Fun and Frivolous

Sometimes you just wanna have fun. Post a stupid photo, upload a dumbass video. You know silly shit. Well, this is place for it, baby. All things retarded and pointless go right here.

Dragon*Con 2014 – Part 1: The Costumes

Well, of course the my FIRST post about Dragon*Con (don’t worry, there will be a couple more, I promise!) has to be about the Costumes. It’s well known that of ALL the conventions during the summer, that Dragon*Con in particular is perhaps the most well known among Cosplayers. It’s one of the main attractions of the convention, and the layout of Dragon*Con with it being spread between several inter-connected hotels and hotel lobbbies is the perfect environment to see and be seen. The below gallery of 66 images was taken by myself over the course of just two and a half days of convention. I arrived early Friday afternoon and left Sunday evening. In between, I stopped whoever looked particularly good and space (and traffic!) permitted. Always ask politely to take a picture and ALWAYS move the subject out of the main flow of traffic. If you can do these two things, you’ll score a nice treasure trove of photos of some really talented CosPlayers.

Enjoy the slideshow! Click the first image, then just use your arrow or click left or right to view the photos:

The Daddy Daughter Podcast!

Since I moved to Atlanta, I’ve been faced with a challenging new reality: the morning and afternoon commute. Make no mistake, it ain’t particularly fun. Well, let me back up. It *wasn’t* particularly fun. When I first began my morning ritual a couple of years ago, it was quite a shock going from a 10 minute drive along the ocean into work every morning to the soul-crushing shuttle back and forth between Buckhead and the suburbs of East Cobb. However, I quickly discovered that the 30-45 minutes every morning and afternoon that I spent in quiet contemplation could be augmented by listening to audio books (a favorite of mine) and something that I hadn’t really spent a great deal of time with prior to moving to Atlanta and that’s podcasts. Don’t get me wrong, I was WELL aware that geek culture thrived within the podcasting community but I had just never literally had the time to sit down and listen to 30-45 minutes of talk in one sitting. Well… until now that is.

So I quickly dove in and began devouring podcasts. Of course the first ones on my radar were the Smodcast and Nerdist properties and I quickly realized why I had been a lifelong Kevin Smith fan. I love his particular brand of humor, and I had LONG been a fan of his speaking engagements and his legendary storytelling skills (If you haven’t heard the story of “Superman and the Giant Spider” then I would suggest that you stop what you’re doing right now and go give it a listen) and it was great to hear that enthusiasm and raw energy carried over into his podcasting endeavors.

The thing that stood out though (and one of the reasons why Kevin’s such a great guy) is how sincere he is, and continues to be, about his roots and about how easy creativity is from his view. He’s always been a scrappy creative, legendarily self-funding his first creative effort, 1994′s “Clerks” and his podcasting was no different. He regularly encourages his audience to get out there and try it too by reinforcing the notion that he’s no different from anyone else, he’s just got something to say and all he needs is a platform and a microphone and he’ll tell you what he thinks. Who wouldn’t be inspired by that?

I certainly was. I eventually realized that I had been bitten by the bug. I wanted to try podcasting too.

Of COURSE, I immediately began thinking of what my comic book podcast would be about. After all, what else was I going to talk about? I love comics, I can talk about comics until the cows come home, and let’s be honest, there’s not THAT many compelling podcasts about comics (trust me on this one, I’ve listened to them all). Simultaneously, at work, we had begun talking about content creation and I had naturally advocated for podcasting, and so we purchased a sort of “starter kit” of podcasting equipment: a mixer, a couple of microphones, etc. and were off to the races. Of course, like any well-meaning internal effort, it didn’t get the immediate traction I had hoped, but I still wanted to pursue it, so I grabbed all the equipment and put it in my car to take to the house to play around with.

That was when my daughter saw it.

“What’s that?”, she asked. Being an 8-year old girl who immerses herself in play that revolves around singing and being a “rock star” and “starting a band”, she was immediately drawn to the microphones. When I explained what they were for, and what a podcast was, she didn’t waste a minute. “Can we podcast?”. It was like being struck by lightening. “Of course we can! That’s a great idea!”.

The Daddy Daughter Podcast was born.

After a couple of starts and stops where we had to get past the notion that you just sit down and spit out a podcast, we were becoming comfortable with the hardware and software. I spent an hour or so on Lynda.com getting an overview of Garage Band, read a couple of websites about producing podcasts, and felt like I had at least an understanding of the hardest part of the process (producing an XML feed? Cake. Syndication? Easy as pie. Engineering sound? Not so much…) and so we finally sat down to record. That first day we recorded 20 minutes of conversation and when we were done we both realized that we were hooked. We were podcasters.

The idea behind the podcast was deceptively simple. A dad and his 8-year old daughter were gonna just sit down and have a conversation. But when the conversation happened, something magical happened. We connected. We didn’t just talk to one another, we had a conversation. She talked. I listened. I talked. She listened. We shared ideas and laughed. I knew immediately I had lightning in a bottle and I wasn’t about to let it out.

The more I thought about that conversation and the potential for future conversations, the more I realized the potential of the idea. Working in advertising, I’m keenly aware of the value of insights. Understanding what motivates people and what are their likes, dislikes and passion points is the currency of my business. Outside of a focus group, where were you going to get raw, unfiltered opinions from that group? I began to wonder, what was her insight into her peer group? What could she see through? What were her thoughts about the things that she’s constantly being bombarded with at her age? Toys? Games? Books? Movies? How did these things flow through her life? I found myself becoming genuinely curious about my daughter and her world, and I was blown away beyond words at how articulate she could express those thoughts. I was stunned. I had little woman who had opinions and ideas and she was sharing them… with me.

After that first podcast, I realized this was much bigger than my plans to play around and tinker with how I was going to use *my* platform to air *my* voice. I had empowered my daughter. I had given HER a platform… and I was never going to give that up.

So give it a listen. Subscribe. We’re available on iTunes and Stitcher, as well as Soundcloud (latest episode embedded below), where the podcasts are hosted. We’re going to shoot for an episode a week and in a couple of weeks we’ll look at doing a live podcast from Dragon Con.

In the meantime, take a few minutes and listen to what it sounds like when you give an 8-year old girl a microphone and let her tell you what she thinks.

Lego Kidsfest Atlanta 2014

This past weekend, Sunday afternoon, I attended Lego Kidsfest Atlanta. It’s kinda like a Comic-Con for Legos. My daughters absolutely LOVE the Lego Friends stuff (as well as the Princess DUPLO sets) and so, naturally, they had to twist my arm to get me to attend. I’m a big fan of Mindstorms and Technics kits, so I had my own reasons for wanting to attend when I saw that there would be robotics demonstrations as well as Star Wars and Technics play areas.

The Lego Kidsfest people (brilliantly) realized that the whole room has about a 4-hour life-span. Not for the kids, of course, but for the parents attending. So they broke the three day (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) event down into “sessions” with one session on friday, and two sessions each on saturday and sunday. We attended session 2 on sunday from 3:30 to 7 and I really didn’t even get a sense that it was “the last day of the show”. The people working the event seemed just as enthusiastic as if it were Friday and the event just started.

As we wandered the event and played at various pit-stops, I found myself wondering things like, “does Lego put this on?” and, “where did all of these Legos come from?”. It’s an interesting event. It’s not really like a comic-con in that there were no “dealers” there or “booths” set up. But it also didn’t appear as if it was an official “Lego” event. It says on the website that it’s put on by LIFE Marketing & Events (yes, the LIFE is all caps… I don’t know why either, and I agree, it looks weird), and when you visit their page, it’s just a single page with rotating testimonials… so it seems to me that somebody somewhere had the great idea of selling kids $30 tickets to something that lasts 4 hours and figured out how to find the right brand to appeal to kids and draw ‘em in like Mongol Hordes. Kudos to them! For a minimal investment in toys (how much could bulk legos cost anyway?) and a spot at several high profile city event centers, you can tour the country, play with legos, and print money. Sounds like someone found their dream job…

At the end of the day, I was delighted, kids were over the moon, the people putting it on sold a boatload of tickets, and everybody walked away tired, but happy. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a lazy, hot Sunday.

Enjoy the Gallery. Click on the image to close:

The First Annual Southern Fried Gameroom Expo 2014

Oh my gosh. Where to begin? This past weekend I attended the First Annual Southern Fried Gameroom Expo at the Marriott Century Center.

It. Was. Amazing.

Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever attended anything so awesome in recent memory. They had completely taken over the Marriott, and when I say, “completely taken over”, I mean “COMPLETELY TAKEN OVER”. I’ve been to that Marriott at least half a dozen times in the last couple of years for the quarterly single-day Atlanta Comic Book Convention (which is a great convention, by the way!) and it’s not even remotely been this packed. They had every ballroom in the place and every conference room open to convention-goers and packed with Pinball, Coin-op Arcade Video Games, Home Video consoles, retro/oldschool game systems, as well as various vendors stationed throughout the expo. It was great. Even if you walked up to the door, day of the show, it was only $20 admission for unlimited gaming, all the expo events, movie screenings, panels, and tournaments. Advance tickets were actually half that much! Note to self, when that thing comes around next year, make sure and buy advanced three day tickets.

I got there a little early on Saturday to participate in the Swap Meet. I’ve been dying to find an arcade cabinet for a while for a MAME project, and I got some business cards and talked to some people who can definitely help me when the time’s right. I am SO going to build a MAME cabinet with an oldschool controller setup. I saw some great examples of them there, and I think the cabinet might very well wind up being the most expensive part of the project. I also spent some time in the vintage home video system room playing Atari, Virtualboy, Intellivision, and my favorite vintage home video system of all time: Coleco Vision. What a great system.

Enjoy the photo gallery. I tried to upload some of the best pics I snapped while I was there. It was a fun time. If you heard about it this year and for some reason didn’t get to make it, by all means, don’t make that mistake next year. Here’s looking forward to the second annual one in 2015!

Click the images to enlarge, click the image again to close/exit:

My Brush With Fame, Or, That Time I Met The American Dream Dusty Rhodes

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The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes, if you will…

I was in the Navy in the mid to late 1980s. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia and had family in North and South Carolina. So during the 70s and early 80s, I was a huge Jim Crockett Mid-Atlantic/NWA fan who attended shows in NC,SC, and VA religiously. I grew up on Rufus Jones, Ric Flair, Blackjack Mulligan, Greg Valentine, Dusty Rhodes, etc. During the time I was in the Navy, I was stationed out west in Seattle. I didn’t get to fly home all that much, but this was one time I was heading home for vacation. I don’t recall if it was a direct flight from Seattle to Charlotte or not, but I know that I had a layover in Charlotte, and was flying from Charlotte to Richmond for leave.

So the flight from NC to VA was a brief little hop, and it was a late night flight. Like, around midnight. Not really a redeye, but a late flight nonetheless. Back in those days, fllghts would fly with barely anyone on them. It happened. This was one of those flights. If memory serves, there were less than a dozen people on the flight and my seat was towards the rear of the plane (the smoking section at the time). When I boarded I walked past the first few rows and seated up front, taking up nearly two seats, was Dusty Rhodes… THE Dusty Rhodes. Given that this was around 1986, there’s the very real possibility that he’s the current NWA World Heavyweight Champion, at the very least, he’s a contender and running Jim Crockett at the time. So this was a big deal.

I recognized him immediately and made my way back to my seat. There was nobody sitting around Dusty at all, and across the aisle, in the same row, it was completely open.

When the plane took off, the moment the seat belt light went off, I made my way up front and moved to that row. There I was, same row as the American Dream. I looked over and he had a spreadsheet out, was wearing little wireframe glasses that rested on the bridge of his nose, and was working on something… I’m guessing it was travel expenses or something of that nature. I just remember that he was engrossed in whatever it was. Now I was 18-19 at the time and starstruck, I certainly didn’t think anything about trying to strike up a conversation and potentially spending the next hour or so talking with Dusty (in my head we were already on a first name basis) about all things wrestling.

So I waited a moment, cleared my throat and said, “excuse me, are you the American Dream Dusty Rhodes?”.

He stopped what he was doing, looked over the rim of his glasses at me for a moment and said, “Thon, is that your athigned theat?”

Without a word, I got up and made my way back to my seat.

EDIT: Now with more bonus Dusty. This is from right around the same era. Dusty’s cutting a promo in October 1985, just before Starcade ’85. So a little context… He’s booking Crockett’s “Mid-Atlantic Wrestling” at this time. He’s A-list right now. Imagine someone in 1985 with Orton/Batista/HHH levels of heat and power. He’s not Flair… but he’s chasing him!

Welcome to SXSW!

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For the second year in a row, I’m back in Austin attending SXSW. Below are some thoughts. I attended some cool stuff, saw some cool things, met cool people, had a lot of cool encounters and even cooler conversations.

First day in Austin. Landed this morning, straight to the Palmer Center to work on the Mario Kart experience we’ve been putting together since late last year. It’s nice to see all the hard work and big ideas come to life. It’s the most rewarding part of the job, by far. Make sure you check out the accompanying website that my team in Dallas put together. I’m really proud of the work they did.

 

What do you call them? I know you know what I’m talking about…

You’re flipping. Then you see it, and you stop dead in your tracks. You can’t flip anymore, and you have to watch the rest of it… every time you come across it.

For me, it’s always “Goodfellas”, “Casino”, “Open Range”, or to a lesser extent, 80′s movies like, “Pretty in Pink”, “Sixteen Candles”, or “Saint Elmo’s Fire”.

Don’t judge me.

Is there a name for these movies? “Flip Stoppers” seems a bit contrived… but oddly appropriate.

What are yours? And what do you call them?

 

You know, the first step is admitting you have a problem…

I just had the oddest experience. I was walking down the hall at work when I caught myself thinking about something.

No, that part’s not the “odd part”. The odd part was what I was thinking about.

I was thinking about peanut butter. Specifically, I was thinking about “Smucker’s All Natural Smooth Peanut Butter with Honey”.

I have an almost uncontrollable addiction to nut butters. I love them. I eat them on Triscuits. I spread them on whole wheat bread. I eat them on bananas. I have absolutely no ability to moderate my intake of any particular nut butter. It gets worse when it’s almond butter. I daresay I could polish off an entire jar of almond butter in one sitting and not blink twice.

So there I was, walking down the hall at work thinking, “boy, I can’t wait to get home tonight and eat some peanut butter on some Triscuits”.

What the hell is wrong with me?

I don’t know, but I guarantee, whatever it is, it can be fixed by spreading a little peanut butter on it.

Is there a name for this? “Embarrassment Coupon” perhaps?

I recently got on a Cafe Verona kick. Dark, “chocolatey”, it’s really a delicious coffee, and so lately I’ve been snapping up Starbucks Cafe Verona anyplace I can find them. I’ve got a little single-cup coffee maker at work. Black and Decker. It makes one little cup of coffee, and usually during the course of the day I’ll make a couple cups. It wasn’t until I was on my second or third bag, that I discovered that Starbucks will give you a free cup of coffee if you take the bag back into any Starbucks Coffee. “Hmmm” I thought, “that’s pretty cool. It’d be nice to be able to stop by Starbucks one day when I’m out and about and know that I’ve got a free cup of coffee coming my way”.

So a couple days ago, I finished a bag and before I could throw it away, remembered to save it. I took it out to my car and put the empty bag in the middle console between the two front seats.

And there it sat. Mocking me.

Was I so pathetic, that in order to get a free cup of coffee, I was willing to walk all the way into the Mall clutching an empty bag of trash? I don’t carry a purse, so it’s not like I had any clever place to “hide” it on my way in. No, I was going to have to walk into Starbucks and hand over my empty trash and say, “here’s my empty bag, can I have my little free cup of Pike Place Blend, please?”

That was when I realized the genius of Starbucks. They know you’re not going to redeem that shit. They know if you’re going to plunk down $7 for a bag of ground coffee, that you’re not the type of person who looks for ways to get a 90-cent cup of coffee for free. Oh sure, you might try to tell yourself, “well, they’re going to recycle them”, but you know that won’t happen. The little Emo Barrista behind the counter is going to look you over, judgmentally sneer, fill a little cup up with some coffee he was about to throw out, toss your little bag in the trash, then talk shit about you to all his friends when you leave. “Dude, today this guy brought in an empty bag of coffee in so he could get his free cup of coffee… I know, right?” Not to mention the looks you’ll get from every customer in the place. I mean, if I was in line and you approached the counter and offered up and empty bag of trash in exchange for a cup of coffee, I’d be like, “man… here… lemme buy you a Venti, bro…”.

So I mean, there has to be a name for that, right? You offer someone something you KNOW they’re never going to redeem, but you look good offering it. It gives people a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling, but in the end, nobody’s pathetic enough to redeem it without submitting to some kind of “walk of shame” and taking a few self-esteem hits.

I think I’ll call it, “An Embarrassment Coupon”.

Oh, and if you spotted me in Starbucks today during lunch, don’t tell any of my friends, okay?

“I hate that place”

I hear that so often these days. From friends, from co-workers, from Twitter followers. Seems like everyone hates Facebook.

So why are so many people still using it?

I don’t post pictures there. I don’t upload video there. My only participation is to use it as a broadcast medium to point to the place where I control the universe. Here. I might share a link or two, but they’re also shared here as well. I don’t want Facebook to actually have any of my content. It’s mine. Not theirs. They don’t have any right to my family photos, my videos, my thoughts, my ideas. They make money off my stuff. If all of a sudden everyone stopped giving Facebook all their shit, Facebook would be completely value-less. Facebook’s whole value is wrapped up in your eyeballs. Increasingly, they’re becoming a walled garden. I saw a post the other day comparing them to AOL, and I thought, “that’s perfect”. AOL used to be a lot of people’s “internet experience”. You’d sign on to their world, play around in their playground, interact with their users, then log off. Once you started sniffing around outside their walls, they were essentially done. People went, “waitaminute, you mean there’s all THIS out there? Why didn’t you tell me?”. Then it was all over for AOL.

Seems like the same thing’s happening with Facebook.

It’s the end of the year. Time for people to start writing those “retrospective” posts looking back on “the year that was” and a lot of them seem to be themed around the idea of “moving on from Facebook”. People seem to be coming around to the idea that there’s life beyond 500 million users. That juggernauts can be stopped cold in their tracks. That there will be a “next big thing” and they’re already starting. That can’t bode well for Facebook, but it could be good for users.

See, I think, as an idea, Facebook’s great. Share shit with your friends and family. As a platform, it’s been great as what I would call, “the first iteration” of that idea. Sort of a “here’s how you do it and make it easy for people”. What I think it’s failed at miserably though, is the obvious obsession with monetizing the idea. In an effort to somehow get money out of an idea that’s inherently NOT a money making idea, they’ve had to open the “social graph” to people who weren’t part of your conversation in the first place.

I was talking with my friends and family. Who invited Coca-Cola and Toyota?

Then there’s the whole notion of Facebook making money off of my life. Seriously? You take my photos, my videos, my thoughts, my ideas… and you monetize them so YOU make money? And you don’t offer me a cut? How does that work?

Turns out it doesn’t. At least not very well. In order for Facebook to make that money, they’ve got to run completely counter to their idea. They have to open what was originally a very closed idea. I liked it when the idea was closed. I liked it when I had friends, I could share, they could share, and that was our world. Now, this whole, open platform environment runs counter to my comfort level and the comfort level of most users. You think I want all my friends to see my activity on Huffington Post? Do I want everyone I’m friends with on Facebook, business Friends, personal friends, family, to see what I like on Buzzfeed? You think that’s appropriate? I don’t. It’s also not the deal we signed up for.

So what happens now? Well, it’s anybody’s guess, but judging from some of the conversations out there, we won’t have to wait long to find out. There are a lot of really smart people out there who see this coming and are already working on solutions to “the Facebook problem”. I’m confident they’re smarter than Zuckerberg, too. Here’s the best part, you don’t have to “train” a new audience what the idea of Facebook is now. All you have to do is be the one who comes up with the next, “It’s Facebook, but better”.