Thursday, June 05, 2014

the alabama phoenix festival

Every year, starting like, last year or something, Birmingham has hosted a geek-fest known as The Alabama Phoenix Festival, which is a small version of the San Diego Comic Con or the Dragon Con that happens around the country... I didn't get to go last year, but because our podcast--The Deucecast Movie Picture Show--was actually a guest of the Festival, I was somewhat expected to be there.

There are a few facets to the Alabama Phoenix Festival itself, which include the Exhibition Hall, a large ballroom area full of vendors, artists, dealers, writers and so much more.  They had everything from a LEGO corner (four large tables just covered in LEGOs where people could sit down and just build stuff), to a huge Kingdom Comics area with lots of comics and toys to The Alabama Ghostbusters, who had several large set up areas... plus, a group is building a life sized Millennium Falcon, and you could sit inside a life size cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.  I mean, how stinkin' cool is this.

There were also "Panels", or discussion groups set up all during the weekend, all day long.  Topics included Anime... Ghostbusters... Star Trek... Star Wars... Lord the Rings... making costumes... making armor... Avengers... comic books in general... there was also a room for "Bronies" and "Pegasisters", which from what I understand, was pretty much one of the two or three most popular rooms the entire weekend.

Anyway, here are some little notes, stories and pictures from the weekend...


What's this "Bronie" or "PegaSister" you speak of?  Adult male and female fans of My Little Pony.  No, I'm not kidding.  Seriously, stop laughing, I'm not kidding you at all.  This exists.  And it's big.  They had a two hour singalong where every song from every episode of the latest incarnation was playing, and the entire room sang loudly and proudly.

The gem of the night came, though, when my buddy Hurricane Rhett let his daughter go in there unattended.  When people were answering questions and discussing their love for the Ponies, little Catalina, 7, stood up and proudly proclaimed how her daddy had watched every episode with her, how her daddy loved the Ponies, and how he kinda gets upset when she watches My Little Pony without him.  On an unrelated note, I saw Chris Hansen this weekend, walking around with some sort of transcript, a plate of cookies and a stool to tell people to "Have a seat right there."


This is the man, Brock Parker, one of the leaders of the Alabama Ghostbusters.  And yes, there is such a thing, and has been for several years.  He has his own working proton pack.  He's a buddy of mine on Facebook for a few years, and we finally meet in person.  Not that unusual, except we probably grew up around 15 miles from each other, as he's from Enterprise, Alabama, I grew up in Samson, about 20 minutes Southwest on a country backroad through Five Points.  Not the Birmingham downtown 5 Points, I mean were five country roads come together to form a big circle, and a great place to say "Meet me at..." when you either want to fight or make out.  Or both.  Up to you.  Where was I?
I couldn't attend on Friday, as I wasn't feeling good, plus I had to help The Lovely Steph Leann take care of our offspring, but Mikey, Shawn Sharp, Hurricane Rhett, P!nky (our other The Deucecast co-host) attended, got some good pics, met some good people and had a good time.
Saturday morning, I was on a panel with Mikey and another podcaster, Shazbazzar, from the TechnoRetro Dad's podcast (he also co-hosts a Tron Podcast, which shows his Tron Love, considering you have only 2 movies a short lived cartoon series, you don't have a ton to work with) concerning the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII, and our hopes for it.  Turned out to be a lively discussion amongst the three of us with help from the audience, including a dude in a Star Trek uniform who knew his Star Wars stuff. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Darth Vol.  Yup.
I sat on another panel on Sunday morning, a "podcasting" panel, hosted and moderated by AJ Wiley and Paul Smith, hosts of the Gobbledygeek Podcast, a popculture cast that's picking up steam in this area quite a bit.  Along the panel were hosts from other shows, including several from the Earth Station One network and mostly pop culture.  There was even an Auburn Football show and a personal podcast hosted by a dude who just "talked about whatever I want to talk about".  Sounds like my kind of cast.
It was a good hour, as we all discussed why we started podcasting, where we thought our shows were going, our formats, our content being family friendly or not (The Deucecast is, many are not), and so on.  I knew I was there with some heavyweights, so I had to chime in as much as I could, which I think I did quite nicely, holding my own.  We'll release the show as a podcast episode, and I think Gobbledygeek will release the same hour discussion, at least in part, as one of their shows. 

Tommy Mac takes a ride in the cockpit of the starting phase of the lifesize Millennium Falcon.  This is being built somewhere else, and will be on display when it's finished.  I mean, a full sized Falcon?  First, it's going to be insanely big... and I would probably pass out from the sheer joy I'd have, especially if I could walk inside of it.


There was a costume contest on Saturday night, where everyone who was wearing a disguise of any kind could sign up, walk across the stage, be judged by the judges and hopefully win stuff.  It was entertaining, though only a few costumes really, really stood out.  There were several Deadpool outfits, two of which really should have had the guy wear a cup of some sort... lots of witches, fairies, Dr Who related stuff, a few Walking Dead nods, and a full on Iron Man suit, battle worn, and an Iron Patriot suit, with flashing lights and an AC/DC soundtrack.  Holy cow, it was awesome. 

However, the winners of the costume contest included a pretty convincing Jor-El outfit, and a Jim Lovell Space Suit--both great, but Iron Patriot should of taken that prize home.  They even brought up four of the fan favorites to the stage for the audience to vote via applause, with Iron Man and Iron Patriot being two of them.  When the host asked for applause, Hurricane Rhett and I stood up cheering. 

There was also a chick in an impressive handmaid antebellum dress ("I even made my underwear!" she yelled from the stage) and a costume that I was not familiar with, someone in a nautilus helmet.  Must have been popular, though, as the audience went nuts over the guy.  And he won. 

The host was interesting as well... I didn't know her costume, but it allowed her the opportunity to place the mics between her cleavage and talk into it. 

The kids contest was also funny, as there were are cute costumes all around.  Rhett's daughter, Catalina, was a Zombie School Girl, though she didn't win--she might have done better if she'd played more to the crowd.  Then again, the judges were off, because one cute 3 year old showed up in an incredibly awesome Kid Icarus outfit... and lost to another kid in a... Terminator? outfit?  It was cute.  But nothing like Icarus. 


A working, moving R2D2, courtesy of the 501st Legion.  I really want to join the 501st Legion one day... though the restrictions and qualifications are like, hard core.  And expensive.

I didn't have any quarters, or I probably would still be there playing.
We were about to leave after the costume contest when we heard they were doing Who's Line Is It Anyway on the mainstage.  So, Mikey, Shawn, Hurricane Rhett, our friend Lisa B-Dub, her friend Something or Other and Tommy Mac and I stuck around to watch.  And it... it was... oh em gee... it was just terrible.  Not funny. At.All.  The jokes were flat, they didn't even follow the rules of the game they were playing, they stuttered and stammered and it was just... bad.  I am sure the people in there were pleasant enough in real life, but onstage, this night, this group of people were not humorous in the least... to the point I winced a few times.  It was painful.

Set up across the room from the Alabama Ghostbusters, its the Florence, AL, Ghostbusters that provided the Ecto-1, which is pretty close in detail.
Towards the end of the night, we were approached by a young lady named Sarah.  She was a UAB student in psychology, and asked if we would be willing to take a survey.  Thinking it was survey about the Alabama Phoenix Festival, most of us said "Sure thing," and took the clipboards to help out.   It was three pages long, and it was absolutely insane.
It was not about the Alabama Phoenix Festival, that was very clear from the first few questions, and as we soon learned, it wasn't about any festival at all.  It was about... well, the psychology of men and women.  It was about preferences, feelings, emotions, stereotypes and even more.  While I figured this would still be anonymous, we had also signed a waiver at the beginning, so our name was actually on the survey.  Pages 1 and 2 were easy enough, though a little strange, but then Page 3 came.
All in a "Give a number 1 through 5, with 1 being strongly disagree, 2 being disagree, 3 being neither agree nor disagree, 4 being agree and 5 being strongly agree" answer format, it was questions about men and women, and the way we view each other.  Questions about whether we men think we are better then women, whether we are uncomfortable when a woman makes more than we do, wondering if women have more potential in the workfield than men, and then, my favorite... "Men should always save themselves first, then women, in a disaster situation." 
When we all finished, we all let Sarah know that we felt the survey was a little manipulative (it was) and not easy to answer truthfully (it wasn't)... "So, if you put 'agree' here, are you saying you 'agree' with what it says you shouldn't do, or should you put 'disagree', because of the way it's worded...?
Sarah seemed a little disinterested in our response to the survey, especially when Hurricane Rhett and I said the following:
Me:  So in this question about whether men should save themselves first in a disaster situation... I guess my question for that is... how hot is she?  Because that might determine what we as men do?
Hurricane Rhett:  Yeah... and then, can she cook?  Can she clean?  Because if the answer to those questions are both Yes, then I'm a little more inclined to break a sweat over her rescue...
Sarah stared at us, forced an uncomfortable smile, and simply said, "".
It was awesome.
Our new friend, Shazbazzar, in a Star Wars Clone Wars panel.  
About that Star Wars Clone Wars panel... having never seen a single episode of the heralded series, I chose to sit that panel out, though Mikey and Shaz again led. There were two more guys that were supposed to be there, but failed to show, so again, it became a lively discussion amongst the two panelists and the audience. I barely had anything to contribute, though I did read a little about Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas, who was working with the Kaminoans to... you know what, it doesn't matter.

Stan Daniel and I discuss Star Wars and Disney for a solid hour.  And it was magical.
The final one of the three panels I sat one was probably my favorite.  Stan Daniel, owner of Kingdom Comics, and one of the heads of the Alabama Phoenix Festival is also like me, a huge Disney fan.  So our topic was "May the Mouse Be With You... Always", which was simply Star Wars & Disney.  It was supposed to be about merchandising, and much of it was, but we delved into Harry Potter and Universal's coming on strong, the prospects of a new park for Disney, what to do with Star Wars in the parks, hopes for the new movies, and Jedi Mickey.  Afterwards, our friend Hurricane Rhett, in the audience, pointed at me and said, "I knew he knew Disney.  But this guy KNOWS Disney."  I was proud.

I love Tinkerbell. And I didn't mind a tattooed Tinkerbell.  I told her that I was excited to get my picture with her, and she made a comment about how she'd had two stalkers earlier today. Unsure if that was true, or just saying that because I came on way to strong, I laughed and told her I had the same issue when I wore my Tinkerbell costume.  After she laughed, and then swallowed the vomit that she thew up in her mouth, we got a picture. Her real name is Shay Blaze.


We also had dinner on Saturday, and lunch on Sunday, at Mugshots, a burger joint that I liked very much.  My best mate Wookiee joined us and enjoyed the last day of the Festival, so it was good to have him around.  The food was excellent, reasonable for the location and what it was and the service was also enjoyable.
I told Stan that I was surprised there was no Harry Potter panel of any kind... they even had a "Hobbit: Book versus Movie" panel, but absolutely nothing Hogwarts, and how they should consider that next year.
He asked me what I was thinking, and I told him any number of topics would work... Harry Potter: the Books versus the Movies... Predictions for the upcoming trilogy (which I do not agree with)... Discussions of the locations and little seen characters... anything like that, though what I really wanted to discuss was the Legacy of Star Wars vs The Legacy of Harry Potter, including Universal and Disney in particular.  That is a conversation I could spend hours on, and am planning it for a blog very, very soon.
He loved the idea so much that he said he would seriously consider submitted a Harry Potter track of panels next year, but he also wants myself and Mikey to come and debate in a forum against a local children's author and a local Harry Potter historian ("she knows Harry Potter like it's her Bible", Stan said later, which is good because if she's like me, I don't know my Bible nearly as well as I should).  That will happen sometime later this summer, so that should be fun.
All in all, we had a blast at the Alabama Phoenix Festival. Finally met Brock Parker, attended a real life Ghostbusters panel, saw how big the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon would actually be, met a tattooed Tinkerbell, whispered, "I love you!" as I walked away probably hopefully making her feel all kinds of awkward, discussed Disney, Star Wars and Harry Potter at length, saw a real R2D2, a real Iron Patriot, a real Iron Man, about 72 Harley Quinns, a Joker, a Dr. Who phone booth and just got to hang with my boy-oyz.  So it was great.
By the way, what is it with Doctor Who?  I mean, five years ago, few people cared, and now the TARDIS phone booth thing is everywhere.   Should I be in on this?  Do I have time for this?
Will be making a return next year, as we are already considering doing a live show from there and having a table in the Exhibition Hall to broadcast from and do live games from. 
So, listen to The Deucecast Movie Picture Show once per month (though on iTunes, we have a back catelog of over 75 shows you can listen to as well), like us on Facebook and all that. 

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