Friday, April 17, 2015

Megacon 2015 - The Experience

So another Megacon has come and gone, and like poetry, we are left with lots of feels.

If you've been living under a rock, Megacon is one of those nerd-infested (geek-infested?) events celebrating all things sci-fi/fantasy.  There are many variations throughout the year, from Dragoncon, to Supercon, to Comic-con and even Vulkon, but the overall theme is the same.  And seriously, if you've never heard of this... why are you reading my blog??

The consensus of Megecon 2015 seems very positive from all attendees, and I will wholeheartedly agree... it really was a lot of fun.  This year was definitely better organized and, despite the crowds, there was room to breathe occasionally.  And, to be clear, I would never say a disparaging word about something that reaches to the core of my being.... 

However... Conventions have changed a LOT over the years, and not necessarily for the better.

When I first started going to this type of thing, in the mid-90's (for clarification, I was 5 years old... as far as you know), they were held very quietly in hotel ballrooms.  One ballroom had vendors, another ballroom had props, one other had guest speakers, and a fourth had tables for celebrity autographs.  And we had to WALK in two feet of snow... uphill... both ways!!

Okay, maybe there was no snow, but it was definitely more cozy and personal.  I remember walking into a quiet room with James Doohan (Scotty from the original Star Trek) at one table, and David Carradine (pre Kill Bill) at another, and you could shake their hand and have a conversation and even get a picture with them if you had a camera. 

And for 2015, the autographs tables are 30 yards away, and NO photography!  But you can get a professional picture with them if you are independently wealthy, or don't mind going deep in debt.  Since when did celebrities become so elitist??  Well... maybe that is part of the definition of celebrity.

I do regret not getting a picture or autograph from several people there, but... ugh, these prices!!

Admission price for all 3 days = $70 per person

Hotel room for 2 nights = $90/night
(your hotel prices may vary depending on which hotel you get.  And even though I live only 30 miles away, I booked a room, because traffic and parking for those 3 days is disgusting!  One friend, who came for one day, took over 3 hours from leaving her nearby home.  Our shuttle bus driver said it took over an hour to drive 2 blocks at one point during the afternoon)

For cast members from the series Firefly:
Summer Glau Autograph = $40
Photo op at the table using your own camera = $40
Professional photo op = $50
Adam Baldwin Autograph = $50
Photo op = $50
Alan Tudyk autograph = $40
Photo op = $50
Firefly group photo op = $120

For cast members from the series The Walking Dead:
Norman Reedus autograph = $80
Professional photo op = $105
Michael Rooker autograph = $50
Photo op = $55
Walking Dead group photo op = $140

For cast members of Doctor Who:
Karen Gillian autograph = $55
Photo op = $60
Alex Kingston autograph = $55
Photo op = $60
Doctor Who group photo op = $125

Not listed are prices and photo ops for Stan Lee, Lou Ferrigno, Hulk Hogan and a few others.  But I think you get the idea.

In 2005 (or so), I got an autograph AND picture with William Shatner for $75.  William F'n Shatner people!  I got a similar deal with Leonard Nimoy a year or so later.  So, it is really difficult in my tiny brain to justify spending so much money.  Does that make me cheap, or sane?  

And then of course, you have the vendor areas, where you will spend more money than you should on things you feel you really need.  You can buy prints, books, t-shirts, props replicas, plushies, or even swords... and much, much more.  

Now that you are completely broke, what else can you do?  You could check out some of the different panels they hold in one of many different ballrooms... if you want to wait over an hour in line.

Maybe I do need to be more patient, and for the next event, I should just grit my teeth and deal with the standing around doing nothing but waiting  to see something that might be kinda cool... that I could probably read about online tomorrow.    

After you've done all that, and you're completely broke, what's left?  People watching!  And whether you like anime, superheroes, fantasy, sci-fi, corsets, latex, spandex... or Deadpool... there is plenty to watch ( much Deadpool....).  

On a side-note, these groups are starting to feel a bit clique-y.  And it feels like some people just want to be seen and aren't so worried about anything else.  You are spending a lot of money to be here, so, is it really so important to know who took your picture and where it will be posted?  I did my Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly cosplay, and people were very complimentary to me.  I am both happy and grateful, but maybe I cringe when seeing my own picture.  I'm not so eager to seek it out, but I do look around a bit, and it's always very cool when I find a pic someone took of me... as long as my hair, pose, and expression are all perfect.  Although, I'm still very honored, sincerely.  

Check out some pics of others I took (and some of me) from the convention here.
But one of the most impressive and important things to take away from this is... the entire weekend was filled with so much creativity and positive attitudes.  Despite the massive crowds, and lines, and how expensive everything was, I never saw anyone angry, or depressed or fighting.  There was never any pushing or shoving.  People laughed and made friends and shared their love for the unique with everyone they met.  And that is freakin' awesome!  

So yes, we all had a lot of fun.  And yes we will all go next year, and are making plans to invite more friends and create more elaborate cosplay.  But I sincerely hope, they put a cap on the amount of Deadpool allowed in the convention next year *shivers*... so much Deadpool....

I guess at the end of it all, in the words of David Bowie, we get to be heroes, just for one day.
And in the words of Zoe, from Firefly... that makes us big, damn heroes.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Zero Theorem Review

Based on my love of symmetry and my intense OCD for organization, I should hate Terry Gilliam.  He seems to have a way of making the guts of a movie look like they're spilling out onto the screen.  Just watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Twelve Monkeys, or Brazil and you'll see many moments of disorder and chaos that trample all over my neat tidy brain.  But for some reason... I love it!  Maybe it's just not possible to hate the director of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Whatever the reason, I was very curious when I saw the trailer for The Zero Theorem a few years ago.

See what you think:

I guess I love watching a movie that makes you feel like you're on drugs, without actually doing any drugs.

Well, apparently this came and went without making a blip on anyone's radar.  So I thought, since nobody talked about it, maybe it was a horrible movie.  But after finally watching, all I can say is... wow!  Again Terry Gilliam proved what a genius he is!  He created an amazing dystopian future that felt almost laughable but still terrifyingly possible.

The story is relatable to most people.  Qohen Leth hates his job, and management keeps pushing for results.  But all he wants is stay home and wait for a phone call that will tell him the meaning of life.

The concept is simple, but when you stretch it out to 106 minutes, everything does get a bit trippy, (as is the tendency in Terry Gilliam movies).  This could be a bit too cerebral for most audiences today (sadly).  I read some reviews from people that just didn't get it, and maybe I didn't get it either... but I have a few theories.  Sure, I like my storylines to be straightforward and handed to me sometimes, but occasionally I'm one of those crazy people that like using my imagination and having discussions with others about what it all could mean.

Christoph Waltz proves he deserved his Academy Award starring as Qohen.  And feeling a bit too appropriate, Matt Damon is Management.  The rest of the cast is strange combination of psychotic and disturbing, but all enjoyable.

If it helps, this is nominated for the 2015 Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film, along with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt 1, and Interstellar... so, yikes.  

If you like your movies with lots of style, and maybe some strange substance, you'll enjoy this.  Or maybe you've just always wondered how Christoph Waltz looks naked... you get some of that too.

But most important, you get to see a future that worships The Batman


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Religious Freedom

Oh Religion, you little scamp...!  It seems like only yesterday you were nailing Jesus to a cross, and torturing/executing nonbelievers during the Spanish Inquisition.  And now you've moved up to suicide bombers and picketing funerals.  My how you've grown...

But it seems you've found even more trouble for yourself!  As I write this (right this?), the governor of my home state of Indiana, has joined in a long history of stupid decisions in the name of religion.  Governor Mike Pence recently signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law, stating that a business has a legal right to refuse service to someone based on their beliefs.  You can read the bill here.

Their concern was, they didn't want any business owner to feel forced to do business with someone that went against their religious beliefs.  In other words, a shop owner can refuse service if "something" about that customer goes against their religion.  For example, if a Christian business hates/disagrees with a gay lifestyle, or a Jewish shop owner doesn't want to serve Christians, or an atheist is annoyed by ANY religion, they are legally allowed to refuse service.

In a real world example, I have a friend who is Japanese.  For the last couple years, she has finally been able to visit the US, and really enjoys her time here.  She will return soon, and we plan to visit my hometown in Indiana.  The "problem" is, she is Buddhist.  What happens if a shop owner decided he doesn't like "her kind"?  It would be a very embarrassing, sad day for us to be refused service when she has always been very kind to everyone she meets, and a disgusting example of America for her to see.

Other than very clearly promoting intolerance, my first thought is: Are you so successful with your business you can afford to turn away paying customers?  ...And their friends who you might offend with your actions?

But according to Governor Mike Pence, this is a good thing!  Hey, at least nobody has to sit in the back of a bus, or drink from a separate drinking fountain.  Let's get the Governor's side of the story:

Future reference to all politicians:  If you can NOT answer a direct question that has been asked repeatedly, you quickly lose any respect we might have had for you.  How many times can you try to deflect a question??  Do you think we are all so stupid? 

So, let's start putting this into perspective by reminding everyone why America was colonized:  Religious freedom.  Now, I'm no super genius, but one of the few things I remember from my school days, is this country worked very hard to kill the natives and take over, so they wouldn't have to hide their religious beliefs.  In fact, if you read your Constitution, FREEDOM OF ALL RELIGION IS GUARANTEED!  So why are you making laws regarding religion??

The concept of separation between church and state has always been a bit vague.  But many have felt it is important that those streams should never cross, (to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson).  I think the government has plenty of things to keep them busy, so they really have no reason to start creating religious based laws.  Common sense says, that sounds like a dangerous idea that is asking to create more intolerance and hate.  Is that something we really need in this country?

I have friends that are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, atheist and even Satanist.  I get along with all of them.  Do you know why?  Because none of us are arrogant jackasses trying to shove our beliefs down each others throat!  Live by example, not by force.

I don't have any Muslim friends, but it's only because I don't know any.  But I can tell you, if you take a few minutes out of your busy schedule and do some research, MOST religions (including Islam) want peace!  There are always exceptions of course (i.e. Taliban, Westboro Baptist church, Spanish Inquisition).  But if you spend time getting to know each other, you'll find most people are not so bad.

I recently wrote a bullying rant (read it here), where I talked about being picked on in school, because everyone decided I was gay, (spoiler - I could never be gay, cause I think women are hot... some more than others).  But I was still abused because I was different.  I was the little guy without a girlfriend, and not into sports.  So from personal experience, I can tell you, nobody needs to live a life persecuted like that.  If your religion is against that person's lifestyle, let God judge them!  It's not your job to make them miserable!  Because if you really think God put you here on earth to make everyone fit into your perfect vision of the world, you've got some serious problems.  Get it through your head, you can't change everyone!  So why not accept them?

And all you judgmental Christians... didn't you notice in your Bible all the parts dedicated to loving your neighbors, and forgiveness, and NOT judging or throwing the first stone.  Where does the Bible teach you to be so hateful?? 

Do you want to start quoting Bible verses that say horrible things about homosexuality?  That's fine... I can give you many verses about all the things YOU are doing wrong in your life and how YOU are not perfect either.  There are so many things in our modern society that have changed drastically since the Bible was written.  For example, I recently found many chapters endorsing slavery.  You can't pick and choose the parts of the Bible you want to honor, and ignore.  There are a lot of good lessons in that book, and some that are a few thousand years outdated.

For the record, I am not against religion.  For some people, the right religion is very beneficial, and I do respect that.  Even Recovery programs elude to accepting a "higher power" to help them change their life for the better, and that's great!  I'm just disgusted with the mentality of "I'm right and you're wrong, and if you can't accept my views, you're a stupid piece of crap in my eyes".

But the biggest issue... if you need a law to give you permission to be intolerant and bigoted, then get the f#@k out of this country!  America is a "melting pot" of different types of people from all over the world.  If you can't accept someone different than you living in this country, then you have zero concept of what the "UNITED" states is about.

I sincerely hope this law gets changed and becomes a sad footnote in history by the time I post this.  It's 2015, don't you think it's time we all grow up and start accepting each other? 

Now I seriously need to write about something nerdy,