Rocket Con at the Scottish Rite Event Center

Rocket Con

Last weekend the annual San Diego Rocket Con attracted cosplayers and comic book fanatics over to the Scottish Rite Event Center.

This year the Comic Convention has expanded to a two day weekend to showcase art and comics for the community. Chase Lirley originally started the idea of Rocket Con along with his dad after visiting other cons themselves and thought they would put their own spin on it while supporting local artist.

“We love supporting local artists, and we love supporting the local community because we want to be a local con. But at the same time, it’s been great this year because we reached a little further. We got people from Vegas, people from Arizona, all coming in and selling things so even if someone were to go to every single Comic-Con in San Diego, they would get to see newer things here.”

Chase Lirley

Local artists also showed appreciation for the opportunity to show off their art. Emerald Moss, AKA Milky Art, has always had support, but just needed the platform to show off the art she created.

“When I was younger I didn’t even think I could go to conventions. I didn’t think that was something within the realm of possibilities. Before, I really wished I could do something like that, and you know what, my parents, my mom, and my grandma, they were there my whole life and they were really supportive from the moment I told them. Even when I asked ‘Do you guys I think I could do something with my art?’ they were there behind me”.

Emerald Moss

Benjamin Baakar, head of Vandal Priest, thinks that conventions are important in other ways.

“Conventions are very important. We do a lot of networking online and that’s cool but you want to be in front of the people. You want people to have hands-on experience with your art… Seeing it on a screen is cool, but seeing it in person, having it tangibly in front of you, that’s where you get that real connection… If your not owning your craft then you need to be learning something towards your craft “

Benjamin Baakar

At the convention, many of the comic books featured one key character: Wolverine from the X-men comics. This was a character that Joe Rubinstein has drawn many times. Rubinstein came to the United States at an early age and found a love for comics after seeing the collection and the passion his older cousins had for the medium. Rubinstein began his career at the age of 11 in New York as an assistant and worked his way up until he got his first professional job at only 17 with DC Comics. At 19, he transferred over to Marvel Comics. While speaking about his experience of being an artist, Rubinstein stated:

While you should be your own artist and have your own taste, pretty much everything you’re doing has been done before. And don’t reinvent the wheel, learn the lessons of the Masters and never forget that everything is based on reality. Try and study real life. Real people. Real everything… I’ve been brought to Kuwait and Harrison Spain, all because I draw pictures… [but] most human beings don”t get asked for their autograph and get told that you were special to their childhoods, or asked ‘Can I take my picture with you?’ Overall, it is very gratifying.”

Joe Rubinstein

Foregoing a panel featuring past Power Rangers, Smash Brothers tournaments, and action figures, the weekend of Rocket Con came and went. Although it’s over, next year’s Rocket Con is something to look forward to for comic book lovers and artists alike.

Written by: Antonio Marquez

Behind the Mic: Scarlett Letter

Fluttering between three jobs, classrooms, the KCR studio and the rave scene, Scarlett Santamaria of “Scarlett Letter” is a social butterfly always on the move.

Scarlett, a 4th year communications major, is the host of the aptly named “Scarlett Letter,” an underground electronic music show that brings in guests to share their music and their stories. The show is now on its second season and airs Thursdays at 8 p.m.

Scarlett Letter brings in DJs, producers and experience creators every week to play their music mixes and discuss their own personal experiences, as well as contribute to the larger dialogue about the EDM world. The topic of the show is not a casual interest of Scarlett’s – it’s pretty much her life. It all began when Scarlett was 16 and attended her first rave, Scream, at the Worldbeat Center in Balboa Park, San Diego.

I remember going in and everyone was really happy and really nice, and all these lights and the music and I thought, ‘Wow. This is amazing,’” she recalled.

Born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, Scarlett moved to San Diego when she was 12 years old. Despite her bubbly nature and willingness to talk to anyone, she said she always felt like an outsider. That feeling could have left her defeated and stripped of passion, but she discovered the rave scene and found her home.

“I used to be a scene kid, like I used to dress up crazy. I’ve always been a weirdo,” she said. “I’ve always been an outcast, and I’ve been able to just embrace it and not be ashamed of the weirdo that I am. I feel like I was able to find that outlet through going to raves and just being myself. I think that’s what is beautiful about it and why I’m so passionate about it.

Photo courtesy of Scarlett Santamaria

The goal of Scarlett’s show is to allow listeners to get to know the guests on a deeper and more personal level, uncover electronic music they might not have heard before, stay up to date with upcoming EDM events and learn about the music scene from people living it, not from stereotypes.

“I think that some people have the negative notion that electronic music is just noise and that all DJs do is press play, and that people that go to these events are young and do drugs. I want to change that,” Scarlett said. “The scene is very welcoming and is full of amazing, creative, friendly and talented individuals.”

Last semester, her show was structured in a way that allotted more time to playing the guests’ music than interviewing them. This is something Scarlett wants to change this season.

She wants to make sure the people she brings to the studio have sufficient time to talk about their journey, passion and the obstacles they have had to overcome in order to get to their current status.

“I want people to know that these artists work hard and to hear the challenges they’ve had to face to get where they are,” she said. “We all have a story and you’d be surprised how much you can relate to them.”

Scarlett’s own story has its origins in DJing.

Her father was a popular DJ in Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. When she was born, he shifted his focus to parenting and leading a more conventional adult life in order to provide for her. “Of course, I happened and he stopped,” Scarlett laughed.

Eight years ago, he began to DJ again and this time, he taught Scarlett everything he knew. The two had a mobile DJing business together but after feeling like she was ready to branch out, Scarlett started her own business entity separate from her father’s.

She has played many gigs from private birthday parties to Petco Park, the San Diego Padres’ baseball stadium. She said she has enjoyed the experience, both the technical and social aspects.

“I was still under 21 and I felt super cool being a DJ,” Scarlett said. “It was a really great experience getting to know people, being in the event and being part of the production.”

Despite calling the experience “really fun,” Scarlett has shifted gears and no longer focuses on her DJ business. She is turning her attention to new ventures such as Scarlett Letter and getting involved in event production.

With so many interests and projects, Scarlett pays extra attention to detail to make sure she is producing work of the highest caliber.

“I am not the type of person that will half-ass anything,” she said. “I will give you my hundred percent. I want to create something good.”

Scarlett Letter has grown into something beyond her imagination. What she thought would just be a fun show to act as a platform for her friends’ art has turned into a partnership with sponsors.

Photo courtesy of Scarlett Santamaria

Techniche is one of Scarlett’s partnerships and describes itself on its website as “a Southern California underground dance institution with global reach and universal aspirations representing Tech-House and Techno…” DJ and Producer Myxzlplix headed the Techniche team that helped Scarlett with her show’s logo, banner and promotional pictures, to name a few things. She said she’s incredibly grateful to them for believing in her and helping her turn her show into what it has become.

Be sure to tune into her show on Thursdays at 8 p.m. She’ll save a spot for you on the dance floor. Also, be sure to check out her YouTube channel.

Is she a pineapple on pizza gal?

“Yes! Sometimes I love a combination of sweet and salty. People that don’t like pineapple on pizza are basic.”

Written by: Monica Vigil

Thoroughbreds (2017) – Film Review

A transitory game of chess within Thoroughbreds (2017): featuring a modern suburban slasher!

No Guts, No Glory

Thoroughbreds (2017) is a film directed by Cory Finley about two wealthy suburban ex-friends who have since fallen apart throughout the years they spent in high school. Here, Anya Taylor-Joy plays a by-the-books girl named Lily who lives with her mother and her filthy rich step-dad Mark. As with most instances of step-parentry, it seems our dear Lily has a bone to pick with the newest addition to their family. Mark can be described, if spoken truthfully, as a prestigious and pompous power-hogging pig. In laymen’s terms: Mark’s an asshole. A real big asshole. The “abusive to my mom but he gets away with it because he’s got money and supports us financially” kind of asshole. There’s no way to get around it; Lily just has to learn to tolerate him. That is, at least, until her old gal pal Amanda, played by Olivia Cooke, crawls back into her life and suggests an alternative. At first, Lily wants nothing more from Amanda than some extra cash for tutoring her for the SAT. But after opening up to one another over a bottle of Mark’s stolen wine, Lily discovers her childhood friend may have more uses than just that simple monetary gain. After all, what’s a little cash compared to justice by your own hand?

There’s nothing wrong with being a little unstable. 

This film’s got it all; good sound design, strong acting, intriguing and deep characters, anxiety-boosting conflict, and BBH’s (big, beautiful houses). It also includes a single (1) horse. Truthfully, the film should be called “Thoroughbred” since there’s only one horse, but I digress. I think this film is definitely worth your time. If I had to rate it, I’d give it around 4.5/5 stars. Although Thoroughbreds (2017) left me with some strange feelings afterwards, watching the personalities of Lily and Amanda develop and change throughout the films 90-minute run time was definitely worth the ride.

This next paragraph will include spoilers.

All Guts, and Some Spine Too

The rekindling of a friendship is not something done so easily when your childhood companion has recently executed a stallion. Yeah, you heard me PETA. Amanda killed her decrepit steed with her own bare hands. Of course, I am over-exaggerating a bit. You see, it wasn’t a killing out of malice, but instead was done out of mercy. Honeymooner, Amanda’s racehorse who she won many medals with in her younger years, had broken his leg and was reported to never be able to walk again. When Amanda hears of this, she sees it as a cruelty for the horse to live any longer, and discusses it with her mother to see what can be done. As Honeymooner has been a member of their family for a long time, just as long as Amanda has been alive, the mother let’s her emotions get the best of her and doesn’t allow for him to be put down by a veterinarian. This, of course, is seen by Amanda to be an illogical move from her mother, manifested from her birth-giver’s weak moral character. She then takes up the responsibility to put the horse down herself as this was, in her mind, the most logical thing to do.

While the execution involved failed euthanasia, flesh-stripping, bone-breaking, and spine-smashing, none of this seemed to bother Amanda much. You see, contrary to most sane humans, Amanda doesn’t feel emotion. She may get tired or hungry, but when it comes to joy or guilt or remorse, it just doesn’t come to her. It was easy for Amanda to kill Honeymooner, and she didn’t revel in it either. She just felt it was something that had to be done.

This unethical act unsurprisingly lands Amanda with an animal cruelty offense, but she continues her life while awaiting trial, although she feels her existence may not have much purpose. When this is all explained to Lily, she realizes that her friend is not necessarily insane but instead just exceptionally logical when it comes to solving conflicts. Amanda’s lack of pathos results in her thinking of every scenario as a math problem: whats the most effective possible outcome and how can I get there the fastest? She does not hesitate, she makes a choice and she follows it immediately.

The Master Plan

While rummaging through Mark’s wine cellar, Amanda proposes to Lily that she should just kill her step-father. In this scenario, Amanda sees Mark as the lame horse, not functioning effectively either as a father or as a good husband to Lily’s mother, and therefore feels justified in suggesting they kill him. Doubling down on her logic, Amanda states that it would benefit a large amount of people and have very low outcomes in terms of repercussions; plus, if planned correctly, they could avoid being caught altogether. Lily gets mad and kicks Amanda out of her house, disagreeing with the brash girls way of thinking and her “lame horses should be put down” ideals. As the film progresses, Lily comes around to the idea though, and proposes they talk to their local child-molesting drug-dealer and try to hire him to pull a hit on Mark. After the delinquent falls through, however, Lily returns to the house to find Mark is still alive and kicking. She decides she will have no more of this and takes manners into her own hands.

Making Your Mark

On a seemingly regular night sitting on the couch with Amanda, Lily asks her if she believes her life is worth living. Amanda is taken aback by this on accounts of her not having thought of it before. After turning it over in her head for a bit, she decides that it isn’t, and asks Lily why she asked such a question while taking a sip of her lemonade. “If you can’t feel happiness, if you don’t have a good future, is life even worth living?” It appears in this case that it is, as Amanda’s lack of goal or purpose allows her to be a signature component of Lily’s plan. Lily informed Amanda that she tried drugging her lemonade in order to knock her out, kill her stepdad with a knife, and frame it on her. Amanda is not offended however, and instead drinks all of her lemonade in order to knock herself out and help Lily continue with her plan. By taking control of the situation and catalyzing Lily’s plan, Amanda acts as a martyr in order for her friend to succeed in her goal to end Mark’s life. Lily goes through with it, framing (consenting) Amanda for the murder of her step-father and landing her in a mental hospital. Amanda again doesn’t mind this because she believes it’s the most logical thing to do. Her friend is miserable because of Mark and she herself has no life purpose, so she believes the best option is to be take the fall for it and let Lily come out victorious.

By the end of the film, it’s almost as if our two protagonists have shifted personas. Lily now walks around town like the queen she is, giving everybody cold stares and presenting very little emotion while being more stern and logical. Amanda, on the other hand, spends her jailbird days painting and crocheting with all the other locked up loonies in there. She doesn’t mind it though. She tells Lily in a letter that the staff there are very nice for the most part. She explains a recurring dream to Lily too, one where all the people in the world are rich and can’t take their heads out of the material things in the world. Time passes and everything rots away, only leaving the thoroughbred horses. They roam the planet with no worry of their value or goal in life but instead just enjoy being wild animals. In this sense, the girls are the thoroughbreds. They do what they please, they roam with no rules and they live with power in their hands. They aren’t afraid of what will be done to them, they know that if the world ever falls apart and all the filthy rich bastard rot in place, they will be there still. They’ll gallop over fields of grass and drink from clear rivers and clop over debilitated houses. In a way, they both used each other, but it was a mutual gain. Lily learned how to be cold and got rid of the person who hurt her family the most, while Amanda learned how to see beauty in the small and insignificant, and even learned how to smile without looking in a mirror. She might’ve ended up in confinement, but she doesn’t care so long as she had a reason to live for.

All in all, Thoroughbreds (2017) is definitely a film you shouldn’t miss. That is, if you can handle topics such as murder, patricide, drug use, and other not-so-innocent topics.

Written by: Fabrizio Ramirez

Is How to Train Your Dragon: the Hidden World Worth Your Time?

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ends the long-running trilogy with a fun, wholesome ending.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was directed by Dean Belois.  This is the third and seemingly final film in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy produced by Dreamworks Animation.

If you’ve never heard of this trilogy before, these animated films tell the story of Hiccup (played by Jay Baruchel) and his friends who live with their dragons at Berk.  The first film told of the people of Berk domesticating the dragons after initially hunting them down.  It was about the relationships that these people could develop with these seemingly violent and frightening creatures.   It was a wholesome yet exciting film that would launch arguably Dreamworks’ best franchise to date.  The second film then resumed Hiccup’s journey as he searches for his mother that he believed was dead.  In terms of the whole trilogy, this one reigns supreme as the best one in the series; the film carried the most emotion without losing sight of the larger world the series was trying to build.  Additionally, action scenes in The Hidden World were by far and away some of Dreamworks’ best animation to date.

The newest How to Train Your Dragon film starts off following the events of the second film, with Hiccup’s father now dead and his mother back in his life.  After learning about yet another person who wants to take their dragons and destroy their homes, they realize the possibility of the existence of another world in which the dragons can live in peace away from the rest of society. Hiccup, having assumed the role of chief, decides that it’s a good idea to get not only the people of Berk to safety but more importantly the dragons as well.  Things get more complicated when the main dragon, Toothless, meets another female dragon and develops a relationship with it.  While the gang wonder what the best way to accomplish this goal could be, they begin to consider the possibility of releasing the dragons into the wild.

Although this latest entry in the How to Train Your Dragon series has heart and some touching scene, it’s not perfect.

I would say the scenes whenever the characters considered what life would be like without their dragons are probably the best ones of this film.  I further think this is the emotional highlight of the film when it comes to the way this story is structured.  The other aspect I really liked is of course the animation, but I also don’t really think animated movies are released today without top-notch animation.  These movies have always had really nice animation and this film is no exception.

The biggest flaw with this movie is the pacing.  Despite running for 1hr 44mins, the filmmakers still didn’t have enough time to tell the story they wanted to.  This affected certain elements of the film into feeling rushed, whereas other unnecessary elements felt overly drawn out and exhausting to watch.  The film chooses to spend much of its time showing either the characters quickly interact with the villains, the two leading dragons going on their little dates (which admittedly are very entertaining), or the other side characters being goofy and getting into silly shenanigans.   Many of these moments felt like they were only there in order for the film to force either substance or bad comedy into it.  Although it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the first two How to Train Your Dragon films, but I remember them being pretty funny.  I think that’s why it was surprising to me to see this film and acknowledge that it’s really not that funny.  The humor is mostly very juvenile and meant to cater towards children.  If the humor took a backseat to the drama the characters face this wouldn’t be a big deal, it’s just the fact that jokes are thrown in very often which makes this experience very distracting.

Even though I really liked the animation and I thought the emotions shared between the characters and their dragons were strong, this movie overall is somewhat boring.  Honestly, this is perhaps the weakest movie in this trilogy and the reason for that would be because the film does not have much substance to it.  The supposed feeling of dread that these characters have is never fully related or felt by the audience.  My guess as to why this is the case is likely because they don’t want to make the kids watching this feel uneasy.  And while that is understandable, you can still keep the audience engaged and feeling like the stakes are high while still entertaining the kids.  Good examples of this concept are the first two How to Train Your Dragon films or the Toy Story films, as these films showed managed to be entertaining for both kids and adults.

I will say that the resolution to this film and the ending to the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is very well done.

When it is time for the climax to come that has been built up for the entire film, it feels mostly underwhelming and it comes in really quickly.  I would say the final fight of this film, although very good, is probably under 10 minutes, which is not usual for one of these movies.  What’s interesting though is that I really like the climax and I think it is my favorite part of the film, it’s just jarring to see it come so quickly is all.  What leads after the fight is really wonderful I will say though.  I won’t give away the resolution of what happens to the dragons and to Hiccup and his friends but I thought that was very satisfying.  I just wish the film had a story with higher stakes so that this ending could feel more earned.

I know I’ve been trashing on this movie a lot, but I really don’t think it’s bad.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think this film was disappointing, but I acknowledge that these films could be so much worse and more childish.  I think this film has the potential to bore some audience members, but I thought it was fine really.    I am happy I saw where these characters ended up and was able to watch their growth and development.  The main characters all go through incredible arcs that changes who they are and that was very interesting to see as well.  If you want to see how this trilogy ends, I’d say check it out.  I would say my enthusiasm for this film is mostly reserved just because I thought the film was underwhelming more than anything, but I still thought it was perfectly fine.  I would just say expect to possibly be disappointed and acknowledge that the film does feel rushed at times.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo