Monthly Archives: July 2010

Some Comments on Pippin

Last night I watched the DVD of the 1981 production of Pippin that Netflix had delivered over the past week.  While watching it I was struck again by a thought that had been generated a year or so (or maybe less) ago while listening to the (original Broadway) cast recording.

Warning.  What follows will end up including theology, musically geekery and spoilers for a nearly 40-year-old show.  Just so that you are forewarned.

The realization I came to is that the character of The Lead Player in Pippin is very much a devil/Satan figure.  Specifically he is The Tempter continually tempting Pippin into various sins and wrong paths, eventually tempting him to his own destruction.

Of course this whole idea is complicated a bit by the play within a play structure.  But when taken as a whole most of the cast are clearly players within the troupe putting on Pippin: His Life and Times, with the exception of three roles: Pippin himself, Catherine and her son.  These last three roles appear to be the “real” people portrayed.  This can be seen in a couple of ways.  First, near the beginning at Pippin’s first appearance The Lead Player apologizes for Pippin by mentioning that this is his first time playing the role.  Similarly when Catherine appears she first misses her cue and then is distracted by Pippin into saying  a line in a way The Lead Player doesn’t like – she says the line quite sweetly, but The Lead Player wants it said “naggingly.”  So, one can see to some extent that what is being seen on stage is the tempting of Pippin largely using other people who have already given into their temptation.

This all works very well, and in the end Pippin is saved from The Lead Player’s final temptation by love.  Of course from a Christian perspective this part misses the mark by a bit – since the love that saves Pippin is his love for Catherine and her son, not the sacrificial love of Christ.  But the love of family is in many ways a reflection of Christian love – and one could even point out that Pippin sacrificed himself for this love by giving up both his search for purpose and meaning in life, and to some extent his freedom and position.

Of course while contemplating the possibly underlying theology – which may or may not have been intended by the creators of the show – I still managed to enjoy this production.  I had seen it once before – probably around 1983 or 1984 when it aired on Showtime during the fairly brief period when we had Showtime before a change in cable companies took it away and replaced it with HBO.

I did notice a few thing with this production.

First, it appears that a couple of numbers were trimmed (“War is a Science”) or removed (“I Guess I’ll Miss the Man”).  But that may have been to keep the total running time under 2 hours for broadcast on non-commercial television.

Second, during several number I noticed that Ben Verene (The Lead Player) was sweating quite a bit.  Now some of this was probably because of the stage lights – which may have been extra bright to deal with circa 1981 video cameras.  But I’m sure a lot of it was due to the exertion of his dancing.  A couple of times William Katt (Pippin) was also noticeably sweaty.

Third, it was interesting to note that while the production has aged very well – i.e. other than the 1972 musical styles, everything in appearance would probably play well in 2010 – a few shots of the audience were quite dated.  Similarly most of the actors that I’ve seen recently (or at least William Katt) looked noticeably younger.

Fourth, the cast was quite good.  Only Ben Verene was repeating his role from Broadway 9 years earlier.  With Irene Ryan having died or just after the original run, Martha Raye was a very suitable substitute (and perhaps more recognizable to 1981 audiences than Ryan would have been if she were still living).  And the casting of Chita Rivera in the role of Fastrada was probably as close to a coup as getting Verene to reprise his role.

And finally, during one of the early scenes with Charlemagne it occurred to me that Bryan Blessed could easily have filled that role around the same time – albeit probably in a British production, not that the accent would have been a problem.  Of course I cannot help but suspect that I was struck by that thought due to his playing a slightly similar role in The Black Adder.  (And if you doubt that he could do a musical – note that he originated the roles of Bustopher Jones and Old Deuteronomy in the London production of Cats and is featured in the cast recording.)

A Few Final Comic-Con Thoughts

Once again, I realize that there are a few thoughts and observations I’ve left out of my previous reports on this past weekend’s Comic-Con:

First, when describing the masquerade, I forgot about another really good presentation.  This one was officially titled “The <Public University in Sacramento> Martial Arts Club Presents: Star Wars Episode Zero.”  While the costumes were good, what sold this one was the excellent fight choreography – some nearly as good as what I’ve seen in movies.  There were times that the safety gaps were visible, but given what most of the weapons were – and how they made the light sabers I couldn’t tell – I’m sure that was necessary for the safety of either the performers, the props or both.

Second, people at and near Comic-Con need to learn to say three simple words: “No Thank You.”  Once again a lot of the cards and flyers handed out ended up on the ground creating litter.  While the city benefits greatly from Comic-Con, I’m sure that adding to the costs for extra law enforcement to direct traffic with costs to clean up The Gaslamp and Convention Center areas makes the event less of an overall profit for the city as a business – i.e. the costs to the city are higher than needed.

Third, people at Comic-Con need to learn to respect rail vehicles.  This weekend I witnessed just a few too many people who treated trolleys and even heavy rail trains – both Coaster trains and freight trains – like they were cars.  I am almost surprised that we didn’t have a major tragedy when someone got hit by a train given how stupid people were being on the tracks.

On a related note, I am wondering why the BNSF couldn’t delay the freight leaving on Wednesday (or was it Thursday) until much later.  It actually cut The Gaslamp off from the Convention Center at two different points that evening that I witnessed – both times when there was a lot of foot traffic between them.  In the first case I actually suspected that the driver had determined that he or she could not safely proceed due to the pedestrian traffic and returned to the yard, but it wasn’t that much later that what I believe to be the same freight train headed north blocking both crossings for a couple of minutes.

Fourth, people need to pay attention to where they stop to pose for, or ask people to pose for, photos.  Once again there were too many instances where traffic in the exhibition hall was blocked by what I started calling “photo block.”  Someone would stop to pose in a main aisle, and end up posing for several minutes becoming a major block – sometimes nearly complete – due to the posing people, the photographers and the necessary gaps.  Obviously with maybe 60,000 people at the convention on any day your chance of seeing a given costume again are not that great, but you could at least ask the person – can we step outside of the exhibition hall, or over to this nearby opening, before either taking or posing for, the picture – at least when in a heavy traffic area.

There are times when it is OK.  For example when Tara and I encountered the very large (albeit a bit too obviously a box) Domo character – which I promptly dubed a “Major Domo” – there was room for the picture.  {I didn’t realized until it was too late why Tara wanted me to pose with a character I recognize only as a popular character, so she didn’t end up with the picture she could caption “Ron meets a Major Domo.”}

Fifth, this weekend reiterated a rule I once hear in some costuming panel at some convention (yes, I attend costuming panels – I just somehow never get much beyond the panels unless I dig out my SCA/Ren Faire garb): Don’t costume against your body type.   There were just a few too many people who were wearing costumes that showed off just how badly they could wear them.  The worst were two different seriously overweight Batmen that we passed at different times.  There were a few related violations – like the bare chested Hawkman with the nipple rings that made Tara cringe a few times.

On the other hand, I did see a Superman and and Wonder Woman who were together, both of whom had the right body type for the costume.

There were plenty of really good hall costumes again this year.  The best was one I didn’t actually see until I did a Youtube search for “Comic-Con 2010” and saw it online:  Someone pulled off a George Reeves Superman, in black and white.  On the video – and I’m sure to a similar extent in person – it was almost disconcerting to see the color background and badge lanyard in what otherwise could have been a black and white picture.

Sixth, I do not envy the position right now of the Board of Directors regarding where Comic-Con will be after the current contracts expire.  On one hand they have outgrown the convention center and there is only so much that they can push into the adjacent hotels – although I suspect that there may be more that could be pushed into The Bayfront Hilton.  On the other hand, either of the alternate locations I’ve heard about would risk breaking some of the “vibe” of the overall event, and might have other major issues that San Diego doesn’t.

In Anaheim I see a potential conflict for hotel space between Comic-Con and the normal summer tourists to Disneyland, much more than San Diego would have with the Zoo/Sea World tourists.  I also note that there is NO equivalent to The Gaslamp – most of the restaurants in walking distance from LA Con in 2006 as I recall were fast food and there was no single area for the outside semi-independent promotions.  There is also no really good public transit alternative for getting people in and out – i.e. there is no equivalent to the MTS trolleys.  I know from experience that the Anaheim Resort Transit system is not optimized for that purpose and would probably break under the strain, and I suspect that the OC buses would be similarly over taxed.

Las Vegas may be better in the first two regards – hotel conflicts since they have more hotel rooms than anywhere in the world and outside amenities – but even with what I’ve heard about the monorail system (it has been 10 years since I was in Las Vegas) I don’t think it is extensive enough to deal with everyone.

But to keep the event in San Diego for more than five or six years we need to expand the convention center – an expansion that would probably benefit with other conventions (I’m not sure it could hold CTIA based on my two visits to Atlanta, for example).  But there are issues there.  The only area really adjacent to the current facility where the expansion could be done would be a fairly small area of parkland behind the last expansion and in the direction of the Bayfront Hilton – although there might be some ability to build out over Harbor Blvd. and the train tracks, but not without serious disruption to both during construction.  There may be near enough places such as the marine terminal (which still gets visits from banana boats) behind the Hilton or on the far side of Petco park (which the football people have their eyes on).  But either of those would probably require some sort of bridge or tunnel – probably a bridge between the bay and the earthquake issues – to connect to the existing structure.  And this connection would need to have moving sidewalks or internal trains since they would otherwise be a long walk.

I can see how I would adjust things with Comic-Con if the convention center were to do the right expansion – and at this moment in time any expansion should be made with Comic-Con in mind first and other uses second.  What the expansion would need is another space that could replace Hall H and provide at least as many seats.  This would free up Hall H (and possibly G and F) to be added to the exhibition hall.  If the expansion also created another space that could either supplement or replace Ballroom 20, that would also help – and if they could block one large space on either Friday evening or much of Saturday afternoon it would allow time for an actual tech rehearsal or run-through for the masquerade solving another problem.

On a related topic, unless Comic-Con decided that it cannot stay here for a few more years due to the convention center issues – and possibly even if it does leave – the powers that be need to realize that even one big-draw annual convention has more overall economic benefit to the region – and the city as a corporation for that matter – than any major league sports team.  So if a priority call needs to be made as which needs tax money spent for new or upgraded facilities, the priority needs to be with the convention center.  (OK, I have my biases since I doubt I’ll ever attend an NFL game again.  I’ve been to two and in both cases I was performing there as the major reason I was there at all).

Finally, I would like to thank all of the people who made Comic-Con happen.  This includes the board and the full-time staff (thankfully still a fairly small group), the volunteers and contractors (security people, registration people, etc.) the vendors and exhibitors, the panelists and of course the rest of the members of the convention who drive the whole thing.

Comic-Con Saturday-Sunday

Continuing my Comic-Con report:

Saturday, Tara and I got a start only about 10 minutes later than we’d intended – leaving with my brother and niece still sleeping – but I left them a note with directions to the Wild Animal Park and a note to let the dog out of his kennel when they got up.

We got to the convention center in good time, but were further back in the Ballroom 20 queue than we’d been on Friday.  But, based on last year’s position I was confident we’d be in the room for the first panel.  About 9:15 I could see that the room was being loaded, but we continued to mostly wait until nearly 9:40.  We were still outside at 10:00, but got in to the room well before the panel actually started – i.e. it started late.

Our first and only big panel of the day was for Chuck.  Once it started, we got the usual batch of clips from the last season, ending with the season ending cliff-hanger.  The video then teased a bit about a major character announcement, and made it – by showing a clip of Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2.  She will be playing the titular character’s mother this coming season.

Then there was a silly video that started with a message from the current crop of bad guys which eventually got cut off by two of the characters from the show (in character) and finally ended with a video from Jefster – who are also characters in the show.  So, it was well past 10:15 or 10:20 when the cast finally made it out on stage.

The panel went quite well through the moderators’ set questions – there were two moderators.  We got some good discussion and the expected ribbing of Adam Baldwin about his continuing popularity from his role in Firefly and Serenity.  But when it came time for audience questions it turned out that the panel was out of time.  For some reason only 45 minutes had been scheduled, but that information had not gotten to either the moderators or the studio or show runners (who would have severally cut the pre-panel show if they’d known).  This whole problem was also aggravated by the con not getting the room opened on time and the panel starting late.

After the panel, Tara and I ventured down to the exhibition hall for a while, before heading over to Subway for lunch.  Subway was another, more serious, disappointment.  On the day that could be their busiest – since Subway has been a major sponsor of Chuck, both in advertising and product placement – they were not really prepared for the crowd.  They did have pre-made sandwiches, but that isn’t what we want.  But the people working the line were not competent.  They could not ask questions clearly – and were constantly mixing up my sandwich and the somewhat similar sandwich of the person behind me in line.  On top of that, there was no seating (this is a tiny store) so we had to walk all the way back to the convention center to eat.

After that, we returned to the exhibition hall.  Twice we got caught in the traffic jam and one-way aisle around the Warner Brothers booth where the cast of Chuck was doing a signing, but did manage to do a fair amount of browsing.

We later headed upstairs to see if we could get in line for the later panel slot covering both Eureka and Warehouse 13.   Instead we were able to get into the room fairly early in a panel on cartoon voices with a number of people whose names I didn’t recognize – but most of whose voices, in some case several, I did.  As a major part of the panel they did a cold table read of a script for a 10-15 minute adaption of “Cinderella” complete with a Puerto Rican Cinderella and Droop Dog (voiced by his originator Chuck McCann) as the prince.  This, naturally, left the audience in the aslies.

After that were the back to back panels on the two TV shows.  Again we got some good background of both shows, including confirmation that the changes seen at the beginning of this season’s Eureka are permanent and that – in spite of two different actors from Eureka playing characters during the first season of Warehouse 13, the shows are in the same universe and there will be some crossovers.

After (or perhaps before) we worked our way down to the fan table area, talking to a few people we know, and some we don’t, and then headed back into the exhibition hall for a final look around.  We decided that it wasn’t worth trying to see the Mythbusters panel, since we knew there were people already camping out in the room when we left, and headed home.

When we got home, by brother and niece weren’t there, so Tara and I decided to head out to get dinner at one of our favorite places nearby – which was a place we mentioned on the way home from dinner the night before.  Not too surprisingly when we got there we found my brother and niece already there, so they joined us and we shared dinner then headed home.

On Sunday we all got up about the same time, and left in our separate ways – my brother and niece for a church near San Diego State and then to the airport.  We got to the con a bit later than the start of our 10:00 panel with the Christian Comic Arts Association, but still heard most of a good discussion that focused on how God can work through questionable people – a discussion inspired by how Buzz Dixon reacted to R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis.

After the panel, Tara and I headed into The Gaslamp for lunch, returning to spend one last pass through the exhibition hall – resulting in Tara not buying a print she debated about, and then me buying two larger prints almost on the spur of the moment  – prints which now need to be framed and placed.  (One of these will probably end up at work instead of at home)

We then headed upstairs and watched the replay of the masquerade with occasional insite from the director.  Again, the masquerade was very good.  There were a couple of sketches that went over my head due to no references, and one that had me torn – part of me was laughing at it and another part was cringing at the shear fannish cheek.  (The bit in question started with Bill and Ted emerging from the Tardis and ended with Donna Noble being revealed  to be currently actually Sam Becket when Al appeared – The Tenth Doctor, Doc Brown and Marty McFly also made appearances.  And THEN they all performed “The Time Warp.”)  We also enjoyed the winning (IIRC) entry “Viva Las Villains.”

After that, we headed home.

I do have a few pieces of feedback I’d like to send out.  Some to Comic-Con, and some to other agencies, including the MTS.

One thing that strikes me about the masquerade, which was all but confirmed by the director, is that there is NO tech rehearsal.  This results in problems for the tech crew – most noticeably the video director and camera operators and the follow-spot operators who are all trying to figure out where to be completely on the fly.  This made it so that good shots were something to be commented on, not expected, during the replay.

I know that there are major logistical issues behind this lack of a tech rehersal – it would probably have to happen entirely somewhere between 10:00pm Friday and 10:00am on Saturday, making for a long day for the crew and the entrants.  But it would improve the show – and might actually make for a better experience for the participants.

Overall, we both had a good time and are looking forward to returning next year.  Since we already have our memberships, we better.

(FWIW  we MIGHT have spare bed space available if anyone would want to go next year.  But, you better get your memberships soon:  they sold out in October last year – and the one days didn’t last much longer.)

ComicCon 2010 – Wednesday-Friday

This weekend is the annual San Diego ComicCon, and once again Tara and I are attending.

For the preview Wednesday night, Tara took the day off, but I worked a normal day.  I did need to get out a bit early to catch the train downtown, so I managed to have some things come together so that I actually ended up having a busy afternoon.  But I was able to get off and catch the train.  While on the train, listening to a book on my iPod I missed Tara’s call asking when to leave, but caught her follow-up call needing routing advice shortly, which I provided.   Since she’d barely left this meant that this year I got to the convention center first.

I got there, stopping briefly at Seaport village for a snack (a chai tea latte and a pastry) and then walked along the bayfront to the passageway between the Marriott and the Convention center.  I then had to walk across the front of the convention center – including past the sign warning people that state law prohibited smoking by the doors – which to me should imply the entire from – which had people smoking almost next to.

After a brief confusion over the fact that the long, mostly unmoving line, was NOT for regular attendees, I got up to the registration area, got my badge, giant bag and other goodies all within just a couple of minutes.  I then headed out to area behind the Sails Pavilion where I sat on the wall almost surprised people weren’t smoking back there.  After about half an hour, Tara got there and we met up near the registration area.

We quickly decided that we were hungry and wanted to let the exhibit hall crowd distribute into the hall before going in ourselves, so we went into The Gaslamp and found that once again the SyFy folks have taken over Maryjane’s Cafe and turned it into Cafe Diem – so we ate a dinner of very good, but not cheap, sandwiches.  The only disappointment was that our table had ads for the WWE program, not some actual SF program.

Afterwards, we returned to the convention center where we spent longer than we realized (or intended) shopping.  Tara picked up a book on the art of the Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series at Dark Horse comics, and a couple of other things at the Nickelodeon area – more of which she may explain.  I got a sketched (while we waited) edition of Evil Incorporated Annual Report: Volume 5 directly from Brad Guigar.  While he was sketching and chatting, I observed that he’s taken a page – almost literally – out of Howard Tayler’s book by including a page specifically for the sketches.  We also spent some time talking with Barb and Ray at Off World Deigns.

We then headed home to rescue the dog who was trapped inside and head to bed.

On Thursday, we got moving a bit later than optimal.  Forgetting that last year Tara was dropping me off at work about 7:30 or earlier and then parking at Old Town, but remembering how long it took for us to get to Qualcomm Stadium, we made the mistake of heading to Old Town.  When we couldn’t find parking, we doubled back to Qualcomm Stadium (almost being hit by a parking shuttle on Qualcomm Way) and boarded a trolley without incident.

Tara was worried that we’d be too late to get into the three items in Ballroom 20 (the second largets hall used for most of the big TV presentations), but we were fairly early in the line and still had almost 90 minutes to wait – since the first item wasn’t until 1:00.

The first panel was on Burn Notice which neither of us actually watch, but can still appreciate.  If I’m reading comments in the panel correctly, the people who were there actually interrupted their filming in Miami to be there – so actually the only main actor present was Bruce Campbell.  But the main writers were there, along with Tim Matheson who has also directed some episodes, and another guest actor (also a villan from what they said) who moderated.  Both the shtik and the fact that intelligent questions were asked kept this panel entertaining even with not being a viewer of the show.  During the panel, there were two announcements made.  First, it was announced that the show just reached 1,000,000 FaceBook fans.  Second, it was announced that USA network and Fox Studios reached an agreement to do a movie prequel featuring Bruce Campbell’s character – clearly a deal that was finalized during the convention that morning.

The next panel was on White Collar which I’ve watched since the beginning and Tara’s seen an episode or two of.  The full cast was there, along with a couple of the writers and a producer.  Again the panel was entertaining and informative.  One of the best stories involved shooting on location in New York where Willy Garson was filming on a street where tour busses come by regularly.  But the operator’s of the open air busses kept announcing when they saw him (and possibly missed the film crew) “To the left you’ll see Sex in the City’s Willy Garson,” which ruined the takes.

I had to step out during the panel to use the bathroom, so I missed someone asking a question about having the show feature a couple in a happy established marriage.  But Tara was able to fill me in later when I mentioned it.

The third panel was on Psych, which we’ve both watched pretty consistently from the beginning.   This was another fun panel, but a bit more chaotic both because of the nature of the cast and crew, and the nature of the fans.

After the three panels, we got our memberships for next year, and then headed over to the Marriott to find the fulfillment area – we’d gotten t-shirts from all three panels.  We did get lost in the Marriott due to the nearly complete lack of signage – coupled with my mixing up where the fulfillment area was.  Instead we spent a few minutes waiting for the Con Suite to open, and a few more munching.  Then we headed for fulfillment – which was at the far end of the world – and got our goodies.

We then headed back to the exhibition hall and did some more shopping – ending with Tara buying the latest edition of Girl Genius, which got autographed by both of the Fogilos – who also ended up autographing a bunch of old Magic cards that they’d illustrated.

We then left, a bit earlier than we might have.  In part we needed to be home in time for my brother and niece who were flying in from Colorado so that she could attend freshman orientation at SDSU.  On the way home we stopped at Rubios where our ComicCon badges got us free drinks.

In part because their flight was delayed as was their arrival at our house, and in part because we all got talking about stuff, none of us got to bed quite as early as we should.

On Friday, Tara and I all got moving pretty well – although I was a bit delayed by Tara getting into the shower about the time I was thinking of getting in.  But we did a bit much talking, and neither party got out at 7:00 like we intended.  This time we went straight to Qualcomm Stadium and got to the Convention Center in good time.

But we were still a bit further back in the queue for Friday’s panels, which started at 10:30, than we were for Thursday’s panels.  But we still got good seats – only a few rows further back, and to one side – but actually with a potential better stage view if it weren’t for heads.

The first panel was on Stargate Universe, which had a sampling of the cast including Ming Na, David Bloom(?) and Robert Carlyle, as well as the head writer.  A couple of minor spoilers were leaked, but nothing too great.  Again some very intelligent questions were asked, a few that actually made the cast and writer think.  We both enjoyed this panel quite a bit.

The second panel was on Caprica.  Since I got so burned out before the last season  of  Battlestar Galactica, I have had absolutely no desire to see Caprica, so I tuned out most of what I saw at the panel.  In fact, I actually snuck out at got us lunch – identical to our Thursday lunch – and later go to the bathroom and probably missed most of it.

The third panel was on The Big Bang Theory which was moderated by Wil Wheaton (not in his pseudo character), and had the full cast and both Bill Purdy and Chuck Lorry.  As a not-quite surprise Wil warmed up the audience by having Barenaked Ladies lead the audience in a sing-along of the theme song.  Before singing, their lead singer admitted to being a geek – including writing an introduction for the 30th anniversary edition of D&D.

This panel was loads of fun, with a cast and writers who appreciated the audience and an audience who was wildly enthusiastic about the show.  Again no real surprises.  The writers quickly confirmed that the character who is a potential love interest for Sheldon would reappear.

Someone did ask about the possibility of setting an episode at ComicCon, which may or may not have started the process of the writers figuring out how to pull this off when someone from ComicCon offered the use of some of their banners.  It was pretty much confirmed that they way the show is done would prevent any major location shooting.   Later it occurred to me that with the right photos the set dressers in Burbank could probably get pretty close on a couple of key sets, and having authentic props would help.  Getting any real shots for establishment might be a trick if no shooting was scheduled, but I’m hoping we see something.

After that we left and headed down to the exhibition hall.  It was more crowded then Thursday or even Wednesday night – which turned out to be an unexpected problem.  At some point when we were a fair ways back I realized that I was feeling extremely anxious – which doesn’t happen all that often.  But in the past I’ve had claustrophobic reactions to crowds, so I knew it was lurking under the surface.  I also had some symptoms of a migraine so I suspect that the two may be related but I’m not sure which is the cause and which the effect.

But we managed to get out of the hall without any major issues, and then headed over to The Gaslamp.  After finding nothing much there to do, we decided to head home early and got home before my brother and niece, giving us an opportunity to get some dinner.

Old Gaming Group Get Togethers

On the Christian Gamers Guild e-list, there has been a thread discussing recapturing the gaming experiences of our youth.  One participant mentioned that he will every year or so get together with his old gaming group for a day of nostalgic gaming (i.e. a day ignoring more adult responsibilities).

I’ll admit that I’ve had similar thoughts on occasion, but have been blocked by the simple logistical issue of the fact that, between the two long-term gaming groups I’ve been involved with, I have friends in (at least) Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois, both peninsulas of Michigan and (I think still) northern Virginia – oddly many of whom I’m in touch with via various social networks.  Of course I’m in southern California with just my family (and new friends), of course.

But, I also keep wondering if there would be a way  do this by telepresence.   We are still a long way from the kind of telepresence described in the book I just finished yesterday (The Naked Sun) which would be almost ideal.

But, I’m thinking that we aren’t quite there yet without specialized – that is expensive – networking setups.  We are close to the point that there are either free servers or pier to pier setups that will allow for multiple voice and video connections at one time, but I think most of the ones that really do this are still pay-to-use for businesses.

Still it would be fun to schedule some day when one – or both (that would be interesting) – of these groups could get together by video conference for a day-long gaming session.

Maybe in a year or two when multi-party video conferencing is commonplace.

To Anyone Who Will Be Attending Worldcon

Due to circumstances beyond our plans and desires – i.e. not enough money to both go and buy a house – I will be unable to attend Worldcon this year.  But there is a strong likelihood that this year’s business meeting will include business that could lead to a change that I think would be of benefit to Worldcon fandom and fandom in general.  So I am instead going to attempt to do some lobbying.

Of course, a lot of my readers will be either (1) not going to Worldcon themselves, (2) not interested in Worldcon,  (3) not SF fans (in the con attending fandom way, or (4) are aware of this issue and already have their own opinions on this issue.  So I’m probably just waiting my time and bits, but what the heck.

What follows will include some discussions that include Worldcon politics, Worldcon procedures and other minutia.  While I encourage anyone who attends any SF con to at least skim this since there may be stuff you will be interested in, I’ll let those with complete disinterest tune out.

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Dying Computer?

Yesterday sometime during the day, I quit being able to access my home web server.  For a while, basically until I called home on the home/voip phone and confirmed it was working, I feared that the whole network was out, but it was just my old Linux box.

When I got home, I was able to reboot it and it came up – sort of.  For some time I’ve not been able to get it to launch into x-windows reliably (which isn’t too bad since I keep my mac asleep most of the time so I can get it up just about as fast) and its display has had a noticeable cyan tint.

But as I’m sitting here, I can hear quite loudly the power supply fan, which so far has failed to quite to the standard application of percussive maintenance.

So, I’m again suspecting that it is nearing time to rebuild this system.  Of course a new system will probably end up as, at least, a new power supply, mother board, proc and memory.  As long as the mother board has onboard video, networking and PCI slots I should be able to reuse those components.  Also, I’m hoping I can reuse the hard drives which are less than a year old, and if needed the SATA controller for them.

Then there is the migration issue.  With new hardware will come new drivers, so I’m pretty sure I’ll have to reinstall the OS.  But I don’t want to lose any of my data or configurations.  (Well, I’d gladly loose whatever configuration issue has killed the imap server and made the tomcat server unable to talk to the sql server – neither of which I’ve been able to find or fix).

The hard drives are mirrored raid pair, so in theory I could put them in as unmirrored, install on one and then transfer most of the data from the other.  I also have a good – I think quite good – backup on a network storage box which could be used to recover the files.  But I’ll have to have a strategy for doing so.

I’ll also have to have the budget for new hardware and the time budget to do the assembly and installation.  And, of course, I’ll have to find the current OS install disks – which may or may not be in the box of stuff from the rental house that doubles (at least as far as I’m concerned) as the cat’s step to his windows seat (he prefers to use the computer desk and chair).

Maybe I’ll try some more percussive maintenance first.

If You Are Going to ConJecture – Or Should

First, if anyone was already planing on going to Conjecture in October, please get your memberships sooner rather than later.  If you get them before the end of the month, you will miss the next price increase.  But the sooner you get them, the happier and less stressed the con staff and committee (and especially the chair, registrar and treasurer) will be.

Also, if you are going and planning on staying at the Town and Country, get your room reservations sooner rather than later, so we can make the hotel happy.

And, if you weren’t planning on going, but are either in the San Diego area and a fan of SF and SF conventions, or are a fan of SF and SF conventions and would like an excuse to come to San Diego in early October, please consider coming.

Thank You

We now return you to the non-comercial part of this blog/journal.

Classifying Genres

After finishing up viewing an older BBC series, I’ve been trying to determine if it counts as being more Alternate History or Secret History.

The story in question claims that Henry Tudor was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth, but was killed accidental subsequently to the battle.  It also contends that Richard Duke of York survived into adulthood – yet somehow ended up heir to his uncle instead of the other way around, a detail not covered – and succeeded to the thrown as Richard IV.  But subsequent to Richard IV’s death – the result of an accidental poisoning which had been meant to only kill a group of potential assassins – which also killed most of the remaining House of Plantagenet including both of Richard’s sons.

Then, Henry Tudor rewrote the history of the last several years stating that he was victorious at Bosworth, that Richard Duke of York disappeared as a boy, and that Henry’s reign began shortly afterwards.  And, somehow, within a generation this history was accepted not only in England, but across all of Europe – in spite of a brief crusade and much involvement in continental wars on Richard IV’s part.

So would this story count as Alternate History – even though after the point of departure the previously open changes were made secret, or would this be Secret History even though the events were quite public at the time?

Of course, the story in question really classifies as either Comedy or Farce – and has enough other historical errors to drive a truck through (or at least I think, given my very small knowledge of that era).

(And, for the few that have gotten this far and not recognizedly the story in question, it is, The Black Adder)


Trip Home and Westercon Followup

After finishing up with Westercon yesterday, Tara and I lazed around a bit, and then hit up Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles for their signature dish (i.e. the one in their name) – although we didn’t put the chicken on top of the waffles.

This morning, we slept in a bit before packing and heading south.  For better or for worse the worst traffic was the jam directly in front of the hotel.  There seemed to be a bunch of people who were checking in at a time when normally people are checking out.  And with two large groups that had stay overs – both Westercon and the, presumed, Indian Subcontinental language group literary event – this caused a bit of a jam.  It was probably not helped by the fact that the incoming group was dominated by less youthful people who drive expensive cars and – and I’m not wanting to be judgmental here, but… – seemed to think that they were more important than anyone else.  At times the valets, and even bell hops, were having to move cars just to let other people get their cars out.  At least this mess wasn’t spilling out onto the public street.

I talked Tara into taking the more costal route – only to discover that the interesting historic part of CA-110 lays beyond our route – between I-5 and US-101.  But we made good time, and it was a bit cooler and greener – at the expense of being nearly 100% urban instead of the surprisingly rural inland route.

We are now home, being chewed out by the cat while we wait for the groomer at the Vet’s office/boarding place to get done with the dog.  I’m doing some work on the computers – including importing my newly acquired music.

I’m glad we again went to Westercon, and we both fully expect to go the next two years, and not just because we’ll probably need to promote at least one convention at each.  I am strongly in the camp that doesn’t want Westercon to die.  I think that it does, and can, serve several important fannish roles.  One I can think off off the top of my head is it can serve as a bit of “training wheels” for Worldcon.  It is a smaller event, but it does pull people from outside of its immediate area, and has its regular attendees that one may not see at a fixed local or regional.  This idea holds true for both members and con runners.  The only thing that makes this not perfect is that it is, at least currently, often smaller than the local cons wherever it is ran  – or at least this year’s event felt smaller than Loscon.

We do need to find a way to make sure that we are encouraging people who attend the cons in the local area to make it to Westercon at least when it is close enough – and I’d like to see more people go.  At the least, I do plan on at least making sure some of the people I know who go to some of the San Diego cons know that they should go to Westercon the next two years – even though it is a bit further than it was this year.

I’ll also admit that my mind has been playing with a way that one could propose to bid for both a Westercon and Worldcon in the same year for mostly the same dates and location – but setting it up so that Westercon was an extension day or two to Worldcon.  I’m 99.9999% sure that this would be a fun thought experiment, but would could be a disaster and would actually do more damage to Westercon than help get it back onto the map.  Of course the trick would be to find a way to have dates that satisfy the Westercon date requirement and would still allow for sane, but early July, Worldcon dates without creating the risk of killing successful competing bid for either event.  (This would have been easier to do if we hadn’t changed Worldcon back to a 2 year lead since one would just get Worldcon set west of 104 degrees and in early July and then just note that any other Westercon won’t work, but the fun exercise would be for both having a 2 year lead, and Westercon voting first).

I need to get off the computers, get our site selection and hugo ballots filled out, and dequeue some TV.