Friday, March 06, 2009

BACK IN BLIGHTY

Current soundtrack: LASTFM.COM- Russian Red, "No Past Land"

Got back from San Francisco yesterday, so still a bit groggy from the flight and the airplane "food" my body is now rejecting. Went through the 700+ photos I took, mostly of city streets for reference, a dozen must just be of fire hydrants. Funny thing, first time in America, all the stuff you see seems familiar yet strange. After years of seeing it as part of a fiction on films and tv programs, to see it for real, and nearly getting hit by a car for reading the crossing wrong, takes a few days to get used to.

Howard Street

The area we stayed in was part of the financial district, so quite upmarket, but the amount of homeless and mentally ill on the streets was quite striking. A symptom of a healthcare system based on the aquistion of profit rather than supplying care for those in vulnerable states, possibly. The UK is far from perfect, but at least we have a marginally better way of caring for such people.

Marriott Hotel

The hotel was quite literally round the corner from the Moscone centre, and the convention site. After checking in I got changed into my normal gear of jeans, hoodie and baseball cap to start exploring, trying to look as little as a tourist as possible. I wandered a few blocks in each direction from the hotel to get my bearings, and turned back when I started noticing a growing number of homeless and scallies hanging around shops. I found out later that a few blocks further and i would have been in a bit of a dodgy neighbourhood.

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In the opposite direction lay the waterfront and famous piers.

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Meeting up with Andy Coleman the following day, he took us on a tour round the city, down the piers and through Chinatown, Little Italy and North Beach districts, though annoyingly I left the hotel without my camera. We started noticing people with black marks on their foreheads and after enquiring, realised it was to mark Ash Wednesday. We ended up at the Stinking Rose, an Italian restaurant where everything is cooked with garlic, served with garlic, with extra garlic. Lovely. We also went into the famous City Lights Bookstore, a "literary landmark" for alternative culture, and the center of the beatnik movement. Apparently tour buses with passengers eager to sight "beatniks" used to pull up in front of the store, and the Beats'legacy of anti-authoritarian politics and insurgent thinking continues to be a strong influence in the store. Not knowing anything about beatniks, I bought a completely unrelated book on Piranesi, a collection of etchings based on prison architecture. It's very cool.

Broadway and Columbus Avenue

After meeting up with Joel Meadows we did another tour, found some great architecture and reference material, and this time went all the way up the Coit Tower, a landmark overlooking the city, with great 360 degree views. The trek up those streets could be lethal though, I genuinely thought one slip and I'd tumble back down the incline to certain death, so we enjoyed a North Beach pizza on the way down to recover. The Columbus/Broadway crossection had some great buildings and seemed to be a great snapshot of the city.

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We met up with California natives Andy Grossberg and Susie Lee, partners on Tripwire magazine, and through them and Joel and Andy other friends. One American host was incredibly generous and we were treated to an Istrian Restaurant called Albona, which served great food, and also a bit ironic as I've been to the Istrian region of Croatia many times on holiday, both before and after the Balkan War. San Francisco was the last place I ever expected to see an Istrian restaurant!

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Wondercon took place from the friday to the sunday and had some great panels, most of which I managed to go to though a few clashed with each other. On the friday, the DC Nation panel was great fun and was followed by the Marvel Ultimates panel. Due to the smaller, more laid back nature of Wondercon compared to San Diego, they were all easy to get front row seats in for reportage.

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Saturday was the big day for the big panels. In the large theatre, the Esplanade, were the Watchmen, Astroboy, Pandorum, Alien Trespass, Star Trek, Nine, Pixars' Up, and Terminator: Salvation panels. I skipped the Watchmen panel, knowing it would be rammed to capacity, and slipped in during the Pandorum panal. Managed to get a decent seat, and eventually maneouvered my way closer to the front as the day progressed. Pandorum looks like an interesting "Saw in space" type of film starring Dennis Quaid. Alien Trespass, a homage to 50's b movies starring Will from Will and Grace looked fun. Star Trek, introduced by JJ Abrams and the new cast, looked incredible. Any doubts I had about the film were dispelled by the strangely emotional trailer. This was followed by Nine, an post apocalyptic CGI animated film by Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov, and voiced by Elijah Wood, which looked promising. That was followed by Pixars' Up, about an old man escaping eviction from his house by attaching hundreds of balloons to it and flying away. The director introduced a few clips and it was one of the most funniest things I've seen in ages. The comedy and timing was perfect and I can't wait to take my neice and nephew to watch it. After that, the big one was Terminator: Salvation. Introduced by McG and the cast (minus Bale of course), and a new trailer that even the cast hadn't seen yet. Again, it looked pretty damn cool, and was followed by an unfinished scene from the film with tempory animatics taking the place of finished cgi. This is so far removed from T3 you wouldn't believe, a grimy, gritty, desperate future. I worry though that the trailer gives away too much of the plot, and this was echoed in the second scene of a confrontation between John Connor and the pivotal character Marcus Wright. McG continued his mission of convincing the audience that he wants to make a film true to Jim Cameron's legacy and not bullshit the fans. He deserves a lot of credit for at the very least making the effort.

Sunday I made it to the Marvel: X-Men panel with Axel Alonso and Matt Fraction, then the IDW summer movie panel, focusing on GI Joe, Transformers and Trek. Pretty sure a good number of the audience were expecting trailers or something, as many left after the initial announcements. Have to admit to being a bit disappointed that at least to date there are no plans to exploit the relationship IDW has with Pocket Books and the expanded Trek universe back catalogue, or develop new series based on cancelled shows like Millennium or Jericho, which would have been fantastic.

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We spent the next two days doing touristy things, visiting the Golden Gate Bridge during torrential rain, and the Palace of Fine Arts. Joel and I also managed to get to Alcatraz for souveniers. As interesting as the Rock was a lot of the complex was cordoned off for safety reasons, so the tour wasn't as exciting as it could have been, but still a worthwhile trip.

Inside Cafe Zoetrope

Now back home and nursing my very sore and blistered feet, hoping not to have to wear shoes for at least a week, and concentrating on finishing samples to send to IDW. Will post here when have something to show.

1 comment:

Mark Clapham said...

Yeah, the homeless thing... I really noticed that when visiting New York last year. So many people in obvious need of immediate care. I live in London, which has a considerable number of homeless and disturbed people - but there's a level which, should you fall below it, you will be hospitalised, given your meds, cleaned up etc. The USA just doesn't have those safety nets in place.