Thursday, August 28, 2008

Another comic book for the masses

Apparently, a trilogy of movies based on the adventures of Tintin is planned, and Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are expected to direct a movie each. This is much more promising than that unfortunate union of Avatar and M. Night Shyamalan that was reported by self-described Avatard and eternal optimist, Vicki.

Tintin was the comic book that I grew up with. Whereas my parents discouraged reading Archie Comics, typical girl comic content at the time, claiming that the small print was bad for my eyes, they happily built my complete library of Tintin comic books.

Even as a fan, I shudder to think what a live version of Tintin might look like but I trust that Spielberg and Jackson, who will also serve as producer, are wealthier and more celebrated than me for a reason.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

San Diego 2008 recap

Now that the Olympics are over, it is back to the regularly scheduled program of my never ending story about San Diego.
After the frustration of Comic Con 2008, we were eager to explore other attractions in San Diego, especially since Flocons and Royal had never been there.

La Jolla
Described in travel guides as a beautiful, retirement mecca, La Jolla was deemed car rental worthy by all. We arrived at 9am and already found it difficult but not impossible to park the car. Impossible came later, at noon, when one driver was willing to wait patiently for half an hour to take over our space.

The majority of La Jolla beaches consisted of narrow strips of sand with an overhang of cliffs. The crashing waves were impressive but hardly conducive to swimming. We settled on La Jolla Cove (seen above), which was very popular with snorklers. Even with our two swim goggles, shared between five people, and spit on by Alex, we could easily see the vivid Orange Garibaldi fish, the size of one's hand, as well as some smaller, unknown silver fish.

Mission Beach
In spite of its beauty, Joe and I did not like La Jolla as much as Mission Beach. With some coaxing, we convinced our friends to visit Mission Beach after a stopover at Roadrunner Sports and In-N-Out Burger, and they were not disappointed. On a side note, the Roadrunner Sports located in San Diego was purportedly the biggest running shoe store in North America but was seriously understaffed and understocked. Alex and Flocons ordered the 4X4 Burger from the secret menu at In-N-Out Burger and claimed to feel okay afterwards, blaming only the cheese for the time they served in the washroom later.

Mission Beach is a more traditional beach than La Jolla Cove, to be sure, but even with the high pedestrian traffic, the sand was clean and there was no sense of exclusivity. While strolling on the boardwalk, we took note of the websites for the rental units facing the beach and seriously dreamed of preparing food while watching a flat screen TV, like that guy with the open glass wall that we stared at from the boardwalk.

Many locals choose to take the public bus to Mission Beach in spite of the fact that parking is readily available. Later in our trip, we returned to Mission Beach by public bus (a mere 17 minute ride) to take surfing lessons. Our Surfari instructor knew he had his job cut out when he realized that none of us skateboarded nor snowboarded nor swam very well. He patiently guided us individually while the rest struggled to walk their boards into the waves, buffeted back one step for every two we advanced. I managed to 'pop up' with the instructor's assistance and I can now confidently say that I could not surf if my life depended on it.

Balboa Park
Joe and I had chosen to skip the San Diego Air & Space Museum during our last visit but it became our first destination this time around thanks to Star Trek: The Exhibition. Clearly a trap aimed at Comic Con attendees, we ran in gleefully when it opened at 10:00am. This exhibition was superior to one we had experienced in Las Vegas thanks to the many set recreations including the bridge of the original Enterprise, Picard's quarters, the hallway of the Enterprise D and the Transporter Room. We yucked it up while Royal covered her face in shame when she wasn't being forcibly posed in photographs that we later paid $15 each for.

The only other stop on our Balboa Park excursion was the San Diego Zoo. Flocons and Royal have a 'taste' for panda and, therefore, made a point of lining up to see them. Joe and I reluctantly joined them and were rewarded with a better view of the pandas than our last visit (see below).

All in all, a very enjoyable visit to San Diego, Comic Con 2008 notwithstanding. A bonus for vegetarians: San Diego restaurants offer a wide range of veggie burgers that are tasty. Minus for food connoisseurs: there are few true 'ethnic' food options.

Next up: my never ending story of our trip to San Francisco!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thank you, Simon Whitfield

For the first time during the Beijing Olympics, I jumped up and down, and screamed at my TV. The cause of this excitement was Simon Whitfield's race for the gold during the Men's Triathlon competition.

In the end, Whitfield won a Silver but the guts he showed during the race was better than the majority of Gold Medal-winning performances that I have seen so far. As amazing as Michael Phelps, Guo Jingjing, and Usain Bolt are, there is something anti-climactic about watching an unchallenged winner.

Whitfield steadily hunted down the lead group of runners, repeatedly hanging off the back, falling away then struggling back into contention until the last kilometer, when he threw his hat off and charged ahead with everything he had left. He was passed by the Gold Medal winner in the last 30 meters but, without a doubt, Whitfield had done his best.

If every Canadian athlete showed as much competitive heart as Whitfield, I wouldn't care what the medal count was.

More sour Olympic notes:
  • Who are those annoying McDonald's commercial kids? The three boys and two girls are so generic that they could be mistaken for quintuplets and their dialogue delivery makes the otherwise bland punchlines acutely painful. I thought McDonald's was a multinational corporation and a major sponsor of the Olympics. They couldn't afford something better than a bunch of brats exchanging weak repartee in and around a McDonald's during prime time Olympic coverage?

  • The programmers at the CBC obviously have a passion for softball and women's volleyball (court and beach). I waited in vain for a repeat airing of the Women's Marathon, while Joe has yet to see any ping pong or badminton matches. Meanwhile, CBC chose to show, in its excruciating entirety, Canada's loss to Venezuela in softball. And what the female volleyball players lacked in backside coverage, CBC made up for in game coverage by forcing their audience to watch every riveting timeout, regardless of whether a Canadian was playing. Whatever happened to the highlight reel? Our only Olympic broadcast alternative, NBC, actively denied the existence of Canadian competitors; for instance, failing to show a single one of medal contender, Blythe Hartley's dives in favour of the lower ranked American divers.
  • Finally, please bring the Summer Olympics back to this side of the world. I am fed up of being sleep deprived from staying up past midnight in order to catch live action from the Games.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Aim for zero

I can confirm, using the nifty iGoogle tool, that as of this moment on Day 6 of the Beijing Olympics, the Canadian medal count is zero.

Broadcasters and journalists seem to be relatively optimistic that Canada will win a medal soon. Currently, Canada is being beaten in the medal count by powerhouses like Armenia, Togo and Uzbekistan.

However, I would like to state for the record that I hope that Canada comes away with zero medals. This is a terrible thing to wish on the Canadian athletes who have worked so hard to make it to the Olympics. However, I think extreme failure is what is required for increased success in the future.

Many supporters like to point to a lack of funding as the reason why Canadian athletes fail to excel on the international athletics scene. Without a doubt, financial support is what has helped the American and Chinese teams succeed since it has allowed their athletes to concentrate on training full-time.

However, how does one explain the success of athletes from countries like Armenia or Kazakhstan (4 medals each)? I have my doubts that their athletes enjoy the same quality of life as Canadian ones.

One of the most annoying aspects of watching the Olympics on CBC is the unwavering optimism and good sportsmanship of the broadcasters and the athletes, respectively. CBC will cheerfully do a roll call of mediocrity in which John Doe was disqualified in first round while Jane Doe finished 17th overall. Then the athletes who are interviewed will say how happy they are to have competed in the Olympics or done a personal best. One sad schmuck said he was happy to have even swam in the same heat as Michael Phelps.

Where is the killer instinct? Where is the bravado? Why should being Canadian be equated with being a good loser and a cheerful supporter of mediocrity?

Zero medals is what Canada needs. Anything more, like tying with Kazakhstan, will only confirm the status quo for the athletes and organizers who will remain happy to have just shown up.

Friday, August 08, 2008

All that I could have been

The fluoride in the water controversy is back and now, critics are claiming that fluoride can have a detrimental effect on children's IQ.

Also being debated: whether breastfeeding brings about higher intelligence.

Combine my childhood consumption of tap water with the fact that my mother did not breast feed me, and, boy, do I feel stupid.

I do get tired of the hand wringing over mere points in IQ. Why do people search for minute indicators for why their children are underachieving when their children are, for instance, watching inane television shows instead of doing their homework?

Yes, I drank fluoride water because experts thought it was good for my teeth. And I was fed formula because my doctor claimed that it was better than breast milk. In spite of all this, I believe that I have an average IQ because weighing against the fluoride and formula was the fact that I read a lot of books when I was growing up. Also, I was fat because I ate alot and didn't exercise much. It's Ockham's razor.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

tokidoki's new bling

Two years ago, after attending the 2006 Comic Con, I bought a tokidoki bag from the Duty Free Shop steps from Grauman's Chinese Theatre in L.A. I was hesitant to buy the bag because $100 seemed quite steep for rip-stop nylon, even if it was cute. Luckily for me, Joe insisted on buying the Playground Ciao bag (seen on the left) for me and I have enjoyed it ever since.

In the two years since, tokidoki has become a phenomenon. Prices rose in the season immediately after my purchase, but the brand continued to grow in popularity. So, when I heard that tokidoki would no longer be produced by lesportsac after Winter 2007, I was surprised that such a profitable brand would be discontinued. (See the complete lesportsac line of tokidoki bags minus Winter 2007 here.)

Thinking that tokidoki bags were a thing of the past, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the tokidoki booth at Comic Con 2008. Girls swarmed the counter and bought skateboard decks, t-shirts, accessories and whatever they could get their hands on. I found myself jumping into the fray but ultimately, walked away with nothing.

A few days after Comic Con had ended, I was at the Macy's in Union Square, San Francisco, when I came across new tokidoki bags that had just arrived, so the salesperson claimed. I looked over these new tokidoki bags and found them lacking, especially in comparison to my own tokidoki bag, which I was carrying. The teeth of the zippers were similarly multicoloured but much harsher in tone. All the hardware had a flashy gold tone unlike the more subtle brushed gold of my bag. A closer look at the finishing of the bags also showed a careless hand.

When I returned home, I checked the Wikipedia entry for tokidoki and was surprised to learn that lesportsac is reportedly the manufacturer of the new tokidoki line of bags. Apparently, the brand's illustrator and co-creator, Simone Legno, was given complete creative control and chose to leave out the lesportsac logo for a "cleaner aesthetic". These new bags are also expected to cost more than the previous line.

Either Wikipedia is mistaken in its claim that lesportsac has anything to do with the new line of tokidoki bags or lesportsac is screwing over Simone Legno by producing a sub par product.

It is understandable that Simone Legno and his business partners might want a bigger cut of the tokidoki pie, and separating themselves from lesportsac is a first step. However, will tokidoki fans buy any product with the tokidoki characters emblazoned on them, even if it is poorly made? Only numbers will tell.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Comic Con 2008 recap

As hinted at in my previous blog entry, I did not enjoy this year's Comic Con as much as the 2006 edition. In short, the desirable panels were inundated by attendees due to a lack of overall quality, a theory that Alex supports. I also suspect that there were more attendees in 2008 than in 2006 since the exhibition hall was hard to walk comfortably through from Wednesday to Saturday with the exception of Sunday.

In two incidences, I can blame the exhibitors directly for creating a bad situation. The Warner Bros. booth handed out free bags and instigated a stampede. Rather than relieve what was becoming a safety hazard, the Warner Bros. vendors created a bottle neck by insisting that attendees pick up the bags at a narrow stretch of counter space. It is understandable that Warner Bros. did not want flailing arms to knock over displays on the counter but they should have foreseen the freebie frenzy and been better prepared. People who had obtained a free bag had to fight their way out of the surging crowd, rugby style.

A second horrible freebie experience was with Imagi Studios and Summit Entertainment, who were promoting the new AstroBoy movie by handing out a free AstroBoy bag. Rather than simply giving out the bags like every other vendor, Imagi Studios and Summit Entertainment forced everyone to wait in a line and chant "AstroBoy" at regular intervals. We had waited for 30 minutes when I asked the lead cheerleader what we were waiting for. The lead cheerleader first chose to mock me with, "You don't even know what you're lining up for?" Then, when I had clarified my question, she chose to ignore it and instead, handed me the AstroBoy bag she had been waving provocatively at the lineup, and asked, "Are you happy now?" By her defensive stance and lack of explanation, I can only assume that we were being forced to sing and dance for our payoff, much like minstrels. We left soon after and I gave my AstroBoy bag away because it was ill-begotten loot.

The few panels that we were able to get into, because I was not willing to line up for hours beforehand, were entertaining enough. "The Comedy Central TV Funhouse" panel with Robert Smigel, Dino Stamatopoulos and Tommy Blacha was pretty funny though they all came across as competitive geeks. When Doug Dale showed up via webcam, it got even better as Dale used a variety of props to protest being ignored (i.e. miming a genial conversation with a Lambchop puppet or chewing on an egg that suddenly produces a new friend). It made me sad though that Dale could not make it in person to Comic Con because he was now a music teacher and therefore, had unglamorous responsibilities.

Immediately after the TV Funhouse panel was the "10th Annual Superhero Kung-Fu Extravaganza" hosted by Martial Arts movie academic, Ric Meyers. This panel produced an unexpected gem in Mark Zaror (seen on the left), the South American martial arts star of Chinango, a movie that featured two gratuitous masturbation scenes and whose rental my friends have never forgiven me for. I was clearly one of few people in the audience who knew who he was so I am regretful that I did not ask him about Chinango even though he was promoting Kiltro.

Also entertaining for all the wrong reasons was the live broadcast of the Masquerade on Saturday evening. This was the live remote screening of the Masquerade for people who were either not able or not willing to obtain tickets for the actual event venue. Because none of the masquerade participants could hear us, the remote screening audience resorted to heckling early on. Three themes emerged from the masquerade entries:

1. Skin show - Young flesh seemed to make up for many an uninspired costume. This became entertaining when one Emma Frost wannabee ended up revealing the stuffing in her chest while one mannish jungle queen's outfit prompted one of the emcees to quip, "I love the Masquerade!"

2. All's well that ends with a dance - No matter how stiffly you may dance as a result of your costume or your natural lack of rhythm, you will end your stint on the stage with pelvic gyrations to "I'm Too Sexy" or another equally overused joke song.

3. The never ending story - One of the worst entries was a group of vikings whose costumes were lackluster but whose showmanship was on par with a kindergarten recital. For over five minutes, the vikings danced poorly to an inexplicable selection of contemporary songs. This marathon of mediocrity was matched only by the half-time show, "Heroes vs. Villains: A Battle Royale," which was supposed to be a martial arts demonstration. It ended up being a soap opera with an indecipherable storyline and dialogue, and very little action. This was the point at which Joe and I, as well as the majority of the remaining audience, decided to call it a day.

All was not lost at Comic Con 2008. The costumes outside of the Masquerade, a small selection seen below, were actually pretty impressive. One Batman, whose outfit I sadly did not photograph, was fully committed to his role. At the panels that he attended, he would alternately growl, "Swear to me!" or "Be quiet!" at other attendees. He also stood up and spread his cape whenever he was referred to by the panelists. This approach to cosplay is definitely preferable to the serious and self-conscious display some attendees offered.
My trip to San Diego ended up being made worthwhile by activities outside of Comic Con 2008. More on San Diego and my trip to San Francisco coming up!