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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Shouldn't Conventions be Fun?

Yesterday, my daughter and I attended Long Beach Comic Con. We left our home near San Diego at 8 a.m. and drove the 90 freeway miles without incident. Once we got to downtown Long Beach, however, everything changed for the worse, and remained that way for the rest of the day.

There was no traffic control heading toward the convention center. I sat behind a bus for nearly half an hour trying to turn right from Pine onto Seaside Way. Every time the light turned green there were cars in the middle of the intersection blocking any progress. Sometimes one car was able to turn right, but that bus sat there for so many light changes that I lost count.  Once we finally got onto Seaside, it was evident that we had to get into the left lane to enter parking. Six light changes later, we were finally in line to enter the garage. Why was it such a slow process? Because there was one lane open to collect the $10 parking fee.

Once parked we walked toward the entrance. HOLY COW. The line to get in was now ridiculously long. Thousands of people comprised a line which stretched from the entry doors, up over the ramp which crosses the street back into the parking garage, snaked through the garage and back outside. It took almost an hour to get inside. There was only a handful of people scanning tickets and handing out badges and wristbands.

We found our way to the Exhibit Hall. It was quite crowded, as you can imagine, but we managed to make our way up and down the unmarked aisles. There was no signage to indicate what row you were in, so the vendors list with booth numbers was not as useful as it should have been.  When we found our friend who was working at a booth inside, she told me that picking up the vendor badges was a royal pain. She was sent to several different locations by staff. When she finally arrived at the correct place to collect the badges, the person didn't know how to find them and actually asked my friend to find her booth in the program for her.

The entire time that we were in the convention center neither of us had any cellular service, and there was no convention wifi. I swear the building is operating inside of a force field.  My iPad uses a different carrier than my phone, and while it showed 3 bars, I could not post to any social media or load any websites. So much for posting for my social media clients. Curiously, when we went outside and walked 25 feet from the building we had full bars.   My daughter tried to pay for something and the vendor couldn't get the vendor wifi to work either! He had her sign a slip so he could process the payment offline.

my Star Trek purchase
After we made a couple of small purchases, we tired of the noise and crowd. We grabbed some lunch then headed toward the panel rooms. The main reason I went to LBCC was to see the Con Man and Firefly panels which were at 2:30 and 3:30. We decided to locate the panel room so we would know where to go for them. An email that I received before the convention stated that the rooms WOULD BE CLEARED between panels, and that the lines for the next panels would be allowed to form ONE HOUR before the panel.

The Batman panel was about to start. The doors to the room were open and I peeked inside. The room looked SMALL. There was a sign on the door with the same information as my email.   I asked a staff person how many seats the room held. He said 700. I looked outside and saw a line of at least 1000 people waiting for the next panel, which was Con Man. I told him I didn't think I'd get in for Con Man, but if I did, I wouldn't have any hope of seeing Firefly, since the room would be cleared and the line would be more than 700 people.  He assured me that the line for Batman was just as long and I'd have a seat and after Con Man I'd be able to walk right back in. I was skeptical.

this is the sign on the panel room door

I spotted a friend who also wanted to see the same panels. We decided to go outside and queue up, not believing we'd see Con Man, but hopeful to be in the line for Firefly. We estimated the line to now be about 1300 people. It started inside the building, went out the doors, along the building, curved along the street, back against the other side of the building, behind some dumpsters, and then between the building and the street. At about 2:50, we were still standing out there. Obviously we were missing the Con Man panel. Suddenly, a staff member took people who were in the middle part of the line along the street and sent them across the latter part of the line where we were and into the building. When I asked why, the woman "in charge" told us that they accidentally had 2 lines and were merging them. What? These people basically cut in front of hundreds.

By 3:00 we were told to all go inside. The doors to the room were propped open and we were told that we could stand in the lobby and watch the panel from there.  We were also told the room would not be cleared after the panel. We could neither see nor hear what was going on in that room, but more and more people kept pushing into the small space. We were wedged in like sardines. I had 1 bar of cell service for a few moments so  I was able to get a couple of tweets out, mentioning the con account and that of the Long Beach Fire Department, as we were clearly in violation of fire codes and the posted convention policy for those panels.
this is the lobby outside the panel room
our view of the Con Man panel from outside in the crowded lobby

As soon as the Con Man panel ended, those in the lobby stormed the room. There were a handful of seats that opened up, but we didn't get one. I stood next to a woman with a baby in the last row who told me that her kids were cranky, so after she got a few pictures, she was leaving. Her husband took the older child and left and I got a seat. My daughter was told by a staff person that she could not stand. An announcement was made that no one was allowed to stand in the back or sides. I told her to wait, but she was not pleased. Eventually, the 2nd seat opened up for her, but through the duration of the panel, the sides and back were lined with people.

Unfortunately, I couldn't hear most of what the panelists were saying. People called out to turn up the volume, but it wasn't enough for the back rows. The entire panel was Q&A, but there were no mics for the questions, so we had no idea what they were, or what the panelists were replying or reacting to.
 the Firefly panel from the back of the ridiculously small room

When the panel ended, we decided we had had enough and would head to the Exhibit Hall to say goodbye to our friend. We were stopped in the hallway because the panelists were to be crossing the hall into another room. That was serendipity. We were able to snap a few pics of them as they exited the panel room.

Sean Maher

Jewel Staite

Summer Glau

Nathan Fillion
When we got back to the Exhibit Hall, we saw two of our friends that were in line for the Firefly photo ops. One did not make it into the panel, the other was with us and did manage to snag a seat in a few rows ahead of us. She left the panel a little early to queue up for her photo. We got an earful from both of them about how the line for the photo ops was also mismanaged, and rerouted, and now they were further back than when they started before many of the people in front of them had even arrived.

This was one of the most poorly organized conventions I've attended...and I've attended a lot of cons of all sizes in several states! I will not be returning to Long Beach Comic Con.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Happy Anniversary Star Trek

Star Trek premiered it's first episode in the US on this day in 1966. Our culture, society, and our science was impacted forever.

Who doesn't recognize the phrases "warp speed," "beam me up," or "live long and prosper?" Even those that have never seen an episode of the original series could pick Spock out of a lineup.

Who can argue the impact of putting issues of racism, inclusion, diversity, peace and tolerance on television, in a fantastical setting, didn't plant seeds of change?

How many pieces of technology do you own that were imagined in the series before our scientists and engineers could make them reality? A cellular phone? A tablet? A microwave? A 3D printer? Have you had a medical scan? Seen a Taser?

On a personal level, Star Trek has meant an endless supply of new friends, deep and impactful relationships, philosophical discussions in person and online, and the ability to incorporate the ideals and icons of Star Trek into my everyday life through my postings for various Trek-related outlets. 

I wouldn't know most of the people I hold dear if it weren't for Star Trek. No matter what differences of opinion we may have--religious, political, philosophical, etc--we have a common ground on which to base our mutually respectful relationships. 

In a troubled and turbulent world, Star Trek gives us hope for our future. 

Happy 50th Anniversary Star Trek. May you live long and prosper for centuries to come. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Glorious Evening!

I was one of the privileged 500 people who got to attend the Star Trek Beyond Fan Event at Paramount Studios last night.  It was a glorious evening full of fandom, surprises, and friends.
Here's how it went down:

 We arrived at the Gower Gate just before 6 p.m. and lined up. We were given release forms to sign. Once in the gate, we were given snazzy wristbands and sent to the check-in table where we presented our ID and received our badges.

We stood outside of Stage 32 until it was time to let us in, but we did catch glimpses of Chris Pine and Justin Lin while waiting. It was a good time to scan the growing crowd for friends and get hugs. By the way, Stage 32 is where the Original Series was films from 1966-1969.

Finally the rollup door began to move upward and we saw the plaque for the Enterprise 1701. We then walked through an Enterprise corridor and arrived at the soundstage. It was arranged like a theater in the round, with a big delta shield design on the floor and three groovy white stools in front of a table with a few props on it. There were big screens with Star Trek Beyond displayed on them and the familiar soundtrack was being played. On each seat, there was a cone of Popcornopolis caramel corn.

We waited and chatted for about half an hour before the host, Adam Savage, was introduced. He was so upbeat and seemed genuinely excited to be there. Adam introduced producer JJ Abrams who spoke a little bit and then they were joined by director Justin Lin. There was a Q & A with  some predetermined questions. Our first surprise was an image on the screen which we were told is a limited edition fan poster that we will all receive. Then the crowd erupted in cheers when JJ told us we were all getting credentialed to see the premiere screening at San Diego Comic Con. It will be an outdoor screening in IMAX 3D.

We were all surprised to hear JJ bring up the subject of the Axanar lawsuit. According to JJ Abrams: "“A few months back there was a fan movie and this lawsuit that happened between the studio and these fans, and Justin was sort of outraged by this as a longtime fan. We started talking about it and realized this wasn’t an appropriate way to deal with the fans. The fans of Star Trek are part of this world. We went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit. Within a few weeks, it’ll be announced that this lawsuit is going away.”

Adam Savage

JJ Abrams, Adam Savage and Justin Lin
The Fan Poster I received
JJ and Lin left the stage and next the Star Trek Trinity were introduced: Kirk, Spock and Bones. Karl Urban shouted out to the cheering crowd, "Are you out of your Vulcan minds?!" There was more Q & A from Adam, Twitter and few audience members. There was a question from Huston Huddleston of the Hollywood Sci Fi Museum about the tone of the set without Leonard Nimoy, and Quinto responded that he missed him, but that he was in all of their hearts and his presence was felt on set and in the film to a great extent. Speaking of Nimoy, his family occupied the front and center row of the audience. At some point we were also shown behind the scenes footage from the making of Star Trek Beyond. 
The Nimoy Family

Karl Urban, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto: McCoy, Kirk and Spock

We were then ushered back outside to another stage area with bleachers. We were offered champagne or seltzer on our way to be seated. The bleachers filled up and about half of the audience were left standing to the side and behind the stage. Zachary Quinto then gave a short tribute about Leonard Nimoy and the street we were on was renamed Leonard Nimoy Way. The street sign was unveiled and we all raised our glasses in his honor. After some photos were taken of the celebrities in front of the bleachers we went back inside to a large screening room.

(not my photo, but I don't know who to credit)
On the way inside, we had to stop by the Orion girls to get our phones locked inside of neoprene pouches. Once inside, we stood in front of a giant screen. Soon the trailer was played and the response was, by my observation, 100% positive. Security personnel used night vision glasses to ensure no one was recording. Then we were treated to an extended clip, about 10 minutes long by my estimation. We were told VFX wasn't complete, and the it was a bit raw, but I thought it was great! The scenes we were shown were much more "treklike" than anything I've seen from the last two films. 
This is what our phones were in. 

 After the screening we got another surprise. A PARTY! Another wall was lifted away and we were treated to a DJ, waiters offering wine, beer and food, and props and costumes on display. Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine even posed for selfies with some lucky attendees.  We got custom made t-shirts, posed for pictures in the captain's chair and transporter. I had a blast visiting with my Trek Family, old and new!