Saturday - September 4, 2004
10:00am - Peter Woodward: Dummies NeededOver the last few years, Peter Woodward has become a fixture at Dragon*Con. Initially gaining exposure as Galen on Babylon 5, his involvement as writer, producer, and host of the History Channel's Conquest has allowed him to bring his unique skills not only to his television audience but those of us able to stumble out of bed early enough to see his presentation. Cleverly named "Dummies Needed" this panel was all about the psychology of combat, specifically organized combat, and Woodward was there 30 minutes early (perceptive people will note that I was too *sigh*) just to get everything set up. Clearly this was something he was passionate about, and it showed during the presentation. From the first guy that figured out it was more effective to hit someone with a large stick than with his arm to the introduction of projectile weapons, Peter went into detail on what made someone an effective soldier throughout history, why the man who doesn't care if he dies when attacking you will always have the advantage, why British soldiers maintained their ranks even while being cut down by unstructured Revolutionary fire, and the psychological effects of even a thin helmet.
To help illustrate some of his points, he gathered 6 volunteers to the left of the stage and instructed them how to advance left to right, thrusting their fists, and going "Oof ... oof ... oof" in unison. He then gathered 6 more "dummies" to the right of the stage, giving similar instructions, but telling them to go "Raff! Raff! Raff!" at twice the pacing of the first group. On command, these two groups advanced on each other's positions. The "Raff" group appeared more aggressive, and their somewhat reckless pacing intimidated the "Oof" group. On the flip side, the "Oof" group was able to maintain their collective cadence the entire time, while the "Raff" group quickly broke apart and became individuals. Each method had its strengths and weaknesses, and using this demonstration, he talked about the balance necessary for effective combat. I was a little groggy when I awakened after barely 90 minutes of shuteye, but this energetic session woke me up and prepared me for the day.
11:30am - Dragon*Con Salutes You!Earlier, I wrote about the first Firefly panel and that there were many unhappy people who could not fit in Centennial Ballroom I. Dragon*Con may make some scheduling mistakes, but they usually learn pretty quickly, and this was no exception. The second Firefly panel was now scheduled to take place in the largest venue of the convention: Centennial II & III. I'm not sure what the official numbers are, but I suspect they at least quadrupled their capacity with this change, and as expected, they still filled the room. Some people would question the sanity of going to see the same guests after already seeing them the previous day and giving up a chance to see other programming. Those people probably shouldn't speak in public. Although the cast of characters was the same, there was almost nothing in this panel repeated from the last. For starters, we now were treated to a musical intro. Brian (Logan) Sullivan and Larry Morris, members of Dragon*Con favorite Emerald Rose, began the proceedings by playing a beautiful rendition of the Firefly theme song on the acoustic guitar and pennywhistle. It was going to be another great day, and that was just the beginning.
About 20 minutes before the Q&A's start time, Dragon*Con staple and brilliant author Peter David handed out flyers and addressed the crowd. Apparently, Nathan and Jewel had been in competition with one another, each trying to flip the other off in a more unique manner. At present, Nathan was in the lead having accomplished said task in the recent gag reel. Peter, having worked with Jewel back on Space Cases, would have none of this, and it was our job to turn the tables. Peter explained the situation, and we were prepared to act. After the stirring performance from the Emerald Rose duo and a few words of introduction from the cast, they called for their first question. It was Peter. "Nathan, on Jewel's behalf, Dragon*Con salutes you!" On cue, what had to have been well over a thousand people, led by one of the most iconic figures of the convention, rose in unison and flipped Nathan the bird. You'll find a slightly better shot in the gallery, but that arm on the far right held higher than any other is the man himself standing on his chair for emphasis. Nathan's stunned reaction was followed by a calm response: "that's a lot of bird." Jewel rose from her seat and proclaimed, "I win!" and the Q&A had begun. I have no doubt this victory will be short-lived. I only hope I'm around to see the retribution. The entire hour was a riot with mostly unique material, and it was becoming clear who were emerging as the big stars of this year's convention. Oh, and that flyer Peter handed out? I did my con-goer duty and had him sign it later in the event like a proper geek. When I presented it to him, he laughed heartily and exclaimed, "I knew people would ask me to sign that!"
1:00pm - More Wandering & Exhibitors HallAside from tying to keep from passing out from exhaustion, easily the most difficult aspect of Dragon*Con is time management. No matter how well you plan your time, you invariably will have to make some hard choices and sacrifices. With that in mind, I figured the next couple of hours were my best chance to spend some time in the Dealers Room and Exhibition Hall (sadly, the latter isn't what you perverts are thinking). Before getting too far, I stopped to check out yet another musical performance in the hallway: Three Quarter Ale, a harmonizing anachronism local to Atlanta. Like most of the performers at Dragon*Con, they were pretty good, and I enjoyed the show.
There's some overlap between the Dealers Room and the Exhibitors Hall, as some of the vendors seem to fit either category, but for the most part, you'll find a higher class product from the Exhibitors as well as a couple of big name companies pimping their wares. If you're into card gaming or costuming, this is definitely a place to check out. Personally, I found myself drawn to Metal Dude and their creative sculptures. Had the prices been more reasonable, I would have purchased one, but I had to be content just to photograph. I also took some shots of the couple at Mansour Designs and their wide array of masks and headdresses. Some exhibitors didn't seem too keen on my photographing their setup, which is fine; however, it makes it hard to talk about them here.
2:30pm - Celebrity HuntingEveryone who comes to Dragon*Con has a different agenda. Me? I wanted to meet Ernie Hudson. What? You got a problem with that? He wasn't there the first time I journeyed down to the basement, so it was time for another attempt, and as often happens over the course of the event ... things had changed. No longer could you stroll up to the Firefly crew and have an in-depth discussion about some obscure TV movie few people have ever heard of, let alone seen. The word was out -- get on board the Firefly train or be left behind -- and the train was loooong, with an autograph line stretching outside the Dealers Room and off into the distance. Thankfully, I took care of that yesterday and was on another mission today.
I made my way to Hudson's table and politely informed him that he was "the man" (no, not the "man"). I felt silly telling him that which I'm sure he already knew, but he was appreciative nonetheless. We talked about 10-8 and our disappointment that it would not be returning. We talked about Oz and HBO's remarkable ability to gather talented people together and let them do their thing. And when it came time to purchase an autograph, he asked me what I wanted signed. All the favorites were on his table, with many shots from Ghostbusters, and though I didn't see it, I made the request anyway: No Escape. He reached into his bag of goodies and pulled out a crisp photo from the film. "You're the first to ask for that," he said. I'm sure I was the last too. I joke, but it was really cool to meet him and he was very personable. Later, he would find time to judge the Masquerade and would be seen around the hotel in the evening having a good time. He was a very good guest, and I hope he returns.
I also found time to talk extensively with Richard Herd, one of my favorite character actors and one time National Vice President of the Screen Actors Guild. He was a wonderful conversationalist and many stories to tell about his work on Quantum Leap, particularly the finale episode 'Mirror Image'. Interestingly, he had brought some paintings with him that were viewing upstairs in the Art Show, and I made a note to check it out later in the convention. I then made my way through the Lord of the Rings crew, and each of them was really nice and enthusiastic about the whole convention experience. Craig Parker had eschewed the whole "sitting behind a table" concept of autographs and was perched atop his table, happily hopping out into the crowd to talk with fans. Running short on time, I hauled ass back to the Hyatt for the next Q&A.
4:00pm - FarscapeChoices. The Farscape panel was originally scheduled for the 5:30pm timeslot, but a last minute change pitted it against Nicole de Boer, David Carradine, Sala Baker, Warren Ellis, and the Star Wars Costume Contest. Oy vey. Still, I really wanted to see Wayne Pygram, so there I went. In traditional fashion, David Franklin took to the crowd to field questions for the group, and as always, it was very entertaining. There was a lot of vague discussion about the upcoming mini-series, as the cast tried to be careful not to give anything away. Virginia Hey noted that she couldn't mention whether she was or was not involved with the project. One of the things I've always enjoyed about this group of actors is that they're always quick to acknowledge their fans and the support they bring. A lot of people worked incredibly hard for a very long time to get Farscape back on the air, and the cast always takes an extra moment to express their gratitude for that effort. It's a classy thing to do, and it's always appreciated.
6:00pm - Yes ... Even More Wandering
8:00pm - Hooters, Beer, and FootballWhat? You think I'm a robot? Nobody spends more time participating in the Dragon*Con festivities than I, but it's not my fault they schedule the event during the first big football weekend of the year. I need my fix, and fortunately, there's a Hooters just down the street that caters to Stormtroopers, Klingons, and football fanatics. Besides, it's almost essential to get away for a couple of hours at this midway point if you want to survive the whole thing. With some chili cheese fries, hot wings, and Code Red in my belly and a couple of hours of football to ease the withdrawal symptoms, I'm ready to jump back in. On the way back, I noticed that Ernie Hudson was stylin' and profilin' and had informed some nice looking lady of his status as "the man." She was clearly impressed. No time for autographs, folks ...
10:00pm - Saturday Night Costumes
12:00am - Buffy Prom, Ghoultown, and Limbo
Without many guests to work with this year, the Buffy group was really working hard to create some unique events for their attendees. Instead of typical discussion panels, they organized more interactive and themed activities, particularly in the evening hours. One of those events was the Buffy prom, taking its cue from the popular third season episode. If only Danny Strong could have been here this year. Still, it was fun to see the organizers get all dolled up and have some fun. While this was going on, people were lining up for the farewell performance of Ghoultown, a "Texas hillbilly band" and frequent visitors to Dragon*Con. Best I could tell, the dress code was "black shirt and/or cowboy hat." Neither of these activities could hold a candle to the drunken limbo competition going on outside. These events kept me entertained until the 1:00am video session.
1:00am - A Toast to Absent Friends in Memory So BrightRichard Biggs was a husband, a father, and to those who had the fortune of interacting with him over the years at conventions, a friend. Conventions are fun, and having your moment with the celebrity while you collect an autograph is typically a positive experience, but few convention guests affect their fans the way Rick did. When he passed away suddenly in May, it was a devastating blow to many people, and his absence at Dragon*Con was profoundly felt among those who knew him. Throughout the weekend, I overheard and participated in many shared memories with fans and guests, so it was fitting that John Hudgens would begin his music video party with a memorial video dedicated to our absent friend. To say it was cathartic for many of us would be an understatement, and to say it was moving doesn't do it justice. I ran into Stephen Austin later that evening at the bar, and he mentioned that John had sent the video to Pat in time for the memorial service, and they all gathered at Bruce's house to watch it afterwards. Hosted by TheForce.net, you can download the QuickTime video from his Z-Team Productions site. If the plug-in fails, as often happens, here's the direct link: rickbiggs_320.mov. After watching the tribute, we spent the next hour or so watching and discussing the entire series of music videos. Some are better than others, but overall, they're a really impressive accomplishment and a joy to see every year. My personal favorite is "The Phantom Video" mixing John Williams' 'Duel of the Fates' with scenes from all 5 seasons. If you're having trouble getting someone to begin this remarkable journey, take him to a convention and show him this.
2:30am - Saturday Night Costumes, Part II
4:30am - Proud PickersMine is not to question why, mine is but to photograph and babble about it on the Internet. As the hours passed on, the silliness grew stronger, and I met the Proud Pickers whose motto is predictably, "It's Snot For Everyone." In their journey to "take the ick out of pick," they found their way into more and more photos as the evening grew longer and the attendees got more inebriated. Impressively, after I took their picture, they handed me a business card. There are so many amateur traveling nose-picking women that it was good to see some true professionals.
6:00am - Who Flung Poo
I would have stayed up all night, but this evil monkey cast a sleep spell on me while I was taking his picture. Damn dirty ape!
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