Star Wars-ing: My Love of Star Wars

“Only at the end do you realize the power of the Dark Side.”

I was not always a Star Wars nut. I did not grow up with the toys, movies, quotes, lunch kits, bed sheets, and so forth. In fact, I vividly remember owning only one Star Wars book, a picture book about The Return of the Jedi. I was sitting in my living room, probably around 8 years of age, and trying to match up the book with the movie…only, the movie I was watching was Spaceballs, not The Return of the Jedi. I had no idea what was wrong with this scenario, I just remember reading about Jabba the Hutt and wondering why he was called Pizza the Hutt in the movie. Like I said, not the biggest Star Wars fan.

Then I met one of my very best friends, Michael, in high school. Michael was not just a casually obsessed Star Wars fan, oh no, it went much further than that. It was like George Lucas threw up in his bedroom, which I mean in the best way possible. Between the action figures hanging on the wall, the displays, the hand painted (hand painted) mural on his wall…it was intense. And because I liked (maybe even like liked, I mean, I was 15) Michael, I watched the movies. And listened to his thoughts, theories, incessant droning about them. And eventually, I started to realize…these movies were freaking AWESOME. It battles, the dialogue, the mind-blowing moment when Vader said, “No. I am your father,” what’s not to love?! It wasn’t long before we got my two little sisters into the movies as well. The power of the Dark Side was definitely at work.

Shaak Ti (Dina), Jedi (me), Padmé (Cara) at Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando

Shaak Ti (Dina), Jedi (me), Padmé (Cara) at Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando.

When the prequels were announced, we were ecstatic. Now, I know its fashionable to talk down about the prequels…but remember that podracing scene? The arena scene in the The Battle of Geonosis? When Yoda force grabbed that lightsaber and fought Count Dooku LIKE A BOSS? Dude, the entire theater erupted in applause. Execute Order 66? I shivered. Say what you want about the prequels, but to me, even with their imperfections, they still encompass the spirit of Star Wars. Throw in a little Ewan McGregor, and you’re all set. I saw the midnight premiere for all three of them. In fact, I was in college at Southeastern Louisiana University for The Attack of the Clones premiere and of course, it premiered over my exams weeks. I went to Elmwood in Harahan that Wednesday night to watch the midnight premiere, came back to Southeastern (an hour away), studied for my 8am and 10:15am exam the rest of the night, and aced them. Now that’s dedication.

Fast forward to May 2007, Los Angeles, and Celebration IV. My whole family went, including my two sisters, their two significant others, my mom, and Michael (who’s like my brother now). CIV was my first Star Wars Celebration and it was amazing. It was the first time I met almost any of the stars (besides a Star Wars Weekend in 2001, where Michael and I met the original Uncle Owen, Phil Brown), and it was fabulous. The panels, the props, the autographs, the random celebrity sightings (I shopped right next to Seth Green at a toy exhibitor’s booth)…in my opinion, no other Celebration has come close to the awesomeness of CIV.

It's A Trap! Meeting Tim Rose aka Admiral Akbar at Star Wars Celebration IV in Los Angeles.

It’s A Trap! Meeting Tim Rose aka Admiral Akbar at Star Wars Celebration IV in Los Angeles. Dina, Brent, Tim Rose, Michael, myself

Celebration V and Celebration VI took place in Orlando, which was perfect. Michael and my sister Dina live there, so free rooms = more money to spend on Star Wars stuff. The Last Tour to Endor during CV was so incredibly fun. My sister dressed as the Jedi Shaak Ti, and let me tell you, I realized first hand what it’s like to be with a celebrity. At some points, there were lines forming to get a picture with her. She did an incredible job and the next year at CVI, my two sisters and I dressed as Nightsisters from The Clone Wars television show (which I watched religiously). Though we are not by any means professional cosplayers, we all love to dress up, and we had a great experience, even meeting a Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress, and Mother Talzin to take pictures with.

Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando

Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando.

Creating a scene with Dina as Shaak Ti at Last Tour to Endor in Disney World

Recreating a scene with Dina as Shaak Ti at Last Tour to Endor in Disney World.

Last Tour to Endor at Disney World. Jedi Mickey!

Last Tour to Endor at Disney World. Jedi Mickey!

My sisters and I dressed as Nightsisters from The Clone Wars at Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando

My sisters and I dressed as Nightsisters from The Clone Wars at Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando. Dina, myself, Cara

Celebration Anaheim (they sadly did away with the numbers this time around, but it should’ve been CVII) brought Michael and I back to California, and this time Kurt and Michael’s brother David came (Kurt and I were not romantically involved in 2007, much to his sadness, I’m sure), with a special appearance by my brother-in-law, Darin, who went to CIV and the Orlando Celebrations as well (my sister, Cara, is way too pregnant to fly across the country and Darin was luckily in California for work). So while we were missing most of our usual crew, we still had a blast. Anaheim is a fun, friendly community and though we seemed to spend most of our time getting autographs from the celebrities (I started a new Star Wars poster, because, why not?), we still found time to see cool things and immerse ourselves in the Star Wars universe. And that’s what these Celebrations are all about: making friendships with a group of likeminded people who all geek out on the same thing you do. In my next post, I will detail the geek-out-i-ness that took place…coming May the 4th. And if you don’t know why I picked that date, why, you’re just a stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder.

Star Wars Celebration Anaheim

Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, I’m ready for you!

Concert-ing: The Replacements at the Hollywood Palladium on April 16, 2015

The Replacements at the Hollywood Palladium

The Replacements at the Hollywood Palladium

The Replacements have always been more than a band to me.  They were my high school counselors, my best friends in college, and they have remained loyal ever since.  However, I didn’t discover them until right before they broke up.  When they announced their 2013 festival dates, I was beyond excited, but, once realizing they weren’t coming anywhere near me, a little bummed.

Then they announced their 2015 tour.  Again, New Orleans wasn’t on the list.  Again, I was bummed.  Then, I remembered that we were going to Anaheim for Star Wars Celebration in April.  I checked the tour dates.  On April 16, they would be playing at the Hollywood Palladium.  I checked my calendar.  We were leaving for Anaheim on April 15.  I double-checked.  I tripled checked.

I am not ashamed to say I screamed with excitement.

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ComicCon-ing: MegaCon 2015

On Friday, April 10 and Saturday, April 11, Kurt and I went down to Orlando, Florida for one of their biggest conventions: MegaCon. MegaCon, despite some lingering logistic issues, was a great time. My sister, Geekella: Art by Dina Cavicchia, had a booth in Artist’s Alley, so we also got to experience MegaCon on Thursday evening behind the scenes, because we went to help her and her friend Erin Denton, who runs Purrito Press and was in the booth right next to her, set up. Seeing the con on Thursday, with all the exhibitors, artists, and vendors coming and going with boxes, carts, giant bags, and all sorts of things in disarray, and then seeing it on Friday morning was amazing. It’s really interesting to see how much work goes into setting up shop and perfecting your booth before the con opens. Even Dina’s simpler booth setup took at least 4 hours to perfect. Watching the artists try to display their wares in a friendly and inviting way with such limited space was intriguing. And the vendors and exhibitors with the big booths simply awed me. Some of the vendors had so much stuff in their space, that it blew my mind to think how long it took them to set it up.

Geekella: Art by Dina Cavicchia  at MegaCon 2015.

Geekella: Art by Dina Cavicchia is ready to go for MegaCon 2015!

Continue reading

Concert-ing: Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause on March 27, 2015

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

As Cristina promised in her blog about OUR favorite festival, Hogs for the Cause, I would follow it up with one about Strand of Oaks.

I’m constantly listening to new albums using Spotify.  I scour the sites Any Decent Music and MetaCritic trying to find good new music.  The first few seconds of Strand of Oaks HEAL were enough to make me know that this would be one of my favorite albums of the year.  When Goshen ’97 bursts into life, the music brings you back to that time when you first discovered your favorite band.  It doesn’t hurt that J. Mascis’ guitar shimmers throughout the song and that it’s extremely catchy.

However, Goshen ’97 did not prepare me for how deep the album is.  The album comes off as memoir in song.  Tim Showalter, the driving force behind Strand of Oaks, was processing quite a bit of pain in the writing of this album and using the music and lyrics to exercise the demons.  The record is not depressing, but allows for Tim to help him, um, HEAL.  Considering the year I had last year, the album struck a particular cord with me.

When Hogs for the Cause announced that they booked Strand of Oaks, I was excited to say the least.  When the night came, I actually stressed about my wardrobe.  Not because I’m a snappy dresser, but because it was supposed to be in the high 50s, which after just a week of weather in the 70s equals freezing temperatures for folks from south Louisiana.  I chose my Replacements jacket.  While waiting for the first band, I checked setlist.fm to see what songs to expect. The last song at the last shows proved that I probably wore the right jacket for more than one reason.

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Most of the songs came from HEAL.  Goshen ’97 of course rocked which was impressive in that it was only the guitarist’s third day with the band.  The title track actually sounded better and fuller live.  JM, a deeply personal song about his fallen hero, Jason Molina, was soulful and soothing.

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

At the end of the set, Cristina came up front.  I warned her for the last song, so she could record it. They announced they were going to do a cover, and then they ripped into  The Replacements’ “Alex Chilton.”  Of course, I turned into the kid that Showalter talks about in Goshen ’97.  At one point, he forgot the lyrics but made up for it in enthusiasm.  Coolest part, he pointed to me and my jacket mid song, recognizing me as a fan.

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Because they are still an up and coming band, Tim and the drummer actually worked the merchandise booth after the show, allowing us to meet the band.  They both jokingly admitted they knew they had to cover The Replacements when they saw my jacket, even though it made them nervous. Both were so nice and thankful to be playing a festival for such a great cause.

Tim Showalter from Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Kurt and Tim Showalter from Strand of Oaks at Hogs for the Cause

Both told us we needed to check out Hiss Golden Messenger the next day because he was really great.  We had already planned to and so when we took our place for that show, we weren’t surprised to see them rocking out in the crowd just like we were.

Running: Surviving the Crescent City Classic by Guest Blogger Rochelle Pedersen

I’m happy to announce our first guest blogger to The Adventures of a NOLA Nerd Couple: Rochelle Pedersen! She is writing a great blog on a classic New Orleans tradition, the Crescent City Classic. – Cristina

2015 Crescent City Classic - In my costume!

2015 Crescent City Classic – In my costume!

Each year on the Eve of Easter, New Orleans hosts the Crescent City Classic 10K Road Race – the GREATEST road race on the planet! There are four main types of racers you might encounter at the Classic: the Runners, the Drinkers, the Chatters, and the Survivors.

The Runners make up the vast majority of the participants at the CCC, and they are there to run because they LIKE IT. They have all of the gear and they are not afraid to use it. I’m sympathetic toward their apparent Stockholm syndrome relationship with running, but there is really no saving them. I mean, I have witnessed runners in thongs and see-through yoga pants hauling ass. If you run in a thong, you are too far gone in my opinion. My husband is in this group – minus the thong – and he waits (and waits, and waits, and waits…) for me to cross the finish line every year like a good husband should. Bless him.

2015 Crescent City Classic - Heading out!

2015 Crescent City Classic – Heading out with my Runner husband.

The Drinkers and the Chatters are often intertwined. These folks use the Classic as an excuse to get drunk early on a Saturday morning and/or catch up on the gossip about ya mama and ‘dem. The folks often stop at establishments along the route for drinks, donuts, coffee…if they are selling it, the Drinkers and Chatters are buying it. Many of the Drinkers and Chatters sport matching t-shirts that proudly display their “team” designation. Others wear matching costumes that range from simple tutus and the ever popular “bunny” get-up to majorly inappropriate ensembles. Nothing is off-limits and hilarity ensues. There was a rather large group of Storm Troopers this year, one of which rode the shuttle bus back to the start with us. I was mistaken for a Drinker/Chatter this year at Champions Square by a water volunteer. It was an honest mistake. You see, I am a complete goober who dresses up for the Classic all by my lonesome. When she complimented “our” costumes, she obviously believed others were not far behind me.

2013 Crescent City Classic - The crowd on Poydras.

2013 Crescent City Classic – The crowd on Poydras.

No ma’am. I’m a gen-u-ine, one-of-a-kind, goofball.

Now my friends, we come to the Survivors category, which is where my crazy ass is firmly planted. The survivors are an eclectic group of brave souls who may or may not be ready to admit to being a Survivor. These people are not in the prime of their physical lives. I say that with squishy big girl love. (Remember, I am a Survivor!) Many of them are working towards better physical fitness and they are meeting goals by finishing this 10K – HOT DAMN! So very, very many of the female Survivors buy special outfits for the occasion – new shoes, new pants, new, rather strange, tops. This year in particular I saw lots of off the shoulder numbers and one very interesting twisted back pseudo-shirt. Hey, more power to ya, ladies. If it makes you feel good, WERK IT. Incidentally, what makes THIS Survivor feel good is a tiny top hat and half-tutu bustle. I am a member of the amazingly talented Mardi Gras dance troupe, the Nola Nyxettes, so I had to represent with my black and pink tee. All by myself. WERKED IT.

2010 Crescent City Classic - this is what happens when a survivor tries to become a runner

2010 Crescent City Classic – This is what happens when a Survivor tries to become a Runner.

I am proud to be a member of the Survivor group, huffing and puffing along, praying for the next water station. I am never more Catholic than I am during the Classic, y’all, and the day before Easter the paramedics might need totry and raise me from the dead one of these years. Not yet, though, and at the end I find my husband waiting (and waiting, and waiting…), ready to head to the post-race party. Watch out, folks. I’ll be heading for the red beans and jambalaya and your drunk ass better get outta my way.

2014 Crescent City Classic - In front of the Superdome.

2014 Crescent City Classic – In front of the Superdome.

Festing: Hogs for the Cause, My Favorite Festival

My absolute favorite New Orleans festival is Hogs for the Cause. Every year at the festival grounds at City Park, Hogs has a food and music festival, raising money to donate to pediatric brain cancer research and care. Teams from all over cook mouth-watering pork dishes, from the traditional ribs, tacos, and sliders, to culinary creations such as a corn dog with pimento filling, pork grits, a pork filled “hupig” pie, bacon sundaes, and pretty much any other thing of which you can think, just add pork. This was our fourth year attending, over the weekend of March 27-28, 2015, and once again, it did not disappoint. Continue reading

Concert-ing: Elvis Costello at the Civic Theater on March 12, 2015

Elvis at the Civic Theater in New Orleans

Elvis at the Civic Theater in New Orleans

I have seen most of the bands I have wanted to see in concert through the years.  However, I have never seen a few bands.  I probably will never see a few like David Bowie.  Elvis Costello came to town recently and I could check another one off my list.

Elvis’s show was a solo performance.  Except for the first encore, he was the only person on the stage.  This type of show, along with the setting of the Civic Theater, allowed for the most intimate show I have yet attended.

Elvis’s voice was in fine form for the entire two and half hours he played.  He also demonstrated how talented of a guitar player he is.  The setlist was all over his catalog of “some 300-400 songs” as he put it.  He played hits, covers, and some deep tracks. Songs like “Alison” and “Pump it Up” were faithful to the originals while “Beyond Belief” and “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down” took on a different arrangement completely. Loop machines allowed him to create big sounds on some songs most notably on “Watching the Detectives.”

The crowd was a sell out that helped sing the backing parts on most songs.  Yet, the crowd was not the only help that Elvis received.  Allen Toussaint came out to play the entire first encore. Elvis seemed to be as delighted as his fans were with this.

We have seen some concerts that have had long run times recently (Elton John and Paul McCartney).  What was unique about this one was that it was not in a big arena.  The Civic is a small enough place that Elvis could actually tell personal stories.  In fact, the show threatened a few times to turn into Storyteller, not that anyone in the audience would have minded. In fact, one of the best rounds of applause of the night came from a story about Elvis’s dad.

Elvis at the Civic Theater in New Orleans

Elvis at the Civic Theater in New Orleans

Then again, some songs, such as “Shipbuilding” hit you in the gut with their own stories and do not need to be embellished. Elvis’s songs are stories in and of themselves.