Friday, July 30, 2010

Comic Con Recap

or... a return from Nerd-vana

Hey all. Well comic con is over and I'm home safe and sound (not shanked in the eye with a pen, unlike SOME people). It was an exhausting weekend, but a lot of fun. I certainly wasn't able to see all the things I wanted to, and I definitely don't need to go for a few years, but it was well worth the trip.


We started off Friday bright and early, though not as early as I would have liked, got to the convention center at around 8:15 (and just sort of milled around waiting in line for the exhibit hall). The line for Ballroom 20 was crazy long, but we figured that those people were there for Caprica and Stargate Universe and that we didn't need to be waiting in line for the Big Bang Theory panel (which didn't start until 12:45) just yet. We were wrong. More on that. Anyway, so we went down to the exhibit hall as soon as it opened, got on line for the Warner Brothers booth and got some interesting swag like bags, mugs, and then got to see some cool stuff from Harry Potter like the Horcruxes and the Deathly Hallows. The floor wasn't completely packed yet since it was early, so we were able to wander a bit and see some random stuff/ celebrities. I had originally wanted an autograph from LaVar Burton because I loved Reading Rainbow, but all the TNG people were charging WAY too much for signing and the guard guy wouldn't even let me take a picture OF him, let alone with him. Lame-o. We saw that at 11am, Felicia Day and the people from The Guild were going to be signing things so Jesse and Dan waited in line for that while I went upstairs to start waiting in line for Big Bang Theory. Keep in mind this was like 10:30. So I get a pretzel and go upstairs to start waiting in line and I see that the line for Ballroom 20 is like wrapped forwards and back in and out for like a mile and half. Still, I figure, maybe they are just there for Stargate or something. Plus the room is really big. But no, I waited in that line for over 2 hours and didn't even get in. Worst of all, Dan came to join me after his signing while Jesse went to get a hot dog and they wouldn't even let him back outside with his hot dog! We had to wait till we got all the way inside for me to be reunited with my poor husband again. :-(.

We ended up getting in after Big Bang Theory for the "Bones" panel, which is a show I don't watch, but looked kind of cute. David Boreanaz I liked from Angel and he was very funny so it wasn't a total loss. Jesse and Dan left after that, but I stayed for the Joss Whedon panel, which was just Joss rambling around on stage with no moderator talking about who knows what. It was pretty disappointing. The only cool thing was at the very end when they were taking questions a guy came up and asked Joss who his favorite actor he worked with was and the guy asking the question turned out to be Nathan Fillion with a fake mustache and a hat on. Then Joss introduced him as the next Ant Man, which apparently was a joke, much to my disappointment, but it sure didn't seem like an "obvious joke" as Nathan tweeted later in the day. After those disappointments I pretty much spent the rest of the day wandering around the exhibit hall. We saw a bunch of random stuff for sale, I got to meet Malcolm McDowell which was way cool, and we got to get some things drawn by a few of the Flight comics artists and webcomic people like Cyanide and Happiness and Something Positive. I also just happened across the Tor booth and met Patrick Rothfuss which was probably the highlight of the entire day. I completely geeked out on him, but I don't think he really minded it that much because he geeks out on people too. We took a bunch of silly pictures together and I gave him a hug and got a copy of his new picture book signed. It was way cool to just be able to go up to him and chat casually without a line of people or security or anything. I bet that was what it was like to meet Neil Gaiman back in like the early 90s before he had handlers. That was pretty much my day. It was nice to have Dan and my brother there, though Nat kind of wandered away on his own to see some panels. I sort of wish I just went with him, because he got to see the trailer for Super which looks pretty rad. Didn't go crazy spending money, but got to meet and see some cool people. Still, it was somewhat frustrating that I couldn't get into the one panel (Big Bang Theory) that I really wanted to see.


So Saturday morning I was feeling like crap, but managed to pull it together to go to the con and everything. We arrived a bit earlier than we did the day before because I REALLY wanted to get in to see the Warner Bros panel with Green Lantern and Harry Potter. Waiting in line for that panel in Hall H was so much better than the Ballroom 20 one because we were outside on the grass under the tarp and we could sit down for long periods of time. It made it feel more like we were having a little picnic than we were waiting in line for the Matterhorn. Anyway, even though we weren't the first in line, I knew that Hall H was huge enough that we would definitely get in, and we did. They gave us some nice stuff at the door, which was cool. We got a really nice bag with pockets that was so much better than this ginormous thing we got the day before. Like seriously, you could fit a midget or a 5 year old child inside this bag. Anyway, inside the WB bag was a really cool Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows T-shirt and a Green Lantern comic. Seriously though, it was totally worth it just for the bag, because it was 20x easier to carry around. On to the panel...I didn't really have any preconcieved expectations for Green Lantern, but was pleasantly surprised by what we saw of it. They appeared interested in keeping it light and fun, and I hadn't realized before that the director was the same guy who did Zorro with Antonio Banderas, which I think was the perfect blend of adventure and humor. If they can keep the same sort of tone for this movie, I'll be all over it. He also did Casino Royale, which was a little long, but hopefully he will be trending more toward the fun side than the broody dark side. Ryan Reynolds was really likable, especially when this little 6 year old kid wearing the full Green Lantern get up asked him what it was like to recite the Green Lantern oath and Ryan said the whole thing like pretty much just to this kid. It was a super cute and tender moment and made me really like Ryan Reynolds more than I had in the past. Anyway, then we got to see the Harry Potter clips which were really long and got me completely pumped for the movie. They showed like a full scene from the first film and tons of extended clips, which were fantastic. Oh and Tom Felton showed up. Then we sat through a trailer for Sucker Punch which looked like a complete bloody mess of a film. It is directed by Zach Snyder the same guy who did 300 and Watchmen, so it shouldn't be a surprise that this looks totally terrible too. Plus it has like that chick from High School Musical in it. Ugh. Lame.

We pretty much cut out of that panel early and headed down to the exhibit hall again to wander and look at crap. Jesse and I happened across this booth which was supposedly going to allow you to get Natalie Portman autographs if you answered questions from this trailer of this really dumb looking indie movie she made. Then you got a ticket and had to come back and wait in line. Jesse loves Natalie Portman so he did the whole thing, but the lines were a complete mess and the security had no idea what was going on, and we didn't feel like waiting in this clump. Got a peek of her, though. I went by the G4 booth and spotted Nathan Fillion again, who also seems like a way cool person. After the whole Natalie Portman disappointment, we were kind of burned out from the floor, so we went out and just got in line for room 6bcf where Dan was. I think I saw Jerry O'Connell walking down the hall, but it could have been somebody else. Stopped by the autograph booths briefly and got a pic with that one creepy guy who played the puppetmaster on Heroes, who was sort of desperate for attention it seemed. Given that the put him in the way back next to like an old WWF wrestler's table, I couldn't really blame him. Also spotted James Marsters who still looks good at 50 or however old he is. Anyway, we got into room 6 and sat with Dan for a bit for panels that I didn't have the slightest knowledge about like Warehouse 13, Eureka, Human Target, and the new show Nikita. We actually got to see the full trailer for Nikita, which actually looked pretty sexy and kick ass. Warehouse 13 also looked pretty cute, and I might just start watching that. Basically, the only reason why we were in the room in the first place for like 4.5 hours was because of the Mythbusters panel at 7:15. There was NO way I was not going to get into that panel, so I figured I might as well just wait in the room for it. After each panel we were able to move closer and closer, so when the Mythbusters finally came on we were only like 5 rows back.

As I expected, the panel was awesome. Definitely the best panel of the whole weekend. I love Chris Hardwick from his Nerdist podcast, and I had heard Adam Savage on his show a few weeks ago, so I knew that they had a rapport. The whole panel was very conversational in tone and Chris is a really good interviewer. They should really give him his own tv talk show. I think he is almost as good as Jon Stewart for getting good interviews out of people. Anyway, everyone was very funny and seemed very much like how you would expect them to. I wanted to ask a question of Kari Byron (how the heck did she manage to keep working doing all the crazy stuff they do on the show while pregnant?) but they stopped taking questions after the guy in front of me in like (who, to be fair, was like a Jaime Hynaman impersonator). Oh well. We still got to sit really close and I got a bunch of great pictures of the group.

So that was comic con. Sunday we didn't go to con, but I did got to a reading/ signing with Patrick Rothfuss, Brent Weeks, and Brandon Sanderson. They did this neat thing where they each read stuff from the other authors. I got to hear a section from Wise Man's Fear, the sequel to Name of the Wind by Pat Rothfuss (as read by Brent Weeks) which was incredibly funny and just made me more excited for that book. I don't know what I'm peeing my pants about more: Wise Man's Fear or the last Harry Potter movie. Both will be completely epic. I think Wise Man's Fear has me in a tizzy more because I don't know what happens. Or maybe I'm more excited about Harry Potter because I DO know what's going to happen and I just want to see it play out. In all it was a super geeky weekend, but I'm totally done with Comic Con for a while. I mean, firstly I'm going to have a kid next year so that makes things a bit problematic, but also the whole thing has just gotten too big and crazy. I remember when I went in 2003, they still had big name people, but I didn't have to wait in line for 3 hours just to hear the voice actors from the Simpsons. Even last year, I got in for the Where the Wild Things Are/ Sherlock Holmes panel in H without waiting for THAT long. Also I guess there just isn't anything that i'm THAT excited for coming up. Plus with twitter, etc you find out about the really big important news pretty quickly. I mean its cool to be one of the first people to see a trailer for a movie that isn't coming out until next year, but is it so cool that I have to subject myself to endless hours of waiting? So yeah, I'm done.

Still, I always love being surrounded by other nerds. It is such a wonderful feeling to not be out of place, to see other people more geeky than you, to be able to ramble on about various characters with other people who could totally be your friends if you lived in the same town. I chatted with so many random people at Con this year, from the dad who brought his two little girls, to the chick who was super cool and gave me her extra Dexter shirt, to the group of lesbians in matching Wonder Woman shirts. Its like everybody that you would ever probably be friends with decided to show up in the same place. If only life were really like that. Where are these people the rest of the time so I can be friends with them? Jesse says they are in their parents' basements, but I'm not really talking about THOSE types. Mostly just the regular nerdy folks to waited to listen to the authors panel on Sunday with me. Where do THOSE people hide? Maybe someday I'll find them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Things that I Read

This Week: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Grade: B+

It is very rare that a book actually makes me cry. I cried when Sirius Black died (I'm such a 10 year old girl inside), I cried when I read The Diary of Anne Frank (ok, I WAS actually 10-11 at the time), and I cried while reading Tigana, the first book that really moved me in a very long time. The premise of the story is relatively simple. 19 years ago the Peninsula of the Palm, which is loose confederation of provinces, was invaded by two rival sorcerers from abroad: to the west, Brandin, King of Ygrath and to the east, Alberico, a warlord from the empire of Barbadior. The people of the Palm, fought valiantly, but ultimately failed. There were some victories, however. For example, in an act of defiance and sheer willpower, the Prince of Tigana, one of the provinces, managed to defeat and kill Stevan, the son of Brandin. Unfortunately, this was to be the state's downfall. Distraught and consumed with rage, Brandin summoned all of his magic to erase Tigana from the face of the earth. Not only did he have all the great buildings leveled after he was victorious, but he erased the name "Tigana" from the memories of all those who were not born there. The remaining refugees from the province, Lower Corte as it was now called, had to suffer not only the humiliation of defeat, but the fact that all their nations achievements had been completely excised from history. The story follows a handful of those refugees, children of the forgotten land, as they strive to reconnect with their countrymen and work toward downfall of both Tyrants.

The book is as much an epic fantasy as it is a parable about memory and the horrors of war. In his afterward, the author mentions on of his influences was a piece he read about Czechoslovakia where an individual who had been accused of being a traitor was completely removed (replaced by a potted plant) from a photograph of a Communist Party gathering in later publications. It doesn't take magical powers for people to be "disappeared" all record of their existence removed. Think about how many Jews converted in the wake of the Inquisition, and how many children grew up never knowing their true heritage, or Native Americans who never knew their language or culture. This is not just the stuff of fantasy and science fiction, certainly. What I really loved about the book was that the magical elements were kept to a minimum and only used when absolutely necessary. For the most part, the story was about reconnecting with self and country. I particularly liked the character arc of Devin, the young virtuoso singer who knows nothing about his heritage until he discovers that other members of his troupe are from his home. The scene that really got me was when Baerd teaches Devin the secret behind his missing past, culminating in Catriana singing the beautiful song about Avelle, a great city in Tigana of old, that Devin had only known as a wordless childhood lullaby. But the story does not only follow Devin and his compatriots. It also shifts in perspective to Dianora, a beautiful concubine in Brandin's court, who is also from Tigana and originally came to court to kill the king, but over the intervening 19 years has come to care for him. I really loved her inner conflict and her struggle to distinguish from loyalty to her forgotten people and the new memories and life she has made in the years that followed Tigana's downfall.

The book asks some really powerful questions for what I thought initially was a light work of fantasy. Are we defined by our ancestry and our past, or can we truly stand on our own merits? Is cultural annihilation more painful than physical subjugation? I really found it interesting how Devin, not knowing he was from Tigana for all of his life, reacts to the new information. He jumps right in and pledges his loyalty to the old cause, breaks down in tears at the mention of the life that was stolen from him. Unlike the decedents of a converso who might later in life discover he is from Jewish origin, the pain here is very raw and deep. Devin, one who had no memory of the old country, also finds the revelation of the past history as additional insight into the mind of his father who, though he never spoke of Devin's dead mother or the life they left behind, sang to his son the lullaby of a lost land. Strangely, I found it to be an interesting parallel to Art Speigelman's "Maus" books in that the traumas of the past are unknowable to those who did not live through them, but can be just as painful to the children who might not understand the hidden pain of their parents. I really think that Alessan's toast to his fallen country says it all: "Tigana, may your memory be like a blade through my soul."

As a side note, Guy Gavriel Kay is himself Jewish and Canadian, which may well have influenced this work specifically (Canadians are particularly sensitive to their past oppression/ obliteration of Native American/ First Nation peoples). Truly, this is the most complex and interesting work of fantasy I've read in a very long time. I also think that because it lacks a heavy dependence on magic, except in a few key scenes, that it is definitely accessible to non genre readers who enjoy complex storytelling, adventure stories, and historical fiction. This is the first book by the author that I've read, though Amazon has been telling me I "May also like" him for years. I definitely will be reading more in the future. I find his writing style to be meaningful, evocative, and thrilling. My only complaint about the book was that the ending came a bit too abruptly, was a bit too magical and improbable, and brought up more questions than it really answered. Not that I necessarily needed an ultimate face to face confrontation between all the major players, but... no wait, you know what, I kind of did. The whole book was like a solid A for me except like the last 50 pages. I'm giving this one a B+ only because I think the lackluster ending irritated me. Also the whole Night Walkers and Baerd stuff was just like a random side plot that kind of did nothing either. It reminded me of the scene in the movie version of Two Towers where Aragorn falls off the cliff and they build this false tension whether or not he will return. So unnecessary. Anyway, great book overall, well worth reading, and certainly brings up issues that can be discussed in the future.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Books I've Read So Far This Year

So, I know I haven't been particularly good with the blogging. I've been keeping a journal for my future offspring, so at least I'm getting things down, but blogging has been sort of lacking. Mostly in my free time I've been watching crap on TV and reading instead of writing (including my fictional stories that I've been neglecting) so I figured I might as well let you, my audience of 3, know what I've read so far this year.

From January 1-July 8 I have read/listened to a total of 40 books or graphic novels (48 if you consider that the Walking Dead Compendium contains 8 full sized graphic novels)

- The Gates

- I am America and so can you (audio)

- The Man who loved books too much

- The Gunslinger (audio)

- Secret Dead Men

- Dragonbreath (children's)

- Kingdom of Ohio

- Name of the Wind (reread)

- Half the Blood of Brooklyn

- Wolverine: worst day ever (children's)

- Every Last Drop

- Northlanders v1 (gn)

- Northlanders v2 (gn)

- Y the last man: cycles (gn)

- Y the last man: one small step (gn)

- Walking Dead compendium (v1-8) (gn)

- Y the last man: safeword (gn)

- Ignition City (gn)

- Captain Swing (gn)

- Resurrectionist (audio)

- Drawing of the Three

- Any which wall (children's)

- Y the last man: Ring of truth (gn)

- Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

- Night Watch

- Fantastic Mr. Fox (children's)

- Spellwright

- Confetti Girl (children's)

- Girl Genius (gn)

- Calamity Jack (gn)

- Johannas Cabal: Necromancer (audio)

- Waste Lands

- Spirit Lens

- Night Fairy (children's)

- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (children's)

- Dune (audio - reread)

- Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

- Soulless

- Boneshaker

- Strange Case of the Origami Yoda (children's)

Best adult book I've read so far:

Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Best children's book I've read so far:

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon