Digressions of a Traveling Housewife.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
 
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008
 
Eureka Cast and Crew New Heroes of Comic Con
Heroes began its run at Comic Con two years ago. The Heroes panelists last year (mostly the cast members) thanked all the bloggers for creating buzz, and asked them to do it again. Measuring by the turnout, they apparently took direction too well. I like Heroes, but am willing to wait until September for the premiere rather than fighting a crowd of 12,000 for one of 6,500 seats.

Later on Saturday, another of my favorite shows hosted a panel of main cast members, and creators. Eureka is an odd little show airing Tuesdays on the Sci Fi Network. The show tends to borrow plots and tropes from famous science fiction and fantasy literature (including movies and shows). These little in-jokes ratchet up the intelligence of the show, already at a high bar.

Essentially, U.S. Marshall Carter (boyishly cute Colin Ferguson) and his errant daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson) end up stuck in a top-secret town named Eureka, which the writer revealed is in Oregon (not northern California, the Town of Eureka’s actual home). The town is a conglomerate of the best minds solving futuristic problems today; most of Eureka's geniuses work at Global Dynamics (a not-too-sly reference to the major defense contractor General Dynamics). The entire town is filled with geniuses who work on futuristic studies. Only Carter seems exempt from being a triple-nine genius, but his charm, affability, and skillful use of Occam’s razor grant him entrée into the world’s smartest town. He becomes their replacement Sheriff when the former one is injured in the first episode.

One reason I like the show is that it reveals genius in many forms. Aside from the mathematicians, physicists, geneticists, and Henry (a modern-day Michaelangelo who specializes in everything, artfully portrayed by Joe Morton), only a few characters display differential genius: Sherriff Carter (Ferguson), Jo Lupo (Erica Cerra), Café Diem chef Vincent (Chris Gauthier), Beverly Barlowe (Deborah Farentino) the psychologist, and Taggart (Matt Frewer). Sheriff Carter’s genius is tracking the obvious—rather than the obscure—raisons for the cataclysmic events which stymie the GD Directors. Chef Vincent’s culinary genius translates into any food, any time and deliciously rendered. (Fergusson answered the question about Carter’s fave food at the Diem “It’s probably a burger and fries.”) Jo Lupo, Deputy Sheriff, is a genius at warfare, ammo, and maintaining an upright military pose at all times. Taggart’s genius is with animals; not unsurprisingly, he often more resembles the wild lab escapees more than the town’s human inhabitants. One panelist noted that the ducks (in the Duck Duck Goose episode) actually followed him around adoringly, as if he were the animal trainer. Take that, Max Headroom.

The town’s most elusive genius is clearly Lojack, the sometimes-invisible, high-IQ dog. Questioned by a fan why Lojack has effectively disappeared from the show, Ferguson gave a very funny spiel about how difficult it is to work with animals which may (or may not) respond to their trainer’s commands. Also, the expense and time involved in working with live animals is prohibitive; Ferguson noted that trainers were calling the rats in an upcoming scene, which to him seemed silly. He got big laughs from the audience.

The cast and crew of Eureka are my new heroes because the show is still unknown enough that everyone who wanted to see the panel was allowed in to witness these warm, funny, charming actors (who are clearly intelligent in their own right) and creators talk about a show they obviously enjoy producing. Ferguson, particularly, was magnetic and amiable. He’s a dangerously charming man overflowing with energy and snappy retorts, though most of these involved being in a towel for much of one upcoming episode, referred to as the "Groundhog Day" episode. The jokes continued despite the PG warning on the backs of their place cards. One enthusiastic fan asked if Henry would be in a towel in any upcoming episodes. Clearly, the entire cast is becoming wildly popular, and approaching—if not yet reaching—sex-symbol status.

In fact, the cast seemed to have just barely grasped their own popularity among fans after two seasons of the sleeper hit. Before the panel, Jon and I ate at the excellent Masala Indian restaurant. After filling up on their buffet, on the way to the car to drop off our load of swag, we encountered an ice cream truck loaded with cones and the cast of Eureka. They were as happy as the few fans who spotted them, and the cast all appeared as awestruck as those who gathered for free treats and photo ops. I kept getting big smiles from Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Dr. Allison Blake), who is obviously as mulata as I am. (I love a show where mixed heritage folks are represented.) The cast all seemed overawed at the audience response, displaying the innocence and heart-warming gratitude that proves they are not jaded by their popularity—yet.

Unlike the overexposed Heroes of NBC, the stars of this underrated show are still real enough and approachable enough to merit a spot at Comic Con, whose purpose should be to spotlight new shows. Clearly this is the main purpose of Comic Con—to advertise the underground hits—not the mega-stars, but the upstarts.

During the panel, the cast answered the rather banal question of why the show is so named. (It’s titled after Archimedes’ exclamation (“I have found it!”) on discovering water displacement as a measure of mass.) In the show, Archimedes’ statue graces the town fountain; in the first episode, the fountain’s statue is seen rising and lowering itself into the bathtub fountain. According to Ferguson, that is no longer done in the show; apparently, despite the shows fictional advances, the crew itself has to perform many of the technical stunts with muscle rather than technology, including raising and lowering Archimedes on a stick; this became too much to handle in addition to all the other prop movements, such as managing S.A.R.A.H the talking house.

The Panel was the funniest and liveliest I saw this year or last. Funnier even than Groening’s panels. But don’t take my word for it. You can watch the entire panel at Sci Fi’s website.

With 14:30 left in the panel, you can listen to my question (and the response) about the significance of the ice cream.

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San Diego's Comic Con Hosts Capacity Crowds... And More
There are lots of reasons to come to San Diego in July. Escaping the Mid Atlantic's torturous heat for one. The best CONUS surfing for another. But for nerds, geeks, and sci fi freaks, July in San Diego means Comic Con has come to town.

In its 39th year, Comic Con has almost outgrown the SD Convention Center; near the bay and Seaport Village, the Convention Center hosted nearly 125,000 attendees daily during its four days. With 400 events over the long weekend, not everyone gets to see their favorite shows' panels. Last year, Jon and I were able to squat in room 20 half the day and see four events in a row, including the preview of the Heroes season premiere. This year, though, organizers clearly oversold the convention to both attendees and events, which created huge problems.

Like most good things, Comic Con has been overrun by corporations. For example, this year's Heroes event was moved to the largest venue, Hall H, which reportedly holds 6,500 people plus SRO. Because attendees camped out overnight for the preview, there was no chance of attending the third installment of Heroes at Comic Con. We got there an hour early; to get in line, I walked around the entire building, around the back by the loading dock, and halfway to Seaport Village before surrendering to the obvious. There was no way I (or most people on the forced hike) would be getting into the screening and panel. (Later on Saturday, I got a recap of the main episode from a nice young man in line ahead of us for BSG, which was also oversold. He had the grace to ask me if I really wanted him to spoil it for me; I pointed out I would have gone had I been able to get in and spoiled it for myself.)

After giving up, I rejoined Jon and went to the Futurama panel instead, which was just as rewarding and not nearly as overcrowded, and which was immediately followed by the Simpsons panel, both good alternatives to Heroes. That's probably why the event coordinators set Futurama against Heroes. Though they didn't show any previews of the next Futurama movie, they did answer questions and give the audience a good time.

Groening and his gangs are always good for a lot of laughs; the panels were a good way to start our visit. The creators did show a clip of why people shouldn't download pirated videos titled Downloading Often is Terrible (D.O.I.T.), a shaky copy of which someone posted here.

The BSG panel and screening was likewise as crowded and oversold, but this too seemed unimportant, as the show is nearly over with only half a season left to air. No great loss to me, but some young folks were crying to get in. Literally.

Sadly, Comic Con also does not offer sign-language interpreters for the hearing impaired, which I only discovered because a Spanish-speaking woman with her kids asked an "Elite" security person for assistance. I interpreted for her, but no one could interpret for her disappointed daughter. Clearly another black mark for Comic Con organizers, and one which might interest the ADA.


I was really bothered by how much they oversold the convention this year. It has grown past the Convention Center's capacity to host it, which may be their evil plan. Rumors abounded this year about moving Comic Con to Vegas or LA, and by overselling the events the coordinators may try to justify moving to a new venue. I'd hate to see that; San Diego and Comic Con are conjoined terms, in most peoples opinion, and have been for almost 4 decades. Certainly, Vegas is a terrible choice; late July in Nevada? It's 110 degrees.

The other limiting factor for Comic Con is how the organizers oversold it to the shows. For example, although Jon and I both adore the painfully funny (emphasis on pain) hit show The Office, the panel starring Rainn Wilson (who plays Dwight Schrute) seemed sorely misplaced. The show has zero connection to comics, science fiction, or fantasy. A clue to the show's presence is found in the deleted scenes of the season 2 episode "Dwight's Speech," in which Dwight blathers about his adoration of Starbuck in BSG (we presume he means Katee Sackoff's Starbuck, not Dirk Benedict's Starbuck). This slim, non-canonical connection is clearly not enough to justify an Office panel, but they were there anyway.

It seems the comics are getting pushed aside for other media, which is a shame. The comic is the thing! It's right there on the convention guide's cover. It's in the title of the convention, and the repeating pattern behind most of the panels, at least in the big rooms. Nonetheless, comic book sales were pushed to three small aisles, while movie and television corporations have taken over half the exhibitor's hall.

I predict that the overblown Comic Con will split in two, that the comics will go one way, the sci fi shows another. The comics are the inspirational source material to many corporate undertakings, but the artists' exhibits are in the back corner of the hall, hidden behind the monstrous, two-story displays of Warner Brothers and the networks.

To me, Comic Con is about finding out what's new in science fiction, fantasy, and comics. When a show is so over-exposed that every fan in the audience has a despondent twin in the parallel universe of the halls, it no longer needs Comic Con to sustain it.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008
 
Underwater!


Christina sends this image from the road.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
 
And Again, La Jolla
Best of the La Jolla Summer.

This summer's living in La Jolla has been all about the work. In between, here and there, I've carved out little bits of time to enjoy all that my favorite neighborhood has to offer. I've decided to summarize them with "Best of" lists. Corny, I know, but I'm only including places I've actually visited.

Top Eateries:

1. Rubios: This chain, built on a bit of industrial espionage by a young entrepreneur, is a staple. Usually the first thing I have is a fish taco, and the last is an order of the same. (One franchise is in the San Diego airport.) Unforgettable, undeniable.

2. Niban: This little sushi place is casual without that fast-food feel, and classy enough for a date with the spouse. Seating is usually limited, and often the line curves around the glass front. Start with edamame, follow with a Bento box, sushi combo, or sashimi platter. Green tea completes my favorite meals.

3. Rock Bottom Cafe: We could walk here, if we didn't drive so much. Rock Bottom serves steaks, fish plates, hearty American bar food. They know how not to overdo a fine steak, though the standard warnings apply. A large selection of beers pleases the spouse.

4. Sunflower Deli: This little gem is a little hard to find. Diagonally across from UTC shopping center on Town Center Drive, this basement-level deli is hidden in a monolithic office building. With views of an enclosed terrace (with outdoor seating), this Deli serves the best sandwiches and homemade soup I've tasted. So far, I've only had the pleasure once, but I tried again on July 5th, and they were closed for the holiday -- for three days straight, which Jon and I surmise is the reason they have held onto the same employees for three summers straight. Not open weekends, and open only for breakfast and lunch during the week, it's usually populated by what in LJ pass for suits: khaki's and a Hawaiian button-down shirt. Be not afraid.

5. Pittorio's: Unbelievable food. Requires stylish casual dress, though we saw folks in their tourist gear, from shorts to cap.
Monday, August 14, 2006
 
La Jolla... again
Being in La Jolla is like coming home to a city I don't live in. I want to live here. I've been pestering Jon, unable to keep quiet when the feeling rises up in me.

"I want to live here." Over and over the thought escapes me, even though I know it will always be just a thought. Jon lives and works in Maryland. I live and work with Jon. So the most I can do is enjoy the scenery, the cool breezes, the proximity to Mexico, for a week or three each year.

We've been ensconced in lovely southern Cal for a week now, and are enjoying Rubios' fish tacos, the beach, the weather, the easy atmosphere. It's cool and breezy, and the salty air is knocking the mustiness out of my head. The humidity dulls me too much on the East Coast.

So far, we've been to our favorite Sushi place, bookstore, and game store. Jon and I have also had the pleasure of visiting friends.

First, we shopped.

On my last trip, I was sorely disappointed by the lack of clothing in... ahem... my size at University Town Center. Only two stores, in fact, had my size. Nordstrom's and Talbot's. Sears may have plus sizes, but by the time I got around the rest of the mall, I was too tired to check. In fact, the more I checked, the angrier I became. Most stores carry only up to a misses' 14 or 16. Bebe won the prize for only carrying up to a size 10! Seriously.

So it was with a heavy head that Jon and I went there again this trip to look for a shirt for Jon. It was mostly a bust -- we found one doable short-sleeve shirt that didn't cost $40. Ah, well.

We're much happier at other shops. Mysterious Galaxy never disappointed. I picked up a 1200-page book--three books in one, actually-- called the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. Set in a completely different world, the book blends fantasy scapes from all the "realms" into a dark underworld of witches, demon-dead, and intelligent, crafty animals. Unicorns, dragons, sabertooth tigers and wolves take sides with queen-witches and warlords in a demonic war that could rip apart every level of heaven and hell. Totally absorbing. Recommended for those who like Anne Rice, but be warned: Rice's grotesqueries are Bishop's fodder, only in much larger doses. Not for those with a weak heart, or stomach. Still, the book is impossible to put down. Her crisp style-- and the ability to gloss over the grosser parts-- will carry you through these books in a week.

When we've been able to put aside our reading, we've spent time among friends. Yesterday, after a skin-searing half-day at the beach, Jon and I relaxed with his colleague's family at their home nearby. We all enjoyed Dan's barbecued chicken hot off the new grill, and his fried bananas with ice cream were better than any I've had at a restaraunt. Last week, we also went to the home of some friends who have five (slightly illegal, at least in CA) ferrets. They're so cute. We played a couple of games over pizza, including my personal favorites -- Carcassonne and San Juan.

So far, though, my favorite day was last Saturday in Tijuana. Jon and I drove the 20 minutes to the border, parked, and walked across the bridge to Mexico. As soon as you step across, the smell is different. The air is different. Certainly the culture bulges against the man-made borderline. The mountains on the US side are barren, while on the Mexico side, they're laden with shanty towns. Meandering through the streets, I'm always impressed with the European style they've applied to the street planning. It's a lovely little walk across Avenida de la Revoluccion, through the open markets.

That is, it's lovely if you like strangers heckling you to come buy from their store. Being an extrovert, I reveled in it a bit. One must draw on their creativity to deal with the various peddlars, hawkers, and beggar kids. One little boy about two years old blocked our path, begging in perfect English. "Give me a dollah!"

We declined. Though I always give money to the old women, the wrinkled women selling chiclets for whatever change you've got.

I did buy a few things, giving some green money into the Mexican economy is like charity these days, though Tijuana is one of Mexico's richest cities; the border towns always are.

I bought a silver necklace from one peddlar on the street, proud of my haggling ability to get him from $15 down to $11 cash. A leather courier's purse priced at $25 was bought for $20, and a lovely $8 quartz windchime is now in our possession, bought for just $5.

I probably could have spent less money for more items if Jon wasn't so obviously a gringo.

They get insulted if you don't haggle, I've been told by my Mexican aunts. As if by accepting their set price you fail to acknowledge their haggling abilities, or their strength at recognizing foreigners. In some ways, I think I confuse them. Certainly, my dark hair and fair skin marks me an easy target. The street vendors and hawkers usually express a little surprise at my easy Spanish. After their mouths work a bit, they settle down to business.

It's easy, really, to haggle. It's harder to get the sellers off you if they've decided you are going to buy from them. We found one easy way to get them off of us; ask them for something they don't have. Over and over, it was easiest to ask for postcards. It stumped them long enough for us to get away.

But haggling's more fun.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
 
Sushi Robot
My husband thinks this Sushi Robot would be just the right addition to our kitchen.

I disagree. I am NOT making Sushi at home. (Counter space is too precious in my little kitchen to accomodate a robot, and it's a dish that can kill us. I mean, who would we sue?)

My hubby insisted that the robot makes the sushi.

Okay, well, if the robot can drive itself to the store, choose fresh fish that won't kill us, drive back with its load, let itself in, hop up on the counter and make dinner, we should definitely get one.

I'll even take it upon myself to serve the meal, but the little f**ker better be self-cleaning, too.

Plus I don't think we need 3000 rice balls per hour.
 
Fabulous Friendly Fondue, Forever
Last night, I met Jon at work with a plan. The San Diego Reader, which I flipped through while eating dinner at Yummy Maki, included a coupon for the new location of Forever Fondue. Either a two-for-one entree deal, or $15 off two complete fondue feasts.

We chose feasting.

First, we enjoyed a very fresh Ceasar salad, during which the waitress warmed the fondue wine. Then, we sampled the traditional swiss cheese fondue, prepared at our table, using breads and apples as well as vegetables. We chose the beef flavor fondue base for the main course, each receiving a plate of raw shrimp, beef, and chicken. Mine also included lobster, while Jon had salmon on his raw plate.

Chicken, it seems to me, is overdoing it for raw food served at table. Obviously I have no problem with raw fish or beef.

Certainly, the piece of least resistance was the dessert, a mix of white and milk chocolate served with a plate of strawberries, cakes, bananas and pineapple. It was without a doubt the highlight of the meal.

Though pricey (figure $100 with a bottle of wine), it was a meal worthy of an anniversary. Not that it was our anniversary. Unless it's the anniversary of our first trip to La Jolla.

The wine really made the meal. San Sebastian's 2001 Merlot was mellow and smooth, lacking harsh tannins and the bitterness that accompanies them. We indulged ourselves, and had a fabulous time laughing and teasing each other over our lengthy meal.

California wins again.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
 
The Jewel
La Jolla is the jewel I remember from last summer. Although our digs aren't quite as nice -- the Hampton Inn Del Mar hardly measures up to a million-dollar rancher near the shore -- I am happy to be as far from my messy home as I can get while staying in the U.S.

I've already visited some of my favorite haunts. Monday's lunch was provided by Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill, which is as good as ever. As far as I know, Rubio's only serves fish tacos, although Jon, ever the connoisseur of fine Mexican delis (a trait inherited from his dad), assures me that they do in fact serve a full menu of tacos, burritos, and fabulously small "street tacos" in carnitas, chicken, and beef flavors. I'll probably never find out; it's fish tacos or nothing for me.

Today, I decided to keep the fish but ditch the taco. Yummy Maki Yummy Box, which I blogged about last summer still serves damn fine sushi at unbelievable prices. For $12, I got a soda and a full serving -- an 8-piece California roll and 5 pieces of sushi. This little deli creates some of the best sushi and rolls I've eaten, although we do plan a trip to Nippon sometime this week.

Although I've been eager to get back to La Jolla, I'm afraid those are all the highlights from my first few days. I've been ill with a bad headcold, which made my flight oh-so-much-more enjoyable than usual, what with balancing motion sickness against complete (if temporary) deafness. My ears filled up, and they still don't seem to have fully popped.

Ah, well. At least this trip I got to be the annoying passenger sneezing all over my seatmates (Why suffer alone? I've contemplated licking the elevator buttons, too.), although one seatmate was my honey. Of course, having given me the cold to begin with, he's immune to my germinal advances.

So, sickly, I've been holed up in the room for two days (excepting lunch), playing at the computer and calling it work.

Ah. California.

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