June 30th, 2010


Mrs. Webb

Really neat news from last night will wait. I also have difficult news that I need to write about.

I just learned that Mrs. Webb, my high school journalism teacher, passed away Tuesday after some time in hospitals. I don’t know much more than that, and this is not news for me to scramble and mis-report. Our mutual friend -- I am glad she was a friend to both of us -- Tarah left me messages yesterday and talked to me this morning to let me know; Tarah will let me know what happens next.

Mrs. Webb, Jeanne Webb -- not that I ever called her Jeanne, even after we became friends it was always Mrs. Webb -- was Madison High School’s journalism teacher when I joined as a sophomore in fall 1989. This was in Vienna, VA. She was the first teacher I worked with actively as a writer (I’d written here and there from 3rd grade on) and we found ourselves working well together. By my senior year I was the editor of the Entertainment section of the Hawk Talk, the nearly-monthly student paper (laid out more like a magazine back then; later in Mrs. Webb’s time at the school, it became more of a broadsheet) and was also a writer and proofreader. That was my first concerted work at proofing other people’s writing; she encouraged me at that, as it turned out I was good at it.

Mrs. Webb and the rest of the crew would have layout sessions at her home in Reston: we’d schlep the journalism-class computers over there and set them up in her living room. We had straight-up parties there, too; I have lots of photos of our fellow happy people at these.

She could be stubborn and touchy. At least once she fired the entire second-level newspaper crew (the more experienced of the two journalism classes; she threatened to replace us with the younger up-and-coming crew in the first-level class) and kind of sort of rehired us soon after. She also was susceptible to laughing -- hard and loud. That was another way her Journalism class was deeply good for me: I loosened up there, got more social, and found more of my senses of both humor and the absurd. (I’ve said it before: I was a SERIOUS kid for much of my youth. Bad when combined with being intense, as I’ve always been; the humor, thank everything, cuts the intensity.)

Mrs. Webb put together and encouraged a good crew. I liked working with my fellow Hawk Talk people; had crushes on two of them, Kathryn and Carmen, at different times my senior year. Mrs. Webb chaperoned us to events, such as a journalism seminar at Columbia University each spring (my brother T.J. went in 1989; I went in ’92, and spent three neat days in Manhattan). And she kept in touch with us and kept encouraging us as we moved on with work and life. One of her students, T.J.’s friend Rob Owen, has for several years been the TV critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; he’s probably the highest-level media person among those of us who worked with Mrs. Webb.

After my 1992 move to Oregon, where I’ve lived since, I saw Mrs. Webb a few times from 1998 to 2006. In ’98 I went to Virginia to deal with the aftermath of the loss of someone close to both Mrs. Webb and me. She and I had dinner with Tarah and her then-fiancé Tom; afterwards, Tarah and Tom left the restaurant in one direction and Mrs. Webb and I left in another, and as we kept talking I realized Mrs. Webb had assumed I’d also had a crush on Tarah. She was surprised I hadn’t: “All the guys had crushes on her!” I realized the truth almost as I told Mrs. Webb: I’d long felt brotherly towards Tarah, almost from when we‘d met in fall ’91 (when she was a freshman and I a senior). She was glad I felt so. We next had a long visit in July 2002, talking about 9/11-raised issues and my then-new nephews who I was also visiting. In 2006 we attended Tarah’s wedding, to John (the father of Tarah’s daughter); Mrs. Webb‘s son Mike, who sings for the Navy, sang at the wedding. Great, deep voice.

She was fond and proud of us, and we liked her. We worked well together; we weathered a lot together. Difficulties and loss still happened, as they do, but we managed. Drama took place, but that was manageable as well. I wouldn’t trade it, because again, a lot of good came out of our relationship.

Bless you and Godspeed, Mrs. Webb. May you find rest. And may your family and friends find peace and strength.
Whale fluke

Scurrying Brain

My mind, dealing with tough news, is going in all sorts of directions.

The mental radio has bounced between Broken Bells's "The High Road" (the video of which greygirlbeast posted here) and, for some reason, The Beatles's "Paperback Writer."

I go between crying and laughing. Hell, I'm still trying to be funny on Twitter and make other people laugh. (Pro Tip: one can still get joke mileage out of the Unexplained Babylon 5 Dream Raven.) I'm also getting nice messages about my other news, the genuinely awesome news, and I will write about that here later, when I feel up for it.

No surprise, life keeps being a circle, or something poetic like that. Great news and sad news in less than a day. Happens sometimes. Happens a lot. And then the next stuff happens, and we react to that. Life keeps happening, and I would not prefer the alternative.

There's a behind-the-scenes Star Trek story I love. Collapse )

I'm back. I also just laughed as I recounted that. Not my hardest laugh, not by far, but I laughed.

Be nice to each other. Thank goodness that covers a huge range of acts, whether it's being gentle, making someone collapse laughing, wild sex in the working class (and every other social level), or just listening. Just being there. Because, again, the alternative can be tough.


The Awesome News, Longer Version

Holy crap, I won a trip to San Diego Comic Con.

The insane thing is, I wasn't planning to play for it.

This got me gently razzed last night, when I went to the bi-weekly Geek Trivia Night at :Vendetta Bar in North Portland. I've gone about four times before this: just watched the first time, played a few times on teams, and guess what? I hadn't done that well. For that and other reasons I don't feel like unpacking, I decided I'd rather play last night on a team, which could win us prizes but wouldn't win that night's big prize: tickets to the con, the biggest comics and other geek media event on the West Coast, airfare and hotel included, thanks to Things From Another World. But I wanted to be around that geek energy, no question, so after an afternoon of wandering Portland I made my way by bus and foot over to the bar.

Cort Webber and Bobby "Fatboy" Roberts were there to MC, and Cort was the first to get on my case when I said Well, I'm not gonna play on my own. "Oh, come on!" was the gist of his commentary. But you probably know I'm perverse and unexpected, and I told myself I would stick to that.

I also assumed that the friends I was sitting with were forming a team.

But when it came time to get the play sheets, instead of one set for the table there were four sets for the four people at the table. Kind of a tacit Come on. Try it. Can't hurt, right? I signed my forms and got ready.

Three rounds. Twenty questions each. Cort and Fatboy had sweated over the questions to be sure they couldn't be nitpicked or have more than one possible answer, so there could be no disputes. They had warned us for weeks that they would be hard questions, and covering LOTS of subjects. (Which didn't keep someone from screaming when there was a sports question. "SPORTS?!" one guy said. "Sports geeks are geeks!" Bobby countered. And one beautiful thing was, I'm not the biggest sports geek and I GOT THAT ANSWER RIGHT.) "You're going to have to be a Swiss-Army Geek to get these," Bobby had said more than once. And, again, I hadn't been a Swiss Army Geek at the other contests, except for obscure answers here and there. (Two weeks ago it was Blipverts!)

Geek-friendly music played before and between rounds. There was an unexpected, and good, mashup of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Lady Gaga's "Poker Face"; there was also Weird Al Yankovic's "Ode to a Superhero" and "The Saga Begins" (his Spider-Man and Phantom Menace tributes), Jonathon Coulton's "Re: Your Brains," sound clips from Mortal Kombat and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ("Khan -- I'm laughing at the 'superior intellect'"), and more.

Some samples of what we needed to know: the highest-grossing video game, the FULL list of Big Mac ingredients in the 1970s McDonalds jingle, when the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry opened here in Portland, which actor named John was NOT A Klingon (John Laroquette, John Spencer, John Colicos or John Tesh (yes, JOHN TESH WAS A KLINGON)), the second video MTV ever aired, the speed of light, the name of the hero in Dragon's Lair, the number of seconds (not hours or minutes) Hudson predicts the Marines will survive in Aliens, the full name of the character who gets screamed about at the end of the Japanese anime Akira, whether Robert Downey, Jr. and John Cusack have ever acted in a film together, the inventors of VHS, how long the Lost survivors are on the island before Locke enters the hatch, the Atlanta street where the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim offices are (I cracked, "Does Tyler Perry have a street named for him yet?"), Ralph Macchio's age when he shot the original Karate Kid, how long an AU is... ALL OVER THE PLACE, these topics are. No one was going to get all of them or even most of them.

I thought my highlight of the night was when I got 12 out of 20 correct in Round 1, because I won a gift certificate to TFAW. Seriously, I was happy with that. (Plus I like the place.)

No, the real highlight happened at the end. Even though my score went down in Round 2 and only went up slightly from that in Round 3, the only people doing better than me were on teams. WHO WEREN'T ELIGIBLE FOR THE BIG PRIZE. And, um, I'm still wrapping my brain around winning that big prize.

Another insanity? I did wonder during the contest what would happen if I won the big prize. I'm not going to go all false-modest on you. I didn't think I had a chance, I didn't count on having a chance, I tried not to be too invested in whether I won or not, but still I knew: going to San Diego Comic Con would be sweet.

Now I can amend that to: Going to San Diego Comic Con will be sweet. (I've said before that it would be an overwhelming experience, since I felt the smaller Emerald City Comic Con was closer to a more comfortable size and Stumptown Comics here in Portland is an even better size, but now I'll see if I can actually deal with the size of San Diego Comic Con. Likely I'll manage. Heh.)

At the bar I got big congrats from lots of people -- many handshakes and hugs -- and I laughed a lot, laughing a bark-laugh when it would hit me again what I'd won. I was slack-jawed quite often as I talked to the TFAW people. (At least I wasn't slack-jawed when Aaron "Geek in the City" Duran snapped my picture. Well, slightly slack-jawed.) There's been plenty of spontaneous giggling since then, such as when I headed home (on foot and then by cab).

San Diego, here I come. More details to follow.
Me 2 (B&W)

My win: video proof!

Via the good people at Things From Another World who are paying to take me to San Diego, a nine-and-a-half minute highlights video from last night's Geek Trivia:

Noticed now that I've watched the whole video: I'm audible a couple of times (not just when I'm laughing as I walk up to accept the win). When they get to Question 9 at the 6:35 mark, you can barely hear me do the Beatles thing of "Number 9, Number 9..." and at 7:08 when the answer is "Michael Keaton," I yell "The Goddamn Batman!"

And me, after I'd won! Flabbergasted Chris is flabbergasted, but trying to speak coherently:

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