After an extended break for the summer, we're back! Father's day this year was awesome, and we can't wait to tell you all about it. We spent the Father's Day weekend in Charlotte at the annual Heroes Convention and we had a blast. We saw cosplayers, met Stan "The Man" Lee, collected sketches from our favorite comic creators, and generally had a great time. Abby and I discuss all things Heroes Con as well as diving into some Minecraft stuff, and some Summer Vacation stuff. Hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed making! Hey, don't forget, if you enjoy the podcast... you can subscribe via iTunes and Stitcher to get it automatically updated to your choice of podcasting software. If you're so inclined, don't forget to follow us on Twitter as well, we're @DaddyPodcast on Twitter and you can follow along and even ask us questions there, we answer every one in the podcast! Hope you had a great summer!
Heroes Con officially kicked off Friday morning, but for me, it began a day earlier. We packed the cars (the wife and kids were continuing on to the beach for a couple of weeks after the weekend) to drive up Thursday. Wanting to maximizing the time we had at the convention I booked our rooms for Thursday through Sunday, a serendipitous bit of foresight that I’ll be sure and repeat next year, so we could get up early and hit the ground running on Friday after a good night’s sleep. After a shitty drive up – thanks in large part to an accident that turned I-85 into a parking lot for a good hour and a half – we made it to the hotel with enough time to grab our badges and enjoy the pre-opening night bash. Food trucks, a band, and another great opportunity to mingle with a lot of the attending creators, it’s something you definitely want to make plans to attend if you’re gonna go next year. A nice evening unwinding, decompressing, and walking around was a perfect way to kick off the weekend. Bright and early Friday morning, with everyone well rested, refreshed and badges in hand, we made our way across the street to the convention center. Once again, the decision to arrive a day early and collect badges was another in a string of inadvertent “best decisions we made” over the course of the weekend. The lines were staggering. The only other time I’ve seen THAT many people lining up for geekdom was last year at Dragon Con, and it was the same situation, the ticket line. Since we had our passes, we were able to move past the “I need to get a ticket” line and make our way to the end of the “we already have our passes line”. This line stretched from the entrance around the inside of the convention center, up the stairs and began to make its way around the upper deck. Not a short line, but once the doors opened, it moved along rapidly. First up was to begin cashing in on that email equity I had worked on the month or two prior. I made a beeline to Ed Piskor’s table and handed over my sketchbook. A fan of “Hip Hop Family Tree” since I began reading it on Boing Boing, Ed was top of my list. I desperately wanted an Afrika Bambaatta sketch by Ed and had worked the better part of the last year on getting the ever-elusive artist to agree to do a commission at the convention. I don’t even think he had completely unpacked all his stuff when I bounded up to his table and introduced myself, “HiI’mJeffSmallWe’veSpokenOverEmail I’mTheGuyWhoWantedTheBambattaSketch IThinkYou’reTheGreatestGuy AndI’mAHugeFanOfHipHopFamilyTree!”. He smiled and I settled down a bit. We chatted about the book, his plans, the upcoming third volume and his experiences since publishing the anthology series and I quickly realized why I loved the guy so much. He’s warm, genuine, authentic, and every bit the person he seems. I handed over my sketchbook and began wandering around, getting my bearings and figuring out where the rest of the people on my list were sitting. I caught up with Wilfredo Torres, artist on one my favorite books out currently, “Jupiter’s Circle”. Connected with Evan “Doc” Shaner, who draws the most amazing Captain Marvel you’ve ever seen. I found Mike Maihack, Klaus Jansen, Tim Sale, Andrew Robinson, Arthur Adams, Geoff Darrow, Craig Rousseau, Babs Tarr, and Kristopher Anka. I stopped by Evan Dorkin’s table. He had apparently had a pretty rough trip into town and was a little flustered trying to unpack and spread out as the convention was opening up. He was a charming curmudgeon as people came up to the table to say hi and get their items signed. He was wearing a wrist brace, made several references to having a sore hand and begged off doing any signing or sketches first thing until he had a chance to settle in. I graciously obliged with as much empathy as I could muster. I felt bad for the guy and made a mental note to steer clear and come back around Saturday or Sunday when he had an opportunity to get collected warm up a little. The day flew by. We wandered around the floor, met creators, took photos with Cosplayers (So many Deadpools!) and bought some fun things from a couple of the vendors. I wasn’t ready to dig into comics just yet, that’ll wait for the last day. There were some great lunch spots close by, so it was easy to drop off sketchbooks, and wander across the street to grab some pizza with the kids, who were busy checking their Nintendo DSes every few minutes to meet another set of 10 convention-goers in Mii Plaza.
Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find”, a really terrific comic book shop that’s been around since I was a kid, up in Charlotte. Shelton’s been putting this convention on for the last 33 years or so, and it’s grown into what I believe is one of the best (if not THE best) comic book convention in America. It’s certainly the ONLY comic book convention that’s singularly focused on comic books and a quick anecdotal survey of the creators who attend reinforces that it’s the most well-thought of, most enjoyed convention of the convention season. I’m sure when a lot of people think of “comic book convention” they think of Comic-Con in San Diego, but I’m here to tell you, there are few conventions annually that stack up against Heroes Con. It’s three days of pure comics, comic art, writing, sessions, cosplay and fun. Growing up and during college I was a regular Heroes Con attendee, but recent years have been difficult to find a way to go and for probably the last several years I’ve marked it on my calendar as a, “this-year-I-promise-I’m-gonna-go” event, but sure enough, something always came up and I was always vowing to attend, “next year for sure”. Well last year I put my foot down and told myself that come hell or high water I was attending this year and began making plans back in late summer. My somewhat underwhelming experience at Dragon Con and Wizard World (two okay, but lackluster conventions if you’re a comic book fan) last year only steeled my resolve to make sure not another year passed without my ass being squarely in the thick of Heroes Con in 2015. To that end, I began setting aside a nest egg starting back in September and contributing weekly to my “Heroes Con Fund” to ensure that a lack of convention funds was not going to be an issue. I booked my hotel room last fall, bought my wife and I three day passes (kids under 10 are free!) as soon as they were available to buy, and put in for the only personal time off I had on the books for this year. I was set. As the convention drew closer, I became almost apoplectic with excitement as the guest list was updated. At first the updates were coming in regularly every 30 days or so, but as it got closer and closer to the date, the updates increased and the names being added were bigger and bigger. Bernie Wrightson, Arthur Adams, Klaus Janson, Ed Piskor, Evan Dorkin, Kris Anka, Wilfredo Torres, Evan “Doc” Shaner… it just became a who’s who of artists, writers, colorist. I began to worry if I was going to literally have enough time over the course of three days to get an audience with the growing list of creators. I began to prioritize, plot, email (never underestimate the value of emailing a creator or artist to get on their radar and try to nail down arrangements before the convention) and scheme. I even bought a second sketchbook in a stroke of genius that I can’t take credit for. One evening I was lamenting to my wife that I didn’t think I’d be able to coordinate all the convention sketches I wanted and she casually mentioned, “why don’t you buy a second sketchbook and that way you can halve your effort, doubling your chances?” I sat there for a moment, dumbstruck at the brilliance of her idea and immediately jumped on Amazon to order a second book identical to the one I carry around. Then, as if it wasn’t possible for me to anticipate something any more, two weeks before the convention the update to end all updates went out. Appearing Saturday only was the founding father of Marvel Comics himself, Stan “The Man” Lee. Special packages were made available at various price points with the highest end, a “VIP Meet ‘n Greet” with Stan being limited to an audience of 25. I was blown away. Sure, it was steep, way pricey… but I had been saving up since last year. I had the cheddar. I gave it a thought, slept on it, asked a couple of friends what they thought (“what, are you crazy? Of course you should do it, there’s no question!) and decided to plunk down the cash and go for the full Stan Lee Experience. So there I was. I had a VIP Meet ‘n Greet on Friday evening and Saturday with Stan Lee, I had more than enough money squirreled away to guarantee a brilliant time, and had commitments for sketches from several of the most sought-after guests on my “must meet” list and a family that was looking forward to driving up to Charlotte and spending Father’s Day weekend in Marriott. I couldn’t wait. It was going to be epic. NEXT: Part 2 - Friday, the first day of the convention and I meet Stan Lee!It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and actively worked on writing. I used to really enjoy the rigor of keeping on a pretty consistent schedule of blogging and writing. It felt cathartic and it was just something that I really enjoyed. So I took the opportunity of the last couple of weeks to “get back on the horse” so to speak and start to try and write with a little more consistency and regularity. A couple of weekends ago (Father’s Day to be more accurate) I got the chance to finally spend the weekend at Heroes Con in Charlotte. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Heroes Con is the annual comic book convention put on by Shelton Drum and the team at “
Digital Summit Denver, a three day digital marketing conference. I've spoken at the same conference in Atlanta last year, and had submitted a topic for this year's Atlanta conference, but was asked if I'd like to present my topic in Denver a month or so later. Having never been to Denver, I was all about it! My topic was, "The Data Ramifications of Everything Talking to Everything". I've become increasingly interested in the data solution opportunities around ambient computing and the "Internet of Things". The more work I do with "making things smarter", creating "networks of things", and designing & delivering "intelligent experiences", the more I look forward to digging into the data and using it to inform & shape the project. So this is a really fun topic for me that I really love talking about with some enthusiasm. Keeping in mind that the audience is mostly a marketing and advertising audience and NOT a room full of data scientist, I like to keep it technical enough to have some substance, and light enough that it's an accessible and engaging talk. I want everyone else to enjoy it as much as I do and get excited about it the way I tend to get when I talk about it. I broke it into three large sections. In the first section I talked a bit about the background of what the Internet of Things was all about and about how broad the category can be, application-wise. Then I moved on try and give a little context about just how MUCH data we're talking about here and what that data may potentially look like. A lot of times it's not "data" in the sense that we're used to and the challenge are around the Velocity, Volume, and Variety issues. I wanted to try and help frame the data discussion. I closed with wrapping it all up in a nice package of opportunities and tried to introduce the idea of "Anticipatory Experiences". As data empowers smarter decisions and the tapestry of "what we know" becomes richer, the nuances of the perfectly crafted experience are easier and easier to envision. The conference was terrific. I really enjoyed attending other sessions, there were a lot of great topics and a host of great speakers spread over the two days. Happily, I got a lot of great feedback on social media and on the way out after my talk. I've already sort of taken my talk and stewed over it a bit and cooked up a "version 2.0" that I think addresses more of the "anticipatory experiences" up front. I feel strongly that we're moving towards an "informed, anticipatory experience building" future (at least my side of advertising, the technology side) and the better vision we collectively have about how data "works" for these projects, the more successful we'll all be.Last week I spoke in Denver at
I never forget about today. Of all the days of the year, this one in particular is a little more special than most and it goes all the way back, not to 1941 but to 1986. The story of how I joined the Navy isn't that special. I wish I could tell you that sailing the world's oceans working on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier was my life's calling, but it really wasn't. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia and when I was 17 I couldn't wait to get out of that town. At the time I thought it was a small town (Chesterfield County, south of Richmond), I hated high school, I didn't want to go to college and I just wanted to get the fuck out of there. So I did what anyone else with no direction or purpose would do, I went and joined the military. I walked into my local recruiting station and there were literally four doors I could've gone into. One for the Army, one for the Navy, one for the Air Force, and one for the Marine Corps. If memory serves, one door was closed, one door ignored me, the guys standing in one door were assholes, and the guy in the Navy recruiter office extended a hand and asked me what I wanted to do in the Navy. A question I hadn't given any thought to until that very moment. Fast forward a year or so later and I'm working on the flight deck of the USS Kitty Hawk as an Aviation Ordnanceman in Attack Squadron 165. I couldn't have been happier, I was having the time of my life traveling the world working on jets. I hadn't really ever dawned on me exactly what I had signed up for. That all changed the first time I pulled into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. There's a tradition in the Navy called, "manning the rail". Basically, the crew lines the edge of the ship in their dress whites (or dress blues depending on the time of year) at "parade rest" as they make their way into port and I had done it once or twice before. The route to the dock at Pearl Harbor is kinda long and as it slowly winds its way into the harbor, you pass the monuments to ships that were sank on that Sunday morning, ultimately arriving at the USS Arizona Memorial. It was then that I realized that on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941 those kids that woke up that morning, whose lives were changed forever, were no different than me. They were doing their jobs, same as anyone else that day. They woke up with plans to go to Church, or maybe go to the beach, or play ball... they never imagined that they'd be fighting off almost the entire Japanese Navy in what would be one of the deadliest attacks in American history. As I slowly made my way into that harbor and passed those memorials to those sailors, my decision to join the Navy, and the sense of history and pride that I felt in that moment changed me forever. The gravity of that decision finally dawned on me. I never forget about today.
I have to just state right up front. I had a blast at DragonCon. More so than any convention in recent memory and FAR more fun than I had at Wizard World this summer (a decision that I'll always regret making over HeroesCon and a mistake I won't make again). I had such a great time this year, that without hesitation I purchased my next year tickets the moment they were announced and booked two nights in the W (a decision I'll explain further down) for Friday and Saturday night of NEXT year's DragonCon. First off, this was my first Dragon*Con. I had avoided going to the past couple of years because frankly I wasn't convinced that Dragon*Con was my bag. If you take even a cursory look at the program it's obviously not a comic book convention, my normal summer haunts. It's billed as a "Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention" and there are a fair number of comic book related sessions, but it's by no means a "Comic-Con" so you go in with the understanding that you're a fraction of the audience, and so my expectations were that I would probably enjoy a proportional amount of the activity. Boy was I wrong. The sessions, the crowds, the Cosplayers, the Parade, the location, the activities, the people... it's simply the best experience I've had at a convention in probably a decade. Comic-Con in Dallas, Wizard World... the only convention I think that even comes remotely close is HeroesCon in Charlotte, but that's exclusively a Comic Book Convention so I think it's an apples to oranges comparison. The truth is, I'm not sure there really IS anything that compares to Dragon*Con. It really is pure fandom. Much more pure and sincere in its execution than ComicCon in San Diego which is just a clusterfuck of Hollywood douchery and overcrowding. I have zero desire to attend ComicCon, but don't take my word for it. Take a few minutes and see what Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics, one of the founders and original attendees who's been to every one, had to say about this year's convention. He wrote about it here, here, and here. It just sounds like a horrible experience. But I had a blast. I mean, it was hands down one of the highlights of 2014 and was such a marvelous time that on Tuesday, when tickets went on sale, I snapped up 3 tickets for next year without so much as a moment of hesitation. I tried to get us into the host hotels for next year as well, but those hotel rooms sold out within minutes. I've never seen anything like it. Fortunately I was able to use my Starwood Preferred membership and snag a room at the W just before it sold out and it's not even a host hotel! If you like/appreciate/are a fan of Comics, Fantasy, Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Science Fiction, Comic Book movies, Tolkien, Ghostbusters, Horror, Zombies, and/or video games, and either live in the SouthEast, or have an interest in visiting Atlanta, then you owe it to yourself to attend. I promise, you won't regret it. See you next year!
For some time now, I've been using my time at Conventions to collect sketches from my favorite creative professionals. This has proven to be an immensely rewarding experience and I'm proud of the book I've been able to put together in just a year. This year's DragonCon featured Tim Sale, George Perez, Dave Bullock, Dave Johnson, Mark Bagley, and numerous other comic artists, animators, and illustrators. I mean, we're talking Bob Camp, legendary co-founder of Spumco Animation Studio and co-creator of Ren & Stimpy! How often do you think you get the chance to have an opportunity to engage these guys? So I spend a lot of my time at conventions collecting sketches. In fact, I basically plan my whole convention around collecting as many sketches as I can. They're one-of-a-kind mementos of my appreciation and fandom, and taken collectively represent my love of sequential art. I use a bound, 8 1/2" X 11" Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook. A terrific book with excellent paper. It takes ink very well and provides a great surface for sketches. This year, I was lucky enough to start right off with a bang when I walked into Artists Alley and walked right past George Perez, who had a relatively small line. I jumped right into line and and asked George to sketch one of my all time favorite Perez superheroes, Firestorm the Nuclear Man. He was gracious and spent time chatting while sketching. I particularly love the use of the silver/gray sharpie for Dr. Stein. Classic stuff. The most sought-after artists, of course, was Tim Sale. Without a doubt, one of my favorite comic artists, and high on the list of "most desirable" sketch. Tim has a method for getting sketches that requires a little effort. He has what are called "Fast Passes" that he holds starting first thing in the morning. You get there early enough, before the spots are filled up, and you can get 20 minutes of Tim's time. His prices vary for what you want, but it's worth the effort, as you can see below with his amazing "Daredevil Yellow" that I had commissioned. He also opens up the first and last hour of the day for quickies, and as you can see below, I was able to get him to draw me a quick Joker sketch as well. Two of my most prized sketches so far. Below are the latest entries in my collection. Click on the first photo and use the arrow keys to navigate. Click again on the image to close.
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:
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.
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: