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21 Fun Activities Outside the San Diego Comic Con

As someone who lives in San Diego, I constantly hear how much it stinks to live in the city hosting Comic Con without actually getting to attend it. While I am sympathetic to the problem, I also know that most people are ignorant of how much Comic Con fun they can have without ever once stepping foot inside the convention.

1. Psych: The Musical Screening

Image courtesy of Flickr user Lisa Brettschneider

There's never much going on at Comic Con during preview night—most attendees are trying to save their energy for the long weekend ahead. But this year, Psych held a free screening of their musical episode (set to premiere in December). Fans had to RSVP online in advance and wait in line to get in on a first-come-first-served basis, but hey, it's pretty awesome to get to see a screening of a great show early and for free.

2. Gam3rCon

Image courtesy of Flickr user Heather Paul

Tired of competing to get into Comic Con when you're only interested in gaming anyway? Then skip SDCC and head to the nearby Gam3rCon, which lasted Thursday through Saturday and offered video game and board game demos along with live bands and more. From the pictures I could find, it looks like the event was pretty darn tiny, but hey, some people prefer their conventions that way.

3. Schick Hydro Shaves

Throughout the convention, Schick Hydro was offering anyone a free Schick Hydro razor if they boarded the Assassin's Creed pirate ship behind the convention center and got a shave from a pirate.

4. Regular Show Regular Zone

For the second year in a row, Cartoon Network partnered up with the San Diego Children's Museum to present a cool interactive experience with one of their shows. Last year focused on Adventure Time and this year, it was Regular Show. I heard great things about both, but there is constantly a wait of about two hours to get in, so I didn't get a chance to  go inside to check it out.

5. The Adult Swim Fun House

Similarly, Adult Swim had an attraction outside the convention as well. You had to line up to get tickets at four and then come back with your tickets at the designated hour to enter the Fun House. There was still a bit of a wait, but it was totally worth it.

The inflatable Fun House had all the weirdness you'd expect from Adult Swim, including a grown man in a diaper drinking a bottle, flashing blacklight responsive colors everywhere, and Robot Chicken's famous robot. And those are just the things we saw—since it was a maze, everyone had a different experience. 

There were a number of exits, including a slide and a jail that you could only leave after singing karaoke. No matter what exit you went through, you got a free t-shirt to take home.

If you think this sounds like fun, keep an eye out for listings in your area, because it is traveling throughout the U.S. right now and might just be stopping in a town near you soon.

6. Fox's Animation Domination Station

To promote their new Sunday night cartoon lineup, Fox put up a miniature golf course, a painting area where guests were given tiny figures from the shows to paint, a food truck offering free pizza, and photo opps with Axe Cops.

7. The Vikings Experience

Sure, you might not be a real viking, but at Comic Con, you could still test your rowing skills against competitors in miniature viking ships. The Vikings Experience also featured lovely shield maidens standing guard and a photo area so you could remember your short time as a viking.

8. Comixology's Tr!ckst3r

To help publicize their online software that has made self-publishing comic books easier than ever, Comixology organized an event called Tr!ckster, where they invited artists to come by every night of the convention to have a drink, listen to music and draw live models posing in a variety of comic-styled outfits and poses. It might not have been the most lively event (artists tend to be pretty quiet while they work), but it might have been one of the most appropriately comic-inspired evening events out there.

9. Elder Scrolls Food Truck

While there are plenty of food trucks, trailers with mini movie theaters for trailer premieres, and even a mobile Hello Kitty shop in the Petco Park parking lot by the convention center, none of these attractions were entertaining enough to keep you distracted for more than a few minutes. On the other hand, on Thursday afternoon, a food truck arrived to help promote the Elder Scrolls online and handed out free lunch (Pressed Eidarmelt sandwiches with your choice of Fire Petal Dip, Emperor's Garden Sauce or Tomato-Mammoth Sauce) and free ice cream (frozen sweet cream with Khajiiti sweetbites) to anyone willing to wait in line.

10. Comedy Central Comedy-Con

Ever wanted to party with Comedy Central stars like Key and Peele, the guys from Workaholics? Well, this Thursday afternoon party was your chance, as it was totally open to the public. I wish I could have reported on this one in person, but we couldn't even get to the convention and find parking before it started.

11. 30 Minute Musicals Jurassic Park

This Thursday evening event was one of my favorite activities outside the convention, although it received very little promotion and had a very small audience. This LA theater troupe headed down to San Diego to perform their 30-minute-long musical extravaganza based on the events of Jurassic Park. If that sounds stupid, well, that's kind of the point.

The musical was utterly hilarious, recasting the T. rex as a misunderstood, slightly psychotic diva who desperately wants to make friends. In the end, she's the tragic hero who is left alone on the island after finally getting to show the humans that she only wanted their friendship.

If you're interested, 30 Minute Musicals is constantly performing new shows in Los Angeles, so if you happen to be in the area at some point, look them up and stop by for a show. Hey, even if you hate it, you only wasted 30 minutes of your time, right?

12. The Aquabats

Image (not from this Comic Con show) courtesy of Flickr user Aaron Silvers.

Always showing the world a nerdy good time, the Aquabats were out celebrating the second season of their TV show with a live performance at the House of Blues on Thursday.

13. The World's End Party

To be fair, this event wasn't technically open to the public. That being said, it was possible for fans to win tickets to the event by attending the World's End Pub Crawl that took place earlier in the day. Since I wasn't able to get a plus one to cover this party, I immediately sat down at the table with the friendliest-looking people and as it turns out, they were all the winners of the pub crawl who became super close friends through the span of the afternoon while trying to win tickets to the event. I didn't stay at the party long, but I couldn't be happier to get to meet the winners of that contest.

14. The Chuck Jones Gallery

Image courtesy of Flickr user Bonnie Dean

After leaving The World's End Party, I headed over to the Chuck Jones gallery. While the event always features works by Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones and Dr. Suess, during Comic Con they always feature comic-inspired art as well. As if that weren't enough, while I stopped by, they were also hosting a trivia night with free shots of tequila.

There are plenty of other art galleries in Downtown San Diego and many of them have special comic-themed art during the convention—it's just that the Chuck Jones Gallery is one of the most famous and most central to the convention.

15. The Walking Dead Escape

Image courtesy of Flickr user Edward Headington

Curious if you could survive a zombie apocalypse, or just want to attack people while pretending to be a zombie? Then be sure to check out the yearly Walking Dead Escape that allows survivors and zombies the chance to pair off against one another. If you're ready to take on the challenge, be ready to shell out some dough first—being a survivor costs $90, being a Walker will run you up to $149, and just sitting on the sidelines to watch the mayhem will take $15.

16. The Zombie Walk

If paying money to pretend to be a zombie just seems silly to you, there's a free zombie walk outside the convention every year. Just dress up in your favorite zombie gear, meet outside the convention and start shuffling down the street with the rest of the reanimated masses. This group wasn't technically part of the zombie walk, but I have a hard time resisting zombies coming from a luau with Jell-o brains.

17. Petco's Star Wars Yappy Hour

To celebrate the launch of their new Star Wars line of pet products, Petco hosted a "Yappy Hour" cocktail party. Dogs and their owners were invited to take photos with R2D2, get caricatures of themselves by Princess Leia and hang out with costumed characters from Star Wars. In fact, that's my friend's French bulldog with Darth Vader.

Humans were invited to enjoy cocktails, while pooches were provided with water, tennis balls, and dog treats. Those without a pooch to call their own were encouraged to adopt one of the pups on site courtesy of the Humane Society.

While the event was open to all animals, only one cat was actually brave enough to drop in with his owner. Somehow I feel like his sweet Batman shirt helped him cope.

18. Nerd-A-Thon

If you dig hot girls and cool tunes, the Nerd-A-Thon was the ultimate destination for music-loving geeks this year. On Friday night, fans could enjoy the girls of the Devil's Playground Burlesque performing in comic-inspired ensembles beside nerdy rock groups like Nerf Herder, Kirby Krackle, and H2Awesome. While we didn't make it to the Friday show, here's one of the Devil's Burlesque girls performing at a similar event back in December.

On Saturday night, the girls were in Star Wars clothing and the music acts were Nerdcore hip hop artists (think M.C. Front A Lot). While the L.A.-based burlesque troupe only had two performers at the show, they were both fantastic.

Plus, I couldn't be happier with the music acts, El Gun Legro, Wordburglar, Dual Core, MegaRan, and Danimal Cannon (although the last performer wasn't nerdcore, but a metal guitarist who played over sweet Gameboy tracks, he was still amazing).

19. Pretty Poison's Nerdy & Nice

The Nerd-A-Thon wasn't the only place where you could find music and burlesque on Saturday night. Pretty Poison Burlesque also had a show that night, and theirs featured the musical stylings of Ghost of the Robot, a band that features James Marsters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

20. Heroes Brew Festival

Is Comic Con lacking too much in the hops department, in your opinion? Then you would have enjoyed the comic-themed craft brew festival that occurred right next door and featured live bands and all the beer you could handle.

21. Adult Swim Party Featuring Eric Andre

Image courtesy of Flickr user Mandee Johnson

Also on Saturday night, Adult Swim threw a party at the House of Blues featuring comedian Eric Andre and musical guest Yacht. This one sounded a lot of fun—but the burlesque show lasted all night and the party had a line forming when we left to go get dinner at 5. Considering the doors didn't even open for a few hours, I can't imagine the line to get in.

While the events change every year, these are a good sampling of the kinds of fun things that are available each year, even for non-attendees. So, if you live in the area, or if you're already planning on traveling to San Diego that time of year, but aren't sure you'll get a Comic Con pass, be sure to hit the Downtown area during the convention for all kinds of fun events.

It's worth noting that I originally intended to go to as many outside-the-convention events as possible, but that soon proved to be utterly impossible. In fact, I only made it to about half of the events that I planned to attend because there is just so much stuff going on. As long as this article is, I didn't even include every single event outside the convention that people could attend, and, of course, if you attended the convention and found other fun stuff to do outside the convention, please tell us about them in the comments.

On a final note, if you're one of the many people who absolutely loves to see all the great cosplay from the convention, don't miss my gallery featuring over 200 costumes.

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Chloe Efforn
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Animals
John Lennon Was a Crazy Cat Lady
Chloe Efforn
Chloe Efforn

John Lennon was crazy about cats, and though he owned a couple of dogs (Sally and Bernard) over the years, he was better known for getting by with a little help from his feline friends.

1. ELVIS

Growing up, Lennon's beloved mother, Julia, had a named cat after Elvis Presley, whom Julia and John were both crazy about. The Lennons later realized they had misnamed Elvis when "he" gave birth to a litter of kittens in the cupboard, but they didn't change the cat's name based on that small mistake.

2. AND 3. TICH AND SAM

He had two other cats as a boy growing up in Liverpool: Tich and Sam. Tich passed away while Lennon was away at art school (which he attended from 1957 to 1960), and Sam was named after famous British diarist Samuel Pepys

4. TIM

One day, John Lennon found a stray cat in the snow, which his Aunt Mimi allowed him to keep. (John's Aunt Mimi raised him from a young boy through his late teenage years, and he affectionately referred to her as the Cat Woman.) He named the marmalade-colored half-Persian cat Tim.

Tim remained a special favorite of John's. Every day, he would hop on his Raleigh bicycle and ride to Mr. Smith's, the local fishmonger, where he would buy a few pieces of fish for Tim and his other cats. Even after John became famous as a Beatle, he would often call and check in on how Tim was doing. Tim lived a happy life and survived to celebrate his 20th birthday.

5. AND 6. MIMI AND BABAGHI

John and his first wife, Cynthia, had a cat named Mimi who was, of course, named after his Aunt Mimi. They soon got another cat, a tabby who they dubbed Babaghi. John and Cynthia continued acquiring more cats, eventually owning around 10 of them.

7. JESUS

As a Beatle, John had a cat named Jesus. The name was most likely John's sarcastic response to his "the Beatles are bigger than Jesus" controversy of 1966. But he wasn't the only band member with a cat named Jesus: Paul McCartney once had a trio of kittens named Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

8. AND 9. MAJOR AND MINOR

In the mid-1970s, John had an affair with his secretary, May Pang. One day, the studio receptionist brought a box of kittens into the recording studio where John and May were. "No," John immediately told May, "we can't, we're traveling too much." But she picked up one of the kittens and put it over her shoulder. Then John started stroking the kitten and decided to keep it. At the end of the day, the only other kitten left was a little white one that was so loud no one else wanted it. So they adopted it as well and named the pair Major and Minor.

10. AND 11. SALT AND PEPPER

John owned a pair of black and white cats with his wife Yoko Ono. As befitting John's offbeat sense of humor, many places report he christened the white cat Pepper and the black one Salt.

12. AND 13. GERTRUDE AND ALICE

John and Yoko also had two Russian Blue cats named Gertrude and Alice, who each met tragic ends. After a series of sicknesses, Gertrude was diagnosed with a virus that could become dangerous to their young son, Sean. John later said that he held Gertrude and wept as she was euthanized. 

Later, Alice jumped out of an open window in the Lennons' high-rise apartment at the Dakota and plunged to her death. Sean was present at the time of the accident, and he remembers it as the only time he ever saw his father cry.

14., 15. AND 16. MISHA, SASHA, AND CHARO

In later years, John also owned three cats he named Misha, Sasha, and Charo. Always an artist at heart, John loved to sketch his many cats, and he used some of these pictures as illustrations in his books.

This piece originally ran in 2012.

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entertainment
7 Famous Actors Who Starred in Obscure Short Films
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Well-known actors who can attract attention or lend prestige to film projects can often command significant salaries. Jack Nicholson, for example, reportedly made more than $50 million for portraying The Joker in 1989’s Batman after merchandising royalties were factored in. But performers don’t always opt for money—or even feature-length movies—if a filmmaker is persuasive enough. Here are several notable talents who agreed to appear in obscure short films for a variety of peculiar reasons.

1. HARRISON FORD // WATER TO WINE (2004)

Arguably one of the most successful leading men of the 20th century, Harrison Ford has always been candid about his criteria for film work. In addition to being intrigued by a role, he wants to be compensated. (“No, I got paid,” he told a talk show host who asked if he was nostalgic about returning to the Star Wars universe in 2015.) He apparently made an exception for Water to Wine, a 2004 amateur film shot by a group of snowboarders in Wyoming. Ford—who has a ranch in the state—accepted the role of “Jethro the Bus Driver” as a favor to the filmmakers, who were friends of his son, Malcolm. Ford’s sole request was that his name not appear in the credits.

2. BRYAN CRANSTON // WRITER’S BLOCK (2014)

Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston was shooting the feature film Cold Comes the Night in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy interrupted production. Rather than sit idle, the actor told the movie’s production assistants that if they wanted to try writing a short film, he’d shoot it immediately. Winner Brandon Polanco came up with Writer’s Block, a 13-minute black-and-white mood piece about an author wrestling with a lack of inspiration.

3. BILLY BOB THORNTON // THE LAST REAL COWBOYS (2000)

Billy Bob Thornton broke into Hollywood with his 1994 short film Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade that he later expanded into a full-length feature. That DIY approach may have helped director Jeff Lester entice the actor to star in The Last Real Cowboys, a short that featured Thornton as one of two main characters sitting next to a campfire. The production shot for just one day 50 miles outside of Las Vegas. 

4. OSCAR ISAAC // LIGHTNINGFACE (2016)

A year after Star Wars: The Force Awakens crossed $2 billion at the box office, Oscar Isaac (who portrayed Poe Dameron) appeared in this eccentric short by director Brian Petsos. Isaac is Basil Stitt, a man who gets hit in the face with lightning and is convinced he will soon develop supernatural abilities. Isaac and Petsos previously worked on a feature film, Ticky Tacky.

5. BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH // LITTLE FAVOUR (2013)

The BBC’s Sherlock helped make Benedict Cumberbatch a highly recognizable screen presence worldwide, which in turn helped this short film raise and exceed its $40,000 budget via the Indiegogo platform. Cumberbatch portrays a British intelligence officer active during the Iraq War who is contacted by an American spy to repay a favor. Cumberbatch, who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for The Imitation Game in 2015, also produced the film.

6. MICHAEL FASSBENDER // PITCH BLACK HEIST (2012)

Two-time Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender co-stars in this tight heist thriller about two thieves who are forced to complete a job in total darkness. (Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos Seaworth on Game of Thrones, co-starred.) Director John Maclean knew Fassbender before the actor broke out in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds and convinced him to take the gig. The two later worked on the well-received 2015 Western Slow West.

7. BILL MURRAY // A FILM ABOUT WALKING IN SLOW MOTION (2012)

The urban legends surrounding Murray’s puckish behavior are well-documented, from crashing karaoke parties to spontaneously tending bar. In 2012, Murray was filming a promotional video for a school in South Carolina attended by his son. Afterward, director David Smith asked if he could film Murray walking down a hall with crew members. He complied—and then kept walking, out of the building and into his car. 

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