Thursday, September 22, 2011

What I Would Do at Geek Girl Con, Part I

While I’m in New Orleans in October, Seattle will be playing host to the first Geek Girl Con on October 8 and 9an event described by the GGC’s press kit as “dedicated to promoting awareness of and celebrating the contribution and involvement of women in all aspects of the sciences, science fiction, comics, gaming and related Geek culture through conventions and events that emphasize both the historic and ongoing contribution and influence of women in thisculture.” Good enough!

Honestly, this is a Con I’d love to go to, and a great one to get in on the ground floor of, because I have a feeling it’s going to go huge, fast. Unfortunately the scheduling conflict with the Popular Culture in the South Conference (you didn’t think I’d be completely self-promotion free here did you?), as well as a lamentably tight travel budget, means that I will have to miss Geek Girl Con. However, this does nothing to stop me from idly fantasizing about going, and what I might do while there.

So, if I were able to attend Geek Girl Con:

I would seek out Chase Masterson and ask her to autograph the largest boxed ear-wax removal system I could find (fellow ST:DS9 fans will understand).

After a Friday night in the hotel room spent with a highlighter and the GGC Programming Guide, I’d get up Saturday morning and start hitting panels:

10:00 – 11:00: Star Trek & Beyond with Chase Masterson. The actor who launched her career as Leeta on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and who now continues to act, sing, and produce speaks on fan-activism among genre fans.

11:00 – 12:30: The Heroine: Journey, Culture and Narrative. Haviva Avirom (mod.), Sara Freeman, Catherine Bailey, and Erin Lovejoy-Guron discuss the heroine’s journey in popular culture from Claudette Colbert to Wonder Woman to RPGs. I think I’d come prepared to ask about their takes on Haley Atwell’s character Peggy Carter in Captain America: the First Avenger.

12:30 – 1:00: Some kind of junk food lunch.

1:00 – 2:00: Trina Robbins on Tarpé Mills and Miss Fury. I don’t know Tarpé Mills but the programming guide makes me want to: “Trina Robbins, ground-breaking herstorian and comic author, introduces you to one of the greatest female creators you never knew existed. Author Tarpé Mills’ created Marla Drake, aka Miss Fury, has been described as the “grandmother that Buffy Summers and Sydney Bristow didn’t know they had.” Time for a history lesson!” I will even be willing to overlook the twinge that “herstorian” gives me. For now.

2:00-2:30: Shopping for cool stuff, particularly books!

2:30-4:00: History of the Universe as Told by Wonder Woman. Kristy Guevara-Flanagan (mod.), Gail Simone, Trina Robbins, Jennifer K. Stuller, Mike Madrid. Footage from Guevara-Flanagan’s documentary History of the Universe as Told by Wonder Woman will be shown, and the panelists will discuss our obsession with superheroes, and the evolution of female empowerment in the culture. Note historians Trina Robbins and Jen Stuller. Jen is one of the most delightful, brilliant people it’s ever been my pleasure to know, and both women are applying the historian’s art to fields too long neglected by traditional historiography. Definitely a professional interest in this one for me, but also (hopefully) a chance to catch up with someone I haven’t seen face-to-face in too long.

4:00 – 5:00: Character Studies: Geek Girls in Popular Culture. Jennifer K. Stuller (mod. [okay, obviously we’ll have to catch up later, Jen!]), Amy Berg, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Sara Kuhn, Jessica Mills, and Stephanie Thorpe take a look at geek girls in film, TV, comics, etc. They’ll also discuss the status of geek girls in our culture. Good stuff.

5:00 – 5:30: Snack? Sit dazed for half an hour? Cat-nap?

5:30 – 6:30: Whedonistas. Naturally. Teresa Jusino (mod.), Jane Espenson, Nancy Holder, Mariah Huener discuss Joss Whedon’s work and the impact his shows have had on them, on the culture, and on Whdeon’s fans, who have become some of the world’s most active, particularly for women’s rights.

6:30 – 7:00: Dinner. See Lunch above.

7:00 – 8:30: Viscera Film Fest. I’ll let GGC’s program guide have this one: “Heidi Honeycutt hosts a mini-Viscera Film Fest. They will screen selected horror short films created, written, directed, produced, acted, goredup, and designed by women. You’ve never seen horror like this before. Operating since 2007, Viscera is committed to expanding opportunities for female horror creators.” How frakkin’ cool does this sound? I know, right!

9:00 – 11:00: Whedonesque Burlesque. “Man, if you gotta ask, you’ll never know.”

Then, I’d stagger back to the hotel, collapse into bed, and rest up for Sunday’s events… Which will constitute Part II of this little exercise in imagination. Until then, Reader’s Mine, maybe some of you might need to book a flight or two to Seattle, eh? Failing that, you can show your support forGeek Girl Con, by donating here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Goings On

Well, there’s a Latin exam tomorrow, but I’ve spent four days studying for it, and believe I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns, which, with other homework being done, leads me here. It’s been a busy couple of weeks since my last post, Readers Mine. School is rolling along, and there is an ever growing stack of books threatening to overflow my shelves on everything from Samuel Colt to the Late Roman Republic to the Alhambra and Moorish Grenada to the cuneiform tablets of Sargon II. There is much reading still to be done, followed by much writing. Also test taking.

Samuel Colt
First up (aside from the aforementioned Latin exam) is the Popular Culture/American Culture in the South Conference, which is being held in New Orleans in October. I’m presenting a paper which uses the character of Sam Colt in Supernatural as a springboard to examine the historical Samuel Colt and his place and part in American popular culture. I hope to have that written by the end of this weekend. Good thing too, as the conference falls right before UNCG’s fall break, meaning that all of my midterm exams, papers, etc need to be finished and turned in before I head south, so I’ll probably need all of next week to gear up for that. The up-side, of course, is that I can enjoy the conference and the city with a pure heart unburdened by looming assignments.

Ed, Spike, Faye, and Jett
And one hell of a conference it promises to be! Along with the usual PCA/ACA crowd, the first LOST mini-conference will be held, featuring the one and only Nikki Stafford as keynote speaker. I’m looking forward to the whole shebang, not merely for the usual crop of great papers, but for the all too rare opportunity to catch up with friends from hither and yon face-to-face rather than by Facebook or e-mail. Mockingbird and I are both going, as usual, and she will be unveiling the first part of a look at the influences of Cowboy Bebop on Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Part II she’s saving for Slayage 5 in Vancouver next summer.

Gigi Edgley as Chiana
After the conference I’ll have two and a half weeks before taking the GRE, by which point the application process needs to already be rolling along. I am seriously hoping that I manage to get accepted into a school where I can go straight through to a doctorate, as applying for school is one of the more tediously stressful things in life. Almost as much so as applying for jobs. Along with graduate school applications, there will still be regular undergraduate work to be done, and also, sometime before the end of the year, I should be seeing my Farscape chapter come back to me with notes for revision. It’ll also be time to start the research for my own paper to be presented at Slayage 5, which reminds me, the deadline for proposals there is 1 December!

Like I said, busy semester.

In other news, the GOTP (Grand Ol’ Tea Party) is gleefully fucking up my home state of North Carolina through a series of legislative actions which have gutted the education budget, set women’s rights back by a few decades, and now they seem to think that putting civil rights up for a popular vote is sensible (which it is, assuming your goal is to deny a minority group its civil rights). My hope is that the conservative movement has overreached at last, and that the fine people of North Carolina will stand up, throw the bums out, and tell the next bunch of “representatives” that we’re looking for frakin’ jobs, not laws that make things harder on all of us. Jackasses.

Finally (for now), it seems I'm precognitive. If you are not watching Breaking Bad, you are missing a masterpiece of storytelling, and film. Don’t let the fact that its television fool you, this is something special. It’s on AMC. Watch it, bitch!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Apollo 18: "A-"

Russian poster for Apollo 18,
where it apparently was first released!
To celebrate a long weekend together, Mockingbird and I decided to take in a movie (among other things), and since we were looking for more of a popcorn flick than art film, we decided to check out Apollo 18. The film’s premise is pretty straightforward: after Apollo 17, the last official moon mission, NASA and the Department of Defense sent another Apollo mission to the moon, this time in secret. Ostensibly there to set up a series of early-warning devices to detect a Soviet nuclear ballistic missile launch against the US, the intrepid three-man crew discovers… something else.

I have to say that we were pleasantly surprised by the film. The back-story is that the audience is watching an edited version of some eighty-five hours of video files recently uploaded to (which, in a further touch, has apparently been “blocked,” making it unavailable), exposing the mission, so all of the film is ostensibly from the cameras aboard the Apollo module and lunar lander, as well as a battery of hand-held and spacesuit-mounted 16mm cameras, and some tripod-mounted automatic cameras which the astronauts set up here and there. This leads to one of the more brilliant aspects of the film, as it has been meticulously made to appear as if it was actually shot using this equipment, and the film “stock” has been appropriately aged to give it an early 1970s unrestored archival look. The viewable area of the theater screen is even cropped to a square area with rounded corners to further the effect of watching old 16mm film. The technical work done here is astounding, as is the films attention to detail in recreating the living conditions of the Apollo astronauts in what were truly tiny metal shells fully equipped with such delicacies as “ham paste.”

In a nice change from frantic SF pacing, the movie builds slowly and evenly, ratcheting up the tension through several seeming climaxes which serve only to wind things a bit tighter still. It is as much a psychological thriller as it is an alien menace piece, and director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego does a brilliant job of using the strange mix of claustrophobic spacecraft and utterly inhospitable lunar space to work on both the astronauts and the audience. I was also pleased to see lead actor Warren Christie, who can also be seen weekly on SyFy’s Alphas, get some big-screen time, and prove that he has the chops to be there. Christie brilliantly portrays the deep confusion and mistrust of a young career military officer who has been badly shaken by the Watergate scandal, reminding the audience that the film is set in a time when the now habitual mistrust of the American government on the part of its citizens was only just beginning to take root, and betrayal by that government was as unexpected as it was bitter.

I give Apollo 18 an “A-” over-all, however, because there were unfortunately times when the close-ups of frantic astronauts had me thinking “Look, it’s Blair Witch in Space!” but that has more to do with brief visuals than writing, directing, acting, or overall cinematography. Also, there remains the somewhat glaring plot-hole of just exactly how the footage from the hand-held and suit cameras made it back to Earth! Overall though, Apollo 18 is a thoughtful thriller that relies on acting and artistry to achieve its chills, and takes the time to build a real story rather than endless shrapnel-filled explosions and plucky-humans-against-evil-aliens clichés. Go see it.