Tag Archives: Comic-Con

Fairy Nerdmother

11 Dec

I wanted to draw pictures to accompany this post. I feel like it needs pictures. I don’t know if words can do justice to The Contact Story: Part 2; I don’t know if words can image-erise a grown man backed into the corner of his quite trendy mannish lounge room, eyes wide with fear and disgust, mouth enveloped by both hands in an attempt to protect the gross concept from entering it; kids leaping around me, screaming with terrified joy…

But there’s no pictures…

yet.

I woke up the morning after the most traumatic experience of my young life with BOTH my eyes, I’m pleased to say. Both eyes and a contact lens. Somewhere.

Pony and I had to pick up the kiddlets from their dad’s house (I shall name him Mr Argonaut for the purpose of this blog). According to Pony, Mr Argonaut was WAY experienced with contact lenses and eye-touching – he’d worn contacts for a bazillion years, until he had lasik eye surgery. He was Da MAN! when it came to eye stuff. It was possible that Arggy possessed special skillz re. my predicament. If we weren’t going to get to an optometrist this day, he was our next best bet.

When Pony and I arrived there were nice “hellos” and hugs and “come ins” and “how’s it goings?”

Pony: “Um, actually Arggy, Rae had a little mishap with one of her contact… [Mr A runs to the back corner of the room – see first paragraph] lenses…”

From behind one hand came a muffled “it’s stuck behind your… isn’t it?” the other hand was spared for the important task of indicating to his eye.

I nodded in confirmation.

Cue Sippy and Fil who were suddenly inches from my face; loud expressions of horrified fascination and ecstatic disgust; general flailing and springy room circumnavigation throughout. It was quite an event.

Mr A, after a gentle rebuke from Pony, (“You used to wear contacts ALL THE TIME! You said eyes didn’t worry you!” “MY eyes didn’t worry me!”) made his way towards me to inspect the damage. He very bravely (and I say this most sincerely, if it was me in his situation I would have stayed in the back corner of the room gagging) confronted my eye – “look up, down, to the right…”

No sight of the contact yet, no observable damage. Back to waiting.

The rest of this day’s events took place with that damned contact stuck somewhere in my face: The Amazing Spider-Man; walking around San Diego getting complimented on my Doctor Who/Portal t-shirt (like five separate times, nerdholes!); the Nerdist podcast taping; meeting Jonah Ray (twice); meeting Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira; locking eyes with John Barrowman (BFFs); meeting my Fairy Nerdmother. All of it.

Maybe it was my lucky charm…

While the whole day had been immensely plesant, the first bit of out-of-the-ordinary luck occured while I was waiting to pick up my Nerdist tickets from will call (for Aussies, “will call” basically means picking tickets up at the venue) at the Balboa Theatre. Pony and I were second in line but it was taking AGES to get to the window. The lady at the desk was very emphatically telling the gentleman in front of us that she couldn’t give him his passes until he presented the correct identification. He kept gently yet urgently arguing with the woman, but it wasn’t until he looked at his lady friend with exasperation that I realised it was JONAH RAY!!!!!!!!!! From the Nerdist podcasts. Like, Jonah Ray the guy who was meant to be onstage!!! Jonah Ray who was on the poster above the ticket window for that night’s event!!!!!!!!

Jonah Ray was desperately trying to explain this to the will call lady, but to no avail.

I got the giggles – it was like watching some B-grade farce. Mr Ray turned around to apologise for the delay. I remember saying, “That’s ok, it’s  entertaining” (SMOOTH!), while Pony looked thoroughly confused (this was her initiation into the world of Nerdist, so she had no idea why the whole line by this point was whispering and nudging each other and looking awkward).

The unmovable will call woman eventually asked Mr Ray to stand aside while she dealt with the rest of us. A guy further up the line must have been taking pictures of the happenings during this time because Jonah was all “You know, I’d be happy to take a picture with you, you don’t have to pap me” – the guy took him up on his offer which I thought was pretty courageous because Jonah’s expression suggested he was totally unimpressed with this ticket situation and probably wanted to inflict pain on someone.

Pony and I had a lovely chat to his friend while he generously posed for pictures with people (which still wasn’t enough to convince the will call lady that he was who he said he was, she was determined to get the right identification, dammit!).

I psyched myself up and for the first time in my life asked a human whose name was on a poster if I could get a pic with them. If I couldn’t go to Comic-con, I was fridging-well going to pimp my nerd wherever I got the chance.

I love this picture because Jonah looks really disgruntled and I look like I’m about to drop my carefully constructed pile of handbagless handbag contents (ahh, carry-on baggage restrictions). Special moment.  But seriously, what a champ*.

I encountered Lady Fortune again that night as she escorted Pony and myself to our seats. Front row…ish!!!!!

There’s nothing like eye contact to turn famous-foreign-media-mediated-images into actual humans – although, I desperately tried to avoid eye contact during the Quemment session. I mean, listen to this and you’ll know what I mean (nsfw). Still, John Barrowman and I are like *this* now [insert picture of fingers crossed to indicate tight, personal closeness].  Within the first few minutes of the show the final traces of my no-Comic-Con jealousy had well and truly disappeared. I don’t think I would ever have experienced such coolness from such a prime position at the convention centre.

It’s not in the recording of the podcast, but during the first ten minutes of the show, without knowing it, I saw my Fairy Nerdmother.

Chris Hardwick had come on stage to introduce the show. He noticed that the entire front row was empty and began riffing about why this might be the case.  A few minutes in  – and after John Barrowman had thrown a garbage bin across the stage, I can’t remember why – a few people filed into the auditorium down to the front. Chris launched into a very entertaining interrogation of these poor people, who it turns out were late because they had decided to pick up dinner on the way or something like that (whatever it was, it was a fairly lame excuse that provided a nice bit of comedic fodder for the Nerdists). The riffing continued and started revolving around the last remaining empty seat at the front – the hypotheses for what might have detained this last person got progressivly more ridiculous.

The door to the auditorium opened. Down to the front rolled a young man in a wheelchair**.

The guy who came in late was good humoured, and like a pro, Chris Hardwick converted the awkwardness to hilarity. And so began the official show which you can listen to in the link above.

I met Lady Fortune for a third time that evening (someone’s totally crushing. I’m just sayin’) whilst standing in line, a VERY long line, in desperate need of a loo, feeling all eye-twitchy, and hoping to scab a signature from le Nerdists in my copy of The Nerdist Way by Mr Chris Hardwick (it’s one of the texts I use regularly in my research, so it was full of sticky-tabs. I was pleased I had tangible proof that I’d read it – as though everyone else who wanted their copy signed was totally faking their audienceship 🙂 ). I noticed that the guy next to us was the guy in the wheelchair who’d come in late. He’d also contributed a quemment to the Quemment session. I caught his eye and complimented him on his quemmenting.

So began The Chat.

He inquired after our accents. Asked where were we from. What do we do? Was I there for Comic-Con? I told him my sad story about missing out on tickets.

“I can get you in.”

Let that sink in for a second. “I can get you in” – to COMIC-CON!!!!!!

I can’t describe to you all the thoughts my brain thought during the milliseconds after this comment. Part of me immediately thought the guy was bluffing. Part of me didn’t want to come across as needy and all taking-advantagey. Part of me thought I’d miss-heard what he said. Part of me had decided he was talking to someone else and I was ashamed I’d been so presumptuous as to assume he was talking to me. Part of me was ridiculously excited. All I managed in reply was “Comic-Con? Oh, yeah, nah, um, that’s cool…”

Thank goodness Pony was with me. “Really!? Are you serious? That would be awesome! Rae would love that!  Wouldn’t you, Rae!?”

“Um… yeah, but… um? Really?” (cool, Rae, really cool)

The guy  nodded in confirmation, “Yep, I have a spare ticket. I can get you in.”

Numbers were swapped (again, thank goodness Pony was there, I would not have had the presence of mind to get his number). I was going to Comic-Con!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And that’s how I met my Fairy Nerdmother.

The cherry on the top of what had already been one of the most brilliant ice-creamy nights of my life was getting to briefly talk to Mr Nerdists. It’s weird reflecting on these moments; these sorts of meetings are simultaneously artificial/manufactured/shallow (you’re just one of hundreds requesting a slither of a moment of a famous person’s attentions) and super affecting (I was shakingly, on-the-edge-of-anxiety-attack excited that I was about to come into contact with people who were constantly present in my lived experiences, people who without knowing it have shaped my work and, therefore (or because of) and necessarily, my world view). I’m pleased to say the sticky-tabs instigated a quick convo with Chris, which was really nice. It feels good being able to tell someone that you liked the thing they made enough to use it in your research. It feels really nice to have that person seem interested and surprised that you use the thing they made in your PhD. Lots of really nice feels.

(Weird perspective crouchy photo!)

But this night didn’t just have one cherry. Oh No. It had TWO cherries. A cherry made out of my stalker, Lady Fortune.

In the taxi on the way back to Mr Argonaut’s house I continued my attempts at moving the contact around to the front of my eye (sounds fancy and intricate, but I was basically just rubbing my eye). At some stage it felt like something moved and my sight got extra blurry. My whole brain started screaming. Did I just ruin my eye FOREVER or did the elusive contact just come out from hiding?

Whatever it was, I sure as hell wasn’t going to move my eye until I got to a mirror.

I’d played calm in the taxi, but as soon as we got to Mr A’s he knew something was up. In another moment of courage he took a look at my eye. So did Sippy.

Mr A, very calmly: “Ok, Rae, I’m pretty sure I can see the contact, it’s moved to the front of your eye. If you go into the bathroom now you’ll probably be able to get it ou…”

Sippy (something to the effect of): “OH! MY! GOSHHHHHHH! PUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!! YOU’RE EYE’S ALL PUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARRRRRRRGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Springy leap flail.

I rushed to the bathroom. Mr A was right, the contact was no longer behind my eye. It was back within the potential removal zone. Sippy was (kinda) right too. There was a lot of gunk. Not puss. But definitely eye gunk.

Deep Breaths.

Cotton-bud on a stick.

Ninja spirit summoned.

Contact…

REMOVED!!!!!!!

Adrenaline shakes.

I have very rarely ever felt relief like that before. It also looked impressive, all folded onto itself. When I unfolded it I realised that I had pinched it too hard the night I had first tried to take it out. It had a jagged hole in the middle of it – like a donut. Donut contact. I wanted to keep that contact. We’d been through a lot together. I wanted to thread string through the middle and wear it like a war trophy around my neck. However, I resisted my inner hoarder and deposited donut contact in the bin.

Much to Pony’s dismay, I wasn’t going to be a pirate (she tried to convince me to wear an eye-patch for a while to freak out the family back at home – an amusing but ultimately uncomfortable ruse).

I wasn’t going to be a pirate. But I was going to Comic-Con!

*I did drop the teetering pile not long after the photo was taken.

**psssst – two hours in the future this guy became my Fairy Nerdmother.

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The Magical Land of Nerd

24 Aug

Death and Catwoman hit da town – what up Nerrrrds!

I’m going to skip the details of my second day in ‘Murrrrkah! Not that it wasn’t super brilliantly fun, I mean, I woke up to a splendid plate of pancakes and fresh summer fruit, and got my hands on not one, but TWO really good coffees – which immediately exceeded my food expectations for the States. This was most welcome as it made me feel I would be gastronomically safe for at least the next ten days.

The adventures really began on my third day in SoCal. Even though I wasn’t able to go to Comic-Con, San Diego goes ALL OUT during the week of the convention. Lots of smaller nerdy fringe events take place across the city – professional nerds have come from all over the world to appear at SDCC, they’re going to make it worth their while. So I’d managed to get tickets for a couple of “fringe” events. There were also a few smaller sub-cons like Nerd HQ which had its doors open to the public for the duration of the convention.

Even though I knew I wouldn’t be completely excluded from the nerdstivities, my heart broke a *little* when we went into the city for the first time. All the geeks walking around with their human-sized Comic-Con bags and stylish neck tags. Every pop-culture character that ever existed was walking around the streets of San Diego. I could only imagine what it would be like at the hallowed convention centre. I was surprised at my levels of jealousy.  I was like a five year old watching another kid have a birthday.  I had to practice some serious head-talk to stay atop the envy:-)

I was on my way to a swanky comic-book themed party. I was going to a live taping of the Nerdist Podcast with JOHN BARROWMAN as the guest the next night. Life wasn’t too bad.

([the rest of my brain] jealoussssssssssssssssss….)

Pony had discovered that a comic book themed party was taking place at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. Guests were expected to dress as a comic book character. This slightly freaked me out for three reasons.  1. Pony is notoriously amazing when it comes to costumes. This meant I wouldn’t be able to fudge it all last minute-style. 2. The non-fudged costume would have to be transportable from Australia to the States. 3. The costume options for female comic-book characters are fairly limited – lycra, boobalicious, butt-flashy, maybe a tiara.

Not my favourite things to wear.

(except tiaras – yes to tiaras)

After much deliberation and consultation with the siblings I decided to go as Death from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics. She’s a pretty cool, perky goth. Pony had organised a Catwoman costume. Damn those humans who can pull-off Catwoman. They should be pushed to the edge of society and poked repeatedly with a sharp stick.

The party itself was estupendo! (yeah, I’m all over that Spanish now I’ve spent 10 days on the Mexican border. Sadly I was not so bueno at Spanish when I ordered a beef tongue taco. I would have liked knowing that’s what “res lengua” meant before money had been exchanged.) Lots of artsy nerdery took place at the doo. Body painting. Cyborg dancing. Superhero photoshopping. Keith Richards was even there![1]

But I think my favourite parts of the evening were the bookends – the hectic getting ready process/testing out my swanky new camera, and the post-party stalker drinks at the Hilton. It’s really fun putting on goth make-up. Try it some time. It’s also really fun being the only two people in a fancy bar with (presumably) fancy famous nerdy people, sporting an accent that is considered cool (yeah, I was cool for a whole 16 days!) dressed as, well, as Catwoman and Death. I’d recommend doing that sometime too.

By the end of the evening, Catwoman was in desperate need of a wheelchair and my wig was starting to itch. But the most… exciting?… adventure was still to come.

We headed home. I went to take out my contact lenses. I’ve written about my experiences with contact lenses before. I’m still fairly new to them. The thought of wearing them whilst overseas unsettled me because I wouldn’t have my fabulous optometrist safety net in case anything went wrong. I practiced some more head-talk. Told myself to stop being stupid, nothing has gone wrong since I’ve had them. The universe doesn’t think “oooh, she’s away from her safety net, let’s mess with her”. That’s crazy Rae. Crazy.

The universe is a bum-face.

First contact came out like a champ. The second one snapped as I pulled it out and got stuck behind my eye. TERRIFYING! Absolutely TERRIFYING.

Shout-out to Pony who was amazingly brave during the ordeal. I woke her up with the words “I’m sorry to get you up, but my worst nightmare has just come true”. Eyes are gross. I find my own eyes gross, let alone someone else’s. Pony managed to keep the gagging to a minimum and sat on the edge of the bathtub patting my back as I poked around in my eye for a while.  She did an excellent job comforting in the face of such grossness.

After quite a few calls to Australia to gather advice and comfort from the contact-experienced-father-shaped parent and my optometrist (“Um, hi. It’s Raewyn Campbell. My contact broke and is stuck in my eye and I was wondering what I should do…?” “Come in!” “Well, I’m actually in the States at the moment…”) I felt assured that I had a few days up my sleeve until my future as a pirate was sealed[2].

The plan was to go to an optometrist as soon as we had a spare moment. It wasn’t a complicated plan. It was a good plan. The only problem was that the next day was going to be hella busy with little cousin retrieval, Spiderman, and the Nerdist podcast, so we’d have to aim for Saturday morning. Deep breaths. Pirates get parrots, so, silver-lining.

But kids, there’s a lesson to be learnt from this traumatising event. Eyes are resilient. Eyes can withstand a surprising amount. And you’ll find that out for definite in the next blog post.


[1] By “Keith Richards” I of course mean an old, stoned, leathery man Pony and I had weirdly met only that morning at the coffee place and who had turned up to the comic-book themed party dressed as Keith Richards. As you do.

[2] Just to reassure people who might find all this too disturbing. My dad once had a contact stuck behind his eye for about two weeks and didn’t even realise until it moved itself to the front one day all folded up and easy for the removal. Eyes are hardy. Deep breaths. Everything is ok. Optometrists are super adept at fixing this type of situation as well. I think the opt’s words were “simple procedure”.

‘Murrrka!

16 Aug

16/7

I’m in the US! I’ve been here for six days and I cannot believe the amount of stuff that has happened since I left Australia on Tuesday. So many adventures that must be chronicled.

But first: BACK STORY.

1. It’s not the most interesting backstory in the world, however backstory is necessary in order to provide context; context which will hopefully enhance feelings of triumph attached to some incredible moments of fortune.

This trip has officially been planned since January but has been in the workings ever since I started my research on nerd identity. I’ve always wanted to take the pilgrimage to Nerd Mecca, Nerdvana – COMIC-CON! Seriously, how can you do a PhD on nerds and not go to Comic-Con!? There is no way that I could experience nerdom on such a massive collective scale in Australia. And in the last few years Comic-Con has become a major port from which nerdom is exported across the world. I’ve been desperate to know whether the nerdom I experience everyday is at all similar to the nerdom I observe – through many layers of mediation – in the States – the place where the nerd label originated. How much negotiating and modification takes place in the exportation of nerd identity from the States to Australia?[1] There’s no way to adequately answer this, but I sure as hell can get closer by going to SDCC. It would be a sort of ethnographic pilgrimage.

So I’ve been saving up for a few years with such a trip in mind. In January one of my close friends (she is Canadian, from here on in she shall be called: The Canadian Friend) called me up and said that she and some of her friends were going to road trip from Toronto to San Diego for Comic-Con (nerds are CRAYYY-ZEE-eee!) and asked if I would like to join them. I said yes.

Now, planning a trip to Comic-Con is hard. Especially if you live in a timezone outside the States. The dates of the event are available quite early in the year, however, very little notice is given for when tickets go on sale. You basically have to stalk the crap out of the SDCC site everyday for months, then when you do find out, the tickets inevitably go on sale at 3 in the morning for Aussies. If you don’t check the website for a week, or set your alarm, you can pretty much guarantee you have missed out on tickets. On top of this, hotels in San Diego are booked out almost a year in advance of the event.  Getting to Comic-Con is a hassle and a half.

So, because the tickets go on sale so close to the event, if you’re travelling from overseas you need to take a gamble. You need to book airfares and accommodation without knowing whether you’ll actually get to go to SDCC. I took this gamble.

Lady Fortune likes me though. I have family who live in San Diego. So a trip to Comic-Con would not just be a trip to Comic-Con, it would also involve a ridiculously special catch up with my lovely cousins with the bonus of free accommodation.

Having relos in San Diego turned out to be a very good thing, because I did miss out on tickets to Comic-Con, and a few other things I’d applied for fell through (it’s best to spell your name correctly on forms – just a handy hint for people), and The Canadian Friend couldn’t make it to SDCC after all. SO. I was going to be in San Diego at Comic-Con time, but wouldn’t be going to Comic-Con. Bummer.

But HOORAY for family!! And HOORAY for (a kind of) holiday[2]!!

The end of back story: Start of ‘MUrrrrkAH!

It takes a long time getting to LA. Left Wollongong at 5:30am to get to the airport on time. Boarded plane at about 8:30am. Landed in LA at 10am the same day I left but 14 hours later. Very little sleep, probably got about an hour and a half the whole trip. But, on the plus side, I had an isle seat and there was no one sitting next to me which meant I was able to score extra pillows and blankets to form an amazing cocoon-like structure around me, expand myself over a large area, and in the process become one of those horrible passengers that others have to do gymnastics to push past in order to get to the loos. There’s power in being that person.

I’d heard a lot of unsettling stories about getting through American customs, so during the flight I was bracing myself for a bit of hostility and bureaucracy.

Again, loooooong lines waiting for customs (customs officials must get REALLY bored, no wonder they look so uncheerful).

Finally got to the front counter. Passport. Declaration form thingy. Fingerprints. Face scan. Short, disguised interrogation: “What brings you to the US? How long are you here for? What do you do back in Australia?”

“I’m a student”

“Ahh. What do you study?”

“I’m doing my PhD on nerd identity”

“Nerd identity!? You can DO that!?”

Customs Officer launches into a five minute monologue on nerd identity/ culture and the history of changing attitudes towards nerds since a particular American basketball player started wearing thick nerdy glasses about 7 years ago.

Felt sorry for all the people waiting in line behind me. Felt more sorry I didn’t have my Dictaphone at the ready.

Post-Customs Anti-jetlag program initiated .

Turns out the best thing to unfreak someone who is slightly twitchy after navigating a large-busy-unknown-foreign-place-post-14-hour-cramp session is the sight of three screaming family members[3].

Best. Arrival. EVER.

Now, I’m not a screamer. But it’s hard not to get swept up in it when everyone else around you is talking in capslock and exclamation marks. It feels liberatingly deviant.

After we had screamed/hugged/flailed ourselves out, my cuz filled me in on the plans for the day. Her anti-jetlag policy was to keep travellers awake until 10:30pm. On this particular occasion she was taking me and the kids to Universal Studios in order to achieve this.

Best. Intro to America. EVER!

Summer weather, rollercoasters, studio tours, Mexican food, more screaming = no sleep = no jetlag.

Went past the Hollywood Walk of Fame and then stopped at an amazing tiny Manhattan Beach restaurant for dinner on the way back to San Diego (was served an entire chicken). Got a bit delirious during the drive down the coast. There is a point where tiredness is painful and the line between awake and asleep gets seriously blurred.

But the pain was worth it when I met the love of my life: The Princess Bed.

Not a bad first day in The Land of Nerd.


[1] Actually, the question needs to be even more specific than this. Does Comic-Con as an event shape the idea, performance and appearance of nerd identity, and how much of this (if indeed it does) get transported to a small city in Australia such as Wollongong? Basically, does my experience of nerd identity align closely with the experience of others who live more than a 14 hours plane ride away?

[2] Thesis writing needed to continue – there are no breaks from thesis.

[3] I was staying with my Mum’c cousin (here on in: Pony) and her two kids, Sippy and Fil. My Mum used to look after Pony when she was little; Pony looked after me; and I have looked after her kiddies.