Cornfield Meet

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OSWCC Summer Social 2014

simmons37crop

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?)

 

 

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

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

Jim Solo, Captain of the Millennium Awesome.

Scott D.M. Simmons is a talented artist – check out his contributions to the Topps Widevision series of The Clone Wars sketch cards – and a super nice guy who’s clearly having fun with his work.

So when he started taking commissions for holiday gifts, I was struck with a lightning bolt of inspiration and shot him an email asking about commissioning a Star Wars sketch with a personal twist as a present for my friend Jim.

Or perhaps we should now call him Jim Solo:

See, Boba WOULDN'T let the Wookiee win, and this is what he got.

Chewbacca and the best backpack full of Life Day ornaments ever.

Not only is that a good likeness of Jim (right downto the ILM baseball cap he often sports), but I love Scott’s idea to have Chewie lugging around the busted-up Boba Fett armor.

Thanks, Scott – and Happy Life Day, Jim!

December 29, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio | , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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