Nerdiness Afoot in YEG

Ahoy, nerdlings!  Winter seems to have passed us by and it is time to shake off our hibernation and get out into the world.  Conveniently, your fellow geeks are running events  firmly in your wheelhouse.  So give yourself a shake, put on your best pop-culture t-shirt, and hit up one of these upcoming events:

50,000 tweets, a fundraiser, and a (fake) birthday celebration

No one can deny Brittney Le Blanc’s status as YEG geek royalty (minor royalty, like a duchess or something. Don’t get cocky, Brit!).  Her work with YEG Girl Geek, coupled with her tireless promotion of all things Edmonton have certainly earned that for her.  And she is generous to a fault.  So generous, she has turned the celebration of her new column and her (fake) birthday into a fundraiser for the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation.  Join her and a gajillion of your fellow nerds at  Brittany’s Lounge (10225 – 97 Street) on Friday, March 30 for cake, drinks and merry-making!  And as an added bonus, for just $2 you can enter the raffle for Brittney’s 50,000th Tweet!  That’s right, for one brief 140-character moment, this member of geek royalty could be your mouthpiece.  So come on out and celebrate for a great cause!  Click on the heading for more details and to register.

Brass and Brew IV

Join the Edmonton Steampunk crew for another merry event on Saturday April 7, starting at 5pm.  Put on your steampunk finest (or don’t, no one will judge) and enjoy some fine company and libations.  This is an all-ages event, though minors do need to leave before 9pm.  This event occurs inside City Center Mall in the Elephant and Castle restaurant and pub located on the third floor of the mall, next to the Cineplex movie theatre.  So fire up the steam velocipede and head on down!

Robert J. Sawyer TRIGGERS Launch in Edmonton

Join Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Robert J. Sawyer as he launches his 21st novel TRIGGERS.  The reading takes place at Audrey’s (10702 Jasper Avenue) on Wednesday, April 11 at 7:30pm, and there will be signings afterwards.

A thriller’s pacing and a chilling near-future world. Sawyer delivers here.” — Booklist
A turbo-charged techno-thriller. A combination of classic and contemporary science fiction.” — Publishers Weekly
A tense, race-against-the-clock adventure with a surprise ending.” — Library Journal

Avengers Movie Marathon

With all the upcoming events such as the Calgary Expo (April 27th to April 29th), The Avengers Movie (May 4th) and Free Comic Book Day (May 5th), what better way to kick it off than an Avengers Movie Marathon at Happy Harbor (10729 104 Ave).  Spend all day Sunday, April 15th watching all the movies that will lead up to what we all have been waiting for since 2008.  Starting at 10am, here is the chronological movie schedule:

Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Thor
Captain America: The First Avenger

So pack some snacks, bring the family and spend the day reliving the stories of the Avengers and anticipating the movie that will bring them all together!  Admission is a donation to the Edmonton Food Bank. That’s all. Please make sure to support the cause while you enjoy your day!

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That’s all for now!  Get on out there and get your geek on!  And as always, if you have a nerd event and you want to get the word out, drop me a line here.

Public Displays of Nerdery (and where to find them)

There is nerdery afoot and aflight in the city of Edmonton!  And you need to get out there and take part, lest your nerd cred atrophy over these long winter months.  To forestall any nerd-cred shrinkage, why not take in some of these fine events:

An Epic Valentine’s Day of Epic Epicness

Join the Graphic Content folks, along with Comics! The Blog as they host a special Valentine’s Day screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, tonight at the Metro Cinema.  Starting at 9:00pm, there will be drinks provided by Metro’s official supplier Alley Kat Brewing CompanyAnd, you can have your drink – in a fancy red party cup, just like in the movie! – inside the theatre itself!  Screening starts at 9:30pm.  Tickets are $10 adults, $8 students/senoirs, and Metro Passes will be accepted. The film is 112 minutes long, rated PG, and we’ll be showing it in glorious 35mm.

Chapters Mini-Comicon — Author Appearances

Saturday, February 18 at 11am, join Edmonton literary and comic celebs Andrew Foley (Done to Death, Cowboys & Aliens), Dave Gross (Pathfinder, Forgotten Realms), and Robert Burke Richardson (Old School, The Matriarch) for readings, signings and a Q&A.  Where else are you going to talk to these three together in one place, outside of a fancy-schmancy convention? Well, at the 170st Chapters, in this case.  But besides that, nowhere!  You would be the most foolish of fools to miss out on this opportunity, so make your way there this Saturday!

GEEKS UNITE! “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”

Friday February 24th at 11pm at the Metro Cinema!  At Last! Another film completely different from some of the other films which aren’t quite the same as this one is. King Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his knights Sir Galahad the Pure (Michael Palin) , Sir Lancelot the Brave (John Cleese), the quiet Sir Bedevere (Terry Jones), and Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir Lancelot (Eric Idle) embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many very silly obstacles. Classic 35mm film comedy on the big screen…costumes & coconuts encouraged! Join the Knights Who Say Ni!, Tim the Enchanter, Roger the Shrubber, the Black Knight, the oppressed Dennis, Prince Herbert & his father the King of Swamp Castle & many more!

Happy Harbor’s Movie Nite! U-Decide!

Happy Harbor is having a movie night, Saturday, February 25th, and you get to pick the movie!  Choose between TUCKER & DALE vs EVIL or VAMPIRE GIRL vs FRANKENSTEIN GIRL; you can cast your vote on the Facebook event page (follow the heading link)  Whichever gets the most votes is what you will watch.  HH now has a snack bar (chips & chocolate bars) with coffee to go along with our pop so all you need is a donation to the Edmonton Food Bank and it’s extra crazy, geeky movie action time.  And if you haven’t seen the new HH theater in action, it’s pretty awesome!  Movie starts at 7pm, so cast your vote and don’t be late!

Okay nerds!  There are four events to get your nerd juices (ew!) flowing!  As always, if you know of any nerdly events going on in Edmonton drop a link in the comments below and I’ll post them on the blog.  Now get out there and have fun!

Nerd Events Update

Even though people are busy with the holidays, there are still plenty of nerd events on tap.  Here are the ones I know about:

Game Day for Cthulhu

Come and join your fellow gamers at Happy Harbor Comics (10729 104 Ave) for an afternoon of gaming on Sunday, December 11th.  The games will run from 12 until 5pm at the latest.  It’s your chance to meet some new people, try some new games, and have an awesome time.  The featured game will be Call of Cthulhu: the Mansion of Madness.  If people would like to bring their own games, such as card games, board games, or other RPG’s for people to try out, please feel free to do so!

Graphic Content Presents: Akira

This month, Graphic Content has decided to counter-program against the torrent of feel-good holiday flicks and Oscar bait that are about to inundate the theatres of our fair city. Instead, we will be digging deep into nerd history and showing 1988′s Akira, the hyper-violent realization of Katsushiro Otomo’s epic manga of the same name, and the film that basically put anime on the map in North America.  Tuesday, December 20th at 9:15 PM at Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre. The movie is rated 18A and runs for 124 minutes. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students/seniors. Metro Passes will be accepted. Box Office opens at 8:15, come early to check out the comics chosen to go along with the movie.

Underworld Kalidor presents: A New Years Eve Masquerade

Underworld Kalidor will be hosting a New Years Party like no other. We have rented the beautiful Wilton Park community hall outside of Calmar, AB. There will be feasting and dancing. We will also be presenting the Underworld Kalidor LARP awards. This is a great opportunity to show your family and friends what Underworld is all about. Although this event is out of game, please come dressed for a Kalidor Masquerade (medieval/ fantasy attire suitable for a ball). We will have some loaner costumes available. Doors open at 5pm, and tickets are $30 and cover the Feast, the Venue and the Entertainment. We will have a cash bar with $2 drinks. Please do not bring outside food or alcohol. We will also have a DJ and plan to party all night. There is sleeping space available if you bring an air matress, pillow and blanket.

Indiana Jones Triple Feature

Cue the music…It’s the New Year’s Day Indiana Jones Triple Feature at The Garneau! Come for your favourite film, stay for a double feature or hang out for all three! Start 2012 with one of the best action/adventure film series ever made (Winner of six Oscars between them all).  Admission: Adult: 1 film: $8, 2 films: $14, 3 films: $18; Student/Senior/Friends of Metro: 1 film: $6, 2 films: $12, 3 films: $16.  Metro passes accepted

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Have anything geeky going on between now and the New Year?  Drop me a line and I’ll spread the word!

Monday will mark my 100th post here on Renaissance Dork, and I’m celebrating with something special.  I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I can say that there are prizes involved for the clever among you.  And because I’m a nice guy, prizes for the not-so-clever as well.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Random Acts of Publicity: LitFest

For the final instalment in Random Acts of Publicity Week, instead of talking about a single book by someone I know, I’m going to talk about a single book festival by someone I know.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you LitFest, produced by my pal David Cheoros.

As described on the website:

“Litfest is a festival, not a conference. We don’t just sit around and read books (although we do that too). At LitFest, nonfiction content comes to life. Avid readers with nonfiction content and creators through a series of events chic gatherings and gourmet experiences.

LitFest is an exclusive event. LitFest is the only nonfiction festival in Canada. It brings together some of the best-selling, award-winning and emerging authors of books, magazine and film content. It also supports Edmonton as a local incubator for nonfiction literary talent.”

Begun in 2002 as the successor to the Alberta Book Fair, LitFest provides 10-days of non-fiction literary programming.  The festival presents a wide range of readings and events focused on some of the most interesting non-fiction writing to be had today.  Examples: Irshad Manji discussing the content of her books The Trouble with Islam Today and Allah, Liberty and Love; Will Ferguson reading from Canadian Pie; A Taste of Scots, featuring a reading from How the Scots Invented Canada by author Ken McGoogan, followed by a reception toasting Scotland (yes, including whiskey).  And this is just a fraction of the events running over the ten days; the schedule has to be seen to be believed.

One of the things I love about this festival is that it is not set in a single location in the city.  Events for LitFest run at locations in St. Albert and Spruce Grove, as well as various locations around Edmonton: the Stanley Milner library, Garneau Theatre, Haven Social Club and The ARTery, just to name a few.  This was a great choice by LitFest, because it gives the festival a very inclusive community feel, as well as opening up what would otherwise be and Edmonton festival to our surrounding communities.

You can buy a Festival Pass, or pick up tickets for individual readings and events.  You can even grab a Gold Pass that will get you into the festival and the special events, like the Charles Taylor Prize Gala, A Brunch of Writers and Genu-Wine.  Tickets and passes can be picked up in advance through Tix on the Square.

If you love reading non-fiction, and want to expose yourself to some of the best in NF literature, LitFest is the place you need to be.  Check out the LitFest website for details like event times and locations, and make sure to take in an event or two or ten, during the October 12-23 run.  You will likely see me there.

Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Below.

Animethon Wrap-up!

If you swung by the site Sunday looking for an Animethon Day 2 post, my apologies.  Due to a combination of illness and staying up Saturday night gaming until 2am, I not only didn’t get back to Animethon on Sunday, but I pretty much spent the day sleeping/dozing on the couch.  So today, which was going to be the Day 3 post, is instead a combination Day 2 and con wrap-up.

So, Saturday at Animethon!  I got to the con a little before 8:30am.  A clever reading of the Animethon Program Book told me the Tim Horton’s in the Cafeteria would be open, and I bee-lined there as soon as I passed through the doors.  As I am enviro-friendly and a coffee-hog, I brought my ginormous TH travel mug with me and cackled with glee as the TH hostess filled it.  Coffee and breakfast biscuit sandwich in hand, I made my way to the first viewing of the day.

Which was Evangelian 2.22.  Underwhelmed by part one I wanted to give it one more chance.  And overall I was glad I did.  The characters seem to have more direction, especially the main character piloting Eva-1.  Still plenty of whining, mind you, but at least the events of part two justified his whining.  I am still “meh” as far as Evangelian itself goes, and I don’t know that I will follow it up on my own time, but it was an enjoyably relaxing start to the day.

Starting the day relaxed was a good choice as it turns out, because my next stop was the Dealer’s Room.  Situated in a level of the parkade at the West end of the con, the Animethon dealer’s area is consistently loud, crowded and dimly lit.  I’m not certain why it continues to be placed there, when there are better areas to locate it (in the new university buildings for instance).  Poor location or not, anime-niacs flock to the dealer’s tables looking for deals on manga, anime and other fan products.  Not a huge fan of crowds, and knowing that I wasn’t in the market for anything (unemployment saves me from overspending yet again!) I planned to make a cursory round of the hall just to see if anything stood out.

While making my rounds I ran into my good pal Melissa, head creator/proprietor of Attic Raiders.  A fixture at many conventions, Melissa is the go-to person for steampunk accessories and creations.  She is always a joy to talk with; funny, kind and a huge nerd her own self.  I spent almost an hour catching up with her and generally shooting the breeze.  Then she was needed back at her table, so I moved on.

Not much more to say about the Dealer’s Room.  Some general advice, which will stand you in good stead in any con’s dealer area: buy the thing you really MUST HAVE right away, because chances are good other people MUST also HAVE it.  Anything else?  Wait until Sunday if you can.  Many dealers will give deals then because they would rather sell at a lower price than haul the material back. And if they don’t give a deal, then you haven’t missed out on anything and you can buy it like you planned.  Also, if you can afford it try to leave yourself a 10-20% money buffer for the assorted “Cool Things You Just Discovered You Can’t Live Without”.  You will always find them, so why not plan for them?

Leaving the hustle and bustle of the hot, dank Dealer’s Room (did I mention a parkade is a really bad place for this?) I made my way back to the Cafeteria for some lunch before my next viewing.  And promptly ran into my buddy Andy, playing Go.  I have to say that running into friends that I don’t normally get to hang out with is well up there on the list of reasons I love attending cons.  Andy is a member of my Thursday night Pathfinder game but we don’t see each other much outside that. So I chatted with him for a bit while he finished his game and then he joined me for lunch.  Turns out he was there as his daughter’s driver/dogsbody for the day, as she and her friends took in some Animethon goodness.  It was a good time, and we got to chat for a while about things besides Pathfinder and anime…even though the conversation did come back to those eventually.

Parting ways with Andy and refilling my coffee, I made my way to my next viewing.  A Channel turned out to be a delightful coming-of-age story, following four friends in their day-to-day schoolgirl lives.  It reminded me a great deal of another anime, Azumanga Daioh, though not as surreal or absurd in style.  But it was funny and cute, and while it isn’t a priority for me I will likely pick-up the series at some point.  One thing I will note: if you watch enough anime you will notice some characters popping up that have…strange fetishes.  In the case of A Channel, this character was one of the male teachers that had a – wait for it – forehead fetish.  I was sure I was missing some obscure joke or point in the episode where it first appeared.  But no, he got all weak in the knees over bare foreheads.  Yeah.  I have no idea either.

I grabbed yet another coffee because I was feeling run down (little did I know the illness lurking), and headed over to my last event of the day.  Not a viewing this time, oh no.  Something I had looked forward to since I saw it on the schedule Friday: a talk on Life & Travel in Japan!  I have long had it in my head to travel to Japan, so this seemed the perfect chance to get some insight from someone who had not only travelled and worked there extensively, but could also talk about Japan post-earthquake (she had just returned from 3-months there).

Catriona Michaluk gave a great presentation on the various ways to travel in Japan (vacation, working holidays, couch surfing; yes, couch surfing), what to look out for with regards to accommodations, food, banking, travel inside the country and customs to be aware of.  She spoke enthusiastically about living and working there, the friendliness of the people, and you could really tell how much she loved the country.  Here are three little tidbits of information from the presentation:

  • Getting accommodations in Tokyo during Golden Week (in May) and around New Years is virtually impossible.  If you haven’t pre-booked your best bet will be a manga cafe. $10 will get you a pallet behind a curtain…and not much else.
  • Japan is a cash economy.  Almost no business takes foreign credit cards and few even take debit (especially foreign debit).  Her advice: got to a Japan Post Office ATM and take out the money you need each day to avoid any issues.
  • My favorite: Japan has drinking buffets!  For a flat fee ($7-$9) you can drink as much as you would like in a 2-3 hour period.  Pro tip: make sure to go with a party of your Japanese hosts, since these buffets are leery of serving foreigners.  I guess we drink too much which takes away their profit margin.

Catriona definitely fanned the embers of my Japan wanderlust, and I am seriously looking at ways I can make the trip happen in 2012.

And that was the end of my day.  I had gaming to attend in the evening so I left after that panel.  Of course at the time, my intention was to return for Sunday and get my Day 3 on!  The aforementioned illness/tiredness put paid to that plan, unfortunately, and so it was not meant to be.

But I definitely got the money’s worth out of my weekend pass.  Animethon is well attended and popular among the Japanese Culture fans here in Edmonton.  And if you are relatively new to the fandom like me,  there is no better place to jump in and learn.  With few exceptions everyone there is happy to answer questions you may have, and there is always something to watch, listen to or try out.  Would I recommend it?  Definitely.  Am I going back next year? You bet!

Some specific Animethon advice:

  • the only ATMs I found easily were the two in the Cafeteria on the main floor.  Hit them as soon as you arrive, because: a) Registration and Dealer’s Room are cash only, and b) long lines develop later in the day, leading to c) sometimes the ATMs run out of money on Sunday.
  • Hydrate, especially if you going into the Dealer’s Room.  The combination of thousands of attendees and decent AC mean that Animethon is warm and dry.  Drink water often, trust me.
  • If you are looking for viewings to take in, pick at least one title that you would normally leave on the shelf if you were buying an anime series.  This is a perfect chance to try new things, and worst case scenario? It sucks, you leave and hit another viewing.  Really, try something new.

That’s my Animethon wrap-up.  If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below.  And hey, if you were there and have some things I missed, comment on that as well.  Until tomorrow, gentles!

Weekend at Animethon: Day 1

Day One of Animethon complete!  As first days go this was a pretty good one; a few bobbles along the way but nothing that won’t be smoothed out (hopefully) for Days 2 and 3.

I got to the Registration line at about 9:35 this morning, and there was a fairly healthy line.  Not Gen Con or SDCC long, sizable nonetheless.  After determining there was no ATM by the Reg table (they only take cash), I walked back through two University buildings to the cafeteria area to use the ATM there (for those not in the know, Grant MacKewan University is a long building, with sections of the building numbered according to what city block they take up; including dorms, it stretches from 104 st to 112 st).  Cash in hand I returned to the line, already in progress.  Lucky for me the registration team was really on the ball, and they dealt with myself and the roughly 70 people in front of me in no time.  Shortly after 10am I had my wristband (ugh! I hate wristbands!) and my program, and set out to find Something To Do!

Since neither the Dealer’s Room nor the Artist Alley were running on the Friday, I decided that today was going to be my “viewing day”.  If you aren’t familiar with an anime convention, one of the key components is anime viewings.  They usually occur in 2-hour time slots, and feature either an anime film, or the first 3-5 episodes of an anime series.  These viewings are meant to give attendees the chance to sample anime they might not have seen before, or have heard of but not watched.  For a relative neophyte such as myself, they are a perfect way to find anime I might want to watch in full, without the risk of plunking down money on a series that later turns out to suck (I’m looking at you, Gantz!).

For instance, the first room I poked my head into was for a series called Gurren Lagaan, and it only took me ten minutes to realize it wasn’t for me.  I didn’t really catch the plot or story, but it had too much of a Dragonball Z vibe to it, which in no way appeals to me.  But no harm, no foul; I just left and found another viewing room.  My next choice was much more to my liking.  Nyan Koi was an amusing story about a boy who is allergic to cats.  After accidentally breaking a sacred statue, he is cursed by the God of Cats; he can now understand all cats, but he must now grant 100 wishes to cats or turn into a cat himself and die from his own allergy.  The two episodes I caught were hilarious, and it has definitely made it onto my “Must Purchase” list.

After a quick break for cheap sushi and cold water, I returned to the same viewing room to watch Evangelion 1.11, the first half of a 2-part movie/OVA.  I thought is was okay, but just okay.  The premise was interesting, and I can’t get enough of giant mecha, but the characters lacked complexity and didn’t seem to have any real motivation.  On the off chance it just starts slow, I am watching Evangelion 2.22 tomorrow morning.  If it is really just “meh”, then the good news is I don’t ever have to watch it again.

I took a longer break this time, just to jot down some notes for later (gee, you’d think I took this blogging thing seriously) and down a coffee. Or two.  Looking around the venue, which had filled up quite a bit since my arrival four hours previous, I noticed something: I was easily one of the oldest people at this con, by at least 20 years.  I’ll admit that shook me for a moment.  But only for a moment.  I reminded myself that there is no age limit on enjoying something you love, and I could get just as much joy out of this stuff as they could.

After my existential pep-talk, I hunted up my next viewing choice.  I was going to check out a dark bit of anime called Ergo Proxy, and this is where I encountered the first sour spot of the day.  I arrived at the room about five minutes before the screening was to start, and waited.  Aaaand waited.  For about 30 minutes.  In that time, despite obvious Moderator presence, no one told us what the wait was for.  But I stuck around because I wasn’t really in a rush.  Finally a young girl comes rushing in and with a flurry of apologies gets the DVD in the machine, and we’re off!

Except not really.  After turning out all the other lights in the room, she can’t figure out how to turn of the lights directly above the screen.  You know, the ones currently washing out the anime we are supposed to be watching.  After a few moments spent poking and prodding at her control console, she gives a shrug and a half-hearted “sorry”, she sits down and proceeds to work on a bit of sewing.  She then proceeds to rebuff offers from viewers to see if they can find the errant light switch. And when several people leave because we didn’t come to listen to anime, we came to watch it too, she heckles them.  So.  Someday I may find out if Ergo Proxy is any good, but today was not that day.

Lucky for me, starting right next door and shortly after the abortive Ergo Proxy viewing was another anime series, Rurouni Kenshin.  And this viewing had the right disc, started on time and wonder of wonders the Mod knew how to turn off the lights!  With this trifecta in place I settled in to watch the humorous tale of a mysterious sword-wielding wanderer, set in Japan’s Meiji-period (1868-1912).  I quite enjoyed the first four episodes, but I did not care for the voice work (we were watching it dubbed for some reason).  It goes on my list of purchases for sure, but I’ll be watching it with subtitles thank-you very much!

A Note on Sub vs. Dub:  I am not going to tell you that there is a right way (subtitles) or wrong way (voice dubbing) to watch your anime.  It really is up to the individual viewer to decide which you prefer more.  But I prefer watching my anime in Japanese with subtitles for a number of reasons. The Japanese voice actors give me a better sense of the character, the subtitles are often a better representation of what the characters are saying, and there is a lot of dubbing that, while acted well, is very poorly scripted in my opinion.  So watch anime how it pleases you; how it pleases me is subbed.

And with that, Animethon Day 1 was complete!  There were other things going on into the night, but nothing that caught my eye.  Most of it was costume related, and since I was not costumed it made little sense to stick around for it.  Besides, Saturday was going to come all too early the next morning so I chose to head home, rest and gird my girdy-parts for the next day.

And I may need that girding, because Saturday brings with it the Dealer’s Room, Artist’s Alley and panels!  I may even learn to speak a bit of Japanese…

Were you at Animethon today?  What did you like/dislike?  If not, are you in Edmonton and attending tomorrow? Comment below!