Saturday, August 30, 2014

On the road again: DragonCon, day 3

My day began rather earlier than I would have preferred, because a mixture of shouts and amplified speech carried all the way from the ground to my room on the eleventh floor of the hotel.  The shouts came from excited fans getting ready for the annual DragonCon parade.  The speech was courtesy of a man who was letting the entire convention-going crowd know that they were going to hell because they were worshiping false idols.

I am all for free speech, so I respect the man's right to buy a mic and an amp and try to save the crowd.  I am also fine with his wanting to save us all.  What I find annoying is the assumption that any of the people here were actually worshiping false gods.  Though I believe con-goers are passionate in their interests, I've never met one who had a lick of trouble understanding the difference between God with a capital G and any of the actors, performers, writers, shows, games, or whatever else they enjoyed.  I further believe that the vast majority of the con-goers self-identify as having some serious religious conviction.  So, to that one loud man:  Dude, know your audience.

Anyway, I watched the parade from my balcony, where the view was excellent and I didn't have to fight a crowd.  I couldn't see any details, obviously, but I had no trouble recognizing all the groups--including this one, from Baen Books.

Click an image to see a larger version.

The parade lasted about an hour and a half and featured many types of groups, from the Battlestar Galactica crowd to the Star Wars storm troopers, and from the comic-book superheroes to the Doctor Who characters.  I was happy to see a small set of Monty Python gumbys.

After some work and a shower, I grabbed a quick lunch and joined the Baen Books Traveling Roadshow panel.  Because I haven't yet finished the next Jon & Lobo book, I had nothing to contribute to the panel, but it was still a fun time.

Work was light, so I devoted the next couple of hours to wandering through all of the many vendors in the two floors full of dealers.  Though most of the stuff on offer here does not appeal to me, I still enjoyed looking around.

Dinner tonight was an amazingly good meal at Gunshow, a relatively new Atlanta restaurant.  The food was so good, and the experience sufficiently interesting, that I'm going to write a separate entry on it later.  (I now owe you three restaurant reviews; I am keeping track.)

Around eleven, I went strolling for about an hour, checking out the usual spaces and also going to another hotel, the Westin, that I rarely visit.  The people-watching at the Marriott was as good as always--and the crowd was the biggest yet.

With all of the thousands of people here, and with all of the folks in the SF/F community whom I know, I did not encounter a single person I know.  Not a surprise, but a testimony to the sheer size of this beast of a con.

Another day at DragonCon.

Friday, August 29, 2014

On the road again: DragonCon, day 2

Unfortunately, I spent almost all of today's daylight hours in my room, again, working.  I did get out for a quick burger for lunch and a walk through the large art show.  While on that walk, I ran into and chatted with Dan Dos Santos, an artist whose work I very much like.  He did the cover for The Wild Side, and I liked it so much I bought the original painting.  In person, he was friendly and humble and altogether delightful.  I quite liked him.

I also spent a few minutes talking with Annie Stegg, an artist whose work I had never seen before.  Her paintings were lovely, pieces that frequently exhibited a strong Pre-Raphaelite influence.  I will certainly be on the lookout for her art in the future.

At 5:30, it was time to do my comedy show.  The audience numbered around 40, larger than I'd feared, smaller than I'd hoped, and big enough that the sound of their laughter carried into the hall and drew in more people.  As best I can tell, the show went quite well; I know the whole audience laughed for nearly the entire set.  (I'm dropping the bits where they didn't laugh.) 

After the show, I gave myself the reward I had mentioned yesterday:  a trip to the local Jeni's for some ice cream. Publisher Toni joined us, and we had a grand time talking and enjoying scrumptious ice cream sundaes.

Back at the hotel, work had piled up once again, so I spent a few hours catching up.  I then headed out to people-watch, first in the lobby of the Hyatt, and then in the Marriott's lobby.  The crowds tonight were way larger than last night's.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Downstairs, a small rave was in progress, the beat pounding upward, the dancers all having a grand time.

I stayed for a surprisingly long time, watching the people, listening to the music, and finding myself smiling and invigorated at the sheer energy of the crowd.  The enthusiasm here is contagious.

I routinely read and hear discussions of how SF/F is dead, but this con, like many other large cons, puts the lie to that statement.  SF/F has carried the day, moved into video games and other games of all sorts, into TV shows and movies, and into the culture at large.  Sales of paper books may be down, but overall book sales--ebooks do count--are up.  The people at this con are, by and large, young and engaged and passionate about their interests.  Those interests touch every aspect of the fantastic.  If you asked them if science fiction and fantasy were dead, they would wonder if you were insane.

Are they all reading SF/F novels?  Most assuredly no.  But some of them are, and they are numerous.

I have always been hopeful for our field, and I am even more hopeful now.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

On the road again: DragonCon, day 1

As best I understand it, DragonCon didn't exactly officially start today--that happens tomorrow--but nonetheless registration was open, the con held some panels, and thousands of fans flooded into the area hotels.  A con this big is an amazing thing to watch happen, a mob event of huge proportions.

Due to work, I spent almost all of the daylight hours working in my room, but I did get out for lunch and to register. 

Lunch was at a very good Mediterranean place, Aviva by Kameel, that sits in a nearby food court.  The lamb shawarma was by far the best I've ever tasted.  Kameel, the proprietor, was working the line and is one of the most cheerful people I've ever encountered.  His enthusiasm and happiness were contagious, so much so that when he greeted people with "My friend" or "I love you," he felt genuine.  If you're in this area and seeking lunch, check out Aviva--and hope Kameel is working.

I'm lucky enough to be a guest at the con, so I got to register in the separate area for guests.  The process was quick, painless, and even pleasant, thanks to the very nice man who took care of my registration.  (His badge was backward, so I didn't get his name.) 

He pointed me to a back corner of the room to get my pocket program and program book.  A man was sitting on a shelf there; the things I needed were behind him.  He was deep in conversation with a friend, but as I drew closer, he stopped talking, grabbed the two items I wanted, handed them to me, and said, "Here you go, friend."

The man was Lou Ferrigno. 

I said, "Working con registration incognito?"

He chuckled, smiled, winked, and returned to his conversation.

He could not have been nicer. 

After some more work, I headed out to the Baen Books launch party, an event in honor of new books from David Weber and Timothy Zahn, who collaborated on an Honorverse novel, and John Ringo, whose third book in his plague (aka zombie) series was launching.  At the party, Baen Slushmaster General Gray Rinehart sang a few songs.

Click an image to see a larger version.

I enjoyed his performance.

Next up was dinner at Bacchanalia, an Atlanta restaurant that has drawn a lot of Beard attention.  The fixed-price, five-course meal was top-drawer; every single bite was delicious. 

In the same shopping center, I was surprised to see this lovely sight.

I had no idea that Jeni's operated shops outside Columbus, but I was psyched to see this one.  You can bet I'll hit it sometime before I leave town.

Back at the con, before returning to my room and more work, I went walking and people-watching--always a great activity at DragonCon.  Here's a view into one side of the main Marriott lobby.

The quality of many of the costumes is incredibly high. 

Tomorrow, I have a lot of work to do, but at 5:30 p.m. I will be performing my new comedy show, Mr. Poor Choices II:  I Don't Understand.  I am terrified that the audience will be tiny, two or three friends, but I've done what promotion I can.  I will hope for the best, and then give whatever audience shows up an hour of laughter. 

Check back tomorrow to read how it went.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On the road again: DragonCon, day 0

Sometimes, I'm so dumb I can barely believe it.  Today, I had one of those times.

I got up after a modest amount of sleep and went straight to work.  I wanted to be completely caught up before I got in the car to go to Atlanta and DragonCon.  I finished all my work, showered, and was getting ready to go.  I rushed out.

After driving to Hillsborough, where we planned to eat lunch, and after walking almost to the restaurant, I realized I had changed my dressing ritual by rushing and in the process had left my wallet at home. 


Back home we drove, so I could get my wallet.

Total time cost was about a hundred minutes. 


The rest of the car trip went well.  When I wasn't driving, I was working on my tablet, but I could not keep up with the volume of email that was coming my way. 

I did tweet a picture of the butt-crack side of the giant metal peach; you won't want to miss that.

After checking into the hotel and finding the room to be completely fine, I headed to dinner.  The meal was a tasty one, courtesy of Alma, a place that offered an interesting combination of Brazilian and Mexican dishes.  None were great, but all were good.

Back at the room, I found a giant maelstrom of work email, which took me until the wee hours to finish.

Tomorrow, the con starts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Expendables 3: Too artsy and sensitive for its own good

I bet I'm the only reviewer to criticize Stallone's third installment in the let's-get-all-the-old-action-stars-together series for being too artsy and too sensitive, but I'm right.  This one was fun, but not as much fun as it should have been, precisely because it tried too hard to be something it's not.

Let's examine how these movies work.  You assemble a team of aging action stars.  (Add more in each new movie.)  You give them a super-villain who happens to work in places where you can film cheaply and blow up a lot of shit.  You toss in a whisper of a motivation--really, you don't need much--cue the action, pause for the occasional bit of bro-love and fist-bumping, and you blow the hell out of your cheap-ass location.  Eventually, Stallone fights the super-villain and kills the dude in some suitably horrific way. 

As the series goes on, you add some younger action heroes because, hey, someday these guys won't be able to take all the physical abuse that comes from starring in these films, but they'll still be able to produce and direct. 

Rinse and repeat.  Have a grand time. 

This movie went wrong each time it deviated from that formula. 

Sure, give us the bro-love, but don't for the sake of all that's holy make these men actually emote.  Watching Stallone try to show his deep feelings for his team made me reach for a tissue, my sadness was so great at the utter inability of his face to move. 

Yeah, we're fine with the young action stars.  Hell, I was downright excited to see the formidable Ronda Rousey in an action flick.  When the film took more than 30 seconds on the characterization of any of them, however, it went too far.  Ditto its sad attempts to have them act.  I adore Rousey as a fighter.  I would love to write her autobiography with her.  I can even believe she might one day be a good actor--but that will take some time and training.  For now, she has two looks:  the hot smile, and her most common expression, the I'm-so-angry-I-might-just-kill-you-for-fun glare.  (By the way, I'm a huge fan of that look; it's just not right for every non-smiling scene.) 

Having picked on Rousey, I now must say that I loved every action scene she was in.  Stallone definitely needs to bring her back in the inevitable Expendables 4

I could go on, but you get the point:  More action, less acting.  More blowing shit up, less characterization.  Start fast, and pick up speed.

Despite all of its flaws, I, of course, had a fine time watching the movie.  It just could have been so much more big, dumb fun than it was.

Monday, August 25, 2014

5 reasons you should come to my comedy show at DragonCon

What comedy show, you may ask?

Why, thank you for asking.

This coming Friday, August 29, DragonCon has graciously given me an hour-long showcase at 5:30 p.m. in Embassy A-B of the Hyatt.  I will be filling that hour with my latest comedy show,

Mr. Poor Choices II:  I Don't Understand

Now that we have those basics out of the way, let me get back to the reasons I promised.
5.  To learn why so many people call me Mr. Poor Choices--and yet I'm still alive.

4.  To discover a way to make a hotel room your own that I guarantee you won't have thought of before.

3.  To feel good:  No matter how badly you've behaved in a mall, I'll make you feel better about yourself.

2.  To appreciate your mother more by hearing why my mom was the world champion of bad gift giving.

1.  To find out just exactly how insane my spending impulses get at four in the morning.

Most of all, of course, come to laugh and have a great start to your evening.

If you're at the con and want to attend the show but can't remember the details, just look for one of these posters.

We'll be putting them everywhere the hotels let us.

I hope to see you Friday!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Another nifty PT sabbatical video

As I've said in multiple past posts, I'm quite proud of PT's sabbatical program and of the many good works PT staffers have done while on their sabbaticals.  We make videos about those sabbaticals, and we recently completed another one.

Nathan and Sarah volunteered at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.  Here's Nathan, telling a bit about their time at the Food Bank.

Helping make the world a better place is a key goal of our sabbatical program.  I'm very happy that so many PT folks, like Sarah and Nathan, donate their time to do just that.


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