Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Avengers, or, The Genius Who Is Joss Whedon

Contains spoilers for the Avengers, Thor, Captain American and possibly Iron Man.

As a child, and still as an adult, I prefer book with lots of words to books with lots of pictures. I know comics and graphic novels work for a lot of people, but they don't really work for me, so this Hollywood craze with setting comic books to movies hasn't been a huge hit for me. I liked the first Batman, but didn't see the second because of the goriness. I saw the Spiderman ones with Toby McGuire and was underwhelmed. I saw the first version of the Hulk with Eric Bana and was again underwhelmed. I did see and LOVE Captain America, thanks to my great interest in Second World War and revisionist history, so when I heard that Joss Whedon was directing the Avengers, which would include Captain America, I decided to get caught up on the rest of the cinematic backstory before seeing the movie.

Some elements of Captain America are key to the Avengers, although they're elements I'd totally forgotten about, and the movie makes enough reference to the backstory that someone who hadn't watched Captain America would probably figure out the Avengers. The ending of Captain America really left me hanging; more so because of the relationship aspect than anything else. Peggy Carter was a serious female character, and I totally shipped them. Look at the nice clean-cut all-American couple, battling evil Nazis/Hydra! Awww...so doomed! :(

I was moderately excited about catching up on Iron Man, because I love Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes.

I'm not sure how I missed the mental connection, but I was really disappointed when Iron Man started speaking with an American accent. :P The idea of the suit was interesting, and his character is so much like Han Solo I couldn't help liking him, but I felt like there was too much time spent on how the suit was actually created and not enough time on other plot stuff. I still can't decide how I feel about Pepper Potts - sometimes she was awesome, and sometimes she just sat there and screamed for help. I suppose that makes her a fairly realistic and human character, but I'm not sold on it. Also...did you notice that his friend Rhodey was played by two different actors? That threw me off a bit! Anyway, I feel like the story was sort of interesting, but despite the fact that Iron Man got two movies, unlike everyone else, his story wasn't really key to the plot of the Avengers. Instead of two Iron Man movies, I would have liked to have seen one about Hawkeye and the Black Widow.

I quite enjoyed Thor. The cast was really good, and the plot of Thor is totally key to the Avengers. Did I mention the cast was good? I had seen and quite liked Tom Hiddleston in War Horse (actually, he was probably the best part of that movie) and it took me a bit to recognize him as Loki because the transformation was so complete. Also: Jane and Thor.

Another star-crossed relationship! Gah! We saw Thor the night before we went to the the Avengers, so I went to the theatre all ready to see Thor and Jane run. I mean, have some happy resolution to their relationship...and I hoped Jane would do some serious alien butt-kicking.

The Avengers was funny. It was epic. It had great one-liners. It had eplosions. Captain America said that there's only one God! It did an amazing job of tying together all the different backstories and cameos from the various movies. Agent Coulson! Hawkeye! The Black Widow! Nick Frost! Bootstrap Bill Turner! SO GOOD! Joss Whedon directed this movie like a maestro. It sadly did not even come close to resolving my shippy plot lines, but I didn't actually notice that until the movie ended, I was so caught up in it. I totally need to see it again...

Also, make sure you stay till the bitter end of the credits...it's totally worth it! There's a clip part-way through the credits, but don't let that fool you...it sets up the Avengers Sequel very nicely, but there's another fun one right at the very end.

So...if you haven't seen any of the movies, watch Captain America and Thor, in that order, and then hustle down to the theatre to see the Avengers ASAP!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stein Auf Lutherans, Stein Auf

Trevor and I spent the May long weekend in Edmonton, at the tri-annual convention of the Alberta-British Columbia District of Lutheran Church-Canada. I HAD SO MUCH FUN. Comic Expo was a blast, but it doesn't even compare to the soul-satisfying feeling of worshiping and fellowshiping with people I know and love, and people I don't know but love anyway as fellow Christians. Trevor went as the voting delegate for our church, and I went as a volunteer, reporting for the convention newsletter.

It didn't start until Friday night, but we went up first thing in the morning to have lunch with one of our former youth, who's all grown up and just graduated from university now. There are lots of rewarding things about youth ministry, and one of them is becoming friends with and keeping in touch with your youth once they're adults as well, so that was lots of fun.

When we arrived at the hotel to check in, the first thing we saw when we stepped off the elevator was a big group of people in the lobby - who turned out to be our two former pastors and their families, and our current church staff. It was a big Foothills reunion that gave such a great start to the weekend. We spent a few hours getting unpacked, meeting people, hanging out with friends, and generally being more social in just an afternoon than I usually am in a year. :)

The first event to kick off the weekend was the opening worship service. I was a bit nonplussed when I found out that they'd actually moved an organ into the hotel for the weekend, but once I heard it, I understood. There's a pastor/organist in the district who I've heard about for years, but have never heard play, and always wondered what the fuss was about - I mean, an organ is pretty much an organ, right? Listen: if you ever hear that Lorne Manwiler is playing the organ anywhere near you, DROP EVERYTHING and go listen. When he started playing, I felt like I'd physically run into a wall of sound, and I kept looking up at the chandelier to see if it was rattling. Blew my socks off! And the singing...450 Lutherans belting out hymns with gusto is an experience that has given me a whole new appreciation for the hymn. I mean, I've always liked hymns, but generally on your average Sunday morning, they're not that exciting. Well, I have a whole new attitude about them now!

LCC President Rev. Robert Bugbee presenting the convention essay

President Bugbee (basically the equivalent of Lutheran Archbishop of Canada) preached the sermon, and one particular point convicted and has stuck with me. He mentioned that people are quick to write letters and complain when they're not happy about something church leadership has done, but don't usually take the time to be supportive and encouraging. Now, I don't usually write complaining letters to the church, although I certainly do a fair bit of mental complaining, but I'm going to make the effort to be more deliberately encouraging. Trevor and I are going to add Presidents Bugbee and Schiemann (the 'bishop' of Alberta and BC) to our regular list of people to pray for. Something I noticed about President Bugbee over the weekend was that he often prowled around the edges of the room while the business was going on, and I wondered if he was praying. He struck me as being very, very grounded and wise. Funny too, but wise and caring.

Saturday was a mix of business (elections and resolutions), devotionals, eating (the hotel had really good food) and fellowship. The business of the day ended at suppertime, and I spend the evening hanging out in the district office working on my newsletter articles, which was difficult, because the atmosphere in the office was too entertaining to block out! It was very educational - I've always sort of thought in an abstract way about district office being this stuffy place full of people in suits being very administrative and not very interesting.

Boy...was I ever wrong about that!!!! They ARE a group of professional administrators, but they're not in the least little bit stuffy, and they're incredibly interesting. They also did a phenomenal job of organizing a complicated conference, which, as far as I can tell, went off without a hitch. I'm very honoured that I was even a very small part of the team, and really hope they'll ask me to work with them again. President Schiemann was elected for a fifth term, and having never really met or interacted or heard him before (although I've always had the greatest respect for him), I was really struck by his sense of humour, humility, love for God and the church, and the fact that he knew my name. I mean, I was helping his office, so it makes sense, but my feeling of "wow, President Schiemann knows my name" felt like a metaphor for, and gave me a different appreciation, of the fact that God knows my name. I don't know if I can really put into words what a shift in perspective that was for me, but it was definitely awe-inspiring.

Sunday started with a worship service using the new style of contemporary music liturgy, which was really well-written. Nearly all of the people there had never heard it before, but it was wonderfully singable, and everyone picked it up really quickly. The pastor who preached the sermon quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which I thought was really applicable to how I was feeling about the weekend; "Christian community is like the Christian's sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim."

Our pastor at Foothills, Pastor Bode, was in charge of the elections and counting the ballots, and at one point, being tired of giving voting instructions in the usual way, he did something completely different. I don't have video of it yet, and it was totally unscripted and he talked too fast to type it out, but if "then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number that thou count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two excepting that thou then proceed to three." sounds at all familiar to you, you will appreciate the epicness of the moment. When/if I can procure the video, I will be sure to post it. I'm totally in awe that he managed to flawlessly and spontaneously paraphrase Monty Python to make it fit a Lutheran electoral process.

They knew that we were coming, so they baked a cake.

Sunday night was a banquet, the highlights of which were roasted red pepper and tomato soup, and chocolate cake. The low point, sadly, was the extremely tough Yorkshire Pudding. My Yorkshires are definitely better! The district awarded the annual Servant of Christ Award to an older couple who are very active in their church. They have four biological children, over 250 foster children, two adopted children, and are in the process of adopting a third. Crazy, hey? I can't think of anyone more deserving of an award, that's for sure. All those lives they've touched - the good consequences of their actions are mind-blowing. There was also music from an Edmonton singer/songwriter, Kelti Malone, and my friend Jennifer Jade Kerr. Jennifer's second cd just came out, and Trevor and I are part of a small group that sang the backup 'allelujahs' on one of the tracks - cool, hey? :)

New members of district committees being installed

Monday was more elections and business, into the early afternoon. It was a long morning, but really productive as a lot of resolutions were dealt with, with a minimum of angst. I was unexpectedly gifted with a pair of lovely clay mugs with the conference logo incised on them, which was thoughtful, but I felt a bit superfluous, because there were a LOT of people there who did a LOT more work than I did! But I do love mugs. :)

We lingered as long as we could after, but we had to get back to Calgary because I had school today. I also have a convention-hangover; my entire body is sore, but most painful of all, my eye sockets hurt. Trevor just got home from work, and I rolled my eyes at something he said, and whimpered. I think if I'm going to get my paper on Caesar Augustus written at ALL tonight, I'm going to need to take some hardcore Advil. It was also a very lonely day - after spending four days surrounded by people I love, and only once feeling annoyed with anyone (which is amazing, since for years I've had a really short fuse when it comes to large groups of people - clearly God has been working when I haven't been paying attention :) going back to school, all by myself, was a bit of a shock to the system.

Don't know what 'stein auf' is? It's a bit of a Lutheran inside joke that actually has its own Urban Dictionary entry: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=stein%20auf

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hiking Fullerton Loop

Last Saturday was, thankfully, absolutely beautiful. We had a hike scheduled with our youth group, and as much fun as hiking in the rain can be, I really didn't want to do two damp hikes in a row! Fullerton Loop is technically in Kananaskis Country but its elevation is still low enough that it's not really a mountain hike, just a hilly one. It's about 8km past Bragg Creek (blink and you'll miss it!) and the parking lot is Allen Bill Pond. The location is amazingly beautiful and the day was so clear that the snowy mountains look close enough to touch.

The hike starts from the parking lot (where there are outhouses - nicer ones than the ones at Grotto Canyon) and runs alongside the river, passing under the highway. It then diverts away from the river, through a gate (apparently there are free-range cattle around, but we only saw 'evidence' of them), and along a beautiful, mossy, sun-dappled, spring creek. Further up parts of it were still nothing but an iceberg, but there's not much I love more than a merrily tinkling spring creek.


The path splits and you have the option of going to the left and up a few steps, or to the right and across a little bridge. GO TOWARDS THE RIGHT! Unless you like hideously steep uphill paths - your choice. :) Even looping to the right is steep - my legs don't get tired, but my lungs just burn. (I'm waiting for tests to see if I have asthma - I suspect that's part of the problem.) Going to the right takes you around the east side of the hill, and it's shadier and more sheltered. There's not much of a vista, but there's lots of nice shrubbery and such.

At about the half-way point, there's a bench with a bit of a view, but there's still a lot of trees in the way. It's an excellent to eat lunch and ponder over the mysterious placement of an electrical outlet located at the foot of the bench, even though there isn't any electricity for miles.

A little bit further on and to the right you can finally get a good glimpse of the snow-capped mountains and you're on the west side of the hill and there aren't as many trees.


The tricky bit here is to look at the view, which is riveting, while walking down a REALLY steep hill covered in loose gravel without tumbling off the edge of the cliff. Woooo!

See? Very steep! It looks like it drops right off the face of the earth.

By this point the loop has come back around far enough that you can look waaaay waaaay down and see the parking lot and the pond on the other side of the highway.
I call this one "Man on a Cliff".

Coming down the hill I actually bruised the pad of my right big toe from the friction in my shoe. Ouch! Part of the descent was through this lovely pine-scented forest, and back alongside the creek, then back along the river, which was looking very sparkly in the afternoon sunlight.

River passing under the highway

The whole loop is about 7km, and from the time we left the church to the time we got back to Calgary, including a stop in Bragg Creek for ice cream (which I couldn't partake in - I need some dental work done, and sadly, ice cream is just too cold), it took about five and a half hours. My crazy metabolism was in high gear after all that hiking (uphill both ways, I tell you!) so I ended up basically eating two dinners, and three days later I'm still feeling hungry. Sunday I was pretty stiff in my hips and lower back, but thankfully that passed quickly!

Verdict: Beautiful view, good company, easy drive for a day trip, but just too gosh-darn hilly for me to really enjoy it over and over again, the way I do Grotto Canyon. But if I ever go to Israel on a dig again, I will go to Fullterton Loop as part of my training program, and I'll carry my own daypack instead of letting Trevor carry it the whole time. :)

This coming weekend we're going to Edmonton for our church body's tri-annual business meeting, at which Trevor is our church's voting delegate, and I'm a reporter for the newsletter. I'm really excited about it - we're going to see so many of our friends and play a role in the democratic system that makes our church system run. Wooohooo! Hopefully there'll be something exciting to blog about next Tuesday...or I should say something that someone who's not a Lutheran-political-geek would find interesting. :)

(I feel like I need a sign-off tag. "May your sword stay sharp." "May the odds be ever in your favour." "May the force be with you." "May the fleas of a thousand camels infest the armpits of your enemies." Any suggestions? :)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Grotto Canyon - May 2012

Once upon a time a Canadian girl got to fulfill two life-long dreams in one trip; to visit the Holy Land, and to experience life on an archaeology dig. Her worst fear about the trip did come true: she fell in love with Israel and archaeology, and another trip is always at the back of her mind, and if money had been no object, she would have gone again every summer since. (The adventure inspired her to quit her job and pursue a university degree, which is a story for another post.)

However, something happened on the trip that she hadn't counted on at all: she made a friend! When the heroine of a story is an introverted bookworm, finding kindred spirits doesn't happen often - largely because one would have to take one's nose out of a book to notice them. :) But when people travel together, there's a lot of time to chat, and when one finds that kindred spirit, one generally tends to forget about being an introvert because there are so many interesting things to talk about.

One of the most fun legacies of my 2008 trip to Israel was almost immediately clicking with my roommate, Jenn Shack. We had several mutual friends who told me that we'd get along, but since I'm not the world's chattiest person, especially with strangers, I was a bit sceptical. But get along we did, to the point that some of the other volunteer diggers asked us how long we'd known each other, expecting the answer to be years, when in fact it had only been days.

In 2009, Jenn moved to Alberta to pursue a Masters degree, and now with that done, she's heading back to Ontario to do a PhD. When we were in Israel, discovering a mutual interest in exploring the mountains, I told her about a hike in the foothills that I really love, and said we should go there one day. Well, we're running out of time before she leaves for the east, so despite questionable Alberta spring weather, we headed out last Tuesday.

We left Calgary about 11 am, in the POURING rain. Our trip nearly ended before it even began, thanks to one of my windshield wipers snagging on something and springing up in the air with a snap that nearly startled me into driving off the road. (I still don't know what was wrong with them - they snapped back and forth all the way there and home again, but they won't repeat the trick for my husband, so who knows...) Thankfully, by the time we got to the exit for Morley, the rain had let up to a mere drizzle, and the clouds had lifted enough that I could actually see the hill we'd be hiking by.

To get to Grotto Canyon from the TransCanada, you take the Seebe/Exshaw exit (about 45 minutes from the Calgary city limits), and take the 1X to the 1A (also known as the Bow Valley Trail), where you go left, towards Exshaw and Canmore. (Seebe is a former company town, now a ghost town. One of these days I want to hike in there - I love urban and rural decay!) Once you've passed through Exshaw, about five minutes up on the right you'll see a beautiful mountain pond, which is Grotto Pond. Technically that's the trail-head, and there are outhouses there. I usually keep going up the road for another minute, and turn right at the Baymag Plant #2. If you keep to the right, there's a gravel access road that meets the hiking trail, and I park there. This cuts off the tedious part of the trail and lets you get to the interesting bit that much faster.

Follow the trail past the plant, keeping a sharp eye out for a very small green sign with a hiker on it. Make sure you turn right just before the sign! The trail goes uphill at that point, and comes out overlooking a creek basin, with a wonderful view of the mountains.

From a February hike in 2010

Hop down into the creek bed and head up the canyon (to the right of the above photo). This stretch of the trail is different every season, and every time I've been there. In the height of summer, it's a gentle creek of icy-cold mountain run-off, and the 'hike' involves a lot of hopping from rock to shore to log to rock, which I find VERY fun (wear rubber boots or be prepared for damp feet) and since the creek is never much deeper than my knees, there's very little actual danger. In February, it's a slick slope of ice that requires patience and skill to negotiate up without breaking a limb, but going back, the downhill slide on the ice makes you feel like a penguin (be prepared for a wet bum...).

Icy canyon - looks like Narnia!

This time of year it's a mix of thick sheets of muddy ice (not slippery), thin sections of ice over rocks (be careful - there's no or not much water under them, but if your foot fell through, you could break an ankle) and bits of shallow creek with lots of rocks. You really have to pay attention to where you put your feet, since it's not warm enough out yet for the cold water to feel good on overheated feet. :)

When I say thick layer of ice, I mean THICK!

About an hour after leaving the car, the trail comes to what looks like the end, with a waterfall up ahead and to the right.

Frozen waterfall

This is where I like to break for lunch, because any amount of exercise makes me hungry, so by that point I'm STARVING. The canyon opens up a bit, so there's a good selection of flat rocks to sit on, and sometimes you can watch people ice or rock climbing.

Only slightly damp, thanks to a drizzle rather than a deluge.

The trail heads to the left at what looks like a dead end. There's usually not much water or ice up that way - just rocks. After about 10 minutes, the canyon opens up into a valley, and up on the left there's a sandstone cliff with a cave in it. The inside of the cave isn't much - just a dirt hollow big enough to stand up in and feel like you're in a cave. I haven't made the scramble up the near-vertical hillside myself, but that's what I've been told by others.


I've never gone further than this point, although the dry/rocky creek bed does go on past the cave. But by this point I usually need a bathroom and a Timmies so I'm ready to head home. I like the mountains, but I'm not die-hard about it...

As you head back out, once you're a few minutes downhill from the waterfall, keep an eye on your right-hand side for very faint red-painted pictographs on a flat section of the cliff face. The height they're at varies depending on whether you're walking on the creek bed or on top of a few feet of ice - they might be at eye-height or a bit higher.

Heading back into Calgary I always take the old 1A highway to Cochrane, which is far more scenic, and gets me to a Timmies and a bathroom faster! Watch out for a cute little white settler-era church on your right, as well as assorted wildlife crossing the road. We got home around 4 pm, so despite the fact that it's not really a long hike, with the drive to and from town, it takes the better part of a day.

The morals of this story are: do things that some people think are crazy, make friends with people who are doing the same crazy things, and get out and enjoy the mountains! And if you want to hike Grotto Canyon with a tour guide, let me know - I'll do it for the price of a Timmies. :)

Friday, May 04, 2012

Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo 2012 - Sunday

I've been a bit slow with getting Sunday's recap up - after going five days with only cursory checks of emails, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, and Pinterest, I had a thing or two to catch up on. :)

Sunday morning I had been planning to go to the early service at church, which would have put us down at the Stampede grounds around 10:30, but since the first panel I wanted to catch was Amanda Tapping at 11:00, and in light of the chaos on Saturday, I figured the earlier we got down there the better. I got up before 7, and saw on Twitter that people were already talking about lining up, and the Expo twitter account was recommending that people be down there by 8:30, so I was a little concerned when we weren't there till 9 and the line was ENORMOUS. However, the line was actually moving as they ushered people along - I'm actually not really sure where they put all the people, because when we got into the autograph area, it was only about 9:30 and the vendor area wasn't open yet - they opened it as we were arriving. Trevor headed off to do his own thing and I went to track down Amanda Tapping...

The doors to the cushy conference rooms wasn't open yet, so I tagged onto a loose bunch of people standing around outside them. One of them commented on my Princess Bride t-shirt, and we got to talking a bit. The one girl was saying that she had come all the way from BC to see the Sanctuary panel the day before, but had been one of the unlucky who didn't get in, so I told her about my YouTube video of the panel. The security guard finally got permission from the higher ups to open the doors around 10, and by shortly after I had snagged a nice seat for the panel. I had some time to read, and listen to the people around me discuss fun things like Stargate, fanning, and Tumblr. The girl from BC I had talked to mentioned that she had a Tumblr, and that she was posting daily updates, so I tracked her down. I'm a wee bit jealous that she's also a student with a family, but managed to come all this way for the con, and do photo ops AND autographs with BOTH Chris AND Amanda. :)

This is her blog about Saturday: http://teaandscifi.tumblr.com/post/22026855229/okay-today-today-was-i-cant-even-describe
And here's her blog about Sunday: http://teaandscifi.tumblr.com/post/22093197876/calgary-expo-day-3

I find 'meeting' other fangirls through the magic of the internet to be incredibly fascinating. But that's probably a whole blog post in itself, so on with Sunday.

Amanda Tapping and a couple of other people started a charitable foundation called Sanctuary for Kids, and the panel was about the work they do. I mostly went because Amanda could make reading the phone book sound interesting - I already support a bunch of charities and can't really take on any more. But I was very interested to find out that one of the charities they work with is one that I sort of know - Next Generation Nepal. Last summer, the university had what they call 'the common reading program' where all of the first-years read the same book. The book was Little Princes, and it was about how Next Generation Nepal was founded. I highly recommend the book, and they do a lot of good work with children in crisis. Nepal is rife with human trafficking, and Sanctuary for Kids also supports a Nepalese charity that works with women who have been trafficked. They also work with a charity in Haiti that helps abandoned disabled children, and one in Vancouver that works with mothers and children who live on the streets. Amanda and Damien Kindler fund the administration costs for Sanctuary for Kids out of their own pockets, and choose charities with low administration costs, so that a dollar donated to the foundation is still a dollar going to the children in need. Pretty cool, hey?

Amanda Tapping

After that, I headed over to the Corral to meet Trevor. He'd sat in on the Futurama panel (he's a fan, I'm not!) and gotten us good seats for the next Star Trek panel. Troi, Riker and Worf were very entertaining, and had somehow managed to avoid having a Space channel 'moderator', which was great. Sirtis calls Michael Dorn "Dorny", Frakes kept singing the first line of O Canada, and they teased each other (and the not-present cast members) a LOT. I didn't know that Sirtis had been in an episode of Stargate, so I need to look that up now. (She needs to be told that tights aren't pants though! :P) One of my favourite bits was when they started heckling a group of people in Starfleet uniforms who were trying to sneak out early - turns out the people that were leaving were going to get in line for their TNG photo op. lol... Here's a link to the whole session: http://youtu.be/dceWdTS6wUg I love that I can re-watch so much of the stuff - it all seems to happen so fast at the time.

Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn

After all of that laughing, I was ready for lunch. Trevor got in line for Wil Wheaton, and I battled the crowds for chicken fingers, a burger and fries. Lots of work, let me tell you! When I joined him in line I was pretty concerned that we might not get in, since it was in the same theatre as Saturday's Sanctuary panel fiasco, but they were much more organized, and we ended up with pretty decent seats.

Wil is a fun guy - I never had any particular opinion on Wesley Crusher, but I really enjoy the Big Bang Theory, and I follow him on twitter. The nice thing about about him is that he's a geek too, and he's really great to interact with as a fan. One guy asked Wil to say hi to the guy's wife who couldn't be there, and Wil was really nice about it (http://youtu.be/YFbC0oOlZSM). It was a great panel, although some of the gaming stuff he referred to went over my head. He mentioned that he's working on the second installment of a book reviewing all of the TNG episodes from the first season, so I tweeted him about my copyediting business. I'll probably never hear from him, but one of the nice things about fangirling is that sense of limitless possibility - who knows what might happen when you're only limited by your imagination? Agam Darshi from Sanctuary just accepted my Linkedin request, so you never know... :)

Wil Wheaton

After that, we had an hour before the final panel, and I REALLY wanted a fresh-squeezed Stampede lemonade, so we slogged against the crowds to the far side of the venue for snacks. We were talking to our friend Courtney who works for Stampede catering, when there was a loudspeaker announcement about the Phelps brothers, and that the Harry Potter panel had just started in the theater we had JUST left! Oh my, was I ever CROSS. After I had tried to sort it out on Saturday, here it was, and we were too far away and disorganized to get there. Hopefully they'll have a better organized Harry Potter panel next year! Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) had been supposed to come this year, but then ended up not being able to, so hopefully in 2013...

And then the panel I've been waiting for since they announced that the ENTIRE cast of TNG was coming to Calgary - Sir Patrick Stewart himself. Not only am I a fan of Captain Picard and Professor Xavier, I'm a fan of Sir Patrick's work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and most recently, the version of Hamlet he was in with David Tennant (Doctor Who). The panel was wonderful - he told the story of how he found out about his knighthood, and in a moment that made me squee with glee, he FACEPALMED. I don't even remember what the topic was, just that an internet meme came to life right before my eyes. Over on YouTube 'YoungJim409' has video of the entire panel if you want to check it out. It was a great way to end a fantastic con!

Sir Patrick Stewart

I was really happy that the Expo quit the procedure of giving every star to cross the stage a white Calgary cowboy hat, and the cheezy 'oath' that goes with it. It was SO annoying last year, and when you only have 45 minutes for a panel, I don't want to hear about white cowboy hats, I want the guest star to be speaking about interesting stuff! So that was a good change. As someone who does quite a bit of conference planning (although on a much smaller scale, of course...) I appreciate and am overwhelmed by the effort that goes into running this thing - it's amazing, and I'm tired just thinking about it.

One thing I need to stay on top of for next year is being a bit more situationally aware - this year Gates McFadden and Denise Crosby cut across a line right in front of me and Christopher Heyerdahl walked right next to me, and I didn't even notice until it was too late to say something witty. :) I don't remember if I had any close calls like that last year, but in 2010, my first con, I literally nearly ran over Paul McGillion (from Stargate Atlantis) as I was coming out of the washroom and he was going into the one next door. Trevor was watching and laughing at me...but I really need to get more on the ball about paying attention to what's going on around me. How does one train for something like that? If you have any ideas, please let me know. :)

May the 4th be with you!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo 2012 - Saturday

I was up and online early Saturday morning. The first panel I wanted to catch wasn't until noon, but I was trying to figure out what was going on with the Phelps twins, who play Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter movies. They were a late addition to the con, and there wasn't any info in the program guide about when they might be doing a panel, and the volunteers I talked to on Friday night didn't know anything about it. So before I went to bed, I tweeted @calgaryexpo and asked about it. During the night they did respond, but it wasn't very helpful - it just asked if I had gotten the update newsletter, which I hadn't. I did eventually find a copy - there was one in Trevor's goody bag, but not mine. Anyway, it didn't list a panel, just their photo ops, so I assumed that meant they weren't doing a panel.

But I was up early, so we headed down early and got there around 10:30. We basically walked right in - the only delay was simply the volume of people who also got off the same c-train. I wanted to walk down 'autograph alley', but it was literally such a dense crowd we could hardly move, so we gave up and headed into the exhibit hall. The problem was that they had all of the big stars down one aisle, and all of the old wrestlers down the other, so 90% of the foot traffic was stalled in one area.

The first panel I wanted to see was in the Corral, which was fairly empty during the Fringe panel right before the Star Trek one. We got seats and listened to the Fringe actors, and even though I don't know the first thing about Fringe, it was fairly entertaining. I need to check out what else John Noble has been in, because I really enjoyed him. While we were waiting for the Star Trek panel, we were joined by my new friend Stephanie who came all the way up from Lethbridge just for the one day. We secured decent seats further up after the Fringe people left, and were entertained by Spiner, Wheaton and Burton (Data, Crusher and LaForge). It was a fun panel, and each of the three of them got a fair amount of spotlight time. Burton's stint on Reading Rainbow came up, and the crowd sang the RR theme song. There was a lot of imitating Patrick Stewart's accent, discussion about Wil being easily amused, discussions of Timmies, and bashing of Microsoft, which is always a good time! The whole panel is up on YouTube, courtesy of 'oilcountryDon' if you want to look it up.

Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton and LeVar Burton

A lot of the panels during the weekend were moderated by one of a trio of talk show hosts from the Space channel. As a trio, I find them highly annoying. However, thankfully, apart from each other they weren't bad at all. Still, I would rather just have the dynamic of the actors without having another person added into the mix.

Trevor left part-way through the panel to secure a place in line for the Sanctuary panel, since that was really the MUST SEE panel of my weekend. Isn't he great? However, it turned into a bit of a gong show. Steph went off to do her own thing, since Sanctuary isn't her thing (but I mean really, how can Sanctuary not be anyone's thing?! :) and I went to try to find Trev. The crowds outside the Corral were dense, so instead of trying to struggle upstream, I just went to a spot near the start of the Sanctuary lineup, meaning to meet up with Trevor as the line progressed by my spot. However, once a large chunk of the line had gone by, it completely stopped and there was no more line. My cell phone couldn't connect, and since there was no line in sight, I hopped on to the end of what was passing by me into the theatre doors, and managed to snag two decent seats. The panel was supposed to start at 1 pm, but by 1:15 it hadn't started yet, although I'd managed to get enough cell reception to let Trevor know where I was and that I had a seat, since they'd stopped letting people in. SO CLOSE! I almost didn't make it, and that would have made me cry!

Shortly after 1:15, Amanda Tapping and Christopher Heyerdahl came out with the Space channel guy and sat down. It gets a little blurry in my memory, because I was trying to start the camera recording at the same time as Trevor was standing down in the doorway looking for me, and it seemed like ALL THE THINGS were happening at once. Amanda was needling Chris for checking his cell phone on stage, and he was talking about how he had a text from Ryan Robbins, and that Ryan wanted a Biggie head-slap (Chris plays two characters on the show, and this one, as a sign of affection, smacks people on the back of the head, like Gibbs from NCIS). 

Now, my Ryan-radar was already in full gear, because of this great historical western that's filming its second season in Calgary RIGHT NOW. Chris is in it, which is why I started watching and keeping an eye on what was going on with it (but he's not on Twitter, which makes things more difficult), however, Ryan IS on Twitter, and on April 20th he tweeted that he was packing up in LA and heading back to Canada for an exciting opportunity. 50% wishful thinking and 50% knowing that his good friend Chris was in Calgary meant that I immediately responded asking if he was coming to Calgary for Hell on Wheels, knowing that it was a huge leap, but not being able to resist the urge to fan-girl. Of course, the details were still confidential, so he couldn't reply, but on April 24th, he tweeted that he was on his way to Calgary, and there may have been a bit of flailing going on in my office. I KNEW that he was coming for Hell on Wheels, because it's the only thing filming here right now, and I made sure the Comic Expo knew about it too, just in case they could squeeze him into the Sanctuary panel as well. Really, I tell you, if fan-girling paid money, I'd be a rich woman. :)

But thanks to being so excited and trying to do too many things at once, I missed the surprise of Ryan walking out on stage, and managed to not get any usable photo or video! D'oh! Thankfully Trevor was able to rescue the camera from me and get really good video footage of the rest of the panel, which you can find on my new YouTube channel, MichelleEdits.

Ryan Robbins, Amanda Tapping and Chrisopher Heyerdahl at the Sanctuary panel.
Photo courtesy of tea-and-text.blogspot.ca

The first thing Amanda talked about was the future of Sanctuary, which is in limbo right now thanks to  a whole bunch of factors, and while she didn't have the news we were hoping for, it was good to know that Sanctuary isn't dead - she said its chest is still rising and falling, and she's standing by with the paddles. So here's hoping! Sadly, thanks to the crowd control issues, the panel ended up being only 31 minutes instead of 45, but I'm SO THANKFUL I managed to get in at all! They're just a wonderful bunch of people, and it was so neat to see them in person, particularly Amanda, who I've been a fan of since I started dating Trevor and he introduced me to Stargate.

All the excitement meant that I was STARVING, so we headed back to the autograph area to meet Steph for lunch at the Ceili's pub tent. The food was a bit pricey, but it was better than Stampede hot dogs, and we shared a table with a Newfie from Edmonton and did a lot of people watching. We braved the bathroom, which was DISGUSTING, and then managed to wander down autograph alley.

I hadn't been planning to get any autographs (that whole unemployed student thing) but while we were standing around Amanda Tapping came out to her table to the cheers of the people in her VERY long lineup. As much as I'm a fan, I didn't want to pay $40 and stand in line for the rest of the afternoon, but we happened to be standing by Chris' lineup, which was short, and I was speculating that if Amanda had arrived, he soon would be as well, which he did. And since I was there and the line was short, I got in it. :) Steph went to wander the exhibit hall, and Trevor and I hung out in line. Chris was letting everyone take photos as well, which was really nice of him. The Shatners and the Stewarts don't do that sort of thing - well, to be fair, so many people want to see them that they can't take that time with everyone - but I'd rather just meet a Canadian actor and feel like I actually met him or her. And for once I haven't been replying my conversation over and over wishing that I'd said everything all different - I was coherent and normal. As normal as a 31-year-old woman in a Starfleet mini-dress can be, anyway. :)

Me meeting Christopher Heyerdahl

After all that excitement, I needed to do something a bit quieter, so I headed to a publishing panel in one of the nice plushy conference rooms. The two women doing the panel were Krista Ball (an Alberta author who I saw at When Words Collide last year) and Margaret Curelas from a small Edmonton publishing house. They had both previously worked with 'my' publishing house, Edge, and so I was interested to hear their perspectives on the industry. Sadly, there was something very loud and distracting going on in the conference room next door, and the panel was a lot more basic than I was expecting, but at least I got to sit in a comfy chair for a while. :)

Trevor and I met back up (he'd been wandering the exhibit hall) and he told me about this vendor who had cheap DVDs, including some of the Stargate seasons, so I was able to acquire season 3 for $15, which is a heck of a deal! Who knows when I'll get time to watch it, but at least it's in my collection now. We went to the Coco Brooks (a GREAT local pizza chain) stand to get a bit of a snack, and shared a cheese pizza and a fruit smoothie. I was very entertained by the crowd of people who were camped out on the floor by the stand - I thought it looked like a refugee camp.

A geek refugee camp

We met back up with Steph and caught the last panel of the day - 'Stump the Nerds' with the local 404 geek comedy troop. The person on the troop who I knew doesn't appear to be with them anymore, and the whole panel was pretty special. It was supposed to be PG-13, but I would have given it a 14-A, and some of it was just strange!

I'd heard rumours throughout the day that the fire marshall had stopped anymore people from coming in, but I didn't realize the extent of it until I got home and online again. What a gong show - I'm HEARTILY thankful that my OCD tendency to be over-cautious and early meant that I didn't miss out on any of the fun things that happened on Saturday! My priority before bed was to get my Sanctuary panel video up on YouTube, which ended up being a lot more work than I'd expected, and we were up till midnight, but it's online in three parts, and the first in the series has over 1700 views! Everyone wants to hear Amanda talk about the future of season 5, apparently!

I was going to post a couple of costume photos, but this had turned out to be so long I'll have to give major kudos to those of you who are still reading. (Hi, Mom - happy birthday! :) Stay tuned for Sunday's recap!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo 2012 - Friday

One of my favourite things about living in Calgary is the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. This is the third year I've been, and definitely my most epic yet! I don't know how they're going to top the guest list for next year, but I can't wait to find out! :)

I went down early on Friday, to be there for 11 am. Thanks to being over-prepared, I was downtown way earlier then needed, so I had time to pop by Trevor's office and meet him for a Timmies, which was a nice treat. Since I quit my job to go back to school, I've been trying really hard to reign in my Timmies addiction! I wore my new Gryffindor shirt from Think Geek, which I love. It's got long sleeves, and it's super silky, with a big Gryffindor crest on the front.

The people-watching at the Stampede grounds was excellent. I was waiting for my 'boss', Brian Hades from Edge Publishing, to help him set up his booth in the exhibit hall, and watching the other vendors arrive was very entertaining. There's a certain vibe of panic and expectancy in the air, four hours prior to the doors opening for the biggest geek-fest in western Canada, and the second-largest in the country (only Toronto's is bigger). People who only see each other on the con circuit are reunited, the security guards are bemused at the chaos, and lone vendors struggle to get their gear on carts and their vehicles out out of the loading dock so others can pull in. You can definitely tell the con veterans from the n00bs!

We unloaded boxes and boxes of books, and took them to the Edge location to get set up. Sadly, I forgot to take a photo once it was all organized and looking like a bookstore, before it got crowded with people, but here's one I found:

EDGE Publishing booth, courtesy of Billie Milholland's Facebook page

The first panel I wanted to see was at 4, so after setting up I had a bit of time to wander, and while I was wandering,  I ran across Katie Cook's booth. Katie Cook is a licensed Star Wars artist, and does super-cute little watercolour sketches. She'll do a special request sketch for $5, so I asked for a grey Jedi Kitten. Isn't he cute?!

Jedi Kitten by Katie Cook

The first panel I took in was Denise Crosby and Gates McFadden, who were Tasha Yar and Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. By the time I started watching tv, TNG had been over for years, but re-runs were almost always available on the Space channel, so I watched a lot of them. Voyager will always be my favourite Star Trek, but TNG had some great moments. Crosby and McFadden work together at a theatre company now, although they didn't have any scenes together when they were on TNG - funny, hey?

Denise Crosby and Gates McFadden

By the time that panel was over, Trevor had made it over from work, and was in line for the next panel I wanted to get into. David Prowse was the man inside the Darth Vader costume in the original three Star Wars movies. He's this cute little old man with a British accent, and he's adorable. He was supposed to come last year but couldn't - he had to have surgery on his knee, and this year he's still using a cane. I learned some interesting Star Wars trivia (I used to be nearly unbeatable at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, until the new trilogy and extended universe abominations) and totally forgot to take any photos!

It was 6 pm by the time that panel was over, so I snagged a hot dog and a Coke and we went to browse the exhibit hall, which was the largest I've ever seen outside of Stampede. Typically the Friday night/first night of a con is the least busy, but it was already a zoo. After a crazy long day, I was already overloaded, and there were a couple of points when I just stopped trying to figure out where to go and let Trevor just steer me in the right direction! We did manage to wander up and down every aisle, although I avoided buying anything or taking any pictures of costumes, because it was just too busy to pull over without causing a pile-up. We left before it closed at 8, so we could get to bed at a decent time and get an early start on Saturday, which turned out to be a very good plan...