Saturday, August 31, 2013

Published: GEEK Magazine

the guys who starred in “the cornetto trilogy” (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) are on the cover. my article begins on page 66. (click to enlarge any of the photos.)

this is my first piece for GEEK magazine — and thankfully not my last as i already have new assignments to complete. but i don’t doubt that this one will always be the most special for me, not only because it’s the first, but because it’s so damn long: eight pages to be exact (roughly 2,500 words), which makes it as long as the cover story.

the opening spread. that first photo is pretty badass.

granted, plenty of that space is occupied by photos, taken by the immensely talented Josh Fogel, who is a cherished friend in addition to being a kickass photographer. i recommend him without reservation if you need professional photography done in the LA area. he accompanied me on my visit to interview Nancy Smith, owner of Necromance, a natural history and oddities store on LA’s famed Melrose Blvd. i had been in the store a handful of times before so i jumped at the assignment when the geek-in-chief mentioned he wanted to profile it.

second spread. the photo on the left is a 30-week-old human fetus skeleton that was for sale for $4,000 at the time of the interview. it was ultimately purchased by guitarist Dave Navarro. 

the editor, Dave Williams, had been asking me to write for the magazine since its launch (i serve as the copy editor) and i had always wanted to but felt woefully intimidated by the subject matter. because even though i’ve attended two Comic-Cons and am in my second year of helping put together this incredible magazine full of fascinatingly geeky content, i’m still geek-lite. maybe even extra lite.
third spread with interior shots of the store and some of the items for sale. i bought one of their pretty pendants made from butterfly wings.  

i knew i could never pull off a cover story on Star Trek or Star Wars (each has graced the cover already) or even Futurama, which i’ve only seen a handful of times, so i had trouble pitching anything that might be a good fit as my oddball obsessions of watching Big Brother or writing haikus likely wouldn’t capture the interest of GEEK’s readers. so i asked him to assign me something that wasn’t too sacred, didn’t require knowledge of some lengthy backstory and wouldn’t get me in trouble with rabid fanboys on the internet if i disagreed with their viewpoints. interviewing a shop owner seemed like a safe bet.
final spread. the page on the right is a sidebar that explains plastination (also written by me after some serious googling), which Nancy had discussed during our interview, noting that her prized possession from her personal collection of oddities is a plastinated dog head.

and man, was she ever a great interview: easy as hell to relate to, full of interesting stories, and incredibly sassy and smart. i liked her right away and the hours-long interview couldn’t have gone any smoother. and i’m not just saying that to be diplomatic; she really was a pleasure. she even allowed me to return a few weeks later to take additional photos with a larger crew provided by the magazine’s publisher, Source Interlink. if you catch the article on the iPad, there are several photos of the store’s products that can be seen in 360 degrees.
from the 360 degree photo shoot. a motorized plate would slowly rotate while a mounted camera took a photo every 15 degrees. Nancy’s plastinated dog head was one of the items captured, in addition to taxidermy, an antique prosthetic limb, a gilded pirahna and animal skulls. 
unfortunately, the story is not (yet) online, despite my repeated attempts to put it there, so i cannot link to it. the magazine, however, is on newsstands now and can be bought for just $7. it’s a great read full of geeky goodness. you should totally buy it. get a few issues for your friends while you’re at it. hell, why don’t you just subscribe and save yourself future trips to the newsstand? i’ll have a little something in the next two issues for you to read.
making friends with a taxidermy deer at Necromance

the best thing about doing this story (beyond seeing my byline in print, which is always a thrill) is that it reunited me with my long-lost love of journalism. sure, i’ve written plenty here and elsewhere about myself, as personal essays have come to define my career as a writer over the years, but that was a surprise outgrowth of keeping this blog, never a career goal. this time, it was nice to write about someone other than myself. it’s what i always thought i would be doing as my masters is in journalism and i’ve worked for news agencies before, NPR and VOA among them — work i have missed tremendously since taking a full-time job in finance more than eight years ago.

doing this piece reminded me of how much i loved the process: the initial research of a subject followed by interviews where i need to build rapport and gain trust, keep them talking while i ask the right questions; the reviewing of the transcript when i note the strongest quotes and begin to see the themes emerge; the building of the outline and the piecing everything together like a jigsaw puzzle until it’s done and i can stand back and look at the story, hoping that it flows and informs and entertains, that i’ve done my subject justice by covering everything ethically and accurately.

i loved every part of it (save the transcription) and wore a giant grin on my face the day i spent writing the story. i was also happy to see that the edits were minimal and i received another assignment (interviewing a horror historian) right away.

i’m still wearing that grin today. many thanks to my beloved GEEK, Nancy at Necromance and Josh Fogel for making it happen.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lots of Stuff and Things

as i am an expert in pointing out the obvious, let me begin by saying that’s it has been far too long since the last update. as always, this is partially due to laziness, but also because the summer has been busier than i expected. it’s also been far more awesome than i expected. in short, life has been a combination of sunshine, rainbow sprinkles, toes in the sand, sleeping late and unicorn rides. it’s also been a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, sore muscles and binge eating. somehow, this has all balanced out into relative bliss. this is why:

me and my city

birthday: i turned 37 in june, which effectively threw me into the “late 30s” category of easy listening music and high-fiber diets. thankfully, this birthday didn’t hurt too badly as evidenced by my lack of constant complaining, which has accompanied most of my birthdays since i hit 30. this year, i enjoyed a small party at my house with close friends the friday before my little big day before escaping to Ojai later that weekend, where i slept late, watched bad cable, took a yoga class, visited Meditation Mount and went on daily hikes with my dogs.

blissed out on a rock at Meditation Mount

the day of my actual birthday (a wednesday) had me eating a lovely steak dinner with my parents before meeting friends at my local watering hole, the Verdugo Bar, where i really felt my age by drinking too much and exclaiming, “i can’t party like i used to” at the end of the night. at least i still made it into work the next morning, which i never would have bothered with at 21. all in all, a great birthday doing things i love (drinking and relaxing) while surrounded by people i love.

Comic-Con: for the second year in a row, i attended Comic-Con, an otherworldly and exhausting experience that was amazing in every way. i went again to work the booth for GEEK, the little magazine that could, which is turning into the little magazine that is kicking ass if our rising circulation, recent offering of print subscriptions and win of three Maggie Awards are any indication.

GEEK booth
GEEK magazine booth at Comic-Con

the most awesome thing about this year’s Con was how different it was from last year’s Con, when we had only one issue printed and were practically throwing it at people to get noticed. six issues later, people sought out the booth to say how much they loved the magazine (and no doubt pick up some sweet swag). GEEK also presented several panels this year, including the Starship Smackdown panel that closes out the Con. plus, my GEEKy colleagues are genuinely some of my favorite people in the world. with them, i spent the four days of the Con laughing, drinking, chatting, downing power bars, slamming espresso shots, barely sleeping, attending events and enjoying myself immensely. i cannot wait to do it again next year.

this guy does parties. i have his card.

note: all my photos from Comic Con 2013 can be seen on my Flickr account here. for a smaller sampling featuring the best cosplay, check out my photo essay on, the site run by my fellow GEEK writer/editor and good friend Brian Kronner. 

favorite photo of the Con right here
my favorite photo from the Con

my first gay wedding: i had the pleasure of attending the civil ceremony of some of my other favorite people in the world, my bestie, Jon-David, and his partner of 10 years, Cesar, at San Francisco City Hall. this was only a ceremony to solidify their status, as the actual wedding will take place next year, but it was still a magical thing to witness.

me with the newlyweds

it should go without saying that i support marriage equality 150%, and to me it’s ludicrous for gay rights to even be up for debate. i’ve always been an advocate for secular living and regard all organized religions to be laughable fairy tales that have no basis in reality or legislation. so it was especially touching to see the judge who married my friends, an elderly african-american lady, pronounce them “loving life partners” after they both said “i do.” i stood nearby, beaming, teary-eyed and incredibly thankful that i’m alive in a decade (and country) where this is possible.  

after the ceremony, a few of us went north to Calistoga for mud baths and rest. of course, we also stopped off at Bouchon Bakery in Yountville for the tastiest macarons on earth.

refinance: after five years of wanting this and three months of enduring a hellish escrow that rivaled the hellish escrow that came with purchasing my house, i refinanced my 40-year mortgage with three liens and needlessly high interest rate into a much more manageable 30-year mortgage with two liens and more agreeable interest rate.

the sheet i made for the appraiser, who appraised my house for far less than its purchase price plus the money i poured into it.

this is a game-changer for me, one that has shaved a considerable amount off my mortgage, which means i can pay off my debts faster. i’m overjoyed that this finally worked out, even though it had to involve many angry phone calls, four rate relocks (two of which i had to pay for), insane closing costs to rid myself of that third lien and the general grumpiness that comes with an escrow that feels never-ending. thankfully, it ended, turning me into a happy homeowner once more. 

family members toasting on my newly refinanced deck

half-marathon: i have officially become one of THOSE people by signing up for my first half marathon. don’t worry, i won’t be bothering anyone for money as this isn’t a fundraiser type of thing, only a vanity one. my cousin Gitella and i will complete it together this fall in Las Vegas. since signing up, i’ve surprised myself by actually training for the 13.1-mile trek, which must be completed in under four hours. this means i’ve spent plenty of time walking the three-mile track at the Rose Bowl. what’s more surprising is that the walks turned into runs (ok, an occasional light jog, but still).

en route to train with the furries

crazier yet is that i find myself actually looking forward to hitting the track lately, so i can scurry around it like an injured animal, as i mouth expletives and try to push through the pain in my shins, all for that elusive runners’ high i only read about in books. i know now that it’s very real and very cool. also cool is that i’ve been able to stuff my face full of carb-heavy food while still losing weight. i’m hoping i keep this up.

boyfriend: there should probably be much more fanfare around this announcement, but it will have to be relegated to just a bullet point. but yes, there is a boything now. no, i did not meet him on okstupid. i actually met him three years ago and dated him briefly then; he was even mentioned here a few times as the Costa Rican Cutie. but things didn’t work out, so we parted ways kindly and calmly, remaining friendly, until earlier this year when that friendship started to slide down the rabbit hole and fall into what it is now. and what it is now is pretty damn good.

i don’t want to say much more about it because 1) he isn’t thrilled with being written about on this blog; 2) if you know me in real life, or even just on Facebook, then you know about this already so it’s not big news; and 3) although i’m happy to make fun of strangers and online dating here (note: okstupid account has since been disabled), the people i keep closest to my heart i try to honor by keeping my big mouth shut about them. there’s really not much more to say beyond things are good, he is awesome and i am happy — and taking it day by day.

see? happy while frolicking on a beach. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

One-Hit Wonders: July 2013 terms inexplicably pulling up this blog... (sorry it's late again!)
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