Friday, August 31, 2007
I realize that now I've created this project for myself, I haven't been very good about just posting every day. In a lot of ways, I think that's alright; just writing something in order to have a post doesn't feel as useful as putting some extra thought and time into something more meaningful. Anyway, hope you like the photos.
As a sidenote, the coconut photos might remind some of you of a movie I made my first year...with grapefruits. But this time, I was not the one who caused the destruction.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Looking at the drabble I've produced so far, I'm seeing some trends... Clear beginning, middle, and end, which unfortunately tends to want to translate itself as hook, middle, and punchline. I don't want to write punchline stories, but it's so awfully tempting. I'm okay with the approximately three paragraph thing, and I know that I can get around it. After I've written a few of these I really want to start experimenting more and seeing how different sorts of thing I can get out of this restriction.
Anyway, they've been fun to write and it sounds like they're fun to read, as well.
EDIT: Also, apparently this was POST ONE HUNDRED. Yay!
The first thing I heard was screaming.
I turned around and watched in horror as the enormous, lizard-like foot came crashing down on top of the unfortunate hiker. Over the sound of the terrible ground-shaking STOMP, I imagined that I could hear a squelching sound…but I’m sure it was only my imagination. Something came rolling towards me—it was her hat.
Then the thought sprang to mind, What if he has friends? I need to get out of here. As the other bystanders and I clambered away from the scene, I imagined I could hear the monster talking to God.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Margaret decided at age 19 that adults were nothing special. When she was little she’d believed there was a switch that, when flipped, made you unafraid of doctors’ visits or ordering for yourself in restaurants, and gave you confidence in any situation. Now she knew, there was no magic button—you were still afraid, just taller. So imagine her surprise when a man came to her door to issue her a license for adulthood. “What kind of adult would you like to be? Nurturing? Intellectual? Romantic? Confident?”
“This is bullshit,” she answered.
He nodded. “I’ll put you down for Cynical.”
Monday, August 27, 2007
I don’t know what it has to do with the dead coming back to life, but there are fires everywhere. Thank goodness I’m safe inside this bus.
Thank goodness there was a bus at all. Thank goodness the driver offered to give me a lift. He’ll take me to my aunt’s place, the next state over, and I can wait there for this insanity to subside.
Only, the fires are here, too. I thought they’d have ceased after the first couple hundred miles, but they’re blazing all around as the driver tells me, “This is your stop.
“You gettin’ off?”
*The rules of Drabble count the title and any footnotes outside the 100-word limit
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I have the Drabblecast to thank for this idea. The goal is for me to write, polish, and post three drabble pieces a week. 300 words a week doesn't sound like much, but coming up with an interesting idea and then conveying it effectively in only 100 words in definitely a challenge. One downside to this is that doing this kind of writing doesn't directly get me closer to my goal of submitting stories to publications as even places that accept flash fiction probably want more than 100 words. But, I'm hoping that as an exercise, writing 100-word stories will help me focus my writing...I'm rather fond of long, elaborate descriptions, and while I like the way I write descriptions, I'm hoping this will teach me word economy and the value of dialog.
So, there's the goal. I'l start sometime next week...hopefully I'll get a start on ideas and writing on m busride back to Chicago this evening. Anyway, since I'll most likely still be posting other story ideas and bits, I'll label the drabble project posts separately. Maybe I'll get really ambitious and start hand-writing them on paper with illustrations and scan them in and post them...but only time can tell at this point.
She ordered a cup of tea and read her book. Sometimes other customers, especially young men, would look over in her direction; this isn't surprising as she was very pretty in an unglamorous yet somehow striking way. Mostly she just kept reading her book, but sometimes she would notice their glances and would smile to herself as if she knew something they didn't, or perhaps just because the attention pleased her. The attention did please her, but it is also true that she knew something they didn't.
She knew a great many things they didn't, in fact, like what it's like to stand at Niagara Falls in the middle of January with ice blowing in your face, and how fresh pineapple tastes in the morning on the banks of the river Kwai, and that at 3am, from the interstate bus, the street lights of distant rural roads look like stars or like the lights of ships on a vast, dark ocean, and other mysteries of travel and perspective. She knew mysteries of love and heartache, as well, the kind of mysteries whose answer change every time the question is asked, as it is asked in countless pop songs, rock songs, folk songs, operas.
She only got through a few chapters of the book; the people on bikes outside were too distracting and her tea had gotten cold. Humming a song that exactly captured her mood, she put away her book, stood, and exited the shop. She walked home, stopping every now and then to take a photo of some happy accident that reminded her of how wonderful the randomness of life can be.
Friday, August 24, 2007
On the up side, I am going to submit a story to Drabblecast! Actually, I'll probably submit multiple stories, but I'll start with just the one. Hooray!
Home's been good so far...had a pretty busy day that, unfortunately, did not involve swimming as I had hoped; apparently I brought the Chicago storms with me to St. Louis. The trip was pretty alright; I didn't really get to sleep, as predicted, but the scenery was surprisingly cool--surprising given that it was entirely dark out. What made it cool were how lights, from all kinds of sources, looked, just out there in the middle of an entirely dark landscape.
Well, I'll probably go to bed now.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Still, I'll have a notebook with me, and my computer for as long as the battery holds out. Perhaps without the distractions of the interblag, friends, and really anything that isn't miles and miles of corn, I'll actually be able to write something. Except that this will all be post-midnight.
Hey, a girl can dream.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
In a nutshell, Interworld is the story of a boy who discovers that he has the ability to travel among multiple universes and finds himself battling the forces of the exetremities of Science and Magic (much more so the magic; the one thing that disappointed me with the book was that the Science bad guys really only made a cameo appearance...I kept waiting for them to come back... The problem with only showing on half of your dichotomy of evil-doers is that the reader is left with an impression of the absent party as being less malicious. At least, I was. I wanted to hear about how evil they were!). Anyway, fun book, and you should pick it up if you're like me and have already read all of the other wonderful things Neil Gaiman has had a hand in.
I think I will begin reading Dave McKean's beautiful, enormous graphic novel Cages when I get back from visiting the fam, despite the fact that I will surely not have finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Even though Cages would be great reading for once classes have started, I don't know how much longer I can let it stare at me from the shelf where it's been since I got home from Comic Con.
Finally, speaking of books, if you're in the Chicago area you should come check out one of the current exhibits at the Hyde Park Art Center, Another Story. The pieces consist largely of altered books; it's all various kinds of book and text art, and it's really awesome. (I'm not plugging this because I work at the HPAC but rather because it is just that cool.)
Monday, August 20, 2007
No--drive-by cold-spell casting.
That's right; someone with more-than-natural--one might even say "Supernatural"--powers has been casting spells at our apartment from a moving vehicle, causing us to get sick. It's the only explanation.
The next day, we were talking about dreams and how I was getting ideas for stories right before going sleep and then not writing them down with the intention of doing so in the morning (I'm actually pretty good at remember things that way)...but not remembering the at all. And then the answer dawns upon us--our colds are in fact magically induced, but these sniffly symptoms were not the goal of the spell. Rather, these symptoms are the side effects of a spell that steals ideas!
Clearly, this is the only explanation that makes any sense.
Some rain sprinkles. Some falls in drops. Rain can form a sheet like a wet pane of glass separating you from the sun, or it can shoot down from the sky like cold spears, stabbing into the ground and the hapless pedestrians who didn't make it indoors.
But this rain was like none of these.
With a roar of thunder it came crashing down upon our city like a massive boulder, solid and unforgiving. It squashed our world beneath its weight, superimposing its own dreary, soggy world over our own.
The rain was an entity in its own right, and when it invaded it left very little room for anyone else. As water finds its way down through cracks to anywhere it can go, so the lucky ones among us managed find our way into cracks in this RainWorld--spaces where the torrents were not so heavy and there was air to breathe, where this dark energy accidentally let us through. In almost every way, our world had become like a river at its most homicidal: it surged with a terrible force that carried dark intentions within, and we only survived by learning to navigate, to cooperate with the flow, to spot the passages through which we were allowed to tread.
But we were the lucky ones. Many were not able to adapt or never had a chance to begin with. The RainWorld was a great aquatic cemetery, filled to the overflowing brim with the waterlogged dead. And when the thunder clapped once, twice, three times loud enough to wake them, they rose.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Speaking of much worse insects, there were meal worms in my arborio rice. =( I guess I should be thankful that I found this out before I tried to cook with it, heh. But they gave me the heebie jeebies, and I am usually fine with bugs. I guess I am just not cool with really gross squirmy bugs living in my food.
Well, this was a really profound post.
Actually, I have been thinking about some deeper things, because I've started working on my application for my major program. Something about philosophy of ethics and morality, and how ideas about morality are conveyed through literature and film. You know. I pulled some quotes from my notes and some long passages from a couple books I read for class last year; I was sort of exciting to be thinking about these things again. I need to have the application done by the time school starts. It shouldn't be that difficult...only 500 to 1000 words, which is nothing, but it's going to be interesting figuring out to phrase these ideas I've been playing with since the summer before my first year of college. I also need to seriously start considering what I'm going to do for my final BA/project/culminatory thingie. I would still like to have a fiction component, and should probably have some kind of film or video component, too...but that's going to take up a lot of time. If I really do go part-time my 4th year (which is actually looking like an option) I'd probably have the time to pursue those kinds of creative endeavors. It would be quite a workout.
I meant to at least jot down some story ideas I've been playing with...but I think that will have to wait for tomorrow.
This will be my longest trip away from wherever-it-is-I-call-home-at-the-time, and I'm looking foward to that. I'm excited to see what daily life is like in a place that isn't here, and interested finding my own rhythm there. It's a homestay program; we live entirely with local familes, and I don't know what to think about that. It'll be different, for sure. I don't what the expectations will be like, and I'm worried about being judged, though I really shouldn't. Ah well, no way to know what it's like before I get there.
But, yep. Plane tickets to Oaxaca.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Twisting my stomach into knots
That my tongue was tied off
My brain's repeating
"if you've got an impulse let it out"
But they never make it past my mouth.
Baa bah, this is the sound of settling
Baa bah, baa bah
Our youth is fleeting
Old age is just around the bend
And I can't wait to go grey
And I'll sit and wonder
Of every love that could've been
If I'd only thought of something charming to say.
Sorrow drips into your heart through a pinhole
Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound
But while you debate half empty or half full
It slowly rises, your love is gonna drown
So, you want something
And you call, call
And I'll come running to fight
And I'll be at your door
When there's nothing worth running for
When your mind's made up
There's no point trying to change it
When your mind's made up
There's no point trying to stop it
See, you're just like everyone
When the shit falls
All you want to do is run away
And hide all by yourself
When you're far from me, there's nothing else
Get a real job
Keep the wind at your back and the sun on your face
All the immediate unknowns
Are better than knowing this tired and lonely fate
Let's not forget ourselves good friend
You and I were almost dead
And you're better off for leaving
Yeah you're better off for leaving
(Death Cab For Cutie, Death Cab For Cutie, Glen Hansard & Markéta Iglová, and Rilo Kiley, respectively.)
Saturday, August 11, 2007
So, who do we have to thank for hour 24-hour day? (A Wikipedia Study)
According to Wikipedia, the Ancient Egyptians are who we have to thank for the first 12-hour clock; the days were divided with 12 hours from sunrise to sunset and 12 hours from sunset to sunrise (consquently, the length of the hours changed seasonally). Time was told on a sundial for day and a water clock for night.
The Romans also had a 12-hour clock; the days were divided into 12 equal hours (again, length changed throughout the year) and the night was divided into three "watches."
The first mechanical clocks, in the 14th century, had dials that actually showed all 24 hours.
It seems that most countries use 24-hour time notation as opposed to 12-hour, but as far as this dicussion is concerned, they're the same thing. There are a few exceptions:
In Thailand, next to the 12-hour and 24-hour clock system, a 6-hour clock system is also used, especially in spoken language. It counts 4 times from 1 to 6, with different additional words to make the distinction for night, morning, afternoon, and evening. 24 is divisble by 6, however, so it still fits into the same system, no matter how much it is divided up by language.
Apparently some situations in Canada use something called "metric time," but I'm not sure it's exactly what metric time would be. Check out the Wiki article on metric time and this picture of a French Revolutionary decimal clockface.
So, there's plenty of fodder in case I feel like writing a story based around time manipulation, which was a vague idea I had (we change how time is organized, and consequently learn that there was an excellent reason for 24-hour days). The most obvious thing to me, I guess, is that time will continue to pass no matter how we divide it up, and how we divide it up is a matterof convenience. If we were nocturnal animals, perhaps we would have come up with something completely different (sundials would probably not have been the original method of telling time).
Friday, August 10, 2007
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
I saw the movie during Comic-Con in full, with an introduction and followed by a Q&A session with Neil Gaiman, who wrote the original book and produced the film and Jane Goldman, who wrote the screenplay. The movie is really terrific--don't let the big budget scare you away. It looks fantastic, the acting is great, the music is lovely (and swells a lot). For those of you who want to take the book purist approach--yes, the movie is different than the book. But the author worked very closely with the production the entire time, and honest-to-goodness likes it! Including the changes!
For more information, check out the official Stardust website.
If you want to read Gaiman's opinions for yourself, check out any post from his journal for the past two months or so.
If you need another reason, how about "because there is a meteor shower this weekend, and the movie release lines up with it coincidentally and that's really cool?"
Go see it! I'll be there!
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
So, I added a little more. The original version was a bittersweet glimpse of love; this new draft is a bit more sinister.
We came up, breathless. A cross-hatching of fresh grass clippings stuck to our skin, making us look like two members of some new species.
I breathed in. His smell mingled with that of the newly-cut grass and filled my head. I closed my eyes. I wanted to stay here forever like this; I would never wash off the grass stains.
I looked at him. "Don't go."
He smiled and chuckled softly, brushing some grass off of his arms. "It's just a meeting. I'll see you later tonight."
"I meant, don't go to Africa," I said.
His expression became more solemn. We'd had this conversation before. "You know I have to."
"But it isn't about you having to go! You want to!" Frustrated and embarrassed I lay back down. The cloudless sky filled my field of vision but the beauty was marred by the threat of tears. I held them back.
I felt him lie down beside me. "I do want to go, you're right. But it isn’t because I want to leave you. I want to go because this is the most important mission of the decade! I want to go because of what our discoveries could mean for society...for the world!"
"I know," I said softly. "But it's so far away. It's so foreign."
"It's our ancestral home," he replied. "Part of me, a large part of me, hopes that it will be familiar when I get there." He sat up and turned to look down at me. "Would you feel any different if I was going anywhere else on Earth?" he asked. "South America? Europe?"
"Would you?" I snapped, then softer, "No, I wouldn't feel different about it. They're all equally far away from here. But I would miss you just as much wherever you went, no matter how far away it was."
He leaned down and kissed me on my forehead. "I'll miss you, too."
I sat up and took his hand. "Just promise me, if Africa does feel like home, that you won't want to stay."
At this he smiled. "I can promise that, no problem. No place can really feel like home without you."
We kissed one more time, and then he stood, brushed the rest of the grass from his body, and headed off to his meeting.
I fell back into the grass once more, gazing up at the blueness of the sky. That it was artificial, an image projected across the high domed ceiling of our city, didn't make it any less beautiful, any less awe-inspiring.
I breathed the last traces of his scent, now overwhelmed by that of the grass, knowing full well that it didn't matter if he promised not to stay in Africa. Their discoveries would be of priceless importance to humanity, but by the time the mission returned from Earth, I would probably be dead. Even if I wasn't, I would be far too old for him to have any interest in me anymore.
Which is why I took matters into my own hands.
The chemical I had secretly been delivering to him for the past six days worked slowly but with predictable precision. By the time serious training for the mission began in two weeks’ time, the muscles in his legs will have atrophied beyond the standards of the corps, and he would be removed from the program.
In time, he might regain the use of his legs, but in the meantime I would happily wheel him around and comfort him about his misfortune and lost opportunity. Forever by his side, always together, the way it should be.
Looking back up at the sky, I smiled wistfully. I loved our snow globe world but, as he said, “No place can really feel like home without you.”
I closed my eyes, wanting to stay here, like this, forever. I would never wash off the grass stains.
Every morning on her way to work, Rose would pass the old man with the dog.
Actually, it might be more appropriate to say the dog with the old man, based on who really seemed to be doing the walking and who was being walked.
The old man was nondescript and could have been blind, given the way he didn't seem to notice anything going on around him. He simply held onto the leash and moved forward, dull eyes looking straight ahead but seeming not seeing a thing. His canine companion was no seeing-eye dog, however.
The dog was one of those miniature, toy ones that Rose despised. It was some kind of tiny terrier, black curls dusted with gray. It made her think of a really ugly teddy bear that someone had stuck a frame, wires, and a motor into, the way it pranced ahead of its owner. And its eyes...
Its eyes were like polished marbles made from hematite, dark, gray, slightly iridescent--but not in an attractive way at all. If Rose didn't know better, she would swear that she could sense a cruel intelligence contained within. Nonsense, of course; it was just a dog, and a little, stupid dog at that. She was probably just sensing its ego.
This particular morning, as the girl and dog passed right by each other the latter raised its head to look straight at her. It was like looking into starless, moonless night, endlessly dark, flat and deep at the same time. She shuddered, and then suddenly she flashed on a vision of the dog and the man at home.
The old man was slumped lifelessly over a table, face down on the surface. The little dog sat upright by the man's head. In the split second that the vision lasted, Rose saw the dog lift its chin and open its mouth--something black and of an indescribable texture began to flow from its open mouth and its cold gray eyes. It oozed onto the table and formed a puddle by the man's head. Rose thought she saw something tentacle-like flick upwards from the puddle before the whole mess began to seep into the man's face, through his mouth and nose that were pressed against the top of the table. The second it had all vanished he sat up with a jolt. His eyes were like the dog's had been--gleaming hematite spheres with something...terrible...emanating from within.
"Arf!" said the dog.
Rose shooked her head and blinked, opening her eyes in time to see the dog and the old man pass her by and continue down the sidewalk, the pup trotting along as if it owned the world. All memory of her vision had disappeared from her mind. "I don't trust those tiny dogs," Rose thought to herself as she headed off toward work.
Monday, August 6, 2007
But wait a second...
I already have my own webspace, from way back, that my father bought for me when I was an up-and-coming songwriter. And it's just there, waiting for me to upload whatever I want...
So, I downloaded and FTP program and started messing around. Whee! It looks like crap right now, but I really just have an understanding of the basics, of code structure and all that; my vocabularly is still very small. But I think I'll start reading the book in earnest now, and if, during my experiments, I ever create something I'm proud of, I'll be sure to post it here.
In alphabetical order (as they are in the list):
This site declare itself "a directory of wonderful things," which is certainly true. Boingboing is a blog consisting of posts from various authors (including Cory Doctorow), most of the items weird and wonderful. Just a neat place to go if you're looking for something to make you go, "Huh, that's interesting."
Dinosaur Comics, by Ryan North, is a delightful webcomic that features the exact same six panels every strip, containing a T-Rex, a Dromeciomimus, and a Utah Raptor (and sometimes God, the Devil, and other characters off-screen) engaging in conversation about everything from the English language, to alternate universes, to lesbians. Don't forgot to scroll over the comic for the alt text!
A weekly sci-fi short fiction podcast, Escape Pod is a new find of mine (through Cory Doctorow, actually) and has provided much respite on my long days at work/walking to work. The podcast offers a pretty wide variety of types of story, with different styles and subjects, and is a lot of fun if you like sci-fi, which I do.
If you read my blog at all, this one needs little explanation. Neil Gaiman is my favorite author and one of the reasons I started itching to writing again. Just read Smoke and Mirrors or American Gods to find out why he is deserving of your admiration. In addition to his novels, stories, and comics, I also read Neil's journal, which he updates with generous frequency.
And go see Stardust, in theatres August 10!
Sort of a companion to Escape Pod, Pseudopod is a weekly horror short fiction podcast. I've actually only listened to one story so far (the latest, Big Boy), and I will recommend it based on that. Though only if you like horror fiction (which I do).
This American Life
I started listening to This American Life when I was quite young, because my parents listened to it on NPR every weekend. I suppose you could call it a documentary radio show. Each week has a theme which is explored through stories about just ordinary Americans...who seldom turn out to be so ordinary after all, or are ordinary in an extraordinary way... Really, it's difficult to describe. You can listen to episodes from their complete archives streaming online, buy episodes to download, or subscribe to the free weekly podcast which delivers each new episode right to your audio playing device. Just go do it.
Another webcomic, about (as the site will tell you) "romance, sarcasm, math, and language." The art style is exceedingly simple, and I love it as much as I love Randall Munroe's sense of humor--it's a perfect pairing.
So, if you're for something fun or need to something to do, I recommend checking out one of these sites. If you manage to like me, you will probably like them, too.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
I'd love to do something along these days, but I don't exactly know what that could be. If I wanted it to be some kind of creative writing, I don't think I could do it every day...and I don't think I have the materials or the talent to do a visual project every day. But, if I find a theme I'd be willing to work with, I'd love to give something a shot.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Thought that does remind me, I wrote the first draft of a story in June based on an art project I did last quarter. I should go back to that.
Maybe I should check out Ralan again for some inspiration, after I run out of ideas on this private project.
All of a sudden, I can no longer keep my eyelids from drooping; feels like someone is pressing on my eyeballs. I guess it's time for bed.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Here's a bit about the highlights of my experience at San Diego Comic-Con International 2007 (aside from being complimented by random strangers, and the line for Ballroom 20, which are described below):
Obviously, this was a major highlight, being the main reason for me going to Comic-Con in the first place, and it was totally worth it. I got to see him both at the Stardust Preview (which was awesome) and at his Spotlight panel (if you can call one person with a microphone a panel). It was very much like the videos of Q&A that I've seen, and it was great. He's a terrific speaker, amusing, anecdotal, and kind.
The questions were mostly about movie projects and writing. When it comes to inspiration, Gaiman subscribes to a "What if" method: "What if I drove out to where the shooting star/meteorite landed and instead of a rock it was a girl?"
He does not believe in "writer's block," saying that he has seen writers write loads about having writer's block which is rather contradictory and leads him to believe that they are really just stuck on whatever they are working on. Being stuck allows for the situation to improve; writer's block does not. He told about how he got stuck on Coraline in 1992 and picked it up again in 1998 when he had figured out what to do. I have a hard time imagining that...six years is almost a quarter of my lifetime. I guess what I took from it is that ideas should always be written, and stories always begun, because there is the chance that later, even much later, they can be completed.
He also told us that if you want to be a writer, then you should just write. Do not clean the bathroom or alphabetize your spices...just write.
Beyond that, it's a bit of a blur. An enjoyable, star-struck blur.
I will admit that this was not a particularly awe-inspiring panel, though it was very interesting and cool. It is amazing to see two men so...well-along in their years still actively contributing to the creative pool. The door on Ray's wheelchair lift got stuck, so they panel was delayed a bit...his biographer told us the same thing happened when Ray met the president recently, and that they served him wine while they worked on the problem. My two favorite questions to the author were both from English teacher; the first teaches Fahrenheit 451 and wanted to know just what it was about, and Bradbury describe the fear he felt when he heard about the Nazis and the Russians burning books. F451 was a response to that fear (he wrote the book at age 26!). The second question was from a teacher whose students read the story "There Will Come Soft Rains." The teacher said that her student always ask, if the house can clean up after itself and deal cards, why can't it feed the poor dog? Upon having the question repeated to him, Ray laughed and said that he would rewrite the story tomorrow.
Voice Actors Panel
I said I'd write more about this, so I shall. We went to this panel after realizing there was no way we were getting in to see Heroes, and it was delightful. My favorites on the panel were Rob Paulson (Pinky from Pinky and the Brain, multiple characters from Animaniacs--he sang Yakko's world for the audience, which was awesome) and Wally Wingert (Tallest Red from Invader Zim), mostly because of how excited he was about everything and how all his other roles were fairly obscure, a fact which he humorously referenced a few times. Neil Ross (2003 Academy Awards) was also awesome. The most experienced participant on the panel was Joe Alaskey (click his name to visit his IMDB page, because all I can remember is Daffy Duck). Everyone on the panel did a few of their voices, dropped some names, and made jokes, and the panel closed with a cold reading of Orson Welle's War of the Worlds, and the panelists had to change voices whenever the moderator said so. All in all quite fun.
A word on panels, if I may. The moderator for the panel described above was one of the best we saw all weekend; I cannot complain about the moderator for the Spectacular Spiderman panel, the guy moderating the "How to Pitch and Animated Series" panel did a really nice job, and the Transformers producer tried to moderate the panel of internet movie journalists, but they didn't really let him. We did see some particularly atrocious moderating--if you can call it that. On one extreme, the moderator didn't direct the conversation at all, and the panelists just rambling on and on and back and forth and it was really quite boring. On the other extreme, the moderator didn't let his panelists talk; he must have assumed that being moderator meant he got to talk whenever he wanted to, and I guess he thought he had a lot of good things to say (which amounted to a lot of repeats, actually). There were two people on his panel who said not a word the entire time beyond introducing themselves.
So, if you ever find yourself in the position of panel moderator, here is my advice to you:
1. Know your panelists. If you can, research them ahead of time, so you know what kinds of questions they can answer and what kinds of experiences they can speak to; then, when those things come up, you can direct the questions their way.
2. Direct questions to your panelists. Sometimes they'll just speak up for themselves, but if you know that someone might have something particularly interesting to say, suggest it to them.
3. Always repeat questions. It can be hard to hear the back.
4. Make sure everyone gets a chance to speak. This might mean cutting off other panelists (so pay attention to what they are saying; if they repeat themselves too many times, move it along. You have that power), it might mean watching for when someone is trying to get a word in, and it might invole directing questions to someone.
5. Don't talk too much. Besides helping to introduce your panelists and repeating questions and directing the conversation sometimes, well, those things are really the bulk to your job. It's not really your job to delve too much into your own personal history, unless perhaps it is something really relevant, or it's something you know about one of the panelists that will lead that person into talking about it more in depth themselves(one mod. did this, and it was really nice).
Okay, that's it. I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I did watch quite a few panels and these were my observations and what makes a panel good.
A few words on costumes at Comic-Con
If you can imagine it, I probably saw it. I saw three Doctor Whos, a pirate-girl holding Jack Sparrow's severed head, more Slave Leias that I can count (apparently they do a big photo shoot with them and the life-size Jabba statue during the weekend), Batmen of every shape and size, lots of Transformers including a modded wheelchair which was really cool, lots of leg and cleavage (if you don't have a specific costume in mind, just wear as little clothing and as high of heels as possible!), tons of Imperial soldiers, from officers to storm troopers to TIE pilots to Vader himself, plenty of Griyffindor pupils, Buddy Christ from Dogma, a few Boba Fetts, Anime characters that I can't name, Avatar characters, and on and on. It's really cool that people get so into this stuff, and I would probably want to dress up at least one day the next time I go. (Yes, I want to go back to Comic Con sometime.)
That's about it, I think. If you have a question about something, just ask! Chances are I'll have an answer, unless it's "Did you meet so-and-so?" because then the answer is probably no.