April 20-24, 2005

Having Fun Storming Indy: Star Wars Celebration III

When I took the job as an online content developer (that's code for online writer) at Lucasfilm I never thought that one day I'd be surrounded by Stormtroopers (or hit on by one for that matter). Of course, Stormtroopers (or Stormies as I like to call them) are probably the only guys I find attractive in uniform. But hey, that's just me.

When I showed up in Indianapolis for Celebration III, the largest Star Wars convention in this galaxy, I had no idea what I was in for. Granted, I'd been to countless Comic-Cons, where our Stormies are often intermixed with overweight Batmans, short Spider-Mans, numerous Trekkies and plenty of booth bimbos. This was something much different. At this convention, not only was everything all about the Force, but there was something a bit more sentimental about it. There were so many little kids (many dressed like their favorite characters) that it made me realize that my job is much more than just informing fans of the latest toys, comics, news tidbits, events and so on, but it was to remind people why Star Wars is so dang cool. And not just to the usual comic book nerds either, but to little kids who think this is all real, and to girls who still have crushes on Han Solo -- or worse Vader, and to hordes of other folks who want to relive the magic of attending this Star Wars film with a gigantic last hurrah.

As soon as I got to the hotel, it was swarming with fans with a few of the Star Wars cast and crew milling around in the lobby. I flirted with Kit Fisto in the elevator -- before I knew he was one of our actors, mind you. I'm a sucker for a boy with dreds and an Aussie accent, what can I say? I stopped by our computer room (lovingly called the "War Room") in the convention center, picked up my all-access Staff Badge which I would soon grow to adore for not having to stand in 6-hour lines) and grabbed some coffee before taking my camera out and about to document the madness that would become my daily routine for the next 4 days. I hung out at the initial pre-party where I met up with my Star Wars artist buddies, the Hodges', of course my coworker pals, and whatyaknow that cute Aussie boy.

Of course, the next day was less about me flirting with Jedi actors, and more about me running around at as many events I could, writing quick notes during presentations and Q&As, taking snapshots, running back to the War Room, typing up stories, sending them to my editor and then running out to do it again and again and again. The few of my friends who found me, wouldn't exactly find me, but a version of myself that resembled more of a headless chicken. (Nice visual, huh?)

These are the events I was frantically writing about:

Plus I was constantly snapping photos of kids in costume, tricked out Star Wars cars, Stormies marching around including the HUGE 501st Parade in the street and so much more!

One of the highlights was a party that we (meaning myself and my boss/Star Wars guru Pablo Hidalgo) to a Webcammer Party to meet some of the fans who truly love the little webcam that we take everywhere with us so folks can see what they're missing -- click here to see what I mean. They were so happy to see us -- they even had Tom Hodges make a shirt with US ON IT. I don't think I've ever been on a shirt before! ;-) I should have asked for one!

I ran into old buddies, saw some online pals face-to-face for the first time, met some new folks, laughed until my sides hurt with my Disney lads Aaron and Dave, and had one hell of a time as you can tell from the pictures below.

Celebration III Photos:

April 18, 2005

No Vroom With a View

I don't even know where to start talking about my car woes. It started a few months back when I went to go in for my 30,000 mile check up at Toscalito Tire. I figured since they do my oil changes and such they were capable of doing my 30,000 mile checkup. They found a number of things that needed replacing (including -- surprise surprise -- my tires), but I trusted them. Turns out they never checked my transmission fluid (which I thought was standard with a 30,000 mile checkup) because they couldn't get to it -- the new VW Beetles have closed transmission fluid containers that only VW dealers and transmission specialists can access -- but they never TOLD me that.

Fast forward six months later. This is when I started to notice that when I pressed on the gas pedal to accelerate after driving for over 45 minutes that it did nothing. The engine would rev but not go anywhere. Occasionally it would lurch after I pumped the gas pedal a few times, or do nothing at all and I'd have to coast before it worked again. Took it back to Toscalito thinking maybe I just needed a new spark plug. They charged me $100 to say they couldn't do anything. This is when they told me they couldn't get to the transmission fluid to see if it was low or damaged. Nice, huh?

I then, on their recommendation, went to AAMCO (transmission specialist chain) to see if they could do anything for my ailing car. They took a look at my transmission and told me all the fluid was burnt and my torque convertor was shot. Apparently, my differential was leaking too. Of course, all this is Klingon to me. I don't know the difference between a torque converter and a flux capacitor, so for all I know they could be making it all up. Regardless, I shelled out the $3,685 to fix it all (goodbye saving account) and hoped that all my car problems were over. I also was told by the saleman/mechanic guy that I could pay $179 extra for a 36-month warranty today, or if I wanted the same warranty later it would cost me $500. I'm not sure why he was offering the warranty to me like that. It made me feel uncomfortable that he was trying to get me to shell out another $179 for something I didn't need. But I was too worried that my troubles with my transmission might not be over, so I paid up.

After driving home from the shop in Marin -- getting 2 blocks away from my house the SAME ACCELERATOR problem occured. Step on gas, goes nowhere, engine revs, and then lurches forward. WHAT IN THE HELL!? I cried the rest of the way home. Nice. Real nice. Over $3,000 and still not fixed. I called AAMCO back as soon as I got home and told them what happened. They told me the new parts might be settling and if after 10 days to come back in to have them look it over (their standard policy). Yeah, thanks. They better friggin fix my car. I need it for my job, and I don't have any more money to shell out. Zip. So I suppose when I get back from the Star Wars convention next Monday, I'll be driving her back in for another round of "What's Wrong with Bonnie's VW Beetle?"

I started searching eOpinions and other sites about possible 2000 model VW Beetle troubles and was startled to find that my problems were common with other Beetle owners. People complained about broken vacuum hoses (CHECK), broken window buttons and gas cap locks (CHECK), broken armrest (CHECK), cheap plastic undersides that fall off when you go over a speedbump no matter how slowly (CHECK), and numerous transmission issues (CHECK). And of course, VW doesn't care. They hassel VW owners and give them the run arround, and people have to park their cars in the dealers' garages on a regular basis to fix things that shouldn't be ailing new cars. Mine only has 38,000 miles on it and so far I've replaced all four tires, the plastic underside, the windshield wipers, vacuum air pumps, coolant filter, and tiny little things that seem to always add up.

I was in a horrible mood all the rest of the day. I felt like I'd be swindled by two different places, paying them for shoddy work with a saving account that is now down to its last $1,000. So much for saving up for a nice place to rent in a neighborhood void of junkies and park gangbangers. *sigh*

I chatted with my pal Andy and he suggested I give his mechanic a call if all else fails to see if he could tell me straight-up what's ailing my car. I'm just tired of being lied to by anyone holding a wrench. I shouldn't have to be an expert gearhead to know when my mechanic is lying to my face so I can hand over my credit card for things I don't need. It's like going to a doctor who tells you need heart surgery, when in fact you just need to exercise. Ugh.

As suggested by one of my pals, here's my donate button in case anyone wants to contribute to helping me fix my car, or buying me a beer:

April 15, 2005

Blogging in Iraq

I have never used my passport. I've either been too busy, or too chicken to travel solo, or didn't have enough money to really get wherever I was going and back. So when my friends take amazing trips to places I've never been, or never dare to set foot in, I'm instantly struck with a sense of travel envy.

My friend Jacob is currently in Iraq, visiting friends he met online or through other pals, while snapping candid photos of soldiers, gas trucks, the beautiful countryside and random things like Pringles and Diet Pepsi in the rare Iraqi grocery stores. And of course, to my delight, he's actually blogging about it here on his Livejournal blog and posting all these strange photos that I'm quite shocked he's not getting hasseled by the locals for taking in the first place. Why is it that here in the States we get tackled abd fined for taking photos on the NYC subway, but in Iraq, a tourist can take as many snaps of soliders and airports as he wants? Weird.

At any rate, it's great to see these photos and hear about Jake meeting new folks, seeing new things and having exciting adventures. But I have to admit, I never pictured him shooting off an automatic rifle for fun into the countryside. Still, I supposed it was less militant and more Hunter S. Thompson of him.

I'm sure he's getting sick of all his friends posting "be careful and watch your back while you're there" comments on his blog, but I do feel the same. He's a smart lad and can take care of himself. Heck half the time he speaks German so no one will think he's an American. I suppose when you know you'd never attempt something like that yourself, one tends to get a bit nervous for friends that have the guts to do it themselves. So here's to Jake and his thirst for traveling somewhere besides Disneyland.

April 5, 2005

Wampa Attack!

Here's my typical work day at Lucasfilm -- me being chased by a hungry Wampa.

This Wampa costume was made by a fan from the Mexican Star Wars Fan Club who gave it to our Director of Fan Relations -- Steve Sansweet. One of our production guys nabbed it, put it on, and chased us around the office. He wanted to run over to the daycare and scare the bejeebus out of all the little kids but he decided not to afterall.

Here's another image of the Wampa reading me a story out of Star Wars Insider magazine.

Check out the smartass captions here.

April 3, 2005

Sickly Sophie

Nothing sets your priorities straight faster than someone close to you getting sick...really sick. And since one of the most important people in my life just happens to be the best dog in the world -- Sophie -- when she got sick this week from a mysterious ailment that left her literally without much use of her legs, I freaked out.

At first we thought she might have tetanus -- which can affect dogs out of the blue. But after two vets saw her, they now think it might be some sort of treatable bacterial infection. She's now on antibiotics and steroids to help her get around. I'm praying/hoping/begging-to-the-gods that she gets better soon now that she's on the proper meds.

I know to some of you this may sound downright odd to care so much for an animal. But Sophie is more than just a dog -- she's my best friend. She cheers me up when I'm nothing but blue and she's always happy to see me whether I bring her toys and treats or not. I'm keeping the positive thoughts flowing and hopefully she'll be back to her happy-go-puppy self very soon.

April 2, 2005

Meeting Ash

Before I was a writer at Lucasfilm, I was a music journalist of sorts. I wrote reviews and interviews of bands for various newspapers and magazines, and for a long stint I was the Music Director at my college radio station, as well as a VJ for two different MTV-type shows in Denver and San Francisco. So I have to admit, when I asked my boss if I could interview the band Ash about their single "Clones" being used our video game Republic Commando (you can see their video for "Clones" on that website under video), I was pretty excited to be interviewing a band again like I used to.

The band was cool enough to take a break from their tour to do a special concert for us all at the ILM sound stage. They played onstage surrounded by various Star Wars props like Darth Vader, a Clone trooper and of course R2-D2. I tooks tons of "artsy" photos as you can see below. And was happy to see that the band was having fun playing for us all.

The next day they came over for an interview (they spent the night at the Inn at our Ranch) and that's where I discovered that Rich the drummer is a huge Bettie Page fan (as is his awesome girlfriend), and Mark is a serious Star Wars action figure collector. I'm not kidding he has about 5 bags of toys on the bus. Tim and the band seemed really happy to have made the pitstop at the Ranch for the interview and we loaded them all up with Star Wars toys, shirts and comics.

That night they played at Slim's with the Bravery to a soldout show. If you want to hear what they sound like, check out their web site here.

Here's Photos of Ash at the ILM Concert:

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