Challenge Nation: Atlanta 2013

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Given our great experience in this urban scavenger hunt last year, we were happy to repeat this year with the addition of a couple of Gang members.  It’s not what you think – we all went to Clemson together.  With a Groupon discount, preliminary strategizing (not to mention lunch) at Stats, and a beautiful Fall day, we were off!

Well, not so fast.  The Challenge Nation folks like to use social media to promote their activities, not to mention tease participants.  Sometime after 10:00 p.m. EST, they posted 5 hints towards clues on their Facebook page (if you “like” the page).

These were as follows, along with initial thoughts:

1.  4 out of 44 will qualify  (?)  
2.  3.5 to 4.25 by 5 to 6 (sizes of standard pails in gallons, sizes of postcards)
3.  Lots of paws (Georgia State Panthers, dog adoption event)
4.  GWTW (Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell  house – but too far away)
5.  Drop a dime  (parking meters, jukeboxes, ratting out a criminal to the police)

Also, on Twitter, was the following clue:

What’s got 4 sides, a lot of marble, but no books inside?  (?)

There were 110 teams this year.  A good number had matching team T-shirts, but fewer wore costumes than last year.  This couple stood out, though.

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The team leader for each group stands in a circle to receive the full clues, and at the count of 10, everyone is off... to read the clues.

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You’ve got to read the fine print.  Often, the clues point out not only a direction but an activity that is necessary within the photograph.

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After some initial guesswork, we chart a course.

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1.  To fulfill this clue, either take a photo with your team within 50 feet of a live movie filming site, acting out (your best guess at) a scene from that movie OR take a photo of your team dropping change into any one of these red meters that won’t give you any parking time, but will be a good deed!  (Also Hint #5)

Well, Atlanta has been fairly active lately with films, including the sequel to Hunger Games.  But we had no idea where that or any other film might be shooting.   We had a vague notion of collection boxes for the homeless, and came across one on our route.

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The fine print on the box says “Give change that makes sense.  Please do not give cash to panhandlers.  A donation here will provide help for the homeless.  www.stoppanhandlingatlanta.com”    In Signs We Trust, I guess.

2. Her house is in Midtown, but this square named for her is closer to downtown (though these days it’s mostly a triangle, it was originally a square).  Once there, find the box of chalk we’ve left for you and have your team draw your favorite thing about living in Georgia and pose with your finished drawing!  (Also Hint #4)

This as the Margaret Mitchell hint, author of Gone With the Wind.  A Google search made it simple, and, although certainly not a favorite, a reference for The Varsity, an Atlanta greasy food icon, was easy to draw.  Should you visit Atlanta, take a picture of The Varsity.  But don’t eat there.

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3.  Twenty years after Atlanta’s gorgeous  central library was demolished to make way for its less-beloved modern version, this monument was built out of the original building’s facade that was stored for those years – it honors the American industrialist that donated the funds for the first library (and dozens more nationwide).  Since a couple weeks back was “International Talk Like a Pirate” day, we’ll let you celebrate a few days late:  ARRRRR you ready, ye land lubbers?  Aye, pose like fearsome pirates, forcing one of your teammates to walk a plank! (any plank substitute will do!)   (Also Twitter Hint)

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Hmmm, I’m sure we envisioned a plank somewhere.

4.  Yes, Labor Day’s in the rear view mirror, but Summer’s still in full swing at Challenge Nation and many tourists are in town for all the different events this weekend.  For this clue, you’ll find any out-of-towner wearing some non-sports related “hometown garb,” i.e. a shirt/hat/etc. that says where they’re from – as long as it’s not anywhere in Georgia.  It counts and “place name” universities outside of GA do count.  Take a photo with this visitor acting out what you think their home’s like!\

Well, this is one of those “while you’re heading somewhere, keep an eye out for... “ clues.  We don’t know if the lady wearing the John Lennon NYC shirt was from out of town, but we weren’t the first to ask her to pose.  Now, NYC... hey, the Rockettes! Why not?

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5.  Who am I?  I’m new to town, but am hard to miss – and got here from Paris via Pensacola, stretching about 200’.  Near my base, you’ll find this “holy” music venue that’s more than 100 years old and that has hosted superstars such as Guns ‘n’ Roses, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash.  Grab your neon-colored guitars from our staff member and find your team’s inner rock star when posing for this photo.

I knew the answer to this one, having been to many concerts there.  Still, Atlanta has a new Ferris Wheel that sits in front of it.  It is The Tabernacle.

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6.  Hundreds of four legged friends will be gathering at a celebration in this park that you can reveal by unscrambling this nonsensical anagram:  A NONCLERICAL TEMP PINKY... take a photo with your team, shaking the hands of at least two dogs, in front of any banner signage for the event.  (Also hint #3)

This wasn’t too hard to figure out as the same dog adoption was going on the previous year.  It wasn’t too hard for others to guess, either, because a dog parade went by our staging area, and... there are several parks downtown, but the event started at the biggest (Centennial Olympic Park) where this event is held. 

It wasn’t too hard to find a sign or the dogs – all we had to do was look for other teams, who already scouted out willing volunteers.  Unfortunately, the little brown dog was not looking for attention.  Still, he shook hands. 

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7.  This Challenge will test your team’s ability to make friends and coordinate:  with one other Challenge team, pose in front of any theater in town and act out any scene from a movie set in Georgia with the whole group!  Note: your chosen theater cannot overlap with another clue’s destination.

For this, we turned to my knowledge of music venues (the Rialto Theater, though we stopped at one just around the corner), and Gregg’s knowledge of movies.  Here we are, “driving miss daisy” with another team (who later hung with us for a while).

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8.  Wow, so many choices, choices, choices:  take a photo with any ONE of the following: a clown, a traditional barber pole, a tricycle (pedicabs don’t count), a person wearing overalls, or an actual peach (the real life fruit, only!).  When you snag the photo, give a big thumbs up!

Google can’t find clowns, tricycles, overalls or peaches, but it can find a barber shop.

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9.  For this clue, you might need to think outside the box:  take a photo with your team and the image of any President that appears on Mount Rushmore.  Here are the restrictions:  you can’t pull currency or change out of your pocket, use any smartphone photos, or draw the image – but other than that, the more inventive the better – pose with the image and act out a scene from their life!  (Also hint #1)

Well, Google wasn’t so helpful.  No statues or likely engravings were in the downtown area.  But hey, the library was, and we weren’t the first to borrow this picture of Lincoln that the librarians helpfully left out.  So, here we are, pretending to cut wood for fire and rail fencing.

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10.  Today we’re going to revive the lost art of letter writing: purchase/find any postcard in town, the sillier the better.  Address it to anyone on your team (write super legibly, please).  Let us know what your favorite clue was today in the message portion – and bring it back to the finish line!  For the photo, snap a pic with your postcard in front of any “old style” blue mailbox – but don’t drop it in – your team captain will turn it in to us at the finish.  (Also hint #2)

First happenstance was finding a store that was open on Sunday, but we did.  Second happenstance was walking by this mailbox in between points G and H.  Or something like that.  We didn’t mail it, per instructions.

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11.  Find this sculpture that includes a prominent single ring – it was installed to honor the event with the five rings.  Once there, you’ll find a Challenge Nation staffer holding some rings of your own – do the obvious activity for at least 2-3 seconds in your team’s photo (or look silly trying, at least). 

We skipped this one, confident in our other 11 and this being a bit out of our path.  We figured it out though.

12. Crash a tailgate or a sports bar!  The game’s kicking off in just about 6 hours, so this shouldn’t be too difficult: gather up at least EIGHT or more Falcons fans (in their fan gear) in a football action – pose photo OR you can pose with FOUR or more Patriots fans!

Falcons vs. Patriots were scheduled to play a few hours later and a few blocks away.  Fans were not hard to find.  The Patriots fans, though, were especially happy to be desired company.

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So, 66th place.  That was disappointing.  We finished outside of the top 50%.  We assumed we’d finish in the top half, as we did that last year in a lengthy 2 hour and 19 minute session.  Improving our time was the goal this year. 

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Result?  1:50:41.  Well, that’s a 30 minute improvement.  As we only raced across a couple of intersections, I guess we chalk that up to experience and a couple more nimble minds.  We did finish ahead of Tough Mudders (a difficult mud run challenge) and a bunch of people we saw actually running

We can do better, though, and the fine print says “Next Year’s Atlanta Challenge will be on Sunday, October 5th, 2014 – See you There!”

Deal. 

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Jameson First Shot

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Having sampled Jameson Irish Whiskey mixed with Sprite, I found that I liked the flavor of the whiskey but that it was too sweet with Sprite.  So, in an idle moment, I decided to check out the maker’s website for their suggestions.

Their suggestions were straightforwardly presented.

Scrolling down, I enjoyed their “how it’s made” series, and scrolled further to ultimately find Jameson First Shot, a sponsored competition for short films.  Last year’s movies featured Kevin Spacey, who committed without knowing who (producers) might win and what the production values might be.

Kevin Spacey is an actor whose work I’ve always appreciated, though I’ve often been disappointed in his role choices.  These were all enjoyable and worth my time, so, I thought they might be worth yours as well.

 

 

And, a funny one:

 

Willem Dafoe has similarly taken part in the three winners for 2013, which are viewable on the competition site above.  I prefer Spacey’s by far.   I have to wonder if the stories were better in 2012 than in 2013 or whether Spacey comes across as a more sympathetic character in each of the skits.  It’s not the competition they were hoping for, but if Spacey were cast in the 2013 films, I think they would have been mildly improved.  Had Dafoe been cast in Spacey’s, not so much.  So, yeah.  Spacey wins Round 1.

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PooPourri

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I clicked a link to watch a music video on YouTube that a friend had recommended, and as they often do, YouTube graced me with a required advertisement before viewing the video. 

The current generation types out “lol” and it’s something I’ve used online or in text as well.  For those whose language is limited to 20th century currency, “lol” means “laughing out loud.”

I rarely do.

I did for this, though.  

Although I was expecting something akin to a Benny Hill or Monty Python tagline, this is a legitimate ad.

As a note, my wife has known of this product for several years, as it’s advertised in a public restroom she visits periodically.  It makes sense to market to women, I suppose, as I don’t see a great abundance of men carrying purses.

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Steely Dan – Live at Verizon Amphitheatre

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Somewhat late in the year, my concert buddy finally got his concert groove on, with Steely Dan being the 2nd of three concerts we’ll attend in consecutive months.   As I tell him, it’s always important to have one on the calendar to look forward to, otherwise there’s what? 

This concert qualifies as an event.  Spouses were included, as well as another couple joining us.

First, the set-up:  We met at Pure Taqueria for pre-show dinner and drinks.  This is the chain’s original location and perhaps slightly less noisy than their others due to their fondness of sound reflecting construction.  The food quality was great, the drinks enjoyable, and the company very companionable due to UGA losing to Clemson the prior and beating the detestable Gamecocks as we ate.  As far as doing things right, UGA is starting their football season 2-0 in my book.

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The concert was at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park, an overly long way of distinguishing this site from their others around the nation.  It might have been, say..., Verizon Atlanta, and we’d all get the point.  But it’s better than that, because it’s actually in Alpharetta, which is just a hop and skip (no jump needed) from my house.   Traffic is never really bad (try Lakewood if you want a nightmare), the venue has pretty good acoustics, and they consistently have the friendliest volunteers/employees during a show. 

On this particular evening, another “event” worthy qualification is the VIP status.

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While I’d like to think that all the kind things I’ve posed about this venue in the past had finally garnered a certain cachet for moi, the truth is that VIP status is something for which cash is required.

The first tangible benefit is VIP parking.  In a venue where getting in is easy and leaving requires only a modicum of patience, VIP parking has a small lot and its own entrance.  More importantly, it exits separate from the main parking lot ergo no traffic.  Pretty awesome.

But this being an “event,” it also qualified for tailgating.  UGA was busy sealing its victory over the chickens, and we enjoyed an “event” worthy brew, transported all the way from a Belgium monastery where the pious painstakingly craft these beloved troves.

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Even the presence of lesser beers in the vicinity did nothing to discredit the honor of St. Bernardus.

Do box seats count as “event” worthy?  I think so, especially when they have a “call” button for table service, free moving chairs (rather than the shoulder to shoulder press of general seating) and an elevation advantage over the seated crowd before us.  Spot on.  Oh, and the gentle breeze throughout the evening was made to order.

Well, one of you may have begun this expecting a concert review, so...

The Verizon stage is rather giant.  It’s suited for an orchestra (who play there frequently), so any band appears relatively small without significant staging props. 

Steely Dan tried.

Their band included 8 musicians and 3 backing vocalists, this in addition to its founders, guitarist Walter Becker and keyboardist/singer Donald Fagen.

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The backing band was named “The Bipolar Allstars” and the backing singers “The Borderline Brats.”  (The latter might be renamed “We Swim Pool Laps” given their synchronized arm movements throughout the show).

The show began with the core band playing an instrumental, “Blueport,” essentially calling the audience to their seats.  Becker and Fagen entered, and after a mock plug in of an 8-Track into an old stereo at stage right, they began playing their 1977 album, Aja, in full.   Good choice!  As with the 8 track (or vinyl being my preference) the band played the entire album with small gaps between the songs.

Soon afterwards, sing-a-longs began, with crowd favorites “Deacon Blues,” “Peg” and “Josie.”

Afterwards, Fagen began talking, introducing “The Mood Swings Tour” and promising much to come.

There were favorite parts and not-so-favorite parts.  As expected and in keeping with Steely Dan’s expectations of perfection, the band was awesome.  Saxophonist Walt Weiskopf and lead guitarist Jon Harrington stood out throughout the show.

It was interesting to see which guitar lines Becker chose to play.  Where blues lines were concerned, he owned the night, such as on “Godwhacker” where the tune felt completely different than the album.  Otherwise, he was “eyes on sheet music” for much of the night.  Harrington played most of the more complicated solos, highlighted ably by Verizon’s video team.  His solo for “Black Friday” was excellent, not to mention that this song was a well placed rocker following a string of their jazzier songs.  

In the “let’s play stuff not as good so you enjoy the good stuff more” category was an arrangement of “Razor Boy” sung entirely by The Borderline Brats.  Nice gesture, but they were selected, presumably, and performed to perfection in their role of supplementing Fagen’s aging voice.  Alone, they don’t make it past audition stage of American Idol – there just wasn’t enough distinction between the three to make it interesting.  Maybe they should take turns night by night. This regrettable inclusion was followed by the similarly disappointing “I Want to (Do Everything For You)”, which they also sang but at least served as a means of making band intros.

The band got back on track with “My Old School” and “Reelin’ in the Years” which were definitely crowd favorites, though the latter was Fagen’s weakest song of the night on vocals.

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Walter Becker is a rather reserved performer, though quite graceful and exacting with his guitar.  At the mic, he’s still feeling it, especially with his hilarious intro to “Hey Nineteen.”  Getting old sucks.   Fagen is a pretty good emcee and otherwise ruled the evening, primarily at his keyboards.

Overall, it was a great show, with ample hits, well played, good sound (vocals were difficult to distinguish at times), and, of course, great company!

One other “event” worthy mention:  Exiting our box, one of the ushers blocked the pedestrian traffic to let us enter the aisle.  That’s VIP service!

 

Setlist:

Blueport (Gerry Mulligan song) – intro music by band
Black Cow
Aja
Deacon Blues
Peg
Home at Last
I Got the News
Josie

Your Gold Teeth
Rikki Don’t Lose That Number
Hey Nineteen
Show Biz Kids
Black Friday
Time Out of Mind
Godwhacker
Daddy Don’t Live in NYC No More
Bodhisattva
Razor Boy (sung by The Borderline Brats)
I Want to (Do Everything For You) – Band intros
My Old School
Reelin’ in the Years

Encore:

Kid Charlemagne
”Untouchables” Theme (by Nelson Riddle) – exit music by the band


4 of 5 STARS

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DragonCon 2013 – Day 3

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Crazy Free: Survival Guide – I didn’t really know what to expect from this panel.  The description was “Discuss the apocalypse and how to plan now without becoming a deranged hoarding sociopath.”  Hmm.

Enter the Zombie Squad, a charitable organization with 52 chapters and 50,000 members.  The group is involved in charity work, such as filling sandbags in areas prone to flooding or Habitat houses, but the interest is essentially the description of the panel provided.  “Zombies” are used as catchy way of inferring any interruption to civilization – loss of power due to storms up to cataclysmic event.  The prior begs the question of how we should prepare when the power doesn’t actually return within the expected 3 hours and stays off for up to 2 weeks.  The government and aid agencies haven’t proven reliable.  Otherwise, it’s some “event” that calls for people to “bug out,” to leave whatever civilized area has become inhospitable to remaining and going elsewhere to stay alive.

Their first point was that for those of us in urban or suburban areas, we need to know our neighbors.  If there is no “community” in place, then stressful times can easily turn neighbor against neighbor, which was referred to as Mad Max’s “Thunderdome” or similar in recent (and many upcoming) TV series.  “150 years ago, day to day life was what we consider to be a disaster now.”  They survived because of community.

They went through the expected litany of things to have on hand, which was, at first, thoughtful, then seemed to add up to quite a lot of things.  Their website, www.zombiehunters.org, provides guidance in those areas.

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When Marvel Was Timely - I enjoy listening to people tell their life story, so Al Bellman’s presentation on his life as a comic illustrator caught my eye.   When he was 18, he saw an ad for developing the background to a comic character for Lively Comics, which later became Marvel.  He told his dad, who insisted he rush down and apply instead of waiting for the next day.  He got the job after a 10 minute consideration of his qualifications (which weren’t stated other than he had brought some samples).

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As the picture suggests, he drew Captain America, but after Jack Kirby and Joe Simon (Cap’s original creators) had left.  Bellman spoke of working 9-5 with many writers, illustrators and animators in the Golden Age of comics who were familiar to the other 30 or so in attendance.  Bellman has many stories which were short in duration but too lengthy to recapture here.  He’s been on the convention circuit in recent years, and he does commission work for people in “the old style.”  Otherwise, he touched on jokes in the office, Murder Inc., buying Action Comics #1 with a “thin dime burning a hole in his pocket,” working with Stan Lee (for whom he maintains great respect), the effect of “Seduction of the Innocents” on the comic industry, working for Bob Wood, and missing out on a cameo spot in Iron Man 3 because his wife had already booked a cruise.

Paraphrased quote: “I like to dress up.  People, they move to Florida and they give up on life.  The Early Bird is the event of the day. They sit around playing cards and mahjongg.”  He clearly loves the attention and the appreciation of his work, and was very grateful for his career... but wishes they had kept all their drawings which ended up in a warehouse in Newark to later be sold by others.  They never considered the potential value of what they drew, and no one ever thought to ask to keep anything.  He has an interesting website as well.

Adrian Paul – Of “The Highlander” fame.  As one male questioner put it, “My wife thanks you for coming.”  After which Paul asked him to point her out, and he gave a coy wave. 

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Paul was a very active presenter, moving around the stage and engaging the audience easily.  He remembered many details of the show (costars, plots, scenes, poor rigging of explosives, etc.) and never seemed to be stumped by a question.  He was entertaining in the telling, often accented by various accents, and is probably everything that the audience hoped he would be.   It was not so difficult to see that while many liked the character he played, it’s actually Adrian Paul’s characteristics that made the show a success for 7 seasons.  He should have been cast as James Bond.

Fringe: This panel was entertaining for the usual reasons: recollections of working on the show, the best and worst parts of their roles, the challenges of filming alternate roles of a character in a parallel dimension, etc.  Examples were Michael Cerveris’ occasional intrusions to the set to film his role as “The Watcher” rather than being there full time, his decision to not use contractions coming a little late in the role, and wearing a prosthetic that covered his eyebrows.

Jasika Nicole, who played Astrid, launched into an interesting narrative on how Walter’s inability to call her by her correct name may have been fitting for his role, but became a personal issue for her being reared in a culture where powerful white men might not bother to even know a black person’s name.  This, thankfully, wasn’t a preachy moment, but one that was heartfelt.  All were appreciative of the show and its production values as a show that they would want to watch even if they were not in it.

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Silencers, Suppressors, or Sound Moderators -  I think it would be very convenient to target shoot off my back deck with my .22 without disturbing suburbia.  The title therefore intrigued and, while not expecting a simple “how to,” I was probably hoping for just that. 

Not to be.

The panel was to be hosted by a group who couldn’t make it, so Kevin Dockery, a Desert Storm veteran and author, handled it with an outline.  When it comes to guns, I’d say that he is an expert, as he easily fielded any questions from the audience both from knowledge and experience.  While an expert, my take was that he’s not someone with whom I’d want to argue.

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The short of it, suppression is the slowing down of the releases of gasses when a bullet is fired.  The suppressor does not have to be concentric, but baffles help within to impede the gas and cool it.  An interesting comment was that it is easier to train shooters with silencers because the sound, although expected, does impact aim.  Conversation varied into bullets which are internally suppressed (underwater use), barrels that slow bullets down to subsonic speeds, practical use of suppressed guns (feral pig hunting at night, rodents in a chicken house), railguns, laws regarding manufacturing of guns and suppressors, government fees for owning or making your own ($200/per).

It wasn’t a waste of time, and to a degree, it was interesting despite not being solidly in the “culture” of other participants.  As this is a subject that is offered every year at DragonCon, I can at least scratch it off the list of possible panels in the future.

 

Panels I Didn’t Attend – This is the hardship each year, namely 45 programming tracks, most of which have something scheduled, at a minimum, from 10:00 a.m. through 8:00 p.m, each one hour in length with a half an hour in between. 

That half hour includes, potentially, travel time, food, standing in line to enter a panel, and the seating thereof... not to mention that the “big” panels that draw major interest have lines forming an hour in advance, which means to be closer to the front, you have to skip something beforehand.  It’s the Tetris of scheduling.  And don’t forget the gawking at costumes, the art/comics area, and Walk of Fame (celebrity autograph signing), and the junk vendors.  Whew.

Friday:

Passive Wi-Fi Monitoring
Geocaching and Location Based Games
Personalized Genomics (real life use of DNA testing)
Ed Asner: Up and Beyond
How Mice Have Revolutionized Our Knowledge of Neurogenetics
Your Lying Eyes (how you think in high resolution but don’t see in it)
Curiosity – Year 1 (Mars Science Lab findings)
How to Write a Story in an Hour
Building the Weapon, the Mechanics of Firearms
Robotics and Fabrication

Saturday:

M5: Blowing Up Stuff (Mythbusters)
Morality (how science should deal with it)
GRBs: Astronomy’s Hottest Topic (Gamma Ray Bursts)
Boardgames! (How they get started)
Guests from Star Trek: Next Gen
Doom! Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow
The Inaugural Airship Races
The Paranormal Illusionist
Guests of the Whedonverse (Josh Whedon’s various shows)

Sunday:

Creationism and Intelligent Design (led by Skeptics to dismiss I.D.)
Social Media and Data Brokers
Why Everything You Know About Quantum Mechanics is Wrong
William Shatner
Robot Battles – Microbattles (event)
Dollhouse Panel

Eh, there’s always next year.

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DragonCon 2013 – Day 2

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Instead of viewing the parade, we decided to check out the dealer tables, newly relocated to the Americas Mart Bldg #1.  The rooms had always been very crowded when they were located at the Marriott, so with the larger space and the throngs elsewhere, it seemed like a good occasion to check them out.

The facility itself is giant, with three buildings used for all sorts of wholesale vending purposes.  For the handful of rooms just used for DragonCon, it was still huge... and very confusing to navigate... or exit quickly in the event of a fire.  But!  There was more space to walk around where we found, essentially, the same ol’ stuff.  Some examples in order:  Swords/Knives, various Steampunk accessorizing, and Zombie games.

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From comics to T-shirts to corsets to pins and patches etc., there’s everything a D*Con person might want to look for.

After that, it was time to get in line for Lee Majors, of “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Fall Guy,” among others.  The crowd was dwarfed by the large ballroom, and, like Lindsey Wagner the day before, I had expected that more participants would want to have attended this panel.  On the other hand, there are many good panels and they compete with each other.  It didn’t diminish my appreciation of the time I spent at this one.

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Majors is now 74 and still working. As he said “I can’t walk as much but I can talk a lot.”  The years of doing many of his stunts have caught up with him, and it was interesting to hear how he included many of the aging stuntmen and actors from westerns (during his “Big Valley” days) as possible on his series “The Fall Guy.”  Otherwise, notable moments were recalling riding on horses next to his childhood hero, Roy Rogers, while chasing bad guys, 2 broken noses during the “Big Valley” – one from a horse, one from Linda Evans, and stories surrounding his bionic days.  In comparing “Six Mill,” as he refers to it, with “The Fall Guy,” he preferred the latter because it allowed to essentially be himself.  “Six Mill” had “too much running.”  Majors retains his piercing gaze and mannered raising of his left eyebrow, and seemed very pleased with a career of making family friendly shows.

After each panel, and particularly on Saturdays when the hordes are at the largest, getting from Point A to Point B can be trying, especially with programming spread out among 5 downtown hotels.  There’s a 30 minute gap between program slots.  Here’s a shot of the mayhem between panels.

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It should be noted that D*Con clears all auditoriums between panels, unlike others where people are allowed to claim a space and hold it all day.  Good for us! But more traffic in between.  D*Con has a good share of attendees with disabilities, and it’s hard to imagine negotiating the lobbies, elevators, sidewalks, etc.  It takes some patience for everyone.

Afterwards, it was off to see Larry Niven, a sci-fi author I read a bit of when I was a teenager, primarily the Ringworld books (ranked #44 on NPR’s list of top 100 Sci-Fi books).

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Niven began with his intro into writing, having flunked out of Cal-Tech twice in Math, buying a stack of sci-fi magazines because they were cheap, and working through a correspondence course on writing which he jettisoned after making his first sale, about the time of “How to Develop a Character.”  He had good humor throughout.

He’s one of a number of authors who take the science of science-fiction seriously, and spoke a fair amount of the challenges of writing about slower than the speed of light assumptions in fiction.  It makes it really difficult for alien races to arrive here by now, or for us to get to them.  “It’s safer in a slower than light universe.”

He’s used General Products hulls in several of his books, which are transparent.  Why?  Because he was frustrated looking out of little windows in aircraft.  On “The Mote in God’s Eye,” (#61 on the list mentioned above) which he co-wrote with Jerry Pournelle (of whom he also spoke), he revealed that Robert Heinlein actually proofed it for them, and said if they adopted the changes suggested, it would be the best sci-fi book he (Heinlein) had ever read.  It was clear that he was very grateful to have Heinlein devote that much time to his work.

In general discussions about the difficulties of writing sci-fi, he mentioned about “Lucifer’s Hammer” how important it is to have a very strong alien race, but not too strong, because we have to win.  He was the Literary Guest of Honor, and the audience included 4-500.

Later, I attended a “Falling Skies” panel which my wife wanted to see.   Featuring one alien, two characters that were either killed or disappeared, and a writer/science director, it was an entertaining discussion, particularly Doug Jones comments about working under prosthetics, but he may as well be a comedian.

When it comes to characters who get killed off, it was interesting to hear how they would take the news when they received the script.  They commented that it was good for the show, but... I still would think they would be a little frustrated with the loss of the paycheck.

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Otherwise, I hung around and took pictures.  And that’s why you’re here anyway, right?

This guy had an interesting outfit.  It includes lights, so that elevates the game a bit.  But to pose, he had to get down on the floor.  I’m not sure what creature this is, but that’s a load to carry around and a pain to demo properly.

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I liked the following shot of a street crossing because it has a father/son moment.  There’s a lot of those around D*Con.

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Video games were never just for guys.

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Following is Tali’Zorah nar Rayya – from Mass Effect.  I didn’t know who she was and had to ask...  After looking online, it’s an excellent costume of the character.  Her face was less visible normally, but the flash penetrated.

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There’s an easy assumption about costumed attendees.  They like you to notice and they like to be photographed.  They all strike a pose, which makes me wonder how much time they spend practicing that pose.  Still, it’s better than just standing there.

The guy below in the dragon suit attracted several other costumed people for joint photos.  Concealed behind the lady is the dragon’s girlfriend, who sat very patiently while he did his thing.

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I spoke with this guy a bit, who was visiting from Washington, D.C.  He had a very good Indy costume.

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Below is the best of the expressions I captured.  Mario is almost a photo-bomb here, but this couple had it together.

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A Steampunk, western, Green Lantern, complete with power ring.  Love it.

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I caught the Cheerleaders of the Sith lounging beside a hotel bar, and I persuaded them to pose with their drinks.  They liked the idea.  We’ve never seen what Darth’s favorite concoctions were, have we?

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And, from the “I want to make something out of available materials" genre, we have this lady.  Pretty incredible!

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All my pictures featured here, others I’ve left out, and prior year pictures are posted on Flickr.

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DragonCon 2013 – The Non-Parade

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The annual Dragon*Con Parade occurs the Saturday of each Labor Day weekend.  For the last 5 or more years, we’ve made our way to Peachtree St. earlier and earlier to gain a foothold to enjoy the parade – and photograph it.  There’s just too many people now, so we changed tactics.

This year, I tried to work my way through the parade assembly area, with middling success.  It’s not like participants have special badges, but as I was dressed more like an aged Peter Parker (who is a photographer – and the secret identity of Spiderman if you’re completely without a reference), I didn’t quite fit in and was shooed away.  So, I took what I could.

I followed this family to the parade area.

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This zombie was guarding a car to make sure no fresh meet got away.  No appetite for Mr. Beard behind her, I guess.

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Each year, the Box Heroes march in the parade.  Spoiler: Secret identities revealed!

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I don’t know which group this is, but they were having a merry time.

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Some costumes just crack me up.  Apparently, he could see pretty well.

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A little help getting a parade participant ready.

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I have no clue what this is, but I’ll call him Fuzzy Foot.

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A lot of participants cut it close to getting to the assembly area in time and scrambled to find their respective marching sections.  Probably had a late night.

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These guys were in position to watch the parade.  It goes to show either that each costume begins gradually or... some costumes get really hot, sweaty and uncomfortable throughout a convention day, so why bother?

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Finally working around near my meet up point, I met Ms. Terminator enjoying a cigarette.  Cyborgs have needs, you know.

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