Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Jim Carchidi’s Florida Visions

So, the Orlando Museum of Art is putting together an exhibition of Florida photography called “Picturing My Florida: A Grassroots Portrait of the Sunshine State” and they’ve posted the entries under consideration on Facebook.

Three of my friend Jim Carchidi‘s photos are in the running, and all of them remind me of some of the things I have missed from time to time since leaving central Florida in 1999.

Not only that, but I think Jim’s entries all include aspects which are particularly Central Florida-centric and tap into the region’s history and identity – they’re not just fantastic eye-catching shots of things which happen to be in Florida. To sum up: I think Jim’s art deserves inclusion in the exhibit, and the more Facebook “likes” his photos get, the better the chance that will happen. So:

Clicking on any of the photos below will take you to that picture’s entry within the OMA’s Facebook “Made in Florida” gallery, where you can provide the all-powerful “Like.”

You can also peruse the entire gallery of Made in Florida Entries.

I also love that Jim’s entries also push some geek buttons: NASA space shuttle launches, Space Mountain at Walt Disney World, and giant monsters echoing a faded age (of sorts).

Final Discovery, 2011 - by Jim Carchidi

Spire, 2011 - by Jim Carchidi

The Dangers of Tourism, 2011 by Jim Carchidi

February 4, 2012 Posted by | geek, photos, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pop Culture Parking Zone

Click to visit the Flickr page and see larger versions.

 

I took this on the Backstage Studio Tour – the “Catastrophe Canyon” ride – in 1991, at what was then still known as the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park in Orlando. (Spring break trip, sophomore year at Bowling Green. My friend Mike and I were visiting Adam.)

Center stage, naturally, goes to the Spinner from Blade Runner. To the right of the light post is a car from Total Recall, and cut off there at the far left is the Coyote X from – remember, ’80s fans? – Hardcastle and McCormick.

All three were still there (though they’d been relocated and were much more weather-worn), when I worked on that tour a couple years later, from around 1993 to 1995. IT’s been a few years, though, since I’ve been on this tour, so I have no idea if these relics are still hanging around.

October 27, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, 1990s, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Through The Force, Things You Will See

Once upon a time, back in my eight-year-old mind’s eye, I envisioned this new denizen of the Star Wars universe:

New Star Wars alien! Or not.

Or something close to it: That’s actually my current attempt to convey the general image which formed in my head when, as a kid, I tried to make out the photographic detail in the background of a magazine article teasing us with All New Star Wars Stuff from The Empire Strikes Back. Here’s the memory from Collect All 21!

Pre-internet, back when we lived in caves and watched our sitcoms on papyrus flip-animation books, there wasn’t much in the way of movie speculation available to your average elementary-school kid. The closest thing I can think of was an issue of National Geographic’s World magazine which had a whole story on some of the special effects in the yet-to-be-released Empire. It came with this great poster of the Millennium Falcon being chased by a Star Destroyer – the familiar publicity shot with the green laser bolts ricocheting near her hull – and just a few photos in the article, but enough to get us really excited about what we were in for. Asteroids! Big metal animal-looking things! Luke and Vader going at it with lightsabers! (I kid you not – in one photo, there’s a background light or something that looks, if you’ve got a little imagination and some hyperactivity, like a ghostly figure. My friends and I wondered if old dead Obi-Wan was making a spiritual comeback of sorts. He did, of course, but not in the way we’d been thinking.)

So where did I get the idea that some Jetsons-collar-wearing lizard-guy was going to be in Empire? From a photograph that looked like a part of this one at the Ralph McQuarrie exhibit at Star Wars Celebration V:

Continuing the passage from Collect All 21:

There was also a picture of the Falcon sitting on that Cloud City landing platform just after her arrival. I think it may have actually been in the background of a photo showing one of the matte-painting artists at work or something, because the picture was small enough that I couldn’t actually tell it was the Falcon. Only later did I realize that what I’d thought was some kind of alien was actually Han and Chewie’s starship. Even when I’m watching Empire for the umpteenth time, it’s still easy to dredge up just enough of that 8-year-old me to see that landing platform as a creature with a Millennium Falcon-shaped head.

I was absolutely thrilled to see this picture on display, not only because it struck those deep childhood chords of memory, but because at long last I could point to this picture and say, “See? See?! It’s like the head … and the eyes … and this spacesuit thing, and -”

Maybe you don’t see it. Maybe I’d gnawed on one too many non-toxic indoor playsets in kindergarten.

But heck, I’d still buy an action figure of this guy.

September 13, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Fiction, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, writing | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Star Wars Celebration V: The GeekDad Interviews

I spent a good portion of the morning of Friday, August 13 doing interviews in the media room at Star Wars Celebration V, and over the past week, they’ve all been posted over at GeekDad. While it was obviously neat getting to sit and talk with all three of these guys about working in the Star Wars universe, a big part of what I liked about the conversations is that all three also grew up as fans of the original trilogy, so each interview included a little bit of reminiscing about those days, which is clearly something I like to do.

My first sit-down was with Dee Bradley Baker, who voices Captain Rex (and the entire Clone Army) on

Dee Bradley Baker photo by Jim Carchidi

Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and it was just a ton of fun. Before I had even started my recorder, we were talking about being dads and nerds and playing video games, and I honestly don’t remember if I managed to get a single question asked from my written list, because the conversation just unfolded naturally and covered some really cool territory.

My daughter was very excited about this interview – even though she wasn’t at the convention that day – because she’s a big Phineas & Ferb fan, and Dee does the voice of Perry the Platypus. He’s also the voice of Squilliam Fancyson on SpongeBob SquarePants, which means he played a crucial role in our Totally Favorite Best SpongeBob Episode EVER – “Band Geeks.” Bonus Awesome Points: Dee offered to record a message for my daughter, and he included his “Perry” growl.

Read “Voice Of A Geek: An Interview With Dee Bradley Baker.”

Dave Filoni photo by Jim Carchidi

My next interview was with Clone Wars Supervising Director Dave Filoni, and again, you can just feel his intensity and enthusiasm for Star Wars as soon as he starts talking about working on the series and tying it to the way first-generation fans feel about the saga and the things that we wondered about when we were kids, and his experience the first time he saw the original movie when he was around preschool age. Here’s the link to “Talking Clone Wars With Supervising Director Dave Filoni.”

Matthew Wood photo by Jim Carchidi

I finished up with an interview with Matthew Wood – Skywalker Sound supervising sound editor and the voice of General Grievous. This one had a certain “coming full circle” feeling, since five years ago at Celebration III, Jim and I actually bought him lunch as a favor to the Lucasfilm press contact who was helping us out that weekend. That was a rushed meeting, though, and although Jim had seen him at Disney’s Star Wars Weekends since then, this was my first chance to sit down and talk with him. (I was strangely thrilled to learn that he had once owned a Timex Sinclair computer – the same sort I brought home from middle school one day in a brown paper bag, buying it from a friend for ten bucks plus a “Lost City” D&D module I had already played through.) Here’s the end result, “Grievous Geekery: A Conversation With Lucasfilm’s Matthew Wood.”

August 28, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Fiction, Film, geek, science fiction, Television, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Star Wars Celebration V: More Memories

Ever since getting back from Orlando, I’ve been going through those weird waves where Star Wars Celebration seems at once a distant memory and something that’s close enough that if I turned around quickly, I’d still see armored stormtroopers and kids carrying lightsabers and R2 units rolling down the hallway.

These are a few of my favorite leftover memories from the weekend. Once more, then, into hyperspace:

Punch it, Chewie.

(Incidentally, all the photos in this post come from the perpetually-fantastic Jim Carchidi.)

For starters, here’s a funny picture of me and Jon Stewart:

I'm down there on the floor, oblivious. (Not, perhaps, the first time that's happened.)

You know why it’s funny? Because this happened when I was meeting Tony Pacitti, and I had just knelt down so I could sign him a copy of Collect All 21! when I heard Jim trying to get my attention: “John – um, JOHN.” I finished signing and stood back up – and that’s when Jim showed me that picture, which he had taken over my head as Jon Stewart walked right past me.

Bonnie Burton’s Dark Side commitment to R2-D2 was fun for several reasons (Jim and I both show up briefly a couple times in the StarWars.com video),  not the least of which is I found myself standing next to Adrianne Curry right before the ceremony and got a picture with her afterward.

Nice day for a >Billy Idol sneer< Sith Wedding.

Also got to chat with Elvis Trooper while he was in full uniform – Kelsey & I had bumped into him on Thursday, while he was just in street clothes – and caught up with Bonnie for what would sadly be the last time that weekend.

Great stuff from the art show area over the weekend:

After Jim showed me the Katie Cook piece he’d bought for Kelsey, I had to go and get something for Jenn, so I requested this Star Wars/LOLCat-inspired piece:

By Katie Cook

I also bought her a copy of Katie’s totally-not-for-kids-but-utterly-hilarious-to-cat-owners book.

Made sure to catch up with Joe Corroney, who’s said nice things about my book and designed the OSWCC C5 badges –

Yay OSWCC! (and, by extension - Yay Joe Corroney!)

– and complimented Grant Gould on his Celebration badge artwork, too. (Also loved his “Quantum of Sarlacc” postcards.)

G, that's a nice badge.

Jim and I also crossed paths and hung out with Scott D.M. Simmons a couple times, meeting up at the collectors’ social on Friday and then wandering the exhibit hall on Sunday.

On Saturday, I met multi-talented and all-around-swell Orlando Sentinel online guru Tanya Hanson face-to-face for the first time. She’s the one who engineered the web coverage Jim and I provided for Celebration III in Indianapolis five years ago, and it was great to finally be able to thank her for that assignment in person. Since Jim was spending much of the day shooting the 501st and the Slave Leia group photos, Tanya and I hung out and attended the weekend’s second Robot Chicken Empire presentation. It was a blast and absolutely worth the hour and 20 minutes we waited in line, which we spent talking about cats and Tron Legacy and video games and assorted nerditry.

After that came an unexpected surprise: When Robot Chicken let out, I got a text from Jim saying he was in line for the Gary Kurtz solo panel just 20 minutes from starting – and it wasn’t too crowded.

Gary Kurtz‘ attendance at this Celebration had me whooping as soon as it was announced. The guy’s influence as a producer in shaping the first two (and, to my mind, the best two) Star Wars movies in the saga is legendary, but since leaving that galaxy behind after differences with George Lucas during and post-Empire, Kurtz has rarely looked back and, as far as I know, had never attended any conventions to talk about his involvement in the series. Given that a big part of Celebration V was marking the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, for all we knew, this could be the only time he’d be doing so.

I was absolutely astounded, then, to find that even when Jim moved further back in line upon my arrival (because I didn’t want to be that guy), we still easily made it into probably the first 10 or 15 rows of the auditorium, and even once everyone was in, there were still plenty of open seats. And this was Gary on his own, during his final presentation of the weekend, not sharing the stage with anyone but presenter Pablo Hidalgo. I’m still a little surprised, almost two weeks after the fact.

Gary "Oh, man, that's GARY FREAKING KURTZ" Kurtz.

And it was an awfully neat talk. He may not have been as blunt on a few points as he was in this L.A. Times interview published the day Celebration V kicked off, but Kurtz made no secret of his feelings on Lucas’ changes to the original, more bittersweet Return of the Jedi ending – Han dead; Leia crowned “queen” and working to rebuild the crumbled republic; Luke riding off into the (double?) sunset as the tragic hero. Another interesting note: If my memory is correct, Kurtz – who did some second-unit directing in Empire – said that it’s his hands which are seen wielding the lightsaber in the close-up during the famous Tauntaun belly-slitting scene.

He also talked a fair bit about working on The Dark Crystal, which was an unexpected treat.

One of my favorite things about the whole weekend, though, came in the closing hours of Sunday afternoon. With no panels or presentations on our schedule, Jim and I leisurely took in the whole of the convention again, strolling through all the areas and the exhibition hall, meeting up with Scott and Adam again, shooting ourselves in the giant action figure card, stopping to play with toys at the Hasbro booth, exploring the fan-made Hoth diorama. Just generally trying to soak it all in and stave off the disbelief that it was all coming to an end.

After I filed my final GeekDad post, we decided to visit the Ralph McQuarrie exhibit one more time – a fitting return, it seemed, to the first room we’d visited on Thursday morning to start the convention.

So we’re in there, and who do we see taking in the paintings and sketches but ILM modelmakers Lorne Peterson and Jon Berg – whom we’d just seen give a panel on model-building and Empire three days prior – each kind of separately just slowly walking and looking over the works. Now, I probably wouldn’t have approached either one – we’d just said ‘hi’ to Lorne the other day, and I didn’t want to bother Jon – but during a moment when Jon was walking around the end of an aisle, and not looking at anything, Jim took the opportunity to go introduce himself and thank Jon for his work and for attending the convention and letting us all sort of see a bit of our favorite saga through his eyes. (Or something like that, I bet. I was a little busy thinking, “Hey – Jim’s over there talking to Jon Berg!“)

Jon Berg during his Empire Strikes Back panel.

So of course, I go over and extend a hand, which Jon accepts as Jim introduces me, and I say, “I’m sure this is probably similar to what you’ve heard already, but you know, your work was responsible for helping shape a very good part of my childhood, and I wanted to say thanks for that.”

And he looks at me and says something like, “You know, I don’t have kids of my own, so thank you,” and he puts a hand on my shoulder, and the other on Jim’s shoulder and says, “My boys,” as he pulls us into a fatherly sort of hug. It is a very brief but honest moment, and there is nothing like learning as a creator that you have managed to make something that lasted and mattered to someone else, and as a fan, I’m glad to take the chance to tell artists and writers when they have done so.

It was just about the perfect way to close the weekend. Yeah, Jim and I walked around a little bit more, and the crowd at the convention center got smaller and smaller, and the merchandise store felt kind of empty and echoing, but we were already starting that mental shift back to “real life.”

We headed toward the exit, and I took one more picture, looking back at the main entrance hall. We stopped at the McDonald’s right down the road for a long-overdue lunch, and though there were plenty of con-goers there in their Star Wars T-shirts, still wearing convention badges and lanyards, it was a different atmosphere than it had been just a couple days earlier, in the midst of the Celebration.

Still, for four days, it sure felt like if there was a bright center to the universe, we were there.

Looking back.

August 25, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Star Wars Celebration V: Collect All 21! Connections

Although I didn’t land on any panels or have a booth at Star Wars Celebration V, I did have a lot of fun sharing Collect All 21! last week, even if my daughter and I had to lug my 10 copies in our carry-on bags because they pushed our shared suitcase just over the airline’s 50-pound limit.

For starters, the day we flew out of Akron-Canton, I spent the morning getting some new promotional postcards printed up for the book, since Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, had just written this incredibly nice blurb:

“Collect All 21!” is a deliciously warped nostalgia trip through Star Wars fandom. From collecting Kenner action figures to eating Star Wars birthday cakes to scribbling fan letters to Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, Booth shamelessly flaunts his lifelong lust for all things Star Wars. Like a tractor beam, this endearing account draws us in, and makes us reminisce about our own geeky obsessions.

I mean – WOW. If you haven’t read Ethan’s book (and here are my reasons why you should), the new paperback edition comes out Sept. 1, so why not go order it?)

A couple days later, on Aug. 11, I spent the afternoon in Clermont, Fla., hanging out at Heroes Landing and talking comics and Star Wars with Adam, The Force Among Us creator Cris Macht, and Korgi author/illustrator Christian Slade. A steady stream of customers to the store led to some book sales and a lot of Celebration V chatter, and I traded a copy of my book for Cris’ DVD, which I couldn’t pass up after noticing, “Hey, those are my OSWCC friends in that movie!”

Pre-Celebration V event at Heroes Landing in Clermont, Florida.

I was also introduced to Felix Albuerne of the Prime Time Geek program, which proved to be an awfully timely meet-up, since he called me four days later for a fun interview about my book, which he worked into this post-Star Wars Celebration edition of the show.

I already wrote an overview of Celebration Day One, but I want to stress here again how fun it was to finally meet Steve Sansweet – not because of his status as a megacollector and Lucasfilm fan liaison, but because of what his first Star Wars-related book meant to me. This is from the Collect All 21! chapter called “The Dark Times”:

Then Steve Sansweet’s “ Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible” book came out. This thing came at me out of nowhere one afternoon in a mall bookstore, and I absolutely devoured it: page after page of the toys I’d had, the toys I’d craved, and sweet God, the toys I’d never even known existed but now wanted to see. And for just the second time in my life, my eyes fell upon the image of a Blue Snaggletooth. This single picture and one-paragraph explanation of the figure’s existence, maybe more than anything else in that book, put the scent of Star Wars collecting back in my nostrils. “Collecting” even seems too antiseptic and grown-up. This nostalgia was like being little again and feeling that bone-deep desire to Collect All 21!

So, yes, it was amazingly neat watching him sign that same now-well-worn copy of his book most of two decades later. We talked for a couple minutes about journalism (he’s a former Wall Street Journal writer, and I always appreciated the interviews and research that went into Concept to Collectible, as well as Sansweet’s ability to tell the Kenner story) and about my own writing, and when he asked me to sign the copy of Collect All 21! I gave him, that was a great moment, too.

On Friday, I met up with another fellow writer and fan, Tony Pacitti, whose My Best Friend is a Wookiee – One Boy’s Journey to Find His Place in the Galaxy memoir is set for a Sept. 18 release. Tony’s book came to me through two near-simultaneous recommendations: GeekDad Jonathan Liu sent me a personalized, signed ARC he’d picked up during his coverage of the San Diego Comic Con, and while it was in the mail, Ethan Gilsdorf sent me a link to Pacitti’s book asking if I’d seen it.

After online introductions and back-and-forth messaging, Tony and I met face-to-face:

Two guys with excellent taste in literature.

I gave him a copy of my own book, and he plowed through it after the convention and wrote up some cool reactions here. Even though we’re fans of different generations – he watched the original trilogy on VHS and came of age during the prequel era – I enjoyed his book and it’s deserving of its own dedicated review post rather than a paragraph shoehorned into this entry.

The last panel I attended on Friday was titled “Why We Love the Prequels,” and while I’ll admit I enjoyed it probably more than I was prepared to, I really went because Fanboys director Kyle Newman was there. See, awhile back, after I’d created the Collect All 21! Facebook page, I noticed one day that he was among the new “likes” – and it just sort of floored me. So just before heading to Celebration V, I sent him a note thanking him for the support and offering him a copy of the book. He had responded with a thumbs-up, so just before the panel started, while he was hanging out near the door to the room, I introduced myself, and we talked about the book for just a minute or so. (Neat moment: He said he really liked the title, and identified with it, since he’d once considered starting a company called “12 back.”) When I told him that Jim and I had stayed up late and watched Fanboys the night before the convention kicked off – mentioning one quote from the movie in particular – Kyle nodded and said something to the effect of, “Yeah. That’s it.”

The quote? “It was never about the movie. It was about all of us.”

That line came to mind a lot during Celebration V.

August 20, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Star Wars Celebration V Recollections Part One – A GeekDad Looks Back

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.

Heading home at the end of day one.

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.

For starters, here’s a link back to my post right after Day One, and here’s my Flickr set of photos.

Below are links to the coverage I provided for Wired magazine’s GeekDad:

That’s No Moon

Why Look For Droids When You Can Build One?

Lucasfilm’s Crafty Bonnie Burton: Glue, Glitter And Sometimes Gore

Star Wars Celebration V: From A Certain Point Of View

You’re Never Too Short To Be A Stormtrooper

Celebrating Star Wars Brick By Brick

LEGO’s Star Wars Mural Time-Lapse Video

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.

August 19, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel, Web/Tech, writing | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Celebration Begins

We’ll be heading over to Star Wars Celebration V later this morning, but the fun has already begun.

Jim and I went out and picked up our press passes yesterday morning, and I wrote up a pre-convention teaser for GeekDad.

We spent yesterday afternoon at Heroes Landing in Clermont, Florida, hanging out with Adam and meeting Cris Macht, the guy behind The Force Among Us, and Korgi creator (and Star Wars fan) Christian Slade.

Thanks to a steady stream of comic book and Star Wars enthusiasts, I introduced Collect All 21 to a good number of people, and sold several copies, too.

Jim dropped me off for a late, fun family dinner, and then Kelsey and I came back to Jim’s to rest up for Day One.

And now it’s breakfast time.

August 12, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Wars Celebration V: T-minus One Week

Star Wars Celebration V begins a week from today! Watch for my vehicle on Interstate 77 southbound:

There's a Post-It on the dashboard reminding me which side the gas tank's on.

Image: Jim Carchidi, photographer extraordinaire.

It’s been almost five-and-a-half years since the last Star Wars Celebration I attended. As I wrote in Collect All 21

The biggest, best, craziest part of the Episode III build-up was the trip Jim and I made to Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis, just about a month before the movie’s May 2005 premiere. We planned this sonofabitch for more than a year and got ourselves a freelance assignment for four days of web coverage and a print feature on the movie.

I had just started a new job, and my first few weeks, Jim and I emailed back and forth constantly, ironing out details about what to cover and how to handle it, setting up deadlines, checking the event programming to see who was going to be there and figuring out how to drink it all in. We were seriously, ridiculously psyched.

A lot’s changed since that spring: That new job is the same one which landed me in the role of full-time freelance writer in March 2009, thanks to staff cuts, and these days, I’m the parent of a recently-minted teenager.

But here I am again, a week from Star Wars Celebration V – which is literally right down the road from Jim’s house in Orlando – and even without the buzz of a saga’s conclusion to drive the hype, I’m awfully excited about the week to come.

For lots of the same reasons, of course: Geeking out with Jim, being among fellow Star Wars fans, checking out props and artifacts and old toys.

But I’m also excited for a few different reasons. For one, Kelsey will be spending a day at the convention with me. (Just one, which I absolutely understand. She has a friend in Orlando she’s excited to visit, and relatives we only see once a year, tops, and while she does enjoy Star Wars, one day immersed in the fandom is all she’s looking for. Now, if this were a Kids in the Hall convention…)

I’m also providing coverage for GeekDad this time around, and I’ve already got what should be some fun interviews lined up.

Then there’s this Pre-Celebration V party and trivia contest from 3-10 p.m. August 11 at Heroes Landing in Clermont (a quick & easy drive from the Orange County Convention Center). I’ll be there with copies of Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek, and Adam Besenyodi is signing Deus Ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan. Cris Macht, director of The Force Among Us, is supposed to hang around awhile, and the gang from the Star Wars Action News podcast is hosting a trivia contest to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Central Florida. (Where Jenn used to work, as it happens.)

So that should all be fantastic fun and a nice pre-con psyche-up.

Mostly, though, I’m looking forward to meeting people in person whom I’ve only met either online or through interviews or through Collect All 21! The best parts of my previous two Star Wars Celebration trips – I did a whirlwind 36-hour trip to Celebration II in 2002 – were the ones that just grew out of moments spent in the company of friends, talking Star Wars and nostalgia and expectations and life both here and in that galaxy far, far away.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Fiction, Film, Games, geek, science fiction, Travel, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ground control to Captain Rex: Farewell, Star Tours

Writing up this GeekDad post about Disney’s going-away party for the original Star Tours has me on one of my typical Star Wars nostalgia trips.

When my friend Aaron and I were perfecting our storyboards and outline for “Episode VII” (oh yeah – and it kicked ass) as a couple teenagers in the mid-1980s, there was a magazine clipping from the Disneyland Star Tours opening hanging on the wall next to the shelves of our action figures. I remember it pictured Artoo and Threepio next to a spectacularly ridiculous Mickey wearing an “outer-space” outfit that somehow crossed 1970s Ace Frehley with the Care Bears look. Disneyland’s Star Tours opened in ’87, but remained irrelevant to me since it was all the way across the country.

My family (often with Aaron along, too) used to take spring break trips to Florida and spend a day over at one of the Disney parks, but the Disney-MGM Studios didn’t open until May 1989 – just barely after spring vacation my senior year in high school. The following spring, I was in college and didn’t get to make the trip with my family because we had different break schedules – and of course, they went to the Studios and I got to hear from my little brothers all about how awesome the Indiana Jones show and Star Tours were.

So the calendar flips, and that summer, Adam moves to Orlando and takes a Disney job, and then it’s spring 1991, and I’m road-tripping to Florida with another high school buddy. We spent the week at Adam’s, enjoyed five free days in the parks, and I finally got to ride Star Tours, and of course, even with its ubergoofy parts, I loved it. To this day, the StarSpeeder’s first out-of-control stomach-lurching drop is one of my favorite theme park experiences.

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Star Tours "travel" posters from the early years of the attraction. (click to enlarge)

A few years later, I was living in Orlando myself and worked part-time at Disney-MGM on the Backstage Studio Tour. (The “Catastrophe Canyon” ride: I still take a bit of pride in knowing that I once knew how to drive one of those trams and that I never hit anything with one of them. And seeing prop vehicles from Blade Runner and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Who Framed Roger Rabbit up close never got old, although witnessing their slow decay did make me wince a little.) A good chunk of my time at the Studios overlapped with the Dark Times referenced in Collect All 21, and consequently, I spent a fair amount of spare time taking advantage my free admission to the parks and riding Star Tours. I even filled in on staffing it once or twice, though I only worked the queue outside and never got to suit up in the orange flight outfits.

Naturally, it was a fine, fine day when Kelsey was tall enough to ride Star Tours with me, and even though she’s gone on to much bigger, badder thrill rides, the trip to Endor gone awry and a few minutes with our StarSpeeder’s misguided robot pilot have remained on the “must do” list whenever we get the chance.

Clear skies, Cap’n Rex. Clear skies.

May 7, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, 1990s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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