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My experience at Day 1 of 2019 New York Comic Con October 5, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Animation, Art, Blu-ray, Broadway, Comedy, DVD, Internet, Media, Personal, Photography, Technology, Travel, TV, Video, Video Games, Weather.
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Previous New York Comic Con recaps: 2012 Day 22014 Day 1, 2017 Day 1, 2018 Day 1

Thursday marked my fifth time at New York Comic Con, and third year in a row. It’s become tradition to attend, meet actors, and tour the show floor. NYCC is held annually inside the Javits Center in Midtown West.

I waited by my computer for about two hours back on May 5 to buy my Thursday badge. I didn’t know what guests would attend, but I found out a month later. The ones I was interested in meeting were Paul Reubens, James Arnold Taylor, Laraine Newman, Jennifer Hale, and Tom Kenny. Once again, this was my sole reason for attending because there weren’t any panels worth seeing.

One day removed from record heat, the weather that greeted me when I left my Wantagh home at 8:30 was cool and cloudy. As I stood on the LIRR station platform waiting for the 8:47 train, I briefly wished I brought gloves. Keeping with my train travel routine, I chose to sit in the first car. There were a few people seated ahead of me that were also on their way to New York Comic Con, but I didn’t want to bother them. I just listened to David Benoit and Friends and ate my protein bar with a can of orange seltzer.

The ride to Penn Station took about 45 minutes. When I exited at 8th Avenue and West 33rd Street, I greeted by persistent drizzle. It followed me all the way to the Javits Center. It took a while for the massive throng of attendees to get through security, but my search was quick and scold-less. After I was checked, I walked toward the entrance and then zipped my backpack compartments back up.

Once inside, I made my way to the autographing area:

It turns out there were two autographing areas: 1C and 1E. I was looking for Paul Reubens’ table in 1C, but he was actually in 1E. So, I walked toward there and waited in line at his table. Thank you to the staff members who aided me.

Like most 1980s children, I grew up watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse. I didn’t realize Pee-wee Herman was a character created and portrayed by Paul Reubens until the mid ’90s. That was the first time I saw Paul out of that character, on Murphy Brown.

I rediscovered Pee-wee’s Playhouse on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim in 2006, then rediscovered it again ten years later on Netflix. Watching it there wasn’t enough. I had to buy the series on Blu-ray, especially for the bonus features. I sometimes find myself quoting not just Pee-wee, but other series characters like Globey, Mr. Window (particularly when I see Lynne Marie Stewart [Miss Yvonne] on TV), Jambi, Pterri, Conky, Randy, and occasionally Clocky.

So, it was a thrill to meet Paul, albeit briefly, on Thursday morning. I told him I met Phil LaMarr last year. Phil played Cowboy Curtis in the Broadway run of The Pee-wee Herman Show. I had noticed Paul was making a surprised face while posing with attendees ahead of me, so I tried to do the same:

I look more shocked than surprised, but I still like it.

I returned to 1C to meet four voice actors:

First up was James Arnold Taylor:

I discovered James through Johnny Test, but learned more about his illustrious career through his website, JAT Vlogs on his YouTube channel, and appearance on the podcast Talkin’ Toons with Rob Paulsen. I told him I liked how for his Fred Flintstone voice, he combined Alan Reed’s original portrayal with Henry Corden’s subsequent version. I also expressed my love as the voice of Fox’s Sunday primetime promos, to which he said he recorded the latest set of promos in his hotel room the night before. There was one thing I neglected to discuss. I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game, but I am aware of an infamous cutscene he voiced as Tidus in Final Fantasy X. In the cutscene, Tidus let out a loud, wooden, staccato laugh: “haaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha!” James explained that scene in a March 2016 JAT Vlog:

I chose a character collage at his table to sign, and he wrote:

Mike – You’re awesome!!
James Arnold Taylor

5:05 PM UPDATE: James recorded another promo from his hotel room yesterday, as he shared on Instagram:

View this post on Instagram

More promos in my makeshift padded room in my hotel while at @newyorkcomiccon

A post shared by James Arnold Taylor (@jatactor) on

After James, I moved one table to the right (his left) and spoke to Laraine Newman:

You may know Laraine from her days on Saturday Night Live, and I’ve seen a handful of sketches from that time, but I’m more familiar with her voice over work. She was Queen Jipjorulac, Mark Chang’s mother on The Fairly OddParents. Mark Chang was voiced by Rob Paulsen as an energetic surfer dude with awkward syntax (pronouncing assistance “ah-sis-TAHN-say,” for example). When Rob interviewed Laraine for Talkin’ Toons, she mentioned Histeria!, the Warner Bros. edutainment animated series they co-starred in. I was not aware of the series when it originally aired, but my curiosity was piqued after that interview. Unfortunately, unlike the other ’90s WB series, Histeria! was not yet on DVD. When it was finally released years later, I bought it, watching for the first time over the 2017 Christmas vacation. I loved it! So, it was that DVD that I brought to NYCC for Laraine to sign. She was thrilled. I told her how much I loved the show and loved her characters: Miss Information, a bubbly Southern tour guide with a penchant for getting things wrong, and Charity Bazaar, a sad girl who frequently lamented, “I’m not happy.” I said I sometimes find myself saying that in certain situations.

Laraine signed the following on my DVD:

To Mike (Heart)
Laraine Newman

Laraine and the aforementioned Paul Reubens, Lynne Stewart, and Phil LaMarr are all alumni of The Groundlings improv and sketch comedy troupe. It’s where Paul created Pee-wee Herman.

Jennifer Hale was next:

Jennifer has a wealth of video game credits, but I know her mostly for her work as Ms. Keane on The Powerpuff Girls, various characters on Johnny Bravo, and T.U.F.F. Puppy. Someday, I will play some of the games she appeared in.

As with James, I chose a collage for her to sign:

To Mike!
Jennifer Hale

And finally, Tom Kenny:

Of course, Tom is the titular character on SpongeBob SquarePants. I love that show, but also love Futurama, where Tom’s credits include the all-purpose commissioner Abner Doubledeal and Leela’s bland eye doctor boyfriend Adlai Atkins, and the aforementioned Johnny Bravo, where he played Johnny’s (Jeff Bennett) nerdy friend Carl Chryniszzswics (“cruh-SIN-uh-wits”). He was glad to hear Carl get some love at the convention, as one attendee ahead of me had a drawing of Carl. We talked about his co-star, the late Larry Drake, who voiced Pops. I even imitated Pops (“Hey, Johnny!”). Tom told me about Larry’s horror film background, which I wasn’t aware of but glad to learn. Prior to Johnny Bravo, I only knew him from L.A. Law.

I thanked Tom for taking the time to meet with everyone in line, as the line extended down to one of the panel “chutes,” requiring security to let people know which side was the panel chute and which was the line for Tom (or “SpongeBob,” as the guard said). I brought my copy of the eighth season of SpongeBob SquarePants for him to sign:

10-3-19
Mike Ahoy!
Best fishes from “SpongeBob”
Tom Kenny

Thank you to Paul, James, Laraine, Jennifer, and Tom. It was a pleasure to meet all of you. Thanks, as well, to Anissa and her eldest son James, who I met in Tom’s line. It was nice to meet you, too, and I hope we can stay in touch.

After nearly four hours in autograph land, I was ready to head for home, but not before touring parts of the show floor:

Within 20 minutes of walking the show floor, I exited the Javits Center:

25 minutes after that, I was back in Penn Station where I boarded the 3:03 Babylon-bound train, which was packed with commuters. The crowd thinned a little at Jamaica, then further at Rockville Centre, but a handful of passengers exited with me at Wantagh one hour later. I was once again in the first car, which meant that I was on the east end and exited above Beech Street. (The first car westbound is just west of Wantagh Avenue.) After walking 20 minutes in the mist, I was home.

Once inside, I unpacked and photographed my autographed merchandise and my badge (with the codes blurred out):

I hope to be back at New York Comic Con next year. In the meantime, thank you for viewing this post.

Lisa Hilton at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall: 2019 edition January 12, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Animation, Blu-ray, Comedy, DVD, Hockey, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Photography, Politics, Sports, Travel, TV, Video Games, Weather.
5 comments

Previous Lisa Hilton recaps: June 2011January 2014January 2015January 2016, January 2018

Thursday night, for the fifth time in six years, I made my way to the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall to see jazz pianist Lisa Hilton perform.

Unlike last year, I didn’t leave the house early so I could eat dinner before arriving at Weill. I went about my typical Thursday routine, including eating a pasta dinner around 5:00. At 5:40, my mom drove me to the Wantagh LIRR station. It’s a good thing I chose to leave at that time because unbeknownst to me, the 5:59 train was moved up to 5:55 starting on Monday:

The other arrival times are unchanged.

It was cold and windy on the platform, so it’s a good thing I wasn’t there long.

The train arrived two minutes late, at least on clocks set to the official U.S. time:

Just like the snowy night I saw the Bob James Trio at the Blue Note, the Rangers and Islanders were playing each other. Then, the game was at Barclays Center, current home of the Islanders. This time, it was at Madison Square Garden. Thus, Rangers and Islanders fans were prevalent on the train. Ordinarily, I would have stayed on all the way to Penn Station, but getting to Carnegie Hall isn’t as direct as Blue Note. I could have taken the 1 train from Penn to 59th Street-Columbus Circle, but I would have to walk a few blocks south and east from there. In the afternoon, I consulted Google Maps to determine what subway line I should take instead of the 1. They suggested I exit at Woodside and take the 7 train to Queensboro Plaza, then transfer to the N or W trains to 57th Street and 7th Avenue. That’s what I did.

I arrived at Woodside at 6:46 and proceeded to the adjacent subway station:

I lost my sense of direction and stood in position for this Flushing-bound train:

I figured out where I was facing when the doors wouldn’t open on my side.

The correct 7 train arrived at 6:52:

12 minutes later, I stood in Queensboro Plaza:

Google Maps suggested the N train on the way and the W train going back. I ended up doing the opposite. The W train arrived before the N, two minutes after I got off the 7:

By 7:15, I was at 57th Street:

I took the southeast corner stairway:

The stairway faces south, so I had to turn north and then east:

It wasn’t long before I reached my destination:

Foolishly choosing the stairs over the elevator, I (somewhat) breathlessly arrived on the fourth floor and stood in the lobby until the hall doors were opened:

The audience was allowed in at 7:30.

After finding my front row not-quite-center seat, I took a few pictures of the stage, knowing I’d have to put the camera away until afterward:

A security guard reminded me there was no photography during the show, and I assured him I was only taking before and after. I know the rules and willingly play by them. (I didn’t tell him that.)

Lisa and her two bandmates walked on stage at 8:04. Yes, for the first time, this was a trio performance. Luques (“lu-KEZ”) Curtis was once again on acoustic bass with Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums. Mark alternated between sticks and brushes depending on the song.

The first nine songs were all from Lisa’s latest album, Oasis, released on December 7. The concept is similar to that of her previous album, Escapism: escaping the craziness of the real world. At the Oasis, you can take your mind off the political turmoil and extreme weather dominating the news. A case of extreme weather is the Woolsey fire in Southern California, which forced Lisa to evacuate her Malibu home. She eventually returned home to no damage, but others weren’t as fortunate.

I’m right-of-center politically, but I can’t stand politics’ insane tribalism. It’s our way or the highway, whether “our” is Republicans or Democrats. And don’t get me started on the politics of personal destruction. One wrong move will destroy your life. I also have a pessimistic view of my party’s chances in elections and I take hyperbole from left-leaning politicians and pundits personally.

Since late September, I have paid little attention to the news. I know what happened on November 6, and that my left-wing friends gloated triumphantly, but that’s mostly it. Some news comes to my attention by overhearing what someone is watching in another room, from newspapers on display at the supermarket if I fail to avert my gaze, or reading Chuck Lorre’s vanity cards at the end of episodes of his sitcoms. I keep my head buried in music, sports (but not sports debate or news magazines), documentaries, cartoons, sitcoms, tech reviews, and video game or console reviews and retrospectives. Ignorance is bliss.

I used to occasionally post political links or videos, such as for Prager University, on Facebook, but I stopped a year ago. Now, I don’t talk politics at all on any of my social media (I seldom did on Twitter since my account is public) or with family and friends, unless we agree. I’m a people-pleaser; I want to be everyone’s friend. I don’t want politics to come between us.

Lisa promised that the songs we were about to hear would be uplifting. There wouldn’t be any songs with titles like “F U Donald,” as John Scofield had with Combo 66 in November.

The set ran about 70 minutes. Here’s what Lisa Hilton’s trio played:
1.
Adventure Lands
This made me think of the times I went to the Adventureland amusement park in Farmingdale when I was growing up.

2. Oasis
Mark Whitfield Jr. provided a swing beat at times. At one point, I followed Luques Curtis’s fingers on the bass.

3. Twists of Fate
Lisa credited Count Basie and Thelonious Monk among her inspirations for this song.

4. Watercolor World

5. Vapors & Shadows (also on Horizons, 2015)
In a quiet moment, Mark lightly clacked the drums. Lisa and I seemed to lock eyes briefly.

6. Lazy Daisy
This brought to mind a hippie daisy floating downstream or lying in an inner tube in a water park lazy river, like the one at Splish Splash in Riverhead. That was another park I frequented growing up, but I haven’t been there in almost 20 years.

7. Just for Fun (also on In the Mood for Jazz, 2003; Nuance, 2010; and Getaway, 2013)
Lisa’s gliding up and down the keys made me laugh.

8. Sunshine States
There was a Latin flavor befitting the two Sunshine States, California (officially the Golden State) and Florida. It was reminiscent of Chick Corea, and the end felt like “Tequila” by The Champs, just as “Hot Summer Samba” did last year.

9. Sunday Morning (also on Midnight in Manhattan, 2006)

10. Waterfall (from Cocktails at Eight, 2000)

11. Meltdown (from Sunny Day Theory, 2008; later on Nuance, 2010; and Escapism, 2017)
This song is a comment on a hectic life, being driven to a meltdown or breakdown. It had a frantic, heavy metal-like pace, and also brought to mind boss music in a video game. There were occasionally staccato Morse Code-like notes.

12 (Encore). Zero Gravity (from Escapism, 2017)
Coincidentally, earlier in the day, I watched the fourth Futurama film, Into the Wild Green Yonder (2009), on Blu-ray. One of the special features involved series executive producers Matt Groening and David X. Cohen talking about their recent Zero G flight. They and their fellow passengers, including Matt’s son Will, experienced periods of weightlessness.

As it turned out, no one else was seated in the front row, not even in the handicap seats. I could have moved, but chose not to.

1/18 UPDATE: Lisa posted a picture from the set (taken by photographer Ryan Nava) to Facebook, her website, and her newsletter last night:

Here’s the Facebook post, which ends with a link to her web post:

1/29 UPDATE: Lisa posted two more of Ryan Nava’s pictures to social media yesterday:

When the house lights went back up in Weill Recital Hall, and the audience began to leave, I said aloud, to no one in particular, that was a great show. Steve, who was seated one row behind me, agreed. I told him it was my fifth time, he said it was his first. We spoke a little more, then went our separate ways. I proceeded to the lobby to meet and greet Lisa and Luques. I didn’t see Mark, though. As I let other audience members talk to them for a while, I shared my enthusiasm with Adam and Vicki. Adam was seated a row or two behind me and told me he noticed that I was taking notes. I let him know it was for the recap you’re reading right now, and shared some of the notes with him. He was nice enough to take a picture of Lisa and me before I left:

I rightly took the elevator back down to the first floor.

By 9:46, I was back in the 57th Street subway station:

My N train for Queensboro Plaza arrived at 9:54:

Ten minutes later, I was among a massive throng of passengers (whom I didn’t photograph out of privacy) waiting to board the 7 train:

It took another ten minutes for that 7 train to arrive, and a couple more minutes before the doors were opened. I barely fit into the cramped car I walked into. There was little relief between stops as few people got off. Flushing was likely the majority destination.

The late arrival of the 7 train at Woodside meant I missed my LIRR train for Wantagh.

The good news is I would only have to wait about 20 minutes for the next Babylon-bound train:

The bad news is it was an express train that only stopped at Woodside, Jamaica, Valley Stream, and Freeport, with no other stops before Babylon. My dad was nice enough to drive 15 minutes out to Freeport to pick me up because I wasn’t about to wait until about 11:15 for a train that would stop at Wantagh.

After waiting upstairs out of the wind for 15 minutes, I proceeded to the track 4 platform and waited for my train:

Brrr! Each gust was tough to endure.

I was relieved to board the warm train at 10:47:

Once again, there were Rangers and Islanders fans aboard. And once again, the Islanders won. This time, 4-3. As a Rangers fan, this has been a tough season. (8:20 PM UPDATE: The game was part of a home-and-home. The Rangers won 2-1 at Barclays Center earlier today.)

The train was scheduled to arrive at Freeport by 11:15. Instead, it was there at 11:23. My railcar was a few blocks from where Dad was. Once inside his car, the drive back to Wantagh took 15 minutes, the same length it took to get to Freeport. Home sweet home.

Thank you to Lisa Hilton, Luques Curtis, and Mark Whitfield Jr. for the fifth great night of music in six years. (I couldn’t make it in 2017.) Thanks, as well, to Steve, Adam, and Vicki from the audience; and of course, to my parents for transportation to and from the train stations.

Audiobooking 2: Listen Up! November 12, 2015

Posted by Mike C. in Audio, Audiobooks, Basketball, Blu-ray, Christmas, Comedy, Commentary, DVD, Film, News, Personal, Politics, Sports, TV, Video.
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Early last December, I listed all the audiobooks I had listened to while working out between June and the day I wrote the post. I said “there [would] be more audiobooks to come in the weeks ahead.” This follow-up post will list those books, all of which I listened to on Audible.

Since my misadventure with Dick Cavett’s left-leaning book collection of New York Times blog posts, I’ve only listened to apolitical or right-leaning audiobooks.

From last December to now, here is what has guided me through workouts, bedtime, and boredom:

I have many more audiobooks I plan on listening to between now and the next post, whenever that will come. Just today, I started Mort Kondracke and Fred Barnes’ book on Jack Kemp. It’s called Jack Kemp: The Bleeding-Heart Conservative Who Changed America. After that, I’ll move on to the another Rush Revere book: Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner. Then, a series of autobiographies should keep me occupied through the summer. Until next time…