Play More Games!

Tomorrow is the first Annual Table Top Day!

tabletopday logo

 

And even though there are ZERO game shops located near enough to me to be considered “convenient” means I will not be getting any of the AWESOME SCHWAG participating stores will be handing out… I am still SUPER-PSYCHED because we will be spending the day playing THESE:

game stack

And more!!

At the end of the day, somebody is walking away with this:

trophyofawesome

 

It’s going to be EPIC!!!

Advertisements

Art by the Numbers

One of the perks of attending lots of fan conventions is the opportunity to meet and explore the work of new artists.

At this past ECCC I was lucky enough to stumble upon the artwork of Sienna Morris. She’s developed a style of art work she calls “Numberism”. Similar to how a pointillist will create an image by positioning hundreds of thousands of dots strategically on a page or canvas, Ms. Morris uses numbers relevant to the subject she is rendering.

The concept is difficult to explain with words alone, so I’ve included some images of her artwork (clicking on the images will take you directly to Sienna’s website)

This piece is titled “Fibonacci’s Snail” and was created using the Fibonacci Sequence of numbers, starting at the tightest point in the spiral and working its way out.

fibonaccis-snail-co

I know, right?! Simply incredible – not to mention gorgeous!

Each piece Ms. Morris creates requires time spent in advance researching and calculating the numbers (and occasional letters) she uses in the rendering process.

This next one is called “Locutus of Borg” and she ingeniously created the image of Locutus using Flocking Algorithms to represent the Borg Hive Mind as well as predator/prey calculations using Lanchester’s Laws formulae.

locutus1

She also included many of the famous Borg catch-phrases.

Look, when it comes to higher level maths in general, I don’t know diddly-squat, but the fact that Ms. Morris has taken such pains to add even greater depth of meaning to her already impressive artistic skill is just… amazeballs.

The last one I’m sharing with you here is titled “A Cello” and when she explained how she settled on the numbers she used to create this impressive piece I swear my brain melted a little from all of the awesome.

cello-co

To create the wood of the bow, she used the Pythagorean comma which is basically the difference between two pitches or tones (it’s used a lot in music theory). It’s essentially a quarter of a semi-tone. I’m not a mathematician and (even though I play the guitar) I never studied music theory, so I’m not going to attempt to dive into a deeper explanation. It’s just impressive.

But it gets even more impressive (and also a little bit insane). Check this out, peeps, the tuning pegs are drawn using the Twelfth Root of Two, an equation used in the calculation of pitch adjustment.

THEN, Ms. Morris went further and drew the strings using the HERTZ FREQUENCY OF THE NOTES. She actually sat down and calculated the rate of audible vibration for each note down the neck of the instrument for each string.

The coup de grace for me with this piece is the body of the cello itself. It is drawn with the numerical value for the speed at which sound travels parallel to the GRAIN of the WOOD. She represented three wood types, so that means three different rate of speed calculations.

I know… I know… MIND. BLOWN.

You can find out more about Sienna Morris and her artwork on her site FleetingStates.com.

Go there. Be impressed. Buy prints. Tell your friends.

What is the Value of a Name?

Now that the dust has settled from yet another fan convention, I’d like to get real with ya’ll for a moment.

Let’s talk about celebrity autograph fees.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a fan of a celebrity (any celebrity) and you read an announcement telling you that they are going to be appearing at an event in or near your town and that (gasp) they will be signing autographs. You can bring your own photo or object to sign, but not to worry, photos will be made available at the event; the announcement goes on to say that there will be a $25 autograph fee, but does not say whether or not this fee is going to a charity, or if it’s just to line the celebrity’s pocket. Either way, you think, $25 isn’t really unreasonable and you’ve always wanted to meet said celebrity. You go to the store, use your debit card buy a pack of gum, get $25 cash back, then head over to the event location.

You arrive and wow is there a line. At least 150 people ahead of you, which means a two hour or more wait just to get 30 seconds (or less) face-to-face with this person whom you so admire. But you decide it’s worth the wait, and that $25 is eagerly burning a hole in your pocket. So you diligently inch forward every minute or so until you’re 75 people closer to the signing table and you’ve discovered that if you lean slightly to the left and go up on your toes you can almost see the top of the celebrity’s head through the admiring throng. But then something happens. Something unexpected. A person, presumably in the employ of the celeb, walks over to the herd of waiting devotees and makes the following announcement:

“Your attention please. It’s $25 for an autograph. If you didn’t bring something to sign, it’s $5 for a souvenir photo. If you want it personalized, it’s $20 more. So $50 total. Cash only. Again, $25 for the autograph, $5 for a photo (you pick!) and $20 if you want it personalized. Cash only, everybody, ok?”

Then this person (Assistant? Manager? Agent?) goes back to wherever they came from, leaving everyone shifting nervously in their shoes. Suddenly, the $25 (arguably reasonable) fee has DOUBLED. You only brought the $25 as advertised. There was nothing in the press announcement about having to pay for the photos they were offering but (even though you don’t have the cash) $5 doesn’t sound like crazy request – it probably covers the cost of printing the photos. What gets your mind reeling is the $20 personalization fee!! $20 for the celeb, this person whom you admire and look up to, to add the words “To: [Your Name]” above their signature which you are already paying $25 for?!

You debate getting out of line. You don’t have anything meaningful for the celebrity to sign. You suppose they could sign your arm – but that would just wash off. You’re not fanatical enough to have it tattooed permanently. You could have them sign your shirt, but you really like the shirt you’re wearing and don’t want to retire it from your wardrobe. You have a piece of crumpled receipt paper in your wallet that could work, but the lameness of this option depresses you.  Instead of feeling excited to finally meet this person, you feel taken advantage of and also a bit insulted and you don’t know who to blame.

Maybe the celeb has nothing to do with the pricing. Maybe it’s all their manager’s idea. You get on board with this idea for the moment (to mentally preserve the small pedestal you keep the celebrity on) and continue to inch forward in line still uncertain whether or not to bail out. You start fishing through every available pocket of your jeans and jacket to see if, magically, a $5 bill appears so that you can at least have a decent photo for them to sign if you decide to stick it out. You’ve already been in line for almost two hours, and you hate to think that all of this time spent would have been for nothing. You’re less than twenty people away from the table now and starting to sweat nervously that you’re going to make a fool of yourself by offering a dirty receipt paper to have signed. You wanted to come away from this meeting with positive memories and now you’re so distracted by money and not having anything to sign and looking foolish and unprepared that the whole encounter has been ruined before it’s even started. Glumly, defeated, you step out of line. You stand over to the side for a few moments so that you can get a good look at your celebrity – just to see them at least – to be this close.

I saw this scenario happen routinely at ECCC this year. But instead of the prices surprise-jumping from $25 to $50, they were jumping from $50 to $75, and even (in one case) $75 to $100! Last year at ECCC the most expensive autograph fee was for the Weasley Twins (James and Oliver Phelps) for $90. But the thought behind it was $45 for each actor’s autograph, and no surprise souvenir photo fees at the table. The average cost of an autograph last year was $20, with the occasional $5 charge for a souvenir photo (so $25). A few celebs were charging $30-$40 and one or two were signing for free (e.g., Wil Wheaton, because he’s awesome like that).

However, this year, the average fee jumped from $20 to $30 dollars and there were LOTS of “surprise” fees (souvenir photo, “personalization” fees) at the table. It really, really, felt like fans were being taken horrible advantage of.

I’m completely certain that there were a number of fans who found themselves using money they had otherwise allotted to food and other necessities (perhaps even bill money) to pay these exceptional “surprise” costs rather than step out of line and miss the chance to meet their idol.

I disagree with the idea of autograph fees in general, but I’m willing to bend a bit if the fee is being contributed to charity, or (at the very least) is not wholly unreasonable (like $20-$30 or less). I like to break it down as if the celeb is earning an hourly wage. Assuming (generously) that the average time the celeb spends with each person is 30 seconds, you can then can extrapolate that you’re paying $20 for 30 seconds of time. So a minute is worth $40. Multiply $40 by 60 minutes and you get $2400/hr. I think we can all agree that this is a more than generous wage for ANYONE.

Using this same thought process means that if a celeb is charging $75, they are earning $9000/hr. NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS AN HOUR. Now, I understand that this probably seems like a pittance to someone who may earn $1 Million dollars a day on a movie set, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. Besides, if they’re earning this kind of money regularly one can assume that they are financially stable enough that they don’t need to be charging fans for the luxury of breathing the same air as them for 30 seconds or less. (And don’t even get me started on celebs who charge this much or more and then have the nerve to act aloof and bored with the fans…).

As you know, I am a regular convention attendee, so it’s easy for me to see the not-so-slow inflation of autograph fees over time. Adding “personalization fees” to the mix is simply abhorrent. It’s price gauging. It’s taking blatant advantage of people and their wallets, and it’s certainly not ingratiating the celebs with their fans. You know, the fans? The people who helped them to attain their status as a celebrity?

Somehow, this has to stop. Something needs to be done. Reality needs to be checked.

Who’s with me?

Emerald City Comic Con Wrap-Up!!

Hi Gang!! I just wanted to drop in and let everyone know that my official “wrap-up” of this year’s ECCC will be posted later this afternoon.

Keep checking back! Lots of cosplay photos and panel reviews!

 

Update: Hi folks, sorry the wrap-up isn’t posted yet. I’ve been having some technical issues with some of the photos I’m trying to upload. Hope to have these resolved soon. Keep checking back!!

Update (2):

Ok, let’s wrap this up!

First off, this year’s Emerald City Comic was a lot of fun, but I can’t say it was more fun than last year. This may have been because of the drugs.

I threw my back out spectacularly just 3 days prior to the Con and, as a result, I was on prescription pain-killers for the duration which made me feel like I was almost walking outside of my body as opposed to in it. The upside was that I was so mellow that I didn’t stress out as much this year about making it to certain panels on time; the downside was that I felt more than slightly adjacent to everything happening around me, so it didn’t feel like I was actually experiencing anything. Weird.

ECCC nearly doubled in size this year, and with that came some interesting decisions about the layout of the event. For some reason they cloistered the Gaming area far away from the main hub of action (the main panel rooms, signing stalls and show floor) and so it took a lot of effort to get to. As a result, it sort of felt like Gaming had been put in the corner on a time out. We managed to make it down there for one panel (which wasn’t a gaming related panel AT ALL) and met Felicia Day, which was awesome. Otherwise, we didn’t really have any time to peruse the vendors in this area because we had a tight panel schedule we were sticking to, and we kept having to hot-foot it back to the show floor and panel rooms. It was kind of a bummer.

I realize that the key word in Emerald City Comic Con is “COMIC”, but gaming has always had a strong foothold in this world thanks to the likes of D&D et al, so it was just plain weird that it was so sequestered.

Anywho…. Onto Day 1!

First “main hall” panel of ECCC was Felicia Day, and it was delightful. Felicia chatted with moderator Melanie McFarland of IMDB.com about her career thus far, including her hopes for the future of Geek and Sundry (her YouTube channel). She kept saying that she could not confirm that they’d been picked up for another year, but something tells me that they have been. She stated that her goal if they get renewed is to create more gaming-centric programming, hearing this, I did a little wiggle of joy in my folding chair.

FD2013

Ms. Day was incredibly laid-back and gracious with the fans, and even made a point of stating how unfair it was that the first dozen rows of seats were cordoned off for “VIP” attendees only.

Aside: Folks, there were about 200 seats in this special “VIP Only” section, and only 12 people sitting in them (FOR THE ENTIRE CON). The exception to this might have been the finale panel of ECCC on day 3 – Sir Patrick Stewart – but otherwise, the VIP section was almost always nearly vacant. I really appreciated that Felicia Day took a moment to point out the elitism that was starting to show its unattractive head at this moderately-sized event.

Ms. Day also announced that she is set to appear in yet more episodes of Supernatural (and is probably in Vancouver, BC filming as I am writing this); I’ve never been a hardcore Supernatural fan, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the two episodes she’s appeared in thus far, so I am very much looking forward to whatever comes next.

After the Felica Day panel we raced down to the Gaming Floor and managed to duck into the Paul and Storm Discuss Learning Town panel. For those of you unfamiliar with Paul and Storm (who have heard of me) and their web series Learning Town, take a moment to hop over to the Geek and Sundry YouTube channel and check it out. I’ll wait here.

Paul and Storm with Learning Town head writer, Josh Cagan

Paul and Storm with Learning Town head writer, Josh Cagan

Welcome back! Awesome, right? For those of you who didn’t actually check it out, here’s a quick synopsis: Thanks to an untimely death, Paul and Storm find themselves the new hosts of a children’s educational series called Learning Town. Puppets catch fire. Hilarity ensues.

Paul and Storm talked about the creation of the show, and their hope for a second season. P&S have always been a little bit hard to read (they’d be terrific poker players), and though I’m sure they’re actually super-nice guys, they have a tendency to appear aloof and bored. It may just be that they are actually painfully shy (not uncommon in performers, as strange as this sounds) and don’t feel comfortable without their guitars to hide behind. I say all of this because we didn’t really take away a whole lot from the panel except the the knowledge that they used a total twelve fire extinguishers on camera during the taping of the first season of Learning Town and that they wrote the first draft of most of the songs in less than a month.

After the Learning Town panel we stood in line and met Felicia Day, who is the sweetest, most genuine gal ever. When I mentioned that we’re both from Huntsville, AL she gave me a high five and asked when I’d last been back (2005) and then stated that she was a bad granddaughter who needed to get back there to visit her grandmother. I agreed, I needed to visit my grandmother in Huntsville, too. Then she drew a bunny on my souvenir photo. Awesome.

Next we made a slow circuit through the show floor and took many a cosplay photo (featured below), before wandering up to the signing room to see whose line was the shortest. Interestingly, Gillian Anderson’s line was pretty dern small, so we hopped into that and (after a few minutes queuing) strolled up to her table.

Gillian Anderson, the Scully Years

Gillian Anderson, the Scully Years

Gillian Anderson is over it. Either that or she’s still bewildered by the attention of fans. It’s not that she wasn’t polite. She was very polite on the surface, but it was the “bored now” undertones that rankled me. I can understand how a person might want to pull a Garbo and just want to be left alone, but if that’s the case, don’t come to conventions and line your wallet with the fans’ money. It’s just in poor taste. But, anyway, I met her. So I can cross that off my list.

This concluded Day One of ECCC on a rather odd note. But Day Two started off in a much better place.

Knowing that Sir Patrick Stewart’s autograph would be in particularly high-demand, I queued up for him as soon as we arrived at the convention center. There were so many people in line to meet him/get his autograph, that he was limited to maybe 5 seconds of interaction per person. Even so, it was a terrific 5 seconds! Sir Patrick is a cool-ass dude, man. He just oozes cool. He is the Zaphod Beeblebrox of planet Earth (only minus the second head and rampant narcissism). The guy is 72 and you’d never know it to look at him. He carries himself like a much younger person and is incredibly sharp. I told him that I really loved his performance in “Macbeth”, he replied (in that fantastic accent of his), “Yes, well. That was quite an experience.”

After meeting Sir Patrick, we headed back to the main panel hall for Gillian Anderson’s panel. There is only one way to describe this panel: weird. Just like at the signing table it was as if she couldn’t be bothered. I took nothing away from this panel with the exception of knowledge that David Duchovny may (or may not) be exactly like his character on Californication. I honestly wish I had spent this hour checking out the vendors on the Gaming floor instead.

photo credit:Andre Tan

photo credit:Andre Tan

However, things took a positive turn with the panel immediately following Ms. Anderson, Natalia Tena.

Ms. Tena is best known for her portrayals of Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter movies and Osha the Wildling in the Game of Thrones series. Natalia Tena is freaking HI-LARIOUS! The moderator warned us in advance to expect adult language and, wow, it was like having our own sailor onstage. She talked at length about her band Molotov Jukebox (which you should definitely check out) as well as the look of her “lady garden” (not joking) and how if she were a super villain, she’d be one of her own invention called “Wasp Woman”. I’m not even going to tell you where the stinger would be. Just guess. She was simply wonderful with the fans who stepped up to ask questions, genuine engaging, kind and FUNNY.

Natalia Tena, photo credit: Suzi Platt

Natalia Tena, photo credit: Suzi Platt

The final panel of Day Two was a Walking Dead panel featuring Michael Rooker (Merle) and Danai Gurira (Michonne). Unlike the character she plays, Danai Gurira is super talkative, sweet-natured and completely open. Michael was quite the rapscallion and you could easily imagine the two of them goofing around and teasing each other on set between takes of blood and gore. They were unable to provide any previews or spoilers of this or next season, but they did spend some time on their character’s personal motivations. This wasn’t as illuminating as you might have imagined. It’s fairly easy to read into these characters on screen, but it was interesting seeing inside these two very different actors and their processes.

Danai Gurira and Michael Rooker, photo credit: Andre Tan

Danai Gurira and Michael Rooker, photo credit: Andre Tan

On the final day of Comic Con, we started out getting a photo signed for our Godson by Natalia Tena. Our Godson had joined us on Day Two and had purchased a photo op with Ms. Tena, and asked us if we could have her sign it for him. This photo is terrific. She’d adopted what she called her “sexiest pose”, which in reality had her looking like she was grabbing the back of her own head while, at the same time, starting to sneeze. Basically, she looked ridiculous and hilarious next to our Godson who was simply standing there with an adorable, patient, grin on his face.

We presented the photo for Ms. Tena to sign and she grabbed it in horror exclaiming, “What the HELL am I doing in this picture?!” She then actually wrote “What the HELL am I doing in this picture?!” on the photo as well as an arrow pointing at herself and the word “IDIOT” before actually signing her autograph at the bottom. It. Was. AWESOME. If my Godson gives me the “OK” I will post it here.

After this most memorable autograph session in the history of EVER, we headed into one of the smaller panel rooms and sat in on Danai Gurira’s solo panel. I must say, I am seriously impressed with this chick. In addition to being an actress, she is an accomplished award-winning playwright, whose been produced off-Broadway and whose works focus on the struggle of women in Kenya, where she grew up.

Immediately following Danai’s panel was Jim Cummings, voice of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Zummi Gummi and HUNDREDS of other cartoon characters. Jim talked about getting into the industry and his experience working with Disney (all positive… although I doubt he’d be allowed to say anything negative publicly due to contractual obligations). Then the moderator decided it would be funny to ask Jim if he ever used any of his character voices “in the bedroom”. His immediate answer was, “No, of course not”. He then went on to MURDER MY CHILDHOOD by performing a “what if” scenario with Pooh, Tigger and Ray (the firefly from the Princess and the Frog). It was hysterical and oh so very, very wrong. I will never be able to watch Winnie the Pooh the same way again.

Pooh, you've been an awfully naughty bear

Pooh, you’ve been an awfully naughty bear

After this we ducked into the main panel hall again for the Geek and Sundry Panel of Awesome. What made this panel so awesome was that it was Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton with NO MODERATOR. Felicia and Wil came off as siblings. Teasing each other, telling fart jokes, torturing each other with embarrassing anecdotes. Wil also filled the big brother role of, “Hey, that’s my sister! Back off, man!” when a fan asked Felicia out on a date. They were simply adorable.

photo credit: Bonniegrrl

photo credit: Bonniegrrl

The final panel of the con was Sir Patrick Stewart himself. He held us all captive in his knightly hand telling stories of how Paramount had is toupee hand-delivered to him for his Star Trek audition (news flash, the toupee did not make the cut), accidentally getting cast in Dune and letting us in on the fact that the new X-Men movie will begin filming in less than six weeks!

photo credit: Andre Tan

photo credit: Andre Tan

My favorite story of the panel had to do with Sir Patrick being accidentally cast in Dune. The director thought he’d cast someone else, and when Mr. Stewart arrived on-set it was too late to do anything about it. A juicy anecdote to this story was that Sir Patrick did not know (at the time of filming) who Sting was.

He said, “I mean, I’d heard of this musician fellow called Sting and I knew his arrival on-set was causing a lot of excitement, but I really had no idea who he was. During a pause between takes I turned to him and said, ‘So you’re a musician?’ and he said, ‘Yeah.’ So I asked, ‘What do you play?’ and he said, ‘Bass.’ Then I said, ‘You know, I’ve always wondered how you deal with having to tote that massive thing around. It must be a headache.’ Sting then explained to me that he, in fact, played a bass guitar, not a bass fiddle. So then I asked who he played with and he said he had is own band. So I said, ‘Oh really? What sort of band?’ and he said, ‘The Police.’ Folks, I then turned to him and said, ‘You play in a police band?'”

Yeah, the entire hall pretty much died of laughter at that point. It was awesome.

That concluded our ECCC ’13 experience. We met a lot of folks over the three days and took plenty of cosplay photos. Sadly, not all of them are here because a number of the image files somehow got corrupted and went kerplooey. But do see below for the photos I was able to save.

Princess Bubblegum by Miss Lime. Be sure to check out her Tumblr page! misslime.tumblr.com

Princess Bubblegum by Miss Lime. Be sure to check out her Tumblr page! misslime.tumblr.com

Thomas as Bane (the jolliest looking Bane I ever did see...)

Thomas as Bane (the jolliest looking Bane I ever did see…)

"Crossplay" Barf from Spaceballs

“Crossplay” Barf from Spaceballs

Nick as Nyan Cat!

Nick as Nyan Cat!

Joel (or Mike) and Tom Servo!

Joel (or Mike) and Tom Servo!

Steampunk Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Awesome.

Steampunk Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Awesome.

The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland

The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland

Capt. Redcoat McHaggis. Check out the awesome 'stache!!

Capt. Redcoat McHaggis. Check out the awesome ‘stache!!

Inspector Gadget - this young fellow was in quite a hurry to get somewhere, so I was unable to get his name. Too bad his Go-Go-Gadget Copter wasn't practical

Inspector Gadget – this young fellow was in quite a hurry to get somewhere, so I was unable to get his name. Too bad his Go-Go-Gadget Copter wasn’t practical

Bender from Futurama

Bender from Futurama

Spencer Voykin as He-Man and Clay Stooshnoff as Skeletor

Spencer Voykin as He-Man and Clay Stooshnoff as Skeletor

Storm Beaker and Obi Sam the Eagle!

Storm Beaker and Obi Sam the Eagle!