Jul 09

Internet Doomsday or Malware Media Meltown?

Unless you were lucky enough to miss it on any of the major media outlets over the last few days (television, print and online), tech-savvy news watchers were warned at the top of every newscast about how Monday, July 9th was going to be “Internet Doomsday” or “Malware Monday” or some other horrifying sounding event that was going to cripple society as we know it.

Or something like that.

Is your computer sick? If so, consider yourself a 0.0017%er!

Let’s look at the facts: Back in November the FBI found out that a number of hackers created something called Operation Ghost Click, which was basically a scam that uses something called a DNSChanger to reroute the Internet browsing of infected computers to the wrong websites. So if your computer was infected and you went to type in the web address for ESPN.com, for example, you’d end up going to another site instead that downloads additional malware onto your computer or steals your information and generates money for these hackers.

When the FBI found out about this and shut down the hackers’ operation, they also realized that any infected users who didn’t know about it would no longer have access to the Internet, so what they did was continue to run backup servers on which infected computers could still function and surf the Web.

On Monday, the FBI was turning off those servers, which was going to leave upwards of 42,000 infected computers in the United States without the ability to get onto the Internet, which translates – of course – into INTERNET DOOMSDAY!!!1!1ONE1!!!

Wait. Let’s crunch some numbers here.

Doomsday! Enemy to Superman AND Internet Porn.

Four million computers were originally infected worldwide and since November only a mere 95% of them have been cleaned up.  Out of an estimated 245 Million Internet users in the United States, 42,000 of them were going to be without the opportunity to look up porn this morning when they turned on their computers. That means there were going to be approximately 0.0017% of people who were going to be left with a severe case of blue balls thanks to Internet Doomsday.

Curse you, international hackers!!!

But wait a minute — let’s not fall so quickly for the media’s Chicken Little approach and put some of this into perspective before we run out for duct tape and bottled water.

Here is a list of some things that are affecting more than 42,000 Americans when they woke up this morning.

26.3 Million American people woke up living below the poverty line.
62.5 Million Americans woke up today with cavities
16 Million American children woke up hungry today without any promise of food
12.7 Million Americans woke up today without a job
11 Million Americans woke up today battling some form of Cancer
6.5 Million Americans are going to be subjected to Chris Berman broadcasting the MLB Home Run Derby
2.5 Million Americans woke up today with a gambling addiction
1.73 Million Americans will get on a plane today
70,000 people just in New Jersey lost power on 4th of July weekend due to severe weather
42,500 American girls between the ages of 15-19 are giving birth today

Now that we have some numbers to compare against, do you really think it’s a good idea to pay so much attention to something that affects only 0.0017% of Americans and can be fixed with a simple installation of anti-virus software?

Good. Glad you agree.

Now the media can return to more pressing matters, such as which celebrity athlete the new Kardashian baby is going to be dating in 19 years.

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Jun 30

What June 30th Means To Me

Saturday, June 30th is my father’s birthday. He would have been 81 years old if he was still alive.

Back on February 6th, 2003, I was working at one of my old jobs in the city when around 4:30 I received a frantic phone call from my mother while I was at the office.  She was saying that my father was being rushed to the hospital and that she thought he was having a stroke.  I heard him on the background saying “I’m fine, Hon,” but something sounded odd in his voice.

I left work, jumped on the first bus I could catch and made it to Methodist Hospital in South Philly. My mother, sister and some immediate family members and family friends were in the Emergency Room waiting area and they weren’t letting anyone back to see him.  At one point I remember the nursing staff directing us to a family room.  My mother had spent enough time in hospitals to know what that usually meant, so she instantly started to freak out, knowing for certain that it meant my father had died.

*  *  *  *  *

My father Frank was a sports fanatic. That’s where I’m certain that I got it from. He used to play schoolyard basketball in the early 40’s with his friends (among whom was future NBA Hall of Famer Paul Arazin). He had a hook shot that could make you drool and could shoot a basket from the free throw line with his eyes closed.  His athleticism stayed with him late into his life as he was an avid bowler and golfer.  Bowling was something that we shared. We came in 2nd place in a father-son tournament when I was 14 years old. I later bowled in the same adult league as him, both on a different team and then towards the final years together on the same team.

He loved watching any sport on television and I fondly remember the days of sitting near him on the sofa watching whatever was on. Football (he cursed the Eagles whenever they lost). Baseball (he cursed the Phillies whenever they lost). Basketball (he took particular enjoyment watching both the Sixers and NCAA basketball). Hockey (which was rarely televised at the time). Golf (Oh, how he would spend all day Saturday and Sunday watching golf!). Tennis (even the boring, rather unimportant matches). You name it, he watched it.

And that rubbed off on me for the most part, for which I’ll always be grateful.

*  *  *  *  *

The Lombardi Family…circa 2001

At Methodist Hospital my father was still alive.  The staff assured us that they were moving us to that room to have some privacy as well as to help prevent the ER waiting room from becoming Lombardi Central.  Shortly thereafter they let me, my mother and my sister go see him.  He, indeed, had a stroke. A fairly severe one as his mobility was limited and he was not able to speak clearly or coherently.

As the night wore on they transferred him to the brain trauma center at Wills Eye Hospital in center city, where the doctors there could better serve someone in his fragile condition.  I had made a few calls, one of which was to Nicole (who I had only been dating for a few months at the time), to let people know what was going on.

At this point my father was having severe difficulty talking. His brain function was a fraction of what it normally would have been. He couldn’t move his entire right side of his body. We would ask him questions and you could see In his face the frustration that he knew he was trying to answer them but something was wrong.  He looked tired.  He looked bitter, and angry and ready to give up.

*  *  *  *  *

“Don’t bring home any whores!”

That’s what I used to say to my father when I’d kiss him goodbye when he was leaving for work at night. My father was a bartender since the day I was born (before then actually). He had managed the La Casa club in Center City and worked at the Penns Port Pub (the side that was a Go Go joint) when I was very young. Later on he worked at the airport, serving drinks to both celebrities and average travelers from the Libations Lounge in D terminal.

But in those years when I was very young and he’d work the night shift at the bar, my mother and I would kiss him and send him off on his way, smelling of cologne and Tic Tacs. And I’d always say that line. I’d like to think it worked because not once did my father ever bring home a whore.

He was a stylish guy.  Reminiscent of a mobster, in later years friends used to call him Gotti. He wore fancy suits, had salt and pepper hair and drove a Cadillac. He’d wear casual track suits during the week but when he was going out somewhere with my mother he was dressed to the nines.

He was a fantastic dancer (something I did NOT inherit from him) and he had a raunchy sense of humor. My father was a fun guy to be around. He lived a more lively life than I did, partying harder in his 60s than I did in my teens and 20s.

*  *  *  *  *

The doctors informed my family that my father’s prognosis was not very good.  He had had cancer twice (skin cancer and cancer in his lymph nodes) that he had beaten through radiation treatment and chemotherapy. He had a triple bypass years prior. He smoked and drank most of his life, and the toll on his body with the stroke was going to be too much.  They proposed to us the option of a rather experimental treatment where they use high doses of blood thinners to help alleviate the problems of the stroke and offer the possibility of a near full recovery.

But the chances of survival were under 30 percent.  We had a choice to make.  We could leave it be and my father would have a 100% chance of surviving in what was essentially a vegetative state, or take a 30% chance that he could live a life like the one he was used to living.

*  *  *  *  *

My mother and father were the best of friends. Their love for one another was like none I’ve ever seen and is something that to this very day I try to emulate in my relationship with Nicole. My mother and father have had their share of fights, many of which were loud and filled with words that I usually reserve only for the TV when the Phillies are blowing another lead or when the Eagles are signing players like Michael Vick.

But they had a loving, caring and romantic relationship. And he played very well off of my mother when it came to parenting. She was the pushover and he, while not particularly stern, was the one you had to convince with logic that what you wanted to do was acceptable. He helped with Math & Science. My mother helped with English and Art. He drove me anywhere I wanted to go. He took my friends anywhere we wanted to go. He taught me how to make mixed drinks and also the importance of not abusing alcohol.

He was my mother’s soulmate and the best father that my sister and I could have ever asked for.

*  *  *  *  *

My father was a gambling man so we decided to take our chances. A 30% chance of being normal was better than a 100% chance of living a life that would have left him in a wheelchair, unable to do anything on his own.

The doctors proceeded to administer the treatment and my mother sent my sister and I to my sister’s apartment near 12th and Arch so we could get some sleep. It was nearing midnight and it had been a long day. She assured us that she had people there with her (our family friend Carol among them) and if anything happened she would call and we could make it back in no time.

That call came around 3:30am. My mother said that my father was starting to experience severe bleeding in the brain (one of the known possible complications) and swelling. Things were not looking good.

We made it back to the hospital in time. We each spent time with him in the recovery center and I remember talking to my father, holding his hand and telling him how much I love him and how proud I was to be his son.

I remember looking at the monitors as his heart rate was dropping to below 30 and knowing that time was running out.  I held my father’s hand and kissed his forehead moments before he died. And in that early morning on what was February 7th 2003, my father took a little bit of my soul with him when he left this Earth.

*  *  *  *  *

It’s difficult not to think of all of the things my father didn’t get a chance to see. He didn’t get to see me get married (he had actually only met Nicole three times but said to my mother that he knew she was the woman I’d marry). He never saw my sister buy her first home. He didn’t get to walk my sister down the aisle at her wedding.  He didn’t get to see Nicole and I move to the suburbs and buy our first house. He didn’t see the Phillies win the World Series in 2005 (he would have loved it). He still never saw me get my driver’s license. He never saw me get any of my tattoos (OK — maybe he wouldn’t have been so crazy about that last part.)

But I’m sure he’s there somewhere…seeing what has become of our lives. Seeing the man that I have become, trying to be more and more like him every day. Seeing how my sister has become a successful entrepreneur. Seeing how my mother continues to keep her chin up in the face of adversity. Seeing how much we all still miss him dearly and how much we still love him.

Rarely a day goes by that I don’t think of my father. In over nine years he still plays a part in my life…in the decisions I make and in the person that I try to be.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  I love you.  I miss you.  I hope I’ve made you proud.

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Jun 15

Wizard World Philadelphia – Weekend Recap

Continuing my account and experiences of the most recent version of Comic Con Philadelphia (aka Wizard World Philly), here is a day-by-day breakdown of the major events that transpired and moments that stood out for me.

FRIDAY
I spent a vast majority of Friday, while it was relatively easy to get around, networking in Artists Alley. I found quite a few artists who caught my eye, and hopefully soon they will have their art gracing the interiors and covers of new comics from GrayHaven Comics. One of those artists was Joshua Stulman, creator of MAGEN, a character who is basically the Jewish version of Captain America. Stulman’s classic style and motivations for getting into comics instantly had me wanting to pair him up with a writer I know.

Speaking of writers, I also introduced myself to Dan Melnick of NOD COMICS. He had two issues of Nod for sale (at an astoundingly cheap $1.00 apiece) but he also had some other artwork on display for two projects he’s currently working on putting together with two different artists; CRYPTIDS (which instantly piqued my interest) and STITCHES (which currently has a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to help complete the book. Donate HERE). Dan, his wife and I all talked shop for a bit and I think he’s also going to send in some pitches to GrayHaven the next time the call for submissions open up to writers.

I also was able to run into a friend of mine and talented artist, Griffin Shawn, who I met at the Baltimore Comic Con in 2011 when I commissioned three different pieces from him and picked up his fantastically entertaining comic, HEALED. I had offered to help him out in watching his table since he was supposed to be stuck at the con alone all weekend but he managed to find some help at the last minute. Instead I just did what any friend would do for a pal working a con and got beer for him from time to time, or grabbed him some lunch. There’s a reason they call them starving artists, you know!

Yup...that's a dude riding a Taun Taun!

I spent the last few hours of the day working the Hero Initiative booth, which is where I got to meet the remarkably talented Scott Hanna for the first time and watch in awe as he penciled and inked his way from one masterpiece to the next. Scott is known for being an inker but, as he and I discussed, many people fail to realize that ANY inker must first be an incredibly talented artist. Sometimes inkers must be MORE talented than their penciller counterparts — but fans often fail to realize this fact.

SATURDAY
Nicole joined me at the convention for the day, and she looked amazing. Not only was she sporting her new shorter hair (cut to look like Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in the Avengers) but her top was quite revealing. It caught many the eye of male convention-goers (we actually counted one guy looking at her boobs five times in a two-minute period). She made for a wonderful companion to walk what was quickly becoming a heavily crowded convention floor.

My favorite cosplayers at the con: ARCHER & PAM!!!

I introduced myself to Philly native Pete Stathis, whose new comic (a D&D inspired comical gem called KULOK AND DUNLOP) debuted just in time for WWPhilly. Pete is a former classmate of one of my high school classmates, so we already “knew” one another from Facebook. I picked up Kulok and Dunlop as well as both volumes of his earlier fantasy comics, EVENFALL. I also recommended that he check out the brilliant SKULLKICKERS comic from Image as it was something right up his alley.
Nicole and I met up with my co-worker Dave and his step-daughter, Lynn, both of whom are big comic fans. She even moreso than he…and Lynn introduced me to Chris Williams, a guy set up in Artists Alley only two seats over from my friend Amanda Rachels (the person who was essentially responsible for my pass all weekend long). His art was gorgeous and reminded me of a cross between J. Scott Campbell and early Jim Lee – who he just so happened to mention were his two biggest inspirations. I ordered a commission from him and took down his information for the GrayHaven “Artists to Pester” file.

After a brief chat with Chris, Nicole and I went to Reading Terminal Market to meet up with my mother and go out to lunch together. We took the walk to Maggiano’s and, as usual, the food was delicious. What made the meal even more memorable, however, was who walked in and sat down at the table next to us. Two young women (late teens, early 20s perhaps) in full Anime-style baby-doll dress (I think the kids call it “Gothic Lolita”) were accompanied by a much, MUCH older gentleman. I guessed maybe he was their grandfather, or an older father, or – maybe—no… that was too creepy to think about. About 15 minutes they sat down at the booth besides ours, and shortly before I stuffed the last piece of a meatball sandwich into my mouth, something dawned on me. The creepy old guy looked oddly familiar. And it wasn’t until I leaned over to Nicole and whispered to her that I realized why he looked so familiar.

“Hey, isn’t that creepy old guy blankly shoveling spaghetti into his mouth like an Alzheimer’s patient Dean Stockwell?”

Yes. It was him.

After lunch, Nicole was kind enough to distract my mother by taking her to Chinatown while I went back to the convention to work the Hero Initiative booth once more. I was able to meet Jamal Igle, who was sketching for charity alongside another artist who I had the pleasure of meeting before, Khoi Pham. Khoi was there all weekend appearing ONLY at the Hero Initiative booth, which is pretty remarkable since he basically drew all weekend long and didn’t earn a penny — instead donating it all to charity.

Hey pal! No one pokes my wife but me!

At that point the convention floor had turned into three zones. The artist alley section (which was fairly busy), the dealer table section (not nearly as busy) and a massive sea of people seeking celebrity autographs separating the two comic book centric parts from being easy to get to from the other side. Nicole had returned from her trip through the city and we went over to meet (Diamond) Dallas Page, not because we’re fans of wrestling – we’re not – but because of his yoga DVDs which Nicole had heard great things about. So $100 later we bought them and at some point next year I should be able to show you a six-pack where my keg used to be. We paused for a moment to photograph Nicole with a guy cosplaying as Loki (he looked great, and apparently won the costume contest), and just before the show ended for the day we headed home – tired and quickly running out of money.

SUNDAY
After she had such a great time the day before, Nicole decided to join me once again at the convention.

Sunday is normally the day you want to buy things because dealers don’t want to lug all of their crap home with them. The one thing I noticed about this convention however was that there really were no great deals on comics or toys or t-shirts to be had. So Sunday was spent just walking around once more, taking in all of Artists Alley one last time and ordering new commissions or picking up artwork that I had commissioned earlier in the weekend. The “Cassie Hack” portion of my sketchbook is filling up rather well.

Glorious, glorious SHAWARMA! Thanks to the AVENGERS!

The real highlight of the day was when Nicole and I broke for lunch. After watching The Avengers three times in the theaters we knew that we had to have shawarma, and before the weekend began I found a place at 8th and Sansom called HAMIFGASH and I heard that – while maybe not up to Tony Stark’s standards – they had some AMAZING shawarma. And amazing it was. We dined like battered superheroes and gorged our faces with the spiced chicken and fresh made pita that made the shawarma so memorable and chowed down on wonderful, flavorful falafel as an appetizer. We picked up some cookies from Famous 4th Street Deli in the Reading Terminal and went back into the convention for one final taste of the show.

OVERALL
While Wizard World Philadelphia is clearly no longer a Comic Con (I’d love to see Wizard drop that from their marketing campaign), it’s definitely an entertaining pop culture convention. And even though I didn’t really spend any time seeking autographs from Stan Lee or Chris Hemsworth or C.M Punk or any of the Star Trek captains – nor did I do much sight-seeing in what I often called “Sad Celebrity Row” – it was great to see that a crossover crowd could show up for something that began as a comic book convention.

As long as Wizard World keeps showing up in Philadelphia, I will be there. And that’s good enough for me.

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Jun 01

Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con – Preview Night recap

This was the first year since the inception of Wizard World Philadelphia (a.k.a. Philadelphia Comic Con, nee Wizard World East) that the convention began on a Thursday evening, offering those attendees with a 3-day weekend pass an additional preview night.

As an exhibitor (working the show for GrayHaven comics, Shadowline comics and volunteering time for The Hero Initiative), I took full advantage to check out the Thursday evening preview.

The first thing I noticed was that the check-in process has changed a bit and all exhibitors, guests and attendees are now herded upstairs in the Philadelphia Convention Center to get passes (still insisting upon those annoying wristbands!) in a large room adjacent to the even larger two halls where the convention is taking place this year.

The convention floor is split into thirds, it seems. The far left side of the floor is reserved for Artists Alley and the fan groups (the Jedis, Ghostbusters, Trekkers, etc. of the world). The central part of the convention floor is reserved for the celebrity guests (with the biggest names stationed in the very rear end of the convention hall). The far right side of the room is where visitors will find the majority of dealers booths, publishing companies (Avatar Press and Zenescope) and memorabilia.

This segregation can work for and against the convention in my opinion. I’m guessing that once the media guests begin pouring in today throughout the rest of the weekend, you’re going to see traffic jams of people in the middle of the hall. But it’s going to free up the rest of the space in the aisles near Artist Alley and the dealer booths so that lines are not winding along their area and blocking fans from seeing the show floor in its entirety.

Thursday evening’s attendance was rather sparse. There were no major crowds, artists alley was half empty (with many creators staying home on preview night) and some of the exhibitors were still setting up their booths as the clock was nearing 9pm and the doors were ready to close. The only celebrities in attendance at that point were Lou Ferrigno (who I think was spawned somewhere in a back room) and Kevin “Dotcom” Brown from NBC’s 30 Rock.

I think it’s great that the convention is spreading out to a 4th day, if only for fans like me who like an unencumbered preview of what to expect. I took advantage of the evening to touch base with some friends (new & old), scout out the show floor, and look for some items before the rest of the crowd showed up this weekend to buy them up before I had a chance.

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May 26

Geek Pride Day is…um…EVERY DAY!

Today, May 25th, is supposed to be Geek Pride day.  And Towel Day (for you Douglas Adams fans).  And the 35th Anniversary of the U.S. release of the original Star Wars film. As you would imagine all three of those things are tied in together in some way, shape or form because that’s just how Geek Culture works.

But for people like me, Geek Pride Day is every single day.  I’m proud to be a geek. Damn proud, actually.  And I don’t need a phoney baloney holiday to prove it.

BCCMH

Me (on the left) and Darth Aitch (on the right): Two big Star Wars geeks!

I’m the guy who reads comic books on the bus on the way to and from work every day.  That’s a double dose of geekery with the reading of the comics AND the taking of the bus.  I do so not only for my general entertainment but also in the hope that someone may see what I’m reading and strike up a conversation about comics.  You’d be amazed at how often it actually happens.

I’m the guy who Tweets and Facebooks things about comics books and geek culture 90% of the time.  The other 10% is usually about food.  Or fart jokes.  You may think it’s blatant professional pimpery, but it’s really borne out of love of the medium of comics and the various genres of geek culture.

I’m the guy who is always trying to bring other people into the geek fold by giving away comics to new readers, or trying to bring smaller groups of geeks together into one much larger gaggle of geeks.  Think of me as the guy who tries to help form a Geek Gestalt.

I’m the guy who has three dozen various geeky t-shirts, a dozen of which alone are somehow related to Superman.  And I’m almost out of my 30s.

VicSupes

Halloween 2011 saw me give Superman a Victorian flair

I’m the guy who tries to incorporate being a Geek into his Halloween costume year in and year out.  It’s usually my lone chance to cosplay in front of friends and strangers, which inevitably leads to me wanting to cosplay on a more regular basis — even though I end up ditching the idea every single time.

I’m the guy who found himself a beautiful, smart and funny geek bride. A woman who was open to reading comics. Who hates chick-flicks and instead favors zombie thrillers and sci-fi epics.

I’m the guy who had the Throne Room song from Star Wars played as the recessional at his wedding. And entered the reception to the Superman Theme. And had his first dance with his bride to the song that was the theme to Roswell.  We made our own wedding cake topper out of Sculpey.  Can you get geekier than that in terms of a wedding?

I’m the hipster of Geeks. I was a geek before it was cool!

And I know there are so many more of you out there just like me, so I say to you on this day, REVEL IN YOUR GEEKERY!  Be proud of what you are. But don’t do it just today.  Do it every single day of your life!

Wear your geek pride on your sleeve. Possibly the sleeve of whatever superhero or Joss Whedon-inspired t-shirt you may be wearing at the moment. Let people know you’re a geek!

You just may be surprised at how many of us there are.

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May 15

Wizard World Philadelphia Programming Schedule Announced

Chris Hemsworth, Stan Lee, ‘Star Trek’ Captains Q&A’s, Screenings, Comedy, Evening Parties To Highlight Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con Programming

Packed Schedule Includes 20-Year “Buffyfest” Reunion, Sessions With James Marsters, WWE® Superstar CM Punk™, Costume Contests, Kids’ Activities, Sci-Fi Speed Dating, Jedi Master Classes and More, May 31 – June 3 at Pennsylvania Convention Center

NEW YORK and PHILADELPHIA, May 15, 2012 – Interactive Q&A sessions with top stars like Chris Hemsworth, Stan Lee, William Shatner and three other “Star Trek” captains, WWE® Superstar CM Punk™ and more than a dozen others, movie screenings, evening parties, kids activities, comedy and costume contests are among the wide variety of programming offerings at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, May 31 – June 3 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Panels are scheduled for all four days, spanning the entire pop culture spectrum.

Highlight programming at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con includes:

• Individual celebrity Q&A’s featuring Hemsworth, Lee, WWE® Superstar CM Punk™, Sam Witwer, Hayden Panettiere, Bruce Campbell, Jeri Ryan, Dean Cain and more
• Four “Star Trek” captains reunite as Shatner (“Captain Kirk”) Scott Bakula (“Captain Archer”) Avery Brooks (“Captain Sisko”) and Kate Mulgrew (“Captain Janeway”) compare stories of their respective times at the command
• James Marsters and Juliet Landau, known to most of the geek world as “Spike” and “Drusilla” from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” share the stage in an entertaining discussion of their Joss Whedon experiences and other roles
• The Boondock Saints trio of Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus and David Della Rocco rekindle memories of the popular 1999 cult movie and sequel 10 years later
• Screenings of the 2009 film The Loved Ones and last year’s Lloyd the Conqueror
• Party with fellow Wizard World revelers at the Drink & Draw on Friday at the Convention Center and the GeekNation Launch party at The Field House (1150 Filbert St.)
• Love is in the air with Sci-Fi Speed Dating, for those looking to “Terminate” their single lives
• Kids Day on Sunday, with a full slate of activities specially designed for the youngsters
• Laugh out loud (but hide the kids from this one) when Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling brings his unique brand of comedy – forged by many years on “The Howard Stern Show” and “Jackie’s Joke Hunt” on Sirius XM Radio
• It wouldn’t be Wizard World Comic Con without cosplay and costume contests – adults on Saturday night, kids on Sunday

Unless noted, programming events take place in designated rooms at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Many are included as part of standard Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con admission; VIP tickets or additional costs may apply to ensure access to select activities. Seating for panels is strictly limited and available on a first come first serve basis and each room will be cleared between panels. Programming subject to change; attendees should check the schedule board on site for updates.

Programming at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con is available at http://www.wizardworld.com/programming-pa.html, and scheduled as follows:

Thursday 5/31
5-9 p.m.: Superhero Pub Crawl
7-8:30 p.m.: Jedi Lightsaber Master Class (Show Arena – Show Floor)

Friday 6/1
Noon-12:45 p.m.: How To Fail In Comics: Big City Comics (Room A)
Chalk Talk With Mike Deodato Jr (Room B)
Noon-1:30 p.m.: Jedi Lightsaber Master Class (Show Arena – Show Floor)
Noon-8 p.m.: Superhero Pub Crawl
1-1:45 p.m.: Batman And Psychology: A Dark And Stormy Knight (Room A)
James Hong (Room B)
2-2:45 p.m.: Funky Winkerbean’s 40th Anniversary (Room A)
Dean Cain Q&A
2-3:30 p.m.: Jedi Lightsaber Master Class (Show Arena – Show Floor)
3-3:45 p.m.: Vampire Lore And Other Urban Myths And Legends (Room A)
Star Wars Q&A (Room B)
4-4:45 p.m.: James Marsters And Juliet Landau Q&A (Room A)
Philadelphia Ghostbusters (Room B)
Knife Demonstration (Show Arena – Show Floor)
5-5:45 p.m.: Sam Trammell Q&A (Room A)
Sci-Fi Speed Dating (Room C)
Behind The Magic With Jeff Menges, Winona Nelson And Phil Foglio (Room B)
6-6:45 p.m.: Sam Witwer Q&A (Room B)
6-6:45 p.m.: Stan Lee Meet & Greet (Room C) * Paid Event
Cosplaying Costuming And Fan Films (Room A)
7-7:45 p.m.: Wizard World Cosplay Photo Shoot Meet Outside Of Room A
The Dos And Don’ts Of A Career In Comics (Room B)
7-9 p.m.: The Loved Ones Screening (Room A)
8-11 p.m.: Wizard World Drink & Draw (Room B)

Saturday 6/2
11-11:45 a.m.: Stan Lee Q&A (Theater Room)
Greg Capullo Workshop (Room A)
Torchwood Q&A (Room B)
Noon-12:45 p.m.: Hayden Panettiere Q&A (Room A)
Troma Entertainment (Room B)
Noon-1:30 p.m.: Jedi Lightsaber Master Class (Show Arena – Show Floor)
1-1:45 p.m.: How To Create Comics – Breaking In With Dave Campiti (Room B)
Dualing Superheros (Show Arena – Show Floor)
1:15-1:45 p.m.: Chris Hemsworth Q&A (Theater Room)
2:00-2:45 p.m.: The Vampire Diaries Q&A (Room A)
Comic Con Costuming With The 501st (Room B)
Stan Lee Meet & Greet (Room C) *Paid Event
2-3:30 p.m.: Jedi Lightsaber Master Class (Show Arena – Show Floor)
3-3:45 p.m.: Bruce Campbell Q&A (Room A)
Comics To Ca$H With Mile High Comics (Room B)
Knife Demonstration (Show Arena – Show Floor)
4-4:45 p.m.: Star Trek Captains Q&A (Theater Room)
Evil Dead Q&A (Room B)
4-5 p.m.: Cosplay Photoshoot Meet Outside Of Room A
5-5:45 p.m.: Breaking Into Comics: International Invasion (Room B)
Boondock Saints Q&A (Room A)
Sci-Fi Speed Dating (Room C)
5:30-6 p.m.: WWE® Superstar Cm Punk® Q&A (Room B)
6:30-9 p.m.: Wizard World Adult Costume Contest (Room A)
9:30-11 p.m.: Jackie “the Joke Man” Martling Comedy Show (Room B)
9 p.m.: Geeknation Launch Party Presented By Wizard World (Field House)

Sunday 6/3
10-10:45 a.m.: Georgia Ball Strawberry Shortcake Reading (Room A)
Shannon Elizabeth Q&A (Room B)
11-11:45 a.m.: Jeri Ryan Q&A (Room A)
Theater Group (Roomb)
Noon-12:45 p.m.: Buffyfest 20th Anniversary Q&A (Room A)
Red Rocket Farms (Room B)
Noon-1:30 p.m.: Jedi Lightsaber Master Class (Show Arena – Show Floor)
1-1:45 p.m.: Quantum Leap Q&A (Room A)
Wizard World Kids Costume Contest (Room B)
2-2:45 p.m.: Melissa Joan Hart & Joey Lawrence Q&A (Room A)
Writing And Editing In Comics (Room B)
2-3:30 p.m.: Jedi Lightsaber Master Class (Show Arena – Show Floor)
3-3:45 p.m.: Spartacus And Legends Of The Seeker Q&A (Room A)
3-4 p.m.: Sci-Fi Speed Dating (Room C)
3-3:15 p.m.: Federation Fitness(Room B)
3:15-4 p.m.: Wrestling Panel (Room B)

Join tens of thousands of fans as they converge on the Pennsylvania Convention Center at Philadelphia Comic Con Wizard World Convention to celebrate the best in pop culture. Philadelphia Comic Con brings it all – Movies, Comics, Toys, Video Gaming, Games, TV, Graphic Novels, Horror, Wrestling, MMA, Original Art, Collectibles, Anime, Manga & More! Philadelphia Comic Con is brought to you by the group who produces the most widely attended Comic Con tour!

For more Philadelphia Comic Con guest and programming updates, become a fan of PHILADELPHIA COMIC CON on Facebook!

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May 09

On the Record about OFF THE RECORD

The episode I filmed earlier this month for Abington News & Views’ OFF THE RECORD will hit the airwaves beginning this Friday (May 11th) and running until Wednesday (May 16th).

This episode, which dealt with Republicans and Democrats facing off about various local and national topics, was my first time on OFF THE RECORD.  It also marked my return to television since that episode of SPICE UP MY KITCHEN aired back in 2007.  What makes this even more interesting is that my debut as a panelist also coincided with my first time hosting a television show, especially one that is handled in a roundtable discussion format.  I had to play moderator as well as Democratic blowhard.  Not an easy task!  I got to pretend to be a slightly less Jewish and less gray-haired John Stewart.

RoundtablePhoto

Holt, Lombardi, Shortall and Sklaroff on Abington News & Views' OFF THE RECORD

The guests on the episode, besides myself, included Democratic State Committeeman Greg Holt, Republican advocate Dr. Robert B. Sklaroff, and Republican blogger Mike Shortall (http://crankymanslawn.com/).  There was no blood shed during the filming of the episode.

Abington News & Views reaches approximately 40,000 homes in all of Abington, Cheltenham, Jenkintown, Upper Moreland, Lower Moreland, parts of Horsham and Northeast Philadelphia. The show will air on Comcast (Channel 190) and some Verizon FiOS areas as well.  The times are as follows:

Friday 5/11 at 7:00 pm…

Sunday 5/13 at 3:00 pm…

Monday 5/14 at 7:00 pm…

Tuesday 5/15 at 7:00 pm…

Wednesday 5/16 at 7:00 pm…

The website for Abington News & Views, which hosts OFF THE RECORD, is http://www.abingtonnewsandviews.com/

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May 09

Wizard World Philadelphia is coming…

That sound you hear is thousands of Philadelphia area geeks getting ready to storm the Philadelphia Convention Center at the end of the month, still riding the high from the remarkably successful theatrical release of THE AVENGERS.

Except this time around the heroes (and villains) are coming in all shapes, sizes and from various comic book publishers — because it’s time, once again, for Wizard World!

WIZARD WORLD PHILADELPHIA, a comic book and pop culture convention that has now rebranded as Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, plays host to 500+ celebrities and industry professionals, part of North America’s largest pop-culture touring expo.

Their website states:

Stan Lee, Mike Deodato Jr., George Pérez, Greg Capullo Among 250+ Talented Creators Set For 2012 Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, May 31 – June 3 At Pennsylvania Convention Center

World-Class Lineup Also Includes Harvey Tolibao, Phil Foglio, Carlo Pagulayan, Yanick Paquette, Greg Horn, Arthur Suydam, Michael Golden
Whether it’s “The Avengers,” “Superman,” “Spider-Man,” zombies, vampires or just about any character ever, more than 250 talented creators at Artist Alley at 2012 Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con have probably drawn them. Fans can meet superstars like Stan Lee, Mike Deodato Jr., George Pérez, Greg Capullo, Harvey Tolibao, Phil Foglio, Carlo Pagulayan, Yanick Paquette, Greg Horn, Arthur Suydam, Michael Golden and dozens of others at the event, set for the Pennsylvania Convention Center, May 31 – June 3.

The roster includes internationally-known artists and writers as well as top local talent from the Philadelphia area.

In addition to Lee, co-creator of many of the most memorable comics franchises in history (“Spider-Man”, “X-Men,” “Avengers” and “Fantastic Four” among them), some of the notables attending are Deodato Jr. (“Amazing Spider-Man,” “Wonder Woman”), Eisner Award winner Pérez (“Superman,” “Gren Lantern”), Capullo (“Batman,” “Spawn”), Tolibao (“Green Arrow,” “Silver Surfer”), Foglio (“Magic: The Gathering,” “Girl Genius”), Pagulayan (“Hulk,” “Silver Surfer”), Paquette (“Wolverine,” “Weapon X”), Horn (“Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark,” “X-Force”), Suydam (“Marvel Zombies,” “Army of Darkness”), Golden (“X-Men,” “Daredevil”), Stephen Segovia (“Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates,” “X-Men”), Boris Vallejo (painter), Julie Bell (painter), Ariel Olivetti (“Cable,” “Punisher: War Journal”), Miguel Sepulveda (“Red Lanterns,” “JLA”), Carlo Barberi (“Deadpool,” “The Flash”), Ramon F. Bachs (“Batgirl,” “LoSH”), Nathan Edmondson (“Grifter,” “Who is Jake Ellis?”) and Alex Saviuk (“Spider-Man” newspaper strip, “The Flash”).

Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, produced by Wizard World, Inc. (WIZD.PK), will bring together thousands of fans of all ages and dozens of celebrities and industry professionals to celebrate the best in pop-fi, pop culture, movies, graphic novels, comics, toys, video gaming, television, sci-fi, gaming, original art, collectibles, contests and more.

Top celebrities such as Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers, Thor), William Shatner (“Star Trek,” “Boston Legal”), Scott Bakula (“Star Trek: Enterprise,” “Quantum Leap”), Jeri Ryan (“Star Trek: Voyager,” “Body of Proof”), WWE® Superstar CM Punk™ and Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness, “Burn Notice”) are also scheduled among more than 60 special guests at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con.

In the past few years, the Wizard World Comic Con has seen less of a focus on the comic books and more of a focus on the celebrity guests showing up for autograph sesssions, making it (as I have mentioned in prior years) more of a Pop Culture Convention (as they now refer to themselves) as opposed to a pure Comic Book Convention.  In the past this has upset me, but after a few years of the new format I realize now that all of the wrestling and TV and movie and celebrity chasers are just new comic fans in the making, so this is a great thing for the inhabitants of Artist Alley (like myself).

I’ll be attending the convention representing both GrayHaven Comics and Shadowline Comics.

This is the first year that it will be a four-day convention lasting from Thursday May 31 through Sunday, June 3 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Tickets start at $35. Visit www.WizardWorldComicCon.com to purchase tickets and learn more about the convention.  I will follow up in the weeks to come with more information about the show as it becomes available.

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Nov 11

Not So Happy Valley

I’ve been lucky in the sense that while I’m a definite geek (and a proud one at that) I have not quite reached the level of dork (think of the guys from Big Bang Theory) because of a few important things. Chief among them is my love of sports.

And sometimes, like this past week, the topic of sports becomes more than just scores and the occasional injury. Sometimes, sports news takes a backseat to the people who are involved in them.

It’s hard to imagine that there’s someone out there who hasn’t heard about the scandal involving Penn State University stemming from accusations that former Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky molested young boys on campus and that other school officials knew about it. And then there was the resulting hoopla when a number of those officials, including even the beloved head coach and school institution Joe Paterno, lost their job as a result of the accusations and the possible cover-up. As a result, Sandusky, Athletic Director Tim Curly and Vice President Gary Schultz are all on trial for various offenses.

Mike McQueary (Photo Courtesy of The Bleacher Report)

According to testimony, in 2002 when Mike McQueary (who at the time was a graduate assistant) saw Sandusky having sexual relations with a child in a school shower, he did nothing to stop the assault. He instead called his father and then, the following day, informed Penn State Football Head Coach Joe Paterno.  Paterno in turn informed his boss, Curley, who at some point also informed Schultz. At no point did McQueary, Paterno, Curley or Schultz contact the authorities to advise them of what McQueary saw.

Not McQueary, who saw it happening. He just told the coach.  Not Paterno, who was the first person of authority at the school who McQueary told. He just told his boss about it.  Then both McQueary and Paterno wiped their hands of the matter.

And that is where I think both men, while not breaking any laws, made the most egregious of errors in moral judgment and it’s why I think both men deserve to no longer work at Penn State.

When Paterno was brought into this story earlier in the week, my first thought was, “Why didn’t he do anything about it besides tell his boss?“  I thought the same thing about McQueary as well. While they did what was the legally required minimum of what has to be done, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t notify authorities.

Former Coach Joe Paterno (Photo Courtesy of Denny Moloshok/Getty Images)

Paterno’s supporters say that he’s a scapegoat, that Sandusky is the criminal and not only did Paterno  not break any laws but that he is just being swept away by a tide of over-reaction. They say that the University’s board of trustees came to a conclusion too soon and before all of the details were out.

I asked myself, what would I do if one of my co-workers came up to me and said they saw a crime happen in my office? Would I call the police right then? What if all I did was tell my boss about it, like Paterno did? Shouldn’t I say something if I see that same employee walking around the office days later as if nothing happened?  At the very least, shouldn’t I confront that co-worker? Or confront my boss to see why they didn’t do anything.

I sympathize for fans of Penn State and fans of Joe Pa. I feel bad for Joe Paterno. I really do. But I feel even worse for the children who were the alleged victims of these crimes. I feel worse for the families of these children who not only have to deal with their own grief and anger over these events but also must help the victims come to terms with what they experienced.

Paterno had to have realized that when he saw Sandusky around campus and at Beaver Stadium or at other Penn State related events that nothing happened after he informed Curley of what he had been told. He and McQueary both should have immediately questioned someone about what happened after Sandusky was contacted after the scene in the shower was witnessed. Paterno and McQueary were morally obligated to make sure that someone was looking out for the victims, and not for the reputation of the football team or of Penn State.

Paterno may have done some wonderful things in his life, and made some incredibly philanthropical donations to organizations, but his failure to do anything here is tantamount to seeing the alleged rape and ignoring it.

Was everyone at Penn State wearing blinders to protect the team?

His failure to act has cost him his job. And in my mind, rightfully so. McQueary, who for some reason is still with the team, should be the next to go.

Penn State needs to get rid of everyone who knew about this and now that even McQueary is gone, hopefully that is the case and no one who could have been involved in a cover-up will remain at the University.  The reputation of the team may have been irreparably harmed. And Paterno’s legacy is ending in a way that no one could have ever imagined.

Paterno could have done something about this. But he didn’t and that is the crux of the issue. All he had to do is what was right, not just what was required.

Before you pity the loss of Paterno and what it means to Penn State, think of the loss of innocence of the victims and what it means to them.

It makes it hard to think about the team when you think about the people instead.

(NOTE: About 15 minutes after this blog was posted, Mike McQueary was put on paid administrative leave by the interim President of Penn State)

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Sep 25

The Twitterer Is Always Right

Once upon a time, when someone bought something they were unhappy with they would have to write a letter to the manufacturer and hope to receive a call or a letter back in the mail offering some sort of reparation for the unsatisfactory product.  If a person was at a store or in a restaurant where the service was terrible or there was a problem, that person could always ask for the manager but he/she always tried to avoid making a scene.

Now, however, things have changed. We live in an electronic world. A world of instant gratification. A world where everyone has two things: an opinion and a blog. And even then, blogging about it just comes off as complaining with very little chance for ending up happy with the results of the bad experience.

What seems to have become a bigger, better way of getting almost instant gratification when it comes to customer complaints is posting about the issues we have had via Social Media

SearsEarlier in the year our dishwasher died. It was an expensive, high-end prototype dishwasher that was created by a foreign brand but had the AGA name on it.  It happed to come to my wife and I via our kitchen makeover on HGTV’s Spice Up My Kitchen…but that’s another story. The point is, it was more expensive to buy the one part to fix the dishwasher than it would have been to buy a new one.  So we headed out to Sears and ordered our dishwasher of choice and scheduled the delivery.

My wife took off a day from her job to wait for the delivery and scheduled a few other appointments for the same day so she would only miss one day of work. A few days before the planned delivery we received a call confirming the delivery appointment.  Then two days later we were contacted by Sears to tell us that the dishwasher wasn’t in stock. They offered to deliver a few days later than planned but that wasn’t going to work.

TwitterSo my wife hit Twitter and complained about Sears messing up the order but not to anyone speficially.  Within an hour she received two different messages on Twitter from both the @MySears and @SearsCares accounts asking how they could make things right. The end result was that they were taking 10% off the order and were going to give us free delivery and takeaway of the old dishwasher.  Near instantaneous service to create a solution.  Unfortunately, we then learned that Sears canceled my wife’s Sears Card and instead opened up an entirely new line of credit with a Sears Visa Card. This infuriated us both to the point of cancelling the order with Sears and once again taking the issue to Twitter.  This time they never responded, which I think was probably a wise move considering how incensed we were.

I have friends who have had similar experiences as well when taking to the net to voice displeasure.

Jeremy and his girlfriend Erica live near a restaurant called Beet in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn and decided on a whim to finally try it, especially after getting a 20% deal courtesy of Yelp. The service was brutally bad, the food was not delivered as ordered and to make matters worse, the waiter refused to accept the coupon. As a result, Erica posted a negative review on Yelp.

Yelp“The owner sent her a message through Yelp apologizing profusely for the service,” Jeremy said. “He was so appalled that he said he’d cut the said waiter’s hours. Little did we know what kind of reaction this would illicit.” What they ended up getting in return was a free meal. “The staff was attentive, the food was great, and they even provided us a free round of cocktails which we didn’t plan on ordering.”

Another friend, Gregory, was part of a group of folks who were in Atlanta attending DragonCon. A week before the convention they were bumped from the Hyatt Regency, a host hotel for the convention. Because of renovations the Hyatt was offering accommodations in the nearby Omni Hotel at the CNN Center. Hyatt would pay for one night and the Omni would extend a discounted rate for the rest of the length of the original reservation. They Hyatt also threw in free passes for MARTA (the Atlanta subway), free shuttle service from the Omni, and priority reservations for next year’s convention at this year’s rate.  It was a great deal.

“My cage was rattled,” said Gregory. “I was worried that the consolation package would be miscommunicated between the Hyatt management, Hyatt staff, Omni management, and Omni staff. I wanted that deal in an official communication so I could provide it to the front desks.” He noticed the common response was to take it to Twitter but he didn’t have a Twitter account.  He joined, sent a message to @HyattConcierge asking for a PDF of the consolation package.

“I got an answer within five minutes,” said Gregory. Later that day he had in his hands a complete list of the consolation package from a Hyatt Regency Reservations Manager.

Another friend in Milwaukee (who wishes to remain anonymous) was having issues with his cable. He posted on Twitter about it and almost immediately Time Warner responded.

“They had me add them to my follow list so they could direct message me,” he said. “They walked me through some trouble-shooting steps. It was seriously a matter of a few hours before we realized that my cable signal was just plain finally disconnected.  It was incredible how fast and helpful they were.”

Last week I finally lost my patience in regards to a tree in my neighborhood that had some limbs and branches hanging precariously low to the ground for quite some time. So low that I would routinely have to walk in the street on the way to work on a busy Easton Road to avoid getting smacked in the face by a branch.

Sussman HondaThis tree was on the property of Sussman Honda, so I sent a message online to @SussmanAuto mentioning that their tree has been that way for a while and wasn’t just unsafe but also against township regulations.

They tweeted me back saying they would look into it.  Sure enough, two days later on the way to work I noticed that my path was no longer blocked.  They sent me a follow-up message that same day letting me know it was taken care of and I responded my appreciation in return.

We can take solace in knowing that issues big and small can get resolved when taking them online and shouting to the masses about our displeasures. More and more companies are creating social media accounts in order to cut off customer service issues as quickly and amicably as possible.

And more and more people are learning that if we’re not happy, Tweet about it.

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