GDC 10 Diary: Day 1

(First, I must publicly castigate myself for taking nearly six months to post again. Shameful! Just shameful. In my defense, this particular diary is a week late because I couldn’t remember until now, how to log into my blog.)

Day 1 started out badly with my mom’s neurotic cat waking me up at 5am yowling in the hallway. Everyone else can somehow sleep through this cacophony, so I’m the one who after 15 minutes trying to block the sound with a pillow jammed over my head, has to get up cursing to let the cat out. I generally love cats but I swear, I’ve never disliked—no, hated—a cat as much as I do this one.
AwfulCat
Firstly, she weighs about 20 pounds. Second, she meows like an 80 year old bowling alley chain smoker. Third, she sheds like a motherf*cker. I opened my bedroom door to see this big, fat, cantankerous ball of dander staring balefully up at me and moved toward the front door to let her out. Rather than cooperate, she rolled over on her back, spreading her considerable girth across the width of the hall, daring me to stomp on her, and refused to move.

She just laid there, writhing and meowing until I moved toward my mom’s room. Then she got up. Pissed at being the only one in the house to be dealing with this, I did an uncharitable thing; I shrugged, let the cat into my mom’s room, shut the door behind her and went back to bed. The joke was on me though. She wasn’t in there 10 minutes before my mom apparently lost patience with her and tossed her back out on her broad, furry ass; thus the cycle of yowling began all over again.

After four hours of sleep, I got to the airport at 7am. Somehow, planes to San Francisco almost never run on time so things got off to a slow start with delayed planes due to fog, rain, SF flight control operators having a nervous breakdown—something. The plane boarded right on time, then sat on the runway for another hour or so before taking off. This gave me plenty of time to snooze and wonder what the hell the elderly man next to me was doing with his stack of carefully typed 3×5 cards.

We landed in Phoenix and I rushed through the airport hoping not to miss my 11:20 connection. I got to the gate, breathless (holy shit, I’m out of shape!) only to see “delayed – new flight time 12:50” in big, ugly red letters.

I swore this GDC I wouldn’t use the trip as an excuse to eat like a truck driver, but then again, dealing with disappointment has never been my strong suit. I broke my good eating vow pretty much immediately, heading straight for the nearby Burger King. When you go to Burger King you’re supposed to “have it your way”. In the Phoenix airport, you have it the “bland, re-heated way of the bored, apathetic woman working behind the counter.”

Anyway, after an hour my second flight took off and this time I was seated next to a couple of young guys, one of whom spent the entire 90 minute flight alternating between sucking loudly on a water bottle and repeatedly dropping it on the floor. Not to be outmatched, his friend insisted on reading the entire Sky Mall catalog out loud. Ah…economy travel.

When I landed at SFO I called the Super Shuttle to make reservations. What should have been a fairly run-of-the-mill conversation became a bizarre exchange wherein I ended up being unexpectedly taken to task for my email address—BMunchausen. The reservation lady asked me if I’d ever heard of Munchausen Syndrome, and I made the mistake of saying “No”, whereupon she launched into an exhaustive explanation of this terrible psychological condition that compels mothers to cause injury to their children in order to be able to garner attention from their child’s physician.

“They poison them, they put toxic things into their bathwater to give them rashes – all so they can get attention themselves!” the woman said, then lapsing into a reproachful silence.

“Uh…really?”

Yep, lame response. But what do you say to that? Tired, hungry and grumpy, I was unprepared to justify my chosen email address to a high-strung phone jockey who apparently thought my sentimental reference to Terry Gilliam signified a tacit approval of child abuse. Chalk up one more shitty experience to using Super Shuttle.
adventures_of_baron_munchausen
After hanging up, I went outside and boarded the Super Shuttle, ready to close my eyes and nap all the way to the hotel when a couple in their 50′s got on the shuttle with me. The second they sat down, the man started whining. “We’ve been here two hours. This is ridiculous. This is gonna take forever.” and such like. The wife was obviously used to hearing crap like that from this bozo, so she immediately got up and said, “Then let’s get off and take a cab.” Like a tantrumy child, the guy stayed glued to his seat, muttering, “No, we’ll stay here…” but the second his wife got settled again, he resumed the bitching.

“This is ridiculous. We wait two hours and now this. We’ll never get moving.” Once again, the wife stood up and said—this time with a bit more edge in her voice—“Then let’s get OFF. “

Once again, the full-on complaining diminished into savage whispering until you guessed it—the second the wife’s ass hit the seat, this nimrod once more resumed his complaints. I realized then that unless I took decisive action, I’d be stuck listening to this middle-aged infant piss and moan all the way to the hotel. I turned around and said, “As an experienced Super Shuttle rider, this is bound to take a while.” They were up and gone in less than ten seconds.

Once I’d eighty-sixed the whiner, the ride wasn’t so bad. I was treated to a surreal view of about two hundred seagulls hovering almost motionlessly above the waste disposal plant near the freeway, and got to my hotel just west of Union Square without further incident. My lodgings were at the Beresford Arms, a 100 year old place that while well-kept, had a distinctly Stephen King’s “The Shining” vibe to it. Blood red carpets, crystal chandeliers, gold leafed ceilings… Creepy but cool.
Beresford
My room, by contrast, had shabby décor right out of the 1970′s, replacing the evocative Victorian spookiness with a slightly musty, slightly shopworn banality.

Exhausted but too hungry to sleep, I threw my bags down and hoofed it down to Union Square where the minute I saw the Cheesecake Factory sign, I developed a hankering for a salad as big as my head. I was seated right away, next to a lone woman eating both a sandwich and a 10 inch high piece of red velvet cheesecake. I smiled as I sat down and said, “That looks good!” BIG mistake.
redvelvet
Normally, people in San Francisco are distant and unfriendly so how could I have known I’d just traded my peaceful solo lunch for an hour’s worth of boring small talk? In response to my “that looks good” comment, the woman smilingly held a forkful of cheesecake out to me, saying, “Try some!” Now there’s more Jerry Seinfeld in me than I like to admit, and that part of me instantly recoiled at this offer. “Uh…no, that’s OK.”

My would-be benefactor was tenacious though, and once again said, “Come on—try some!” Things got increasingly awkward as I once again declined and she (I couldn’t believe it) once again insisted. At that point, I fully expected her pleasant smile to turn into a psychotic snarl of rage, since I’d insulted her by refusing to share her fork, but fortunately, the waitress showed up, providing the necessary interruption to this bizarre exchange.

I ordered and hoped my little tete a tete with the neighboring table was overwith, but no. The woman asked me if I was from San Francisco, if I planned to go shopping, if I traveled much, if I was here in SF on business, etc. Having been traveling for ten hours on nothing but four hours of sleep and a warmed-over Whopper, I really wasn’t in the mood for an interview, but politeness demanded I keep up my end of the conversation.

Throughout the conversation, I kept wondering if something was up with this woman. Like, maybe she’d been lying in wait, just looking for some hapless out-of-towner to charm and then lure outside for her cronies to rob. I mean, it’s just not normal for strangers to be so friendly or so interested. The more questions she asked me, the greater my paranoia grew, peaking when she finished eating and then instead of leaving, continued to sit there.

I ate as slow as humanly possible, hoping she’d get her check and leave, but even when the talk died off, she sat at her table, coat on, take-out box in front of her, fixing her makeup, looking at her phone, just…loitering. She stalled for about 20 minutes while I watched her out of the corner of my eye thinking, “Wtf?” At long last, she left, but the impression she made on me was lasting. From when I left the restaurant, all the way to the hotel, I kept looking around me, expecting her to jump out from a doorway with a knife in her teeth. Or at least a forkful of cheesecake.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful until I went that night to the Final Fantasy XIII launch party. Upon entering, attendees were greeted by a lineup of twenty or so babes hired by Square to wear cheap looking white satin cocktail dresses and chat up the attendees. One “professional” cameraman took the opportunity to perform several unnecessary zooms on one Anna Nicole Smith lookalike’s ample rack. Hey dude, her face is about ten inches north. (Note: these photos do not feature the A.N. Smith lookalike, but these girls got the same treatment.)
FFBabes
Final Fantasy Babes
The event was the usual celebratory launch event, complete with snacks, drinks and more mingling than I can handle, but it did feature a few interesting things. First, a video message from singer Leona Lewis, whose song “My Hands” is the feature track from the new Final Fantasy XIII. Video game events apparently are low on Leona’s list because she phoned in her congratulations via pre-recorded video.
LeonaLewis
After her “appearance”, they trundled out the voice actors for the main characters–Troy Baker and Ali Hillis, who play Snow and Lightning, respectively.
FFVoiceActors
A couple of strange things about the event; One, the panel they held in the middle of it that asked the oddly suggestive question, “What was your first Final Fantasy experience?”
FFPanel
This loaded question sent the panel way off the “rah-rah, isn’t Final Fantasy great?” kind of launch event patter into a fairly boring, ultra-nerdy tangential discussion about things no one cared to hear about, as evidenced by the way the crowd completely ignored it, talking throughout.

Two, the performance of “DJ MomJeans”, aka—Danny Masterson, who’s done a mix of the main Final Fantasy XIII theme. If the name Danny Masterson sounds familiar, it’s because he was one of the characters on the idiotic “That 70′s Show”. I guess if Ashton Kutcher’s becoming a Hollywood power player, this guy felt he had to be doing something, eh?
DJMomJeans
My favorite part of the evening (aside from the goggles we got to wear for the 3D trailer) was the fancy champagne toast.
FFChampagneToast
There’s no way the rest of GDC can be this action-packed. Can there?

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