2007: Day 2

Breakfast is good. Expensive, but good. Luckily this year we’ve got a ton of Marriott gift certificates to use to we basically eat for free… go, go credit card rewards points!

On to the zombie walk… okay, lets talk about a good idea: Get a bunch of people together dressed as zombies, stumble down the street. Now lets talk about poor execution… do this at the same time as the parade, along side the parade, but not in the parade. Seriously, a better show, since they didn’t get into the parade, would have been to pick a time, say around noon, and walk as a group through the three participating hotels. Ah well, maybe next year…

Saturday was looking to be a zombie day as I headed over to see the Zombie Squad. They were hilarious, but at the same time informative and cool. While they take on the far flung fantasy of a zombie uprising, they do so in focusing in general disaster preparedness. Take a look around your house, if you were to be cut off from communications, power, running water… if it were to all shut down, could you survive the first 72 hours on what you have?

A visit to Dragon*Con isn’t complete without a trip through the Art Show. Definitely some cool stuff to look at, but some times I wonder how they come up with the prices of the art… I see one piece, very nice, oil painting, $300… a few booths down, another oil, $6,500. I didn’t really see much of a difference between the two. There was another 1/8 scale diorama this year, last year was undead which was very cool… this year is Star Wars. Something about the little bastards of tattooine… jawas, storm troopers and sand people. Very nice.

After a short break, I went down and caught the end of the “Is Warcraft an MMO with training wheels?” to which the answer was a resounding “Yes” even though the “hardcore raiders” didn’t want to hear it. People were calling their game “easy” and “simple”, and it is, from level 1 to 60 (now 70) you don’t need help, you can level on your own and be just fine, but at the level cap the game gets “hard” because you wind up needing a guild, or at least a few friends to power through Arena and Battlegrounds.

That was followed by a panel on the nitty gritty of MMO Design. Mostly the room seemed to be filled with people who didn’t want to hear “Its not easy, in fact its a lot of hard work and takes a whole team of people.”

Ever watched a movie about the end of the world? Ever watched a bunch of them? Ever notice that the same archetypes of characters keep showing up? I attended a panel to discuss exactly that: what types keep showing up and why. Most interesting was the aspect of how American films differ from British films and both of those are miles away from Asian films. Fun talks.

While I skipped out on a screening of “The Signal” earlier in the day (I’ve seen it), I did want to attend a Q&A panel of the cast a crew. A.J. Bowen likes to wink at me, but I think only because I wink back… but its not in a gay way. Really.

The day ends as it always does… with drinking and people watching, running into old friends, laughing and talking… and sleep.

Good night.

2007: Day 1

Day 1 began as it always begins, check in. Really, seriously, I need to start planning on coming down on Thursday to avoid Friday. We really didn’t have trouble getting our room, it just wasn’t clean yet. So we got new rooms, but not before the bellman had brought up the bags to the unclean room. Why exactly are there two sets of bellmen? One helps you from the car to check in, the other helps you from check in to your room… two people, they each get half a tip.

With check in behind us, we set out to meet people and do stuff…

This year is seeing a few changes around the old Dragon*Con. Some tracks have been combined or changed, and there are some new ones. The old Tribe stuff has been pulled in to a new Apocalypse Rising track. I think I’m really going to like this one… I went to the kick off panel and we discussed all the ways the world can “end”, but of course apocalypse stories are not about the end of the world most of the time, they are about people surviving the end of the world they knew. Good stuff.

Next up was the MMO Obituary panel where we dragged out the corpses of all the dead (or dying) MMOs and continued to flog them, while at the same time discussing what they did do right and what we hope to see again. The Game Programming track that has finally broken away from the Electronic Frontiers Forums track looks to be another keeper.

Then we decided to wander through the dealer’s room and the exhibit halls… largely its all the same crap that is there every year. Not anything surprising, but some of it is still cool.

Back to the Apocalypse track to discuss pen and paper games. Lots of good stuff out there… Twilight 2000, Fading Suns, Aftermath, Rapture, Shadowrun, Deadlands, the Morrow Porject and more…

Some obligatory standing around and looking at costumes. Some people are crazy, and some are insane, and some simply should not be wearing that.

Last up for the night was a panel called “How NOT to get into the game industry.” I’ve been to the How To panel before, and this was a slightly more humorous take on the same subject… mostly I went to possibly meet Brian “Psychochild” Green, but he canceled, so poo on him.

Time for bed because I’ve been up too long today… and tomorrow is another day…

Music to the Masses

Let me just get this out of the way… I like Kelly Clarkson’s music. There, I said it, now let us move on.

CNN has a story up today about Kelly canceling her tour. And on one hand I feel bad for her because she was having poor ticket sales and I feel bad for her fans because the ones who did buy tickets won’t get to see her (No, I didn’t buy tickets), on the other hand I’m kinda glad to see another arena tour fail.

Don’t get me wrong… I love a good arena show. But there is a certain type of arena show I like. For example, in August I’ll be going to see Def Leppard, Styx and Foreigner. And whenever Poison puts on one of their Glam Slam Metal Jams, I’m there. I love a good festival show, like the local radio station 99x’s Big Day Out. But a huge arena show needs bands that demand it, or needs to feature a few bands. U2, prime candidates for a solo arena tour. Same with the Police on their current reunion. Not only do they have a huge library of their own music which will easily fill two hours on stage (plus an encore or two), but they have the current pull to fill the seats. While each band on my 3-band August show ticket could have at one time filled an arena on their own, these days they haven’t had a whole lot of hits.

Kelly Clarkson is a pretty good artist. She sings well, performs well, and all in all I like her. I would definitely go see her live… if it were a smaller show. For her Atlanta date, she was playing the Arena at Gwinnett Center, half house (which is actually more than half), running her about 8,000 seats, give or take. For $50 to $70 (plus handling fees), that’s just too much to wind up being in the nose bleeds for an artist with only her third album coming out and a handful of top 40 songs. Now, put her down at the Roxy or the Tabernacle and drop the price to $15 or $20, I guarantee she’d be a sellout. Heck, in a smaller venue I might actually be willing to pay that $50 or more for an artist who is know to hang around and talk to the fans or put on an awesome show. For $50 I expect to be able to watch the artist perform, not to watch the artist perform on a giant TV because I’m too far away to watch the artist.

I see the draw of the arena show, the same draw it always has had: more money and less time. You play one show, 5,000+ people at $30+ a head, even if you only take home 25% of that, its $37,500+ for one night. Do a tour of 20 or 30 of those and you can probably net near a million dollars. Plan it right and you can do that tour in under 3 months, and take the other 9 off to work on songs and plan your next tour, or maybe do a leg through Europe or Asia. Meanwhile if you do the little shows, you have to do more of them, you have to stay on the road. A year, 18 months at a stretch maybe, at least that’s what those guys on Behind the Music always say. It would be hard work… like, I don’t know… working retail every day, or sitting in a cubicle punching out programming code. Except, you’d be in music, and seeing the world, and making a living entertaining people and putting smiles on faces. Arenas always seemed to me to be a way to facelessly rock as many people as possible.

Maybe I just need to catch more bands on the upswing. I went and saw No More Kings play down at Smith’s Olde Bar, and I and my friends chatted with Pete Mitchell for nearly a half hour. But that doesn’t cover it entirely… I’ve seen Better Than Ezra in concert a half dozen times, once or twice they were part of a festival where I got to see twenty bands, but mostly they’ve been at places like the Roxy, or Underground, or even in the Centennial Park, and even though I’ve never met the band, their shows felt more personal, they were better.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Ms. Clarkson, if you or your people read this, come to Atlanta, play a small show, I’ll be there and I’ll sing your praises.

2006: Day 4 – On The Turning Away

Every year, the 4th day of Dragon*Con is a little sad. Not just because its the last day, but also because something always forces me to leave early. So there isn’t much to say about day 4, I woke up, I packed, and then I went to the Exhibition and Dealer rooms one more time. 10 AM on Monday is such a peaceful time to browse. In the words of Verbal Kint, “And poof. Just like that [it’s] gone.”

So, here’s looking toward next year, and hopefully checking in on Thursday and checking out on Tuesday.

2006: Day 2 – Deal or No Deal

The main reason I come to Dragon*Con is actually to attend the panels. Meeting authors, actors and other people in various industries, listening to them speak and speaking with them is cool. But, I can’t deny the lure of the Dealer’s room and the Exhibitor’s hall. The Exhibitor’s are there to sell stuff or just show off recent or upcoming stuff. Neverwinter Nights 2 is down there (and it looks cool), so is Age of Conan (and Funcom is also still peddling Anarchy Online too), as are many craftsmen and gaming companies. The Dealer’s room is less refined… comic books, t-shirts, bootleg TV shows on DVD, old movie posters, etc. Porn stars are usually in the Dealer’s room, except ones like Traci Lords, because she’s a legitimate actress (at least in the eyes of Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans).

The only issue with the draw of the stuff for show and sale is that it takes half a day or more to see it, so you basically miss most of a day of panels. Today was that day. But not at first…

I have never gotten anything autographed on purpose at Dragon*Con. I think I got a poster signed once by someone who I didn’t know on a poster I wasn’t planning on keeping. The wife, however, really wanted to get something signed by MaryJanice Davidson, who happened to be doing signings at 10 AM. So, rather than go to the parade, we went to the signing. We were supposed to have friends in the parade, but it turns out they didn’t go so thankfully we didn’t waste our time. It was interesting to watch the wife get so excited talking to Mrs. Davidson, about the books and introducing friends to books and other books. A real treat.

Then we went to the Art Show. There are alot of really talented artists out there. There are some that suck too, but that’s to be expected. And of course, talent is in the taste of the beholder, or something like that. One piece really stood out, and sadly I can’t share photos of it with you because they don’t let you take any, was a huge diorama of the front of a castle, mote and gate, being sieged by the undead. It was just very damn cool.

After that we hit the Exhibitor halls and the Dealers’ room, and saw a great many things that would be great to own. But alas, most of those things are simply not in the budget.

It was about 5 PM by then. So the day was pretty shot for alot of the panels.

We hung out and watched the costumes go by a little while and then went to Star Wars trivia. I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I would. We heckled instead. And then went back to hanging out and costume watching.

At 9:30 PM we made the decision to go see some short films… that started at 10, and the line was huge. We wandered around again, but returned at 11:30 for another round of shorts. We got in. I really wish we hadn’t. It was billed as comedy, and two of the four items were… one was weird but oddly humorous… the last was… well, it was neither comedy nor short. Forty minutes of some crap about a Jedi and some other Jedi and a group of Jedi and an army of Sith and a tree with black bark and roots and a snake and some of the stiffest melodrama ever filmed. It was… gut wrenching. It just droned on and on, and it wasn’t even bad enough to be made fun of. It just sucked.

More hanging out and watching costumes intermixed with stepping into various rooms to find out that I don’t like hentai, or filking, or watching TV shows in a room full of smelly people, or the drum circle, or DJs spinning techno, or Cruxshadows. Bed is nice. Its 4 AM and sleep is good.

Tomorrow, panels.

2006: Day 1 – The Best Laid Plans

It was simple. I told my boss I’d be off September 1st to the 4th. The wife request off the weekend from work (a year ago). We’d be off, come down to the Con on Friday, get our room first thing and spend four glorious days among the freaks, finally heading back to our regularly scheduled lives on Tuesday.


She didn’t get the day off. So she’s working until 12. Fine, she’ll drive down after work. But then I have work to do in the morning too. So I’ll be a little late. By noon, I’m just finishing up. She comes home instead and we drive down together.

We check in to the room, which is supposed to be right next to the rooms of two friends, we reserved as one and were assured a block of rooms. When we ask if its possible to switch from the two double beds to a single king, we are told that doing so will split us from the group. Well, if we are with the group we can suffer. Only, after we get up to the 28th floor, we learn one group of friends is on 23, and the other is on 35. Back down in the lobby, I complain and get our room switched. We are up on 40 now, much better view, and the king beds are nicer than the doubles for sharing. But… unlike last year’s room we have no fridge and no microwave, and the couch has been replaced by a single comfy chair.

Whatever, its fine. So we head to registration. Its in the Hyatt. There are signs. We follow the signs. At registration we are told that you have to enter from Baker Street, from outside, this is exit only. None of the signs leading us here mentioned that. But we go outside and eventually find the one sign that says it is the registration entrance.

By the time she got home, we load the car, drove downtown, checked in, twice, and registered, its 6. We hooked up with some other friends for a snack and plan to start catching panels at 7. Nothing starts that we want to see until 8:30, at least nothing that we didn’t miss completely. To pass the time until then we go try to find the people we were supposed to be rooming next door to.

They are at Wrestling.

Of all the things you expect to find at a Sci-Fi and Fantasy convension, wrestling isn’t one of them. But its funny. Some of the guys aren’t bad at the acting, some are horrible. Everyone gets into it and is yelling and laughing and screaming.

When that’s done, we stand out in the halls and watch the costumes stroll by. Some people have made excellent costumes, some people… haven’t. Pictures will come eventually.

Pretty much nothing went according to plan the first day, but once we got here it was fun. Hopefully the rest of the weekend will be more of that and less of the other stuff.

One Day in February

On February 27th at 5:30 PM, Jodi and I got married. But it was one heck of a day…

The morning began like any other day… waking up, getting dressed, discovering my car had been broken into. They took my digital tire pressure gauge, a leatherman multi-tool and three packs of gum. They left behind the stereo, the CDs and the $15 in change in the ash tray. However, having somewhere we needed to be, Jodi and I decided we’d report the theft later and for now just empty the car, lock it back up and leave it, seeing as how the thieves were kind enough to not break any windows but just jimmy the lock in such a way as to render it useless on the outside but still operate inside and lock the door just fine.

We loaded up the other car and headed off to some friends’ house, K and P, the ones we’d roped into being our chauffeurs and valets for the day. Once all packed into their car we began the long journey from Atlanta to Savannah.

Upon arriving in Savannah, we were nervous. We needed to check into our hotel early… at noon, but the woman on the phone had said check in was 4pm, 3 at the earliest. Score one for our team as the rooms were ready and we checked in. But another strike for the day, P forgot his suit and has no pants.

Quickly we decide to head to the mall and buy some, he can do without a suit jacket, but he needs pants. Also, Jodi needs a bouquet, so she called up Flowerama (listed in the hotel service guide) and arranges for one over the phone. The shop is on Abercorne which is only a few blocks away. So we pile back into the car and head out. We drive past at least a dozen flower shops and finally reach the mall. We stop, buy P some pants at Macy’s and the girls get their nails done at Le Nails. Back on the road, we keep driving. Finally we find Flowerama. Basically, the farthest point you can get from our hotel while remaining in Savannah, that’s where it is.

Its obvious we are going to be late meeting up with the photographer at 4 PM as planned, so we call and ask to meet at 4:30. She’s fine with it and we get back to the hotel with plenty of time to get ready. While Jodi is putting on makeup, she spills some which I start cleaning up. Crawling around on the floor I didn’t realize that I had gone under the coffee maker drawer and WHAM! I get a nice little red whelt on my head that starts bleeding a little. But fine, we can cover that up or I can just make sure I don’t look down in the photos. Finally I start getting dressed, I open my suit bag and scream something like “Where are my pants?!”

Up until this point, I had totally kept my cool. Now I lost it. I was swearing like a sailor, I wanted to punch and break things, I was going to drive back to Atlanta and kill everyone at the Men’s Warehouse for forgetting to put my pants in with my suit jacket… when I realize… I’m looking at my sport coat. I packed the wrong bag.

I throw my jeans back on and run next door to K and P’s room.

Me: We have a problem. I don’t have my suit.
P: That’s not funny.
Me: I have a sport coat, which is fine, but I don’t have pants.
P: Oh my God, you’re serious?
Me: I’m going to go find pants, Jodi is going to need some help.

And I run to the lobby. I speak with the concieges and explain my predicament. The woman there just goes blank and mutters something about Banana Republic and the Gap. Then the man steps up and tells me to step out the doors, turn left, go down to Broughton, hang a left and a few blocks down will be J. Parker Limited who can hook me up. I run out of the hotel.

At J. Parker Limited I walk in and explain my dilemma. The man there calmly asks, “What color?” I tell him black and he asks, “What size waist?” I answer him and he turns around, flips through the rack he’d been leaning on and pulls out a pair of pants. I try them on. Perfect fit. He marks them, I take them off, and he hands them to the tailor. While we wait we talk about weddings. He thinks we are right in just running off, big weddings are a hassle. He tells me a story of a bride with a $6,000 Irish linen dress whose reception runs out of booze before the wedding party arrives who should have gotten a $500 dress, lied about what it was made of and spent the other $5,500 on more drinks and food. Because honestly, as long as the dress looked good would anyone care that it was Irish linen? As we talked and laughed, my body slackened and I calmed down. Fifteen minutes of waiting at the pants were done. I thanked both him and the tailor and headed back to the hotel.

Everyone else was ready. I got dressed, threw my tie over my shoulder, and we headed to Factor’s Walk, the location our photographer picked for the ceremony. On the way we went over everything. Rings? Check. Checks for the officiant and photographer? Check. Marriage paperwork? … So I sent everyone ahead and ran back to the hotel for the papers.

Finally, I catch back up to the group. We chat a moment and then I inform them that I can’t tie a tie. P makes a valiant effort, but fails. The Reverend Steven P. Schulte steps in and does it up right. I think this is where the laughter started.

We moved out on to the bridge for the ceremony and took a few quick photos. Then the photographer, Nancy Heffernan, moved off to a spot to take shots during the ceremony. Since we had no time to rehearse, Nancy resorted to yelling out instructions as they were needed. “Get closer!” “Back up!” “Not you!” “Move to your left!” “Your other left!” We couldn’t stop laughing.

Reverend Schulte said the words, we exchanged vows, I gave Jodi her ring, she gave me mine… which got stuck halfway over the knuckle. We were going to just force it on when my finger turned purple. Quickly I fought the ring off and left my ring finger red and throbbing. We put the ring on my pinky and vowed to resize it later. We finally managed to stop laughing long enough for Rev Schulte to pronounce us man and wife, and we kissed. We were married.

After the ceremony, we hung around the park at Factor’s Walk for a while taking photos. Then we strolled River Street, getting congratulated by the passerbys and taking more photos until the light faded. We went back to the hotel for Nancy to burn us CDs of all the photos she had taken.

Earlier in the day we had made reservations at Elizabeth on 37th, but now none of us wanted to get in the car and drive somewhere. Nancy suggested Vic’s On the River, which happened to be not fifty feet from where we got married. When Nancy left, we headed out again on foot and went to Vic’s. The atmosphere and the food were excellent, and we sat and ate and chatted over the day’s events and laughed.

I think that if my wedding had been better planned and gone more smoothly, the day would practially fade to nothing in my memories. I’d remember that I got married, and I’d look at the photos and recall some of the day. But the wedding I had… I don’t think I’ll forget a single thing.

Another Con Bites the Dust

Dragon*Con 2005 is over. Four days in downtown Atlanta with Science Fiction nerds, Fantasy dorks, costuming goons, and the TV and movie stars and authors that go with it.

I’m tired now, and I think I will sleep. Tomorrow, or perhaps another day later this week I’ll write more about my trip.

A Year and a Day

Its hard to believe that its been a year.

Sometimes its like I blinked, like the year skipped by so quickly as not to notice. Other times, its like every day itself was a year on its own, moving in slow motion.

I can still close my eyes sometimes and she’s there. Helping me clean up after another bloody nose. Looking disappointed when I failed English. My graduation day, both times. The day she went into the hospital for a routine surgery.

Some days, its feels like its been forever. I can’t picture what she looked like. I can’t remember how she smelled.

For a year my life has been that… crystal clear nonsense. Ups and downs. Highs and lows. Tops and bottoms. Peaks and valleys… with little in between. I wonder if this is what manic depressives, or schitzophrenics, feel like. Out of control, with absolute certainty, on a frantic scattered path, to a destination I’ve been to a thousand times never. I feel like my insides are on the outside, so I pick them up and put them back in, only realized that I’m now turned inside out. Its like my soul is fractured, broken, and the pieces don’t fit back together anymore.

I want it to get easier… or maybe harder, so hard that I actually snap, because maybe if I’m more broken medical science can fix me.

They say, time heals all wounds. They also say, it takes as long as it takes. What if it takes forever?

On Saturday, a year and a day from the moment she slipped loose this mortal coil, I knelt at the place we laid her body to rest.

My mother and I used to talk. We’d sit in the kitchen and she’d tell me about her day, her week, her garden, something she was wanting to cook, or sew, or some place she wanted to go. And I would tell her of my day, my week, my job, my fiancee, car troubles, movies I’d seen, and everything else. She’d tell me about any problems she was having, and I would listen and offer words where I could. And I would tell her my problems, and she would listen and offer words where she could.

When she left us, I feared I would never hear her again. But there at her resting place I heard her. I told her my worries, and I heard her replies. And while I know its just emotion mixed with memory of all the things she used to say, somehow I couldn’t hear them until just then, until I was there.

I hear you.

Linda Faye Lockley Pace - Rest In Peace