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Dragon*Con 2004
•  Thursday  •  Friday  •  Saturday  •  Sunday  •  Monday  •

Sunday - September 5, 2004

10:00am - Breakfast with the 501st

Not unlike the power of the Dark Side, the presence of the 501st can be felt everywhere, and they descend upon Dragon*Con en masse. Aside from squashing the Rebellion, their mission is costuming and at times ... event security. I awakened early to get some breakfast before what would surely be a long day, and on the main floor of my hotel, I saw the early formations of what was almost certainly an Imperial assault team. Run for your lives! Or maybe it was just a photo op. Either way, they were appearing from every corner of the hotel and growing in numbers. Donning an Imperial disguise, I infiltrated their group and narrowly escaped with these photographs.

11:30am - Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

It's disappointing that issues between promoters and managers left us with but a handful of Babylon 5 guests this year, so the annual Babylon 5 Reunion panel was moved to the smaller ballroom and back to Sunday morning. Predictably, we packed the room and gave a roaring welcome to Jason Carter, Stephen Austin, and Peter Jurasik, who expressed some surprise that there was so much interest in the show after being off the air for so long. Faith manages, Peter.

The discussion began where it should, with Jason talking extensively about his friendship with Rick and how much he loved coming to conventions and interacting with the fans. His absence was palpable, and each of the guests struggled a bit to maintain his composure, but the three of them did an excellent job regaling us with humorous tales celebrating all the joy he brought to so many people.

Lightening the mood a bit, the discussion then moved to the familiar, and Jason made the case that this DVD thing was really unfair to everyone who had to work so hard to watch this show when it originally aired. While I'm thrilled that DVD is bringing this amazing show to a new audience, I have to agree with him. It's not fair! :) Each of the guests talked about current projects, and Stephen took a moment to promote his new comedy CD. Then, without warning, Peter Woodward burst into the panel, grabbed a mic, and demanded to know why there was a Babylon 5 panel without him. He then stormed through the crowd tossing out flyers to his panel and was gone in a flash. Quick to seize the opportunity, Carter leaned into his mic: "I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition." Nooooooobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

1:00pm - That's Right ... MORE Wandering!

Performing more than just the Firefly theme this time, I had a chance to see Emerald Rose in all their glory. What I saw was very entertaining, and the crowd was having a good time singing along and dancing. I stayed for a couple of tunes and then made my way back to the Marriott for more of my favorite convention past time: wandering. First, I checked out the DVD bootleggers. Now, I don't have a huge personal problem with sharing material that has not been released and likely won't be released, but taking someone else's hard work, cheaply duplicating it into an often inferior product, and marking it up to ridiculous amounts really doesn't sit well with me. At some of these tables were product you could legally buy in the store at higher quality for a lower price. Being around these guys made me feel dirty, so I moved on.

2:00pm - More Celebrity Hunting

Ray Park has been at Dragon*Con the last couple of years, but for whatever reason, I've never had the chance to talk with him. Today, however, he had a short line, so I proceeded to his table. He was a very nice gentleman, and I was pleased to hear that he too had a degree in Electrical Engineering. We talked a bit about our common interest, but a little kid fascinated with Park's stature came to the table, so I politely stepped aside. I also had the chance to speak with his lovely wife Lisa who is pregnant with their first child. She was very nice, and I wish the two of them all the best.

4:00pm - Mythos: The Freshmaker

I know what you're thinking ... when is the next set of Firefly pics? I mean, it's been almost 24 hours since the last set. What's taking so long? Well, have no fear ... it's that time again. Adam Baldwin had to depart early, but Nathan and Jewel were more than up to the task to entertain yet another capacity crowd for the final Firefly event of the weekend (I know you're sad; it'll be OK). Remarkably, once again the panel was nothing like the previous ones. For starters, Jewel brought with her a collection of photos and props from the show and presented them to fans who asked questions during the panel. The panel was a roaring success, just like the others, but the finale had a bit of a twist. As time ran out in the session, Stormtroopers invaded the panel and ordered Jewel and Nathan to leave the stage. Only at Dragon*Con ...

6:00pm - Circumambulating

I knew all those years of Latin would come in handy. After a brief stop in my hotel room to dump images from my camera and cycle batteries, it's back to my wandering ways. I didn't get very far, though, as this young lady was posing up a storm, and I felt duty bound to photograph it. As the Masquerade was being held in the Atlanta Civic Center again, I headed out early and caught a bus to the event. The pre-show "entertainment" was a reading of some L. Ron Hubbard story -- To the Stars -- by some of the convention guests, including David Carradine and Anne McCaffrey. While I'm sure this was very interesting to people from another planet, I had trouble paying attention and was just waiting for it to end.

8:30pm - Masquerade ... Paper Faces on Parade

No flash photography. *sigh* I did my best. The basic structure of the Masquerade is as follows: each contestant has the chance to come on stage and, if they choose to do so, perform a short skit or dance or whatever. They do the children's costumes first followed by the regular contestants. As best I can tell, the first two hours are a torture experiment, designed to test the limits of human endurance. While I don't want to put down the hard work of the contestants, my will to live had packed its bags and was looking for its car keys. And then, like a certain White Star in 'Severed Dreams', the evening was salvaged by Dr. Teeth and Electric Mayhem. This group consistently puts together the most amazing costumes, and this year was just one more in a growing list of incredible work. They were quickly followed by the Chicago Monster Ball, an unexpected but very entertaining performance. After the two large-scale ensembles, a quiet and unassuming girl took the stage to do a reverse striptease. Under the name "Queen of the Geeks" and to the tunes of "stripper music," she proceeded to put on a Starfleet uniform, then a Dragon*Con badge, and for the finale ... broke out a highlighter and started marking her Dragon*Con schedule. The whole thing was very creative, and the crowd went crazy for it. There were a few other highlights, particularly the Jeopardy! sketch that went on so long that the Stormtroopers had to come sweep them off the stage while Raquel Gardner (hostess of the festivities, along with Peter Davison) referred to them as "Starship Troopers," and as we neared midnight, the thing finally ended. We then proceeded to line up like cattle and pack ourselves onto the buses to return to the hotels.

12:30am - Sunday Night Costumes

I have to admit that by this time in the convention, I was experiencing some severe photofinger fatigue. Coming on the heels of my trip to Vegas and Oakland/San Francisco, my lens wrist and right fingers were wearing down. I also had the fortune of meeting some really nice people on the main costume floor, and so I took a bit of time to hang out with them. Don't worry ... I was still snapping photos of the really good stuff, just not at maximum frequency. Taking a short break in the corner, I got a chance to talk with some of my favorite costumers, a local group from the Georgia Garrison of the 501st. I've been bumping into them at conventions for years and have always been impressed with the detail and creativity that goes into their work. While so many people go over the top with a costume, they simply get it right. Talented people always inspire me, and this group never fails to impress. Moreover, they're nice people, and I very much enjoyed taking a break from the action and talking with them. It's people like them that make Dragon*Con such a unique and wonderful event.

2:30am - The Cruxshadows

I'll be honest. The Cruxshadows are always at Dragon*Con, and every time I walk by their booth, I hear snippets of what I assume is their music, and it always makes me laugh ... and not in a good way. So I pretty much assumed they would suck; but at 2:30am, what else could I do but stumble into their concert and see for myself? That's a rhetorical question, by the way, so suggestions like "get drunk and pass out" are not necessary. What can I say ... they didn't suck. In fact, I actually enjoyed some of their performance. It's still not my type of music, and their website still makes me laugh, but I'll give credit where it is due. They put on a good show, and I was glad that I stopped by.

4:00am - Sunday Night Costumes (reprise)

Do you really want to read more of my babbling about the costumers? For you slow folks, that's another rhetorical question; no emails, please. Really, by this point, things were starting to wind down. I had hooked up with a friend of mine from Tampa and a group of people he had just met. We hung out in the hotel bar, watching a tape of the masquerade and heckling drunks, before deciding it was time to hit McDonald's. Despite all logic to the contrary, we were assured that it was still open. Down the street we stumbled only to find that our initial instincts were accurate. Shortly after returning, the bar kicked us out, saying they had to clean up for the next day. Bah! We moved back downstairs where we talked for hours. A good time was had by all, except of course for Lid. "Who is Lid," you ask. If only I knew ... if only I knew. I have very little recollection of most of that time, but I do remember walking a beautiful girl back to her hotel, helping a friend catch a cab home, and watching the sun come up.

8:15am - Sleep or Something Like It

Monday - September 6, 2004

10:00am - Disaster and Check Out

After what could barely even be considered a nap, I dragged myself out of bed to offload my pictures and prepare for the final day. Hardly coherent, I discovered the worst scenario possible. My primary flash card (apparently Made in France) had thrown up the proverbial white flag and would have no more of my abuse: Error Reading Drive ... Error Reading Drive. Losing photos was bad enough, but further inspection would show that I lost photos of my favorite costumer in addition to some of my new friends that I met later that evening. Very disappointing. No time for tears, though. I still had to check out and get ready for the finale. Of note, hours upon hours of disk recovery tools resulted in many of photos you see here. Still, some of my favorites didn't make it.

If you've made it this far, I congratulate you. I'd like to cleverly hide some prize at this stage of the report to reward those who, for whatever reason, have continued to read my ramblings. I'd like to. Anyway, it's almost over, and if you can believe it, the best is yet to come ...

12:00pm - Robot Battles

At Dragon*Con, Monday = Robot Battles. If you're familiar with television shows like Battlebots, this is a little different. Instead of a large enclosed structure, the battles take place on an elevated platform, and a key strategy is often maneuvering to knock your opponent off said platform. At this early hour, they were still in the preliminary stages of the competition bracket, and things were proceeding about how you would expect as different styles faced off against each other. Keeping things interesting, however, was a robot named "Humper" (no jokes, please). Although helped by her parents, Humper was operated by the cutest little girl. Defying convention, Humper was not a smasher or wedge; Humper was a random hopping machine. The girl would press the "on" button, and Humper would crazily hop around the platform, confounding the efforts of the sluggish robots. In a best of three competition, Humper scored a victory as the opponent tried to knock it off the edge and ended up going under Humper and over the edge himself. The crowd erupted in approval. Ultimately, however, Humper was defeated, and the poor kid who did the deed was jokingly booed for the next 4 hours.

1:00pm - Heeeeeeeeey, Space Ghost!

"AOL: This is going to feel cold and wet, followed by some pressure." For three days I anxiously awaited the George Lowe panel, and finally the moment had arrived, albeit buried in the basement of the Hyatt in the obscure Vinings room, typically reserved for Anime and forgotten topics. Although finding the room was a difficult proposition, it turned out to be a great intimate venue for Lowe's unique brand of comedy. Now when I say "unique," I'm not doing it justice. Perhaps I should say "out of this world," but I fear people would think I was just exaggerating, or worse, referencing that cheesy 80s sitcom from the early syndicated days of Fox. To be honest, words do not suffice, but I will try anyway. By the way, I should note the panel's sponsor: "Bob's Chair Repair ... Bring Us Your Loose Stool."

Let's just get to the heart of the matter. George spit on me no fewer than three times ... then he threw ice in my face. I'll give you a chance to reread that sentence, because I'm not kidding. Think that's strange? No more strange than the two bald guys he had stand with their heads together, forming his performance art piece entitled "Hairy Breasts." Then he played "Mr. Sandman" on the palms of his hands, melody first, followed by the hook ... followed by John Williams' Jaws theme. Just your typical Q&A session.

George opened with one of his typical bits, grabbing a phone book, having an audience member flip to a random page, and doing a few minutes of comedy mocking the poor saps who had the misfortune of being picked. Thankfully, he took an extra moment to make fun of that local clown of the ass variety, Ken Nugent ... one call, that's all! His first attempt wasn't that great, but he really hit the mark on the second one. Once he found his rhythm, he had us rolling in the aisles for the full hour.

Not knowing what to expect, none of us was prepared for what would happen next. He asked an audience member to say something shocking, for example, "I hear Bill Clinton had heart bypass surgery today" and he would demonstrate the beloved "spit take." Naturally, we all assumed said spit take would take place to the side. We were mistaken. The audience member did his part and said the line, and Lowe proceeded to spit all over everyone. When we least expected it, he found opportunities to repeat the event twice more before leaving. Not to leave us wanting, he surprised us once more. His assistant John had been very effective throughout the day, manipulating the lights on cue and quickly finding phone books, and George took a moment to praise him. In the moment he said, "all hail John!" We did. Then he demanded, "make it hail, John!" John was stumped. George was not. He reached into his water pitcher, grabbed a handful of ice, and threw it at us. Hail.

Pausing for a bit of edumacation, Lowe talked about an interesting genre of television he referred to as "Dadavision" after the famously unique period in art history. I had never thought of it in that capacity before, but it's really a perfect term. He then had an idea ... let's piss off the other panels going on nearby. On cue, we were instructed to repeat the following phrase. He leaned into the mic and said, "and now ladies and gentlemen, it's time to play" and we responded loudly and in unison, "That's Not My Finger!" "I can't hear you ..." "THAT'S NOT MY FINGER!!!" A few seconds went by, and then we heard a door slam. Our neighbors were not pleased. The panel closed with a rendition of "Stump the Hand", a local radio show game he used to play on the Regular Guys, before 96 Rock and Clear Channel had them removed from the air. His talent for playing songs using just the palms of his hands is remarkable. Oh, and after drawing on the tablecloth, he signed it in large ink, "Space Ghost was here!" Why not.

2:30pm - Craig Parker, Sala Baker, and The Most Disgusting Thing You'll Ever See (or Read About)

While it may seem otherwise, I've tried hard not to overuse the phrase "only at Dragon*Con" but there are times when it's really the only thing that can possibly be said. In the final moments of the convention's final panel, we were treated (term used loosely) to one of those rare experiences that could only happen at an event like this. At this point, I'm still a little unsure I really witnessed it. But before I share, let's take a walk down memory lane to last year's convention and the James Marsters Q&A. I'm sure you've heard the story, but for those who haven't, someone in the crowd yelled at James to take his shirt off. Not entirely pleased with this request but still having fun with the moment, he called the lady on stage with him. When she arrived, standing before a few thousand fans, he said to her, "take off your shirt!" She did. James's jaw dropped, as did all of ours, and the legend was born.

I've talked a bit about Craig already, and his panel was very entertaining; although I must admit to struggling to remain awake (no fault of the guests of course). Midway through the panel, Sala Baker showed up, and they played off of one another very well. Craig was wearing a Middle Earth softball shirt that a fan had made for him, which was very cool, and he had a super bounce ball that he used as a prop for some eye of Sauron jokes at Sala's expense. As the panel drew to a close, Sala presented one of Craig's photographs that had been creatively altered in very humorous ways. They had a good laugh over it and then decided to give it away to the crowd. But how? Craig instructed everyone as follows: "the first person to reach under their chairs and find a piece of gu- ..." Immediately, a woman in the front row had removed some gum and was standing in triumph. Shocked at her anticipation and speed, Craig quickly followed his instructions with, "... and can tell me what flavor it is ..." Clearly, he was just joking around, but before they could stop her, the gum was in the mouth. The room groaned loudly, Craig winced with emotional distress, and Sala gave an approving two thumbs up gesture. Only at ... well ... you know.

4:00pm - Robot Battles - Battle Royales

Finishing the convention with a bang, all available robots that could function on the platform were divided into two weight class divisions and invited to participate in a winner-take-all battle royale. Many of these bots were worn down from a day's worth of competition, so there was a lot of strategy involved in preparing for this final event. Even Humper got a chance to compete, but sadly was eliminated early on. For a capacity crowd, the remaining bots battled one another for many minutes until one was left standing and a champion crowned. In the larger weight class, with four bots remaining, the winner cleverly hid in the corner while the other three knocked each other out. It was a great event and a fine way to finish the con.

5:00pm - Concluding Thoughts

I'm done. That's my conclusion. What more do you want?

- das Monkey (e-Mail)

Acknowledgements: Attending this event is a lot of hard work, let alone covering it, and I couldn't have done it without the help of some great people. I must give thanks to as many of them as I can: Charlie, Amy & Tom, Geoff, Froggy, Pat, Star, Amy & Jeff, Brandi & Lynn & Jimmy & Ian & Andrew, Laura, Jennifer, John Chadd Spencer, DAN!!!, and everyone else who made this such an incredible experience. Until next year ...

Copyright 2004 das Monkey. All Rights Reserved
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