Archive for the ‘geek life’ Category

A few weeks ago I got to attend San Diego Comic-Con for the first time as press. It was a vastly different experience than going as an attendee. I’m hesitant to say that one is better than the other, because it was just… different. There are trade-offs. But this is just meant as a recap of the event.

 

I arrived in San Diego on Wednesday, met up with my friend (and co-blogger) Meghan, grabbed some lunch, and headed downtown to the convention center for Preview Night. As press, we got to be inside the exhibit hall when they opened it up to the masses, which was an event unto itself, but I particularly enjoyed those few minutes to get our bearings and plan out how we’d cover that part of the convention. We stayed for a while, chatted with some exhibitors (and took photos of things for later), and headed out to a networking event.

I spent a good bit of the convention live streaming over at Geek Girl Pen Pals as I walked the exhibit hall floor and generally tried to provide an “experience” of the event for those who couldn’t make it. We are, after all, international, and California is a long flight, and convention badges are HARD to come by, so the goal was to make the event as accessible as possible for the community. (Random photo of the Batmobile is the actual, drive-able vehicle from the movie!)

Thursday afternoon, I headed to the Hyatt and checked in for our first big event– the Her Universe Fashion Show. You can read my full coverage here, but it was so much fun going to the fashion show. I had a clear view of the stage (in fact, seated right behind the judges, I had to work on keeping a neutral face in case one of them was on camera), the production quality was excellent, and the designers themselves put forth some amazing pieces. I can’t wait to see what new styles come out of the show, as the three winners get to collaborate on a spring line (Disney princess themed, no less!) for Hot Topic. (Winning styles pictured above in my blurry phone snap.)

Friday I covered the Let’s Get Fashionably Nerdy panel which included some of my favorite geeky clothing designers (not to mention Jordan Ellis whose Jordandene NYC tops I wear at least twice a week) talking about the shift from the “nerdy t-shirt” to actually fashionable attire that can subtly (or not) express the fandoms people love. Friday night is a bit of a blur but I feel like we had good food that night. Honestly, it starts to blur together. (WAIT!) Friday night was the Geek Girl Pen Pals meet-up! We went to a sushi place in the Gaslamp district and it was so fun! (See? Blurring together!)

Saturday morning Meghan and I got up pretty early because we covered some of the off-site events. San Diego Comic-Con is somewhat famous for these events, which are usually some type of immersive environment produced by a particular brand, production company (Netflix has one, for instance), or for a specific show. We started at the Game of Thrones experience, which was fairly neat. I have a lot of photos from it that I’ll post in a separate page about it, as the experience itself was pretty much one giant photo op. People waited in line for hours to get into this thing, and I have to say… it was cool, but not nine-hours-in-line cool. (I don’t think much is, to be honest.)

Next we visited the Netflix experience, and this is where the “cost” of being press starts to come in. I got to go through the Stranger Things themed part of the Netflix experience, but as I had to be at a press conference at 3:15, I couldn’t take the time to do the rest of the exhibit. I got an awesome photo– but I didn’t get to see everything. I don’t mind. It’s just the reality. (We get into these events at scheduled times but can’t always participate in the full experience.)

Saturday afternoon I attended the press conference for the upcoming series, Star Trek: Discovery, and I have to say that it sounds like it’s going to be a great show. Here is my bad photo of the full cast. I borrowed photos from another blogger and the official press docs for my full coverage. But it was fun, and I’m looking forward to watching when it premiers next month.

After the press conference, I met back up with Meghan for our appointment to go through the Bladerunner 2049 experience, and I have to say that it was the best of just about any off-site experience I’ve ever done. (Sorry, HBO, the Game of Thrones one wasn’t this good.) Even though as media we didn’t get to do the whole virtual reality portion of the immersion, we still got to walk into a huge hangar that was converted into a street corner from theΒ Bladerunner world. In-character actors inhabiting the whole space, “rain” falling, mist and puddles, a noodle bar (not to mention noodles and whiskey tastings for those old enough), and no rush to hurry through. It was SO well done.

After all of that I was pretty worn out, and I had to get up at 4am on Sunday to catch a flight to North Carolina for the next leg of a whirlwind two weeks. But I learned a lot and I covered a lot and I can’t wait to do it again next year when maybe I can just go home at night in between (or maybe figure out a way to get a hotel room downtown.)

Because this is the big thing I’ll say about going to San Diego Comic-Con as press– YES there are perks (like appointment times for off-site experiences), and we had a lot of fun, but we were there to work. I spent a lot of time moving as fast as I could through a throng of 200,000 people trying to make it to appointments on time. I bought new inserts for my shoes. I drank pedialyte like it was my job. I loved it. But it wasn’t the same as being an attendee.

Here’s an example: I didn’t have time to stand in line when I wanted to. This may sound weird, but bear with me. There’s a reason they call SDCC “Line Con”– eeeeeeverything has a line. But you’ve got to make a time commitment to get into certain things. If you, say, wanted to get into the DuckTales panel (and didn’t realize in advance that David Tennant, the new voice of Scrooge McDuck, was going to be there because you were at Comic-Con to cover, say Geek Fashion), you wouldn’t be able to get in line far enough ahead of time to make it into the panel room. As I keep saying, THIS IS OKAY. I did many amazing things. Being press comes with, y’know, appointments to keep. It’s all balance.

Summary: I can’t wait to do it again next year.

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A couple of months ago I wrote a post about how I’d started re-reading Lord of the Rings for the first time in close to a decade. I’d gotten burned out on them, and the ubiquitous nature of things related to the movies (which, to be clear, I love dearly, but maintain they are their own entities, though that’s probably another post for another day).

At any rate, because life is busy and because it’s been nicer outside, it took me two months to read through the whole trilogy. I’m not sorry about that, either. It gave me the time to rediscover things about the story, things I’d forgotten or maybe never noticed in the first place (hey, those are some dense books and the more you learn about Middle Earth lore, the more you find in the novels). And the best part of the whole trilogy? Return of the King.

Why? Because I had forgotten nearly all of it. Oh, I definitely remember what happens in the book, and I remember certain aspects distinctly, but the details (and entire interactions with characters) and humor (yes! there is humor!) and the beautiful way Tolkien switches from the colloquial conversations and observations of the hobbits to the epic style (and I use “epic” in the literary sense here) is just wonderful.

I know it’s old and I know some people think it’s boring, but I really love these stories. They are classics for a reason. And I’m glad I was able to finally finish them (again) and make them fresh in my mind in a way they haven’t been in years.

Thanks, Professor.

End note: In the spirit of this, and after how much I enjoyed these books, I’m going to give Harry Potter a go to see if I can get a fresh reading on it. I’ve read it much more recently, but it’s also been shifted in my mind to be mostly movie imagery, so I’m hoping I can go back and recapture my own imagination’s version of Harry and Ron and Hermione and the rest. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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image source: lotr.wikia.com

image source: lotr.wikia.com

So here’s a confession: I suspect I might be a Middle Earth hipster.

Now hear me out! Before you go rolling your eyes and ignoring the rest of this post, let me explain a bit.
I read Lord of the Rings before it was a movie.

This is true of a lot of people. A whole lot of people! People in fandoms and online RPGs and book clubs and Led Zeppelin and Stephen Colbert and the list goes on and on and on. I know this because the internet kind of happened around the same time I was first geeking out over Frodo and Lothlorien and trying to learn Elvish and all of those other things geeky kids do. There were fan sites! Other people passionate about Lord of the Rings! Who, like me, had an Annual Reading (Christmas break, every year beginning in sixth grade).

People who remember the last line of The Two Towers (“Frodo was alive, but taken by the Enemy.”) and who probably flung the book across the room like I did and scrambled for Return of the King.

image source: lotr.wikia.com

image source: lotr.wikia.com

I remember the thrill of first finding a small website, LordoftheRings.net, with just a handful of images and a couple of maps… and the news that they were filming a movie. A MOVIE. Middle Earth was coming to the big screen! I was in high school then, and being the dorky kid I was, I printed out all of the teaser posters and handful of pirated images of sets and covered my notebooks in them. (I wish I could find that first image, of a single NazgΓ»l looking down over Bag End.)

To be clear, there were a lot of other fans out there.

But no-one I knew.

My mom had read the books years before, and it was her copy I first borrowed, but otherwise I knew no-one who’d read the books. And then, in 2001, that all changed.

The Fellowship of the Ring came out December 19th of that year, when I was a Freshman in college. I saw it no less than 8 times in theaters, and even though I had some terrible NerdRage over the changes made to the story, mostly I was enchanted.

And there were tie-in products! For the first time in my memory, I could buy Lord of the Rings merchandise! Keychains! Book marks! A replica of the One Ring! It was like a dream came true!

And then….

Suddenly it was everywhere.

Everyone had seen the movie (and saw the other two installments). A lot more people read the book. I was excited to have other people share in the magic, but at the same time… shared magic seemed to make the whole thing a little less magical for me.

Maybe it was because I went so long with nothing but my own imaginings of the characters. Maybe it was simple over-saturation (much like with Frozen these days). Maybe it was something else. But suddenly this wasn’t my thing anymore.

And I found I couldn’t read the books anymore, either.

The movies’ images got too ingrained in my mind, and I found that I was mixing up details from a book I’d read more than a dozen times. (to see the difference, this some of the only Middle Earth art I’d ever seen, and it largely colored my imagination.) It was frustrating and just not… fun. So I put the books away.

image source: lotr.wikia.com

image source: lotr.wikia.com

Over the last twelve years, I’ve tried a few times to re-read Tolkien, but without success. Several years ago I just plain gave up on it. I donated many of my duplicate book sets (though not the fancy anniversary editions, nor the 70s era paperbacks just like the first set I ever read, complete with yellow pages and Tolkien’s own illustrations.). It made me sad, but maybe that was part of becoming an adult. When The Hobbit‘s movies came out, I saw the first two. The third came out in December and is now on Blu-ray, and I still haven’t seen it. It bothers me a little that it doesn’t bother me.

And then something kind of amazing happened.

Last week, I was fishing through my To Read pile of books for a new something to begin, and I found that really all I wanted was to read The Hobbit. I picked it up, expecting to read a few lines and then to get restless and put it down again.

I didn’t.

I read half of it in one sitting.

Bilbo in the book is quite different than Bilbo in the movies. This isn’t bad* at all. Instead it was refreshing. This was the story I remembered! The magic was all still there. The trouble was just with me and my reading of it.

image source: lotr.wikia.com

image source: lotr.wikia.com

Suddenly I care about these books again, and I’m slowly making my way through the whole series. I might even dust off my copy of Silmarillion, just for fun.

What a wonderful surprise.

………………………….

*Incidentally, the Lord of the Rings movies were the ones that taught me to separate the books from the films. People will claim the “books are always better” and in many cases this might be true, but I prefer to look at them as entirely separate things. Changes happen because words on the page don’t always translate well onto screen. They have to be adapted. Sometimes this even works to improve the story; I like the Hunger Games movies a LOT better than the books.

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If you haven’t seen it yet, Marvel released the third official trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron today and it’s a doozy. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a moment.

 

See? A doozy. This is the villain trailer, starting right out of the gate with the foe for this installment, and the full cast of Avengers heading into battle with it. It looks to me like now everyone must face Tony Stark’s inner demons, which could prove really interesting. They’ve also got the two “miracles” (which is what they’re calling mutants because they sold the licensing for the word “mutant”). I also highly approve of Natasha’s new toys: Black Widow is one of my favorite parts of these movies.

image source: imdb.com

image source: imdb.com

This trailer comes the day after the mid-season return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the beginning of the Inhumans story arc. It’s an exciting turn for the story which struggled in its first season before the reveal of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s infiltration and fall in Captain America: Winter Soldier. This series now stands on its own two feet, solidly planting itself in the same world as the movies and yet carrying its own plots and twists that could wind up playing heavily into future features. Of course, there is an Inhumans movie in the docket, but as of now it’s not scheduled to be released until summer 2019, so there’s a lot of TV time before that for the show to build a foundation.

In the meantime, we’ve all fallen in love with Agent Carter. Very wisely listening to the fan base, Disney and Marvel gave Peggy Carter her own mini-series that was intended to be a one-off run, but proved to be so well written and well received that there is chatter now of a season two. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to that! We barely scratched the surface in this eight episode arc, and didn’t even touch on the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D., which could be so fascinating to watch.

What I’m really interested in is seeing how all of these will tie together. The shows and the movies have done a good job of blending seamlessly together without having any huge impacts on one another, and the cross-over characters work in both formats to establish this as one big universe. And that’s the amazing thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe: it all seems to work together so well.

I know there are decades of comics to draw from, but that can prove to be a distraction or too much of a burden. Look at the problems faced by the X-Men movies; they struggle with consistency, and with different time periods not fitting together with different parts of the story. Heck, in the most recent film, they effectively had to undo everything that happened in X-Men: The Last Stand because it was ridiculously awful. But the Marvel properties coming out of Disney have a consistency that is impressive and that I really appreciate.

image source: marvel.wikia.com

image source: marvel.wikia.com

Full disclosure: I didn’t read Marvel comics as a kid, and I still don’t for the most part. I’ve enjoyed the new Black Widow comics and I’m interested in the Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman comics but for the most part all I know about this world is from the movies and TV shows. I know that a lot of the adaptations are distressing to the old guard, the fans who’ve been reading these things their whole lives. But I have to say, as a new fan, this has been fantastic. It’s something I can get excited about and has made what is often a very difficult fandom to enter so much more accessible, and at least in my option, any time good storytelling can be more accessible, the better.

With that I’ll sign off, but at least you’ll know where to find me May 1: at the theater.

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hobbit day, Bilbo's birthday party

It’s September the 22nd! That means it’s solstice day, or the official start of autumn (or spring, in the Southern Hemisphere). It’s also the 77th anniversary (plus one day) of the publication of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. And it’s Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday! Huzzah!

Hobbit Day began back in 1978 when the American Tolkien Society decided to celebrate the occasion. They start on September 17 with Tolkien Week, a chance to celebrate all things Middle-earth and beyond, and it culminates in the Birthday Party. Many people around the world do things in honor of Hobbit Day, from hosting movie marathons to having costume parties or even just eating a slice of cake and raising a glass to the health of the Bagginses.

Tolkien and the world he created have been enjoying a second renaissance, if you will, the last fifteen years or so. Ever since Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring was announced, there has been an interest in Middle-earth that hasn’t existed since the 70s. Whereas I knew no one (other than my mom) who’d read the books when I first encountered them in fifth grade, now almost everyone at least knows what “Lord of the Rings” is and has heard of “Hobbits.”

As a hobbit-loving kid, I didn’t have anyone to really talk to about the books, but I was that special kind of nerd who would still wish her friends Happy Hobbit Day. It’s no wonder I carried the “quirky” label as a kid.

If you want to read more about Hobbit Day, or my childhood memories of being a Tolkien fan, or find some fun ways to celebrate the day, here’s the post I wrote for Geek Girls Pen Pal Club. Happy Hobbit Day, everyone!

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Capaldi Doctor Who Listen

Listen, here we are, four episodes into a new season of Doctor Who. Peter Capaldi is here to stay, and I have to say, I’m thrilled.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Matt Smith’s Doctor, but I like the grumpiness and the alien-like qualities of the Doctor, and how much it hearkens back to the older shows. The beauty of a show like Doctor Who is that it has such a rich history and so many things to draw from to include in the stories, and yet can always bring something new.

The staple, of course, is that every so often the Doctor changes. Everything about him changes, from his face to his personality to his teeth, and all that’s left is his memory. This is traumatic for his companions, and it can be for the audience, too. Especially if you’re (to use the BBC’s phrase) fairly new to Who, it can be jolting to go from the actor and persona you fell in love with, established a relationship with over (especially in Tennant and Smith’s era) some emotional story arcs, to suddenly be handed Capaldi’s Doctor with a “Here you go, good luck now!”

But this is by no means new to fans of the show. Even those who have been around the TARDIS a time or two can go through difficulty accepting a new Doctor, not unlike the classic 5 Stages of Grief. So let’s work our way through this new rendition of the Doctor together, shall we?

Stage One: Denial
This stage is when you don’t want to believe the Thing That’s Happening is true. You find out that there’s going to be a new Doctor.
“Matt Smith is leaving? Don’t be ridiculous! I refuse to accept this! It’s just another rumor, or another instance of Moffat trolling* everyone. That’s it. It’s just Moffat again.”

Moffat Trolling

Stage Two: Anger
At this point, you suddenly find yourself irrationally angry that you’re getting a new** Doctor. The anger might be directed at Steven Moffat.
“NO. You CANNOT take away Eleven. You have RUINED this show! NO ONE ELSE WILL EVER BE THE DOCTOR AGAIN.”
Or you might be angry with Matt Smith.
“How DARE you leave us and go pursue your CAREER?”
Or you might be angry at other fans. I don’t know how your mind works. But you’re probably going to be angry.

Matt Smith Doctor shrugs

Stage Three: Bargaining
At this point, you’re trying to change the inevitable outcome. You want to make things go back to the way they were, or at least to some facsimile of how you perceived them to be. Bargaining may be with the person leaving.
“But Matt, if you stay we’ll be even more rabid fans of yours! We’ll cosplay with things other than your fez!”
Or the bargaining might take other forms. Sometimes it can involve roping other people into the equation in the hopes the person will listen to them.
“Jenna, can’t you make him stay? Just talk to him!”

Jenna Coleman Clara Doctor Who

Stage Four: Depression
By now, the loss of Your Doctor is making you feel very down in the dumps. You’re convinced the show just won’t be the same*** without Your Doctor, and that you’ll never love another Doctor as much as you did this one. Your Doctor was the Best Doctor There Ever Was and no one could replace him.

David Tennant Doctor Who crying

Stage Five: Acceptance
When you finally come to terms with the fact that there’s a new**** Doctor, you’ve reached acceptance. This usually happens some time in the first several episodes. For some, it happened when he dueled Robin Hood using only a spoon in “Robot of Sherwood.” For many of the fans, it seemed to happen with the most recent episode, “Listen.” (Some people got behind Capaldi much earlier, of course. We’ll come back to them.) Maybe some are still waiting for their “Oh, this IS the Doctor!” moment. But it’s coming.

Not every fan likes every regeneration of the Doctor the same. People have their affinities, and for many it’s the first Doctor they ever watched that is “Their” Doctor. For me, I might just be falling hard for Capaldi. I’ve been excited about the change since they announced who the next actor would be. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Matt Smith and his silliness and affinity for children, but I like that with Capaldi we can go a little darker, a little more serious, and a little more alien. He seems a lot more like some of the classic regenerations (a lot of people reference Pertwee’s Doctor, but I see a lot of Baker in him, too) and it’s a very nice change of pace.

Matt Smith everything ends sometime

The main thing to take away from this is that this cycle happens every single time there’s a “new” Doctor. The first time it happened the show runners weren’t sure it would work, but for some reason it did. And it continues to work. That’s the essence of the show, and what keeps it on the air. Change brings a fresh start, and brings new fans and new stories and new monsters and the whole deal. It’s not bad. It’s the lifeblood of the show, and what keeps it from getting stale all these years later.

And y’know what? I’d bet that I can pinpoint the moment when the last main holdout decided this guy was all right. Here you go.

Doctor Who Capaldi once upon a time dad skillsDoctor Who Capaldi the end dad skillsDoctor Who Clara looks upDoctor Who Capaldi dad skills

—————————————————

*Steven Moffat is notorious for teasing hints as well as outright lies about the shows he runs, to the general frustration of the fan bases.
**To be clear, it’s always the same Doctor. He is the Doctor, just with a new face. Same guy. So Capaldi isn’t really the “Twelfth” Doctor, he’s just THE Doctor.
***It won’t be the same, but that’s the beauty of the thing, and rather the point, after all.
****Do we really have to go over this again? SAME DOCTOR. Just a new actor playing the SAME GUY. You don’t have to pick just one, they’re all the SAME TIME LORD.

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teaser at Sierra.com

I’m a few weeks late to this party, but when I found out this week that Sierra, one of the premier gaming companies from my childhood, was making a comeback, I may have squeed in delight. They’ve restarted their website (with a brief teaser of…something or another) and at Gamescom they announced two games coming very soon.

For those not familiar, Sierra was founded in 1979 and was one of the gaming companies who thrived in the 1980s. My own connection was through their popular King’s Quest franchise, following the story of Graham, as he rises from knighthood to being the king of Daventry, and then the adventures of his children over the years.

kings quest ii screen shot 2
King’s Quest was one of those wonderfully simple and yet difficult text-based 8-bit games, where you were given almost no instruction and had to figure out how to beat the game through trial and error. As a kid, this often meant polling the audience, or in this case, bugging your classmates about how they beat this particular part. You had a giant map and you walked through it, finding objects and having random encounters, until you figured out the puzzle. It was all about repetition and logic and simply seeing what worked.

kings quest 7 screen shot
Over time the storylines and graphics got more advanced, until with King’s Quest 7: the Princeless Bride, we got animation. This was my first experience with what I’d call “modern” gaming, where you’ve got the toolbar and the items and whatnot. I loved this game. The player rotated between playing the princess and the queen, going through a ridiculous cartoon world trying to escape from an evil enchantment and return home to Daventry.

kings quest moe screen shot

The final installation was King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity, which came out in 1998. You can see more screen shots of it here. This was two years after Sierra was sold to another gaming company, and the original founders and developers retired, and it definitely shows in the game. Though this one carries the King’s Quest game, it’s much more of a first person “shooter” (or in this case, first person sword-slasher). It wasn’t so much a logic puzzle as a check-off-the-quest-box type game, and though I enjoyed it when I played it, it was certainly different. I think Mask of Eternity was the stepping stone for me to console games like Fable and Baulder’s Gate and the like. But there it is.

And then Sierra disappeared. In 2008, it simply stopped existing, except in very old copies of the PC games, most of which have become obsolete over the subsequent OS updates since. I’ve been occasionally playing on a laptop from 2000 that can still read the CDs I have (a “special release” at some point).

Until a month ago.

Last month, the new website went live, and they unveiled a new King’s Quest. It will be the story of King Graham’s granddaughter learning about his adventures, and hopefully going on some of her own.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, these games were made by a husband and wife team, Ken and Roberta Williams. Roberta is credited on every game, and she really was a pioneer for women in the gaming industry. Though there are many more women making games now, they are still very much the minority, and games based on story telling and logic puzzles aren’t in vogue the way first person shooters are. I hope this new chapter takes us back in that direction, toward the smart and well written challenges and away from the hack and slash that’s so common these days. Or maybe it can at least round out the choices a bit more. Let’s head back to Daventry!

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