Cornfield Meet

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Games, Games, Games – Gen Con 2014

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I got home from Gen Con fifty-some days ago (Yes, it was – as expected – another completely fantastic trip.), and I’m pretty sure I’m finally caught up on all my game-related writing.

I played 16 games at Gen Con this year, 11 of them for the first time, plus I came home with one more game to review.

So, here’s our series of GeekDad Gen Con collaborative posts, to which I contributed:

The Getting Excited for Gen Con 2014 Super-MEGA Post

The “Very Best Stuff We Saw at Gen Con” Post

My new dice and dice bag from Gen Con.

From that “Best of” post:

Pretty sure I’m not alone in this, but since being re-introduced to D&D a few years ago, I get such a kick out of picking up new dice. They’ve become not just part of my game-playing, but little souvenirs and memory triggers, too, since I have generally only added dice to my (relatively small) collection when I’m visiting a convention, or playing in a local game store.

And when it comes to dice, if you can’t find the ones you’re looking for at Gen Con, then those dice just don’t exist in this ‘verse.

With my recent fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set purchase, I needed a new dice bag, and Gen Con was the perfect place to find one. I also bought a set of oversized dice, a CritSuccess d20 spinner ring as a surprise for my wife, and added a couple free d6s courtesy of Crystal Caste (which provides an official Gen Con die every year) and Stonehaven Miniatures.

Gen Con’s non-stop nature remains one of the reasons I love it so much. I love this picture that Jonathan Liu took when we were playing Machi Koro. If memory serves, it was well past midnight, and we were far from the only people hanging out and playing games in that hotel lobby.

While the exhibitor’s floor at Gen Con closes every evening, several of the massive open gaming halls stay open so you can meet up for late-night Lords of Waterdeep or Lewis and Clark. And after-hours gaming at the hotels or the convention center can mean a chance to cross paths with the game designers themselves, since most of them tend to be busy during the day. We had one of the Wizards of the Coast creators stop by our table as we were playing his game at last year’s Gen Con, and this year, we wound up playing some nifty as-yet-unreleased games, simply because we were in the hall late, and Jonathan happened to see a few game designers he knew.

Reflections on Gen Con 2014: Expectations vs. Reality

 

And here’s what I played at Gen Con:

Firefly (RPG)

Numenera

Dungeons & Dragons

(I did a GeekDad write-up on all three, “The Shiny, The Weird, and the Neoclassic.”)

Mars Attacks

Machi Koro

Flip Flash

Roll For It

Zombie Dice 3 – School Bus

Lewis & Clark

Lords of Waterdeep

Golem Arcana (demo)

Cash & Guns

D&D Attack Wing (demo)

True Dungeon

Strife: Legacy of the Eternals

Operation F.A.U.S.T.

Steve Jackson Games also sent me home with a copy of Munchkin Adventure Time, which I just wrote up for GeekDad.

Dang, do I love Gen Con. Let’s do it again sometime.

October 6, 2014 Posted by | Games, geek | , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye, Sally

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Sally & Kelsey. Photo by Jenn.

Somewhere around 14 years ago, Jenn called me from a pet store. The local pet rescue crew was there, and would I please just come down and take a look at this particular pup that she and Kelsey had met. You don’t have to say yes, I was assured, just come and meet her!

In the years since, I would recall my trip that day like this – with a hat tip to Vizzini and William Goldman: “I fell victim to one of the classic blunders. Never go into a pet store with your wife and daughter when a rescue puppy is on the line.”

On the ride home, Kelsey named the dog Sally.

We said goodbye to Sally today, a cool and sunny September morning of towering cornfields and just a few hints of changing leaves on the tallest trees.

When we brought Sally home as a puppy, she was smaller than any of the three cats we had at the time, so even as she grew into those massive paws that looked ridiculous on such a tiny creature, she knew she was never the boss of the house.

She also never quite seemed to grasp the fact that she was, in fact, growing, and considered herself a lap dog long after she surpassed 50 pounds (she was close to 90 at one point) and could stand at the kitchen counter. And I loved seeing this way-too-big dog curled up – Look! I’m still small, see! - and sleeping on Kelsey’s bed.

Having been around cats most of her life, I’m convinced Sally adopted some of their behaviors: I’ve never seen another dog tongue-bathe itself cat-style, which Sally used to do all the time.

One evening, when she was out in her fenced-in area of the backyard, a skunk came along, teasing and spraying Sally. We tried to drive the thing away from the house to no avail, and were completely at a loss when Sally backed up for a running start and threw herself at the lower edge of the fence with such speed and force that she pushed completely under and past it without stopping, and then – >bam!< One Dead Skunk. The whole thing took maybe 10 seconds.

She loved fruit and vegetables. Seriously: If we left a bunch of bananas on the counter, we’d find the peels on the floor the next morning. Tomatoes, too. Oranges she’d chew a bit before remembering that she didn’t like them. One night, Jenn and I half-awoke to a solid thump! from somewhere in the house. In a four-animal household, that kind of thing is only truly alarming if there’s some kind of follow-up ruckus, and there wasn’t, so we went back to sleep.

A day or two later, Jenn asked if I had eaten all the cantaloupe she’d just bought. I hadn’t touched it, of course, and we eventually half-settled on the idea that maybe she’d left it in the grocery cart or something. Mystery solved about a month later when I found a pile of cantaloupe seeds hidden in a back room corner. A whole freaking cantaloupe. Goofy dog.

When we needed to move in the summer of 2013, it broke our hearts that we couldn’t bring Sally to our new home, but some amazingly kind and generous friends nearby offered to take her in. Our adoptively-named Sally-Pongo got to spend the last 14 months in the close company of another older dog (who sadly passed away not so long ago), taking lots of long walks through the woods and fields, scaring up wild turkeys, watching herons, and wading in a pond – and being loved by a whole new family who we will never be able to thank enough.

We had to make the decision to let Sally go this morning, when our friends called with the news that she couldn’t get up, and had made a mess of herself, and had barely managed to get to her water bowl. Jenn and Kelsey and I drove over right away. Sally was shaking, and hurting, and the four of us knelt around her in the wet grass and the shade of the trees behind our friends’ house, looking into our dog’s eyes and letting her know how much she was loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 14, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

BG 89-91: A quarter century and a mix CD

Twenty-five years ago this month, I started my freshman year of college at Bowling Green State University.

Tonight, I drove a few miles out on some of the narrow, field-lined roads here in Lake Township. The sun hadn’t completely set, and there was an unusual (for early August) bit of coolness to the air, even though the corn is tall yet. Perfect night to put the windows down and crank the CD I burned a few years ago and labeled BG 89-91. It’s a mix of songs that take me back the most powerfully to my favorite years at BGSU. The songs are not all from those years, but they’re definitely among those that I listened to the most, and which still dig up the deepest memories and impressions of the friends and the places and the times.

My drive wasn’t long enough to get through the whole CD, but I had a few in particular that I wanted to hear, and as always, they mixed heartbreakingly well with the smell of the fields and the lingering pink-orange clouds.

Here they are, in the order they appear on the CD:

New Order – Blue Monday

Real Life – Send Me An Angel

Depeche Mode – Strangelove

Pixies – Dig for Fire

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

Depeche Mode – A Question of Lust

Yaz – Only You

Don Henley – The Boys of Summer

The Cure – A Few Hours After This

August 6, 2014 Posted by | 1980s, 1990s, Music, Ohio, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

OSWCC Summer Social 2014

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Image from a photo by Kim D.M. Simmons

I signed up to join the Ohio Star Wars Collectors Club shortly after Jenn & Kelsey & I moved to Ohio fifteen years ago, in the summer of 1999.

I had learned about OSWCC through the vintage Star Wars collecting Usenet newsgroup, and was intrigued by the idea of a group of collectors getting together in real life to geek out and swap stories, trade stuff, and share new finds and favorite pieces.

I seem to remember that the club communicated mostly through email lists at the time, and even though I soon felt comfortable contributing online, it was still quite awhile before I actually found the nerve to attend one of the monthly meetings of the North Region. I remember being nervous about actually meeting my fellow OSWCCers in person, and wondering whether the few pieces from my own collection I’d brought to share would be blown off as lame, and whether I’d feel odd and left out. It was kind of like heading off to a week at Camp Tippecanoe when I was a kid.

Turns out it was really cool and low-key and just a bunch of Star Wars fans hanging out and nerding it up for a few hours. And I loved it. For a few years there, I hardly missed a regional meeting, and I spent a crazy awesome 30+ hours with OSWCC friends at Star Wars Celebration II in Indianapolis.

In 2001, I had to cancel my trip to what was supposed to be my first OSWCC Summer Social, due to a seriously violent 24-hour-case of the barfs that swore me off Chik-Fil-A for life. I started a 10-year streak of Summer Social attendance in 2002, though, making it a priority every year even though along the way, my attendance at the regional meetings had trailed off. And the social was a highlight every year: road tripping with friends or bringing Kelsey along; catching up with everyone and browsing the tables; picking up really cool pieces and meeting some really interesting folks.

The OSWCC gang was my first audience for the essays that eventually became Collect All 21!and my friends there were the first to embrace and support it.

My trips to Celebrations III, V, and VI included more fine times hanging out with OSWCCers.

My social attendance streak came to an end in 2012 when we were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation, and I missed last year’s as well, due to a family move.

And honestly, I wasn’t sure about this year – again, I haven’t been to meetings or active in the club forums for some time – until my friend and fellow OSWCCer Matt asked if I’d like to share some of my Star Wars nostalgia with a presentation at this year’s social in Cincinnati. (The location rotates annually between the Cleveland, Cincy, and Columbus regions.) It had been awhile since I’d done one, so I accepted the invitation, stayed up late the night before the July 12 social writing and rehearsing, and hit the road that Saturday morning with my daughter and her friend.

Digression: Kelsey had not been to a social since 2007, and had only been to one other before that. It was a pleasant surprise when, the Thursday before this year’s, she said, “Hey – you didn’t invite me! What’s up with that?”

We left early and met up with my buddy Josh in Ashland to share the rest of the there-and-back-in-a-day trip. (Yes: More time on the highway that day than actually spent at the social. Still worth it.)

Man, what a fantastic day: Scott D.M. Simmons and his dad, Kim D.M. Simmons were there – that’s a Kim Simmons vintage Kenner photograph up at the top of the page – along with a bunch of OSWCC friends who I had a ton of fun catching up with. Many of us have now known each other long enough to have seen each others’ kids grow up.

Despite the support OSWCC has always given my writing, I was really nervous about my presentation, because these are people I know. It’s different doing a reading at a library or convention where the audience is people you’ve never met. But you know what? Once I started, I wound up having fun. And people said some incredibly nice things to me afterward, and I was grateful to Matt for the opportunity and glad to have made a few people laugh, and happy to have sparked some other childhood memories.

I’ve missed this. And even if I don’t meet my goal of making it to a North Region meeting again soon, I’m awfully glad I made the trip.

(Also: If you’re a Star Wars fan and you live in Ohio, and you haven’t looked into joining OSWCC, why the heck not?)

 

 

July 19, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unplanned Summer Break

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I did not intend to take a three-and-a-half-month spring-and-summer break from Cornfield Meet, but it’s been an inspiring and energizing “vacation.”

And it’s not like I haven’t been writing at all: I did a couple book reviews at GeekDad, and an 11,000-word travelogue on a cross-country adventure my daughter and I undertook – some of which will wind up here eventually – and I write regularly in the course of my job.

Still, the list of “Stuff I Want to Write” (an actual handwritten document here on my desk, I swear) has reached an alarming length, so it’s time to just sit down and start hammering away at these things, even if they’re mostly just for fun.

 

 

 

July 19, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized, writing | , | Leave a comment

Talking about storytelling, part two – Change in (about) 100 words

From a recent exercise in storytelling. Assignment: In roughly 100 words, describe a time when your life changed.

At the last minute, I threw out my first, more serious draft, switched topics entirely, and wrote on the fly -

When we got home, I couldn’t get to my crayons fast enough.

I couldn’t find the black one, so I skipped Darth Vader and drew my stormtroopers in blue-green.

That’s how I remember the first time I saw Star Wars. I was six.

Since then, I have seen better movies. I have read better stories.

But this was more than spaceships and lasers and robots:

Star Wars is what got me interested in science and writing and history and mythology; in authors, characters, symbols, and archetypes; in storytelling and classically-inspired music and film-making.

This was a Big Bang. This was my world blowing up.

Also: spaceships and lasers and robots.

I liked the way it turned out, and it got a good reception. I saved it because I enjoyed looking deeper than nostalgia and remembering the first time someone else’s art really inspired me.

Look sir - droids!

April 6, 2014 Posted by | 1970s, geek, writing | , , | Leave a comment

International TableTop Day: What We Played

Spent about five hours gaming on Saturday, in celebration of International TableTop Day.

Started off with a three-person game of Love Letter -

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- which we followed with Tsuro.

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After that, another friend showed up, and the four of us took on Forbidden Island -

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Alas, victory eluded us.

On to Pandemic – another first for me.

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Another cooperative game – really enjoyed this. (And we were so freaking close to winning this one!)

Another gamer arrived, and we played a five-person game of Tsuro, and then something none of us had tried before: We Didn’t Playtest This at All.

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I think we played three complete games in about 12 minutes. So bizarre and odd and chaotic and fun.

 

April 5, 2014 Posted by | Games, geek, Ohio | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geek at the truck show

A few non-work-related photos from my trip last week to the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.

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I love amusement park skylines. This is part of Kentucky Kingdom, re-opening in May.

Next: Nerdworld and truckland collide:

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…and again:

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Western Star Trucks’ Optimus Prime, from the next Transformers movie.

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Film, geek, photos, science fiction | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Talking about storytelling, part one – Cleveland International Film Festival

Back on March 20, our department at work got together for a good chunk of the day to talk about storytelling. We had lunch, saw one of the short film programs at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and then hung out for awhile with the director of one of the movies we’d seen.

Here’s what we watched:

I enjoyed the program. All the movies were entertaining, and it was a nice mix of subjects and tones and length. Thoughts on a few:

Real Change – a nine-minute documentary about four homeless men who sell the Real Change newspaper Seattle – led off the program, and its director, Adam Michael Becker, shared his time with us after the screening. As a former journalist, I was incredibly impressed with the stories and personalities he put on screen in such a short amount of time without the movie feeling rushed.

I’m a fan of rock photography, so it figured that I enjoyed Who Shot Rock & Roll, although compared to the rest of the pieces, it felt a little long at 37 minutes. Some parts dragged or seemed repetitive while others were too short.

The Pledge for Mr. Bunny: This is such a bizarre and offbeat little movie, and I loved it, even if I can’t quite explain why. I can see where it wouldn’t be for everybody, but if you want to give it a try, it’s available in its entirety on YouTube:

 

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Film, Ohio | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Wookiee in Winter

About five years ago, I started measuring our heavier snowfalls using the galactically-recognized Giant Vintage Kenner Chewbacca scale.

DeepChewie

January, 2009

It’s been a particularly wintry winter here in Northeast Ohio, and I was asked recently how Chewie was faring this season.

Truth is…he quit. Just up and disappeared. Then, this weekend, a friend emails me a link to these pictures on Facebook:

Ah. Looks like Chewie headed for warmer climes.

… and maybe wanted to play tourist.

Oh. Well then. I hope he’s partyyying responsiblyyy.

Uh-oh.

(Chewie’s confession in the caption: “I don’t remember this.”)

Huge thanks for these pictures to über-talented photo geek extraordinaire Jim Carchidi, who once again goes above and beyond in responding to a nerdy request. He’s put this whole Chewie gallery in a public Facebook gallery, and you should go check out his portfolio, especially if you’re a fan of portraits, concert photography, Bike Week in Daytona, or Star Wars stuff.

March 3, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

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