Jurassic Park IV: Hopes & Fears

I feel confident in saying that the shot of the Brachiosaurus in the first Jurassic Park was my generation’s “Star Destroyer” moment. A Star Destroyer moment, for the less nerdy, is the first film that showed you something truly magical through special effects, in this case, the opening shot of Princess Leia’s Rebel ship being overwhelmed by the massive Imperial Star Destroyer. Seeing that Brachiosaurus brought to life through jaw-dropping CGI was a cinematic milestone and an introduction to the worlds of possibility that we can explore through film.

Jurassic Park is an important movie to me and my affection for it remains undiminished despite the rather lackluster sequels (T. rex parents=very cool, T.rex being killed by a freaking Spinosaurus=bullshit). The leaked details about the upcoming Jurassic Park IV have me tentatively excited; cautiously optimistic, if you will.

Reasons for Optimism

  • The description of the plot sounds like a return to what made the first Jurassic Park great. We’re back at the theme park and this time, it’s up and running in full swing. This is something I always wanted to see; how much worse can it get when the dinosaurs break free while the park is filled with tourists, instead of just previewers?
  • The trained dinosaurs also intrigue me. I think it has the potential to carry forward some of Crichton’s core concepts in that humans like to meddle with things we don’t understand. The problem was that the idea that formed the core of the first film was worked to death like a piece of used gum by the third. The idea of trying to “tame” dinosaurs has the potential for a fresh new critique of how humans interact with animals and the dangerous aspect of anthropomorphizing these creatures.
  • The T.rex is back. I love me some T.rexes and all films with T.rexes are better than films that do not have T.rexes.

Reasons for Caution

  • The description of the exhibit for seeing underwater dinosaurs (well, previously extinct marine reptiles, technically) sounds cool, but the description of it being “Sea World-like” immediately made me think of the premise for Jaws 3, which was absolutely terrible.
  • The “main antagonist” dinosaur will be something new, which has the potential to be either awesome or awful. The last time they tried to replace the T.rex as the main antagonist, we were given a Spinosaurus that was supposed to be more dangerous “because it was bigger” even though it was a fish-eater that lacked the power of a rex’s bite.

I’ll go see it either way, of course, and these leaked details have all been unconfirmed. Who knows what will change between now and 2015, assuming any of these details are even accurate to begin with? Either way, I’ll be looking forward to the next movie; it’s nice to see this movie finally get out of development hell.

Thoughts On Tauriel

Who the hell is Tauriel, you might be thinking to yourself. It’s a reasonable thought. She’s the ninja-elf-archer lady featured in the new Hobbit trailer. Played by Evangeline Lilly, she’s an addition to the Hobbit cast that doesn’t appear in the book. If you’ve read the Hobbit or if you saw part one of the movie, you can imagine why the filmmakers might have felt the need to modify Tolkien’s pristine work: it’s literally all dudes in Middle-earth, otherwise.

Seriously, it wasn’t until Galadriel appeared in her cameo during An Unexpected Journey that I realized she was the first (and ultimately the only) woman in the entire film.

I don’t care that it’s otherwise accurate to the book; it feels off. It feels weird. It reminds me how I felt the moment that I realized there are precisely four women in the Star Wars universe: exactly one badass princess, one rebel leader who doesn’t get named in the movie, and Jabba’s slave girls. And three of those women don’t appear until Return of the Jedi!

Well, I guess there’s Luke’s aunt in the first movie. So, five women total. Glee.

I’m glad there’s at least one female character in the next Hobbit movie. We can acknowledge that these books, however, wonderful they otherwise were, were written in a time and place where nobody was talking or wondering about this kind of thing. Fine. Great. I’m not proposing we rewrite the books. But that doesn’t mean we have to stick to every convention, especially not when these are the stories that are shaping the next generation.

The majority of kids growing up now are not going to be re-enacting the books. They are going to do exactly what kids have always done when they watch a movie. After the movie, they call a character when it’s time to play. “I’m Aragon!” “I’m Legolas!” “I’m Luke!” “I’m Han Solo!” I wonder how it feels when the only character that looks like you is a minor or supporting role. Or a villain. Or doesn’t exist at all. I literally can’t imagine it, because I had the privilege of being sci-fi/fantasy’s most targeted demographic. It probably doesn’t feel too good, though.

At least Star Wars had Leia and Lord of the Rings had Eowyn (although I’ll note she wasn’t part of the Fellowship a.k.a. the main characters,so . . .)

Without Tauriel, the Hobbit is a movie about fifteen dudes. I don’t mind the idea of a movie about fifteen men sharing an adventure together. What I do mind is this implied idea of a world where women don’t seem to exist. That strikes me as odd. What I do mind is that in a cast of fifteen protagonists, there are approximately zero women (although, to be fair, most of the dwarves are purely ancillary characters themselves).

I’m glad there’s someone that the younger girls get to call when it comes time to play. Until we get to the point where more inclusive sci-fi/fantasy books have been around long enough to become classics, this is the road I hope we take. I hope we continue to carve out some characters for the girls, even if they don’t exist in the original text. Frankly, I hope this goes further! Why not pull a Battlestar Galactica and change a male character into a female one? The Hobbit could have spared a dwarf or three for this purpose.

Let’s not stop with adding women, either. Let’s see some homosexual characters. Transgender characters? Sure! Some non-white characters that aren’t orcs, klingons, or any other variant of the “noble savage/barbarian hero/warrior race” archetype. Yes, please.

In short, let’s hope for sci-fi and fantasy created that cater to people of all demographics, not just mine. ‘Cause, you know what? I had  plenty of heroes who looked like me growing up. I got to have Han Solo and Luke Skywalker and Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne and quite a few other heroic characters to identify with. I was spoiled for choice. A lot of kids weren’t, though. A lot of them were ignored or marginalized.

There are enough stories and characters that everybody should have someone. And don’t tell me it’s unimportant; growing up, these are the stories that provided the lens through which I engaged the world. These are the stories that helped make me me.

My stories told me, over and over, that I looked like the hero, the protagonist, the main character, the star. If you wonder what privilege looks like, that’s it right there.

A Game Of Thrones: The Gathering

I would play this. I would play this so hard. Fair warning, this post isn’t going to make a lick of sense to you if you’re not a M:tG nerd. If you don’t know what that means, it’s already too late and you should probably read something else.

Normally, I look at fan-created Magic: the Gathering cards with a skeptically dismissive eyebrow. They’re usually undercosted or overpowered or unplayable or some ungodly combination of all three. Or they’re mechanically ridiculous or they look atrocious. Take a look at these, however.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These fan-created Game of Thrones cards look amazing! Not only do I want to play them, but I want to have discussions about them. Do you think Tyrion is White/Blue? Varys as Blue/Black is spot-on and Littlefinger as pure Black makes sense as well. Both Melisandre and Joffrey are Black/Red . . . interesting. 

Take a look at the article for some larger versions and tell me what you think. Awesome? Horribly nerdy? Some combination of the two?

Phoenix ComiCon 2013 Recap

I decided I would write my recap post as soon as I woke up, because I’m sure that if I do not, I’ll procrastinate long past the point where anybody would be interested in this sort of thing. So, here you go. You’ll have to forgive any continuity errors on my part since I wasn’t exactly taken notes or anything.

If you’re actually curious about the convention itself and not interested in reading my inane travelogue, you may wish to skip Friday entirely.

This is also the longest blog post I’ve ever written. Ye be warned.

Friday: The convention technically started on Thursday, but since I wasn’t in Phoenix at any point on Thursday, I decided to omit that day entirely. Actually, there’s little reason for me to include Friday, since I missed this day as well due to having to go to work. My departure from Tucson was a little bit interesting, though.

I got home from work around 5:30 and packed my bag for the weekend. I had enough foresight to do laundry the night before so I would be the very freshest and clean smelling of nerds that weekend. It’s a point of pride for me. Here’s where things get a little bit interesting. You might have noticed references I’ve made to a “loaner cat” that I have with me. See, it’s actually my mom’s cat. The cat’s name is Cleo and she’s about fourteen years old; basically an octogenarian in cat form.

My mom was going on a camping trip for a week and needed somebody to watch her cat. My brother Chris couldn’t do it because he has two cats of his own and these cats don’t get along with Cleo. Actually, flip that around. Cleo doesn’t get along with those cats. So I agreed to take her, never doing the mental math with my dates and realizing that this meant I was agreeing to take care of an ancient cat while I was away on my own trip.

After packing my bags, filling up on gas and caffeine for the road, I drove over to  Chris’s apartment to give him my apartment key so that he could check in on Cleo while I was away. I’m very grateful for him for doing this and I know he reads this blog from time to time, so there you go. Thank you, little brother!

With all of that squared away, I took to the road. Tucson to Phoenix isn’t actually all that long of a drive, unless you’re driving it after working a full day. And you already had a long commute from Sahuarita to Tucson to begin with. Tucson to Phoenix isn’t a drive I usually make solo, either.

What this meant was in order to prevent boredom, there was car singing. Oh yes, there was car singing, to a degree and depravity that makes me cringe to recall it. There was also some reflection as I contemplated how long ago some of my favorite songs were actually released. I have come to the conclusion that there are two things that can be used for milestones regarding your own personal level of old: children and music.

I arrived in Phoenix and drove around aimlessly for a while because Phoenix is fucking confusing. With a combination of luck and smartphone GPS navigation, I made it to Tempe and met up with Mira. We wandered around Tempe’s Mill Avenue for a while, which is like a larger, more franchised version of Tucson’s Fourth Avenue. We had dinner at an Irish Pub called the Rula Bula. Actually, Mira had dinner while I enjoyed a very tasty red ale. Mira’s dad and brother joined us and we had a great time drinking and discussing all the various things. After that, it was back to Mira’s family’s house, where I fell asleep on the couch, exhausted even though I hadn’t actually done anything at the convention yet.

Saturday: I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, refreshed and ready to get my geek on. We fortified on coffee and then hoofed it a mile and a half back to Mill Avenue so we could catch the Tempe Light Rail to the convention center. We did this for two reasons: first, it meant saving a tremendous amount of money on parking close to the convention center. Center, it meant not having to worry about drinking too much at dinner since we’d be walking home. My later actions would cause this plan to unravel somewhat.

We made it to the convention center around 11:00am and went to get my badge. Mira had already checked in the day before and was sporting a very lovely “Professional” badge since she was going to be speaking on a panel on Sunday. Here’s where things got even cooler, though. I followed Mira to the “guests and professional” section of the registration hall where she flashed her badge to the woman working the desk and asked for a significant other badge. At that point, even before I could produce an ID of some sort to prove who I was, the woman just smiled and gave me a “full event” badge. That’s right: comped badge! I was thrilled, although I would have been more amused if the badge could have included something like “talent-less hanger-on” or something. Anyway, with that done, we skipped off to see a panel.

We made it to the second half of a panel called “Many Shades of Fae” which was being held by one of Mira’s friends Aprilynne Pike and our mutual friend Janni Lee Simner. By the time we arrived, they were doing the Q&A section of the panel. Not wanting to be that guy that asked a question that had already been covered in the first hour, I just listened in. It was a good panel, though, and especially interesting to me since I have a few fae characters in the novel I’m working on. We had a good time.

After that, we headed over to the “John Scalzi Spotlight” panel. This was one of the highlights of the weekend for me, because John Scalzi is one of my favorite authors of all time (and definitely my favorite science-fiction author). The panel was great; John puts on a wonderful show and did a reading of a blog post he wrote called Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be. During the Q&A section, I got called on to ask a question which was very gratifying. The question, incidentally, was “how do you pronounce the names of your alien species in your books?” and the answer was “I have no idea, I just write them and let the audiobook guys figure it out.” It was great.

We decided to split our time between going to panels and visiting the show floor, so after the Spotlight, we headed down to the cavernous belly of the Phoenix Convention Center to see how many different ways people would manage to extract money from us in exchange for nerdy goods.

The answer is: a lot. A lot of ways.

We each went in with a budget. I mostly blew mine on ale and whores books. By the end of the convention, I ended up with a stack of books, an awesome t-shirt, and a House Targaryen crest decal for my SUV.

The crazy thing about being on the show floor was how many times we ran into people that we knew from Tucson. Despite the fact that the convention center was absolutely packed with a population density that rivaled San Diego ComiCon, we found our friends Heather, Diana, and Jason who’d all come up from Tucson. That’s one of the things I love about the geek community in southern Arizona; we’re tight-knit like that.

Around 3pm, I decided to split off from the convention center because I wanted to go to John Scalzi’s book signing even that was taking place off-sight at a place called the Poisoned Pen. I wanted to go to the signing for a few reasons: first, because it was being hosted by my friend Sam Sykes who is totally awesome. Second, I knew wanted to get my copy of John’s latest book The Human Division from a local business and third, I figured it would be a lot less crowded than any event happening at the convention itself. These were all very good reasons for going to the signing and I was not disappointed in my choice. But getting to that signing was . . . interesting, to say the least.

I knew I’d have to leave the convention early to make it to the signing at 5pm. To give myself enough flexibility in case I got lost or missed the light rail, I left the convention at 3pm. I hiked over to the light rail and only mildly panicked until I figured out which train was going back to Tempe. I secured a place on the train and settled in for the thirty minute ride back to Tempe. Which is when things took a turn for the awry.

Shortly after we left the station, I became aware of a deranged transient man ranting about a conspiracy theory involving Jesus and the symbols of the cross and the fish and aluminum and brain signals. I tried to ignore it; none of my business, after all, and I really didn’t want to get into some kind of altercation that would derail my plans. I wanted to see John Scalzi!

However, the man’s ranting was punctuated by a tremendous amount of profanity and by tremendous, I mean he said fuck and shit and cunt more than he used any actual words. The problem with this idiosyncratic form of communication was that the train car we were in was filled with ComiCon attendees and about half of them were families. There were at least six or eight kids between 5 and 10 on the train. Two little girls in particular were with their moms and all four looked pretty scared by this crude, obviously disturbed homeless guy.

I kept waiting for somebody to tell the guy to shut up, but nobody was doing anything about it. That’s about the time when two different thoughts started going through my head. The practical thought was don’t get involved, you’ll regret it if you get involved and the foolish thought was you need to do something about this.

I went with the second one and shouted to the guy something to the extent of “there are children on this train, watch your language, show some class,” that kind of thing. I don’t really remember the exact specifics.

So, of course, the guy staggers over to my side of the train and gets in my face, ranting and spraying spittle with every word. He was a skinny guy but about my height, so we were pretty much eye to eye. The entire time my only thought was I really hope I don’t get stabbed.

We went through the usual “what the fuck did you say to me?” “I told you to shut your mouth” kind of routine. It escalated to the point where I told him “if you don’t watch your language, I’ll throw you off this train,” which was a threat I really had no idea how to follow up on, but it was the heat of the moment, so there you go.

The crazy part was that the guy stopped. He just stopped and looked at me. He stared at me and I stared at him. Nobody else said anything. An eternity later, but was probably only a minute or two, we get to the next stop and the guy leaves. Just shuffles out the door and goes.

At that point, the adrenaline rush I was on ended and I leaned back against the wall and tried to get my heartbeat under control. At the time, the only thing I was thinking was how much of an idiot I was for doing that and how lucky I was he didn’t take a swing at me. However, it did prove to be worth it in the end: when my stop arrived and I headed towards the exit, one of the mothers thanked me and the other one said, and I’m not exaggerating, that I was a hero. Embarrassed,  I said a quick thanks and left the train, but I will admit, I felt pretty cool for the rest of the day, even though I really was just lucky.

After that whole escapade, I hiked the mile and half in afternoon Phoenix heat to find my SUV. After a quick pit stop to fortify on powerade and water, I follow my smartphone GPS to the bookstore. I ended up being about forty minutes early, which was fine with me.

Rather than try to recap the discussion (this post is already insanely long), you can watch for yourself: Sam Sykes and John Scalzi discuss the Human Division. If you watch the video, you can hear my actual voice as I get to ask a couple of questions, which was awesome (asking questions, I mean, not you getting to hear my voice. My voice sucks).

After getting some books signed, I headed off to dinner with some more friends from Tucson that I’d run into: Ericc and Trish, whom I haven’t seen in years. The weirdest part was that we were both at the previous Spotlight panel but because the crowd was so large, we didn’t see one another. Anyway, after driving around in circles and getting lost (the restaurant was two miles away) and then getting lost again in a parking garage, I met up with them at a P.F. Chang’s and I had a beer and a bowl of vegetarian fried rice. I was going to be meeting back up with Mira, Heather, and Diana later that evening for dinner. Everything went well even though the small bowl of rice turned out to be enormous and I ate too much. Ah well.

I said goodbye to my friends and drove back towards the convention center. At this point, I realized that my smartphone battery was critically low even though I’d charged it that morning. Between the poor signal coverage in the center itself and the amount of GPS navigating I was doing, I’d burned through the thing pretty quickly. I was very, very worried I would run out of power before I found my friends, because that would mean getting lost since I have no idea how to navigate Phoenix. I kept turning my GPS on for a few seconds at a time to get my bearings before turning it off to save juice. Regardless, I got where I was going and ran into another friend from Tucson, Jennifer. We met up with Heather and Diana and some of their friends at a place called Angel’s Trumpet, a pizza and beer joint. Mira arrived shortly thereafter and we ate and drank and discussed until 11 or so. Good times.

After parting ways with our friends, Mira and I drove back to her family’s house in Tempe and I tried my best not to fall asleep while driving. I was exhausted from everything we’d done that day even though it wasn’t all that late. I managed to avoid killing us both and we arrived without a problem. I crashed on the couch again and fell asleep almost immediately.

Sunday: Sundays are normally the quiet, laid-back day of the convention. Everybody is usually exhausted from the previous few days of partying, drinking, etc., so you’ll see both fans and guests doing this sort of bleary I-can’t-believe-I’m-awake routine. We got an early start, took the Light Rail to the convention center and waited for the show floor to open. We did some shopping and hung out for a bit before it was time for Mira’s panel. We headed over to the room and met with the other guests who would be presenting.

At 10:30, nobody other than the guests and me were there and everybody was a little worried it would be a bust. However, in the tradition of Sunday mornings at convention, people did trickle in about 15 minutes after the start and there was soon a very respectable crowd of about 15 people listening to Mira and the other guests discuss their favorite YA books. It was a good panel, although it amused me that there was only one actual teenager in the crowd; the rest of us were all older. I mostly watched and listened and enjoying the fact that Mira gets to be on panels at Phoenix ComiCon, which is certainly not small beer, so to speak.

After her panel was done, we headed over to stand in line for the Wil Wheaton/John Scalzi Super Happy Fun Time Hour. I predicted, correctly, that this panel would fill up quickly, so we got in line about 40 minutes early. I’m very, very glad that we did, because the room was packed to the gills and a lot of people, including Heather and Diana (sorry!) weren’t able to make it inside.

And that was a real shame because in my opinion, this panel was the best of the entire weekend. Wil and John are an awesome team and put on a really great show. Special recognition, however, goes out to one anonymous fan in the audience: at one point, with about twenty minutes left in the panel, the lights in the room flickered and then went out. Everything plunges into darkness and you can feel the collective well, shit expression going through everybody’s minds. And then, with the classic snap-hiss sound, a brilliant purple beam of light erupts from the center of the room as one fan ignites a plastic lightsaber to provide illumination. Everybody cheered and applauded.

The lights came back on shortly thereafter, but it was a really awesome moment.

After the panel, we decided to spend the rest of the day cruising the show floor, making a few final purchases. Mira wanted to meet Brandon Sanderson to invite him to the Tucson Festival of Books next year. We stopped by and chatted with John, Sam, Janni, and a few other notables. Everything was starting to wind down when . . . *gasp* the fire alarm went off.

At first, we all did this sort of “what?” shuffle. The prerecorded message told us to proceed to the nearest exit, but only a few people were moving. You could see the agony in the dealers’ faces at the thought of leaving so much valuable merchandise completely exposed, especially for what was almost certainly a false alarm.

That’s when a staff member came over the intercom and said, no, this was the real deal and we needed to haul ass (I am paraphrasing a little). That got us moving in a hurry, although I will note it was still a calm and orderly hurry. We trudged up the stairs and out into the oppressive afternoon sunlight. We found some shade and waited around, wondering what caused the alarm. Theories ranged from bomb threat to fire to false alarm. A few of us checked Twitter for updates while others sent messages to friends and family to let them know we were okay.

After about twenty minutes or so, the all-clear was given and the dealers went back in to secure their tables. In a show of absolute classiness, the ComiCon staff announced that in order to compensate for the interruption, they would be keeping the hall open for an extra hour and a half. This was very cool of them and we were grateful that they went the extra mile.

We went back in for a bit, made a few final buys, and stood in line to meet Brandon Sanderson who proved to be a very classy guy who came back to his table from his hotel room for some overtime when he found out there was a line of fans there.

After that, it was time to depart. We caught the Light Rail back to Tempe and walked back to Mira’s family’s house. We wound down, had a quick dinner there, and regaled everybody with the stories from our weekend. Since Mira had left for the convention on Thursday night, she had her own car with her, so we were going to be driving back separately. I decided I wanted to get started on the drive before it got too late, so I said my farewells, thanks Mira’s family for their hospitality, and packed up and hit the road.

The drive back was uneventful. I listened to Lev Grossman’s The Magicians on audiobook, which proved to be a very excellent choice. I stopped by my brother’s apartment to get my key and then headed home. I’d intended to get a few things done before going to bed, but after dropping my stuff and shelving all my shiny new signed books, I decided that sleep was a much better idea than doing stuff. I passed out while watching an episode of Castle.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend. I’m glad I was able to attend Phoenix ComiCon because it really soothed my craving for a big-league convention experience, especially since I wasn’t able to get a ticket for San Diego this year. I think Phoenix is turning into one of the premier venues and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it rival San Diego in a few more years, especially if more people who can’t get tickets to San Diego look for other conventions to spend their con dollars.

This post has run far, far longer than I intended; if you’ve stuck with me this long, I wanted to say thanks for reading. To all my friends and Mira especially, thanks for an awesome weekend. You guys are the best.

Phoenix ComiCon Report . . . Tomorrow!

When I walked into my apartment and set my bags down, I had every intention of writing my report from Phoenix ComiCon 2013 as soon as I sat down at my desk. Now that I’ve taken my shoes off, kicked the loaner cat out of my chair, had the loaner cat jump back into my lap, and taken a few moments to relax, I’m ready to say that I . . . will write that report tomorrow. It’s been an awesome couple of days, but also very, very tiring. After a long drive back to Tucson, I think I’m ready to turn off my brain for a while.

I’ll write up all the details tomorrow, including a gritty, firsthand account of where I was during the harrowing ComiCon Evacuation of 2013. Spoiler warning: it involved proceeding to the nearest exit in an orderly manner while making sure my friends were with me. Tune in tomorrow for the rest of this gripping tale!

But for now, I think I shall sleep.

Thoughts On “Star Trek Into Darkness”

It took a bit of doing after finding out that my favorite theater was closed, but we did manage to attend a showing of Star Trek Into Darkness last night. The problem was finding a showing that was “just right” and gave us enough time to get there but not so much time we’d be walking out of the theater at 2:00am on a work night. The answer turned out to be a 9:00pm show at the El Con theater which is clear across town from me, but whatever.

Harkins Theater, I miss you already.

Anyway, let’s talk about the movie. In fact, let’s talk about the movie after a page break, because there are going to be los spoilitos in this post. That’s Spanish for the spoilers, fyi.

Continue reading “Thoughts On “Star Trek Into Darkness””

It’s Okay To Be Takei

George Takei might just be one of my most favorite people ever. You must realize; this is an august body of individuals we’re talking about here. Not just anybody makes it into the “most favorite people ever” club. You need to really stand out from the crowd. Notable members of the MFPE club include James Randi, Eva GreenJohn Scalzi, Nathan Fillion, Thomas Jefferson, Optimus Prime, and Sue. That’s just a short list of the club’s elite members. You’ll understand if I can’t tell you everybody on the list, for privacy reasons. You do understand, right?

After reviewing his application and considering the complete portfolio of his work, I think it’s time to extend club membership to a man who deserves to join these elite ranks: George Takei. He’s been in consideration for a while now but I think this latest submission really seals the deal.

You’re in, sir. For excellence of character and using charm, wit, and good humor to steer the course of human history to a better future. You know, little things like that.

This is a high honor. You get a certificate of appreciation that I made in MS Paint and I’ll tweet nice things about you to all ninety of my twitter followers. What more could you ask for?

Don’t actually answer that question.

May the Fourth – Recap

Last night did not end up with my ascension to notoriety as “geeky Star Wars arbiter.” Due to some miscommunication, the trivia contest was not in the “8-10pm” window as I had been led to believe, but actually happened during the day, around 2pm. Which, you know, was when I was working at my job, so that was a pretty good reason to miss out, I think.

No matter; I was told that the trivia questions were well received and the highest score was 21 out of 30. I feel pretty good about that! The tricky part about doing a trivia contest is you really want to find the right balance. If every single question is a brain-buster, you’ll discourage even the most hardcore fan. If every question is a softball, though, things will be boring.

Since the contest is over now, I decided to post the questions here. Feel free to give them a try and let me know how you scored. I’ll include the answers in a comment attached to this post, so I suppose you could cheat if you really wanted to, but what would be the point? I’d know, and you’d know, and more importantly, Yoda would know.

Anyway, here are the questions:

Jedi Padawan: (Basic Questions)

  1. Who trained Obi-Wan Kenobi?
  2. What are midichlorians?
  3. What is Queen Amidala’s first name?
  4. Which Sith took the name Darth Tyranus?
  5. What is the first thing Admiral Ackbar want to do as soon as the battle starts in Return of the Jedi?
  6. Why is it logically impossible that Han Solo claimed his ship made the Kessel Run in “under twelve parsecs?”
  7. Which planet is covered entirely by a single, sprawling city?
  8. What is a Wilhelm Scream?
  9. Which of the six films has the lowest on-screen body count?
  10. Who really shot first? If you get this question wrong, you have to leave.

Jedi Knight: (Intermediate Questions)

  1. Who was Anakin’s main rival during the Podrace?
  2. True or False: the word “Ewok” is never mentioned in Return of the Jedi.
  3. In the Expanded Universe, who is the first prominent Original Trilogy character to be killed off?
  4. What is the Millenium Falcon’s original model designation?
  5. What was the name of the Star Destroyer that captured Princess Leia in the opening scene of Episode IV?
  6. Who is the only human character to directly fight in and survive both Death Star space battles?
  7. In the first draft of the script, this Original Trilogy character was described as “a huge green-skinned monster with no nose and gills.”
  8. How was the effect for Darth Vader’s distinctive breathing made?
  9. Of the six films, which was the only movie to be nominated for a Best Picture academy award?
  10. What was Boba Fett’s first appearance as a character?

Jedi Master: (Advanced)

  1. What mundane item was used to create the prop for Luke’s lightsaber hilt in Episode IV?
  2. Who was Malakili?
  3. On which planet does Jedi General Aayla Secura meet her demise?
  4. What is Blue Harvest?
  5. What does TIE stand for in the term TIE Fighter?
  6. What product does Cloud City harvest from the planet Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back?
  7. Before being retconned by the Prequel Trilogy, according to the Expanded Universe, what was Boba Fett’s real name?
  8. Due to the uncomfortable fit of his boots, this otherwise imposing character wore a pair of fuzzy slippers in every scene that did not show his feet.
  9. What was the title of the first Star Wars novel ever published?
  10. What is the name of the written alphabet in the Star Wars universe?

So how did you do? Post your score in the comments below!

May The Fourth Be With You

Yes, it’s Star Wars Day. I’m particularly excited because yesterday afternoon I received an email from a co-worker about tonight’s Hotel Congress event. It seems that the person who was helping put together the questions for the Star Wars trivia event didn’t come through, so an alternate source was needed. It goes without saying that I leaped at the chance and came up with a list of questions. I’m not 100% certain that my list will be used as I think somebody else also procured a copy of Star Wars Trivia Pursuit. We’ll see how that goes.

The other exciting thing is that the same co-worker gave me a call and asked if I’d help “officiate” the trivia contest. Max Cannon is signed on to emcee the event but the word is he’s not as much of a Star Wars geek as yours truly. The contest organizers wanted a Star Wars geek on hand to act, I guess, as arbiter or sidekick or something. I’m not sure how big my role will be, but it’s a chance to wear my Darth Sidious-style cloak and act like a nerd in front of a crowd. How could I say no to that?

I could not. So I did not.

The 21+ event starts at 8pm at Hotel Congress.

Tabletop Gaming Weekend: Sunday Recap

For me, Sunday is the gaming day. Almost every week, we gather the troops to play Dungeons  & Dragons or Pathfinder (our current system). Every so often we’ll play another game like Arkham Horror, usually when the DM (me) isn’t feeling up to running a session. It seemed almost foolish to host a Pathfinder game after two solid nights of tabletop, but a DM has to have standards, you know? Even if those standards roughly amount to “being good enough at improv to keep up with the players and act like you meant to do this all along.”

I thought about calling off the game, I really did. Call me crazy, but it just seemed like it would be a mistake. Maybe I wanted to see if I could really go the distance, you know? Even if, in this case, the distance didn’t actually involve that much movement.

Well, to my surprise, we ended up canceling the Pathfinder game anyway due to being short a player, a player whose character had been killed and hadn’t rolled a new one yet, and still needing to level up after last session. With that bookkeeping out of the way, we decided to hold off on the game itself and play something in the meantime. That something turned out to be Sentinels of the Multiverse. (SotM)

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SotM is a cooperative card game where you take the role of different heroes and fight against a single villain, represented by its own deck that runs automatically. The characters are archetypal in the best comic book tradition. There’s the Wraith who’s basically a female Batman (but not Batgirl!). Absolute Zero is an ice-based guy with a backstory that manages to involve heroic blackmail (seriously, it’s “here’s a suit to survive your tragedy, now fight for good or we’ll repo that shit”). Fanatic is your winged angelic crusader with a huge sword and a “smite the evulz” complex. I ended up as Nightmist, the paranormal investigator who ended up tapping into dark powers and now wields those powers against evil. Like I said, classic. Fun fact: there’s a few very subtle references to H.P. Lovecraft and the Arkham Horror board game worked in there. I appreciated that. There was also a reference to my home city in the Wraith’s biography. You don’t see many shout-outs to Rochester, New York, so that made me happy, too.

Each deck plays differently, but the basic mechanic is that you can play one card per turn, activate one power (such as the one printed on your hero card) and draw one card at the end of your turn. The card interactions for Nightmist’s deck were pretty intricate; I could see right away why she was ranked as one of the more complex heroes to play. My deck involved buffing my damage dealing ability, then using my power to damage myself to draw more cards, then using my amulet card to redirect all the damage I’d done to myself towards an enemy instead. It was pretty fun.

With 18 different hero decks to play (this is including the expansions) and just as many villain decks, there’s a lot of variety here. The decks interact with each other in different ways; as Nightmist, I was able to generate card drawing for my allies which helped out a few times when things got rough.

There are two things that really make this game stand out. The first is that it’s a self-contained set, so unlike collectible card games like Magic: the Gathering, you don’t have to build your own deck which lowers the entry barrier considerably. Secondly, the decks all seem to be built with cooperation in mind, so there’s plenty of interaction among the heroes. It’ll be fun to see which decks work well together against which villains, since each villain deck is designed to play different and offer a different challenge.

We finished the game around 11:00 pm or so. It was at this point that I passed out on the couch, having imbibed just a little too much during the course of the evening. At some point, I staggered into bed.

All in all, it was an excellent weekend, if unintentional. It reminded me fondly of the undergrad days, where we’d play Magic or D&D well into the early hours of the morning. There was a certain abandon then, a certain idyllic sense. Of course, this was just the geek version of partying all night, which is why I didn’t end up going to many parties in college. But I wouldn’t trade it if given the choice.

However, I was very glad that I had today to recover from my weekend gaming binge and I don’t think I’ll be trying to repeat the experience any time soon. Once a week should be enough for me, I think.

At least for a while.