Salt Lake Comic Con 2015


If there had been a Comic Con here back in the day, I could see my life being very different. As it is I’m older and afflicted by crowds and I’ve not made any rational decision to attend such a thing. This year was a little different. My daughter, Kayla, had attended last years SLCC with a friend, and while a lot of it was kind of traumatic (between it being her first con and a lot of bumps that needed working out from the Convention organizational side) it did turn out to be a good experience for her.

I had enjoyed talking to her about what she did at the convention, and what there was to see. I’ve also shared a great many nerdy passions of my own with her and we seem to have a bit of a connection there, so for Fathers Day she surprised me with a ticket to this years Con. Also, so I didn’t have to attend alone (and probably so I wouldn’t tag along with her the whole time) she gave her mother a ticket as well. She was even so nurturing as to make sure our tickets were preregistered so we wouldn’t run into problems like she did in 2014.

Somehow I’d gotten the idea in my head to make a costume of the Winter Soldier for Halloween around Christmastime and began letting my hair grow out. This bumped the hair growth schedule a month, but I don’t think I would have quite made it, even by Halloween. And with the slipperiness of time being what it is, the costume didn’t even approach presentable until the last day of the convention.

But despite the crowds, and the logistics of attending, I went and had a good time. So much has already been written about this being the age of the misfit, and how the internet has given people a chance to connect no matter how obscure their passions that I probably don’t need to add anything to it. But there is something to actually being in a place that is filled with participants who don’t seem to feel compelled to follow conventional guidelines of when you look good enough to wear spandex, or whether you can be accepted for liking something that is outside your gender or age norms. The acceptance from the attendees seemed almost otherworldly (or even Disneylandesque), and the support, advice and encouragement of the celebrities was of a nearly palpable nature.

One of the panels we attended was one Kayla and her friend Stephanie pulled us into as we were just standing in the hall killing time. Those girls know how to make good use of their convention, and I’m glad they took me into things I wouldn’t have ever chosen. This particular panel was by the brains behind the Hillywood Show, Hilly & Hannah Hindi. The room was just under halfway full, but there were a couple hundred very vocal fans there. They showed some of the parody sketches they’ve done, and the productions were very professional. The question and answer portions of these kind of things usually kill me, but most of the ones I saw at this convention had some really great responses to what are usually fairly common “what’s your favorite character” questions. These two women not only showed gratitude towards their fans, but were very humble about the good fortune they’ve experienced. Their answers to the questions went beyond simple pat answers and expanded into motivations and ideas that were more nurturing to creativity than just satisfying of curiosity.

I’d really only chosen about 3 presentations for myself out of curiosity, and only one I really wouldn’t miss. I’d been looking forward to seeing Felicia Day since she was announced as a presenter. I first noticed Felicia back in 2007 through the online show she created, The Guild. I was playing an MMORPG at the time and it really fit nicely into that space in my life. I’ve seen her career grow through TV show appearances as well as her online projects and I’ve always felt the connection that she understands the multitude of people who feel like I do, kind of disassociated and an outsider.

Felicia spoke without a moderator, and really just jumped into the question and answers right away. She was very inspirational, although I’m not sure that was her intent, but she exuded an energy of creativity and I was quite taken with her direction to just take what you feel and go do something with it. She obviously does, with so many creative irons in the fire, that I would soon be overwhelmed by it. But I get a feeling, deep down inside, that I need to be doing something similar.

I’d been debating on whether or not to go get Felicia’s autograph. I figured I would probably take her new book and get it signed, but hadn’t gotten around to purchasing the autograph ticket. I’m not sure if Kayla sensed that this was something I’d just talk myself out of eventually, so she purchased a photo op with Felicia and invited me and Debbie to come along. I’m not sure how celebrities face the public, especially after they hit a certain level. It seems like it would be so hard to even leave the house, but maybe that’s just me. You only get a few seconds for your picture, and you get repeated warnings as you approach the photo sanctuary: “No Hugging, No Handshakes, No licking, or other weird stuff.” And then you’re in and out in a few seconds. I imagine it’s the only way to get through the masses of fans. As we set up for the picture Debbie was on my left and as I tried to swing my prosthetic arm around her I kind of ‘thunked’ her with it. The photo was snapped and as we walked off Felicia laughed and called after me telling me not to bang into her with my arm.


Kayla, Stephanie, Felicia Day, me and Debbie

I wish I’d taken notes, and if I go next year, I think I will take some sort of notebook, nerdy as that sounds, because I felt so inspired by most of the panels we saw that ideas were just flying. Maybe that’s what happens when you get some sort of critical mass of creativity in one location. I’ve experienced it on several times before, but never when I’m alone trying to come up with something to do.

I had visions of how the costume should be, and knew if I started on it early enough I’d be fine. I found the boots, pants, belt, harness, mask and goggles fairly cheap online and all months ago. I had several ideas on the arm and knew I had months to do it, so I could afford to mess up a few times and start again. Somehow time got away from me and I didn’t start on fabrication until August, but that still seemed like enough time.

In reality I know what happens. I end up getting hung up on a detail and instead of working past it I kind of duck it for awhile until I’m pressured enough to tackle it head on. In the end I had paint-drying issues and was forced to concede certain particulars I had wanted. I ended up hand-painting some detail that I’d envisioned either stenciling or actually sculpting into the surface. The night before I sat with brush in hand, tacky paint under fingertips trying to decide if I could make it work, or if I shouldn’t risk it and just go with plain silver. I’d seen several Winter Soldiers in the first two days of the con. Some with store-bought costume arms. Some with tinfoil or duct tape ones. I finally found the courage from those other courageous nerds and the words of Felicia day and just dove in and did it.



As I was procrastinating getting ready for work this morning I ran across the story of Ahmed, a young high school student who made a clock and was subsequently detained as a potential terrorist. I was so angry for the idiocy of the whole situation and ashamed at the way this young man was treated by people who should know better, people entrusted with the nurturing of today’s youth, that I could hardly deal with it. I know times are different now then when I was about his age, but I can’t picture a situation where an intelligent person would make the leap to have Ahmed detained for posession of something that could even be considered a hoax bomb without any sort of actual threat or malicious action.

It made me think of a certain incident from when I was in high school. Several of my friends and I had an inquisitive nature as Ahmed seems to have. We enjoyed building things and finding unique ways to use interesting objects that came into our posession. On one particular day as we neared our graduation one of these guys called me up and asked if it would be hard to hook two air horns up to a car battery with some sort of a switch so it could be activated. I told him it would be really easy and I had some spare switches around and he should bring the stuff over to see what we could do. He came over lugging a big battery in a wooden box and we quickly wired it up to an old light switch and some salvaged wire. It really did the trick and made quite a racket.

I don’t remember my friend including me in his plans for the device, I had a strict policy of willful ignorance back then, but it’s possible I just chose not to ‘remember’ being part of the planning of the op. I suspect there wasn’t really a plan, but more the knowledge that an opportunity surely would present itself once the device was created. They always seemed to pop up once we were equipped, often to our detriment. There’s probably a story in that, somewhere.

Anyway, I learned after the fact that my friend had taken the device to school and decided to stash it in another friends locker, taping an improvised tripwire string from the switch to the locker door. While he was rigging the system a girl asked, “What’s that?” To which my friend gave a brief, simple reply, “A bomb.”

Now, this is most likely not the use I would have found for the device, nor the response I would have given to such an inquiry. But it was consistent with expected behavior from my friend. Subsequently my friend found himself called to one of the V.P.’s offices and as he entered, the school police officer, standing out of sight next to the door closed it. Mr. Hicks, the V.P., a very serious individual, asked him what he put in the locker. My friend briefly described the device. This is the part where time, and possibly the fact that my friend’s name doesn’t hail from the Middle East causes a diversion in the possible results of his actions. The school officer laughed (presumably at the V.P.) and left the office. My friend was let go without threats of detention or withholding of his diploma.

My friend came and found us to tell the funny story of getting called in to the office. When we asked what happened to the device we were told it had already worked perfectly, and that the prankee was so startled he slammed the locker door in hopes it would stop the noise. It didn’t. Also, he was so flustered he had a hard time getting the combination right to open it back up and shut it off. In a way getting hauled in to the office just made the whole thing a little sweeter, I think.

It’s really not an epic story, but I can’t imagine even white bread students getting away with such a thing today. And maybe they shouldn’t, although I don’t think any real harm was done back then. But on the obverse, what was done to Ahmed had the potential for real harm, and it’s only the fact that the story went viral to such a degree so rapidly and found support among those who were in a position to recognize his potential and nurture it, that the whole situation seems like it will turn out for the best.

Remind me sometime to tell y’all how I came up with an idea that almost got half the senior class arrested and filled the school parking lot with police late one night the week before graduation.


This is bit of a downer

This is a post I’ve been putting off writing for years, mostly because I don’t see that is much more than sounding off about a subject that won’t bring a laugh to anyone. That’s the reason I write these, mostly. I’d like to think that it brings something positive to the few people that read these thoughts. But this has been heavy on my mind for a long time now, and I’m not sure that there really is a point. I’ve been thinking seriously about writing this since Robin Williams took his life last year. Maybe before that, when Tony Scott parked his car on the bridge in San Pedro and jumped in 2012. Or maybe when Richard Jeni shot himself. Or maybe when Michael Hutchence …

Every time I hear about someone that feels forced into that corner where they make a final choice, or fail to chose another option in lieu of that choice, is like taking a blow to my own heart. And it sticks with me for quite some time. Probably because I made that choice before, and have personally known others that have too. In my case it probably worked out in the best possible way in that it didn’t leave any signs that the choice had ever been made. I guess I finally decided to tell this story because I heard it’s suicide prevention month. Not much of an excuse, but I’ve been hoping I could do something to help for quite awhile.

When I was 17, before I’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and before I had ever really begun to look introspectively at all, I just thought everyone felt like I do. I wasn’t sure how anyone could stand it, and I felt weak because I wasn’t handling it well. I felt strange and alien and utterly alone, despite having just opened a chapter of my life that was filled with some of the most wonderful friends anyone could ever have. One Sunday morning I woke up and knew it was my last day on Earth. The effort of just breathing was too much and the idea of going on another day was unbearable.

I drove myself up to the Storm Mountain recreation area up Big Cottonwood Canyon, at the time one of my favorite places. I parked and crossed the reservoir and started climbing the sheer rock face, figuring I’d fall, and hoping I would get far enough to make it fatal. In a short time I’d gotten pretty far (for a novice with no gear or experience) and my arms were getting tired from clinging to the wall. I figured I was high enough that it was just time to be finished and as I got to a little ledge I decided to just turn around on it and dive. To this day thinking about that moment I can’t believe I was ever so committed to anything. I can still taste the decision and everything is so clear in my mind. I turned and leaned forward and I saw a young couple across the reservoir pointing up at me showing their toddler where the guy was climbing. I reversed my motion and leaned back on the wall. I just knew I didn’t want to be seen doing something so terrible, especially by someone so young. I also wanted there to be a large measure of doubt that it was intentional for my own family to spare them more anguish. I figured I’d wait for the ones watching me to move on before jumping.

As I stood on that ledge that was narrower than my shoes, the endorphins began to work on me, and I didn’t feel as bad as I had when I started the reckless climb up the face. More people began to show up, and I noticed how nice the day was going to be, and I decided not to jump. I felt like a coward and ashamed, not that I’d tried, but that I’d failed. Then I got really worried that I wasn’t going to be able to get down. It seemed silly that I was worrying that I might fall, now that I’d decided not to go through with my plan. But I surely wasn’t going to yell for a rescue. I traversed to a less hazardous area and made it down ok. I got back in my car, went back home, and buried this story. But I wasn’t able to bury it so deep that I haven’t dredged it up on a regular basis.

Now that I know what is going on, and I see the patterns of how the depression works it’s been somewhat easier to deal with, and as they say, things got better. Not so much better that it doesn’t cross my mind anymore, but enough that I know they’re just really black moods and the option isn’t on the table. It’s not that the release isn’t attractive, but I can look back at all the things I’ve been able to do, when I’ve been able to do them. But sometimes I can’t, and I have to find some way to keep putting one foot in front of the other until I get through to a point where I can again.

It was only a few years after that time when I found some hope in religion and, to my great surprise, found myself on a mission for the LDS church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Just after I got there, I met a young lady there that was very musically talented. A couple weeks after I met her she tried to take her life in an overdose, and it almost stopped me cold. She was in the hospital, saved I was told because her antidepressants said to not take with milk, and thinking that would make it worse, she drank a lot of milk. I barely knew her, but I wanted to go visit her in the hospital. I wanted to tell her I understood, and I wanted to try to help. I don’t think I ever voiced this to my companion. I was new and I thought it would look inappropriate. It was also out of our area, and we would need to get permission. I found so many reasons to not do anything, and at the time they all seemed valid. Within the year I heard in passing that she’d succeeded in another attempt. I can’t explain the loss I felt. It doesn’t seem to make any sense. This was a beautiful young girl with a great talent and ability in music, she seemed to have much more than me by way of potential, but I could only see what she was showing. From what I understand she had her demons, but all of us do. For some of us, though, it feels like we’re having to face them all alone in a world where nobody else can really help.

In reality it doesn’t make any sense, except to the person going through it. I don’t think it is understandable, from the outside. You can look at it logically and you can see some of the whys, but from inside all you can see are whys. And I suppose, like everything else, it’s not just black and white. From inside the blackness there seems to be very few choices that can be made.

I’ve been very fortunate.  For the most of my life I’ve had people around who weren’t afraid to let me know they cared. People who made an effort, even though they couldn’t do much more for me than to say, “I hear you and I care”. My parents have always been there, and if I didn’t know they cared and if I hadn’t known that it would hurt them to lose me, I might have taken that step. And I almost took it anyway. There’s so much I can’t find the words to say. The fear, and the self-loathing; the anger and loneliness; the aching love that has no direction and a feeling not only that you’re never going to be happy again, but that you’ve never been happy at all. It’s so overwhelming.

And it’s getting to be autumn. My bad time. The last few years the impending doom of the shorter days has been less than it was when I was younger. Maybe because things are getting better, maybe just because I know from experience that it can be survived. Things have been bad this year, but I have people and I’ve learned that I can make it through with their support. I don’t feel as bad as I used to when I say to someone, “I’m not doing to well right now.” Sometimes I make the shorter statement, “I’m broken”. It’s easier to say.

But the whole reason for this exposure is I want people to know that I can be there for them, too. I understand these feelings very well, and while maybe I can’t make it better, I can listen, and maybe say “I understand” and maybe share the load. For me, it’s made all the difference possible. It’s made being possible. I wish I’d made the effort to see that girl in Minneapolis, to let her know that I kind of understood how it feels. Maybe I could have made a difference, but I’ll never know. Maybe I’m making a mistake by being this open, but I hope not. I hope in some way I can help.