Got back from San-Diego late Monday night, after some of the craziest days of my life. This was the first time I've actually met people I've gotten to know on-line face to face, and let me tell ya, real life can be quite surprising!
ASN's august patron saint, UJoF, picked us up from the airport, and we met his wife Fledgling and their two incredibly adorable kids. We were all staying at a Super 8 Motel in San-Ysidro, practically on the border with Mexico. After registering at the Con (which involved waiting in a monstrous line) we also met Forau, who is decidedly not Snapelike in person (+ Dutch accent = 100% win). So-called "Preview Night" was basically an insane melee in a hall dedicated to merchandise booth of various pop-culture phenomena. At the middle of this madness stood the little Nick booth (one had to fight a pressing current of crazy Con-goers to get to it), where I found some fearsomely fantastic fellow ASN'ers: A_M, Polychrome, the Quenchiest and Tanada. Also met amazing artist and Distant Horizon mod Amira Elisabeth, and photographers extraordinaire Alternacoppa and AG_Shepherd.
The next day, after collecting some hologram cards the Nick people have hidden in various booths on the merchandise hall, I headed to another monstrous line: The line to get into hall H and experience the Paramaount previews. Oh, and bask in glorious presence of uber-geek-god Neil Gaiman. The highlights of this panel were:
- The Stardust preview
- Q&A with Neil Gaiman
- Spiderwick preview
- Satellite shoutout from Spielberg and the cast of Indiana Jones 4
- Ironman preview
- J.J. Abrams hinting obliquely about his upcoming monster movie (however the movie turns out, the marketing campaign for it is a certified work of art) and his enthusiasm about the script for the upcoming Star Trek movie.
Speaking of which, it will apparently be a re-make of the original series. They brought out two cast members - the guy who plays Sylar on heroes would be playing Spock (everyone leaving the room was relaying that bit of info on their cell phone), and Spock will also be played by... well, Leonard Nimoy. Whom I have now seen in person. The Trekkie portion of my soul is now fulfilled.
They also gave us some nice posters - especially the lovely Johnny Depp as Sweeny Todd one. :D
For some reason, that evening my brother and I caught the first showing of the new straight-to-DVD animated film Superman: Doomsday (we thought we were going to meet some other people there, but they never made it to the room, it was instantly packed beyond all reason). Frankly, there were some good things about this movie, and some very funny lines, but it was not that great.
Back at the motel after this long tiring day, I got to meet the fabulous Acastus and Savitri.
The next day wee took a break from the Con, and checked out some Balboa park museums. The natural History museum, which was featuring the Dead Seas Scrolls (I skipped that exhibit because heck, I've already seen them in Jerusalem) and the Aerospace Museum. UJoF's father, who was attending the Con in his Capacity as a Sci-Fi/fantasy author gave us fascinating insights into the crucial technological advances that turned the tide during some of the infamous wars of the last century. The story of how the army corrects and improves it's crucial technology (or woefully fails to) is just as fascinating as the more familiar political aspects of the war.
With coordinating help from A_M, that evening we had dinner with some Avatar fandom legends: Isaia and BooterFreak from Deviant Art and their buddies Whomever and kimchicrusader. ASN was represented by UJof and family, Sav and Acastus, A_M her son (Ao_Oni) and husband (Aangster), ASN Mod and fan-fiction writer Hotspur (aka Dungeonwriter) and myself (plus my brother, who has so far failed to join the online fandom in any capacity).
Karalora, Plus her sister (Lokoteki) and Loko's husband showed up that evening, ready to hit the Avatar panel first thing in the early morn. They were cosplaying as Ursa, Yue, and Tea-Shop Zuko. 'Zuko', who's a magician in real life (a contradiction in terms that may be) performed some flashy firebending in the hotel parking lot.
The next day, Saturday, was D-Day for the avatar fandom. We got up at 4am and set out to the conventions at 5am. There we stood in the already formed line (admittedly it was a very short line when we got there) and waited for the Convention's doors to open. Gradually we were allowed to enter the building and wait in line in order to get into another line to get into the line to get into the panel room. A:TLA fans were congregating, some sporting stunning Cosplays. If you see pics of a very accurate Smellerbee (A_M) and Blue Spirit (Ao_Oni) standing in line, you may notice in the background a woman in a beige ASN T-shirt, long reddish curly hair, holding an Appa plushie. That would be me (A_M gave me the lovely plushie the previous night).
So, finally the doors to room 6AB opened and we were ushered in. I actually got to sit right in the center of the second row, behind A_M (in her fantastic Smellerbee regalia) and hotspur, and between ASN Mod Tanada and a great Toph Cosplayer (she was one of the finalists in the cosplay competition). As the room filled, people were walking around, chatting excitedly and taking pictures of the Cosplayers. The amazing full-body Appa costume was especially popular, as was a little baby Aang that had the entire room in a severe state of Aaaawwwww.
The panelists themselves trickled in. I recognized Bryan, hanging around in the background and looking impossibly adorable, and I also recognized supreme voice director Andrea Romano whom I've seen at the panel at the end of the Superman: Doomsday movie (she does a lot of voice directing. The woman is buh-sy). I only recognized Dee Baker when he walked by where we were sitting and made Momo noises :D . Seizing the opportunity I got him to sign my Appa plushie (even though he was initially reluctant to "deface" such an adorable thing, he eventually agreed to sign it's stomach). A June cosplayer sitting in the front row was nice enough to lend a sharpie for the occasion.
I don't need to say much about the panel itself because several people (notably Acastus and Alternacoppa) were videotaping it and will (or have already) post it on youtube. Suffice it to say, Bryan = the best dancer ever! Dee Baker - possibly not quite human. And Eric Colman does not suck! (he's largely responsible for Zuko's existence, for crying out loud)
My favorite bit of the trailer was Roku throwing down some hard core four-way-four-element bending action. I did not care for the Maiko kiss, heck I found it nearly vomit inducing (perhaps that's a slight exaggeration), but that's because so far, Mai is the one avatar character that utterly sucks. Zuko should really have better judgment. Hopefully, the process of getting her entangled with Zuko involves revealing some hitherto unseen redeeming qualities. IDK, maybe she's secretly a White Lotus agent and was just pretending to be a heartless, soulless, monotone bitch throughout season 2 in order to fool Azula.
After the avatar panel I went back to the Nick booth intending to preempt the line for the promised season 3 poster (I didn't know that the cosplayers were getting together for a photo shoot, or I would have stuck around to observe). Acastus and Sav couldn't wait around to get the poster because they were in a hurry to get back to the hotel and post screenshots and summaries of all the avatar goodness we've just experienced (Did I mention how amazing Acastus is? I will say it again anyways, these people are so cool in person it's not even funny). The Nickelodeon people insisted the line will not form until 1:30, so I ventured out into the Gas-Lamp district with Polychrome to find some lunch (she's a seasoned Con goer and knows the terrain well). Not only is SD a very walkable city, there were people handing out free Dove chocolates on the street. It doesn't get better than free (good!) chocolate.
We made it back in time for the poster handing out, and met up with A_M and Ao_Oni (still dressed as Smellers and the BS) and Tanada (in her Daria cosplay) and Kaits (who was cosplaying Jin and handing out homemade fireflakes) But we were all a bit distracted, and didn't notice when and where the line was formed. By the time we wised up, we ended up almost at the very end of the line. The Nick booth was situated back-to-back with the Simpson's/Futurama booth, and the line to get a season 3 poster went completely around the Groening booth (they were not happy). At some point Bender (ok, John Dimaggio) showed up and gloriously berated us for supporting the wrong show. I missed the opportunity to tell him how much I love him because:
A. I didn't realize right away who he was, and
B. There was a scary gaggle of very enthusiastic fangirls just ahead of us in line, and they responded by shouting loudly how much they loved Zuko (they also wrote on each other with make-up pencils how much they loved Zuko, and proceeded to make the very accurate Zuko cosplayer also waiting in line visibly nervous).
After about an hour of standing in line (and meeting Rawles and Quadgirl and Iijyanika) we finally got to collect our beautiful season 3 posters. Dee and Bryan were signing each person's poster for them. I thanked Dee again for signing my Appa and he graciously said it was his pleasure. Then I had my chance to stand face to face with Bryan and say something. This was my cue to choke, but luckily, I've had my absolutely trivial and completely answerable question prepared a long time in advance. I had to know what happened to the ostrich-Horse Zuko stole from Song, which vanished from the show without explanation after episode 11. Bryan told me he was actually disappointed they didn't get to show closure on the little horse-birdy's fate, but that in a later episode (I'm guessing he meant he beginning of episode 20), when we randomly see an ostrich horse standing in the middle of nowhere and drinking water, that's the same one. He's free and he's alright! :D While he was telling me this he also drew a cute little scared Aang face on my poster. :)
After having our posters signed, we just sat down beside the Nick booth and hung out with some forum members (Qwenchiest, Tanada, Polychrome, Kaits and possibly someone else I'm forgetting), and some other fans that will hopefully soon become ASN forum members (or maybe they already have?). Slowly people drifted away. eventually just me and Tanada remained, and we went to the upper con level to check out some funny Anime episodes.
That evening the Super 8 motel group had dinner in our 'regular haunt', the local IHOP. Some absolutely riveting conversations , not to mention a lot of very hard-core geekery (not for the faint of heart, or so-called 'normal' people) ensued.
The next day we all parted ways. Kara and her group returned home, Acastus and Sav continued on their journey, and UJof and family headed on their long drive North. On the way out of the city, UJoF was kind enough to drop my brother and me at the San-Diego Zoo. We spent the entire day walking around the zoo and seeing everything (pandas, and koalas, and Galapagos turtles, and so many pigs, pigs of every shape and flavor, and tree kangaroos, and giraffes, and polar bears and a hippo and so much more...). Then, around 3:30 we were joined by A_M and family, who have spent the morning at Sea-World. So we went round the Zoo again. Because it was worth seeing twice! And in great company! :D (here I need to gush again about how amazing these people are and how many laughs we had roaming the Zoo together, noticing all of the crazy plants, and waiting for half an hour for a Galapagos turtle to not-quite manage to get up and move). We finished the day with some delicious Thai food and more great conversations in a beautiful restaurant very close to the convention center. Then they gave us a ride back to the hotel and we said farewell.
The next day, we were faced with the adventure of getting to the airport on our own. That involved figuring out exactly where to get off the trolley line and catch the right bus to get to the Airport entrance. We failed miserably at this, only learning what we should have done later, from the flight agent that checked in our luggage. We had gotten off from the trolley at the wrong stop, and were faced with the prospect of a 40 minute walk to the airport. Luckily, a very kind gentleman saw us lugging our bags along the street and offered us a ride. Whoever you are, sir, I salute you. Hopefully you are having a great day, and receiving some sort of Karmic reward for your kindness.
So we made it home.
And meanwhile the fandom has gone crazy. I feel both glad and a bit guilty to have been away from the fray (hiding at the 'eye of the storm', as it were) while the madness unfolded.
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