skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
Am visiting the folks.

The BP station that the bus stops at is closed now, and apparently Jefferson Lines hadn't told the driver that, as he let a couple of guys off for essential supply run purposes. I hope the convenience store nearer the freeway picks up the stop, as I have no wish to wait outside a deserted building in the cold come after Christmas.

Weekend

Feb. 13th, 2012 06:47 am
skjam: (Imnanna)
Saturday, I had a ticket to a preview of "The Secret World of Arietty", a Disney release of a Studio Ghibli film based on the Borrowers books. For those unfamiliar, Arietty is a Borrower, one of a species of tiny humanoids that live in the walls of "human bean" homes and borrow things they need to survive and the beans won't miss.

A sickly bean boy comes to the house and Arietty accidentally lets herself been seen by him. Unfortunately, a Borrower who's been seen must leave their home lest they be caught by the beans.

It's a G-rated film, and definitely aimed at children without being condescending. The sound and background design are excellent.

When I got out of the theater down at the Mall of America, I discovered that my scarf was missing, and a quick search of the place found nothing. Since I needed to be back downtown to see if a book I was expecting had arrived at the post office, I left a note with customer service and boogied out.

The book had indeed arrived, I got to the post office just in time.

That evening, I received a message that my scarf had been found, so the next day it was off to the megamall again. It's a good thing my purple and black monstrosity is so distinctive! With more time to spend, I actually walked around the mall and did some shopping. Several stores I had liked were closed, other stores were in their places.

While waiting for the train down in the mall's transit station, I noticed some kids playing with balls at the other end of the platform, bouncing and tossing them to each other. No adult supervision was seen.

I shouted to let them know the train was coming (which it was), but they either didn't hear or didn't pay attention. Fortunately, all that was lost was one of their balls *pop*. Out of shape as I am, I could not have gotten there in time to save any kid who'd failed to scramble out of the way.

Afterwards, the little darlings attempted to get on the train (still no sign of adult supervision) but the train operator put them off, and may have called the transit cops. On the way downtown, we passengers heard her describe the kids to someone on the radio.
skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
Unlike last year, there were no big surprises on Thursday morning, so I was able to get off to the convention in good order, despite again mistaking which bus goes all the way to the end of the line.

Registration and Harmonic Convergence (the music room) switched locations this year, and since I had my pre-registration card handy, that went smoothly. I never did spend much time in the music room, so I can't say if it sounded better than the previous location.

The first panel I was on was "Diversity in Comics", starring Dwayne McDuffie (perhaps best known to the general public for his work with Static.) Also appearing was M. Nicholas Almand, creator of "Razor Kid." I seized the moderator position (with the permission of the other panelists) and mostly spent my time getting out of Mr. McDuffie's way, as he was clearly the most experienced with trying to get diversity into comics.

I'd also prepared a handout on comics that did diversity well--I hope a few of them got kept. Most of the discussion was nothing new to anyone who's seriously looked at diversity issues in comics, but there were a few people there who hadn't done that yet, and I hope they learned something useful.

Then it was off to the Crowne Plaza so I could register, drop off my clothes, and rush back downstairs for the next shuttle back to the Sheraton. Still frustrated by the fact that you can look directly across the freeway from one to the other, but it's a couple of country miles to actually get there.

The shuttle was somewhat delayed, which was something of a pattern for the next four days. But I still managed to get back in time for the Mark Time Radio Show (a little off this year) and opening ceremonies. The pass-around game was "the Cone of Shame", which those of you who've seen "Up" will recognize.

After that, I attended a panel on "The Horrible Humor of Joss Whedon." Got to see lots of Whedon-related hall costumes.

I made a short round of party rooms and then retired for the evening.

Unlike last year, my hotel room faced the parking lot, and the opaque curtains, unlike the ones at the Sheraton, turned out to be mere decorations, so the light level in the room was a bit much. Turns out I can't sleep wearing a mask, or at least not without being much much more tired, so it was a while before I dropped off.

First panel next morning I attended was "Free Online Games." I got a long list, and plugged "Billy vs. Snakeman."

A bit later, I was on the panel for "Gaming Etiquette." That was a mix of handy tips and horror stories. (When the *player* is using his hand crossbow to make his points, it's a bad thing.)

Then it was time for "Humor in Superhero Comics", which had the presence of Christopher Jones, the creator of ConVergence's mascot Connie, and artist on "Batman Strikes" and "Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink." Lots of fun discussion of favorite funny bits.

I spent some time at the "Shiny New Anime" panel, but left early as I'd seen most of the clips at the last convention, and I wanted to get autographs from the Cinematic Titanic cast (formerly the MST3K cast.) In line I met a fellow who'd come all the way from northwest Canada specifically for the CT folks, this being his first SF convention ever. We whiled away our wait time by discussing conventions and I told him about some of the fun stuff to do. (Most of which does not require drinking alcohol, but some of which is presumably enhanced by it.)

Next up, it was time for the "Old Time Radio" panel, and the moderator graciously allowed me to open the panel with my prepared "radio announcement" bit. I got applauded for it, which is a nice feeling! One of the panelists had started working as a radio station engineer back in the 1950s, so he had some very interesting stories to tell. Other than that, it was mostly plugging favorite shows, and suggesting places to acquire OTR at least semi-legally.

And my fourth scheduled panel of the day was "Manga & Graphic Novels", where we talked about the differences and similarities of US and Japanese comics. I ranted a bit about the cancellation of Shojo Beat--while admittedly I wasn't always impressed with it, it did fill an important niche in the market.

Last panel attended for the evening was "Fan Fiction", which had as always a number of fanfic authors on it, some of whom have done this panel numerous times. The topic drifted off into slash perhaps a bit too often, but otherwise it was an interesting and informative discussion.

I had almost no time for parties before retiring, and was only halfway through the House of Toast line before I had to bolt for the entrance.

Saturday morning I attended the "Death of Saturday Morning Cartoons" panel. They're not completely dead, but they're in pretty sad shape at the moment, when most stations would rather show infomercials.

Next up, I was on the "Justice League" panel, again starring Mr. McDuffie, and also including Daniel Wallace, who helped write the DC and Marvel Encyclopedias. Naturally, the majority of questions fell to Mr. McDuffie again, and we drifted off into the sad state of the comic book industry overall for quite a while. I was moderator for this one too.

Afterwards, Mr. McDuffie was in the AV room, doing live commentary on a couple of the cartoon episodes he wrote. I'd seen the JLA appearance in Static Shock before, but not the JLU episode "Epilogue." Some tidbits about the former--it was originally pitched as a Teen Titans appearance, but their show wouldn't be airing yet by the time it was scheduled, and as you can imagine, there would have been some serious character design issues. And it wasn't an attempt to boost Static's street cred, but the other way around, since the Static Shock show was the second-highest rated cartoon at the time.

Then off to "Farewell David Tennant", as the panelists reminisced about their favorite Tenth Doctor moments and looked forward to the last few Tennant appearances.

That was followed by "Writing Horror in the Age of Saw." The panelist were mostly horror writers, natch. One thing pointed out was that the literary horror market and movie horror audience are actually not as overlapping as the SF literary and movie audiences. Which causes some difficulty for the horror writers when they attend horror movie conventions. The important thing, panelists agreed, was that you don't need to put in gore if the story doesn't call for it, but you shouldn't skimp on the gore if the story *does* call for it.

And "Silent Movies Worth Your Time", with several suggestions of merit, though it can be awfully hard to find one projected at the proper speed. While in theory the final lost reels of Metropolis have been found, the film stock is in such awful shape that it may not be restorable.

I skipped the Masquerade to check out the Cinema Apocalypse room, which showed "Ip Man", a heavily-fictionalized biography of the man who would eventually teach kung fu to Bruce Lee. It's pretty good, but the version shown did not subtitle the intertitles that gave historical background, so I couldn't spot more than what year the next scene was taking place. (Mind you, "the Japanese invade" was pretty obvious from the action.)

I had just enough time to finally get some toast (and for some reason sushi) from the House of Toast before I needed to be ready for the shuttle bus. Which was then ten minutes late as it had swung by the megamall first. The other passengers were interested by the costumed people hanging out and smoking.

Sunday morning, I packed up and checked out of the Crowne Plaza, and after breakfast in the Consuite went to the anime room to watch the Detective Conan movie. It wasn't too much of a mystery, although one minor recurring character was a red herring. (Behavior very odd for that person.)

I picked up my winnings from the Art Show and Silent Auction (since several items are scheduled as birthday/Christmas presents, I won't talk about them here.) Speaking of the art show, I've said in the past that I don't really buy a plain photograph of a nude woman as SF/fantasy "art." I've come to the conclusion that just slapping a color filter on it (with a "fantasyish" caption) isn't really that much more of a qualification. Having her hold a sword is more of a step in the right direction.

The first panel I managed to drag myself to was "Tieflings are Not a Player Race", an examination of 4th Edition D&D. As you might guess from the title, this was not a completely optimistic panel, though it was admitted that the latest edition is a fine miniatures tactics game. (And as one of the folks in Alarums & Excursions mentioned, it simulates the Voltron Blazing Sword Effect well.)

After that, "Epic Storyline Fatigue", with the encyclopedia writer mentioned above. Please let "Final Crisis" be it for line-wide universe reboot events for a while, okay DC?

I dropped in on "TV Shows on DVD and Blu-Ray", which had a bunch of release dates. Sadly, you should probably stock up now while you still can, as it looks like discs are on their way out to be replaced with digital media.

And finally, my last panel, "What's Wrong With Japan?" As moderator (yes, again, let's face it, I like being moderator), I declared that the title of the panel was incorrect, and it would be "Different and interesting things about Japanese culture" instead. No one got up to leave the room, which I was pleased by. We had several people who'd spent extended periods in Japan, thanks to teaching jobs. (Our token Japanese-American panelist admitted he'd only gone for brief vacations.) After the first general question, "One thing you find interesting about Japan not directly connected to manga or anime", the anecdotes easily filled the time with minimal need for more prompting.

Between all of this, naturally, I spent a lot of time greeting and conversing with old acquaintances, making new ones ("Wait! I know you, you're on the internet!") and people watching. My nephew had managed to get the weekend off at the last moment, and got to see his first SF convention ever--perhaps he'll post about it in his own LJ. (hint, hint :-)

Sadly, the Sheraton itself was not running shuttles to the airport or Mall this year, so I skipped closing ceremonies to be able to catch the bus downtown. Still, I had a grand old time. (Next year, I do need to have a room in the hotel proper or Sofitel.)

And this morning, I went in to have my filling installed. Still can't bite anything until the crown is put in later this month.
skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
My oldest niece Faith has graduated high school, and this last Saturday was her graduation party.

It was at her family home in Osseo, and I caught a ride with my brother's family to get there. It was a nice spread, hot dogs, minifranks, deli tray, popcorn and a keg of root beer. There was ice cream cake as well, but it only came out for a short time because the weather was making it melt very fast.

As is often the case, mostly it was relatives, so I got to catch up with some of them, and a handful of Faith's school buddies.

Faith is going to start massage therapy training in the fall, on her way to becoming a full-fledged physical therapist.

My parents had come up from Sandstone, but parked in Wyoming and had nephew Terran drive them the rest of the way up to avoid the big city traffic. Terran (who is thankfully back in full-time employment with the National Guard, but not being shipped overseas) drove us to Wyoming later in the afternoon.

Once out of Wyoming, we took Highway 61 rather than the freeway; it's a teensy slower overall, but doesn't have the bunching problem, and the scenery is nicer.

It's good to visit with the folks every once in a while.

The next day was Father's Day, with my birthday celebration tossed in, and my brother's anniversary. My family tends to clump celebrations together--Faith was lucky to get her graduation separate!

My middle niece is apparently starved for soda pop (it's a special treat at her house) and bogarted the private stash I'd brought along to drink on the trip back to the cities. Hint: If it's a brand no one else in the family is familiar with, it's probably Uncle Scott's.

Dad got a big book of Disney art, and my brother and his wife got a picture holder in cameo size.

I received an encyclopedia of the little people, a throw pillow, some African tea, a new fancy mug (says "Happy Birthday" on it) and one of my dad's carvings. A satyr/gargoyle wall mask with bulging green eyes made from railroad reflectors. I've hung the last one in my cubicle at work.

We had leftovers from the graduation party and chocolate cake with little candy bars in the frosting. The littler nieces naturally wanted the candy bits, which I'm sure I did at their age too. But was I really that blatant about it?

So that I could stay a couple extra hours with my parents, I went online and purchased a bus ticket rather than catch a ride with a sibling. However, I was not aware that the Jefferson Lines website sets the default date on "tomorrow" and simply assumed that Sunday was the 22nd. It was not until about an hour before the scheduled departure that I realized my mistake. I went online to reschedule the ticket only to learn that "no route is scheduled" for Sunday. I tried calling the convenience store that is Sandstone's bus stop, but the phone number listed on the website was out of service.

So we had to rush up to the store, where the clerk assured me that the bus did indeed run on Sunday, and would stop in Sandstone even if no one had bought a ticket for that day. And I could just pay the bus driver when I got on. (I wasn't too keen on that last bit, as I was already out one bus fare--Jefferson Lines is no refunds.)

Fortunately, when the bus arrived, the driver took one look at my boarding pass and waved me on. I suspect the date mixup happens a lot. The bus was not overcrowded. The overhead lights weren't working, but the outside light didn't fade until just before the Cities, so I was able to read fine.

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