Wilco - (the album)

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I'm not a big "fan" of Wilco.  I've bought their last several CD's, however, and I really don't know why.  I haven't pondered through their often enigmatic lyrics.  I haven't figured out why noise and cacophony would be considered a "good" thing to include in a song.  And I don't particularly relate to the man behind the lyrics, Jeff Tweedy, meaning I don't usually feel what he feels.

Still, I know that they're good, and each time I listen to one of their CDs, I find something that I like, usually either new or something I had liked before and had forgotten.  It's the kind of music that I won't often play, and if I do, as with Radiohead's Kid A, I'mWilco (the album) fairly certain my family wouldn't understand why I would listen to it (so I don't when they're around).

One aspect of Wilco (the album) - I guess that's opposed to Wilco (the book) or Wilco (the pop-up toaster) - is that Tweedy continues to wear his insecurities on his sleeve.  The title track (don't laugh, even though they want you to), is Wilco (the song).  It could be heard as a coy invitation to their fans to rest easy in the comfort of the band.  But with all of the relational trauma that Tweedy writes about here and elsewhere, I can't help but think he's projecting his own need.  But it's a catchy song at the least.

And that's one discernible characteristic of this CD - there are more "catchy" songs than in their last several offerings.  "You and I," a duet with Feist, may read simply, but the tunefulness makes it a lovely song.  "I'll Fight" suffers somewhat by it's repetitive intro, but the tune is solid and the lyric ultimately unfolds into a revelatory expression of the sacrifice that love is.  "One Wing" reads beautifully, and although the song structure doesn't quite rise to its lyrical level, the guitar work certainly adorns it nicely.

And the lyrics, overall, are also a good thing about this CD.  Tweedy is often obtuse in his songs, but only a couple songs are head-scratchers here - "Deeper Down" and, to a point, "Bull Black Nova."

Musically, the band is good to great throughout, though at times they seem uncertain as to how to end a song.  Often, and not just on this CD, they seem satisfied just to stop playing rather than instrumentally work out a satisfying conclusion.  If the music is to fit the message, it abruptly ends whatever "place" the listener is in.

My favorite lyric is from "Solitaire," which unfortunately is not carried by a memorable tune.  But as poetry...

Once I thought the world was crazy

Everyone was sad and chasing

happiness and love and

I was the only one above it


Once I thought without a doubt

I had it all figured out

universe with hands unseen

I was as cold as gasoline

 

Took too long to see

I was wrong to believe in me only

 

Once my life was a game so unfair

It beat me down and kept me there

Unaware of my naysaying

Solitaire was all I was playing

 

Took too long to see

I was wrong to believe in me only.

 

Maybe I can almost relate to Tweedy after all.

Recommended Tracks: "You and I," "One Wing," "I'll Fight"

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

 

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Drive-By Truckers - The Fine Print

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DBT is apparently in "cash in" mode.  Co-leader Patterson Hood already mined the vaults this year for songs left unplayed in his solo offering, Murdering Oscar.  There's also a new CD/DVD of selected songs from the band's appearance on "Austin City Limits."  And they tour almost constantly.

And now this, "a collection of oddities and rarities 2003-2008."  Of the 12 songs, 7 of them are from the period in which The Dirty South was recorded, which was, in my opinion, their best CD as it alone amongDBT - the fine print their catalog as unblemished by any weak inclusions.  So, why offer songs now that didn't make the cut? 

I'll take it track by track - anyone considering a purchase should note that liner notes share some insights as to Patterson Hood's thoughts on each song, which is a good thing.

"George Jones Talkin' Cell Phone Blues" - inspiration can be found wherever, and the subject matter certainly fits DBT's profile.  It's a decent song for those that like the band's new and unimproved country-fried sound.  Steel pedal galore.

"Rebels" - a Tom Petty cover.  Well done and worth a listen.

"Uncle Frank" - a great Cooley song, an alternate to one previously released.

"TVA" - An Isbell song lauding the Tennessee Valley Authority - well written lyrics as always, but unfortunately forgettable as a song.

"Goode's Field Road" - alternate version to the one on their last studio release, and a better one to my ears.

"The Great Car Dealer War" - A subject matter where Hood's intent was good, but where the result is something ridiculous. Better left unheard.

"Mama Bake a Pie (Daddy Kill a Chicken)" - another cover song (Tom T. Hall), perfectly suited to DBT.

"When the Well Runs Dry" - an Isbell song better than anything DBT has released since The Dirty South.  Easily the best song found in this collection.

"Mrs. Claus' Kimono" - further proof that not every idea is a good idea.  It would be a discredit to consider this a Christmas song or even a seasonal song.  But the mention of Santa and Rudy at track #9 of this collection doesn't help the playability of the CD as a whole.  Ironically, if the lyric was modified slightly to feature their typical tortured Southern down-and-outs, it might have been one of their best songs ever.

"Play it All Night Long" - a Zevon cover, done well.

"Little Pony and the Great Big Horse" - interesting once or twice and... Cooley's done worse.

"Like a Rolling Stone" - Dylan cover - not bad, but that doesn't mean it has to be heard.  Ample proof here that what makes DBT great is not their vocals (but rather their cutting social commentary and unabashed use of rock music as a means to convey it).

By my count, that's 6 of 12 songs that I'll enjoy again, which means it isn't just for "completists."  Sadly, even with Santa in the playlist, this collection sounds as good as or better from start to finish than their last two CDs. And with that thought comes the hope that this release doesn't signify that they're a band that has run out of good ideas.

Recommended Track: "When the Well Runs Dry"

Rating: 3 of 5

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The Two Rs

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No, it's not R-apostrophe-s because that would indicate a possessive, and the "R" doesn't own anything. I'm speaking of a plural here.  Eventually.

A segment of Dragon*Con is the "Walk of Fame" where greater and lesser stars of TV and movies make themselves available to fans for autographs and photos (usually for a fee).  It's easy to imagine an awkwardness of fans gushing over certain actors with praise, but most of the celebrities seem to enjoy the chance to say "thank you" and, if they're not too pressed with people waiting, to engage in conversation.  In short, celebrities are people too.

I have several autographs - three from Star Trek actors obtained when I was a teen, and two from musicians who signed their CDs.  They made sense at the time... proof that I met them, I suppose.

Faced with a room full of actors and actresses with photo stills and Sharpies at the ready, a sudden impulse arises that says, "I want (insert name here)'s autograph!"  This is as quickly followed by the backstabbing dagger of self awareness which asks incredulously, "Why? What would you do with it?" 

Indeed.

Elsewhere at "the Con," there are several rooms where about everything related to sci-fi, gaming, costuming, etc. is sold, including autographed photo stills from actors across every genre.  I understand that collecting autographs is a hobby for some and as valid an interest as most others.  But for me, possessing the several autographs that I've acquired hasn't meant beans, and to acquire them from people I've never met makes even less sense, as follows:

"Hey, guess what?  I've got Clint Eastwood's autograph!"

"Really?  Wow!  Where did you meet him?"

"Oh, I never have.  I just bought it from a vendor."

"Um, okay.  What are you going to do with it?"

"I... don't know.  Keep it... safe, I guess."

It's not like you can read most of them, either.

Over the years, my own signature has changed.  In school, legibility was important so that the teacher knew to whom the work belonged thus I could receive my rightful grade.  But, when bored of doodling, I recall playing around with the way I wrote my name because other people had really cool signatures.  They had better handwriting.

Entering the workplace and my adult years, there were ample opportunities to refine my signature, albeit while signing checks.  Today, I write my name far less frequently as bills are often paid online, and it seems mortgages and credit card receipts remain the final domain for one scribing their own name.  It's not as much fun to write your name when all it means is that you've entered into debt. But even that seems threatened as fewer vendors require a signed receipt. 

My signature has evolved in recent years to include recognizable initials, with squiggly lines after each which imply that letters may have been intended.  Why bother with details?  No one bothers to look, much less read it.

And I'm okay with that.  My kids' signatures, though... absolutely awful.  My daughter (almost 18) has a third grader's attempt at cursive, and my son (16) is satisfied with a second grade effort at plain print.  Sadly, the Palmer Method (by which cursive script was taught to be legible and uniform) and even the lesser expectations that I faced in grade school are but forgotten memories.

Palmer method

I rarely have the opportunities to see my kids' unpracticed and unrefined handwriting (good grades mean I don't have to review all their homework), but it wasn't until I read this article on the fate of cursive writing in our digital age that I realized how much their handwriting aggravates me. 

My daughter may someday be a Nobel Prize winner or save the world while texting on her phone, and my son may become a rock star, an author, the Most High Supreme Master of video game players, or Dr. Evil (...to be fair, both have other possibilities).  In any case, I'm fairly certain that regardless of their accomplishments to come anyone who sees their signatures certainly wouldn't pay to possess them. 

In a world of computer screens and handhelds, I'm guessing that the definition of "literacy" will evolve to mean the ability to read without the ability to write.  Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic... Kids have it so easy!  1/3 less to learn!

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Mark Knopfler - Get Lucky

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Mark Knopfler is more widely known as the creative force behind Dire Straits, a band that had a good number of hits in the 1980's and that featured his very distinctive vocals and guitar.  For all intensive purposes, "that was then, and this is now" when it comes to public familiarity with Knopfler's solo work.

Get Lucky is his 6th solo release, and, for some, it is the 6th in a series of frustrations of what could or should have been included: blistering guitar solos with songs deserving of commercial airplay.  But when Knopfler closed the chapter on Dire Straits, he seems to have also moved (almost) beyond any desire for commercial popularity.

If one can step over that one rather enormous stumbling block, there remains a collection of beautiful work to enjoy, of which Get Lucky is among the best due to the consistent quality of the songs.  If Knopfler was less British, his music might now be described as Americana, a mix of folk, country, blues and whatever that doesn't fit neatly elsewhere.Mark Knopfler - Get Lucky   Briticana, sadly, doesn't exist in nomenclature, but that would be an appropriate category in which his pursuits could reside.

Knopfler has consistently written exceptional song lyrics over the years, based on books he's read, remembrances, famous persons, the general pursuits of living, etc.  In Get Lucky, he writes of itinerant workers, following compulsions, a lorry driver, the fate of English ships, a British piper, and beating the House odds, among others.  There is almost always a narrative in his writing with an accompanying understanding of the perspective Knopfler brings to the subject matter.  This certainly didn't begin with his solo career, but there are certainly no "throw away" lyrics typical of pop songs, either.

Musically, Knopfler remains a very intentional craftsman in orchestrating the instruments to suit the lyrics he's written.  As mentioned earlier, his guitar rarely soars, but his lyrics rarely demand the emotive pitch that "rock solos" are best used to convey.  To an appreciative listener, however, his guitar carries and provides appropriate tone to his subject matter, featured in some songs, while propelling others from under the surface while other instruments take the lead.  In other words, artistry is his passion and pursuit, and his work is therefore limited to the subset of the listening public that appreciates both the craftmanship and his particular style.

Get Lucky features four songs with accordian, flute, and whistle, and it otherwise includes orchestra, violin, electric and upright bass, and, of course, guitars.  All of them are used in the right places.  The only negative is that at this point, many of his songs from this and previous CDs begin to sound the same, or, conversely, few of them favor a revved pulse.

Below is a video of the song about the Lorry drivers, and due to the subject matter references, the liner notes do help.  Again, I repeat my motto:  Death to the download; long live the CD!

Suggested Tracks:  "The Car was the One," "So Far from the Clyde," "Cleaning My Gun," "Border Reiver"

Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars (I need to make a graphic...)

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James McMurty - Live at The Visulite

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Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can't be found in a motel room, at least on a business trip. Obviously, it shouldn't be expected, either. Where to look then? A CD store, of course.

While visiting Manifest Records (a worthwhile store in Charlotte, NC) for used treasures, I noticed a wall with posters advertising concerts at a local venue. As the title above has already revealed, James McMurtry was to be in town the following evening, with tickets costing a cool $17. No Ticketmonopoly service fees involved. That's a refreshing, "Nada. Zip. Zero. None."

It's amazing how fast we can "think" through things, and I won't enter into discussion as to whether quick decisions tend towards the angel on one shoulder or the demon on the other. In this case, the conversation with myself went as follows.

Can I even find the venue? (No, but the GPS can).
Can I manage to do my work the following day with 6 hours of sleep? (Of course.) Okay, can I do it well, though? (2 beers max. Yes).
Do I really want to see an artist who I've only listened to a couple of times? (Would you rather sit in your motel room later comparing and contrasting the benefits and pitfalls of an evening a) at a concert and b) in a hotel room? Res ipsa loquitur!)
Do I really want to go to a concert by myself? (Do I really want to sit at a computer or watch TV? Repeat previous answer.)
Am I going to get mugged or worse in a strange part of town? (Good one. Better ask the the guy at the counter).

A quick conversation later, it was all systems "Go!"

The concert was at The Visulite, a small converted movie theater that holds maybe 400 if it were packed. After enjoying Paul McCartney from a half mile from the stage, 20' certainly has a natural appeal. This club's bookings had many artists with which I was not familiar, but it has hosted some fairly popular ones (to those who stray from the Top 40) as well, such as Drive-By Truckers and Son Volt.



I arrived early to allow plenty of time in case my navigation buddy, Ms. Garmin, let me down. She didn't. I also needed to find some food, which was nicely resolved by a Nothing But
Noodles restaurant nearby. The club has a seating area that includes stools and high bar tables, with an accompanying bar with a good mix of 12 draft beers and a wider variety of bottled beers than I would have expected. Flying Dog Classic Pale Ale was the (well selected) fortification of choice for the evening.


The opening act, Johnny Burch, was okay. He had good lyrics, an enthusiasm for his work, and confidence in his guitar chords. A song about El Paso stood out, though I don't know the title.

McMurtry took the stage before an estimated 200 people at the scheduled start time and played 2.5 hours, including one encore. Classifying musicians like him is difficult, and most seem to be thrown into a bucket known as "Americana." It's not rock music, and it's not pop, country, jazz, blues, folk, gospel, r&b, easy listening or other recognizable genres. So, Americana it is.

But his music is almost a few of these. At times, he certainly rocks - electric guitars will do that, but his lyrics contain too much narrative and, dare I say, thought, to fit within that classification. Folk then? His lyrics tend to more of a Guthrie/Dylan perspective of story telling and opinion, but the presentation often rocks too much. I guess this is the same problem folk purists had when Dylan went electric.

Genre's notwithstanding, he is an exceptionally talented lyricist, with songs generally more cohesive than much of Dylan's, delivered in a posture seemingly fashioned intentionally after John Lennon. He's also opinionated about politics, but he mostly stayed away from this subset of his work.

The "it was worth it" aspect of the concert was his guitar work. I ususally hear the music of a song and eventually pay attention to the lyrics some time later. With McMurtry, he has a resonance to his voice that draws attention, so I was surprised to see how active on the guitar frets he is. He certainly played a lot of chords, but his picking and solos were very enjoyable.

He was accompanied by his usual backup the band, The Heartless
Bastards, who might be described as "capable." It's obvious who people came to hear, after all. The band included Jim Brock, a jazz drummer of some note, who filled in with percussion that seemed to be spontaneous.

I don't know the names to many of McMurtry's songs, but another
loner seated near me filled me in on some of my favorites - "Red Dress," "Choctaw Bingo," "Fireline Road," and a rousing "Too Long in the Wasteland."

My only disappointment was that he didn't engage the audience much between songs, but that is not uncommon. The sound was good, and it was well worth the investment. Kudos to my wife's artist friend, Brenda Griffith, for pointing me towards his work.

The concert also afforded me the opportunity to lament the iPhone's inability to handle concerts - at least where it's dark with stage lights on the subject. After carefully shielding my lens from much of the stage light, the best I could do was at right. I know... I know...if you want to take pictures, take a camera, not a phone.

McMurtry (also the son of novelist Larry McMurtry) played only a couple songs on solo acoustic, but below is a video that captures his sound and lyrics pretty well.



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Making the Grade

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What's worse than driving in heavy traffic to work? Driving the opposite direction to take my daughter to school (early for a meeting) and then heading to work.

Not that I'm unhappy about it. I think it was Math Club this time. I would like to say that we had a deep, meaningful father/daughter discussion. But other than sharing the miseries of the latestReport Card almost-but-not-quite Clemson vs. GA Tech game, there was only trivial chit-chat about marching band, working late on her essays, and grades.

Back in the day, to get an "A," I had to score 94-100, not like today's overly generous 90-100 scale. She's got it easy! And then somehow or another, we got to the question of how letter grades originated.

Instead of A through E or F (a regional variance in the U.S.), Why not:

    • E for Excellent
    • G for Good
    • A for Average
    • B for Below Expectations
    • F for Fail (well, at least one letter makes sense)

E-G-A-B-F looks almost like a musical chord sequence, an added plus.

But really, why not just numbers? Who started this letter system? I'm curious to a point. I'm not going to the Library of Congress, or even the Emory University Library, to delve into these haunting questions that preoccupy my mind. So, it's off to Google, Wiki, and even Bing, all conveniently located at my fingertips (additional points for being "green" in this pursuit).

Several sources point back to William Farish, an undistinguished professor at Cambridge University (in England in case you're thinking of one down the street). Reading through the editorial opinion and fact is difficult, but it basically goes like this.

For thousands of years, education was not measured by letter grades, numerical assessments, or the worthiness of whichever Division 1-A University one attended (okay, or even those that don't play football). In fact, there was not a grading system at all. One's Curriculum Vitae did not point towards a resume, a degree, or test results, but rather they were pointed specifically to the name of the teacher under whom one studied. It was a mentoring process, whether an academic pursuit or a skill.

At some point, perhaps mutually agreed upon, the student would leave the mentor and begin his own pursuits. Institutionally, at some unknown time, pass/fail systems were established, but not measured in the sense of the testing done today. This mentoring approach, in consideration of the potential increase in the quality of learning experience, is laudable, but it's also terribly inefficient.

And so it is said that professors in the late 1700's were not paid by salaries but rather by the number of students that they taught. Mr. Farish, by implementing a grading system, could significantly increase the number of students without all that wasted time of getting to know students personally, be it their interests, aptitudes, difficulties, or abilities to apply rather than parrot what was taught. (Whew, dictionary.com confirms that parrot is a recognized verb).

In a manner of speaking, Mr. Farish implemented Henry Ford's production line concepts to the process of education, notably a century earlier. A smart person might have applied this new and improved methodology to manufacturing processes before Mr. Ford, but it might be considered that the dumbing down of students began around 1792, that fateful year of good ol' Professor Farish. In any case, the grading process was quickly and widely adopted.

Well, that's one story.

Much better documented is a 1935 work of Mary Lovett Smallwood that indicates that grading to differentiate students began on the American side of the pond, specifically at Yale. She referenced Yale's President Stiles, in a 1785 diary.

President Stiles wrote that 58 students were present at an examination, and they were graded as follows: “Twenty Optimi, sixteen second Optimi, 12 Inferiores (Boni), ten Pejores” (Stiles, 1901, vol. 3). In all probability, these may have been the very first collegiate “grades” given in the United States.

Yale took the initiative in formulating a scale. Smallwood quoted the following from the Book of Averages — Yale College: “Record of Examinations,” 1813 — 1839: Rules respecting this Book and its records, 1. This book shall be kept with the Senior Tutor of the College, whose duty it shall (be) to see that the following rules are carried into effect. 2. The average result of the examination of every student in each class shall be recorded in this book by the Senior Tutor of the class.

(click HERE for source - an interesting read if you want to read more)

The above linked article indicates that Mount Holyoke first established a letter grading system in 1897. (Notably, just as Eve first ate of the fruit and offered it to Adam, it would appear that letter grades came from a Women's college, thus absolving Mr. Farish, who no doubt saw that it was pleasing to the eye.) We'll probably never know why adjectives used to describe progress, with accompanying acronyms, lost out to the Alphabetical system by which we all pass or fail. Homer Simpson Beer

One bothersome question resolved. I'll give myself a "B" for "Beer" and go watch college football.

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The Beatles - Remastered

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A friend posted on Facebook today what possible meaning could be found in 09/09/09, the curious date that is today, finding no answer.

Well, one possible connection of the dots is The Beatles' White Album, which featured "Revolution 9" (an experimental but still terrible song) that included, in what would generously be called a lyric, "Number 9, Number 9, Number 9..."

I began collecting Beatles records in the late 70's, after the original Capitol pressings had been relabeled with the Beatles' Apple label and then reverted back to Capitol.   Finding a Beatles' record with an "Apple" logo was a minor but welcome discovery, but it was usually diminished sonically by the ultimate wear and tear that a diamond needle caused to AppleRecordsa vinyl groove over time, not to mention the more jarring accidents that caused permanent "pops" and skips. 

Fast forward to 1987.  Fresh out of college and coming to terms with the joys of a paycheck, Capitol cashed in and released the first four Beatles albums (UK versions) on CD.  I remember leaving work at lunch, going to the Riverchase Galleria in Birmingham to a "record store," and buying all four at once.  My paycheck at the time wasn't so great that this was an incidental cost, but the sound...!  Pure, hiss free, high fidelity Beatles.

My CD collection has now grown many times over, but alphabetically between the Beach Boys and Jeff Beck lie 18 Beatles titles each of which has been played many times over, to my enduring satisfaction.  (Note: This does not include solo releases... those would be filed under H, L, M and S - whoops, not so fast Ringo).

Today, Capitol released "remastered" versions of the Beatles catalog.  I'm quite familiar with remastered versions of CDs.  Done correctly, they definitely enhance the sound quality and, despite the partiality of purists who cling to "it sounded better on vinyl," just about everything recorded prior to around 1990 that has been reworked just sounds better.   

A re-release makes sense, aside from it being 22 years since they last raided my disposable income.  The Beatles songs are timeless.  Translated: they continue to sell.  New generations are going to buy the products over time.beatles rock band  The co-release of The Beatles: Rock Band for today's generation is a great entry for nimble fingered youth.  Got it.  I understand. 

And so does Capitol.  They also know that to satisfy corporate ROI (Return on Investment) means that they have to appeal to the good folks who have the money today.  That would be the Boomers... the same good people, incidentally, who are paying for the Rock Band release for their kids.

So Capitol "enhanced" their offer. 

Original artwork and original liner notes (blah blah blah). But wait! There's more.  Expanded booklets with NEW liner notes, plus rare photos!  (slight interest... is there anything really new to learn?)  But wait, there's even more if you act now!   "For a limited time only," each CD also includes an embedded DVD commentary on the making of the album.  And, if you somehow missed buying the set before, why not just buy them all at once in boxed editions?  You can even buy the sets in stereo or mono, your preference.

The Beatles - Mono Set

I no longer "collect" anything.  I obviously continue to love (and purchase) music, but buying things just to possess them has lost much of its attraction.  So it comes down to whether or not it's truly worth it.

Thanks Rolling Stone, for shaking my resolve. 

The buoyancy of "Something" becomes more comprehensible when you hear clearly Paul McCartney's nimble bass line. You knew that "Twist and Shout" featured one of John Lennon's most visceral performances, but here you can feel his vocal cords shred. The horns on "Good Morning Good Morning" roar, driving the song in a way you may not have noticed before. Lennon and George Harrison's guitars on "You Can't Do That" sharpen to a gleaming edge.

Dang, dang, dang!

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Dragon*Con 2009 Panels

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There are approximately 30 "tracks" of programming at Dragon*Con, focusing on interests from Star Trek to costuming to skepticism to comics to everything else.  But part of the draw is the "star power" of various actors who appear in old or current movies and TV series.

This year, it started off with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, or Kirk and Spock from the original TV series.  I could probably go on and on about this, but it was a great experience, with humor similar to 'The Honeymooners." 

Dragon*Con 2009 William Shatner & Leonard Nimoy

Shatner is a complete ham, and Nimoy appears as deliberate in many ways as the famous character he played.  I took a fair amount of photos, and it's fairly amazing that most did not capture how animated he was on the panel.  And the ones that did were blurry.  So it goes. 

If you have any interest in all at this, some good soul has provided much of the panel on YouTube, Part 1 of which is below.

I can't say I learned a whole lot, but it was thoroughly entertaining as well as pleasing to see that they get along so well.

Speaking of Captains of the USS Enterprise, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart, also of X-Men), appeared.  

Dragon*Con 2009 - Patrick Stewart

He seemed a very well grounded actor, serious about his craft (and Shakespearian background), and quite willing to make fun of himself.  He shared a few funny stories from his Trek days but has clearly moved on, though proud of his work.  He has been doing stage work, which will keep him busy into 2010. A surprising point was that he traveled to Atlanta from NYC via Amtrak - enjoying the view of the country.  He seems to have a childlike wonder about everything he experiences.

There was a (thankfully) smaller crowd for "Classic Battlestar," with Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict - respectively Apollo and Starbuck from the old series.  They didn't share quite the bonding of Shatner/NImoy, but both were very funny.

Dragon*Con 2009 - Richard Hatch & Dirk Benedict

Hatch worked hard at continuing the original series, but has no regrets of the recent (and improved) retelling.  Benedict's returned to Montana to raise his two sons soon after the A-Team, and appears set to try to find work again.  They had funny tales of working for ABC, who didn't support the series due to costs or Benedict, due to successfully portraying a woman chaser (as was written in the script).

In the same era was the movie, "Supergirl," starring Helen Slater.  After her role in "Secret of My Success" with Michael J. Foxx, I expected her career to take off.  Like Benedict, she backed off to raise her daughter, and she is currently working on a degree in Anthropology.  She's released a couple music CD's and is likely to return more fully to acting when her daughter goes to college in a few years. 

Dragon*Con 2009 - Helen Slater

She didn't recall much detail from her past work, but she was certainly appreciative of the fans.  In essence, I think what made her suitable for "Supergirl," aside from gender, age, looks, and talent, was (and is) that she's a nice person.

As surprising as anything during D*C was a panel titled "Chuck - A Glimpse Within the Intersect."  This was led by Bonita Friedericy, who plays General Diane

Dragon*Con 2009 - Bonita Friedericy

Beckman.  As it happens, she is married to John Billingsley, who starred in "Star Trek: Enterprise" and is now in HBO's "True Blood." 

Dragon*Con 2009 - John Billingsley

Either of them varies between hilarious and uproarious.  Putting them together might explain something about California earthquakes.  Although her character is cartoonish-serious in "Chuck," she is a comedienne and very passionate about her current series...of which the third season won't return to TV until March.

I've also uploaded the rest of my Costume pictures on Flickr.  Needless to say, we've bought tickets for next year's Con.

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Dragon*Con Parade 2009

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This year marks my third Dragon*Con Parade, held in downtown Atlanta the Saturday of each Labor Day weekend.  D*C, among its 30 or so programming tracts, may be most notable in the area of costuming due to its conspicuous visibility - in the hotels, in the meeting rooms, in the streets, in the restaurants, etc.  It would be a waste for there not to be a parade.

Primarily held on several blocks of Peachtree Street, the parade is easily accessed by public transit, car, or by foot if staying in a downtown hotel.  My wife, son, and I arrived about an hour early to meet a friend and claim what is now our customary front row, curb-side view.  Situated in front of the BB&T Building, camera in hand, all was set.  Except, there was an hour wait for the parade to start.

This is actually a fine thing, as people watching is not only abundant in opportunities but also expected.  Some costumed people are heading to the starting point and almost as many are littered along the "plain folk" in the parade lines to watch.  Peachtree St. is a main thoroughfare downtown, and although there is not significant traffic on a Saturday morning, it was curious that the parade route was not shut down at least a half hour before its scheduled start.  In previous years, police on motorbikes would patrol the route beforehand to make certain that the streets were clear and that the crowds were encroaching into the street.  I guess the city's financial woes can be observed in that there were no policemen observed except about 10 minutes prior to the start when the street was finally closed off.

That would be about 20 minutes after a Sutherland's Foodservice truck parked about 20' from us and began delivering food to a restaurant.  This speaks to  expectations.  One expects that the driver knows the parade will start in a half hour.  One expects that he has a minimal amount of goods to deliver and will have ample time to move his vehicle from the parade route.  One expects that a police officer will inspect the parade route and clear any remaining vehicles.  One expects that the fleas from 1000 camels will infest the driver'sDSC_0082 armpits after completing his task just as the parade arrived so that his vehicle could not be moved.

For parade watching, this obstruction translates as follows.  People were very patient for the driver to move his truck, as each time he returned to his truck, he peeked around to see if anything was coming.  But with the arrival of the parade, which was not obvious to us with a blocked view, everyone in the know rushed forward, quickly rendering those who were first, last.  Ordinarily, we would have a nice view of the approaching parading marauders, super heroes, troopers, and  ________ (fill in the blank) as well as an opportunity to find a subject, frame a picture, focus, and snap. 

Instead, we were left to guess what we were seeing in the only sight lane we had - their hind quarters.

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This photo happens to capture two fairly interesting participants that were also photographed by Phil Skinner of ajc.com:

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What a difference the perspective makes. (It's a Star Wars Imperial Walker (from The Empire Strikes Back). In any case, the few pictures that I was able to crop and salvage are posted on Flickr.  <---- Click there.  (It won't take you long to go through them).

It was a very disappointing start to the day, but fortunately, costuming goes well beyond the parade, and I'll add another set shortly.

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Gone to Dragon*Con

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