Friday, March 30, 2007

A Modest Proposal for Con-version

I have a modest proposal for Con-version, the annual science fiction and fantasy convention in Calgary. Given that many author guests and host hotels of science fictions conventions are put off by costumed attendees, would it help the convention in the long run to make it a costume-free event like World Fantasy Con?

A "no hall costume" policy could encourage better guests every year. A low Klingon Quotient would make many important people very happy.

The Fan Guest of Honour at CV22 made it very clear that people who show up to science fiction conventions in costume were trivial to the process, and rather undesirable. The convention is like a big circus tent, he said, and people who wear costumes are only the popcorn machine. No one comes to see the popcorn machine, and it really wouldn't be missed if it was gone. The real show is the centre ring, which contains the author guests. When the press comes to document the event and they only see Spock ears and lightsabers, it makes the whole event look foolish and dissuades some authors from attending.

This point was also made by Robert J Sawyer in a interview with Scifidimensions in 2000.
"As much as I love going to science fiction conventions, but I always question the clarity of thought of those who put on the Mr. Spock ears, or the Stormtrooper costume, because [...] the local news [...] will always find the one clown with a lobster on his forehead pretending to be a Klingon, and plaster him on page one of the entertainment section. [...] what the public gets crammed into their face is some arrested, overweight adolescent who's putting on a Halloween costume, and it's nowhere near October 31st."

There are additional benefits to preventing costumed folk from attending. Since most Star Wars fans don't read "real" science fiction, or read anything else notable for that matter, banning them from bringing their white armour and Jedi bathrobes could keep these "fringe fans" away. Wouldn't these arrested and overweight adolescents be happier at home anyway? Although it would mean no women in skimpy Slave Leia costumes to ogle, so clearly some exceptions would have to be made.

Also consider, no costumes means no furries. The Calgary Fur community consists of well over a hundred writers, artists and fans, but a small percentage of these have those costumes. Some see this kink-garb as wearable textile arts, comparable to sculpture or jewelry, but we really know what these people are up to, don't we? Should this be acceptable behaviour at Con-version?

It should also be noted that most of the getups seen today are only recreations of "media" costumes and props. Back in the day costumers would build imaginative and futuristic creations to amaze and entertain. Then came the onslaught of pseudo-science fiction television shows and wiz-bang Hollywood blockbusters, which are not only devoid of any social commentary or literary merit, but also serve as the petri dish which spawns the fungus on fandom that media costuming has become.

How do costumes relate to the Hotel? Remember that hotels are run by mundanes. When they see a mass of costumed folk they get worried. They realize that they are getting a group of people that rather sleep in the video room, or the lobby bathroom then pay for a room. They assume that large amount of outside food and drink will be brought into their convention space in violation of the catering agreements made with the con-com. They worry that the consuite will be so loud that they will have to comp the adjacent rooms. Let us set the hotel straight by saying that none of this would ever happen at Con-version, and we are willing to remove a visible minority to prove it.

So until Con-version lives up to its literary roots and does the right thing, we will have to live with this minority fandom subculture. Next time you see someone dressed up in some a "media" inspired outfit, it is fair to assume that this person likely has some form of learning or reading difficulty, so deal with them accordingly. It is also widely known that since they come from the passive "viewer" culture of film and television, they haven't contributed one ounce of work toward putting the convention together, so keep this in mind when deciding on programing content and guest selection.

Yours in Fandom

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bono: Rocker, Humaitarian, Jedi

U2's Bono (Paul Hewson) was recently honoured with the title Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. His youngest son was suitably disappointed.

Accompanying the rocker [at the ceremony] were his wife, Ali, and their four children - Jordan, 17; Eve, 15; Elijah, 7; and John, 5. U2 guitarist The Edge and bassist Adam Clayton also attended.

John was disappointed that his dad wasn't presented with a light sabre, said Bono ... "He thought I was becoming a Jedi."

[Link] from MSN Entertainment.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Halfway through 365 Days Project

Day 182 - Exit Strategy
Originally uploaded by Drhaggis.

Today is day 182 of my participation in the 365 Days Project on Flickr. Those who do math will note that this marks the halfway point.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

It's going to be the future, soon

Jonathan Coulton is a poet and troubadour. He is the Grand Master Flash of geek folk-rock. He is 17 kinds of Awesome.

Listen to "The Future Soon" and tell me I'm wrong.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Open Letter: Hand Dryer Manufacturers

Dear Hand Dryer Manufacturers of the world,

I have used your product for my entire life. When I was young I thought they were the greatest thing in the world, or at least the world of public bathrooms. However, as I grew up I realized how crappy most models you make are. They may save on power, but hands are best dried by paper towels.

If you continue to provide this sub-standard product to the marketplace, I suggest an additional instruction be added to the text and pictograph plaque. After "rub hands under vent" the next step is clearly "wipe hands on pants."


Monday, March 19, 2007

Serenity screeing in Calgary

A charity screening of Joss Whedon's Serenity is planned on June 23rd in Calgary as part of the "Can't Stop the Serenity" campaign.

Started by fans of Firefly/Serenity, local charity screenings of Serenity are organized on Joss Whedon's birthday to benefit Joss' favourite charity Equality Now. Equality now is an international non-profit organization that works to end violence and discrimination against women and girls.

So dust of your cunning hats, ready your Blue Sun shirts and get psyched to see the Big Damn Movie again on the big damn screen.

For more information as it comes see the official Serenity Now site for Calgary. [Link]

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Watchmen Movie moving forward

Found in the the R-rated trailer for "300" is a single frame of test footage of "Rorschach" from Alan Moore's Hugo award winning graphic novel "Watchmen." It looks like Zack Snyder suitably impressed Warner Bros with "300" to let him direct "Watchmen."

I'm excited and apprehensive at the same time. The complex stories of Moore and the level of detail shown by his artists make for the finest graphic novels, with a very cinematic quality. However Moore's work really makes use of the comic medium, and film adaptations of his work can fall short. I would love to see Moore brought on to develop film projects, but he a bit of a recluse, and has washed his hands of the entire film industry, along with much of the comic industry.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Behind the scenes with the writers of Lost

When I first heard about the TV show "Lost," I thought it was just a re-imagining of the one season wonder "Amazon" from 1999, so I dismissed it. However once I learnt that Lost had some interesting science fiction elements, I was intrigued, and decided to start watching. After catching the background clip show "Lost: A Tale of Survival" and doing lots of reading on the Lostpedia, I felt that I was caught up enough to start watching in Season 3.

18 episodes later, I'm still watching, but I think the writing process goes a little like this...

Monday, March 12, 2007

R rated films in British Columbia

As a kid I would occasionally see this Black Cat image associated with certain films. It clearly meant "no kids allowed." It would be seen on movie posters and tagged with trailers for films that I was not old enough to see. When I got into my early teens I remember being brought into films that were R rated, but my parents felt were important enough to let me see.

I have not seen the cat logo as an adult, nor any of the little shorts that used to play before the film. I did some digging to find out where the cat got off to.

It turns out that the "Restricted Cougar" is an original creation of the British Columbia Film Classification Office. Developed in the 1970's under the direction of BC Chief Censor Ray MacDonald, the cat logo was part of an emerging demand for an informative rating system both in Canada and the United States. A cougar was chosen for its dramatic presence, and also because it is the largest wild cat native to BC.

I had not seen it in Alberta because it was governed by a different guide, and changes to the classification guide in the 80's and 90's to include NC-17 and 18A classifications reduced the "R" Cougar to footnote and memory.

The BC film classification website has the quicktime files of the old trailer series that was shown before R rated movies. They were produced in 1989 by former BC Film Classification director Mary-Louise McCausland and veteran NFB animator Hugh Foulds.

For your viewing pleasure:I still remember "Bijou." The high toned whine at the end of each short still makes me nervous about seeing a film.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mutants and Skeletons and Cat Women Oh my!

Originally uploaded by

Slashboing Sunday Flickr Favourites commands you to bow before the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra!

A Master class group costume at this years WorldCon recreated the Mutant and company from the cult film.

I sleep now.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Star Wars Lightsaber Duel: Ryan vs Dorkman 2

Michael "Dorkman" Scott and Ryan Wieber are back with another Star Wars fan film lightsaber duel. A sequel to "Ryan vs Dorkman" from 2003, "Ryan vs Dorkman 2" offers some great special effects, and a good utilization of their environment. Given that they choreographed, shot, edited and did all the special effects with just a few friends, the overall result is commendable. The "lightsaber floor flick" move is a new favourite of mine.

A hi-res version can be downloaded here. [Link]

Friday, March 09, 2007

Doom on a Camera

I have a fairly old digital camera. The HP 618 still works great, and scores quite highly with users. However it is starting to show it's age. It is a glutton for batteries, uses compact flash cards, and is only 2.1 MP. When I thought that it had crapped out on me at DragonCon last year, I found that I could replace it off eBay for about 30 bucks.

I think it takes great shots, but with 7 and 8 mega-pixel cameras coming down in price, I may upgrade this year.

Until then I thought I would look for some new firmware to see if any enterprising haxxors have squeezed more performance and utility out of an old workhorse. I found that no one had yet written more improved firmware for it, but they have developed a MAME emulator and a Doom Mod. James Surine of "Mamed" provides all the necessary files and instructions to have you playing Pac Man or Doom on your Digita enabled camera.

In technical terms:
"Basically Digita OS alternate applications (.CAM files) are nothing more than unresolved relocatable object files with an entry() function. Digita OS uses the vxWorks loadModule() function to load and link the application object file at runtime with the OS."
In real-world terms:
"Holy farking shnit, I can run Doom on my camera!"
Some may ask "Why"; to which I reply, "Because you can."

I really cant risk bricking my camera because I need it for the 365 Days project, but I may try this out when/if I get an upgrade.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sesame Street Pinball

"One, two three, FOUR, five, six seven, eight, NINE, ten, eleven, Twelve!"
Few adults who grew up in the late 70's and early 80's can count to twelve without busting a funky grove while doing so. This is due to the frequent viewings of "Pinball Number Count" that aired as part of the daily diet of educational shorts on PBS's Sesame Street.

First airing in 1977, the one minute shorts captivated children with a funk soundtrack by of The Pointer Sisters and the psychedelic colours of a elaborate pinball machine. Each segment contained a common beginning, showing the launch of the pinball into the machine but the real magic was the number-specific animated journey, where detailed mechanical elephants and canons moved the ball through a narrative.

The theme for each middle section is as follows:
  • #2: A Day at the Carnival
  • #3: Circus Capers
  • #4: FORE!
  • #5: Arabian Nights
  • #6: Down on the Farm
  • #7: World Tour
  • #8: Forest Follies
  • #9: Play Ball!
  • #10: Medieval Times
  • #11: Wild Things
  • #12: Sightseeing, USA
Despite counting from 1-12, Pinball Number Count does not feature a segment for the number 1.

To bring back some memories, here is a YouTube video showing a sampling of some of the segments.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Firefly actress to attend Expo in Calgary

I have it on good authority that Morena Baccarin, who played Inara from Firefly/Serenity, will be appearing at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo on April 29th.

This will make for a good event to rally the local Browncoats around.

I am attending this event as a volunteer through the local Star Wars FanForce. With Ray Park (Darth Maul), Robert Picardo (Voyager Doctor) and now Morena attending, I don't know which costume to wear. I like having decisions like that to make.

Image is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. Taken by
Flickr user RavenU

Cat proximity makes fools of us all

Truer graphs were never plotted.

Ganked freely from via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Steampunk Star Wars

I love most steampunk art and stories I find. I love steam powered difference engines and coal belching from automatons. I also love Star Wars. Now if only some cleaver artist would combine these into a 4 Mega-awesome ball, I would be very happy.

Oh, wait Eric Poulton did just that. I won't post any pictures, so you have to go to his site directly. But I will quote the description of the Steampunk Lord Vader:
"More machine than man, Vader is the Empire's most decorated General and a very powerful practitioner of the Force's dark arts. He is obsessed with communicating with the spirits of the dead, spending every sleepless night trying in vain to contact his lost love. Twisted and broken in body and mind, Vader is driven with sadistic passion.

He is a master with the traditional weapon of Force champions, the Phlogisticated Aether Torch, more commonly referred to as the phlogisabre."
I can't really describe his art with any justice. Check it out yourself.


Nexus of Fandom: May 25th 2007

May 25th, 2007 will be a nexus, of sorts, for science fiction/fantasy fandom. The day is significant for several reasons:
In observance of the Star Wars release, Friday May 25 is the first full day at the Star Wars convention "Celebration IV" held in Las Angeles. The possibility of catching the the final instalment of the Pirate Trilogy in LA has not been overlooked by many fans planning on attending C4.

Set two weeks after his death, Towel Day is intended to be a wake in honour of the memory of Science Fiction author Douglas Adams, and his contribution to the geek canon with the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy. To mark Towel Day, one shows how much of a hoopy frood one is by proudly displaying a towel all day.

So if at the end of May you see someone in a feathered tricorne hat, polishing a lightsaber with a nice mauve towel, you will know the reason why.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

DragonCon Solstice

DragonCon is the best and largest science fiction/fantasy/pop culture/awesome convention known to mortal fans. The end of February marks the longest time between these events, so just as the memories of the last event have faded, and the seasons have changed twice, we see on the horizon a new event.

As the winter solstice is where the days are the shortest and the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator, I dubbed this long, dark time between conventions "Draco Symstice," borrowing terms from both Latin and Greek. Obviously 'Draco' is Latin for 'dragon', while 'syn–' or 'sym–' is Greek for 'together' or 'united', as in 'symposium'. '-stitium' is Latin for a stoppage. I could have minted the term as "Draco Constice," which would make the phrase completely of Latin origin, but it doest have the same ring to it. When you make up a holiday of your own, you get a certain latitude in naming it.

We mark the winter solstice with Christmas festivities, which are based heavily on the pagan Yuletide festivities. Since DragonCon is such a wonderful event and a decidedly pagan kick-ass party, Draco Symstice needs to have similar observations of fellowship and feasting. Stay tuned with details on how the fans of Calgary marked the occasion.

Happy Draco Symstice everyone!