Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown bringing the geek-heat to Phoenix Comicon!

Phoenix Ultimate Geek SmackdownI love trying out new and ridiculous ideas. It’s one of my many weaknesses. So three years ago when local movie programming goddess Andrea Beesley (aka The Midnite Move Mamacita!) asked if I wanted to run a track at Phoenix Comicon together, how could I say no?

The original idea was to try and find a very versatile geek. Someone who just wasn’t a comic book savant, but could also argue horror, gaming, anime, or anything else that came up. Not only argue it, but argue (or BS) either side! We didn’t want someone who just wore one pair of fandom underoos, but someone who had the entire set.

Thus was born the Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown! Sixteen geeks enter the brackets and are eliminated in a series of debates on the silliest arguments we can come up with. Previous questions included:

  • Who is the better billionaire, Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark?
  • Which is the better time machine, the DeLorean or the TARDIS?
  • Who has bigger daddy issues, Batman or Luke Skywalker?

You get the idea. Some of these questions nearly started fistfights.

PUGS 2012 Recap

Richard Mansfield - Phoenix's Ultimate Geek 2012Last year the Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown was rather spectacular, and Richard Mansfield ahniliated the competition to take home both the Box of Goodies and the Trophy of Awesome.

We moved to a much bigger room, had local geekologist Jonathan Simon from Lightning Octopus join the team, and had a packed house for the Finals. Phoenix Comicon even asked us to put together some lightning PUGS sessions in the grand ballroom between some of the big sessions (like that Shatner fellow, and the cast of Eureka), which was fun but ate up a giant chunk of Saturday.

And lest you think calling it a Trophy of Awesome is an exaggeration, it featured an action figure of Frodo riding a tiger, a Stormtrooper bobblehead atop an AT-AT, Rorschach, Pinhead, and yellow roses all around. Truly a masterpiece of geekery if every such a thing existed.

Geek Smackdown returns to Phoenix Comicon 2013

We’re back again this year as a Signature Event for Phoenix Comicon, and we’re on of the Phoenix New Times’ 10 Must-See Events At Phoenix Comicon this year! We also have it on good authority that Richard will return this year to defend his title, and if you’ve never seen this guy launch into full Geektastic BS mode before, you’re in for a treat!

Qualifiers: Thursday, May 23rd, 8:00pm in Convention Center room 121 (Facebook event)

Finals: Friday, May 23rd, 7:30pm in Convention Center room 121 (Facebook event)

You can read more about the Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown on the PCC site, or follow PUGS on Facebook.

PUGS is a blast to watch (audience participation is encouraged!) and we have some doozy questions lined up. If you’re going to Phoenix Comicon stop in and see who will be crowned the new Phoenix Ultimate Geek!

And if you’re in Phoenix and not going to Comicon, I question your geek credentials anyway. Begone!

Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown returns to Phoenix Comicon!



Buckle up your Particle Accelerators and dust off your chainsaws… the Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown – aka PUGS – is going down once again!

Last year a few troublemakers and I wondered what really made an award winning geek. Was there someone afoot in the Valley who was a master of both comics and horror? Gaming and anime? Sci-fi and movies? Could one geek reign supreme against all comers?

The answer was Yes.

Eight challengers entered the mighty tournament of PUGS, and what started as a little thing ended up with a packed room and a raucous audience show worthy of the gladiators. After debating heart rending questions across the far realms of geekdom, Chris Calilung stood triumphant!

It was so brutal, so ridiculous, so contentious, and so utterly asinine we are doing it again!

PUGS II: The Wrath of Con

This time we’ve recruited some cohorts from Lightning Octopus and are doing it across two nerdtastic nights. On Thursday, any and all challengers will be whittled down to a scant eight finalists through a series of brutal questions and other perilous perils.

On Friday night those eight people will battle for the title of Phoenix Ultimate Geek and one will go home with a trophy possibly even more legendary than last year!

  • Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown: Official Phoenix Comicon Page
  • Semi-Finals: Thursday, May 24th, Room 121, 8:00pm
  • Finals: Friday, May 25th, Room 121, 8:00pm

Yes, the Finals are in the same room. They promise us they  will be able to get the blood out of the floor overnight.

Sound fun? Get it on your calendar and come witness the spectacle!

Sound easy? Well step up, Holmes, because we are…

Calling All Geeks!

If you think you’re manly, womanly, orcly, fiendly, snorgly, or any other-ly enough to enter the PUGS debate – just fill out the Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown contestant form.

You must be attending Phoenix Comicon (and if you’re not, how can you call yourself a Geek?), and be available on Thursday and Friday nights at 8:00pm. Meet those requirements? Fill out the form!

And mark your calendar for Thursday and Friday for the crowning of the next Phoenix Ultimate Geek!

Peek inside the Freestyle Custom Coke Machine

Shops around Phoenix have been rolling out the new customizable Coke machines. These are called Freestyle Coke machines and they let you make your own flavor from 106 different combos. The entire thing is driven by a touch screen, and has sub-menus to help you refine your flavor. For example, if you pick Diet Coke, the next screen lists Diet Coke Vanilla, Diet Coke Cherry, Diet Coke Orange, etc.

Sociologically, it is hysterical watching people faced Inflammation with this overload of choice, standing there with their cup in front of the machine as if taking some sort of strange test. Added fun is watching them taste some of these bizarre flavors for the first time. Many are, in technical terms, butt-nasty.

Technically, I wondered how these things worked. I got lucky today as I stopped in while one was having its soda cartidges changed. I snapped a few quick pics.

Freestyle Coke Machine - Admin Screen

This is the admin screen that pops up when a flavor cartridge is being changed (click image to view on Flickr and see larger version). The user takes a flavor cartridge of concentrated syrup and swipes it near the lower right of the top panel of the machine. It senses which flavor it is (RFID, I assume) and goes into maintenance mode. It pops open the access panel (below), and brings up the step-by-step admin screen that you see above. Here he is changing a Powerade cartridge.

Once he is done, he just uses the touchscreen to step through the rest of the replacement process. The machine can tell when flavors are not only running dry, but also approaching their expiration date. He said the OS is a custom system written by Microsoft. I asked him if any of the sodas Blue Screened, but he didn’t seem to get the joke.

Freestyle Coke Machine – Access Panel

This is the open panel on the bottom half of the machine. Each of the flavors is in a long cartridge that slides into a slot. It reminded me immediately of a printer with ink cartridges. The major flavors are in the bigger cases, with the modifiers (grape, orange, etc) in the narrow ones at the bottom. When a cartridge is slid into place it is clamped down with a little latch. A status light initially showed red, but switched to green once the machine accepted the new insert.

Old cartridges are just thrown away. The guy working it said the syrup is so highly concentrated that if you get any on your clothes, you are just going to have to throw them away. Every cartridge replacement required closing the access door and letting the machine come back online. Then he would swipe the next cartridge and repeat the process. This seemed rather inefficient from a human operator perspective, but I imagine make the machine easier to troubleshoot and program.

You can click the pictures for larger versions on Flickr. I tried to get as much detail as I could without getting in his way. These are cool little machines, and it was interesting getting a peek inside.