Monday, May 30, 2011

UFZ: Road to Comic Con

I should be a hundred times more excited but I'm not. San Diego Comic Con is six weeks away, it's almost time for street re-routing traffic, people who for some reason feel that the need for daily bathing should be put on hold for 4 days, and 3 hour lines to catch a glimpse of Angelina Jolie or other celebrities that have no business being there. That very reason is why I've decided this will be my last SDCC (even if I ever become a pro).

When I was twelve years old , I hitched a ride to my first comic con with my older cousins and some not so savory characters. In those days this show was only about comic books, you didn't have to buy tickets a year in advance and the only fat girls in softball uniforms played for San Diego state. It was back then, comic book companies had the biggest booths and I could see videos of upcoming events set to "For whom the bell tolls." Good free stuff would flow like chocolate from a fountain, and exclusive toys were available to everyone. Professional artist use to love being at the one place where everyone knew who they were and were treated like celebrities. These guys and gals use to drop vacation plans just to be there, today they are just as annoyed as us comic fans. I found out today, one of my favorite artist wasn't going to be there, that was the last straw for yours truly. Yes San Diego once was about comic books, seeing as it will never be that way again it's time to find new shows, however in my sarcastic generosity, I've decided to prepare anyone thinking about going for the first time or people that often go and never learn. My experiences will save you a ton of cash to boot.

First you need to understand the scope of the event, picture the biggest event you've seen in person; the Dodger game at the Coliseum, E3, Laker parade? All these events pale in comparison to what you are about to walk into. Over 200,000 people from all over the world, their are small countries that don't even have that population living there. These rabid fan-people and bandwagoneers gather here and every year that goes by this number will only grow exponentially.

So lets start off, where your thoughts will begin. "If I go there later, there will be fewer people!" NO, this is a misconception based on, your holiday shopping experiences; as the day progresses crowds only get bigger. The only thing that thought will save you is time in the badge pick up line. You should however, not be discouraged by that line if you arrive in the morning; because of the fact that there are almost 100 convention employees specifically assigned to speed this process along, this will be the most painless line during the course of your experience.

Why did I give that part of the tour first? Because that is the thought you will have when you think about preparing for the show. Let's move on to Los Angelinos favorite subject, traffic. No matter how early you think you can leave, you will never beat all of the traffic. The best you can do here is to beat the traffic going to the city. For those dumb enough to think once I get off the freeway my iphone will find a way around, I say this; unless you reach the city by 5am, you will be stuck no matter what. Streets are often blocked to optimize traffic in the city, a GPS is about as good as navigating by the stars at 7am. Getting from the freeway to the convention center is the worst experience a person can have, it can only be compared to delivering a baby through a vagina that only expands to the diameter of a garden hose, while watching a TV stuck on the directv preview channel. How does one get around this? The answer is actually very simple, if you've got an inch of patience and can read a color map, San Diego has one of the best mass transit systems in the world. The trolley runs from 6am to midnight during comic con, making this a great way to avoid the hassle of feeling like you have to leave right after. Last I checked you could ride it all day for a mere five dollars. In my personal experience I've found the stop in the Fashion Valley Mall to be the most convenient. It's location is far enough away from the convention center to give you multiple freeway options for the drive home. You can find all the info here This is also great for seeing sights like this, I think that's my friend Rhiannon in the far side.

That will also take care of another massive elephant in the room, parking. Parking at the convention center is actually reasonably priced at 12 dollars, however if you don't arrive to the convention center by 6am, chances are there wont be any left. This year people were given the option to prepay for parking but like paying for your college's parking pass, it doesn't mean you wont end up parking in the farthest part of the lot, if your lucky enough to even find a space. There are numerous parking structures around the area and Petco Park, I've been told however that those parking lots can go upwards of $20. If you take the trolley, in some stations you may find free parking, if you take if from a hotel you can park in their lot, usually for a reasonable fee.

Note if you're feeling very adventurous and feel that 50 bucks is worth saving your driving sanity, Amtrak has trains that go from Fullerton to San Diego. I'm not entirely sure how that works, when I looked in to it, round trip just seemed to expensive and I wouldn't want to be left in San Diego without a way to get home.

"So I should get a hotel?" No, unless you've been racking up the unemployment cash like this guy. A hotel is the worst option, the nice hotels around the convention center fill up in March, well before the show. Often times these rooms go for $200 a night, Super 8's and Best Westerns can be found in the out skirts about 10 minutes down the freeway. My first year coming back to Comic Con, I stayed at a Super 8 in San Yisidro just 5 minutes from the US/ Tijuana border. This was bad, and your hearing this from a guy (who thanks to Best Buy) stayed at a hotel in Seattle once, where people slept in the hallway waiting for the person they were going to buy drugs from. If you're lucky, you can split a nice room amongst a group of four people for about $50 a person.

Normally even on a Saturday when you go to Disneyland, you don't make an itinerary the night before of all the rides you want to get on and at what time you have to get on exactly. This however is not Disneyland, with at least a hundred thousand attendees a day, all going for the few capacity things you are trying to see, planning ahead is a must. There's an unspoken rule that I just came up with ten seconds ago, if you really want something you'll wait 3hrs for it. This includes panels to see upcoming movies, exclusive toys, free stuff and autograph signings. The phrase "cool this ends at this time and we can go to this right after," does not apply. There will be people there who in some cases have camped out the night before, just to be the first to get on the Internet and spoil Robert Downey Jr's appearance for people. Accept that you aren't going to beat these people to anything. Look at the program online, pick what you want to see and at least two back up things. Don't be afraid to sit through things you've never heard of, last year in order to see the Walking Dead, Monica and I sat through Hawaii five-0 (why that was at comic con I do not know), it wasn't the worst experience of my life and it ensured that I would be in the ballroom when the Walking Dead premiere panel came on right after.

"Eating?" The only words of advice on this subject, bring food! Don't be afraid to lug around an entire lunch, food places in and around the convention center are few and far between, unless you really love pretzels and apple juice. There are a few restaurants, but you often times walk 6-10 blocks up the street and face an hour wait sometimes just to sit down. There's not a Mc D's or Burger King anywhere near there. Save your big appetite for after the show and go to this place, , best BBQ you've ever had. Myself and Man Vs Food can not be wrong about this. If you feel the need to ignore any of this, but don't want to starve to death; the week before the show follow every movie and production studio on twitter. There are hundreds of sub events outside the convention center, that are within walking distance and almost always have free shirts and food for people. It's a great way to eat for free, that won't take up a ton of time from your convention going. Last year's Scott Pilgrim vs the world event was a huge one and Flynn's arcade filled me and my bag with a weeks supply of free coke zero.

One last thing about the show you can not stress enough. WALK EVERYTHING! This is the biggest event of the year and sets up many of the things you will see for the rest of the year. Comic con is how I saw "the Dark Knight" for free a week early and how I made 150 bucks from selling a tron disc (I got for free) to some dork on eBay. This year, I'd be willing to bet if you searched hard enough you will get something cool from the new "Dark Knight Rising" film that you can sell to someone for 100% profit.

Finally the drive home. It's like a giant scale version of a Dodger game, if you leave in the 7th inning you will beat the traffic, but you may miss something awesome. (Well at least in the times when Either was hitting all those walk off HR's) Leave when the exhibit hall closes and you will face a traffic storm that I guarantee you've never encountered. Best option don't take the 5 freeway, second best (excluding Sunday), I did say only the exhibit hall closes at 7pm, stay and enjoy some of the after hours activities at and around the show. There are always free movies screened at the convention center, last year we saw "Batman: Under the Red Hood" a month before it's release. If you've followed the movie companies you can find lots of great free events to see. Best option for avoiding Sunday traffic, don't go to Comic Con on Sunday or if you have to leave by 3pm (unless Danny DeVito is there doing "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" Panel, shit is hilarious).

There you have it, hopefully some of this will save you from the horrible side of Woodstock.....errr I mean Comic Con.

- David N.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Life Cycle of the Stupid, Illogical, Terribly Unhappy, Suffering all the Time Employee.

Feel free to maximize the flow chart above and comment if necessary.

Certain people and events at my place of business recently inspired the creation of this. Things could always be better but every day I make a conscious decision to go to work, do a job, and get paid for doing so. I'm in no way miserable and with the economy the way it is I don't feel I'm underpaid in the least.

If you are so unhappy, underpaid, and unappreciated do something about it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dodger Crips

Since day one of the 2011 baseball season, the Los Angeles Dodgers organization has been a total mess, inside and out. As a lifelong fan of the team, which has turned into a obsession the last seven years of my life, I feel it best to use this forum to speak my mind on some of the events that have occurred these past few months.

It’s definitely well known by now what happened on opening day - a few gang-bangers jumped a middle aged man because he was wearing a San Francisco Giants jersey. Is that all there is to the story? Maybe, maybe not. Is it safe to assume that’s all that happened? That two or so drunk thugs jumped a man, blindsiding him and beating him till he was unconscious, JUST because he was in a San Francisco Giants Jersey? In my opinion, it definitely is. If that sounds ludicrous to you, then you haven’t been to Dodger Stadium nearly as much as me.

Dodger Stadium in the last few years has been neither family friendly, nor safe in any aspect of the word. Since 2004 I have seen countless senseless acts of violence, verbal abuse, or otherwise at the hands of people who simply don’t care about a baseball game. The atmosphere has deteriorated as this type of behavior has been ignored by the organization because the attendance numbers the Dodgers have raked in the last few years are right up there with the Yankees, no complaints when it comes to ticket sales. Because of this, we have people like the accused who are in custody for beating Bryan Stow, who attend games simply to align themselves with a new color. People wearing other jerseys are enemies to them - they are neither men with children, or fans who simply want a Dodger dog and to enjoy a ballgame of their visiting team. The kind of mentality that has sunk in from being a Dodger fan is absolutely repulsive to me. I often read fans suggesting those who dare wear jerseys of other teams get what they deserve, and in the early days of the Bryan Stow case this attitude was definitely prevalent. There simply is no excuse for this type of attitude, especially when it comes to sports teams. In this case, if you suggest that he was asking for it, you fall into the category as the person who thinks; “her skirt is kinda short, so she was probably asking for it” as well. Your psychological issues have nothing to do with a man who was sucker punched and then put into a coma. Even more tired are the Angelinos who like to reference the violence in sports in merely a tradition, that fans at football matches in the UK and beyond nearly kill each other all the time. Who cares? Nothing in this country is as beloved as football is to those fans. Here in the US we have many options, including MLS. No one cares about soccer riots, and just because you watched a DVD on Hooliganism does not mean you can punch a fan because he was minding his own business, wearing a Cincinnati Reds jersey. If you fall in line with this way of thinking, do the real fans a favor - stay home and shut up.

Can a visiting fan provoke another Dodger fan? Sure, but that isn’t the focus here, and I’ve come to realize this is rarely the case. Even if Mr. Stow was the boogey man before this incident, I could never bring myself to hold him responsible since this truly is rarely the case. This is about a Mets fan who is in line for the bathroom at a playoff game, chatting with a Dodger fan behind him, who gets bum rushed and assaulted by some other Dodger “fans” because of his jersey. This is the Giants fan who is with his ten year old kid, getting a beer poured over his head while the kid watches for merely walking through the reserve level. This is another Giants fan walking through the loge level with his hot dog, minding his own business while his team is down to the boys in blue, and gets sucker punched, with an emphasis on the sucker. The other Mets fan beaten in the bathroom during the playoffs, the Reds fan who was showered with peanuts and beer, the Pirates (!) fan who one gangbanger shouted, “F**k your flag”, before pulverizing him. That one still baffles me to this day. The stadium being overrun by cholos, thugs, and just plain meatheads needs to be put to an end, and I hope this is finally on the horizon despite it taking the misfortunes of Bryan Stow to get us there.

Here are the basics: Dodger stadium has not been safe or secure for a while now. The lawsuit announced today by the family of Bryan Stow is in no way unjust, and also would be completely beneficial to the true baseball fans of Los Angeles and around the country who wish to visit our stadium. The stadium is a cathedral. It is gigantic, glowing of perfect green grass and the retro-colored seats, appearing untouched since the day it was built rather than refurbished and well-kept. The retro lights, and the darkness of the parking lot at night, and the inability to reach any officials during or after the game is disturbing, to say the least.

In May 2005, the stadium held the infamous “two dollar Tuesdays”. The result was disastrous. Besides a heap of totally unruly, idiotic fans causing hysteria throughout the game - an incident saw fans littering the outfield grass with hordes of trash after stadium security apprehended an idiot who ran onto the field. It was almost a relief to witness it in person, as I didn’t have to hear the shame in Vin Scully’s voice on television when such a sad, disrespectful act was committed. Along with all the fights that ensued at those games, Frank McCourt knew things had to change. Yadda, yadda, yadda. He hired off duty LAPD officers to roam the grounds full time, and they were permitted to do so in full police uniform. Where did that go, though? That was 6 years ago, it has came and gone, and where are we now? In a massive parking lot that has enough room for massive flea markets, as well as just massive amounts of commercials, where are the security to oversee everything? Where is that revenue going?

Bryan Stow’s family deserves, and needs, to be paid for every last cent that they would ever need. Because of his condition, and the fact that it is still unknown if he will ever wake up, he needs 24 hour care. Think of those medical bills, especially these days - it is truly frightening. He has two children who now may be deprived of a father, because he wanted to watch a baseball game at our stadium. Frank McCourt’s organization allowed this to happen, because violence at the stadium was never an issue until it was on the front page. These thugs were welcomed as they were just mere dollar signs. The organization no longer belongs to Frank McCourt, nor will it ever again. The fans that attend the games should not fear authority or any security, and should not tolerate idiocy. Despite the horrific events that have occurred, the true baseball fans of Los Angeles can take back what is theirs, and will know how to share their stadium.

Otherwise? You can get used to this:

Regardless of the financial outcome of the lawsuit, if you have an extra buck or two you can donate to Bryan Stow and his family at Be sure to check out the store where you can donate in exchange for a wristband or something else.

-Danny A.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

UFZ: Return from Stranger Unemployment checks

Well here we are with another money saving experience. Yes I brave long two hour waits and douchey people dressed as pirates with jeans to bring you a few thoughts on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Pirates has officially joined the annoyance level of twilight, never before have I been so disgusted at human beings dressing like pirates this far from Halloween. Your all right up there on the all time assclown list with those fat chicks that wear softball jerseys to comic con as if they would ever make it to first base both physically and figuratively. Sorry for the angry tone, bad weekend for this reporter.

Alright back to business, I will admit to being one of those people who believes the glory days of this franchise has come and gone, namely when the second movie was released. While the character of Captain Jack is enough to win me over on it's own, it's horrendously overshadowed by how much you will hate Penelope Cruz love interest character of Angelica. I didn't buy there being any chemistry between her and Depp. She single handedly set back anyone named Cruz twenty years. How did she even get famous? Geoffrey Rush and Ian McShane turn in solid performances as Barbosa and Blackbeard. While were on the subject, please note that the only cool part of the movie is the mermaid scene. It's also the most racially ignorant scene, only one black mermaid among all the white ones. Where's the racial harmony, no hispanic mermaids? You know they can swim. No Asian mermaids? Were they all busy doing math and playing tennis for their school? Except for the question of how can such a powerful historic relic depend on a few measly rocks? The plot is fun and simple to follow if you need to use the can during the movie.

Stay after the credits if you want to waste more time, there is an after credits moment with Penelope Cruz that doesn't lead to anything interesting. This movie doesn't do anything to move the franchise forward, but it also doesn't stay in the past, almost as if it was just a season premiere of a television show after losing one of it's characters. All in all it's a perfect afternoon wasting action flick, anything full price and you will have the buyers remorse. If you can see it in 3D, do so, this is one of the few rare movies where visuals are noticeably improved.

If you looking for the best in free movie going experiences follow the LA Times Hero complex, unlike campus circle and gofobo the screenings are not shared with other media outlets. This means few seats go to VIP's, plus you get a free large popcorn and soda. So there you have it a so so movie made better with a few free things.

Here's something more enjoyable than Penelope Cruz

- David N.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Stop Believin'

In about 26 hours I'll be on the road to San Diego, more specifically Del Mar, and as usual it is business related. I'm not sure what to expect traffic wise but I am ready to ingest a weekday morning's worth of carbon dioxide. I consulted Wikipedia for some more information on Del Mar and here are the bullet points:
  • Population: 4,660. I graduated high school with more people than that.
  • The rarest pine trees in the United States, known as Torrey Pines, grow here. This might be where they filmed FernGully.
  • Steve Perry, lead singer of Journey, lives here now. Operation: Stop Believin' commence.
  • There's some famous race track.
That's it. Sounds like a pretty uneventful two days away from la casa. 'Til next time.