Week in Geek 2.27.15

Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday

Sad news

i just learned that actor Leonard Nimoy passed away at age 83. It’s no secret that i am a HUGE Star Trek fan and that show has permeated my life in so many ways.

As you might expect, the Internet and social media are blowing up with condolences for his legendary actor.

i would like to dedicate this particular Week in Geek to Leonard Nimoy. As his most famous character, Mr. Spock was beloved by fans all over the world including me. This icon of the science fiction world has inspired me so much. The complex character has always appealed to me because of his vast intelligence and underlying humanity.

Over the years, i’ve watched a lot of interviews with Nimoy, and when he talks about the character and how much it developed over the years, you can tell it was more than just a pointy-eared alien to him, and fans too of course.

He imbued the character with so many layers of emotion and spirituality which is what elevated Mr. Spock to such an important cultural figure.

Just the other day, my aunt shared a video with me on how the famous Live Long and Prosper greeting came about. Rooted in Jewish lore, the well-known Vulcan greeting is actually a blessing in the Jewish faith. If i take away anything from news of his passing, it’s that i believe Leonard Nimoy truly exemplified the philosophy.

In our memories, Leonard Nimoy will always Live Long and Prosper.

Just so i don't feel as sad, i think he would have liked for us all to party and have a logical time tonight.

Just so i don’t feel as sad, i think he would have liked for us all to party and have a logical time tonight.

The wait is over

i don’t know a whole lot about the Cleveland art scene, but one figure i do know, who is as much a part of our Rust Belt landscape as the gritty backgrounds he lovingly crafts in his work is John Greiner – or simply John G as most folks know him.

My introduction to this phenomenal fellow goes back to the early aughts, when the now-defunct Tonight Magazine in Cleveland (helmed by the prolific Bob Ramsak) tasked me with interviewing John G for their inaugural edition.

Since then, John G has been on my radar, producing not only comic book work but commercial art all over Northeast Ohio. A couple of years ago, i first heard about work on a documentary focused on his life from the crew at Turnstyle Films. And today, Feb. 27, the film was released on Fandor and VHX.

draw hard poster

The documentary opens with several people who know and work with John G describing his demeanor and work ethic, interspersed with shots of the man in question at work in his studio, and i particularly like the opening shot. Seated at his art table, shot from behind, the focus subtly wavers between his body and the table itself – blurring the line between him and the work that he does. Right away, you get the sense of how dedicated he is to his art, and how much a part getting at who he is as a complete person is woven into that.

“This dude is for real,” one of the speakers says to describe meeting him for the first time, shaking hands with the man who has the word “DRAW” tattooed across his knuckles. One the other hand – “HARD.”

When John G himself is first heard, he begins by talking about his lifelong history with comics books and it’s obvious he has a deep admiration for – and skill creating – sequential storytelling.

“There’s things you can only do in comics,” he narrates, while shots of him working with a brush to ink panels showcase his distinct line work. “There’s things you can only do with words and images juxtaposed together.”

Joshua Rex, another Cleveland artist, mentions his line work later in the film, offering a wonderful analogy.

“Something about his black line is just so distinct and unique and creepy,” Rex says over a series of images from John G’s portfolio. “It’s almost like it was burned rather than drawn.”

John G is revealed through a series of conversations with his friends and colleagues. One of them is Jake Kelly, another Cleveland artist and co-creator of the horror anthology comic The Lake Erie Monster set in Cleveland.

lake erie monster 1

Incidentally, this is a terrific quarterly series with a unique vision and fantastic artwork that i highly recommend. You don’t have to be from Cleveland to appreciate it of course, but the level of detail and nods to the city’s history and visual cues is an added treat.

“Cleveland is a pretty strange place,” Kelly says while explaining The Lake Erie Monster book. “You always see some bizarre thing.”

To illustrate his point, he relates a story of he and John G driving down East 55th Street and seeing a man sitting in his parked car alone, screaming and thrashing about.

“That’s fuckin’ Cleveland right there,” he said.

Another prominent figure in Draw Hard is Matt Fish, owner and operator of Melt Bar & Grilled, which has become a Cleveland-area institution since the first restaurant opened in Lakewood in 2006. Oddly enough, i found out about the place just before it opened from his then wife, a tattoo artist who was giving me some ink at the time.

Fish has nothing but positive things to say about John G in the film, attributing a healthy amount of Melt’s success to the work John G has put into promotional art, as well as his creativity in helping to name sandwiches.

One of the things i appreciated was that the filmmakers chose not to reveal a particular aspect of John G’s life until a few minutes into the film’s 20 minute run time. It’s a significant part, to be sure, but i like that they didn’t throw it at the audience right away or build the narrative around it.

Dave Gibian, from Cleveland thrash punk band All Dinosaurs, speaks about his relationship with John G, and how much impact it had on the band’s success. Early on, John G created the band’s first show poster.

“That was a big deal, if you had a John G poster,” Gibian says in the film. “You were playing a legit show.”

Echoing Gibian’s sentiments, Fish has nothing but praise for the artist whose work on Melt’s advertising brings the same kind of excitement to their menu that his show posters do for musician’s shows.

“Melt would be a completely different landscape if John G wasn’t involved,” Fish says. “John’s art is like part of our brand.”

As evidence of this, Fish points out a framed John G print in his office, the artist’s first work for Melt back in 2009. Since then, he’s done tons of work for Melt, and a panning shot of Fish’s office shows just a handful of those prints.

In the second half of the film, there’s more conversation with John G himself, sharing details about his life that reveal more about him personally and help to ground him after establishing the impact made by his work. By relating more of his personal story, you come to learn a deeper meaning behind the film’s title. After leading into the film with some discussion on his perceived demeanor as a grumpy or angry person, one might take “draw hard” to mean that John G is perhaps a harsh guy, or some kind of tortured artist. This is far from the truth, and the film’s title speaks more to his artistic journey than any sort of personality quirk.

“That’s what I do, so that’s kind of where that came from,” John G describes his method of drawing. “I don’t draw fast. I draw hard.”

Draw Hard knucks

On a side note, one of the things i particularly enjoyed about Draw Hard was the original score by Ryan Harris. He did a good job using music to keep the pace and enhance the mood of the various segments of the film. Towards the end, when John G talks about his past and how he got to where he is today, i thought the score added a wonderful layer of emotion.

If i have any issues with the film, it’s really only that the run time is too short! Clocking in at 20 minutes, the documentary does a terrific job of introducing audiences to John G and his vibrant importance in the Cleveland landscape. As a fan of documentaries in general, i would have liked to see more of the great work putting the narrative together by director Jon Nix, who clearly put significant time and effort into speaking with John G and people who know him as well as capturing footage of him at work, enjoying concerts and generally just living the Cleveland life.

One important thing that i feel got left out was John G’s role in organizing the yearly Genghis Con, the small press and underground comic convention held annually in Cleveland. Overall, the film focused a lot on The Lake Erie Monster and John G’s commercial work, and it would have been nice to explore his involvement with comics more, both as a creator and event organizer.

For more details on Draw Hard, please visit their Facebook page and head over to Fandor or VHX to check it out. It’s only $1.99 to stream it, and there are some upgraded packages with great additional bonuses. The top tier of these is The Gritty Package, which includes a digital copy, director’s commentary, trailer and hi-res PDFs of both The Lake Erie Monster and a John G art collection – for only $9.99!

Best of Cleveland

If you enjoyed Draw Hard, and want to support the film even more, head over to Cleveland Scene’s website and cast your vote for Made in CLE – Best of 2015. The Arts & Entertainment category has several entries you can vote in like Best Comic Artist and Best Illustrator.

There’s a Best Director category where you can vote for Jon Nix who directed Draw Hard.

And – shameless plug – there’s a Best Local Blog category too, so you can vote for The Long Shot ;)

You can vote once per day, so make sure to visit daily and vote for what you think is the best stuff Cleveland has to offer. Online voting ends on March 9, plenty of time to support your favorite stuff.

Wizard World addendum

A few other items of interest from my experience at Wizard World Cleveland last weekend that didn’t make it into my coverage i want to share here.

There were two different charitable organizations i came across while wandering the exhibition floor.

The first was Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio, who visit children’s hospitals and special needs centers in superhero costumes.

This is a great example of parlaying the immense popularity of comic book superheroes into something really positive.

In a similar vein, Heroes Alliance is another nonprofit group using costumed superheroes to make a difference in the community. Founded in Florida, the group has expanded throughout the U.S. and is focused on fundraising for organizations like Give Kids the World as well as making appearances to brighten spirits.

Both of these groups operate as nonprofits through donations, so please check them out and donate if you are able. We can never have too many heroes and, as both organizations agree, it’s those they seek to help who are the real heroes that keep them inspired.

Both groups also accept volunteer help, so if you want to take the extra step and participate yourself, there’s information on their websites to help you do just that.

Apama

One of the things i didn’t get a chance to check out directly at the convention was the film Hero Tomorrow, a homegrown Northeast Ohio superhero story.

The hero in question is APAMA, and i recall seeing posters for it plastered around downtown Cleveland when i was still attending Cleveland State University.

i love the description of the project from the website:

David spends his days cutting grass and his nights smoking it while desperately trying to keep his superhero fantasies alive. When Robyn, his aspiring fashion-designer girlfriend, makes him a Halloween costume of his original character APAMA it doesn’t take David long to hit the streets and begin blundering towards disaster.

The character of Apama has elements of several super heroes i’ve enjoyed over the years, like The Creeper from DC Comics and Mike Allred’s Mad Man. His kooky adventures are represented by tight artwork, and as many people know, i’m a sucker for schmaltz so it’s cool to see that his girlfriend Robyn is an integral part of his escapades. Plus, Apama is Cleveland-based which adds a whole other level of cool to the property.

Yuri Night

A table with a big sign that read “Space Party” was something i had to swing past.

Yuri’s Night in an international celebration every April to commemorate milestones in space exploration. Named for the first human to launch into space, Yuri Gagarin, Yuri’s Night was first held on April 12, 2001, exactly 40 years after the launch of the Vostok 1 spacecraft that Yuri piloted.

In Cleveland this year, Yuri’s Night Space Party will be held at the Great Lakes Science Center on April 11 from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

The celebration will feature live music, refreshments, a “cosmic trip” with The Solar Fire Light Show, space-themed costume contest, a new Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition and more.

Visit the Great Lakes Science Center website or call 216.621.2400 for more details and to purchase tickets.

This sounds like a really awesome event, and a great opportunity for someone to Take a Shot at covering. If you need added incentive, there’s a chance for you to earn some exclusive geek loot in the process.

*     *     *     *     *

With my usual caveat to editors and audiences that “brevity is not my thing,” this is a good point at which to wrap it up this week. Wizard World Cleveland was an amazing experience and it was a bummer heading back to the real world on Monday.

Thank you so much to everyone who read my preview article and visited the media gallery at The News-Herald. All the awesome fans who checked it out helped it to account for over 5% of the total traffic to their website for 2015 so far, so on behalf of my resume and measurable results everywhere, i sincerely thank you all. The opportunity to attend comics convention as a professional writer is literally the reason i got into journalism in the first place. So, Nerd Mission Accomplished.

Thanks for reading the latest Week in Geek in addition to visiting The Long Shot. Of course, there were many more exciting things that happened in the world of science, technology and pop culture this week…but these were the ones that most caught my attention. If you have any news you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me know – i try to keep up with stuff but i can’t read everything!

If you would like some further reading, about some science, technology and pop culture stuff that happened this week, here’s a few links i hope you find as interesting as i did:

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Week in Geek will be back next Friday, March 6 and i’d love to see you here!

Remember – if you would like to contribute to The Long Shot, i’d be happy to make that happen!

Week in Geek also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).

Check out the articles i’ve written for The News-Herald.

Thanks for reading!

Week in Geek 2.20.15, part 3

Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday

wizard world cleveland

Day 2 with Uber

For getting to and from Wizard World Cleveland on day 2 of the show, Feb. 21, i again used the Uber service through the app. Snow was swirling in the air and accumulating on the street in the morning, although it wasn’t as cold as Friday. It was nice to get another ride to the Cleveland Convention Center’s front entrance, but the ride in was a bit awkward because the driver must have mentioned tipping about a dozen times. How people don’t think you have to tip, and that sort of thing.

Well – you don’t, do you? If you read the FAQ on Uber’s website, it explains that a 20% gratuity is added automatically. And on top of that, my driver later that night who took me home explained that they get 80% of their fare. So…yeah i think they’re doing okay without adding a tip on top of it.

The driver who brought me in the morning i rated two stars only, because as it was explained to me the previous day, any rating under three stars – from the driver or the rider – and the service will avoid pairing the two in the future. Rating him one star wasn’t necessary, it’s not like he was awful or anything, i just didn’t want to ride with him again. Plus his car was kinda messy, too. And the fare for that particular ride was significantly more than any of the others i took. Overall, the least positive Uber experience.

On the flip side, the ride home was great. The driver was really close by when i requested a ride, and got there in about five minutes. We chatted the whole way back, and he said one of his favorite parts about being an Uber driver was meeting new people to talk with during the ride.

At the end of the trip, he gave me a promo code to share with first time riders that’s worth a $20 discount on your first Uber ride. Note that you have to enter the promo code before you request the ride in order to apply the discount. You ready? Here’s the code:

t1oph

Panels discussions

My day Saturday revolved very much around panel discussions, which i’d listed in my write-up of Day One.

Starting off the day was NASA and the Science of Superman, a panel of researchers from the NASA Glenn Research Center right here in Cleveland. While waiting for the talk to start, i got a text from my friend and Cleveland filmmaker Anthony Snitzer, who came to the convention for the day and met up with me in the room where this discussion was being held.

At the podium was David DeFelice, a community relations team lead. The panel consisted of Joan Emmett, documentation specialist; Geoffrey Landis, planetary exploration researcher; Lee Kohlman, research aerospace engineer; Jerry Myers, biomedical engineer; and Dennis Stocker, microgravity researcher.

Some of the topics covered by the NASA panel

Some of the topics covered by the NASA panel

What the panel discussed was basically various aspects of the Superman mythos, from their standpoint as space researchers. For example, how Superman’s Kryptonian father Jor-El would have had to scan the universe to find a suitable planet to send his infant son to, using methods similar to how NASA searches for planets using Doppler shift, gravitational microlensing and so forth. These methods are also employed by NASA’s Kepler telescope. If you recall a couple of weeks ago, that last one was cited as the cause of the galactic smiley face caught by the Hubble telescope.

If you’d like to check out NASA’s ongoing search for another Earth-like planet out there, they have a website for the PlanetQuest program and you can check out some of the 1,800 planets they’ve already discovered. There are images, educational opportunities and loads of info about the science and technology behind the research.

Other topics covered by this panel were the equipment that researchers use to simulate the conditions of other planets, moons and so forth, what kind of spacecraft would be necessary to travel to another hospitable planet, and a look at some possible reasons behind how Superman’s powers work on Earth.

One of the biggest hurdles to space exploration is engine speed, which at this time is just not feasible for travel even to other solar systems in our own galaxy. As one of the panelists put it, if Neanderthals had launched a ship at the end of the Ice Age, it would now be only half way to the next star. In order to reasonably travel throughout space would require warp drives of some sort, and the panel suggested the audience do an Internet search for “warp drive when,” which i’ve done for you and leads to NASA’s information resources on the status of interstellar travel.

In the meantime, we’ve got programs like the Messenger probe currently orbiting Mercury and the New Horizons probe currently near Pluto and its moon Charon. Likewise, the Voyager probe launched in 1977 is only recently reaching the boundary of interstellar space. And the Dawn mission is on its way to Ceres, the largest of the asteroid belt. So, we’ve got a long way to go to catch up to Jor-El in terms of space exploration.

“We build spacecraft,” aerospace engineer Kohlman said. “We fly spacecraft to other planets. The scientists of Krypton are a little ahead of us, but we’re working on it.”

The panelists noted that it would be likely Jor-El would have utilized theoretical travel like worm holes, and certainly would require faster-than-light speeds to traverse the galaxies.

A discussion of Superman’s powers started with his being “faster than a speeding bullet,” which according to the panel is anywhere from 400-3000 mph. This is within the realm of testing at the NASA Ballistic Impact Lab, where they use a gas gun to test material durability and can fire objects at a top speed of Mach 2.5.

Superman’s speed, evidenced by his ability to reach orbit, would have to be at least Mach 25, or ten times what the gas gun can achieve. However, our fastest spacecraft that have left the Earth can reach about Mach 50, and for comparison the New Horizon probe travels at Mach 47.

Again, it was shown that in order to effectively travel to other planets and solar systems we’ll need engines that can go much, much faster than currently possible. It is worth noting that several of the panelists were well-versed in Superman lore, making the point that his powers have fluctuated over the decades from his days of juggling planets to a bit more reasonable levels. They also pointed out the impossibility of some of his feats, like picking up skyscrapers – they would break apart due to the lack of surface area support, for example.

To segue into a look at Superman’s strength, the panel noted that, like Superman is a hero to so many people, at NASA their heroes are the astronauts. And like Superman, they are able to lift greater weight on planets other than their home world…but not quite what you’d expect. For example, on Mars, where gravity is 1/6 that of Earth, you might think an astronaut who could lift 100 pounds on Earth could heft an impressive 600 pounds on the red planet. This is not quite true, due to the forces of inertia. The different gravities and effects on object weight is a real concern for researchers, who must take into account that these heavy objects, if put into motion, must still be controlled and stopped to avoid collision damage with equipment and people, for instance.

Likewise, it is a gravity-related matter that allows Superman to “leap tall buildings in a single bound,” and later, outright fly without any means of propulsion. Using math, microgravity researcher Dennis Stocker determined that the gravity on Krypton would be about 37 times that of Earth to account for Superman’s leaping ability and strength. I was curious if they’d taken this model further and tried to mathematically figure out the size, density and so forth of Krypton – basically create a model of the fictional planet – but they hadn’t.

The most reasonable explanation that the researchers could offer to explain many of Superman’s powers were that he created and controlled a very localized gravity field around himself. This would account for his ability to utilize super strength while in flight (since typically he would only push himself away from the object), to fly without propulsion or friction on his body, and to completely disperse kinetic energy from bullets and other projectiles without them pushing him back or causing any kind of effect on his skin, and surviving in space.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have a chance to talk about his heat vision, but they did touch on his super cold breath, which is actually completely scientific. When air is compressed and expelled rapidly like that, its temperature would drop dramatically.

A question in the audience asked why Superman’s rescue of Lois Lane when falling from a building doesn’t result in a snapped neck (much like Gwen Stacy’s when Spider-Man attempts to save her from falling from a bridge), and the panelists referred the question to Larry Niven’s essay “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” which, if you can find a copy, retails some real world problems Superman’s super powers would present.

After the panel wrapped up, i ran into researcher Geoffrey Landis while waiting in like for the next event on my list, and we chatted for a few minutes about Superman science. He was really very engaging, and most interesting to me was a brief discussion on technology. While many of the probes and craft we’ve launched years and even decades ago has been surpassed by present day advances, the simple durability of those older technologies is what makes it possible for them to still function in space. Because of cosmic ray exposure causing soft errors and resets on computer technology, a modern-day computer would not function over time in space. So, while the hardware behind some of the craft we have out there may be inferior in terms of raw computing power, the fact that it is able to continue functioning at all is the key to continuing our receipt of the information they send back – which has a huge impact on how our technology develops and evolves on Earth.

Speaking of the next event…

William Shatner who, among many things, brought to life Captain Kirk on what i maintain is the best iteration of Star Trek, was set to give a talk in the junior ballroom.

Now, since he first played that character nearly 50 years ago, and has gone on to other notable projects in film, television and music, as well as appeared at countless conventions over the decades, i didn’t expect a whole lot of Star Trek talk or otherwise.

In the program, the event “Boldly Going with William Shatner” was described as him dishing on the roles that he’s played over the years. But i think, perhaps because of all the speaking engagements he’s done in his career, that talking about those topics is probably pretty boring for the guy.

Instead, Shatner used an analogy with a car trip he recently took with his wife, riding in a fast sports car through severe winter conditions, as a backdrop for several things like his career, the world of science fiction and man’s place in the universe.

If i’m honest, it was a little rambling and at times i think the audience wondered where he was going with his talk (i know i did at least). But at the end of the day, it’s William Shatner up there talking and no one could complain about that.

“Science fiction seeks to answer ‘what’s in the future,’ ” Shatner explained at one point. “But we just don’t know what’s out there in terms of other life. Now, I’m going to tell you something so magical, you’re going to plotz – which is a Vulcan word.”

After talking about psychiatrist John E. Mack’s work with people who claim alien abduction, leading to a claim that UFOs really exist because of the similarity of accounts, i did not in fact plotz. But i think the point he was trying to make is that we can’t really say for certain if there is or is not other life in the universe, or discount anyone’s beliefs, because we just don’t know.

“There’s so much that’s mysterious out there,” Shatner ruminated. “We don’t know what we don’t know because we just don’t know what we don’t know.”

Indeed.

Before opening the talk to a Q&A with select audience members, he talked about a possibly upcoming show or documentary he’s working on with the working title Young Guns of NASA. The project has allowed him access to several NASA sites around the country, and he spoke about Col. Scott Kelly, an astronaut devoting his life to science by spending a full year on the International Space Station.

Such a feat is expected to cause significant biological changes, including the possibility that his eyes will change shape due to the different conditions there and the effect on the human body.

Later, when asked if he would like to travel to the ISS, our moon or even Mars, he described the real-life adventures he’s had, like professional horseracing and the aforementioned car ride, and said his life has been exciting enough.

“I do exciting things!” he shouted to the crowd. “I don’t need to ride every rollercoaster.”

Hello Mr. Fancypants

Taking the ballroom stage in the afternoon was another fan-favorite actor, Bruce Campbell. My first introduction to him was in the early ’90’s, when my D&D buddies’ cool older sister showed us Evil Dead II, and i’ve been hooked ever since. Not every project the guy does is must-see for me, but i definitely appreciate his work, which has entertained me many times over the years.

For his appearance in Cleveland, Campbell donned a snazzy, shiny purple sport coat which he said was inspired by flying over the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame and thinking about “the spirit of Elvis, Wayne Newton and the other interred there.”

Instead of talking the whole time about himself or his career, he wanted to play a game and in fact the program listed the event as “Bruce Campbell Versus the Audience.”

Much like popular talent shows such as America’s Got Talent, Bruce surveyed the crowd to select six people with any kind of talent to “prove Cleveland has talent.”

The irreverent game show-like event played out over the next 45 minutes, with Bruce letting the contestants do their thing while he played the role of an obnoxious host, tossing insults their way.

The contestants, who were all from Ohio, included a CSU student dressed as Beetlejuice who could do voices; Christiana, a singer from Brunswick; Michelle, a poet from Brunswick; Ryan, a heavy metal singer and filmmaker; Zack, a dancer in a Two-Face costume; and Schlock Meister, a horror host from Cleveland.

A series of talent displays and eliminations proceeded in which Schlock Meister did an impression of deceased comedian Chris Farley, Ryan sung a Korn song and Michelle recited an excerpt from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Zack performed the dance routine from Michael Jackson’s Thriller (that Schlock Meister sang), while Christiana sung Uptown Funk and Beetlejuice gave the audience his take on Heath Ledger’s Joker character.

Schlock Meister, Zack and Michelle were eliminated in the first round, and for their efforts they were each given a prize by Bruce Campbell of $1 as they left the stage.

Schlock Meister also got a selfie with Bruce Campbell as he exited the stage.

Schlock Meister also got a selfie with Bruce Campbell as he exited the stage.

For the final round, Christiana did a wonderful job singing a haunting song from one of the Resident Evil films, while Ryan sang another Korn song (i didn’t even know people still liked Korn) and Beetlejuice improvised a conversation between Bane from The Dark Knight Rises and his signature voice, Beetlejuice.

Based on crowd response, Christiana was the overall winner, and received a crisp $20 bill from Bruce while the runners-up each got $2 for their participation.

Overall, it was kind of a weird event were the special guest didn’t really do anything personable. It would have been nice if he’d injected a bit of himself into the show. On the other hand, his crass, obnoxious host routine was pretty entertaining.

A panel discussion of substance

One of the panels i’d most been looking forward to was Gender Equality in Geek Culture. This was a tricky part of the afternoon, because there were a couple of things i wanted to attend with overlapping times. However, the host for this particular panel was a no-show, so it was cancelled unfortunately.

On the bright side, i headed next door to where another panel was that i would have missed, and since there was time to kill before it started, Valentino Zullo who was sitting in front of me introduced himself and i learned about some great stuff he does at the Cleveland Public Library.

With a master’s degree in English and women’s studies from Bowling Green and currently studying social science at CWRU, he created the Get Graphic discussion group to talk about literature, social justice and the superhero way.

The discussion groups, which he organizes and hosts twice monthly, focus on different topics and use comic books for the platform to discuss them.

For example, right now the group’s topic is “Women Warriors” and the group will talk about different types of feminism, the epidemic of sex trafficking and other women/gender-related topics.

The group meets on the first and third Thursdays of every month at 4 p.m., in the literature department on the 2nd floor of the Cleveland Public Library, 325 Superior Avenue, downtown Cleveland. More information is available by calling 216.623.2881.

i spoke with Valentino a bit after the panel and we connected through our enjoyment of offbeat comic books, particularly Superior Foes of Spider-Man, which he said had inspired some of the summer’s group discussions on the nature of evil.

We also both love female heroes, and Marvel comics in particular, and it was cool to meet someone with such similar particular tastes in comic books.

i will definitely be visiting his discussion group and sharing the experience in a future Week in Geek. The next one according to the flyer he gave me is on March 5, where the focus in on Ms. Marvel.

Prior to that discussion group meeting, on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 4 p.m. is a meeting for the speaker series Valentino helps organize. The speaker for the special black history month lecture is Tony Isabella, creator of Black Lightning who spoke at the panel i wrote about on Friday. His lecture is titled “Fighting for Diversity: Comic Books and Race” and will look at the history of racial diversity in comic books.

If you live in the Cleveland area, love your comics and want to meet up with others who share your interest, and talk about important social issues in the context of superheroes, then definitely check out some of these events Valentino organizes!

Cleveland – the REAL birthplace of Superman

Forget Krypton, Smallville and Metropolis – Cleveland, Ohio is the real place where Superman was born!

The Siegel and Shuster Society held a panel discussion to talk about just that, and how two local kids laid the foundation for comics as we known them way back in 1938.

Led my Plain Dealer reporter Michael Sangiacomo, the panel included former Marvel Comics editor and comics historian Danny Fingeroth; Michael Olzewski, president of the Siegel and Shuster Society; Brad Ricca, author of Super Boys, the literary biography of Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel; Siegel’s cousin Irving Fine, his sister Norma, and Leigh Goldie, cousin of Joe Shuster.

The panel discussed how “the city (Cleveland) never fully embraced Superman,” which is a shame because…it’s SUPERMAN! Seriously, i share their sentiments that it is frankly bizarre that Cleveland doesn’t proclaim its Superman roots loud and proud.

Unfortunately, a big part of that comes from Warner Bros. who owns DC Comics, who put a lot of restrictions on how and where their intellectual properties are used. For example, Ohio is the only state to have Superman license plates available – thanks to the efforts of the Siegel and Shuster Society by the way – but they were unable to include the phrase “Birthplace of Superman” because Warner Bros. doesn’t want anyone to be confused with the fictional character’s birthplace on Krypton.

The bulk of the panel talked about the news surrounding the real possibility of a Superman statue and display to be built on the lakefront, near the Great Lakes Science Center.

This is a truly terrific idea, especially that location due to Superman’s science-fiction origins. As for the proposed design that the Society has been promoting and seen in the news, personally, i think they need to reimagine it.

Approved model for the Superman statue display planned in Cleveland

Approved model for the Superman statue display planned in Cleveland

This thing just does not look good to me. The proportions of his body look way off and it just doesn’t look exciting, not at all like co-creator Joe Shuster’s artwork. Why not base it on his work?

Like this for example, or any number of others that Shuster created would look better than the proposed sculpt

Like this for example, or any number of others that Shuster created would look better than the proposed sculpt

The best thing about the proposed statue display, though, is the additional figures at the base – Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster and Joanne Siegel, who was early inspiration for Lois Lane. This is a terrific idea, to honor the people who created this character. If you know anything about Superman history, they did not enjoy the kind of success or financial security you might expect when, you know, they revolutionized and basically ushered in the comic book superhero genre as we know it.

The proposed base of the Superman statue will feature depictions of his creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, as well as Joanne Siegel, Jerry's wife and the inspiration for Lois Lane.

The proposed base of the Superman statue will feature depictions of his creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, as well as Joanne Siegel, Jerry’s wife and the inspiration for Lois Lane.

The panel was also happy to see how well Wizard World Cleveland had turned out, again something that may not have ever happened had it not been for those two Cleveland teens creating Superman.

“He’d be smiling down at this Comic Con, I assure you,” said Siegel’s cousin Irv, who is a big part of the Society and the various projects they work on. Irv went on to tell the audience about how Siegel and Shuster got together in the first place. Jerry was a big science fiction buff, who’d created this superbeing character and asked Irv’s brother if he could draw it for him. Instead, Jerry was introduced to Joe who had recently moved to their Kinsman neighborhood.

“When he and Joe got together, they just produced magic,” Irv said.

One interesting fact about the Society itself is that, since Warner Bros. would not allow them to use the Superman name and call themselves the Superman Society, they considered this a blessing because instead they used the creators’ names and were able to give the publicity to them, not the character they’re created.

Sangiacomo, he everyone assembled agreed was vital to raising awareness about Superman’s Cleveland roots, spoke after the panel and said he’d been surprised after speaking with every Cleveland mayor for the past few decades, none of whom had even been aware that Superman was created in their city.

As regards the statue, he said it’s still a couple of years off, but he’s confident a fundraiser would enable them to gain financing for the project. He said a great pledge reward would be a brick with the donors name to use as part of the statue display area. The statue project is definitely going forward, but a lot of county, city, and corporate red tape has to be dealt with. Sangiacomo will stay at the forefront of this project though, and provide news as it breaks.

Musical extravaganza

The unofficial end to the convention is the massive costume contest held in the ballroom, but before that got underway, the audience was treated to a sonic treat when World of Warcraft composer Jason Hayes, along with his video game music tribute band Critical Hit performed.

Consisting of a cello, violin, drums and synthesizer, the four-piece band played songs like Zelda’s Lullaby, Dr. Wily’s Stage from Mega Man, the theme from Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty, To Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X, a hard rock version of Bowser’s Castle from Super Mario Brothers and more.

What blew me away most of all was the cello work by Tina Guo, who was front center stage just rocking the hell out of her instrument. To be honest, i’d never seen a cello like that, all streamlined and made of what looked like some sort of polycarbon material. Is that wood? What are those made of?

Whatever material it is, she played it like a champ and the crowd loved it. A lot of older games featured MIDI music or simple beeps and boops strung together, but with Critical Hit playing these melodies they were transformed into robust, beautiful, haunting, electrifying, exciting and rockin’ tunes that filled the ballroom with energy.

Costume Contest

The final event of the day was the Wizard World Costume Contest, and it did not disappoint!

Contestants entered the stage from the left, passed by judges seated on stage and exited to the right. These aren’t professional models or anything, so quite a few people nervously walked onto and off of the stage so fast that it was hard to get a good look at their costumes. But everyone who participated received applause from the audience.

Minecraft's Steve was a huge hit with the audience

Minecraft’s Steve was a huge hit with the audience

Quite a few great costumes that i saw over the weekend were not part of the competition, and a few of them who i ran into afterwards told me they either were late arriving, or weren’t included because there was no category for the character they portrayed. For example, one woman had a great Badadook costume, but since there is no “Horror” category, she couldn’t enter.

The handmade Belle costume ultimately gave her a win for Best in Show

The handmade Belle costume ultimately gave her a win for Best in Show

After everyone had crossed the stage, the judges took a few minutes to decide who their honorable mentions were, as well as the winners in six different categories.

Honorable mentions were given to one of the many Jokers, a Knight Who Says Ni, and Team Rapture from the video game Bioshock.

The judges on stage with their honorable mention costume contest participants

The judges on stage with their honorable mention costume contest participants

The winners of the contest were:

  • Best Male Hero: Groot
  • Best Female Hero: Hawkgirl
  • Best Male Villain: Venom
  • Best Female Villain: Knightingale from Skyrim
  • Best Group: Avatar: The Last Airbender team
  • Best in Show: Belle, from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Hawkgirl, Venom, Groot, Belle, Avatar: The Last Airbender and lurking somewhere in the background Skyrim's Knightingale

Hawkgirl, Venom, Groot, Belle, Avatar: The Last Airbender and lurking somewhere in the background Skyrim’s Knightingale

Congrats to all the contestants in the costume contest though – a big part of these geeky conventions are the costumes, and everyone who shows up in one gets a round of applause from me. When i first went to Gen Con, i remember thinking “i’ve got to get a costume if i’m going to go to these conventions.” Unfortunately, i never did but i did find a place that will make custom bodysuits for a reasonable price. So i’m thinking i’ll go that route and dress up like one of my absolute favorite characters with the best superhero costume ever.

Mister Miracle - my winner for best costume and best comics character ever. And who knows, maybe i'll run into a Big Barda!

Mister Miracle – my winner for best costume and best comics character ever. And who knows, maybe i’ll run into a Big Barda!

*     *     *     *     *

Thanks for reading this special Wizard World Cleveland edition of  Week in Geek in addition to visiting The Long Shot. Of course, there were many more exciting things that happened in the world of science, technology and pop culture this week…but this is the ones that most caught my attention and kept me busy all week! If you have any news you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me know – i try to keep up with stuff but i can’t read everything!

If you attended Wizard World Cleveland and you’d like to share your experience in writing, or any photos, please let me know and i’d be happy to share them here at The Long Shot.

Also, check out my media gallery through The News-Herald, which is another great place you can share your photos from the weekend.

Please stop by again later in the week for a few last things to share that i discovered at Wizard World

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Week in Geek will be back next Friday, Feb. 27 and i’d love to see you here!

Remember – if you would like to contribute to The Long Shot, i’d be happy to make that happen!

Week in Geek also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).

Check out the articles i’ve written for The News-Herald.

Thanks for reading!

Week in Geek 2.20.15, part 2

Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday

wizard world cleveland

Wizard World Cleveland – getting there and back again

First off, i want to mention my travel to the show. As i mentioned in Part 1, due to parking lots being booked and the arctic temperatures in Cleveland right now, i tried out Uber to get me to the Cleveland Convention Center. For my inaugural trip i opted for uberSELECT service, which is one of four options available to riders, in this case an upgraded experience.

It could not have been any easier.

Using the Android app, i requested a ride from my home in Lakewood, and for the destination i simply had to input “Cleveland Convention Center.” As soon as i hit “done,” a car popped up on the map and said let me know Phil would be there in 8 minutes. Stunningly accurate, i was able to see Phil’s Yukon as it made its way over, and sure enough it arrived exactly on time as indicated.

Phil, and his vehicle, were very nice. He asked if i’d used Uber before, and since i hadn’t, he gave me a promo code for a discounted ride. We chatted a bit on the short drive, and he said how much he likes being an Uber driver, and told me about how both the driver and the rider can rate each trip. So if either party rates the other below three stars, the app will avoid pairing them in the future.

Phil got me to the show in 14 minutes, and brought me right to the front entrance. The ride cost $10, which at the end of the day is pretty good considering i had the upgraded service. Special event parking would probably cost at least that, and granted i still had to get a lift home later, but since i would have had to park several blocks away on top of it this was a real bargain.

The Cleveland Convention Center, home of Wizard World Cleveland

The Cleveland Convention Center, home of Wizard World Cleveland

For the trip home, i selected the standard service, and Cedric arrived with five minutes at the Convention Center Entrance. Cedric is a Vietnam vet who worked as a taxi cab driver in Cleveland for many years and now is an Uber driver. He loves it, and we chatted the whole way back about different routes through the city and about how cool Uber service is. The ride home was $16.62, a little more due to no promo code this time and also there were surge rates in effect, presumably due to the weekend event.

For tomorrow and Sunday, i’ll definitely be taking Uber trips to and from Wizard World. While overall it’s probably a bit more than parking, i don’t imagine it’s that much more, and for the convenience alone it’s totally worth the cost. Plus, i’m a big ol’ geek and if i’m honest i thought it was just plain neat to use the app for a ride.

Opening Day

For the start of the weekend convention, i had a few priorities heading inside. First off, i wanted to get lots of photos, particularly of costumed attendees, for The News-Herald Media Gallery. Frankly, i was a little surprised at the scarcity of costumes i saw. When i went to Gen Con, i think there were more people in costumes than not, but standing in line to get onto the floor i didn’t spot too many people dressed up. With the frigid temperatures in Cleveland, i was expecting at least a few Captain Colds, Mr. Freezes, Killer Frosts or some Hoth-geared Lukes and Hans.

The other priority for me was picking up some loot! A big part of conventions are the vendors on the floor, who offer all sorts of stuff from comics, toys, games, collectibles, t-shirts, swords, steampunk accessories, and in the case of comic cons, lots and lots of artwork.

For the first couple of hours, i snaked my way around the convention floor, holding back from accumulating a ridiculous amount of cool stuff. It would not have been hard to drop a crap ton of money on all manner of items. One of the most abundant items that many vendors had were Funko Pop! figurines. i don’t know what it is about these vinyl figures, but i like ‘em. There’s so many of them! The first one i ever got was from my friend’s son this past Christmas, and at this point they’re starting to pile up into an actual collection.

My first Funko Pop! figure - Joker Batman. Thanks again, Liam!

My first Funko Pop! figure – Joker Batman. Thanks again, Liam!

i couldn’t tell you how many different figures are out there, but it’s easily over a hundred, with characters from film, TV, comics, games, sports and more. Since i didn’t want to go overboard – which would be very easy – i made just a couple of careful decisions and picked up Mirror Universe Spock and Silver Surfer. One day, these will eventually adorn my home office but for now, they’ll stay in their box. For adding to their ranks, i’d like to pick up Mega Man, Dr. Doom, Ghost Rider, Magneto, Avengers 2 Vision, Black Suit Spider-Man, Punisher, several Batmans – including Rainbow Batmans!! – Shazam, Deathstroke, Rocketeer, Glow Baymax, Sheldon Cooper, Hannibal Lecter, Disco Skeltor, Captain Kirk, V for Vendetta, Ash from Army of Darkness, The Bride, The Dude, The Crow, Count Chocula, Cthulhu, Commander Shepard (if they make a FemShep version only), one of the 13 different Stan Lee versions, Clockwork Orange…wow that’s a big list. Okay maybe not all of those, but you get the idea – these things are addictive.

There's a Funko Pop! figure for each of Batman's rainbow costumes from Detective Comics #241. This is the crown jewel of my comics collection. He MUST wear a different colored Batman costume each night!

There’s a Funko Pop! figure for each of Batman’s rainbow costumes from Detective Comics #241. This is the crown jewel of my comics collection. He MUST wear a different colored Batman costume each night!

Since i restrict my comics collection to digital versions these days, i wasn’t too keen on rifling through the sea of longboxes on the convention floor. These days, my physical collection is very small, consisting of only a few books i consider special in some way, like Detective Comics #241. Since Neal Adams is at Wizard World, i might see if i can find Mister Miracle #19 and have him sign it though. He only did some inking on that book, and it’s far from anything he’s known for, but i’m a huge Mister Miracle geek so that would be a great addition. Speaking of good ol’ Scott Free, i hope them make a Funko Pop! figure of him and Big Barda – those would be auto-includes for my burgeoning collection.

Hopefully i can find a copy of this and get Neal Adams to sign it.

Hopefully i can find a copy of this and get Neal Adams to sign it.

In other Mister Miracle news, i came across this gem at one of the better booths that had a ridiculous amount of rare comics for sale. Holding this in my hands gave me chills, i’ll admit. Entirely created by Jack Kirby, The King of Comics, i would love to own this, but $75 is too rich for this blogger’s blood.

Someday...

Someday…

As for other pop culture obsessions i have, both Star Trek TOS and Mega Man popped up fairly often in various forms at different booths. One artist in particular, Andrew Heath, creates retro-style prints of various characters, shows and so forth. While checking out his work, he mentioned a special offer on his prints, so i picked up both a Mega Man and Star Trek print for $15. These are destined for framing and display along with the Pop! figures, and if i’m honest, whatever else i pick up over the weekend.

The other notable swag i came home with was a freebie given to all attendees of Wizard World Cleveland, an exclusive Greg Horn illustrated cover of The Walking Dead #1. TWD is insanely popular, both the comic and the AMC show, so this was a great giveaway for fans who came to the show. Greg Horn has a booth there as well, so i’m thinking i’ll pony up the $20 he’s charging for a signature on this one.

The official start of the show

An overhead announcement around 4:30 p.m. let everyone know that the official opening ceremony would start soon, so i immediately headed to where it would be held to make sure i could get right up in front.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson was there with Wizard World CEO John Macaluso as well as Lou Ferrigno, and Cleveland Browns mascot Chomps, to officially get the convention underway.

Macaluso told the gathered audience that Wizard World was proud to put on their show in the city where Superman was born, which got a great round of applause. He said they were already convinced it was a great decision and would be back again for sure.

Mayor Jackson spoke about how it was terrific to have a show like this in Cleveland, also mentioning how it’s the birthplace of Superman.

Ferrigno, always a fan-favorite, said how exciting shows like this are for the big stars who are guests, because they get the opportunity to really connect with fans on a personal level. He mentioned how he lived in Columbus for a few years in the ’70s, and that he thought Ohio is a great state with passionate fans of pop culture.

Together, the three of them cut the ribbon to officially start the show, and the audience gave a huge round of applause and cheers.

Wizard World CEO John Macaluso, Lou Ferrigno and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson cut the ribbon to officially start the convention. This is not zoomed in - i was standing right there front and center about three feet away.

Wizard World CEO John Macaluso, Lou Ferrigno and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson cut the ribbon to officially start the convention. This is not zoomed in – i was standing right there front and center about three feet away.

But what else is going on at Wizard World?

After the ceremony, i took another circuit of the exhibition floor to look at more cool stuff, get more photos and stop by Booth 227 where the people behind the comic and web show Cyanide & Happiness and clothing line Any Means Necessary were set up.

Shawn Coss, who i spoke with last week to preview the convention, was there with the rest of the crew selling merchandise and doing sketches for fans.

The guys gave me a great compliment about the write-up and thanked me for reaching out them, which is always nice to hear! That always gives me a chuckle though, too, because the people who share their time with me are really doing me the favor!

i was happy to see so many people gathered around their booth, and i picked up a t-shirt myself to support them and also because Shawn is just a great artist and i really dig his work. It reminds me of another terrific Cleveland artist, Derek Hess, whose work was wildly popular in the ’90s and has since gone on to have his work displayed permanently in The Louvre!

For a custom sketch, i picked a random scenario out of a box and Shawn Coss drew whatever came to mind in the Cyanide & Happiness style. This was called "Awkward Dance."

For a custom sketch, i picked a random scenario out of a box and Shawn Coss drew whatever came to mind in the Cyanide & Happiness style. This was called “Awkward Dance.”

The t-shirt i got from Any Means Necessary. They were out of medium, so i chanced the large. When i got home...i don't know, it looks pretty big.

The t-shirt i got from Any Means Necessary. They were out of medium, so i chanced the large. When i got home…i don’t know, it looks pretty big.

Away from the exhibition floor

Taking a breather to upload my photos and realign myself, i checked out the program for the convention that i’d stuffed in my bag on the way in and hadn’t looked at since.

i must say, i felt pretty dopey looking through it, because there are so many great panel discussions and stuff like that going on and it hadn’t even crossed my mind at that point.

Thankfully, i had only missed a couple of things by this time, although the panel discussions for World War II and Comics, and How to Write Comics would have been cool.

One that was just about to start was called To Be Super-Powerfully Diverse, so i rushed up to Room 4 to check it out. The panel consisted of Tony Isabella, creator of both Black Lightning and Black Goliath and who is also a native Clevelander; Abdul Rashid from AHR Visions; and another creator whose name i unfortunately didn’t catch.

The discussion was very interesting, and the panel noted how happy they were to see that the audience itself was diverse. The general consensus from the panel was that, according to Isabella, comics has “a new status quo, and it’s not going back to all white male heroes.”

Part of the discussion was about a trend in comics to revamp or re-envision existing characters in more diverse ways, and they referenced things like the new female Thor, Sam Wilson (The Falcon) taking over for Captain America, and the retcon of original Green Lantern Alan Scott that made the character homosexual.

“I’d rather see new characters, with new names,” Isabella noted. “Going forward, you’re going to see more diverse characters in comics. No one is stopping that train.”

That is an issue i’ve thought about myself, and touched on back when the female Thor was first announced. On one level, i agree with the panel that new characters would be cool. But at the same time, it seems to me that it is very, very difficult to establish a brand-new character against the backdrop of decades worth of established, iconic characters. Which isn’t to say it’s not worth trying, but i think it’s very hard for audiences to accept new characters, and given the tough market for comics, for a new character to stick around long enough to get established.

After listening to the discussion, i think what does work for comics characters is when creators utilize the history to help establish new characters. For instance, no one believes Sam Wilson will remain Captain America forever (although…why not?). Eventually, Steve Rogers will return to the role, but by then, i think The Falcon’s stint as the star-spangled Avenger will help invigorate that classic character and give him a new prominence.

Likewise, female Thor may one day put Mjolnir down and the classic Odinson will return, but by then, i hope she has established herself enough to become a new hero with her own identity. Personally, i’ve never really enjoyed Thor to begin with, but the current book featuring the female version is one of my favorites right now. So, she can remain Thor as look as possible if you ask me. It’s actually amazing to me that this relatively new character has already become a stronger, more defined female hero than the watermark of all female superheroes – Wonder Woman.

A good portion of the talk focused on current Ms. Marvel, the Muslim teenager Kamala Khan. The point was raised that perhaps the character could have had her own superheroic identity, but again, i think it’s helpful to establishing her that she was given a recognizable name to start her career. Yes, one day she will likely evolve into a different hero, but i think if she would have come out the gate as a brand new character, she might not have had the staying power she’s enjoyed thus far.

An interesting point that was made, too, was that it’s great to have characters who are racially diverse, or gay, or from various religious backgrounds, but that it’s important not to let that define them completely. One of the audience members pointed out that, for example, not all Christians or Muslims are completely devout, so it can be awkward when these sorts of characters are so strongly defined by their faith, or sexual orientation or whatever. That made a lot of sense to the panelists, who agreed and took it a step further.

They talked about how superheroes are role models, and a crucial part of that is making sure they are not perfect in every way. What they meant is that the best heroes always have flaws, because that way it allows them a better chance to resonate with fans who can realistically aspire to emulate them.

Isabella used Superman as an example, and how his ’80’s era revamp was necessary because up until that point, he was basically invincible (i still think he’s too powerful to be reasonably relatable). Since nothing could hurt him or really pose much of a challenge, it started to turn readers away because how can you hope to be like a hero who has absolutely no drawbacks, flaws or foibles?

“You can have a positive role model without them being so perfect that no one can aspire to be like them, because they’re so far beyond you,” Rashid summed up.

The panel ran a little late and had to wrap up quickly to make room for the next group, but all three panelists encouraged the audience to stop by their booths over the weekend to talk more about the topic.

And that’s a wrap

The first day of Wizard World Cleveland was winding down, and likewise the battery on my phone was nearly kaput so i thought i’d better summon Uber while i still could.

Heading into the rest of the weekend, i planned out my time a little better and there are so many great panels and workshops on Saturday and Sunday. This is a good thing also because it’ll help keep me from dropping more cash on stuff…but i’m not gonna lie, i will be getting more stuff for sure.

On Saturday, i definitely want to hit up

  • NASA and the Science of Superman
  • Boldly Going with William Shatner
  • From Cap’s Shield to Agents of SHIELD to Groot!
  • Bruce Campbell Versus the Audience
  • Gender Equality in Geek Culture
  • Cleveland, Home of Siegel, Shuster and Superman
  • Marvel Vs. DC: The Battle for Super Cinema & TV

And finish off the day with the Wizard World Costume Contest, with special guest judges Jason David Frank – the Green Ranger, Robert Kurtzman, Knightmage, and Griffin Cosplay.

Sunday is a shorter day, and the conventions “official” closing is Saturday night, but there’s a couple of things i want to attend like

  • Cleveland’s Own Resident Superhero – Apama! Umm, What’s an Apama?
  • Wizard World Kid’s Costume Contest

Here’s where YOU come in

Are you attending Wizard World Cleveland? Do you have photos to share, or a write-up of your experiences?

Why not Take a Shot and share them here at The Long Shot?

As i mentioned a few weeks ago, i’m really hoping to expand this site and include other contributing writers, and right now i’ve got some geeky prizes to give away for just such people. Check out that link, or click on Take a Shot at the top of the page and see what happens next.

As always, thanks for reading the Week in Geek in addition to visiting The Long Shot. If you like what you find here, please click the Follow button or subscribe by email for updates and new posts.

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Week in Geek also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).

Check out the articles i’ve written for The News-Herald and visit my Wizard World Cleveland media gallery, and comment with your photos, or tweet them @newsheraldinoh if you’d like to get your photos uploaded as well.

Thanks for reading, and see you at Wizard World!

Week in Geek 2.20.15, part 1

Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday

Things are a little different this week, since by the time you’re reading this i’ll be up to my eyeballs in geekery at Wizard World Cleveland!

The pop culture extravaganza runs Feb. 20-22, and i’ll be writing up a post-show day post each night starting tonight. Wizard World is a huge show, and i’ll be doing my best to capture the spirit of the event.

Throughout the show, i’ll be taking photos for a media gallery through The News-Herald (as well as for this weekend’s trilogy of posts) so be sure to check that out and see if you’re in any of them. i’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for great costumes, and i’ve got slips with the URL for the gallery attached to my business card to hand out during the show.

And also pick up cool loot. With any luck, i’ll find a vendor with VS System cards so i can finish off that all-foil Mister Miracle deck i’ve been working on for the last two years. Not that i ever get a chance to play anymore, but if i ever do…here’s hoping i’ll discover foil versions of Madame Xanadu, The Phantom Stranger and Messiah Complex.

This will also mark my first foray into using the Uber car service. All the parking nearby the convention center is booked solid, and since it’s currently 4F degrees outside, i’m not really up for a brisk walk through downtown Cleveland. Fortunately, i live so close to downtown that even a luxury Uber ride is cheaper than a parking lot all day, and they’ll pick up outside my front door and drop off right at the show so…yeah, no-brainer there.

End of a run

One of my favorite books of 2014 came to an end this week, with She-Hulk #12 hitting the shelves and digital pull list on Wednesday. There’s been several great books in the last year that i’ve championed, including this one for its terrific take not just on a great female hero, but because it went well beyond a typical monthly slugfest. The titular character was presented as a fleshed out individual with a real life outside of superheroics, and that’s something i always appreciate in comics. In fact, it’s almost something i exclusively look for anymore.

Just last night, i came across this site of fellow blogger and writer of She-Hulk Charles Soule, who had been posting daily essays leading up to the book’s final issue (12 of them, one for each issue).

This is a great behind-the-issue look from the creator, thoughtfully written and gives me a reason to go back and re-read this wonderful run with an expanded perspective. Plus, i thought it was really cool to see that the writer’s blog exists right here through WordPress, too.

If none of my previous appeals to check this book out worked, well, here’s another attempt! Check out Mr. Soule’s blog, and maybe that’ll convince you to give She-Hulk a look. Since the arc and book are now concluded, you won’t get trapped in an ongoing series and there were no event tie-ins all year so, it’s just 12 issues and you’re done.

She-Hulk #12 cover, final issue of one of 2014's very best

She-Hulk #12 cover, final issue of one of 2014’s very best

If you’re looking for more She-Hulk, she’ll be appearing front-and-center in Marvel’s following the upcoming spring event Secret Wars (boy they’re really mining that well deep, huh?).

A-Force is a new book that will launch in the aftermath, when a disbanded Marvel Universe will find itself on the patchwork Battleworld. This team book will feature an all-female cast of superheroes, and She-Hulk looks to be leading the team. Given her long history and experience in the Marvel U, this is a great fit for the character. Although the book sounds kind of gimmicky, it does look to have some cool stuff, like the addition of a new character, Singularity, based on the cosmological event. The book is written by a female writer, G. Willow Wilson, who writes the critically-acclaimed Ms. Marvel book as well. Overall, it sounds like it could be pretty good and i’ll give it a chance when it releases.

And speaking of comics, Wizard World is set to begin soon, so it’s time for me to finish getting ready and get to the show. See you there!

*     *     *     *     *

Thanks for reading the 16th Week in Geek in addition to visiting The Long Shot. Of course, there were many more exciting things that happened in the world of science, technology and pop culture this week…but these were the ones that most caught my attention. If you have any news you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me know – i try to keep up with stuff but i can’t read everything!

If you would like some further reading, about some science, technology and pop culture stuff that happened this week, here’s a few links i hope you find as interesting as i did:

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Week in Geek will be back next Friday, Feb. 27 and i’d love to see you here!

Remember – if you would like to contribute to The Long Shot, i’d be happy to make that happen!

Week in Geek also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).

Check out the articles i’ve written for The News-Herald.

Thanks for reading!

Week in Geek 2.13.15

Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday

Cleveland’s big Comic Con

Cleveland is no stranger to the comic book scene, most notably for giving birth to arguably its most widely recognized character – Superman – who ushered in the superhero genre when Clevelanders Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created him in 1933.

More recently, the city has accommodated several high-profile films based on comic book properties, and on Feb. 20 through 22, Cleveland will host one of the largest conventions on the circuit when the Wizard World Comic Con arrives at the Cleveland Convention Center.

wizard world cleveland

The weekend extravaganza celebrates the spectrum of pop culture from movies to comics, sci-fi, toys, cosplay, gaming and more. And visitors have a chance to meet entertainers from all of those venues at Wizard World Cleveland. Special guests include William Shatner, Bruce Campbell, Karen Gillan, Seth Gilliam, Billy Boyd, Drea de Matteo and Lou Ferrigno from the world of film and television, to name just a few.

Hail to the king, baby.

Hail to the king, baby.

It's no secret i'm a HUGE fan of Star Trek TOS. Geeking out!

It’s no secret i’m a HUGE fan of Star Trek TOS. Geeking out!

Comic book fans can bring books from their collections in hopes of getting them signed by artists and creators like Tom DeFalco, Arthur Suydam and Eisner Award Hall of Famer Neal Adams, as well as several others from both independent and major label publishers.

Neal Adams is a legendary comics creator for both Marvel and DC Comics.

Neal Adams is a legendary comics creator for both Marvel and DC Comics.

“Fans take away something different depending on what they have experienced,” said Jerry Milani, who handles PR for Wizard World. “There may be one, or two or three reasons that they came to the convention, and they leave having enjoyed five, six, seven different things. They may be coming to our show to meet Lou Ferrigno. They’re a big fan of the show, want to meet him and on the way over to meet Lou, they see a vendor who has some Hulk stuff they’ve never seen before, so they run over there. And around the corner, they see someone dressed up as the Hulk, and that’s cool. And they’re still on the way over and run into an artist who has a different interpretation of the character. And then they finally get to meet Lou.

Lou Ferrigno's most well-known work - he played the Hulk on the beloved television show

Lou Ferrigno’s most well-known work – he played the Hulk on the beloved television show

“So, there’s going to be all these things that are going to happen at the show – you’re going to find things that are unexpectedly exciting, and unexpectedly fun,” he said. “And I think that the best part of the show is whatever you get out of the show.”

Bringing the Wizard World show to Cleveland isn’t just great for fans, though. Conventions like this have huge impact on the cities where they’re held. On the high-end of scale, events like the San Diego Comic Con – that city’s largest event – is expected to generate close to $500 million for the city between 2013 and 2015. More moderately, Indianapolis’ Gen Con gaming convention accounts for almost $50 million in yearly economic impact for that city, a figure exceeded only by their hosting the 2012 Super Bowl.

Cleveland is no stranger to hosting big events, either. According to Destination Cleveland, Cuyahoga County’s convention and visitors bureau, the National Senior Games drew in 10,888 athletes to the area along with an estimated 18,000 friends and family members. Likewise, the 2014 Gay Games brought 8,000 athletes to Northeast Ohio who contributed to $52 million in economic impact.

“And beyond economic impact, large events, conventions and meetings can often mean a lot more to our community,” a statement from Destination Cleveland said. “Larger events such as Cleveland Comic Con provide the City of Cleveland with national media visibility by showcasing the destination to a market that may have not initially considered visiting before.”

Part of the decision to bring Wizard World to Cleveland is based on what event organizers recognize as an enthusiastic pop-culture fan base in Northeast Ohio, as well as having a viable convention center that can accommodate the show’s needs including facilities for incoming celebrities, comics creators, exhibitors, programming rooms and more, according to Milani.

The Cleveland Convention Center, home of Wizard World Cleveland

The Cleveland Convention Center, home of Wizard World Cleveland

“We’ve been fortunate to have shows in the region, especially our Columbus show that we’ve done for several years,” Milani explained. “We’ve had a fan base who come from different areas to different shows. We’ve met fans from Cleveland, and it’s helped us to know that there’s definitely an interest there from fans for our kind of show.

“I know that we plan to have thousands of fans there, and that it’s been tracking very well for us – especially for a first year show. We’re doing 25 shows this year, and 10 are first year shows. And among those, right there in Cleveland is one of the best of the new cities that we’re going to this year.”

In addition to high-profile guests, the show will feature a selection of local artists and creators as well. Michael Chojnacki is a film and music historian living in the Cleveland area, author of the award-winning vinyl cover art compendium “Put the Needle on the Record.” Marc Sumerak, an artist, Eisner Award and Harvey Award nominee, was born and raised in Northeast Ohio. Shawn Coss, one of the artists on “Cyanide & Happiness” and John Sloboda, artist for “Star Wars” and “The Walking Dead” will also be on hand along with several other Cleveland-area creators.

Local creator’s perspective

Shawn Coss is one of the artists for Cyanide & Happiness

Shawn Coss is one of the artists for Cyanide & Happiness

Coss, who calls the Akron, Ohio area his home, gave his time to talk about his career as an artist and what Wizard World means for local creators. In addition to his work on Cyanide & Happiness, a webcomic available at explosm.net, his clothing and merchandise company Any Means Necessary showcases his macabre humor and artwork on t-shirts, collectibles and more.

“About six years ago, I met one of the creators (of Cyanide & Happiness) through of all places, MySpace,” Coss said. “After I became good friends with (creator) Kris Wilson, he brought me on board with the company.”

A desire to create art for a living, and break away from what is described on the Any Means Necessary site as “the agonizing 9-5 and 12 hour shift jobs they currently worked,” motivates Coss to keep following his passion. Before things took off for him, art was something he had on the back burner. Following his dad’s advice, he made sure to get an education in something dependable. For Coss, that meant graduating college and becoming a registered nurse. He offers the same advice to anyone else pursuing a career as an independent artist, passing along his dad’s lesson to make sure to have a substantial career plan to fall back on.

That being said, Coss has remained “balls deep” in his artwork since embarking on life as a professional artist.

“Pretty much right as I graduated, the opportunity came up,” he said. “I kinda just went head first into it, and I’ve been doing it since.”

With Cyanide & Happiness, Coss helps bring an uncensored humor to life, and the crew behind the comic just released their first cartoon show through YouTube. Because the project is completely independent, the creators are able to poke fun at anything they want and say what they like “without the FCC giving us any crap about it” Coss said. Season One of the Cyanide & Happiness Show is currently available to view on their YouTube channel.

Here’s the show’s trailer, which viewers are encouraged to binge watch. There’s 11 episodes in Season One, each about 12 minutes long. The shows feature the same irreverent humor as the webcomic, brought to life in animation as a series of shorts. Based on the number of views for the episodes, which are in the millions just since episode 1 was released in November 2014, fans are enjoying the show immensely.

Coss’ other labor of love, his clothing line at Any Means Necessary allows him to share his artistic vision on his own terms.

“It’s pretty much any artwork that I want to put out on a t-shirt,” Coss said. “Me and my buddy who run it – we don’t have to listen to anyone else in terms of designs. We create what we like, and with that artwork it’s a more darker, twisted theme with a little bit of humor to it.

“I’m not sure it’s anything breaking the mold or curing cancer, but it’s entertaining for us and it’s self-sustaining,” he said, adding that it affords him the luxury of wearing pajama pants all day long, if he so desires – a noble goal imo.

One of the many designs available through Any Means Necessary. "When they said you had no chance ... When they said said "Yeah, when pigs fly" ... This is for the naysayers Always prove them wrong ... by Any Means Necessary

One of the many designs available through Any Means Necessary. “When they said you had no chance … When they said “Yeah, when pigs fly” … This is for the naysayers. Always prove them wrong … by Any Means Necessary”

Right now, Coss is prepping for the release of the Stephen King film “Cell” in which his artwork plays a prominent role, something he’s super excited about. He’s also putting the finishing touches on some posters for indy movies, and working on Cyanide & Happiness Season Two for YouTube.

No stranger to the convention circuit, Coss has appeared at others like Emerald City Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con. He reached out to Wizard World especially for their Ohio-based shows to help expand the Cyanide & Happiness brand, and had a booth at the Columbus show in 2014.

“When we went down there, we had like the longest line,” Coss said. “I think we had a line longer than Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery, for all three days.”

Cyanide & Happiness’ popularity shocked the Wizard World programmers, because they hadn’t been too familiar with them beforehand.

“From there, they were like ‘we want you at all the Wizard Worlds if we can get you there,’ ” Coss said. Due to scheduling, they are only able to appear at the Columbus and Cleveland shows.

“I get to meet people locally, and connect with those fans,” Coss said of the convention circuit, particularly the ones in Ohio. “I can show them that I’m just some guy from Ohio who’s doing this as a career, and maybe you can too.”

Shawn Coss and his fellow artists from Cyanide & Happiness, as well as his Any Means Necessary merchandise, will be at Booth 227 all three days of Wizard World Cleveland.

“Come up, say hi, BS with me,” Coss said.

Wizard World highlights and attendance info

Highlights of the show include VIP Experiences with the special guests mentioned earlier as well as Ian Somerhalder from the CW hit “The Vampire Diaries,” Karen Gillan from “Dr. Who,” WWE Superstars Dolph Ziggler and Diva Paige.

Attendees will also receive a limited edition exclusive variant cover by Greg Horn issue of “The Walking Dead #1” comic book.

Our mantra has always been ‘give the fans a good show,’ “ said Milani. “And if you give the fans a good show, and the fans have a good time, everything else takes care of itself.”

Wizard World Cleveland is Feb. 20-22 at the Cleveland Convention Center. A 3-day weekend admission is $75.00 in advance, or $85 at the door. More information about single-day admission, VIP tickets and more is available at the Wizard World Cleveland website.

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Thanks for reading the 15th Week in Geek in addition to visiting The Long Shot. Of course, there were many more exciting things that happened in the world of science, technology and pop culture this week…but these were the ones that most caught my attention. If you have any news you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me know – i try to keep up with stuff but i can’t read everything!

If you would like some further reading, about some science, technology and pop culture stuff that happened this week, here’s a few links i hope you find as interesting as i did. This is a double-dose of linky goodness, combining the last two weeks due to Week in Geek’s hiatus on Feb. 6:

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Next week, Feb. 20-22 i’ll be at Wizard World Cleveland. i’ll be tweeting throughout the show, and Week in Geek will probably consist of shorter evening recaps of the day’s events.

Remember – if you would like to contribute to The Long Shot, i’d be happy to make that happen!

Week in Geek also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).

Check out the articles i’ve written for The News-Herald.

Thanks for reading!

Help Wanted

Regular readers at The Long Shot may have taken note on Feb. 6 that my usual Week in Geek post did not materialize. So firstly, sincere apologies to anyone who looks forward to that for Northeast Ohio, national and global news and commentary about technology, science and pop culture.

Several other life demands have me scrambling around and the fourth dimension was not in my favor.

The spike in my busy-ness has created an opportunity for you to step in and maybe score yourself some loot for the effort!

bill_murry

Sharp-eyed readers might have caught some of the instances when I’ve appealed to other writers to Take a Shot and add their own content to The Long Shot. Over time, a couple of people have done so, and in one case their work has become one of the most-viewed items in the archives here.

During this particularly hectic period for me, i’d like to redouble my efforts to expand and include content from anyone else who has something to say about the things they geek out about. i hope a few people are inspired to follow the link and create content of their own to share.

If you are unsure what to write about, i can help you there – items cross my desk pretty often that i simply can’t cover. So if you’re into the same sorts of things as me, let me know and i’ll point you in a direction.

Or, write about whatever topics interest you. If you need help developing some ideas, drop me a line and i’ll do what i can – there are tons of stories everywhere waiting to be told. Previews, reviews, commentary or enterprising stories engage you and your readers and help discover more about the world around us.

Need help with editing? i’m a grammar, punctuation and style nerd and i’d be happy to help there too.

And once your work is ready, getting the word out will be my pleasure. Always be hustling!

Need an incentive?

The first six writers to create great content can choose from a grab bag of geeky loot! The Long Shot (and by extension, me) doesn’t make any money off this blog. My compensation comes in the form of reader interaction, audience growth and personal improvement, and i hope you will be able to say the same. And if things ever take off, well…you can say you were there in the early days.

i’m looking for thoughtful, well-written pieces that show initiative and passion for the subject matter. To start this incentive, the first selected piece will get their choice of items from those pictured below, and so on until all six have been awarded.

The first batch of items comes from Loot Crate, which sends subscribers a monthly package of exclusive themed geeky goodies. In the future, more Loot Crate exclusives may become available. There’s also several unique shops near where i live so you never know what might be in later grab bags.

8-bit themed sunglasses that you will not find anywhere else. Retro stuff is cool right?

8-bit themed sunglasses that you will not find anywhere else. Retro stuff is cool right?

This innocuous-looking cartridge replica is actually an anthropomorphic figure with pop-on legs and arms that wields a classic 8-bit Ninendo gun. Tell me you don't want that defending your desk.

This innocuous-looking cartridge replica is actually an anthropomorphic figure with pop-on legs and arms that wields a classic 8-bit Ninendo gun. Tell me you don’t want that defending your desk.

Each page of this comic book notebook has pre-drawn comic panels, so you can create your own epic comic book.

Each page of this comic book notebook has pre-drawn comic panels, so you can create your own epic comic book.

Widely considered the best item in the crate, inside this box is a skinny tie featuring a Space Invaders pattern of row upon row of alien swarms.

Widely considered the best item in the crate, inside this box is a skinny tie featuring a Space Invaders pattern of row upon row of alien swarms.

An exclusive, variant cover issue of Marvel Comics' Star Wars #1 that sold a million copies. This cover features Han Solo and Chewbacca. Exclusive comic book variant cover. Even better if your piece is Star Wars related.

An exclusive, variant cover issue of Marvel Comics’ Star Wars #1 that sold a million copies. This cover features Han Solo and Chewbacca. Exclusive comic book variant cover. Even better if your piece is Star Wars related.

T-shirt featuring a blueprint design of everyone's favorite robotic lions that combine to form a giant sword-wielding robot. This medium-sized Voltron t-shirt can be yours!

T-shirt featuring a blueprint design of everyone’s favorite robotic lions that combine to form a giant sword-wielding robot. This medium-sized Voltron t-shirt can be yours!

Pretty nifty stuff, amiright?

Now get out there and get some stories! Even if these items get snatched up, i sincerely hope that writers out there will take a shot on some ideas and see what comes about. i started this blog a few years ago without much direction or experience as a way to get extra practice while studying journalism in college. Since then, it’s given me opportunities to interview some really great people, discover exciting things happening in my hometown and build some credibility along with a portfolio of work, some of which has been published elsewhere.

i hope that other writers out there will get inspired to find stories and get in touch with interesting people behind the things they love, and i’d be honored to provide the space for you to share your work.

Feel free to fill out the form or shoot me an email to get started. If you have that desire to be a writer like i have since childhood, now is as good a time as any to take a shot.

Week in Geek 1.30.15

Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday

Before we get started, i’d like to say thank you to all the people who have visited The Long Shot, followed the blog and kept up with Week in Geek. Since starting this column, a couple of hundred people have found their way here and started following, and that means a lot!

i hope you enjoy the content here, and if you’re new to The Long Shot’s Week in Geek, click the follow button or subscribe by email so you can keep up to date on technology and other geeky stuff happening in Cleveland and around the world.

Thinking inside the box

Not a terribly clever heading and i can’t imagine i’m the first to use it for an intro to…

thinkbox logo

i was invited to tour this amazing facility by the director of CWRU’s Blackstone Launchpad program, Bob Sopko. Launchpad, funded by a charitable organization, exists to help train the next generation of entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio, and from what i’ve discovered so far they’re doing a fantastic job. Meeting with Bob was a real treat, and while walking around CWRU’s campus chatting with him it’s clear that he is extremely well-connected and knowledgeable about all things technology.

Blackstone Launchpad's office inside Thwing Center on the CWRU campus

Blackstone Launchpad’s office inside Thwing Center on the CWRU campus

On our way to think[box], we passed through a student lounge where Bob pointed out another Cleveland entrepreneur’s presence – they have their own Melt restaurant on campus. But the bigger news out of the space was the huge touchscreen news hub that we stopped to check out.

Passersby can touch any of the floating cubes to get course information, alumni profiles and other news.

Passersby can touch any of the floating cubes to get course information, alumni profiles and other news.

For the meat of the tour, Bob showed me around inside think[box], a 4,500 square foot space which serves as a center of innovation for anyone – not just students. The center’s resources are available for use by anyone with a project to work on, providing both space and people “to tinker and creatively invent.”

Inside think[box] is pretty much anything you can think of for creating and bringing a project to market, and before you think there’s some kind of catch, the university has no ownership rights on anything developed inside. Inventors retain intellectual property rights on whatever they create, with a few exceptions (like if you’re working on further development of technology already owned or invented by the university). Users don’t even need to get permission or disclose their work to the university.

The facility does not have any age restrictions either. The website lists guidelines for minors from K-12, and Bob said they’ve certainly hosted young inventors from time to time in the three years that think[box] has been up and running.

Ben Guengerich is a design/manufacturing operations specialist at think[box]. Drop him a line at bsg@case.edu if you have any questions

Ben Guengerich is a design/manufacturing operations specialist at think[box]. Drop him a line at bsg@case.edu if you have any questions

The coolest thing about think[box] is that they have resources available to shore up whatever side of a project you need help with. For example, if you’ve got your prototype ready but you’re lacking in the artistic department, they have art and design services that can work with you to create logos, packaging and help refine product design. Likewise, there are business and finance specialists, legal advisers, engineering assistance and more.

Essentially, if you have an idea, there’s enough help available to make it become a reality.

Laser wood cutter - one of the many tools available at think[box]

Laser wood cutter – one of the many tools available at think[box]

Bob's favorite feature of the laser cutter - the safety alert to hit the big red button if there's a fire

Bob’s favorite feature of the laser cutter – the safety alert to hit the big red button if there’s a fire

One of the stops on the tour was this machine, a laser wood-cutter that was in use by an engineering student. He explained that he was making a ring box for an engagement ring, and bashfully admitted he wasn’t very creative. i disagreed and told him i thought it was really thoughtful, and showed that it’s true what they say about how STEM disciplines ought to be called STEAM. There’s a big push for that in the technology world, and i couldn’t agree more. Engineers, coders and other technology professionals are incredibly creative and it’s important to be inclusive of that aspect. Bob agreed as well, and i hope the romantic engineer took it to heart.

Circuit board mill signed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak

Circuit board mill signed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak

In October, CWRU hosted “Creativity and Innovation: A Live Q&A with Steve Wozniak” and the Apple co-founder visited think[box] to check out the facility. While there, he signed this circuit board mill, just another piece of the amazing array of resources for inventors. Bob mentioned how Everykey’s Christopher Wentz had a chance to speak one-on-one with Woz, who handed him one of his custom business cards. As my college professor and mentor once told us, when someone hands you their card, it’s because they want you to keep in touch with them. Big news for a Cleveland startup!

Steve Wozniak's custom metal business card. This image is from a Google search - not the actual one given to Chris Wentz.

Steve Wozniak’s custom metal business card. This image is from a Google search – not the actual one given to Chris Wentz.

The list of hi-tech tools inside think[box] frankly had me geeking out. Every few feet there’s another workstation with pieces of equipment heretofore only read about, so it was exhilarating to see all of them right in front of me. But lest you think the space is full of only these sorts of technical gizmos, the place also has both a fully-equipped woodworking shop and metalworking shop.

A 3D microscope used to perform precision work on things like circuit boards

A 3D microscope used to perform precision work on things like circuit boards

The area that most intrigued me were the 3D printers think[box] has for use. You can’t 3D print a rock and throw it without hitting news about 3D printers, and if i’m honest i’d never actually seen one in person before.

Think[box] has two varieties of 3D printers as well. A very high-end version suitable for lab use, and some tabletop models from MakerBot. On a side note, Bob mentioned that another prominent 3D printer manufacturer, MakerGear, designs, engineers and manufactures them right here in Ohio! MakerGear – you’re on notice: i’ll be contacting you for a tour soon.

MakerGear's Makerbot tabletop 3D printer - designed, engineered and manufactured right here in Northeast Ohio

MakerGear’s Makerbot tabletop 3D printer – designed, engineered and manufactured right here in Northeast Ohio

Part of 3D printing that i wasn’t aware of is that sometimes there’s additional material used to make the objects. For example, a piece may require a surface to build material on, so a sort of filler is used to provide that surface. After printing, the piece takes a relaxing acid bath that dissolves the unneeded material.

An inventor removes a 3D printed object from an acid bath that dissolves superfluous material

An inventor removes a 3D printed object from an acid bath that dissolves superfluous material

Bob and i talked about 3D printing at some length, and how there’s so many applications for it that we’re only still scratching the surface of with what has been done. He told me about a recent archaeological site where diggers took a 3D image of a fossil and emailed it to a lab thousands of miles away where technicians recreated it with a 3D printer. Applications like that have a huge impact on research, allowing people from anywhere in the world to work together using physical models identical to each other.

At work the other day, one of my colleagues admitted he hadn’t even heard of 3D printers up until about a month ago, and he joked that the next thing you know they’d be 3D printing houses. Of course i had to laugh at that comment – a 12,000 square foot mansion was just recently 3D printed in China!

An anatomically-correct 3D printed heart. The applications for medical use are already being seen every day with things custom prosthetics and more

An anatomically-correct 3D printed heart. The applications for medical use are already being seen every day with things custom prosthetics and more

Mentioned earlier, think[box] isn’t just about the technical work involved in fully creating and bringing a product to market. There tools, resources and people there can help with any aspect of design, creation and the business of invention for entrepreneurs.

A digital photo station, so you can take professional images of your product to showcase

A digital photo station, so you can take professional images of your product to showcase

As if the facilities think[box] offers aren’t staggering enough, CWRU is working to create an entirely new space for the innovation center. Renovations are currently underway to repurpose a former vault building on campus for a new facility. The new space is going to be 50,000 square feet (about 10 times the size of the existing space!). The $35M project will make CWRU’s new think[box] one of the biggest university-centric innovation center in the world, and according to Bob it will be ready for the fall 2015 semester.

This former vault building is undergoing at $35M renovation to become the new home of think[box] and one of the largest of it's kind in the world

This former vault building is undergoing at $35M renovation to become the new home of think[box] and one of the largest of its kind in the world

Conceptual images of the new think[box] interior that will open for fall semester 2015

Conceptual images of the new think[box] interior that will open for fall semester 2015

Touring think[box] was most certainly an amazing experience and Bob was incredibly courteous and accomodating to take time from his schedule to show me around.

Coming up, CWRU is holding a HackCWRU event on Feb. 6-8. If you’re not sure what a Hackathon is, i’ll let HackCWRU explain it for you:

What is a Hackathon?
Hackathons are marathon long coding parties, lasting between 24 and 36 hours, where you’re invited to build something with a team.
We supply you with a steady stream of food, caffeine, and mentors.
All you need to do is bring a computer and anything else you need for your hack.
You can make any kind of app or hardware project. The world is your oyster. If you can think it up, you can try to make it

My coding skills a far from up-to-snuff and my laptop doesn’t work without the adapter plugged in, but i’m definitely going to try to make this event to see what everyone else comes up with.

In related tech news, my editors at The News-Herald printed my first published technology story today on the Tech page (it’s also online at their website). My conversation with Everykey’s Chris Wentz got some extra mileage and it is very exciting to see that people outside of The Long Shot are interested in what i’m doing here.

The tech editor did mention to me that my enthusiasm makes him feel tired, but discovering and covering all the incredible tech news coming out of my hometown Cleveland only inspires me more to keep at it. My only lament is that there’s so much awesome stuff going on that i can’t cover it all!

If you’re as interested in technology as i am and want to cover some of the exciting things going on, in Cleveland or your own hometown, please drop me a line. Adding your own tech stories to The Long Shot would be terrific, and if you’re interested but don’t know where to start, i can help you with that too. There’s something going on every day in Northeast Ohio!

*     *     *     *     *

Thanks for reading the 14th Week in Geek in addition to visiting The Long Shot. Of course, there were many more exciting things that happened in the world of science, technology and pop culture this week…but these were the ones that most caught my attention. If you have any news you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me know – i try to keep up with stuff but i can’t read everything!

If you would like some further reading, about some science, technology and pop culture stuff that happened this week, here’s a few links i hope you find as interesting as i did:

  • High demand for high technology skills continues to build
    • This article from one of my colleagues at The News-Herald covered a forum held in December with 60 area leaders economics, education, technology and business. One of the major points discussed was the profession fo coding which, according to labor statistics, pays an average salary of $74,280. One more reason to head over to Codecademy and get started!
  • These are the hottest new open source projects right now
    • More examples of the collaborative nature of technologists. Sure, there’s competition, but there’s a heck of a lot of courtesy and sharing going on too. Open sourcing allows others to build on work that has already been done, increasing the rate at which technology advances.
  • Why the Apple watch is wearable tech’s first make-or-break moment
    • It’s no secret that i’m not a fan of Apple products, but i’ll grant them their market popularity. So when their smartwatch drops in April, it will definitely have an impact one way or another. Oddly enough, the photo embedded in this article was flagged as adult content on TweetDeck; i guess anything in that region of the human body is taboo…?
  • Food buggies to start rolling through Cle streets (and buildings)
    • Food trucks evolve right here in Cleveland! Smaller, streamlined versions of food trucks that aren’t restricted to roadways. These little guys will create more jobs and put another notch in Cleveland’s foodie town cred.
    • “They’re very cool looking,” says Eric Diamond, ECDI executive vice president for lending. “They have a full working kitchen with a cooktop and plumbing. The idea is you can get into buildings and it’s a lot cheaper than a food cart.”
  • Microsoft’s Bill Gates insists AI is a threat
    • What would Week in Geek be without a new entry into the increasingly relevant scenario involving complex thinking machines? The founder of Microsoft’s comments are at odds with reps from the company, who had a different opinion to offer this week. Gates said he “didn’t understand people who were not troubled by the possibility that AI could grow too strong for people to control.”
    • More on this, that includes references to other leading thinkers like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, in this article from Quartz.
  • Out of control AI will not kill us, believes Microsoft research chief
    • One of the aforementioned people who Gates doesn’t understand. This guy thinks AI systems could achieve consciousness, but downplays any potential threat to human life.
    • He does concede though, that “AI systems risk invading people’s privacy, since they will become capable of making ever-deeper inferences about users by weaving together the mass of data generated by human activities.”
  • Having a hard time being human? This app manages friendships for you
    • Take all that messy emotional decision-making out of your life and place it in the hands of this app, which gathers biometric data and correlates it with information you  input about the people in your life. Based on patterns, algorithms will determine whether you should be spending more time with a certain person or if you should cut him or her out.
    • Creepy!
  • Robots are getting more like us and famous scientists are concerned
    • We’re deep into the uncanny valley here. This kinda summarizes a few different articles from this and the last few weeks of Week in Geek’s further reading. For what it’s worth i think i’d prefer my robots to look robotic, you know? Save the tears in the rain for the movies, please.
  • Lasers can make water bounce on metal
    • Some good ol’ fashioned laser news. Researchers who used lasers to make hydrophilic materials flipped it around so that water is instantly repelled. Pretty nifty high-def slow motion video showing the hydrophobic metal in action.
  • The Elio needs only 3 wheels to reach 84 mph
    • A slick re-envisioning of the consumer automobile, but i ask you – can it do the driving for me? Get back to me when it can. Self-driving cars ftw.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
    • i’m a huge Samsung nerd, and this new mobile device looks perfect to me. My Galaxy Tab is basically an expensive comicbook longbox that sometimes does double duty for Skype. The Galaxy S5 i use now is great, and i’m basically attached to the thing. The Note Edge is bigger, which i like. And the customizable edge looks like a nifty innovate for smartdevices. Fingers crossed that my AT&T Next plan will let me get one of these!
  • Office puts chips under staff’s skin
    • Workers at a hi-tech office complex in Sweden has RFID chips installed to open doors, control the copier and eventually pay for their morning coffee in the lobby…but who controls the chips, i ask? Kind of cool, but at the same time i wonder if we’re just handing ourselves over to a technocracy.
  • Report: Marvel eyeing Chiwetel Eijiofor for Doctor Strange role
    • It’s just talk, but the takeaway for me speaks to how Marvel is dominating the superhero film market. THEY GET EXCELLENT ACTORS. Some whispers suggest Eijiofor may take on the role of Brother Voodoo. Personally, i have no idea. Doctor Strange is a character i like, but fringe characters like him are so wide open for interpretation and unusual developments, there’s no telling what the film story may turn out to be.
  • The speed of light can vary in a vacuum
    • But…but…it’s a finite speed of 186,000 miles/second! Oh, long-held universal truths, we love to shatter you.
    • This discover “could change the way we think about one of the constants of the universe.”
  • Virtual reality content an offer to airline passengers
    • Which begs the question, why even take the trip in the first place? (That’s me being facetious).
  • The Cubitat shrinks an entire house into one compact cube
    • Cubitat is a 10-by-10-by-10-foot cube that houses a kitchen, bathroom, bed, laundry, and storage.

      Cubitat is a 10-by-10-by-10-foot cube that houses a kitchen, bathroom, bed, laundry, and storage.

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