Dragon*Con redux: Part Deux: The Recap

9 09 2009
 


Thriller creep

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

So just a few days ago, I made my third expedition into Dragon*Con. As usual I was overwhelmed by the schedule, the possibilities and my own physical limitations. It is difficult to stand up for hours and wander around. Heaven forbid that you are wearing a sweaty Klingon outfit and carrying a bunch of memorabilia around. I’d hope these folks have a hotel room that they can retire to.

The impression that I get is the 2009 event was the largest ever. It was super-crowded. We got to do a few things and it was fun, but we had to fight a little and be smart about it. No doubt, the fact that William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were making appearances must have drawn in the crowds by the thousands. It was, by all accounts, a magical exchange. I was at work, but I was there in spirit. Now, if only I cared about all these newfangled shows the kids are watching. Im an old-school Trek and TNG fangirl. Buffy, Babylon and Battlestar don’t really do it for me. And the new Star Trek movie? I have to admit, it was a bit of an affront.

I managed to get myself up for the parade (my second year doing this) and enjoyed it, although it was much harder to see than last year. After that, we objectified ourselves by looking at wings, masks, corsets, bellydancing suits and other geeky and nerdy thingamajigs. It was good because one of our non-Con-membership-$$$ friends was able to sneak in with us and buy some things, thus helping the tourist E-Con-omy — someone who otherwise wouldn’t go. That’s how we justified it; I think it’s just like how BART overcharges for travel to SFO airport — because tourist dollars are sought after more than resident dollars. When the Patrick Stewart line had gone through (our mouths were agape at the fact that it stretched through the Marriott and into Peachtree Center mall), I asked the ushers if I could get inside and we lucked out. Captain Picard was on fire, exchanging hot remarks with the Trek Trak show hosts with the sharp, barbed wit of a bald, Shakespearean science fiction actor. We sought coffee and were immediately besieged by geeks with cameras and horrible pickup lines. 

After that, we marched around some of the show areas where art is on display and went to see a concert by Abney Park that was right in the middle of the Hyatt ballrooms. The fire marshall was literally pacing back and forth like Darth Vader, and his D*C minions were adamant that people were to “keep moving” and not linger in the area around the concert. Clearly the demand exceeded supply. I don’t know why the fire marshall didn’t don a villainous constume, because it would have befitted his cretinous ways. I was tired at that point and could hardly see what was going on because the crowd of ewoks and other ridiculousness had gotten thick. I heard some clapping and cheering going on. Turns out, there was a marriage proposal during the concert. Too bad I couldn’t hear. But, congratulations to the lucky couple. We had run into a coworker who was working on a video piece about love and romance at Dragon*Con (not as much of an oxymoron as it seems) and we let him know about this as well.

The rest of the time around then is a little fuzzy. At a later point we were wandering around the art show. And at still another point, we attended a panel discussion by some people who worked at Battlestar Galactica (but were not key players like writers or actors). In the words of a friend, they “towed the company line” in regards to fans’ questions and disappointment about the series ending. I didn’t know what they were all talking about, but I enjoyed getting this sense of the kinds of reactions fans get to work that people put out, as well as a way NOT to act when receiving criticism and affection from devoted followers. It was enlightening nonetheless. I also remember we tried to sneak into the Leonard Nimoy panel just as we did with Patrick Stewart only to find that it was canceled. Oh well, at least we didn’t have to wait in line to find out.

And then, sometime later in the evening, we went to go get some food and had some geeky conversations, and then we attended a panel on skepticism (a bit baffling to me coming from a crowd of folks dressed in Spandex alien suits), followed up by a “filk” concert by Tom Smith. I always forget what filk is, but it’s basically a geeky version of folk music. The music guests that I saw were a lot better last year. Voltaire and folk duo Paul and Storm were there. I know the latter joined the likes of Jonathan Coulton and Wil Wheaton at Penny Arcade Expo this year. Hey, I can’t blame them for wanting to go to Seattle. In fact, I’m thinking if I do a Con again, I might seek out a change of pace by heading out West instead of looking outside my back door.

After that, or maybe before that, my memory fails me, we had some time to kill and went in search of amusement. We found it in a tiny, dark room showing bizarre films. We watched the last act of “Black Sheep,” an apparently foreign film (Australian? I’m going to get myself in trouble here…) about evil mutant sheep that attack humans and try to turn them into additional members of their kind. Yes, I said evil mutant sheep. The film is a hoot. After that, we saw the beginning of a horrible movie about lesbian vampires. Meh. It was kind of entertaining, though.

We closed out the night with a rousing concert by Cruxshadows, a funhouse-mirror reflection of Depeche Mode; I would describe it as the band’s brooding, younger, goth-ier brother — the one who cuts himself for attention. No, but Cruxshadows rocked the carpeted ballroom floors in stylish fashion. The band isn’t all that well-known, so they were hungry to bond with fans. That made this a great show. The lead singer dude came into the audience right in front of us on a couple of occasions, standing on a chair in one instance and doing some sort of a dance in another. And then at the end, everyone jumped up on stage and the singer picked up a young child that had been sitting on someone’s shoulders (!) much to the crowd’s excitement. Everyone was singing along and it was awesome.

That was the conclusion of day one. Day 2 found me sleeping in, going to a brunch at Straits in midtown, venturing out to the Decatur Book Festival, and then heading back intown just in time to join the world’s largest thriller dance. It was chaos when I got there and I almost didn’t get to dance. They were only going to let the first 1,000 go in, and they weren’t giving out any more ribbons. I was lucky that someone in the gift shop heard my pleas for a ribbon and mentioned that her pelvis hurt too much (or something along that line) and soon I found myself with three ribbons in the 400 group. And thus I had admission for my friends as well. It was a good time. The way I see it, the count is MORE accurate this way, even if it’s not the same person.

The dancers included a giant Michael Jackson single shiny glove, Cookie Monster in an orange jacket, storm troopers, zombie Elvis and some other colorful folks. It was a good time. The dance was more involved than I thought. I tried to recreate it for my coworkers the next day when we went wading in a fountain near the office, but was not very successful. That MJ. So talented was he. And such a great zombie.

And then more dinner and talking and a little more gawking and soon I was back at home, celebrating and mourning the end of my Con experience at the same time. Maybe next year I’ll go to PAX in Seattle for a change of scenery. Maybe not. I’m certain that there’s something magical about Dragon*Con and I hope it stays that way.





Dragon*Con redux part I: My Con history

9 09 2009

Star Trek Experience
  

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

The wonderful magical microsociety of Dragon*Con, contained entirely within the mazelike confines of three connected hotels and one satellite a few blocks away, is something I think everyone should experience once. Do it, if only to get in touch with your inner geek and your secret furry. Everyone has one lurking inside, I like to think. There has to be a part of you that yearns to don a cape and prance around as if you were faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap freight trains in a single bound. If you don’t, you’re probably not much fun to be around anyway.

I remember being an outsider who had never been to a Con save for a couple Star Trek conventions when I was a preteen. It was all for research I was doing for a class, mind you. I remember stuffing myself into the circa-1970s orange bleachers inside the Phoenix Veterans Memorial Coliseum so I could listen to Garrett Wang from Star Trek: Voyager, and John DeLancey, who played Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I found both actors’ schpiels to be engaging and expected such from all cons afterward.

I also had high expectations from having seen “Star Trek: The Experience” at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel, long before the forces of economy and practicality took away one of these old holdovers from Sin City’s drunken flirtations with family-friendliness, whimsy and imagination.

Having long ago left my preteen years in another galaxy, seeing these geeks (an affectionate term) standing on the train platform took me back to those geeky days of my youth when I used to thumb through an encyclopedia of information about “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” There was a time when I could describe the plot of every episode in great detail and tell you all about the various quirks and life stories of each character. I don’t know what happened to that part of me, but I don’t have it anymore and I kind of want it back. Looking at these current-day con lovers made me wish I was one of them. Not to mention that marveling at powerful superheroes’ ordinary means of transit made me laugh. Hard.

Another thing that’s important to consider is that Labor Day weekend is a busy one in Atlanta, and it’s a time when you might find yourself with a decked-out football fanatic on one side and a storm trooper on the other. One year I passed the time on my 45-minute trip intown by making interesting conversation with a chatty pirate’s wench. She had a lot to say about piracy and about life in general. I wished I’d had the gumption to capture that moment on film.

At some point, I’d seen enough of this fantastic tomfoolery and decided I had to be part of it. I decided to give it a shot. The journey began by standing in line for about an hour to buy tickets onsite. Lucky me, I could by a second year’s membership to Dragon*Con for just $10 more (or some ridiculous sum like that). So I did, and by that point, I was locked in for two years of this wonderful nonsense.

My first year at Dragon*Con, I approached the scene with a lot of trepidation. I went by myself into the wild and wooly crowd, armed with a camera and the excuse that I was just a journalist passing through. I told myself, “This year I’m just documenting a scene.” I opted to remain a detached observer of the absurdity around me.

My second year was the best. I had a plan. I even brought an iReport kit with me and interviewed people. With the help of coworkers and friends, I saw quite a bit of things and had lots of fun. Not to mention, I took way too many pictures. Afterward, I made my television debut talking about the event with a viking hat on.

My third year’s expedition to Dragon*Con was predated by an exhausting run through San Diego Comic-Con, which is a totally different animal and yet much the same. The focus is on comics primarily and it’s about twice as big, but not necessarily as cool or fun. I think at some point I just got a little tired. I realized that the Con experience has its limits. I look forward to it, and at the same time, I know that I will be fatigued and frustrated by it.

I’ll want to kick myself, but I’ll go to another con, and I’ll enjoy it. That’s the way it goes. After all the lines and crowds and odoriffic science fiction costumes around you, the memories are what remain.

It’s a unique thing, something you can’t really get anywhere else, and a surreal exploration of that part of us that still likes to dress up and pretend to be someone else. I hope that we can all dig deep and find it within ourselves, even if we wouldn’t be caught dead in Spandex.





A little San Diego recap

28 07 2009

Hey, there’s no better time to recap San Diego than when you’re siting in the airport indefinitely, waiting for your flight to a foggy red dot on an otherwise green FAA flight schedule nation. That is, San Francisco.

So I did the Comic-Con thing and it was pretty awesome, but you really do need to be an insider to truly enjoy it. The average person who goes is missing out on so much, I am learning. There’s a whole back-end that most people never see. And then there’s the random run-ins and encounters. Comic-Con is TEEMING with interesting people. Overally, I think Dragon*Con is more fun for fans and has better costuming. Comic-Con is a really big media event in general. Also, SDCC is really exhausting. I did one and a half days. I can’t imagine going whole hog.

I did some other things, too. I took a ferry to the beach on Coronado Island (I missed the really nice beach apparently) and wandered Old Town, and visited a couple nice observation spots where we could look down on the action below.

And now I wait for the next phase of my trip.