Movies and Music

I just had five days off in a row, which was nice even though I seem to have caught a cold that’s making the last day extremely low key.

Still, I managed to catch up with my friends Steve and Dan, who I hadn’t seen in a little while. We had some very good sushi at Sushi Raw and then headed over to the Kabuki with the intention of seeing Spy. Now when seeing something at the Kabuki it’s generally a good idea to get tickets in advance because of they have reserved seating, plus this was Saturday night to boot. But we had neglected to do so and figured we’d just head over and hope. Of course it was sold out so we picked the only other film in a similar time slot, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Luckily it was actually pretty good. Not the raunchy comedy we had planned for, but a sweet movie well acted, and quite funny in spots. It’s rare for me to go into a movie completely blind so that was a nice surprise.

Sunday followed a similar pattern in that I met friends for dinner someplace I hadn’t tried before and then headed to a show. In this case the restaurant was Basil Thai over on Folsom and the show was Pride Rock just across the street at the Oasis. I’d never been to the Oasis before and its a pretty cool venue that is much larger on the inside than it looks from outside. We were there to see PEPPERSPRAY who are described as “beloved SF drag queen rock n’ roll superband” on the Oasis website. They were fantastic and aside from dodging a crazy dude with poor personal space awareness who was dancing in the front row the evening was a smashing success.

The next three days were about mundane chores, generally chilling and catching up on reading and watching things. I finished reading Eight Skilled Gentlemen and started The Three-Body Problem I watched Let’s Be Cops, which is a juvenile but generally amusing comedy that comes across as a discarded Coach and Nick subplot from New Girl. I also blew through the new season of Orange Is the New Black, which continues to be just about perfect.

Hugo Novels Shirt

My clever husband has put up this sweet design on Teespring, available until June 30th;

hugoshirt

The famous Hugo Award rocket, filled with the name of each Best Novel winner since the first awards were given. An elegant window into the history of our genre, in T-shirt form!

Shirts available in men and women’s cuts: be sure to click the drop down menu if you want the latter.
“Worldcon”, “Hugo Award”, the Hugo Award Logo, and the distinctive design of the Hugo Award Trophy Rocket are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society. They are used by permission of Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention.

SubZERO Festival

These past two weeks my shifts have tended to run an hour or two longer than usual due to a coworker being on vacation and simultaneously I went up to four days a week. While this means some welcome extra money in the bank it also meant that come the weekend my lazier inclinations were kicking in and I was looking at doing nothing at all if I could help it. Luckily Joe Price pinged me on Thursday night about the SubZERO Festival in San Jose and I had no real excuses to say no.

On Saturday afternoon we drove down to our friend Radar’s house in San Jose and found street parking on the block. She’s well situated near downtown so we headed over on foot with her and her friend Matt. She recommended The Craftsman as our first stop for a couple of drinks and some food. Immediately upon entering I noticed the art on the that I recognized from the Clockwork Alchemy art gallery, specifically a George Méliès tribute by Steamy Tech.

I figured I’d be tempted by the plentiful food trucks so I  only ordered a plate of croquettes with my beers. I quickly realized I’d miscalculated a bit since my breakfast had been nearly eight hours earlier. Oops. Still the beers and food were great and we had a nice time chatting with the friendly and knowledgeable bartender. I also noticed a stack of board games on the counter, apparently Wednesdays is Game Night which they encourage by offering a free bottle of beer to anyone bringing their own board game or Magic deck. Pretty swell.

After The Craftsman we wandered into the sunshine to check out the actual festival. The vendors were all artists and craftspeople and along with Steamy Tech’s booth I also saw a couple of other familiar faces from Clockwork. There were dance performers, a fashion show, a stunning body painting booth, and activities for kids plus two stages for music, one at each end.  We caught the very end of a fun pirate band called O’Craven and although I looked fondly at the food trucks we decided it was time to turn around and head up a block to meet up with Bryan and Mette.

The joined us and we headed to The Ritz, which seemed disconcertingly tiny until we realized there was a whole other space with a stage and dancefloor. The front room had a bunch of local artists on display because of the festival, which I guess a bunch of venues participated in this way. We had some beers and generally nerded out for a bit. I even got a little dancing in which was nice, though it was early enough in the evening that it was mostly just me out there making a fool of myself as usual. Eventually Kevin and Andy joined us and we all headed over to our third venue for the evening; the Back Bar. This was a fun divey sort of place which had a punk rock band called Kittenhead which I enjoyed quite a bit.

This was the only negative of the evening, and a minor one at that. At one point I noticed a guy watching me a bit to intently. I was on alert but even so he managed to rather weirdly stroke my forearm and hand as I moved out of the way for him walk past. I kept an eye on him from then on and both myself and Mette checked in on a woman he seemed to be bothering a bit later, luckily she said she was fine and he wandered away from her not to long after. Eventually he walked by visibly weaving and I remembered that this is a problem with a known solution! I went to let the bouncer (a super chill dude I’d been chatting with earlier) know what the deal was. It always takes me way too long to remember that creeps are not a problem that club patrons need to handle themselves and that (good) venues are usually happy to be warned about potential trouble rather than having patrons leave due to discomfort. In any case the guy left on his own volition as I was talking to the bouncer so all’s well that ends well.

Able to relax now we watched show for a little while longer and chatted with a couple of the roller derby girls that composed the majority of the audience. By now Kevin, Andy, Radar, and Matt had all retired for the evening leaving myself and Joe Price plus Bryan and Mette. Although the band was good the audience was failing to match their energy levels and I was getting a bit restless so we popped over to The Caravan, which also had a pretty good band called Bad Acrobat playing, and then finally to Post street for a brief stop in at a bar whose name I’ve now forgotten but which had a couple of delicious late night food stands outside. I got chicken wings on the way in and a quesadilla on the way out and as we staggered off to find a cab I made a drunken Facetime call to John, who was barely awake. Joe got me back to the city and I was in bed by 5 a.m. or so, which felt pretty satisfying given that’s the time I set my first morning alarm on workdays.

 

Clockwork Alchemy 2015

Over Memorial Day weekend I attended Clockwork Alchemy, a steampunk convention put on by the good folks at Fanime. It is held at the venerable San Jose Doubletree, which has been the home base for many conventions over the years.

It’s smallish convention compared to its parent con but still a bustling, busy event, full of costumes and creativity. A lot of effort is put into the decor and atmosphere, with props like faux gaslamps serving as signage and panel rooms with furniture and other decor to lend a Victorian drawing room or library effect. I’ve seen other conventions, like Convolution, give this sort of thing a shot and would love to see it spread, although obviously cost is a factor for most cons.

Like a lot of steampunk cons the music track was extensive; Professor Elemental, Frenchy and the Punk, Unwoman, Lee Presson and the Nails, Good Company, Marquis of Vaudeville, Jody Ellen, and others. Each evening had its own musical event: Friday it was several bands and a musical play, Saturday had swing dancing to Good Company, Lee Presson and the Nails plus two DJs, and Sunday’s main act was Professor Elemental, though I unfortunately had to miss that because of working early on Monday morning. A nice touch was the use of the hotel nightclub space for dance classes and things like a really great Saturday afternoon jam session which featured a wide range of the attending musicians.

There was a movie room with a combo of classics like Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and more modern fare like an anime version of War of the Worlds and a truly terrible Sherlock Holmes film starring Gareth David-Lloyd. There were panels as well, though the focus seems to be on single person talks. On impulse I went to a trivia panel on Sunday and managed to take first place, winning copies of The Adventures of Drake and McTrowell: London, Where It All Began and Machina Mortis: Steampunk’d Tales of Terror as well as a bag of chocolate, which was a nice egoboo.

The Artist’s Bazaar had many wonderful vendor but while I do like the emphasis on showcasing artisans who primarily make their own goods I feel it would benefit from a few exceptions like at least one proper bookseller. There were authors selling their books down near the panel rooms, but for obvious reasons that meant very limited books on sale and of course zero DVDs or games, and only the music of the performers in attendance. The Artist Gallery is set up like a museum rather than an art show/gallery in the sense that no sales are permitted, not entirely sure what I think of that. There were some paintings by one artist that I rather liked but their card had the wrong URL and the convention doesn’t seem to publish a list of exhibiting artists, which is something I really wish all conventions would do as a matter of course.

Something that I hadn’t seen before at CA or at any other convention was volunteers making an effort to spread the word about what was going on in a panel room. The jam session had a volunteer at the door who knew who all the musicians inside were and told me what was going on when I walked up to read the schedule posted by the door. Likewise I ended up at the trivia panel mainly because one of the panelists/judges stepped out into the hall before it started and asked people walking past if they were interested in coming in for the trivia game. While I don’t think every panel at every convention necessarily needs barkers pulling in the crowds, I found it intriguing.

As in previous years I enjoyed myself, aided partly by the fact that my badge allowed me to hop on the free shuttle over to Fanime and check that out for a few hours for free. I went over on Friday and wandered the massive Artist Alley, admired the crazy variety of amazing costumes, and was impressed by the Fanime volunteers roaming the halls with tall signs offering Information and Answers. When I reached sensory overload I left the convention center and hit up Safeway for snacks to keep my food budget under control. On the way there I found a thrift store and spent ten bucks some costume bits for the evening that came together quite nicely and helped me feel more like a proper participant instead of a spectator.

But really I felt the lack of real social spaces. Worldcon style fandom puts a pretty big emphasis on the social aspect; party rooms, fanzine lounges, the consuite, and so on are all aimed at creating places for strangers to meet and interact. Without getting into how well or not that works for everybody, it is noticeable to me when I’m at a convention that lacks these. Clockwork had a tea room, but there was always a line and it closed at 5pm. The ballroom would be the obvious place in the evenings but the focus there was definitely the performances and dancing, there was no real mingling room or bar area for chatting. The actual hotel bar was the closest thing, and the small huddle of comfy chairs nearby, but space was limited and often packed with hotel guests. I wished that Convolution had managed to throw another party like last year, but see no sign on a party scene developing.

All in all it was a nice weekend spent enjoying wonderful costumes, seeing friends, and enjoying the invigorating energy of being inside of a thriving convention scene.

 

SLO and Santa Monica

The morning after the wedding we slept in and then had a nice buffet breakfast at the Hyatt before packing our bags to head south. John’s parents picked us up and after dropping his brother George at SFO we hit the road towards San Luis Obispo and our ultimate destination; the famous (infamous?) Madonna Inn.

Now I remember hearing about this place back in 1996 when I attended LACon III with my friend Laurie. I have a memory of driving through the central valley in the pitch black middle of the night and her waving vaguely at the darkness to the side of the road as she described this unlikely sounding hotel. Obviously I’ve heard a bit more about it since then but it always has had mythical proportions in my mind, associated as it was with my early memories of fandom and being in the States. In any case I was pretty excited about finally seeing it for real, but also a little worried it’d be a letdown. Happily it was anything but! The place is ridiculously over the top in all the right ways, no irony or hipness here, just glorious pink everything and a very mid-century California sensibility. But all of it well made and with a lot of thought and care put into the construction and design. The pool area in particular is a wonderful throwback that makes you feel like you’re on your way to a party at Jayne Mansfield’s pad.

John’s parents were kind enough to book us into the Yahoo room, which was cattle ranch themed and decorated with pictures of the Madonna family. The bed was made from a wagon and the ceiling painted blue with sparkles to look like the night sky, there were dozens of other great little details as well but the standout was the waterfall shower. We ate in town at a really good BBQ place called Firestone on the first night and on the second me tried the Madonna Inn Steakhouse, whose menu was thematically old-school; meat and vegetables and big fluffy cake for dessert, but equally well done. The restaurant decor was if anything more insane than the rest of the place, like dining in Liberace’s bedroom.

It was a relaxing couple of days, spent mainly in the pool or hot tub with a morning off exploring Morro Bay, home of a big rock, a small skateboard museum, and a deep sea rescue vehicle. On the third day we set off south again to spend the rest of the week in LA. John’s parents got an AirBnB in Hollywood while he and I stayed at my sister’s place in Santa Monica.

On the Monday we had to head to downtown LA to get my purse from John’s parent’s (I left it in the car as we carted our luggage up, oops) but Ashley took the opportunity to show us some landmarks. First we visited the old Hollywood grandeur of the Biltmore, and then we headed over to The Standard which is a modern place done up in an amazing seventies style. Unfortunately the famous rooftop pool at the latter was closed for repairs, but it was still pretty cool. After parting ways with his parents the rest of us stopped for some amazing tacos at a place called B.S. Taqueria. So damned good.

Tuesday we went to Disneyland with my sister’s boyfriend Andres. Neither John nor I had never been before so it was all new to us. I intensely disliked Space Mountain (well, I enjoyed the lead up) because the ride takes place mainly in the dark and was just stressful, but enjoyed the rest of the rides. My love of crazy old weird stuff meant I was fascinated by the weird time-capsule that is the Tiki Room, wished there was more original Tomorrowland stuff to see, and enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion quite a lot. Star Tours and the Indiana Jones rides were both good as too, and as a Tarzan fan I liked the tree house even though I know it’s just the retrofitted Swiss Family Robinson attraction. I was surprised that the park felt smaller than I expected, though maybe that was partly because we didn’t really want to dine there or do much shopping aside from t-shirts.

Wednesday we explored Venice Beach with John’s parents, starting in Santa Monica. We stumbled across the carousel, which I never knew was there and has a great retro soda fountain and ice cream counter called Soda Jerk USA. We got drinks and then stopped at the original Hot Dog on a Stick for a corndog before walking along the beachfront to Venice. I insisted on making everyone gawk at the Bordello Alexandra and then we got pupusas and chips for lunch and watched the skateboarders do their thing for a little before heading back to meet Ashley for a cocktail at The Bungalow. That evening was the central event of the visit; a dinner with John’s parent’s and all my local siblings. We ate at an upscale Mexican restaurant which was nice but unfortunately sat us far too near to the live music despite there being plenty of other available tables. Still, the drinks were plentiful, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and the desserts were tasty, so the evening accomplished its goal nicely.

Finally Thursday rolled up, John’s last full day here. John’s parents picked up up and we heading up to the Getty. Now I love the building and grounds of the Getty, but unfortunately our visit coincided with the only day of rain in the year so far, so of course most of the beauty of the place was lost to us and the flaws in the signage and layout of the museum were more evident than I remember from my first visit when I was distracted by the scenic views and splendid gardens. Still, we saw a decent photography exhibit that included Chris McCaw (who it turns out is the brother of Fanboy Planet’s Derek McCaw) and a wonderful Turner one that included unfinished works and watercolors. When we had our fill, John’s parents dropped us off at Ashley’s and we cuddled, moped, and watched Community until we got hungry. Dinner was at a slightly pricey but delicious burger place called Pono. We forgot an umbrella and got rained going and coming back but it was worth it for the milkshakes alone. Back at Ashley’s we polished off a bottle of champagne to cap the evening off.

Then Friday dawned and it was time to say goodbye. We had breakfast with Andres before he went off to work, John wrote some postcards on the balcony, and we idled away out last couple of hours together before his parents whisked him off to the airport. I moped about till Ashley got home and cheered me up with some wine, ice cream, and Netflix.

Saturday was my  own last day in Santa Monica and after an abortive attempt to go see Mad Max: Fury Road (it was sold out) I spent the morning reading and relaxing until Ashley got home. We had planned to go out for drinks but found ourselves entirely unmotivated so we repeated the previous evening’s formula to great success. Pistachio ice cream is the best y’all.

Then Sunday morning rolled around and it was time for me to go home, or back to San Francisco anyway.

And that’s the honeymoon (or the proto-honeymoon, I think we’ll do something more coupl-y and romantic later on). Now we wait until its time to file paperwork and get me to the UK!

After the Wedding

(Catching up on the last few weeks here, gotta make an effort to post in a more timely manner.)

After the ceremony at City Hall we headed as a group to my local  diner (alsoJohn’s favorite purveyor of American-style breakfast) the good ol’ Tennessee Grill. Once done with breakfast John and I took a couple of hours to relax and chill out before heading over to the evening’s festivities over at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero where Leigh Ann was generously hosting a celebration/reception/minicon for us.

At the Hyatt we found Leigh Ann and she gave us our room key to go settle in. I changed into something more retrofuturistic (or at least silver) and John happily had his hair coiffed by Mette.  Done with that and fortified by a glass of champagne each, we headed down to the Eclipse Lounge to party once again in the shadow of the Wicker Death Star.

The event was perfect;  from the convention style badges and enthusiastic ribbon trading by all involved to the amazing cake made by Linda and accompanying space-suited cake toppers crafted by Bryan and Mette. Almost everyone I wanted to see there made it and it was a little surreal to see people from the different parts of my life meeting.

Richard Man generously gifted us with some professional portraits, which came out beautifully. The camera he used was pretty awesome all on its own. John’s parents have met some fans before but I think this was their first time in the thick of it so to speak, they seemed to enjoy themselves all the same. Likewise my roommate Palle’s parents came along and I greatly enjoyed seeing them mingle and meet Mette in particular. My best friend from my teens even made it, having recently moved up to the Bay Area. All in all it was a great group and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Married

John flew out on May 2nd with his parents and brother and then on May 7th we got married at San Francisco City Hall.

It all went exactly as planned, pretty much. In the days before the wedding we got to spend some time hanging out together as well as with his family with whom we kicked around the East Bay for a bit and then attended a Hubba Hubba Revue show with. The next couple of days we caught up with friends in the South Bay. Then on the eve of the ceremony John headed over to Oakland to spend the night with his family. I went back and forth on whether that idea was sweet or a bit silly under the circumstances, but it was perfect really. It meant we could each fuss our way through the morning and preserve the surprise.

John and his friend Andrew arrived at City Hall a little before I did and so I was waiting to go through security when I heard him say my name and looked up to see him looking handsome and happy in his snazzy new suit. It was a wonderful moment and a highlight of the day.

From there things moved speedily along. We met up with his parents and brother, then with Mette and Joe Price, who served as our witnesses. Five minutes before our appointment time we met the judge, who was wonderful. She was warm and friendly, and exactly what I would have wanted if I had known what to ask for. Part of the building was roped off for some photo shoot including the rotunda stairs, making me worried we’d end up in a court room, but in the end it worked out and the ceremony took place exactly where I had hoped. The judge encouraged us to take the opportunity to get more photos in the beautiful building and we did just that.

Finally we headed out to get some classic American diner breakfast at the Tennessee Grill after which John and I took some time to catch our breath before the evening’s festivities. On which more later.

FogCon

This Saturday was my birthday, which I didn’t have to plan anything for specifically because it also happened to be the weekend of FogCon, a small literary convention in Walnut Creek.

Although I was a bit sad when the convention moved out of San Francisco after its first year, I really like the Walnut Creek Marriott and it seems to suit the size and shape of the convention quite nicely, the excellent bar staff also helps. As much as I like more rollicking conventions with night-time events and party floors it is also nice to attend something a bit more intimate now and then. FogCon is similar to Potlatch in this way and has solid programming plus a fair bit of socializing in the consuite and bar.

The theme this year was The Traveler and the GOHs where Cat Valente and Kim Stanley Robinson, both of whom give excellent panels. JP was kind enough to offer me a ride there and back, meaning that despite not getting a room there was no need to rush off to catch the last BART train, so Friday we stayed till about eleven or so and Saturday till around two thirty not counting the DST shift. I saw old friends and met some new folks, attended a half dozen panels, got some nice baubles from Fly By Night Books & Gifts, and ended up with a ton of books, so I definitely count it as a successful weekend even though I skipped the Sunday to prepare for the work-heavy coming week.

 

GarciaGate, Gally, Pie

The past month has been busy. Luckily I landed a temp assignment and then a part time job at a nearby cafe, which meant being able to relax a bit and even attend my current favorite convention; Gallifrey One.

But before Gally there was a big event for Bay Area fandom; GarciaGate, the wedding of Chris Garcia and Vanessa Applegate. I worked early that morning at the Moscone Center, but  JP was kind enough to offer me a ride. This meant we had a couple of hours to kill so we got breakfast at Heidi’s Pies in San Mateo and pick up some pies for the potluck.  As often happens at these sorts of events it felt a bit like a small convention, with lots of my favorite folks in attendance. It was also pretty cool that it took place at the Computer History Museum.

As for Gally, the convention had sold out quickly but my roommate Palle had kindly picked me up a membership in hopes I’d be in the area and able to attend. If all goes well next year I plan to join the Brit crowd and fly out with John.

I missed the last couple of years so it was really nice to be back and as usual it was a great convention, despite some annoyances before the start. Both the Barrowman and the Gorman/Myles panels were hilarious, there was a very amusing improv troupe called Doctor Who Live who did a Friday night show, and of course there was the always great  themed party which was Orient Express themed this year. The costumes and conversations were all  wonderful and I even got a chance to record a little with Jade for the podcast. I can’t wait until next year.

Now that I’m recovered from that it’s time to look forward to FogCon, which also happens to fall on my birthday weekend. It’s a smaller literary convention in the tradition of WisCon and I’ve enjoyed it the years I have been. I probably won’t stay over but it’s easily BARTable so that’s not a huge deal. Kim Stanley Robinson and Cat Valente are the GOHs.

After that there is Hubba Hubba Space Station 1966 and then a Doctor Who themed art show in the Mission. March is good month for Bay Area nerdom.