I spent June 10 to June 16 in Columbus, Ohio for this year’s Origins convention. It was a good convention for the gamers and merchants–nothing memorable for me. There really wasn’t much in the way of hall costumes. So, this year I’m devoting the blog record to the merchants and the signs that marked their booths.
I’m just gonna show some of the best booth banners and maybe a few other things that justified a photo.
Looking at the main concourse lobby on Wednesday morning before the crowds arrived.
A distinctive feature of the convention center is this gigantic staircase that is seven aisles wide–three escalators in the center and two wide stairways on either side. When I felt strong, I climbed the stairs, averaging about 5 flights of stairs per day.
The Exhibitor’s Hall before anyone gets set up.
HackMaster was just across the aisle from Flying Buffalo. Dave Kenzer is standing by the HackMaster Banner. I just wish Tunnels & Trolls had a banner like this.
Jolly Blackburn, creator/artist/writer of the Knights of the Dinner Table comic book poses heroically.
My friend, Jolly, personifies all that is best about gamers at Origins. This is the single nicest guy in gaming, even nicer than me, and I’m as easygoing and friendly as you could ever wish. Jolly is better.
Here begins the great banners of Origins.
I’m not going to comment on most of the banners.
I told these guys I expected some tribute because I’m the Trollgod, but it didn’t happen. They even stole my acronym, T&T.
Heh, I’m using this cartoon as my background on Facebook right now.
Fantasy cartography is getting pretty great, but not for Mac owners.
Ya think something might be epic around here?
James Ernest is still the mastermind behind Cheapass Games. I had a good talk with him at a later time.
I demoed this game. It was kind of fun, like a g-rated version of Las Vegas.
This is a beautiful educational game that looks like a lot of fun to play. The designer and his family will be thousands of dollars in the red, and unlikely to appear again at next year’s Origins. Sad, but true. That is still the fate of most self-published books and games.
This guy is a talented artist. A lot of artists come to Origins. I don’t know why. Gamers are mostly not interested in buying or commissioning art.
There was some great steampunk costumery stuff. You had to be rich to afford it. $80 vests. $500 coats.
Technically, this is more of a toy company than a game company, but you could certainly use these toys in games.
Henry Lopez (seated, white hair) is a man who produces quality games. His Witch Hunter 2nd edition rpg is one of the few things I brought back with me from Origins.
I’ve played King of Tokyo. It plays fast and is good fun. Brilliant game!
There were a lot of zombies at the show. Zombie games remain popular.
Steve Jackson games was there, of course, doing their highly irritating “Exact Change” song and dance whenever anyone paid with cash in the exact amount asked for.
Will Neibling Sr. is a Hall of Fame game designer with a deep interest in World War II and military simulation. He still runs his own game company.
It was a big panel and took 2 photos to show it.
3D open dungeon on display at the Kenzer booth. The pieces are modular, and can be built into any pattern you wish. Great for miniatures, and so pretty.
Where do they get those marvelous toys? I’m not in the Exhibitor’s Hall now. I’m off in open gaming where the mini-gamers have set up.
If I had a lady, I would buy her one of these gamer jewels.
I do so love fantasy art featuring warrior women. Not sure I wanna be married to one tho in the modern world.
A good thing about the dealer halls these days are the many demos going on. Tired? Sit down and learn a new game.
Speaking of warrior women, there weren’t very many hall costumes, but this woman had the best one of all. Awesome to look at, and a killer smile when I talked to her. I wanted her so much.
This is what the main concourse looked like after Origins had ended on Sunday afternoon.
Finally, a selfie picture of me just to prove I was there. Crom! I look more like a gnome or a goblin than a troll these days. Maybe it will look better if I grow my beard back. I started working on it for the whole week of Origins travel and show.
And that was my look at Origins 2014. If you were there, and have a comment, please leave one. What did you like best and least about this year’s Origins?
I wasn’t going to attend this Con, but at the last moment I got some motivation, and so I did make the scene on Friday and Saturday. Estimated attendance somewhere in the range of 100,000 people. That’s a great size for a media convention like this. Guarantees that the promoters will make enough money to put on a really good show. Attracts a lot of creative energy.
As usual, I went mostly to take photos of brilliant hall costumes, play games, and talk to my friends. All 3 goals were satified this weekend. I think I can get more than one blog out of it. Let’s start off with heroes and villains.
I had a hard time getting the Black Widow’s attention. Finally, her boyfriend poked her in the arm and said, “Natasha, this man wants you to kill him.” Killer smile, don’t you think?
Batman looked suitably grim, but didn’t seem to have any crime to fight, despite the plethora of supervillains wandering around. I got him to pose for me, and that opened the floodgates. Poor guy got stuck posing with people for another 5 minutes before he could move on. He loved it.
Poison Ivy came by Steve Crompton’s Carnal Comics booth and told us she could make something grow. This girl has a secret identity as a stripper at Christie’s Cabaret. She made me an offer I really hated to refuse.
Poison Ivy was the most popular costume at the Con. Here she is again with a Joker wannabe.
Harley Quinn and her friend gave me these dazzling smiles when I told her I’d love to get hammered with her.
Thor and Loki, female variants. If it works for guys, it works for girls too.
The Transformers were larger than life, and kept behind a fence.
If I saw this guy walking down the street, I’d get out of his way, then follow him looking for photo ops.
Catwoman, Halle Berry style. This is no house cat–this is a black tigress. (You know that would be a pretty great name for super character.)
Not every larger than life character needs spandex. The Penguin makes do these days with simple opulence.
The Joker was looking better than he has for years and his Harley Quinn seemed pretty happy about it too.
Green Arrow came rushing by just before I headed for the Troll Cave on Saturday afternoon.
There were countless other supers at the convention, but I didn’t go with a plan. I simply took pix of those that came my way. Spider-Man was there in every conceivable variant of the spider suit. Deadpool must have cloned himself. He was everywhere. Poison Ivy sprouted almost everywhere I looked. I saw Batman from several different alternate earths. Superman, however, could not be found. Actually Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin) and Julie Newmar (Catwoman) were big attractions at ComiCon, although I did not see them. Stan Lee is supposed to be there today (I am writing this on Sunday, June 8). Comics, and the popular culture associated with comics have never been so popular.
Comics conventions are gigantic parties, and people really seem to have a good time at them. I salute those dedicated cosplayers who make marvelous costumes to represent the heroes, villains, and favorite characters from comics, cartoons, anime, and video gaming. You guys and gals are indeed super in your own right, and I applaud you all.
If you have been to a comics convention lately, why not leave a comment?
Friday night, May 30, at 5 p.m. the Changing Hands bookstore, a store that has served the Phoenix metropolitan area for 40 years, although it has always been in Tempe, opened a new store at 3rd Avenue and Camelback Road, in the central Phoenix corridor on the light rail line. This was the site of a famous old ritzy restaurant called Beefeaters, but that restaurant closed up a few years ago, leaving just some expensive real estate and the shell of a building behind. Changing hands is one of two great independent bookstores in the Phoenix area–the other one is the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. I’m an ex-librarian and an author (and a book accumulator). I love bookstores. I decided not to miss this gala event.
I got there about 4:45 p.m. The parking lot was already full, and Channel 10 television sent a news van to cover the story.
A pretty good crowd was already waiting for the doors to open. Many more would arrive in the next hour.
Looking at the front door of Changing Hands.
Cameraman from Channel 10 waits to get inside just like the rest of us.
The owner tells us the doors will open soon at about 5:06 p.m. A red ribbon has been strung across the entrance and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton is ready to cut it and let people in.
5:07 p.m., the stampede begins. I am not the only person taking pictures of this historic event. :)
Mayor Stanton is in the center of this shot, facing camera, open face, fair complexion. I’m gonna give him props for caring about books!
Good stuff, nothing radical, in the Children’s section.
I also checked out the science fiction section.
One of the things I wanted to see was what they had in their Games section–looks like word games are popular.
What really makes this bookstore stand out, is that it has its own bar, called First Draft. That’s a nice pun since a draft is a manuscript that hasn’t been published, and also a glass of beer that hasn’t been quaffed yet. Draft is one of those words that has a lot of meanings–I wonder how that came about–which makes it ideal for punning.
I found a bucket of tentacles. Just what everybody needs, right?
Bookstore coffee cups. I kinda like personalized cups like this and have quite a few, though I didn’t buy this one. It’s a coffee cup, but First Draft is the bar–disconnect there.
I found a book I decided to buy. This book will reappear in a future blog. I have an idea how to get some mileage out of Weird Arizona.
People really flocked to the bar. Every seat was taken.
Here’s a rack full of bottles of wine. Why buy one glass when you buy the bottle?
This is a terrible shot of Mayor Stanton enjoying a glass of beer. I thought it might make blackmail material, but I cut off his head. Bwa ha ha ha! How do we feel about politicians? Off with their heads!
Here are my purchases for the night–a book and a beer glass from First Draft. I think my clerk’s name is Abby. She was very friendly and happy to be there.
Abby signed me up for the Changing Hands Reader Club. Every time I buy something I’ll get a stamp on the card. Eventually, it will get me a disount or something free.
I took my purchases out and stashed them in my car. I didn’t want to carry them around. I have grown rather fond of taking pix of myself as a reflection in my car. You can see I was there, but you can’t really see me.
5:30 p.m. the parking lot is really crowded now. People trying to get in were clearly disappointed when I didn’t leave yet.
Bookstore window from the outside. I was headed back for seconds, but . . .
I got distracted and went into the restaurant that was also having its opening night. These ladies greeted me at the door and explained things. The blonde told me she was a vampire–she has the teeth, but I don’t think she’s a blood drinker.
I wound up sitting at the community table–a place for people without reservations.
I drank chicory coffee black
and ate chicken gumbo. It’s very spicy, but very good.
and I got my picture taken there at the Southern Rail restaurant with my server. What a pretty girl!
Many years ago this whole building was a famous Phoenix restaurant called Beefeaters. One of the waiters explained that the chandeliers and the walls were just about all that remained from the Beefeater establishment.
I finished off the gumbo. I drank a second cup of very bitter chicory coffee–at least it’s strong, you can taste it, and got the bill. When I tried to use my credit card to pay for it, the manager came by and said they couldn’t take credit yet, and comped me my meal. Nice!
After the meal, I went back and made one last pass through the bookstore.
I took a selfie . . .
and went on my way back home. The whole experience took just under 2 hours.
I’m glad I went to the opening of the Changing Hands bookstore. I had a good time. It’s a great independent bookstore, and the kind of place I can show off to visitors from other cities. It has more than books, and would be a good place to do Christmas and birthday shopping. I’m hoping that Changing Hands will have a long successful run here in Phoenix.
If you’ve ever gone to a bookstore opening, or even if you just like to hang out in such places, why not leave a comment?
On the morning that Ken woke up early
He read his email, and thought naughty thoughts,
And his conscience said, “You should take a walk!”
So, he grabbed his camera, and jumped in his car,
And drove away . . .
Past homes and businesses,
Through intersections and curves,
And finally came to where the rich things are.
Then he got out of his car
Sunrise where the rich things are.
And he said, “I will climb that mountain!
Heading up 56th Street
And I will walk where the Rich Things Live.”
And Ken thought maybe the Rich Things would walk their fancy dogs,
Or drive their fancy cars, or smile their terrible smiles,
But most of the Rich Things were still asleep,
So Ken took pictures of their fancy lairs,
Just to show that he dared walk where the Rich Things live.
As Ken walked, signs appeared and told him where he was and which way to go next.
Until he came to where the King of the Rich Things lived in his fancy castle.
This isn’t the biggest or fanciest house on the southern slopes of Camelback Mountain, but it is the one that looks most like a castle now. There used to be a real medieval castle up here, but it has been torn down.
But the King of the Rich Things was fast asleep, and did not come out and talk to Ken.
Then Ken said, “Now I am on top of the world,
Or at least up pretty high.
I will look down on my world,
And make pictures so all may see
The magical land that is my country,
Even though I am not the king here.”
And Ken took many pictures of the Land known as Phoenix.
Then Ken grew tired of being alone in the land where the Rich Things are,
So he walked on down out of the land where the Rich Things are.
He walked past lairs and palaces:
And through an enchanted forest
Yea, he passed the Land of Many Palm Trees . . .
Walking down the byways and the highways
And past the gates where Rich Things from other Lands came to stay and play in the Enchanted Forest
Until he finished the circle that was in no way round, and came at last to his trusty automobile
“Let’s go get some food,” said Ken.
And drove back through curves and intersections,
Past businesses and homes
Until Ken reached his own home at last
And went in and fixed himself coffee and cereal,
And it was very good!
If you ever wander into the lands where the Rich Things are, why not leave a comment?
The City of Phoenix, Arizona has a light rail system that runs from downtown Mesa 30 miles to the southeast past the airport, through the center of town, and northwest to a major shopping center called ChrisTown on the corner of 19th Avenue and Bethany Home Road. That shopping center is only 3/4 of a mile from where I live. The City has decided to extend the line another 3 miles north along 19th Avenure. That goes within two blocks of my apartment, and creates all kinds of traffic problems as 19th Avenue was a major thoroughfare for this part of town. Of course that means that all kinds of heavy equipment is always working on 19th Ave.
Perhaps it is the kid in me, the part that never grew up, but I kind of like to watch heavy construction equipment in action. I frequently walk around the neighborhood, and have seen bulldozers, scorpions, dumptrucks, cranes and other stuff in action. I’ve often wished I had my camera with me when I witnessed some construction in progress. On Monday, May 20, 2014, I set out to take a morning walk, and I brought the camera with the idea that I would take pix of all the heavy equipment I saw upon the way. This is that record.
Water truck. Construction stirs up a lot of dust, and the solution is to wet the dirt down and deal with mud instead. Go figure!
Looking north on 19th Avenue, the sign warns me that I’m in a Work Zone
Part of the job is widening 19th Avenue.
There are a lot of palm trees in my part of town.
Dig holes, make piles of dirt.
Then park the digger on top of the dirt. Does that make sense?
Glorified fork lift in action
Make mud now.
A lot of the job seems to be telling men where to guide the monsters.
Giant pipes will be going underground somewhere nearby.
White truck. It’s hard to say anything brilliant. I don’t think the best machines were at work this day.
I’ve run out of dumb things to say. From here on, the pictures will have to tell their own story.
19th Avenure and Northern, so messed up–1 miles of men at work.
Some of the work extends onto Northern Avenue. Beyond this point there was nothing worth photographing.
So, why is the really heavy equipment all yellow while the trucks are all white? Inquiring minds want to know.
This blog has been just a slice of my life–nothing special, but it’s kind of fun to watch these machines in action and imagine oneself as the driver.
I call this blog Atroll’s Entertainment. As you can see, I’m easily amused. :)
If you’ve ever worked on a road construction crew, why not leave a comment?
The 40th annual LepreCon science fiction convention was held at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Mesa, Arizona on the days and nights of May 8-11, 2014. This is Phoenix’s oldest science fiction convention. Believe it or not, I helped start it back in 1974 or so, and was Con Chairman in 1979. I usually attend–as a guest or participant. I think I’ve only missed 3 of them. I went again this year, mostly to see my friends. I’m long past the stage of gathering autographs, buying things, and paying any attention to the panels. I took a lot of photos this year, and I’m going to share most of them with you here. You should take my comments with a pinch of salt or pepper, as I’m frequently crossing my fingers and/or distorting the truth in what I say about things.
When I walked into the Con on Thursday night, the first person I saw was Jason Youngdale. Jason is a friend of mine. I joined him to listen to some music and drink some beer.
The band is called Squid Dog. They are a motley and aged crew, but they produce a rocking sound.
This is my artistic composition in honor of LepreCon. You can see the program book in the foreground, and the best drink I had for the weekend in the background.
Paul Tanton, Jason Youngdale, and I went off and played some card games. I took a selfie shot of myself while I was playing cards, but it’s way too accurate in representing the real me, and thus too horrible to look at. I’m not gonna show it.
They gave me a grilled cheese sandwich in the staff lounge.
Griller of cheeses. With volunteers like this, the future of LepreCon is in good hands. Of course, this is the only volunteer like this that LepreCon has, so maybe it’s doomed!
I went to the Art Show. I was mostly not impressed, but I did like this troll skull, so I bought it. I’m sure I’ll find all sorts of uses for it. Troll skull by amateur artist David Perrine.
Back in the gaming room, my main home at conventions, we wound up playing Magic for the rest of Friday afternoon.
Late Friday night, I walked into the command center for the whole convention. Yes, friends, this is what the high command of these affairs look like when no one can see them.
Saturday, I spaced it and left my camera at home. I have no pix from the most important day of the Con.
Walking into the Marriott Convention Center from the rear. The Marriott in Mesa has been quite the popular convention site for SF fandom in Phoenix for the last 5 years.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here! Beyond these doors lies much that is fannish.
Some of the usual suspects. From left to right: The Flash (out of uniform), Paul Tanton, Victor Bugg, Jason Youngdale, and ???. I should know the last guy, but I don’t.
The entrance to the Dealers’ Room. There are many wonderful things and even more wonderful people inside this room.
The woman in white is author Gail Carrigher, our Guest of Honor, best known for her steampunk fiction: The Parasol Protectorate.
An ever-changing cityscape lived on this table. I don’t know why.
The fans of David Weber and Honor Harrington owned this real estate. Spiffy space marine uniforms they have.
Flag desecration in poster form.
Artist, dealer, weird female person. I like her.
Oooh, oooh! That fan might buy something!
Bennie Grezlik, author, nice guy, creator of Princess Pain.
Since she was all painted up like a mime (Harley Quinn for DC Comics) I asked costumer Krysta Crawford to do the “I’m Trapped in a Glass Box” routine.
Local authors. I ought to know everybody. They know me, but I don’t know these guys.
I don’t know this guy either, but he has some cool steampunk weapons for sale.
I took her picture because she was wearing a mask. Doesn’t she look like someone just hit her in the head and knocked it sideways?
Fabulous artist, friendly guy. I don’t know him.
You, too, could be wearing a fabulous mask. Buy them here.
I took her picture because she was wearing a corset. You can’t really see it very well.
A complete gallery of the bizarre art of Steam Crow.
Friendly woman, weird art.
Intentionally weird art for a weird magazine.
Steampunk grandees. I vowed to photograph every corset that came my way.
Phoenix has another small sci-fi convention called CopperCon.
Artist Gilead (yes, that is his whole name) teaches a few people the finer points of drawing tentacles for fun and profit.
They’ll let anyone on these panels–even officers from Star Fleet.
I was trying to take a picture of a table full of fannish t-shirts when a woman wearing a fannish t-shirt walked into it and blocked out half the picture.
The “mand” in Mandy stands for “Command”. She ran the art show, helped with registration, and generally tried to keep the convention functioning normally.
The hotel has a beautiful fountain. We’ve been here before in earlier blogs.
Would you believe that Curt Stubbs here was once known as Captain Coors, and that he helped bring the World Science Fiction Convention to Phoenix in 1978? It’s true. He was also Con Chairman for LepreCon 1, I think. I was there, but I can’t really remember that far back.
The Staff Lounge–where hard working staff and con participants like me could go to party.
The staff lounge had food . . . and television, and comfy places to sit.
My favorite hangout was the game room. Here’s a game much too complicated to even consider playing.
The Pathfinder role-playing game over there ran for the whole weekend.
Many goodies were to be had in the Barry Bard movie previews panel late Sunday afternoon.
Eager fen wait for their number to be called.
Mark calls the numbers. There was a prize for everyone who attended. I got a black t-shirt (of course).
They call your number. You go up and claim a prize.
My son James is developing a bald spot (and he’s only 23). He looked so frustrated every time they called a number that was almost his number. It was kind of funny to watch him from across the room.
With the loot all distributed, James and I went back to the game room for a few more games of cards like Parade, which uses an Alice in Wonderland deck that I want. By 5 p.m. it was time to go home, and so farewell to another fabulous science fiction event!
If you have things to tell about LepreCon or funny stories from other sci-fi cons, why not leave a comment?
A lot of good things have been happening to me lately. They are coming almost faster than I can record them. Today, May 7, 2014, I met with my friend Terry Ballard. The two of us have been pals since 1967 or so–we were in high school, but not the same high school. He has lived in New York for the past 25 years, but is in town right now to attend his 50th high school re-union tonight. When he is in town, we usually try to get together and compare lives.
Our meeting place was the Five and Diner cafe on north 16th Street. This is a colorful place with good food at reasonable prices.
Terry was already inside, I sneaked up on him.
I owe a lot (karmically, not financially) to this man. He is a visionary who gets good ideas and then accomplishes them.
Fandom owes a lot to Terry also. He started Phoenix science fiction fandom with the meeting of a few people in his apartment on Friday nights. LepreCon40 is happening this weekend, and LepreCon was Terry’s original vision and idea. I know because I was there when it happened. Terry also started the Phoenix Fantasy Film Society–don’t believe any other stories. Both LepreCon and PFFS happened originally because this man wanted them to happen. In addition, it was Terry who convinced me to start working for the Phoenix Public Library and who told me how to pass the test and actually get a job there. It was Terry who sent my first fan fiction off to Frank Denton and got the first Ken and Terry story published in Frank’s fanzine, Ashwing, way back in 1968. In fact, it was Terry who introduced me to the whole world of fanzines and the idea of fannish activity. He also introduced me to the Tarot, and started my lifelong fascination with that magical tool. He’s only a year older than me, but he influenced my life in so many ways it is hard to keep track of them all.
Here I am, doing what passes as a smile from me.
Our waitress tried to talk us into twice as much food as we really wanted for breakfast. She was a bit surprised when I took her picture, and insisted that she be allowed to pose for the next one. I like this shot. Look at that smile!
It didn’t take long to get another picture of her, posing this time. Terry liked this pic of him. I left her a nice tip for the five cups of coffee she served me.
Terry and I talked about memories and plans, and started a conspiracy to get me to New York for some great walking tours this summer. I’m thinking somewhere around the end of July will be a good time for me to see Long Island and all the wonders that are New York.
When breakfast was over we left the diner, and I showed him the striped rocks I found yesterday in Payson, Arizona. He took one of them with him to be in his rock garden back east.
Having breakfast with an old friend is a simple thing, but it is very pleasurable. Don’t you just love to see and spend time with your friends? I do.
If you ever go out for a meal with people who have traveled thousands of miles just to see you, why not leave a comment?