I had a good time at this year’s Dragon*Con, and a lot of fun experiences. Seeing old friends, meeting new ones, checking out the amazing costumes, and so on. The whole thing is now kind of a blur, but five experiences in particular have stuck with me as being especially surreal.
1) Standing on the “up” escalator at the Marriott at 4:30 in the afternoon, minding my own business and looking at the crowd of costumed nerds, and realizing that the grandfather-looking guy about 10 feet away is Stan Lee! THE Stan Lee who created Spider-Man and other Marvel heroes. Very cool.
2) Waiting with my investigations workshop group to finally get into a room so we could begin, and being surprised by an impromptu (and amazingly well-written and well-performed) guitar song by Laurie and Rob Tarr, an ode to my skeptical investigations called “Big Bad Bold Ben Radford,” sung to the tune of “Lawyer, Guns, and Money.” It was awesome, and Rob’s first foray into Filk! (Video on Facebook!)
3) Listening to astronomer Pamela Gay briefly talk about the unrealistic images of the female body that we see in culture (fashion magazines, Calvin Klein ads, etc.), hearing murmurs of agreement, and then noticing that about a third of the women in the audience were wearing corsets.
4) Being on Heidi Anderson’s 10 PM “Sex and Skepticism” panel (fresh from seeing a show by Wall of Voodoo’s Stan Ridgway in a little bar across town), along with supersmart skeptical professionals like physician Ginger Campbell and cognitive psychologist Barbara Drescher and art historian Jenna Griffith. Being the only male on the panel didn’t really bother me; nor did Heidi’s well-intentioned (but incredibly awkward) segue into my topic, sex offenders. No, the surreal coup de grace of the night was having Heidi loudly and articulately relate a story to the packed room about correcting an anti-porn activist’s understanding of “gonzo porn” and “ass to mouth.” I wasn’t really embarrassed or shocked so much as sitting very, very still; trying to turn invisible; and hoping my parents were not somehow watching.
5) Waiting endlessly for a free elevator, and wondering what I’d see as each door opened up to reveal its costumed occupants. The metal doors would open just a crack, then quickly part to divulge its collection of Harry Potters, storm troopers, bemused (real) airline pilots, steampunk chicks, belly dancers, Spider-Men, and anything else under the sun. I thought of sitting at the ground floor and making a drinking game out of it: One shot for every Marvel hero, two shots for every DC hero. Nothing for anyone wearing a kilt or from the Whedon universe (played out), but one shot for any name 1970s-1980s actor who steps out of the elevator, and one shot for partial nudity. Maybe next year.