I recently attended — and helped with — my favourite game convention in the world, Big Bad Con. I can’t believe it was the fifth edition already! And Edmund and I have been to every instance — and have a ton of souvenir pins to prove it. (You can read Edmund’s description of this year’s event starting here.)
Every year has been better than the previous, an amazing feat of continuous improvement of an already superb convention. But this year was also organized differently. Because of a SNAFU with the hotel, negotiations were difficult and a contract did not get signed until mid-May 2015, for a convention that takes place in October. If you have ever tried to put on an event of this scope, you know that they take the better part of a year to organize, so this was a challenge. Plus, organizer Sean Nittner had been putting on the convention with a handful of staff for the first four years through sheer personal energy, and I think exhaustion was setting in.
The Big Bad Wolf and the Wolf Pack
So this year Sean started with a call for volunteers which Edmund and I answered, followed by a Kickstarter campaign to make up for the hotel’s increased fees. The KS campaign was a runaway success, with 205 backers pledging $14,050 or seven times the sum of $2,000 Sean was asking for. He used the extra money to bring in a bevy of guests selected among enthusiastic community builders and diversity champions in our hobby. Continue reading “Convention Report: Big Bad Con 2015”→
Edmund gave me a speaker dock station for my phone a few days ago, so I now have my Agaptus playlist in the background while I prepare my two War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus adventures for next weekend’s Big Bad Con: Jean Sibelius (Finlandia, The Tempest), Edvard Grieg (Peer Gynt Suite), Camille Saint-Saëns (Le Carnaval des animaux), Paul Dukas (L’Apprenti sorcier), Sergei Prokofiev (Peter and the Wolf), Danny Elfman (Music for a Darkened Theatre), etc.
The two adventures are Ice, Ice, Baby and Curse of Agaptus, and will both be released as downloadable content on Evil Hat Productions’ website in the not-too-distant future.
We saw The Martian and found it as advertised. We liked it, it was a good choice for thrills, fear, humour, and hope.
Visuals and special effects: 5. It feels real through and through. I don’t recall a single moment when effects made me disconnect, and the motion shots in low gravity are very nice.
Soundtrack: 4. Orchestral stuff is appropriate and works fine; plus they found a way to add some songs I hate and make me like them. For a bit. In context.
Writing: 4. This made me want to read Andy Weir’s book, which had not made my list. It’s got vibes of Apollo 13 and Castaway, of course, and The Lonely Astronaut. It also resists the temptation to create villains when none are needed; the opposition of an uncaring universe is faceless. As a bonus, homages and Easter eggs are buried throughout for viewers to measure their nerd cred. (This is where it’s hardest to resist spoilers, when I feel like comparing notes!)
Casting: 4. Good choices, and I thought some of the actors might feel pleased to get some roles so different from what they often play. Lots of familiar faces and great actors.
Direction: 4.5. Like in (nonfiction) Apollo 13 before, the movie steers clear of one of Hollywood’s favourite tropes, the Great Man or supergenius who single-handedly makes everything all right. The central character of Mark Watney is obviously extremely smart, resourceful and tough, but you soon realize that he’s pictured that way not because he is supposed to be the Chosen One but because of the selection and training process that brought him to Mars. It’s necessary that he be an exceptional individual but so are all involved, and they are all needed. As a bonus, the right touch of humour (which I understand is in the novel) is preserved.
Editing: 4. Tight. The passage of time is handled pretty well; good and relatively sparing use of techniques like montages and voice-overs.
Science: 4.5. The most hand-wavey portions happen in the opening scenes; the reason protagonist Mark Watney is left on Mars is out of whack with what we know of the planet. Amusingly, some of the criticism levelled at the science in some later scenes seemed to me to show the commenters’ lack of grasp of the context.
Diversity: 4. Some excellent choices, reflecting a good deal of real-world racial and gender diversity. Bonus points for international cooperation. Still centers on a white man, of course, but strong, significant roles to non-white and/or non-male people. Alas, I noticed no hint of disabled, non-hetero, or non-cisgendered characters. Only one non-white woman, with no lines in English.
Feminism: 4.5. It passes the Bechdel test within minutes, as well as the Strong Female Protagonist benchmark. Lead female character makes life-and-death decisions and they are respected.
The Bart Sibrel Award for Verisimilitude goes to Ridley Scott, Arthur Max, and Dariusz Wolski. We’ve finally reach the point where we can make really good hoax expeditions, as long as no one on the filming crew, post-production, and support team of hundreds talks, and no one notices the large mobilizations to Hungary and Jordan.
Thanks to Ridley Scott’s own Alien movie and its, ahem, progeny, we’ve had a lot of space horror movies in the last three or four decades. But in the end, the thing that should really scare us is that the universe doesn’t give a damn. If we are to survive, we need each other. That’s the message I took from this movie, anyway.
I will leave you with two images I really like: the cast poster, and the good ship Hermes (my new screen background).
I just read The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence, by Gavin de Becker. It’s been around for a while, first published in 1997; I read the 2010 “Special” Kindle edition, which for what I can tell means a new foreword, some updates in the text, but poor translation to electronic format (sections of paragraphs were occasionally repeated.)
It’s a great book, an excellent primer in sorting through genuine warning signals and manufactured worry, on building and using one’s intuition about danger. I only wish it could be updated to include recent technological developments like the Web and smartphones.
I read it because of a friend who is trying to detach herself from an ex-boyfriend turned stalker, but this book also discusses many other situations we may encounter: disgruntled employees, abusive family relationships, celebrity stalkers, etc. Since it focuses on recognizing true warning signs of danger and separating them from hype, it felt awfully topical this week with the news of yet another school shooting and the way the shooter had announced his plans.
I suspect many people could benefit from reading it, but I think all women should.