Spirit's Account of the
Earth 2 Fifth Anniversary Party

July 1999

Here is the exciting tale of my recent vacation on the west coast of the USA. This isn't an official con report, it is simply an account of my vacation, from my perspective. The names of some people have been changed to protect the innocent.

For those of you who do not know me, I am terribly long-winded. Bills are not being paid, my boss is screaming at me, and my stomach is growling for food. None of that matters – I'm going to write about my con experience until I either finish or drop.

I had fun.

Okay, any questions? Good, that's it. See y'all next year.

Whack

Okay, okay. Gosh, one little joke. You people just don't have a sense of humor.

Wednesday, July 14
Redwoods and Golden Gates

I pulled out of Dallas, Texas at 1:00 AM, headed for Austin. Because of a dumb state law to prevent competition with another airport, Southwest Airlines can't fly anything out of Dallas that goes further than one state away. But I love Southwest, so I drove through the night to Austin, three hours south. I was in the air by 7:45 AM, headed for a changeover at Phoenix, then on to Los Angeles. I slept most of the way. (In the plane, not the car.)

My luggage consisted of clothes for five days, dress and casual both, along with different pairs of shoes. I've never packed so many before. I also had a sleeping bag for the hotel room, things to be autographed, books to sell, and books to read on the plane. Thank God I left my 40-pound photo albums at home.

After landing at LA, I turned around and flew right back out again. I took a United flight to San Francisco to visit a high school friend named Richard. Richard works for Silicon Graphics, his wife works for Centura Software, and they make their home outside San Francisco.

When I landed in San Francisco, it was 15 hours after pulling out of Dallas, but I wasn't tired.

One car rental later, I met with Richard and his wife. Richard took me on the cram-everything-you-can-into-one-evening tour of San Francisco. It's cold there. Even in July, something about the latitude and the intense wind from the Pacific turns that city into a chill factory in the evening.

(Podmates – no, I did not have a jacket. Why ruin a perfect record?)

We went to a lookout point on the southern tip of Golden Gate bay to watch the waves crash into the rocks. The land was pretty, and the nightly fog was rolling into the city. We went over the Golden Gate Bridge, and stopped at the lookout point on the other side. I got some shots of the bridge, the boats, and Alcatraz Island.

We then went into the hills, down a road that twists, and turns, and twists, and turns, and twists some more. (Podmates, remember the road through the Jemez Mountains? That was straight compared to this.) Richard began getting motion sickness, it was that bad. But after a while, we arrived at Muir Park to see Redwood trees.

They were so beautiful. These trees are hundreds of years old. They're about 15 feet in diameter, and they weren't even the biggest ones around. The walkway led into the park, and once we were inside there was absolute silence.

The trees stretch several hundred feet up, yet quite a bit of sunlight still reaches the ground. The only other plants among the Redwoods were clover and small ferns. Imagine a coliseum made of wooden pillars, with wide open spaces to walk among the pillars, all painted green and brown, and with no sound. That's what it was like. Even without the walkway, we could have walked among these trees very easily.

The sounds I'm used to hearing in the woods were gone. There was no birdsong. There were no locusts or crickets. No wind reached that place. Not even a squirrel or a rabbit, that I could see, disturbed the silence. The clover carpeting the ground and the tangle of branches high over our heads swallowed sound like it was offensive. When we spoke, there was no echo. When I stopped and listened, there was no other movement, not even a ladybug. There were only the whispers of other tourists and the clicks of our cameras. Sometimes, not even that. It was the most silent cathedral I've ever been in.

If you ever go to San Francisco, check out the Redwood trees. You will not regret it. In addition to the beauty, Muir Park is also an historical landmark, for the United Nations was founded there. There's a plaque commemorating the event.

You might also find my camera lens cap, which I lost somewhere outside the visitor center. ☹ At the convention, I started singing, "I left my lens cap in San Francisco."

We went back across the Golden Gate Bridge and took a roller coaster ride. Or was that Lombard Street?

Okay – the streets of San Francisco. Not the TV series, the real thing. They are not really built on hills, as some people say. They are built on walls. NASA could use San Francisco residential streets to launch space shuttles, they're that steep. We went up and down a few of these, and I felt like the car was going to flip over backwards. And there are stop signs at the tops of them! Oh, I pity people who drive cars with standard transmissions in San Francisco.

Richard took me down Lombard street. This is a famous residential street and San Francisco landmark. Why, you ask? Because it drops about 100 feet in one block, all while twisting and turning!

Lombard Street is built in the form of a switchback – in other words, in order to get to the bottom of the hill, it jags back and forth, left to right. Very often. Very tightly. I never stopped turning the wheel until I got to the bottom. Although there are only seven turns, it felt like 15, each one of them about 130 degrees. All the time, the sky was behind me. I don't know how the brakes survived.

And people live on this street! May their parking brakes never give out. The street itself is very pretty, with many flowerbeds lining both sides of it, and beautiful plants of all colors draped along the walls.

We went through Chinatown, and saw all the bustling night life. Even on a Wednesday night, the parking was very difficult. We ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I had to learn how to use chopsticks or starve. (They had forks, but getting a waiter's attention was impossible!)

Back at Richard's house, we played on computers for a while. We tried several ways to download Weird Al Yankovic's new song, but we couldn't figure it out.

Richard played me another Star Wars spoof which he had on hard disk, a song about the Mos Eisley Cantina based on Barry Manilow's Lola.

Her name was Leia,
she was a Princess.
With two Danish in her hair,
and a dress cut down to there.

Very funny. I couldn't hear the song because I was laughing too hard. I don't know who sang it.

Thursday, July 15
Old Friends, New Friends, and Digital Movies

I said good-bye to Richard and his wife, then went to a barber shop to get the hair cut I had meant to get on Tuesday afternoon but forgot.

I flew back down to Los Angeles, got my rental car, and tried to go to the hotel. I diverted off I-405 (aka the San Diego Freeway) because of traffic and ended up on La Cienega. When I tried to get back to I-405, I ended up right where I started, at the Century Boulevard entrance near the airport.

It didn't take me very long to form an opinion on traffic in Los Angeles, and it's not a high one. Many other conventioners felt the same. I was traveling in circles.

So instead of diverting because of traffic (which is useless, because in LA, that just means exchanging one traffic jam for another), I stuck it out on I-405, advancing up the interstate at a consistent 30 miles per hour, in a traffic jam which started sometime around 1978 and hasn't gotten any better.

California has way too many people in not enough space.

The weather was always nice and warm. The land is very hilly, a very awkward place to put a city. I'd never been to LA, but I've seen it so many times on TV that I felt like I'd been there. There are palm trees, which sometimes made me feel like I was back in Corpus Christi. There are also Cypress trees, and pine trees which are very tall and skinny, like someone put mousse on them.

I reached the hotel and said hi to a bunch of old friends, and several new ones. My roommates were Kelly, Tetsuya, and A.J. (Feivel4). I met Char, Maddie, her sister Ellen, and Jenna Mead again. I got to meet Ann and John White and Justine for the first time. Internationally, we had Christine from Germany, Tracey and Susan from England, and Tetsuya is from Japan. I got to meet Deb Sims again, and her nephew Seth. Beth Blighton was there, Anne Backus and Anne Wochner (never again will I get the two of you confused!). A nice young man named Angus, whom I had never met before. Cheryl Howie and Deb Wilson were there, already networking and laying the groundwork for NP2000. I met Jen Nelson. I met again Larry Horn and his wife...whose name I always forgot to ask. Cathy Bolton, the superwoman of Earth 2 fandom, took time out from hiking, rafting, diving, finishing her Bachelor's degree, and working a full-time job to come to the party. She's a dynamo. I finally met Gina Todd, music video maker extraordinaire.

I was warned to watch out for the hotel restaurant, which was good, but expensive.

About 12 of us went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant, I don't remember what it was called. Then it was back to the hotel, and onward to the movie theater.

Using four cars, about 14 of us we drove up to the Pacific Winnetka Theaters 20 in Chatsworth to watch Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in pure digital!

Surprisingly, the developers of the new digital technology wanted to keep its debut very low-key. The digital presentation was only shown for one month, in four theaters across the nation. The theater we went to did not have stadium sound, nor did it have a tremendously large screen.

The projector room was open for tours, and a few of us went up before the movie, more afterwards. They have the movie stored on a bunch of hard drives. I think they were about 24 hard drives, all 15 GB each. (I don't recall the exact numbers.) The technicians on site could see the film on their monitor just as the audience could on the screen. The program to run it is a simple GUI appliation, and all the technician had to do was click, "Play." (As the CineComm man said later, they wanted a projector that even the kids running the hot dog stand could operate.)

Uncompressed, the film is over a terrabyte of information. They had the film compressed 4:1, so it was about 306 GB.

In the future, the film will be downloaded from a satellite onto the hard drives. From there, it can be accessed by as many projectors as the theater wants, so they only need to download it once. To prevent piracy, the movie is encrypted, and they estimate a CRAY computer would take several months to crack any encryption. Since the encryption changes every three seconds during the download, they figure their films are pretty safe.

They also had a film print running simultaneously behind the digital print. In case something happened to the computer for any reason, they still wanted the audience to see the film they paid for.

A man from CineComm gave us a talk before the film, and spent about 10 minutes answering questions. He said we were welcome to go down to see the screen up close during the film, and challenged us to see any pixels, the resolution was that clear. Film is five or six generations removed from the original product; this digital projection was only once removed.

(The only problem was that for this demonstration, the digital information was taken from the film print, so we would be seeing any flaws the film had. But for the most part, that wasn't an issue, and it still blew me away. In future, true digital movies will be filmed digitally, as well. And as Kelly pointed out, most of the movie is already digital, anyway!)

The man told us that the people who developed the new technology would foot some of the bill for getting the technology into current theaters, because it cost so much. Theaters in major cities across the U.S. will have digital projectors within 18 months.

The news report listed CineComm as the manufacturer of the projector, but that was not true. The manufacturer is JVC (the rival is Texas Instruments). CinceComm is merely the distributor, setting up the satellite network and the encryption system. He said he didn't care who built the projector!

The funniest question from the audience came after the man talked about all the growth that was about to happen. Someone asked, "Is CineComm public?" (The answer was no, not yet.)

The Phantom Menace digital show will go on tour in Europe, but not the United States. In the U.S., there will be more digital movie presentations, but they will be showing other movies, such as Disney's current Tarzan release. Florida was one of the places mentioned.

George Lucas has made it very clear that he will be filming both remaining Star Wars movies completely in digital.

The man from CineComm told us that the film we were about to see was the absolute closest possible to the film George Lucas intended, and that was a direct quote from Mr. Lucas himself.

The lights dimmed, and the movie started, with previews.

It was INCREDIBLE. It made film look like flip art. Images were crystal clear. I saw faces in the pod race crowd, and things I'd never seen before, in any of my previous nine viewings. I saw blades of grass, skin tones. The contrast was perfect. Things lying in shadow could be seen. The audience could tell what kind of fabric was used to make the clothes the characters were wearing. There was no drag, no shakiness, no grain, no hairs, no white streaks, no blurriness. The theater's speakers had been fine-tuned by a team from THX Sound, and the digital sound let me hear things I'd missed on previous viewings. Somehow, even at such a furious pace, I was able to see every nuance, every detail.

When the movie ended, we just sat in silence and watched the credits, listening to the music. No one wanted to move, for we had just seen something special. The applause was well-deserved.

Back at the hotel, we got our registration packets, which were available any time on Thursday. They had a fancy access pass, tourist information for the surrounding area, and passes for the Universal trip and the beach trip, if we'd signed up.

There were also laminated cards for a "Grendler Scavenger Hunt." We each got two cards, and the word "Devon" was declared to be the secret word for the weekend. If you caught anyone else at the convention saying the word "Devon," you could take one of their cards. The person with the most points at the end of the weekend ended up with a prize.

Needless to say, since Devon is my favorite character, that was basically like painting a target on my back for the weekend. A.J. wouldn't let me alone, but I never faltered. I wouldn't even say "Devon" during the Q&A sessions with the guests. (But that was because I forgot about the rule which suspended the game during the Q&A sessions, so I just sounded like a fool. More about that later.)

Friday, July 16
Universal Art Therapy

We piled into a bus at 8:30 and went to Universal Studios! When we got there, Kirk Trutner, who works in Universal's offices, came out to greet us. (He was not on vacation like we were, so he had to go back inside to work.) Mr. Trutner was his usual entertaining self.

We took the famous tram ride, through fiery cityscapes, past King Kong, and through studio sets of outdoor cities. We saw the Bates Motel. I have a great shot of the sign that says, "Welcome to Bedrock: First with Fire." We went through Dante's Peak. (A sign before Dante's Peak said "Population 7,000." Afterward, it read "Population 0.") We experienced a fake flood and fake rain – using real water, of course.

We drove past the bungalows which housed the stars in the old days, when they contracted with studios for months at a time. When I saw Alfred Hitchcock's bungalow, I immediately thought of "The Three Investigators" children's books, which is where that series started out. I was so jazzed when we passed the time travel car and the courthouse set for Back to the Future!

(On an Earth 2 note, SFX whiz Kevin Pike worked on BTTF.)

We were made dizzy by the tunnel that spins around as you drive through it, and that was another plus for me. This was the tunnel the Six Million Dollar Man ran down when he went up against Bigfoot. The Six Million Dollar Man was my favorite show when I was a child, and I remember that episdode, because it was so weird. (I used to run around the house in slow motion, pretending I was bionic!)

We got to part the Red Sea, and go over the bridge that falls down, and almost got eaten by a shark. The worst part, however, was the tour guide. His name was Doug, and he just kept telling one awful pun after another. Luckily, I don't know any other Doug who does the same.

Ahem

We didn't get to see the Earthquake part of the ride, because Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump) was using that particular studio to film a new movie. A.J. told me he took the tram again later, and he got to see it then.

After the tram ride, we went to the Back to the Future motion simulator ride. It was so awesome! That was something I'd been wanting to do for many years.

We took the Jurassic Park ride, risking the wrath of killer dinosaurs and getting very wet. Then we ate some overpriced theme park food and went to the Terminator show, which was a 3D show on a big screen merged with live actors, and very entertaining, although not for the little kids. I'd forgotten how deadpan Arnold Schwarzenegger can be. ("Stop whining.") We also rode the E.T. ride, and saw a special exhibit honoring Lucille Ball.

When we went to the Backdraft show, the tour guide saw our Earth 2 shirts, and said, "Clancy Brown!" She was instantly a friend, and we told her about the convention, although Clancy couldn't make it because he got a job. The Backdraft show was amazing, full of fireballs and exploding barrels. They set a warehouse on fire just for us!

The Horns ate lunch at the Marvel Comics Restaurant, but I didn't get to that. We also didn't have time for the Waterworld ride. It was time to shop and go home.

The rides and shows are all very exciting. They last about 15 minutes each, but the lines were often 30 to 45 minutes each. An entire day is about what it takes to do everything at Universal Studios theme park.

A.J., a big fan of Feivel Mousekewitz (from An American Tail) managed to find a PVC figurine, and I think he got his picture taken with a person in a Feivel suit. Imitators of Hercules and Xena were on hand. Xena grabbed A.J. by the shirt front and posed with him. Hercules got Christina to pose with him, but in the process, mistakenly called Jenna her mother! Poor Jenna.

We returned to the hotel. To escape the high prices of the hotel restaurant, Jen Nelson and I just walked down the street to the McDonald's.

That evening, we visited the art exhibit by Rockmond Dunbar, titled "Art Therapy." I don't know how to describe his art, because I don't have the vocabulary. "Abstract" is all I can say. Anything more, and I risk the wrath of people who know more about art than I do.

I saw a constant theme of life, and life energy, throughout his work. He was very shy about presenting his art, and I think it actually took a lot of courage for him to do so. We got to meet some of his friends, his parents and his girlfriend. His paintings were for sale in the hundreds of dollars, a few for over a thousand, and he told us he was approached by several people who wanted to display his work further. Go, Rockmond!

Saturday, July 17
Our people called their people, and we did lunch.

From this point on, every single person at the con was up and partying for 30 hours a day.

We started the morning by setting up the room at 7:00 AM. Kim and the Whites each had their collections of Earth 2 memorabilia, and Cathy had her collection of props that she's been slowly amassing over the years. (We figure that if the fans collect enough props, we can restart the show.) One of the props was the gear set she bought on Ebay. We all tried it on. It was an odd fit, but not uncomfortable. The laser looking into my eye made me feel like I was getting an eye exam. Other props were the hand unit which Gaal used to control the shock collars, and the wrist locks worn by Uly and True. The auction items were laid out for everyone to look at. Earth 2: Eden Advance had a table, as did New Pacificon.

The auction was conducted periodically throughout the weekend. The highlight, by far, was THE BOOK. The book of notes, characters, costumes, props, and storylines donated by Michael Duggan. I wanted that book, as did everyone else. But I decided the bidding was too high when it hit $400. When the bid was $600, I knew I didn't have a prayer.

That book went for $1,000. SOLD! to Madelyn Sieraski. She's the one to pester for copies. (And let that be a lesson to the rest of us: medical school pays off!)

We also had two jackets and two vests from the show, provided by an anonymous donor. Other auction items included an Earth 2 CD, video footage of Kevin Pike's crew winning the Emmy (which was never televised), framed photographs, posters, and T-shirts.

One particular picture which I knew fans would gnash their teeth over was about 1 foot by 2 feet, and it featured a promotional photograph of the nine main cast members only, dressed in their finest, dancing in the ballroom scene from COM and looking right at camera. Alonzo and Julia were a couple, Devon and Danziger were a couple, Morgan and Bess were a couple, and Uly and True were a couple. Yale was standing off to one side, alone. This picture did not have a frame, but it did have a hard backing.

Another picture with a hard backing was a large closeup of a koba. The folks at KOBA TV ended up with that one, as I knew they would.

Beth conducted the auction, and I made myself look busy by holding up items for display. I quickly learned that an item's value went up significantly if it was accompanied by the phrase, "Clancy's in this one." The bidding on the two NP96 programs was down to $1.50 each, but when I opened them up to show everyone Clancy's photo, hands suddenly went flying up in the air!

There were three panels on Saturday. The first one kicked off the morning, with SFX whiz Kevin Pike, make-up artist Angela Nogaro, and prop diva Jana Marie Bonar. Kevin talked about the machine he created to get people popping up out of the ground, and the Terrian pool. When I brought up the subject of his Emmy, Kevin also mentioned that other departments had been nominated for Emmys that year.

Then we had the brunch. Lots and lots of people showed up. There was a guy named Spanky, and I still don't know what he did. Everyone was happy to see him, and everyone was astonished to find that he was still alive. Apparently, he was a bit of a crazy man. Cast and crew showed up with wives, husbands, and children. Jeff and Lisa were there with their little one. Joey Zimmerman and his mother were there, and everyone was excited when Jessica Steen walked into the room.

Especially George.

Yes, Mr. Cifrancis finally met Jessica, and he managed to do it without falling, fainting, or drooling.

Throughout the entire weekend, there were some things that every single person from the cast and crew agreed upon – that Earth 2 was the hardest job they'd ever worked, that they were all very close like family, and that atmosphere of closeness was something they'd never found on any other show. As they all described it, they were working together for long hours, for several months, in close, cramped conditions. They got to know just about everything about each other.

This was evident in the way they greeted each other. Whenever anyone new walked through the door, they jumped up and ran to them and gave them a great big hug. They were so happy to see each other. It really was a reunion.

I was so excited to finally meet Earth 2 music composer David Bergeaud! He looks and sounds exactly like a stereotypical artist, with a simple green tunic, long hair, five o'clock shadow, and a French accent. (His last name is pronounced "Bear-zho." I'm glad to know that, since I've been calling him "Ber-goad" all this time.)

(Oh, sue me.)

I approached him during the brunch and said, "Can I ask you a hypothetical question?"

He just smiled and said, "Hypothetical away."

I asked, "If someone – hypothetically – asked you to sign a pirated copy of your CD, would you mind?"

He just laughed and said no. It didn't bother him that pirated CD's of his music were out there. He was disappointed that he only got to make 500, so he was happy that someone else was making more.

I was quite relieved to hear this! If Mr. Bergeaud had had a problem with pirated CD's, I was prepared to spend whatever it took to get the real one in the auction, because I was getting his autograph on his music, one way or the other.

But he didn't, so I got to save some money, because I already own a pirated one.

David also donated a single page of hand-written sheet music for the auction.

After brunch (which was absolutely delicious), we all went back to the convention room and had the second Q&A session of the day, this time with Jeff and Lisa, Art Schlosser (?), Kirk, David, Rockmond, and Joey.

David's account of composing the music was amazing. He talked about visiting the set many times to get a feel for what the music should be. He was present during filming of the evac pod scene in the forest, when the characters step onto the planet for the first time, which is probably one of the reasons why his music worked so well.

He didn't want any electronic music, and he didn't want any instruments that could be readily identified with a well-known culture. So he investigated different instruments from around the world, including didgeridoos from Australia, and drums from another exotic location which I can't recall. He took these instruments (and in the case of the didgeridoo, learned to play it) and changed them a little so they wouldn't be completely recognizable.

For the pilot episode, he had a whole orchestra to play with. For the rest of the season, Universal axed his budget, so all the music for each of the remaining 21 episodes was not only composed by David – it was played by him, as well.

He played all the music in his house, using these strange instruments and drums, and his own glasses and bowls filled with varying amounts of water – anything he could do to get the right sound.

As he was talking, all the other crew members were looking at him in astonishment. David was probably the one crew person who was removed from everyone else, so I don't think anyone else associated with the show knew the full extent and trouble David went through to compose and play all the music we heard.

It was one of the highlights of the trip to meet him, and to hear what he had to say about the music. It was already some of my favorite in the world. Now I appreciate it even so much more, and my hat is off to David Bergeaud with a lot of admiration.

Joey Zimmerman has grown up a lot from NP96. Gone was the little boy who craved attention and interrupted others on stage. In his place is now a 13-year-old boy who is quite the little performer. He was funny! He talked about his work, in the commercials and guest-spots on TV shows, and how people recognized him wherever he went, and people always came up to him and asked him if he was the little boy in Jurassic Park.

We were all in stitches, none more so than Kirk Trutner.

Joey's mother is his agent, and that is her full-time job. Later that night at the party, she told me he does improv comedy once a week, and Joey himself told us during the Q&A that he's working on a screenplay.

Whether these are the wishful musings of a child or the serious undertakings of a future star remain to be seen, but if I could buy stock in actors, I'd be hoarding stock left, right and center on Joey Zimmerman.

During the break, Jessica tried on the gear set prop, and we all got some pictures of that. Then Tierre Turner showed up, and the third session started. This time, we put Brian Steele, Spanky, Jessica and Tierre on stage. Several minutes later, Sullivan Walker stepped into the room. Tierre was loud and funny, but left about 10 minutes later, talking on his cell phone. After he walked out, John Gegenhuber and make-up artist Marie Del Prete walked in and took some seats up front.

Towards the end of the session, Jessica Steen said, "I believe I see Michael Duggan back there." Heads turned, and there he was, the main man himself, exec producer of Earth 2. Michael Duggan had arrived.

He had some interesting things to say, but most of all, we asked him about SEASON 2 and the DEVON CLIFFHANGER!

I asked him what the plan had been for Devon. This is what he had to say:

The studio wanted the first two episodes for the next season finished much earlier than was customary, and both episodes were scheduled to be filmed before Debrah Farentino's child was due. So he and his staff had written a storyline to get Devon out of the way for two episodes, or as long as was necessary, until Debrah could come back to work.

I asked, "So there was a definite plan to get Devon out of cold sleep?"

Duggan replied, "Yes," and casually waited for the next question.

I never knew what a room full of people all leaning forward six inches and gritting their teeth in frustration to keep themselves from strangling someone sounded like. Now I know.

I asked, "And the plan was..."

He avoided the question. It may be a producer thing (some people don't like to reveal ideas, because they can be used again), or maybe he didn't remember. He just said that two script ideas for the next season (the REAL next season, not that drivel Universal wanted to sell) had been hammered about.

Then he said those two scripts had never gone to paper, but there were notes taken.

Poor Michael. He honestly didn't know what he was getting into. Jessica, however, knew exactly what we were thinking. When Michael said that, Jessica said, "Whoop – all theirears just perked up!" Yep, she knows how we operate by now. Michael will learn.

He said the notes were in his garage somewhere. I wondered if anyone in the audience was going to make him an offer. "We'll have your garage sparkling by 5:00 tomorrow afternoon!" He could have had a bargain.

Although she wasn't in a Q&A, Hedy Thom was also there. Hedy is Michael's wife, and she played the port controller in 1C, and Eve in AAE. They also now have a little one.

Then we had the autograph session, and I got everyone except Lisa's. Jeff was signing while Lisa looked after their kid. I made a mental note to go look for Lisa later (I even told others to do the same), and then I forgot myself.

After dinner, we had the party. To be honest, I don't remember much about the party. I was hardly awake, and I left early to go to bed. I was present for the John-and-Joey cake-decorating show, and John is definitely about Joey's age.

The cake itself (the entire thing, not just John and Joey's creation) looked lovely, and was absolutely delicious. It was decorated to say "Earth 2 5th Anniversary Party," or something like that.

A lot of the cast and crew missed the party. Michael Duggan couldn't stay long – it was a miracle he'd arrived at all. Jessica had to go, and a lot of others did, too. Kirk and Rockmond stayed. Bill Traetta showed up for the party. He'd been working that day.

I just wish I could have been awake. It sounds like everyone had so much fun at the party, and I missed it because I was about to drop. Oh, well.

I did not take my camera to the party. I have been a shutterbug all my life, and sometimes, I just get sick of the camera. My philosophy is that if you take more than 60 shots a day, you're merely recording your vacation, not enjoying it. So I'm trying to get into the habit of putting the camera down, and leaving it in the hotel room during some events, just to enjoy myself without it. If it was memorable, I'll remember it, and other people had cameras, anyway. It's a philosophy that seems to be working well.

Sunday, July 18
All you do is Beach, Beach, Beach!

We left at 8:30 to see the beach at Santa Monica (or thereabouts). There was a VCR and TV screen on the bus, and we were going to watch BNP on the way, but the VCR didn't work. So we had to go by memory, and what Maddie told us.

While poking around on the web, Justine found a company that makes a brand of bottled water called "EARTH2O." The company was good enough to donate several crates of this water, and the Whites graciously paid for the cost of shipping the water to the con. So we each had a bottle of Earth 2 water to drink. That was really cool.

The beach? It was sandy. It was wet. It was next to the ocean. We took many group photos, then split up to explore.

The beach is definitely the place where Julia comes running forward to greet Devon, Danziger and Alonzo. In reality, it is a lot smaller than what it looks like on screen. About 1/3 size, I'd say. The camera crews just have a way of making it look bigger.

We searched around for the place where the characters could have come out of the tunnel onto the beach, and we think it might have been the beach on the other side of the rocks to the left. It's the most likely candidate, although I didn't see anything which I could identify.

In order to get to the beach on the left, we could either walk back up to the road overlooking the beaches and then walk back down, or we could climb over the rocks, or we could go around the rocks by wading into the ocean.

Maddie waded into the ocean. She was carrying a camera, she was wearing a dress, and she'd been there before. I figured she knew what she was doing. So I followed her.

She didn't know it was going to be rough. And if she didn't know, I certainly didn't know.

Carrying a thousand dollars worth of camera equipment into the Pacific Ocean and battling the waves that come crashing into rocks, standing on slippery rocks with sneakers on, and without my hands to keep balance (because they're holding the camera equipment where the waves can't reach), hip deep in churning water, is not the most intelligent thing I've ever done.

I have done dumber things in life, but not in a while.

We made it around the rocks and to the other beach without mishap. I got my legs cut up, but I was so happy that I hadn't dropped my camera or fallen over that I didn't notice until 15 minutes later. Tetsuya followed us, but he dropped his camera into the ocean. I hated that. Luckily, his was just a point-and-click instamatic. I don't know if it was permanently damaged.

We had all signed a waiver of liability before going to this beach. There is a reason for this. It is a rocky place.

We investigated the beach to the left for all it was worth, and came away saying, "I think that's it."

Back on the main beach, there are holes in the rocks on the right side. These holes are the identifying features which clearly show that it is the beach on the TV screen.

Even further to the right is a tunnel leading through the rocks to a small cove, and the ocean. The tunnel fills up during high tide.

Several people filled their (now empty) EARTH2O water bottles with sand, sea water, and tiny shells to make a miniature beach.

We also saw some rabbits. They were cute.

We went back to the hotel, got cleaned up, and the convention charged on. Several guests were gracious enough to come back for a second day.

Kevin Pike was back, and with him were his two kids holding the Emmy. He showed us a tape of him and his team winning the Emmy. Since it was a technical award, it was not part of the regular Emmy awards ceremony, and it was never shown on regular television. It was also the very first Emmy awarded that year, because SFX is always the first category announced.

The last Q&A session was after lunch (for those of you lucky enough to have lunch), and it consisted of prop people Jana Marie Bonar and Bill Traetta, costume designer Deborah Everton, director of photography Stephen Lighthill, assistant director Janet Davidson, and one more person whom I can't remember. Carol someone (no, not Flint). I don't remember who she was or what she did, and she didn't speak much.

Deborah Everton was very shy, and so quiet, but she has quite an imagination. She brought a lot of her drawings to show off, including some of the work she did for Star Trek: First Contact. It was Deborah who came up with the idea of the Borg Queen being a head which fits into a body!

I don't remember everything we discussed, but it certainly got lively when Janet Davidson suddenly got political.

Evidently, Hollywood is under a strain, because so many movies and TV series are now being made in Canada. The more entertainment made in Canada, the more people in Los Angeles don't have jobs. There is a movement in Hollywood to fight this exportation of business, and she got really vocal about it. Several others on the panel agreed with her.

Janet said, "And if there's anyone in the audience from Canada, I certainly don't mean to be offensive," which is when Cheryl yelled, "Here I am!" At least we got a good laugh out of it.

About that time, I ran out of film, and I didn't have the energy to go get any more. That was all the pictures I was taking for the con. The rest of the way was sans camera, but that was okay, because we were basically finished, anyway.

The last of the auction items went, the last of the pictures were taken, and it was time to pack the place up. Several of us went to dinner with Bill and Jana. It was the first food I'd eaten all day.

Folks, a word about Jana. She is so jazzed about Earth 2 fandom. She loves to hear from us, she loves to be in contact with us. She is probably the one who spends the most amount of time with the fans, whenever she can. She makes it very clear to people that she wants to keep in contact with us, and isn't shy about asking for addresses. She wants people to look her up if they go to California.

She might change her mind if she got 140 letters in her mailbox on the same day, but she might not. You never know. But she has made it clear that she is accessible to the fans.

Clancy Brown, of course, couldn't be there because he'd gotten a job. This isn't a bad thing, a guy's gotta work. Man's got a family to support, and acting is what he does.

To make up for the fact that he couldn't be there, he was gracious enough to grant a telephone call on speaker phone to a room full of Earth 2 fans that evening. Beth, founder of his official fan club, arranged it. We talked for about 45 minutes, and I got to ask him several questions. It was really great that he could do that.

The Clancy Brown fan club then had their own miniature auction to help pay for the phone call.

I spent the rest of the evening in the con suite, resting, learning how to breathe again. I stayed up long into the night talking with Maddie, Char, Ellen, Deb Sims, and the Horns.

The next morning, it was time for me to go. Had I the option, I would have stayed for one more day. I certainly had the money to stay, but not to change travel arrangements, and I've used up too many vacation days at work this year already.

God, I didn't want to go.

I watched Earth 2 from the beginning on NBC. By the fifth episode, I knew that I wanted to know other people who liked this show. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that anyone else who liked this show was going to be someone like me, someone who shared my tastes and personality. It's a certainty I've never had before or since. Even when I've enjoyed other shows or movies, I've never had any desire to search out other fans. Only for Earth 2.

And I was right. The friends I've made, and the experiences I've had, being associated with this fandom are very special to me. I often feel like I finally found the friends I wish I'd had growing up, but never did. Earth 2 was a different sort of show, better than a lot of the other shows that Hollywood has churned out. Consequently, the people who like it are a different sort of people, and well worth getting to know.

I still remember watching the episodes for the first time, then again on video tape, back in 1994-95, before I knew any of you existed. It is the only TV show that has ever touched my heart and made me cry. I had no idea when I was watching those episodes that one day I would be friends with all of you, and that I would be attending conventions to meet the people on the show, learning who they really were behind the characters they played, and visiting the filming sites. My current roommate is someone I met through the fandom. It's been quite a journey. I've learned a lot about myself along the way, and I've even embarassed myself a few times. But – what else is new? I love it here.

Sometime on Saturday afternoon, when we were all laughing and having a wonderful time, and the cast and crew were talking about the show, and we were looking at props and posters, and spending money on merchandise, I suddenly found myself thinking, "Earth 2 lives. It really does."

Have I made it up to myself for missing NP'96?

Hmmm. Almost. ☺ Almost. I think I need one more convention...

Well, I left at noon on Monday, and got home without a hitch. I went back to work on Wednesday morning, and my supervisor asked, "Did you get enough of Star Trek over the weekend?"

I just told her, "Yes, I did."

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