Friday, April 22, 2016

That one time I saw Prince

Escaping the 80's without having at least one memory aurally imprinted with a Prince song (or songs) seems nearly impossible. I remember when a babysitter was with us one evening and she had just bought the 1999 album. She hid the record sleeve with the lyrics because she said they were too racy. I snuck into the living room when she was making dinner and scanned it but didn't come up with much. I think I was 8 years old. A few years later, someone bought me Purple Rain and it became one of my favorite cassette tapes to listen to. I did wonder what Wendy and Lisa were doing in "Computer Blue" though. 


Yes Lisa
Is the water warm enough?
Yes Lisa
Shall we begin?
Yes Lisa

Seriously, what business does a 10-year-old have listening to that? Anyway...but the rest of the album was great. So flash forward to 1995 and as a 21-year-old away at college in London, I got to see his Royal Purpleness at Wembley and somehow managed to sit close to the stage.

Unfortunately this was during the "Slave period" where he'd write the word on his face because he didn't like the terms of his contract with Warner Bros. As a result, he was disinclined to play "hits" during concerts and while I enjoyed Prince music, I wasn't intimately familiar with the deep cuts. Thus, I wanted to hear at least some hits but the only songs I recognized that night were "Most Beautiful Girl in the World," "7," and "Pussy Control." Unfortunately, his musicianship (which I should have been paying more attention to) went mostly ignored. Ah, to be 21...

Looking at my journal from that time period, my review was pretty brutal:

"The show itself was second rate. Though we were only 11 rows from stage center, Prince failed to ignite the crowd. Probably this is due to all the new songs. But we all know how lame English crowds are." [Note: The steady reserve of concert-going Brits was not a mark of distinction in this case.]

I had even less nice things to say about the backup dancer who would later become his wife (for a few years at least).

"The almost naked wench on stage with him disgusted all of London when she whipped her ass cheeks all over the place. Yuk! She grew tiresome."

But it's still Motherf***ing Prince. And he is funky.
"I had a great time [though] getting into the fervor of it all. At the end, he showered us in gold confetti and that was beautiful."

Not every performance can be a winner and not every era in an entertainer/artist's long career will be inspiring but in the long view, Prince's contribution to the fabric of our culture and its musical development was epic. So I'll remember the awe and surprise of gold confetti raining down on us during the finale, a symbol of the ostentatiousness, surprise and boldness of our musical host.

He was so many things: talented, driven, gifted and luckily he shared it with the world. RIP to the prolifically funky virtuoso.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

First time Emerald City Comicon Experience

Yesterday, I attended my first Comic Con, as a reader of comics and a fan of geekdom in general.
Even on a Friday morning, the enormous groundswell of cosplayers, comic fans and Con enthusiasts was palpable. There were lines for almost everything and people occupied every square foot of the convention center. (Our recent Disneyland vacation had prepped me well.) 

What enticed me at first to buy a pass for this day back in the fall of 2015, was the presence of Fiona Staples, an artist whose work in the series “Saga” renewed and redoubled my interest in escapist, other-worldly graphic novels and comics. The thought of being able to thank her in person for this new element in my life moved me from feeling under qualified to attend ECCC to “hell yes, I'm going.”

Without realizing it though, the act of subscribing to "Saga" (by Image Comics) exposed me to other edgy, sophisticated, smart comic series like “Black Science,” “Shutter,” “Low” and “Descender.” I also found myself enthralled by various ‘mainstream’ comics like “Secret Avengers,” “Batman: Lil’ Gotham,” ”Aquaman,” “Spider-Woman,” “Ms. Marvel,” “Loki: Agent of Asgard” and “Bee & Puppycat.” Without realizing it, I slowly amassed a bonafide collection over the course of six months. So last week when I cross-referenced my comics with the many artists and writers who would be at Emerald City Comicon, I realized my mission: meet these artists/writers, thank them for their great work and get them to sign my books.

In preparation, I put the name of each artist or writer on a stickie note with their table location and which showroom hall they were in (north or south) and stuck them to my books. I stacked them in order from the main entrance in my daypack and brought a sack lunch so I could wait in one less line. But as best laid plans tend to go, there were some obstacles. Fiona, who I put first to find upon arriving at 10am, wouldn't be available until 2 p.m. But I knew I had to leave the Con no later than 2:15 p.m. to walk to Pacific Place to get my car and be home in time to pick up Sidney from school. I shuffled "Saga" to the back and moved down my list.

"Lil’ Gotham’s" artist Dustin Nguyen and writer Derek Fridolfs sat next to each other in a booth and Derek, who is also an artist himself, took the time--unprompted--to draw a highly-detailed Robin portrait inside my Volume 2 front cover. Meanwhile I let him know how wonderfully zippy and layered we and the children found the dialogue and stories. I wish I would have taken more time though to look at both his and Dustin’s artwork for a possible purchase but there was yet lots to do and see. 


Another delightful pair at the Con were writer, Joe Keatinge, and artist, Leila del Duca, of Shutter. Both are from Portland and their creation is definitely other-worldly, engrossing with a high potential of blood-spatter. Leila sketched one of the characters inside the front cover and let me know about a new graphic novel she's working on out later this year. Upon hearing this was my first Comicon, Joe actually gave me the 3rd volume of Shutter (which I haven’t read yet) as a present which he and Leila also signed. That was so generous and magical--I loved that moment. 


I also got to see Rick Remender, the writer for angsty parent-guilt ridden tales like “Black Science” and “Low.” I asked him if he has kids (yes) and I mentioned that he perfectly captures that tortured state of mind parents feel under the weight of tremendous responsibility. He thought perhaps he'd invented a new comic genre. (I think so.) Naturally, I couldn’t wander the main floor without stopping by to see my friend, Rich Werner, who created “Plants vs. Zombies” and illustrated “The Shark Dentist” for me. He has struck out on his own and plans to release a new game later this year, so stay tuned for that. 

Rich and his new game character

New Zealand's Weta Workshop, the place where most notably Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit effects came from, had a big booth in the South Hall which was great to peruse and watch as makeup artists did live demonstrations of putting hobbit ears on cosplayers.

Token picture

It being uncharacteristically warm in Seattle meant the air conditioners were working overtime to handle the body heat from all the attendees. It’s too bad it can’t filter out some of the smells also but you can’t have everything. My heart goes out to the dedicated people who really go for it costume wise and are fully dressed in flight suits or heavy layers. Cosplay is not my thing because unencumbered comfort in a crowded, hot environment is my jam. I personally settled for a funny "Bee and Puppy Cat" t-shirt, capris, running shoes and mini hairbuns. Popular costume choices seemed to be Deadpool, Harley Quinn and Star Wars characters (Rey particularly). But my favorite was a deep(er) pull from the annals of geekdom: a gelfling and skeksis from the 1982 Jim Henson fantasy film “The Dark Crystal.” Very impressive.

When I left the tech world in 2010, I didn’t think I’d ever step foot in another blue-carpeted, lanyard-wearing, attendee wandering convention again. But here I was. At 30 minutes prior to when Fiona would start signing, I hoped I could just pop in line to get a quick autograph when she arrived. Unfortunately a whole bunch of other people had the same thought and organizers capped the established line. Had I arrived 15 minutes earlier, I would have been in that line but likely significantly late to pick up my daughter from school. So meeting Fiona was not meant to be this time, but hopefully there will be another opportunity in the future.

Nevertheless, the goal that got me to my first Comicon gave way to providing a day of unexpected connections full of appreciation and gratitude for the art, entertainment and inspiration these writers and artists bring into the world. 

I also purchased my own Puppycat Stuffy.  The Verdict=(as my son Calvin would say) "Good."