Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Brief Statement on Thursday Night's Shootings

We were saddened to learn of the shooting of innocent people who just went to the movies. Our hearts go out to those injured as we pray for their speedy recovery, and to the families of those who were killed as they grieve.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What the ROXX? POGs are back!

On Thursday Son gave me what looked like two flat discs soldered together, then blown up like a balloon. It had Spiderman on both sides. He had no idea what it is, just another thing shoved in his hand at Comic-Con.

Today we sorted through all the stuff we brought home, and I found an unopened one. Turns out it's an official exclusive ROXX! I thought, "What the hey?" The accompanying sheet wasn't much help. It said "Launch 'em. Trade 'em. Collect 'em all." And if that's no help, go to

As near as I can tell, they are 3-D POGs. And they look pretty lame to this old lady. But I'll defer to the younger generation. I've got two now. Let's see what the kids do with them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lauging at the Westside Bar and Grill

A squib in the Orange County Register says the Westside Bar and Grill is hosting a standup comedy and happy hour on Wednesdays, starting at 8:30. They have other entertainment as well.

Their website is a real kick. See for yourself what central Goat Hill looked like before the Costa Mesa Redevelopment Agency ripped apart downtown to build The Triangle and The Courtyards. And if you have any old photos, they'd love to add them to their slide show.

Photographs do not have to be taken by professionals to be works of art.

Pleain Air Paintings of the Back Bay

Goat Hill overlooks the Newport Back Bay on the east, so all of us who live on it have a special appreciation of this great body of water.

This weekend we can acquire a tangible expression of that appreciation by purchasing a painting at a special sale at the Muth Interpretive Center. Sponsored by the Neport Bay Conservancy and Orange County Parks, the sale will feature paintings by members of the Southern California Plein Air Painters Association (SOCALPAPA).

The sale is July 21 & 22 from 10 am to 4 pm.

Kids 7-12 can take a free painting class, and take home a finished painting when they are through. It's free, but you have to sign up at 949-923-2275/

Complete details are available at SOCALPAPA's Website

And if we don't have the money to buy anything, we can still look at the art and dream, can't we?

Free Music in the Air

Both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach have parts of their cities on Goat Hill, and both cities provide free entertainment at a park on the Hill.

Costa Mesa's concerts are in Fairview Park, on the west side of the mesa. Newport's are on Bob henry Park on the east side, by the Back Bay.

On Saturday, July 22 from 6-7:30 pm The Bracken Band will play Celtic music at Bob Henry Park. There will be kids' activities, gourmet food trucks (buy your own food) and a wine and beer garden (BYOB).

The Costa Mesa concerts are on Tuesday evenings from 5:30-7:45 pm at Fairview Park. July 24 The Answer will play classic rock. On July 31 Hot August Night will resent a tribute to Neil Diamond. Just like Newport,;s concert, there will be kids activites, gourmet food trucks and a wine and beer garden.

Since these are happening the same time as the OC Fair, with all its live performances and concerts at the Pacific Amphitheatre, the air above Goat Hill will be full of good music. We should all try to take advantage of it. After all, we live where the mosquitoes don't bite.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Starslip, Sheldon and Unshelved

For many years my Comic-Con souvenirs have been the latest book from web comics. Here’s my favorites.

Starslip, by Kris Straub, was the strip that got me interested in web comics. I was walking through the Con exhibit hall when I spotted the first book. It just cried out to Star Trek fans. When I learned it was about a museum curator in space, this old museum docent just had to try it out. And I loved it. And Son and Daughter did as well. So each year I bought the newest book. I have a stuffed Mr. Jinx by my bed. You can start reading Starslip from the first strip at

Another great strip is Sheldon, by Dave Kellett. Daughter says it’s all about the duck. But I love it all. You can read Sheldon at l

And then I found Unshelved by Gene Amebaum and Bill Barnes, a hilarious strip about the characters who work in a public library. Anyone whose ever spent time in one can relate to and laugh at/with these people, and the members of the public they serve. Their weekly e-mail digest of strips includes book reviews. I’ve read many a good book after reading their e-mails. You can read Unshelved at

I just read all the strips in Drive, also by Dave Kellett. If I’d managed to win the badge lottery, I’d have bought his book at his booth. I’m going to follow this strip too. You can read them at

Another Good Promo–Dead History Project

Last year I watched and rated movies submitted for consideration to the Newport Beach Film Festival. It was fun and I saw a lot of interesting movies. I'm always on the lookout for a good film or TV show.

This morning I woke up to find someone had shoved a postcard and sticker under our hotel room door. It’s a pleasant surprise when it could have been the bill.

The card advertises Dead History Project, a “brand new paranormal web series. I just finished watching the trailer and it looks interesting. Watch it yourself at

“Hammerhead”, by Jason Andrew Bond

One of the most creative swag I acquired was a bookmark signed by Jason Andrew Bond that was handed to me when I crossed the trolley track. It encourages one to read a sample from “Hammerhead,” a book by Jason Andrew Bond.

Last night I did just that, and bought the book from Amazon for $11.10 ($3.99 for the e-book). Since Son had also read the excerpt, and he’s in Michigan, I need a copy I can share.

I also filled out the form on his website and told him I’d done it in response to his bookmark. He wrote back last night, thanking me.

Now I have to wait until Wednesday to get it, and I really want to know what happens next. The story concerns a ship breaker, like the ones working in Bangladesh that break apart all those derelict sea-going ships. But Bond’s guy works on spaceships. And he works in the Mojave Desert. And someone is trying to kill him.

More to come when I finish the book.

The People Make the Con

It is really true that people make the world go round, and they make the Con a special place. I truly enjoy talking to people on the shuttle buses, and meet some very interesting folks that way. Like these:

The 4th-generation San Diegan who has gone to a City Council meeting asking hotels not to raise their prices so much for Comic-Con attendees. She told me she spoke to a woman who was paying more than $250 a night to stay at a Motel Six! This San Diegan woman drives up to my home town, Costa Mesa, to buy fireworks because it’s one of the few places in the state you can get them. (Fireworks stands in Costa Mesa are run by charities. Many a Goat Hill charity is funded by sparklers.) She visits every stand to spread the money around and sets off her purchases all year round.

Ginger Mayerson, editor of The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society, who only covers Artists Alley. Why her card says “Ontology on the Go!’ has raised much speculation in our family.

The retired University English professor who now reads scripts for a publisher. He says he really does have to read a lot of dreck before he finds one good prospect.

The woman frantically going back to her hotel room to pick something up for her husband to get signed while he stands in the autograph line.

The Comic-Con committee member who did not know people signed up to volunteer just in case they could not get a badge. What the heck do they expect if they ask for volunteers in January, and don’t sell badges until March or April. The kids and I would have been signed up as volunteers, but I didn’t read the message in time. 

The lady who had the idea of selling the Comic-Con official t-shirts online in advance of the Con, to be picked up with badges at registration. I’ve never bought one, but she says the lines for them are ridiculously long. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Comic-Con Swag

Everywhere I walked people handed me stuff. Not just postcards, thought there were a lot of those, but other stuff. Good swag is a real tribute to designers and an art unto itself.

Here’s some of my favorites:

     The Three Stooges refillable water bottle. Not only does the cover unscrew, but the part with the small nozzle for drinking unscrews as well, leaving you with a wide mouth container. You can wash it really well, and put all kinds of other stuff in it, like cut up fruit or goldfish crackers. And its clear so you can see how much is inside.

     The glow-in-the-dark Paranorman bracelet that says “You don’t become a hero by being normal.”

     The Dodge Dart bracelet that matches my Coma scar. For reasons I don't understand, someone at Chrysler thought it would be good publicity to have a contest where 4 people live in a car. On a stage. In public.

     The Revolution (NBC next fall) aluminum refillable water bottle. I myself don’t watch postapocalyptic shows, but the kids think this one looks cool.

     The Three Stooges whoopie cushion.

     The book “The Life of Jesus.” It’s pretty interesting to read the condensed version.

     The bookmark signed by James Andrew Bond, author of “Hammerhead,” a book about a guy in the Mojave Desert who tears apart junk spaceships for scrap. The bookmark gives a link to an excerpt from the book.

Then there’s swag you have to work for, by doing something silly or mundane. My favorites of this kind:

     The XCom game t-shirt. It’s really pretty. You watch a demo of the new game in a room on the second floor of the Hard Rock Hotel. They really treat you well in that demo. There is a whole buffet of snacks and soft drinks and comfortable couches to sit on while you watch. The buffet was picked clean. I snagged a Hershey bar for Daughter but missed out on a KitKat for Son. Just wasn’t fast enough.

     The Grimm poster. NBC has taken over the corner of 5th and L Streets and the Tin Fish restaurant. They have Aunt Marie’s Airstream trailer for you to walk through, and it is worth the look. The weapons are really vicious looking and the book very informative. You can also get a Grimm temporary tattoo. Mine is almost worn off now.

Lastly, there are places you can go just for fun. I liked the Defiance restaurant experience created by SyFy. The staff would not tell us the name of the restaurant, but it’s on the west side of the Hard Rock Hotel, and you can get into the hotel directly from it. It’s like a coffee shop, but the food was good and the staff exceptionally nice. I sat at the bar, nursed a beer and ate the cheapest thing on the menu, a great garden salad.

And I loved the XBox play area on the second floor of the Hard Rock Hotel. Lots of comfy places to sit and play many video games. Plus unlimited snacks and soft drinks. The air conditioning worked and the staff was very pleasant. I had a great conversation with a young lady who demonstrated Crackle. She ‘s a local temporary hire, and told me she’d driven in her first day to find parking lots charging $50 for a space. She finally found one for $35, but the company only gives her $15 to park, so she’s going to have someone drop her off the rest of the days she works. I’ve heard lots of stories about the price gouging that goes on by the locals, but that’s yet again another topic).

Coma Scars

My kids can’t look at my right arm now. It creeps them out. Not often a 60-year old Mom creeps out her kids. Is that success? It certainly shows the success of the art of makeup as done by real pros.

And I got this look just by rambling on the other side of the tracks. There was a pedestrian crossing in front of the Umbrella Corporation pushcart, so I took advantage of it and crossed the trolley lines there. If I’d looked at a map, and I did have one with me, I’d have gone back to the convention center. I hadn’t realized Harbor Drive runs at an angle southwest, so that crossing took me to a street several blocks north of my destination, the Hard Rock Hotel.

On 1st Street a nurse was handing out hospital bracelets. Not the cool kind they used to give babies, with beads spelling out their names. But the lame kind with your name printed from some computer file, shoved in a sleeve and closed with a snap you can’t open, so you have to cut it off, risking cutting a vein when you do. But it advertised an A&E mini-series, Coma, to be broadcast over Labor Day weekend.

I ambled on to the Coma hospital (a trailer in a parking lot at 1st Ave. & J Street) to check it out. I found two lines, and a really pleasant rest area complete with fountain and benches (for patients’ visitors). One line was empty, the other had about 10 people in it. Being an old Comic-Con hand, I knew the empty line meant lameness awaited those in it, so I became the 11th person in the other line. Turns out what you got was the coolest (to me) and grossest/gruesomeist (to the kids) applied make-up I’ve ever had put on me.

You lay on a guerney while a doctor “operates” on your arm. I'd always heard you can judge the quality of the surgeon by the quality of his stitching. This one needed to go back to medical school. As a surgeon she was awful. As a makeup artist she was very talented. 

I was informed by other members of the hospital staff that they had 1500 of these scars to apply to people. If that’s true, they’re going to have to really speed up the process. There were 8 stations, and it took 15 minutes just to apply mine. Other stations were taking longer. So using an average of 20 minutes each, they could apply about 25 an hour. It would take them 60 hours to apply them all over 4 days, working 12 hours a day. Not going to happen.

They took my picture in front of a green screen, and I really do look like I’m in a Coma. And they filmed me screaming at the screen with my picture on it. Guess they get tired of photogenic young adults.

All that and the show does look pretty interesting. You can watch the videos they were showing at 

Hands and Feet, Here is Something Good to Eat

This is the story of how I scared a Holiday Inn employee. I mean really scared him. He jumped back and screamed. And I didn’t mean to do it. But it was a natural consequence of my first great find outside the confines of the convention center. And a real tribute to the artistry of bakers like the one we treasure on Goat Hill (French's Cupcake Bakery on 17th Street, winner of many awards at the Orange County Fair.)

The kids spent the day in Sea World, as Daughter has wanted to go back there again for years now. I was sent downtown with the task of gathering intelligence on Resident Evil 6 at the XBox gaming room at the Hard Rock Hotel. I’d read about it on some website I’d found that listed the stuff outside the convention center.

Riding the shuttle bus from the Holiday Inn, staring out the window as it went past the Marriott I noticed a white pushcart. The kind street vendors sell ice cream out of. But this didn’t have a Good Humor logo on it. This one said Umbrella Corporation and had that distinctive umbrella logo. Inside were hands and feet packaged for sale. How cool is that!

Well, my daughter is a huge RE fan, so I knew I had to at least get her a picture. I figured they really weren’t selling the hands and feet; they must be rubber props, just for effect. So I hopped off the shuttle and moved against traffic as quickly as I could, past the Jesus Loves You people, and the collectors for the homeless (could they be for real, or were they fakes trying for lunch money?), and found her. The delightful woman did indeed have hands and feet in her cart. And a head as well.

And was she ever nice. Here's a picture to prove it. And she was giving the feet away. All you had to do was take a picture with her, and post it online. Like I am here.

Was I thrilled? You bet! Even more so when she explained it was really bread and you could eat it! How cool is that! My day of exploration started off better than I could ever have thought.

It got better when that afternoon the same woman spotted me by the Hard Rock Hotel and came over to offer me a hand to go with the foot. That was so nice.

Back in the hotel room, I pondered the best way to display my prizes. I decided to prop them up against the desk lamp.

I’d completely forgotten stopping by the front desk on the way to the room to tell them the desk lamp didn’t turn on. But talk about service. I hadn’t been in the room 15 minutes before there was a knock on the door by a guy there to fix the lamp.

I waived him towards the desk, and while I was closing the door I heard a scream and the sound of someone jumping. I turned around and found him staring at the lamp. The hand and foot really do look real. He calmed down when I explained what they were. But he kept an eye on me while he fixed the lamp, and hurried out when he was done.

“I don’t need no stinking badge.”

Many GHPALS members go to Comic-Con, and the head of this society is no exception. While the next few articles were posted after the Con, they were written during it, starting with this one.

I am sitting by a swimming pool at a Holiday Inn north of the San Diego airport. The sky is overcast and the air is full of sounds: cheerful tunes faintly heard from the bar, pile drivers from some construction project, the traffic on Nimitz Avenue and Harbor Drive, and the shuttle buses that stop to pick up people for the 15-minute drive to what can only be seen as another world.

It seems unbelievable that only 5 miles from here more than a hundred-thousand people are gathered together for the biggest celebration of the popular arts, Comic-Con. There are two types of people there: the lucky ones who snagged a badge in the lottery that was the badge sale (a topic for another time) and those, like me, who did not. For at least a dozen years I have brought my children (now adults) to this thing, and for the first time I am on the outside looking in.

So enough about why I’m not among the hoards inside the convention center, and on to the fun I had outside of it. And the swag. And the promotions I’ve participated in. And, most importantly, the sheer fun I have had without a badge.

Wise promotion people have recognized the value of taking over locations in the Gaslamp District. There one has total control over the space. The venue can be open before and after the Con exhibit hall hours. There are no rules to restrict activities and room for longer lines. One can pay a restaurant to turn itself into SyFy’s Defiance HQ or NBC's Grimm forest.  One can rent the ballroom in a hotel like XBox did in the Hard Rock Cafe. Or one can just rent a parking lot, pull in a bunch of trailers and set up tents to turn it in to History Chanel central or a Coma center to advertise a new A&E mini-series. Cheapest of all, hire a bunch of temps from an agency to stand on any street corner and give a way your advertising stuff to everyone who passes by. Sure a bunch will get tossed, but most will at least be looked at by someone.

Yesterday I spent 6 hours walking the streets over there, and I had a great time. I really didn’t need no stinking badge. And judging from the crowds, neither did a lot of other people. My kids are there today, because they don’t have badges until tomorrow

Goat Hill Public Arts & Literary Society

There is a beautiful wide mesa in Orange County, California, with water on three sides. To the south is Newport Beach, with its harbors and beaches. To the west is the Santa Ana River. To the east is the Newport Back Bay. 

In the early 20th century the mesa was a network of small farms and orchards, and was commonly called Goat Hill. The locals held a contest to chose a name, and Costa Mesa (Our Mesa) won. Today the mesa is one part of the City of Costa Mesa, a city whose motto is the City of the Arts.

The north side of town, off the mesa, is the home of the Orange County Performing Arts Center and South Coast Repertory Company. The office towers in that part of town surround a wonderful sculpture garden. Eclectic performances are given at The Lab, the anti-mall (a reaction to the incredible shops at South Coast Plaza shopping center).

Goat Hill hasn't been farms for decades. It is the home of arts for the rest of us, public arts. There are theaters at Orange Coast College and Vanguard University. The Orange County Fair shows arts and crafts created by talented people from all over the county. The Triangle (formerly Triangle Square) presents all the best movies and is one of the venues showing films in the Newport Beach Film Festival. The City of Costa Mesa presents summer concerts at Fairview Park. The Costa Mesa Historical Society has a museum, a restored adobe and presents public lectures every month. There are comics and collectibles stores and art everywhere you look.

Goat Hill Public Arts and Literature Society celebrates the arts all of us enjoy.