Archives for posts with tag: Georgia

swampthingnerdtrivia

For the past couple of months I’ve been hosting Comic Book, Etc. Nerd Trivia at My Parents Basement Comic Book Bar in Avondale Estates, Georgia. In a short time, the game has grown quite popular and I’ve had the chance to reconnect with some old friends and meet plenty of news ones. I’ve been hosting general trivia games with Outspoken Entertainment for a couple of years and I’ve sneaked a fair share of Batman questions here and there, but I’d always had a larger comic book game in the back of the mind. One of the owners and an old friend Tim approached me over a year ago about asking some trivia questions at their Dollar A Pound Comic Book Yard Sales that they held leading up to and to raise money for the opening of the bar. These yard sales were fun affairs with beer, barbecue, music, and of course, comic books. I’d set up a table, sell some art (not much (sad emoji)), and ask a few questions and folks could win bags of comics. When they opened the bar last summer (2015), the response was tremendous. I have a ‘comic book’ news alert on my Google news and every day there was a new article about my friends’ comic book bar. After a few months of continued success, Tim thought they were ready for trivia and I hosted the first game on December 1, 2015 to three teams made up of employees- not a great start, but not uncommon for a bar’s first game. I was a little worried, especially since conventional trivia knowledge dictates that winter is the worst time of year to try to start a game. My worries have since subsided as our last game hinged on standing room only. I think everybody that has come so far has had fun and will keep coming back.

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The spot is actually in the old building of the James Joyce Pub and can be found just outside of downtown Decatur near the set of Scream 2 and the Waffle House Museum, just past the Avondale Estates border. Firstly, there’s a lot of nice things to say about the bar itself. The parking situation is divine and if you don’t drive, it’s a short walk from the Avondale MARTA Station. They have a phenomenal patio, which is where I host the games. It’s actually quite toasty in the winter thanks to modern science. Inside, the decorations are special, many one-of-a-kind treasures and something new every week. I can’t speak to the food as I haven’t eaten it, but some of it smells really good. Their beer menu will impress your friends if your friends are into beer menus. I drink their craft root beer every week and I love it. It’s syrup-heavy and light on the bubbles. The owners are wonderful. All of the staff that I’ve dealt with has been beyond delightful. Having hosting games all over Atlanta and its surrounding villages, I’ve been witness to how many restaurants and bars operate and this one is special. They actually save the discarded golf pencils from the week before and give them to me when I return. That’s just one example of their courtesy. From what I can tell, they’re kind and courteous to the customers, each other, and me. As far as trivia locations go, every place will give the winners a gift certificate to the restaurant. I’ve hosted a few $100 games too where my company puts up some cash to drive excitement. However, My Parents Basement does something different. In addition to gift certificates to the spot, they also give tangibly fun prizes like comics, funko pops, beer coozies, wall art, key chains, and more.

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I write the games themselves and we’ve had a few theme games. The week that the Force Awakens awoke, we hosted a Star Wars themed game. On December 23, the categories were themed around Christmas Carols, but the content remained comic book, etc. nerd subjects. In honor of Alan Rickman’s passing, I created a round based on his characters in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Harry Potter films, Alice in Wonderland, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The February 9th game will contain elements to celebrate Spring Festival. On February 16th, I’m excited to host a game that celebrates the contributions of black creators and the adventures of black characters for Black History Month. Similarly, I look forward to hosting at least one game for Women’s History Month in March (along with a Batman v. Superman game, of course!). My enthusiasm might surprise you because I’m not black or a woman, but you forget that I’m an historian and I love history months! As I put together the game for Black History Month, I’m reminded of the embarrassing lack of characters of color in mainstream nerd media. I think creating such a trivia game would be a good exercise for the editors and executives that oversee the modes of production. It would be impossible I think to create a meaningful trivia game about transgender characters for a mainstream audience at this point in our history and it’s still pretty difficult to do it for black characters. I remember Daniel Amrhein  did some exhaustive research about representation in the big superhero teams over the course of a year at Dragon Con a few years back. He did his best to quantify how different characters of different races, genders, and maybe sexual preference or religion compared in terms of appearances in big titles like X-Men, Justice League, and Avengers. He kept having to qualify his findings by pointing out that “yes, Wolverine is non-American, but he’s white non-American” or “technically four women heroes appear in fifty-something panels, but they only say a combined three and a half sentences.” As I put together the games, his remarks resonate with me as the difficulty isn’t simply having characters of color, but having characters of color that matter. (If you ever get a chance to hear Daniel speak, he puts together a really good presentation and provides ample evidence for his conclusions.) One way to gauge how a character matters is to see if a general audience can answer a trivia question about them. Luckily, the players of my games aren’t a general audience. These folks are pretty clever, well-read, well-watched, and well-versed. The players have gotten into any fights or shoot-outs or orgies or anything; pretty civilized.

swampthingnerdtrivia

If you find yourself in the Atlanta area on a Tuesday with an urge to show off whatever wisdom you’ve siphoned from a lifetime of watching cartoons, reading comics, and shouting at video games, I welcome you to join us for a game. You might win something, see a celebrity, fall in love, who knows? If you find yourself in the Atlanta area on a Wednesday in a similar mood, I hear there’s a geek trivia game in Sandy Springs that I haven’t check out yet, but maybe you and I could go together. We’d probably make a great team. If it’s Thursday, I think you’ll have to find something to do, but Tuesday will come quicker than you think. Before you attend, you may want to go and ‘like’ the facebook page because I give away an answer every week. While you’re on that darn facebook, you should go ahead and like the page for this site.

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Halloween has come and gone again like a murderous curse stuck on repeat or our ham-and-egg existence riding that eternal recurrence merry-go-round one more time for the sake of eternity. I love Halloween. This one (2015) was a pretty good one- candy, costumes, and a few Great Pumpkins. My wife and I attended a pumpkin carving party and she immediately took control of our pumpkin, deciding by executive order that we would make a Red Lantern pumpkin. This continues a tradition we started last year with our Green Lantern pumpkin. It worked out well since we didn’t have all of our pumpkin art tools at the party and the Red Lantern logo is probably the easiest Lantern logo to recreate.

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Our friends made some pretty good pumpkins too, but I didn’t take any pictures of them so you’ll have to use your imagination. One featured a cat and the others were spooky in their own way. One of our friends tried to carve about thirty letters into his pumpkin. He gave up after about nine. Some people aren’t cut out for the pumpkin life.

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Last year we scored some really good quality green lights for the Green Lantern pumpkin so we tried to do the same with red lights this year. After we were finished with with the pumpkin, I installed the lights in a small display of my Green Lantern toys.

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We did acquire some red lights, but they unfortunately they are as good quality as the green ones we got last year. They’re really candy cane lights, not red lights. Now that Halloween is over, I plan to use them in a display of my Harley Quinn toys.

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Pumpkins in Georgia are a bittersweet bit of Halloween. On the one hand, people from Georgia love stabbing things with knives. On the other hand, it’s still pretty warm around Halloween here and the pumpkins get pretty gross pretty fast. Once a pumpkin starts to devolve into a mushy, moldy insect orgy, you can feel more confident in your witchcraft.

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My wife is adamant that we keep making Lantern pumpkins every year until we’ve done the logos of every Corps, so I’m not too worried about the strength of our marriage. I love Halloween.

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My recent campaign to get panda portraits of my wife on display at our favorite restaurants has added a second location. We visited Dua Vietnamese Noodle for lunch on my wife’s birthday. Her special birthday wish was to get two to-go orders of pho- one for lunch and one for a midnight snack- from Dua. We don’t frequent Dua as much as other pho spots because their hours aren’t particularly convenient and parking is annoying, but their noodles are so good that my wife looks for any opportunity to squeeze in a visit. We made the trip on her birthday and brought the restaurant a gift- a portrait I had done of her a few weeks earlier. The owners were very receptive and have asked me to do a few more pieces.

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If you ever find yourself in Downtown Atlanta before 6pm and you’re hungry, I strongly recommend Dua. They have two locations on Broad Street: Dua and Dua 2 Go, which, as the name suggests, offers their regular menu to go. To all my fellow Dragon Con people, I recommend walking a little further down Peachtree Street to eat here during the Con. They’re closed on Sundays, so hit them up on Friday and Saturday. It’s just far enough from the major DC hotels that you won’t have to wait forever- definitely better food and experience than the spots in Peachtree Center!

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Above you can see the inaugural restaurant panda portrait which I did for Scott’s Eats and Sweets in Mableton, Georgia, which is also a Vietnamese noodle spot. We’d eat at Scott’s more often too but Mableton is pretty far from where we live. It’s a nice to spot to meet up with some of our OTP (that’s outside-the-perimeter for you out-of-towners) friends.

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I hope to get a few more restaurants in before the end of the year. If you’re interested in displaying a portrait of my wife as a panda eating the cuisine of your restaurant, send me an email (waynexiaolong@gmail.com) and we can try to put something together. I must warn you that in the interest of preserving my integrity as an artist- your food better be delicious or you get farts instead of arts.

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Here’s another slew of panda portraits. Subjects include happy young pandas in rocking chairs, panda academics exploring the substance and consequence of popular culture, the War Corps Starlord, and a fantastic noodle spot in Mableton, Georgia called Scott’s Eats and Sweets that I highly recommend.

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“Soyez réalistes, demandez l’impossible.

If scholars were more like pandas, it would be easier to secure a faculty position.

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As evidenced by this picture I recently received from my good friend and sticker source, Series 3 Baby Nightsoil stickers are printed and on their way. Series 3 features such subjects as Hank Williams, James Brown, tigers, pandas, non-panda bears, the Big Chicken, and Macho King Randy Squirrel at the foot of the pyramids of endless sacrifice. As usual, quality is high and supply is limited.

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A group from Liberty in North Korea , an organization that helps North Korean refugees resettle in the United States and South Korea, has been touring the southeast US for the past ten or so weeks, giving presentations on the way their organization works and what the people in North Korea are doing themselves to subvert the Kim regime. While in Georgia, they visited several schools and churches, but I don’t think they stopped at too many places like WonderRoot Community Arts Center. They really seemed to love the place as much I do and the WonderRoot members who caught their presentation all appeared touched by these people’s dedication to help the North Korean people. Everybody was impressed with their van. In addition to arranging for them to visit the arts center, my wife and I hosted these traveling activists in our home. We prepared Sichuan Hot Pot, which as always was very delicious.

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In this picture: (Clockwise starting at 12 o’clock) Harley Quinn glass, lotus root, cucumber, wintermelon, thinly sliced beef, ground beef with cilantro (for yuanzi), pork tenderloin, fake crab meat, spring onion, cilantro, garlic, oyster sauce, sesame oil, golden needle mushrooms, oyster mushrooms. (in the middle) the hot pot, split in two- one for vegetarians and people who don’t love spicy food and one real hot pot.

They were excellent guests and left in the morning. We sent them off with a watermelon, a roll of toilet paper (when outsiders come to Georgia in the spring, their sinuses all be blowing up and shit), and two panda portraits off my wall (beauty with cheetah and paranoid cherub on the piano). Now there are two empty spots on my wall. I will probably fill one of them up with this portrait of the three traveling activists:

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In this picture: (left to right) Bernadette, Brian, Yoona

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To see more pictures from Dragon Con, click HERE

(warning: some pictures might not be suitable for all audiences)

Dragon Con this year went pretty well. I enjoyed nearly every panel which I attended, which was considerably less this year as I volunteered for the first time. As usual, the panels from the academic conference were the most interesting. I must admit I had the most fun at my panel, “Comics Through A Socio-Political Lens.” The other speakers were very nice and delivered witty papers. The crowd was engaging and even included a real life superhero- Jet from the Rock City, Alabama! I got to speak with a lot of artists and writers, such as Neal Adams, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Connor, Brian Stelfreeze, Darwyn Cooke, Van Jensen, and others. Because I was a volunteer, I ended up meeting a lot of movie and TV stars including Malcolm Macdowell, George Takei, Edward James Olmos, and the guy who plays Hank on Grimm. I did feel a bit starstruck meeting the cast of Smallville, especially Allison Mack- talking to her was just like talking to Chloe Sullivan. Supergirl is even more beautiful in real life and Brainiac has been working out. The other volunteers I met were generally nice. Some of them were more interesting than others.

The most interesting person I met wasn’t actually a guest at Dragon Con. I was walking out the Marriott when I spotted a guy wearing a Strange Talent of Luther Strode t-shirt and I complimented him on it. It turns out he’s Tradd Moore and he gave me a copy of Luther Strode Vol. 2, which was pretty sweet.

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To see more pictures from Dragon Con, click HERE

After Dragon Con, I realize that I left two great titles from the past year off the list of best comics. Obviously the omission of Luther Strode is a bit embarrassing and perhaps even a little corrupt in light of his recent generosity, but it’s definitely a book that stood out this year. The other omission is the unreasonably controversial and incredibly well-done Before Watchmen series, which I really feel like rereading after hearing Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Connor talk about it.

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To see more pictures from Dragon Con, click HERE

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I’ve been volunteering at Wonder Root Community Arts Center in the Reynoldstown neighborhood of Atlanta for the past few months. It’s a great place that offers a recording studio, performance venue, darkroom, digital media lab, art gallery, and community garden to its members for a very low rate ($10 a month or $60 a year) and it also participates in scores of community programs and activities. I drew the picture of the center above and it now hangs in the Wonder Root community library, which houses a lot of issues of ArtPapers, many rare art publications, and a cigarette machine turned art dispenser. Last week I was asked to draw a picture on the door, which the center has been sporting for a few days so far. While chalk has frustrated me as a medium, particularly when I was teaching, I managed to make a friendly doodle that I figured I’d share with y’all. It contains elements of Wonder and elements of Panda.

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Wonder Root Wonder Panda

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Atlanta’s beloved science fiction convention Dragon Con will be coming at the end of summer and I will be presenting some of my ideas about the historical significance of the Green Lantern. Any of you who have looked at the timeline know that I’m pretty serious about the Green Lantern and its relationship to the American identity. I will be presenting on how Cold War realities and imagined realities appear through the Silver Age Green Lantern. It should be part of two tracks. I know one of them is the Academic tracks and I assume the other one is comics, but there isn’t a comics track mentioned on their website yet, which is weird but don’t worry. There’s a whole page devoted to comics related stuff where you can see some of the creators who will be attending and other practical information. I’m excited to hear that Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, and Jimmy Palmiotti will be attending. I read the first two Before Watchmen trades and really enjoyed them. The Minutemen/Silk Spectre one that Cooke and Conner worked on is wonderful. Their art is quite special in superhero comics. The New Frontier is one of my all-time favorites, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Darwyn Cooke is probably the top on my list of people I’d like to discuss the implications of the Cold War on the Green Lantern with (besides Gil Kane, Julie Schwartz, et al. who were creating GL in the Silver Age).

If you’ll be attending Dragon Con this year, I hope you’ll check out my panel. There will lots of pictures, argument fallacies, and over-reaching. I will dress sharp, but I won’t be doing cosplay. I appreciate the cosplay in others, but it’s not really my thing. I think I could pull off Yorrick from Y- The Last Man.

I’m not sure what my panel will be called, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble identifying it as there probably won’t be too many panels on the Cold War and the Green Lantern. In all likelihood, it will be in the same room as all the other comic book panels which is where I will probably be for most of the entire con. I hope there will be a lot of academic programming because I prefer joining discourses over fandoms.

If you happen to be in Dalian, Liaoning province, China this weekend, I strongly recommend you check out the Dusk Festival. A lot of great Chinese bands will be playing. Some of my favorites are Duck Fight Goose and my dear friends Doc Talk Shock. Below is a review I did for Doc Talk Shock’s latest record Lights of Detour for Focus on Dalian magazine, a bilingual (English & Chinese) journal serving the Dalian community. While you’re reading the review a year after it was published and several reviews have been published since, I say with confidence that my review was the first published review of the record. The review is pretty glowing and you should be skeptical because of my personal relationship with the band and the fact that I wrote the lyrics for several songs on the record- but if you can look past those red flags and give the record a listen, you’ll see it’s worthy of my praise and worthy of yr. ears. Of the surprising things to come from the review is that Brad Seippel, a gentlemen from Mobile, Alabama collaborated with on a few tracks and shared billing with one of his projects Thruoutingenue many times, was living in Beijing when the article was published and it brought us back into contact briefly. I’ve had the good fortune of befriending some really talented and creative people- I’m not bragging, I’m counting my blessings. For those of you who found yourselves outside of the circle of cool, here’s yr. chance to catch up. In honor of the reprint, I whipped up a panda portrait of this international rock phenomenon. If yr. interested in more great Chinese bands, I strongly recommend Wang Wen 惘闻, the Sound and the Fury , Porcupine, Rebuilding the Rights of the Statue (RETROS), Zi Ran Juan,New Pants, Hang on the Box, ma2, Gemini Trip, and the Bear Minorities (Yu Dong and Jiang Hao from DTS making dreams melt with sound). Before I left Dalian, I made a film with Jiang Hao, Yu Dong, and an Irish DJ named Peter Donelan that exhibited our music and the ideology of a discourse-generating experiment we developed together called ‘Wonder-Were-Wolf,” the title both a nod to Wonder Woman and our monthly meetings where we turned in werewolves over heaping piles of meat and flowing rivers of drink. One last Chinese gem: My favorite Chinese song-and-dance man from my favorite province (Sichuan, of course) MC石头 (MC Stone) – if you get a chance to see him and his crew (which resembles a Chinese casting for an early John Waters film) perform live, you MUST go.

The review is posted below the pic.doctalkshockischineserockShortly after I arrived in Chengdu in 2007, an enthusiastic musician from Northeast China contacted me on the internet to say, and I’m paraphrasing quite recklessly here, “Welcome to our China. You are a musical genius.”  Few things have ever endeared me to someone like praise and we quickly began exchanging music, thoughts on music, and general pleasantries with each other. In 2010, Jiang Hao and I finally met in person. This fateful meeting occurred on my birthday and Doc Talk Shock’s first EP proved to be a birthday gift that continues to bring me ‘confusion and joy.’ While it lacked the cosmic intimacy of Bear Minorities (Jiang Hao’s previous project with fellow member of DTS Yu Dong), I could hear something really special in their new band.

Employing the powers of persuasion that have won Doc Talk Shock so many fans, Jiang Hao convinced me that my life would be incomplete without an extended detour through the city he calls home, Dalian. Once moving here, I found Jiang Hao and Yu Dong not only to be talented musicians, but also gracious neighbors. In both Doc Talk Shock and life, the songwriting duo compliment each other much like Thurston Moore (Jiang Hao) and Lee Ranaldo (Yu Dong) of Sonic Youth. In turn, these two have found a talented rhythm section that compliments them well. In addition to keeping time, bassist Evgeny ‘The Man of Steel’ Kozachinskiy and drummer Sean Rollins provide Doc Talk Shock with a certain exoticism, representing their native Russia and United States respectively. On stage or off, these four gentlemen bring a semblance of rock n roll sincerity to everything they do.

Their first EP and live shows brought Doc Talk Shock to the attention of iconic Beijing record label Modern Sky. The label offered to release their first full-length album and sent Yang Haisong of PK14 to Dalian to produce the record. Recorded in only eight days, Lights of Detour maintains the velocity of a live performance while offering pockets of headphone gold.

“Sweet Swear” begins the album with fidgeting guitar notes, reminiscent a carefree child playing with a blade of glass, that are soon joined by equally aimless, but effect-laden guitar and drums that putter out the rhythm of a slow-motion trampoline. This introduction evokes the space jazz of Tortoise and Euphone, but soon finds itself trumped by the glorious spirit of rock. This first outburst of rock triumph and its subsequent retreat back to heady instrumentation sets the tone for Lights of Detour, following a formula of climaxes and collapses sprinkled with pleasantly surprising deviations from what the ear expects to come next. “The Futurist” stands out as an obvious single- catchy, dreamy, youthful. “Paint the Volcano,” the album’s fourth track and my personal favorite, goes in several directions at once, culminating in the kind of rock triumph that lifts your heart towards the sun.

On several of the tracks on Lights of Detour, Kozachinskiy and Rollins tackle sophisticated time signatures with both cool nonchalance and raw fury.  Because the record flows so seamlessly, it’s easy to overlook the shifts in time signatures. The record illuminates how much Jiang Hao and Yu Dong have matured as songwriters since the first EP. In Red Rock: The Long, Strange March of Chinese Rock & Roll, Jonathan Campbell explains one of the major dilemmas in assessing Chinese rock music, the difference between what is ‘good’ and what is ‘good for China,’ and I deem Doc Talk Shock’s Lights of Detour to be great, not only by the standards of Chinese rock, but by the standards of both international and trans-dimensional rock.

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