From Sidewalk To Ballroom (A Tale Of Trains, Tears, And Firefly)

The Night Was Moist

It would be easy to say that it started on the sidewalk, but it actually started much earlier than that.  I was not a fan of Firefly when it originally aired, and I didn’t see Serenity when it was on the big screen.  In fact, over the last two decades my Navy career and frequent moves have served as a great excuse to not be a regular fan of any show.  Then came Netflix.  And Chuck.  I have already recounted the tale of how I came to be a fan of Chuck, so I’ll leave it to you to click (or not).  I’m not an expert on Netflix’s recommendation algorithm, but a few years ago it decided that Chuck + (a few other things) = Firefly should be at the top of my list, and being the obedient servant of Netflix that I am, I watched.  That’s when I learned what Browncoats have known for a decade, and I was hooked.

Which brings me to the evening of Thursday, July 12, 2012.  After a screening of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog hosted by the California Browncoats, I headed home around 10 pm to drop off my son (who had school the next day), shower, change, and pack for a night under the stars clouds.  Heading out just after midnight, I walked the length of the San Diego Convention Center before finding the end of the line.  I settled down on the sidewalk, was promptly told to get up and relocate to the grass, settled down on the grass, felt the first drops of rain, then admonished myself for being a meteorologist outside in the rain without an umbrella.

Trucks And Trains And Carts, Oh My!

The trucks were loud, the trains were loud, the wheeled garbage carts were loud, the night was moist…  I could whine on and on, but I’m fairly certain the reason most people (at least in my general vicinity) weren’t sleeping was antici…pation.  And then Joss happened.

 

At around three o’clock in the morning, and for at least an hour, Mr. Whedon walked the entire length of the line signing autographs and taking photos with everyone who asked.  Including me (notice how photogenic he is and how I look like the walking dead?):

After he left, my Twitter friend American Elephant asked me to send a photo of my costume, so I obliged:

More trucks, more trains, more garbage carts, then they played this funny game with us called “compressing the line” a few times, which meant we had to stand up, move forward, sit down, and maybe repeat if they weren’t quite happy.  We played this game until a little after six, when they finally let us into the Convention Center, where there was a mad dash for two escalators and some but-wagging fast walking (No Running!) that would have made Olympians proud.  And then (as you may have guessed) we waited for a couple more hours.

Community And Korra

There were two panels before the Firefly panel.  The Community panel was at 10 and The Legend of Korra panel was at 11:15.  I did neither a poll nor a head count of how many of those in Ballroom 20 from the beginning of the day were primarily interested in Firefly, but I couldn’t help but think there might be a better way to manage the crowd than to have me sit through two panels in which I had no interest while devoted fans of Community and The Legend of Korra never made it inside.  I shall add this issue to my “When I Rule The World” list.

My summary of the panels:  Mostly harmless.

What You Really Want

Prior to the panel starting, the first several rows received notice that they might be on film:

Also, if anyone has posted a video of the entire panel, they were in violation of repeated requests to not film during video playbacks (which is one of the reasons I didn’t film the entire panel; the others being that it’s hard to listen while filming, it’s hard to hold a camera steady for an hour when there’s nowhere to put a tripod, and most importantly there’s going to be a professional production made of the event).

I did record a few excerpts, which I’m happy to share with you now.

Panel Introduction

 

The Jayne Hat Phenomenon (Three Parts)

 

 

 

Shoutout To The Browncoats

 

Life In The Verse

 

The Toughest Question Is The One You Don’t Ask

So yes, I did get in line to ask a question, and in my mind it started out as an amazing question, worthy of, perhaps, a doctoral dissertation.  It was predicated on an online analysis I had read in which the writer proposed that all of the other characters are in Mal’s head after he has had a breakdown after the Battle of Serenity Valley.  Thank goodness for the screeners.  I started to get out of line, but the others there encouraged me to think about my question and perhaps modify it.  I was dubious, but what I finally came up with was “Do you have a favorite fan art/tribute/fiction?” (or something like that).  Alan Tudyk shared a wonderful story about a painting (made after the end of Firefly but before Serenity) in which Joss Whedon is a jar protecting a firefly from network executives.  After that, Nathan Fillion mentioned Jason Palmer, who is not a fan artist but rather a professional artist.  I believe Mr. Fillion’s words were something like “he makes me look even more handsome than I already am.”  I later met Mr. Palmer and introduced myself as the person who asked the “pitched question”:

He even personalized my Limted Edition Portrait Set for me (if you want to see the pictures, you’ll have to check out the website linked at Mr. Palmer’s name above):

SERENITY Limited Edition Portrait Set by Jason Palmer

I probably should have gotten out of line; I can’t help but think of all the amazing questions that didn’t get asked by people waiting behind me (And I’m guessing Entertainment Weekly agrees, as my question, and the panel members’ answers, do not appear in their live blog, although they did cover Joss Whedon’s and Nathan Fillion’s tears.  DISCLAIMER:  Emotionality unrelated to my question).  Again, on my “When I Rule The World” list, maybe get people to submit questions in advance, have fans vote online for the best ones, then hold a drawing for who gets to ask them.

I Wish I Had A Better Camera (And Six More Arms)

I leave you with a few photos, taken with the still photo function on my video camera, as I could only operate so many devices at once.  Sorry in advance for the poor quality.

And finally, if my few brief video excerpts weren’t enough for you, the best full length video of the panel I could find:

 

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Breitbart, You’re My Hero!

I am nobody.

I am invisible.

Most people couldn’t pick me out of a lineup.  Not for a million dollars.  I don’t stand out in a crowd.  You wouldn’t recognize me if I sat next to you in a theater, or on a train, or in a restaurant.  You’ve never seen me on television or in a movie, heard me on the radio, or read anything I’ve written (unless, perhaps, you subscribe to some very obscure technical journals).

I’ve spent most of my life moving around more often than I care to think about (although I did actually sit down and count once), and as a result I ended up mostly disengaged from the world around me.  That all started to change when I finally decided to follow through on the recommendation of a, well, I guess I’ll call him an acquaintance (since I’m not all that great at making friends), and watch the show Chuck.  (Right now you’re probably thinking “What the heck does this have to do with Andrew Breitbart?”  Don’t worry, I’ll get to that.  All in good time.  Everything happens for a reason.  You came to Andrew in your way, I came to him in mine.)  I watched the first three seasons of Chuck between March and October of 2010, just in time to pick up with the rest of the world and watch the fourth season, if not in real-time, then at least as close to real-time as possible (NBC made episodes available on their website for up to three weeks after the original air date).

It wasn’t just the geekiness of Chuck that I enjoyed, or its similarity to one of my favorite childhood television shows (Greatest American Hero); I was fascinated by the similarities between Adam Baldwin‘s character, John Casey, and the course my life had taken.  John Casey, for those of you who don’t know, (at least at the beginning of the series) was an active duty O4 (Major to most of you, Lieutenant Commander to me) who had devoted his life to his career (with no friends, or family, or even high rank, to show for it).  Of course I know the difference between fantasy and reality, but the overlap between the fantasy that Adam Baldwin created with the character John Casey and my reality was striking.

So I did what any normal person does.  I logged into my (practically) unused Twitter account to see if Adam Baldwin was on Twitter.  And to my great delight he was not only on Twitter, but he was tweeting meaningful content (what I normally say to people when I’m telling this story in person is “it was at that moment I realized he wasn’t just some vapid actor”).  I didn’t agree with everything he tweeted, but to my further surprise, he responded to me when I asked questions about what he was saying.  I was so delighted by this fact that I actually wrote about it in my first ever blog post on November 15, 2010.

By following Mr. Baldwin on Twitter, I found a whole universe of people with whom I could interact in a way I never thought possible.  One of those amazing people was @thekelliejane, and one night she tweeted something along the lines of “I’m here, click to listen/watch”.  Clicking took me to The Stage Right Show on Blog Talk Radio, where Larry O’Connor, host of The Stage Right Show, was celebrating Dake-a-Palooza with several members of the Hollywood Chat Pack (to learn more about the show and the Chat Pack, check out my post).  I was hooked.  That night was the start of more nights than I care to think about spent staying up way past when a person who gets up at 0630 ought to be asleep.  It was during Larry’s show that I learned about the existence of Andrew Breitbart, but I was still mostly disconnected from the wider world.  I couldn’t really connect the lyric from The Army You Have’s Liberty Loves Company, played during Larry’s shows, to my personal reality.  “Breitbart, You’re My Hero!” still meant nothing to me.  I did start following Andrew on Twitter, however, and on on February 1, 2011, I sent the following tweet:

I just became @AndrewBreitbart‘s 32,000th follower and Twitter sent me a unicorn! #DoubleWin

Like many things on Twitter, and in life, I didn’t realize the significance of Andrew Breitbart not only retweeting my silly proclamation, but also following me for having made it.

I first met Larry O’Connor in person on the evening of Thursday, February 10, 2011.  The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was taking place in Washington, DC, but as I was preparing to leave for Guam early that Saturday morning, I was too busy to attend any of the events during the work day.  I was, however, able to slip away for just a couple of hours that evening to what was being affectionately referred to as “The Big Gay Party”.  A glance at the admission ticket may give you a clue as to why:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That night, I met a lot of people, including Andrew Breitbart.  At the time, I didn’t think anything of it.  To me, he was just one more person Larry was introducing me to.  Remember, this wasn’t my world.  The only thing I remember was being knocked over by all of the people trying to shake his hand or get a moment of his time.  What I took away from that evening was Dan Choi telling me he looked forward to seeing me become the first openly lesbian admiral (for the record, I’m not a lesbian, at least to my knowledge).  As a memento of that evening, I can be seen dancing like a lunatic in the background while Andrew Breitbart is being interviewed in this video (around the 45 second mark):

 

Time marched on.  I wrote the occasional blog post.  I got the (very) occasional reader.  Then two things happened almost simultaneously, at least in terms of the scale of my life.  Near the end of May 2011, I decided to buy a video camera.  And then there was this:

 

It all started to come together.  Love him or hate him.  Agree with him or disagree with him.  Andrew Breitbart had told the truth, over and over again, and was not shy about telling the world what had happened.  I finally understood the lyric.  I have always been an outspoken person, and have always been very polarizing because of it.  People almost instantaneously either really like me or really dislike me.  The world is mostly black and white to me, and (at least I have been told) I tend to speak without a filter.  I thought that meant I had to live the rest of my life (mostly) alone and friendless.  But no!  Here was Andrew Breitbart polarizing the world.  Speaking truth to power.  Wow.

About a month later, I was in southern California for work (did I mention that I travel a lot?) and Larry O’Connor just happened to be taping his show live from “an undisclosed location” (as he refers to it).  I had known that I might be invited to attend, so I came prepared with the cheapskate’s equivalent to challenge coins from the Office of Naval Intelligence to hand out to all of my Tweeps (not knowing how many Twitter acquaintances would actually be there, I freely admit that I was not willing to purchase $200 worth of challenge coins just to be sure I had enough).  Plastic or no, everyone seemed pleased with my little token from the Intelligence Community.  It was nice to finally put faces with names (and voices).  The best part, however, was when Larry (re-) introduced me to Andrew Breitbart and Andrew said, with utmost sincerity, “so you’re @mosesmosesmoses!”.  As one often says on Twitter:  Mind.  Blown.

I made it my habit not to go anywhere without my camera and video camera.  I made an effort to blog whenever something caught my attention (within the bounds of DoDD 1344.10 and still reporting for duty, of course), trying to focus my efforts on erroneous use of “the race card” as well as pointing out improper use of statistics because, as we all know, math is hard.  I knew I needed to temper my zeal for documenting the world around me just slightly, however, when I totaled my car on the way downtown to film Occupy DC protesters as they occupied an abandoned school.

The last time I saw Andrew Breitbart was at CPAC on February 9, 2012.  From the official listing in the CPAC program:

Citizens United Productions Hosts Blogger Briefing

CPAC Theater

Andrew Breitbart, Brandon Darby, Lee Stranahan, Stephen K. Bannon and Citizens United Productions President David N. Bossie preview their 2012 films including upcoming film exposing Occupy Wall Street, with short video presentation

Credentialed Bloggers Only

After making a grand entrance in Guy Fawkes masks, the panel members spoke, showed trailers for Occupy Unmasked and Hating Breitbart, then took questions.  I stood up to ask a question, and as is common practice in the military, introduced myself before doing so.  At the very beginning of this video, you can hear the very last part of that introduction, “…on Twitter” to which Andrew Breitbart responds “Hey, you defend me, that’s so nice.”

 

Now to be completely fair, he’s glossing over that one time where I questioned whether I should follow him at all because of all of the hateful tweets he was constantly retweeting.  But, hey, I’ll take it.  Also, for the record, the entire video is worth watching as Brandon Darby gives an excellent answer to my question (regarding the manipulation of well-meaning protesters) which Andrew interrupts by taking a telephone call in the middle of.

The next day, camera and video camera in hand, I blended in with the “protesters” outside the Marriott Wardman Park hotel.  I took photos and wrote a blog post about marching down Connecticut Avenue.  I found it especially interesting how the sponsoring organization, This Is Our DC, both grossly overestimated the numbers in attendance and saw nothing wrong with the irony of busing in a majority of the crowd on Mercedes-Benz buses.

And then, just a few weeks later, Andrew was gone.  No, I did not know him personally.  We never had dinner together.  I never met his family.  I do not share the personal tragedy that many of you are feeling right now.  I can sympathize (and I truly do), but not empathize.  The only thing I can do that is meaningful in any way whatsoever is tell this so that you may know how Andrew Breitbart and those around him changed my life.

I will carry my cameras wherever I go.  I will post photos.  I will post video.  I will blog.

I may be nobody.

I may be invisible.

But I will not be silent.

I am Andrew Breitbart.

Help, I’m Being Repressed

So I had been curious for quite some time about the meaning of Adam Baldwin’s (@adamsbaldwin) #PolymorphousPerversity hash tags, and I tweeted a cry for help.  I was not expecting the response I got (from Mr. Baldwin himself), which included links to The History of Political CorrectnessThe Origins of Political Correctness and Repressive Tolerance.  These were helpful because they explained what Mr. Baldwin means not only when he uses #PolymorphousPerversity but also #RepressiveTolerance.  I think that I, like many, had been misinterpreting Mr. Baldwin’s tweets as intolerance of the left when what he is really asking for is (if I am understanding correctly) simply reciprocal tolerance.

Upon reflection, I realized that I have been dealing with Repressive Tolerance all my life.  One of my most vivid memories is from high school.  I was called a racist because I filled out a form and listed my race as “other, European American”.  I must admit that I wasn’t taking a stand, I wasn’t fighting back at political correctness, I was just being a smartass.  In retrospect, however, I now see what everyone was so upset about.  They thought I was taking a stand.

More recently, I was smacked in the face with Repressive Tolerance when I had the opportunity to meet my favorite comedian, Eddie Izzard (@eddieizzard).  I happened to be on the west coast for one night only and he happened to be doing a one night only fundraiser in West Hollywood that same night.  It seemed like fate.  Through more twists and turns of fate I ended up not only meeting Mr. Izzard but going out to dinner with about a dozen people (including him) after the show.  Now please don’t get me wrong, I will be forever grateful to Mr. Izzard for his openness about being a straight (executive) transvestite.  To a certain extent, I credit my son’s ability to come out (at the age of 14) to that openness (something along the lines of “if mom thinks Eddie’s OK then I guess she’ll be OK with me”).  On the other hand, although everyone else there seemed open to my mostly right-leaning viewpoints, Mr. Izzard only seemed to want to talk to people who agreed with him.  It was disappointing to say the least.

So we’ve done early 90’s and 2010; now for one in the middle that tells a different (and better) story.  In 1999 I was living in Charleston, SC and working at Nuclear Power School.  I had an opportunity to work as an extra on a movie that Martin Sheen was in and, hey, free money, right?  I thought I’d be one of thousands but when I showed up there were only a dozen or so extras and we ended up eating dinner with the actors.  Mr. Sheen was very interested in my job with the Navy.  I was surprised given what I had read about him in the media.  He was completely open to learning about the history and safety of nuclear power in the Navy and participated openly in a two-way dialog.  This idea that everyone is entitled to their own viewpoint (which Mr. Sheen seemed to embrace, despite his own very strong views) is what Mr. Baldwin is advocating.

As a wise woman once said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”