Down By The Golden Gate Pt. 1

I went to the fourth edition of the Outside Lands Music and Art Festival held in Golden Gate Park from August 12 to 14 . Since its inaugural  opening in 2008, a good 60,000 people a day come into the the park .I went to all three days, and despite the insane hike and Muni rides reminiscent of the images you see of Indian trains ( I saw one teenager holding on the outside of a  joint between two cars. I’ve yet to find any reports on a death, so good job crazy Muse fan), they were all memorable.

Day one started with  the The Joy Formidable, a Welsh rock trio who released their first album, The Big Roar, in 2011 after releasing their EP four years ago.

Ritzy Bryan

Ritzy Bryan is the lead singer and guitarist on the group. The takeaway from the previous sentence is the word guitarist, as she is a beast on it. Her solos on songs like “Austere” was a surprise to me. I’ve been a fan of the band since their 2008 EP, and to see her tear on a guitar, pulling off Jimmy Hendrix styled riffs on the floor was amazing. The way she jumped around in her red dress, occasionally slamming her hand on the cymbal of drummer Matt Thomas – who performed admirably  throughout their set-  was a image that stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

For those that needed to kill time between sets,  there were a few options. The Barbary tent had soul acts, sideshow antics, and Gallagher smashing watermelons. The other was a small domed dance tent. Now for those that have gone to a domed IMAX theaters like the one in the Liberty Science Center in NJ, The idea for the lights show was similar.

Next on the agenda was MGMT  performing on the main stage. While pushing through massive crowds at festivals is a standard, dealing with a commune of middle-aged Phish fans laying on blankets they most likely put down the moment they got into the festival was something new to me. Once past the hippie minefield, I found a decent spot and enjoyed the performance, particularly Andrew VanWyngarden’s voice. The one issue was when VanWyngarden switched out of his electric and into his acoustic guitar to play songs from Congratulations, which was a lackluster album at best.

After a stretch of those songs, the need to see Sir Luscious Left Foot himself  superseded waiting through the rest of MGMT’s set. By now, the news his cancellation is spread over the internet. There were a few highlights however. Catching the tail end of Ellie Goulding’s performance piqued my interest in hearing more of her work. The only thing that’s come to my attention from her before seeing her live was this mash-up of her song “Lights” with an orchestral cover of Kanye’s “All Of The Lights”:

A good hour and a half into the crowd staring at the crack tech crew huddled around DJ Swiff’s malfunctioning MacBook Pro, San Francisco’s friendly neighborhood comic, Dave Chappelle, got on stage to ease the tension. This was the highlight of his appearance:

The last part of note from the Big Boi affair was a personal one. At the 45 minute mark I started feeling someone caressing my back and rubbing against me. I turn around and see a long-haired woman behind me with her eyes half-open, leaned back like if she was practicing for a limbo contest. Her hands were in grope mode; she started touching my cheek and chest and grinding on me. No one else was dancing, and her moves didn’t fit to the songs from the speakers (Blonde Redhead was playing from them at the time).

I tried ignoring her and turned around towards the stage, which I knew wouldn’t lead to anything since it’s hard for me to keep my cool when a woman rubs herself on me. So, as the people surrounding us laughed and cheered, I started grinding back, leaning to her angle.  This continued for a few minutes before she moved to my left and swayed away forwards into the crowd. I’ve done the dance maneuver to get by a cute girl or stubborn bro in the past, but she was a professional. as soon as she disappeared, I shouted to the people around me, “Fuck it, I got mine.”


Walking with Isotopes, Super Fans, and a Humble God: On Meeting Grant Morrison

The truth was, I had no idea Grant Morrison was doing a book signing for Supergods until Rob sent me the link from Bleeding Cool on Monday of that week, proceeded by the words “DO IT NOW!” I was hesitant to go, since he should have been  my wingman guarding my six on the way to Isotope Comics, where the event was being held at. That, of course, was impossible since he works in Midtown Manhattan and I work in the Financial District in San Francisco. Asking any of my Bay Area friends was out of the question; I am the only comic nerd in a gaming industry circle.

So, after waking up on a clear Saturday morning I put on a black long sleeve undershirt and my totem, the Magneto t-shirt Rob gave me for my birthday. Gwen dropped me off at the local train station. I walked upstairs to a platform of bright orange children zipping by me, holding teddy bears wearing hats  with the staggered S and F of the Giants logo. I should have checked for baseball game days along with the weather, I thought, and my bright red shirt gave me a chill of self-consciousness to go with the breeze. I performed my staple maneuver when I have a stain on my shirt, a stretching of my arms downwards and across the point of interest. I stopped when I realized that there would be no way to cover the face of Magneto against Brian Wilson’s mountain-man beard.  Ten minutes later I jumped on the (now expected)  packed bullet train and slipped through the baseball fans. I sent a text message to Rob, telling him about my fashion mistake, but his response was befitting to the words on my shirt.

” Lincecum is wrong. Magneto Was Right.”

I got off on the Civic Center BART an hour later. The walk from there to Isotope was fine save for the Van Ness Ave wind tunnel.  Once I crossed Van Ness the city slipped from office and government buildings to the small shops, food carts, and trees of Hayes Valley. Isotope Comics is a shop and lounge run by James Sime, a wild-haired man in suits that are a couple of question marks away from a mad Riddler. The rest of his employees also wore interesting attire that fit Sime’s attire: a woman with a short blond bob cut and tight black dress manning the register and a man with a tight mohawk, black suit, and Chuck Taylors looking either like a nervous bouncer or the doorman to a ska show. Despite his sneakers, I still felt under-dressed. The clash between the comic geek part of me used to other comic shops run by men in ratty band or nerd tees, and the Catholic school part of me that enjoys wearing suit jackets and a nice pair of slacks,  was in full effect.

“I know I’m ten million hours early,” I told her. I gave her my name, grabbed my ticket, told her I’d come back to get my copy of the book (which was a part of the package), and went to grab lunch at a really good diner. To my surprise, when I came back an hour later the amount of fans also hanging around for the signing were still at the same “count on my fingers” level that it was at when I left.

Morrison came in ten minutes later, along with his wife. Sime walked down from the second floor reading room, already set up with a draft table for the signing, and greeted both. Morrison was standing two feet away from me. My thoughts flashed back to when Kali and I bumped into Mos Def wearing a fez at a DOOM concert back in college. I geeked out on that occasion, but not this time, mostly because I started reading one of the trades written by him to keep my cool.

I instinctively picked up New X-Men; that was the one that got me into his work. It was a breath of fresh air for me, one that came from the open window Morrison used to throw continuity out of. The costumes changed from spandex to a more utilitarian version that was step or two above the ones made for the movies. The shirt I was wearing was a direct reference to his run, a piece of mutant fashion wore by the rebellious Kid Omega during the “Riot at Xavier’s” arc.

I grabbed my copy when the fans made their way to the lounge, surrounded  by indie comics in pamphlet form and toilet seat covers with art and scripts from creators, with Sime standing across from the Dr. Strange costume on display. Morrison was sitting at the table right next to Strange’s cape.

I was number 6, and number 5 was a guy holding five books to his chest, in comparison to the one book in my hand.  I turned around to see Number 7 holding three singles in polymer bags and her copy of Supergods. While number 4 chatted with Grant I had a chat with number 5 that consisted of, “hey you take my photo with him and I’ll take yours.”

I started another conversation, this time with numbers 7 and 8. Number 7, who later introduced herself as Klassy, was a Filipina girl living in SF for the last two years. I never learned number 8′s name, but he was a nice curly-haired guy from out-of-town  rocking a faded white tee with the X-Men wrapped around it. He only had one single and the book, but I still felt like I cheated myself for not bringing my copy of New X-Men in my bookcase back home.

Then I looked down at Magneto. ” Could you hold my book?” I asked Klassy. She obliged and I took off the shirt. I was glad it was clean, as putting it in a frame with an odor would haunt me in small way for the rest of my life (or until I lost it, which knowing me is very possible).

Number 5 left and I took his place on a cushioned bench next to  Morrison. We shook hands, I introduced myself, and braced myself for the fact that his Glaswegian tongue has been completely indecipherable to me when I’ve seen interviews on him. I started off with a fumble, asking him about what is down the pipeline for him as if I hadn’t read about his upcoming Action Comics run in September. I used it to find words through his vocal Ghillie suit. The first thing that caught my attention was how soft his tone of voice was as he shook his head to the side, saying “Well…” and still not really understanding the rest.

So then, I went straight to what I’ve meant to say to him. ”First off, I’d like to say I’ve been championing your X-Men run for ten years. My friends hated it because of continuity, but fuck the haters.”

He shook his head as I said it, doing another “Well…” but I paid close attention this time. “…Marvel has, I don’t know,” he said, looking a bit exasperated. “The thing is, Marvel was made by three geniuses, Lee, Kirby, and Ditko, who made characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. They’re characters that are realistic, that makes it harder for writers to work with. DC gives you more freedom because of the ideas the characters represent…” his voice went into a softer tone at this point. I couldn’t hear his words, but by now I was appreciating  at how much of a normal guy he was. My image of Morrison consisted of a dapper man in bright suits and sunglasses , or staring right at me with a maniacal smile  from his interview for Coilhouse. Here he was, wearing a simple black shirt for his upcoming western movie Sinatoro (which reminded  me of the photo shoot scene in Lost In Translation where Bill Murray is asked to do a Sinatra pose), almost whispering at me while we huddled over the drafting table.

GRANT WAS RIGHTAfter that, he signed my book, and smiled at my shirt before signing it . I took some ( mediocre) shots as he put his pen below the words on it, first in a writing pose, then in a painterly one for a better image.  Number 8 and Klassy asked me where I got it from; you can get it here from the wonderfully nerdy people at MightyFine. I shook Grant’s hand again as we both stood up and handed Sime my camera. He took two photos of me and him, one of  us smiling and the other one with me in a ridiculous Jersey pout and Grant leaning towards my  head. I had yet another handshake, said goodbye and went back downstairs.

I didn’t leave the store immediately. I sat down on the bean bag sofas near the entrance and talked with other fans waiting to hear their number.  I continued my conversation with Klassy, who received adoration and envy from the others after getting her iPad signed by Morrison, along with a sketch of Batman’s profile. Sime came down to get a clearer photo to post on Twitter, and after revealing her cinephilic nature to me she received my customary Top Five question. As expected, this sparked a conversation. another number, 39 (or Michael, which I learned after introducing myself an hour later) sat at my left. He is a regular who stops by on his way home from work. We talked about nostalgia, the 90s, Kyle Rayner (we argued about the mask), and the  normal kids/music combo that happens when you’re talking to a person in their 40s.  On my right was 24 who, to my surprise, was reading New X-Men for the first time. I held back from trying to sell him into loving the book, I try my best at not being that kind of fan anymore (at least in public).

I planned to stay for the after hours event at the bar, but then learned that I had only paid for the signing. It didn’t bother me I still bought the cup celebrating the event and thanked the woman at the register before walking towards the BART. The truth is, even as  I look back now, what stood out were the people I met and the place than the moment I had with Morrison. While he was great for being humble and mundane, I’m always more interested in characters like Klassy the geeked out fan and Michael the grizzled but polite veteran. I remember my careful reading of Supergods on a beer drenched train ride home, careful not to let any drunk Giants fan get their beer near me. I of course geeked out on my chair once I was back home.

I have every right to, though:

I friggin’ met Grant Morrison.


Death Bar Weekend Update

The double-edged sword of this weekend really knocked down my expectations of writing this weekend. My Sunday didn’t help me pound out as much words to meet my (now in hindsight overambitious) 1500 word goal.  Saturday’s event  took out a large chunk of my time and a need for decompression afterwards. However, it was so inspiring that I’ll be writing about it tonight, practicing my outlining before writing  the real post tomorrow. The increase in the count are split by the following:

350 words cleaning up the Mexicans in Space story. I’m still trying to sure the climax fits the story’s title.

736 words on expanding and then writing a post on the Amerasian girls I’ve known. That probably won’t make it into publication just yet.


Death Bar Halftime Update

Not bad so far. Here’s the breakdown:

745 words on a new story for my main project, an urban fantasy ( I’ve named the world/idea Terra Occulta, but I know I’ll change that at some point. maybe)

765 on scripts for a webcomic I’ve been working on, a multiverse buddy comedy.

350 on finishing up my MEXICANS IN SPAAAACE story I wrote back in January. I know how it ends, I was just never sure about the details.

I am disappointed with how much I got done on Friday, but I had a busy day with work and Rise Of the Planet of the Apes (which was good, go watch it). Tomorrow isn’t going to be any easier, I’m out most of the day.

Shit I’m starting to see why Ellis is going madder and madder in his Death Bar entries. Maybe I’ll call it the Insanity Bar. Who knows.


Thoughts on Tumblr, Google Plus and Wolves

I jumped into the   Tumblr wave a few months back, which should explain why this has gone on radio silence for a while. It’s a must faster delivery system in that you can click on one icon, put down a blurb (or in the case of The New Inquiry, something larger) and while it does have its drawbacks ( the MB capacity for songs could be just a little bit higher)I’ve racked up at least 5 times the  posts I have here in the span of  2 months.

There are some things that do bother me, however. Reblogging is a really cool idea, but people are putting things up without filling out that part right above the tags. You know, that part that says CONTENT SOURCE. Jamie McKelvie said it best himself on a post in his tumblog. Give credit where credit is due.

Like many kids growing up in the age of the World Wide Web, AOL, and Napster, I had my own little  angst-filled journal, filled with stories of friends with nicknames for each of them in fear that someone will read it like Big Brother didn’t already have my SSN. Since then I’ve grown from angst to full on rage to self-medicated annoyance, but it’s amusing to see myself slowly verging into internet “get off my lawn” territory. The deeper i go into Tumblr-land the more I find these emo/pothead/”Alt” teenage diaries. In most other platforms it’s easy to dismiss them, but they put up one interesting article or image, and they trick one into going to their  tumblog with its crappy song embedded on it and a wall of GPOY. Then I remember that I did pretty similar things myself (without the music, I knew better) and I should just leave them be until they become superstars or cancer patients.

Another point: those annoying goddamned memes are so visible on the dashboard page. I now understand why Sarah Palin went wolf hunting. She wanted to kill all the Insanity/Courage/WTF Wolves that posted by  thousands. However, this is Palin we’re talking about; she doesn’t know that the internet isn’t a series of tubes that go along with the Trans-Alaskan pipeline. For the love of god internet dwellers, stop making these little lupine self-help fortune cookies (the 4chan troll face is pretty cool though).

Google+, while I’m not fanatically cheering about it and trying to get people on-board, still hasn’t changed the fact that my user time on it is increasing. I won’t jump ship anytime soon, as  Facebook isn’t the hot mess that Myspace was and is still has a massive fanbase (750 million at the time of this post. In a lot of respects, while it’s easy for those with existing Google accounts , I wonder how long it’ll be until the Yahoo!/Hotmail crowd creeps into the clean + page, filling it with baby photos and passive aggressive status posts.I just hope Google doesn’t sell out and put games on this.


Death Bar Operational

I’ve done a lot of writing lately, but I need a deadline. That’s when I turned to señor Warren Ellis for some help. He’s currently writing his second novel, Gun Machine, and to get it done in time for release he needs to finish 5000 words a week. He’s using the above progress meter to show how much of the (at the moment 80000) word goal he needs to meet. I’m only doing a small amount, 5000, in a week, just to see how much I actually get done.

As to why I call it a Death Bar, Ellis has given it that nickname. I’m using it as a proxy name until I see how much time I get done.