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Jim Vowles
At a certain point I stopped posting regularly here on LiveJournal; I think it's the immediacy of Facebook that drew me and kept me. But sometimes one has longer thoughts to process and barf out into the cosmos.

So for a very long time, our country has been struggling with change. See, for most of our existence, the US has been dominated -- a word I use carefully -- by white Christian males. But in the last 50 years or so, that dominance has faded considerably.

Now, I'm white, and was raised Christian. They're the default values I bring with me. I was also taught to be tolerant of people who were different, to ask questions and listen to answers. I learned that others have different customs and ways of thinking about religion -- and that few people liked being preached at. Somewhere along the way, I realized that knowing a bit more about other people -- how they thought, what they believed, even what they ate -- made the world a bit easier to deal with. And I'm sure that in the course of my life, I've been That Clueless WASP Kid plenty of times.

Flash forward to today. I joke about my friends sometimes looking like a dysfunctional version of the old Benetton ads -- the ones where a group of good looking, ethnically diverse kids lounge around in nice clothing. But you know, it's true. I'm blessed with friends from all over the world. Most of them I know through various fandoms -- Trek, Doctor Who, anime -- and that has given me a powerful tool for understanding that the power of stories transcends the boundaries of ethnicity, of class, of education and religion. Our shared human experience ought to be, and is, more powerful than the other things that separate us.

The whole point of the US -- the reason we sprang into existence from the castoffs and refugees of a dozen nations -- was to give a space to the disenfranchised. Where we could live as we wished, free of the ingrained prejudices and iron-clad traditions of a hundred homelands. Here we could forge a new home, and the only requirements were that we embody those fundamental ideas common to all the great religions and philosophies. Treat others as you wish them to treat you. Fight for liberty and justice and stand up for truth and compassion.

Our greatest monument, the Statue of Liberty, was gifted to us as an eternal reminder that the price of our freedom is that we must remain open, and welcoming. We must be willing to accept the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We must stand for equality and justice and freedom; we are supposed to be a beacon for the world.

In the last ten years, I've really wondered whether our nation lost more than just innocence on 9/11. It has really felt like we've lost our way. We've allowed ourselves to succumb to panic, fear, and greed. We've allowed ourselves to be manipulated into giving up on the one thing that really made us special: that dream of freedom and equality for everyone. Instead we're encouraged to isolate ourselves into tribes and throw stones at our neighbors and put bars on our windows. And the folks selling stones and bars continue to profit by our short-sightedness. Because we're all so damned self-absorbed that we refuse to compromise or consider the world beyond our immediate desires.

How heartbreaking is that?

But it isn't irreversible. And I prefer hope to hopelessness any day. We can fix this.

It requires more than finally electing a non-white president with a weird name. It requires we leave our comfort zones as the founders did, and challenge ourselves to find common cause with people we would not normally have reason to speak to. Why? Because it makes the world better. It makes life more tolerable for everyone, even if some people don't get everything they want.

We are out of practice with this, and it shows. But that stubborn lady with the torch, standing on an island in the river, hasn't yet stopped giving off light. It can begin with a shift in perception that snowballs and gathers momentum. It can start with seeing things on TV that remind us that THEY are not so different from US. The wacky neighbors with weird accents evolve into quirky office buddies. The campy hairdresser evolves into the successful attorney. The lone tragic doomed teenager gives way to a kid with a healthy home life and an understanding father. The maid and junkyard salesman evolve into successful doctors and lawyers. TV put these people in our homes and made us deal with their existence. Writers made them funny, then made them real, and made us see their stories as simply human stories. As they always were.

And oooh, the status quo hates that. They prefer fear to change, and so they fight it. They must know they will lose this battle ultimately, because the entire history of humanity is filled with melting pots and a gradual increase in freedom and progress. Societies bump into each other and never stay quite the same. Adapt or die -- the lesson nature demonstrates over and over again. We figured that out ages ago. Evolution. Fitting that the people who pretend it's not a fact are the people most in need of it.

Ninety years ago, women couldn't vote and weren't considered fit for leadership by the establishment. Seventy years ago, we panicked and locked up our own citizens because they looked like our enemies. Fifty years ago, black folks struggled for their rights. And forty years ago, gays kicked open closet doors.

There are still those who want to turn back the clock on all of those things. They long for simpler times, forgetting that they were simple because, in their world, they were the thing that mattered most and they didn't have to face up to all that otherness. It's a child's view of the world, railing against the unfairness of having to do something they don't want to do. A toddler forced to accept a new sibling. An extended tantrum because the ice cream isn't their favorite flavor anymore. The horrifying realization that sometimes it isn't their turn, that someone might be better at something than they are; the suspicion that someone else might get a piece of their candy when it USED to be all theirs.

So.

Last week, the Vice President of the United States said gay marriage was okay with him. A day or so later, a bunch of wailing toddlers passed a law that harms thousands of families because they'd rather blame others for their failing marriages. And the day after that, the leader of the free world admitted not only that he had come to believe that gays should have the same right to marry as heterosexual couples, but critically, that it had been a bit of a struggle for him to get there. And I think it as more important than most of us realized.

Within a week, two of our closest allies saw their leaders make public statements in support of gay marriage rights. The tally of nations who've put their belief in fairness and equality for all above their fear and tradition continues to grow.

The wailing toddlers, the evolutionary throwbacks who refuse to evolve, are increasingly desperate. They're throwing everything at this one, but where they once had the comfort of ignorance, this time they know they're in the wrong. That's why they keep resorting to long-exposed lies, tired stereotypes, and pure invention to demonize the Other. It's one thing to fear what you don't understand; it's another to deliberately ignore the facts in favor of a fable that puts you at the center of the universe.

And it isn't working anymore. Or at very least, it's showing the limits of its effectiveness.

Memos have leaked pointing to a deliberate strategy to divide the black vote using gay marriage as a wedge issue. The church is powerful in the black community, and their leaders vocal in their opposition. But with Obama's expression of support (and more importantly, his admission that he had to struggle a bit to get there), and thanks to so many of their other trusted leaders being exposed as hypocrites, many churchgoing black folks are rethinking their positions. They've been shown a way out of a conundrum that pitted their understanding of faith against their direct experience.

And last week's leak of a memo from a hard-right conservative poster proves that it has backfired. The memo suggested changing course on this issue, and offers a few suggestions on how to do so while maintaining a conservative stance. Because as it happens, as more people understand that gays and lesbians aren't some scary envoys from another tribe, but are instead their neighbors and friends and relatives...well, a funny thing happens. They begin to object to the folks who demonize them. They begin to question the judgement and relevance of an old, entrenched establishment still scrambling to cope with Ellen DeGeneres' coming out as the world's most beloved and least threatening lesbian. And they gradually stop believing the lies.

And they're starting to notice that a lot of the folks who've made a big deal about what other people do in the bedroom might have something to hide themselves.

Nobody will be forced to abandon their beliefs or to marry a dude if they're not into it. The net result is that a few more loving, committed couples will be able to get married and have the same legal protection their friends have. People will get used to the idea.

And I truly believe that within five years, the tide will have swung back the other way, no matter what. After a few state challenges, eventually a federal court will be forced to say "you're absolutely right, this is about the law, and the law states that citizens must be treated equally, and the marriage contract is NOT exempt from that". A dozen states will have already changed their stance by then. The rest will follow.

And throughout all of this, the responsibility for success or failure of straight marriages will continue to depend on the parties involved. Because grown-ups realize that things that matter don't come without effort. Compromise and adaptation is the only way forward. You can't just scream and throw a fit and get what you want all the time.

It's time we remembered who we are: a nation founded by outcasts, willing to accept and stand up for the rights of other outcasts. It's time to stop being so selfish that we forget that we're all in this together. We can be brave and lead the charge, or we can be cowardly and be dragged along by the current anyway -- the destination is certain; it's the path that's up to us. When our grandchildren look at our actions, will they be proud or embarrassed? Here's a clue: talk to any kid under the age of 25 and see how big a deal it is to them.

As a smart alien on a TV show once said, "the avalanche has begun; it is too late for the pebbles to vote". The weight of history and the momentum of moving inexorably toward fairness and tolerance is beginning to be fully felt. Resistance is futile.
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
06 October 2011 @ 01:58 pm
Steve Jobs once said, "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life." He inspired a generation to Think Different. How has the legacy of Apple's co-founder influenced your life?


I remember being very excited, way back in high school, when the Apple II was a state-of-the-art machine, on which we could learn to program.

I'd used the Texas Instruments TI 994A at home for some time by then, and had moved on to the C64 and and C128 (Commodore machines). They were nerd toys, really -- no productivity to speak of, but you could program and you could play games. I'd spent hours painstakingly copying in code from OMNI magazine or similar sources, then tweaking it and making my own thing. I can still remember my first game -- the first one I'd programmed, I mean -- which was a text-based adventure game in which you solved a murder at the Haunted Mansion in Disney World.

But there was something especially magical about the Apple -- even then, it was miles ahead of the competition in look and feel. My buddy John and I wrote what amounted to a database, detailing the endless comic book characters we'd write about. Little did I realize, in writing those proto-databases on an Apple II machine at the library, that I was charting a course for my future. I do remember thinking "this is something that is more useful than the machine I have at home".

But for me the world changed one day when when Ms Spivey, the reading specialist, showed up at school lugging a friendly little box that chimed happily when you turned it on. For the first time, you didn't interact with the machine by typing, but by pointing with a little "mouse"; you could use it like a word processor, play games, do a spreadsheet -- but more importantly, you could make cool things happen with it. It was easy to use. It was built for teachers and creators and everyday people.

When I went to college, I quickly became a fixture in the school's Writing Center, which was a 20-seat Mac lab full of liberal arts types writing their papers. I devoured every piece of software that got near me -- all the layout and design stuff, the games, the mysterious (and at the time, to me, useless) database and spreadsheet apps. I helped with the newspaper and the literary magazine and co-produced, with my professor, a tabloid spoof. As a junior, I even taught the layout and design part of the entry-level journalism course I was allegedly taking for credit. And I wrote -- endlessly, hours on end. I was trusted with all-hours access to the writing lab. In large part I built my college years on the second floor of Memorial Hall. I also used the vaunted Mac II as a video editor -- cutting edge in those days!! -- and never dreamed that I could accomplish more in a tiny hand-held device than was remotely possible with a closet-full of gizmos in 1990.

In my senior year, I borrowed money from my grandmother to get a secured loan to purchase my first mac -- the brand new Mac LC, which had a color screen, and for which I had already endless software. It was miles ahead of everything else, but the PC was making new strides and soon Windows would really challenge it (but not yet!).

Every spare dime went into that beast, until it was finally no longer productive to use it. The approaching Internet era would leave it in the dust, and anticipating that, a succession of machines took its place, one every five years or so. By night, I played and learned on my Mac; by day, I applied the skills from years of using a great computer to the mediocre DOS and early Windows junkers at the office. Those Macs and the clones from the 90s weren't so great, though, not until the iMac came out and the world changed for the second time in my years of Apple products.

Because of the Mac, I advanced my career; I was able to transition from editor to desktop publishing guy, and from desktop publishing guy I built on my increased visibility to become an analyst. Eventually, I learned to program on the PC, coming full circle. But by then, the Internet existed, and my world changed drastically. I built on my personal America Online interests to help drag our company onto the nascent Internet, and back then I literally built our network presence from scratch. To be fair, it was easier then.

But throughout, I always used Macs at home, and struggled with PCs at the office. I eventually bought an iPod, then another, then a succession of Apple devices that is really quite remarkable. Game-changes like the elegant Powerbook/Macbooks, the tiny, functional Mini, the earth-shattering simplicity of the iPod, the iPhone when it finally came to my carrier, the iPad because my boss at work recognized that game-changer, and finally the Apple TV because, well, it was cool. I lusted after the Newton before the Internet really existed; now I practically live and die by my iPad. My iPhone is every bit as useful and fun as I'd hoped, and it makes my Blackberry look like the discarded husk it became.

It would take Steve Jobs a decade or two to teach the world two fundamental lessons: that it's more pleasurable to work with a device that just works without tinkering and tweaking, and that information should be platform neutral. Tools shouldn't get in the way of the job you're doing -- and neither should design. Form and function should work in harmony. Left and right brain don't need to work separately. Something can be beautiful and practical and useful and fun, all at once, without any part of that suffering. Make something great, and stick to your guns, and eventually you'll be proved right. "Think Different". Take chances. Expect more. Change the world. Be "insanely great".

Deliver a simple, clear message. Make things easier to intuitively grasp. Do it with a little style.

Steve Jobs' vision of a tool that could do everything and yet was easy to use -- and his trademark conspiratorial, casual style -- have justified and informed my own approach to life for more than 20 years; they've enabled me at critical phases of my life to connect with others, to share my creativity, to learn and explore and teach and innovate. Were it not for those early home computers, were it not for the way his tools put creativity in the hands of everyone, I would not have the job I have, nor live the life I lead today .

His vision put *people* at the center, and changed the way we conduct our lives in a fundamental way. He gave us tools to be ourselves.
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
30 September 2011 @ 02:20 pm
If you haven't seen the show RAISING HOPE -- it's the family sitcom that was on right after GLEE last season (this season it follows that Zoe Deschanel comedy) -- I really, really suggest giving it a try.

Here's the setup. Under-achieving slacker Jimmy lives at home with his lower middle class parents and Maw-Maw. He longs for a better life (they all do, really), and in a rare bit of luck, hooks up with a gorgeous gal for an amazing one-night stand. It is a one-night stand, unfortunately, because it turns out she's a serial killer, and she's arrested and put to death -- after giving birth to daughter Hope, who is unceremoniously dumped on Jimmy by the system. He devotes himself to doing right by the little girl, with help from various friends and his parents.
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Mostly, I like that the conflict is either self-generated, or symptomatic of the world treating the Chances to a rough ride. They don't catch many breaks, and while they try to make the most of them, there's a lot they miss out on because of ignorance or bad choices. But their family is strong and loving, despite it all, and you leave each episode thinking, "well, Hope has a pretty good chance at a decent life after all".
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
20 July 2011 @ 06:12 pm
Scene: After a night at the theater, the wealthy Wayne family makes a wrong turn. A non-sanctioned thief murders the parents, leaving young Bruce in the care of the family valet, Alfred. Bruce, a brilliant and talented student, returns after an extended absence as a playboy, but secretly he has built (with Alfred's help) a second identity as a costumed crimefighter.

Except:

Young Bruce'd probably have been the son of someone like Moist von Lipwig -- a clever, self-made man, who, assuming he married Adora Bell, would be a good analog for Thomas Wayne and have access to endlessly deep pockets.

Assuming Pratchett played it straight (ie, Batman is a force for good, rather than an insane young man whose butler manipulates him into becoming an assassin), you'd have to have Vetinari out of the picture, too. Perhaps an extended leave of absence...

So my setup:

Vetinari decides that he needs to make sure Ankh-Morpork can survive his absence. So he fakes a disappearance to bring the baddies out of the woodwork, and see how the city responds. He assumes Moist could be put forth as the new patrician, but Moist gets killed and the plan goes awry.... (or, it's ALL part of Vetinari's plan -- he serves as a R'has al Ghul). Either way, he is either genuinely missing or otherwise unable to intervene directly. The city descends into chaos without a firm leader, and Vimes' team is simply overworked -- or otherwise not present. Maybe a corrupt mayor disbands them?

Really Bad Folks start horning in, but suddenly a vigilante appears, and captures the imagination of the city. He cleans up the worst part of town almost single-handedly, in the process defeating an evil clown. When the clown teams up with several other costumed freaks, the old Watch start doing their own vigilante thing, in costume....

The whole thing would muse on the value of symbolic heroes, the repercussions of vigilante justice, and of course the tropes of comic books.
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
23 June 2011 @ 12:00 am
...to writing is this:

I put big block of words down on virtual paper, and then trim away everything that doesn't look like Michelangelo's David.


I know so many writers, but I don't think we've talked much about the process and how it feels. How do you describe your writing process, and your revision and editing of your own work?



I ask because it feels like something's stirring in my head, and I think my brain is cooking up something interesting. And it's been a while since I've really *written*, as opposed to editing.

I think the most recent things have been obituaries and memorials, or doggerel poetry, or technical explanations. I haven't crapped out a short story in what seems like eons. And my novel -- the one I started 20 years ago in college -- has been languishing. Somewhere along the way I lost the plot and what I wanted to say with it.

If I suddenly drop off the face of the earth for a while, I may be writing...
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
01 May 2011 @ 12:33 pm
So for the sixth year running, Doctor Who kicked off the new year's worth of shows by kicking ass and taking names.

It has pummeled all competition (aside from Britain's Got Talent, of course) in the UK ratings, with over 9 million people tuning in for the opener, and an 88 appreciation index score--meaning that not only did literally almost half of the UK tune in, nearly 90% of them thought it was excellent.

But more good news: it was also a big winner in the rest of the English-speaking world, bringing the best ratings (1.3 million viewers, very good for cable channels) that BBC America has had to date, and garnering similarly large numbers in Canada and Australia. The team wisely arranged for international premieres around the world on the same day, meaning fans have the option of watching legit versions the day of airing -- a critical concession to ensuring success.

But wait AGAIN, because the show in general is also the most popular series on iTunes, and has a strong Netflix presence as well.

Oh yah, and it's in the running for the by-now-expected handful of top-tier awards, including the Hugo and several BAFTA awards. It has dominated those awards since it came back in 2005.

It is finally penetrating mainstream popular culture in the US, getting big attention from Craig Ferguson, nods in newspaper family comic strip Sally Forth, and solid reviews in the likes of Variety and TV Guide. Something like one in every five geek t shirts I see online references Doctor Who. The death of Liz Sladen, Sarah Jane Smith, dominated twitter for a day.

And why not? It remains fantastically well written and well acted, the special effects don't let down the ambitious reach and scope of the stories, the music is distinctive and majestic, and it looks gorgeous in HD.

I remember the excitement and trepidation churning in my blood way back in 2005, when all I dared hope was that this regenerated show wouldn't suck; the relief I felt when the opening theme and credits appeared and were Right, the joy at those first baby steps in ROSE, the wonderful sensation of sharing it with friends and making fans out of half the Otakon staff. The sense grew, after that first season, that we'd Won, because finally the show was making good on the promise we fans had always seen -- and was being widely recognized as just as awesome as it had always been in my heart. It draws the finest writers, the best directors, and the most prestigious actors -- and it harnesses their love of the show to make something greater than the sum of all those very good parts.

And, unbelievably, it got better and better, more and more popular. The stories got bigger, bolder, more challenging, scarier, sillier, smarter, more jaw-dropping and heart-wrenching. We have reached the point where there is no question of *whether* it will win high ratings or awards, but *how many*, and whether it'll leave any for anyone else. It is no longer the cult show you're slightly hesitant to reveal you like, but instead a show that, when you let slip you've been a fan since the 70s, draws coworkers to your cubicle to discuss the latest episode. They can't wait for chance water cooler chats; they have questions and you have answers!

Heck, even the toys and merchandise are top-notch. And don't get me started on Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures!

So I can't help but grin, gape, and clap when each new week I can look forward to an hour of excellent television, secure in the knowledge that I won't be disappointed, and have hours of excited discussion with an ever growing cadre of casual and hardcore fans to look forward to. But on some level,i still can't quite wrap my brain around it. Every time I try, I get the giggles, or I get choked up like a kid on Christmas morning opening up the one thing he really wanted, but only mentioned to Santa Claus.
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
19 April 2011 @ 11:36 pm
The entire Doctor Who fan world is grieving today because Lis Sladen has passed away, leaving generations of Doctor Who fans in mourning. I have lost a friend, even if I never met her in person.

Way back in the mid-seventies, I came home from school and turned on Captain Chesapeake, and instead of the same old cartoons, there was instead a show about a blue box that could go anywhere in time and space, and in it there was a man called The Doctor. He traveled the universe with his friends, and he fought monsters and injustice and fear and madness. He saved not just our world, countless times, but dozens of alien planets, space stations, future freighters, and lonely outposts. And though the first episode I saw scared the pants off me, I would later find a lifelong friend and cultural touchstone in the adventures of the Doctor.

The Doctor was never alone; like Puff the Magic Dragon, he was nothing without his friends, because he needed someone to show off to and be brave for and to care about when he got too angry or full of himself. As the man who got his wings said, "no man is a failure who has friends" -- and the Doctor had countless friends over the years.

And the very first of these wonderful friends that I ever encountered was Sarah Jane Smith, played by the lovely Elisabeth Sladen over an incredible four decades of amazing television. My introduction to Sarah Jane came as she opened the cupboard door on an ark in space, and discovered a monstrous dead wasp -- and though she spent a lot of time terrified, with a little encouragement from the Doctor she always found the strength to go on.

By the time the Doctor accidentally dropped her off in Aberdeen rather than East Croyden, everyone assumed that, like so many companions, we'd never see Sarah Jane Smith again. But we did -- first in a spin-off with K-9 that nearly led to a series, and then in the Five Doctors special.

And then time passed, and the show faded, and then came back in a big way. And before long, a whole new generation of fans who'd only really known one companion discovered, along with Rose Tyler, that the Doctor has taken many friends for a trip in his magical blue box. The episode wasn't just nostalgia, or the new series explicitly embracing the old -- it was about how traveling with the Doctor can bring out the best in people, and inspire them to make the world a better place on their own. And the new fans embraced this lovely, warm, spunky lady, while the older fans marveled at the actress who'd barely aged a month in 30 years. To new fans, she was like an awesomely cool auntie, but for many older fans, she'd been our first crush -- one of several reasons why she consistently polled among the highest of all companions. Seeing her again brought up the same feelings in us as it did the Doctor. We were all, I think, still hopelessly in love with Sarah Jane, or at least awfully fond of her.

So much so that, decades after they'd first tried to spin her off, Sarah Jane Smith got her own show at last, gaining a son and friends and a mission -- and still fighting the good fight, turning what she learned from the Doctor into a template for her adventuresome life. The show was successful -- four series! -- and Sarah Jane would appear at least twice more on Doctor Who (and the Doctor would appear at least twice more on her show). Sarah Jane, Girl Reporter in the womens-lib-era 1970s, grew up and made being a mom who fights aliens seem pretty cool.

It says a lot about an actress to be able to step back effortlessly into a role she first played as a 20-something, and give it not just charm and spunk, but the warmth and the fun, and the sense of loss and love and longing that Lis brought to Sarah Jane. I know that the mark she has left on my life is as indelible as the autograph I never got the chance to get.

Farewell, Sarah Jane, and thanks, Lis, for an entire lifetime of adventure.
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
29 January 2011 @ 11:33 pm
Apparently these are things you MUST DO if you're a foodie in Baltimore.

NOTE: I disagree with a few of these items and find many redundant and find many redundant. ^-^
I have added some of my own below.

[x] Have a jumbo lump crab cake from Faidley's on a Saltine.
I have had proper crab cakes, with saltines, from many places. So I'm counting it.
[x] Pick steamed hard shells at Mr. Bill's Terrace Inn in Essex.
[x] Eat Bertha's mussels.
[x] Drink a Natty Boh.
Only with steamed crabs. Otherwise it's not worth it.
[x] Snack on a Berger's cookie.
[x] Put marshmallow on your snowball.
I've had it. Don't like it.
[ ] Split Maryland beaten biscuits and put some thin slices of ham in them.
[x] Serve sauerkraut with your turkey.
My mom does this. Still don't like sauerkraut.
[x] Get a chicken box (fried wings, western fries, dinner roll) from a Baltimore City public market.
[ ] Lake trout. And for those of us who watched "The Wire," have a grape soda with it.
[x] Breakfast at Blue Moon Cafe down in Fells Point.
[x] Corned beef on rye at Attman's.
I used to get it from Jack's (the real one, not the crappy chain) when I was a kid, and that was better.

[x] Chiapparelli's house salad.
[x] Knock back a goblet of Resurrection Ale at Brewer's Art.
[ ] Take a Sunday morning stroll through the JFX Farmer's Market.
Been meaning to for years.
[x] Thrasher's french fries from the boardwalk in Ocean City.
[ ] Have a Black Eyed Susan at the Preakness.
Have had it, but not at Preakness.
[x] Chow down on a pit beef sandwich at Boog's during an O's game.
[ ] Shop for shoes and chocolate at Ma Petit Shoe in Hampden.
[x] Have a soft crab sandwich on white bread.
I have *tried* to eat this, but get grossed out. One bite should count.
[ ] Eat a box of Rheb's buttercreams. Not at one sitting, of course ... on the other hand, why not?
I am intrigued...
[ ] Order a Tio Pepe sangria (red). It contains fruit, so it counts as food!
I am not sure that I've been to Tio Pepe's since I was a kid.
[x] Polish sausage from one of the two Ostrowski shops.
[ ] German sausage from Binkert's
[x] Fisher's popcorn downy ocean, hon!
[ ] Sunday brunch on the terrace at Ambassador Dining Room, an atypical setting for an Indian restaurant.
[ ] Get peach cake from Woodlea Bakery.
Don't care for peaches.
[x] Eat the pumpkin appetizer at the Helmand.
Yummy!
[x] Eat a Wockenfuss caramel apple! Mmmmm.
[ ] Thin crust pizza! Iggies and Joe Squared.
Huh?
[ ] Savory muffins at Red Canoe in Lauraville.
Also huh?
[ ] Try some of the special flavors from Taharka Bros. (formerly Sylvan Beach) ice cream and Pitango Gelato.
Not a fan of gelato.
[ ] Make fun of the hipsters at Golden West and Rocket to Venus in Hampden.
[ ] Have a special occasion dinner at Charleston. Ask Chef Cindy Wolf to fix what she thinks is best that night.
[ ] Change your mind about vegan/vegetarian food at Liquid Earth.
I quite like some vegan/veggie food. Haven't been to Liquid Earth though.
[ ] Try the charcuterie at Clementine.
[ ] Macaroni and cheese with bittersweet chocolate from Jack's Bistro.
I remain intrigued.
[ ] Throw in a shrimp salad from Kibby's and/or Mary Mervis.
[ ] Smith Island Cake, but only from Sugarbakers.
Have had it homemade before; too sweet for me.
[x] Gorge yourself on the Monday night all-you-can-eat at Vaccaro's.
[ ] Discuss a bottle of wine with Tony Foreman at Cinghiale.
[x] Eat roasted vegetables at Donna's ... wearing black.
[x] Veal Chop at Da Mimmo.
[x] Bookmaker salad at Sabatino's.
[ ] Get a crab cake and a lemon/peppermint stick at the Flower Mart. Isn't a fabulous crab cake, but even an average crab cake in Baltimore is better than anywhere else!
[ ] Order any sandwich at Trinacria. But no calling ahead to order like I do. You must wait in line for the full effect.
[ ] Order the popcorn and deviled eggs at Woodberry Kitchen. Before your appetizers, not in lieu of.
[ ] Have lunch on the patio at Sanders Corner overlooking the Loch Raven Reservoir.
[ ] Head to Carroll County for the best cream of crab soup at Smokey's BBQ on Liberty Road.
[x] Stop at DiPasquale's in Highlandtown for their Italian and meatball subs.
[ ] Fried chicken livers from the Lexington Market.
Yuck.
[ ] Bagel with lox and cream cheese or apricot spread from Greg's.
[ ] Sit at the bar at Cinghiale and order anything. Talk to Rob about wine when Tony isn't in town.
[ ] Tamales from the food truck on Broadway.
[x] Coddies on a cracker from a rowhouse bar.
Used to make that at home when I was a kid. Have done it once in a while as a grown-up.
[x] Wander aisles of exotic produce - lychees! jackfruit! Indian eggplant! - at H Mart or Lotte Plaza in Catonsville. Eat some yummy bi bim bap or udon soup at the food court and then pick up a beautiful fresh whole fish for dinner before you head home.
It's a regular spot for me!
[x] Go to a bull/oyster roast or crab/shrimp feast at any number of Baltimore venues as long as you go to at least one at a V.F.W. hall, American Legion, Steelworkers Hall, fire hall, state park, etc.
[ ] Prime rib at the Prime Rib.
[ ] Greenberg Potato Skins from Prime Rib.
[ ] How about the fried green pepper rings at Gunnings!
[ ] You have to get a Popular Mozzarella Pie from Matthew's Pizza!
[ ] A baloney-wrapped hot dog from Attman's.
[x] Pit beef from anywhere without a door.
[x] Late night dinner at the Bel-Loc Diner.
There are better diners out there.
[x] Eat a "Tour of Samos" at Samos in Greektown (Greek salad, tzatziki and pita, kalamari, spinach pie, chicken souvlaki, dolmades, lamb chops, garlic shrimp, gyro, roasted potatoes).
[ ] Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding at Ale Mary's
[ ] Eat anything on the menu at Andy Nelson's.
[x] Gravy fries.
[ ] Chicken salad from Graul's Market!
[x] Old-fashioned Maryland stuffed ham.
[x] OTTERBEIN'S COOKIES!!!!!!!!!!!
[x] Raw beef and onion sandwich with raw yellow onion and salt and pepper on fresh rye bread (or pumpernickel).
Used to get freshest, loveliest hand-ground beef from Zannino's in Colgate. Man, I can taste it now.
[ ] Buy a crepe at Sofi's and enjoy it while watching a movie at the Charles.
[ ] Naron candy.
[x] Polish dog with "the works" at Polock Johnny's.
[x] Italian cold cut sub at Pastore's in Towson.
[x] WOCKENFUSS CANDIES!!!!!!!!!!
[x] Order the chocolate-chili bread pudding at the Blue Agave.
[x] Have a picnic at Fort McHenry.
[x] Any sandwich from Eddie's in Roland Park.
[ ] String bean rolls at Cafe Zen.
[x] Garlic fries at Brewer's Art.
[x] Oysters and beer at Cross Street Market!
[ ] Coffee from Zeke's.
[ ] Smoked platter from Neopol at Belvedere.
[ ] Go to the Wine Market on a Monday night and enjoy a neighborhood discount (extended to all diners).
[ ] Have an ice cream that contains vegetables at Dominion Ice Cream. [Ed.'s note: Now relocated to Hampden.]
[x] Have Old Bay on things other than seafood. For instance, corn on the cob, potato salad, coleslaw.
[x] Margarita in a hubcap from Nacho Mama's.
[x] Take the Clipper City brewery tour.
[ ] Have a Black Eyed Susan cupcake at Charm City Cupcakes. It's one of my favorite things about Baltimore!
[x] Get fruit and veggies from an a-rab.
[ ] Sip 'n Bite.
[x] Sip a Bloody Mary with an Old Bay rimmer. I only see this done at Baltimore restaurants.
[ ] Enjoy a meal at Salt.
[ ] Eat the Berger cookie pie at Dangerously Delicious Pies in Federal Hill. A new tradition built on the old.
[x] Mary Sue Easter Eggs.
But meh, too sweet.
[x] Eat sushi in Towson.
[x] Wiener schnitzel, red cabbage, and more at Eichenkranz in Highlandtown. The last traditional German food in the city.
I'm counting the food I once had from Hausner's.


I'd add:
[x] Illegal French Toast from Gampy's (now sadly gone)
[x] Amazing brunch from Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia
[x] Brunch at City Cafe
[x] Samosas from Akbar
[x] Cheesesteak at 3am from Never On Sunday after a night of partying!
[x] Crepes at Petit Louis
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
22 December 2010 @ 10:55 pm
Remaining to do:
Tidying:
[ ] cat box
[ ] clean bathrooms
[ ] windex big mirror
[ ] sweep entry way
[ ] sweep/vac/mop
[ ] presents upstairs
[ ] spare room tidy
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
30 October 2010 @ 01:06 pm
It's been a few weeks, and looking at my last post, I sort of left people hanging with lots of gloom and doom in the air.

You'll be delighted to know it's much better now.

I'm the proud uncle of a delightful new nephew, Zeke -- my sister had a bit of a rough ride at the end, but everyone's fine and healthy.

My grandfather is doing MUCH better, though he's going to be at a nursing home for the foreseeable future. He's at a nice, small, independent place with a very nice staff, and while he's not thrilled to be there, they're taking good care of him. That makes it possible for my grandmother to relax a bit, and she's sleeping better and getting involved with a senior center. Even better, I was able to take the pair of them out last week. We got Grampa John a haircut, had some decent Chinese food, and went to meet the new nephew. It was a wonderful day for everyone, and included plentiful play time with my nephew Alex, who has had a lot to adjust to in the last couple of weeks. He apparently thinks his Uncle Jim is awesome, and, well, it's great to have a little kid think you're awesome.

Speaking of awesome kids: A few weeks ago I also had a nice visit with my goddaughter Zoe, who remains a great kid. She's doing very well in school and is still and avid reader. Getting to be such a big girl, too...can't believe she'll be nine in a few weeks.

My parents had a lovely visit to the cousins in Florida, and came back quite refreshed; Dad's balance is better and he's pretty happy working. Mom's been helping Chris with the baby.

Friend time has been reasonable plentiful lately, and that's a good thing. Birthday dinners, excellent TV, and a sense that things are reaching equilibrium (or at least stability).

There's been Otakon stuff happening -- elections and a Satoshi Kon farewell project that I put together with Madhouse's blessing, among other things -- but it's not consuming my life. Just some transition stuff to deal with now...

And work has been busy, too.

What's new with you?
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
14 October 2010 @ 11:53 pm
If you haven't heard much from me beyond the occasional tweet or Facebook post, you're not alone.

Here's what I've been up to.

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And me, I've been managing my stress by sleeping a lot, playing video games in my spare time, and reading. Have bounced between social butterfly and hermit modes. Mostly I've needed some "me" time.

And now it's October, AKA birthday month, when most of my friends and family have inconveniently stacked their natal anniversaries. Otakon elections are this weekend. Halloween's coming up.

More later.
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
Day 12 – What’s in your bag, in great detail

I carry a man-bag. A satchel. So what? It's a practical necessity, and smaller than the (otherwise socially neutral) courier satchels or bookbags or briefcases carried by many men.

Mine is a practical little square-ish thing by Derek Alexander; I ordered it off eBags.com last year after my Eddie Bauer Scout bag gave up the ghost. It's no-nonsense, and turns out to be sized exactly right for an iPad in a standard Apple case, in addition to all my other crap.

And there really is a lot of crap. I actually downsized from a laptop backpack.

Today, you will find:
* iPad
* Personal Blackberry (I no longer carry the Otakon cel phone)
* Wallet (I don't like it in my pants pockets due to long commute)
* 1 pair bifocals in their case
* 1 glasses cleaning cloth
* iPod or iPod Touch + headphones
* 1 mini-pack kleenex
* 1 small multicompartment pill case (1 daily prescript, twice-daily acid reducer, claritin, benedryl, ibuprofen.
* 1 ziplock quart bag with various other daily meds (2 nasal sprays, 2 inhalers, eyedrops, lip balm, blister-pack sudafed). The lip balm is a necessity due to the allergy stuff drying me out.
* 1 folding mini-hairbrush
* 1 business card case
* 1 small journal book
* 2 pens
* 1 Sharpie
* 1 flash drive
* Business cards (a dozen of mine as backup, about a dozen I haven't yet filed)
* Plastic flossing toothpick
* Hard plastic sunglasses case attached by carabiner to strap

Frequent visitors:
* Camera
* Ota-phone
* Charger
* Miscellaneous receipts
* Paperback novel du jour


It's a lot of stuff -- but it packs up small enough to be practical to carry around.
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
Went up to AC this weekend and was joined by docthestampede, turning my potentially pathetic weekend of vice into a more social affair. I'm glad he decided to come, because I had a LOT of fun.



The stage was set for a fun weekend -- the weather promised to be lovely, and my car is fun to drive, so the 3.5 hrs it took me to get there flew by. With the iPod pounding sing-able songs through 270-watt sound system and the windows down, I had a pretty good ride down.

With one glaring exception, that is. The GPS took me out rt 40 through New Jersey, which was fine, but I nearly got creamed by a huge pickup truck that decided to pull out of a roadside bar without looking. I was doing the full 50-mph speed limit (cruise control!) in the right lane when I spotted him and BOY am I glad I have a car that handles well and reasonable quick reactions -- he was probably less than a food from my passenger side window (and that was after I swerved HARD to miss his stupid ass). Had the truck that HAD been on my left not *just* pulled into a turn lane, I would have had nowhere to go and even THEN I barely missed him. The adrenaline kept me going for quite a while, though I did pull over as soon as I could to check, because we were literally close enough I wasn't sure if we'd touched. BTW, the guy later PASSED me (driving in the oncoming traffic lane to do so) and seemed to have trouble staying in his lane.

Terry had bussed down and was waiting for me at the hotel, so after checking in freshening up a bit, we set off to hit the nearby Showboat, which ended up being my favorite this weekend for reasons that will become clear later.

The Showboat is pretty small, but it's also near the Courtyard Marriott where we stayed, so given the lateness of the hour neither it was going to be our best bet. (The Resorts, which I checked out on Sunday while dodging the rain, is kinda lame, even though it's much closer.) Aaron was going to be there for a bit playing poker, but I wasn't feeling poker-lucky so I wandered around looking for my usual fun penny slots -- I don't play the old-school reels, but pick the video slots with fun mini-games and good themes. My usual faves are: Carnival of Mystery, Hexbreaker, Match Game, Monopoly, and Wheel of Fortune. Usually I can make $20-$50 go for a long while on those.

However, while wandering, we discovered the Star Trek Slots game -- a brand new style of slot game that offers, aside from authentic Trek branding and audio/video clips, plus the best mini games I've seen, it ALSO allows you to collect levels and go up in rank, and progressively unlock new themed levels, which change the sounds, visuals, and mini-games. You can save your progress and *continue* with your unlocked levels on any Trek game, anywhere in the world.

Well, I sat down and immediately began winning HARDCORE -- clearing the minigames repeatedly and finishing up about $200 up after a solid hour of playing. It was genuinely fun. Sadly, my luck didn't hold out because I pissed the winnings away over the next couple of hours -- but had a BLAST doing so. I was annoyed, though, because I was nearly $150 in the hole, though to be fair I had probably had at least $50 in drinks and had been well entertained.

Showboat was running some decent cover bands and had classy go-go dancers, too, so there was plenty to watch. Terry wound up at the poker tables and had bumped into Aaron from Otakon, so we all hung out for a bit before Aaron left to drive home, at which point Terry and I decided it was late enough to turn in ourselves. However, before that, Terry decided that I needed to learn Pai Gow, for which I am rather grateful. The Showboat has a nice Asian gaming area, and between learning the basics by watching Terry (and chatting with the dealer and pit boss), and the decent dumplings I got, I found myself looking forward to playing myself the next day.

Saturday morning started well with an excellent $12 breakfast buffet (featuring a friendly and talented omelet chef), and having gorged ourselves, we set off to wander the boardwalk in the lovely 75-and-sunny weather. Ended up eventually at the Tropicana. Meanwhile Terry's uncle and family called, having decided to come down for the day, so there was a bit of confusion there about whether and how Terry would connect with them. I lost some money playing Wheel of Fortune, then gained it all back, then lost it again. Also lost out on Blackjack and Roulette, but gained back a bit (and had a lot more fun) playing the Star Trek slots again. We then began to wander a bit more.

At Caesars, we hung out for a bit (playing what Taka calls "wandering tribes of Israel" as 3 groups of us tried to connect in a huge casino complex), and I eventually met Terry's family, who were pretty entertaining. We hung out for a bit, then Terry and I hit the Pai Gow area and sat down at a $20 table. I then proceeded to have a string of great hands, quickly getting the hang of the game and nearly tripling up my initial $100 by the time we left. It was a fun time, not at all hurt by the fact that I kept winning! But we left when the table went from $20 to $40 a hand.

Eventually, we wound up at the hotel again for a breather and a quick change of clothes (it was getting chilly), and Terry decided to grab his bag and catch a ride home with his relatives after they finished hanging at the Borgata. We played a less lucrative bout of Pai Gow (though with some very fun table mates that I'd have happily hung out longer with, had the cards not been against me) at Showboat.

Terry and I grabbed some decent noodles for dinner, then wandered down to Bally's again, where Terry and I parted ways and he went home with the family. I grabbed a snack and listened to some jazz in the lounge for a while, then wasted some money on slots that weren't as interesting as they'd seemed (though Miss Clara T, a wacky animated psychic themed slot game, held my attention until it became clear that the servers weren't going to bother visiting me -- I mostly broke even but thirst eventually drove me away.)

Soon, however, I spotted the well-hidden Star Trek penny slots at Bally's, and fed it $50, intending that to be my last run for the evening. This one had a communal jackpot thing going, and I hit it on my second spin, then twice more in the first ten minutes I was there! Playing only 35 cents a spin, I had another incredible run and drew a bit of a crowd, because I was getting insane numbers of minigames and "win warp" multipliers. I played until about 245am, and left with $240 on my initial $50 stake. I also downed a fair number of rum-and-cokes I decided to call it a night, and hiked back up to the hotel for bed. I couldn't sleep, of course, and ended up staying up way too late playing Words With Friends (curse, you meredactyl, I'm addicted).

After checking out, I grabbed another breakfast buffet at the hotel, then hiked in the rain back over to Showboat, where I'd left my car (and my umbrella). Since I got fairly soaked getting there, I figured I'd dry off with a bit of Pai Gow and a nice hot cup of tea. The table started with just me, but soon I had company in the form of two groups of old Chinese women. It was strange at first, but eventually they opened up a bit after we all had a run of horrible hands and shared our misery. The lady next to me (who dropped a good $500 while I was at the table with her!) said "You don't speak chinese do you?". When I said "no, I wish I did, because it sounds like you ladies are having fun", she said "oh no, we're just being mean old ladies, you're not missing anything!" But after that she made a point of translating occasional funny remarks for me, which I appreciated.

I played with them for about 2 hours, eventually winding up a solid $40 up, which isn't bad at all really. (On the way out, one of the dealers told me that the ladies were chatting about how tall and polite I was and they were impressed that I was drinking tea.)

Since it was still grey and nasty out, I abandoned my original plan of shopping at the outlet stores, and blew another $50 on the Star Trek game but didn't do nearly as well. So eventually I collected my bags and drove home -- or rather, drove to Granny's to take her out for dinner and then to visit my folks for a bit.


All in all, it wound up being an excellent weekend. And I'll stick to Pai Gow Poker and Star Trek Penny Slots next time. Had I done that this time, I would probably be up a few hundred bucks rather than down -- but even so, I ended up well within budget and had a blast doing it!
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
15 August 2010 @ 12:31 am
SUNDAY

Sundays at Otakon are...odd. There's always a danger of half-assedness, because people are tired. Guests have been partying for the last few nights and tend to be a bit groggy; staff, too. Some of the guests head home on Sunday, and for that task my trusty drivers are on the go.

The big deal on Sunday was the Home Made Kazoku concert, and thanks to the usual running about making sure stuff was happening, I was a bit late to it. Still, a fabulous show, and the crowd was totally grooving. OUr second Hall D show in the weekend was filled to capacity.

Micro, the more outgoing member of HMKU, had adopted my mother, and she'd promised to see the show. They didn't disappoint, and sure enough Mom was there to see it. There was also some premium White Boy Dancing -- some of the guests staff were there too. It was impossible to NOT have fun there.

And then, all too soon, the weekend was grinding to a close. I allowed myself the luxury of actually enjoying my third concert of the weekend, though of course not uninterrupted. I caught most of the show, while I fluttered about putting out minor fires via text message and backstage conference, and then suddenly it was time to hit closing ceremonies (missed it) and then the half-dreaded Con Feedback Panel.

The usual "not much we can do" complaints; lots of positives and a few items to look into. The entertainment value, for me, comes from a few folks we see every year. It's almost more about catching the mood of the crowd and this year people were *happy* about Otakon. It went well -- we did a good job. We could have stood at least another half hour, but time was running out. We have to get cracking on Sundays, when the con is done, because we MUST be out of the BCC by the end of the night.

It's an enormous undertaking to get the BCC emptied, though not so herculean a task as filling it up. By 3pm the exhibit halls are closed, and the dealers start moving out. Artists, too, and the programming begins to drop off a few hours before close. It's all going on while we listen to the happy and sad folks at Feedback. Meanwhile...

One of the other bits of entertainment is our private bets on how long before certain things happen. Here's a partial list:

1. Jim gets a phone call. It never fails; one year there were about half a dozen.
2. Someone complains about not getting an autograph or not getting into a particular event.
3. A particular member who shows up every year makes his comment.
4. Someone drones on for at least three questions when we have repeatedly announced that everyone gets ONE question.

....you get the idea.

DEAD DOG
So the guests who were leaving that day were mostly gone, and it was pack-up time. I realized, suddenly, that I hadn't eaten -- amazing, and no wonder I lose weight. I'd had almost nothing all day, so as my team made sure we'd pack out our stuff, I grabbed a quick slice of pizza before grabbing some of the guest-donated swag for give-aways.

Our Dead Dog is the staff wrap dinner. We have over 500 staff, most of whom planned to attend, and the venue was chosen -- the Hard Rock Cafe, which had been a last-minute replacement for the now-closed ESPN Zone. There are few venues that can hold us, and the hotels have not worked quite so well. We're hungry, and exhausted, and many of us are fat. They plan for, apparently, wedding diners; people who nibble at the usual rubber chicken and are worried about looking like pigs. For our folks, this is very likely the first proper meal they've had in days. Luckily, the Hard Rock had planned adequately. It wasn't bad, but the place was slammed and there was simply no seating. Our guests joined us (those who hadn't gone home yet, including both the Yoshida Bros and HMKU, as well as Vic Mignogna). Midway through I ducked out to spend a bit of time with Mom and Khervin, who'd decided to eat elsewhere. I returned in time to watch some of the raffle and then it was time to return to the Battle Bridge for our last night of partying...
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
09 August 2010 @ 12:55 am
My week of Otakon....

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Tags:
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
08 August 2010 @ 11:01 pm
My post-Otakon to-do list is:

1. Read several books I've been meaning to.
2. Catch up on manga & anime
3. Play the video games I got for CHRISTMAS and haven't played yet
(PROGRESS)
4. Go away for a weekend
5. Sleep
(PROGRESS)
6. Get a physical, see dentist, get eyes checked & spare/new glasses
7. Get back into shape - lose 15-20 lbs by end of year
8. Finish loading CDs into iTunes
9. Import vinyl records
10. See some movies
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
21 July 2010 @ 02:36 pm
1. Read several books I've been meaning to.
2. Catch up on manga & anime
3. Play the video games I got for CHRISTMAS and haven't played yet
4. Go away for a weekend
5. Sleep
6. Get a physical, see dentist, get eyes checked & spare/new glasses
7. Get back into shape - lose 15-20 lbs by end of year
8. Finish loading CDs into iTunes
9. Import vinyl records
10. See some movies
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
09 July 2010 @ 05:20 pm
And while the laundry's drying and the migraine today has finally subsided to a dull and thankfully distant pain, I thought I'd do a brief accounting.

Overall, I'm pretty happy. I have the requisite house and car, a good job to pay for them, plenty of toys to keep me entertained, good friends and family to share them with. There are kitties to come home to and food and drink are never in short supply. Other than car and mortgage, I don't owe much, and I have a fair amount of freedom to enjoy life.

Unfortunately I'm fatter than I want to be, and frequently more stressed than I need to be. I'm working on both. Reducing stress will help me better use the time I have. And I've been forced to realize that my family is getting older -- my grandparents and parents especially are starting to show their age. And the kids are getting big so quickly. I don't want to miss it..

Thanks to Otakon, I get to meet cool people and apparently I've earned a good reputation in the industry. I've produced three animated shorts and even appeared in one. I've toured anime studios and partied with rock stars. I've been to Japan five times, though I have yet to make it out of Tokyo. I go to New York and LA. I think I've built something decent and set a reasonable bar for success, but I've also got a good team to rely on. But it is time to take a bit of a break; I'm serious about pulling WAY back next year. I won't leave my successor stranded, but I need to let whoever takes over actually do the job and earn their spot.

Starting after this year's con, I'm going to focus on me for a bit -- getting serious again about getting into shape, and doing a bunch of things that keep getting pushed aside so that Otakon doesn't break. I need to create something, too, but I'm not sure what direction that will take me. Once the noise dies down a bit, I'll figure it out. Heck, I may learn to ride a motorcycle, or take some classes.

Mainly, I want to travel - for leisure and pleasure, ideally with friends and/or family -- and I want to do so without the pressure that accompanies "business travel".
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
08 April 2010 @ 11:46 am
http://tinyurl.com/yaqq7vm

Some of them are hilarious, skewing all sectors of geekdom!
Namechecks for plenty of comics, Dr Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Anime, Hello Kitty....
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Jim Vowles
So Saturday, scant hours after the UK saw Matt Smith's first episode, Tom Heaton and I were on our way back to Wonder Con, intent on seeing the US premier of THE ELEVENTH HOUR. And while Tom popped off to the bathroom, I sought the end of the line....only to find it several hundred people back in line. In a back hallway.

I'm no stranger to the back hallways of convention centers, obviously. But usually I'm not sitting in line. (One gets spoiled running cons.) All day long I'd been unable to switch off "con mode" completely, noting the things that Wonder Con *should* have done for better line and crowd control and the many little planning failures. (Here's a big one: all the celeb autograph tables were in two rows, opposite each other, with no attempt to sort out lining or give extra space for the crowd.)

Anyway, the big fear I had all day was that they'd seriously underestimated the crowd -- and I was kinda right. It was shortly clear that they'd need to expand to three showings (they'd planned two). A bit of mental math told me that we were about 500 people back -- and with an 800-person room and the unknown factor of how many folks would have stayed from the previous panel, it wasn't clear if we'd be able to get into the first showing. As it happened, the line cut off about 15 people behind us, though we were left with no clue where to sit because of minimal direction. Eventually we located seats separately. But we'd made it!

The BBC America guy who introduced the screening was practically giddy -- and so was the room. When the personalized message from Matt and Karen came on screen, the cheer was palpable. The cheer continued anew through the new title sequence. (Withholding judgement; it may grow on me.)

Seeing Doctor Who first, even alone, is awesome. Sharing it with friends has been even more awesome. But seeing it in an audience of 800 enthusiastic fans? Wow.

The episode itself? Fairly brilliant, if I'm honest. Clever, touches of poignancy, all the bits you want to see in a regeneration episode: watching the new Doctor find his personality, choose a companion, choose his outfit, and in general find himself, while saving the day. Doing it without aid of TARDIS or sonic screwdriver. Doing it by being clever, by being lucky, by avoiding violence, and by talking the villain down. Making mistakes and then making things right.

So far, I'm loving Matt Smith -- or at least, I'm fascinated by him. There's an assured core there, and an interesting physicality to his performance. He's conveying the Doctor's alienness brilliantly, and I can't wait to see the next unusual choice he'll make. I can't quite figure him out or predict him. Which is frankly brilliant!

Whoops and cheers throughout. Moments of awesome. The TARDIS rebuilding itself; the sequence establishing the Doctor's history. A feisty companion we all seemed to adore, who isn't going to put up with the Doctor's usual nonsense. Starting to see Matt, starting to see the show's new style assert itself -- and never for a second losing site of the fun.

The applause was thunderous, and 800 smiling folks left the theatre, eager to tell friends about the awesomeness of the new show.

If it lives up to the promise of this first episode, it's gonna be one hell of a ride this season!
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
Risqué limericks by W.H. Auden:
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Jim Vowles
09 March 2010 @ 12:29 am
Peter Davison (5th Doctor Who) couldn't make it to Gallifrey this year, but he sent a funny video to apologize....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J29UV7TzWxk
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
08 February 2010 @ 04:22 pm
You've gotta be fucking kidding me.
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Jim Vowles
07 February 2010 @ 08:15 pm

This was taken Saturday night, after a pass by the neighbor, but after it had stopped snowing.

All night last night, the lonely fellow in a Bobcat worked at clearing as much of the parking lot as possible, for which we are thankful -- but boy, the "vroooommmm....BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP" just wouldn't quit from 2-5am.

His efforts weren't for naught; you can see bare pavement, and there are several mounds, each topping out at about 9 or 10 feet high. It looks ridiculous, verging on dangerous.

Today saw a massive dig-out; my neighbors had dug out one car (mostly) by the time I emerged into the cold, and the space beside my car had been visited by the plow, so I actually had room to work. Still, a 4-foot drift awaited me -- my poor little CRV was invisible and for a moment I feared that I'd dug out the wrong car.

I dug out my car, then scooted it into the vacant spot, to make digging out the other car easier. But there was so *much* snow, it took about 2.5-3 hours. Luckily it wasn't lonely work, and after we'd freshened up a bit, Tim and Laura (the neighbors) popped over for a brownie and we chatted for a while.

Asthma's a bitch in this weather, especially when doing hard labor. (Shoveling snow definitely burned off the brownie, and probably breakfast as well.) We probably moved a ton, literally, for each car. It's a heavy, wet snow, too -- great for making snowballs and forts, but a right royal pain for the grown-ups. And now my inhaler's run out.

And now, as I rest my various aches and continue coughing, I am in absolute dread of the NEXT bloody storm...there are apparently two more on the horizon, each promising more White Doom.

The upcoming Tues/Weds storm is expected to bring another 6-12 inches. There's another mess scheduled for the 15th -- perhaps we'll avoid losing yet ANOTHER weekend to the White Doom.

I am heartily sick to DEATH of the bloody snow.
 
 
 
Jim Vowles
06 February 2010 @ 01:23 pm
Damn, that's a lot of snow out there.