LASFS Aftermeetings part 249: Coral Cafe (29-Sep-2005), Ani-Magic 6 in Lancaster (Oct-2005), Conjecture 4 in San Diego (Oct-2005) and Greg's 50th Birthday Party (15-Oct-2005) pictures have been uploaded. Click on the picture of nolly, samuraimeg, and buddykat -- the Good Twin, the Evil Twin, and the Triplet of Moral Ambiguity --- to see the Conjecture photos.
Ani-Magic 6, the fifth at this hotel -- the Antelope Valley Inn. (Last year was at the Hyatt in Valencia.) I hear membership was down from last year; they might have had 600, they might not. Last year when I arrived at the Hyatt and picked up my badge, I thought that they'd run out of program books because they only gave me a one- or two-page printed program schedule. Nope -- when I went to Registration this time, they only gave me my badge, because they'd discontinued printing program books last year and they'd discontinued printing program schedules this year. What's up with that? I eventually learned that you were expected to find everything on the website -- the convention's rules, the live program schedule, the hours for the dealers room, the video rooms, and so forth.
That seemed odd, to say the least. They had three computers and a printer networked in the lobby of the hotel. (Which is not very close to the convention registration desk.) Although there weren't any signs to explain this, you were supposed to go there to print out the schedule, if you cared enough to do so. Arlene and I went there Saturday night, and learned that the database interface was just a dump of the program database info -- no video program -- and it took 8 sheets of paper to print the whole thing out. 2 pages for Friday, 4 for Saturday, and 2 for Sunday. And Sunday's schedule was awfully thin... I'm surprised that they didn't spend the people points on, say, printing up several dozen or a hundred copies of each day's schedule and have them out for people to pick up if they wanted one. To say nothing of going to the effort of fitting it onto a single-page grid for each day.
When I picked up my badge, I was given use of a pen to write my name on the badge. How big a space? Well, it was so small I only had room to write CHAZ BADEN -- not CHAZ BOSTON BADEN. Later I was talking to pmbq, our Artist Guest of Honor for animelosangeles, and she said that Ani-Magic (still) used a different piece of art for each flavor of badge -- regular (which was marked "Visitor"), staff, artist, dealer, staff family, and so forth. I guess they're putting their efforts where they think it's important. But it baffles me, let me tell you.
I didn't see much of the convention. (Insert obligatory jab at there not being that much to see.) I was appalled to see that all of the fire exits in the dealers room were blocked by dealers tables. (There were two wide-open exits, but they weren't the ones with "EXIT" signs over them!) The dealers room had a sign, just inside the entrance, saying "Not an exit." The doors opposite them, leading straight out into the outdoors, were what you were supposed to use. Depending on who you talked to. I asked André, the person who was in charge of the dealers room (but I don't know exactly what authority he had -- was he pre-con liaison too?) and André said those signs were left over from load-in, so that dealers with empty carts wouldn't get in the way of the other dealers coming in with full carts. And he said nobody paid attention to the signs. I didn't agree with him, because I'd been watching the door and most of the traffic through the door was one-way -- but some of the staffers did in fact disregard the hand-written signs.
At Anime Expo, they have one-way traffic flows for the dealers room. But during their peak hours, they need that to manage the crowds trying to get in. Ani-Magic didn't have that problem -- but the one-way system remained. As an experiment, on Sunday afternoon I casually took down the signs when I walked into the dealers room and left them on a table. About an hour later, there was a new hand-written "Not an exit" sign by the door! I wondered what could possibly have happened to Ani-Magic's staffers to make them blindly follow an obsolete rule like that; who stomped all over their initiative and problem-solving skills? Sometimes it strikes me that the worst aspects of Anime Expo's management have been scaled down by 98% to be used as a template for this convention...
For promoting animelosangeles, we once again ran a mock con suite -- or a daytime room party, take your pick of how to look at it. We almost didn't. I got word from my roommate Jarod that our room was in the tower, on the second floor, or in other words well off the traffic flow. That would never do. So on Thursday night I didn't pack up the car with my party supplies. Then on Friday evening -- after I'd left the office ready to drive to Lancaster, in fact -- Jarod called me to tell me he'd arranged with four young ladies who were in a prime room to let us use their room during Saturday. Sweet! Cue hurried shopping expedition, back to the office to print some flyers and a trip to Kinko's to cut the quarter-size flyers, back home to load up on the party kit... I got to Lancaster shortly before midnight. Saturday I moved all our party gear and food over to Room 104, and we opened up at 10:00 am. (Memo: next time open at noon.)
We have lots of soda. We had 336 little bottles of water. Two loaves of bread, two kinds of peanut butter and two kinds of jelly. Miniature muffins, chips-ahoy chocolate chip cookies, ritz crackers, Stouffer's macaroni and cheese in the crockpot. Little carrots, a bag of oranges, pretzels, and I think I bought tortilla chips too. Goldfish crackers, some assorted candy... The usual spread, really. Nothing that would really surprise anyone who'd been to a con suite, or to my party room the year before at the Hyatt. But oh, what a difference being on a main traffic avenue did for us! I didn't have my act together to sticker badges as people visited us, but I know it was a lot. We went gave away every single can of soda and all of the water, too; they ate us to the bare walls, almost. We were conveniently located halfway between Main Program (that is, the Pool Deck) and the Dealers Room, and by a remarkable coincidence the hotel's snack bar was right outside our door. (I ducked out for a hot dog and bag of chips from them, for $2.)
Many people came. We gave out a lot of flyers. The ladies occupying the room didn't seem to mind having us take over their room for eight or nine hours. As one of them (Emily?) said, every time she went back to her room there was food there, and she didn't have to pay for it! This was the first convention I took my store-window "Open/Closed" sign to -- don't know if anyone noticed it in the window, but it was handy the next weekend.
People drifted in all day, because they'd heard this was where the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were coming from. And the bottles of water. (Which were marked "courtesy Anime Los Angeles" -- I supposed I could have printed the room number on there, too, but I didn't.) And also the silly ribbons. I delegated out a few styles of ribbons -- I've got to order more "Glomp me!" and "I (heart) Yaoi" ribbons now. I wasn't really on the ball handing out our flyers when people came looking for ribbons; something to remember for next year.
We got lots and lots of goodwill. And a lot of people already knew about us. It wasn't a case of telling people what Animé Los Angeles was -- oh, there were people who'd never heard of us, but there was a lot of buzz around the pool deck (Jim Flynn reported) from people who had a good time last year at Animé Los Angeles 1 and were looking forward to Animé Los Angeles 2. Or were kicking themselves for missing the first year. Or were telling their friends to go, they'll love it.
Of course, this wasn't reflected in pre-regs -- we went to Conjecture the following weekend and got more pre-regs there than we did at Ani-Magic with about twice the attendance. But we already know animé fans procrastinate. I expect that two-thirds of our pre-registrations will show up in January.
Face time is important. Showing the flag is vital. Repetition is the key; the key is repetition; (all together now) repetition is the key. So I'm confident they'll remember us... We have seed money from last year's convention, but we'll probably have it all spent on plane tickets from Tokyo and San Francisco and publicity expenses, and some of it on my credit cards, before January. That's the way the cookie bounces; eventually Animé Los Angeles will have enough of a cushion to get through the dry 11 months until the cash flow starts in earnest.
Animé Los Angeles has a policy of giving free fan tables to any convention (or other non-profit org., such as a club) that tells us in advance they want one, and pays for the memberships of the people who'd man the table. (Reciprocation is not required.) Ani-Magic offered us a table, in the dealers room even. But by the time I checked in with them Saturday, they'd lost track of the table... they didn't have a spare table inside the dealers room, or outside in the artist's alley either. They made do -- they got the hotel to set up an extra table at the end of the hall near Reg and the artists. It was a dark corner, easy to miss, but it was there; we were grateful that they did it. Although it might have made more sense for us to forget the indoor table, and just set up our own table outside of room 104. Arlene Satin, who's scheduling our Live Program (i.e. panels) for Animé Los Angeles, came up on Saturday and sat table all day, kept her ears open for program ideas, and talked to pmbq about some of the things she'd like to do when she joins us in January. After we shut down the room Saturday, we had dinner, came back and hung out, and she joined Jarod and me (and two others of Jarod's gang) sleeping in the room. Sunday we sat the table together. Thanks, Arlene, for helping me in Lancaster! And thanks to Jarod and the rest of the gang for the rooms.
So. That was Ani-Magic 6. The following weekend was Conjecture 4. I'd committed to attending Ani-Magic in 2003 and 2004, and had to miss Conjecture because they were the same weekend. This year they were on consecutive weekends, and I've purchased my Conjecture 5 membership so I'm going next year, even if Ani-Magic picks the same weekend.
Conjecture's a straight-up science fiction convention. It had gotten off to a swell start, when I went to Conjecture 1, and looked like it might be the next big thing. San Diego already had an older, established s.f. convention (ConDor), but Conjecture had some new ideas and definitely some creative party ideas. (laconiv's bid used some of Conjecture's ideas to great success at Con Jose, in fact.) I'd missed two of them, and was looking forward to going back.
colleency had recommended a place, the Divine Desserts Cafe, on Mission Gorge Road east of the M.G./Friars Road junction. (A few blocks east of I-15, if you're trying to figure out where it is.) Delicious sandwiches, great soups, and decadent desserts too. Christian McGuire carpooled down with me after work on Friday (I took a quarter day -- I got about 2 hours of work in) and we headed down to the convention, by way of Divine. I'd called ahead -- you're supposed to call the day before, but I hadn't been that much on the ball. So I just asked them what they had; they had a chocolate mousse cake, a cheesecake, a couple other cakes, and they could do me a mixed fruit tart if I wanted it. I picked the chocolate mousse cake and told them we'd pick it up when we got into town.
The convention was at the Doubletree Club in Mission Valley -- on Hotel Circle, west of the 163. (The other Doubletree is on Hazard Center, east of the 163 I believe.) I had made arrangements with Pearl Newton, the woman running Conjecture's Con Suite, to host the Con Suite Friday night for laconiv and Saturday night for animelosangeles. Well, I thought we were hosting or sponsoring the con suite; I learned at the end of the convention that the con's point of view was that the con suite had closed for the night, and they had sublet the room to me to use for my party, at no charge.
Well... sort of. By being located in the Con Suite's room, it was everyone's first stop, even if they weren't going to go party-hopping. So we got slightly more foot traffic (90 visitors on Saturday night) but went through a LOT more soft drinks. And the room cost issue didn't make a difference for me, because I still had to rent a room to sleep in even though I wasn't using it for my parties. Essentially, we made the convention look good -- we made it look like the con suite had re-opened after dinner. I had accepted that it would be difficult to get our own message across, that the fact that another organization was in the con suite would make no impression on many of the people who came to the room. This is why Christian doesn't like sponsoring con suites; your own message gets diluted, even if you are getting use of the best suite on the floor. (It was just a parlor here -- same size as the regular sleeping rooms. So we didn't benefit there either.) I was doing it as a favor to Pearl, really, so that she and her crew could take the night off. I later learned that the convention had cut back the con suite's hours -- they were going to take the night off anyway, with or without me taking over the room. I thought that the con might appreciate it officially, and mention us at the wrap-up/gripe session; but nope, didn't work out that way. And it wasn't an oversight, we weren't thanked privately either. Oh well, we don't have to do it next year...
The chocolate mousse cake was a hit. We put out flyers from Divine for the benefit of the locals who might go there. On Saturday, I went back to Divine and got an orange roll -- like a jelly roll, but orange-flavored. I knew it wouldn't be quite as popular as the chocolate, but it would be easier to slice. And it would be good, and might last a little longer than the chocolate would. I bought Stouffer's macaroni & cheese, and put it in the crockpot; I bought two loaves of bread, and we had peanut butter and jelly, and we used a lot of the food from the night before. The Friday night party was a Space Cadets party with the little prop boxes all over the room for decorations, plus the sparkly tablecloths and a few inflatable rockets; the Saturday night party had my colorful animé wall scrolls all over the walls, and plain red or tellow plastic tablecloths. I tried to differentiate between the two parties the best I could. (We really need better props for the Space Cadets parties -- bigger, more conspicous, maybe posters or something.)
There was a problem with the room opposite the con suite room's front door -- a mundane was in it. It was supposed to have been rented out to convention people on Thursday, but the mundane in there Wednesday night wanted to stay over Thursday too. I am puzzled as to why the convention didn't move someone in there as soon as that mundane checked out -- it would have been handy for, say, someone who would be spending a lot of time in the con suite. Just for instance. As it was, the hotel got noise complaints, and wanted us to close the door; we ended up shutting the door (with something to keep it ajar) sometime after midnight. We had people in the room at 1:00 am; I had everything packed up and back to the truck by 3:00 am, and we turned out the lights.
At ConDor, Melissa "Suzushi-chan" Kaylor was responsible for a good number of the costumes that made it into the Masquerade, most or all with an animé basis. I thought that a lot of of the same people would be at Conjecture, so I donated a pair of animelosangeles memberships to the masquerade. As it turns out, they went to one of my own staffers; Lisa "Kokuu" Gochnauer wore a hand-painted festival outfit from one of the Final Fantasy games, and was the best animé-related costume in the entire six entries the masquerade had. She had joined us on Saturday to help sit the Animé Los Angeles table, and soak up the Conjecture atmosphere. I wanted her to see what the convention's like, because Animé Los Angeles is in many ways a cross between a typical animé convention and a fan-run science fiction convention. She said she liked the s.f. conventions for a number of reasons.
The Mad Science Fair had three or four entries. One of them was Blars's Macroaturization exhibit -- showing how bigger things are better than the miniaturized version. The 50-pound "Laptop" hard disk drive was the queen of his display. nolly had her Terrarium Amish dolls with their bona-fide First Place Blue Ribbon from the Del Mar fair; a follow-up to the previous year's exhibit, showing that terrarium-raised Amish are actually superior to free-range Amish. Who knew?
The Hero's Torture Device had at its core the naked guts of one of those singing fish. If you got too close it started singing "Take me to the river." And Robert Leone had a study about vampire activity plotted vs. blood glucose levels.
I would have stayed and help tear down, and added more faces and situations to my picture gallery as I tend to do. But learning that the convention didn't actually assign any value to the con suite deal took all my enthusiasm away, and Christian and I headed to the car. I pulled off my ears and we went home.
Then the following weekend was Greg Hemsath's 50th birthday. Greg and Bonnie used to host the "Hugger House" parties -- which could be a scary experience for some when some of the partiers were a little careless with their bathrobes -- until they moved to Arizona. But for such a momentous birthday, Greg wanted to have a party with all his old California friends. Janis and Glen hosted the party, and included some other October birthday kids such as Laura Freas in the mix. library_lynn and I went to the party. I had some Hilton Hhonors points, so I cashed some of them in to get us a free stay at the Hilton Woodland Hills on Oxnard, about a mile and a half from the party, and I drove up in the afternoon in missmea's car. Maria had agreed to loan the car to Shawn, because the poor H-Wing is out of order for a month or so; and they'd be in West Hills the same day. I drove M's car to the party, Lynn drove her car a few hours behind me, and colleency and Shawn met us there for the hand-off. They ended up hanging out for a few hours, having a nice time and a respite from the stresses of the day; Lynn was delighted to be able to stay up really late for a party and not have to worry about a long drive home the same night. We left there a little before 1:00 am, had breakfast at the hotel and lunch on the drive home, and were back at the house by 5:00 pm Sunday. 16 hours is the longest we've ever taken to get home from a party!