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.

2 comments :

  1. I hope he mentioned sub-sonic bullets. If you start out with one, your "suppression" will be far more effective. Breaking the sound barrier is so noisy. ;-)

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  2. I agree with your comment on Adrian Paul, he always seemed like a natural Bond.

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