I can’t imagine there are ’80s nostalgia geeks out there who don’t know about The Retroist already, but if you’ve never spent time on the site or listening to the podcast, you’re missing a daily dose of Good Stuff, Maynard. Stuff you will wonder how you ever lived without, like the pointer to C64 Yourself, where you can just drag-and-drop a photo and get it rendered almost instantly into a gorgeous Commodore 64-ized version like this:
What makes this photo great? Not because that’s me, but because that’s me sitting at my typically clutter-covered desk playing Burgertime on my Commodore 64.
Large light gray box at the right? A black-and-white TV with rabbit ears serving as my monitor. The darker gray blob just to the left is the C64 itself, with the still-darker area being the keys. In my hands? A beat-to-hell joystick from our original Atari. (You can see the second joystick sitting on the desk almost dead-center: That short white vertical line – that’s right, we had played the covers off the things. Also, my brother Nick had a habit of chewing on them.)
Unfortunately, the C-64’s limited graphics capability falls short of capturing in detail my Gumby sweatshirt and oh-so-80s parted-down-the-middle haircut. Some things are best left pixelated.
Five years ago, after returning from Indianapolis and Star Wars Celebration III, I spent a couple weeks chronicling the four-day event in a detailed personal journal. What I was aiming for was to somehow capture not just the moments and pictures and memories, but that energizing feeling of just being among fellow Star Wars fans and geeks. By the time I was done, my diary of the weekend was more than 14,000 words long, and as I’ve re-read it over the intervening years, it’s always been clear just why I had always held up that trip in my mind as one of the best times I’ve ever had.
And yet Star Wars Celebration V just blew it away, start to finish.
Part of it was the location and execution. I was super-impressed with the Orange County Convention Center’s spaciousness and the Reed Exhibition planning which used it so effectively. And every Reed and Lucasfilm person I talked with was nothing but helpful and accommodating. My sole gripe, I’ll admit, was that Saturday’s hyped Main Event – George Lucas interviewed on stage by Jon Stewart – was a one-off session in a 2,600-seat auditorium. Although it was broadcast live on screens throughout the center, it basically meant that the majority of attendees stood little or no chance of catching the event in person. Compare that to Celebration III, where Lucas held three half-hour Q-and-A appearances that 10,000 people got to see directly. Still – knowing the Main Event’s limitations in advance, I didn’t even count on being there, so in the end, it didn’t detract from my experience in the least.
I also felt like I got to see much more of Celebration V as a fan. When Jim Carchidi and I covered C3 for the Tribune Co., we spent a good chunk of each day wholly dedicated to work issues: securing Internet access, writing, shooting, editing and filing all by mid-afternoon. We attended very few panels and spent the last day of the convention running around trying to see all the stuff we hadn’t gotten to check out. In Orlando, we actually found ourselves saying on Saturday morning that if the convention had to shut down for some reason, we could go home right then and still say it had been amazingly awesome.
Not that this year’s Celebration diminishes that 2005 experience at all – it was just That Much Better. So much so that I’m struggling to organize and figure out how to do these recollection blog entries – even while reaching for clarity, I want to write while the afterglow remains, so things may be a little hyper and jumbled for the next week or so while I give it a shot.
Below are links to the coverage I provided for Wired magazine’s GeekDad:
I also sat down at the convention for a trio of incredibly fun interviews which I’ll be writing up and posting to GeekDad in the very near future. And the folks who recognized the blog from my shirt and badge and said nice things about it totally made my day.
I’ve mentioned before that writing for GeekDad has been one of the absolute coolest and most rewarding things I’ve been able to do over the past year and a half, so I need to thank editor Ken Denmead and assistant editor Matt Blum again for supporting the Celebration V coverage idea from the minute I proposed it late last year.
Sure, Star Wars parodies and mash-ups and tweaks and remixes are about as rare as a Vader figure with a missing cape and busted lightsaber, but this video really reminds me in so many ways why I love the saga and the original trilogy in particular. And the reasons have very little to do with the movies themselves.
It’s all in the reaction.
From the guy at the beginning who chuckles at the “Galactic Rebellion for Dummies” title to the half-scowls that almost involuntarily become smiles to the cell phones and cameras that quickly pop up to preserve the moment, there’s just such a generally positive response to what’s unfolding.
Warts and midichlorians and prequels and someone rhyming with Car Car Sphinx and all, Star Wars still touches something in people, still makes them genuinely grin in a particular way, and I love that.
And think about it: There’s absolutely nothing inherently funny about this scene. It’s not like they’re dancing to the Cantina Band or cracking wise with “Laugh it up, Fuzzball.” It’s not even a particularly iconic scene with the imagery, say, of a Rebel commander hoisted one-handed and having his throat crushed. It’s just a couple minutes from Star Wars.
You try this with Star Trek, for instance – and let me say that I am a fan of the best that universe has to offer, too – you re-enact Spock’s Wrath of Khan death scene, or the appearance of Locutus of Borg, or whatever poisons your green blood, and I don’t think you get the same crowd reactions. (I could be wrong – if someone’s pulled this off, I look forward to seeing the video.) Similarly, I don’t think it’d work with a scene from Jaws or The Goonies or The Godfather, either. (Raiders of the Lost Ark? Maybe. Just maybe.)
Hell, even scenes from Star Wars’ own prequels wouldn’t work the same magic, because they just haven’t embedded themselves in our collective psyche in the same way.
I can be super-jaded about my Favorite Movies Ever. Fortunately, there are things like this video that help remind me why I loved them in the first place.
Naturally, after all my waffling last night over sleeping in the tent or packing it up and staying in the car due to what was supposedly a greater-than-50%-chance of thunderstorms in the middle of the night, I slept in the car – and there was nary a drop of rain nor a hint of thunder. (For the record, it wasn’t the rain that would have bugged me – it was the possibility of having to pack up a wet tent this morning.)
And I actually slept pretty well from about 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Not the most restful of nights, but hardly what I’d call fitful or uncomfortable.
I’ve only got 5-6 hours on the road today, so rather than start driving early, I decided to go for a short run and give the Droid’s “My Tracks” app a test.
Sun wasn’t fully up yet, but it was already warm when I headed east on Old Route 66. It was just a short stretch, but the road had a nice berm for running: basically a full lane wide, and at any rate, there was hardly any traffic, it being 5:30 in the morning and all.
And hey, look, kids – I ran to Wally World!
(Six Flags, actually, and yes, for a moment, the Chariots of Fire theme did go through my head Clark W. Griswold style.)
Ran a little loop up to the edge of the parking lot, then swung around and headed back to camp.
My Tracks seemed to work well: I recorded 2.88 miles, which is the shortest distance I’ve done in a long time – but I was only shooting for 2 anyway, and I never pushed my speed. The app charted speed (maximum and average), as well as total time and moving time (I stopped to take that picture, and again at an intersection or two), and elevation high and low.
Back at the campground I showered up and headed to this convenient McD’s for a coffee and this bit of writing.
Time to get back on the highway!
So, here I am in Eureka, Missouri, on Old Route 66, after a pretty smooth 11-hour drive. (I lost most of an hour back in Brazil, Indiana on an off-highway Quest for Bread – figured I’d test the Android “Around Me” app to find a grocery store rather than paying Interstate gas station prices. Nice little detour, and the app got me right to a Kroger.)
It’s been almost 12 hours since I left home this morning, and getting ready there, in the pre-dawn darkness while Jenn & Kelsey slept, this thought went through my head: “Suddenly, this seems very foolish.” It was the hour, I think, and the anticipation of missing home and family, and I know I could have been on the road probably by 4:30 but I dawdled because just for that little bit, I kind of wasn’t ready to do this.
Once I was in the driver’s seat, though, I felt much better, and the excitement of the trip returned, and it was a nice drive, broken up by the passage of cities and state lines and the slowly changing landscape.
(Note to state highway departments: If a city is more than, say 150 miles away, noting the distance on signs in increments of less than 10 miles is just mean. Nothing like seeing “226 miles” and then “223” and “219.”)
Jenn & Kelsey & I drove I-70 to Colorado back in 2000, so I didn’t hit my own untraveled road until heading south from St. Louis late in today’s trek.
It’s hot and breezy and alternating between overcast and sunny, with a coin-flip’s chance of rain in the forecast. I thought I’d be more tired by now, but I’m kind of glad I’m not – hopefully it means I’ll be exhausted later and crash for a good night’s sleep.
See you on the road.
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t dislike Apple products: For the most part in my experience, they work well and are fairly intuitive, and from an OS standpoint, they’ve tended to run more smoothly than their Microsoft counterparts.
My slight Apple-induced irritability has always been with aspects of their pricing and practices, but I’m not a hater. That said, over the past 24 hours, I’ve been bugged and focused by the form of a simple cracked iPod Touch glass.
Thus, after an angry Tweet or three yesterday afternoon, I’m writing this in what I hope is a more rational (and somewhat absurdly amused) state of mind – it’s not intended as a rant, but out of curiosity about the factors driving my current Apple store experience.
Wanting to get my daughter’s iPod fixed before an upcoming trip, I called the nearest Apple Store, which is about 50 miles away, last week. I asked them about the whole “getting the glass fixed” thing, since the iPod otherwise works just fine. It’s explained to me that for the $100 repair fee, Apple will simply swap the broken iPod for a new one. I’m assuming they will later replace the glass themselves so they can sell our current iPod as a refurb, and though something about that strikes me as a little skeevy, I’m OK with it, since it makes for the quickest fix from a customer standpoint.
I am advised, however, that this means my daughter will need to back up her iPod songs, videos and photos onto our home computer in order to keep her data.
So she does. And with her music-free iPod ready to go (don’t get me started on the unecessary complexity of the iTunes/iPod syncing process), on Monday afternoon, I call the Apple store again to make sure I understand the situation, since I’m planning to be near Cleveland on Tuesday anyway.
I call. I clarify the cost and the process, and an employee tells me that yes, they do have the identical iPod Touch in stock, so it will be a simple swap. “Great!” I say. “Can I stop in tomorrow?”
“No. This requires an appointment, and we’re all booked up.”
This seems ludicrous on the surface, but my guess is it’s to inspect the iPod and make sure that the glass is the only thing broken, and I get that, but it does lead me to more questions: If the iPod works, cracked glass and all, and if I have to set an appointment, then why not simply do an in-store transfer of all the data to the new iPod?
My wife and daughter and I recently switched cell phone providers, and yet despite moving to a different carrier and needing differently-branded devices, all of our contact information, photos, music, and videos were quickly and cleanly transferred right there in the store. The same thing can’t be accomplished in an Apple store, between two identical Apple products? Yes, it would “cost” Apple a tiny bit more in time and labor terms, but then again, handing out a new iPod rather than fixing the glass in the one I’ve got was their idea, not mine, and if they’re going to get a refurb sale to boot, the cost of that extra few minutes of labor spent in transferring data should be theirs to bear.
Okay, fine, then: I’d like to book an appointment. Are there openings next week?
Excellent – I’d like to set one up for Monday or Tuesday.
“Oh, sorry,” they tell me, “The computer won’t let us make appointments that far in advance.”
Over the course of this YMCA gymnastics season, Kelsey qualified for this month’s Nationals in San Diego. (In fantastic fashion, I might add: She came so close to making the cut last year, but missed it by thatmuch a couple times. Then, even though they lowered the necessary qualification score this year, she surpassed last year’s threshold at all but the first two meets of the year. By this year’s standards, she achieved qualifying scores in all 10 meets. \m/ )
So we’re headed to San Diego, and it will be the first visit to California – in fact, the first trip west of Denver – for all of us, and we’ve been excited for months.
As soon as Kelsey qualified, I knew I was going to want to take advantage of the West Coast trip to visit some friends out there, but Jenn’s vacation limitations meant she only had room to take in the four-day Nationals.
And so the Road Trip was born. While my wife and daughter and my parents will (most sanely) fly to and from San Diego for the competition, I’ll be crossing the country by highway, stopping and staying with generous friends there and back and spending the extra Southern California nights in similar company.
It’s easily the longest drive I’ve ever planned, far outreaching the Ohio-to-Breckenridge, Colorado overland trek the three of us made in August 2000, but I’ve broken it up so none of the stretches come remotely close to the 16-to-19-hour Canton-to-Orlando nonstops that I’ve gotten used to over the past 17 years.
I’ve always wanted to do the cross-country drive, and you know, the chance may not come again: I’m in a place right now where work is flexible and I’ve still got the desire to make it happen, and I’m still so unhappy with so many things about air travel that if I can avoid it with any degree of practicality – and clearly, this trip indicates that I do mean just about any degree – I will.
This week is utterly packed with deadline work in addition to the trip prep, and various corners of my desk and my office are starting to gather piles of notes and supplies and just, you know stuff that I’m going to want and need.
Geekery will play a significant role in the trip, too, from the two GeekDad families I’ll be visiting to at least three other like-minded friends I’ll get a chance to hang out with, to a brief Star Wars sidetrek to the books I’m packing and the audio entertainment to my plans to try and document as much of the trip as possible thanks to my trusty Droid and possibly a tethered laptop if the silicon gods are in a good mood.
Now, anybody got a Mr. Fusion?
Kelsey and I went to the bookstore this afternoon because I’d gotten a few Borders bucks someplace or other and had a 33% off coupon, too, and I’m looking to stack up a few good reads for a long trip later this month. For myself, I picked up Jim C. Hines’ Goblin Quest, and with the leftover bucks I let Kels pick out a book for herself.
I also went looking for GeekDad editor Ken Denmead’s book, and though I had to ask an associate to point me in the right direction, there it was, right here in North Canton, Ohio and looking spiffy:
I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy writing for GeekDad, and being a part of that group of writers and editors, and though this book is absolutely Ken’s baby, it was still a tremendously neat thing to see it there, occupying physical space on a wooden shelf, and not just as a cover image on the computer screen or excerpted text or sample pages.
Now, the book was actually released about a month ago, so I’m late to the party on this one, and if there were any mentions of what follows on Twitter or the GeekDad contributors’ mailing list, well, I must have missed them. (May and June really have been hectic, I swear.) Because as I was showing Kelsey this book that “My GeekDad editor Ken” wrote, I flipped open to this:
I was just bowled the eff over, right there in the Borders, trying to juggle the phone camera and hold my books and snap this shot before realizing, “Hey, dimwit – your kid’s right here: And she’s got hands and everything.”
Make no mistake: I make NO CLAIM on ANY credit for this book, and it’s amazingly cool of Ken to have included me in there just for the bits I contribute to GeekDad, and it makes me proud to play a small part among such excellent and admirable hobbits.
Go buy this book and support a stand-up, kick-ass GEEK DAD.