Comic-Con, 2010: A Postmortem Chat With Veterans
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. To some, San Diego is back to normal this Monday. But to people who love the gore, the glory and the madness of Comic-Con, normal is vastly overrated. For four, crowded, frantic, action-packed days, fans and celebrities gathered downtown at Comic-Con 2010. It was a celebration of sci-fi, horror, fantasy, animation and self-expression. Speaking of self-expression, our guests are here to talk about what they found exceptional about Comic-Con this year and we're asking listeners to call in with their reviews of Comic-Con. I’d like to welcome our panel of guests. Beth Accomando is the KPBS film critic, author of the Cinema Junkie blog on KPBS.org. Beth, good morning.
BETH ACCOMANDO (KPBS Film Critic): Good morning, coming back from the dead.
CAVANAUGH: Literally. Anders Wright is the film critic for San Diego CityBeat. Anders, good morning.
ANDERS WRIGHT (Film Critic, San Diego CityBeat): Good to see you, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: And Neil Kendricks is the film curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. He’s making a documentary about the comics industry and teaches a comics class at SDSU. Neil, good morning. Welcome.
NEIL KENDRICKS (Film Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego): Good morning. Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: Now, we invite our listeners to join the conversation. Did you go to this year’s Comic-Con? If so, tell us about your experience. How did you spend your time at Comic-Con? Going to panels? Hanging out in the exhibition floor? Waiting on line? Call us with your questions and your comments. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Before we get into specifics, I want to get an overall from the panel, starting with you, Anders. How was this year’s Comic-Con?
WRIGHT: Ah, you know, for me, this year was more exhausting than it’s been in the last couple of years. I was just saying before we started, around 6:30 on Saturday I finally just said that is it, I am done, I’ve had enough. I’m going home and having a salad, which is sort of the kryptonite of Comic-Con. In fact, I – the – Saturday night is usually the night that Marvel Comics and their films own Comic-Con. It’s a huge event, and I regularly go to those panels and this year I just – a friend of mine texted me and said, hey, I can get you in if you come here right now. And I just – I wrote back and said, I don’t want to anymore. I’m done. No more crowds. I’ve had plenty of – I’m completely overstimulated. I need to go home.
CAVANAUGH: Beth, overall, your overall impression of this year’s Comic-Con.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, I had a really great time, I mean, especially because some of my favorite people were there on panels, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. So I had a great time and, plus, I was bouncing around from a lot of different panels and hitting a lot of the smaller panels and seeing a lot of great stuff, so I think this year I probably got more diversity out of the Comic-Con than I’ve gotten before, so it was a great time.
CAVANAUGH: And Neil.
KENDRICKS: I mean, it was completely inspiring just to be there. And I’ve been going to this thing since high school. I never get bored with it. I didn’t have enough on Sunday. I still love the stuff. It never gets old to me. I love comics. And I love the whole idea of having this gathering of the tribes, so to speak.
KENDRICKS: And I’m a glad – I’m glad to be a member of that tribe.
WRIGHT: That’s very “Battlestar Galactica.”
ACCOMANDO: I’m going to hang with Neil at Comic-Con. Anders passes out a little too early.
CAVANAUGH: Well, let me ask you, though, you know, there was a lot made this year of the use of satellite locations to help accommodate crowds and the programming schedule and so forth. Did you have a sense that that worked, Beth?
ACCOMANDO: Well, I mean, it definitely offered more venues where people could go. But on the down side of it, was that if you were staying at the Hyatt, like I was, and wanted to go to the Hilton for a panel, you had an even longer trek back and forth. So, I mean, it’s nice in the sense of having more places where they can put panels up and spreading out the crowd a bit more but I felt like – so much of the time, I felt like I was in high school and I’d gotten my class schedule and my classes were on opposite ends of the campus and I looked and I was going, like, I can’t make it across there in five minutes. So that was the downside, I think, is just – you just had to trek around so much more and there was a lot to choose from.
WRIGHT: I also think one of the reasons, though, they did that is – I did – I spent most of the time doing press and interviews, and the bulk of those were actually at the Hilton rather than at the convention center and it made for a completely different feel than in the past because usually you’re in these interview rooms or these press conferences and you walk outside the door and you’re right back in Comic-Con and it’s crazy and over-stimulating and insane. And in this case, you sort of walked out into this sort of nice hotel where there really wasn’t that much going on. And I think it allowed the organizers to sort of keep that stuff a lot calmer. But at the same time, as you said, it also meant that, you know, these folks would do a press conference and then they’d have to trek like 12 celebrities across the street and…
ACCOMANDO: But the problem with that is that press is such a small fraction of the people who were there.
WRIGHT: Absolutely, yeah.
ACCOMANDO: And that doesn’t benefit…
ACCOMANDO: …the attendees so, I mean, part of the thing that bothers me is the way the studios have kind of taken over a lot of stuff and are doing things like that. I mean, that having press conferences or roundtables and having, making, accommodating the press a little more, to me, is kind of totally irrelevant to…
ACCOMANDO: …the Comic-Con experience.
WRIGHT: See, I actually think, though, I guess what I’m saying is I don’t think it’s about accommodating the press. I think it’s about accommodating the talent that they bring in. I think it sort of keeps them a little more separated from the entire thing, which I agree with you, actually does go against the sort of spirit of it but at the same time it – I’m just saying it was a different experience than it’s been in years past.
CAVANAUGH: Neil, it’s my understanding that one of the reasons for these different venues was to help spread out the crowd a little bit.
CAVANAUGH: Did that work at all?
KENDRICKS: Well, you know, I stayed at the exhibit hall the entire time. I didn’t even venture to going to the Hall H, you know, that – which seemed to be the attractor, being the black hole of where fans – I think there’s some fans probably still stranded there, you know, waiting for us to – But, you know, so, I mean, the – in concept, you know, it sounds like a great idea. I -- But, you know, it’s funny. I remember sitting at a bench and talking to another attendee on Saturday night and then realizing I didn’t know that the films were in a different venue. And so I was so used to the films being upstairs, as I gesture with my hand on radio…
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, right.
KENDRICKS: …that they were upstairs when, in fact, they were in another venue completely.
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, area, yeah.
KENDRICKS: So it is completely – It makes it a little bit more challenging. You have to have more of a strategy of getting to see what you want to see. But you almost have to decide what you want to see at Comic-Con ahead of time. So, for instance, if you’re going to go to Hall H, well, you gotta get there at 4:00 a.m. according to one of my former students from my comics class. I ran into her on the trolley. And apparently she was there at 4:00 a.m. ready and bushy-tailed and waiting to get into Hall H. I don’t – That’s probably one of the reasons I didn’t go to Hall H at all.
ACCOMANDO: Unless you were at the Zack Snyder panel and apparently he bombed and people were fleeing that site like crazy. So there was plenty of seats to get in at that one.
CAVANAUGH: We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. We do have a caller on the line who wants to share his experience at Comic-Con. Will is calling us from San Diego. Good morning, Will. Welcome to These Days.
WILL (Caller, San Diego): Hi. Thank you for taking my call.
CAVANAUGH: You’re welcome.
WILL: Yeah, I just, you know, last year I went to Comic-Con, you know, we got tickets in advance. And this year I’d forgotten to get tickets, you know, in time enough, so my friends and I ended up with no tickets for this year’s Comic-Con, which, you know, we couldn’t deal with so we decided to go down the second day and just try to sneak in and see how our luck went.
CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh. And what happened to you?
WILL: So we got in, you know, it – I was really surprised. You know, a couple of times we thought we were just going to get kicked out but, you know, we got in and we went and saw a bunch of the exhibits at Exhibit Hall and, you know, just were taking it all in, you know. The crowds this year, I felt, were a lot less than last year. I don’t know if that’s to do with the economy or something but I, you know, I thought it was very comfortable around all the crowds. And I like the way that all the venues were like placed throughout like downtown San Diego. I felt like it was much friendlier of an atmosphere.
CAVANAUGH: Well, Will, even though you’re part of the problem, thank you for calling. 1-888-895-5727.
WRIGHT: You know, this actually does lead me to something that I’ve been telling people for ages. The, you know, Comic-Con sold out, I think, in February of this year…
WRIGHT: …and obviously it wasn’t until July. And what so many people do is they say, well, I’m going to wait and see if I can go. And, you know, that’s when I’ll buy my tickets. And what I’ve – I mean, it is the Monday after Comic-Con. If you have any interest in going next year, go online today. Buy your ticket.
ACCOMANDO: Well, a lot of people were buying their tickets…
ACCOMANDO: …for next year at the convention on…
WRIGHT: I mean…
WRIGHT: Exactly. The worst thing that can happen if you buy it today for next year is that you can’t go…
WRIGHT: …and you’re out a hundred dollars or so. Which isn’t nothing but it’s…
ACCOMANDO: But you can – I think you can still use the tickets. I think you can transfer them to someone else…
ACCOMANDO: …if you buy them early.
WRIGHT: But it’s much worse than having January roll around and be like, oh, what about Comic – It’s sold out, I’m out of luck.
WRIGHT: And that – I’ve spoken…
CAVANAUGH: And that could happen very easily.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, yeah.
WRIGHT: It happened to – it happened to Will.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, exactly.
KENDRICKS: Yeah, I’m curious how Will got in. Did he tunnel in? I mean, like is this the comic book version of “The Great Escape?”
CAVANAUGH: You know, I would rather not know.
ACCOMANDO: Maybe he had last year’s badge or something.
CAVANAUGH: Now, you know, there are actually – for Will and for people who just wanted to sort of like mill around, there was a lot happening outside the convention center…
CAVANAUGH: …this year within the Gaslamp area. Anders, tell us about that.
WRIGHT: Well, you know, the studios—it does often come down to the studios—put in these huge, huge sort of marketing tie-ins and there are other things going on as well. I mean, I think the Cartoon Network took over a pizza parlor. The Sci-Fi Network had all of these sci-fi themed restaurants at the Hard Rock. For “Tron,” Disney took a storefront at – on Sixth Avenue and put in a vintage arcade, which was really extraordinary. And then in the back, if you were able to get a ticket on Friday night, they also put in this extraordinary nightclub that you would’ve never believed was there, which was entirely “Tron” themed with, you know, everyone serving drinks was dressed as Tron. You know, it was something crazy. “The Green Hornet,” there was – the Britt Reid’s garage was there.
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, they had the Black Beauty car.
WRIGHT: Yeah, where you could actually take rides it in.
WRIGHT: And, you know, in fact, they – What’s – Is it the Tin Fish that’s just across from there? They – Somebody, I think maybe it was the Guinness Book of World Records, staged a competitive eating competition, not a competition but a Guinness world – Guinness Book of World Records competitive eating throw down of sorts on Saturday where they brought the world champion…
ACCOMANDO: I’m glad you said throw down.
WRIGHT: Yeah, exactly. Joey Chestnut, one of the world champion competitive eaters…
CAVANAUGH: Yes, yes.
WRIGHT: …brought – Yeah, we came out and – Yeah, that was – it was right across the street from the convention center. You didn’t need a badge. You know.
KENDRICKS: Just didn’t need to be at “Zombie” or anything like that. Now that would’ve been…
WRIGHT: You didn’t even need to do that. Yeah, well, and there was a big “Zombie” walk, right?
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, there was a big “Zombie” walk.
WRIGHT: You don’t need a badge to be a zombie at all.
CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you about your extracurricular zombie activities in a moment but – But, Neil, did you get out of the exhibition hall at all to see all this stuff outside?
KENDRICKS: You know, I saw stuff on the way there and on the way out. But I was so focused on, you know, shooting my documentary that I sort of stayed inside the exhibit hall but it was fun to be like in the lobby and just watching the people in costume and the genuine enthusiasm and love that you see where you see people embracing that they haven’t seen each other in over a year. I mean, there’s like – it’s like an extended family.
ACCOMANDO: No. No, no, no…
WRIGHT: You mean, exactly a year.
KENDRICKS: Yeah, in exactly a year.
ACCOMANDO: Well now, wait a minute. Some of them go to Wonder-Con.
ACCOMANDO: Some of them go elsewhere. So there’s a whole network.
WRIGHT: You know, it’s – it does strike me, though, the way we’re talking about it is that, you know, it’s very hard to have perspective on things that are going on at Comic-Con away from where you are. There are so many people and it’s so over-stimulating that, I mean, one of the things I really like about it is that every single person has their own very, unique experience and no one’s is anything like anyone else’s. You know, it’s the idea, though, that to have a sense of, well, what was this like over there? What was this like over there? If you’re not there, you just don’t know.
WRIGHT: You don’t have any idea.
ACCOMANDO: Well, I mean, I went on preview night. I brought a friend and her six-year-old son who had never been before. And I tell you, that is the most fun because you see this little kid who walked in—he dressed as Batman—he walked in and his eyes like popped open. He was running, literally, from booth to booth. He was interested in gaming and Batman, and so that everywhere he could see either of those things, he would run and play. And after a little bit, you know, it was packed, it was crowded, but after a little bit, he just looked up at me, he goes, can I spend the night here? I mean, that, to me, is what it’s all about. I mean, it’s this sense of just excitement and fun and like there’s just too much to take in. And, to me, that was like the perfect way to start the convention for me.
CAVANAUGH: We have to take a short break. When we return, we’ll continue to talk about Comic-Con 2010 and take your calls. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.
CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. My guests are Beth Accomando, KPBS film critic and Anders Wright, film critic for San Diego CityBeat and Neil Kendricks, film curator for the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. And they all went to Comic-Con, and that’s what we’re talking about this hour.
ACCOMANDO: And we’re all still alive.
CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727 to tell us about your Comic-Con experience. But, you know, before we take a couple of calls, I want to – I really want to get the low down on the crowds this year, you know, because one of the headlines that came out of the Comic-Con is the fact that there was so much frustration over fighting over seats and stuff. Somebody got stabbed in the face with a pen and there was – were the crowds…
ACCOMANDO: I mean, I had the best experiences in line. I mean, I’ve met – I meet people in line who have the same interests as me and we sit and chat and, I mean, I was waiting in lines late at night to go into an Asian extreme film program, which was a blast. I mean, I didn’t experience any of that personally and most – I mean, there were people that I did hear who didn’t get into panels they wanted…
ACCOMANDO: …or looked out and said, oh, wow, that Hall H line, I’ll never manage to get in and were frustrated for not getting in to certain panels. But I didn’t see people who were waiting in line moping and groaning and complaining.
WRIGHT: Actually that altercation, the thing that does sort of strike me funny is that it didn’t take place in line at all.
ACCOMANDO: No, it was…
WRIGHT: These guys had actually gotten in.
ACCOMANDO: They were in so…
WRIGHT: They’d waited and waited and waited and gotten in and then they get into a fight?
ACCOMANDO: Well, actually I haven’t – I haven’t actually heard it confirmed that it was a fight over seats.
WRIGHT: I think, you know what, I mean, by the time – This happened sort of Saturday afternoon…
WRIGHT: …and by the time that happens, people are tired and exhausted and, you know, I think it was just people like sitting too close to each other and they got angry. Like I used to live in New York and you’d see people get into fights and like during rush hour on the subway at 8:00 a.m. in the morning. I mean, it’s that same sort of thing.
WRIGHT: You pack a lot of people into a small place and sometimes tempers are going to flare.
CAVANAUGH: And, Neil, just to wrap this crowding issue up, you were right in the exhibition hall and there are people winding, you know, trying to wind their way through these crowds of people over and over again. I mean, did – was it too much?
KENDRICKS: You know, it sort of slowly escalated over the day. So I got there on preview night and I was surprised that I was able to really navigate to where I wanted to without too much trouble. And then you get – it’s like traffic, you know, you hit certain intersections and then, you know, you’re waiting there. So they should actually have like a traffic reporter, you know, near the DC booth…
ACCOMANDO: Freebies are being given out at Fox.
KENDRICKS: …you know, there’s a five minute wait.
ACCOMANDO: Stay away from that area.
WRIGHT: But, you know, generally it is sort of what Neil was saying. I mean, people are so happy to be there. This is – they’re doing exactly what they want to do. Most, I mean, 99.9% of the time traffic’s just traffic and everyone deals.
WRIGHT: And it’s cool.
CAVANAUGH: And when you were in the exhibition hall, did you hear about this pen stabbing incident?
KENDRICKS: You know, it’s interesting. This incident has already become a kind of folklore.
KENDRICKS: It seems like it’s – the story changes, depending on who you talk to. One really interesting thing. The day after, I was in the lobby and already someone had come up with a costume based on the incident. A young lady had a pair of sunglasses with a pen strategically placed on one of the eyes and she had a sign more or less declaring that ‘something or other, this was my seat.’ And I had to stop her and give her some props for being timely.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, yeah, jumping on the headline. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. We’re talking about Comic-Con 2010. And Rob is calling us from El Cajon. Good morning, Rob. Welcome to These Days.
ROB (Caller, El Cajon): Good morning, everybody.
ROB: Well, you know, if you want to have a good time at Comic-Con you have to stay away from the pit of despair that is Hall H because it’s – it just really – It sucks up all of your time, basically. You really have to be dedicated.
CAVANAUGH: So where did you go?
ROB: Well, I basically I went a little bit everywhere. I’ve been going probably for the last seven or eight years and it – I really did have a good time this time. It was – I spent a lot of time on the floor. Saturday, I basically camped out in Hall 6 from about two o’clock on and just checked out, you know, panel after panel after panel.
WRIGHT: What did you see?
ROB: I saw “MythBusters” eventually at 7:15. And that was a lot of fun. But I had gotten there like at about 2:30 and stepped into the middle of the cartoon voice people.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, that can be fun.
ROB: Oh, yeah, it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. And, yeah, it was just – it seemed like everybody that I knew this year had a really good time and, you know, after going year after year you kind of notice some of the things that the Comic-Con people try to do to make the experience better or like – or maybe in response to the fire marshal like how they set up the lines and, you know, just traffic on the floor and stuff like that. So it’s really interesting.
CAVANAUGH: Rob, thanks for the call. I appreciate it. Laurie is calling us from San Diego. Good morning, Laurie. Welcome to These Days.
LAURIE (Caller, San Diego): Thank you. Good morning. Yeah, I started going to Comic-Con in the seventies when it was at the El Cortez.
LAURIE: Then it was the El Cortez Hotel.
LAURIE: And one of the greatest things, I actually found some old artwork while cleaning out my closets from some artists that I had met, you know, 35 years ago. I found them on the internet and then I reconnected with them. They’re still doing their thing. And it’s just really great – you talk about the young kids getting in with the characters and getting their pictures taken but these people have been doing it forever, they look like kids. The look on their face was just so happy to be around people they’ve known for, you know, 30, 40 years. It was just unbelievable.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, yeah, people like Sergio Aragones is just like running around the booths…
ACCOMANDO: …and talking with everybody. Interacting with fans and…
WRIGHT: Signing anything for anyone. Yeah, yeah.
CAVANAUGH: Laurie, thank you so much. I want to start talking about the panels, okay?
CAVANAUGH: What panels drew the biggest crowds, Beth?
ACCOMANDO: Oh, well, I mean, I know that people were camping out for the Harry Potter panel but, I mean, I don’t know if necessarily the panels that were drawing the biggest crowds were the panels that were the best ones.
ACCOMANDO: So, I mean, for me, I think it probably was packed but for me, Edgar Wright, who this year’s directing “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World,” and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who are in “Paul,” these are the guys who created “Shaun of the Dead,” they are so – I mean, they’re like gods of Comic-Con because they are geeky, they do love this stuff, they do try to walk around the floor and see what’s going on. And their panels were just such fun because they really enjoy that whole experience and they can connect with the kind of things that the fans are interested in and they have a great sense of humor and their panels, for “Scott Pilgrim” and “Paul” were – those were two of the ones I thought were the most fun.
WRIGHT: Well, they’re fan boys.
ACCOMANDO: They are. Yeah.
WRIGHT: Yeah, absolutely.
ACCOMANDO: And, I mean, the first year that they came for “Shaun of the Dead” I was running a booth and Simon Pegg was walking around and he stopped at my booth and I looked up and I saw his nametag and I was like, oh, my God, I just saw “Shaun of the Dead.” That was like one of the best films I’ve seen all year. And he was just like, ohh, well, thanks. And then he was still going – And they actually, I think, all – Two of them or something were at some of the smaller comics panels, I think, and some photographers saw them there and snapped some pictures. But, you know, they’re still trying to – although it’s a little harder now because people recognize them…
ACCOMANDO: …but they’re still trying to go out on the floor. I think Simon Pegg’s joke was if you wear a mask nobody knows who you are.
WRIGHT: Well, and the movie they’re in, of course, “Paul,” is actually about like making the trek to Comic-Con.
ACCOMANDO: Yes. There’s a whole Comic…
WRIGHT: So it’s – yeah.
ACCOMANDO: They showed the scene of them like being at Comic-Con, being geeky fan boys.
CAVANAUGH: Tell us – I wonder, I’m going to ask you two things, Beth…
CAVANAUGH: …and that is what – tell us about “Scott Pilgrim,” what is that? And number two, what is a panel like? I mean, for people who have not been to Comic-Con.
ACCOMANDO: Well “Scott Pilgrim” is based on a comic book and it’s about a young kid who falls in love with this woman and then has to fight their seven evil – or seven evil exes. And so it’s a comic book, I believe, the last volume, volume VI…
WRIGHT: Just came out.
ACCOMANDO: …just came out, either over the weekend or is coming out. So, I mean, it’s a comics based film so it’s very appropriate for it to be there. But, I mean, the panels vary. They’re – it depends where you’re going. I mean, in Hall H, it tends to be the studios put on the panels, they bring out as many big guns as they can so that the crowd goes crazy they try to give you some special footage so that you feel like you’ve gotten some sort of sneak peek. If there’s time, there’s some Q&A with the fans in the crowd. But if you go to some of the smaller panels, it’s much more interactive. You have a better chance maybe of talking to the people after the panel’s over or going up and maybe getting an autograph. There’s other panels like Quickdraw which is like cartoon improv where it’s not really about interaction with the crowd in terms of presenting some information but it’s where the audience gets to throw ideas out at the cartoonists and then they have to, you know, improv these drawings. And, I swear, I was in the room next door during part of that panel and the laughter and cheering was so loud that the walls were vibrating. So, I mean, they’re all different.
WRIGHT: Yeah, I mean, I guess I would say in some ways it’s not that any of them are necessarily better than any of them else (sic), your Comic-Con experience is getting to see the stuff you want to see.
ACCOMANDO: Right, whatever your obsession is, right.
WRIGHT: That’s the most important part. So for some people it’s going to be “Scott Pilgrim,” for other people it’s going to be Marvel, for some people it’s going to be comic books because…
ACCOMANDO: Well, and “Scott Pilgrim”…
ACCOMANDO: …had a comics-based panel…
ACCOMANDO: …which was just the author of the comic talking to fans. And, I mean, those fans were hilarious because they were – one woman got up and was going like, okay, I really don’t understand why you didn’t – You know, I didn’t really like this person. I didn’t quite get their relationship. You needed to put more of this in. And, you know, he’s like, well, okay, yeah, I had these scenes I was going to put in and I – I regret not doing it. She’s like, well, you better put them in. You need to go back and…
WRIGHT: Right, for the director’s cut.
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, so…
WRIGHT: Just they just cut them all.
ACCOMANDO: So, I mean, here you had a big Hollywood panel on “Scott Pilgrim” and then you had a much smaller comics-based panel, and there’s crossover between the two. But depending on what your interest was, you could go to the one, both or, you know…
KENDRICKS: There’s something that’s worth noting and that never gets covered is that there’s a actual comics arts conference and I went to that last year and it’s actually scholars and the various people studying comics or who are, you know, people leading in the field of comic studies who present papers and do Power Points and really go over the minutia of why comics matter. And they’re plenty of room in there. But it’s fun and I went to it last year and, you know, I actually learned something just listening to these different perspectives about, you know, various issues, number this and issue number that. And they approached it really almost in a – from a art historical point of view and it was really insightful.
CAVANAUGH: Let’s keep the comic in Comic-Con, right?
WRIGHT: You know…
WRIGHT: …but actually one of the things that was really popular this year, and it’s been growing in popularity, was the TV panels were much bigger than they’ve been before. And, in fact, there was, you know, Hall H is sort of where they do the big studio movies, Ballroom 20 is where they do the…
ACCOMANDO: Like TV owns it, yeah.
WRIGHT: Yeah, TV owns it. But there was a period, I think on Friday, where, you know, there was a four-hour wait to get into Ballroom 20 and there was literally no line for Hall H, where you could’ve just walked in.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, they were actually making announcements…
WRIGHT: Yeah, yeah.
ACCOMANDO: …for I forgot what Nick Cage’s film was but plenty of seats in Hall H.
WRIGHT: And he is a riot actually in those situations, yeah.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, yeah, but – and – but the person they need to give his own panel to every year is Bruce Campbell.
WRIGHT: Yeah, yeah.
ACCOMANDO: He was there for “Burn Notice.” Oh, God. He had his own panel one year and he was hilarious. It was the best panel I think I’d ever seen.
CAVANAUGH: I want to remind our listeners, we’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727 if you’d like to tell us about your Comic-Con experience. That’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Now the big panel was going to be Harry Potter. Was that – I heard that some fans actually were disappointed with this panel. What – were either – were any of you there and did you hear anything about it?
ACCOMANDO: I wasn’t there but I think the disappointment was that they only brought one cast member.
ACCOMANDO: So, you know, when you had for the Marvel panel, you had them bring out the entire cast of “The Avengers”…
WRIGHT: Which they had not announced…
ACCOMANDO: “The Avengers” team, yeah.
WRIGHT: …that they were going to do at all, yeah.
ACCOMANDO: I mean, Harrison Ford came for the Cowboys and Aliens panel with Daniel Craig and so there was a lot of star power in Hall H, and I think people expect that when you go there, you’re going to get something special.
ACCOMANDO: And if you’re not going to have the celebrities maybe you’re going to have really great exclusive footage, so I think they just went in there and kind of under-delivered on that. But there was a lot of – I think there were a lot of people that were excited about it and were hoping. You know, I interviewed some people and they were thinking, oh, I hope they bring some of the cast members but I haven’t heard anything.
WRIGHT: The – I have to confess. I got into one panel this year.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, yeah?
WRIGHT: I only saw one but it was the “Tron” panel on Thursday early on and they showed about – People were very excited for that. That was the first big one…
WRIGHT: …of the event. They showed 7 or 8 minutes of footage in 3-D in front of 6500 people, and it blew everyone’s socks off.
WRIGHT: You know, I was personally very skeptical of this movie. I was like you’re going to follow up “Tron” 20-plus years later, you know, it sounds like someone needs a – wants to buy a new boat or something.
KENDRICKS: But wouldn’t you admit that, I mean, like, I mean, I saw the trailer online and if there was a movie that is going to mesh with this current wave of CGI and…
KENDRICKS: …and it’s appropriate to the story, this is it.
WRIGHT: Absolutely. And I left there being like I really want to see that movie. And part of it, of course, is that “Tron” is a property that came along when I was at the perfect age…
WRIGHT: …to be sucked into all that so…
CAVANAUGH: Now, I don’t want to let this go without mentioning the fact that you – You moderated your first panel this year, didn’t you, Beth.
ACCOMANDO: My very first panel, yes.
KENDRICKS: Hey, congratulations. That’s awesome.
ACCOMANDO: They put me way late night. Last call with the zombies.
WRIGHT: Let me see, did it have something to do with zombies?
CAVANAUGH: With zombies?
ACCOMANDO: Yes, it did. It was a film called “Night of the Living Dead Reanimated,” which was about a hundred artists who created animation to go over the soundtrack of the original George Romero “Night of the Living Dead.” The film is in public domain so it was something that they could use. So we had nine of the artists come out and it was a lot of fun. And the people who were there really enjoyed it and were talking to the artists and it was inspiring because a lot of these artists are – don’t have a lot of money, nobody got paid to work on this project but it was basically people who wanted to do something creative and have some fun. I mean, one woman did stop motion animation with Furbys as part of the reanimating of the thing. And it was a broad range of animation. I mean, there was 2-D animation. There was one point in the movie where they did like a videogame status check on the health level of all the characters. So it was fun and playful and it was an homage to George Romero and everybody who was at the panel were zombie fans and loved it. So I was completely in my element. I had a great time, and the artists were all great, and for them it was the first time a lot of them met because they were all working from different parts of the country and just submitting their work in. So it was a really fun experience.
CAVANAUGH: That’s fabulous, Beth. Congratulations.
ACCOMANDO: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: I heard that some of the most popular, popular panels—I think you might’ve mentioned this already—were TV shows.
CAVANAUGH: Like “True Blood” panel…
WRIGHT: “True Blood” was huge.
CAVANAUGH: …they had to shut down the line.
WRIGHT: Yeah, I think – I’m sure they turned away literally thousands of people, you know, just…
CAVANAUGH: Now last year we heard that the convention was taken over by “Twilight” fans. Did that happen again?
ACCOMANDO: No, I don’t think there were many…
KENDRICKS: Thank God.
WRIGHT: You know, though…
ACCOMANDO: You know, I don’t understand why there’s such anger towards the “Twlight”…
WRIGHT: But, you know…
ACCOMANDO: I don’t like the franchise that much but they have the same level of obsession…
ACCOMANDO: …as the “Star Trek” fans and the “Star Wars” fans and even though you may not like what it is that they’re fans of, I got – I mean, I appreciate their ability to wait on line for hours, you know, for…
WRIGHT: Well, you know what I think it is, I think it’s actually – In some ways, they have more dedication. They wait in line for days…
WRIGHT: …for these things and, really, what people – when people have – people have said “Twilight” has ruined Comic-Con and, really, what that means is I didn’t get into Hall H.
ACCOMANDO: Yeah. Yeah.
WRIGHT: Because the “Twilight” folks basically will get – have traditionally – they’ve waited in line longer than anyone else, they get in there earlier than anyone else…
WRIGHT: …and so people can’t get in to the panels that come before “Twilight.” You know…
ACCOMANDO: I though Comic-Con was about embracing that kind of thing, and I was really disappointed when I saw so many people who were so angry at them. Again, I’m not a huge fan of the franchise but I like to see people who are that engaged in something. I mean, I think it’s great to go out and see – at midnight or at six o’clock in the evening for a midnight show, people lined up at a movie theater, to go out to the movies with a big community of people and that’s what’s going to keep going to the theater alive is that you have people who create those kinds of fanbases, so…
WRIGHT: Yeah, I…
ACCOMANDO: …I just – I just don’t understand that resentment.
WRIGHT: I agree with you. I mean, I’m – I would have to say that I am not the target demographic for “Twilight,” but I…
KENDRICKS: Oh, really?
WRIGHT: Yeah. But I don’t see any need to begrudge…
ACCOMANDO: Right, exactly.
WRIGHT: …those people this thing they love, you know.
CAVANAUGH: And you were happy not to see them there, though, Neil.
KENDRICKS: You know, I was in line last year to see the Avatar panel and I remember the mass exodus of “Twilight” fans that sort of left the building. It was right before the – I think it was either…
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, it was…
KENDRICKS: …“Avatar” or it was something else, and having to – it was much – the sun was beating down much heavier last year so…
ACCOMANDO: Well, there were no tents that year.
KENDRICKS: Yeah, no tents and…
WRIGHT: I can tell you what it was, it was “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnasus,” Terry Gilliam’s movie. Yeah.
KENDRICKS: Yeah, so, I mean, you know, again, I – I’m not one of the fans of this particular franchise and, you know, to each their own.
KENDRICKS: I mean, if they enjoy it and they find some enjoy – you know, pleasure in convening with the cults of sparkly vampires…
CAVANAUGH: Well, let’s take a call before…
ACCOMANDO: Let’s do take a call.
CAVANAUGH: …we have to take a break. Daniel is calling us from Rancho Bernardo. Good morning, Daniel. Welcome to These Days.
DANIEL (Caller, Rancho Bernardo): Hey, how’s it going?
CAVANAUGH: Just great.
DANIEL: I wanted to like mention something you guys haven’t really brought up is just the surprise stuff that’s there. This year, I was at the “Scott Pilgrim” movie panel and at the end of the show, Edgar Rice, the director, announces, hey, if you’ve got one of these buttons with Scott’s face on it, follow me. We’re going to the Balboa Theatre at Horton Plaza and you’re going to watch the world premiere of the movie. So…
ACCOMANDO: With a band, too, didn’t they…
DANIEL: …that was, you know…
ACCOMANDO: …have the band playing?
DANIEL: Yeah, Metric.
DANIEL: And Adrian Hall’s band played afterwards. It was great. One thing I gotta say, though, is nerds can’t really rock out to music. They are – A lot of people were just either standing up or…
ACCOMANDO: They rock out. It’s just…
DANIEL: …they were in their seats.
KENDRICKS: It’s just a lack of rhythm.
DANIEL: There was only like about six people just jumping around in the audience just going nuts.
CAVANAUGH: Good to know. Two good points, Daniel.
ACCOMANDO: Well, they’re tired, too. You know, they’ve been waiting in line.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you for the call. We do have to take a short break. When we return, we’ll continue with this wrap-up review of Comic-Con 2010. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.
CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. We’re talking about the True Blood panel, the Harry Potter panel, all the panels at Comic-Con 2010, and we’re asking for your reaction to this four-day event. 1-888-895-5727 is the number to call if you’d like to share your feelings about Comic-Con 2010. And I’d like to reintroduce my guests. Beth Accomando, Anders Wright and Neil Kendricks, you know, for people who are on the sidelines of Comic-Con, and have been for many years.
ACCOMANDO: Would you like me to take you next year?
CAVANAUGH: That’s quite nice of you but… I – Lots – We see costumes, you know, whenever you see the headline for Comic-Con, if it’s on the internet or it’s on the newspaper, it’s somebody in some sort of costume. So how many people actually dress up, Neil, would you say?
KENDRICKS: You know, I wouldn’t be able to give you an accurate number.
CAVANAUGH: Sure. Sure.
KENDRICKS: But what I love about it is that so many of the costumes are handcrafted…
KENDRICKS: …handmade or that someone spends a large amount of time gathering all the necessary – the right boots and the right cape and the right mask and they know that the fans that they will encounter will know the difference. So they have to be on the top of their game. And one of the best costumes was a mother and daughter duo that I filmed for my documentary, “Comics are Everywhere,” she spent two years assembling a costume that was based on the old Lynda Carter “Wonder Woman” from the seventies. She had to get the right boots, she had to get the right, you know, corset and everything like that.
KENDRICKS: And then she handmade the “Wonder Girl” outfit for her daughter based on Deborah Winger, by the way, for those geeks out there that remember that vintage show from the seventies.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, sure.
KENDRICKS: Touchstone of many people’s childhoods. And I just love the fact that they celebrated this and they made it into a family activity and so many of the people who participate in the masquerade, it really is a family activity. The parents lovingly crafted their outfits and so forth. And so when we were filming them, we just sort of got, you know, asked them about why this character versus others and she remarked that it took her 43 hours of labor for her kid, and so her husband nicknamed her Wonder Woman. And I thought to myself, wow, this is awesome.
KENDRICKS: And so it – and so then she, of course, she earned it. She earned it.
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, but…
WRIGHT: We do…
KENDRICKS: She even had the bracelets.
WRIGHT: We do talk about people dressing up, for sure. But, you know, it is definitely a minority of people who dress up. However, I’m not exaggerating. There are thousands and thousands of people in costumes.
WRIGHT: Thousands. I mean it is, it’s not…
ACCOMANDO: Well, because there’s like 125,000 people…
ACCOMANDO: …there and 10% of them are dressing up, which is probably maybe about what it is. That is like 10,000 people.
WRIGHT: It’s an extraordinary number of people.
ACCOMANDO: But there’s also, I think, two kinds of costumes that are going on. I mean, there are the people who attend the convention in costume and then there are the people who do costumes for the masquerade. And, I mean, the masquerade is a totally different kind of experience because they really – it’s part performance, too, sometimes. And one – I think it was the one last year that won most inspired. It was like they did these big gold frames and they had these, I can’t remember what the painting was, but they were kind of like these Renaissance paintings or something but they were like live paintings that were…
CAVANAUGH: Right, right.
ACCOMANDO: …huge, I don’t know, three feet by ten feet or something. But they were amazing. And they also have some, you know, Mecca kind of ones, these robot ones, and those are really impressive and they go beyond just like the costume…
CAVANAUGH: Just costume, yeah.
ACCOMANDO: …design. It’s this whole concept thing. So I think there’s kind of two levels of costuming that are going on. And the Steampunk people are really…
KENDRICKS: Oh, yeah, there was a huge…
ACCOMANDO: They’re getting bigger and bigger in that crowd.
KENDRICKS: …contingent of Steampunks that descended upon Comic-Con.
ACCOMANDO: And shops, they have booths where they’re selling that stuff, too.
WRIGHT: Yeah, but I think if you buy the stuff at the booth it’s not…
ACCOMANDO: No, no, but I…
WRIGHT: …you didn’t make it yourself, you don’t have cred.
ACCOMANDO: No, but I think that the popularity of it is shown by the fact that they have these Steampunk…
WRIGHT: Yeah, sure.
ACCOMANDO: …booths and that there are these younger people or people just starting out like, oh, you know, I’ve not – I haven’t seen a place where I could buy that before.
KENDRICKS: I saw the coolest Steampunk outfit and it was a young disabled woman who retrofitted her wheelchair.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, yeah.
KENDRICKS: And I just thought that was awesome.
KENDRICKS: I just thought it was – the creativity to turn this disability – and for at least for the time for the convention, she was one of the coolest people there.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, and let me…
KENDRICKS: And she knew it.
ACCOMANDO: Let me just say, there were two Star Wars costumes that were hilarious. There was a chef Darth Vader who had Jar Jar Bink’s head cut off on a plate. And there was a Hawaiian shirt stormtrooper who so upset this young child. This little kid came up to him and kept poking him, going, you’re a fake, you know you’re a fake. It was like someone had his religion taken away, he was so upset. And he poked him and walked away and then had to come back one more time to accuse him, you know you’re not a real stormtrooper.
WRIGHT: Well, there’s a guy who dresses – it’s like Bobba Fett with a leisure suit.
KENDRICKS: Oh, I saw him, yeah.
WRIGHT: He’s been there for years, but, yeah.
CAVANAUGH: I just want to tell everyone we will have a picture of that woman in the wheelchair who was dressed up as a Steampunk, that that’s going to be on our website, so if you want to check it out…
ACCOMANDO: So will the Jar Jar Binks head on a plate.
CAVANAUGH: Now, I want to take a few phone calls. There are a lot of people who want to join the conversation.
ACCOMANDO: They are awake.
CAVANAUGH: Dana is calling from Oceanside. Good morning, Dana. Welcome to These Days.
DANA (Caller, Oceanside): Hi, yeah, I’m fascinated by the whole thing. And I mean, I’ve been, you know, watching it from afar for a long time in San Diego and California and I had not – I want to go next year so I’m just curious…
ACCOMANDO: Buy your ticket now.
DANA: …as to what – what’s the best way of going about it if somebody who’s not a particular fan of any of the specific ones and just kind of wants to get the flavor of the place?
ACCOMANDO: Well, I think – First of all, get your ticket now if you want to go.
WRIGHT: Yeah, that is rule number one.
ACCOMANDO: And then as soon as the program schedule goes online—and this year they had a nice feature where you could create your own schedule online, choose the programs you wanted and print out a schedule. But I think you have two choices of how to approach it. One is just go down there. Just go down there and start walking around and just seeing what strikes your fancy and just kind of take it in. And the other approach is kind of the military strategy, like go attack that program, see what it is you want, if there’s something you really want to go to like a Hall H panel or something, then you plan to camp out or go early or, you know, whatever it is you need to do if that’s the one thing that really interests you.
ACCOMANDO: Bring water, bring food.
ACCOMANDO: Know where the bathrooms are.
KENDRICKS: Bring – Wear comfortable shoes.
ACCOMANDO: Wear comfortable shoes, know where the bathrooms are. Going with friends helps…
WRIGHT: Yeah, actually…
ACCOMANDO: …because you can trade off like going for food…
WRIGHT: Yeah, for waiting in line, yeah. I would say actually that, in fact, the other thing – You want both very, very strongly programmed time for yourself where you know where you’re going to be. But you also do need to leave some open space there because the exhibition floor, which we’re sort of briefly touched on, is so large and so overwhelming and there is so much there to see, it’s fairly indescribable, to be quite honest. It goes from everything from individual artists who have set up…
WRIGHT: …their own tables and will draw whatever you want for a few bucks to these extraordinary, you know, things that the studios put on for their movies or TV shows. You can spend hours and hours in there and you probably will just sort of wandering around, finding the stuff that you like. What you’ll also probably find is that as you go through the program, there will be things that’ll jump out at you and be like, oh, wow, I do want to see that. It’s kind of like programming a calendar, you kind of want to know where you want to be and when but at the same time you need to allow for some flexibility.
CAVANAUGH: There’s apparently…
ACCOMANDO: Or just pop into some panels even if you have no clue what they are.
ACCOMANDO: I mean, I was covering some because I was on a schedule to cover certain panels and there were a couple I went into, I had no idea who it was that we were covering and some of those were the best ones I went to. I was going, wow, I didn’t know.
CAVANAUGH: There’s apparently an iPhone app now for Comic-Con…
CAVANAUGH: …that can help you.
ACCOMANDO: I think it crashed.
CAVANAUGH: Neil, any advice for a first-time Comic-Con attendee?
KENDRICKS: Just having an open mind…
WRIGHT: Umm-hmm. Yeah.
KENDRICKS: …and going in there expecting the unexpected. And several people on my production team, this was their first Comic-Con, and so part of the joy for me was to see that wild-eyed stare. They thought they had seen everything and then they realized that they hadn’t. And so it was – they were trying to get stuff that we needed for our film project but at the same time they were sort of overwhelmed by the sheer spectacle of, you know, visual stimuli that was just bombarding them from every possible angle. You know, so really, going in there and just allowing yourself to embrace something that maybe you’re not into comics, maybe you’re not into fantasy and maybe you’re not into science fiction and all these other genres but just to kind of see how the other half lives and be, you know, and be brave enough to let your freak flag fly for at least four days.
WRIGHT: Look, the guy – the previous caller waited five hours to watch “MythBusters.” I mean…
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
WRIGHT: But number one, most important, buy your ticket today.
WRIGHT: Don’t wait.
CAVANAUGH: Nick is calling us from San Diego. Good morning, Nick. Welcome to These Days.
NICK (Caller, San Diego): Hi.
NICK: Yeah, I want to ask. There’s a couple controversial rumors that saying Comic-Con going to be moving to LA or Las Vegas. Can you tell me more about what’s the idea is?
CAVANAUGH: Well, we wish we could, Nick. We heard about that.
ACCOMANDO: Well, the only thing we know for a fact is that they are here until 2012 because they have a contract for that. But at that point, they can move because there’s – they are running out of space. They can’t allow any more people in.
WRIGHT: The convention center is expanding, I believe. But I…
ACCOMANDO: But they’re not going to start the expansion until what? 2016 or something?
WRIGHT: Well, here’s what’s happened actually is that they – about a week before this year’s Comic-Con, the organizers came out and said we have not made any decisions, we are going to wait until after this year’s event, and then we’ll figure out what we’re going to do. I mean, we don’t know whether or not they know yet or not. I – The two other places that are on the table, I believe, are Las Vegas and Anaheim. And it – You know, I hate to say it, it could go either way at this point. So, honestly, if you’ve never been before and you want to go, buy your ticket now.
CAVANAUGH: Now – Now do you think that the organizers are waiting to see how this year’s Comic-Con went?
ACCOMANDO: I think it’s more an issue of, you know, what is the city going to do to try to help accommodate them or help make the trans – I mean, I’m sure they don’t want to move because one of the key things is they rely on volunteers and they have thousands of volunteers who work for them that are either in San Diego or that they’ve already built a list of, so that’s a huge help to them. And to move means either trying to carry that group with them to whatever location they go to or create a new, you know, base of them. But, you know, I think – So I don’t think they want to move but I think if the – the convention center’s not going to have the expansion done for a number of years, something needs to be done in that interim to say like, okay, what can we do to help Comic-Con through that transition period and make it work and if they don’t offer enough up, then I think they’re just going to move.
KENDRICKS: And then, again, this thing, this event, this phenomenon, has been here for over 40 years. It’s got deep roots.
KENDRICKS: And they need to fight for this. They need to hold on to it. I mean, it’s a tradition. I mean, you know, I started going to this thing in the mid-eighties and I have never missed it since. So I – You know, there was a guy dressed up as Captain America after the con had finished and he was – he had his own little sign, sort of a protest or kind of a happening out on the street. And he was like really making, pleaing to the audience – or he had an audience suddenly, that they need to keep Comic-Con in San Diego. I hope it stays here. I love it.
KENDRICKS: And it’s like having a Super Bowl here every year in terms of the businesses downtown. So it’s a no-brainer. Comic-Con needs to belong in San Diego. It’s been here forever and it needs to stay here.
ACCOMANDO: But, I mean, it’s taken a long time for the city to even acknowledge that Comic-Con brings a big economic benefit. I mean, for years I remember hearing things like, oh, well, Comic-Con attendees don’t stay at the nice hotels, they don’t eat at the restaurants in the Gaslamp area. You know, they’re going out to McDonald’s or they’re staying at the Motel 8s. I mean, it was this…
KENDRICKS: So who are all these other people?
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, I know.
KENDRICKS: Are they like imposters? Pod people…
ACCOMANDO: I know.
KENDRICKS: …masquerading as Comic-Con attendees?
ACCOMANDO: But, I mean, I remember hearing that. I mean, haven’t you – I mean, I remember hearing – it was almost like, well, excuse me, yeah, I mean, I eat over at, you know…
ACCOMANDO: …at the restaurants right across the street from the convention center.
WRIGHT: I do, too. In fact, this year I went out to the place that – It had spread even further this year, and the restaurant that I usually go to during Comic-Con where it isn’t overrun by Comic-Con people was totally overrun and, in fact, sitting at the table I like to sit at were Mike Nelson and Bill Corbett from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
WRIGHT: And I was just like, man.
KENDRICKS: They came with the table?
ACCOMANDO: Did they do riff tracks on your meal?
CAVANAUGH: Now we’re not going to have time for the last question but I do – for a caller but I do want to ask his question if we can keep the answer really short. He says he’s been going to Comic-Con for ten years and it’s lost its intimacy. And I wonder, Neil, if you could respond to that.
KENDRICKS: I would say yes and no.
KENDRICKS: When we were shooting this doc, you know, you go to sections of the con and it’s this video screens and your, you know, loudspeakers and it’s a kind of general bedlam. And then you go to the Artists’ Alley and there’s the guy that’s making a comic book in his basement and I actually met an artist that I’m going to feature in my project who is just doing his own comic, and he’s loving it. And he looks forward to coming here to be able to share some of the artwork. And that intimacy of just being able to talk to an artist that’s up and coming or even if you’re like on the floor and sometimes you see Matt Groening. I remember in the – you know, over the years, getting an assortment of Simpson art that he would draw in a number of books if you happen to have it. One year I met Moebius, this was a number of years ago, and he actually did a drawing for me for free. Now that won’t happen again. But…
CAVANAUGH: Right, right.
KENDRICKS: …but those, you know, so it’s – you find the intimacy. It happens in unexpected places and unexpected moments.
CAVANAUGH: And still. Well, thank you. We’re out of time. I want to thank my guests Anders Wright, film critic for San Diego CityBeat. Neil Kendricks, film curator for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and making a documentary about the comics industry. And Beth Accomando is our KPBS film critic. Thank you all so much.
ACCOMANDO: Thank you.
KENDRICKS: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: And if you’d like to comment, please go online, KPBS.org/thesedays. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.