GeekMom Is On Instagram!

Follow us on Instagram @GeekMomBlog. Logo courtesy of Instagram.
Follow us on Instagram. Logo courtesy of Instagram.

GeekMom has joined Instagram as @GeekMomBlog! Follow us to see the products we’re loving right now, events we’re attending, great DIYs, and some old favorites from our archives.

We’ll be kicking things off with some back-to-school ideas and photos from PAX Prime this weekend. We’ll also be at DragonCon!

Tag your geeky photos #geekmomblog so we can see your geeky adventures, too.

What To Do With Your Kids At Dragon Con

Zombie Mister Rogers
Zombie Mister Rogers from Dragon*Con 2012. All images CC-BY-SA Ruth Suehle.

Dragon Con is a huge event, with more than 52,000 attendees last year. Whether or not to bring your kids is a big decision. Older ones are likely to have a lot of fun, especially with the Kaleidoscope track that started a few years ago. But unless they’re old enough that you don’t care much about what they see (or possibly do or drink), it also means eating some of your own con fun keeping an eye on them. (Read Patricia’s account of taking her 7- and 9-year-old boys last year.) In case you have decided to make this massive event a family one, here are a few suggestions for this year’s con:

Ages 6 and under

Good news, everyone! Children under six are free. Dragon Con used to offer a child care option with kids’ badges, but due to a lack of use, they’ve discontinued it this year, so the kiddos are with you. And let’s be honest: this group isn’t getting a lot out of the con. You’re bringing them because you don’t have a babysitter. I brought my own kids each one time, when they were less than a year old and still nursing. After that, they have to go to the grandparents.

Thus my opinion for this age group is that it’s less important to worry about things they’ll really enjoy and more important to worry about the enjoyment of those around you. I apologize if that sounds harsh, but remember that this is that one big event for a lot of people around you, and they’re not spending hundreds to thousands of dollars to miss what Jamie Hyneman said because your toddler thought it was adorable to sing through the panel. I know you want to hear the panelists too, but if your kids can’t behave, take them out of the room.

Ages 7-12

Just a few years ago, Dragon Con added the Kaleidoscope track, which is specifically targeted at 9-13-year-olds, but the interest is far broader than those ages. It’s also the track where you’ll find the GeekMom panel! You’ll find me, Marziah Karch, and Natania Barron in “Geek Parents Unite!” on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

The Kaleidoscope track is on the Atrium level of the Marriott in room 708. Here are a few of their highlights this year (besides us, of course). Those not in the usual track room have the alternate location noted.

  • Jason David Frank, The Green Ranger: Relive 20 years of Power Rangers history with everyone’s favorite Power Ranger and learn what is coming next. (Friday at 2:30 in Regency VI-VII)
  • Totally Retro Toons: This one’s for you. Talk about the totally tubular toons of the 80s. (Friday at 8:30)
  • Voice Acting & The Younger Generation: Voice actors from Disney Channel and Nickelodeon discuss works aimed at the younger viewers. (Saturday at 2:30 in Grand Ballroom East)
  • Whatcha Doing, Danville Chicks?: Talk to Olivia Olson, who voices Vanessa Doofenshmirtz, and Kelly Hu, the voice of Stacy, about the world of Phineas and Ferb.
  • An Hour With George Takei: This one’s for both of you. Or in the words of my four-year-old, “Why is the grandpa from Supah Ninjas on Star Trek?” (Sunday at 1 in Centennial II-III)
  • Theme Song Sing a Long: You cover The Smurfs; they’ll do iCarly. OK, confess. You’ll do iCarly too. I know you see somehow the world will change for me… (Sunday at 8:30)
  • All the Voices of Rodger Bumpass: Before he was Squidward, our generation loved him as The Chief in Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? and Professor Membrane in Invader ZIM, among a host of many other roles. (Monday at 1 in Grand Ballroom East)

Ages 13 and up

This is the easiest group to entertain, but perhaps the hardest to keep your eye on! They probably have a lot of the same interests you do. For them, I’ll suggest one or two highlights from a variety of tracks:

  • Costuming: The Costuming track has several good panels for novices, including “Keeping It Safe” (Friday at 11:30) and a series on creating your own patterns. On Saturday at 5:30, Scott Merrill will teach how to create oversized, thin, lightweight fairie wings.
  • Gaming: Just drop them off in the gaming room. No, just kidding. Mostly. Those with some RPG time under their belts (or sporrans or baldrics) should try The Cheese Grinder.
  • American Sci-Fi: This track will cover a lot of favorite shows, including Arrow and Once Upon a Time. On Sunday at 1, a panel will be discussing the increasing popularity of the B movie genre in “Beyond Sharknado.”
  • Robotics and Makers: This is the track for your Lego FIRST fans. You know, the ones who spend all your money on SparkFun. Check out the R2D2 builders on Saturday at 4.
  • Apocalypse Rising: Your zombie geeks may enjoy the apocalypse simulation on Sunday at 2:30. Make a family team, and I hope you all get out alive.

And that’s just a taste. Spend some time with your paper program guide or the Dragon Con app. Highlight three or four things in a time slot that are interesting, and that gives you the flexibility to change your mind on the fly (usually based on it being Sunday, and the Westin suddenly sounds really far away).

All (most) ages

  • Shopping! The dealer and exhibitor halls have moved this year from their long-time home in the Marriott to the Atlanta Convention Center at AmericasMart, Building 1, floors 1 and 2. That means they’ll be 20% bigger this year–20% more geektastic goods to drool over and spend your money on! The new location is one block west of the Hyatt and can be accessed by breezeway (aka “habitrail”) from the Westin. It’s also on the Dragon Con bus route.
  • Dragon Con Events! It’s not all sit-in-a-ballroom around here. There’s Night at the Georgia Aquarium, one of the nicest aquariums in the country. The not-so-often seen Jamie Hyneman will join regular Dragon Con guest Adam Savage in the Mythbusters Behind the Myths Tour. And of course, there’s the parade. Take note, previous guests, the path is a bit different this year.
  • Contests! Dragon Con is full of contests, and there’s got to be at least one that interests the family. Many tracks have their own costuming contests. The larger ones are the Friday Night Costuming Contest, which foucses on workmanship, and the Masquerade on Sunday, which is more entertainment-based and likely more fun for the kids. There’s also the Comic Book Quick Sketch, Robot Battles, and more.

If you are bringing the younger set, I hope that helps you get started on the schedule planning. Finally, three tips, and a decision flow chart I created two years ago when I first wrote about whether to bring the kids to Dragon Con.

  • Don’t be that parent. If your kids aren’t able to sit quietly, take them out of the panel.
  • Costumes are expensive and a lot of work. For some reason, some kids think it’s hilarious to punch costumed characters or pull on their various parts. Have a talk before you go about the appropriate way to approach your favorite characters.
  • Don’t try to be everywhere. You’ll wear out your kids and your patience. Accept that you may see only a few things a day, then prioritize.
kid-to-dragoncon
Note that child care is no longer offered, though it was when this chart was created. Amend course as necessary.

See you in a few days!

This Dragon*Con, the Fans Pick the Charities

Crowd_Shot01

Charity auctions and other fundraising events are a mainstay of many fan conventions, including Dragon*Con. In 2012, they raised more than $45,000 for the Georgia Chapter of the ALS Association. The year before, it was $40,000 for the National Inclusion Project, which helps children with disabilities. And the con’s annual blood drive is a popular event, donating thousands of units of blood over the weekend. This year the con decided to approach charity a little differently by asking the fans where they’d like their donations to go in 2013.

The event asked people to participate in a poll between April 15th and April 28th, during which more than 39,000 votes were cast for one of five pre-selected organizations. The top three vote-getters were named as the official charities of Dragon*Con 2013.

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, which shelters injured, abused, and unwanted exotic animals, won 66% of the vote and thus will receive 50% of the money raised during the con. The second-place charity, Georgia Conservancy, will receive 30%, and third-place Marcus Autism Center will receive 20% of the funds raised.

Over the last eight years, Dragon*Con has raised almost $224,000 for charity. This year it will add a matching contribution from the con itself of up to $50,000. In addition to that official charity fundraising during the con, they’ve donated $265,000 to The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (where Dragon*Con is held) and other organizations.

This Week With The GeekMoms

Dakster Sullivan is looking forward to some Mommy and son time on Saturday. They both are looking forward to visiting the library for comic books and getting some yummy milkshakes. He doesn’t know it yet, but she is also planning a Ben 10 and He-Man marathon. Whoohoo!!

Kelly Knox has a week full with play dates, birthdays, and a baby shower, but she’s also hoping to find time to sneak away to the Jet City Comic Show on Saturday.

Ariane is in the midst of choosing a preschool for her 2-year-old, all while potty training said 2-year-old and re-litter-training a spectacularly stupid cat. Both the kid and the cat may be cute enough to keep despite the amount of trouble they bring. Ariane is also getting ready for a Google Hangout with the author of Ready Player One, Ernest Cline, on Tuesday Sept 25th at 9 p.m. EDT. Please tune in!

Laura‘s family alleges they never get sick but that’s hard to prove with all the coughing and sneezing going on. Herbs and homemade tinctures went out the window on Day Two of suffering, although what her kids call the “real stuff” isn’t helping much either. At least they know who to blame: a certain college boy who brought home dorm germs.

Kathy Ceceri got back from a relaxing weekend biking in the beautiful Adirondack mountains in time to show her local high school’s robotics team how to make Solar Wobblebots. She’ll be bringing the Wobblebots to the GeekMom/GeekDad booth at World Maker Faire New York on September 29-30, where she’ll also be talking about Low Tech/No Tech Robotics Projects for Kids, so if you’re there be sure to come say hi!

Rachel Cericola is arming herself with brownies, Blu-rays and Jiffy Pop, in anticipation of her son’s very first sleepover party. Please keep her in your thoughts.

Patricia is preparing for yet another trip to Nebraska for some Air Force Reserve time. While she may fall off the social radar in her community, she is looking forward to catching up on GeekMom posts, including the Dragon*Con interview she had, she has been working really hard on it to make sure she gets it right. In the meantime, enjoy the other Dragon*Con Diary posts she and Mandy have written. She’s also bracing herself for her 39th birthday…her first one.

Chaos Mandy is going to be enjoying the lovely fall weather. She hopes it will be nice and cool but with a little bit less rain. She hopes to start getting her house all decked out for the season this weekend.

Corrina had the first full week of school turn into the first week multiple kids missed school because of sickness. The youngest daughter was finally diagnosed with a UTI, so we have antibiotics. Meantime, she’s sleeping a lot. She did find time to blog about her favorite television relationships over at the Beyond the Veil blog. Hint: contains a young, pretty Pierce Brosnan.

Ruth Suehle is celebrating another successful trip around the sun by taking her kids to meet the author of the best collaborative bedtime story, Robot Zombie Frankenstein! Then she’ll be getting ready to hop on a plane for Open Hardware Summit and World Maker Faire NY. You can find her at Maker Faire with the Fedora Project in booth 8919, where you can get your picture taken with Tux (the penguin mascot of Linux) from a photo booth built on a Raspberry Pi.

Dragon*Con Diary: My Two Favorite Science & Space Track Panels

Richard Garriott, moderator June Scobee Rogers and Captain William Shepherd speak at the “Evolution of a Space Station” panel. This panel was part of the Space track at Dragon*Con 2012. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

We sure hope you’re enjoying our series of Dragon*Con Diary posts from our amazing Labor Day weekend in Atlanta!

As I’d mentioned in an earlier Dragon*Con Diary post, my family felt the most at-home at the Space and Science Tracks throughout our Dragon*Con weekend.

While others had chances to meet such sci-fi stars as John Barrowman, and attend panels with the cast of True Blood, my family was not going to be as patient with those incredibly long lines and levels of uber-fandom that we don’t quite have.**

**I was reprimanded by a Harry Potter fan for accidentally mixing up a dementor and a Death-Eater while in a discussion of the Boggart-Banishing Spell. I know the difference between the two and my choice of words was purely accidental, but to see this gentleman’s face twist up and his words “Please get your story straight!” was still very humiliating. But I digress…

The Science and Space Tracks were perfect for us! Here are summaries of my two favorite panels from those tracks.

Continue reading Dragon*Con Diary: My Two Favorite Science & Space Track Panels

Jane Espenson and Brad Bell on Husbands, Creating a Web Show, and TV's Future

Jane Espenson and Brad “Cheeks” Bell. Photo by Ruth Suehle. CC-BY-SA

If you haven’t yet discovered Husbands, it’s a charmingly witty, web-based sitcom from Jane Espenson and Brad Bell that launched just this past March but has already won a Telly Award and been nominated for a Webby Award and Indie Soap Award. The show follows a new couple: Cheeks, a well-known entertainment personality played by Bell, and Brady Kelly, a Dodgers baseball player played by Sean Hemeon. At a marriage equality event in Las Vegas, they end up getting drunk and getting married. The final episode of season two hits the web tomorrow.

The episodes are super short–you can watch two seasons in about an hour. (“We’re the kind of show you can watch in a night!” Bell exclaimed in our interview.) Its YouTube channel has more than 16,000 subscribers and nearly three million views. In their Dragon*Con panel last week, with the second season coming to a close, the team announced that the show will now become a six-issue comic from Dark Horse. Each issue has a different artist and an alternate-universe premise.

Moving to the page affords the project a lot of options that couldn’t be done on a web-show budget. Also during that Dragon*Con panel, Espenson and Bell joked about the many ways to “burn money” producing a show like this one. Its second season was funded by 956 backers on Kickstarter, donating $60,001, but Espenson said they’re reluctant to turn to Kickstarter again for a third season.

Continue reading Jane Espenson and Brad Bell on Husbands, Creating a Web Show, and TV's Future

Dragon*Con Diary: A Family Who Cosplays Together Stays Together (at Dragon*Con)

The Dragon*Con parade was definitely the highlight of our family’s weekend. Whether you are a participant or a spectator, it’s a fun way to get into the spirit of the event. Photo: Flickr user TheOtter via CC.

I can’t believe it either.

Not only did I don a Spandex costume and convince my husband and sons to do the same, but we chose to walk down Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta in front of 40,000 total strangers. And it was phenomenal!

I told you I was going big for my first con. We marched in the Dragon*Con parade, which is one of the highlights of the con and is one of the most family-friendly events the entire weekend. It takes place on the Saturday morning of Dragon*Con and is open to the public for viewing. This parade is so outstanding — very grassroots, with volunteers working diligently to make this a smooth experience for those of us marching as well as for the spectators. There are no politicians campaigning, no commercial sponsorships, and if you pass out items, it has to be for non-commercial entities, such as stickers and candy.

Continue reading Dragon*Con Diary: A Family Who Cosplays Together Stays Together (at Dragon*Con)

Dragon*Con Diary: Taking the Kids to Dragon*Con

Yes, we were one of the very few families at Dragon*Con. While I fully understand why adults want to leave them at home, I can attest that one can still have a fantastic weekend even with the kids! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Yes, I was warned. I saw the example set by the other GeekMoms who were taking part with me in the Geeky Parenting panel. One of them was able to have grandparents back home watch the kids, the other was staying with relatives near Atlanta who kept her daughter for most of the con.

GeekMom Ruth wrote a great essay about the topic in 2011. I had a pretty straightforward warning.

Due to our unique circumstances, not having family near us in Florida or Georgia to watch our kids, we knowingly took the risk. We bought Dragon*Con memberships for our 7- and 9-year-old sons. It had crossed our minds for me to go alone, but I’m very glad everyone was able to experience it. I’d be telling stories to my husband and sons for the next month if they couldn’t see it all!

The verdicts?

  1. The kids did very well and had a very memorable experience. The parade and the Yule Ball were the highlights of our weekend. The kids want to go again.
  2. We really enjoyed doing family friendly activities.
  3. My husband and I still had the occasional beer and cocktail during the con, perhaps to feel more at ease in our Spandex.
  4. It was difficult after lunchtime every day, as the kids got very tired and didn’t enjoy standing in line.  Sitting in panels seemed to help them recharge. By dinnertime the kids were ready to go late into the night (at least by the kids’ standards).
  5. Would we take the kids again? One day. But my husband and I hope to attend in the future without the kids. So that we can do some of the less-than-friendly-towards-kids activities.

There is plenty for kids to do, and you can still have a very full schedule even with the kids in tow.  We certainly did.  But if you do take the kids, be prepared for the following modifications to your Dragon*Con experience.

Continue reading Dragon*Con Diary: Taking the Kids to Dragon*Con

Dragon*Con Diary: First Impressions

Phew! I made it! Pardon the hurried cell phone photo. This was just the beginning of a weekend of intense geekery! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

Just call me the Con N00b. Or the Con Virgin. Whatever you want to call me, when I offered to participate in the Geeky Parenting panel at this year’s Dragon*Con, I didn’t realize how big an event it was. I could have tried a much smaller con first, but why would I want to do that when I had the chance to be part of one of America’s biggest geek parties?!?

Along with GeekMoms Ruth and Mandy — both of whom have many years of Dragon*Con experience — I will be writing about my geek-out-filled weekend at Dragon*Con. Some of our posts will be titled “Dragon*Con Diary”, such as my own posts about my first experiences in geeky cosplay, bringing the kids to Dragon*Con despite many warnings of what it might be like, and our family’s great times with the Kaleidoscope, YA Lit, Space, and Science tracks.

This is for posterity, so be honest, how do you feel?” I came away from the weekend with some great memories and met so many great people. It was phenomenal seeing people of all races, genders, orientations, and fandoms hanging out and having fun without prejudice. The “track” concept turned a con of some 50,000 attendees into a more manageable experience, by choosing which fandoms/geekdoms you wanted to stick with. We quickly became acquainted with the directors and staff of our favorite tracks. My husband and I very much look forward to going again.

For now I want to start with my first impressions, because they’re worth writing down. Enjoy a timeline of my Friday morning journey to Dragon*Con as we scrambled to make it to the Geeky Parenting panel.

Continue reading Dragon*Con Diary: First Impressions

Backyard Blockbusters Tells the History and Art of Fan Films

Nestled among costumes, gamers, robots, and 35,000 (or so) attendees at Dragon*Con is a film festival that has seen a few changes over the years but is as old as the conference itself. This weekend the Dragon*Con Independent Short Film Festival will kick off its 11th year with Backyard Blockbusters, a documentary about fan films written, directed, and produced by fan-film creator John Hudgens.

The film features interviews with fan-filmmakers from a breadth of properties as well as the creators of some of the original content. Viewers get to hear from people like Timothy Zahn, Paul Dini, and Walter Koenig, as well as an assortment of well-known pop culture commenters. Fan films represented include:

Backyard Blockbusters creator John Hudgens is known for his own award-winning work in fan films, including The Jedi Hunter and Sith Apprentice, both Audience Choice winners at the Lucas/Atom Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards. In 2005, Lucasfilm selected his short film Crazy Watto to run at the Cannes Film Festival.

“I got started in fan films kind of by accident,” Hudgens said. “I’d already made something of a name for myself in fan circles because of the music video trailers that J. Michael Straczynski commissioned me to do for Babylon 5, which were an extension of similar things he’d seen of mine that I’d done on my own, syncing clips from various movies and TV shows to appropriate popular songs for music-video dance parties at various conventions in the southeast.” For example, Hudgens combined Jeff Lynne’s “Let it Run” with footage from The Wizard of Speed and Time and Weird Al’s “Yoda” with footage from the Star Wars trilogy. “It’s the same thing the vidders are doing now on YouTube, but I was doing this as far back as 1985,” he said.

Fan films in general have a long history that well-predates the YouTube generation and even the home movies you made with your friends, plastic light sabers, and your dad’s clunky VHS camcorder in the 80s. In the book Homemade Hollywood, Clive Young writes that the earliest fan film he found dates from the 1920s, when two itinerant filmmakers would go from city to city claiming to be from the Hal Roach studio and making fake “Our Gang” shorts with local children–part of one version of these from Anderson, SC appears in Backyard Blockbusters. Robbins Barstow (who is also interviewed in the documentary but has since passed away) created his own Tarzan fan film in 1936. He was also known for perhaps one of the most famous home movies ever, Disneyland Dream.

Hudgens added of his own history, “I was involved in a Doctor Who parody back in the mid-80s, and through tape-trading and APAs I was aware of other similar projects, like Ryan K. Johnson’s Star Trek: The Pepsi Generation. The word “fan film” didn’t exist back then, and wouldn’t come into widespread usage until after Kevin Rubio’s Troops in 1997.

Backyard Blockbusters includes discussion of the issues fan creators face with copyright, especially in the context of the increasingly impressive quality of “amateur” work. Some original content owners are more litigious than others, and some welcome fan work as an extension of their popularity. Hudgens said that Lucasfilm has been the best of the studios for their approach. “They’ve been incredibly supportive of the fan-film community,” he said, “establishing the official contest with AtomFilms in 2002, offering cash prizes, a really cool trophy, and the fact that George Lucas himself was picking the grand prize each year.” In the documentary, Steve Sansweet talks about how after the release of Revenge of the Sith, Lucasfilm relaxed a requirement that entries in the contest be only parody, mockumentary, or documentary. Unfortunately, the films from this competition were all removed from Atom in 2011, and there was no contest held this year.

In contrast, MGM sent a cease-and-desist letter in 2005 to the creators of Call It A Stargate five episodes into the fan series. (That production had also begun by charging people £10 for the DVD of the series, which many fan films do not do.) Planned fan films based on Lost in Space and Max Payne have also been shut down by the copyright holders.

Some viewers find that the continuing improvements in quality make fan films equally or more interesting than the original works. But those improvements certainly don’t make the hobby a less expensive undertaking, and it’s not a cheap one to begin with. In an extended interview from the documentary, James Cawley of New Voyages says that although they didn’t start filming until 2003, he actually started building the sets and costumes in 1996. “I stopped counting money at a hundred thousand,” he says. And that doesn’t even count distribution. Hudgens said, “Many of the bigger modern fan films, such as Batman: Dead End, Doom Raiders, Grayson, or George Lucas in Love, pre-date YouTube, since it didn’t arrive on the scene until 2005 or so, which is why sites like TheForce.net were so important to the growth of the movement–they offered a place where they would host films for free, and shoulder the cost of the bandwidth–which could be massive.” He notes that Will Carlough self-hosted his creation, Robin’s Big Date, and the overage fees on bandwidth cost ten times more than the entire film.

Creating the films is not without reward, though. And while it may not often be monetary reward, it can be stunning geek-reward. Part of Pink Five‘s prize for winning the 2003 George Lucas Selects Award was to have the film remixed at Skywalker Ranch. “Here’s this goofball little movie that I made, and I get to mix it at Skywalker! It was the most amazing thing,” said Pink Five director Trey Stokes in his extended interview.

Those attending Dragon*Con can see Backyard Blockbusters at 10 a.m. on Friday, August 31. Those who aren’t so lucky can see it at the Secret City Film Festival in Knoxville, TN in September or keep up with future showings and the DVD release on the movie’s Facebook page.

An Interview With Dragon*ConTV and Sneak Peek at This Year's Videos

There are just three days left to Dragon*Con, which means only five days left until the premiere of this year’s new Dragon*ConTV videos–except the first, which you can get a sneak peak at right now.

Last year I posted a few of my favorite Dragon*ConTV clips. This year I asked two of the DCTV staff, Brian Richardson and Stephen Granade, to tell GeekMom readers a little about the history (10 years!) of DCTV, how the videos get put together, and how the parodiers became the parodied.

First, tell us a little bit about the history of DCTV (keeping in mind that, sadly, many readers have never been to Dragon*Con). How did it get started, and what was the first year like?

Brian: Dragon*Con TV first came to life in 2002 when we had the idea to make a video. I was working as a volunteer for the technical operations (TechOps), and two other staffers (Patrick Freeman and Lucas Leverett) wanted to make an intro for the guys from MST3K, who were hosting the Masquerade. It was Thursday, the contest was on Sunday… and somehow we managed to put a good intro together.

The head of the convention was impressed. Then he asked the dreaded question: “What are you going to do next year?”

Oops.

So 2003 was the first “real” year of Dragon*ConTV. We made some still images for fake sci-fi products and bogus TV shows to run before the Masquerade. We also made three videos, including the now infamous Stormtroopers Gone Wild (our longest-running video).

It turns out Stormtroopers Gone Wild set the formula for Dragon*ConTV, the blend of what happens when sci-fi and fantasy meet today’s pop culture. We’ve tuned the formula a bit over the years, but that mash-up culture still drives our comedy.

Stephen: We also replaced the still images with the bumpers in 2004. We, er, borrowed the idea from Adult Swim. The bumpers are white text on a black background over music and typically make a joke about geek culture (like why Doctor Who keeps getting younger with every regeneration) or about the convention (like how it really would be nice if people showered more often). It lets us do jokes that we otherwise couldn’t film for budgetary or time reasons and widens the kind of comedy we provide.

How did the bumpers start? Were you just big Adult Swim fans?

Brian: Yes, we are huge Adult Swim fans. Amy Qualls-McClure had the original idea for (as she put it) “cheap and easy content.” Stephen took over bumper creation years later and remains the bumper master.

What I love about the bumpers is how they have become “the voiceless voice” of Dragon*Con. It’s not any one person talking to the audience, it’s some nameless entity. This gives us a lot of comedic freedom, since “the voiceless voice” can say things that would seem cruel coming from a “real” person’s mouth. The bumper “voice” can be a voice of reason or ridicule.

Stephen: We can also vary that voice a lot, which again lets us do different kinds of jokes and comedy. We’ve got a small crew of actors, so people have gotten used to what we’re like when we’re on camera and what to expect from us. Like, on camera I’m usually Guy Who Dies or Guy Who Gets Comically Upset. But the bumpers don’t have that limitation. In one bumper the voice will be painfully earnest, while in another it’ll be more sardonic.

How many people work on DCTV now and in what roles?

Brian: We have a core team of about 20, but we’ll get a lot more than that who help out on weekend shoots or submit ideas on our message board.

Stephen: Yeah, the message board has let us draw a lot of ideas from people and actually plan ahead of time. We used to get together and say, “Okay, what ideas do we have? Can we film that today?” Now we get a pile of ideas and then we get together and say, “Okay, here are the ideas we already had. Can we film any of them today?”

So it’s totally different now.

Brian: I’m the executive producer along with director, video editor, writer, on-camera personality and catering (it’s a small crew). Patrick Freeman is still a key part of the crew, along with running his Sci-Fi Janitors project.

Stephen: I’m in charge of the bumpers and write about two-thirds of them. I also act in a lot of our videos because I have an acting background and thus no sense of shame. I’m one of our bald guys who dies a lot as a red-shirt. I also write and direct some things, though not nearly as many as Brian does. He’s crazy.

How many videos get submitted as opposed to created by your team? What percentage of the submissions do you show?

Brian: We get a few dozen submissions each year, and we’ll run several. Not all of them make the cut. Some just aren’t our brand of comedy. Surprisingly, some of them don’t meet our production standards (we’re all up in the HD now). What we get every year keeps getting better and better, sometimes way better than what we’re making (we try to recruit those people).

What are each of your favorite DCTV spots?

Brian: Oh, that’s a tough one. Stephen, you go first while I roll some dice.

Stephen: Right, make me pick. Can I choose which of my children is my favorite instead?

I always point to Stormtroopers Gone Wild because it’s so canonically Dragon*ConTV. But I have to give the nod to our Re: Your Brains music video. It was the first music video we tried, and it let us get Jonathan Coulton’s music more exposure before he became the nerd colossus that he is now. Plus it was just a lot of fun to make.

Brian: OK, I gotta choose something …

For bumpers, I love The Rainbow Connection. This is where Stephen ties the famous Muppet song to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu. It’s such a popular bumper that we got yelled at after the latest Muppet movie came out because people couldn’t get Stephen’s interpretation out of their heads during a very moving part of the film (same thing happened to me). We’re issuing an apology bumper in 2012.

For the live-action bits … boy that’s hard. I’d say Jenga or Pon Farr because they ride that fine line between “Nobody would really make that,” and “Oh no, they actually made that!” But I’ll always have a soft spot for Stormtroopers Gone Wild (my first little video love).

And what are our chances of getting DCTV added to the DirecTV lineup soon so it’s there year-round? No? … How about a Boxee channel?

Brian: We have so many requests for becoming a real TV channel, much like everyone roots for Pinocchio to become a real boy. Unfortunately, we’re not the TV executive type. Also, Pinocchio lived in a bad neighborhood, so he didn’t go to the best school after becoming a real boy. The closest we’ll get to basic cable is our YouTube channel and podcast feed.

Last, if there’s anything else about The Great Wonder that is DCTV you’d like to tell everybody, shout it out!

Brian: There are so many wonderful things about the last 10 years of Dragon*ConTV, it’s hard to remember which ones are worthy of a mention on Wired. Having folks like Chris Gore from G4TV and the cast of The Guild tell me they were fans was pretty awesome.

It’s been a great creative outlet and a way to make some lasting friendships. We’ve built a community out of a crazy idea for a single video. We’ve unintentionally woven ourselves into the fabric of one of the world’s largest sci-fi conventions, which just shows how fan-driven Dragon*Con really is.

Stephen: Ditto what Brian said, especially about getting to make videos with people who’ve become some of my best friends. And I’ve had con-goers tell me how they’ll spend a good portion of Dragon*Con watching Dragon*ConTV bits in their room and how excited they are to see the new stuff. For anyone doing creative work, that’s a thrill to hear.

Oh, and it led to me being cosplayed, which is simultaneously in the “awesome!” and “weird” categories.

Brian: Ah, now I have one … remember how I said we’ve unintentionally become part of Dragon*Con? Dad’s Garage, an Atlanta theater company, recently did an original play called “Wrath of Con”. It’s a hilarious look at life at a sci-fi convention, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to Dragon*Con.

The play’s pre-show is a send-up of Dragon*ConTV. They made their own bumpers. We’ve been so well embraced by Dragon*Con that people have to make fun of us to make fun of Dragon*Con — and we’re the people that make fun of Dragon*Con at Dragon*Con. That’s just cool and weird all at the same time.

Stephen: Talk about nested levels of meta. It’s like con-Inception. Conception! … Wait, that’s already a word.

Watch a clip from this year’s videos below, then get more of Brian, Stephen, and all their great work at dragoncontv.com, @dragoncontv on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and of course, YouTube.

This Week With The GeekMoms

Dakster Sullivan is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Star Wars Celebration VI. Her family has one more troop before the event and then all their energy will be spent getting ready for the biggest Star Wars party in the galaxy. Her son’s jawa costume is in its final stages and he’s excited to get his little jawa groove on.

Nicole Wakelin is at GenCon this weekend and will be playing all the games. You can catch her at the Women in Gaming panel on Friday at 4 p.m.

Rebecca Angel is back from the beach and not at all tan because she wore an amazingly large hat the entire time, which induced many jealous looks from the other beach-goers, either that or the sun was in everyone’s eyes. And now she is leaving to perform at Pi-Con with her daughter in their band The Subs, and also sell some TeaPunk to all the friendly geeks there. Hope to see you!

One of Laura‘s sons is on the front porch teaching himself stone carving using a grave marker (bought as a “second” from a headstone shop). Another is collecting antique welders for an eventual museum. Another is on a campaign to bring back words like “tarnation” and “dagnabbit.” And her daughter insists that she’s the victim of a horse fly vendetta. Laura continues to pretend her family is normal.

Patricia is the home stretch! Only three more days still school starts for her boys — thus bringing to an end the most boring summer her boys had ever experienced. She set a goal for the boys two have two “field trips” per week and that was met, with a big trip to Tallahassee last week to visit the Museum of Florida History and the state capitol, and a trip to the local butterfly garden and splash park. Patricia is also celebrating her new camera and can’t wait to take her upcoming product reviews to a whole new level!

With less than two weeks left to Dragon*Con, Ruth is spending all of her spare time working on her Ravenna costume while her husband works on his N7 armor. She’s also pondering Raspberry Pi projects with an eye on Maker Faire NY next month.

Chaos Mandy is gearing up for Dragon*Con! She is working out what costumes she wants to wear, what panels she wants to go to and wondering what questions will be asked at the GeekMom/GeekDad panel that will be happening on Friday, August 31!

Kelly Knox had a blast at GeekGirlCon 2012! Sitting on the geeky parenting panel with Cathe was enjoyable and thought-provoking. The panels with Greg Rucka, Jill Pantozzi, and Gail Simone were riveting, although Kelly was sad to miss Bryan Q. Miller on the second day of the con. She’s already looking forward to next year.

Countdown to Dragon*Con: What's New For 2012

Image credit: Rhea C. on Flickr

With only seven weeks left until Dragon*Con, there are only two things left to do: Finish your costume and start planning your schedule. (Last-minute efforts to increase your alcohol tolerance are optional.) Here’s a bit of what’s new so far on this year’s agenda and a few things to look forward to:

  • The Puppetry track is new this year, with track director Beau Brown. Guests so far include Peter Linz, an original Broadway cast member of the Tony Award winning musical Avenue Q, and Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, best known for her Emmy-nominated work as Abby Cadabby on Sesame Street.
  • The Dark Fantasy track has become Horror and Dark Fantasy.
  • The American Sci-Fi Classics track has a new director, Joe Crowe, and appears to be working on a bit of a track makeover. Their schedule for this year includes “8 Bits of Awesome,” a look back at the “golden age” of video games, and “Manimal & Friends: Quickly Canceled Sci-Fi TV,” a session about one-season wonders.
  • The Kaleidoscope track is in its second year, and it’s where you can see a panel of GeekMoms in a session called “Are you a Geek Parent?”
  • There is also a new Video Gaming track, directed by Mike Capps, the president of Epic Games.
  • On the guest list, there are, of course, the perennial favorites to look forward to, as well as a few first-timers. With Eureka ending I’m excited to see Colin Ferguson, who just did a great AMA on Reddit a few days ago, along with Saul Rubinek from same-universe show Warehouse 13. But as much as I love those shows, the #1 guest on my list (and I’m sure the lists of many others!) this year is John Barrowman.
  • The MMO track’s sponsor, Guild Launch, is hosting a new awards show called Dragon Slayer. The awards will be determined by voting.
  • Strange Frame will be one of the films screened in this year’s Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival. It describes itself as “the first lesbian science fiction rock ‘n roll animated film” and has quite a cast, including Claudia Black, Tara Strong, Ron Glass, Cree Summer, Tim Curry, Alan Tudyk, Michael Dorn, Claudia Christian, and George Takei.
  • The mobile app has been updated and improved, including with push updates for Android. In addition to iPhone and Android versions, there will be tablet versions for iPad and Kindle Fire this year. New features include tapping a location to see what’s happening there and guest bios built-in.

The Best of Dragon*ConTV

Bob and Carl, Sci-Fi Janitors

Dragon*ConTV is the insufficiently sung hero of Dragon*Con. It’s the snarky entertainment arm of the con that keeps you laughing while waiting for panels or when you’re lying in your room too tired to go back out in your 65-pound costume.

A long, long time ago, in the Dragon*Con galaxy not so far away, there were just a few Dragon*Con events broadcast on the hotel channels. Then there was a custom video for the 2002 Masquerade. Finally in 2003, Brian Richardson, Lucas Leverett, and Patrick Freeman got together to start making more video content, and DCTV was born.

Each year there are old favorites from the past along with brand new goodies, from sci-fi product spoof commercials to music videos to parody TV show and movie bits, wrapped around Adult-Swim-style bumpers. (One of those even questions the creativity of mimicking the Adult Swim bumps. How meta.)

If you’ve been to so many Dragon*Con panels that you feel you’ve seen all the bumps, you can play “guess the first-time con-goers” instead. They’re the ones falling out of their chairs at a three-year-old bump you’ve seen so many times you could recite it in your sleep. But there are some that I never get tired of, no matter how many times I see them.

Keep reading below to see a few of my all-time favorite DCTV clips to help you make it through the next nine months or so until you can see the new batch. They’re the ones that make me wish my TV had a year-round DCTV channel. (Hey, DCTV–can you guys work on getting that added to the Boxee?) Continue reading The Best of Dragon*ConTV

Costumed Out

My little witch with her daddy (Image: Mandy Horetski)

I love costumes and usually I take any excuse that I can to wear a costume, including Halloween. But as this Halloween approaches, I’m finding myself reluctant to don a costume. I’m going to be taking my daughter trick-or-treating with my best friend and her daughter this year. When my best friend said she wasn’t going to wear a costume, I decided that I wasn’t going to either for the first time in years.

I think I’m costumed out because I’ve worn the same costume for every convention I went to this year, except one. That one was a Star Trek convention and the Kaylee Layer Cake dress from Firefly wouldn’t have fit at all. I love wearing the Layer Cake dress but it’s starting to wear out and fall apart.

I hand-sewed the dress and I honestly made some mistakes with it. So, now I’m faced with having to re-make it and that just seems really daunting to me. Plus my husband volunteered me to make our toddler a Layer Cake dress too, so she can march in the Dragon*Con parade with me next year. I think a mini-me dress is going to be even harder than the one I made for me. Either way, I probably won’t start either until next year.

So, I still love costumes but I’m a bit relieved to just be a regular mom taking her child out trick-or-treating this Halloween. My daughter is going to be a witch and she is really looking forward to Halloween. For now, I’ll be taking a break from cosplaying until next year’s convention season starts up.

The Walking Dead – Renewed for a Third Season

The Walking Dead Panel At Dragon*Con (Image: Mandy Horetski)

The Walking Dead just started its second season a few weeks ago, but it was announced that the highly popular AMC show has been renewed for a 3rd season.

I have to admit that my husband and I didn’t see The Walking Dead until about a month before Dragon*Con. We had gotten it on DVD and watched quickly before the con because several actors from the show were going to be guests. We really enjoyed it and planned on watching the next season.

My husband works second shift so we tend not to watch shows together. But I refuse to watch The Walking Dead in a dark house by myself, since it’s not appropriate to watch when my toddler is awake. Because of busy weekends, one that included the birthday of my daughter, we haven’t gotten a chance to watch the first two episodes. We do plan on catching up this week–hopefully, anyway!

As a fan of the show, I’m excited to hear that there will be a third season. It’s a little strange how a show that only had six episodes in the first season has gotten such a large fan following. For me, it’s neat and creepy that there are so many scenes in Atlanta, a place I go to several times a year and know well.

You can read more about the renewal of The Walking Dead at the AMC blog.

Sean Maher Announces He is Gay

Image: Wikipedia

Sean Maher, best known as his role as Simon Tam in Firefly and Serenity, announced today that he is gay. Due in part from encouragement from his agent, he remained in the closet for years in fear for his career. With the support of his family, including his partner Paul and their two young children, he was able to find the courage to come out.

I had the honor of being able to meet Sean Maher at Dragon*Con last year. He was a very sweet guy and I wish him all the best as a result of not having to hide who he really is anymore.

He is currently starring in the new TV show The Playboy Club and you can read more about this story here.

Is Geek A Derogatory Term?

Geeking it up before the Dragon*Con 2011 Parade

Since I’m still coming down from the high that is Dragon*Con, I’ve been looking in Flickr for pictures of myself and reading articles about the Con.

I came across a post about the Dragon*Con parade and I started reading the comments. There were several comments that jumped out as me as some people seemed to think that the term “geek” was a bad one and didn’t want to be labeled that way.

Since this is GeekMom, we embrace the fact that we are geeks. But I think most geeks can remember a time in their lives when it wasn’t cool to be a geek.

For me, I was teased a lot in school. Some of the teasing was strange, since I was teased for being short which isn’t something I could control. But I was also teased for being a geek.

I didn’t hide my geekdom at all when I was young. I actually embraced it as I had a picture of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation in my high school locker. As I got into my later years in high school I basically thought, “Screw it. I can find geeky friends in college.” And I did, which make my college experience all that much more fulfilling.

I’m proud to be a Geek and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I didn’t think it was a bad label even when I was teased for it. As a mom now, I do worry that my daughter will be teased when she gets to school age since she already has geeky interests. But I do hope that she will find her own way, geek or not.

What do you all think about the term, Geek? Do you use it to refer to yourself or do you think is a derogatory term that shouldn’t be used?

 

Geek a Week 2.0 Card Set Launched on Kickstarter

My con-only Len Peralta Geek a Week card

On Friday in Dragon*Con’s largest panel, artist Len Peralta announced Geek a Week 2.0, the sequel to his popular set of collectible cards featuring 52 geeks.

The original set of Geek a Week cards were released once a week for a full year, with Peralta creating the artwork and musical duo Paul and Storm writing the card backs. Each was also released with a podcast interview with the geek.

Jonathan Coulton, the first Geek a Week card, joined other cards from the first set–Ken Plume, Paul and Storm, Veronica Belmont, “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait, Tom Merritt, Aaron Douglas, Trace Beaulieu, Bill Corbett, Frank Conniff, and Molly Lewis–to talk about why they enjoyed being part of the project.

Peralta announced that Geek a Week 2.0 will be a 16-card set funded through Kickstarter. As the project gets more funding, more geek cards and podcasts will be unlocked. Ten dollars will get you a set of the cards; $1200 will get you your own Geek a Week style portrait and cardback with 250 copies of it.

The Geek a Week 2.0 set will include:

  • Paul Dini
  • Penny Arcade
  • Paul F. Tompkins
  • Jeri Ryan
  • George R. R. Martin
  • Craig Ferguson
  • The Big Bang Theory cast

Watch the Geek a Week Kickstarter video to see another special guest or two, then make your pledge.

Should You Bring A Kid To Dragon*Con?

Dragon*Con starts in just nine short days. I recommend going to just about every geek I meet, especially at this time of year when my life is consumed by furious last-minute costuming. Since the people I interact with these days are often also parents, the followup question is usually, “Should I bring my kids?”

It’s a tough question, and one you have to answer for yourself. It helps a lot to have been and to know whether you’d enjoy yourself and be comfortable with your kids there. It also depends on their ages. My personal rule was to bring them when they were less than a year old (which also meant they were still nursing, and thus much easier to have near me), but after that, we’ve left them with grandparents.

The practical matter: Cost

Kids six and under get in free. If you have a kid that age who is potty trained, you can bring them to Dragon*Con child care for the price of an adult ticket. If you use the full 30 hours available, that’s an unbeatable rate of $4/hour! But child care closes at 7 p.m., and there is a lot to do at Dragon*Con after 7 p.m. You, however, will have an early bedtime. Some parents work this out by taking turns–Mom gets to go have evening fun on Friday night, and Dad gets to go out Saturday night, for example. Of course, then you’re not having that fun together, but at least you’re having it.

Stuff for kids to do

The biggest excitement for kids is seeing their favorite characters come to life. You can’t walk across a hotel lobby without tripping over twenty Stormtroopers, eight superheroes, and That Guy From That Movie I Saw, What Is His Name? (That last one is a popular costume.) After about 8 or 9 p.m., the costumes start getting a lot more risqué. Suddenly at sundown, a foot of electrical tape cut and placed strategically counts as a costume. There’s also a risk of seeing a few of these during the day, so if you really want to shield Little Johnny’s eyes, this might not be the best place for him.

What else can kids do?

  • They’ll love the Masquerade and the parade for the same reasons as above. They may also enjoy the Friday night costume contest, but it’s about workmanship, whereas Masquerade is more of a short skit performance show, so the Friday night contest may seem slow to the little ones. There are also track-specific costume contests, such as the Star Wars contest.
  • This year the Costuming track has a session for children ages 9 and up. There are track-specific costume-building sessions as well. For example, the Young Adult Literature track has one for Harry Potter costuming.
  • Gaming of all kinds. Find a Looney Labs Lab Rabbit (who may or may not look like a lab rabbit) and teach your kid to play Fluxx. It’s a great game for any kid old enough to read the cards and entertaining (and occasionally challenging) for adults, too.
  • For those old enough, there is the aforementioned Young Adult Literature track. Remember that spoilers are likely to be discussed. A few of these sessions lean towards being discussions for adults about kids, such as what literature is appropriate for what age and whether you restrict your children’s reading.
  • The Science track and Space track–Dragon*Con is educational! The Space track even brings out their telescopes for your young Einsteins to get a better look at the wonders above.
  • Most of the regular daytime sessions that interest them will be fine. If they’re young and/or impatient, sit near a door in case you have to make a quick exit. An hour is a long time to listen to even your favorite actor wax philosophical about why he became a thespian. Read the pocket program together to find things that interest you both. The Star Wars track seems to be popular with kids, thanks to sessions like “Building the Universe With Legos” and “Saber School,” a session meant just for kids to play with foam sabers.
  • This year there is a new track for kids ages 9-13, the Kaleidoscope track. This track features Dragon*Con-style programming for the preteen set based on live-action TV Shows from Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney Channel. Parents must accompany any kids under 18.

Decision time

As you can see, there’s plenty to interest your little geeklings as long as you’re prepared to keep being Mom all weekend. For me, Dragon*Con is a great weekend away, where I get to just be me and not worry about who’s not eating his dinner or who needs to go potty. I just ask that you don’t try to be both. I’ve been going to Dragon*Con for nearly a decade, and every year I see parents dragging children into clearly adult sessions. It’s uncomfortable for everyone involved and rude to panelists who may feel obligated to censor themselves. Or they may not, which will make your evening more interesting when your geekling starts asking questions. Just don’t do it.

Finally, if you’re still not sure, I’ve made this handy flowchart to help you make the choice.

Almost Time for Dragon*Con!

Me at Dragon*Con 2008 when I was 8 months pregnant

If you listened to the latest GeekMom podcast, you will have heard that I’m very excited for Dragon*Con. There is less than two weeks left until the con, so my mind is focused on getting ready for the most fun weekend of the year for me.

Because I’m a mom of a toddler, my Dragon*Con experience is a little different than most. My husband and I stay off site at a relative’s house, who watch our daughter while my husband and I are at the con.

We take MARTA, which is the train and bus system in Atlanta, because it is so easy as there is a stop right outside of the con. This does mean that we can’t do a lot of late night stuff because the train stops running at 1 am, but staying off site makes Dragon*Con very affordable for us.

Dragon*Con is one of the biggest conventions in the US. I think only San Diego Comic Con is bigger. But this is my 5th year attending, so I’m pretty well versed on how to get the most out of my Dragon*Con experience. There are some things that are just happening this year that I’m excited for.

On Friday night, there is going to be a Masked Ball in honor of the fact that this is the 25th year of Dragon*Con. Then on Sunday is the wrap party for Browncoats: Redemption, which is a fan film based in the Firefly universe. I’m pretty excited for both of these events.

Who else is going to Dragon*Con?

 

The GeekMoms Podcast Episode #2: Zombies, Dragon*Con and Autographs!

In episode two Nicole Wakelin and “Chaos” Mandy Horetski talk about the perils and benefits of exposing your kids to zombie cosplay, attending Dragon*Con while pregnant (it can be done) and the fun of collecting autographs. Questions? Thoughts? Suggestions? Email podcast@geekmom.com

(Note: Mandy was bit soft at the start, but it levels out within a minute or two.  I blame zombies.)

Subscribe in iTunes.

Subscribe via our RSS feed using your favorite podcatcher.

Direct download

 

Nicole Wakelin: TotalFanGirl.com and Twitter

“Chaos” Mandy Horetski: The Shiny Adventures of a Browncoat Mommy and Twitter

Music: Rebecca Angel

The Summertime Blues

Image: Mandy Horetski

I hate the summer season for a variety of reasons. I’m not a fan of the heat, and not really a fan of air conditioning either. I usually spend the summer having to dress in layers so I can have a sweater in the A/C but a tank top outside.

This summer was especially un-fun for me since I was in class four days a week so I can finish my degree. So, I didn’t get to do a lot of fun things with my daughter. We didn’t go to the pool at all, or to the park much. Thankfully the two days a week she had to go to a sitter’s she got a lot of outdoor playtime.

I feel bad that I haven’t taken my daughter out to play more this summer but I get nervous because it is so hot. I live in the South, so we are used to hot summers, but I don’t remember a summer where it gets to be 90+ degrees nearly every day.

Now that we are in August, I’m just hoping the time flies. This is partly because Dragon*Con is now a month away. But it’s more because after Dragon*Con, it will be Autumn. I love Autumn, as it is my favorite season. And because I still do live in the South, it will be finally cool enough to be able to go to the park to play.

Do you like the summertime?

Wil Wheaton Vs. Autograph Hounds

A part of our autograph wall (Image: Mandy Horetski)

How far is too far when trying to get autographs from your favorite celebrity?

My husband and I adore getting autographs from celebrities when we go to cons. It is, in fact, the activity my husband spends most of his time doing when we attend Dragon*Con. He doesn’t even like stopping for food – he just goes from celebrity to celebrity to wait in line to meet them. We have a whole wall in our hallway that is covered with autographs.

I was reading Google + and I read an account by Wil Wheaton about an experience he had over SDCC weekend where autograph hounds pretty much attacked him. Luckily Felicia Day jumped in and pulled him from the midst of all those people. After his getaway, those hounds started hurling insults at him.

When I read this, I felt so bad for Wil and other celebrities. I can’t imagine what that is like. I also really appreciate those who do come to cons and allow us fans to get a chance to meet them and get an autograph.

I’ve never seen a celebrity outside of a con, but I don’t think I would ever do something like that. I would be reluctant to approach because celebrities are people too and deserve their space even if they are in public.

For me, I am terribly excited to be able to meet Wil Wheaton this year at Dragon*Con, but I will also wait patiently in line for the honor. You can read the whole story of Wil’s encounter with the autograph hounds at his blog.

Harry Potter Week: How To Make A Homemade Harry Potter Costume

Me in my Gryffindor student costume at Dragon*Con 2007 (Image: Mandy Horetski)

Back when the final book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I decided to to put together a Gryffindor student costume for the midnight book release.

I’m not very good at sewing, so I tried to gather all the pieces I would need. The pleated skirt was from an anime costume that I already had. I bought a white blouse and a clip-in tie that was close to the Gryffindor colors. I added a gray sweater and black knee socks that I had in my closet. Black mary jane shoes was the last part that I had to buy.

The hardest part of the costume was the robe. I had my black college graduation robe in my closet, and I decided to alter it for my purposes. I removed the zipper, and then hemmed the part where the zipper had been. I got a Gryffindor patch off of eBay and sewed that on to the robe.

The robe was fairly easy to make, and the rest just had to be gathered. For this reason, making your own homemade costume from the Harry Potter universe is pretty easy.

I should note that I did wear this costume to Dragon*Con that year, and it was not a good idea because I roasted the whole time I was wearing it. September in Georgia is not a good time to wear a costume with so many layers.

I will be breaking the costume out again for the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 and I’m looking forward to wearing it again!

A Late Viewing of Battlestar Galactica

Image: Wikipedia

Similar to Jenn having never watched Firefly, I never saw the new Battlestar Galactica.

My best friend found out and immediately lent me her DVDs of the series. It took me a while to get started, but once I did, I was sucked in.

I’m not sure why I didn’t start watching BSG earlier, but I think it is because I missed the beginning on TV. It’s hard to come into the middle of a series that should be watched from the beginning.

I had been meaning to watch it since it seemed like something I would like. Plus, I attend Dragon*Con, and there always seems to be a lot of BSG guests at Dragon*Con. So, I found that once I started watching, it was hard to stop.

I recently finished the series, and I thought it was excellent. Even season 3, which many people do not like, I enjoyed. Though there was that brief “what the heck is going on” at the beginning of season 3. The end wraps things up nicely, with some surprises in there.

If you haven’t watched this series before, I would recommend it highly. I would caution that if you do, don’t wiki anything. I made that mistake several times, and got spoiled several times. It didn’t change my enjoyment of the show though.

Next on my list of shows that I wish I was already watching but never started is Dr. Who. I have the first season of the new series that I’ll be starting next.

Wil Wheaton & Dragon*Con

Image: Wikipedia

I’ve been a fan of Wil Wheaton‘s since he was in Star Trek:TNG. I wonder sometimes if I was the only person who didn’t hate Wesley Crusher. In fact, since he was about the same age as I was when TNG was airing, I had a huge crush on both the character and the actor.

I grew up, got married, had a baby and started attending Dragon*Con yearly. It is widely known throughout the Dragon*Con attendees that come every year, that the chances of seeing Wil Wheaton on the guest list for Dragon*Con were slim to none.

The reason for this is that PAX is always the same weekend as Dragon*Con and he is always on the guest list for PAX. It has gotten to be a bit of a joke with the Dragon*Con folks – both attendees and staff, with Dragon*Con TV poking fun in several of their bumpers at the fact that Wil Wheaton never, ever attends Dragon*Con.

So I was honestly a bit shocked and totally excited when he tweeted this a few days ago:

This may be relevant to your interests: I am coming to Dragon*Con this year.

The news spread like wildfire over Facebook and Twitter, as it was one guest addition we never thought we’d see at Dragon*Con. I, personally, am so excited about this. There are a lot of really shiny guests coming to Dragon*Con this year, but I’ve been a fan of Wil Wheaton’s for so long that I’m geeked that I’ll finally be able to meet him.

This Week With the GeekMoms

Jenny Williams is very happy to be spending the weekend at Maker Faire with many of her fellow geeks. If any of our readers will be there, too, please stop by and say hi!

After six weeks of renovations and countless trips to the storage unit, Judy Berna was relieved to finally get her house on the market. It’s a bittersweet time, of saying goodbyes and preparing to move on to their new life in Colorado. The joy of celebrating her niece’s graduation from film school at Ithaca College is paired with the sadness of her last day at the best job she’s ever had, at her local library. Life keeps moving on.

Chaos Mandy will be spending Saturday at Fanaticon, a free sci-fi con in Asheville, NC. Saturday evening she’ll be hanging out with the Greenville Browncoats for a going away party that will involve karaoke.

It’s that time again for Patricia…she’s in eastern Nebraska performing a week of AF Reserve duty. Unlike her last trip, this time she doesn’t have to worry about freak unforecast snowstorms or rear-wheel-drive cars that she had to abandon in a snow bank. Spring in eastern Nebraska is very beautiful!

Amy recently celebrated both her son’s first birthday (with a heavy metal party) and her 9th wedding anniversary (no heavy metal involved).

Andrea finished two books this week: The Panic Virus –Seth Mnookin’s dissection of the events surrounding the most-recent anti-vaccination movement–and Dr. John Duffy’s The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens. She is totally stoked to be heading into Manhattan this weekend to photograph the oft-closed-to-the-public stacks of the New York Public Library (as part of the system’s Centennial Celebration) and is thrilled that Kate Bush has released a new album, even if it is just a re-examination of some of her older work.

Laura can’t possibly keep up with her schedule. Thank goodness she knows the secret benefits of a good snort.

This Wednesday will be the final open mic that Rebecca Angel is hosting at her local library for the school year. She is excited to have started this program to continue making the library a social gathering place for the community.

Delphine is very proud to have been endorsed as an “Illuminate” at the wonderful text-based game Echo Bazaar. If you haven’t played it yet, give it a try. Meanwhile, she tried not to think she’ll be back at work in less than three weeks…

Ruth started trying to learn to sculpt leather for a potential Dragon*Con costume and bought her husband a sausage stuffer for their anniversary. Très romantique! Come Memorial Day, there will be homemade bratwurst on the grill.

Corrina Lawson attended the Connecticut Fiction Fest last weekend. When the opening of her latest superhero story was read out loud during lunch as part of a public critique session, it received a good reception. (Whew!) In personal news, her youngest son was accepted at the local magnet school of his choice, one that focuses on global learning.

Fanaticon 2011

Fanaticon is a local, free comic books, science-fiction, fantasy, pop culture convention that takes place in Asheville, NC on May 21, 2011. This is the 2nd year for this one day convention.

I moved to Asheville back in 2005 with my husband (then-fiance) and we immediately fell in love with the area. One of the great things about Asheville is that it is only a 2 hour drive to Charlotte and only a 3 hour drive to Atlanta.

I’ve loved going to cons since my anime con days up when I lived in Michigan. I love wearing costumes, going to panels, hanging out with other geeks and occasionally meeting famous people.

I was excited to be able to be close enough to attend Dragon*Con, but it does take up time and travel to get there, because it’s 3 hours away. So, last year when it was announced that Asheville was going to get their own con and it was going to be free, I was very excited.

The first Fanaticon was very well attended and it was so well organized for a first year convention. It was a great time last year so I’m looking forward to attending again this  year.

One of the things I’m looking forward to most this year is they have added a kid’s fun zone area with arts and crafts, among other activities. I know that my daughter will have a lot of fun with it.

Beyond that, it is great to connect with local geeks and of course, dress up in a fun costume! I’m really looking forward to attending this year.

Fanaticon 2 takes place on Saturday, May 21 in downtown Asheville from 10 am to 5 pm.