• Conventions

    Fan Expo Again

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    Okay, so as we all figured out yesterday, I’ve given in and allowed myself to be seduced by Fan Expo one more time.

    While they don’t appear to be making a big deal about it being Fan Expo 20, at least not yet, they are, as I suspected pulling out all the stops to get my money. Witness for the defense, a partial guest list.

    • Captain Kirk,
    • Captain Picard,
    • Captain Hammer,
    • Frodo,
    • The original Batman and Robin,
    • The current Doctor,
    • Freddy Krueger,
    • Joxer the Mighty,
    • Darth Maul,
    • Richard Dreyfuss,
    • Stan “The Man” Lee.

    Okay, the last two are real names, but even if you know Richard Dreyfuss from Close Encounters and Jaws, he’s done a tremendous collection of non-genre stuff that he’s far more well known for, I think.

    And Stan Lee is Stan Lee.

    This list also doesn’t touch on Anime or Gaming at all, but if I get to see all of these people speak, I’ll have won the con. Eleven sesssion, as long as they’re spread across four day and not crammed into one or two.

    I also notice the disappearance of the sports section on the web site, which means they will put other stuff where that used to be, and that makes me happy. [As a side note, it probably makes the sports vendors from last year happy, too, because I don’t think they did a great deal of business. They were just a space for the geeks to walk through to get to the stuff we actually care about.

    The competition had been Montréal Comic Con, which was going to cost a lot less, by virtue of

    • the tickets being half the price of Fan Expo
    • Two nights of hotel instead of three
    • Not being on Labour Day Weekend

    But that would not have been fair to my family. Montréal looks like a Star Trek: The Next Generation Fest. Awesome for me with Riker, Data, Dr. Crusher, Counselor Troy, Worf, Laforge, plus Tasha and Q all in one place.

    And yet Fan Expo wins the battle for a peaceful, family trip. There’s just too much a variety, too many different types of guests that appeal to more members of my family. Well, and me, but not just me. Montréal is a Star Trek best, then expose a family trip.

    But Fan Expo will involve a great deal more planning this year than it has in years past. Last year’s experience (and this year will be at least as crowded) taught us:

    • You should not leave the convention center on Saturday, because they will get more than the number of people they are allowed to have inside the building who want to be inside the building. Last year, my wife got stuck outside for two hours having gone back to the hotel room with our youngest to avoid con lunch again.
    • Saturday is stupid crowded. Plan Saturday meticulously, leaving giant safety margins. My son almost missed our photo op with George Takei last year because he couldn’t get from the South building to the north in less than 40 minutes.
    • Friday is busy, and also needs careful planning. You don’t need quite the safety margins as you do for Saturday, but they’re still important.
    • Do your primary window shopping on the convention floor on Thursday. Thursday is the quietest day that provides the most freedom of movement and the fewest delays. Of course, it also provides the best opportunity to sit up front for a celebrity session.
    • Do your primary actual shopping on Sunday. This is when the deals come out, and unless you found something truly one-of-a-kind on Thursday when you first looked, there is a chance, if not a large one, that it might be cheaper on Sunday. Plus, the fewer things you buy before Sunday, the fewer things you have to store in the hotel room for the weekend. Just don’t forget to make notes about where the things that you want are when you’re window shopping on Thursday. The convention floor is huge.

    And yet, I still hear the call of Montréal. The gathering of so much TNG geekness in one place is almost more than I can take. I resisted a similar convergence, though it missed Q & Tasha and included Picard (who is the only one who hasn’t been announced for Montréal this year, though I remain hopeful) only because I had to work that weekend, and was out of vacation time because of a tropical trip we were about to take.

    Of course, if I’m honest, as soon as fan Expo announced William Shatner, the battle was lost. I have made a non-binding commitment to myself that I will not miss an opportunity to hear one of the original series cast members speak as long as they continue to do the convention circuit. And, having enjoyed Leonard Nimoy via Skype in Ottawa, and having heard in say that he had signed a contract to do seven such appearances, only four of which I’ve been able to track down so far, I wonder if Fan Expo will try to pull a rabbit out of the hat and have Leonard Nimoy on Skype while William Shatner is on stage. I doubt it, but I’d never forgive myself or missing it if it did happen.

    I miss them actually on stage together in 2006, well before Erik and I started being interested in conventions, and I know I missed Mr. Nimoy’s last appearance at Fan Expo in 2009. I try not to look too closely at previous guest lists for conventions that happened when we were living in Toronto, telling myself I was young (well younger) and had other concerns at the time.

    But I still hear the call of Montréal.

    If I can find a way to make the budget work for a day trip, and a day trip to Montréal is rough physically from where we live, I will find a way. It may depend on how many members of my family want to go with me, but we’ll deal with that when it comes to figuring it out. The budget for conventions this year (and otherwise) is already stressed, however, because we didn’t originally plan to do the full weekend of Ottawa Comic con. The original thought was to do it for one day and take my mom, but the guest list didn’t appeal to her all that much, and we had friends going, and so we eventually decided to go anyway even though we’d bought the tickets months in advance for Anime North. And, we weren’t missing that one. In many ways, it’s the kids favorite con.

    But, I’m climbing back in the bed with Fan Expo this year, after I promised myself I wouldn’t. It’s like a bad relationship, it really is. Even taking into account the crazy lack of organization and traffic control, the huge crowds stressing me out, and the staggering hotel bills, all of which seem to get worse every single year, there’s one thing I have to admit: Fan Expo gives good geek.

    And that’s what keeps me coming back.

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  • Conventions

    Fan Expo

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    I wrote a big long post last year about how fan Expo and I were breaking up. I extended the relationship metaphor into the whole “it’s not you, it’s me cliché”, coming down the side of no, wait, it’s you. (And it is, Fan Expo, make no mistake.)

    However, in the same post, I admitted that the likelihood of us getting back together for a weekend fling this year was high. This is Fan Expo number 20, and I know you’ll be pulling out all of the stops to get my money. And this is in spite of the fact that you’ve chosen to take place on Labor Day weekend this year, which increases my hotel bill, or, forces me to stay farther away keep the hotel bill the same.

    Your competition is Montréal Comic Con, who is announcing guests faster than you are, in spite of being several weeks later, and I think this is a marketing tactic designed to try to get me to book before you’ve announced enough to pique my interest. Up until a couple of days ago, it was working.

    Montréal has confirmed six of the seven primary actors from Star Trek the next generation. Only CaptainPicard himself, Patrick Stewart, has yet to sign on. This, and the addition of Robert England, whom we missed at Ottawa by leaving a little early, definitely had Montréal in first place, in spite of the fact that fan Expo has booked William Shatner and Elijah Wood, Capt. Deckard and no not Capt. Kirk and Frodo. I’ve seen Shatner speak three times in, and very much enjoy. I’d love to see him again, but I was bouncing that out against six members of the next generation cast.

    Oh, wait, Montréal has also announced Q, John DeLancie, and Tasha Yar, Denise Crosby. So now I’m looking at six principles and two key secondaries from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Montréal was definitely in first place.

    Until you announced Adam West and Burt Ward, the original Batman and Robin. You’re making it hard, Fan Expo, as you intended.

    When I consider the entire family, the variety of guests already announced for fan Expo, and they’re not even close to being finished announcing, fan Expo just pulled instantly ahead. Because we’re now looking at Captain Kirk, Frodo, Batman and Robin, the many characters of Bruce Campbell (who we saw at Ottawa but was very entertaining), and Stan the Man Lee, whom I have met, but never actually heard speak because last year I took the girls to a photo op while Lesli and Erik went to see Stanley.

    I think I might be ready for that fling with fan Expo. And because I know there will be more announcements, and because the girls are hoping for another Vocaloid concert, and because there will be other things that I want to see and do whilewe’re there, I think I’m ready to book the hotel now.

    Oh, I know you’re going to disappoint me again, Fan Expo. The crowds on Saturday will jack up my stress level, and the organization for autographs and photo ops will drive me up the wall, but I have the sneaking suspicion that one of the seven Skype calls that Leonard Nimoy has signed on to do this year could be there, and if they set it up so that it happens with William Shatner on stage to converse with him, I don’t think I could forgive myself for missing it.

    So I think I’m ready Fan Expo. Break my heart again.

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  • Conventions

    It’s Not You, It’s Me

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    No, really. I’m sorry, Fan Expo, but I’ve given this a lot of thought.

    I can’t handle the incompetent line management anymore. Or the inconsistent room management, or the constantly changing procedures, or the total lack of traffic flow planning or understanding. I feel like you’ve studied at the Ikea school of customer flow—one way in and one way out—but dropped out after the first day before you learned why and how it actually is made to work.

    And the escalators… ai-ya.

    Oh, and some consistent communication to your staff and security crew would be good, so they can deliver a consistent message when people have questions. Or even just deliver a message.

    And this year, you were trying to be too much to too many people, crowding more of us into a larger space but without much understanding of how that would work. Sports was a great idea… for a separate con. You wouldn’t get me, but then you didn’t anyway. You just gave most of us an extra obstacle to get through to get to the real convention.

    And even with the expansion, the aisles on the con floor were still ridiculously narrow for the number of people you had in the building.

    Wait, I guess it is you. Really, considering everything, it has to be you. Sorry.

    So I think we shouldn’t see each other anymore. I’m hate that it’s come to this, but the stress is starting to outweigh the fun, and that’s not good for either of us. We need some time apart, some time to grow. I’ve got a date in Ottawa in the spring, and I think it’s going to be a good one. It’s okay, there are plenty of other people for you.


    Yes, I guess I’m fooling myself. We both know I’ll take you back next year.

    You’ll promise some hefty star power, the people I want to see in person for Q&A sessions, autographs, and maybe even photos. There will be panels and artists and cosplay and awesome stuff to buy and all the cool things I want in a con.

    But I’ll resist. I’ll be strong. There’s no doubt in my mind. You and I are over.

    Until my kids remind me how much they love you.

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  • Conventions

    After Action Report: Fan Expo, Day 4

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    Sunday, crowd-wise, is a lot like Friday at Fan Expo. Crowded, but you can still move around. It’s also the last day of four at the con, so the overall speed of the crowd is often a little faster since time is now very limited.

    But some things aren’t faster. My son and I got in line at the top of the escalator to go to the bottom of the North Building and The Walking Dead panel. The line did not move. At first, this seemed to be because the escalator was malfunctioning. Again. After a few minutes, staff made it clear that the panel had no seating left. We arrived at the con at about 1015, only 15 minutes after they opened the doors, showed our passes and walked in, taking a couple of minutes to establish where we’d all be for the next little bit. To make the panel, apparently we would have had to have been near the front of the line before 10 (clear when we got there) and run for the theatre. Disappointing, but the light of all of Fan Expo’s other organization issues, not all that surprising that they didn’t pick a larger room based on the popularity of the show.

    So we rearranged our plans a bit and went to see Mr. Takei again to get our photo from the day before signed. Not a bad line up, but he’d been signing all weekend, so we just picked a good time.

    Taken by my oldest daughter, Mr. Takei signing our photo.
    Taken by my oldest daughter, Mr. Takei signing our photo.

    Meanwhile, my wife and youngest daughter had gotten into a big line to get Tara Strong’s autograph (she’s another principal VA on MLP). While the rest of us went to the con floor for a little last day shopping.

    Tara Strong with my youngest.
    Tara Strong with my youngest.

    Aside from MLP and Sailor Moon, my youngest was there for Princess Leia’s autograph, which was next up. (Sorry, no photo. They weren’t allowing pictures and I haven’t scanned the autographed photo yet.)

    My son actually walked the floor with me for a while, slowly looking more and more dejected. Didn’t take a lot of brain power to figure out he wanted to go find his friends if they’d arrived. I turned him loose with instructions to answer texts and my oldest daughter and I went upstairs to check out the LARPers again.

    Ready for battle.
    Ready for battle.

    If you’ve never heard of it, LARP is an acronym for Live Action Role Playing. If you’re a pencil and paper RPG fan, subtract the pencil and paper, dress up, and work on your acting ability. It was actually pretty fun, though the group of players we had the sessions with mostly wanted to kill things and damn the story, and she wants to try finding a group in our area who allows minors to play.

    Which just about brought us to the big event for oldest daughter, the screening of a Vocaloid concert. Youngest daughter came as well. Both loved it, but since oldest daughter was in Vocaloid cosplay, she gravitated towards the other cosplayers and wound up making a bunch of friends (who have now created a Facebook group and are planning to get together at other upcoming cons). The concert was a lot of fun, but nothing like being there. Even I enjoyed the music. Of course, I’m the one who actually found out about the Vocaloid concept and pointed my children in that direction.

    The gang's all here.
    The gang’s all here.

    In the meantime, my wife went to (and recorded) the Carrie Fisher Q&A, and my son got roped into the Tara Strong Q&A with two girls just a little older than he is. A nice end to the con all the way around.

    From there, we retrieved the van and went for Chinese BBQ on Spadina Avenue, something that used to be a lot more frequent on my experience list, but now is a rare treat.

    A few other bits about the con to follow, and I’ve posted some photos, mostly of other cosplays, to Facebook, as well.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Conventions

    After Action Report: Fan Expo, Day 3

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    A little delayed, but lots of time for the first paragraph to contain useful advice.

    If you’re only going to Fan Expo one day next year, don’t make it Saturday. Really. It’s the most crowded day and suffers from the most line and traffic mismanagement by staff, not to mention the escalator breakdowns that happen every year. Saturday is the reason Fan Expo and I are on the rocks. Well, the ticket price is getting a little steep, too.

    My wife and daughters getting trapped outside the building because apparently they were over capacity, and then suddenly they weren’t.

    My son got trapped in a line up to get up the escalator from the main con floor to come meet me in the photo op area.

    I had a great time on Saturday—we all did, as long as we were already at the place we wanted to be. Getting there was always a problem. And the con floor got crowded fast, so crowded we had to get out.

    Now on a positive note, I met up with an old friend I only get to see a couple of times per year. That was nice.

    He and I, both being Trekkies since shortly after birth, went to a screening of the first episode of Star Trek Continues. It’s a fan-produced series with Vic Mignogna at its head that picks up where the original Star Trek show left off. Fun, but it’s trying a little too hard to begin with and the writing is a teensy bit awkward. Vic as Kirk is trying to Shatnerize things too much and there were a couple of scenes where it seemed like they were just trying to squeeze everyone in. It is worth checking out for fans of the show and I’m sure they’ll iron things out eventually. I’m interested enough to see what they’ll do for their second episode.

    For several members of the family, the big event on Saturday was our photo op with George Takei. This is the one place I was glad for the con’s complete lack of crowd and line management because it allowed my wife and son, victims of problems I mentioned above, to make it before I got to the front of the line. Mr. Takei was a gracious and pleasant man who had a quick word for each of the three of us in the photo and more or less made my day.

    My son, George Takei, my wife, and I.
    My son, George Takei, my wife, and I.

    Next up for me, the Crypton Vocaloid presentation which ran more like a business presentation for the English version of the Vocaloid software about to launch. Interesting, but a little dry, though my oldest daughter claimed to enjoy it.

    She enjoyed the Yuu Asakawa Q&A more, though. One of the Vocaloid actresses live and in person. Her English is limited, but her pronunciation is excellent, so she had a translator present. A long line up for her autograph came next, long enough that I couldn’t get to the screening of “Almost Human” my son and I were planning, but he hadn’t been that keen, really, and had more or less already decided not to bother.

    My oldest daughter with Yuu Asakawa
    My oldest daughter with Yuu Asakawa

    As a side note, Saturday is “Meet the cast of whatever show CTV/Showcase thinks has genre elements” day, running through Lost Girl, Murdoch Mysteries, Defiance, Storage Wars, and Helix. A couple of those really don’t make sense to me at what most of us think of as a SF con, but I’m sure they made some people happy. But, in some strange twist of organization, the panels were pretty much all in the same room and each was followed by an autograph session in a different building on the other side of the convention.

    Even though it meant the con was ¾ over, I was glad to get out of the building on Saturday and head for the exciting sushi restaurant we’d picked out.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Conventions

    After Action Report: Fan Expo, Day 2

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    Friday is the first big day of Fan Expo. The crowds have come and it gets worse the later in the day it is.

    The con floor is pretty huge at Fan Expo. If you spent two minutes at every booth, you might be able to see them all in one day, but not after you add travel time in and only if you ignore Artists’ Alley, which is absolutely impossible to do.

    And there’s a little more in the hallway just outside the giant area enclosing the con floor.

    Which is where we found half the cast of Sailor Moon signing autographs. Sailors Moon, Mars, and Jupiter, plus Tuxedo Mask and the show’s Voice Director. For youngest daughter, who’s recently discovered the show, it was pretty neat.

    I went to the Richard Dean Anderson panel by myself, where I realized that I’d put a broken memory card into the Zoom so had to record on my phone.

    Thinking I could get back to the hotel, get a working card (no, I wasn’t carrying 2 <sigh>), get oldest daughter to an anime panel, and still get back in time for David Hasselhoff’s panel, I didn’t take the poor traffic flow conditions of the con into account. My wife took pictures and a little video.

    FE2013 - RDA FE 2013 - DH


    But we got pretty good seats for George & Nichelle.

    George Takei, one of the primary reasons my son wanted to come this year (me too, but for different reasons) is an engaging speaker, very involved, and fun to listen to. He talked for about twenty minutes, took questions for as many more then introduced Nichelle Nichols and left the stage.

    George Takei
    George Takei

    Nichelle didn’t take questions, instead spoke to an audience on the importance of following dreams and making sure your children have the freedom to follow theirs. In between, she wove in a few anecdotes about Star Trek, family, and the space shuttle. I feel like her health isn’t as good as she’d like to have presented and have learned since the con that she’s in a wheelchair most of the time, able to walk only short distances. I was glad to hear her speak and disappointed to have missed her signing autographs.

    Nichelle Nichols
    Nichelle Nichols

    This is a good place to note that George is the youngest of the Star Trek Seven (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, Chekov) at 76. Presented without comment.

    My son and I (and a friend of his) stayed in the room for Ian McDiarmid, the Dark Lord of the Sith, Emperor Palpatine. Also an engaging fellow. I’m struggling to recall any question he answered that wasn’t Star Trek related, even though his done a fair bit of work on film and stage. A formal guard, provided by the 501st Legion, stood at attention during the entire panel, and accompanied him the next day on the con floor.

    Ian McDiarmid
    Ian McDiarmid

    The con proper was over at that point, with the floor closed and most things wrapped up, but a little later, after dinner, oldest daughter and I returned for the J-Pop dance (a little less pop than I might have liked and a little heavier) and late night gaming (the gaming room was open until ten, with people playing right up to the end).

    All in all, a pretty good day.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Conventions

    After Action Report: Fan Expo, Day 1

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    Been quiet lately. The real world and family, and perhaps a demon or two. I’ve also been prepping a couple of things. More on those very soon, but at the moment I thought I’d put a couple of notes up about Fan Expo, the biggest con we go to and this was our fourth year in a row as a family. And since we’ve been back for a week and I’ve had a full work week since, things should be back to normal, right?

    If only I knew what normal was.

    Fan Expo runs Thursday to Sunday the last full weekend of August. Thursday is the most relaxing day at Fan Expo. There are lots of people, but the crowds really haven’t arrived yet. The Con opens at 2 for those who have bought weekend passes in advance, four for the single day and people buying their tickets at the door.

    We tried to take it easy, just relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere of the con, and making it to the doors at about quarter after two.

    The delay to get in wasn’t too bad (one thing they’ve improved this year) and we moved inside to check out the first displays—KITT and the Batmobile, the 501st and the Ghostbusters, plus a little Doctor Who. In our first divide and conquer of the weekend, my wife, son, and youngest daughter stood in line for photo op tickets we should have bought in advance, while my oldest daughter and I walked across the smaller of the two buildings to pick up tickets for the vocaloid concert on Sunday.

    The first panel on the list was James Hong. Managed seats in the front row, and I think it’s the only panel the entire family attended together. When I first pointed out the panel, no one had any idea who the Mr. Hong was, at least until I started going through the acting credits my wife and children might recognize:

    Mr. Ping from the Kung Fu Panda movies.

    Chen, the restaurant owner, from The Big Bang Theory.

    Guest star on half the TV shows they’ve ever watched.

    James Hong
    James Hong

    He stands out for me as Hannibal Chew in Bladerunner and Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China, but Mr. Hong has an acting career that reaches back to the mid-1950s and he’s literally been in hundreds of shows and movies.

    My wife and son went to see Stan Lee a little later while the girls and I got our picture taken with Mr. Hong who was pleasant and friendly though he had to be exhausted by the time the whole thing was over.

    Stan Lee and his drink courtesy of Subway
    Stan Lee and his drink courtesy of Subway

    Right after that, we headed back to the same room we’d listened to him in so we could enjoy a panel Q&A with Cathy Weseluck and Andrea Libman, two of the principal voice actors on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. They’ve both done a lot of other work as well, but nearly all of the questions asked were about MLP, and there were a surprising number of Bronies there, asking a lot of those questions.

    Cathy Weseluck (left), Andrea Libman (right)
    Cathy Weseluck (left), Andrea Libman (right), two of the principal VAs for MLP: Friendship is Magic

    All in all, the first day at the con was a slow paced, relaxed one. That would change in the afternoon on Friday.

    Be well, everyone.

    The girls and I with James Hong.
    The girls and I with James Hong. I should have found a Lo Pan t-shirt to wear.
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