Friday, May 30, 2014

POWER IS POWER: Ice & Fire Con 2014 Recap, Part 4

So last year we were ridiculously lucky with our Ice & Fire Con weather...it was sunny and unseasonably warm (but not too much so) up until Sunday morning. Sadly, our weather luck apparently ran out, because this year it was chilly, often cloudy, and at times even rainy - both Friday and Saturday (go figure, Sunday was absolutely beautiful...but I'll get into that later).

Thankfully we did get some sun though, and I'm doubly thankful that it seemed to come at all the right times. Sure it was dreary when I got up for breakfast Saturday morning, and still dreary for our 11 AM Non-Human Races of Westeros discussion group...which was fairly well-attended, though it continued to solidify the idea that the new layout in Ravenwood's Great Hall isn't panel or discussion-group friendly.

Immediately following the discussion group was the "Power Houses of Westeros" gathering! Originally we were going to hold it at the Silversmith, but the weather wasn't quite cooperating, so we moved it to the gardens behind the castle in case we needed to go inside. Of course, minutes after we moved it, the sun broke through! (See what I mean about it coming out at all the right times?)

(Please excuse the quick photo dump...)

The Brothers BARATHEONNNN
What are these pesky Greyjoys doing at the POWER HOUSES gathering? (Kidding, guys, love ya! ;) )

OBERYN AND HOTAH OMGGGGG

Smirking Cerseis ;) (and Tommen)

Robert and Cersei exchange weapons...of a sort...

 I'm actually not sure what's going on in this picture...


I love the idea of the 'gatherings' but I'm wondering if next year we should try to mix them up a bit. They were hugely successful last year but as Ice & Fire Con grows, certain activities will have to be molded to better fit a larger crowd. I guess we'll see ;)

After the gathering I got my quick lunch break, and then it was on to the tournament...but, for several reasons, that deserves an entry alllll to itself. Stay tuned!
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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

WOLFSIES AWOOO!: Ice & Fire Con 2014 Recap, Part 3

First things first after Arts & Crafts wound down was our Ommegang beer tasting! Last year we were lucky enough to gain a contact amongst Ommegang's sales people/distributors, and he came through again this year with their third Game of Thrones beer, Fire & Blood. Though the tasting was a bit more disorganized this year (which was surprising considering that the actual pouring of the tastings - the other beers being Ommegang's Glimmerglass and Hop House - was far more organized), it was of course still a really good time. (Honestly I blame the weather, which caused us to have to hold it in the pub...)


Next up on the agenda was a Q&A with Amin and Ashley from A Podcast of Ice & Fire and Alex from Tower of the Hand. We were so blessed to have support from these amazing 'super fans', and their Q & A was very well attended - APOIAF had a decent sized crew of listeners at Ice & Fire Con this year :)

And then it was time for a dinner break! At this point I'd been running around like crazy, so the idea of being able to sit and eat some pizza with our volunteers was more than a little bit appealing. Unfortunately, while said pizza was very tasty, it didn't arrive in the best condition...


The volunteers were kind of in and out of our dinner this year, but hopefully next year we'll be able to sequester them for a good hour like we did in 2013, and have a bit more of a relaxing volunteer dinner ;) But alas, the Snark & Grumpkin Hunt with the Night's Watch was up next on the schedule, so a lot of them had to run off to finish setup and give the rules talk for that. I stayed back to pick up after dinner, but I could hear people playing the game (it was held outdoors) and it certainly sounded like they were having a blast!

And once it was over, I was more than ready to change out of my Cersei gown and into my Shaggydog wolfsie before the 9:30 PM panel...


Unfortunately, the discussion group style 'panels' didn't work so well in the Great Hall this year. Ravenwood changed up their furniture sometime between our October 2013 visit and the convention, and the new tables were too big to move...but we didn't know that until we got there, the schedules were already printed, and in the end we suffered through several discussion groups in the Great Hall before finally switching to the pub. Hey, we'll know better for next year, at least.

And then it was time for Drinking Game Night! This year we were featuring Cards Against Westeros in the library and Murphy's Game of Thrones drinking board game in the pub, and it seemed to go over really well. Cards Against Westeros was especially popular...


Perhaps it was because 'sexy GRRM' was in attendance?


All I know is that my wolfsie was super comfortable, that we had to politely ask people to move the party down to the Silversmith well after midnight, and that just like last year I got to bed way too late. But it was a successful first evening, that's for sure!

Wolfsie Shaggydog and Biker Shaggydog!

Wolfsies AWOOOO!

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday Confessions



I confess...I need this t-shirt in my life...

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I confess...I've been watching *way* to much Archer this weekend. Or did the Babou the Ocelot shirt give that away? ;)

I confess...I kind of can't win with my pets :-/ Wendy sliced her paw open on our run this morning. I cleaned it, got it to stop bleeding, and wrapped it up, but she tore off the bandage. It probably needs to be cleaned again, but it's definitely pretty bad. I need another ridiculous vet bill like I need...shoot, I don't know, some other thing that I really really don't need. Heh.


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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Book Review: 4:09:43 by Hal Higdon

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This book is a short, quick read, and if you're interested in what goes into running a marathon you'll definitely learn a lot. The issue I have with it is that I was hoping for a bit more about the bombings themselves, and in that respect 4:09:43 simply doesn't deliver. Much of it feels disjointed (despite being in chronological order), and I can only assume that's due to the fact that the author drew much of his information from Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, blog entries, and the like. Many times his references to where the information was coming from (particularly if it was from Facebook) were jarring enough to pull me out of the 'story' entirely.

The build-up to the event that gave this book its title fills the majority of the pages and is pretty much entirely from the perspective of those running it. This, along with the pulling of information from Facebook and blogs and whatnot, made for a great premise...but while Mr. Higdon is a talented technical writer, there is a distinct lack of emotion to his coverage of this very emotional event. And I don't just mean the bombings themselves, but the race as well - I'm fairly certain if I'd trained the way these people did only to have this historical and emotional event ruined for me, I'd feel a lot more strongly about it than is depicted in these pages.

Additionally, for such a short book the author chose to follow way too many people. It was nearly impossible to remember or connect with any of them, and I do feel that the number of stories/names included should have been trimmed down quite a bit - that way, those who *were* included also could have had their stories beefed up.

Overall, this is a runner's book, and I'm not sure I would suggest it for those who don't run. That said, if you do - and especially if you're a marathoner - you're still likely to enjoy it despite its flaws. 2.5/5 stars. Pin It

Thursday, May 22, 2014

CHESS, CROWS, & CRAFTS: Ice & Fire Con 2014 Recap, Part 2

I was expecting us to get a rush of people checking in at 2 PM on our first day of Ice & Fire Con, but it was actually a pretty laid-back experience in terms of registration...especially compared with last year. We streamlined some things, and we also allowed the few people who arrived before two to check in early...which meant that I was even able to take a breather before overseeing arts & crafts (a.k.a. decorating badges and making mock election posters) at 3! And during that break there was a "Jaim-off" over the giant chess board...


At this point most people were in costume already, which is always exciting. For some reason I feel like a convention never really gets going until a decent amount of people are cosplaying...and with Ice & Fire Con being as small as it is, it's easier to pinpoint that moment when the change occurs ;) I think the three-eyed crow showing up may have helped things along a bit...



I'm glad we had an official 'arts and crafts' time and location this year, but I think next year we'll scale it back a bit in terms of time. Who needs two hours to throw together a mock election poster or stick some stickers to a badge, after all? ;) Granted, we were stretched a bit thin in terms of volunteers at this point due to registration and the 'North & Riverlands Gathering' at 4, but hey, I guess each year we'll just need to keep adding more volunteers!



We had several activities planned for the evening as well, beginning with a special Ommegang beer tasting at 5:15...but that's for the next recap installment :) Pin It

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

FAR OVER THE MISTY MOUNTAINS COLD...: Ice & Fire Con 2014 Recap, Part 1

Wait a minute wait a minute wait a minute. Wrong fandom on that title.

Except...


Last year we got stuck in fog on the way home...this year it was fog, rain, traffic, you name it, driving over those mountains in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. At least we got to make the obligatory stop at Sheetz, though! And I've noted that the one we found was either exit 7 or 9 off I-77 in West Virginia for next time ;) (Too bad it was actually one of the worst Sheetz I've ever been to, but hey, the food was still good!)


Due to the weather and a late start, we didn't arrive at Ravenwood until about 9 PM...and of course were up until after 1 AM getting things set up for the next day. It would have been a lot longer, but we had some of our awesome volunteers (and even a couple people who weren't official volunteers) helping us. Seriously, I can't express how great it is that Ice & Fire Con has such a supportive community. But I digress ;)

The next morning dawned sunny but chilly...thankfully I was able to snap a couple of great pictures before the sky clouded over and it rained a bit. (Last year I didn't take NEARLY enough photos of the grounds and just random activities, so I was determined to not make that mistake this time around.)


Ice & Fire Con headquarters...otherwise known as the Silversmith Cottage

Friday morning was spent setting up the rest of our decor, the registration table, and some of the silent auction. Despite arriving Thursday night and doing a bunch of work, then getting up fairly early on Friday morning (couldn't miss breakfast, after all - and the french toast/berry/Mascarpone cheese casserole they served was delicious), we still had way too much to finish. Some day we'll get the setup for this convention streamlined ;)

But to be fair, we did have a lot more awesome decor for this year!

Great Hall
Pub
Silversmith

Before I knew it, 2 PM had rolled around and it was time for me to man the registration table! The next couple of hours were a bit of a blur, but I'll try to recall some details about them in the next part of my recap...so stay tuned... Pin It

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Confessions



I confess...I've got Post Con Depression something fierce right now. We had an absolutely amazing second Ice & Fire Con...how can the next one be a year away?!

I confess...I'm also exhausted beyond belief. I even stayed in Ohio last night and slept in a bit this morning, but my bed is already calling my name.

I confess...having my cat Stitch crawl into my lap to be cozy with me as soon as he could was definitely needed after a long weekend away :)

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Book Review: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

This book was chosen for a book club some friends and I recently started, and as I'm a huge fan of Max Brooks' World War Z I was very excited to finally knock The Zombie Survival Guide off my to-read list.

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I think the most important thing I can say is that every time I picked this book up, I didn't want to put it down. Part of that was because I wanted to get to the 'historical accounts' that Brooks kept referencing, but hey, smart of him, right? ;)

The main issue with The Zombie Survival Guide was its repetitiveness. A lot of the information about, for instance, terrain, could have had a good bit of fat trimmed off it. Many things just felt like they were being described in slightly different ways in order to add length.

Overall though, I enjoyed reading, and once I got to the 'historical accounts' I was doubly hooked. Though not without its problems, this book is a good read. If you're a fan of zombie culture or loved World War Z, I'd say that The Zombie Survival Guide is a must read. 3.5/5 stars. Pin It

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Throwback Thursday: My Love for Song of Ice & Fire

With Ice & Fire Con looming, this seemed like the perfect Throwback Thursday post...even if its origins are only about three and a half years ago...


Back in 2011, my good friend Mike started talking about this amazing new show on HBO. He was the one who introduced me to the wonders of Battlestar Galactica (along with several other TV shows and books), and when he kept mentioning Game of Thrones, I knew that I had to check it out.

But then he admitted that it was based on a book series. and me being me I knew that I had to read the books first. This wasn't long after season one of Game of Thrones ended, so of course my goal was to read all of the novels and watch the first season before season two aired.

Little did I know how much picking up Game of Thrones - the first novel in the series, not the show - would change my life.

(I know it sounds silly, but bear with me here.)

Though at first it was slow going, when Ned lost his head, I was hooked. I didn't even believe it at first - how could Martin kill his protagonist?

Clearly I had no idea what I was getting into ;)


I blew through all five books in about a month and a half. As soon as I was done, the TV show was next, and if there had been more than one season my viewing of it would have reached Portlandia BSG episode status.


Before season two came out, I wanted to read Clash of Kings again. But I figured that I might as well start back at the beginning...and then when I finished ACOK, well, why not keep going?

When summer hit I was in the midst of planning for Dragon Con and saw a post about one of the tracks looking for panelists. It happened to be the track that handles Game of Thrones, so I applied to be on their panel for the show...and was accepted! Of course this meant needing to read Clash of Kings again (and watch season two again, as well) before the convention!

At the time, acting out the Purple Wedding called for a spoiler alert.

And once I was at Dragon Con...well, I got involved in some Dragon Con Game of Thrones groups on Facebook and ended up meeting a big group of fans. Two of those fans and I started talking about how sad it was that there wasn't very much programming for the books or the show at other conventions...and then we decided it would be fun to maybe get our friends together at a castle and just have our own little themed weekend...and then somehow that conversation evolved into us actually having our own Song of Ice & Fire/Game of Thrones convention.

As in, selling tickets and everything.

And that's how Ice & Fire Con came to be. (Well, the shortest version of the story, anyway.) Last year the convention was a huge success - we're small, but I think we hold our own as a convention :)

Also, where else are you going to find a Salladhor Saan cosplayer (other than Ice & Fire Con, I mean)?

Of course now we're over halfway through season four of Game of Thrones, I've read the books a couple more times, and I also devoured all the little 'prequel' novellas - the Dunk & Egg tales and The Princess and the Queen. I may not have been a fan for very long, but as I mentioned before, this series has truly taken over a huge portion of my life.


Though there are some online factions of the fandom that can be a bit maddening at times, I've been lucky enough to encounter mostly positive people and discussions. I've met some amazing friends thanks to ASOIAF/GoT, and I wouldn't trade the experiences I've had with them for the world.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

The Laws of Gods and Men, or 'Justice, schmustice'


It's no secret that Game of Thrones has graced us with some great opening scenes over the years, but I honestly can't remember the last time one was so beautiful as last night's vision of the stag-in-the-burning-heart bright on the sails of a ship as it sailed under the Titan of Braavos. It almost kept me from rolling my eyes over the fact that Stannis himself sailed across the Narrow Sea to beg the Iron Bank of Braavos for money....almost. Seriously guys. Book!Stannis wouldn't have done this, and personally I feel that they Show!Stannis is being written/portrayed as even more of a hardass, so come on, what gives?


As for the ensuing conversation...hey, we've got a Tycho Nestoris already! While I felt that this portion of the episode was more than a bit drawn out, I have to admit that it was exciting to catch a glimpse of Braavos and meet this particular Iron Bank representative. I can only hope that his having been named and featured in such a lengthy scene means that they'll keep him around for scenes that have actually been derived from the books.

While I'm uncertain about the changes to Stannis' character (especially the last two seasons), I'm consistently pleasantly surprised by Show!Davos. I've always loved Davos, but I know a lot of book readers complain of his chapters being boring, that he never does anything, etc. etc. They've beefed him up a bit for the show, and for once I think it's been well done. Not only did he give a rousing 'Vote for Stannis!' type speech, but he got to have an amusing little conference with that guy who shows up about once each season, Salladhor Saan. And hey, their meeting also gave us a pirate joke and the episode's titty quota! You go, Game of Thrones.

And then, SURPRISE! Asha Yara is back! (Well, not really a surprise if you paid attention to the 'previously on Game of Thrones' reel right before the episode. But anyway.)


Look, no offense to Gemma Whalen, but she just doesn't look anything like the Asha I've pictured all this time. I've tried to set that aside, and I just...can't. It's not that she's a bad actress or even that she's bad at this part...I'm just not that into her. And dangit, I called her Asha again. I know they changed her name because they thought Asha was too close to Osha and people wouldn't get it, but honestly - in my opinion - that being the only reasoning behind it is stupid when Yara is so close to Arya.

But I digress. What in the name of the Seven was this scene all about? It's already been cemented in our heads that Theon is now Reek and that Ramsay is crazy. It was cool to see Yara (::shudder::) again, especially as we also got to see her fight, but I feel like this season the show is making a lot of these changes that just get wrapped back up in their original packaging in an episode or two. At the moment it's more annoying than anything, but it also seems like they are getting more and more flippant with their deviations. At what point does Game of Thrones become less of an adaptation and more of an AU fanfic (or something along those lines)?



Not to mention the fact that I still can't decide what's creepier - Ramsay's sex scene, him showing up to attach Yara & Co. shirtless and covered in blood, or him giving Theon a bath. So on that note, yeah, I still basically can't stand all of this Theon/Reek and Ramsay stuff.


It's probably a good thing that The Laws of Gods and Men didn't follow up that mess with Drogon killing more than just goats. When he rose up in front of that boy I was wondering if they would be so brazen, and even after we saw him carry off a goat I was waiting for the shepherd to tell Daenerys that her dragon killed his son. But hey, instead we got Hizdahr zo Loraq pleading to be allowed to bury the body of his dead father...who apparently voted against the slave child mile markers. Is he already playing games and lying to her, or is the show simply trying to make him more likeable? I'm certainly intrigued (and no, it doesn't hurt that the actor is pretty).



About halfway through the next scene of a King's Landing small council meeting, I realized that this episode was slow. Not boring, exactly, but there was very little action and a hell of a lot of dialogue. I promise that I'm not exactly complaining - that dialogue was very well-written and acted - but The Laws of Gods and Men relied on it very, very heavily, and at times it grew a bit tedious. For example, the small council meeting was repetitive at times. It could, and probably should, have been nipped and tucked.


Like Littlefinger, on the show Varys is a lot more open about who he is and what he wants. Certainly not to the extent of Creeper Baelish, thankfully; Varys has a much thicker filter. Which is why his conversation with Oberyn on last night's episode threw me for a loop. The acknowledgement of his asexuality was an interesting little twist, considering earlier the series had other characters (at least one) imply that Varys was gay. I suppose it was the roundabout conversation that led up to this reveal that leaves me at a loss in terms of whether I liked or disliked the inclusion of this particular scene.

And then, poor Tommen! First his brother terrorizes him, then his sister is sent away. Later his mother almost poisons him, his brother dies, his sister-in-law is paying him secret midnight visits, and now he has to make a show of turning his uncle's trial (which is of course about his brother's death) over to his grandfather? Just give that kid some kittens and some jousting lessons with Ser Loras, already!

 
Other than Tommen, the trial scene was almost eerily close to the book...at least for the first half. Thankfully the whole thing seemed almost effortlessly perfect.



Up until Jaime struck a deal with Tywin to save Tyrion. Seems to me like Tywin had this planned all along, and unfortunately Jaime fell right into his trap. I was waiting for the show to really throw a wrench in things - maybe just to drag the trial out for another episode - but as soon as they got back into the throne room, Tywin called one last witness.


I have to admit that I was shocked when Shae 'took the stand', as it were. The show molded her character into something quite different from that in the books, built up her and Tyrion's relationship, and had her form a relationship with Sansa. When Shae supposedly left, I assumed that she would reappear in a Ros-type situation, and that would be the catalyst for the crossbow situation. So what is Game of Thrones doing here? Are the writers really just that stupid? Or will Shae's actual plight be revealed later?

Her testimony certainly got Tyrion's fires stoked. I know that people are already crying EMMY along with Peter Dinklage's name, but for my part I was a bit overwhelmed with his entire speech. Perhaps it was like the small council scene and just needed to be trimmed up a bit; maybe I'm just never going to get used to Dinklage's fake accent. The scene was certainly stirring, and the end result put Tyrion right where he needed to be...so now I guess we just wait for a certain Viper to pay him a visit ;)

Yes, I had some issues with The Laws of Gods and Men - but one thing I can't call it is 'just another filler episode'. Other than the seemingly unnecessary scenes at the Dreadfort, the constant beat down of some pretty important people (Stannis, Dany, Tyrion) kept it chugging along. For an episode that had a noticeable lack of action, the writers handled this one quite well. Pin It