Sunday, September 22, 2013

Equinoctal Tea

Today is the autumn equinox and it's been cool but sunny all day, with a bit of breeze. Perfect weather for an equinoctal tea! So I made cranberry orange walnut muffins and opened a new tin of orange pekoe I'd bought for a special occasion.

Mom started the family tradition of an autumn equinoctal tea--at least, it was her idea and she often talked about it, but I don't remember if we ever actually found time to do it. That's the problem with things that don't seem all that important: there's always time to do them later, until suddenly there's no time at all.

So as I did last year, I sat down to an equinoctal tea. I used Mom's beloved Royal Doulton china and chose one of her books of horror stories to read.

I miss you, Mom. I miss you most of all in autumn, when the leaves fall on the porch but you're not here to sweep them away.

Monday, September 2, 2013

DragonCon 2013!

I got back from DragonCon today, and it's safe to say that not only was this my hands-down best con-going experience ever, I'm pretty sure it was the best weekend of my life. That sounds pretty sad on the surface, like maybe my whole life has been so blah that one fun weekend rises above all the boredom of the previous years. But I mean that not only was the weekend fun, there were no negatives. Nothing bad happened. Nothing caused a blip in my enjoyment. I wasn't even bored. When I needed some quiet time to recharge (as an introverted person), I was able to claim it easily. I met with friends, talked to affable strangers, made some modest purchases that please me all out of proportion to their cost, and stepped out of my comfort zone and enjoyed it. And there were several distinct high notes among the general goodness.

I didn't keep the detailed records I have at previous cons, mostly because this time I had a smartphone (which I got in April and love) so I was able to tweet about my experiences instead of writing them in my leather-bound journal. I did make a few notes, though, so I'll transcribe them here with additions and pictures. All the photos were from my phone, so they're not all that great.

Friday, August 30, 2013

No connectivity anywhere. I didn't realize how much I rely on my phone until it's only a fraction useful to me.

I'm at the Ghost Hunters panel. This time I made it into the right line.

It doesn't matter how often I come to DragonCon, I get lost instantly trying to find anything.

Above: Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango from the Ghost Hunters panel. They were funny and interesting, which made it a great start to DragonCon for me. Also, of course, I tried to see them in 2011 and got in the wrong line by accident and ended up attending a panel about some video game I'd never played and never wanted to play.

Friday, August 30, 2013
5:46 pm

First panel was great, funny and relaxed. It took me a while to find the Westin hotel but this panel, "Sherlock Holmes and the Mainstreaming of Victoriana," and the next two I want to attend are in the same room. As long as I can find a bathroom I'll be fine. I have granola bars and there's a water cooler over there.

Molly's going to get a Saturday pass tomorrow and hang out with me! [Molly is my cousin who lives in Atlanta, and who I didn't expect to get to see since she's so busy with her job.]

10:33 pm

The Sherlock Holmes panel was okay, although it wasn't all that interesting to me. After that I went to the Dieselpunk panel, but I wish now I'd gone to The World of Abney Park panel. For one thing I could hear them laughing like crazy in the next room, and for another the Dieselpunk moderator and a few of the panelists obviously disliked steampunk and kept making little digs at it. That didn't make me inclined to like them. For some reason.

From my Twitter feed:
Next time any panel I want to attend is scheduled at the same time as anything to do with Abney Park, I know what I will choose.

Above: The Dieselpunk panelists and their really big guns. They were dressed really sharp, all in khaki and army green. The guns lit up, too. I mostly spent the time admiring the panelists' costumes and props and tuning out most of what they said.

I really wanted to stay for the next panel (next two panels, really), but I started to worry about finding my car. I parked in the first parking garage I saw and neglected to make a note of its name (although I did take a picture of the level and section I parked in, which was pretty smart of me to do actually). I was also getting really hungry. So at eight I left. It took me half an hour to find the right parking garage, and that was in daylight. I'm glad I didn't wait.

From my Twitter feed:
Three people have asked me for directions. If only they knew I've lost an entire parking garage.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

From my Twitter feed:
I've staked out a shady spot to watch the parade. My cousin was supposed to join me but she overslept. So I am in costume and ALONE, Molly.

Guy just walked by with a Tribble.

Above: Me in my costume with my friend Kevin, right after lunch. It's not a great picture but I'm like the least photogenic person in the world and in almost every picture ever taken of me I'm either grimacing, my mouth is open, or my eyes are closed. Or all three. While I was at the parade a woman asked to take a picture with me, which startled me so much I guarantee my mouth was open. I'm not used to people even looking at me, a middle-aged woman who works hard at not standing out, so being in costume was a startling change. And of course that's part of why I did it. After the woman's daughter took our picture, the woman smiled at me shyly and said, "Thanks. I love steampunk." It MADE MY DAY.

I've had a great day so far! All it takes to make me happy is a small amount of friendly human contact.

Molly overslept so I watched the parade without her, then went to the airship races. They were a lot of fun, and apparently there's a group in Knoxville involved. I want to see if I can join. After that Molly and I met for lunch, and while we were eating Kevin [a friend I've known for about twenty years but only see at DragonCon] called and I invited him to join us. He did and the three of us hung out for a while. Molly decided against a day pass since it was getting late, but she and a friend may get full passes for next year. Kevin and I are meeting to go to a thing together at 8:30, so I need to be back in my costume and heading back into Atlanta in an hour or so.

From my Twitter feed:
I'm taking a break. Back at the hotel, changed out of my costume for a few hours, getting some food. Great day so far!

I went to a panel about steampunk music this afternoon that was so fun. Both Professor Elemental and Robert Brown of Abney Park were panelists, along with some other folks. I'm glad I went too because someone there said we need to get in line to see them play tonight early, around 10:30 (for a midnight show) because it will fill up fast. If I miss it I will be so sad.

From my Twitter feed:
Omg I'm in the same room as my favorite singer. So awesome.

Fangirling quietly over here.

Above: From left to right: Unwoman (a singer and awesome cellist), Robert Brown of Abney Park (my current favorite band), Professor Elemental (incredibly fun hip-hop artist)

The panel was lively and interesting and the questions people asked were intelligent. I've been to a lot of panels with famous writers on them, including writers I admire enormously, but I've never felt the flat-out fangirl thrill as I did when Robert Brown and Professor Elemental came in that room. (My guess is that that's because I'm a writer myself, which takes some of the mystique away from writers, while I'm not a musician. Although if I had a do-over of my life, one of the things I'd like to have done is learn to play drums. In a heavy metal band, and I don't mean hair metal.) It was a bit of a relief, in fact, that they turned out to be only human beings, but clever, enthusiastic, and obviously nice ones.

I met Kevin around 8pm to attend a music-and-humor variety show, Gonzaroo. There was a huge long line to get in (a DragonCon tradition) and we were stuck by an ice cream truck that kept playing the same opening phrases of "Turkey in the Straw" over and over in the flat, creepy electronic tones all ice cream trucks seem to have. While we were waiting to get in, a couple of friends of Kevin's came by and we convinced them to join us. They had their son with them, an adorable 14-month-old who ate cheese and looked around like he was filing everything away to think about later when he could put all this crazy stuff in context.

I stayed at Gonzaroo until 10:30, when I left to get in another line, but I did get to see Paul & Storm perform some great songs (including one of my current favorites, "Nun Fight"), Molly Lewis who I'd never heard before but now adore, Bill Corbett doing some truly funny stand-up, and another guy who was also really funny but whose name I've forgotten. By the time he came on I was getting antsy about leaving and kept checking my phone every thirty seconds or so.

Above: Paul and Storm

The line hadn't yet formed at 10:30, though. It's hard to convey just how chaotic and crowded it is at DragonCon, especially the big open areas like the ones outside the big ballrooms where people roamed to take pictures of posing cosplayers. It's so crowded that it's easy to miss even an incredibly long line--there are people everywhere, so a line just looks like more people. I talked to a few people who were also worried about getting in the possibly-there-possibly-not-started-yet line for Professor Elemental.

From my Twitter feed:

I'm with some folks who claim we're in a line. I have my doubts.

It's sort of not really a line anymore too.

Someone told me they won't start a line until 11, so everyone's standing around preparing to trample everyone else.

Hooray it's a line now and I am in it!

Ok that wasn't the real line. Now it's a real line. Supposedly.

They finally let us in half an hour late. I now own two T-shirts and I'm sitting down thank gawd.

I'm not staying in this chair

[tweet that wouldn't send because I lost connectivity, but I remember it because it was probably the last rational thought I had until the show ended] I'm going to dance and tweet all night.

[tweet sent from the car while I waited at a red light on my way home, so you can see I wasn't quite rational yet] Didn't takr too msny pix cuz I was DANCING TOO HARD J ERR LL YEAH [that was meant to be HELL YEAH but my phone misinterpreted my staggering finger movements]

Sunday, September 1, 2013
12:42 pm

The show last night was SO GOOD. While we were all waiting in line a rumor started that after Professor Elemental played they'd clear the room and let in a new line, and if we were lucky we could still get in at the end of the line if it wasn't too long. But they didn't do that, and all of us who stayed to see Abney Park were really close to the stage. I danced so much I felt drunk.

Above: Professor Elemental. Not a great photo but the best I ended up with. As my tweet "I'm not staying in this chair" indicates, I only sat down for a few minutes and then decided to join the group up by the stage. I've never been much of a dancer, since I'm shy and not very coordinated. But you know what? Fuck it, I don't care, I love Professor Elemental and couldn't imagine sitting way in the back of the room where I couldn't hardly see him at all, watching everyone else dance and have fun. I've done that too much in my life. So I got up and danced, and dammit if that "dance like no one is watching" cliche is true. I had so much more fun just doing the white girl shuffle, and who was going to tell me not to? Who even cared or noticed me? They were doing the same thing. As Kevin pointed out the next day, too, DragonCon is nothing if not accepting of everyone.

Incidentally, I recommend wearing frilly ankle-length skirts and clompy leather boots to dance in. I loved feeling the skirts (and feather trim) swishing around my legs.

As the crowd pushed closer to the stage and compressed, I got closer and closer but it also got harder to take pictures that weren't blurry or filled with other people. I was really close by the time Abney Park took the stage, but I only got one picture, which was actually before they started playing. Once they started playing, I could not have kept myself from dancing if someone had threatened me with a gun. There's a reason Abney Park is my favorite band.

Above: the really bad picture of a few members of Abney Park before their set started.

It was 3am by the time I got back to the hotel, but I made myself get up at 8:30 am so I could be back at the con in time for a 10am panel I really wanted to attend. It was about the science of airships and was really good.

From my Twitter feed:
Four hours of sleep is plenty, right? I think it's plenty.

Above: the Science of Airships panelists, including David Lee in the awesome hat. I've forgotten the other panelists' names, but the guy who looks like Elrond has a steampunk story in the anthology Doorways to Extra Time, which I plan to buy. David Lee also has steampunk books available that I plan to buy.

Afterwards I talked to one of the panelists (David Lee), mostly because I was interested in his book, but we ended up talking for a few minutes about the publishing/self-publishing co-op he's part of.

Now I'm at a Skeptics Track panel about Applying Science to the Paranormal, which should be right up my alley. I've also positioned myself in a chair where I can escape unobtrusively during the Q&A if any cranks start yammering.

Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013
2:45 pm

The last panel was amazing! I bought the guy's book after and can't wait to read it. [The book is Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries by Benjamin Radford and it's fantastic. I'm on chapter two and enjoying it thoroughly.]

It's raining and the skybridges and halls are packed. I made it to a YA book panel (late), which seems pretty dull but I found an outlet for my phone. I guess it would be rude to sit in this panel and read the book I just bought. At least while I'm writing in my journal it looks like I'm taking notes.

The above note is the last I wrote in my journal. After that panel the rain had stopped so I went back to the Westin hotel (where the alternate history track panels were held; I spent a lot of time there) and watched a really good documentary about steampunk called Yesterday's Tomorrows. If you get a chance to watch it when it comes out officially, you really ought to. There's a related book by the same title that I may buy too.

Above: the diversity in steampunk panelists

After that was an amazing panel about diversity in steampunk. I was really impressed with the panelists, both their intelligence and ability to articulate some difficult concepts and issues, and their variety. I've forgotten their names except for Cherie Priest (I heard her speak at ChattaCon this January and was impressed with her then too). After that it was around six and I went walking around, hoping to find a place to eat that wasn't mobbed.

From my Twitter feed:
This sub shop is EXACTLY what I was hoping to find: simple menu, low prices, and almost empty. Bless you Jimmy John's.

I met Kevin for a panel he was on at 8:30pm, which was a funny, relaxed panel about the movies and TV shows that came out in 1983. After that we split up briefly so I could go back to my car and lock up everything but my phone, my license, and some cash. We met again and went to see a band playing in the open concourse area, New York Disco Villains (which I want to call New York Disco Bandits because I've been playing Kingdom of Loathing way, way too long). They were fun, and filled some time before I needed to get in line to see another of my absolutely favorite singers, Voltaire. I hadn't expected Kevin to want to see him too despite my wheedling, but he very kindly came with me. I'm glad he did; it was a lot of fun to share the experience with someone. Because while I was excited to see Professor Elemental and Abney Park, it was Voltaire's performance that had me practically frenetic.

At first it didn't look like there was a line at all. We milled around, looking at costumes and talking. It was nearly midnight, when the show was supposed to start, when a woman came by and shrieked, "The line to see Voltaire starts at the men's bathroom!"

Well, it started by the men's bathroom, then went down the stairs, outside the building, across the Hyatt's forecourt, around the corner, all the way down the entire block, around the next corner, and was a quarter of the way along the back of the block when we joined the line, which kept getting longer.

From my Twitter feed:
Holy shit the line to see @AurelioVoltaire stretches outside all the way down the entire block around the corner and still growing.

I was so scared we hadn't gotten in line soon enough and wouldn't make it in. The rooms only hold so many people and then they won't let anyone else in. I reassured myself that Voltaire comes to DragonCon every year--this was his 15th year--and that next year I could see him if I didn't get in this year. But the ballroom was enormous and not only did we make it in, we crunched up to the front and I was able to see pretty well. I took a bunch of pictures, but they were all blurry.

The show was amazing. I don't even have words. I had so much fun, laughing and dancing. Voltaire did announce that next year he would not be at DragonCon, so all I can say is thank goodness I saw him this year. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I don't know if Kevin enjoyed himself--I hope so--because we didn't get a chance to talk. After the show, I dragged Kevin over to the merch tables so I could buy a T-shirt. While I was waiting my chance to squish up between people to get at the table, several girls came through, one of them in the front pushing people (politely) out of the way and announcing, "Coming through. Coming through." They came around the table and another of them said to the guy manning the table, "This is Voltaire's guitar." She was holding it like a holy relic. The guy took the guitar and put it in a chair, and then I got my T-shirt. As Kevin and I were pushing our way through the throng, Voltaire himself popped up by the table and was instantly mobbed by people wanting to talk and get autographs and photos. It was almost 2:30 am by then and I was running on fumes, so even if I was the kind of person who wants to talk to famous people, I didn't have the energy. But it was cool to see him so close. He seems like such a good guy, and of course he's a great singer.

Above: all the pictures I took of Voltaire were terrible, but this one's probably least terrible.

That's about all to tell. I got another four hours of sleep, then decided to head home directly from the hotel instead of going to the last few Monday panels. I reached home around 12:30 pm and suddenly it's past 10:30 pm and I have to work 10.5 hours tomorrow. So maybe I should, you know, get to bed.

Thanks to everyone who makes DragonCon such a fantastic event every year. Thanks to Kevin, who is fun to talk to and knows everything to be known about 1980s pop culture. You should definitely check out his hilarious podcast, Flopcast. Thanks to all the panelists and participants who engaged my brain and imagination the way a really good college class discussion does. And thanks to Professor Elemental, Abney Park, and Voltaire for three of the best live shows I have ever had the privilege to attend. If you get a chance to see any of these folks live, you really need to go.

From my Twitter feed:

Storming. It's a nice way to finish my weekend.