Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Small Convention

After the usual driving around in Sacramento for an hour, I finally found the Scottish Rite Temple and was very pleased to find ample parking, some even in the shade on this 100-degree day.

This is what you call a small convention. So small that a lot of people seemed to know each other. I checked in to will call -- same person who sold tickets, gave out information, everything -- and went into the darkened hall. I left a bunch of my new blog business cards on the table in hopes people will check out my blogs.

I knew that, since it had taken me so long to get there, the noon panel was about to start, so I tried to figure out where that was. There are only four rooms, so it wasn't a problem. I passed by Doug Jones and Aaron Douglas, who were signing for fans and having their photos taken, and found the room.

I joined the other six people in the middle of Erin Gray's talk. (I didn't realize it, but all the rest of the people at the convention were in the room next door, watching a video of a Buffy episode.) To her right was the guy who played Twiki the Robot with her on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (movie and T.V. series). Erin was telling us how she had broken into show biz.

She was 15 at the time and her mother's boyfriend was an enterprising man who suggested she try out for modeling. It had to pay more than the Macy's job she had just gotten for the summer. So he went to the yellow pages, picked out photographers, and spent all day calling them. He weeded out the ones that did weddings and landscapes, and focused on the ones that did headshots for models. They noticed that they all clumped in neighborhoods, so they picked out some neighborhoods on Robertson and Santa Monica in L.A., and just went into their offices one day.

After they found a photographer, they asked for references to agents. This is all in the same day.

They were usually met with a cold eye, but one secretary took notice. "Nice smile!" she said. "Turn around. Nice legs." And then she put her in contact with the agent there who sent her out on two calls. "Then go back to high school and call me when you graduate."

Erin went to both appointments and ended up befriending the photographers and directors for the commercials, because that's just who she is. When she got back home that afternoon, the agent called her and asked, "Where have you been?! You have to get back here before 5 to sign contracts." She had gotten both jobs. And thus her career began.

Felix Silla, on the other hand, immigrated to the U.S. in his teens and was immediately hired by the circus in the '50's. He traveled all over the U.S. in the circus, but got tired of the transient life. He eventually got into acting when someone needed a little person for the job. He said that on Buck Rogers, they often treated him like furniture, forgetting he was stuck in the robot costume on long breaks.

Erin and Felix left, and Doug Jones came in. The crowd to see him was almost capacity. After all, Doug's resume is voluminous, including the academy award-winning Pan's Labyrinth, both Hellboy movies, and the recent Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer (he being the Silver Surfer). Jones's roles mostly consist of those characters that are weird, behind masks, or layered with makeup.

Besides his resume, Doug is an engaging speaker. I had seen him once before, last April at the Grand Slam, but being only five feet away while he's talking was a big plus. As he talked, he would put a piece of Kit-Kat bar in his mouth and chew, an action that never slowed him down. He mostly talked rather than taking questions, because that's what he does.

He said he met Guillermo del Toro, his favorite director, on a set of one of del Toro's movies, and they sat together during lunch while del Toro grilled Doug on his film credits. Doug mimicked Guillermo's raspy voice for us during his recreation of the event.

He cleared up one thing about being the Silver Surfer: he was physically there during filming. While wearing a motion-capture suit, he still was in the suit and on set in the scenes.

As for another Fantastic Four film, one just about the Surfer, since del Toro is tied up with The Hobbit, which he is currently writing, he won't be directing the movie any time soon. So Doug didn't know if or when that was happening.

Doug told us he has been nominated for a role on, and made us all promise to vote for him on their Scream awards. I nodded and wrote it down.

After Doug left, I sat still and waited for the main reason I had traveled all this way: the Battlestar Galactica panel. While I've seen Richard Hatch many times, I have only seen Aaron Douglas once. And having both on stage at once to play off each other, especially at a small convention like this, seemed like a dynamic idea.

I really don't remember what was said. Contrary to Erin and Felix and Doug, they didn't go down their list of credits. Everybody was there for one reason: Battlestar. They did talk a little about what directors they liked, and especially (but not by name) the ones they didn't like and why. There were some very funny bits, especially by Aaron Douglas. His double-take is priceless.

Aaron did tell us that BSG stopped filming in July. It's all over. He refused to answer questions about who was the final Cylon, who lives, who dies. "I can't tell what they're going to edit," he said, completely dodging all questions. Apparently he is in a new series called "Blood: A Butcher's Tale," but didn't tell us anything about it. And he's in the new Keanu Reeves movie, a remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still."

I knew Wil Wheaton was next but I didn't stay for that. I knew all he'd do was to read from something he'd written.

So I went out in search of something to eat. I finally found food at a little corner of the big dealer's room, where they sold hot dogs and drinks. I dodged the tail of a large Alien creature (yeah, yeah, a guy in a large costume roaming the convention), as I wolfed it down.

I took a quick look around at the dealer's room and found nothing I wanted. Lots of people were engaged in conversation with each other, so it was an exercise in dodging them and moving around the clumps of people while looking. I saw Erin Gray in a corner with all her photos, and no one in front of her. With her tai chi classes, her stable of actors for whom she's an agent (Heroes for Hire), I kind of wonder why she does conventions like this.

I went back to the panel room to see what Wil Wheaton was doing, and found it was crammed full of people, even to the point of people standing in the doorway. I could see his goateed head as he read from one of his novels -- and left.

Nice convention. Now for the long ride home.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Last A's Booster Luncheon - The Angry Seniors

I was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle today in my conversation with A's owner Lew Wolff yesterday: "Will you bring in any big bats in the offseason?"

His answer was a simple "yes."

Of course, the Chron writer didn't state my name, but who cares. I think of interest is the fact that the Chron reporters are actually attending A's Booster luncheons! Isn't that funny?

The reporter I'm talking about, Rusty Simmons, got it right when he said that "the booster club ranged from unbridled supporters to an angry mob." Well, the "mob" thing wasn't quite that intense -- after all, did he think the seniors would flay away with their walkers? -- but half of them, mostly the male half, were angry. The guy sitting in front of me, slurred his question to Mr. Wolff after his 3-martini lunch and wouldn't stop talking. He seemed like such a nice guy, too.

His question concerned the team leaving Oakland. My God, that issue is so dead that the horse has been in the ground nearly two years. Poor Mr. Wolff. I guess he thinks we don't believe him when he says he did everything he could to stay in Oakland. And he recounted a conversation that he had with the guy who was assigned by the City of Oakland to his project. Something about telling Mr. Wolff that he didn't actually live in Oakland, and that he was going to leave this job soon. What a way to court someone who's bringing money to the city.

This was our last Booster luncheon of the year, and I was really happy that Mr. Wolff deigned to come see us. Quite often, especially toward the end of a tiring year, the A's players stop showing up and we get a coach. I was shocked when we got the owner. And doubly shocked when one of those angry boosters told him that he obviously wasn't the owner who could make decisions. Unbelievably rude.

It was a disappointing season. I'm hoping we make it up to last year's level of disappointment by winning at least 75 games (you need at least 90 to have a chance for the playoffs). We're at 72 as of today. We have a chance.

At this point, we A's Boosters take all we can get.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Getting Rid of Crap, and other Musings

I had a doctor's checkup yesterday and a mammogram today. Gosh, we just love mammograms. But I have moved all health blog stuff to my new cancer/health blog, Touched by Cancer, produced in concert with the Women's Cancer Resource Center, located here in Oakland. Take a look and watch me scream.


Just a few moments ago, I got rid of a pile of firewood I've had for at least 3 years. The pile was the result of a necessary tree thinning in my backyard, and the pile has just been sitting there. I found shortly afterwards that burning such branches in my fireplace is not a clean burn, dirties my chimney, and pollutes the environment. I posted it on Freecycle for Oakland, and Jose and I have been trying to get together for a week. I'm glad I was patient; he turned out to be a really nice guy. And he took it all away!

Also, two weeks ago I got rid of the makeshift concrete stepping stones torn up when I had my backyard walkway done over in brick. I thought they were downright ugly, misshapen, and nonuniform. A lot of people responded -- at least 15 -- but only three people came over. The first guy said "no" right away, the second person, a woman, was amazed when I said they were heavy and only took 5, and the third responder, a couple, took the rest, including the broken one I hauled out there. I am thrilled! Thank you, Freecycle!


By the way, I gave up on being a super volunteer. I gave up trying to collect free fruit from farmers and shopkeepers. I am doing a health blog. That's it. Color me relieved.


I went to the A's game today at McAfee. I have already been daydreaming about spring training. Yes, the team is that bad, but with spurts of amazing, mostly coming from their new Triple A guys. I continue to be a Jack Hanahan fan, mostly due to his stellar defense and not due to his .230 average. Today they had a great double play just before a bonehead series of plays where they let the Angels' runners dictate the game. I hate those guys.

But I still enjoy going to the games. Well, I left early today when Keith Foulke, perhaps a future Hall-of-Famer, served up 3 homeruns in a row to those Angels' batters. I hate those guys.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Please, Ma'am, Can I Have Some Produce?"

I went to Farmer Joe's. Twice. Three times today if you count Little Joe's on 35th.

I showed up at FJ's on Fruitvale at about 10:30 am, and talked to a very nice cashier. He told me the manager wasn't there, but was probably over at the other location on 35th. I said thank you, and he urged me to write down my name, question, and phone number on a blank piece of cash register tape. I knew the phone call would never take place so...

I headed over to Little Joe's. I asked one of the not-so-busy tellers where the manager was, and she pointed wordlessly around the corner to a man stocking shelves. We had a pleasant conversation, and I could see immediately why he's a manager: he talked a lot, and said the same thing over and over. Basically, he told me that I could see the Fruitvale manager, Felix, but I should hold out for Diane, the owner. And she was due back at the Fruitvale location at 4 pm that day.

So I went back at 3. I sat in my car listening to CNN for an hour, and then finally went in. By this time, I had given up. I really gave up after I saw that all the cashiers were busy, including the young man I had talked to in the morning. So, I decided to buy the WCRC a gift card myself. After I asked one cashier if they sold gift cards (she said yes), I shopped, bought some organic chuck roast and a few other items, and then got back in line. I asked her for a gift card, and she looked stricken. She talked briefly and quietly to the other young teller, and he told me that the manager wasn't in. The manager is the only one who can go into the safe, he said.

I had to laugh. That's how I find the manager. If I still have any nerve left, I'll try again tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Bag of Fruit

As part of my agreement with the Women's Cancer Resource Center, I logged onto Berkeley and Oakland Free Cycle. I immediately spotted a new posting on the Berkeley side, and answered. Five pounds of free, rather ripe fruit, in north Berkeley.

She threw in some zucchini as well, and I picked up the box off her porch (so quietly her dog didn't hear me), and whisked it away to the WCRC.

I see, however, that in the future I'm going to have to screen for "organic." I hadn't even thought of that.

Tomorrow the plan is to go to Farmer Joe's and blatantly ask for free food in advance for next Wednesday's cooking class. We'll see if I'm up to the task.