Glass City Con VI Report

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Just in case anyone is curious about my experience at last weekend’s Glass City Con VI, this is my convention report. I’ve deliberately excluded some details, but they’re inconsequential recollections and digressions.

Navigated construction and parked on the second floor of the Tampa airport’s economy parking garage, specifically in orange section, row 12. The Delta flight to Detroit was full, so I had a window seat with two passengers beside me, but I was still able to stow my roller suitcase in the overhead compartment easily. I took along a three-quarters-empty suitcase and after security stuck my small laptop bag into the suitcase. Upon arriving in Detroit and taking the shuttle to the Hertz rental lot I was pleased to be able to speak to a live representative behind a counter. Even more, I was pleased this year to have the Hertz establishment actually recognize my reservation, so the lady handed over the keys and said that the rental was already paid for. The rental was a Kia Rio, the coup version of my hatchback, even in the same silver color as my own car. Immediately I realized that the Google Maps directions that I’d printed told me to turn “northwest.” I had no idea which direction northwest was, so I turned left then left again at the traffic light. An on-ramp to I-94 seemed familiar, but it wasn’t what my printed directions told me, so I circled back around, drove back past the Hertz lot then discovered I was properly following my printed directions. However, where the directions told me to turn, police cars had blocked off. After another few u-turns, I finally realized that 1-94 would connect me to I-275 and take me to Ohio. Except I first took I-94 West instead of East, so I had to exit the highway and turn around yet again. When I finally got near Toledo I discovered too late that I was on the highway’s left lane and the exit 11 I was looking for was on the righthand side, so I passed the exit and had to cross a suspension bridge before I had a chance to turn around and come back. Then, passing by the convention center & Park Hotel, I searched for a fast food restaurant besides McDonalds. I literally drove for miles without seeing a single option. Eventually, after passing by the Toledo Zoo, I turned around. Yet somehow I ended up taking a different route because I came across a Burger King that I hadn’t passed by moments before. After getting myself dinner, I continued up the road because I could see downtown Toledo on the horizon. I pulled into the convention center underground parking garage then entered the hotel and checked in successfully. I was assigned room 1317. As soon as I entered my room, I was assaulted by a heat wave. For unknown reason, the AC was turned off. Shortly later I would discover that the hotel’s air conditioning was broken down. After settling in momentarily, I wandered over to the convention center to alert the staff that I’d arrived. To my surprise, the main lobby of the Toledo Convention Center was largely cordoned off for renovation. I stuck my head into Con Ops where I was informed that Amanda & Dave would be my “handlers” for the duration of the two-day con. I was a bit taken aback because I’ve never previously been deemed a significant enough guest to earn my own staff liaison. But perhaps because I didn’t get around to eating any meals last year, this year the staff was very conscious of keeping me healthy.

The following morning my convention began with my “Subtle Cultural Cues in Anime” presentation at 10:30. The audience seemed initially small, but as I got started the room filled to capacity. I concluded after 50 minutes, leaving Charles Dunbar time to set up his presentation on “Folk Culture in Modern Japan.” Mr. Dunbar, who I’m guessing may be in his early 30s, is an anthropology major and evidently a professional anime convention circuit panel presenter. When I explained that his visit to Southern Japan had been crowd-funded, my initial private thought was, “You sly bastard! How do I get people to pay me to go on vacation in Japan?” Dunbar is a bit less staid in his presentation demeanor than I. His presentation was engaging and informative. Following that panel, I popped into the dealers’ room. The large room was split with commercial dealers on one side and fan artists on the opposite. The offerings skewed heavily toward contemporary import figures, but for a smaller contemporary convention, I saw nothing to complain about. I noticed that the only dealer with a substantial video selection had two loosely-filled 30-count boxes of live-action Media Blasters releases at $5 each, so I initially purchased copies of Latitude Zero, Gamera the Brave, Oneechanbara BD/DVD combo, and Oneechanbara Vortex for myself. After dropping off the purchases in my hotel room, and passing by hotel employees distributing box fans to guest rooms in order to combat the non-functional air conditioning, I sat in on the second half of the kimono panel then sat through Charles Dunbar’s panel on Hayao Miyazaki. On one hand, this presentation seemed more thoughtful, organized, and credible than last year’s Miyazaki panel, but I distinctly frowned inwardly twice during the presentation. Charles quoted Miyazaki stating, “If I was to make a film about insects, I’d tell it through the insect’s point of view.” I was disappointed that Dunbar didn’t mention that Miyazaki had actually done precisely that with his short film Mizugumo Monmon. Later in the presentation, Dunbar played the Tonari no Totoro Satsuki & Totoro at the bus stop sequence as an illustration of Miyazaki’s directorial use of illustration to impart story. I was frustrated because Dunbar narrated the sequence by explaining how the O-Totoro was pleased that the umbrella kept the rain off of his head. I’ve long thought the sequence was distinctly clear that what the O-Totoro liked was actually the sound of the water drops hitting the canvas umbrella. Following that panel, I sat in on the later half of the “Autism in the Convention” roundtable discussion. I absolutely don’t mean any disregard toward the presenter, but I did think that the “panel” was far more a personal discussion of the presenter’s own autistic idiosyncrasies largely unrelated to anime fandom or convention policy.

Following that presentation, I gave my “Golden Age of Anime” presentation that drew a standing-room only attendance. Having not previously done a real-time run-through of the presentation, I ended earlier than expected, at 45 minutes, so I spent ten minutes engaged in Q&A. To my dismay, my mind almost completely blanked on which anime from last season I’d watched. An attendee asked me what recent anime I thought evoked golden age characteristics. Nothing came to mind. Naturally, some time later I recollected that Bakuon would have been a fine response because it’s stylistically unlike 80’s anime, but it’s a motorcycle anime, thereby connecting it thematically to golden era titles including Pelican Club Culture, Bari Bari Densetsu, Bobby ni Kubittake, Samuraider, Hidari no O’Clock, and Shounen Bosozoku (technically, not all of which are 80’s anime).

From my panel, I went back to the hotel’s “Green Room” to participate in the convention’s “guest meet & greet dinner,” and get myself a meal for the day. Amy Howard Wilson signaled me to sit next to her, so I collected a plate of food and sat across from the Harp Twins until Amanda & David came in. Since I was finished with my plate and the crowded table was full, I swapped my place at the table with David so he could eat his dinner. Con chair Chris Zasada wandered by and chatted with me briefly. Then I noticed empty space at the table to my right, so I moved over and sat next to YouTube game journalist “SwankyBox.” We spoke casually. Then David Wilson asked me if I intended to participate in the “Anime Old Fogies” panel. I explained that this year only his name was on the panel description, so I’d planned to attend the panel but only co-chair the panel if he wanted me. David heartily invited me to co-chair the discussion, so David & Amy Wilson and I walked together over to the presentation room. The 90-minute “back in my day” panel pulled, I’d guess, an audience of about 15. Somewhat to my surprise, halfway through the panel when David brought up the topic of Carl Macek, not a single member of the panel audience was familiar with the name. So we explained in detail who the late Mr. Macek was and the controversy that surrounded him.

Charles Dunbar’ presentation about afterlife mythology in Japanese culture followed on our heels, so I stayed in the room to hear that presentation. By now, evidently, Dunbar had caught a second wind, so his energy was noticeably more demonstrative while presenting than my own manner tends to be. But again, the presentation was well-organized and informative. I then dropped off my laptop in the hotel room then returned for “Anime Jeopardy.” I respect the devotion and effort of the young woman running the event, but despite having a 90-minute timeslot, she had only one round of trivia questions prepared. She selected three participants by picking the winners of an impromptu “Anime name that tune” competition. No one fared especially well, but I was the second of three audience members eventually selected to participate in the “Jeopardy” round. My odds of winning the champion bragging rights were slim from the outset because two of the question categories were “Name the Pokemon” and “Voice Actors” (of which four of five were American dub voice actors). Furthermore, the gentleman to my right was almost weirdly serious about his participation, so even though I knew the answers to a majority of the questions, he had his hand raised before I even began to react. Roughly twenty minutes after it had begun, the Anime Jeopardy concluded, so I walked upstairs to catch the second half of the “Introduction to Reverse Harem Anime” panel. As could be expected, presenter Kristina Crofut’s presentation frequently shifted from introduction or evaluation into her personal sentiments about particular titles and characters, but I can imagine that the presentation probably would still have been useful to novice fans that haven’t explored much of the reverse harem subgenre. I remained in the room for the “Waifuism and You” presentation. Perhaps because the panel was conducted at 11pm I was mistaken to expect a formal, academic examination. The panel had four presenters, yet only one significantly spoke or contributed. The hour-long presentation was essentially a sort of real-time, face-to-face “dude bro” 4-Chan discussion of “waifuism,” focusing heavily on memes and incredulous reactions to the phenomenon. My rational mind was particularly disappointed that the panelists didn’t seem to even be aware of the concept’s first reference in AzuDai then popularization by Lucky Star. However, I can’t say that the presentation wasn’t amusing.

The next morning at 11 I attended AJ Arends’ presentation on living in Japan. Following that presentation, I went downstairs to the dealers’ room and confirmed my suspicion that the dealer table with a large selection of video was actually con chair Chris Zasada’s booth. I pulled two duplicate copies of The Mysterians, two more copies of Latitude Zero, and a copy of 009-1: End of the Beginning. To my vast surprise, when I handed Chris money for the discs, he presented me with a new copy of the first domestic Dennou Coil BD as a gift. Then I wandered over to the far side of the room where the “fan flea market” had just begun. From a fan attendee, I purchased a 7” plush Domo-kun wearing a pink teddy bear costume, still brand new, for $5. Then I wandered over to the convention’s green room to partake of the provided lunch. I sat with Amanda & David and ate two cheeseburgers. Then I went back to convention hall for the “Anime Physics & Anatomy Fails” presentation. Once again, the panel was essentially a live-action 4-Chan image thread narrated by the presenter. But the panel was well-attended and garnered a roaring positive response.

At 2:30pm I presented my “Based on What?” presentation. I was slightly disappointed that one attendee entered the room and asked if I’d be showing examples of anime he’d never heard of. I answered that my aim was to introduce the audience to obscure and unusual anime titles, so if the audience hadn’t heard of any of the titles I introduced, I’d succeeded. The attendee frowned and left the room, presumably in search of more familiar material. Perhaps due to the lateness of the hour, this presentation had a tiny audience – only about three people plus a convention staff observer. After the panel, the observer applauded the panel despite the slim attendance. I honestly thanked her for both her critique and her effort to chaperone the presentation room. I moved my gear to another room on the opposite side of the convention center, sitting through the final few minutes of the Teen Titans fandom panel before setting up for my “Advertising Anime II” presentation. The room had two staff observers but no audience until five-past when a couple from the prior panel entered. Roughly three-quarters of the way through my presentation, a third attendee joined the audience. Then a fire alarm rang, so we shuffled out of the room and downstairs until the staff informed us of a false alarm, so we didn’t need to evacuate the building. However, by that time everyone mutually agreed to conclude the convention for the day. So I returned to the room to pack up my laptop. Then I seemingly missed the closing ceremony so just sat in for the post-con feedback session.

The general consensus was that the preparation and behind-the-scenes had been hectic and challenging, but the two-day convention had executed smoothly. Attendance was up to 1,600 but hadn’t met the staff’s hopes. And attendance had drastically dwindled from Saturday to Sunday. Reportedly all of the guests had been pleasant and cordial – no problems or divas – and the attendee response to the guests had been positive. I asked at Con Ops whether I could or was needed to provide any breakdown assistance. Then I asked again in the large video game gallery. Both times I was told “no,” so I went back to my hotel room for the evening.

On Monday, Chris Zasada swung by the hotel at 2:30 to pick me up. He aimed the car toward Ann Arbor, Michigan, and began talking as he drove. After a while, I noticed that at a fork in the highway, Chris didn’t take the right-hand exit toward Ann Arbor. Several miles later Chris turned the car around. Neither of us spoke about the navigation error, as it really wasn’t worth mentioning. In Ann Arbor, Chris first took me to Pizza Warehouse where I ordered a personal 7” sized Chicago deep-dish house special pizza. My pizza plus Coke and tip would have totaled close to $20. I offered to pay for myself, but Chris insisted that I was still a Glass City Convention guest, so he paid the lunch bill. Then he walked me through a large basement arcade. Although I didn’t play anything, just being in a video game arcade again was a bit neat. We stopped for mixed fruit & gummi bear slushies. This time, I paid for my own. We stuck our heads into a record shop. Chris spied two used Outlaw Star DVDs and a Psychic Academy DVD before I saw them and purchased the three discs for $21. We stopped in at the Vault of Midnight comic book store. The shop layout felt a bit odd to me, but the store ultimately impressed me with its heavy focus on independent, alternative, and even local comic art. I purchased Island issue 7 that I’d missed a few months back, four comics from the quarter boxes, a damaged Planetes volume 1 manga from Dark Horse discounted to $5.99, and the first issue of a local artist comic book titled “Punch to Kill.” We stopped in the Dawn Treader book store, which is tremendously neat because it’s a bookstore that identically resembles the sort of dusty, unkempt bookstores that always appear in fantasy movies & TV shows. For a dollar I purchased “The Book of Elaborations: Essays by Oscar Mandel,” as a buffer against sitting bored in the Detroit airport for hours the following day. We also browsed a used video game shop but didn’t purchase anything.

On the way back, Chris made a detour by his friend Austin’s house. So the three of us spent some time chatting, largely about our shared anxieties about potential civil unrest at the nearby Cleveland Republican National Convention. Chris dropped me off at the hotel. The following day I successfully managed to navigate my way back to the Detroit airport, drop off the rental car, and return home to sweltering Florida. My flight back was not filled, so I had and entire row of three seats to myself.

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