Big Plans for Gen Con Indy 2010

Akusai from Action Skeptics here, folks. Well, ladies and gentlemen, plans for a symposium of reality-based programming at Gen Con Indy 2010 are coming together faster than I could have imagined. Some of you may remember that back in September Les was kind enough to allow me to post A Call to Skeptical Action, wherein I detailed my preliminary hopes and plans for Gen Con (i.e. trying to get a Dragon*Con style Skeptic Track going), and I’m back to beg your indulgence again for an update on those plans.

First off, we have a dedicated blog: Gen Con Skeptics. Everything I’m about to tell you here is covered in greater detail there, so it’s worth stopping by. I’m constantly adding new material, so click early and often.

Our plans, as of now, include half a dozen presentations covering various skeptical topics and delivered by a bunch of different people. We’ll be educating the Gen Con population on archaeology, evolution, and cargo cults, and we’re staging two different iterations of a four-man panel called “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture,” for which we’re prepping basic information on almost twenty different woo-woo and pseudoscientific topics and letting the audience decide what we talk about.

Perhaps the biggest deal of all, however, is the fundraiser we’ll be running to benefit the Indiana Immunization Coalition. I spoke last week with the director of the IIC, and she’s very excited that we’re offering to raise money for them. They plan to put all proceeds toward new educational and informational programs in an effort to counter misinformation about vaccines spread by the antivaccination movement.

I don’t have the details finalized with Gen Con yet, but I have a scheduled phone call to make tomorrow afternoon with their Marketing Director to do just that. She, too, loves the idea, and it looks like we’re going to have a table situated in the Kids and Family section of the exhibit hall, which is almost perfect for our plans. What we’re going to do is trade our amateur magician skills (there are two of us with those skills) for donations based on a “menu” of card tricks, simple close-up magic, and amazing feats of mentalism and cold reading. While we’re doing that, we’re going to distribute information about vaccines and about the Indiana Immunization Coalition, basically what they do and why it’s important. We’re going to back up the fundraiser with a couple of pro-vax presentations that will combine good immunization information, counters to common antivax claims, and PR for the IIC and their mission.

We don’t have any so-called “Big Name” skeptics coming to the event, but hopefully with a good showing this year, we can attract people in the future. I do have a proposal into the fine ladies at Skepchick, but I’m not promising anything. I also have an e-mail out to Mike Stackpole, bestselling sci-fi author and founder of the Phoenix Skeptics, who was kind enough to meet with us last year and offer advice. Who knows? He might want to give a talk, too.

All in all, this year’s Gen Con Indy is shaping up to be a big win for grassroots skepticism. We have educational outreach, audience involvement, and a fantastic opportunity to help raise vaccine awareness and bolster Indiana’s pathetic immunization rates. If anybody is going to be in the Indianapolis area on August 5-8, we’d love to have you drop by. If anyone’s interested in joining our little dog-and-pony show, we’d love to have you. Event submission for Gen Con doesn’t end until mid-March, so we have until then to add programming to our schedule.

If you don’t want to talk or run an event, we still do need volunteers to help out with the fundraiser. The rest of us can’t man the table all day and still do our own presentations, and we’d like to enjoy the con at some point, too. If we get a decent rotating roster of people haranguing the masses for donations while supplying them with accurate information about vaccines, we can all take part in what I’ve just now decided to call “Vaccination Win 2010” and have a good time at the con, too.

And, though I did note his (perhaps conspicuous) silence on this note when last I posted here, I still think that Mine Host Mr. Les Jenkins hisownself should come down to Gen Con for the festivities. Join me in bothering him until he says yes, would you kindly?

As before, you can visit the planning forum, leave a comment at the blog, use the contact form, or just drop me an e-mail at causticbox[at]gmail[dot]com. Hope to see some people there!

“Astro Boy” trailer hits the net.

Osamu Tezuka’s story about an atomic powered robot boy, Tetsuwan Atomu, was first published in manga form in Japan in 1952. The animated series, considered by many to be the birth of anime as a distinct form of animation, aired in Japan from 1963 until 1966, just a year before I was born. It was revived in the 1980’s as as Shin Tetsuwan Atomu, known elsewhere as Astroboy, and again in 2003. I can remember seeing it in re-runs at various points in my life and it remains a fond memory from my childhood.

Now an American made CGI movie is coming out in October. The trailer for it looks halfway decent:

If they don’t mess with the original story too much this should be pretty good. Of course it’s been awhile since I last saw the series so my recollection of the original story may be a little fuzzy.

Bebop Feedback

If they can cast Keanu as Spike, what about mounting a campaign for Les as Jet?

Reachable, sez I…

Yet more proof that there is no God.

Keanu Reeves has been cast as Spike Spiegel in the upcoming live-action American take on one of my favorite anime series: Cowboy Bebop.

It’s like they don’t want my money. Like they’re trying to see if they can get me to pay them not to produce a movie I’d normally camp out to see. If God really existed he’d have smote the casting director with a rain of Space Frogs before the deal was finalized.

Why Space Frogs? It’d be proof of God’s love and divine justice.

“Dragonball Revolution” trailer hits the net and looks absolutely moronic.

I admit that I’ve never been a fan of the Dragonball Z anime series. I thought it was stupid and overblown and mind numbingly dull. The fact that it’s been hugely popular with anime fans both in Japan and here in the States for years just shows that my fellow Otaku can have some seriously questionable taste in shows. But then the same could be said of me. Still, I think it sucks so when I heard that an American studio was going to pump out a live action movie based on the series I was less than enthused about it.

Now, having seen the following trailer, I think that lack of enthusiasm is justified. This was so bad I just had to share it with you to ease my pain:

I actually feel kind of bad for fans of the anime series as I’m sure even they are going to be disappointed by this production. Bad enough it’s Dragonball, but it was produced by Americans who probably did it for the easy money it’s likely to generate which means it’ll suck hard like a black hole trapping anything that might have been decent about the original anime into a swirling vortex of suckitude never to escape.

Found over at /Flim where they also think it looks stupid.

Proving once again that many Christians have a healthy sense of humor…

… my good friend JethricOne, who is a moderate Christian himself, sent me the following email last night:

At [my daughter’s] confirmation class this evening, she drew a picture of an anime Jesus for an assignment.
When she told me, I couldn’t resist thinking about the song “Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life” (and it’s ilk of bad religious music) and was inspired to write the following:

Jesus is the hero of my anime
When reading right to left he’s going to show me the Way
It doesn’t matter if my friends are nasty, or rude
Cuz Jesus is my spike-haired holy ninja dude.

I was standing in a line, when someone pushed on ahead
It really made me mad, and I wished that he were dead.
But then a 2-D image flashed across my mind:
A smiling chibi spirit, that told me to be kind.

…refrain…

I saw a special toy, but I didn’t have the cash.
I thought I might just grab it, and then make a hasty dash.
But then that mighty warrior with his flame haze book of might.
Showed me 10 commandments and made me do what’s right.

…refrain…

I was worried about dying, with a lump inside my throat.
Somewhere’s a shinigami with my name upon a note.
But I thought about my Light, the one who came to me.
And by His side I’ll walk through life and he will set me free.

Having listened to more than my share of Christian pop music, I must say that the above is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Being a long-time anime fan myself it’s doubly amusing.

“Cowboy Bebop” to become a live action film.

This could be good or bad. I’m a big fan of the Cowboy Bebop anime series so word that a live action American-made film based on the series is intriguing and worrying at the same time. Veteran producer Erwin Stoff and FOX just signed the deal a short while ago and Stoff promises they’ll stay faithful to the series:

Stoff goes on to explain his enthusiasm for the project and their attempts to remain faithful. “I have such an enormous admiration for its creators, that our first and foremost concern is going to be a real degree of faithfulness to the tone of the movie, to the mix of genres, and so on and so forth. When I met with them in Japan, one of the first things that I brought up was the experience that we had on A Scanner Darkly, and how hard we worked to remain faithful to Philip K. Dick, and that was our big concern here.” Don’t get confused, this does not mean that they’re going for a similar animated look like A Scanner Darkly, as he explicitly said that it’s going to be live-action.

It seems there’s going to be a lot of live-action American-produced anime films coming down the pike. Dragonball Z is already well into production (not that I have any interest in it) and word has it that we can expect to see Ghost in the Shell and Akira in the not too distant future. It remains to be seen if these titles will make the transition to live action and an American interpretation intact, but Dragonball Z is looking pretty fucking cheezy so far.

I’m getting too old for anime conventions.

As has been stated on more than one occasion I’m a former anime/manga otaku who once ran a website devoted to the topic and spent countless hours traveling to cons and hanging out with people in the industry, but all of that had to fade into the background once I got married and my daughter, Courtney, came to live with me. Courtney since then has picked up the torch of anime otaku and has been running with it ever since, but she’s never had the experience of going to an anime convention before because most of them take place in other states. Turns out Michigan has had one called Youmacon for the past couple of years and it just took place for the third time this weekend. So, being the good father that I am, I offered to take Courtney and one of her friends to the con this weekend and that’s what I spent yesterday doing.

Now when I say I’m getting too old for anime conventions it’s not because I’m so out of date on current anime that I didn’t recognize any of the characters or titles that were on display at the show, though there were plenty of said titles there, nor is it because I think I’ve outgrown watching anime. No, I say I’m getting too old because we were there for some 8 or 9 hours wandering about to different panels and watching people parade around in their cosplay outfits and by the time we got home I hurt something fierce. Not only my back, which gets annoyed anytime I’m on my feet for any length of time, but my legs and my knees were bothering me. Surprisingly enough my feet were fine and usually that’s the first thing to start hurting, but we managed to sit down often enough that my feet were happy.

The con itself was pretty good even though—compared to a lot of cons I’ve been to in the past—this one was fairly small. The dealer room had maybe six companies in there hawking their wares and the selection of items was somewhat limited and overlapping. None of the importers (Viz Media, Tokyo Pop, ADV Films, AnimEigo, etc.) were present and there were no Japanese guests of honor to speak of, though they had plenty of guests from the American side of the industry including a number of English voice actors who were often also directors/producers/translators and so on. Still there were plenty of panels on a wide range of topics and the obligatory rooms dedicated to video and table top gaming.

I think it’s been just over a decade since the last convention I attended and while things have largely stayed the same over the years, some things have changed. For one thing the quality of the Anime Music Videos has gone up considerably giving testament to the availability of inexpensive high quality video editing software on home PCs and the rise of DVD burning. Back in the day the quality of the video tapes often suffered due to the high number of copies of each clip that had to be made in order to splice them together and syncing it all to music was often a hit or miss affair. The better the syncing the more likely the video quality would suffer. Some of the stuff we saw yesterday looked like it came right off of MTV as it was that good.

Another thing that changed is that it seems like there’s a lot more… hugging… going on these days. I’m not talking about the oh-look-it’s-our-friend-so-and-so-let’s-hug-them type hugging, but people walking around holding up signs offering “free hugs” or “glomp me” that gave the whole convention a pseudo-1960’s Free Love vibe to it. It is tempting to make the obvious joke about otaku being so starved for any kind of physical contact, but considering that I’m still an otaku myself it would probably be hypocritical of me to do so.

Along similar lines is the fact that there’s quite a bit more accommodation, at least at this con, for more adult material and one form that seems to be particularly popular (especially among women) is known as Yaoi and is defined as follows:

Yaoi is a publishing genre which originated in Japan and often encompasses manga, dōjinshi, anime, and fan art. It is homosexual love between male characters and is sexually explicit.

Yaoi, outside of Japan, is an umbrella term for all male/male erotic comics made for women from Japan; as well as male/male erotic comics made in the west. The actual name of the genre in Japan is called ‘BL’ or ‘Boy’s Love’. BL is an extension of shoujo and Lady’s categories, but is considered a separate category. Like ‘Yaoi’ is used in the United States, ‘BL’ is used in Japan to include: commercial and amateur works, works with no sex, works with sex, doujinshi about adolescents with little or no sex, works in all types of media – manga, anime, novels, games, and drama CDs with male/male content, and characters of all ages in male/male content. Terms such as yaoi, shounen-ai, tanbi, June, and original June, are all referred to in Japan, as ‘BL’. However, it does not include gay publications.

Though yaoi is sometimes used to refer to any male homosexual content in film and print media, particularly in works created by females, that is generally considered a misuse of the term. Professional Japanese artists, such as Kodaka Kazuma, are careful to distinguish their works as “yaoi,” rather than “gay,” when describing them to English-speaking audiences.

Only in Japan could they have a category of entertainment that deals with homosexual love between men that isn’t considered gay. The popularity of this sub-genre is surprising, or at least it is to someone who’s been out of the convention scene for as long as I have, and there were people of both genders walking around with “I ♥ Yaoi!” buttons and t-shirts on and at least one guy who combined his appreciation of yaoi with the tradition of “hug me” signs. Above and beyond just people openly admitting to enjoying one of the more esoteric forms of anime the convention itself had a number of late-night panels that were listed as being strictly for people 18 years or older and the con took steps to ensure this was enforced by putting a “Y” on the badge of any minor attendees. Considering that there’s always been at least some adult content at every convention I went to in the past, at least in regards to some of the titles/collectibles available in the dealer’s room, this seems like a natural and reasonable growth for the convention circuit. Of course I have no idea if any of the other cons are as accommodating, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.

One of the great things about attending any anime con are the folks brave enough to engage in cosplay and, as you can see from the couple of photos already posted, they were out in full force at Youmacon. In fact there was a surprising amount of cosplayers for what is arguably a smaller convention and it contained the standard mix of very brave people wearing very spicy outfits to very brave people who probably should have thought twice on the character they decided to dress up as. Courtney was in charge of taking pictures and she’s still a bit of a novice at that so a few of the shots didn’t turn out too well and she also seems to have avoided some of the bravest of the brave. Still she managed to get some good shots of some of the best costumes at the con so I’ve posted a few of them in the extended entry.

But before we go there I’d like to mention one very special attendee of the con that I totally didn’t expect to see there: Jesus Christ himself, in the flesh, so to speak.

Who knew Jesus was an otaku?

As always, you can click any of the pictures for a bigger version.

Anime character PC case mod.

Being a true computer geek I love case mods the same way that car enthusiasts love custom hotrods. I have neither the skill nor the workspace to make case mods of my own, but I love checking out what people who have plenty of both manage to come up with.  I’ve written on more than one occasion about particularly cool case mods such as The Caffeine Machine and the Marriage Proposal case mod among others, but never before has a case mod combined two of my loves in one package. Namely computers and anime.

Take a look at the picture on the right (click for a bigger pic) and you’ll see a case mod that finally brings my two loves together in what has to be every geek’s dream form: a near life-sized anime character that is also a fully functional PC. Called the ERN005PC (KANA), this work of art is the creation of Kanna Higashi & Katsuya Matsumura and if the two of them ever manage to mass-produce these things they’re all set to make a killing with lonely geeks everywhere. Their website has detailed pictures of the sculpting and assembly of this case mod as well as plenty more pics of the final product. Considering the number of anime series out there that feature cute anime girls in skimpy outfits that are composed mainly of electronic components there’s something strangely appropriate about this case mod.

Fear for the species known as geeks once robotics advances enough to make fully automated sex dolls a possibility as they will never breed again and will die out not long after…

…with really big smiles on their faces.

Found via Engadget.

“Ghost In The Shell 2 - Innocence” English site now live.

Looks like the folks at DreamWorks have licensed the sequel to one of my all time favorite anime movies, Ghost in the Shell, and they now have an official website up pending its release here in the States. Check out Ghost in the Shell 2 – Innocence.

Warning: This site is very spoiler heavy.