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sdcc 2014

It has been one week since I experienced the assault on the senses that is San Diego Comic Con International.  It was my second time at this amazing event.  Entering Comic Con is like stepping from the black and white world of Kansas to the Technicolor world of Oz.

There is color everywhere- Bright banners with the Comic Con logo, brightly colored registration packets with a tote back big enough to make you feel like a lillipution- covered with a bright illustration depicting one of the many TV shows or movies put on display at the convention. There are the costumed attendees in their garish attire passing you by like flipping through the pages of a comic book. There are not just a few attendees but thousands about 130,000 to be exact-about a fifth of the population of San Diego in 1970 when Comic Con was founded.  It is a city unto itself now, 44 years later.

Ballroom 20 was my first destination.  There are large screens hanging from the ceiling with the Comic Con logo framing each screen and the sight and sound of it bright and loud like a movie theater. The capacity is about 2500.   I watched pilots of new TV shows that will be airing in the fall-two sci-fi fantasy thrillers-Constantine and The Flash.

It seemed over before it began and it was time to journey back to where I would stay during the convention for a good night’s rest before the official first day of Comic con.

Following my agenda from the previous year, the next morning, I attended Masters of the Web a panel sponsored by AMC.  The most notable member of the panel for me was Manu Bennett star of the Hobbit, and Arrow who actually waxed poetic about making the world a better place.  Can we- the band of geeks and nerds take the battle of good and evil from our favorite stories and place it in the real world as we know it and fight for good over evil?

Like the superheroes in KickAss 2 who defeat the evil villains-can we defeat the villains of poverty, violence, injustice and hatred?(My expansion of this thought-not Manu’s)

I took a brief stroll through The EXPO with its explosion of sights and sounds and smells as every fantasy and sci-fi comic book, movie and TV show you could ever imagine are displayed in various forms.  A brilliant world that expands the mile long length of the convention center with thousands of displays from a simple table with an artist signing comic books to a huge multi-media creation as big as a city block and a hundred feet tall with screens showing movie clips and large counters filled with actors.

Then it was on to Hall H.  Hall H- the hallowed hall where the biggest movies with the biggest stars have their panels and previews and movie clips. SDCC attendees fight for one of the 6500 seats in this sanctuary of the screen. There are even larger screens than the ones in Ballroom 20 and a more sophisticated sound system to give you the true movie theater experience.

The first day there was no line because the featured production house was Dreamworks Animation-not a favorite of Comic Con attendees.  I was there for the panel to follow which was The Giver a new movie based on a dystopic novel that was the forerunner of the current craze such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner.

Imagine my surprise as the Dreamworks panel was finishing to see John Malkovich and Benedict Cumberbatch promoting of all things Escape from Madagascar 4 to which they are lending their formidable voices.

That is the beauty of Comic Con-the unexpected gifts!  It is like Christmas morning with every panel filled with unexpected surprises! The schedule gives you the name of the Movie Studio and sometimes the movie being promoted but you never really know what movies will be shown and what actors will be there.

The unexpected bonus for me of The Giver was the presence of Jeff Bridges AKA “the dude” as he was referred to by nearly every audience member who queried him (from his role in The Big Lebowski). It was interesting to learn that he was the visionary behind bringing this novel to the big screen.  This process took over 20 years because there are some questionable storylines in the tale that were difficult to get past the censors.  (Side note: changes were made to these scenes to get the movie made).  I was not aware that this book was so controversial that it was banned from schools and libraries. Mr.  Bridges believed in this story and persisted and finally his vision is a reality. I enjoyed hearing from the author Lois Lowry who is arguably a forerunner in libertarian thought and the current popularity of the dystopic genre of literature.  According to Lois, her books are not designed to tell young people what to think but to challenge them to make their own conclusions.

The next panel was Paramount Pictures which treated us to a preview of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with a little history behind the saga.  My takeaway from the panel is that the Turtles- like today’s police force needed to be militarized to survive in today’s world. Apparently, being a Ninja is not enough in 2014.  My other takeaway- Megan Fox does not appear as plastic surgery deformed off screen.  They must botox her up for filming or something.  She is naturally luminous in the real world.

Next up was Hercules himself AKA Dwayne Johnson who surprised the crowd with a stroll through the audience before offering them a chance to be the first to see his new movie at the Gaslamp Regal Theater a few blocks from the convention center at 6 pm that evening.  Wow his muscles are definitely not CGed!!!!

OK then there was another mind blowing fan moment for me- Interstellar with Matthew McConaughey and Director Christopher Nolan of The Dark Knight Fame made their first appearance at The Con.  Wow- but thank you large security guard who got in Every one of my pics!!! Loved seeing the audience members tease Matthew and Mr. Nolan was soft spoken and articulate in his cool British way-not what you would imagine for such an iconic action film maker.

I meandered over to the Indigo Ballroom at the Bayside Hilton for an Unofficial Look at the Final Middle Earth Film to learn some film facts and get excited about the final installment of The Hobbit-Battle of the Five Armies.

I watched the sunset over beautiful San Diego as I left OZ  on the Coaster Commuter train to end day one of SD Comic Con 2014. More in my next blog….

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The forced retirement of Jay Leno is yet another reminder of the moral decay of America.

Jay was the last of his kind.  He carried on the tradition begun by Johnny Carson when Johnny retired 22 years ago.  Jay, like Johnny, was a class act. His monologue was genuinely funny without being crass. He was kind to his guests, never demeaning or ridiculing them.

Sandra Bullock was his penultimate guest and described him tearfully,

You’ve always been so kind,” the Oscar winner told the comedian as tears began to well up. “You were always so welcoming and every single person on your crew was that way consistently, and I just felt special even when I felt very insecure. And everyone, I think, in this room and in this country, has felt that every day that you’ve been in their homes. I’m so grateful that I got to be a part of this. (Entertainment Weekly By Hillary Busis on Feb 6, 2014 at 10:29AM   @hillibusterr)

Jay is being replaced by a younger host- Jimmy Fallon whose humor is raw and more juvenile.  On Jimmy’s final show his “highlight” clips were of his sidekick Steve Higgins’ pants falling off, and his musician Questlove vomiting water.

The real question is-why this forced retirement?  Jay had the highest viewership of any of the late night shows in his time slot by nearly a million viewers over the second place competitor David Letterman. In the coveted 18-49 demographic he has increased 7% over 2012 and outnumbers #2 Jimmy Kimmel in this category by over 500,000. He ranked #1 in ad revenues as well with over $125 million in 2013(The Hollywood Reporter 2/5/2014http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/late-night-ratings-battle-lenos-676713).

What is NBC thinking?

Quitting while you are ahead may be the motivation but in the money grubbing world of network TV, it appears that NBC is kissing the moolah goodbye.

The real losers are the American audience who now have no option but to endure another potty mouthed late night host.

Adieu Jay- the last of an era-the turn of the tide from class, elegance and kindness.  You will be missed and a kinder, gentler America as well.

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I have noticed a disturbing trend on TV in the new fall season. There is an increase in the kind of graphic violence being portrayed.  The show The Walking Dead is gaining a growing following.  The premiere show of the season had a viewership of  over 16 million viewers.

I saw The Walking Dead display at Comic Con San Diego 2013.  It was a replica of the prison enclosure used in the show complete with barbed-wire fence and zombies walking within the enclosure.  Unlike the TV show, this enclosure was built to keep the zombies in.  In the TV show the enclosure is to protect the unaffected humans from the growing population of zombies in the world outside.

Because I am a student of popular culture, I decided to watch the premiere episode.  I  recently saw the cast on an afternoon talk show and found out that one of my favorite actors was on the show.  This also increased my curiosity about the show.

In the episode I watched, from what I can put together, there was a young boy who had some type of compassion for the undead and was feeding them rats and other small animals.  In the process, he became infected with the disease that created the zombies.  Once he transforms he immediately starts feeding on the closest live human being who is asleep on the cot in the room with him.

As he feasts, we are witness to a grisly scene full of lots of blood and gore as he tears at the man’s flesh with his hands and disembowels him so he can feast on his organs as well.  Somehow the man is still living when he is found by some of the unaffected humans.  They realize that he is now infected with the zombie disease so they must stab him in the cerebellum to destroy his brain and end his undead existence.

There are several more gory bloody scenes in the show, but that was probably the most disturbing.  The Walking Dead is on the AMC channel.  The shows on AMC are known for breaking tradition with the kind of censorship that the so-called Network TV shows have.  It boasts Mad Men and Breaking Bad which both push the limits of what is acceptable viewing on TV-Mad Men for its sex, Breaking Bad for its violence and both for their storylines of depraved humanity.

I must say though, that in watching the new shows on the Network channels, I have to wonder if the censors are on hiatus based on the kind of violence I have seen. The Black List  is a new show on NBC about a criminal operative who turns himself in to the FBI. He gains immunity by helping to expose the list of criminals that he formerly worked with.  The two shows I have seen included stories about a serial killer and an assassin who used gruesome techniques of torture and murder on their victims. In these tales we view these acts in bloody detail.

Another popular show on NBC is Revolution.  It is a tale of a post-apocalyptic America full of brutal violence and torture as well.

The increase in graphic violence and its subsequent increase in popularity among TV viewers cause me to ask the question “Is violence the new porn?”  Is there a growing addiction among Americans for blood and gore and violence? Some of this, I am sure is influenced by the increase in graphic violence in video games and their influence on the culture.  But I have to wonder where will this addiction lead?   There is no question that there is an increase in violence in the real world as well, perhaps as a result of the virtual violence that is experienced in video games, TV and movies.

2012 showed a 1.1 increase in violent crime and a 11% increase in violence against property for the first time in 6 years.  As the violence portrayed for us increases so does the violence we experience.  The greed of network producers causes them to refuse to accept responsibility for how they are affecting society, but continue to increase the dosage to increase the addiction and the dependence of the audience.

So I for one say no.  I will break the addiction and choose more positive influences.

And as the Bible teaches

Philippians 4:8

[ Meditate on These Things ] Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.