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Dragon*Con 2010: Day Zero

It’s Thursday, where are you?  If you are local to Atlanta and pre-registered for Dragon*Con, your answer should be, “Reading this on my phone from the line.” because pre-registration badge pick-up just started.  Pre-regs get a nice solid 6 hour jump on everyone else this year, so hopefully that will help with the lines.

Preparation for con is always a big deal.  You have to make sure you pack everything.  Technically there are a few shops around, but mostly tiny stores with seriously jacked up prices.  There is a Publix about 8 or 10 blocks away, but since public transit in Altanta is pretty crappy, you’ll likely be hoofing it, in September.  “Hot and humid” just doesn’t really describe Atlanta well enough.  Long hikes in the city are uncomfortable at best.  But in addition to packing everything, you also need it to be manageable.  You don’t really want to be juggling a dozen suitcases.  You’re best bet is to pack one case (with wheels) of regular clothes (shorts, t-shirts, socks, underwear and toiletries – deodorant, toothpaste, even soap and shampoo if you prefer your own over the hotel stuff), a cooler (with wheels) packed with food and stuff (don’t bring ice, all the hotels have ice machines – and unless you specified in your reservations that you had to have a fridge for medical reasons, you won’t get one, so you’ll want a cooler if you want to keep anything cold), and then a case (with wheels if possible) for costumes and stuff that can’t be packed into the regular clothes.

Case and Cooler (with wheels)

You might have noticed a theme there.  Wheels.  Trust me, lugging around heavy cases just isn’t worth it.  Every year I see some poor schmuck hauling around a half dozen old no-wheel-having suitcases, or standing in line waiting for a bell hop, or leaving the cases at the front desk to have them delivered to the room at some point in the future.  Meanwhile, the wife and I roll on by and head to our room.  The cooler is even more awesome because of the extending handle means we can even stack a couple things on top of it (like sodas or a box of extra snacks) with ease.

And of course, if you plan to buy anything, make sure you have a way to take it home.  (If you aren’t local, there are, I believe, a FedEx and some other shipping store in the hotels or close to the con, and don’t worry about them being closed for the holiday, most of the time you can leave a package with your hotel with shipping instructions and a tip and they’ll send it off for you on Tuesday.)

Anyway… enough about packing… you might be wondering, “If the con begins on Friday, what is there to do on Thursday?”  Well, lots actually.  Plenty of fan groups will have unofficial gatherings on Thursday night (this is why you should find the sites/forums for the various tracks and fans groups, and keep up with them throughout the year), and there are a few bands playing.  Plus, the lobbies and hotel bars will be hopping with people, both out of costume and in.

What will I be doing on Thursday?  Well, for one, since I’m staff this year, the MMO Track is having a little party where the director lays down the law, people can swap shifts and we can let our hair down a little more than we’ll be allowed to during the con itself (not to say we won’t be enjoying the con, but staff is expect to not show up for shifts completely plastered).  Check out our schedule from this nice rundown provided by Krystalle over at Massively.  I’ll be wandering around the hotels pretty much all day, though when not with the MMO crew (or perhaps even with them) I tend to be in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis, not only because it is the hotel I’m staying at, but, in my opinion, it is the best hotel for seeing and being seen.  Perhaps I’ll see you around…

Just as aside… in previous years, I posted at the end of the day with what I did.  This year I’ll be posting in the morning with my plans for the day and my reflections on the previous day.

Movie Round-Up: August 13th, 2010

Eat Pray Love:

A woman’s journey to self-discovery. I’m not going to be first in line to see this, but I haven’t been disappointed by many of Julia Roberts movies so I’ll be sure to catch this on Netflix when it is available.

The Expendables:

I had an opportunity to see a screening of this, but a conflict prevented me. Given the cast of action stars and what I’ve seen in the trailer this is going to be one hell of a ride. If I can find the time, I’ll be seeing this this wekend.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World:

I did see a screening of this, and it was great fun. As a long time gamer myself I loved the references and imagery. Outside that however the movie is a typical boy chases girl type of film. So if the gamer angle doesn’t appeal, you might want to skip it. As for me, I might go see it again.

Dragon*Con 2009: Day Zero

It is Thursday, the day before Dragon*Con officially begins, and like every year that means registration.  Some years it is a tiring journey downtown after work followed by a couple or three hours spent in line and then a trek back home to finish packing and sleep before making the real journey down on Friday for Con.

This year, however, the wife and I decided we’d just extend our hotel stay by one day so that our trip down for registration would end in us hanging around and meeting people and stumbling back to our room when we get tired.

Dragon*Con this year is going to be a little different for me.  Normally, I just post daily wrap-ups, but thanks to my purchase of a Palm Pre, I’ll be a little more “on time”.  First and foremost, the Pre has that awesome synergy thing you may have heard about, and what that means is that it blends my calendars from several sources into one display without syncing the calendars and duplicating stuff.  And with the folks at Dragon*Con providing a Google Calendar of events, it means I won’t really need to carry around the book and schedule, it will all be on my phone.  Next, with the use of Twitter and TwitPic, as well as Facebook, I’ll be able to snap photos from my phone and immediately get them out to all the people.  So, if you’d like to see them, here is me on Twitter, and here is me on Facebook.  I’ll try not to annoy people too much, but I make no promises.

So much to do, so much to see, so exciting… You know, the idea of PAX intrigues me, and I want to go, but I never will.  Dragon*Con is just so much… more.

Of course, it helps if you get to registration early.  They were open until 11, but they cut off the line at 9:30 at about where they estimated it would take two and a half hours to get through… we were beyond that point.  Registration opens again at 8 in the morning.  So without our badges we went down to the Marriott bar, Pulse, and hung around chatting and people watching… In New York, they say if you hang out in Times Square, you’ll see a million people walk by.  At Dragon*Con, the place to stand is in the Marriott.

Fight me!

Another in a long line of web pages diversion from productivity is My Brute.  You create a little gladiator, and then you send him to fight.  Three times a day, and you can enter tournaments.  And you control absolutely nothing.  You pick the opponent and that’s it, sit back and enjoy the carnage.

So, come, fight me and be my pupil, then take on other brutes in single combat.

Excited about a phone

Over the years I have owned a number of phones and played with many more.  At the end of the day, Palm’s phones, particularly the Treo line, were the ones I liked the most.  With its mixture of PDA and phone capabilities along with other random things it can do, Palm’s phones were solid.  If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of the iPhone.  Much like I’m not a fan of the iPod or the iMac or iTunes or pretty much anything that comes out of Apple.  When it comes to MP3 players I have enjoyed my Zune very much and want to get a larger one to hold all my music.  And while I have seen a number of very nice applications pop up for the iPhone, none of them yet have made me even consider buying one.

On the other hand, Palm announced their new phone, the Pre, today.  Some of the innovations they’ve come up with on their new webOS make their company name apropos as I felt like putting my face in my palm, like the fact their apps are built using HTML, javascript and other basic web tools.  According to Palm’s blog, the people from Pandora made note that it only took them three days to write up a webOS version of their application as opposed to the months it took them on other platforms.  Flipping through the screenshots of applications looks beautiful, and easy to use, and then to cap it all off there is a slide out full QWERTY keyboard instead of just an on screen one.

And the best part yet, its a Sprint exclusive phone which means that if I decide to get one at some point down the road I don’t have to change providers to do it.

About the only thing that could get me more excited would be for Palm to announce that in addition to phones they’ll also be putting their new webOS on netbook-like devices (and not cancel it this time), because really, the greatest flaw of the netbook is that it is a small laptop, when it would be much better to approach them as a large PDA.

Aspect of the The Walking Dead

I’ve written about The Walking Dead before, and in my continued efforts to talk about my game idea without rehashing the same stuff over and over, I will write about them again.

There are six collections now instead of four as when I wrote before, and the story remains good. There are elements in here that just make sense to me, and are in line with the story of the world I would present in my game. If you haven’t read all the comics, I’m about to ruin one thing for you, so skip the rest unless you want the spoiler… its not that huge of a spoiler, so don’t get too bent…

In the comic, one of the things revealed that I really liked is the idea that everyone is doomed. See, The Walking Dead doesn’t refer to just the zombies. After an incident where someone who died through other means, never having been bitten by a zombie, comes back as a zombie, its apparent that whatever causes the zombies is already in everyone, just dormant. They are all going to become zombies, no matter how they die, unless their death involves the destruction of their own bodies such that they can’t rise.

This aspect will be integral to my game. I talked earlier about how players will have to manage food and resources, and how those will deplete even when offline. When you die, you are dead. There is no resurrecting or respawning, if you want to play more you have to start a new character. Then, if you want, you can travel to your old character’s hide out and kill the zombie-old-you if someone hasn’t done it already. When you die, you are undead. Your body will rise as an NPC, and if there are people unfortunate enough to be living with you, if they aren’t careful, they may be undone from within.

Storm Front

The Sci-Fi Channel series The Dresden Files piqued my interest, so I picked up the first couple of books in the series by Jim Butcher and read Storm Front, the first one.

I love the TV show. Its fun, sometimes funny, with a bit of magic and darkness. The book is about the same, though as always with works taken from page to screen (big or small), it is only “about” the same. There are differences, but not so much so that it hurts either.

If you don’t know what The Dresden Files is, its about a man named Harry Dresden and he is a wizard. This isn’t your Harry Potter type wizardry, it is definitely not aimed at kids. Dresden lives in a world where magic exists, but its sort of a secret. Not the magic itself, but the White Council that presides over it all and tries to keep people from using the darker magics. Harry comes from a powerful line of wizards, all of whom are dead. From the show we know that Harry’s dad was killed by his uncle, and that Harry ultimately killed his uncle (in self defence). None of that is in this first book, not clearly anyway. There are hints that his family line might not be the cleanest around, and there is a judgement for murder against him currently held in check. Harry even narrates that he killed a man with black magic and that is why he is reluctant to tread in those waters again.

As it stands, Harry consults for the police as a “psychic” on weird cases as well as doing his own brand of private eye work. The book almost drips with old noir style storytelling, and in part that is what makes it so good. There is evil in the world, and if good is going to win its only going to do so by the skin of its teeth and by the barest of threads, and never emerge unscathed.

With the first book down, I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series, so I whole-heartedly recommend Storm Front. Of course, I don’t like to read series books back to back, so number two of The Dresden Files will have to wait until I’m done with the new Hellboy book.

X-Men: Dark Mirror

I just finished up X-Men: Dark Mirror, from the line of books based on Marvel properties. And I must say I enjoyed it.

The story is that five of the X-Men (Cyclops, Phoenix, Rogue, Nightcrawler and Wolverine) go out to investigate a mental hospital that is reported to be treating mutants badly. At least, that’s the backstory you get as the tale unfolds. As the book begins, Jean Grey (Phoenix), wakes up as a black man in a straight jacket. And it just gets weirder from there. The X-Men have had their minds somehow transferred into the bodies of mental patients, and have to break out, get home, and try to stop whoever took their bodies from doing anything bad. The most amusing parts of this book come in that Jean is in the body of a man, Scott (Cyclops) is in that of a petite young girl, and Logan (Wolverine) is literally wearing a big chested blonde woman. As they make their break from the asylum, they have to rely on their wits instead of their powers (which they’ve lost) to try to make their way across the US back home.

It was quite interesting to see how the author made them handle their new bodies and lack of powers. A fun book.

Snakes on a Plane

Where do I begin?

When I first heard of this movie, I was excited because I love monster movies. A true monster movie is one where something, not human, shows up to kill people and the people try to kill it. No trying to save it or understand it, just survival. I also liked the concept, that airport security has become so tight that a man who wanted someone dead would have no viable way to sneak a weapon on board, so instead puts a giant crate of venomous snakes in the cargo hold timed to be released at a certain point during the flight.

And then you have Samuel L. Jackson, a man who excells at doing action flicks. By far, my favorite performance of his is in Deep Blue Sea. If you haven’t seen that, go see it. In fact, see it first, because his role in that actually makes one scene of SoaP (the stupidest shortening of a movie name in history, by the way) funny when it is not really supposed to be.

So… what went wrong?

First, there was the Hype. Originally the hype did nothing but make this movie better. The rating went from PG-13 to R, ensuring a bloodier and scarier movie. And it kept the name. At one point, as I’m sure you heard, there was a plan to rename the movie to “Flight 121” or something like that, but Sam Jackson actually threatened to quit, so it stayed “Snakes on a Plane”. But then the hype went too far… t-shirts, blogs, everything… just too much. The hype blew its wad too soon, and left its date unsatisfied. If the hype would have just coincided with the release of the film a little more, it would have worked so much better.

Next… well, I’m not going to spoil it, but… crappiest ending ever. Seriously. It was a good monster movie right up until “the line”. Yes, that one you’ve heard about when Sam drops two MFs in one line venting his frustration with the snakes. After that the movie went down hill. It had potential, all the right elements were there, but Kenan Thompson just totally blew it.

The movie, overall, was worth seeing… it is a good monster movie. But its not the end all be all of cool like the hype wants you to believe. See the movie if you want, or wait until DVD (3 months, tops, and maybe they’ll have a half dozen kickass comentary tracks). In the end, I enjoyed Deep Rising alot more than Snakes on a Plane.

X-Men: The Last Stand

Let’s just get it out of the way… it definately wasn’t worth staying up until 3am to see it at the midnight show. If I were to use only one word to review this film, that word would be: weak.

The original pictures I saw of the Juggernaut made me cringe. I can at least happily say that in the finished film he looked a little more impressive. Although him actually using the line “Do you know who I am? I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!” was just about the worst possible thing. Well, maybe next to the fact that they didn’t bother to show in any way that Cain Marko (the Juggernaut) is Xavier’s half-brother (or something like that, its been so long since I read an X-Men book). And then of course, Peter, you know Colossus, he’s not Russian any more appearantly. And they did the fastball special, twice, and it was stupid both times.

On the other hand, while I remained solidly underwhelmed by the movie, I wasn’t disappointed. It was exactly what I expected. The film is a fanboy’s wet dream and nightmare combined. They managed to cram in so many comic book references and characters that the theater was constantly filled with little chuckles and gasps. At the same time, they managed to deviate from the comic in so many ways that those same fanboys were bordering on tears. And of course, the plot of the movie rears its head every now and then, something about a cure and Magneto fearing a repeat of the Nazis, oh and Jean kills lots of people. It was pretty much exactly was I expected going in. Well, almost… in both the first two X-Men movies, they went to great lengths to avoid killing people. In this movie, however, when I say Jean kills lots of people, I really mean lots of people. And Wolverine too. Without blood of course, but still, lots and lots of dead people.

Hopefully when they do the Wolverine movie next, it will be good since it will only have a couple or three main characters instead of twelve with a few dozen more supporting ones.

The final word then is weak, but fun. Its not a horrible movie, but it could have been better.