Tuesday, November 26, 2013


So, Lily saw my copy of Ahistory, a book that covers history of the Doctor Who universe. It has a picture of the Mona Lisa on the cover. She gave remarkably detailed recap of the Doctor Who episode, City of Death, which first aired in 1979, when I was not quite five years old myself.

"The bad guy went back in time and made the guy who painted the Mona Lisa, I forget his name, paint some extra copies, but the Doctor went back in time too and wrote 'This is Fake' in felt tip pen on the canvas for the paintings. But then there's a fire and the only Mona Lisa that survives is one of the ones that has 'This is a Fake' on it."

That's some impressive geekery right there.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Follow up to the Allentown Comic Con: The Good, the Bad and the Weird

There are three companion stories to our time at the Allentown Comic Con, one about Lily being good, one about Lily being bad, and one about a very weird coincidence.

The Weird: I'll open with the coincidence. It's the internet age, and I know several people I consider friends, but who I have never met in real life. After I wrote about the con, one of the folks I've never met in person and probably never will happened to see the post and mentioned that he'd been at the con and caught the same wedding there. We were in the same room together, probably no more than ten or twenty feet away. Weird. I had no idea that he was even local. Of course, we're only aware of such coincidences when they happen. For every time when you get a phone call from your mom when you're thinking of her, there are thousands of times when you're thinking of her and she doesn't call. We only see the hits. The misses are invisible to us. 

The Bad: We almost didn't make it to the con at all. As we were getting ready, Jen was putting on her Buffy costume and Lily threw a fit because "Buffy doesn't wear that much blush!" It really escalated and she got completely bent out of shape about it.

I tried to turn the whole thing into a teachable moment. I tried to explain that other people are going to make decisions that she isn't going to like, but the freedom to make decisions includes the freedom to make bad decisions, and it isn't her choice on how much blush mommy wears as part of a costume. (And it's not like it was an excessive amount either, but that's hardly the point.)

She got over it, eventually, and we went to the con, where we had a happy moment. Most of the people reading this far will have already read about this on Facebook, but I'll repeat it here.

The Good: When we were in the shopping mall housing the con, some motion caught my eye and I saw that someone had dropped something. When I looked closer, I saw that it was a pile of cash, but I couldn't see who had dropped it. So I kept my eyes peeled, and caught the next time money fell, presumably from the same person.

So Lily and I ran her down and asked if she had dropped it, and she checked and saw it must have fallen from a bank envelope that had become turned upside down while she was carrying it. She looked ready to cry as she gave me a hug and told me that was all her money in the world.

It's always a good feeling knowing you've done something good, but it's extra nice doing it with your daughter and superheroes. Let's hope that if Lily maintains an interest in superheroes as she gets older, we can set an example that says that sometimes the most "heroic" thing you can do for someone is to perform a small kindness that they can't do themselves. It wasn't my intent to set a good example for Lily, but I'm glad I could. I hope the lesson she takes from this is that helping people isn't remarkable, but just something one does when presented with the opportunity.The only remarkable thing about it was that I was lucky enough to see the second set of bills fall, as it's difficult to determine ownership of money. ("Excuse me, ma'am, do you recognize this money?" "Oh, yes, that's mine. It has George Washington on it, just like mine!") 

Single Sentence Review of the Atrocity Archives

I love the universe Charles Stross has created, and hate everyone who inhabits it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Our return to the Great Allentown Comic Con

I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum.

Well, we went to another con this weekend. And I dressed up. I fought it for more than thirty years, but I guess it's time to stop denying that I'm anything but a great honkin' nerd.

It was the Great Allentown Comic Con. Lily and I had gone last year. This time it was the whole family.

We all wound up dressing up. Lily's initial plan was to go as a fashion designer and I asked her if she wanted to dress up again for the con like we did  Rhode Island, but she said she didn't, because "there are no fashion designers in comic books."

I said, "What about Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp?" Daddy's knowledge of b-list superhero civilian careers saves the day once again!

I intended to go as Dipper Pines.

I had the hat already, and the vest. The only thing I was missing was a red shirt. Perhaps it was some vestigial fear from Star Trek. I don't know.  Jen went to a thrift store, and as it was just a few weeks after Halloween, there were a ton of costumes for sale. (It struck me as somewhat ridiculous that someone would donate a costume to a thrift shop, but, seeing as we bought one there, I won't question it further.) She grabbed a mask and a cape, and Lily wound up going as Batgirl instead of the Wasp.

Jen was Buffy. She was on the fence about dressing up, but it was supposed be a dollar off admission if we did, so she threw together a costume. We didn't get the discount, but it's possible that the woman at the door didn't recognize that we were supposed to be anyone, other than perhaps a streetwalker and a grown man in short pants.

This photo probably didn't help. Lily took it. My instructions were to "Pretend you're eating the book". She told Jen to look horrified, but that was probably unnecessary. 
A wedding was held there as well, and they asked friends, family and anyone who wanted to attend to proceed. We thought it would be neat, so we did. We sat behind a pair of Klingons. Lily has attended two weddings in her seven years, and they were both costume weddings. We're warping the poor kid.

I didn't buy a ton of stuff. It was packed and we didn't feel like fighting our way back after the wedding. Lily bought some stuff from the artist at Geek Boy Press, whose work I had picked up for her at Monster-Mania a couple months ago. He's an extremely nice guy and a talented artist. I always try to support those artists whose work I enjoy, so please click through the link and check him out. 

Guest-wise, they had a few celebrities who had been present in the Rhode Island Con, among them Walter Jones, who had played the Black Ranger in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and Bonnie Piesse, who had been Aunt Beru in the Star Wars prequels. Comic artists and a ton of vendors rounded it out. 

Overall, the con itself was okay. A lot more crowded and with many more costumes than last time. I really think they're going to need to move to a larger venue next year, because there was barely room to move. Some guy dressed as the Joker was periodically setting up a camera on a tripod to take footage of other con-goers which did nothing to help, but the Joker always was an asshole.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Doctor Who: Josh's list of each Doctor's iconic adventure

I've mentioned previously that I really enjoy the Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays. I'm not really a fan of the rebooted series. I think it's a quality production, but in moving it from a cult property to an international phenomenon, a lot of the quirky weirdness that I so enjoyed was lost. I don't think it's bad by any stretch of the imagination (except for Moffat's treatment of women);

 it's just no longer a show I'm interested in watching.

And that's fine. It's not a show that appeals to me. It is a show that appeals to to a lot of other people. By any metric you'd care to use, NuWho is much more popular than Classic Who ever was. But Big Finish scratches that Classic Who itch for me, so don't cry for me, Romanadvoratrelundar.

I like the Doctor Who RPG a great deal. The supplements are simply outstanding, particularly the sourcebooks for each individual Doctor. The books are not merely summaries of adventures, but some truly thoughtful analysis of what makes a First Doctor adventure different from those in other eras. With that in mind, I've been thinking about the adventure for each Doctor that I find most representative of that era's theme.

First Doctor: The Celestial Toymaker: I really have minimal experience with the the First Doctor, and I picked this one because it's one of the few I've seen.

Second Doctor:  Ditto the Second Doctor. My friend Jen sleeps with a Patrick Troughton pillow which she snogs before bed every night, but I've only caught a handful of his episodes. I'll go with The Mind Robber. It's got Zoe and Jamie and it's available to stream on Netflix.

Third Doctor: My first impulse was to pick The Three Doctors, but even though it's my favorite of the Pertwee era, it marks a shift of how I think of his run, the Monster of the Week UNIT adventures with the Master showing up now and again to be a dickhead.  I think I'll go with Terror of the Autons. It has the Master, Autons (obviously) and Jo Grant, whom I consider the definitive Third Doctor companion.

Fourth Doctor: I'm picking two, because he seemed to have two distinct eras. Genesis of the Daleks from the Sarah Jane (Sarah Jane is an always will be a Fourth Doctor companion to me) era, City of Death from the Romana era.

Genesis really codified the Dalek mythology (though, like many fans, I wasn't thrilled that Davros showed up in every subsequent Dalek episode for the next fifteen years).

I can't find the quote, but someone else said that City of Death is the episode you show your non-Whovian friends. It doesn't take itself seriously. It's fun in a way I can't quite articulate.

Fifth Doctor: I was able to come up with the other adventures pretty easily, but not so for the Firth Doctor. I had to talk to my friend Eric, as he had mentioned once that the Fifth Doctor was his favorite. Davison had a number of problems. He had to follow the extremely popular Fourth Doctor, and he was hobbled with some terrible companions (Tegan? Kamelion?! PERI?!!) He did have Nyssa and she went a long way towards salvaging his runI personally found his run a bit bland, but not offensively so, and I liked quite a few of his stories. My favorite would probably be Earthshock. The appearance of the villains is surprising if you haven't been spoiled, and we get the death of a companion for the first time in a while. 

Long overdue
Sixth Doctor: I'm warming to him considerably after listening to the audio dramas, where he's actually very good, but his TV run was still shit. Blarg. I suppose anything but Trial of a Time Lord, but that doesn't leave much, does it? I guess my favorite is the one where he tries to strangle Peri (The Twin Dilemma), presumably so he won't have to listen to Nicola Bryant's terrible American accent one moment longer.

Seventh Doctor: The Seventh Doctor also had shift in the themes of his adventures over the course of his run. He started out in a goofy Colin Baker wig, with a bunch of silly affectations lifted directly from McCoy's earlier career, and then got darker and darker. I was never a fan of Mel, and I think his run didn't really take off until Ace came on board. They had some great chemistry, which continues in the audio plays. The run had its problems (Silver Nemesis and Remembrance of the Daleks are essentially the same story and Ace even points this out), but he's my second favorite Doctor, after Tom Baker.  I think if I had to pick a favorite episode, it would be The Curse of Fenric, for the part where the Doctor recites the name of his earlier companions in order to raise the psychic barrier against the Haemovores.

Eighth Doctor: I'd been limiting myself to the the episodes broadcast as part of the TV series for the purposes of this list. However, as Paul McGann got slightly over an hour as the Eighth Doctor on TV, and numerous appearances in other media in the role, I'd argue that his iconic stories come from the spin-off media. With that in mind, I nominate Zagreus as the definitive Eighth Doctor adventure.

 It's a fortieth anniversary production, and it features McGann, as well as almost anyone who had ever played a role in the Classic series. It's an outstanding tribute, and the ending, with the Doctor exiled to a parallel universe, showcases the endless possibilities I loved about the old series. It really seemed like anything could happen.

Ninth Doctor: The Ninth Doctor had a shorter run than he deserved. Dalek really should have been called something else, but it was a great episode, and Eccleston does an outstanding job of portraying a man still poisoned with survivor's guilt.

Tenth Doctor: School Reunion may well be my favorite of the new series, but I don't think it's terribly representative of the Tenth Doctor's run. Human Nature/Family of Blood is almost as good, however, and it does have the elements of disproportionate revenge that I associate with Ten.

Eleventh Doctor: forthcoming: The one where John Hurt kills his rubbery-faced ass. I still hate Matt Smith.

John Hurt puts the hurt in "Hurting Matt Smith's stupid face"

Monday, November 4, 2013

On our way to Swan Point to visit H.P. Minecraft

One of the big reasons that we were so excited about attending the Rhode Island Comic Con is because it put us close to Swan Point Cemetery. This was especially cool for me, because this trip was funded, in part, by a story I had sold to the Lovecraft Zine.

I love cemeteries. I always have. Every time I see one, I think of a line from Robyn Hitchcock's Airscape.

The tide recedes upon the bones of something beautiful and drowned.

Locally, we have Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill. Should I ever make it to France, I'd really like to see the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial. My great-grandfather was involved in that offensive, but that's not the reason I'd like to attend. It just looks like a really beautiful place.

Kenobi Jen and Frederick also like cemeteries. They recently vandalized the grave where an orangutan is buried in the place of Edgar Allen Poe, and they wished to continue their reign of terror against HP Lovecraft's final resting place.

We drove around a bit, stopping every so often if there was a particularly picturesque monument to see, and we found the site. The leaves were turning and it was beautiful weather for a cemetery visit, chilly and overcast. It was a bit windy, too, however, and that made the act of getting the rubbing a little more difficult than it had to be.

Lovecraft's grave had a number of offerings near it.

Sorry, supplicants. Your offerings of pumpkin spice candles and escort service business cards aren't going to save you when the Old Ones rise.

 I'm familiar with the tradition of placing a stone on a grave to show it's been visited, and I guess this was a variation on the gesture. Either that, or someone was making it slightly more convenient for zombie Lovecraft to enter their house to eat their brains.

Jen Classic was sick and stayed in the car for most of it, though she popped out to take some pictures at my request.  Lily ran around and had a ball. My friends are very nice people. "Nice" is such a flabby word, but I think it fits here, because Jen and Jen and Frederick are all really decent,  thoughtful and considerate, taking the the time and putting in the effort to be good friends to people they like. Being both smart and kind is unfortunately a very rare combination, but these three folks have it in abundance, which is probably why Lily and I both like them so much.

I had this thought when Frederick let Lily perform a rubbing, while Kenobi Jen held the paper steady in the wind.

Lily knows the name Cthulhu, and can recognize a representation, but doesn't really have much of an idea of the whole Cthulhu, Mythos.(And I think I would be rather disturbed if she did, at seven years old.) There was a miscommunication and she thought we were visiting the grave of the guy who invented Minecraft. I thought that was pretty funny.

She used a couple different colors, and wound up with a very festive rubbing.

Sukie was the kid, she liked to hangout in the graveyard/She did brass rubbings, she learned you never had to press hard

A trip to Rhode Island Comic Con

I went up to the Rhode Island Comic Con this past weekend, with Jen and Lily as well as my friends Frederick and Jen. (With two Jens, we call the first "Jen Classic" and the other "Kenobi Jen")  It was a really nice little trip, and surprisingly inexpensive. We drove up in one car and stayed in a Motel 6, with boys in one room and girls in another.

This was Lily's first time at a big convention. We'd been at the Great Allentown Comic Con last year, but that's pretty small and local. This was the real deal.

In talking about the Monster Mania Con in August, I mentioned that there is often a lot of bleed with the theme of conventions. A comic con will be billed as a comic con, but they'll take any celebrity who answers the invitation. Monster Mania largely avoided this dilution, but Rhode Island Comic Con didn't. So, consequently, we had legitimate genre celebrities, Billy Dee Williams, Danny Glover, the actors who played the Bounty Hunters and Admiral Ackbar, but we also had a bunch of wrestlers, and the actors from weekend at Bernie's, the latter of which struck me as almost completely inexplicable.

We arrived around one on Saturday. Jen Classic's plan had been to see the local attractions around Rhode Island, while the rest of us took in the con, but she was feeling a bit under the weather and wound up just seeing local attractions near the convention center.

The costumes were nice. There were a ton of bounty hunters. As I was getting my wristband, one of the convention guys asked, "How many bounty hunters do we have at this con?" and I was like "We don't need their kind of scum."

We also saw Magneto in a plastic helmet. I can only assume he was cosplaying as Hipster Magneto. Any pictures that come up when I google that phrase?

Ah, there we go.

Lily enjoyed the costumes. (Though she asked why one scantily clad Batgirl was "walking around in her bra") She was in her shy mode, and generally didn't want to talk to people, so I did it for her, and everyone we approached was very nice about having a picture taken. (Also, kudos to the RI CC for having a clearly stated "Cosplay is not Consent" harassment policy posted). I thought a bunch of them were really neat, though I won't be posting any of the pics here. I did like the pair of friends who were dressed as Korra and Asami.

Frederick: Isn't that the Avatar?
Me: God, that's racist. Just because she's in a Water Tribe outfit doesn't mean she's automatically the Avat-. Oh, she's with Asami. Yeah, she's the Avatar.

We all had a pretty good time. We came in under budget, because I didn't really see anything I wanted to buy for myself. Lily saw a caricaturist, and she posed more or less patiently for her sketch.
 (It helped that she had a good view of the crowds passing by). We also bought some series 5 Lego minifigures. When we told him which figure we wanted, the dealer helped us feel the packages to try to identify the figures within, which was awfully nice of him.
She just looks so happy there.

There were a large number of artists there as well. We picked up a Wonder Woman poster that I quite liked.

Kenobi Jen  was familiar with Providence because she went to school at Brown...

Well, she graduated with a degree from Brown, and since

A.) she was surprised that the school had a stadium,
B.) all of her stories about Providence are about bars and/or coffee houses,

I'm not sure she spent all that much time at the school itself.

We visited Swan Point Cemetery, but that is worthy of its own post.