh at bears’ horseplay or to appreciate seals’ aquatic maneuvers. I plan on not ever being that mature.