Category Archives: My Life

Comic Con 2007

My husband and I went to Comic Con for the first time this year.  I bought us 4-day passes over the Internet, thinking that we’d be able to leisurely go about attending the conference.  I was so wrong.  Due to other life things we couldn’t go to the the preview party on Wednesday night, so we waited until opening day on Thursday.  The line to get into Comic Con basically began at my house in San Marcos as traffic was pretty bad, even at 10AM (!!!), through out the 30-mile journey.  When we got to downtown San Diego, the closest parking was at the Park Ball, which is a good 20-min walk to the convention center (not so bad).  When we got to the convention center we looked for the badge pick-up only to be told to get in line.  Which line?  This line?  And so we walked along the front length of the convention center and the line didn’t end.  At the corner of the convention center we asked a person in line how long he had been  in line.  He said he had been in line for about an hour, but that the line was moving fast.  My husband was ready to punt at this point, but we thought for fun that we’d see how long this line was, so on we walked along the side of the convention center, along the back of the convention center and finally into Seaport Village!  And this was the line for people who had pre-registered for the conference weeks, even months, in advance!  I was baffled.  At the end of line I asked the couple of young men that got in line behind us whether they had been to Comic Con before and whether it was worth standing in this line.  One of them said, “Well it’s big and it keeps getting bigger every year, but I really couldn’t say.”  Against my husband wishes we waited in that line.  And we waited, and waited, and it was 90+ deg F, and we had no beverage.  The only source of beverage appeared 30 minutes into the wait and it was a roach coach that had long ago run out of water.  The selections were milk, grape juice, cranberry juice, and clamato (I kid you not about the Clamato).  Sticky juice in hand, we waited in the hot sun for another hour before we got our badges.  Needless to say, my husband and I got nasty sun burns (I imagine most of the goths that were in line didn’t make it as they had burst into flames and were reduced to ash shortly after passing the roach coach).

And into the show … due to the unexpected traffic and the line to pick-up badges, we were 3-hours behind the schedule we had so carefully laid out the night before.  The first panel we attended was one on making plastic models yourself.  It was pretty interesting, but I know I’ll never do this.  After that we went on down to the convention floor.  We only got through 1/3 of the way down the hall before a lecture on MMORPGs started.  The floor was crowded!  Being a person of relatively short stature, it was difficult to see anything and when I stood still I got body slammed by overly enthusiastic fanboys (and girls) rushing off the floor, eyes glistening with joy about the purchase they just made.  Anyhow, the section I got to see was like a giant comic book flea market.  There were comic books, comic book and anime toys of all sort, there were “vintage” t-shirts (actually, more like someone went around to every Goodwill and Salvation Army sale and bought all the t-shirts), and fan art on sale.

The most interesting place to me was called “Artist Alley” and this is where various artists hawk there drawings to willing buyers.  Most of these artists draw fan art of their favorite comic book or sci-fi characters or they are artists who are trying to break in comic production professionally.  It was interesting seeing the different mediums the artists used to make reproductions.  They sold individual hand drawn sketches, drawings, and painting.  Most had sketchbooks to sell which were reproduced using laser printing (both b/w and color) or printed on a press.  Some sold some very nice books that ranged from spiral bound Kinko’s produced books to nice professionally printed and bound books (these were typically $25+ to purchase).  And a few of the artists sold short run lithographs for quite a bit of money each.  One artist had his art printed on what looked like semi-gloss photo paper.  I asked him what the technology was and he said it was some sort of Kodak process.  I asked if inkjet was used and gave me an indignant look and said, “I don’t think so, but it is archival if that what you’re getting at.”  I took a good look at the print and I could see no evidence of the printing technology (no screen dots or banding) and the colors were bright and the area fills were perfect.  Anyhow, most of the artists there were drawing away like their hands possessed a mind of their own as they did business and talked to potential customers.  I ended up buying one artists book of “Queen Amaidala” drawings for $15.  Apparently this guy really likes Queen Amaidala as reflected in the drawings in which she was so carefully drawn and lovingly imagined.  It’s a nice keepsake.

About the rest of comic con —

The rest of the show floor was crowded with booths from various corporations from comic publishers, to video game developers, to movie studios.  I looked though the ADV video booth, the Square Enix booth, and the Sony Playstation booth.  The ADV booth was co-sponsered by Best Buy and from it various anime DVD’s could be purchased.  The Square Enix booth was selling figurines from the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts video game series (the items listed as show exclusives had already sold out.  I wanted a Bahamut figure, but they didn’t have anything small, but then again Bahamut is never anything small in any of his incarnations.  They also had some very nice FFX sword minatures.  Personally, I thought it would be more fun to have life size swords so we could experience the ridiculousness that characterizes FFX swords).

Basically this show has morphed into Hollywood’s testing ground for new Sci-Fi and action based blockbuster movies and TV shows.  A lot of movie and TV show announcements were made.  At its heart, though, this show is still about American comics and not being an American comic fan, I didn’t feel a real attachment to the show.  The crowd present was a mix of everyone — young and old, male and female, and all ethnic make-ups.  This was quite unexpected.  The other things to note are that these people are wired, the artists print, a large portion of them are gamers, they are very much the early adopters of new technology, and they are very forward thinking in terms of pop culture.  In other words, these are people that PRINT graphic arts and use computers, so of course we should care about them :).

As for the other 3-days of the show — we attempted to return on Friday to finish the convention floor, but after driving around downtown SD for two hours, we realized that there was absolutely no parking, so we punted and went home.  We did not go Saturday or Sunday either as the conference logistics, or lack of, utterly defeated our will to experience the rest of the convention.  Will we go again?  Probably not a for while unless they take the convention to a city that is better able to handle the amount to attendees and I or my husband suddenly get into American comics.

When I get old …

Yesterday, while out on our Sunday drive to the Best Buy to buy a cable, we found ourselves exiting the freeway slowly behind a lumbering Cadillac driven by a elderly gentlemen who, too, was out on a Sunday drive with his wife.  I turned to my husband and asked, “What will be our Cadillac, seeing as how neither one of us thinks a Cadillac is anything to strive for?”  T’is true, the Cadillac is/was the aim for my grandparents and some of my parents’ older siblings.  But now that is not the automobile aspiration of my parents or myself.   My husband was silent and contemplated it for a minute, and then after a stop light or two we saw a beautiful beast drive by — a vacation on wheels, and together we said, “Oooh, an RV …”  Yes, my husband and I want to the travel around the US in an RV when we retire and 30 – 40-years from now and when we do retire, that RV better drive itself, because I can’t even imagine how much worse my driving could get when I become a senior citizen (anyone who has been in a car with me, knows what I’m talking about …).  Ahh, I can see it now, living in an RV, plugging in waypoints into the navigation computer and waking up in a new place every morning like a cruise ship.  And we can meet up with other land cruisers we’ve met on the Internet and roam the land as one of the many bands of senior land cruisers (Ryans anyone?).  Of course by then, there will be no gas, so it will be fueled by waste or whatever clever fuel alternative emerges victorious from the research that is being done now.  It will be wonderful :).  But you know, if my dream doesn’t come true and my RV doesn’t drive itself within 30-years, then I’m going to be very, very disappointed.

Hello Again …

I’m Jen. I’m a gadget freak and so is my husband — we’re those folks who have no furniture but each of us has 3-computers in our shared office space (mess) and at least 2 iPod products apiece (one for the car, one for the gym, one for the home office, one for work … and so on — somebody help us). Yep, I’m a gamer and hand-in-hand with that I’m into anime and the like. I sorta feel like I’m experiencing the childhood I never had because I spent 6th grade through grad school in the pursuit of a 4.0+ GPA (yes, this is what happens to a lot of those children that were pushed hard to do well … that is if they don’t burn-out and become “Domestic Gods” or “Goddesses”.). I have a little brother who chose childhood over school and I have a feeling that within a few years he’ll overtake me in professional success. He concentrated on learning about people and maintaining relationships — he’s a naturally likeable guy and he’s got the entrapeneurial spirit. We’re mutually jealous of each other, but I imagine he would never imagine that I envy his ease and likeability. He really looks up to big sister, but he has no idea that I look up to him … silly boy! So … I’m starting my 7th quarter of Japanese at UCSD extension. I’ve decided that I aspire to be an anime fansubber. To each his own I suppose. I have the full support of my husband who has me translating manga for him. I just translated my first manga this week. It took me several hours over 5 days. In these 5-days, I have learned to use a kanji dictionary and increased my vocabulary and grammar skills a little bit. I’m quite proud of myself. I’ve began my second manga a couple of days ago. It’s even more challenging than the first since there’s no furigana to help me with the Kanji’s I don’t know. As usual I can understand most of what is being said to me in Japanese (if common conversational words are used) and I can translate text pretty well with the aid of dictionaries, but I have lots of trouble getting it out of my mouth. Everything feels like a tongue twister — chotto hen na no … (I also learned Spanish and understand quite a bit, but I can’t get it out of my mouth either.) Translating text is actually a lot of fun. I find it stimulating because it’s like unscrambling riddles. Sometimes there isn’t a direct translation to English, so a lot adjectives are used to describe an object or a feeling — it’s kinda poetic. Anyhow, my neck hurts from hours of hunching over my dictionaries. I now lose big chunks of the evening and the weekends to translating, which isn’t so bad since my husband has joined WOW. We do these activities in the same space so we have a lot of funny side conversations about what WOW foolishness my husband has involved himself in and I share the Japanese “riddles.” It’s becoming a secret language — it like it :)! Anyhow, that’s enough for today … I’ll try to write something weekly in this blog and we’ll see how it goes :).

No Security at the Gates in SD, Again …

So … I suppose this will end once cars start disappearing from the lot and assets (physical and intellectual) grow legs and walk out the door.  I’m feeling quite salty about this, but since my previous tirade magically disappeared from an errant mouse-click, I feel like some unseen greater power is telling me to keep my salt to myself.

So it’s Monday morning and my home technology has gone into shock.  Apparently somehow last night 9-Gigs of “something” showed up on my hard-drive causing me to have ~300-MB HD space which locked my poor little ‘puter hard.  First, things first, disconnect the computer from the Internet … sigh … I imagine I’ll be having fun tonight wiping my drive of some interesting pictures some malicious bug has put on my system.  The joys of the Internet … I forgot my badge too, my car was out of gas, and I’m hungry.

So I spent another weekend translating manga and pretending to do laundry.  The one thing I noticed is how “analog” my manga translation process is.  I’m translating a hard copy book and I’m using 4 paper laden dictionaries — 2 kanji dictionaries and 2 Japanese dictionaries — going from the already big dictionaries to the 40-lb tomes when I run across something uncommon.  When working in English I use an online dictionary and thesaurus (“WordSmyth”).  It’s not nearly as labor intensive — but I supposed that’s because I know English (so I like to think), whereas every time I come across a new Kanji, particulary if it has lots of strokes, I can’t figure out what the primary radical is.  It sounds like I have a little home task — check out what’s online in terms of Japanese to English dictionaries.  Considering that I always have to go through the middle-man of furigana, I doubt there is going to be an easy way to do this, especially when the unknown Kanji has no Furigana “cheats”.

So, it’s about a month into the new anime season.  My favorites so far are:

-Romeo X Juliet (a new take on the Shakespeare’s famous play — very well done so far)

-Darker than Black (can’t tell whether the main character is good or evil — I like it!  The main character is Bad-A##)

-Claymore (a lone half-demon female warrior who takes on a whiny sidekick)

-Reideen (apparently a grown up version of some bad ’80’s anime)

-Hayate Combat Butler (guilty pleasure)

Adventures in the World of the Internet Garage Sale

It was Christmas time, the time when my husband and I take 2 – 3-weeks off of work to clean the house, catch-up on anime, manga, movies, and videogames, and spend a weekend attacking a small section of the garage pile.  Last year after my manga collection finally took over every flat surface in our bedroom, so we headed down to the local put-your-furniture-together-yourself store and bought 4 bookshelves.  After filling the bookshelves (we have books other than manga too), my husband scratched his head and said to me, “this is rediculous.  No more manga for you until you get rid of some this.”  Huh?  Of course, I ignored him and went on my merry way and the manga piled up … Finally, it occured to me a couple of months ago that I could sell some of this stuff online from the very website I had initially purchased the manga.  I had already purchased lots of manga from used book sellers upto this point but I never imagined that I could be one of those sellers.

I’m still too timid to participate in online auctions, so I didn’t chose the obvious middle-man website.  I went with another that charges a hefty commission, but the processes of setting up a store front, listing items and the actual transaction are so easy and secure feeling that I don’t mind paying for the service.  Here’s how the process goes:

1.  From within my seller’s account I search for the item I want to sell via the UPC code or ISBN number

2.  I give a brief description of the condition of the item via a drop down menu and set the price.  When setting the price, the lowest price others are seling the item for is visible.

3.  I pick my shipping term — normal, express, and international shipping are possible

4. And then post my item

5.  Someone buys my item through the website interface

6. The website sends me a message that the item has been sold and to now ship the item to the buyer — name and address and a summary of the transaction are within the message.

7.  Money is deposited into an “escrow” account = cost of item + shipping credit – commission

8.  I ship the item to the buyer and then send a courtesy e-mail to let the buyer know the order has been shipped

9.  Twice a month the money in the “escrow” account is deposited into my bank account.

It’s a wonderful thing.  So far I’ve made $300+ in a couple of months and I’ve cleared out a good deal of manga that isn’t very dear to me.  I expanded my “store” to include video games that my husband and I don’t foresee us replaying.  Things are going well and I have a good reputation (5/5 stars and some nice comments from some of my buyers).  I sell roughly 1 book a day and I have sold books to people all over the US and some internationally.  I even have repeat customers!

Anyhow, I’m thankful for this service because it would be rather embarassing and inconvenient to hold a garage sale.  For one, I don’t want nosy neighbors picking through my used stuff and making judgements about me based upon the books I read.  More importantly, I don’t have set up in my garage on the weekend and actually sell stuff.  Managing my little storefront online maybe takes 15-mins of my time per day and $300 buys lots more manga and an extra night or two of eating out :). 

What next:  My husband and I will spend an upcoming weekend digging through our garage looking for our old Nintendo and Atari sytems and video games.  It appears that this old junk fetches a nice price online :).

Homecoming — Part 1

My maternal grandmother passed away early morning on June 6th, ending several months of pain and suffering upon her wary body.  This was one of the 6 days in my life that I had been dreading (the other days being the death of my parents, brother, husband, and such …) because I knew my Mom would take her mother’s death hard and, therefore, I too would have a hard time worrying for her and feeling bad because I would not be able to do much to ease my Mother’s sorrow.   The family had been bracing for this day for months and my Mom was beyond her limit and signs of stress were manifesting physically on her body.

 

The funeral was scheduled for Thursday.  My Mom flew out to South Carolina on Tuesday to help her last remaining brother make final arrangements.  My father and I followed on Wednesday afternoon and evening, respectively.  My arrival to the Greenville airport was rather unceremonious.  I sat outside on a concrete planter rim dressed in a hoodie, cropped cargo pants, and socked feet in sandals, with my ever-present backpack affixed texting my husband about state of the airport and the absence of my mother, who, as usual, had turned off her cell phone as soon as she had confirmed that I was on the ground.  After a 40-minute wait, my Mom and her sister-in-law showed and with a hug I entered the car and we were on our way.  I, of course, wanted to freshen up from the plane ride at the hotel, but my Mom was agitated and vetoed my request instead insisting that we go see the body.

 

My grandmother was beautiful – minimal make-up was applied to her amazing ageless skin (my grandmother had amazing skin that, even at the age of 86, really never developed wrinkles and she only got gray hair very late in life).  She was dressed in a pink flowey dress adorned with little white pearls along the neckline that then ran down her chest.  She looked as though she was just sleeping.  I should kiss her I thought and then chuckled – as though that would bring her back … I turned my attentions to my Mom who was concerning herself with who sent what flowers.  I hugged her and we looked at my grandmother together and cried. 

 

Within that same funeral home, far more tragic corpses were present.  There were 3 caskets containing the bodies of most of a family who had died in an auto accident.  We went to pay our respects first to the father and then, to my horror, the children.  At that point I lost it and bolted out of the mortuary, crying, and shouting up to the sky “Those are children!  Old people can die!  But not children!”   I hadn’t been that disturbed in a while nor had I ever felt so much emotion for people I had never met.  All I could think about is how a mother had been deprived of her entire family and all she had left of them are her memories and photos.  What happened in the next few minutes, I don’t remember, but when I came to I was back in the car and we were heading to my Mom’s home in the small town of Jonesville South Carolina.

Homecoming — Part 2

For a San Diego native like me, South Carolina appears to be super green with trees and moss and grass and vines everywhere.  Within that green there is screaming life – mostly insects – and after a while it’s just too much for my senses and I long for the scrubby browness of home.  My grandmother’s house is located on small triangle of Earth amidst the super greenness on a little path of the road call “Pump Hollow”.  It was called “Pump Hollow” because at the end of the path was the community water pump, where not too long ago, folks used go and pump water for daily use.  There are two houses situated on this small sliver of land.   One is the old house where my Mom grew-up and where I have misty childhood memories of being warmed by a wood burning stove and being confounded by the fact that this house had maybe 3 bare light bulbs and no running hot water (if you wanted a warm bath you had to boil water on the stove).  This was a place this suburban brat did not like to visit.  The other house is a small trailer juxtaposed by the presence of giant tube TV with an accompanying giant lazy boy chair in which my grandmother always sat.  Every time we visited, the trailer was always filled with the sounds of playing great children and their parents desperate to tell their “rich” California relatives about their hardships, pleading with us to give their children a better life in California.  This is yet another place this suburban brat didn’t like to visit.  The old house was boarded up long ago and nature is now steadily reclaiming it.  On this day the trailer is filled with grandchildren, who are now in their 30’s and 40’s and those same great grandchildren who are now teenagers.  The house is filled with laughter as they share stories about grandma and enjoy the food the community has provided for the family during the time of mourning.  It was surprisingly uplifting.

 

Upon arrival, I head back to kitchen to finally get some food.  There are the usual southern comforts; fried chicken, biscuits, potato salad, and orange soda to choose from.  I loaded my plate with chicken and bread and wince at the soda.  I gave up soda years ago and I now I find it almost undrinkably sweet.  But there’s no such thing as bottled water here … so … As cousins make their way in they all greet my Mom and then begin to interrogate me – what’s your husband like?  (They are very curious about interracial marriage.) What do you do at work? Are you day or night shift?  What do you do when you are at home?  Do you know any stars?  And on and on.  I answered as best as I could and they seem disappointed that my life is pretty ordinary and their illusions of my wealth are shattered as they learn they drive better cars than me and see that I have had the same cell phone for the past two years.  I explain that we just have different priorities.  To which they seriously explain to me that there’s no point in saving when you could die tomorrow – a point I didn’t fully understand at the moment but later came to poignantly understand.

 

And then the pictures come out.  One of the cousins who was poking around the trailer found a large envelop containing a bunch of pictures.  Some were very recent, taken just weeks ago, and some were very old, chronicling the lives of my Mom and uncles.  Most precious to me were some photographs of my Mom when she was about 10 and another when she was about 12-years old.  I had never seen pictures of her in her youth and I was surprised to see that she looked just like did when I was younger.  In one of the pictures my mother defiantly glares at the camera, her eyes stronger and fiercer than I’ve ever seen them.  My Mom explained to me that she did not want to be photographed that day and so she refused to smile.  But I could see underneath that defiant glare a small smile of victory.  I guess she thought she had somehow defeated the photographer, but instead she had given him the gift of a “priceless” expression. 

 

 

 I pulled out my digital camera to take a picture of the photo.  I had fallen in love with my Mom all over again.  I see, I thought, this is the expression of a child who escapes Pump Hollow.   I then asked the family could I keep a few pictures, and surprisingly they were unattached and allowed me to take them as long I digitized them and put them on a photo sharing website.  To which they added that should remember to properly label the images so they know who’s in them.  *Record scratching noise*  Double-take!  Huh?!!!  Whoa, wait a minute!  You have computers and the Internet?!!! 

 

And then I woke up and took a look around me and finally noticed that my family was happily snapping photos of each other with digital cameras and cellphones and that one of my cousins had brought over a laptop and was using a cellular phone modem to connect to the Internet.  I am a fool … they’ve probably Zillowed my home address.