DragonCon – 2017

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Hello, Nathan Fillion.  It’s been a while, 2008, actually, as you skipped the ensuing years filming “Castle.”   Welcome back.

What started off as an “easy” Friday morning decision for a 10:00 a.m. panel became rather interesting.  First, Fillion was only on site Friday, so fans only had a choice of two panels.  Translated: large crowds, especially for the beginning of the Con.  We got in line early, about 8:40 a.m. or so.  It was already lengthy.  As it turned out, some 2,000 people would gather in an another ballroom to watch his session on a screen.  Actually, this isn’t a big deal because even in the larger conference rooms, people can say they’ve “seen” the celebrity, but many in the back watch the screens as well.  In our case, we didn’t settle for the queued seats but found an empty pair of seats closer to the front.

A couple of memorable moments include a question about how he maintains his rugged handsomeness…  In infomercial voice, “My secret is really simple.  Keep your distance. (dramatic pause) My secret to good hair… don’t fight it, man… (dramatic pause) Gentlemen, always smell good.  I don’t mean Axe body spray… If you’re going to wear cologne, two sprays in the air and walk through it.  (dramatic pause).  Be clean man.  April breeze.”  Then he couldn’t keep a straight face any longer.

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Throughout the session, he paid particular attention to each questioner, asking their names and relating them to relax their nerves.  This prevailing kindness was also reflected in his closing comment, “I can’t imagine my life without days like this.  You guys warm my heart. Thank you.”

Maybe it’s not so good to start off a Con at the pinnacle.

Lord British, or Richard Garriott.  Garriott is a regular at DragonCon, and this appearance seemed to slightly push his autobiography, Explore Create.  And he has plenty to tell. Garriott created the online game Ultima, and reaped the financial rewards to enjoy life on his terms.  He continues with game development, and among other subjects, demonstrated the research and thoughtfulness he puts into any subject, such as the development of languages, written or visual, for use in his video games.  He reportedly paid $30M to follow his father, a Skylab astronaut, into space, visiting the  International Space Station, where it seems he interred some of James’ Doohan’s ashes and created a registered geocache.  Garriott has took a deep sea sub to the Titanic, where he recounted the dangers of being too trusting of safety features, as well as a rock climbing descent for which he was unprepared and untethered.  In any case, a very interesting person and well worth a listen.

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Attack of the Celebrity Improv.  After doing other things for the afternoon, we watched this, sort of an amateurish “Whose Line is it Anyway?”  I didn’t know any of the “celebrities,” but it was entertaining, though often stifled by ridiculous audience suggestions for roles and situations.

Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Surprisingly, I hadn’t been to a panel of this cast, who attend periodically in ones and twos.  Like many favorite shows, there is obvious camaraderie and friendship that remained well beyond the show.  All the questions were common and predictable but answered in comedic ways.  The only “new” factoid was that Brent Spiner revealed that a crew member forgot a second Data suit when they filmed in the desert, and the stunt person had already used it, leaving it soaked in sweat.  You can read the full summary here, but it was obvious the other actors were pleased with both the revelation and how he handled it. 

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Starship Troopers.  I liked the movie, which barely resembles the Heinlein book after which it is named (because Heinlein references were adapted to the script after it had been written).  The plot has a relaxed approach to sexuality and nudity, and, twenty years later, it seems the actors were perfectly cast, as in, they haven’t changed much.  In fact, it doesn’t seem like they aged much either. In any case, it was an entertaining hour.

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“Unbelievable” the Movie.  Okay, you tell me it’s a lighthearted “Star Trek” parody featuring 40 Star Trek actors from its various versions over the years.  I’m interested!   Several people take to the front of the room -  equipped with two flat panel TVs for a movie screening (ahem) – I admit I have my doubts.  For one, they don’t strike me as producers.  Or actors.  It’s amateur hour.  But that’s okay.  It’s DragonCon.  It’s a parody.  It’ll be fun.  I mean, it’s got to be, right?  After all, the producers go on and on about how “they” – the movers and shakers at Paramount apparently – don’t want this film to be seen! 

Well, it’s not because of brand damage, that’s for certain.  It shouldn’t be seen because it is a stain on the resume of anyone who participated.  “Unbelievable” is aptly named. It’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, only without an excuse.   Vegetation will kill you folks.  Maybe this would be a better global warming activism movie, where rampant CO2 causes green matter to snuff human lives.  Though, for those of you who find comedy curtailed by political correctness these days, anal sex jokes are abundant here and you can delight in them.  A “Star Trek” parody and they were without show content to find humor?

Okay, here’s the best thing about it.  They had to be very, very careful not to use any licensed or trademarked terms that might offend Paramount, but they managed to feature Kirk.  You know, the womanizing captain from our favorite show, only, he’s not called Captain Kirk.  In full irony, he has the best lines and the best acting chops.  This, even though he’s a string puppet interacting with human actors.  Kirk sitting on a lounger with two bathing beauties beside him… that’s the high point of the movie.

The low point is that they reportedly spent $2 Million on this piece of ____.  (I try to keep this blog family friendly).   And I blame myself.  Knowing there are other things I wouldn’t mind doing at DragonCon in the evening, I suffer through the 20 minute “introduction” – the only audience interaction the producers will ever have – and, perhaps due to a personal tendency to see things to their end (think Iron Fist), I stay.  I was in crisis mode after five minutes, when a guy seated in the front had the “nerve” to walk out, visible to all those gathered.  I suffered through it.  Shame on the actors who gave this any chance of being made, never mind actually previewed. There were other panels we were considering afterwards, but we left drained and ready for bed.

Just go see Galaxy Quest.  Or drink lemonade under the shade of a tree.  Or clean the cat litter box.  There’s better things to do.

Crypto Wars. Call this work-related and generally of interest.  Let’s check the notes.  Netscape Navigator, which I used in the day, was built with weak encryption so that intelligence services could monitor traffic.  WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, has encrypted communications.  Many foreign governments hate that, like Brazil, who is demanding back door access.  China requires companies to comply with information requests (I.e. your data), Kazakhstan requires a back door in software used in their country for censorship purposes.  Australia wants back doors for international data to assist law enforcement.  There are a lot of political motivations, and it’s less about actual security issues.

Fiveeyes… yeah, read about that.  Should they agree on a backdoor, that’s the end of any expectation that encryption will ensure privacy.  Any company on the internet will have to build to permit their requirements, or otherwise write specific software for each country in which their software is sold.  Essentially, you don’t know what backdoor access comes with every software upgrade that comes your way.  Then it was on to the Investigatory Powers Act.  No problem, we can’t spy on our own people so much, but we can just get the information from the U.K. who can.  Also, as there is no anti-hacking law, the FBI says they have sufficient authority to do so.  No one really knows what data is being collected.

It’s the kind of panel that leaves you wanting a warm puppy.

Chuck – Zachery Levi.  Remember the TV show, with the Intersect?  Well, Zachery Levi attended his first DragonCon, and while he was much more serious than I imagined, it was obvious that the hopefulness and concern that Chuck had in each episode directly reflects the life and goals for Levi, who is wounded when things don’t work the way they should.  This summary from an earlier panel is similar to what we heard, but like most Chuck fans, I hope he finds continued success (in the context of something I really want to watch) and am disappointed he hasn’t already found it.

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Additional photos of panels and costumes can be viewed HERE.

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