San Diego Comic-Con 2009 was, for me, Buffy Scribe Safari! There's other stuff, but you might as well know the theme, right from the start.
Here’s how massive Comic-Con has become: it was attended by over 130,000 people over the course of 4+ days. Many of these people have 4-day passes. This year, 4-day passes were sold out in February. Single-day passes were sold-out in April, even the less popular Thursday and Sunday passes. Last year, I don’t think it sold out in advance, though I know people who were accustomed to buying passes at the door were turned away.
When I started going, there were about 6,500 people, and they really were mostly interested in comics, though of course that doesn’t mean they weren’t interested in other types of genre entertainment. Now, that’s not so much the case. Comics are not the focus, although the argument could be made that comics are the fertile field from which the fruit of other media springs. Officially, the non-profit organization that runs the event is set up to promote awareness and appreciation of comics and related popular art forms, though they used to call it a “Popular Culture” convention. It’s become a collection of different conventions under the same roof. There are people there for movies, there are people there for TV, there are people there for gaming (both video and RPG), there are people there to show off their fabulous costumes (and among those there are interest tiers, as well), and then there are the diehard comic fans (though those are harder to pinpoint, and even more fragmented – just try to explain to a kid dressed as Spiderman why RAW is important. Oh, they’re selling Jimbo action figures now! Be still my heart.). Then, there are many like me, who is interested in the whole damn thing, but has to pick and choose, because you can’t do it all.
My own comic reading has dropped off sharply since the golden age of the independents. I used to drop $35+ bucks a week on new comics, and that was in 80s dollars. Since I had no other vices, this wasn’t much of a hardship to a gal just out of college with her first full-time job. Plus, I didn’t have a TV, so I even had time to read ‘em all, between going to double-features of old movies. This was life before VCRs, folks. Now, it’s unthinkable. I buy maybe 4 comics in a month (usually just Buffy), the kid buys her manga at Borders, and hubby mostly buys classic reprints (when he can’t get them comped by his publisher). I think we are pretty typical of a comic-reading family these days. I hope there are young adults out there buying lots of good, new comics, but I’m well away from the cutting edge, anymore.
Back to our regularly scheduled report…
The Con kicks off with Preview Night on Wednesday from 6-9 PM. There isn’t much in the way of programming, so the emphasis is on commerce. The Dealer’s Room was my oyster! McDiva and her friend Sempai have been spending the summer getting acquainted with all things Doctor Who, and were on the hunt for Sonic Screwdrivers. Not just any Sonic Screwdrivers, however. They didn’t want the stubby “River Song” jobs for sale at the BBC America booth, oh no. They wanted the full-scale, includes Psychic Paper set. So, while they looked for those, I ditched ’em. I had my own very special “mommy” purchases to make. Like that Captain John Hart from Torchwood action figure. First, I stopped at Dark Horse to pick up a gigantic Buffy sticker for my iPhone, for no good reason. While there, we managed to score some “Clamp Anniversary” bags, which made the munchkins very happy, later. Then I wandered around my usual bargain action figure booths for a bit, and came away with no Cap’n John, but a dynamite Silk Spectre (Classic) dolly that I just knew MiAmor would appreciate. Speaking of which, the classic Silk Spectre costumers were more jaw-droppingly accurate at WonderCon, but I feel kinda bitchy for mentioning it, ‘cause they’re all so darned brave and adorable.
I wandered by the Browncoats booth, and while I was tempted by the new “Fruity Oaty” tees, fortunately I remembered that I don’t wear t-shirts in time. (When I went back the next day, on behalf of McDiva, they were all gone, alas.) Then I stopped by my go-to-guy (who hooked me up with 12” Subway Spike last year), and practically plotzed when I saw a table full of Buffy & Angel figures for $5 a pop. I filled up those Clamp bags in a hurry, believe me. Cordy, Anya, Willow, Tara, Lorne, Buffy, and 2 Spikes later, I felt the frenzy subside. Still, no Captain John.
BBC America was no help. The random booths I asked at did not know about this Torchwood thing of which I spoke. I ended up in the Fox/Warner Brothers/MGM vortex of doom, with all the other human flotsam, and I do not exaggerate when I say that every single person was dripping sweat. Every bald pate was beaded with moisture, every face shiny. I finally got out of there and wandered, checking for Sonic Screwdrivers and Captain John wherever Doctor Who merch was to be found, finally giving up hope and taking a longing look at the Tokidoki products, instead. Cute! Japanesy! No particular scifi connection! I walked away with a bounce in my step, turned a corner, and there was a pile - nay - a mountain of Captain Johns. Victory! I grabbed one and studied it minutely, hardly believing my luck, until the cashier made a crack about that being the one, then. Thank you, Underground Toys. I’ll try you first, next time.
By then, I was done, having bought every little thing I had intended to (and more), except for the Drusilla Angel comic, which the clueless folks at the IDW booth said wouldn’t be available until the Juliet Landau signing on Friday. Fortunately, the kids had just found the correct Sonic Screwdrivers, and were eager to get them home. MiAmor had the best purchase, a page of Archie original art by Bill Vigoda; a page that was a childhood favorite gag for MiAmor’s whole family. ¡Yay! Everybody was happy, me most of all because I wouldn’t have to do any more shopping! I like a bargain, but I hate to shop, go figure.
This was a day that I almost entirely blew off, due to a story deadline. I dropped MiAmor and the kids off and went to write for a few hours, which turned into a few more hours. I finally had to give up my hope of making it to the “Female Icons” panel featuring Sigourney Weaver (which would have been a very cool post-modern Galaxy Quest moment, I’m thinking). Sigh. I finally got to a stopping point and managed to make it into the Terry Gilliam panel, which was my very most important thing to do that day.
C’mon! Terry Gilliam! Time Bandits! Brazil! Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas! Put your hands together, people! *sigh* I wasn’t particularly close or anything, but I felt that the audience response to being in the presence of this creative genius was ... tepid. I presume people were just hanging on to their seats so as to hear the deathless prose of Nicholas Cage during the next panel. I don’t have a thing against Nicky, but: Terry Gilliam! He won ‘em over, though, by mentioning right off the bat that what he was doing 40 years ago was hanging out with his buddies in NYC, deciding NOT to go to Woodstock. Heh. Yep, 40 years ago we had Woodstock, the moon landing, the start of Monty Python, and the first Comic-Con. It sort of makes my excellent summer this year pale in comparison.
Anyway, then he showed clips of his unfortunately named new movie, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnasuss. Such a terrible title for what looks to be an extraordinary film. It’s the most spectacular and beautiful of all his spectacular and beautiful films, or at least the clips make it seem so. MiAmor is of the opinion that he doesn’t always deliver on his incredible promise, and maybe he’s right. I’m an optimist, though, and I think this one looks like the best yet. The audience seemed enraptured by this being Heath Ledger’s last performance. For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Gilliam has a reputation for terrible luck. His production of a Don Quixote story was ruined in the first week of filming by a string of disasters (floods, illness, invading investors), which has all been documented in heartbreaking detail in a documentary film called Lost in La Mancha. Then, Heath Ledger died suddenly mid-production of this film. It seems, at times, that the man cannot catch a break. However, he has friends who respect his vision, and so Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin O’Farrell all pitched in to share Mr. Ledger’s role. Going by the clips shown, I have to say it looks like it’s going to work beautifully. The surreal elements of the film (magic mirror, etc.) make not one, but four handsome and talented men to indicate the “trickster” character seem like it was meant to be that way all along. It’s very dreamlike in places, and very behind the curtain/backstage in others. I can’t do justice to the visual impact of this film, so I won’t try, but I give the trailers my highest praise. Reb-bob says: check it out.
On the way out of there I snapped a picture of MiAmor with some cute young women (who I later found were promoting a Drew Barrymore movie, rather than just being the cutest things ever). Don't they look like the mischievous Girl Guides from Starstruck? (If you know what I'm talking about, you get a cookie.)
I still had a story deadline, but there was too much amazing programming going on, so I just lugged my laptop around, pretending that I would work between panels. Heh. Right. Also, I left my cell phone at my friend’s house, three towns away, which made logistics a little trickier. First off: The Guild panel. We got there earlyish (for me) and had a friend saving a place in line, and were still shut out. Dang! It was a disappointment, especially as we heard later that the entire crew of Dr. Horrible attended the thing. That means the writing staff. Shoot. Oh well, I had a story deadline. I would put this time to good use. Sure.
I ended up getting in line early for the Juliet Landau signing at the IDW booth. In fact, I was second in line, behind a couple of gals that were a joy to chat with. When MiAmor stopped by to join me, they chatted amiably about his work and it turned out they had come to his signing the day before. People who like MiAmor’s work are unfailingly charming, it must be said. I passed a pleasant hour in conversation. McDiva and her posse joined us at some point. Promptly at the assigned hour, Ms. Landau arrived, looking splendid, and then proceeded to wander off with her handlers for another half-hour. Vexing. However, while we were wondering. “WTF?” this guy stopped by to talk to the IDW guy, and we all perked right up, as it was David Fury, walking around with his (only slightly bored) teenaged sons. We let him finish his conversation, and then blocked his escape! He kept trying to get out of our way, until he finally cottoned on that we wanted to talk to little ol’ him. His kids seemed amused. So my kids (I am the den mother, I guess) all asked for autographs and whatnot, and he graciously posed for a photo.
I just love Comic-Con, because the people that are completely anonymous everywhere else, are total rock stars there. It always amuses me that writers (writers!) get the starry eyed treatment from kids! Incredibly intelligent kids, naturally, but still! It’s not like these people can hit a ball far or shake their behinds rhythmically or anything. Well, in Mr. Fury’s case, he’s got the “Mustard” song, and the “Next up: who’s gay?” number to recommend him, not to mention the Jim Hensonesque “puppet slave” role from Smile Time which might as well have been a musical episode. Oh. It was! Anyway, thanks David, for being there when we needed you.
Ms. Landau eventually showed up, after pissing off the nice girls in front of us with a bunch of last-minute requirements. Still, she was perfectly pleasant when signing my Angel comic (which I like to think of as a Dru comic, in this case). She wrote a 2-issue Drusilla story, which was getting its launch at the Con. She also agreed to have her photo taken with the girls, after some quick negotiations with her staff, who said: just this one. No more photos after this. I think they didn’t want to disappoint kids. Especially kids with such stunning outfits. It was all a bit weird, though she seemed okay. As we were walking off, she took off her jacket, and: scary skeleton arms. Saying that makes me feel uncharitable, but wow. We kept running into her advance man that day, and he said to tell you about the movie she just directed called, Take Flight: Gary Oldman Directs Chutzpah. It’s coming out … sometime soon.
The comic (Angel #24) is kinda great. Not much happens, but the ballet-of-death pages are stunning. I’ve written comics, so I know how wonderful it is when a bunch of stuff you’ve written that isn’t words actually works on the page. It’s the same thing that makes Hush such an accomplishment. Anyway, they nailed it.
After that, we decided to go sit for a while. The girls chose Ballroom 20 as the preferred sitting place, as the Bones panel would be starting in 90 minutes. We waited in line for the entire 90 minutes, thankfully under awnings during the outside portion of the wait. People watching was good though, and we decided we especially liked the Storm Trooper wearing the t-shirt that read, “I had friends on that Death Star.”
We were thrilled to get into our seats before the panel began. Late. It was a very short panel, with a video message from David Boreanz, who apparently hates these things and was begging off because of his wife’s pregnancy. Why not? Emily Deschanel was an outspoken and entertaining panelist, and I was most interested in her discussion of animal rights, and how her character wouldn’t care one whit about them, but she does. According to the show runner, Ms. Deschanel makes sure that another character is able to say the thing about animals that she wants to say, but can’t because her character is so unempathetic. Pretty cool. I got the impression that she’s a gal with definite opinions, and that sometimes the “guys” are bemused by that. Good for her, I say. They had to wrap it up quickly, though, because coming up was the Big Damn Joss.
Without fanfare, he walked out, all Obama-like. The place went absolutely nuts. Screaming, standing on chairs nuts. 4,500 people having a religious experience. Crazy. He wandered around for a bit, shaking his head, and finally said, “I’m awake now.” People settled down and he talked a bit about how Dollhouse was coming back, and it was only because of us (and our brand of crazy). Then he showed us the fabled 13th episode, Epitaph One, and everybody was completely mesmerized. Dark stuff, thematically and because the vid projectors always show things a bit dark, IMO. Anyway, no spoilers here. I’ll just say that it was fun watching with so many people, who oohed and ahhed and laughed and flinched all together. Very experiential.
Afterward, Joss came back out and talked about what a crazy year it’s been, and about his various projects, including TV, movies, and comics. He said “Basically, Dark Horse owns most of me, but Im okay with it,” which I don’t buy for a minute. (I’m still happy about the “slashy heck” line in the webcomic, though.) He was asked if he was reading anything that influenced what he’s working on. “Wired?” he responded. “Oh, and Julia and Julie, but that might not be directly applicable. Or maybe….” He riffed on the idea of Julia Child in the Dollhouse amusingly for a bit, with funny voices.
He talked a lot about his creative community and how it keeps building on itself and how (drumroll, please) that’s going to effect casting on Dollhouse. He indicated that after casting Eliza and Amy Acker he didn’t want it to seem that they were playing favorites, but soon he just didn’t care how it looks. Hence, late-season casting of Alan Tudyk and Felicia Day. So, next season, will feature Alexis Denisof and perhaps Summer Glau, if the stars align. And Jamie Bamber, to complete the BSG-circle-of-bromance that Joss has going. I’m sure there will be more of our favorites. Of course, in the intervening weeks, it looks like Jane Espenson snapped up James Marsters for Caprica, which I suspect was partially pre-emptive if she knew Joss was on the prowl for his old posse.
He was asked about a sequel to Dr. Horrible and said they planned to do it, but they accidentally forgot to get their TV series cancelled, and so weren’t sure when they’d get the time. Oh well. With regard to musicals in general, and how well they mesh with science fiction, he thought they are better suited than, say, musicals and cop shows. He said he likes being able to introduce the audience to new forms. I wonder how many people in his audience were strangers to musicals before Once More With Feeling. I’m guessing not many. He also had a few bitchy comments about disparate things like Heroes (the TV show) and Australia (the country). Bitchy Joss is a funny guy.
Then Eliza Dushku came out and talked for a bit, then after a half hour, Dichan Lachman (Sierra) and Fran Kranz (Topher) came out and didn’t talk much. Lachman said that her favorite “active” roles to play were Topher’s birthday buddy and the #1 fan from Australia. See? I’m not the only one who likes the funny.
Joss said some interesting things about his creative process. “For a guy who notices very little, I see everything.” And, “I’m not good with actual people because I’m too busy with my little avatar world.” I would argue that point about his skill with real people, but I know what he means. I am pretty extroverted and friendly, but as I do more creative work, I find myself in my head to a greater and greater degree. It must be like that times a jillion for our Joss.
He ended the panel with a rousing political speech. When asked why he was so interested in “large corporations messing with our brains” he queried back, “Have you been to America?” and then went on at some length. I suggest watching the exchange on YouTube, ’cos I love that stuff. (I think it’s funny that both he and Terry Gilliam referred to themselves as documentarians when asked about their skewed world views. It’s so much easier for the jester to tell the truth about things. Only in the now times, the scifi/fantasy creator is the jester. Just saying.
The rest of the day was spent in tracking down lost badges, getting the hordes fed, finishing the story (e-mailed promptly at 11:59 PM – ha! Deadline, schmeadline) and falling into bed.
My first stop was at Dark Horse to gush all over Jane Espenson, who was signing with Georges Jeanty. They were being sort of ignored, which I finally figured out was due to some weird line management stuff, so we ducked under the rope and did the “We’re big fans,” routine. We were just starting to get into the conversation (about the Oz arc in the Buffy comic) when they finally straightened out the line and I felt we should move on. If I didn’t have a full schedule of gawking planned, I would have tried again, though. She’s a genuine sweetie, that Jane.
We collected all the girls and I hung with them while they wandered around looking for their treasures. While we wandered, I kept having weird out of body experiences, otherwise known as sightings. “There’s Nichelle Nichols! Ohmigod, she’s incredibly beautiful!” “There’s Leonard Nimoy!” I mean, I’ve been going to this thing for decades and I never saw Nichelle Nichols or Leonard Nimoy before. “There’s Tosh!” (Naoko Mori.) “There’s John Barrowman! Gah!” The girls lined up for John Barrowman, not getting the full picture, which was that the booth hosting him and Ms. Mori had a ticketing system. I’m not sure, but I think he was supposed to be signing his memoir only. Once they got to the front of the line, the handler asked for their tickets, and, completely mortified, they fled in a swirl of petticoats, with Barrowman calling after them, “Girls, it’s not me! It’s them!” He looked really concerned, until that megawatt smile came out for the next patron. Heh.
Anyway, it was fun having no particular place to go, just seeing the sights (of which there are quite a lot). Eventually, I gathered up my charges, and we headed out to get in line for our next event, which was held in a new hotel next to the Convention Center grounds, and was evidence that the Con is quickly outgrowing the space. My plan was to attend the Glee panel with the girls, while MiAmor was busy with his back-to-back signings at Dark Horse and Fantagraphics.
Glee is a phenomenon that I recommend to all the people on my f-list. All of you. It’s hysterically funny (very black), with budding/frustrating romance (young and not-so), and it’s got boffo musical production numbers. What’s not to love? The panel members were asked to give a high-concept description of the show, and the actor who plays the dim-but-lovable-football-player-with-pip
So, we hauled ourselves over to this off-site venue, wandered around looking for the proper entrance, got stuck in a line at the hotel gift shop, and finally found the right place. The girls all sat down to do their various ingenious waiting activities (making tiny origami puffy stars, reading various comics/mangas and then passing them counterclockwise to the next person, chatting). Me, I just waits. We’d been there a few minutes, when Mr. Joss Whedon trots up, waves at his friends (the girls behind us in line), and ducks under the rope to hang with them, all smiles. Gah! My girls look at each other, eyes huge, and stand up. Sempai looks a little confused, but asks, “Why are we standing up?” “Because, Joss Whedon is right there!” whisper I. “Oh,” she replies. But of course one stands in the company of the great and powerful Joss. Gah!
He’s so happy! He’s having a great time talking to his buds! He’s wearing an Ingmar Bergman t-shirt! I’m vibrating from proximity! Finally, I crack. “Mr. Whedon,” I say, “I just love your shirt. My dad and I have this Bergman thing, you see. Would it be alright if I took a photo of your shirt to send to him?” Heh. His friends joke around. “Just the shirt, right? You don’t want a photo of him, do ya?” Heh. He is gracious. “Sure. No problem.” Strikes a pose. The jig is totally up when I pull out the iPhone with the giant sticker of Buffy on the back. Total fangirl. I snap the blurry photo, only slightly shaking, you see. Then we talk a bit about Bergman and our early experiences. Me: Persona at age 8. Him: Seventh Seal, ditto. Me: no likey, though I did like Sty in the Devil’s Eye which you can’t get here in the U.S. He: liked it. (Now I have more ammo in the ongoing joke Bergman fight with my dad. See, Dad, if you’d only taken me to Seventh Seal instead of Persona, everything would be different now.) I thank him for his time and turn back to my girls. He engages them in conversation about their accessories. They show off their various hats, backpacks, plushies, and whatnot. I beam. They get his autograph. They sit down again to do their waiting activities.
People are emboldened by our exchange, and every couple of minutes he is approached, respectfully, and does the autograph/photo/small talk exchange. The mid-20s guy in front of us asks, quietly, “Who is that?” I explain. He is confused. He is holding the Fox-issued postcard book in his hand, so I point out the Dollhouse page, which reads Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. “That’s his show,” I say. “So, he’s a writer?” asks the guy, still mystified. “Well, yeah. But here, he’s a rock star,” I say. One of the supplicants turns to leave, and she is wearing the most darling Discworld t-shirt. I have never seen any before, so I stop her so we can discuss. Nobody has ever known what her shirt was about before, so everybody is happy.
I’d like to engage in more conversation with Joss, but my mind isn’t having much luck coming up with conversational gambits, as it just keeps screaming, “Joss! Right there! He’s standing right fracking behind you. It’s Joss! There!” So not helpful, brain. I finally end up asking for yet another photo, this time with the decent camera, with all my girls. He agrees, and I can tell he thinks the girls are what it’s all about, here at the Con (and probably in the wider world). We discuss what might be happening in the event room, as all we can hear is explosions, but then they let us in! We head to the front, but then realize that it’s already been filled and double back and end up sitting 4 rows behind Joss and his friends. Not that I noticed or anything. Heh. At this point, I assure you, I had many, many witty and sparkling things to say to him. I was so very amusing, and we really connected, in my brain that had almost stopped shouting “Joss!” at me. Oh yes. We discussed the webcomic (in my brain). We talked about the nature of heroic love (in my brain) and recent great works that are really fanfic (in my brain). Sigh.
Without preamble, they showed us the Fall Season Premiere of Glee! If anything, it was better than the first episode. Not disappointing in any way. (Note to parents: there is discussion of sex by teenagers, along with some very amusing ways it can go wrong - without being explicit. McDiva had to cover her eyes in a couple of places. Her choice, not mine. I thought the meeting of the Celibacy Club was brilliant, start to stop.) The crowd was completely invested, and we are talking about 2,000+ people, so it was great fun. I did check on Joss a few times, to see if he was enjoying it. He was. You could tell from the laughing and the wiping of eyes. He left when the Q&A started.
I don’t have lots to say about the panel, as it was mostly the actors talking about how they got their roles, and well, meh. The writer was really interesting though, and said he appreciated us coming out, because the suits still don’t quite understand what they’ve got (it’s Fox, so no surprise there), and they need to be shown that it’s connecting with people. There was some talk of a possible live tour (which is happening pretty much now), and discussion of upcoming musical guests, including the fabulous Kristen Chenowith! Oh, and Victor Garber, Josh Groban, and Eve, among others. It sounds like something for everyone.
After that, I was dazed. We walked back to the convention center, passing pirate bands (the musical sort), Gene Simmons (ewww!), and various Wonder Women. I sent the girls off to do their end of Con shopping, as most of us didn’t plan on coming back on Sunday. I went to check on MiAmor at Dark Horse, but he was already gone, so I ended up talking to his editor and to our buddy Larry Marder, who was finishing up his signing for the delightful Beanworld comic. MiAmor’s editor wasn’t having the fun Con that I was, since she was working, but I tried to inject some positivity into the discussion, and she wrote to MiAmor later that I had turned her whole perspective around, and that she started to have fun after that. Mission accomplished (had I known I had one).
It also turned out that I had a winning ticket for the Dr. Horrible signing that afternoon, which I offered to MiAmor, since I’d already had my fair share of face time with Joss that day. When he tried to redeem the ticket, our buddy in charge of wristbands told him, essentially, “Your money is no good here,” and gave him a band but left him with the ticket. A guy offered him $50 for the ticket, but MiAmor felt that was sort of mercenary, and ended up giving it to a forlorn gal who promptly began to cry tears of joy. “See,” said MiAmor. “Those are the kind of people who should get the chance.” What a mensch. We waited in line with a talkative teacher from Canada, watching the people go by (including a Captain John Hart who stopped for a photo op, since we knew who he was). Eventually, MiAmor got his moment with Joss, which he spent saying, “My wife was stalking you in the Glee line.” Got a grin, though.
Afterward, he ran into Scott Allie, and had a chance to ask about the possibility of a Dollhouse comic. “Joss is too busy,” said Scott, with regret. “Well, how about a webcomic?” prompted MiAmor. Scott was intrigued. “That could work,” he mused, wheels turning. “Well, it could be great,” said MiAmor. “I’d love to take a crack, if comes about.” Sly dog. It had been a topic around the house for a couple of months, you see. Heh.
Mischief managed, we headed up to the Anime rooms to collect the girls. However, this was also the line to get into the Masquerade, so there was quite a bit of manic energy going on. And, lots to see. I barely noticed when I almost ran over Edward James Olmos, who was cheerfully yelling at somebody behind him while he motored along the hallway. “Admiral,” my brain said. “Those pants make your ass look like an apricot.” Heh. That’s a little sailor joke from Zoot Suit, a movie he made in 1981. I wonder if he’d get it, now that his big role is actually as a Naval officer. My brain thinks it’s funny, anyway.
MiAmor had still more signings on Sunday, and he was the only one to lay eyes on the elusive Felicia Day, who was snapping up armloads of books at the Fantagraphics booth, just before closing. Good girl. So sorry we missed you. Other things I missed: almost all movie programming, including Miyazaki's Ponyo presentation by Disney, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland presentation with Johnny Depp (ohhhh, Johnny), the Kevin Smith stand-up routine, the Iron Man 2 and Sherlock Holmes presentations (ohhh, Robert) and much, much more. I could've used a bit more cooperation from my brain, but the two of us had a good time, anyway.