November Writing Challenge Day 21: The Phantom Menace

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

Last night I started my latest challenge: watch all of the Star Wars movies and two of the animated series before The Rise of Skywalker debuts next month. I’m watching them in chronological order, which means I started with Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

I never saw Episode I in the theaters. When it came out I was more interested in going out to the bars with my friends. I thought I’d get around to watching it, but before I knew it the movie was no longer showing. When I did finally get to see it on videotape, I was underwhelmed. I watched it a second time on DVD years ago and was bored by it.

So I wasn’t really looking forward to it when I logged into Disney+ last night. The opening scroll talks about a trade blockade and this is where I knew I was in trouble. Trade talks and politics? Not exactly the best way to kick off The Saga, right?

Within 15 minutes, or about the time Jar-Jar Binks made his first appearance, I was ready to turn it off. Jar-Jar was just as annoying as I remembered him. So was young Anakin Skywalker.

The podrace was cooler than I remembered, but it would’ve been better without the two-headed sports announcers. Did we really need this nod to modern sports?

Liam Neeson and Ewan MacGregor were the best parts of Episode I. Darth Maul was a menacing presence, but like most of this movie the best parts were too short and the worst parts were too long. I remember reading an interview with Liam Neeson years ago where he complained about having to act in front of a bunch of blue screens.

Neeson’s interview was on my mind when I saw part of the Star Wars documentary that’s on Disney+. In it, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford joke about George Lucas’ directing style: “Faster and more intense.”

I thought about that quote as I watched Episode I. For its time, the CGI was the latest and greatest in special effects, and it was obvious that Lucas was more enthralled with these than the actual actors or dialogue. You have all of these great actors in the greatest space opera of all time and all you get is a dull film? What a waste.

It’s no wonder I’ve been watching these films in Machete Order for years. After my challenge, I’m going back to it.

November Writing Challenge Day 20: Star Wars. All of It.

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

I want to get my money’s worth out of Disney+ so here’s my next challenge: watch everything Star Wars before going to see the final movie, The Rise of Skywalker, next month.

For the last two sequels I watched the Star Wars Saga in Machete Order: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and Return of the Jedi. What is Machete Order? I’ll quote from the original article:

The problem with [watching the films in] Episode Order is that it ruins one of the biggest twists in movie history. If you think that this reveal doesn’t matter since it’s common knowledge, I suggest you watch the looks on these kids’ faces. If a newcomer to the series has managed to avoid having it spoiled for them, watching the films in Episode Order would be like watching the ending of The Sixth Sense first.”

In honor of the final film in The Saga, I’ve decided to watch all of the movies and two of the animated series, Clone Wars and Rebels, both of which I’ve only seen a handful of episodes.

I’m going with Episode Order this time and following the chronology seen above, which is from Star Wars: Resistance Reborn, a book that takes place between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do recaps of each movie and series episode or if I’m going to just do a summary of this challenge.

Actually, I think I’ll dig up my log-in and password for my old Star Wars WordPress blog, Lando’s ‘Stache.

November Writing Challenge Day 8: L.A. Comic Con

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

Last month I was on the Play More Games: A Tabletop Discussion panel at L.A. Comic Con. Moderated by Chelsea Schwartz, I joined some of my fellow tabletop gaming industry folk as we talked games and more for an hour. It was an honor to be included and I’m excited to see board games making their way into non-gaming conventions.

I have more to say about L.A. Comic Con as well as Nerd Expo in Pasadena, but I’m saving that for my expanded articles that I’m writing for other websites.

The one thing I will share, though, is how much I love the cosplay at conventions these days. It’s come a long way from when I’d go to the con in San Diego (before it become Comic Con). From anime and manga characters to obscure pop culture references, there seems to be a cosplayer for everything.

In fact, the cosplay is so good now that I don’t recognize half of the costumes.

Years (decades!) ago I’d see the standard superheroes and villains, along with various Vulcans and Klingons. Today’s cosplayers have taken things to the next level, with serious attention to detail from head to toe. As I told my wife while we were admiring all of the amazing costumes at the con: today’s convention cosplayer is tomorrow’s Hollywood costume designer.

Pictured above is one of my favorite cosplayers last month, right outside the convention center while my wife and I snacked on all of goodies from the street vendors. The piano worked and, yes, he did play this song.

November Writing Challenge Day 3: The Rise of Skywalker

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

Has there ever been a more perfect teaser trailer than for Star Wars: The Force Awakens? I still get goosebumps watching it, which I tend to do whenever a new Star Wars teaser, trailer, or behind-the-scenes trailer is released. In only 30 seconds it captured all of the nostalgia from the original movies and introduced us to this strange, yet familiar new world. Here, watch it again, then we’ll talk about The Rise of Skywalker:

I’ve loved all of the new Star Wars movies, including The Last Jedi and Solo, both of which haven’t been universally acclaimed by fans. The final chapter in the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, hits theaters next month and I’m equally excited and sad to see it. Excited because it’s Star Wars. Sad because it’s the end of an era.

And while we all know Disney will pump out new Star Wars material in various formats for years to come, this is the end of a story that captivated me as a child and into my teen years.

The original trilogy will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first “big” movie I remember seeing at a theater, when my parents took me to the old Pasadena Academy, an old-school moviehouse that was converted into a multiplex many years ago.

I already have my tickets to The Rise of Skywalker, thanks to my local comic book shop’s special screening the night before the official release date. I’ve seen all of the new Star Wars movies this way, with members of the 501st Legion showing up for pre-movie photo ops, Star Wars giveaways, and the thrill of watching the newest film with my fellow Star Wars fanatics.

I’d probably be more sad about The Saga ending if not for my nephew and nieces. Knowing that there will be new characters and stories from this amazing universe for them to enjoy puts a smile on my face. I hope they get as much joy out of whatever Star Wars they get in the future that I’ve gotten from the Skywalker story.

Riverside Startup Week Highlights Local Entrepreneurs

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When it was time to name his company’s first product, recent University of California at Riverside graduate and Nex Move Games co-founder Mark Gilpatrick thought back to his travels abroad.

“In Middle Eastern cultures you’ll see people playing games like backgammon all day,” he said. “We wanted to reference this and we found the name Kumasi, which was a village that I backpacked through when I traveled through Ghana.”

Gilpatrick and Nex Move Games are part of ExCITE, a collaboration between business leaders, UCR, and the city and county of Riverside. ExCITE was founded to accelerate startup companies in Riverside, with the focus being on development of advanced technologies to create high technology jobs.

ExCITE is among the participants at this week’s inaugural Riverside Startup Week, a free, five-day event featuring local entrepreneurs, keynote speakers, and demonstrations. In addition to learning from CEOs, inventors, and investors of companies such as ESRI, Airbnb, Uber, and iRobot, attendees will also benefit from mentoring and networking opportunities.

“During Startup week, my interns and I will take advantage of the different modules that are available,” Gilpatrick said. “We all learn something and bring it back to help develop the company.”

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According to Steve Massa, Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Riverside and one of the organizers of the event, “This regional event will allow all Inland Southern California entrepreneurs to come together and learn how to pitch to investors, build an MVP (minimal viable product), monetize their apps, and source new team members for their startup,find talent from nontraditional channels.”

Massa noted that Riverside ranked #13 in Kauffman’s Startup Activity Index in 2017, moving up five spots from the previous year. Entrepreneur Magazine also recognized Riverside as a top city for minority entrepreneurs.

“The ecosystem we are building fosters mentorship and increases investment opportunities for entrepreneurs who are committed to building and scaling businesses in our region,” he said.

Riverside Startup Week joins more than 600 other Startup Weeks around the world to foster the growth of the entrepreneurial community.

“ExCITE and Epic [Entrepreneurial Proof of Concept and Innovation Center at UCR] are awesome and led by some talented people that have a lot of faith in the Riverside community,” Gilpatrick said. “People like Taj [Ahmad Eldridge], and Mark Leibowitz give us invaluable advice. It’s a great community to be a part of. They’ve taken a well-rounded approach to guiding me and developing my company.”

For more information on Startup Week, visit https://riverside.startupweek.co/

Long Beach Comic Con

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Although I won’t be attending this weekend’s Long Beach Comic Con, I highly recommend the event. For me it’s a throwback to the experiences I had at the San Diego Comic Con during my youth, before it transformed into the overwhelming beast of today.

My brothers and I grew up with comic books. Our parents encouraged reading and when we weren’t spending hours on end at our local library, we were buying comics at our local used bookstore. The store had a friendly exchange policy, which allowed us to trade in our mom’s used books (mainly romance novels by the insanely prolific Barbara Cartland) for store credit.

That credit was immediately spent on issues of Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, and many others. We started off as Marvel kids for no other reason than that’s what you did back in the day: you were either a Marvel or DC fan. As the years passed, we added Batman, Superman, and even the occasional independent book, like an up-and-coming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

During our Saturday afternoon visits I’d wander around the store, soaking in the smell of yellowing paperbacks and listening to the creaking of the old wooden shelves that held them. But most of the time would be spent up front amongst the racks of new comics and cardboard boxes of back issues.

My experience at last year’s LBCC was special for me since one of my brothers and his children attended. Hanging out with my niece and nephew and introducing them to this former world that their father and uncles once inhabited (and still do to some extent) was a blast.

Of course, the cosplay scene of today is mind-blowingly better than what we had in our day. Upon seeing the first few Deadpools and Stormtroopers walking around, my nephew brilliantly observed, “Boy, I’m underdressed!”

We hung out for a few hours, soaking in all of the comics and pop culture. We made buttons, thanks to the wonderful Long Beach Public Library booth. We operated remote-controlled robots at the Space Expo area hosted by the Columbia Memorial Space Center. We perused some of the cardboard boxes of back issues found throughout the convention center floor.

And we took pictures with some of our favorite characters.

The photos in this post were taken by my niece, who I was proud to have by my side as part of the press coverage. I hope she and her brother continue to explore the many facets of geekdom, just like their dad and his brothers did in their day.

The Long Beach Comic Con is September 2-3. More info here

All photo credits: Kaya Gaviola

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San Diego Comic Con 2017: Cosplay Friday

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I’m constantly impressed by the cosplay at modern comic conventions. From the carbon copies of superheroes, to the wacky hilarity of pop culture fun, to the imaginative mashups of two (or more) genres: people’s ingenuity never ceases to amaze me. This is the second of a three-part series highlighting a few of the cosplayers at SDCC 2017. Part one is here

Pictured above: The Watchmen, minus Ozymandias and Nite Owl.

Friday

After Preview Night on Wednesday and the first official Con day on Thursday, Friday was much busier. Cosplayers were everywhere at the Super Bowl of comic conventions.

I started going to the Con in the ’80s, so it blows my mind to see how ginormous the event is these days. Not only is it the entire convention center, but the surrounding hotels and Gaslamp Quarter as well. While it’s entirely overwhelming, it’s also cool to see the entire city all geeked out.

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Who wore it better? (1 of 2)

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Who wore it better? (2 of 2)

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Family cosplayers are the best!

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Even when one of the family members is over it …

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Next up: Cosplay Saturday

 

San Diego Comic Con 2017: Cosplay Thursday

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I’m constantly impressed by the cosplay at modern comic conventions. From the carbon copies of superheroes, to the wacky hilarity of pop culture fun, to the imaginative mashups of two (or more) genres: people’s ingenuity never ceases to amaze me. This is the first of a three-part series highlighting a few of the cosplayers at SDCC 2017. 

Pictured above: the fantastic mashup duo Wonder-Woman-Xena and Supergirl-Gabrielle.

Thursday

I love how the whole city is overrun with all types of geeks during Comic Con and it was a blast running into cosplayers on the trolley to the convention center.

Pro tip: take an early trolley from The Murph (sorry, but that’s what the stadium will always be to me; shout-out to my friends and family in San Diego). There’s plenty of free parking and it’s easier to get a seat since the trains fill up in no time. 

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Once inside the convention center, a few of my favorites were there.

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Of course, you never know who you’re going to run into at the Con.

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Inside and outside the convention center, cosplayers were everywhere.

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Next up: Cosplay Friday

San Diego Comic Con 2017: Gone Viral

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So, the video I posted of the kids in the mini landspeeder yesterday went viral.

My tweets typically get a few likes and, if I’m lucky, a retweet or two so this was totally unexpected. This particular tweet has deluged my phone with nonstop notifications and as of Saturday 7/22/17 at 4pm it’s been liked over 4,000 times and retweeted over 1,200 times.

Whoa.

It’s been interesting seeing how people have reacted to the video. Obviously, cute kids in their Star Wars costumes will usually generate lots of likes. Kudos to them (unfortunately, I didn’t actually meet them) for being good sports and to the Radio Flyer company for making such as amazing vehicle.

One cool thing about the video going viral? Getting a Twitter like from the man himself, Mark Hamill (shown above).

I’ll say it again: Whoa.

This has been the Best. Comic. Con. Ever.