Fun at Phoenix Comic Con 2016

Phoenix Comic ConI am at the Phoenix Comic Con this weekend and thought I would share some of the interesting things that occur at one of these events.  The first official one started in 1964 although you could say that since they were based on the old science fiction conventions of the 1930s, it was in the 30s.  However nowadays they are comprised of everything to do with what is considered genre fiction, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, animated movies, TV shows, or cartoons. Basically: geekdom. We use the term “comic con” as a simple way of describing it.

The big one is, of course, San Diego’s Comic Con that has 130,000 people crammed into San Diego’s convention center.  Even though there is over six hundred thousand square feet, it is an immensely packed convention. Phoenix Comic Con is much the same way because it has been growing by leaps and bounds — going from 432 attendees to almost 80,000 in 14 years.  Luckily Phoenix knows how to do AC so even though we have so many people attending during a heat wave, it isn’t that hot. I have been to conventions that don’t know what they are doing with AC and it is really important since a lot of people dress up in costumes that have got to be suffocating in the heat.

Typically the conventions happen this way: a section for gaming, a section for panels, a section for famous people. And, of course, everywhere is for cosplay:

Cosplay - Phoenix Comic Con


Gaming is both electronic and table top.  Back in the day, there was Dungeons & Dragons (and the myriad similar games), the standard Monopoly, The Game of Life, and a few others.  But now you have an almost infinite array of different games to pick from. I have about a dozen and they are all fun but very time consuming. At Phoenix Comic Con they have one floor of the Hyatt hotel turned completely over to table top gaming so people can learn about new games, play with friends, and just relax.

Electronic gaming is set up where you can do mass playing, contests, and other things that gamers do with those things.  Generally it is not as big a deal at Phoenix Comic Con. But that’s not to say they don’t take it seriously. Very seriously:



This is where people get to discuss the things they enjoy. This is where Frank would shine since he could do a panel on Don Quixote and spend an hour telling everyone in extreme detail about the themes as the apply to some random sci-fi movie. [R2-D2 as Don Quixote and C-3PO as Sancho? Yeah, I could do that. -FM] Or talk about sixties sci-fi movies he may have seen since he doesn’t watch anything after 1980. [With good reason! -FM]

But mostly you have panels on everything from a mock trial of the Winter Soldier to music of Lord of the Rings to premiers of new shows and movies.


The big thing that comic cons are known for is the cosplay. People like to dress up as fictional characters and while everyone is familiar with the storm troopers, as you see above, there is a lot more variety these days.

From Bob of Bob’s Burgers to a bulky Transformer to a Viet Cong swamp zombie, there’s something for everyone:

Three Cosplay Characters

There are a lot more, of course, but you get the idea. But if you really want insanity, you’ll have to go to a gun show.

California’s Screwy Top-Two Primaries

Ballot Box - Top-Two PrimariesCalifornia has a screwy system for our primaries. Instead of the parties getting to pick their candidates, everyone who is running is on the ballot and the top two candidates get to battle it out in the general election. The idea of these “top-two primaries” was to get more “moderate” candidates. But before getting to that, let’s discuss how it can totally disenfranchise the majority of the voters.

Imagine that you have a congressional district that is 60% Republican. And in the primary, there are 5 Republicans running and just 2 Democrats. Let’s suppose that they each get an equal share of their coalition. So each Republican gets one-fifth of 60%, or 12% of the total vote; each Democrat get one-half of 40%, or 20% of the total vote. So in the general election for a district that is overwhelmingly Republican, the voters get to choose from… two Democrats. That’s not Democracy; that’s madness.

Back in 2014, I wrote an article about the same issue, California’s Stupid Top-Two Primaries. In it, I talked about three districts where this was a real problem. Here is the most important:

Let’s talk about one where we came less than a percentage point away from a totally ridiculous result: House of Representatives District 31. In that race, 53.3% of the people voted for a Democratic candidate and only 46.7% of the people voted for a Republican candidate. But there were four Democrats running and only three Republicans. The winner was Republican Paul Chabot with 26.8% of the vote. Second place went to Democrat Pete Aguilar with 17.4%—barely beating Republican Lesli Gooch with 16.5% of the vote. If Aguilar had lost just one percentage point of his vote to either of the Democrats Joe Baca or Danny Tillman, the general election would have been between two Republicans, even though the people showing up in the general election would overwhelmingly prefer a Democrat.

But even in cases where the district is overwhelmingly Democratic and Republican, I still think it is wrong that partisans don’t get to vote for a candidate in their own party because of the top-two primaries. And that is looking like it is going to be the case at the state level when it comes to filling Barbara Boxer’s seat. According to Real Clear Politics, the top two candidates are Kamala Harris (30.2%) and Loretta Sánchez (17.4%). The best the Republicans have to offer is the devilishly handsome Tom Del Beccaro (7.0%).

I think this is stupid. It’s like term limits. Everyone loves these kinds of laws. It’s a way of telling other people how they ought to live their lives.

Don’t get me wrong. As a partisan, I’m thrilled that not only is Barbara Boxer’s seat going to be filled with a Democrat but that it is going to be filled with a woman. I will probably vote for Sánchez, but I’ll be fine with Harris. (I have to admit, I haven’t been staying up on politics; this weekend will involve a whole lot of study.) So: go team!

But as a liberal, I hate this. In 2012, California was made up of 44% Democrats and 29% Republicans. And that comes out to about 60/40. I really do think that a Republican should be on the ballot for Senate in November. And a Libertarian and a Green and a Peace and Freedom.

There still remains the issue of getting more moderate candidates. Before I consider this, it shouldn’t surprise you to know that I think this is stupid. It’s like term limits. Everyone loves these kinds of laws (or in this case, change to the state constitution). It’s a way of telling other people how they ought to live their lives. I see no reason why Willie Brown should not still be in the California State Assembly if his voters wanted him there. And I see no reason why the Republicans shouldn’t be able to nominate whatever extremist they want.

But back in 2012, political scientists at UC Berkeley looked at the data and found that the top-two system did not give moderates any better a chance than the traditional system. So we have less choice. We have the situation where the minority party can win because of partisan disagreement. And we don’t even get the one thing we were supposed to get. California’s top-two primaries need to end.