Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Spy Con 2018 Recap

by Beth

Atlanta’s first Spy Con was held at the Alpharetta Marriott on March 30th-April 1st. As it was a first I didn’t really know what to expect. I assumed that it would be on the smaller side, but was just slightly concerned about my own high standards and expectations. I tried to keep them lower so that I wouldn’t be disappointed, but it turned out to be better than I had hoped for. I'm not gonna lie - I am loving these smaller conventions. After two cons in a row that only took place on one floor of one hotel I don't know how I'll survive Dragon Con this year. If you didn’t make it to Spy Con then read on to find out what you missed, and why you should go if they do it again next year.

The only downside to this taking place in Alpharetta was getting out there on a Friday night. I wasn’t able to make to the con opening due to the fact that it took me 2 hours to get home Friday afternoon. Damn Atlanta traffic! So on Saturday morning Sharron and I got an early start to enjoy a full day of spy action. After checking in, and figuring out where stuff was we were just in time for the Collecting Modern Espionage panel featuring retired intelligence agent Michael Brady. He’s a professor now and really seemed to know his stuff. Most of his talk was about how much intelligence gathering has changed from the olden days of James Bond. It’s almost sad to say, but the days of suave men in the shadows are over. The clip he played from Skyfall where Bond meets the new Q explained it all. He tells Bond “I can do more damage sitting at my laptop in my pajamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you do in the field in a year”. From everything that Michael Brady said it seems to indeed be the case. More espionage happens through social media than through fancy international dinner parties these days. And why send a man into danger when you can send a drone? Drones can sit over a location for months, and take the shot when civilians are out of the way. James Bond doesn't have that kind of time. There are also drones that are the size of bugs to gather audio and video, as well as detect chemical weapons or WMDs. And another good point: how is a white guy going to get in with Al Qaeda? You pretty much have to find someone who's already in there, and get them to team up. It was a really interesting panel, and a great way to start the day.

We didn't have anything else to do until 1:30 so we had an hour to kill until after that. We did a little more wandering, and found the dealer room. It's funny that no matter what kind of con you go to someone is selling corsets. Dragon Con, Days of the Dead, Walker Stalker Con. And now here. It just goes to show that no matter where you are there's a woman that needs her ribs crushed, and her boobs shoved up to her chin. There were some cool old lunchboxes from the 60's and neat bond casino memorabilia, but nothing that I wanted to really spend money on. There was still time to kill after that so we decided to sit in on a few minutes of the Lana Wood panel. She was very funny, petite, and charming. She was a huge James Bond fan before she was cast in Diamonds Are Forever. She seemed like a good panelist, but we couldn't stay for the whole thing since we had to get to...

Spy Cocktails with Joseph Arlington of Being James Bond. Thanks to the law we weren't allowed to actually make or drink any cocktails (damn laws) but we did learn how to make many drinks. We also learned that James Bond has a better palette than pretty much anyone ever. He identifies vintages and ingredients that aren't physically possible to identify. He's the best secret agent/drink snob in the world. Even without samples it was still cool, and now I know how to make a mint julep if anyone wants to hang out on the veranda sometime.

After that it was time for food, and a cocktail of our own. Sharron had a Manhattan (it came in a martini glass so I didn't give her shit about it), and I had a cucumber martini (which also isn't a Bond drink so I didn't really have any business giving her shit about a Manhattan). It was delicious though, and since they had special priced con food we didn't feel too bad about spending extra money on drinks.

And then on to The Guns of 007 with Allen Hilburn. He has air-soft replicas of almost any James Bond gun you can think of. From the classic Walther PPK to the assault rifles used by Spectre, to the enormous sniper rifle used in Licensed to Kill. He showed us how to use each gun, and how it was used in the movies, as well as how to correctly pull a gun from your hip. When he asked for a volunteer to teach in person I was the first one with my hand up. I momentarily stumped him with my left-handedness, but he worked around it. The basics of what I learned was that you should hold a gun like you're pointing with two hands, and you should be able to hit the safety without adjusting your grip. It's tougher if you're a lefty, but since not many people are you'll probably have an easier time of it than I did. At the end of my lesson I was asked to do my own opening sequence of a Bond film. The audience did the theme while I walked across the front of the room before pulling my gun. Somebody from the convention took video, and I hope they post it. I'm sure I didn't look as awesome as I felt (because I was probably grinning like an idiot), but I still need to know.

We didn't even have to move to get to our last panel of the day: Lock-picking 101. This panel appeared and disappeared from the schedule a few times. I didn't catch his name, but according to Sharron it was Rory Rezzelle of Augusta Locksports. They sell lock-picking tools (which are legal in Georgia by the way) as well as hang out and pick locks with friends. I want to party like they do! He didn't know how many people would be at his panel so he didn't come with stuff for us to play with. He mostly talked about the things the movies got wrong, and referred to stuff they had at his table in the dealer room. Eventually he asked if there were any questions, and I asked if we could go to his table. His wife didn't seem pleased to see us, but he sold a few sets of lock-picks, and gathered a lot of interest around his table so she shouldn't be too mad. We were allowed to pick locks of many different kinds, but I had the most success with the handcuffs. It's even easier to pick handcuffs with a bobby pin than it was with their pick set. Granted, I cheated by looking at the set of clear handcuffs they had on display first, but all that did was show me how the ratcheting mechanism inside worked. According to Rory the Master brand locks are the easiest locks to pick, but I tried like hell and still couldn't get the damn thing open. You could tell that he hadn't given a lot of public speeches before, but he did know what he was doing, and gave a good in-person demo.

Once we were done with that it was too late to make the License to Kill 30th Anniversary panel, but that's fine since I really didn't like that one as well anyway. We could have stayed for the Casino Night, but that was hours after our last panel, and we didn't have anything to do until then. We could have gone and changed into fancy clothes and come back later, but we knew once we sat down we weren't getting back up to go out again. And I couldn't think of anything to do in Alpharetta to kill time from 5:30 until 9 o'clock so we skipped casino night to instead sit around Sharron's house to drink and relax. I bet it was fun though, and if I were staying at the hotel I would have definitely been there. It balanced out since Sharron's husband (I guess I'll need to come up with nicknames for both of them if Sharron is going to be taking pictures for me) worked while we played we were able to fill him in on all of our excitement.

I had forgotten that Sunday was Easter so we didn't make it back, but we got a lot done (and had enough fun) to make one day worth it. I feel like I should have gone to more of the main track panels, but the spy school track just had so much more that I wanted to see. I mean, Diamonds Are Forever came out before I was born. I'm absolutely not saying that I can't like something old, but I'm not connected to that movie the way I am to movies that came out when I was able to see, understand, and remember in the theater. The crowd was generally older then us though so I can understand other peoples' connection to it, and movies like it. I did at least get the costume of the guy dressed as The Prisoner, but I'd definitely like to see more people my age and younger get in on this. And women. This con needs women. Not in a sexy way, but in a “the only women were with their 50+ year-old husbands” kind of way. We just need to get more people in general to this con. After the weird madness that was Days of the Dead, and before the 5 day weekend of Dragon Con I think Spy Con is the perfect in-between con. It was much better than I had even hoped for, and I want it to do well enough that they can bring it back next year with even more fun stuff. I need to add more to my spy skills. Maybe a panel on how to murder someone with a harpoon or how far to move away before your explosive pen goes off. I don't want anything I'll actually use, yet. It's much more fun (for now) to be able to add useless knowledge like “can pick handcuffs with a bobby-pin” or “makes an annoyingly perfect Vesper martini” in weird places on my resume. Maybe next year you guys will have to worry, but for now I can only piss you off with a perfectly fired air-soft gun, and...that's about it. I can't get past any door lock or even a shitty gym locker. You're safe...but for how long?

Beth got her start writing for a site called Movie Criticism for the Retarded (which has been reborn as dorkdroppings.com. Check it out sometime), but was pulled out of an early retirement to write for Needless Things. When she isn't writing she plays video games and watches bad horror movies while eagerly awaiting the zombie apocalypse. She may try to save her husband and/or their cats, but luckily hasn't had to make those tough decisions yet. Follow beth0rama on Instagram or on Twitter @NeedlessBeth where she doesn't post often enough to be annoying, but updates way more than Google+

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