Fri/Sat | Saturday | Sat/Sun
It's been forever since I've taken an extended vacation, and now that I've been at my work long enough to have earned a fair amount of paid time off, it's high time I used it on something other than going to conventions. That's right, this summer I'm taking a full week off. Much of that may be spent working on Geek.Kon's program book, but at least it's a longer break than a three-day weekend punctuated by hours of travel time.
Sacrifices must be made of course. A few conventions are cut off the tour this year; the unseen benefit of Detour and Kitsune on the same weekend is that it requires me to drop one (sorry Detour). More often, however, the sacrifice is going to be Friday afternoon. I haven't arrived Friday after work since Iowa '06, so it's a bit of a change.
This was a nice dry run. Milwaukee's only a 90-minute drive and I had to pick up Matt (introduced in the last Milwaukee recap) along the way, allowing me to stop home, throw my bags in the car and feed my cat. I won't have that luxury for No Brand.
Raise A Little Hell
The change was felt immediately. When we arrived at 7:00, the con was already in full swing. I probably ran into about six people I knew before we even checked into the hotel room. With that done, we headed to the video game room to pick up our badges.
Once again, we were helping out in the video game room. Or, rather, Becker (also introduced in the last Milwaukee recap), Josh (introduced in the last Daisho recap), Jeff (ditto) and Erich (no clue) were. They had been there since Thursday night and would remain there for much of the weekend. Like last year the Geek.Kon contingency would be floaters supreme, filling in any volunteering gaps AMKE had in their schedule. I gathered the badges for everybody not tethered to the VGR along with our backup banner for the table.
Dating back to last ACen, the big banner has historically gone in the VGR because it's better suited for walls and we are more likely to be able to use walls in the VGR than ambassador tables. Yet it's not on a wall. And they still get the good one. And I didn't even pause to think about that until now.
Matt and I taped our crappy banner to the table and headed to volunteers to get signed up.
If you're incredibly perceptive and have a photographic memory from last year's Milwaukee recap, you may notice that the video game room is in a different place this time. In fact, it's in a different building. Last year, the con used the adjacent Frontier Airlines Center for their gigantic Main Programming room and nothing else. This year, the con was split evenly between the Hyatt and the FAC, with the Hyatt getting Main Programming, Tabletop, Viewings and Operations and several smaller rooms on the first floor of the FAC getting Registration, Vendors, Video Gaming and most of the panel rooms. It was a long hike between the two, but at least you could stay in one or the other for an extended period and have a damn good time. TL;DR- the layout was much better.
I say that in spite of the fact that the volunteers office was back in the Hyatt.
Oddly, only one of Geek.Kon's contingency was actually scheduled. One that wasn't actually there yet. After calling him to confirm that the slot was all right, I ended up taking a three-hour badge shift Saturday night and was pretty much home free the rest of the weekend. I'll take it.
By then AJ (introduced... somewhere... maybe) had arrived and needed to get into the room. I gave him a room key and left him to his own devices. All the cool people I had run into prior to checking in were gone, so it was back to the FAC for more adventures.
The crappy banner had fallen down, so I conscripted some No Branders to help get it back up.
Meh. It'll cover the overnight shift. Evan had always wanted to take down the nice banner overnight, fearing it would get vandalized if left unchecked. I like leaving this one up for the same reason. That would give us an excuse to buy a new one.
The No Branders were heading back to their room to hang out and drink. Since No Branders are awesome, I tagged along. Back to the Hyatt! That's trip number four for those counting.
Anyway, the liquor collection was fantastic. I don't drink, but I admired it from afar. One bottle looked like Mrs. Butterworth's syrup. We considered combining whatever it was with Molson and calling it a Canuck.
Erika's drink was blue, and she had a proper glass to sip it from. It was the only glass in the room, which posed a challenge to proper imbibing.
Still good times.
A few of us headed to stir up trouble in karaoke... which was in the FAC. Trip 5!
Along the way, we encountered Pher and Jake from Daisho. It was suddenly a con chair summit... if you still count Jake since he was last year's co-chair... and if you count three guys goofing off on a Friday night a con chair summit. The answer to all of those is yes.
We did hit a snag as Erika and Jake left their badges in their rooms. Thankfully I had plenty of spares.
Erika is now our Tabletop room's second-in-command and Jake's our videographer. Welcome aboard!
Not sure if this counts as a proper photobomb as I knew Pher was standing there and didn't bother to pay attention to him.
Karaoke was madness. Everybody was dancing to LMFAO videos and the thing hadn't started yet. Incidentally, while I'm familiar with LMFAO, I had no idea they had entered the cultural mainstream. Which says more about how much I follow the cultural mainstream than anything else. This is what I get for going to a staff meeting instead of watching the Super Bowl.
We did Tubthumping because somebody has to. Yes, I'm wearing an Eric Stuart shirt and my Digimon tag at the same time. Why do you ask?
The music got awful in a hurry, so we evacuated, hung out with more cool people like The Enthusiasts and disbanded for the night. I went back to the Hyatt (6) and ended up chatting with Wurm (introduced... aw, to hell with it) in the Tabletop Room for a bit. Turns out they checked in 1,500 people on day one. That's insane.
Anyways, I turned in at about 12:30 or so. Fairly early, yes, but there wasn't anything going on Friday night. If I was really going to make this con awesome, it was going to have to be on Saturday. Therefore, I was giving myself as much time as possible.
Staying up late at conventions is commonplace. Want to try something more extreme? Wake up at 7:30 am for your own fiendish purposes.
Perhaps the most glaring flaw in Milwaukee's planning was their panel scheduling. When I was in charge of Geek.Kon's scheduling in 2010, I went out of my way to avoid scheduling panels at 9:00 am since many attendees are just waking up and panelists hate playing to empty rooms. Anime Milwaukee, despite having a couple rooms that were virtually unused all weekend, had panels starting at eight. And not even niche stuff either. Along with panels for MLP:FIM and supporting the anime industry, Chris Cason's “Turning the Tables” panel (introduced in the last Acen recap) was also slotted. That's right, an audience-driven guest panel at 8:00 am. I had to see this train wreck for myself.
There were about eight attendees there. Chris was not entirely awake, but was at least happy to see me. It was so early the doors to Main Programming were still locked. Chris was fine having the panel in the hallway, but the doors were opened eventually and somebody decided to turn on the lights and microphone. It felt like we were sneaking in.
Occupy Main Programming!
I forgot my camera the first time I went down, which I only mention because when I ran back to the room to retrieve it I shared an elevator down with Nostalgia Critic Doug Walker. This is someone who had been laying claim to the title of anti-Tiffany Grant, since I'd been to four cons where he was a guest without so much as catching a glimpse of this guy. Suddenly I'm riding the elevator with him and would end up talking to him a couple more times Saturday. The anti-Tiffany Grant position is thus vacant.
Incidentally, Doug also thought it was too early for panels. And his didn't start until 9:00.
Three guesses as to who this could be. Everybody at the panel, including Chris, cheered when Beaker walked into the room. Without looking up from my program book, I muttered, “Hey, Scott.”
After chatting with Chris for a little bit, I got a quick shower and breakfast in and set up the table in front of the vendor room (7). The crappy banner was still standing but unfortunately unvandalized. We also found out that someone had taken a flier from the table, saw that we had booked Caitlin Glass and promptly preregistered online. So at least it's working.
Remember last year when I said that Anime Milwaukee had more ACen DNA than the other Wisconsin conventions? The reg line Saturday was unbelievable. It didn't hit ACen levels of course, but it certainly could rival Iowa or Detour... and I'm talking about when Iowa and Detour are having bad days.
While at the table, the biggest puzzle was trying to actively promote our guest list. We had three voice actors signed and not everybody was going to steal a flier while we weren't there and go “OMG Winry!” In fact, only our bigger non-handout fliers had all three names. Our smaller quartersheets were printed before the third was confirmed due to the extra prep time. Those things don't cut themselves... anymore.
Unfortunately, the missing name was Eric Stuart, voice of Kaiba on Yu-Gi-Oh and Brock/James on Pokémon. This is particularly relevant at a convention with Little Kuriboh and an entire programming block provided by a summer Pokémon gaming event. Thankfully, I knew one of the organizers of this event (introduced way the hell back in the 2005 No Brand recap and never since) and popped over to the Trainers Rendezvous room in the Hyatt (8) to say hi and ask him to put up a big flier and spread the word.
Why yes, I was wearing my Digimon tag/crest in here.
Picture included only because I'm still in a phase where I'll snap every Persona cosplayer I see. No, really.
Enough of your allegations. Let's hit page two.