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We'll start by quoting my Friday night blog entry, because it seems to be very eventful when I actually make a blog entry:

I know I’ve mentioned it on the mailing list, but this is the first time I’ve stated on the site that I’m going to the inaugural Geek.kon in Madison this weekend (yeah, I know I should post more). It’s a free sci-fi/anime/general geekdom convention on the UW campus (sorry- UW-Madison; can’t betray my small state school roots). Boasting of my decade of expertise, I volunteered to run the fanfic panel (as I basically created this site to stash my script format stuff, the fact that I’m averaging 2,500 visits a month means I must be doing something right). It was a sweet deal- got my name and site on the guest list and everything. Same page as Chad Vader- woot! The planning seems sound and the pre-reg list suggests an attendance higher than No Brand Con. But as I sit here, waiting for Jasmine and crew to arrive later tonight (I’m housing about eight people this weekend), I have to wonder- it’s still a first-year convention. What can we really expect?

At the bottom of my con reports (now that I was smart enough to list them in reverse chronological order), you’ll see that there is almost nothing on No Brand ‘03. That’s because there really wasn’t a whole lot of con back then- the attendance was just 150 and while they had panels and a vendor room and a masquerade and a DDR tournament (in which I won the Standard tourney and placed 3rd in Heavy), it was a fairly subdued affair. And that was their second year. It’s reasonable to expect that a rookie convention would show signs of inexperience and, with so many planning to attend, early growing pains. Yet, all signs suggest that Geek.kon is doing everything right- the floorplan is sound, the schedule is packed (and posted), and they wisely slotted it in the fall when the only nearby competition is ACen’s snotty little brother Reactor (hell of a family, huh?).

So I go into Geek.kon with somewhat tempered expectations. Kind of a “there’s no possible way it can really be as good as it sounds” attitude. Any attendee is obligated to cut it some slack after all- IT’S FREE, DAMMIT! Besides, at worst it’s an excuse to hang out with friends (hordes of No Branders are migrating to Madison this weekend) and forget about my sports woes: the Cubs dropped the first two of their five game series and my fantasy football teams are all mired in 2-2 mediocrity.
But so far, I see no signs of weakness. When I asked if they were prepared to top 1,000, a staffer replied with a resounding hell yes. Could it really be that good? If so… wow. Either way, I’ll have my camera ready for this one. I’m probably going for something closer to the Otakon ‘03 briefing than a full recap, but for as much potential as Geek.kon has, it may leave me showering it with praises all week.

That should give you the basic idea. If you want it even more simplified, here's the talking points:

  • Free inaugural convention in Madison.

  • I'm running the fanfic panel.

  • Jasmine, Theresa, Tyler and guest are coming down and crashing at my pad.

  • Lotsa No Branders!

  • I've elected to do an abbreviated recap.

  • I still can't believe the Nagas lost to Drazz in week 2.

Jasmine and friends arrived at my place at about 3:00 am. Right on time! After the initial pleasantries and the ceremonial bringing in of the tons of gear, we passed out for a couple hours, then headed to downtown Madison.

The first event on my agenda was the DDR contest at 12:30, so I insisted on being there with enough time to get some practice in. It was a pretty good time to be there- the line was short, there was time to get acquainted. And best of all, an excuse to completely forego the DDR.

Five staff representatives from No Brand Con, including SeanOrange on the right. Besides the occasional appearance in these recaps, he also recently gained infamy when Kotaku posted a pic of him napping in the press room at Tokyo Game Show. Between them and our group, we had every year and color of No Brand Con t-shirts covered.

So we're not here five minutes when we all decide to go to lunch on State Street.

The lunch quickly becomes a No Brand staff planning session. It seems the NoBrandVerse will have a new adventure in its pages next year. And I may or may not have accidentally provided them with the perfect villain name (and I won't see a dime out of it either way).

As it turned out, State Street was one of the main features of the convention. Jasmine and Theresa are well known for spending almost no convention time on actual panels or programming, so this suited them fine.

Kellin and Taeliac in the (incredibly crammed) vendor room. About seven vendors were stuffed into a small classroom building. It was ugly.

As it was on campus, the layout was only as good as the building itself. The building is apparently scheduled for demolition soon, so that should give you some idea of what we were dealing with. The staff did a good job with what they had, but when the building is basically laid out like a horseshoe, getting from point A to point B was somewhat difficult. But then again, nothing can possibly be worse than the sixteen floor madness of Iowa '06.

The qualifying stages of the DDR Heavy tournament. There were a few complications in this tournament, namely the fact that only one pad of the four available could be legitimately called tournament-caliber. So we all qualified on that one. I went first, full combo'd Ordinary World, and still had to sweat it out while the rest of the field landed more perfects. I ended up qualifying 3rd of 8, which thankfully got me to the next round.

Using the improvised and innovative idea of using two identically-flawed pads, the top four went head-to-head in the next round. The song was AM-3P, which I can do in my sleep. Also helping was the fact that I had been using the flawed pad in practice, so my timing was better suited to that one. So I advanced.

The championship song was "Never Let You Down," which is fine song if not a bit anticlimactic. After a few early scuffles, I managed to bear down and step it up a notch, landing a nice string of Perfects to take the championship!

Along with the program and nametag, my little championship medallion.

And now, the only two cosplay pictures I bothered to take all weekend:

Cute bunny. Sweet Dalek on a leash. That guy exterminated the competition and won the awesome of the year award.

Damn... too much Pani Poni...

While the convention had a great schedule, chock full of activities to get our geek on, it doesn't necessarily mean there's anything we want to do at every given moment. Especially with Jasmine and Theresa. So between a couple panels, they and Tyler decided to compliment one of the chalkboards with some doodles. They were still up when we left Sunday night.

The dance/mixer, which we were all really excited about. Just one problem- nobody danced. In fact, not a whole lot of mixing either. The problem, it seemed, was due to a lack of really danceable music, instead focusing on J-Rock numbers. While this seems contrary to my comments about the Iowa dance (which is so ravey and Euro that it doesn't belong at a convention), a balance must be struck. The other problem was the sound system was ill-equipped to boom through the courtyard and force people to pay attention.

They struck gold once while I was watching. Who can resist attempting the Hare Hare Yukai dance from Haruhi?

Anyway, I didn't figure to be missing much when I left for my fanfic panel. One of the staffers had offered to help, and we corralled a good number of people from the nearby Harry Potter panel as it ended. It was good, we talked a lot, I plugged MST mercilessly and distributed several booklets... and I forget to have one of the No Branders present take pictures.

That was almost it for Saturday. The original plan was for Tony, Mike and Bryce from Green Bay join me at the apartment, but they apparently didn't find the Sunday activities worth it and headed straight back to GB. But not before forcing Jasmine and I to head to their car to return some Mr. Bean DVDs to her and give me an assortment of anime openings and endings that will surely come in handy next year for NTAO.

It was a fifteen-minute hike uphill, through tunnels and over fences to their spot... but damn that Mr. Bean is a great midnight boredom reliever.

My apartment, post-convention. Sunday was more of the same, with a lot of State Street thrown in. For the first time in years I actually went to closing ceremonies, where they announced an attendance of 1,800 and played the story that CNN picked up from Madison's ABC affiliate. Yes, CNN aired this nationally. I talked with this reporter while his photog was getting b-roll and he certainly looked like he was getting into the atmosphere, but I don't think anybody expected this kind of reception. The joke was that it must have been a slow news day in the state (because as we all know now, nothing ever happens in Wisconsin on the weekends), but apparently Iraq and Paris Hilton took the weekend off as well. Either way, great press for the con... and geekdom in general.

As the university restrictions, dull dance and no semblance of a major climactic event on Sunday prevented this from being among my top con experiences (losing out to No Brand, but topping Otakon and on par with Iowa), it's easy to see the optimism here. The limitations facing this con were very present everywhere, yet it was still a heck of an execution. Panels were diverse, interesting, and in a higher quantity than Iowa and No Brand. The mood was always enthusiastic (save perhaps the dance), staff was friendly and approachable, and above all it drew so many friends new and old- particularly among the No Brand community.

To go back to that blog post, Geek.kon definitely succeeded in dulling my sports pain: the Cubs ended up getting swept and I barely noticed or cared. But there is an underlying similarity between the two seemingly unrelated things- their mantra will be the same. The convention drew visitors from around the region, garnered positive national attention, and should have no trouble drawing the leverage and resources necessary to move past this year's limitations and offer more of everything during their sophomore campaign. Therefore, any attendee, staffer or spectator can say the mantra in a hushed voice, with more optimism and spine-tingling excitement than any Cubs fan: wait until next year.

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