On Friday, I decided to leave work early -- I wasn't doing anything anyway. I walked down to the train station, taking a slightly longer route that avoid crossing a high speed (45 mph) but usually not too busy road without a light. This was also a nicer walk since more of it, but mostly the extra distance, was along trails rather than sidewalks. But I got to the station in plenty of time. I did have to figure out which side of the station the train was going to be on, and the even distribution of passengers didn't help.
The rest of the train trip down was normal (except I was sitting in a seat without much of a view, so I kind of lost track of where we were a couple of times). I arrived at the Santa Fe depot and then walked to the convention center, again cutting through Seaport Village. I did take a brief walk through the Marriott rather than walking all the way to the passage, and found myself walking backwards along the blood donation process.
Once I got to the convention, I tried to give robot_grrl a call, but her phone was off. So I wandered through the exhibit hall for a while, stopping to have a cheerleader scan my badge to try to win Tara a Nissian Cube, and then tried to call Tara again. She called me back when I didn't hear, but on the third time we managed to connect and found each other. Once we were together, we decided to get dinner and then consider evening programming.
For dinner we decided to give Cafe Diem a try. While there, I was able to determine that Cafe Diem isn't an out of business restaurant, but that they took over the Hard Rock Hotel's coffee shop (Maryjane's Coffee Shop) for the week -- so much of the funky decor is the normal trappings. But the menu looks customized, and they added a fair amount of SyFy advertising.
After dinner, we decided that the line for the 6:15 panel I'd considered would already be too long, and headed home soon afterwords.
This morning, we got a fairly early start -- but not quite as early as we would have liked. We stopped at the McDonald's (I called it "The Archy Place" to confirm) for breakfast and then headed to Old Town. Our arrival there was slightly confused by Tara telling me I was in the wrong lane, but me not wanting to pay for parking when I knew that there was plenty of free parking not that much further away. Instead I took a very long drive around to get back to the free lot, but I was able to find a nice spot next to a freeway pillar -- the parking lot for the transit center and state park is under the ramps that connect I-8 to I-5. We caught a trolley down to the convention center quickly and were there by about 8:30 or 8:45.
We then got in the line for the Chuck panel. With more than an hour before the scheduled start, the line was already beyond the established queues and heading down the stairs. Before the line started moving it was all the way to the bottom and back up and down a few times.
It took a while for the line to start moving, they were having to do some sort of adjustment on the sound system was what we were told. About 9:20 or so, the line started moving, and it took another 20 or so minutes for us to get a seat, but we got one not too far beyond the second set of screens so we could see fairly well, even though the stage itself was out of site.
Due to the late opening, the panel did get a late start, so it ran shorter than it was intended to. But it was a good panel. It started with a brief montage of scenes from last season, ending with the last scene of the last episode. It then cut to a scene in the producer's office featuring the Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak, and Zachary Levi discussing how they expected to get the call canceling the show anytime. Of course they instead got the renewal call, and the two producers had to figure out what to do since they'd supposedly written an ending. Their solution: "Jeffster."
This, of course, was the prompt for the two actors who play Jeff and Lester to come out on stage and perform as Jeffster, doing "Fat Bottomed Girls." About half way through they were joined by the rest of the cast (except the actress who plays Anna, Morgan's girlfriend), the two writers and the panel moderator -- a television critic.
The writers and cast thanked the fans because we were largely responsible for there being a third season. They then proceeded through the panel with no real information about the upcoming season -- except some vague directional stuff about how the new Intersect information will effect Chuck, and a mention of something happening between seasons between Chuck and Sarah.
There were a couple of running gags. First several people commented on Joshua Gomez's beard -- which is surprisingly long for the time he's had to grow it out -- with some other references to Zachary Levi's beard. Then there was the "write it down" joke from the creator to the head writer each time a question had a good story (or not so good story idea) in it. Finally, everyone was giving Adam Baldwin a hard time about how popular Firefly is, even though he's already done many more episodes of Chuck.
In part because of the late start, and in part because of the questions that were asked, not all of the people got a chance to say much. Yvonne Strahovski didn't say anything until she briefly answered something in response to the last question. But what she said might have been enough to startle some of the people in the room -- since she didn't bother using an American accent when answering as herself.
After the Chuck panel, Tara and I went to the panel on spirituality in comics. It wasn't a bad panel, but I don't know if I got as much out of it as I have many of the similar panels at SF conventions.
I then went to a panel on Comic Strips and Syndication with Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Richard Thompson (Cul De Sac) and Keith Knight (The K Chronicles, and The Knight Life). This was pretty good, and made up at least partially for missing Stephan Pastis's spotlight panel the day before (I was still in transit). I was amused when someone asked about how being on the web impacts syndicated cartoonists since I first encountered the work of two of the three panelists (Pastis and Thompson) through syndicate websites, and read all three most days through their syndicate websites.
The other amusing comment was in response to a question about the comic strip writer character in Three Men and a Baby, which none of them had seen. Kieth Knight (who is African-American, and no older than 50) said that he received a cease and desist order from ABC because he was too much like the Ted Knight character in Too Close for Comfort, and had to move from San Francisco to LA.
After that, I found Tara in the back of the exhibit hall eating lunch. I got a fairly large salad -- but one that was still mostly lettuce -- for $8.25, after deciding that the plate sized pizzas didn't look that good, and that $8.25 for a sandwich wasn't a good deal. While eating, Tara was talking with someone who moved from near Milwaukee to Vista (next town over from Oceanside), and also found out he was acquainted with Mark Christopher Lawrence (Big Mike from Chuck), but didn't know he was there.
After lunch, we hit up the spotlight panel on Ray Bradbury, which went pretty well, except for the fact that Ray didn't get a chance to say a whole lot, and one of his friends seemed to spend half the panel advertising projects that Ray is only marginally involved in. While Ray doesn't appear to be doing great -- he is confined to a wheelchair -- he did pledge to live to be 100 in 11 years. As part of the panel, they played the tape of his interview with Mike Wallace after the moon landing, and he told the tale of why he was in London and walked off the show there hosted by David Frost that night because of an appearance by Englebert Humpherdink, and then spent the rest of the night walking clear across London. He reported that when he reached his hotel he found the tabloid headline said something to the effect of "Armstrong to walk in morning, Bradbury walks at midnight."
After that, we went to Subway and got the $5.00 foot longs we should have back before Chuck was renewed (and to have a less expensive and better dinner). We then headed back but found the line for the Mythbusters panel was already out the door and that we probably wouldn't get seats.
So we instead headed down to the exhibit hall where I picked up the complete (printed so far) collection of Evil Inc. books, which Brad Guigar sketched in and signed. Since we got the last copy of volume 4 (the most recent) he had, and it was slightly defective (a mis-cut and folded page near the cover) I didn't have to pay full price. We also had a nice talk with Brad as he worked on our books.
After that, we headed home to a whiny dog and an absent cat. We also found that my copy of XDM: Extreme Dungonmastering had arrived -- which we found amusing since we'd mentioned to Brad Guiger that I also had sketch editions of all of Howard Taylor's Schlock Mercenary books (Howard Taylor illustrated and published XDM, which is written by Tracey Hickman and his son).
After today, I'm feeling better about ComicCon. But I'm not sure if next year I should get a full 4-day pass, or should limit myself to two one-day passes for Saturday and Sunday. I'm not going to want to take the two days off, and I'm not sure how much I'll be able to see or do the first three days again. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, but am debating about going to the Doctor Who panel or the Christian Comics panel. I think that we're going to split, and I'll go see Doctor Who while Tara is a good girl and goes to the Christian Panel and brief worship.