DragonCon 2013 – Day 1

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Well, sure it was frustrating to enter a registration line that circled the building, especially as having registered at about the same time of day in 10 minutes the year before.  Everything seemed to be working... but it begs the question as to whether the organizers should put a cap on attendees.  I have the answer for that, of course.  If 52,000 were present last year, it’s got to be over 60,000 this year.untitled-1-6

That said, only a few years ago, it took 3-4 hours to register.  And, if you’re actually sociable, it’s kind of fun to chat with people in line with you.  “First year at DragonCon?”  That kind of thing.  These two were from Birmingham, AL and ready for the experience.

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After we circled the building, I spied these two.  It’s 9:37 a.m., and I can’t come to any other conclusion that this lady’s aluminum bottle is anything other than a Michelob Ultra.  Maybe.  Dunno.

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Also emerging successfully from the registration line were these two.  Don’t know who they’re supposed to be, but I had itchy trigger finger on the camera.

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Fearing that the unexpected length of the registration line made us unlikely to get into the George Takei panel, we tried anyway, since it was in the same building.  The Sheraton houses most of the Star Trek related panels, and we’ve been shut out before due to either the large number of people attending or smaller rooms.  Happily, we found the line to be very reasonable, at least the portion that we could see of it.

So, you sit, you ask people around you if this is their first Con, where they’re from... and you people watch.  The girl in the middle is actually much cuter than than this snapshot suggests.  That’s her very geeky boyfriend, on the phone, which was his focus for at least 20 minutes.  Did I mention she was pretty cute?

Well, at D*Con, anyone can talk to anyone, so she did, to a guy in a kilt with a bald head and a longish beard tied under his chin.  From the front, he looked a bit of a Hell’s Angel and... well, D*Con is where worlds collide, and get along pretty dang well.  I’d give her boyfriend a couple days after the Con before she dumps him.  Dweeb.

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Which brings us to the George Takei panel, otherwise known as Mr. Sulu.  Or, as his discussion would unfold, the man who would likely prefer to be known as Captain Sulu, the very same that rescued Captain Kirk in the improperly titled, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  His preferred title was Capt. Sulu to the Rescue! – or something close to that.

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Note:  That’s Garrett Wang to the right who is moderating the panel.  He played Ensign Harry Kim on “Star Trek: Voyager.”

There remains a simmering feud, perhaps friendly, between Takei and William Shatner.  They both take aim at each other frequently, and they both obviously believe that everyone in their audience must be on their side.  It gets tiring.  Takei rambled on about getting close to “Star Trek’s” 50th year and aging in general. 

After some fairly generic questions about being an Asian in Hollywood and the difficulty finding roles other than a household assistant or an evil villain, Takei had two entertaining stories.

One was a joke played on him by Walter Koenig (Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Uhuru) and James Doohan (Scotty), who toured as a group to conventions for equal pay.  Koenig mentions in a cab on the way to a hotel that it was great to get an extra $1,000 for the last show, and Doohan and Nichols play along with it as if they each got the same.  On it goes until they check in, and Takei demands that their promoter meet him in the lobby, where he is very aggressive physically and verbally about not getting his fair share.  He quickly realizes he’s been had.

The second story involved him as a young actor faced with the need to get to the other side of New York’s Central Park, at night, and in the late 50’s when it was ill advised to do so.  He can’t afford a cab, and the subways ran a very circumspect route.  So, he loudly recited prose from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” as if he was out of his mind.  People stayed clear of him as he crossed safely.

Afterwards, we grabbed gyros and began walking to the next panel.  Along the  way, two guys passed us, one carrying a 70’s era record player.  Heard from someone in front of us, “That’s the most hipster thing I’ve ever seen, a guy carrying a record player with Led Zeppelin vinyl on it.”

As we stood in line for the next panel, I spied a caped crusader checking out her cell phone.  That’s one thing about DragonCon.  You name the fictional character, wait long enough, and you too can take pictures of them checking their cell phones.  Maybe I’ll make it a hobby.

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Which brings us to the next panel:  Lindsay Wagner, best known to me as The Bionic Woman.  My wife can recall episodes.  All I remember is that I had a vague recollection of her being in “The Rockford Files,” liked the series, thought she was cute, and got really, really tired of her body fighting the bionics.  Heal up and go bust things, sheesh!

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Wagner is introspective and is very much a philosophical person.  She vaguely referred to self-help, mind over matter methods of better health, and being a Vegetarian.  Whatever the details, it was obvious that she felt a purpose relatively early in life (service to others), and she had a surprising amount of input to the storyline and individual moral messages of her show – especially surprising at a relatively young age (25 when it began) and, as she recounts, the first female lead character in an action/adventure show on TV. 

As the audience asked questions, it verified her own observations that she didn’t really know at the time what influence her show might have on society.  That said, she had a clear desire to show a female character who didn’t apologize for being a woman or have to self-deprecatingly conduct herself in a world of men.  Um, okay.  Clearly, she was in fact a heroine to many young girls who, as they grew older, gave her exactly that feedback as a role model. 

Overall, while some actors are glib and funny, Wagner is a very serious and thoughtful person.  I really didn’t know what to expect, but it makes sense with her role choices over the years.

Peccadilloes from this panel included her eye glasses, which reflected the ample chandeliers (she uses her eyes to express herself, and the glasses just get in the way) and the regular intrusion of noise as doors opened from the lobby area interfering with her relatively soft-spoken delivery.

And, off we go to find out what we might learn from the Science track of programming, specifically a panel entitled “You Won’t Go Crazy – The Radiation Will Kill You First.”

Well, first a couple of observations.  This one was snoring in the hallway amidst people hanging outside of the rooms used for Science track programs.

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And, this one was across the hall from the door where I was seating, where I happened to catch...

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Yes, that book is literally falling from his hands as he nods off.  Bazinga!  It’s Day 1 of a massive convention, folks.  Get with it.

The guy behind the desk is Richard “Hawk” Alstatt, who has a MS in Nuclear Engineering, specializing in Plasma Physics and is, in general, an expert on “burning stuff.”  Often, he models space environments and assesses radiation effects for planetary bodies for NASA.

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The room, by the way, was full.  The title of the narrative teases with a reality show that is taking applicants for a one way voyage to establish a human colony on Mars.  The discussion was far from that. 

He began with Rems and Millirems, explaining dosage, it’s effect on humans, and the various sources of radiation.  The most interesting comments were his description of radiation from the sun, both “normal” and during flares.  This led into a discussion of the Van Allen belt, which is a wonderful protective device for life on Earth and also a measurable breadth of strata that humans should avoid.  He also related this neutron dense region with the dangers of flying 5,000 feet above earth – neutrons find their rest in bodies of water, which would be us in that context.

He had laughable stories about Russian engineering inadequacies related to protecting their Cosmonauts, a clear distaste for anti-nuclear agendas in editorials following nuclear accidents (detecting radiation a continent away is not the same thing as being harmfully exposed, and similar), and good advice if you’re on a space walk or on the surface of the moon during a solar storm.  Hide behind a 1/4” plate of aluminum.  I’ll keep that handy.

Similarly, he observed the careful design of our own space program in shielding our astronauts with suitable vehicle thickness, then cutting a hole for windows where, of course, they would often look out.  It turns out that astronauts have often gotten cataracts due to the radiation that comes through the glass.

He gave a very clear understanding that we are very well situated where we are, but the space around us and most other planets present significant problems with survivability from radiation.

He was very intelligent and, while I tried to follow along, I’m happy that we have people like him who understand the science and apply it for our benefit.

Afterwards, we toured the Artists Gallery and the Walk of Fame, where celebrities sign autographs (for fees) but are otherwise approachable for short conversations.

Then, it was time to eat!

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1 comment :

  1. Oh! Thats Prince Belial in the black and white with the face paint, the guy with him is suppose to be a vatican knight. They are from a series called path of the fallen, its not to well known right now but there is a link.
    www.pathofthefallen.webstarts.com

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