Saturday, April 26, 2008

Strange Graves From Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

It may be kind of morbid but there's something neat about old cemetery sites and one of the oldest in this area is located in Sleepy Hollow, right beside the bridge where the Headless Horseman supposedly rode. The Old Dutch Church and burial ground mentioned in the story are still there and Washington Irving, who wrote the story that went on to inspire countless movies and retellings, is buried there along with other local notables such as Andrew Carnegie and Norman Rockefeller. The cemetery spans 82 acres (I'd guess based on the map that we covered about 10 in about 90 minutes' time) and is still very much in use, but some of the graves date back as far as the 1600s. Eddie and I took a walk around there yesterday, it was quiet. There was no one else around (save for a lone coyote and a lot of loud birds!) and it's a pretty eerie location but it's also pretty fascinating.

Aside from the cemetery and some headless horseman related pubs and shops, there's really not much else in Sleepy Hollow. Located roughly twenty miles outside of Manhattan it feels like its much further out. You can't see or here the city at all but you do get a pretty fantastic view of the Hudson River and the oddly titled Tapanzee Bridge.

The cemetery is the most interesting part, though, and a big part of the town's history. A few random pictures that don't really need much of an explanation...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Some Weird Pictures From Flushing Meadows Park

Today I got a weird bug to go take pictures of Harry Houdini's gravesite. He's buried about six miles from where we live in a cemetery on Cypress Hills Street. We found the cemetery on Mapquest, grabbed the camera, and drove across Queens only to find that the entire cemetery was closed for Passover. Doh! After that we decided to go get some Chinese food for lunch and while I knew I could go back to the cemetery in a day or two and explore (it looked sooo cool and sooo creepy and old and weird from the side of the road!) I was kinda bummed because I really just wanted an excuse to play with my camera.

On the way home, Alison pointed out Flushing Meadows Park and we decided, hey, we're here, why not. I'd read about the park in a book, about how the Worlds Fair was held there in 1964 and how some of the materials that were built for the fair were still there so these seemed like something neat (and free!) to check out and kill some time with. After dealing with some stupid parking problems (there were two Red Bull cars blocking the entrance to the parking lot for some reason) we got out of the car and wandered towards the 'Unisphere' which was built as a symbol of peace by the United States Steel Corporation. It's made entirely of stainless steel and according to the information posted in front of it, it stands 140 feet high, 120 feet across, and weighs 700,000 pounds.
It's pretty impressive and if you stand undernearth it and look up, it can be a little dizzying....

Nearby the 'Unisphere' is the 'New York State Pavilion.' This strange building once housed exhibits but now stands more or less vacant. It's fenced off, you can't get inside as it's probably dangerous, but you can walk around it. From one gate you can see a map of New York State. This was supposedly built by Texaco and I couldn't get up high enough to poke my camera in to take a picture.
Here's what you see as you approach it....

...and once you get there, what you see looking up. Notice all the empty sockets that look to have once held hundreds, if not thousands, of light bulbs.

Laying dormant, rust and time have eaten away at things. Most of the doors, which are bolted or locked shut (we tried them) are rusted pretty badly and would be easy to get past with a little work.... but that's illegal, so we decided against that.

The entire structure is covered in weeds and vines and ivy. It crawls all up the towers and around the walls.

You can see where the city has put some prevenative measures into place to keep people from hopping the wall and getting inside. Barbed wire is visible along the pipes that jut out. Had this not been there, it'd have been fairly simple to climb in.

The whole structure is circular and very odd. It's all made entirely of concerete and steel and with all the rust and weather stains on it, it has a creepy post-apocalyptic look to it. You have to wonder why the city has just left it there unmaintained.

Elevators that I can only assume took mid-sixties fair-goers up to an observation deck of some sort are still there. When the win hits the cables, which are all in place if very rusty, they make an eerie high pitched 'ping' sound. The glass is all broken and the doors look like they're going to fall off.When you come around the other side and back towards the 'Unisphere' and the Queens Museum of Art which stands beside it, you can look back and get a neat view of the structure through the trees. A month from now it'll be completely hidden behind the leaves from this angle.

The Queens Museum of Art is a strange building too. It's got the active art museum inside but it also houses a skating rink that is still used. Despite the fact that it is still very much in use, it too is worn down and strange looking.

Even the sign for the skating rink is strange. It was probably cute when it was painted decades ago, but now it seems sort of sad, covered in rust and dirt.

Interestingly enough, here's what the pavilion and the 'Unisphere' looked like back when they were new and technologically relevent...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Get Your GEEK ON at the New York City Comic Con!

So the big New York City Comic Con started yesterday and being the nerd that I am I bought an advance ticket for admission on Friday, figuring that Saturday would be a madhouse and that Sunday, seeing as it was 'kids get in free day,' would be just as insane and potentially quite irritating. Doors opened at 3pm to the general public, though it opened at noon to industry pros and press. I probably could have got a press pass and thought about asking for one but laziness got the best of me so I shelled out my $30 (ouch!) to get in. The Jacob Javitts Convention Center in Manhattan is pretty huge and so they were well equipped to deal with the crowds. The line to get in was all the way around the entry area and pretty intimidating but it moved fast and the staff were actually friendly and helpful, which was a pleasant surprise.

I worked my way into the buidling and poked around the various vendors. One of the first things that I noticed, that I was positively stoked to see, was that there are some Warriors toys coming out this summer. There were finished 'final product' figures on display...

There's no way I can't own all five of those! I'm seriously considering getting a keen little shelf put up right under my poster and making a little shrine to the glory of Walter Hill and Cyrus! These look to be a big improvement over the Warriors line that came out from Mezco a few years ago. They were kinda cartoonish and didn't really capture the vibe of the characters.

A few other equally interesting toys that will be in stores this summer caught my eye. Everyone needs their own Joey Ramone figure. I've no idea if Joey would have been down with this idea were he still with us but it's cool to see that at least since his passing he's getting the attention he should have had all along.

And who wouldn't want a Gordon Liu figure? Anyone whose see The 36th Chamber of Shaolin knows that it's one of the best and most influential martial arts films of all time and this little articulated Shaolin Monk looks like he's ready to kick all kinds of ass with his three sectioned staff. Gotta love the Shaw Brothers logo behind him in the display case. The same company is doing a whole line of Shaw Brothers figures, including a few of the Venoms.

While I'm too young to remember Captain Action when he was new and nifty, I did used to own a few of the DC silver age comics from the sixties before I sold off the bulk of my collection. Well, Captain Action is back in comic book form from Moonstone Comics. Publisher Ed Catto and his wife were on hand to talk to anyone and everyone about all things Action and had to be some of the friendliest people on the convention floor. Ed showed some very obvious and very genuine affection and enthusiasm for the project (look how happy he is in his Captain Action hat!) though I dunno if I'd want my wife wandering around a comic convention with 'looking for action' written across her hooters. That's just me though. The cool thing about this project is that Moonstone actually has Murphey Anderson working on a cover. He was the artist who worked on the original series for DC. NEAT! Paul Gulacy, best known for Marvel's Master Of Kung Fu, is also doing a cover for them. They've got some cool artists tapped for this and if the preview issue I snagged from them is anything to go by, the interiors by Mark Sparacio should also look pretty sweet.

Hey wow, it's Hellboy creator Mike Mignola! I was so stoked to meet him that I couldn't even be bothered to take the headphones out of my ears. That was kinda rude in hindsight but at least I turned the iPod off so I could actually hear him. Mike was a nice guy, signing anything for anyone at no charge and taking the time talk to fans about Hellboy II which comes out this year. The director and star, Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman respectively, were also somewhere at the con but I couldn't find them and I don't think they were appearing until Saturday, otherwise I'd have bugged them to sign my Hellboy DVD (which Mike did quite happily).

Dark Horse Comics had a pretty big presence at the convention and they were one of the first booths you saw when you came into the main room. They were handing out sneak peeks and free shopping bags and had a bunch of artsits on hand to sign stuff. I was hoping my friend Philip who works for them as an editor was going to be there, but no dice, he was stuck in Portland for the weekend.

More toys! NECA is releasing this sweet Jason Vorhees figure this summer. Not sure what it's going to cost but there's a lot of detail in it - this picture doesn't really do it justice, it looks completely cool up close.

Speaking of completely cool, then there's this 'Stuntman Mike' figure! Kurt Russell was the best part of Tarantino's half of Grindhouse and this figure, complete with sunglasses and cigarette, could probably kick your ass in real life.

And what would a comic convention be without various nerds dressed up in random costumes? Check out this guy who kinda-sorta looks like Indiana Jones chocking a Nazi! There's even a Sean Connery looking guy peeking out from behind Indy.

I dunno what was up with this happy lass. She's got some sort of fat, black Wonder Woman gig going on and has donuts hanging off of her utlity belt. Or maybe they're bagels. I can't really tell for sure. Either way, bonus points for dedication.

This guy was standing behind me in line and kept calling everyone 'sucka' - it was pretty funny. If you already look like Mr. T you might as well accentuate it with some gold chains and some camo clothing.

There were also a couple of fat guys wandering around in what I assume were 300 inspired outfits, I guess they were Spartans or something. King Leonardis must have been very proud to see these out of shape couch potatoes representing him in public. TONIGHT.... WE FEAST ON BIG MACS IN HELL!

And because everything in the world from Abba to Monty Python to Mel Brooks and John Waters films is being turned into a Broadway show these days, get ready for Toxic Avenger The Musical! Ermmm......okay. Sure. Why not.

And then there were the Star Wars guys. It seems that every convention has a group of local folks who come out of the woodwork every few months at events like these simply to parade around in Star Wars costumes. Many people, like the dapper gent in the middle, like to pose with these Star Wars people. Notice the FearNET booth in the background, and the distinct absence of 'Jewish Horror Guy' extraordinaire Lawrence P. Raffel, who, being the 'Jewish Horror Guy' and all, was back in Philly celebrating Passover, making this the first non-Portland convention I've gone to in years that didn't feature a Lawrence P. Raffel spotting!

More Star Wars guys... any time someone wandered by with a camera these cool dudes would start striking poses. Intimidating, aren't they?

What on Earth is this guy? He's some sort of Jedi-Pirate-Cthulu warrior and he needs to shut up and go away.
I think out of all the Star Wars people I saw at the con, the Jedi Ninja was my favorite. He too was wandering around striking poses for people like myself who were silly enough to have cameras in their hands.
Located conveniently right next to the men's room was the New York City Jedi's table, where you could watch various Star Wars people give lightsaber demonstrations while enjoying the various beanbag chairs that had been set up for your comfort.

Situated near the Jedis was this happy guy, working away at a massive drawing of Captain America done completely in chalk. If I'd have had my Nikon instead of my Samsun camera, I'd have taken some better, close up shots as the amount of detail that this guy managed to work into a chalk drawing was pretty impressive. Equally impressive was the fact that he could concentrate at all with the Star Wars people battling one another just a few feet away.

I dunno what was up with this guy. He had Weird Al hair and a very French looking moustache and was dressed in some sort of Reneissance Space Wizard outfit. He sold swords at one of the vendor tables.

Proving that, yes, the world really is going to Hell in a handbasket is this! A Johnny Wadd comic! Officially licensed from Arrow Films by newcomer Terminal Press is the first four color adventure featuring the worlds most enormously endowed detecitve. They've also got the rights to Debbie Does Dallas, Deep Throat and The Devil In Miss Jones and according to the gal behind the booth plan on making comic books for all of these properties. That Johnny Wadd poster is pretty cool though... I couldn't resist buying the Debbie Does Dallas comic. It's pretty odd and has nothing to do with the movie at all. Instead, it focuses on a cheerleader's efforts to fight zombies and Mechwarrior/Transformer style robots in the future.

Everyone loves giant statues of the Incredible Hulk. Don't they? Maybe it's just me. Either way, this statue was rad.
Tired of the Jedis and sore from lugging around a bag full of graphic novels (I picked up a few choice reads for 50-70% off - go me!) I decided to head out and make my way back home but not before talking to the legendary Jim Steranko. Jim doesn't want his picture taken, which I completely respected, but he was kind enough to sign a sketchbook I bought from him and talk trash about Marvel Comics (he's not to keen on them, and with good reason, he wasn't treated particularly fairly by them). Jim's an amazing talent and one of the most influential comic book artists in the history of the medium. While I was glad to have the chance to meet and briefly talk to him, at the same time it was a little sad to see that there was no one else in line to meet him - the same goes for Carmin Infantino who was sitting right beside him. These guys are legends!

At any rate, here's the main entrance/exit to the con, that gives you an idea of the scope and the size of the event. While the vendors seemed geared towards more mainstream product and Golden/Silver age books (as opposed to the more esoteric fare I tend to enjoy) it was still a fun event. Really though, at this point, you have to wonder why it's called a comic convention anymore. There were video game booths, role playing booths, DVD and film booths, anime booths, and toy booths aplenty, taking up as much (if not a little more) space than the comic related material.

Overall it was a pretty fun way to kill an afternoon. It sucked that the tickets to meet Stan Lee were all given out before I could even get into the convention (I was told they all went to industry people rather than paying customers and fans - which is LAME) but aside from that this was a well run show with plenty of interesting panels to see if you were so inclined (I was not). The artists on hand were generally friendly and happy to sign whatever you wanted, most were doing sketches for $20 or so, which is a fair price. The nerd factor was pretty high but no more so than any other movie/comic/whatever convention I've attended and at least this show was actually friendly, as opposed to Chiller which just has an aire of hostility to it for some reason.