Friend a Day – Carr Hagerman

Photo by Burn & Brew

Photo by Burn & Brew

I’ve known of Carr far longer than I’ve actually known him.  When I started at the Renaissance Festival thirty years ago, the Ratcatcher was one of the most well-known street characters anywhere.

I didn’t know him as a person then.  I knew him as an icon.  He was what all of us were trying to be, if only just a little bit.

Many years later, Carr was the Artistic Director of the festival and he had created what can be fairly called a lifetime achievement award.  I was the third recipient of the award and he was the person who presented it to me.  It was a surreal moment.  I was recognized for my contributions to the festival by someone who was a legend long before I ever started making them.

A few years after that, I made a push to present that award to Carr.  It seemed wrong to me that he should be excluded from consideration due to the technicality that he created the award.

Carr is a passionate man.  He has so many passions, it is hard to see how he manages to keep track of them all.  He is a speaker, a photographer, a director, a political activist, an actor, and a great deal more.

The festival is a world of challenges and frequently a world of extreme negativity.  Everyone thinks they could do things better.  Most of them are right.

But a focus on the negative can be crippling.  Carr is so relentlessly positive about the experience that he reminds all of us why we are doing this in the first place.  We are doing it for the love of the experience.  At some level, that love of the experience outweighs all of the negative stuff.

His talent is to find a way to keep a huge cast focused on the good things.  He doesn’t pretend the bad things aren’t there.  He simply reminds us that they can’t be the most important thing.  Otherwise, why are we there?

Carr and I don’t always agree. Yet I have the utmost respect for him because he disagrees with me without ever devaluing my opinion.

I know who Carr is as a person now.  That’s better than being an icon.  Icons aren’t real.

Friend a Day – Ellie Younger

Photo by Peter Verrant

Photo by Peter Verrant

I met Ellie through her ex-husband and got to know her better when she became more involved with CONvergence.

She was also a frequent guest at our regular Sunday movie nights until her career took her to Boston a couple of years ago.

These days, she comes back into town for Omegacon and usually CONvergence (though she didn’t make it this year).

While it is a shame we don’t see her as often as we used to, it is the nature of the world in which we live.  While I understand the issues many have with Facebook, I appreciate the fact that it keeps me connected to people who no longer live a short drive away.

Ellie has always struck me as smart and open about herself.  She frequently stuck around long after movie night to talk about what was going on in her life and in ours.  These weren’t “poor me” conversations but rather discussions good friends have because they are comfortable sharing things with each other.

When we went on a vacation with Ellie a few years back, she brought along her new boyfriend.  There is a level of trust in such a decision since Johnny didn’t know any of us at all.  It’s one thing to feel comfortable with your friends.  It’s another to feel comfortable bringing someone new into an existing dynamic.

As a friend, a choice like that makes you feel valuable and trusted, which is cool.

I think Ellie does that all the time.  She makes her friends feel valuable and trusted.  When she comes back through town, she makes major efforts to get together with the people she doesn’t see that frequently any longer.  It’s an awesome feeling to know that you are part of someone’s agenda when they are only around for a couple of days.

The internet may make the world a lot smaller, but it is not a perfect substitute for seeing folks you like.  Ellie didn’t make it to CONvergence this year, which is a shame.  I suppose it is about time we tried to make it out to Boston.

Friend a Day – Peter Verrant

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Peter is one of the few friends I have from college.  I suppose that is because I got out of theater for several years so I lost touch with most of those people.

I’d like to think that I had some impact on Peter’s choice to get involved in theatre.  He took a stagecraft class when I was a TA in the scene shop and we hit it off.  I put a pneumatic nail through his hand.  He dropped a platform on my foot.  We both got to spend a snowy January morning trying to move a bunch of steel platforms from Downtown St. Paul to Hamline University in a truck with no traction.  We bonded.

His passion for photography is evident in the sheer amount of pictures you will find on his Facebook page.  He works for the photography department of two major conventions and the number of pictures he takes is amazing.  I would say almost every decent picture of my children was taken by him.

If we were the kind of people to ask someone to be a godfather, I think we would have asked Peter.  Instead, he’s the crazy uncle that they like more than their parents because he brings them weird stuff.

Any time we need help with a project around the house, he’s there.  He is the sort of person who will lend a hand to anyone if he has the time.  You know your real friends when you are looking for someone to help you demolish a ceiling.  Or watch your cats with two days advanced notice.

Peter is the kind of guy who calls you on the Thursday of a convention weekend as he is leaving his house and asks you what you forgot so he can swing by your house and pick it up.

All of it, I guess, is to say he’s one of those people we’ve always been about to count on when we need something.  It is no understatement to say he is one of my best friends.  He actually feels a lot more like a family member than a friend.

And he will remain so as long as he doesn’t drop another platform on my foot.

Shit that Pissed me Off – 7/11

Candidate for Minnesota Legislature Exhibits His Complete Failure to Understand AIDS

I get that social conservatives don’t understand anything about homosexuality.  How else can you justify someone claiming that sperm injected anally has an enzyme that burns…um….something and causes immune deficiency?

Clearly they don’t understand anything about enzymes either.  Or sperm.  Or anuses.

Apparently it only has this effect on male anuses.  Or maybe this dude doesn’t believe there is such a thing as a woman who enjoys anal sex.

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Quick, asshole, tell me what kind of sex this woman is into. You clearly know.

What continues to amaze me is how people like this guy continue to get annoyed when people like me call them homophobic.

Let me try to explain why I use the term “homophobe” to refer to you, sir.  When you are afraid of something that homosexuals do because of bullshit reasons, you are a homophobe!

Read More…

Friend a Day – Kammy Lyon

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I met Kammy through CONvergence.  She was the primary Skepchickcon contact and I was running programming so we talked a lot.

She was also one of our first two guests on Geeks Without God – long before we actually knew what we were doing!

Working with her on programming was a dream.  She was organized and would always answer questions quickly.  With her group representing 10 – 15 panels per year, it was great to have someone who would act as a one point contact for all of them.

Sometimes people don’t appreciate the quiet background types who keep all the balls in the air.  That was Kammy.  She didn’t sit on a lot of panels but she got a whole lot of great people on a lot of great panels.  And she helped organize a terrific room party.

She’s got an upbeat attitude that has taken a beating with some personal stuff over the last couple of years but she’s also a fighter.  Right now she’s going to college, which is a difficult task at any time.  It is a lot harder when you have a life filled with family and work already.

And good for her!  Good for anyone who makes that decision.  I’m really happy for her.

One of the things this Friend a Day project does is remind me how little time I spend with people I like.  Kammy got us over to her house for some yummy grilled burgers two years ago and we’ve been trying to set up a follow-up to that night for two years.

I think once I get done posting this, I should send an e-mail to her trying to figure out a date we can grill.  Actually, I should do that before I get done posting this.  BRB.

OK.  Done.

Kammy is a great person to know.  Hopefully I’ll be enjoying some grilled meat with her soon!

 

Friend a Day – Paul Cornell

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This is my final installment for CONvergence week.

Paul Cornell was a Guest of Honor at CONvergence 2010 and he, like most of our guests, left completely in love with the convention.  Also like many of our guests, he promised to return.

Unlike most of the people who have said they would return, Paul has turned the con into a yearly destination.  He has brought his wife and son along and it seems as if we have become a family tradition for them.

Since 2010, I see Paul for a few days every year during a weekend in which I have about 200 brief conversations with 200 different people who I really like.  Paul and I talk for ten minutes (if I’m lucky) but he pays me the genuine compliment of being happy to see me.

Paul loves to play games.  He introduced me to “Just a Minute,” which I have bastardized beyond all recognition.  And still he talks to me.

He is the perfect kind of guest for the convention because he doesn’t just produce work that is of interest to the geek community. He’s also a fan of the same things as everyone else at the convention.  While he can talk about his contributions to that fandom, he can also talk about how much he loves Urban Fantasy or Dr. Who or Cricket.

Speaking of Cricket, he is slowly teaching Minnesotans about the intricacies of the game.  It takes time when you only have one hour a year. I imagine we’ll have a convention Cricket league in another few years.

What I love about our convention is how people like Paul become a part of the community.  So many former Guests of Honor have become once-a-year friends because the convention encourages that kind of relationship.

When those people aren’t there, they are missed.  The con feels just a little less enjoyable.

This year, the absence of convention friends like Brian Keene, Bridget Landry, and John Kovalic was made a little easier by the presence of people like Paul, Cargill, and Joseph Scrimshaw.

Thanks for making us a part of your family, Paul.  We are truly flattered.  I hope we see you next year!

Paul has a great blog and he just posted a glowing write up of the convention.

 

Friend a Day – Tish Cassidy

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Photo by Sunny Wylde

I got a little bit behind on my Friend a Day posts as CONvergence got into full swing.

Today’s friend is a person I hadn’t expected to write about because I didn’t know her that well.  Her passing over CONvergence weekend reminded me that so many people touch our lives and we ought to take a few moments to show gratitude for those moments.

I first met Tish Cassidy through the Renaissance Festival.  She was one of many fellow performers I didn’t know that well.  She always had a smile on her face, which is an endearing trait in almost anyone.

She dated a roommate for a little while and spent a lot of time in our house.  She was very charming and chatty.  When the relationship ended, we didn’t see much of her for a while.

Later, she began to work with CONvergence and was one of the people tapped to take over the con when a new organizational model was adopted.  That model was a disaster but Tish was a fighter.  She and I had more than one conversation in which I saw her desire to find a way to make the whole thing work.

She loved the convention and while she was frustrated with the direction it was going, she was trying to do everything in her power to fix things.  The ship was flagging a little bit but Tish (and the people she worked with) was working as hard as she could to keep it afloat.

It is perhaps appropriate, then, that her last memories would be of the convention she loved.  From my last few encounters with her, I could see she was ill.  It turns out she was seriously ill.  She collapsed at the convention on Saturday night and expired Sunday morning.

Her sudden loss cast a pall over the weekend, which was unavoidable.  I at least took comfort in the fact that she died doing something she loved surrounded by people she loved and who loved her.

I didn’t know her that well so my sense of loss is not as great as some of my friends.  But I knew her.  Her life touched mine.  We lose friends all the time and for all sorts of reasons.  It’s worth appreciating them while they are around.

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