May 10th, 2014



WisCon 38, May 23-26, 2014 / SFRA Conference, May 22-24, 2014. Madison WI. Memorial Day weekend.

I'll be attending my third WisCon this year, after a nine year absence. WisCon is the world's first feminist science fiction con and features panels and discussions you just don't always see.

I am on three panels and a reading -- I'll update with a schedule Real Soon Now.

But in the WisCon eCube Vol. 38 No. 8 status report, there was a fun item:

4. The 1st 8 people on the list who are physically present at the WisCon (not the hotel's) registration desk at 8:30 AM on Saturday morning (for example, #s 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 11, and 12) will be the contestants.

5. Each contestant will get a USB flash drive which contains a single RTF (rich-text format) document. That document will contain a few lines of dialog. Your task is to load the document onto your computer, construct a story that incorporates the supplied dialog, save it back to the flash drive, also as an RTF document, and turn it in within 60 minutes. We'll take care of printing them out.
What fun! My first panel on Saturday is after noon, so I can spend an hour writing in the morning. I love these sorts of things. Some of you may remember that I was on the Iron Chef flash fiction panel at Chicon 7, the 2012 WorldCon. Came in second, behind an award nominated author. (wry-grin)

Anyway, I registered for the contest. Got #1. An omen? Perchance, perhaps.

Dr. Phil

Penguicon 12.4 -- The End

So after the 4pm panel, I took a seat next to the walkway to another tower. Fired up the Kindle and sent some emails. Saw a Facebook message from Al Bogdan saying he was at Penguicon. Alas, he hadn't kept up with my posts and didn't know I was coming. Too late now.

On the way out...

The Gaming Room was set up in the airy, bright lobby lounge. What a great idea. Almost made me wish I had time to find a game of Cards Against Humanity or something fun. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

One last, fond look at Penguicon -- or at least that Delorean. (grin) (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

And then into the sunshine and out on the open road. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

You can only be at one session at a time. And I wasn't doing the whole weekend this year. So I missed some things. Funny to think I was at a Linux/SF con and never made it to any Linux sessions, though I did get to a VR technology session and 1½ sessions on metallurgy.

One last comment. There were a couple of transgender and LGBTQ sessions, which alas conflicted with other things I wanted to see. But I felt like there was a welcoming atmosphere at Penguicon. I know, I know, don't judge books by covers and don't assume you know what others are experiencing. But at the two Penguicons I've been to, it's been a diverse crowd. Not just hackers and Linuxheads, not just the usual SF/F suspects -- there's a strong artistic bent, too, and a really wide range of people and dress and costumes. There was an older guy in a Tron suit -- lit up blue lines and everything. Older guy, someone's father, with a mustache. And another woman, who -- forgive me -- I swear was a cross-dressing man. What got me was that everyone was having a good time and no one cared.

Whether it's progress or not, I think it says something about 2014, the SF/F/Linux community and the unique annual madness that is Penguicon. Now if the 2015 con isn't during Grading Week...

Dr. Phil

Winter Is Coming

What with the septic tank pumping yesterday, Mrs. Dr. Phil took the day off. A dreary morning, it suddenly got sunny and nice late in the day. But Saturday promised to be pleasant, so we looked at movies in the area. Holland was out as this was the end of Tulip Time and traffic would be clogged. UICA was out because of the Riverbank Run, a top 25K and shorter run/walk, closed downtown Grand Rapids. So we checked out Celebration Woodland, the second run theatre to see what we missed. Almost did the 1:15pm Philomena, but settled instead on:

Frozen [PG]
Celebration Woodland Theatre #2 1:25pm 2x$5.00

I was a little worried that even this late a cheap Saturday afternoon showing might be flooded with kids devoted to the film. But I really wanted to see it because a whole lot of adults and parents fell under its spell, and the anthem "Let It Go" stole the airwaves and downloads and something like five weeks at #1 for the Soundtrack CD, which is unheard of today and hasn't been like this since Titanic -- mentioned this very morning on NPR.

We almost had a private showing. Theatre #2 is steep stadium seating, but only about four rows above and below the wide aisle suitable for wheelchairs and walkers. One family came in finally and sat a few rows behind us.

First, Disney takes a page from Pixar and we get a short. Mickey Mouse -- old time Mickey Mouse on film in a tiny frame on the big screen. A classic silly tale, "Get A Horse", except... Somewhere along the line it derails. And the silliness breaks the fourth wall into our world and we get an impressive mix of old time flat black ink on white paper with modern 3D color animation. Both the beginning and the middle were unexpected, the finale satisfying. Get A Horse, indeed! Well played, Mouse.

So... is there anybody who hasn't seen Frozen? Well, apparently us until this afternoon. My grader this last semester has several daughters and was sure they'd only seen the movie and DVD about 78 times -- and he thinks to call himself a good dad. Hmph! Still, it's May and it opened in the U.S. 164 days ago, back on 27 November 2013, so I'm going to relax a bit on my spoilers rule.

This is my favorite Disney movie of all time. And a very surreal experience, as I am reading A Song of Ice and Fire right now. A couple of years ago I stayed overnight in Kalamazoo to make it to an 8am final exam after an expected heavy night of snow. After checking into a Super 8, I went over to the nearby Kalamazoo 10 to see Tangled -- which I very much enjoyed, especially the visuals -- the physics of her hair is practically a character in itself. So it seemed to me that the icecutter and the horse/reindeer were pulled from Tangled by Central Casting to make Frozen, and I worried about Olaf, the snowman, who reminded me too much in the trailers of the robot sidekicks in the impressively dreadful Disney The Black Hole. So it wasn't a lock before I started on Frozen.

They had me at fractal.***

Honestly, a Disney princess(es) movie with the word fractal in a song? About ice and snow and hexagonal symmetry? And that was after they DIDN'T make Elsa, the Snow Queen, a twisted evil monster. Wow. And the ice castle? Watching it build upon itself, the perfect floors, the staircases, the doors. Of course only I would worry about what she's going to eat in her icy retreat, but it's a take on a fairy tale -- didn't throw me out of the story.

I felt for both young women. I am a klutz like Anna. I am a loner like Elsa. Watching the girls grow up is heartbreaking. They dealt with magic as if it were a curse, and that screwed up everything until the end and the magic is a blessing. Watching Anna's hair would be a spectator sport, except we worry, as we know where it's going. At the same time, there is plenty of amusement and diversion for the very young.

The cold never bothered me anyway...

And romance. I've seen panel after panel about Disney princesses at SF/F cons. Cultural abrogation, Disneyfied stories, feminism fail -- all this has gone on for years. The twist ending is multilayered. Two boyfriends? One for each princess? Or princess and queen? No. We aren't going the way of a menage de trois, and not just because we have a Disney movie. Anna has to choose. And she chooses love. And it is true. You might get hints early on -- I told Mrs. Dr. Phil that the Prince had to be a rat when we first met him. But if he is unmasked, it sure doesn't happen for a long time. Doubt in both directions form. I keep thinking of Katniss and her two young men -- how does she choose? Does she get to choose? He has twelve older brothers? Does the 13th son have bad luck? Or taint of evil?

Perhaps there is an object lesson for young girls about fairy tale romance that won't be lost amidst the mighty Disney marketing machine.

As for the visuals, I'm now sorry I didn't see it in 3D. Good news, is that Disney will trot it out in theatres again. We know this to be true.

The Wikipedia article on how Frozen got made is fascinating. Disney has been trying to do The Snow Queen since 1943. After seventy years, they got it right. You need an evil queen? Malificent comes out this summer. This is not that movie -- and for once we are the better for it.

Most Highest Recommendation

Trailers: Something about a mothers' night out, a comedy of errors, of course. Looks good, if that's your cup of tea, which it isn't for us. Million Dollar Arm is Show Me The Money for Bull Durham meets the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. We do want to see that. Pixar showed up with the next Cars/Planes franchise entry -- Planes: Fire and Rescue is about fire jumpers. The animation is gorgeous and frankly this looks like a much more interesting story than Planes, though we aren't likely to see it. How To Train Your Dragon showed up on cable over Christmas the other year and was utterly charming. ... 2 looks like they spent the time and money to capture the fire again. Also a trailer for Rio 2, another animated feature that's already playing and will probably hit the Woodland Real Soon Now, but we don't need to see because we've seen the trailer. And then there's Annie. Sigh. I am sure that some will object to a black girl as Annie, because, well... black. I have no problem with that. Hell, I sometimes think I'm the only white guy who likes The Wiz. Anyways, the new Annie is as cute as a button and though they have pupils and an iris, she has great eyes. Jamie Foxx in the Daddy Warbucks part makes sense. But Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan? I cannot see this. And in the trailer seeing her do her little shimmy dance while singing to a wooden spoon as a microphone? That doesn't sound mean. And the orphanage -- foster house now? -- doesn't look awful. The bedrooms seem stuffed with stuff. There is no Depression era grit in this update, and unless I see some sparkling four-star reviews, I don't buy it. Your hero has to suffer and have consequences. Especially if you're trying to do Little Orphan Annie. Nope.

Dr. Phil

*** I'll admit it. I bought the two versions of "Let It Go" from film and end credits, downloaded to my Kindle Fire HD. It joins my other happy MP3 downloads as well as CD/iPod soundtrack anthems from Titanic and Return of the King. And if don't know what belted-out songs I mean, then maybe I don't know you. (not-so-serious-grin)