VanCon 2015 and carrying your words like a torch

At one of my colleges (long story), a professor told me that I didn’t say much but that when I did speak, people listened. I once forgot to do the reading and faked my way through a roundtable discussion on medieval Japanese court poetry, so I hope he was talking about another time. But I’ve always hoped he was right, in spite of assuming 99% of what I say is nonsense and no one is paying attention.

Most people already know that aside from having a fabulous VanCon, I went Supernatural set stalking on Monday. Because apparently we couldn’t think of anything better to do in the pouring rain than take a taxi to the far suburbs and walk for half an hour on residential roads with no clue where we were going. To our credit, we laughed the entire way. We stayed for several hours after everyone else left and there was little to see – but just before wrap, Jared waved us across the street onto the set and showed us around the Impala. He had us sit in the actual Impala. And Jensen heard him rev the engine and came out to check on his “Baby”, and I briefly thought Dean Winchester had manifested into reality to kick my ass. Look, I left “speechless” weeks ago. You all know, details or not, that we were incredibly fortunate and fans could not dare to dream of anything better. Last VanCon was my first Supernatural convention; I knew no one. To have come to that place in a year was, and continues to be, simply staggering.

But I’m not sure that was the most unbelievable thing that happened while I was in Vancouver.

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The Snail and the Well (or: the Good, the Bad, and the Journey)

I had an odd birthday this year. I have not had a birthday worth reporting on in a long time; one of the side effects of the internet is forming relationships with people who are far away. So I was okay with not doing anything “special”. I even wrapped my head around spending the day doing unpleasant prep for a test that was the polar opposite of “fun”, without sleep or food. But toward the end of the day, the cognitive dissonance of getting a stream of birthday wishes from friends while sitting in a clinic discussing whether I wanted to “preserve fertility options” was more than I could really process. (I have to say, because everyone always goes there – I am dying, but not any sooner than previously scheduled when I was born. It’s only the circumstances of the parts in between that change.)
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GISHWHES on Team Shatner.

item692014 was my third year in GISHWHES (Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen), the madcap international scavenger hunt devised by actor Misha Collins of the CW show Supernatural. I will leave you to look at the site and then Google in mix of confusion, horror and glee if none of these words make sense to you. In 2011 I watched from the sidelines, wondering what the heck this thing was on Tumblr. In 2012 I was ready to join alone, but a dedicated friend joined with me and then recruited 13 more in a jiffy. in 2013 those people couldn’t join again, and I made good friends from total strangers via Twitter. In 2014, I kept talking to William Shatner and for some reason he kept talking back. On a long road, that led to me being on Team Shatner for GISHWHES 2014.

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Lighthouses

“May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

It’s very difficult to describe to those who have never been in a fandom why under its lens enthusiasm becomes passion, and acquaintances can become family. “It’s just a TV show!” they’ll exclaim. Precisely why media fandom is a more popular target for this criticism than, for example, sports fans, is a question unto itself. The fact remains that for people who have never been – even casually – participants in a fandom for a TV show, film, book, a blog, have great difficulty grasping how it’s possible that it could become the tentpole of a relatively sane individual’s life.

I’ve thought a lot about how to explain the kind of deep emotional ties that we can create with fiction (and often, creators of said fiction), and I think I’ve finally got it.

Imagine a lighthouse. Continue reading

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The LEGO Movie, creativity, and the building blocks of art

A confession. You probably heard a lot of people tell you “OMG that movie was amazing” before you went. You probably doubted it, because you’ve been burned before. A LOT. Maybe you even felt tempted to find something to dislike just so you didn’t feel like a sheep. Well, go on and whistle for the border collie, because my confession is…a movie about LEGOs made me cry.

There’s a lot to love straight off the bat. It’s immediately fun. The animation is super nifty, detailed and technically astounding*; it really looks like it was done with stop-motion and it gives it a charming, handmade feel. It’s very much a kids’ movie, not because of the subject, but in that it has the qualities of a child’s brain. Its landscape is visually riotous, jokes fire off at lightning speed in a slightly non-sequitur pastiche, and its logic doesn’t require the approval of outside observers. It’s funny, fast, and smart; the writing is really strong and on-target. It’s got a great celebrity cast who bring fantastic voice acting skills to the table. This is important, because it’s a different skill set, and many animated films have suffered from poor casting. But most importantly, this film has a message that speaks to nearly everyone about the nature of creativity; and I think that’s why it’s really been a blockbuster.

[SPOILERS AHOY, READ AFTER SEEING FILM]

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Failing with Style: Lessons from Toy Story

Possibly a controversial opinion, but I don’t think Pixar has made a film that was more elegant and complete than Toy Story. They’ve addressed bigger ideas, in more ambitious settings; but Toy Story is the building blocks of many of their other stories without any fat.

If you haven’t seen Toy Story, I’m at your door with the DVD* right now. So let’s not bother with recapping the storyline. The film is obviously built around the conflict between Woody and Buzz. Woody is a catastrophist with low self-esteem, and Buzz is the polar opposite: an egotist who is so wrapped up in his own world that he’s basically the only toy who DOESN’T know he’s a toy. Naturally, all the circumstances aside, characters who are opposites tend to clash.

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SDCC Badge Pre-reg and the “Vegas Effect”

Comic-con has been putting out a slow trickle of information on badge sales for 2014, and as the actual convention creeps closer the anticipation and stress level for the actual sale has only built exponentially. For me, aside from its other perks Comic-con is where I see (and in some cases met) the majority of my friends and the only convention I still go to for fun. I’m pretty dang invested in getting a badge (and I really wish I’d tried for Pro). The year they put the next year’s badges on sale at the con, I stood in an obscene line and got shut out of Preview Night – only to have friends breeze through a painless online reg later on. I’ve been through tough times with Comic-con. But they continue to give me a series of small heart attacks, like the announcement today that the badge registration waiting room will be randomized.

EVERYBODY PANIC AND FREAK OUT. …But why?

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Sherlock S3 E1: The Empty Hearse

Sherlock is, overall, an unconventional series. They like to drop breadcrumbs early on that are easy to miss, threads that eventually tie into a later plot element and only then make sense. This is part of what makes the show so clever, but that always leaves them on the knife edge of leaving too many viewers too confused, or giving the impression that events occur out of left field. Personally, I think it takes me three passes with anything complex to really get a handle on my opinion, and Sherlock is no exception. One for the heart (gut emotional reactions), one for the brain (evaluating what’s really happening), and one for the mechanism that makes it tick. I have to say that Sherlock Series 3 is the one I’m most conflicted about, and I think it will take another full pass through the season to really line up my thoughts and draw a conclusion.

I was initially in agreement with the fandom consensus that the case in the episode was too light, but on viewing #3 I feel less so. There’s some very deliberate structuring to make story elements overlap, so that you simply don’t register that one storyline is concurrent with another. They’re laying down the groundwork for one event while your attention is focused on another (e.g., always read the headlines on papers characters are reading). They’ve got a lot to pack into this episode, too: Sherlock’s return and the consequences of that, the question of “how he did it” lingering from the S2 cliffhanger, the events in John’s life in the intervening period, two cases, AND some subtle but critical setup for following episodes. That is a whole lot of pieces of furniture to move around. On top of that, there’s the “emotional baggage” of the characters AND the viewers that needs shifting after the two-year hiatus.

And it’s a bit of a Herculean task. [SPOILERS – ASSUMES YOU HAVE SEEN THE EPISODE] Continue reading

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Sleepy Hollow is the most progressive show you may not be watching

I was watching Sleepy Hollow this past Monday and at the end of a scene was struck by something. There were five characters in this scene, and only one of them was white. (He’s also British and a man out of time, but I don’t think that quite qualifies him as a minority.) This is a pretty remarkable occurrence on primetime network TV.

It was a brief flash of thought that led me to be pretty mystified why I haven’t heard much discussion about how remarkable this show really is. What better day to bring it up than Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which also happens to be their season finale? Does it take people who can suspend their disbelief enough to accept a Revolutionary era soldier (who works for the Masons) was resurrected in modern day by witchcraft so he could fight the Apocalypse to be okay with a black female co-lead? Okay, maybe not; Kerry Washington has been winning awards for Scandal. But there’s no denying that most TV is still staggeringly lacking in diversity of all types.

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