Shattering Conventions

Every turn down every aisle at the San Jose Super Toy Show fills me with an inescapable sense of product lust. I understand why I want the 19 1/2-inch Shogun Warriors Godzilla doll. Sure, it’s going for $600, but it has a spring-loaded fist that can launch across the room. What I don’t get is why I want the Star Wars Early Bird Certificate, a symbol of childhood disappointment.

Marvel’s The Black Panther did more than smash box office records this year. It inspired Wakandacon, a three-day celebration of Afrofuturism at the Hilton Chicago that combined community building with Blerd (short for Black nerd) culture.

At the Cocktail Robotics Grand Challenge kooky inventors and their booze-slinging bots compete for $1,000 in prizes, but the whole thing starts with a mechanized cocktail party. Can these robotic bartenders keep up with their human counterparts? Bob Calhoun investigates.

When I first agreed to speak at Nerd Nite East Bay in Oakland, California, I thought I could get away with reading an especially gnarly passage from the book version of Shattering Conventions, crack a couple of jokes and answer a question or two. I was totally wrong about this.

You have to keep your eyes on the ground while walking through the halls of California’s San Mateo Events Center during the Maker Faire. There are robots down there. You look up at the towering Godzilla woven entirely from wool and then you’re almost tripped up by a small moving platform trimmed with aqua blue lights. The platform scoots around the floor, weaving in and out of peoples’ footfalls

It’s hard to tell what the llamas are thinking as they are mobbed by students on Memorial Glade at UC Berkeley for the event that is now called Llamapalooza. These Peruvian pack animals have been coming to this grassy field on campus ringed by three of the university’s imposing libraries for four years now.

“Hey Robert, great to have you back. What’ll you have?” Lawrence says as I grab a seat at the bar while I take a break from shooting video at BABSCon, the Bay Area Brony Spectacular, a three-day gathering of people of all gender identifications who are obsessed with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

The live camels seem a bit out of place near the back of the Santa Clara Convention Center, but there they are. It is the San Francisco Bay Area Travel and Adventure Show so it all makes a kind of sense—especially when you emphasize the adventure aspect of the whole thing.

What used to be a "towering inferno" of flaming weed is now in the mainstream.

The best way to describe the Dickens Fair to the uninitiated is as one of those Halloween haunted houses except for Christmas.

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