Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hello Chickenblog

For an entire week I could not focus on what to post to my poor neglected blog. It was not due to a lack of subject matter. I think I had reached a point of sensory overload, and this was before we headed to Comic-Con! I have been existing in polar opposite states of mind and emotion, simultaneously, and consequently taking care of a lot of important things and neglecting a lot of important things. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah... whatever!

Things are looking up!

There is still tremendous opportunity for sensory overload and even physical exhaustion, as we have begun something new in our lives... something that will certainly require a new Label. It will be a new chapter in Chickenblog.

I can almost hear readers saying, "Spit it out already woman!" But I need to take this slow. I have to mark my words and be sure of myself. You cannot see that my hands shake, that my heart beats a bit faster, that there are fears to suppress. Plus, you try making a separate and momentous announcement in a post about thundering nerds, geeks and comic-book joy... this is hard and weird. I kind of like it though... it gives me something to fiddle around with and hide behind while I subtly and cautiously share our news.

***Geoff read this and said "Everyone's gonna think you are pregnant."
I am not. Or am I? Just kidding. Honest. I really am not pregnant. Not even a little bit.***

Dear Comic-Con, I love you. You are strange and creative, you are the released energy and joy of thousands of talented and enthusiastic souls who gather together to share their passions and labors, their zaniness and zeal. You are overcrowded, loud and offensive. You are inspiring and hilarious. Comic-Con you are fun. Thank you for being your true self. Love, Natalie (Who wants to return next year in her own super-heroine costume.)

From left to right: Spongebob Squarepants, Mister Crabs, Plankton and Emily! Emily is the designer, engineer and builder. Using a very limited supply of LEGO's Duplo blocks she brought these comical characters to life. Regular readers know we are devoted LEGO fans. My views on Spongebob are worthy of a separate post! Emily's creations were awesome and LEGO staff and other Conventioneers were stopping to admire and appreciate her sweet skills. Which brings me to another thing I love about Comic-Con: There are celebrities there and sighting famous people is fun, but the real stars are Emily and the sixty year old woman dressed as AliceIn Wonderland and the guy who made a cape out of a bathroom rug and called himself "Budget Man," a superhero for the economic downturn?! So called "unknowns" steal the show and get to shine when they release their alter-egos on humanity, when they build things and make things and share things in a place that celebrates imagination and skill.

LOL... Maria wasn't sure where to focus, since there are about 42 distractions per square foot! I hope Emily keeps designing and building. I hope she retains her engineering super joy all her life.

Guess who we found!

Okay, so it wasn't too hard to find Waldo, but can you find Stan Lee? I did! Seriously, I am not sure why I recognized this comic book legend. I knew he is the creator of Spiderman and Ironman, but I had to read a bit to learn that he also created Thor, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Hulk! I must be a bigger Geek than I realized.

Ah, here's Ironman now! More fan love... just like Tony Stark, this guy made his iron suit. So cool.

Still BIONICLE fans. Still LEGO enthusiasts. Alex, Max, William and Maria appreciate the set up Lego has at the convention, and so do I. Back home, at Garage Mahal, we have enough bricks to open our own convention and yet there were no objections to hanging out, building, seeing what's new and enjoying the sights and sounds of Lego hoopla.

Spur of the moment contest... a prize to the first person to name these two women... full names and where they appeared! Maria recognized that they were "Pretty and nice," which is why she rushed over to meet them.

Besides walking the convention hall floor, buying robot stickers and having a refreshing lunch at Bondi, we also made sure we got seats to see and hear Ray Bradbury. Legend. He had some stirring and inspiring things to say about life, something he loves, and he also moved me to tears when he spoke about hope. They played footage of Walter Cronkite introducing him and Mike Wallace interviewing him forty years ago, the night of the lunar landing! I loved his passionate beliefs and ideas about education and fostering a love of reading in the youngest children.

I think it was during his talk that I became impassioned myself. Our family has been on a difficult path... one created by circumstances and fate, by our beliefs and choices. We have been waiting to buy a home of our own. We passed on fraudulently absurd loans and homes priced like gold. We endured harsh criticism and unsound advice. And I whined. It's true. Chickenblog has been witness to all of my anger, frustration, grief, embittered wrath, tearful woes and rental rants. Some of it was not nice. All of it was challenging to live through. We have been ripped off and we have been disappointed.

The sore points and the injustices are real and obvious, but something else has been happening. Something silent, yet pervasive. Something hiding out in the open that has been tripping us up and causing incalculable damage... we've learned to be doubtful, suspicious, unhappy, sad and without hope. It's not that we are entirely without hope and happiness, but we have become too accustomed to feeling and acting like victims, to anticipating the next sad event, the next unfortunate outcome. Sometimes this behavior comes in the guise of wisdom and prudence, and experience. So, we have gained a lot of wisdom and prudence and experience and I do not doubt that we made the best choices we could with what was available. But now we need to turn up the hope, believe in the possibility of things turning out good. It is possible that everything, or most things, will be alright. Right? This is going to take practice.

We are in escrow. It just comes out in a whisper. It feels fragile, delicate. Like it could fall apart and blow away. The Blue House may become our home. Very soon I hope to say more, to say it louder and more confidently. This step in the process, on the path, is not easy, because we have grown too accustomed to doubt and trepidation, but we have taken the next step and the next one after that and we are going to keep moving forward and it is possible that everything, or most things, will be alright. Hopefully.

So many readers, friends and family have been beacons of light and hope on this path... thank you. Thank you for kind encouragement and gentle consolations. Thank you for believing this day would come.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

This Week is Comic-Con

Geeks everywhere are thinking "Duh. Everyone knows it's Comic-Com."

I'm sure some of our Comic-Con ventures are covered under the Geek label in Chickenblog. The funny thing is we feel like we were already there this year. But the food was too good, so we must have been in Bruxelles! My first post about Bruxelles alluded to the comic theme and the good food, to Tin-Tin and the Grand Plaše, and then I promised a visit to... Atomium!

Somewhere in the comments was a nice remark about our 'many pictures' and how we 'must have lots of photo albums.' We have many up until about 2001, and then came digital and I have practically stopped printing. And once I started blogging I gave up photo albums. Chickenblog is our family photo album. It would be nice to rectify this. I know it would be nice to have real books with prints that we could leaf through and enjoy. We don't even have family pictures in frames... very bad. Shame.

Well, no point dwelling. And until I remember how to make prints or learn how to take a memory stick to the printshop, then I will at least try to keep Chickenblog as up to date as possible.

Comic-Con has crowds.

Bruxelles has crowds.

Comic-Con has art and people to admire the art.

Bruxelles has art and people to admire the art.

Comic-Con has forums for self expression, for demonstrating your interests, talents, points of view.

Bruxelles has forums for self expression, for demonstrating interests, talents, points of view.

Comic-Con has people that dress in character.

Bruxelles has people that dress in character.

Comic-Con has vendors.

Bruxelles has vendors.

Comic-Con has food convention center nachos, dry pretzels and tall sodas.

Bruxelles has waffles, chocolate, sweet strawberries, frites, beer, hearty and fresh sandwiches that are stuffed with delicious veggies, Speculoos, Nutella, onion soup, mussels...

Comic-Con has been around since the 1970's.

Bruxelles has been around since before the 10th Century.

We love Comic-Con enough to return year after year.

Bruxelles has us smitten too.

On our way out of town we were lamenting how little time we had to spend in Belgium. I had read about this place called "Atomium." Dallas had mentioned it too... a place we might enjoy seeing. But we felt the need to race off to our next reservation, so we assumed we'd have to miss it. But as we settled in to the highway and had our course charted, we saw the shiny mecca on the horizon, rising like a gleaming geek siren above the trees. Once again we made our GPS go bonkers when we steered away from the charted course and tried to find our way to Atomium.

Go to the webpage to get a handle on what Atomium is all about. This 1958 World's Fair attraction, a big, shiny representation of a ferrium crystal, was well worth the price of admission. We loved the sights. We loved the engineering. We loved the design. We loved the shine. We loved the retro back to the future vibe. If we could have worn jetpacks and slept in pods we would not be here right now...

We would be pondering the joy of comics and science converging.

We would still be playing with the endless wonder of digital photography and big things.

We would be riding up and down the elevator to the top atom.

Then we would be looking down.

Down is where we saw the city and the woods and the tiny cars.

Hey, there's our car!

And there's Mini-Europe!
I want to go to there.

No. Wait. I want to go to there!
That looks awesome.

We were surprised how much of the Ferrium Crystal was accessible. With stairs, the main elevator and escalators we were traveling all over Atomium.

Wouldn't it be cool if they could achieve zero gravity in here?

Don't let their expressions mislead you. Those are the reverent faces of geeks in awe of science and technology. Okay, and Maria is a little sad her ice cream is all gone.

You can't get this at Comic-Con, but we're going anyway.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One of the Crowd

It's the original, and like no other: It's Comic-Con. It's comic books and artists, writers, characters, posers, geeks, nerds, superheroes and anti-heroes, it's garbage and flyers and swag, weirdness, classics, cutting edge and cutting room floor. Comic-Con began as a comic book themed convention, in San Diego, in 1970. It's grown and it's evolved, and I can't help but feel that it is forgetting its roots a bit... it's in danger of being over taken by the Hollywood-Corporate-Commercial Machine and all of those big spenders tend to drive out the smaller franchises, small (and skilled) talents, local talent. If I were a journalist I would have a hard time deciding my angle on this story... Comic-Con: History, Lore, Changes, Venues, Artists, Video Games, Genres, Movies, Animation, Manga, Anime, Toys, Fans, Graphic Novels, Comic Books, Comic Strips, and a fervent wish that the organizers and attendees would Go Green... swag, flyers, cards, leaflets and garbage were everywhere! What Would Wall-E Do?

It is a spectacle. Sights and sounds from all directions and plenty of people eager to see and be seen. There is some temptation to go in costume. The creativity, the atmosphere of play is inspiring and infectious. I think the attention you could draw might be overwhelming. I like that at Comic-Con there is an opportunity to attract attention to yourself, to be amusing and interesting and have people want to take your picture, and it has nothing to do with being an empty celebrity, famous for your inheritance or ability to promote your youth and shopping habits. We enjoyed seeing Chewbacca, and in the past we've met famous authors and artists, but the surprises and draw of the convention are the real people, the geeks and fans, the enthusiastic individuals enjoying a day, or 4, of playing with fantasy and creativity. And at Comic-Con anyone can be a part of the scene.

Anyone can be a part of the scene. Starfighters from "Star Wars?" Yeah, we saw the Tie Fighters getting lunch.

OKay, I will admit not every subject matter at the Comic-Con is family appropriate, or even particularly praise worthy from a peace loving, love and harmony perspective. Maybe some expression is a safety valve, an outlet to relieve pressures. Maybe some expression is simply scary and best avoided. It can be a microcosm, a sampling of the good, the bad, the ugly, the absurd, and the earnest endeavors of creative people. It can be really funny. When these Tetris pieces walked by, a spontaneous chorus hummed in the crowd... the distinct tune was a heartfelt tribute to these collaborative enthusiasts.

I've seen plenty of scantily dressed shegeeks... nothing any less naked than beach attire. Too my amusement this was the first year I came across hegeeks in their under-roos! Hilarious.

We go for the camaraderie, the talent of writers and artists, the encounters with enthusiastic people and to enjoy an atmosphere of play, where people can be themselves or be an alternate self... And we go for BIONICLE, and the comic book series that William, Alex and Max have been enjoying since 2000, or was it 1999?*** They met the writer, Greg Farshty. Alex spent a long time talking with a master-builder from LEGO.

***Update: William informs me their BIONICLE interest began in 2001.

Geoff and I took turns at the LEGO table with Maria... for hours!

Technically I am a geek by marriage. I brought my quilt and was happily immersed in my own fantasy. I wish I had done this other years.

I never could find the booth that was reputed to be selling Totoro T-shirts. Bummer. But I had a good time going around the convention floor, and taking in the sights. Watching people sketch, seeing familiar faces and publications, reading other T-shirts. I loved the graphics this booth was offering. I loved how he would light up enthusiastically when people admired his collection. Success? Success is loving what you do and finding a place where you can share it.

Eventually we have to leave. It takes awhile for there to be consensus about when exactly that time is. This year Alex wanted to stay much longer. I think we should seriously consider buying our 4 day passes for 2009 now. This guy lost his voice, which is one of the many hazards and risks we face at Comic-Con, but by next year we'll be ready to face it all again. Rest-up Howard, there are only 357 days until Comic-Con 2009.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

We are busy, busy people. I don't know how we manage to get ourselves from point A to point B, but we do it and we even stop at Comic Con along the way! Fortunately we chose to show up at the conference on Thursday; as crowded as it was, nothing compares with the crowds that showed up on Saturday. By Saturday we found a charger for my camera, so Geoff, Will and Alex took freak 'n' geek pictures... too bad the camera was out of comission when we met Ray Harryhausen, and other greats in the art world. Okay, be honest, have you heard of Ray Harryhausen? How about Ray Bradbury? We have been stunned by how many people have no idea who these geniuses are. Harryhausen's work may be somewhat specialized, but it's fundamental to movies, video games and even popular culture in general. You don't have to be a geek to know their work.

Or how about Robbie the Robot?

Sometimes it feels like trouble just finds us.

It's still hot, and perhaps even more humid.
We revived our housing search; no changes.
Max finished his week at camp and did very well.
Alex and Will are at camp again this week, learning C++.
I cleaned the Odyssey.
Maria says: puppy, chi-chi, kaka, cooookie, pretty, meeeow, baa-baa, woo-woo, naynoo (thank you,) mama, dada, Nannie (Natalie,) agua, nana(banana,)
and many more chirps, whirrs, beeps, squeals and squawks.

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