From the Editor-in-Chief:
I SURVIVED THE PASADENA 2000 CON!
From the Webmaster:
REACTION TO THE REACTION TO TOM'S XENA PAGE'S SEMI-RETIREMENT
From the Graphics Editor:
THE NIGHT OF THE EVIL EDITORIAL AND THE CONTEMPLATIVE CONVENTION
From the HTML Editor:
TWO CENTS ON A DEAD HORSE
From the Editor-in-Chief:
I SURVIVED THE PASADENA 2000 CON!
It has been a full week since I started my convention activities at the Pasadena 2000 Convention and I am still "in recovery". This convention was my best yet and makes me look forward to any others that may come my way this year. It all started for me on Thursday January 20 2000, where I did the "airport thang" and greeted fellow Xenites as they deplaned and shuttled others to parts unknown. This year, though, I encountered a new twist! I broke my glasses. Well, I broke my frames (thank goodness the lens remained strong and manly). However, I was wandering around LAX like a mole with a glazed over unfocused look (which now that that I think about it, isn't that extraordinary for LAX). I was also the butt of several practical jokes that exploited my lack of visual prowess, but I will not go there. A kind Xenite gave me some of her surgical tape to mend my frames so I would be able to hobble to a repair shop the next day. Which I did, and it was nice to see again.
The glasses mishap did not ruin my plans to spend Friday morning at the Getty Museum in order to get any pretense of intellectualism out of my system. IT WORKED! By 3pm I was ready to party. Friday evening I joined a small dinner party which traveled on foot about three miles to find "that special bistro". I am still having post traumatic stress symptoms over the size of the salads. They were...large. Reminded me of that sage adage, never eat anything larger than your head. Later that night I FINALLY got my copy of "Tropical Storm" signed by Missy Good. I finally feel part of the herd, so to speak. My car had some minor problems with starting and I could sense the tension building with my carmates, but it started eventually and my life was saved again.
Saturday was my favorite day. It started with the Bard Brunch, which was the highlight of the entire convention for me. WHOOSH was able to sequester a table and I was honored by the company of the entire WHOOSH Executive Committee, two editors, a contributing author, the guest of an assistant editor and TWO DATES for Ms. Betsy Book (what a gal!). The Brunch was a very pleasant way to start the day. I appreciated the chance to personally thank the Executive Committee for their hard work and dedication in such a wonderful environment. The highlight of the event was the charity auction. After the Bard's Brunch I schmoozed at the actual convention and then worked up to the parties galore which peppered the Pasadena hotel district that evening. Beth Gaynor even let me use her newly acquired "Janice Covington model" whip. A good time was had by all.
The WHOOSH table at the Bard's Brunch 2000.
Left to right back row:
Beth Gaynor, Executive Committee and Owner of THE WHIP; Debbie "Mist" "I am not the Antichrist" Cassetta,
Editor Xena FAQ; Llachlan, Betsy's date.
Nusi Dekker, contributing author; Scrivo, another one of Betsy's dates; Alwayslooking, Jennifer Waldeau's date; Jennifer Waldeau, a friend of the editor; Kym "If Mist's Not the Antichrist What Am I?" Masera Taborn, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief; Betsy "I Brought Two Dates So There" Book, Webmaster/Palace Administrator.
Bret "I've Got a Page, See Ya" Rudnick (not pictured) was out in the lobby after being paged before this picture was taken.
Click the picture to get the FULL experience.
Sunday started with me breaking my frames again, followed by a small breakfast at the Hilton Hotel. I eventually I found myself squinting at the stage area at the convention while Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst were on. I was there for their impromptu auction where they almost singlehandedly doubled the charitable spirit of Creation Entertainment that weekend. I was impressed that Kevin Sorbo took the time to do this convention. His show is no longer in production. He is busy working on a totally different project. Yet he found the time to appear at the convention for his fans. He also demonstrated his ability and desire to get around Creation Entertainment constraints so that his fans did not feel marginalized or abandoned. I was impressed by Sorbo's graciousness and patience with his fans. Later that evening I had another nice intimate dinner with some close friends; however, we had a waiter reminiscent of Steve Martin's old schtick about the Dumb Waiter.
The next day I got my frames fixed ONE MORE TIME, and took off a couple of days to do some debriefing after the convention (just the glasses incidents were enough to make me a paranoid little camper). All and all, I visited with a lot of people, learned a lot of new things, and already have asked my con roommates if they want to sign up again in 2001. It was a nice way to spend a couple of days and I am grateful for all the friends I have made over these past four years. I look most forward to the next encounter.
About Tom's Xena Page
And now for something completely different. After this editorial was written, news of Tom's Xena Page's semi-retirement was received. Tom's Xena Page has been the most respected, most beloved, and most visited XENA website in the history of the Xenaverse. The website has always been a role-model for me and countless other website owners. The site captured the quirkiness, the fun, the complexity, and camaraderie of Xenite fandom. Tom, through his webpage, will be sorely missed. I personally have much to be thankful for from Tom. He volunteered his services to WHOOSH when we first started up and helped us develop the unique WHOOSH look. He personally volunteered to entertain our webmaster with nary a complaint. His sharing of information and resources with other fans is legendary. His enthusiasm and respect for Xenites everywhere was a very refreshing approach which grew, not lessened, as his page became more prominent. Tom never forgot why the fans are fans. True, it is sad to many Xenites that he cannot devote his time like he used to in the past. However, what Tom has left us is some very wonderful memories and a model of what a great website should be. Also, I am happy for the guy. He's ready to take on bigger and greater things. I like to think of it as we are about to give to the world what we have known to be an incredible person and talent for the past four years. We have been hogging him too long. It's time we encourage him to work his magic on a different and bigger tableau.
In writing this I got all nostagic and I discovered IAXS' old Shrine to Tom buried away still in the website. If you are bored check it out by clicking right here!
Kym Masera Taborn
January 28, 2000
From the Webmaster:
REACTION TO THE REACTION TO TOM'S XENA PAGE'S SEMI-RETIREMENT
It's been a long time since I've written an editorial for WHOOSH!. In fact, I don't even remember when the last one was. But I was shaken out of editorial lurkdom this weekend by some of the responses to Tom's announcment about the partial retirement of his web site. Disclaimer: I am married to Tom. We met through the Xenaverse and I have a completely subjective view of the issue.
As I write this, it has barely been 24 hours since the announcement was made on the site but already Tom has received a large amount of e-mail about it. Most of this mail has been positive in nature--words of gratitude and support. Some of it has been negative--reaming him for the "selfishness" of the decision and going off on tirades about being disloyal to the show. I would like to briefly address this. I hope by doing so I can nip some of the tripe in the bud.
A few of the things that are being written to Tom are shameful, silly, and downright insulting. Some have questioned Tom's taste in TV shows now that he doesn't like Xena as much as he did. Some have accused him of turning his back on the show and fandom. Some have suggested that Tom should not have started the project if he weren't willing to carry it through to the end. The more dysfunctional e-mails start out insulting him and end by begging him to reconsider. The funniest one, in my opinion, accuses him of "hanging out" with other cool web sites (does marrying another webmaster qualify as "hanging out"?
) and "declaring" his site to be one of the best Xena sites while all the time not really caring about the show.
The latter remark is particularly interesting because it highlights the some radical differences between the real Tom and others' misconceptions about him. Tom is one of the sweetest, most laid-back, nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. He rarely gets worked up about anything and he has absolutely zero interest in his own "fan fame." In fact, I cannot even get him to come to a convention with me anymore because he is so uncomfortable with the attention he gets when he's there. So to accuse him of doing all that work just to appear "cool" to his web site viewers is completely ridiculous.
Let me give you some perspective here, too. Four years is a long time. When Tom started the site, it was 1996. He was only 23 years old, a single college student who had no idea how mammoth the site would get, and how much time and constant effort it would require. He managed to keep it going for quite a long time, considering its size and scope. By 2000, life has changed. He is married, he has a career, his interests have grown in other directions. That is life. Life is change and change is good. Neither of us will ever forget the positive influence that the show and the internet fandom has had on our lives, but that does not mean we owe it to anyone to continue our web site and fandom efforts if we decide not to. I'm sorry, but it is not your god-given right to have access to Xena downloads.
For the small minority who feel that Tom is being a traitor to fandom by this partial retirement, I challenge you right here and now to stop griping about it and start your own web site. Better get yourself a LOT of web space and round up some folks to help you with all the day-to-day work. Then build up over 4 gigabytes of stuff, spend several hours per day doing it, and do this more or less for 4 years at your own considerable personal monetary expense. After the third year, continue to do this even though you're kind of losing steam. Then come back to me in the year 2004 and tell me that you aren't considering ending the project. I want to hear from you then. You can reach me at email@example.com.
The bottom line is that Xena fandom is not a cult and it's not a contractual agreement. You don't have to sign a blood oath to be a fan and you are not required to be loyal for life. A good show and a good fandom (such as I have witnessed over the past 4 years) are great blessings in life but they are not life itself. I don't think Tom and I will ever forget everything that fandom has done for us (not the least of which includes meeting each other), but we know that there are more important things in life than making sure that every Xena fan gets their daily downloads.
To end on a positive note, I want to say that the negative reactions are far outweighed by positive ones. Most people are being quite wonderful about it. I think that even the negative comments come from strong feelings for the show and/or Tom's page. There are not many web sites that inspire such ire upon their closing, so in the end it really could be considered a compliment. I think that fandom will actually survive long beyond the closing of sites or even the ending of the show. The fact that there is such a strong reaction to Tom's announcement proves that there is still momentum behind the phenomenon for a great many people. I hope that when/if I ever do decide to "retire" from Whoosh and/or the Xena Palace I won't get reamed for the decision. I'd hate to end such a wonderful experience on a bad note.
Brooklyn, New York
January 30, 2000
From the Graphics Editor:
THE NIGHT OF THE EVIL EDITORIAL AND THE CONTEMPLATIVE CONVENTION
What do a WHOOSH! editorial and a reflex check at the doctor's office have in common? They can both be interesting studies in "knee-jerk" responses.
For those of you just joining us, Kym Taborn, our esteemed Editor-in-Chief, bad cop, and lightning rod, wrote an editorial last month. The responses could be put into two categories: You Go Kymster, or Kym Was a Bad, Bad, Girl. She was acclaimed at one end of the spectrum to be a Xenaverse Conscience, something akin to Spawn of Hell at the other, or something else between the two.
Some of the responses to her editorial bedazzle me. You'd have to have a pretty narrow focus to interpret Kym's editorial as a personal attack. After reading Kym's editorial several times, that particular interpretation eludes me. Wondering aloud at what might motivate someone to do or not do something is not a personal attack. If the editorial were titled "Where's Mail Room Joe" with a similar name involved, I doubt she would have received the same volume of correspondence.
Kym simply asked a question. It's not the sort of question I myself would ask, but only because it's not the sort of topic that I'd think of on my own. A WHOOSH! editorial is an opinion, not a policy, but coming from someone as recogniseable as Kym is in the Xenaverse, it's an opinion with a loud voice.
Personally, I appreciate that voice. Kym uses her powers for good, not evil. I have rarely been as fortunate to know people of such good character as Kym and Debbie Cassetta of Sword and Staff, who herself was painted by some in an uncomplimentary light during the online fracas that resulted from Kym's editorial. Actually, both Kym and Deb are far better people than I am, because they both log many more hours in the "help and assist others" category of life than I do. If a person is measured by good deeds and good works, these two stand taller than most. Good on 'em.
Reading more of the editorial feedback, it's interesting to see what some people assume WHOOSH! is and is not. Here are the facts:
WHOOSH! is a fan publication. It is not commercial. No one gives WHOOSH! any money, and no one working for WHOOSH! gets paid. It's a labour of love. Or something. But not for money. The WHOOSH! staff comprises a veritable rainbow of demographics and a wide variety of opinions. The body of work speaks for itself. Over the years, we have had pro subtext and anti subtext material. We have printed pro and anti Joxer material. Pro and anti writers, pro and anti rift, pro and anti producers, you name it. WHOOSH! is a reflection of its readership, for that is where material for WHOOSH! comes from. Yes, we have episode guides, but even they are written by WHOOSH! readers. WHOOSH! is a place where everyone in the fan community can have a say, about virtually anything to do with XENA or things XENA-esque. I can think of only a handful of cases where material has been rejected, and then it was not because of subject matter but instead because the material in question was too vitriolic or too unintelligeible.
WHOOSH! has no official connexion to Renaissance Pictures or any other corporation. If anyone cooperates with us, we're grateful. They seem to like us and I personally appreciate their compliments. But no one "owns" us other than ourselves. Policy is determined by WHOOSH! staff, particularly the Executive Committee, which is a group of individuals, not one person. We all listen to and respect one another, even though there are times we can disagree strongly. When it comes to editorials and editorial opinion, that is pretty much up to the discretion of who is writing it. We're not journalists and WHOOSH! is not a newspaper. But like a newspaper, we can print an editorial opinion that is strong while still being even-handed in the body of our work. It is up to the readership to evaluate that opinion and act on it, or not.
A couple of the more "out there" responses to Kym's editorial suggested that the editorial was written as a publicity stunt to increase our "sagging" readership. This is rather amusing, actually. As one who keeps track of our statistics, I can tell you that as the ratings for the show have declined over the last couple of years, our readership has, on average, steadily increased. I attribute much of this to the fact that at the time WHOOSH! started, about one person in five in the USA had regular Internet access readily available, while today that figure is approaching fifty percent. International readership is growing as well, reflecting greater access to the Internet abroad. More today than ever before, Internet opinion is closer to general public opinion.
Perhaps Kym's editorial has greater effect by getting us to think for ourselves about the issue she raises, rather than a knee-jerk decry of villainy or misinterpretation of what actually was said. She asks a valid question in her editorial, and it has caused me to reevaluate some of my own opinions, more from the reaction she got to it than the editorial itself. In any case, it's given me food for thought, even though I keep promising myself to go on a mental diet.
Now, part two of this month's editorial.
There was a gathering of fans in Pasadena this past weekend, who came to celebrate the largest such event in a year. If I had to describe the mood in just one word I would have to choose "subdued". People were still friendly but there was a definite lower level of enthusiasm than at previous annual Southern California gatherings.
The venue was wonderful. Creation put on the show at the best site yet. They selected a hall that was spacious, clean, and not run-down. The carpet did not look like it had been soiled by a thousand dogs. Access was easy, both to and within the convention. Food and drink were available at hand or better yet, within a short walk. Convention goers were processed expediently from what I saw. In my direct experience, the staff were friendly and helpful. I did hear reports that some people were having trouble with specific staffers. It is unfortunate that a couple of bad apples will taint the barrel, but then I heard that a con attendee took pictures of the staffers in question and will send them to Creation to say "this person was rude/pushy/out of line". I think that's a great idea. Change can't happen until the people in charge know there's a problem.
I heard other reports that the autograph lines were not handled as well as they might have been. There was a suggestion made by more than one person that celebs could sign during the course of the day when not on stage rather than a mad rush at the end where even some gold circle ticket holders were disappointed this time. It's not an easy problem to solve, especially when dealing with large numbers of people such as those in Pasadena, but I hope it's looked into seriously.
All the way through, the guests were worth seeing. Tim Omundson seemed a little nervous at first but shook that off and was very interesting. He even "blessed" a baby at a questioner's request. He told an amusing story about how when he first went to New Zealand, Ted Raimi instigated a practical joke on him. He told Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor to basically ignore him during the initial read-through of the script. Tim was enthusiastic and excited about working with them, they blew him off. Just as he was most crestfallen, he was let in on the joke.
Danielle Cormack was bright, cheerful, and her most repeated phrase was "I love America!" If you've never seen Danielle do a "haka" (traditional Maori chant) you missed something special. She also acknowledged the fans and said they were the ones who really made the shows happen.
I'm told the Creation brunch and musical shows on Friday and Saturday night were all big hits. Many people commented to me how all those who performed did well. Some had different favourites from others, but everyone I spoke with about it felt it was well worth attending.
Keith DeCandido (author) and Ryan Gossling (YOUNG HERCULES star) were in the lobby to sign autographs and/or chat about their work.
Joel Tobeck and Kevin Smith were as popular and entertaining as always. It says a lot that these two still have such a very strong fan appeal, and yet they continue to give as much of their time and talent to those fans as they can.
Several people dropped by that were not on the official lists but certainly known to fans. Steve Sears popped by to check out the con, even though he is no longer with XENA and he had to get to NATPE for his new project. Paul Coyle also stopped by, even though HERC has ended. Some of the CLEO and XENA production and post- production staff were present. Rob Weisbrot, author, was about during the entire convention. Even Rob Tapert was in the house briefly on Sunday.
Ebonie Smith was charming, interesting, and very entertaining. No, she said, that was not her singing in DESTINY, but she had a voice coach that insisted the got the Gaelic right. She spent some time in the lobby for photo ops and signatures.
Jeremy Callaghan was thoroughly entertaining. He started off with a talk about himself and his experiences, and went to questions. He was witty and thoughtful throughout, and seemed even humbled by the experience. Look for him in a FARSCAPE episode soon. For augotgraphs, he stayed to the bitter end, and made many con-goers very happy.
Meighan Desmond was as cute as a bug, and tiny as an elf. She brought up herself that people compared her to Marie Osmond and a young Mary Tyler Moore, and said that was good company to be in.
A big hit were the three starts of CLEOPATRA 2525: Gina Torres, Victoria Pratt, and Jennifer Sky. These ladies did Renaissance proud. The audience cheered them. They told stories about their various experiences on the show. It was obvious they had a rapport with each other.
KNB Effects were represented with a presentation by the company owner. He showed makeup and props from past projects and films in addition to HERC and XENA work. In fact, he provided the single largest source of spoilers with what is to come in future episodes.
Rob Field gave us another of his interesting presentations. We got to see Xena and Alti in "ping pong ball" costumes in footage that was shot before special effects were put in. We got to see the finished product as well, and the two versions side by side. It was an interesting technical "behind the scenes" piece. We also got to see some more "lost footage" in two Eli scenes from DEVI and THE WAY. Unfortuantely, some of Rob's thunder was stolen since Creation showed the blooper reel the day before, but I'll take as many of those lost scenes as I can get.
Willa O'Neil was bouncy, enthusiastic, and overwhelmed at the size of the crowd and her reception. She took pictures of her own because, in her words, people back home would think she was lying. Willa is simply a petite package of positive energy, always overflowing.
Alison Wall was great too. Alison is one classy lady with a boatload of good stories, told in an entertaining way. She's a quick wit as well.
The costume contest was fabulous. So many inventive and imaginative costumes! They all deserved to win a prize and did.
Last but certainly not least were Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst. They were the big draw of the day, and the audience adored them. They returned the favour by being charming and deferential. Kevin took some time to make people aware of his charity work and he singled out people for thanks and gratitude. Kevin and Michael auctioned off some items for charity as well. There was no unusual format for their appearance -- Kevin and Michael took questions from the audience the same as everyone else did. Some of the questioners were quite moving, offering expressions of thanks to the guests for inspiring them to overcome a handicap or injury. Michael performed a Shakesperean piece on request and brought the house down. Not to be outdone, Kevin reenacted his first professional line -- "Counselor, someone wants to see you." They were both clever, witty, and gracious. Their love of their profession was matched only by their respect for the fans. Near the end of their appearance, Michael performed a "haka" of his own. Without the benefit of microphone, the power of his voice carried clear to the back of the auditorium (where I was watching). It was a huge crowd-pleaser.
And so, with the guests gone and the lights out, people gradually dispersed to dinner, parties, and/or make their way back to their homes. It seemed like a sad and quiet exit, in respect for the end of a series that gave many people, myself included, many entertaining hours. We have the surety of the past, hope for the future. That's about the best anyone can do.
26 January 2000
From the HTML Editor:
TWO CENTS AND A DEAD HORSE
I've read a lot of the hubbub about Kym's editorial last month and about MaryD's response editorial. The issue's been way over-discussed by now, but I'll wade in with my thoughts on it, since anything that brings up THAT much sound and fury out to signify SOMEthing.
(My oversimplification: "Lucy Lawless should donate to Sword and Staff")
I have no problems with the basic point. Sword and Staff is the most active, most visible source of fan charity drives, and Lucy is glaringly missing from the list of the show's contributors. There's nothing wrong with pointing out the omission or questioning it.
I do have quibbles with some of the particulars. The main one is that I don't think Kym can say (maybe she implied more than said) that S&S is the only source of fan charity. But since, as far as I've heard, none of the other fan charity drives (cons/fests, fan organizations, etc.) are getting anything from Lucy either, the basic point remains unchanged. Lucy has not been responsible for any donations to fan charity events. Other forms of charities, yes, but not Xena fandom charity drives.
There's an extremely important question that Kym's editorial skirts around: is Lucy not sending to fan charities by her choice, or because she's not being told of opportunities to do so? Kym may have skirted that on purpose to avoid turning the whole thing into Yet Another Creation Bashfest. Lucy's a godawfully busy woman, so things that aren't handed to her on a silver platter probably never register on her radar, and I'm willing to bet that Creation does not hand her information about fan-sponsored charity efforts. But on the other hand, finding out about them would be pretty ridiculously easy, so I'm not offering that as an excuse for her absence.
There's nothing wrong with questioning someone or with suggesting that something should be done. Fans are allowed to question the show and things directly related to it. It in no way obligates the show to respond, but it might raise some good issues that deserve answers. If nothing else, it gives the fans something to talk about and keep all the mailing lists and web sites busy.
(My oversimplification: "Kym shouldn't attack Lucy or the show.")
MaryD's editorial has a basic flaw in it. Saying that someone should do something is not a personal attack. If I say that my congressman shouldn't have voted against a bill that would give money to the homeless, I'm not attacking my congressman. Kym saying that Lucy should give something to a certain charity group is not attacking Lucy.
There ARE valid things to question about an editorial like Kym's. You can debate whether that really should be done or not ("SHOULD Lucy give to Sword and Staff?"), but there's nothing wrong with stating the opinion that it should. You can suggest ways the point could be made more politely ("That paragraph was pretty sarcastic."), but the point is still a valid one to make.
Further, lumping Kym's editorial in with attacks on the stars, season, and show is jumping into the water and stomping mud around until everything's so clouded up nobody can see. It loses the original point - why shouldn't some of Lucy's charity efforts go to fan-sponsored charity events?
MaryD's point that attacks and kvetching about season 5 aren't productive is a fine one - it just has nothing at all to do with the issue about whether Lucy should donate to fan charities.
January 31, 2000