Post-Christmas in America

So, being newlyweds this year but still not living in the same country on account of the need for proper immigration channels to be followed, the wife and I decided we should at least spend our first Christmas together, together.

To that end, she flew up here to St. John’s in the midst of blizzards and storms, and spent 5 of the snowiest December days I can remember here through Christmas Day.  (Her additional help in shovelling was much appreciated.)  On Boxing Day, however, both of us packed and headed down to Philly to spend the remainder of the holiday break with her family.

I was greeted with this.

Phil the Dog
Phil the Dog, failing to model his bow tie collar successfully.

It took a while for him to warm up to me, since he is not very smart and forgot that we had met and played quite a lot on my previous visits.  We never could get him to stay still long enough to model the bow tie I bought him, however—every time I put my camera down low enough to get a picture, he came toward the camera with his tongue ready for licking.

Anyway, we visited with all the rest of the wife’s family, ate far too much food, and went to the movies a few times, which was great—I was able to catch up on my viewing.  Also, we saw Batman.

LEGO Batman.  In person.  Well, plastic.  Sort of.

Ugh, just look at the picture.

Lego Batman
He’s (Lego) Batman

Needless to say, I am looking forward to the upcoming Lego movie.

Anyway, while there I saw Frozen and 47 Ronin.  Not surprisingly, I have thoughts on each.

Thoughts on Frozen

Disney’s Frozen has done exceptionally well for the House of Mouse, and for good reason.  It is a thoroughly enjoyable movie that both feels like a classic Disney fairy tale movie while avoiding and gently skewering some of the more questionable tropes of the genre that they built.

The computer-animated visuals are fine, but rather par-for-the-course these days.  While is is excellent character and visual design, I find all the 3D computer animated look largely the same.  I prefer traditional 2D animation—I can think of lots more examples in that arena that simply blow my mind.

The voice work was also good.  I am a fan of Kristen Bell from her, shall we say, less family-friendly work in movies like Fanboys and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but was surprised that she also sang her character’s part as well—she’s really good!  Broadway star Idina Menzel’s strong singing and voice work was less surprising but no less impressive, and the film really revolved around their relationship.

Though I  enjoyed Disney’s previous effort, Tangled, it felt a little too modern and Shrek-ish (which is not necessarily a bad thing, as I very much liked some of the Shrek movies) for me to reconcile its feel with that evoked by their prior classics.  Frozen fits right in there among them.

The songs are catchy, too.

Thoughts on 47 Ronin

The wife is good to me.  From the trailers, 47 Ronin did not look like her kind of movie—it looked like it would be a kind of terrible movie with Keanu Reeves, 80 minutes of gory, over-the-top sword fighting, and 10 minutes of plot.  That would have been exactly the sort of thing I would love, but no one else was interested, so she went with me.

It turns out the trailers were completely misleading.  It wasn’t a bad movie.  It wasn’t brilliant, but it wasn’t bad.  There were cool action sequences, but they were hardly the focus of the movie—it was actually kind of slow paced.  And Keanu Reeves was not the main character—or at least not the only one.  Hiroyuki Sanada as Oishi—the leader of the titular 47 ronin—was the real driving force of the movie.  There were large chunks with no Reeves at all.

The story is a retelling of one of Japan’s most famous legends, about a group of samurai who avenge their master despite the personal costs.  This version has hidden magic, a demon-trained half-breed warrior (Reeves), a sneaky witch, and a forbidden romance woven throughout.  The action sequences are brief but interesting, and the plot and motivation of all the characters was well-explained.  The pacing, however, felt… loose.

The wife said it reminded her of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and that comparison is apt.  In recent years we’ve seen some really well-done epic films with tight pacing and plotting.  47 Ronin seemed like it would have blown my mind if it had come out 20 years ago, but now it’s just okay.  It’s not bad, it’s actually quite interesting, but it is the sort of movie that I wish could go beyond that to be awesome, but doesn’t quite.  If the premise sounds interesting to you, however, it is certainly worth seeing.

The New York Visitation

So, now that I’m done talking movies, I needed a new header so that the end of my 47 Ronin discussion would be clear.  It does provide a convenient segue for next bit of blathering.

On December 30th, the wife and I took the train into New York City.  We saw the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center!

Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center
Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center

Unfortunately, everyone else was there to see it, too, which made getting to the Lego Store difficult.  Once we made it in, I didn’t dare stop long enough to actually get anything.  (Fear not, faithful readers—on the 31st we stopped into the Christiana Mall in Delaware which had both a Lego Store and a Cinnabon.)

The reason for our visit to New York was that the mother-in-law had gotten the wife and I some tickets for Waiting for Godot, starring Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen.  It turns out that I did not like the play very much, as there is no plot to speak of and there’s a lot of self-indulgent monologuing, but Stewart and McKellen were fantastic.  They owned their parts, they played off of each other perfectly, and occasionally even cracked each other up.  During the curtain call, they even did a little dance.  They made that play worth watching.

The only drawback to this New York visit was that I thinked I picked up a bug somewhere that hit me on New Year’s Eve in DC.  (That happened the last time I took the train to New York and then later went to DC, too…. Hmmm…..)

Pizza Quest: The Plan

For the last six years or so, I have been living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada while pursuing my PhD at the University of Toronto.  In that time, I ate a lot of pizza.  I became familiar with many of the different pizza places in downtown Toronto, and most importantly, found a pizza place—and a particular pizza—that has become my favourite: Panzerotto Pizza’s Canadian Eh!.

According to their menu, it consists of mozzarella, Parmesan, and Romano cheese, double pepperoni, bacon, and oregano.  Close to what I consider the “classic” pizza—pepperoni and cheese—but tweaked slightly to add in some interesting and delicious flavours.

Now, however, I have moved back to St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada while I try to finish up my thesis and get on with my life.  This has left me sadly parted from my nigh-weekly Panzerotto pizzas, and back home where I don’t really know where the best pizza places are any more.  This sad state of affairs has prompted my quest.

The Quest

My plan over the coming months is to try out as many of the different pizza places in the St. John’s area so that I can narrow down the field to the ones I think are best.  Once I have found a local favourite (or, God willing, a new overall favourite), I will use them to try and recreate my favoured combination of toppings from the Canadian.

The Rules

  1. I am disallowing national/international chains like Domino’s or Pizza Hut.  While they are tasty and consistent, I’ve had enough of them over the years so that I know they aren’t quite what I’m looking for.  I reserve the right to ignore this rule if I’m hungry and they are convenient.
  2. I will get a whole pizza, not just a slice, to ensure optimal pizza quality.
  3. I will try to get the same set of toppings at each place, to ensure fair comparison.
  4. If I eat pizza from the same place twice during the Quest, I will do an update to comment on whether the quality has remained consistent.  (Some places can be hit or miss.)
  5. I will try to offer thoughts on general quality of the pizza versus my own particular preferences.  For example, I prefer thick-crust to thin-crust pizzas, so while it is unlikely that a thin-crust will “win” overall, if it is a good thin-crust it will receive favourable comment.

The Caveat

Since this is pizza we’re dealing with, I’m pretty sure my default rating is going to be “pretty damn good.”  For me, pizza tends to run the gamut from “pretty damn good” to “transcendent”, and so my reviews and comments are likely to reflect that—like Homer Simpson as a food critic.

Stay tuned for the first post!

P.S. Screw Flanders!

Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm: Another Triumph!

Last night, I saw Jonathan Coulton (with Paul and Storm) for the third time.  As expected, it was a great show.

In general, I prefer the music of Coulton to Paul and Storm (though I like both quite a lot), but in the live shows, Paul and Storm are absolutely hilarious in their between-song banter.  Most of the stuff they had played in their previous shows, but that included favourites like “Nun Fight”, “Live”, and “The Captain’s Wife’s Lament” so it was much appreciated.  They also played a couple of songs I hadn’t heard before, and I very much enjoyed “Frogger! The Frogger Musical”.  By the end of the opening act, my jaw was aching from laughing so much.

Coulton took the stage after a short break, and basically played all of my favourite songs of his.  He also did a few I was less familiar with, although “Sunny Blue Day”, which I first heard at his last show in Toronto, is rapidly becoming another favourite.  An excellent set indeed.

About the only thing I’m unsure of  was the venue.  Previous shows were at the Lula Lounge, which didn’t have assigned seating, but had a friendly and comfortable atmosphere, and felt like a more intimate space.  In contrast, the Enwave Theatre was a bit bigger and a proper theatre, with a stage, balconies, and the like, but it felt… stodgier.  The staff enforced no food/drink/photography rules, when a quick search of YouTube will demonstrate that Coulton is not shy about letting fans record his shows.  And while everyone had a good view thanks to how the seating was arranged, the openness of the theatre space made it feel sort of empty.

(However, that may be an issue unique to me.  My seat was on the balcony nearest the stage—great view, but no one in front of or behind us.  So I didn’t get that feeling of being in a crowd at concert.  During the chorus to “Re: Your Brains” when the audience joins in, I wasn’t surrounded by a horde of singing zombies as I was at the Lula Lounge.  But even down below, the crowd seemed tamer than previous year’s shows.)

Anyway, an excellent show all around.  If you ever get the chance to see either Coulton or Paul and Storm, take it.

Toronto International Film Festival

After five years of living in Toronto during which I typically found the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) a nuisance, I finally took in some shows this year at the urging of my girlfriend.  (It helps that I no longer live near any of the venues or ritzy hotels where the celebrities stay, so my life has been hindered considerably less.)

I left it to my girlfriend to pick the shows, and we ended up going to two of them—one a regular screening, and one a gala premiere.  I’ll talk about them both below.

Timetrip: The Curse of the Viking Witch

This film was a children’s movie from Denmark, and as such, was a subtitled film.  The director was at the showing, and held a Q&A after.  He seemed nice enough, and gave good answers to the questions.  (I think my girlfriend chose this because she is a medievalist, and feels the need to pass judgment on all movie that intersect with that time period.)

The movie itself was a fairly conventional children’s adventure, where a high school guy and his younger sister, travel through time to help a cursed immortal find an artifact lost hundreds of years ago.  They end up in several different times during Denmark’s history, and wackiness ensues.

It was actually pretty good, for the kind of movie it was.  I was entertained, although I found little surprising or unexpected.  There was danger, a surprising amount of violence that was sort of glossed over, a little bit of character development, and a happy ending.  The kids in the theatre seemed to pay close attention, too, so I guess it worked for them.

Anyway, apart from a few introductions before the screening, and the Q&A after, nothing really set this apart from any other movie viewing.  So, in that respect, TIFF elicited a bit of a “meh” from me.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The second show we had tickets to was the North American gala premiere of Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.  This movie is notable for two reasons—director Terry Gilliam, and star Heath Ledger.  Filming was partially completed when Ledger died last summer; actors Colin Farrell, Jude Law, and Johnny Depp stepped up finish the film in his place, lending a lot of star power to the movie.  (I suspect the possibility that any of those men might be at the premiere was the primary motivation for my girlfriend and her roommates getting tickets to this showing over any other.)

We were told to arrive at least an hour before showtime; we got there an hour and a half early, and found ourselves at the midpoint of the line.  This line was at the back entrance of the building, far from the red carpet entry where the celebrities would arrive.  We waited for over an hour before the opened the doors.  Needless to say, I was not exactly thrilled with this setup, but my company in the line was good, and so it passed pleasantly enough.

The venue for this was Roy Thomson Hall, a concert hall with two levels of balconies.  Naturally, the floor seats were for celebrities and special guests; I suspect the second tier was for people who bought the expensive tickets.  We were exiled to the third balcony, but at least we had an unobstructed view.

They were screen the red carpet coverage from outside while we waited for things to get underway.  The ladies in our party were appropriately devastated at the lack of Ledger/Depp/Farrell/Law, but we did get Christopher Plummer, Verne Troyer, and director Terry Gilliam himself, among others.  There were all introduced before the show, and Gilliam spoke a few words before the movie began.

And, well, that was basically it.  The movie was good, and very Gilliam-esque.  The handling of the Ledger/Depp/Farrell/Law substitutions was masterful, and made perfect sense in the context of the movie—at least, as much as anything in a Gilliam movie makes sense.  It was imaginative, and odd, with sometimes likable characters and sometimes not so much.  I suspect it will do well for Gilliam once it is in full release.

But, when it was over, it was over.  And from the “nosebleed” seats, the presence of the cast and production team still seemed so distant and removed that it was little different than watching them speak on TV.  So—much like arena concerts—the experience was good, but I suspect I would have found it more exciting if I were closer to the action.  But as it was, the “gala premiere” really felt little different than any other movie, except with colder popcorn.

So, I got to see a good movie by a director I like several months before its general release, which was cool and all, but I just don’t understand the excitement people associate with TIFF.  At least it’s something I can cross off my list of things to do in Toronto.

Worldcon: Day 4

The fourth day of Worldcon was also a big one, and quite full.

We started at 9 AM once again, with a panel on “How Not to be a Jerk Online”.  I went to this because John Scalzi—whose blog and work I am a fan of—was one of the panelists, and I suspected it was a topic he would hold forth entertainingly about.  I was right, although the other panelists (whose names I will call forth in a later update) also had excellent and amusing contributions.

The next panel I wanted to see was “Deities and Demigods”, because I wanted to snag panelist Paddy Forde to sign a book I had, but alas, it was cancelled.  That did leave me free to join my girlfriend at another panel I was interested in, on “English-Canadian Small-Press SF Publishers”, which was an illuminating and honest look at the business and economics of small press publishing in Canada, with the attendant advantages and disadvantages.  Kind of interesting and depressing.

Next was another panel on “The Singularity: O RLY”, which was pretty entertaining, although with my own reading in the area and the panels I’ve been to this weekend, I may be singularitied out.  I did get a signature from Peter Watts after, though, and had an entertaining conversation with him about genetic algorithms as they might be applied to FPGAs that was punctuated him him being mind-boggled when he noticed my {Terror} t-shirt form Dr. McNinja.

Then it was lunchtime, followed by spending too much money in the Dealer’s Room, where my girlfriend bid on a print in the art show, and I bought a Con t-shirt, another book, and ended up subscribing to OnSpec.

The next panel we saw was “Which Histories Get Alternates?”, wherein the panelists discussed why so many alternate histories focussed on the same events (eg. American Civil War, WWII, etc.), and partly concluded that it was needed because the audience had to have strong familiarity with the events in question to understand how it is alternate.  A list of other types of alternates was also volunteered by the audience.

Then it was on to “Economics of Star Traders”, which discussed whether it could ever be worthwhile to have trade between planets, first in a relativistic universe, then opening it up to FTL-capable universes.  Some interesting ideas bandied about.

We were pretty exhausted by panels, so we wandered around a bit, outside, before heading back so I could get some books signed by Robert Charles Wilson.  Then it was in search of dinner, about which I will complain in the next post.

Worldcon: Day 3 Recap (Part 2)

After a quick lunch, my girlfriend had hoped to take in the panel on “Montreal Local History”, but it was apparently cancelled.  I headed to “Building Realistic Worlds”, but it was so full that there wasn’t even space to stand at the back of the room, so I went to my other option, “How Are We Getting on Towards the Singularity Then?”.  This was also quite full, but I could still find room.    It was a decent panel, exploring the different ways we are approaching the Singularity (or not).

The next panel we both went to was “Online Magazines Represented HERE: A Good Market”, in which several people who work in various capacities at online fiction magazines discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the format.  Advantages were mostly in the negligible cost of distribution and international reach, but the downsides were the lack of a business model and combatting obscurity—how does your magazine get found among everything else online?  The panelists were all good and played off each other well.

Then there was a panel on “How to Pitch Your Novel… and how not to”, which was good at offering practical advice from publishing professionals on how you can get someone to look at your novel.  Thankfully, I had encountered most of the information before, so it seems like my research into publishing in the field has been successful.

Next up was a panel titled “Aunts in Spaceships”, which my girlfriend was interested in seeing.  She was hoping it would more be about why aren’t there more characters with extended families (or families at all) in SF literature, but it was concentrated more on older women characters, and became something a chance for the panelists and audiences to list examples of such characters.  Given that it was a 90-minute panel, and wasn’t quite what we were looking for, we ducked out a bit early and visited the dealer’s room again.

At 6:30, there was a short event, featuring author Karl Schroeder and his Tor editor David G. Hartwell talking about the process of working together, and how their relationship and working approach has changed over the course of working on 7 novels together.  It was really interesting, and actually felt like it ended too soon.

Then we went looking for dinner, but found a large number of places were closed, so we ended up going to an Italian place that was fine, but a bit slow because they were overwhelmed with other Con-goers.  As a result, we were late getting back, and missed the first hour of the Masquerade costume show.  We saw a few minutes of it, but I was interested in another event, “Gaiman Reads Doctorow”.

As an experiment, Cory Doctorow is releasing his next short story collection as a self-published Creative Commons title, and using it to explore a number of different ideas a business models, including a free audiobook read by friends (in this case, Neil Gaiman, star of the Worldcon), print-on-demand, and high-cost hand-made limited editions.  Gaiman read quite well, as he is wont to do, and then they both fielded questions after the recording was done.  Gaiman and Doctorow were both gracious, funny, and passionate speakers, and I felt the event was well worth missing the Masquerade.

The last event of the night was a fireworks display that we could watch from the top floor terrace of the convention centre.  The fireworks were not part of the Worldcon (it was for the Festival of Fire, I think, being a South African entry), but it was a nice way to end a very long day.

Worldcon: Day 3 Recap

Day 3 of Worldcon was a very panel-heavy day for us.

We started with “Writing for the Non-Adult”, which had a nice mix of panelists that played off each other well, and talked about the difficulties of writing for children and young adults, both in terms of craft and the market.  This included elements such as boys being unwilling to read books that look like they’re for girls, and the gap where many boys stop reading at all.  Overall, it was a nice discussion.

From there, my girlfriend went to the “Archetypes Without Stereotypes” panel directly, while I ducked down to the signing area to get a book signed by Cory Doctorow.  When I mentioned I had studied cryptography in grad school, he showed me his wedding ring—it was an Enigma cipher custom-designed by Bruce Schneier and made by Schneier’s daughter.  Very cool.  He had a fairly sizable line (though smaller than Robert Silverberg), so I didn’t get back to the panel till it was about half done.  I view this as exceedingly unfortunate, as the part of it that I saw was brilliant.

The five panelists (Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Ben Jeapes, Nalo Hopkinson, and Doselle Young) worked together perfectly.  They were cracking each other up, getting big laughs from the crowd, hitting all the big points, going back and forth with smooth banter, no one was stealing the limelight… they just worked with each other and the audience really well.  I think this may have been the best panel I have ever seen, even though other panels have had subjects of more focussed interest to me.  Kudos to the panelists.

From there, we moseyed over to “What Makes a Good Story?”, but since it was quite full, we tried “Abby Normal: Comedy and SF”, which was also full, but we didn’t want to run to yet another place that may or may not be quite full, so we stayed.  It was a fun panel, talking about different kinds of humour, though it mostly focussed on film and TV rather than written SF.  Halfway through, I ducked out for 10 minutes to get a book signed by James Alan Gardner, who is a very nice guy.

That took care of the morning.  More to come later today.

Worldcon: Day 2 Recap (Part 2)

When last we left our heroes, they were heading back to the Con for the Neil Gaiman signing, tickets to which they had acquired earlier that day.  Arriving at 3:30 PM (for the 4:00 signing), there was already a massive line of ticketholders ahead of us.   So, we had a half hour wait before the doors opened, and then a much longer wait inside.  We were (maybe) the halfway point in the line, and it took us more than an hour to get to the front.  Thankfully, we had each other for company, and we were standing next to some friendly people, one from Australia and one from London, Canada who contributes to Bureau 42.

Anyway, the signing was supposed to be an hour, and it took us that just to get to the front of the line.  There was a videographer filming the event, and when he saw that I had put the note on my book for Gaiman to make it out to “House”, he asked why, giving me the chance to explain on camera that since a friend dared me to ask Bruce Campbell to sign the book to “House”, as nearly all my friends call me, I’ve had every book made out to me as such.

So, my girlfriend was ahead of me, and I took pictures of her and Gaiman while he was signing.  When it was my turn, I handed the camera off to her, and she returned the favour.  Neil was quite gracious and friendly, signing 2 items per person, for the apparently 200 people who were given tickets.  Naturally, he didn’t have time to stop and chat too much, or pose for pictures (though he didn’t mind you taking them), but he still made pleasant smalltalk, cracked a few jokes, and made it a worthwhile experience.  So it was good times.

We finished there at 5:15 PM, and so were a bit late for the panel on “What Fans Don’t Understand About Publishing 2”, which had a focus on distribution and marketing.  It had Beth Meacham (a Tor editor), Eleanor Wood (an agent), Leah Bobet (writer/publisher/bookseller), and a guy who’s name I didn’t catch and can’t deduce from the program.  It was an interesting look at the insides of how publishing works, and was quite illuminating on some subjects (such as why publishers don’t typically offer e-versions of their own catalog, so as to not compete with the bookstores that are their clients).

Then we had pizza for dinner.  It went  alittle long, but was a nice break, and we were back in time for a panel on “Mad Social Scientists”, starting with the premise of how we only see evil physical scientists trying to destroy the world, and how can social science be used that way.  It had a nice mix of people (writers and humanities people, including a social psychologist), so we got to see things from a lot of different angles, and perhaps see that the social scientists already rule the world.

Next was a panel on “Advice for New Writers: The Secrets of Getting Published”.  It was supposed to be a session of what-not-to-do advice, to add a bit of humour to a dry subject.  Unfortunately, a number of the scheduled panelists were unable to make it, and so it was left to the remaining two—Jenny Rappaport and Walter Jon Williams—to go it alone.  They did an admirable job, keeping it going in that vein for a while before opening it up to a more direct Q&A session.

Finally, after that, we went to the already-in-progress screening of Coraline with Gaiman.  Since we arrived an hour after it started, I expected it to be further along, but it was still quite close to the beginning, so I rather suspect Gaiman did his thing before the screening, rather than after (since, well, he didn’t seem to be there after).  I do enjoy Coraline though, so this was hardly a tragedy.

So endeth Day 2 of Worldcon.   I’ll blog Day 3 in the morning.

Worldcon: Day 2 Recap (Part 1)

This was a long day, very full of delightful things.

The morning started early, as we went to line up to get tickets for the Neil Gaiman signing.  We arrived at about 8:30, and (thankfully) the line was still pretty small then.  We got moved around a little bit, but by 9:10 they started handing out the tickets, seeing no reason to keep us all there until 10.

At that point, some food and hydration was the order of the day, and so a visit to Tim Horton’s—where they had the blueberry glazed donut for sale, much to my delight—was in order.  There, in the line, we chatted with another Worldcon attendee, just as we had in the Gaiman lineup and on the way over to the convention centre.

After that, we hit up the dealer’s room, since there were a few things I had hoped to acquire for signings later in the day.  I was disappointed that I couldn’t find Karl Schroeder’s The Sunless Countries, but since he is a Toronto author, I’m certain I’ll have other opportunities to get a copy signed in the coming year.

Next up was a panel on “Relativism and the Superhero” (I don’t remember the panelists names right now, but will look them up later).  They panel was interesting and well-balanced, talking about how heroes and villains have gone from straightfoward all-good or all-evil to more grey and ambiguous states, with a focus on comics.  All the panelists had thoughtful things to say, and shared the stage well with each other, so it was fun.

At noon I got a few other things signed by Schroeder, and then we (being me and the girlfriend, not me and Schroeder) hit up some lunch.  This meant we kind of forgot the panel she wanted to see, on “Legal Systems, Past and Future” was starting at 12:30, and so we arrived a bit late.  The last bit (well, hour, I guess, which was most of it) was sufficiently entertaining though, with the panelists and audience having a good set of questions going back and forth.

After that, despite having a plethora of intriguing options to choose from, we decided to actually go outside, which meant walking back to the hotel, running some errands, and napping.  Then, we had to head back to line up a second time to actually get our stuff signed by Gaiman.

But that is a story for the next post, as is the rest of day 2.

Worldcon: Day 1 Recap

Oi!  It is early on the second day of Worldcon, so I thought I’d post about the first day, as promised.

The first thing I noticed about Worldcon was the scale.  It’s big.  Very big.  I mean, granted, I have little basis for comparison, other than Ad Astra, with was a more local/regional con, but I didn’t realize just how big Worldcon could be.  Thus far, however, everything seems well-organized logistically, since signing in was no problem.  They were also able to give a quick recommendation of a nearby restaurant (Steak Frites) that was quite pleasant.

We arrived rather late in the afternoon, thus the first panel we managed to take in was one on “When is Genocide Justified?”.  (Note: The we refers to me and my girlfriend, who got me this Worldcon membership as a birthday present, because she is awesome.)  It had Neil Rest, Richard Foss, Connie Willis, and Nalo Hopkinson (I think—I missed the intros, and thus this is a guess as to who was actually there).  It was an interesting and entertaining look at how genocide is used in speculative fiction, in all sorts of different ways.

After that, we hit up the Opening Ceremonies, which was a bilingual introduction of the guests and the con.  Well done, and well-produced, with cameras and projection screens for those halfway back in the gigantic “Main Tent”  There was also a performance by a contortionist (Sabrina Aganier?) and a welcome message from Dr. Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space and currently the MP for the site of the Worldcon.  He was a good speaker.  Neil Gaiman (the English-language Guest of Honour) was charming and funny in his brief opening remarks, and all the other guests were quite good as well.  (Oddly enough, David G. Hartwell, the Editor Guest of Honour, may have gotten the most laughs, though.)

After that, we stayed for a conversation between Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman and Hugo-nominee and winner Charlie Stross, on economics and future of SF and society.  It was interesting, and the two of them had a good back-and-forth, and Krugman clearly knew his stuff (both economic and SF), so it was clear he wasn’t an example of “stunt casting”.

I have more to say, but too little time, so this post may be added to later.  But all in all, a most excellent start to the Worldcon.