Fantastic Fest 2012: The Tour de Tacky

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday of this week driving across America. With my road-buddy Don by my side (mostly sleeping), I guided a hybrid Honda Civic from Minneapolis, MN to Austin, TX. It’s a trip of 1,170 miles, which we made nonstop as per usual. Thanks to having to work on the day I left, I wound up being awake for 41 hours straight. Thankfully, I’ve finally gotten some sleep, and have regained my powers of coherent speech.

This year, the trip was mostly uneventful. There was 100% less raccoon slaughter. The air conditioning system of the car remained intact for the entire trip. We found an IHOP in Oklahoma City with relatively little trouble.

We did, however, find a lot of tacky gas station gifts on this trip. Behold: the Great American Tour de Tacky!

Click the photos to see the larger image on Flickr.

Grrr. Anyone need Spider-Man/Green Goblin salt & pepper shakers?
GRRRR. Who needs Spider-Man and Green Goblin salt & pepper shakers? We all do, don’t we?
"Wow, who know what will happen now that Facebook bought it..." WTF?!
“I wonder what will happen now that Facebook bought it?” I… have no words for this.
And then there's this. How about a nose-shaped pencil sharpener? Thank you, Iowa.
The dog and I shared the same expression on our faces. It’s a pencil sharpener. Thanks, Iowa!
 "Look noble, @halfastick."  Do I need a skunk-skin cap?
 “Look noble, Don!” The question is not whether I should own a fake skunk-skin cap. The question is when I will break down and buy it.
At a gas station in Texas: ridiculous swords and axes. Of course. Okay, seriously guys. WTF?!
Texas gas stations contain a full assortment of tacky fantasy swords and axes. I won’t even pretend to understand this one.
The winner is… CABBAGE DOG! Seriously, this will be my Fantastic Fest badge photo next year.

Incoming: The Road to Fantastic Fest 2012

Tim League

Tim League, owner of the Alamo Drafthouse, at Fantastic Fest 2010

In just a couple hours, I will hop in my car, nab my road buddy Don, and start driving to Austin, TX. We will arrive sometime tomorrow, and I hope that, this year, all the raccoons we see along the way will still be alive after we pass them.

That’s right, we’re heading to Fantastic Fest!

Fantastic Fest is an utterly bonkers film festival, housed at the famed Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. It focuses on genre filmmaking (mainly horror, crime, action, and sci-fi) that would usually only pop up occasionally at more “serious” film festivals, and it excels at bringing in those films from around the world. Fantastic Fest embraces the weird, the crazy, the underground, the obscene. The triumphant mantra of Fantastic Fest audiences is “CHAOS REIGNS!”

This will be the third year in a row that I attend. Over those years, Fantastic Fest has become one of my favorite nerd events of the year. It’s eight days where I completely fill my head and eyeballs and ears with filmmaking that often doesn’t reach American audiences at all. And then, between the films, absolutely insane things happen. I’ve seen ebullient Japanese film directors strip nearly naked whilst singing karaoke in a Texas bar. I’ve seen – and eaten – whole roast pigs that have been sewn together, Human Centipede-style. I’ve seen Elijah Wood get thrown in a Faraday cage so he could dance while being struck by lightning.

And during all of this, we eat food at the Alamo Drafthouse. Mmmmm…

This year, The Geek Life cohort Wendy will be sharing the Fantastic Fest experience. Will she survive? How many Mondo posters will she buy? Will she get spoon bruises from acclaimed Spanish directors?

In these pages over the next two weeks, you will find out what happens on our adventures! You will also be awash in film reviews and photos. Join us in the chaos!

Where's the Party? Wherever Nacho Vigalondo Is.

Fantastic Fest Rule #1: the party is *always* where Nacho Vigalondo is.


Elevator Theatre

At CONvergence 2012, a few friends of mine hatched a strange plan: they wanted to create tiny little theatrical productions, which would be enacted outside elevator doors of the convention hotel. The plays would last from when the elevator doors opened to when they would close.

This process, of course, would include alcohol consumption.

Sometime around 2 AM on one of the convention nights, I received a call to action via a text message. I was to bring my camera to one of the middle floors of the hotel’s 22-floor tower. Sauced though I was, I managed to get a couple minutes of documentary footage.

Thus, please enjoy Elevator Theatre.


New Geek Life: Security Security Security!

On this week’s The Geek Life, Paul and I were left to our own devices once again. Thus, we rambled on about movies, security, Apple… well, mostly all the things we usually ramble on about.


Space Camp!

As a completely unexpected byproduct of my road trip to Dragon*Con this year, I somehow managed to wind up at Space Camp for a day. WHOA!

By “Space Camp”, I mean that I actually wound up at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. The facility is a massive museum of space travel history, and is the home of Space Camp, which is like Disneyland for science-y kids.

On Labor Day this year, the facility hosted Rocket Fest, a fundraiser that gives kids scholarships to Space Camp. As part of the activities that day, the Center scheduled several people to speak and/or perform: Marian Call, Molly Lewis, Joseph Scrimshaw, Ken Plume, and Phil Plait. I wound up there with them because, two days prior, Mr. Scrimshaw said to me between drinks of alcohol, “You should join us!” Since a cursory look at a map revealed that Huntsville, AL was actually somewhat on my way home from Dragon*Con, I said, “YEAH!”

Thus, I drove to Huntsville, slung my camera upon my shoulder, and documented the event for the Twitterati.

Oh, and did I mention that the stage was right under a Saturn V rocket?

Family Photo

If I get just five shots like this per year, I’m a happy photobug.

The show was a ton of fun, and I’m thrilled that I got to see and document it. If you want to see the show, too, and get a Marian-and-Molly tour of the museum afterward, you can see all that it right here on YouTube:

I am sad to report that I did not meet any overly friendly robots, and thus I did not actually get launched into space. However, I did get free pizza. (Space Camp pizza is the best pizza.)

Here are a few other choice images, and a full gallery below. You can also peruse the images directly on Flickr. Enjoy!

Joseph Scrimshaw

Joseph Scrimshaw: Supervillain


Phil Plait

Phil Plait: Actual Scientist

Molly Lewis

Molly Lewis

Self Portrait with Saturn V

Self Portrait with a Saturn V Rocket

Phil Plait, Molly Lewis, Joseph Scrimshaw

Phil Plait, Molly Lewis, and Joseph Scrimshaw inside a command module.