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Apr. 16th, 2012 07:33 pm
skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
So, I should probably say a bit about Minicon while I still have some memory of it.

It's hard to think of a bigger contrast to Anime Detour that still resembles a convention. From circa five thousand attendees to less than five hundred. And since the Doubletree started remodeling the second Detour was over, almost the entirety of Minicon was squeezed into the Plaza Tower. I am deeply impressed by the work of both the concom and the Doubletree staff to get everything set up and working properly in the very short time they had.

I am happy to report that despite my room being on "the party floor" a combination of good manners on the part of attendees and decent soundproofing allowed me to get a full night's sleep.

I thought the panels I was on went well, and enjoyed most of the ones I went to. (I was kind of groggy during the "funny stories about computer history" panel, so missed many of the jokes.)

Got a nice affordable piece of art by one of the guests of honor--safe for work, too!

Looking forward to seeing the remodeled Doubletree in July, though I alas will be sleeping in the Crowne Plaza, so once again no late night parties for me.
skjam: (Imnanna)
First off, both parents are out of the hospital and doing well at home. Huzzah!

This last weekend was Anime Detour, with the theme of "It Came From Japan."

Due to poor timing, I wound up in the Crowne Plaza hotel, so it was shuttle buses for me back and forth. This didn't work too well on Friday, as the shuttle driver got stuck in traffic coming back from the airport and had both shuttles' keys on him so the backup driver couldn't substitute. Things were moving much more smoothly by Sunday and checkout time. One of these years, I'll have to actually eat in the Plaza's restaurant.

Most exciting new thing this year was Otaku Speed Dating. Separate events for gay and hetero folks, to reduce confusion. To no one's surprise, guys outnumbered gals in line for the one I went to, and some had to be turned away. The room was relatively small and the acoustics were not suitable for about eighty people all talking at the same time. One minute per candidate, change seats.

I had more (very short) conversations with women in that one hour than I've had over the last three Anime Detours. Those of you who've known me for a while are aware that while I'm not particularly shy, painful experience has made it difficult for me to engage women I haven't been introduced to in conversation. Being given explicit permission to do so helped immensely.

Sadly, I got not one single "match"--not too surprising given I was at least a decade older than anyone else in the room, and the...other problems. Still very disappointing. I got a consolation email with pictures of puppies and kittens.

Most interesting normal panel was "Weeaboos Then and Now", talking about Japanophilia as it was in Victorian times, now, and some points inbetween.

Some nice AMVs as always--this year the contest broke up the showing order of the nominees a bit for better flow. NO WTF video contest this year, apparently.

I skipped the formal cosplay, most amusing hall costume I saw was someone as Amu from Shugo Chara, with three dolls representing her Charas hovering above her shoulder on wires.

Weather was cooler than expected, though it did warm up by Sunday evening when I left.

This coming week is Minicon, look forward to seeing some of you there.
skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
ConVergence was fun. The Sofitel has industrial strength curtains in its rooms.

Frank Merriwell Down South (1903)Frank Merriwell Down South by Burt L. Standish

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This is the fifth of the long-running Frank Merriwell series of exciting books for boys. (See my review for "Frank Merriwell's School Days", the first of the series.) In this volume, following on directly from the cliffhanger in "Frank Merriwell's Trip West," our hero first searches for a lost Silver Palace in Mexico. After that, he travels to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and must solve the mystery of the Queen of Flowers. This is followed by a sojourn in the Florida Everglades and a white canoe that paddles itself, and finally an encounter with moonshiners in the mountains of Tennessee.

To be honest, this book feels like four short stories loosely stitched together more than a proper novel. And I am given to wonder if they weren't first serialized in a magazine first--at least one of the chapters ends in a cliffhanger that would work better if one had to wait an entire week for the outcome, not a mere quarter of the way into a bound volume.

The first story was my least favorite and brought my rating down by a full star. The antiquated ethnic stereotypes shift from "19th Century, you so crazy" to the stench of racism with the depiction of Mexicans. Even the compulsively decent Frank is seen to say "One Yankee is good for six greasers." That aside, the ending was very weak, with the climax taking place off-screen and one of Frank's archenemies killed off in a couple of lines.

The second story likewise ends weakly, with the antagonist killed off before his plotline can be resolved, and another character's motivation explained with "Frank later learned that...."

The third story is much stronger, with a weird feel to the mysterious goings-on, but does suffer from one too many amazing coincidences. There's an unknown species of maneating plant at one point, for those who like a bit of fantasy in their stories.

The fourth story is much enlivened by one of the better female characters in the series, Kate Kenyon, and manages the coincidences much better.

Not particularly recommended due to the first story, if you are sharing this with a younger reader it's best to discuss why that sort of cheap ethnic stereotyping isn't acceptable anymore.



View all my reviews

Happy Fourth of July!
skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
Christmas happened. It was good to see the family again, and much fun was had. The gift I gave out that seemed the most awesome was a volume of Amerlia Rules for the youngest niece. She was already halfway through when it came time for her to leave.

They'd changed the bus schedules so my bus back to the Cities left about noon; the folks and I had brunch in the Banning Junction cafe. Sadly, it seems that business is down, and that part of the restaurant is now closed and looking for someone to rent.

Snow and cold continue to dominate the weather.

I missed getting a room in the Sheraton for ConVergence; the room committee has acknowledged my request for a Sofitel room, but no guarantees, and I won't find out for a while if it took. I do have a room for Anime Detour though.

Work is tolerable. My supervisor went to Nicaragua for a couple of weeks and brought back souvenirs; I'll be regifting the coffee.

Oh, and back to Christmas for the moment, I sent out all the wishlist items, finally. I hope everyone got them okay. I was very pleased with several mix CDs, some candy, books and so forth. Thanks, internet!

For hobby stuff, I have been "liveblogging" the Republic movie serial "Zorro's Fighting Legion" over on the TV Tropes website. Take a look: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/lb_i.php?lb_id=12921152820B27780100&i_id=12921152820I27781900&p=1

Minicon 45

Apr. 4th, 2010 07:00 pm
skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
Yes, it was Easter weekend, and time for my annual trip to Minicon. Once again it was held at the Sheraton Bloomington, even though to be honest it could fit in a much much smaller hotel. (450 memberships, of whom 430 actually showed up for at least a little while.)

The Sheraton had a couple of new twists to their service this year; one was the option of not having housekeeping clean your room for the day--for which you could get a $5 discount in the hotel restaurant (or extra points on the frequent stayers' club.) You can bet I took advantage of this. The other was a new entertainment lounge for guests, where you could have up to 90 minutes a day of free internet access per room. (More if you brought your own computer.)

I would like them to bring back the airport shuttle though, that was more immediately helpful.

The good thing about small conventions is breathing space--you can actually talk to someone without having to squeeze against the wall to let an endless stream of people get by...or ignore those people as you block the hall. Plus the chance that you'll actually run into the guests outside of formal panels or signings--and not be competing with a score of other people who also need to speak to that person right now.

As I think I mentioned before, this year's Author GoH was Brandon Sanderson, the fellow who's been tapped to finish the Wheel of Time series. Apparently, the second of three books is on its final draft and may be out by the end of the year. He also brought along his editor, and the artist GoH was Dan Dos Santos, who among other things did the cover to Mr. Sanderson's "Warbreaker" book. Lots of previous guests also came back (Minicon is small, but welcoming), including Ben Bova and Baron Dave Romm (who brought along his mother for her first ever SF con...she seemed to be having a ball, and learning a lot.)

So, panels I attended: The Snob in Every Fan (what parts of fandom do fans look down on as even more pathetic than their own?), Opening Ceremonies (always a treat), Recursiveness in Science Fiction that's About Recursiveness (stories about stories, stories that eat their own tails, stories about the process of writing a story....), Who Wants to Live Forever? (The up sides and down sides of immortality, and the comparative virtues of the different ways to achieve it), The Editors' Panel (Ben Bova said he owed his editorial career to the tobacco industry, as John Campbell smoked himself to death), Avatar-Cinema Event of the Year or Festival of Plagarism? (Yes), Do I Know Enough Science to Write Science Fiction? (Maybe, but research and fact-checking are key), Playing the God Card (Not about Yu-Gi-Oh! but about the hazards and challenges of using gods in your stories), How Brandon Got the Gig: Finishing the Wheel of Time (short version: Robert Jordan's widow really liked his writing.)

I saw bits of "Thunderbirds are Go!" and "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" in the film room--it will probably be in a smaller space next year as it tends to be lightly attended.

And yes, there was a huckster's room/artshow/science room. (The convention is small enough that all three and puzzle tables could fit in one large room.) I...picked up a few things, some of which will be surprises for the appropriate people.

I left early, as with no shuttle I could not rely on the bus to arrive in time to get me to the transfer point, and I walked from the Sheraton to Fuddrucker's. Lovely day for a walk, but I'm getting too feeble for long marches. (And sure enough, after I made it to the transfer point, the suburban bus showed up, I would only have had to wait an hour.)
skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
Unlike last year, there were no big surprises on Thursday morning, so I was able to get off to the convention in good order, despite again mistaking which bus goes all the way to the end of the line.

Registration and Harmonic Convergence (the music room) switched locations this year, and since I had my pre-registration card handy, that went smoothly. I never did spend much time in the music room, so I can't say if it sounded better than the previous location.

The first panel I was on was "Diversity in Comics", starring Dwayne McDuffie (perhaps best known to the general public for his work with Static.) Also appearing was M. Nicholas Almand, creator of "Razor Kid." I seized the moderator position (with the permission of the other panelists) and mostly spent my time getting out of Mr. McDuffie's way, as he was clearly the most experienced with trying to get diversity into comics.

I'd also prepared a handout on comics that did diversity well--I hope a few of them got kept. Most of the discussion was nothing new to anyone who's seriously looked at diversity issues in comics, but there were a few people there who hadn't done that yet, and I hope they learned something useful.

Then it was off to the Crowne Plaza so I could register, drop off my clothes, and rush back downstairs for the next shuttle back to the Sheraton. Still frustrated by the fact that you can look directly across the freeway from one to the other, but it's a couple of country miles to actually get there.

The shuttle was somewhat delayed, which was something of a pattern for the next four days. But I still managed to get back in time for the Mark Time Radio Show (a little off this year) and opening ceremonies. The pass-around game was "the Cone of Shame", which those of you who've seen "Up" will recognize.

After that, I attended a panel on "The Horrible Humor of Joss Whedon." Got to see lots of Whedon-related hall costumes.

I made a short round of party rooms and then retired for the evening.

Unlike last year, my hotel room faced the parking lot, and the opaque curtains, unlike the ones at the Sheraton, turned out to be mere decorations, so the light level in the room was a bit much. Turns out I can't sleep wearing a mask, or at least not without being much much more tired, so it was a while before I dropped off.

First panel next morning I attended was "Free Online Games." I got a long list, and plugged "Billy vs. Snakeman."

A bit later, I was on the panel for "Gaming Etiquette." That was a mix of handy tips and horror stories. (When the *player* is using his hand crossbow to make his points, it's a bad thing.)

Then it was time for "Humor in Superhero Comics", which had the presence of Christopher Jones, the creator of ConVergence's mascot Connie, and artist on "Batman Strikes" and "Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink." Lots of fun discussion of favorite funny bits.

I spent some time at the "Shiny New Anime" panel, but left early as I'd seen most of the clips at the last convention, and I wanted to get autographs from the Cinematic Titanic cast (formerly the MST3K cast.) In line I met a fellow who'd come all the way from northwest Canada specifically for the CT folks, this being his first SF convention ever. We whiled away our wait time by discussing conventions and I told him about some of the fun stuff to do. (Most of which does not require drinking alcohol, but some of which is presumably enhanced by it.)

Next up, it was time for the "Old Time Radio" panel, and the moderator graciously allowed me to open the panel with my prepared "radio announcement" bit. I got applauded for it, which is a nice feeling! One of the panelists had started working as a radio station engineer back in the 1950s, so he had some very interesting stories to tell. Other than that, it was mostly plugging favorite shows, and suggesting places to acquire OTR at least semi-legally.

And my fourth scheduled panel of the day was "Manga & Graphic Novels", where we talked about the differences and similarities of US and Japanese comics. I ranted a bit about the cancellation of Shojo Beat--while admittedly I wasn't always impressed with it, it did fill an important niche in the market.

Last panel attended for the evening was "Fan Fiction", which had as always a number of fanfic authors on it, some of whom have done this panel numerous times. The topic drifted off into slash perhaps a bit too often, but otherwise it was an interesting and informative discussion.

I had almost no time for parties before retiring, and was only halfway through the House of Toast line before I had to bolt for the entrance.

Saturday morning I attended the "Death of Saturday Morning Cartoons" panel. They're not completely dead, but they're in pretty sad shape at the moment, when most stations would rather show infomercials.

Next up, I was on the "Justice League" panel, again starring Mr. McDuffie, and also including Daniel Wallace, who helped write the DC and Marvel Encyclopedias. Naturally, the majority of questions fell to Mr. McDuffie again, and we drifted off into the sad state of the comic book industry overall for quite a while. I was moderator for this one too.

Afterwards, Mr. McDuffie was in the AV room, doing live commentary on a couple of the cartoon episodes he wrote. I'd seen the JLA appearance in Static Shock before, but not the JLU episode "Epilogue." Some tidbits about the former--it was originally pitched as a Teen Titans appearance, but their show wouldn't be airing yet by the time it was scheduled, and as you can imagine, there would have been some serious character design issues. And it wasn't an attempt to boost Static's street cred, but the other way around, since the Static Shock show was the second-highest rated cartoon at the time.

Then off to "Farewell David Tennant", as the panelists reminisced about their favorite Tenth Doctor moments and looked forward to the last few Tennant appearances.

That was followed by "Writing Horror in the Age of Saw." The panelist were mostly horror writers, natch. One thing pointed out was that the literary horror market and movie horror audience are actually not as overlapping as the SF literary and movie audiences. Which causes some difficulty for the horror writers when they attend horror movie conventions. The important thing, panelists agreed, was that you don't need to put in gore if the story doesn't call for it, but you shouldn't skimp on the gore if the story *does* call for it.

And "Silent Movies Worth Your Time", with several suggestions of merit, though it can be awfully hard to find one projected at the proper speed. While in theory the final lost reels of Metropolis have been found, the film stock is in such awful shape that it may not be restorable.

I skipped the Masquerade to check out the Cinema Apocalypse room, which showed "Ip Man", a heavily-fictionalized biography of the man who would eventually teach kung fu to Bruce Lee. It's pretty good, but the version shown did not subtitle the intertitles that gave historical background, so I couldn't spot more than what year the next scene was taking place. (Mind you, "the Japanese invade" was pretty obvious from the action.)

I had just enough time to finally get some toast (and for some reason sushi) from the House of Toast before I needed to be ready for the shuttle bus. Which was then ten minutes late as it had swung by the megamall first. The other passengers were interested by the costumed people hanging out and smoking.

Sunday morning, I packed up and checked out of the Crowne Plaza, and after breakfast in the Consuite went to the anime room to watch the Detective Conan movie. It wasn't too much of a mystery, although one minor recurring character was a red herring. (Behavior very odd for that person.)

I picked up my winnings from the Art Show and Silent Auction (since several items are scheduled as birthday/Christmas presents, I won't talk about them here.) Speaking of the art show, I've said in the past that I don't really buy a plain photograph of a nude woman as SF/fantasy "art." I've come to the conclusion that just slapping a color filter on it (with a "fantasyish" caption) isn't really that much more of a qualification. Having her hold a sword is more of a step in the right direction.

The first panel I managed to drag myself to was "Tieflings are Not a Player Race", an examination of 4th Edition D&D. As you might guess from the title, this was not a completely optimistic panel, though it was admitted that the latest edition is a fine miniatures tactics game. (And as one of the folks in Alarums & Excursions mentioned, it simulates the Voltron Blazing Sword Effect well.)

After that, "Epic Storyline Fatigue", with the encyclopedia writer mentioned above. Please let "Final Crisis" be it for line-wide universe reboot events for a while, okay DC?

I dropped in on "TV Shows on DVD and Blu-Ray", which had a bunch of release dates. Sadly, you should probably stock up now while you still can, as it looks like discs are on their way out to be replaced with digital media.

And finally, my last panel, "What's Wrong With Japan?" As moderator (yes, again, let's face it, I like being moderator), I declared that the title of the panel was incorrect, and it would be "Different and interesting things about Japanese culture" instead. No one got up to leave the room, which I was pleased by. We had several people who'd spent extended periods in Japan, thanks to teaching jobs. (Our token Japanese-American panelist admitted he'd only gone for brief vacations.) After the first general question, "One thing you find interesting about Japan not directly connected to manga or anime", the anecdotes easily filled the time with minimal need for more prompting.

Between all of this, naturally, I spent a lot of time greeting and conversing with old acquaintances, making new ones ("Wait! I know you, you're on the internet!") and people watching. My nephew had managed to get the weekend off at the last moment, and got to see his first SF convention ever--perhaps he'll post about it in his own LJ. (hint, hint :-)

Sadly, the Sheraton itself was not running shuttles to the airport or Mall this year, so I skipped closing ceremonies to be able to catch the bus downtown. Still, I had a grand old time. (Next year, I do need to have a room in the hotel proper or Sofitel.)

And this morning, I went in to have my filling installed. Still can't bite anything until the crown is put in later this month.

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skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
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