Friday, February 25, 2011

the grey line

Last year, three people recorded a bit where they pretended to be from the Bad Rapport podcast. I was confused when one of them was imitating me as I am a semi regular on it and immediately thought it was an attack on me and reacted that way.

Eventually it was explained to me that it was not the case as I have seen for years people on stage making jokes about each other and to him that was along the same line. Though I was still not comfortable with it, I understood. I was considering doing something similar but could not without making it sound bad.

This week, that bit was mentioned and it got me thinking ... Though I know their real names, when on stage or together off stage I see them as their stage name and part of the characters' interaction is their occasional insults which in my mind is not insulting. Though I cowrote one song and have cameos in 5 others and been on stage with them, I still see them as characters and me as someone who appreciates their work but to the performers I was viewed as a character and not a fan.

The last two episodes of my Dementia Radio show featured music from the Marscon convention from the previous 8 years. Listening to the tracks and looking at pictures, I hear the voices of many of the fans like me either in the audience, on stage or in the fan showcase and realize they have become characters as well.

The on stage appearences have ranged from doing a cameo in a song they were in to being a ShoEboX microphone sanitation disposal person to screaming "BALLS!" to shooting an aritst with a Nerf gun to being a guy a female performer will never sleep with to dancing to a song in a Richard Nixon mask.

I know if I did this chart after this year's convention the numbers would be different.

I also realize I need to take myself less seriously around my friends. Last Dec 24 and 25 was the first time in many years I did not get really upset with someone. Too much of the wrong food, alcohol, and disruption of my normal sleep pattern has caused me to get upset at someone at all but one Marscon and someone else upset at the other one. Maybe it is time to break that pattern also.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The 5 that make the other 360 tolerable

In about a week, Marscon 2011 will be upon us. The question I get asked is "Why is this convention so special compared to others?" Thinking about it, I have 12 reasons:

1. The trip - Unlike other conventions where driving alone is common, I have never travelled to Marscon with fewer than 6 other people ranging from 1 to 4 vehicles including one rented since 2005. Why? It makes the 400 mile ride both ways seem a lot shorter and in my opinion, it makes the con start earlier and last later. The ride back is usually filled with playing new music acquired at the con and usually with a stop to drop off one of the passengers whose parents set up food for us. I still find it amazing that ten people last year got out of their cars at a gas station in northern Wisconsin all quoting a sketch from a CD we were listening to and confusing the hell out of the people there.

2. The atmosphere - In listening to the recordings made from the con, there is a level of excitement and enthusiasm that is unmatched anywhere else and it shows in the performers. Almost every year one of the artists burns out their voice from the excitement. I am not even going to try to count the number of times the Carson Ave sketches will be referenced on and off stage this weekend.

3. The opening sketch - Wyngarde, Brian and Luke open the con with a elaborate sketch which is rarely seen at other cons. It has ranged from a talk show to a game show, to vampires, to creating con agent Luke Bauer who got a report of a Madman on the Loose threatening to sing in the karoake room.

4. The regular music artists - I get to see Luke Ski, ShoEboX, Devo Spice, Carrie Dahlby, Rob Balder, Power Salad and the Nick Atoms/Possible Oscar perform at other conventions but Marscon in the only one where they all get together.

5. The special music guests - Over the years Luke Ski has been able to bring artists from all over the US including Ookla the Mok, Paul and Storm, MC Lars, Shaffer the Darklord, Throwing Toasters and this year TV's Kyle. Many of them had Marscon as their first sci-fi convention performance. There is a possibility of a group from Englad making the trip for 2012.

6. The music - With the ability of most performers to record at home, they can create songs together. Marscon gives them the chance to take their individually recorded items and perform them together sometimes for the first and only time. Often artists will do something special for the con like premiere new material or do something different with their older stuff like the one time an individual artist had a 4 member band join him on stage to play a song that has 7 notes and 2 words which got a standing ovation from the audience.

7. The pool gatherings - Many hotels have a pool. However it is different at Marscon as they turn into sing a longs in the hot tub usually before and after the con.

8. Parties - Twin Cities area cons are known for the creative parties and though the 4th of July weekend Convergence is the greatest, the night scene on the 13th floor at Marscon holds its own. There is Karaoke Joes which has not closed until after the sun rises, creatively themed parties, the filk lounge which has live music, our group of people, and the birth of Party Rob Balder who this year is hosting a Saturday might party on a 30 passenger bus complete with live music. There have been legendary nights none topped by a visit from British soldiers who were staying overnight at the hotel before heading off to desert training in Arizona to eventually serve in Iraq/Afganastan.

9. Wrestling - Mr Tuesday takes the performers from the con, uses a video wrestling game to create their characters and has them battle in a 20 person battle royal which gets shown at the con late Saturday night to the drunk crowd which reacts like they do in the WWE. The attitude of the fans against one of the people in the ring actually confused his mother who does not understand that the wrestler that is hated the most is usually one of the most popular ones.

10. Fan Showcase - After people recover from the Saturday night parties, they head to the karoake room late Sunday morning. DJ Particle runs the show where anyone there can perform their song or a cover as long as they either have the music with them or the ability to play. Some of the acts which now have either main stage or party shows started perfroming at this. Last year, I tried to perfrom a song in it last year after getting permission from the music Guests of Honor but my daughter realized what was happening and changed the file from the background music to the song to telling me I should not sing.

11. Smackdown - The traditional end of the music at the con has each performer doing one song that is usually not theirs. It has ranged from covering a classic tune to providing a new way of doing a song that someone else has done.

12. Kahn's - Before people head their seperate ways after the con ends on Sunday, many head to this Mongolian buffet for one last meal together. It is a combination of great food and conversation and last hugs before saying goodbye and before heading back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep before the drive home on Monday. I salute the staff there by ringing their gong with my head on the way out.

While trying to compile this list I came to the realization that since I refer Marscon as my "Christmas" and that I listed 12 things, I could create a song. I neither have the money or ability to get a decent soundtrack or compose lyrics nor have the ability to make it sound good.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Harnessing the madman

After initially making this post, I was informed that it does not meet the standards of this blog and removed it. I decided to reinstate an edited version 6 weeks later.

On May 13, 2002 while my wife was recovering in the hospital, I went to the grocery store to pick up pictures taken at AlCon 3 which happened a few weeks prior. I needed a pick me up as that roll contained a picture of me with Weird Al Yankovic who appeared there. When I got the envelope, it felt very light as the only picture that developed was the one I took of my daughter to make sure the camera worked.

The camera fell out of the pocket of the Hawaiian shirt I was wearing while helping setting up the stage and it came loose. I did snap it back and it took pictures but I did not realize the film in the camera was overexposed until that point.

As I explained in a previous post, I have yet to retake that pic. It usually does not bother me much except when he is on tour and I see other pics people post of themselves with him and especially on the shows I attend where I see others go backstage after the show. It has gotten to the point where I don't even want to spend any more money on his music or see him live. The only reason I saw a show last year was because my daughter asked me to take her.

Right after the school year continued for my daughter in January, she told me she wanted to dance by herself in the school vareity/talent show. My wife and I were against it afraid she was going to embarass herself but looking into my daughter's eyes, I could tell she wanted to do it and reluctantly signed the permission form. Last week, she needed me to rip the song she was using to burn it on a disk for the show. I also had to start my internet radio show late the night before the show needing to drop her off for rehearsal.

Shortly after I signed the permission slip, I heard Weird Al was going to sign copies of his new childrens book "When I Grow Up" in Naperville on the exact same night as the talent show. I knew that in spite of my desire to go there and possibly get a pic with him, I had to be at the school to see my daughter on stage.

Of course some of my friends were going. Carrie was happy that she with her husband Josh was finally going to meet Al and Bill was driving from the Detroit area with Moonbeam and her 5 month old son for the event and then hang out over the weekend.

Last Wednesday morning, I tweeted about how upset I was while being at work one step away from losing it and then how I almost lost it when that exact step happened. Carrie texted me why I was so upset. I was unhappy that I could not go but did not want to tell her since I did not want to get her upset so I said something else.

Then a thought occurred to me about the event. Last October, my daughter wanted to see the band Big Time Rush in person at a bookstore. (If you don't know who they are, imagine the Monkees in this time) After driving an hour, we found out there were wristbands needed to see them and people were lined up outside the store at 10PM the night before to get one to come back at 5 the following day and they were out by 9:30. I wondered if any of them thought about preregistering and when they said no, I took my break early.

Checking the website, I found out it was a ticketed event, called the store directly and found out there were exactly 4 tickets left. They allowed me to put the 4 books on my credit card so they can get tickets not wanting to risk them getting shut out while trying to relay the info to Carrie. After work, I drove to the store to get the books and tickets finding out the event was actually at the college a few blocks away where Al was going to talk about the book and read from it and dropped everything off with Carrie who paid me for them.

On Friday, I met up with them to make plans for Saturday and after grabbing food and telling them the best way to get to the expressway from where we were, headed home with my daughter so she can get ready to be on stage.

I was initially worried about them getting a text that they were lost but they found the place and it was time for the show which my wife after seeing dress rehearsal said was not pretty.

I noticed that via guitar, singing, tap dance and regular dance the song "Dynamite" was listed four times. My daughter was on right in the middle of the show and seeing the kids were sitting up front stage left (sex section), I sat in back on the stage right (Satan) section.

As expected, there were kids who looked like a deer in headlights on stage. A magic act ended up becoming an onstage shoving match between three kids and after someone very slowly played the riffs from Iron Man and Smoke on the Water on a guitar, it was my daughter's turn.

I could not even sit my stomach churning with nerves and when the music started, she seemed a little stiff. Then things kicked in for her and she showed the energy, enthusiasm, and most importantly fearlessness that most of the other acts lacked. I could picture myself as a 10 year old (or even as an adult before a damaged bursa sac, three knee surgeries, and age made that no longer possible for me) dancing like she did had I not been so self conscious of myself back then. I was preparing to complain on line about missing Al to see her perform but instead my comments were reflective of how proud I was of what she was able to do with only minimal help from me. I trusted my daughter to make sure she did well on stage and she did.

The next morning, I noticed pics taken with him from that night including one with a chibi of me. Though I appreciate the effort and thought of it, I did not care for it since it is not the same.

I did what I should do. I used my anger to help others rather than hurt them and to put my family above my personal feelings. I just wished it felt better than it does.

Three months later, one of my friends has an extra backstage pass to see Weird Al in St. Charles. Though it would cause me to miss part of one of my daughter's softball games, I decided to get a ticket not wanting to miss that chance again. Good fortune fell that day as an afternoon thunderstorm made the field unplayable and I could go without missing anything. After the show, I was finally able to replace the pic 3,321 days after the one I took in 2002.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Goal one achieved

While driving to work this morning, I was thinking I was going to lose one pound from Monday since that had been the normal for the past couple of weeks and thinking I have one more week to get below 270 before Marscon like I did in 2009.

When I stepped on the scale and looked at the result, I thought the scale was unbalanced. Then I went to another scale to confirm the 268.7 reading.

Here is a chart of the past three weeks compared to 09:

Unlike 2009, my weight did not increase on Superbowl or Valentines day weekend as both of them in 09 involved eating too much at each of my sister's houses.

Next goal is Marscon 2004 weight of 250 lb. I know it will take longer than the 45 days it took to get from 287.5 to 268.7

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Con scoring

A while ago, I jokingly decided to attach point values to different things seen and experiences had at sci-fi conventions. I decided to create this chart to more or less summarize what has happened over the past 8 years.

The cons with 5+ points have been generally those with my wife and or involving spray can foods. The negative one con was the time a guy got completely pantsed in front of us.

I am not going into any more detail about my scoring system in this post since it is a public one. ;)