Dragon*Con 2015 Panels

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I would wager that most Dragon*Con attendees would regard the allure of the celebrity guests this year to have been a few rungs lower than the last… well, since I started going in 2007.   That’s not to say that they were without interest, but rather to say that if there was an opportunity to explore other “tracks” of panels and entertainment, this would be the year.  The first session I attended was “Flash: The Fastest Man Alive.”  It included John Wesley Shipp, who was in the original series and in the new one, and Robbie Amell, who plays the sometimes seen Firestorm. Danielle Panabaker was a no-show, who plays his love interest and is otherwise responsible for a bright idea to save Flash about once every four episodes.  The conversation was generally light, with interesting comments about drenching sweats in uniform and working with Mark Hamill who guested as The Trickster in both versions of the series.

Afterwards was The Year in Science, which apparently draws a repeat audience.  Panelists included a NASA scientist, a science podcaster and three others with various advanced degrees which I did not note.  Subjects included Female Viagra (good for a 0.5% to 1% chance of a satisfying sexual experience per month for 60% of women – a failed antidepressant in every way), Ebola Vaccine (which cures 100% with no side effects), Pluto (now regarded the largest dwarf planet with much more data to come; side note that space exploration would be scuttled without plutonium to power the units, which is a political target), limpid teeth (the strongest material, if sized as a string of spaghetti, would support 3,00 bags of sugar), the 6th mass extinction (increasing rate of species extinctions today), a “plastic” earth layer, brain eating amoeba, black plastic balls in reservoirs (not for drought but to reduce the likelihood of sunlight fueled bromate, a carcinogen), and the discovery of a new magma chamber further under Yellowstone. Sign me up for next year.

Next was Pectropictos – by Artist Guest of Honor Ciruelo Cabral.  He provided a brief narrative on how we came to draw on rocks, and displayed some of his amazing paintings with a video presentation.  Several admirers were taken with his metaphysical approach to “the magic” of art, which dominated the session, but I would have preferred more of the examples and technique.  The examples he had brought to the art room would have helped.  His 3D shading has even greater effect when viewed in person.   I had intended to attend the Stephen Amell (“Arrow”) panel, but the line was too long.  The most entertaining comment was “It’s difficult to sell rocks,” presumably in galleries.

Saturday brought “Getting Away with Murder.”  Only, it got away.  DragonCon now has an estimated 50,000 people attending.  You take interesting topics, and you put them into rooms that hold maybe 200 and… it fills up.  Early.  And especially on Saturdays, when many people choose to buy day-only passes.  This was part of the Science track and would have been very interesting…   Instead, we attended a panel on “Electronic Effects for Costuming,” which was interesting to hear concerns about heat generation, burns, deterioration of wiring from sweat, available sources of products, conductive thread and others.   Recommended websites included sparkfun.com, smeeon.com/presentation, adafruit.com and vulpinprops.com.

With ample time to get to the next panel, “Classic Battlestar,” we eventually arrived to learn that the line entered the room from outside the building – not from the outside to the usual interior entrance.  We chased this down to go through a back alley passage into the room.  In any case, there was plenty of room.  This panel featured Capt. Apollo and Colonel Tigh of the original ‘70’s series.  It was actor Terry Carter’s first DragonCon, and he was very entertaining and well spoken.  He was offered a question that would have easily allowed him to discuss about the difficulties of being a black actor in Hollywood, but left it with an observation on the scarcity of roles but otherwise how well he was treated throughout.  My wife and I had the chance to tell him thanks for coming in the Autograph Alley – a gentleman.  Richard Hatch, meanwhile, still holds a grudge for the series cancellation, but was entertaining nonetheless, especially when discussing how a “nobody” actor got top billing on the show.

Next for me was the “Arrow” panel that I had missed the day before.  It was good that I had gotten there an hour and half early, because somehow, my arrival around the second corner of the line somehow placed me two-thirds of the way back.  For a convention without bigger stars, I guess “Arrow” is it.  I had no idea it would be this popular.  The panel itself was fun, and it was largely dominated by John Barrowman, who had the most to offer about a life lived while the others largely were bound not to say much of Season 4 by their non-disclosure agreements.  An entertaining panel, but… for the time consumed, maybe I should just watch the YouTube videos that everyone posts afterwards.  Sheesh.

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Following that was “Hacking 101,” which is offered each year and which I finally found time to attend.  This was not “3 Easy Steps to Hack Your Neighbor’s Computer.”  It was more of a discussion about how to take things apart, understand how they work and repurpose them.  It was an interesting panel who were very experienced at this, and resulted in significant dialogue for various clubs and groups focused on whatever type of hacking in which a person might have an interest.  Ultimately, they strongly encouraged hackers to learn the C programming language, to read assembly code in block form and study compiling to understand where weaknesses can be found.  There was one GA Tech student, and the others were talked about hacking TRS 80s and being old, in other words, my age.  Otherwise, they were far too technical for me.

Sunday we arrived a little late but rested.  In hindsight, the choice to see Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, was a poor one.  Terry Gilliam was a treat last year, but Mr. Jones’ recollection of specifics left the discussion void of any humor other than what a very capable moderator, who at first seemed to be upstaging the guest, was able to provide.  I get it.  I should have gone to the “2001: A Space Odyssey” panel to hear two of its main actors from the 1968 classic.  Oh well.

Next, as my wife put, was the panel that “is the reason why I go, to be around people who like what I like.”  The last time we tried this, for an author’s panel in which a character was discussed, it was like attending a boring literature class.  “Let’s compare and contrast the…”  Meh.  “  However, a fan discussion of an ongoing series, Killjoys, turned out to be quite fun speculating about the next season of the recently renewed show, and it was hosted by a very knowledgeable panel who gave everyone the chance to engage.  We’ll look for more of these.

Though not an artist, I’m usually (note Ciruelo above) very entertained by their stories and seeing/learning of their work.  Fred Fields is an artist that I hadn’t heard of, but there was no competition in the time slot and I like these smaller sessions.   As there were only five of us in attendance, I felt bad for him (he didn’t seem to take any notice of it), but it led to a very intimate discussion as he discussed his career chronologically and the required travels (Kentucky, Cincinnati, Chicago, Geneva WI, Phoenix, Louisiana, Boston, and more recently, back to his home of Kentucky).  He’s painted fantasy and western art, but I gather he’ll paint anything in his ability that someone is willing to pay for.  Mold making, lighting, photography, influences from fantasy art books when he was a kid, his own explorations… it was very interesting.  He brought a very nice video presentation which followed his storyline, including several works that were photographed in process where he could explain what he was doing at each stage.  Bonus points for a very supportive wife, Sandy, who ran the slides for him.

Overall, it wasn’t the D*Con that I had hoped for a year ago when I had paid for it (at a discount).  Perhaps the biggest lesson learned is that 1) Rooms are not big enough for the specialty interest tracks and 2) On Saturdays, I need to give a serious look at staying within a single hotel for the day.  It just takes too long to get around otherwise.

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