Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

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.

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

An eight-pack of Star Wars interviews

Big surprise: I really like talking with people – especially first-generation fans – about their Star Wars memories, and about growing up loving the saga and then sharing it with a new generation of kids.

So in planning my GeekDad coverage of Star Wars Celebration VI back in August, I thought it would be fun to set up a series of short interviews with some notable geeks and Star Wars personalities, asking them about their favorite memories and toys and things like that.

Eight great people took some time during the four-day convention to hang out and answer the same five questions, and I had a blast conducting the interviews. (MAJOR thanks again to everyone who participated!) The series ran in August and September at GeekDad, and I thought it would be fun to round up all the links here, too.

Photo by Jim Carchidi

  • Gronk creator and Lucasfilm-licensed artist Katie Cook was the first person I asked what were later named the “Five Force-Full Questions.” Her interview is here, and it includes her “deep dark Star Wars secret.”
  • I was psyched to meet everyone I interviewed, but I’ll confess that when Fanboys and Ready Player One writer Ernie Cline accepted the invitation, I had a bit of a nerdsquee moment. I’ve identified very strongly with his writing, since he grew up not far from my home in Ohio, and at around the same time. We actually spent about a half hour talking about tons of other geek stuff before we even got to his Five Force-Full Question answers, and then, generous and patient guy that he is, Ernie was kind enough to repeat his answers over the phone a couple days later due to a digital recording error on my part.

Photo by Jim Carchidi

  • Marc Thompson is a voice actor and a narrator of several Star Wars audio books, and he was actually attending Celebration with his kids, so he gets bonus geeky dad points for that. His interview is here.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Rutherford

  • Kristen invited me to one of the Nerdist crew’s Star Wars Transmission tapings and introduced me to several other neat geek types, including Chris Hardwick, who, it turns out, also has an affinity for the second wave of Kenner’s original Star Wars figures (the grouping which brought the action figure total to that magic number of 21). Read which one was his favorite here.

Finally, I did a trio of interviews with three actors from Star Wars: The Clone Wars:

Photo by Jim Carchidi

Photo by Jim Carchidi

Photo by Jim Carchidi

Man, was that a fun trip.

October 23, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, eighties, Fiction, Film, geek, science fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Some Star Wars Celebration VI Flashbacks

Honestly, I was just bombarded with So Much Awesome at Star Wars Celebration VI that the thought of trying to write it up in detail here is just overwhelming. And it’s more than just the usual post-Celebration melancholy, since I was lucky to spend some time with a few truly generous and funny and talented and fun people, and I miss them all.

For now, I’m just going to post bits and pieces, starting with coverage that I did for GeekDad, and that my friend Jim (we realized over the weekend we’ve known each other for something like 17 years) did for the Orlando Business Journal.

I finally rode the new Star Tours and LOVED IT. In just four rides, I saw both opening sequences, all three holograms, visited all the planets but Naboo, AND got to be the spy.

Kevin Smith’s Star Wars-centric “An Evening With…” was effing incredible – it was off-color and hilarious and nostalgic and heartwrenching and inspiring. (Two nights later, Jim and I spent awhile hanging out with the two fantastic sign language interpreters who almost stole the show. They worked many of the bigger Celebration presentations over the weekend, and they took the gig in large part because they’re both hardcore Star Wars fans.)

On Friday the 24th, I sat in on a taping of the Nerdist crew’s Star Wars Transmission – which was a poodoo-ton of fun.

Finally (at least for now), below are all my Star Wars Celebration VI Tweets (from most recent to earliest), cut and pasted from Snapbird, with links to the photos I shot with my phone camera.

August 28, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jim Carchidi’s George Trifecta

I just realized I never posted the totally-necessary (unlike, say, Godfather III) completion to our Paintings of George by Jim series.

In the tradition of the portraits of George Harrison and George Lucas which he painted for Jenn and me, our friend Jim Carchidi created this piece for Kelsey, who’s a huge Harry Potter fan:

George Weasley by Jim Carchidi

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Books, Film, geek | , , , | 4 Comments

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

Two Georges from Jim

Last summer, my friend Jim created this fantastic painting as a birthday present for Jenn:

George Harrison by Jim Carchidi

And lo, was I made envious.

This weekend, then, a package from Jim arrived, five days before my birthday. Upon opening it (which, yes, unless such things are explicitly marked “Do Not Open Until…” I will almost always open immediately), I found –

THIS:

George Lucas by Jim Carchidi

Twin suns? Faux brushed-metal Kenner-esque font? Ego-stroking book reference? To say Jim knows me well is clearly an understatement.

Thanks, Jim!

November 13, 2011 Posted by | 1980s, geek | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ready for The Grid

Jim Carchidi sent me to the Troniverse for Christmas:

Tron sketch by Scott DM Simmons

Click to enlarge

Art by the talented and super-cool Scott D.M. Simmons, who drew Jim as Han Solo last Christmas.

December 26, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, geek, science fiction | , , , , | Leave a comment

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: 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

Five years go by at point five past light speed.

My friend Jim attends Star Wars Weekends annually, and this year marked the first time he’s crossed paths with modelmaker Lorne Peterson since we met him at Star Wars Celebration III – and suddenly I can’t believe that trip was already five years ago. From Collect All 21

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, 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.

It was four days of total immersion in Star Wars fandom and there’s not a second of it I’d give up, even those frustrating times fighting deadlines and cramped media quarters and uncooperative laptops.

Friday evening to Saturday afternoon was particularly packed with “I-can’t-believe-we’re-here” moments.

Jim and I met, photographed and interviewed original Star Wars model-maker Lorne Peterson. This was a blast. I’d expected, at most, maybe a five-minute chat. We wound up talking for close to half an hour and it was just a very neat thing, thinking that this was a guy who had, quite literally, helped build part of my childhood.

I wound up talking to him a couple more times in the months after C3, and those interviews were the basis for a feature that ran in the October/December 2006 issue of Filmfax (“The Magazine of Unusual Film, Television & Retro Pop Culture!”). At 5,000 words, it was easily the longest piece of non-fiction I’d ever written for publication and also my first freelance magazine sale. Seeing it in print accompanied by some ILM-supplied photos and a couple of Jim’s shots from C3 was a total adrenaline rush. That these personal milestones were tied to Star Wars only makes them that much more meaningful.

I really like this shot Jim took of Lorne pondering a Millennium Falcon model onstage at Star Wars Weekends, and here’s a follow-up interview I did focusing on the release of Lorne’s “Sculpting A Galaxy” book.

May 31, 2010 Posted by | Film, geek, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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