Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Super 8: Home movie.

It took eight and a half hours for me to formulate my first written reaction to Super 8 – and even then all I could muster via Twitter was, “Can’t be impartial about Super 8: I’m too in love with the inspirations and the way it captures the era of my childhood. Fantastic.”

And that’s why this isn’t really a review of the movie. Other people have said the things I think – the best reflection, I think, being the opinion that what makes J.J. Abrams’ blatant homage to the likes of E.T. and Stand By Me and The Goonies and Jaws work so well is its complete sincerity, delivered without clever winks, nods or half-smirks.  And I agree with the most positive reviews, although I admit that while I utterly loved it, I  the story also never gave me that lump-in-the-throat moment I had expected.

So why did I love this movie so much?

There’s a bit in Wil Wheaton’s The Happiest Days of Our Lives where he writes, “If you’ve seen E.T., you’ve seen houses just like the ones I grew up in.”

I felt that way all through Super 8.

Those houses where the folks of fictitious Lillian, Ohio lived in 1979? I’ve been in them. They were my friends’ houses and my relatives’ houses and our neighbors’ houses, whether here in Stark County or up in Akron or across the state in Upper Sandusky or down in Columbus.

Those nerd-cluttered bedrooms, with science fiction magazines and movie one-sheets and those tiny, square glass Testors model paint bottles and the National Geographic space-shuttle cutaway posters and yes, even the occasional 8 mm movie camera and film reel? Those were the coolest.

Super 8 was filmed in and around Weirton, West Virginia, about 90 miles from here, but from Lillian’s downtown to its industrial mills to its surrounding hills and railroad tracks and nearby river, it just felt so much like an actual place in my memory; like I’d been there – driven through it or knew a kid who moved there or went there once with my parents for some reason. (Geography lesson: The movie places Lillian in an impossible Escher-eqsue way, noting on a map that it’s in the southwest corner of the state, but mentioning Belmont – all the way in the southeast corner – as a neighboring county. I’m OK with that, though: It fits the J.J. Abrams mystery mold perfectly.)

And I felt that way about so much of the movie – the characters, the dialogue and the more everyday aspects of the story: There was a genuine sense of the era and the emotions without feeling like the overt, time-period-as-story-element approach of something like Dazed and Confused or The Wedding Singer.

It felt very much – even though I don’t mean this in a specific my-street, my-school, my-childhood kind of way – like home.

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June 12, 2011 Posted by | Current Affairs, Fiction, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Green Machine, Fonzie and Star Wars: JediCon WV 2010

On Saturday, I made my second consecutive trip to JediCon WV in Wheeling, and I was blessed with another sunny day for driving through the southeast Ohio hills at the time of year when the leaves are turning. As last year, I found myself a good stretch of roads I’d never traveled before, just so I could enjoy the trip, and to put myself in a nostalgic mood for my Collect All 21! reading, I set my Pandora station to Journey and – when my phone signal was inevitably lost in the valleys – queued up a series of Retroist podcasts on stuff like The A-Team and WarGames.

 

One big happy Star Wars nerd family.

 

There were many more costumers in attendance this year – and it’s hard to tell, but the youngest person in that photo, almost at the far right edge, being held by his mom? He’s wearing a toddler Vader outfit. \m/  – several of whom changed through two or three outfits over the course of the day.

Loved catching up with the people I’d met last year and meeting new friends, and I had worked up a new presentation and set of readings for this year, which seemed to go over well. There was video shot, so hopefully I’ll have a clip or two to share soon.

Talked a lot of nostalgia, of course, and check THIS out:

 

Clearance Special!

 

Okay, so that’s one of the worst toys to come out of the original line, but this particular example on one of the dealer’s shelves just put a huge smile on my face because those are CHILDREN’S PALACE (or Child World, depending on your region) clearance stickers! The bandolier that I dug up during my Peter Panda days had almost this exact same set of labels plastered on it – with one difference: Mine had one more markdown sticker, ’cause I only paid NINETY CENTS for it.

The Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum was its usual throwback self, especially when I spotted a Green Machine that still made me jealous thirty years after seeing them on our neighborhood street. And hey, three words: TRUE FONZIE ACTION.

A small set of photos is here. They don’t do justice, of course, to the pleasure of spending a day with fellow Star Wars fans and kids of the ’80s – but then again, that’d be a tall order. Even for The A-Team.

October 11, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Return of the JediCon WV – Episode VII

You know what snuck up on me?

JediCon West Virginia VII is this Saturday! (That’s October 9, 2010, starting at 10 a.m., at the Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum.)

I really enjoyed my first trip to Wheeling for the 2009 show, so I happily accepted the invitation to share some more Collect All 21! memories this fall – and check THIS out: Former Kenner toy photographer Kim Simmons – “The Man Who Shot Luke Skywalker” – is not only coming back to this year’s JediCon, he designed this amazing toy-populated Empire Strikes Back-inspired poster as a commemorative bonus:

JediCon WV VII poster by Kim Simmons.

I mean, come ON – that’ s just Too. Freaking. Cool.

Kim will be giving another retrospective on his Kenner years, and Star Wars animator Jon Seay is expected to attend with some pieces of the original Death Star to show off. Besides, how much of an excuse do you need, really, to spend a fall day hanging out with some fellow Star Wars fans in a fun and truly nostalgia-inducing atmosphere?

October 4, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Road Trip: JediCon WV

I was glad that JediCon WV was on my calendar Saturday, not just for the whole spend-a-day-with-other-Star-Wars-fans thing, but also because I figured it would prevent me from basically pacing around the house and worrying about running my first marathon the next day.

Up at six o’clock, then, intent on leaving by seven for the two-hour drive to Wheeling, West Virginia.

JediCon, though it was a small event, was a milestone for me: It was the first show to which I’d been invited as a guest by the organizers, who got in touch with me shortly after I relaunched “Collect All 21” back in April. And just a few weeks back, they asked if I’d like to do a presentation/reading from the book – another first for me.

I’m a huge fan of road trips: I love checking out different routes and figuring out how to see places I’ve never been without going too far out of my way. I love stocking the car with maps and music and audiobooks. I love that feeling of pulling out of the driveway before sunup knowing that daylight will illuminate things I’ve never seen.

This was also the first Saturday in 18 weeks that I wouldn’t be running.

For the drive to Wheeling, I’d chosen a route mostly clear of the main freeways: U.S. Route 250, running forty miles shorter than the trip by interstates 77 and 70, but comparable in terms of estimated travel time. I had, in fact traveled a small part of this road before: An Arby’s at a rural intersection struck me as familiar, and I remembered it was where Jenn and I had stopped for lunch a few years ago after dropping Kelsey off for a week at the YMCA’s Camp Tippecanoe. It was her first time away from home not being spent with family, and it was the same camp where I’d spent a few weeks over a couple summers when I was a kid. It was a quiet lunch that day, and a little sad.

Beyond that, I was mostly on a two-lane road I’d never driven, and it was a beautiful morning for the trip, with a low, gray sky, hills all around, and the woods nearing their seasonal-change color peak. To keep myself in a nostalgic mood fitting for my reading and a day around Star Wars, I listened to Wil Wheaton’s “The Happiest Days of Our Lives.”

I reached the Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum just after 9 a.m., and saw a couple guys unloading a life-sized Darth Vader statue built from Legos. The convention was in the museum’s basement, in a room much smaller than I’d expected. A few of the vendors and fan organizations were no-shows, and one of the other guests – a guy who’d worked on the original Star Wars and was supposed to bring pieces of the original Death Star to display – had canceled the day before.

Still, I was here, as was Kim Simmons, a photographer who had worked for Kenner and shot many of the original packaging photos and action-figure setups, and spending a day with fellow Star Wars fans has, to me, never failed to be fun.

Kim sat down at my table, recognizing me and my book from the OSWCC Summer Social in 2008, right after I’d launched the first edition, and we wound up talking for a half-hour or so. A super-nice guy, he was going to buy a copy, but instead we settled on a trade for a signed print of the old Dewback box scene he’d created.

He also said he’d let me use his laptop and projector for my reading, since I’d brought along a slideshow of childhood pictures to accompany some of my memories. My reading started a little later than the 11 a.m. scheduled time, due to a slight technical glitch with the projector, but when it started, there were probably about a dozen people in the room, and a handful of others arrived after I’d begun. I had fun, and it seemed like I got laughs at the right moments, and I think I saw smiles of recognized shared nostalgia while I read and clicked through the slides.

Over the eight hours I was there, even though this was easily the smallest convention I’ve ever attended, I sold more copies of “Collect All 21!” than I ever have before, probably because it was aimed directly at Star Wars fans, and I had something in common with every visitor who walked in.

Other stuff:

In the silent auction for charity, I wound up the high bidder for a sweet DVD packed with a hundred and ten 1970s and 80s Kenner Star Wars commercials. (Wampaaa! Wampaaaaaaaa!)

Spent some time talking Legos with a very friendly builder from the Toy and Plastic Brick Museum (practically right across the river in Bellaire, Ohio, and if I’d had more time, I’d have tried to work a stop there into the trip, because she made it sound awfully neat).

I left for home just before 5 p.m., my boxes of books a bit lighter, my spirits high, my nerves about the race still at bay, and the sun just starting to turn the hills to fire and rust.

October 14, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

JediCon WV: Toys, Flashbacks and Fun.

Attention fellow Star Wars and/or 1980s pop culture geeks in the Western Pennsylvania/Eastern Ohio/Northern West Virginia area: Nerdfest coming up Saturday (Oct. 10) at the sixth edition of JediConWV.

It’s at the Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum, and I’ll be there most of the day signing and selling copies of “Collect All 21!“. At 11 a.m., I’ll be reading some excerpts accompanied by 1970s & ’80s photos (Brown corduroys! Avocado linoluem! Gold curtains! C’mon, hands up if you remember!) and 8mm home movie stills. It’ll be an unparalleled multimedia extravaganza, I swear. (Or not. But I’m planning to have fun, I can tell you that much.)

And if you don’t want to come all the way to Wheeling (though it is only 60 miles from Pittsburgh, 90 from Akron/Canton, 127 from Columbus, and 2,464 from Shumway, California) just to see me, I get that.

You should also know, though, that Jon Seay is supposed to be there with original Star Wars props and tales of working on the first movie; Kim Simmons, “The Man Who Shot Luke Skywalker” is on the list, and Don Pedicini Jr. created some exclusive artwork and posters just for the occasion.

Perhaps I can say it best by paraphrasing the poet-warrior John McClane: “Come out to JediCon, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…

October 6, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

JediCon WV 2009, Here I Come!

It’s waaaay too nice a day for me to spend an awful lot of daylight here at the computer, but I’m really excited about this news: On Saturday, October 10, at the Kruger Toy & Train Museum in Wheeling, West Virginia, I’ll be a guest at JediCon WV 2009 at the very kind invitation of co-founder Mike McMillan.

And look at this: Star Wars Topps Galaxy artist Don Pedicini, Jr. is going to be there, as are Kim Simmons – The Man Who Shot Luke Skywalker –  and Jon Seay, a Star Wars animator from who’s supposed to be bringing pieces of the original Death Star used in filming.

Between now & then I’ll be stocking up on copies of Collect All 21! to sign and sell. (Hm…Mr. Seay? Yeah, um, how many copies would I have to offer in trade for … never mind.)

Have a fantastic weekend!

April 24, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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