10:00am - Dick GordonRichard F. Gordon, Jr. went to the moon. He wasn't "Evil Twin #2" in an episode of Black Scorpion or the guy who played "Alien 2" in TNG's "Allegiance". He climbed inside an oversized tin can (well, steel and aluminum), sat on top of a rocket, and flew to the freakin' moon. If that doesn't get you up in the morning, then I don't know what will. With some Moutain Dew and a PowerBar in my belly, I stumbled out of bed to hear this American legend talk about his journey. Dick didn't get to walk on the moon himself (his mission would have been Apollo 18, but cutbacks halted the program at 17), but he did pilot the "Yankee Clipper" Command Module for Apollo 12 while "Pete" Conrad and Al Bean took the LEM down to the lunar surface to explore the "Ocean of Storms". The first half of his presentation was a general recap of the early years of America's space program. For NASA buffs, this was pretty standard stuff, but it was still fun to hear him tell it. The latter portions focused on his actual experiences, both on Gemini 11 and Apollo 12. Even though some know-it-all kept interrupting him to pimp his own space-related panel later that day, it was fascinating to hear him speak and more than worth the effort to get up early.
11:30am - Dean Stockwell -- Oh boy!Lt. Yamuri, Wellington Yueh, Al Calavicci ... I was really looking forward to seeing Mr. Stockwell for the first time, but I have to admit that it was pretty underwhelming. I arrived about 20 minutes early and was forced to sit through some obnoxious political grandstanding at the tail end of the previous panel. It's unfortunate that people can't leave that behind for a few days of fun, but it is what it is. While waiting for Dean to arrive, some able-bodied lady showed up and sat in one of the front row handicapped seats. Sometimes those seats aren't needed, and people fill them in before the panels begin, but this morning there were a few people needing the wheelchair access seats, and this lady actually refused to move. The room wasn't packed, there were free seats everywhere; and she hadn't waited in some long line, she showed up after everyone else. But she actually refused to move. So here's her picture:
Perhaps it's just his general demeanor, but once the panel began, Dean seemed relatively uninterested in participating. We did a Q&A, and he answered most of the questions, but he seemed almost irritated to be there. I was disappointed. He told us how Dave Matthews Band were the greatest musicians in the history of the universe and spoke briefly about a variety of topics, but unfortunately, it was pretty uninvolving and one of the most disappointing panels of the weekend.
12:30pm - Boogie Knights
1:00pm - FarscapeThe day of non-stop panels continued with another great group of Farscape guests. For years now, the Farscape crew has sent a few representatives to Dragon*Con, and with the exception of Virginia Hey showing up every single year, they do a great job mixing it up. This year, we were treated to Gigi Edgley and Raelee Hill, and while Gigi showed up to a "Save Farscape" rally here in Atlanta a few years back, I believe this was the first time for both of them at Dragon*Con. As one would hope, they were awesome guests. I had talked with them the day before on the "Walk of Fame", and they were very personable and really cool. Having met Gigi before, I expected this from her, but it was great to see that Raelee -- a late addition to the cast -- was just as fun and interesting to talk to. They were great together, and their enthusiasm translated to the stage, making the panel very engaging and lots of fun. As always, they were very gracious and thankful to the fans, something I've grown to appreciate from this cast.
Gigi talked quite a bit about how she created Chiana's unique style of speech and movement, and Raelee spoke about what it was like to join the series so late in the run and how she felt about the ultimate resolution of her character in Peacekeeper Wars. The ubiquitous "favorite episode" question was asked, and we got some interesting responses. Raelee noted that playing Stark in "Unrealized Reality" was lots of fun and a real change for her. Gigi had fond memories of working with Ben's wacky script for "John Quixote" and also noted that "Durka Returns" was great because she didn't know she'd be a regular character and just went all out in the performance. Virginia kind of hemmed and hawed about the question, but eventually settled on "Back and Back and Back to the Future". Listening to them for an hour reminded me just how much I love and miss that wonderful show.
2:00pm - Wandering
Something new was blossoming at this year's event. Typically, the costumers show up en masse in the evenings to strut their collective stuff and impress us all with their talent (and sometimes courage). Of course this tradition would continue, but I did not expect to see a decent sized group of them loitering in the atrium at 2:00 in the afternoon. As the weekend progressed, more of this would occur, and even the typically subdued and quiet Marriott (in the evenings) would find itself hosting many more costumers than usual. For now, though, I only had time to talk with and photograph a few people before moving on to the next event, pausing briefly to listen to the sounds of local "jazz groove improvisation" band DP3.
2:30pm - McNab-Feinberg ... Campaign Finance Reform?This panel was billed as "Bad Angels" with Adam Balwin (Hamilton) and Mercedes McNab (Harmony), two of the more popular baddies from Angel. Unfortunately, Adam did not show, and poor Mercedes was left to carry a giant ballroom by herself. Sadly, she was not up to the task (hard to blame her), and this panel was a complete snore. I felt badly for her as people weren't really asking questions, and when they did, she didn't have much more than one-word answers. It was a disaster in the making, but thankfully some perceptive staff member noticed the problem and ripped Mr. Ken Feinberg from "Star Trek: Enterprise: The Final Verdict", a panel running concurrently in another room (on another floor, in fact). Who is Ken Feinberg? He was "Alien Captain" in Enterprise's "Horizon" and "Demon in Black" from Charmed's "Hell Hath No Fury", silly! It's OK, I didn't know either. Relative to the panel, though, he portrayed the antler-adorned Chaos Demon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and he showed up about halfway through the dying panel and breathed some life into it. He talked about his short film "Coming Clean", which he joked was not a porno, and gave Mercedes some breathing room. While Ken livened things up a bit, on the whole the panel just wasn't that interesting, and I felt like my time could have been spent better elsewhere.
4:00pm - "The #3 one is the camel-toe jumpsuit." - Jewel StaiteDon't look at me like that. She said it. With costumers showing up in the afternoons and four Serenity panels, I found myself wondering if it was going to be too much of a good thing. I wondered that for about 7 seconds and quickly got over it, because once again the crew was enormously entertaining. From talking with others, people claimed to have waited in line for over 4 hours to get good seats. I'm not sure that was the smartest of moves, but I'm certain they had a good time once the event started, because the crowd was alive. It was the complete opposite of the previous panel and a highlight of the convention.
A popular question being asked of Ron Glass was about the background of Book's character. For this panel he had prepared an answer that drew many laughs: before becoming a shepherd, Book was almost certainly a ballet maestro. It was fun to observe Ron during these panels, because he seemed in a perpetual state of bliss, always with a huge grin on his face and frequently bursting out with uproarious laughter. It was nearly impossible not to get caught up in that enthusiasm, and he added a great joyfulness to the entire experience.
One moment that stuck out in this particular session was when Morena interrupted the panel in a genuine moment of recognition. They had been talking about certain aspects of their characters and favorite lines, and the reminder of something she had almost forgotten brought a bittersweet smile to her face: "I just realized ... we were on a really great show." Yes you were.
5:30pm - Javier Grillo-MarxuachChoices, choices, choices. I've said this before, and I'll say it again. By far the most difficult aspect of Dragon*Con is time management. There is so much going on at all hours of the day and night that if you're not really cognizant of what you want to see and do (and how long you can stay awake), you'll likely collapse under the weight of it all. This year, I didn't have too many hard choices to make, but in this 5:30 slot TrekTrak was presenting "A Star Trek Cavalcade!" with LeVar Burton, Robin Curtis, Max Grodénchik, Marina Sirtis, and Connor Trinneer. While I had met each of them at least once and seen all of them except Connor speak numerous times, I still really wanted to attend. Berman and Braga may have run the franchise into the ground, but the kid in me that fell in love with Trek decades ago will never die. Still, in my opinion, something potentially more interesting was going on in one of the few hotel meeting rooms I had never been before.
I typically keep a pretty close eye on the guest additions throughout the year and have a good idea whom I want to see before I get to the con, but it wasn't until flipping through the huge Dragon*Con program guide Friday night that I noticed one of television's up and coming writing talents would be in attendance. I first became aware of Javier when he started working with Silvio Horta on two light-hearted but entertaining shows: The Chronicle and Jake 2.0. Neither show would change the world, but each was quite a bit of fun (something modern television often lacks) and had a style and wit worthy of attention. When he showed up as a supervising producer on Lost, writing two of the best episodes of the show's insanely popular first season ("House of the Rising Sun" and "... In Translation"), I knew I really needed to keep an eye on his work. So imagine my surprise, particularly considering that I had just spent the previous month on an epic Lost binge, when I saw his name and mug in the program guide.
Television writers almost never get any respect at conventions -- probably because they can't easily sell books or 8x10s -- so I was thrilled to get a chance to listen to and meet one of the better ones. Little did I know, however, that Javier has quite the Internet fan following already. In fact, the term "groupie" seems quite appropriate for what I experienced upon arrival to the tiny -- but packed -- room in which he spoke. I don't mean that to be negative, though. Everyone was very pleasant to be around and genuinely enthusiastic about hearing Javier speak. Obviously, he talked mostly about Lost, but not wanting to give anything away for the upcoming season, he spoke more about the process of creating the show than anything that would possibly happen. When questioned about how the show would handle itself in the future, he tried a couple of times to be polite about it, but finally just openly stated that they were trying really hard not to screw the fans like The X-Files did. Since Damon Lindelof said almost the exact same thing to me when I met him a few weeks earlier, I found myself having increased faith in the writing staff's understanding of what not to do with their show.
The panel was pretty informal and lots of fun, and I was very, very impressed with Javier. He treated the fans with respect and remained afterwards for a good half hour to talk with those of us who had more questions. He reminded me of Peter David in a lot of ways, a fan like the rest of us who just happened to be an amazingly talented and successful writer. He was even very gracious when something quite strange happened. Some incredibly impatient woman kept interrupting him to make it clear that she had a question even after repeated statements that he would call on her shortly (he was calling on people in the order in which they raised their hands). It got really annoying and was clearly distracting him (the crowd mockingly applauded when it was her turn), so I was shocked when we ultimately found out who it was and what she wanted. "My name is Ann Crispin, A.C. Crispin. I'm a very popular author and would love to write some tie-in Lost novels, so here's my business card." Why this needed to be done in the middle of a panel is beyond me, and I doubt I'm alone in finding it strikingly unprofessional. Still, Javier handled the oddity with grace. The room was packed, the energy was great, and I really hope Dragon*Con will support more panels like this in the future. Besides, it was while leaving this panel that I met quite possibly the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life. Is it irrational that I associate the two and credit Javier with the encounter? Probably. Is it annoying that I make a statement like that and don't link directly to a photo? Likely. Is it necessary that I ask myself rhetorical questions in this manner?
7:30pm - Are You Ready for Some Football?Dragon*Con is exhausting, and I'm not sure I could make it through the event without recharging my batteries at the midway point. Thankfully those batteries are powered by breaded hot wings and french fries. Taking a few hours on Saturday night to meet up with friends and watch some opening weekend football has become a tradition, and we had a fantastic time, even if those stools at Hooters are ridiculously uncomfortable. Watching my Irish deliver a beatdown to Pitt and my Jackets hold strong against Auburn was just gravy. Hmm ... gravy and hot wings ... I think I'm onto something. Bad to the madness ...
9:00pm - Destroy, Destroy!
There's a group of costumers from the Georgia Garrison of the 501st whom I've grown to really admire over the years. They consistently have some of the most creative and accurate costumes at the convention, and on top of that, they're just genuinely nice people. Seeing what inventive designs they showcase each year is one of the highlights of the weekend, so I was completely taken aback at this year's hilariously brilliant contribution. Going completely against type and setting aside the detailed nuance of their typical costumes, two oversized foil-wrapped cardboard robots took center stage and stole the evening. Assembled from various pieces of junk, these robots were a throwback to the cheap special effects of old B-Movies, and I couldn't help but admire the raw creativity of how they went about making them look so perfectly bad. It was wonderful -- made even better by the emotionally conflicted and simplistic phrases coming from the robotic voices within -- and the passersby completely ate it up.
12:00am - Sex in the Hallways: The First "Miss Spat-Cave" ContestBilled as an NC-17, adults only, no photography allowed, anything goes costume contest, there was a line of a few thousand people waiting to enter a room that barely seated a hundred. Clearly, this would be the most talked about event of the convention ... or not. After a long wait in a room devoid of any cooled airflow, we were treated to a short "presentation" (term used loosely) that ostensibly covered the different types of costumes people often wore at the convention. I think there was supposed to be an intellectual analysis over the difference between sexy and vulgar, but between the cheap PowerPoint slideshow and the drunken outbursts from celebrity guest judge Chris Owens, it was nowhere to be found. The one piece of wisdom gleaned from the event was in response to the query, "To bare or not to bare?" Quoting the aforementioned and vocal Chris Owens, "Err on the bare!!!" Once the contest began, it was a profound disappointment. Taking nothing away from the effort of the contestants, the costumes were no more creative, no more sexy, no more interesting than what was wandering around the hotel atriums already. Why they were assembled for this contest was unknown to me, and those who stood in line for hours to see it were not at all pleased. Even celebrity guest judge Connor Trinneer had enough and bolted before it was over. While a waste of a few hours in a stuffy and uncomfortable room, credit to the lone male contestant who showed up dressed in nothing but flower petals. More about him later ...
3:00am - Costumes and Bad Tunes
Earlier that afternoon, I had met one of the members of "Ookla the Mok", a filk-rock band that performs irreverent tunes at various conventions. He seemed like a pretty cool guy and requested that I attend his show, so I attempted to do so, arriving late due to scheduling conflicts. Accepting that I was late (and that he was nice), I will hold some benefit of the doubt, but what I saw wasn't particularly good. Afterwards, I attended part of the "Killer Robots" show as well. These guys defied description, but I guess the best way to sum it up is as follows: "um ... huh?" Making my way back out onto the main floor, I saw the "Free Costume Criticism" guys were back and having a good time, so I observed as they critiqued some poor young lady's outfit.
4:00am - Drum CircleI'm not sure I really get what a drum circle is all about, but people sure do enjoy them, and they go on deep into the wee hours of the morning. I wandered in and annoyed them by taking a bunch of photographs.
6:00am - Nap TimeHeavily relying on Diet Dew to remain awake, I felt compelled to cease such activities and retire to bed once I saw the devastating effects (see above) of the tasty beverage and that oh so delicious brominated vegetable oil.
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