Otakon, 2013 Review: Full (And Finally)!

This is long overdue, but unfortunately I just don’t really have anything to tell you all.  Otakon 2013 was pleasant, if not overwhelming.  As you know my last convention review, Tekkoshocon Pittsburgh 2012, was relatively negative.  Otakon didn’t have any real serious issues to bring up.

Everything went fairly smoothly, the only real issues were a few line-building issues around the panels based in the attached Hotel; which the Otakon people really had no control over.  All of the line issues were architectural, too; the wall where the line had to be formed had a double door every ten feet so the line was broken up twelve times before it wrapped around the corner.

Other than that, though, the only real problem was that there were over 30,000 people traipsing about so it was crowded from time to time in the hallways.  And once again the biggest choke point was the corridor between the convention center and the hotel where a few panels were being held.

Highlights were the Voice Actors After Dark panel, of course, and the Cosplay Burlesque was actually pretty cool to watch, too.  The VA After Dark panel was comprised of Todd Haberkorn, Mike McFarland, Jad Saxton (pronounced like Jade, a recurring joke was calling her something akin to Chad), Cristina Vee, and Kyle Hebert.  This was the second time we’ve seen Todd Haberkorn and he was entertaining, and a little creepy, as usual.  Mike McFarland was very entertaining as Seth MacFarlane since he did several very good impressions of the man’s characters (Peter, Stewie, and Brian Griffin).  Cristina Vee and Jad Saxton were both a little too cutesy and seemed out of their element for much of the dirty humor contained within the panel, but they got a few good lines nonetheless.  Kyle Hebert walked in half way through the panel and jumped right into things as if he’d been there the whole time; definitely a natural to the dirty mind platform the panel required.

But the real star of the VA After Dark show was the Sign Language guy, Semaj, who just made the whole experience twice as fun as it already was.  He was a spectacular sport, especially considering the dirty things they made him sign.

Another highlight was Crispin Freeman’s Mythology in Anime panel.  On his website he lists a few similar types of panels he runs and I think, honestly, you could just have a Crispin Mythcon and enjoy it.  Just Crispin Freeman lecturing for two days straight; he’s entertaining, informative, and he puts complex philosophical points in a very simple context that even laymen can understand.  Trust me, I understood it all, so a regular person should be fine.

That hair is mythological enough.

That hair is mythological enough.

We saw Vic Mignogna, pleasant as always although he can get a little preachy at times and some of the things he says makes it seem like he lives in a bubble, but he’s still a very nice man and is probably one of the most fan-dedicated Voice Actors I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to (I’m really not sure how he has time to record anything, he’s at just about every con I’ve ever been to).  His main drawback, more so than the preachiness, is that he refuses to share the location of his fountain of youth.

Look at him...he's in his fifties!

Seriously!  Look at him…he’s in his fifties!

I’m still not sure entirely how, but we managed to miss every one of Maile Flanagan’s panels, if you can believe it.  Just bad timing on our parts.

And what seems to be a regular motif with any of my convention reviews…

Our favorite place to eat while in Baltimore was Mount Vernon Pizza.  It was right down the street from our hotel, the staff was friendly, and the food was really good.  Some pretty good coupon deals, too.

~RCS

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Tekkoshocon X Review: Final Day!

-Sunday-

The final day of Tekkoshocon X was finally upon us.  After early days and late nights we had finally come upon the last day of the con.  There were fun times, as with any year at Tekko, but this year we were surprised by a number of a rather detrimental issues.

As discussed, the night before we’d talked about not going.  We decided that we’d give the benefit of the doubt and talk about it again on Sunday.  Sunday arrived and we had a full agenda.

10:00 – Working in the Industry with Todd Haberkorn and Travis Willingham

12:30 – either the Equestria Girls (okay, so maybe I’m a Brony) or Voice Acting 101 with Todd Haberkorn

4:00 – Tekkoshocon Feedback Panel *The most important thing of the day!*

Well, okay so that really wasn’t much of a schedule after all.  Two panels and the feedback panel.  9:00 came around and Operation: Get Out Of Bed was a complete failure.  We decided that we were still angry at Tekko, in general, and figured by the time we got there we’d just end up standing in line anyway.  Why stand in line with sore feet and be sleepy, when you can stay in bed an extra hour?

Needless to say, the alarms were re-set and before we knew it, 11:00 was upon us…and 11:15…and 11:30.  Finally we decided the most important thing of the day was no longer the Feedback Panel, but seeing our friend Kim Samson one last time since Tekko is the only time we get to see her in person (she lives in Florida).  In case you aren’t aware, Kim is the wonderful artist who handled my…err…drew the anthropomorphic penis to the right.

Anywho we got just motivated enough to make it there by 12:45 and meandered our way to the Dealer’s Room to see Kim.  We talked for a while, bought some more stuff from Kim and her accomplice at Moon Bunny Imports, scared the poor guy who ran the booth with the naked hentai girl body pillow covers.  We were looking through them and chattering about them and he comes flying around the corner with a worried look, “Are you guys over 18?”

We confirmed we were and he breathed a sigh of relief, “Sorry about that, Staff keeps sending incognito staffers to test me and make sure I’m carding my adult sales and checking the ages of anyone who looks at these.  It’s constant.”

I’m not sure if that’s good business practice or harassment, I suppose it’s a good thing to enforce, but he seemed pretty stressed out as if it was every 10 minutes they were going after him.  Either that or he was crazy and paranoid.  He was nice and funny regardless of his paranoia, though.

My fiancé offered to let me buy one of the nudie body pillows.  I told her I wanted the prettiest one.

“Which one’s that?” she asked.

“The one I’m holding.”  Her gaze went to my shoulder, down the length of my arm, and to my hand…which was on her hip.  She giggled and hugged me, then we continued through the dealer’s room and back out into the convention proper.

Gentlemen…feel free to take notes, if this gets too complicated for you.

We decided we didn’t want to roam about for the next three hours rehashing the Wyndham, so we went to The Sharp Edge, again, for a bit of BBQ wing breakfastage and some Pudding.  Our hearts were shattered when they told us we’d eaten all the pudding, there was no more.

So…after a small round of weeping into the menus…we had some Strawberry Cheesecake.  It was also delicious…highly recommend the downtown Sharp Edge, if you hadn’t noticed.  I have to say…the food from Sharp Edge was the best part of Tekko.  But even if Tekko had been as awesome as it was the past few years, that probably still would have been true.  So…good…want…pudding!!

Ahem, anyway.

We roamed about Pittsburgh and took in the sights, sounds, and smells (Penn Avenue still smells like hobo semen).  Now is where I give you the barrage of pictures we took…

Yes, that is an awesome Minivan replica of the Ecto 1!

The one Cosplay that I actually took a picture of. I'm horrible with cosplay picture-taking!!

 

This is one of the creepy, but surprisingly comfortable, Eyeball benches at the park at Penn and 7th in Pittsburgh. I remember when they built that park!

This is the cutest cosplayer ever!

Travis Willingham looks so much taller than us. I was also trying too hard not to fanboy-out that my smile was an epic failure. That's a new one..."I was so excited, I forgot to smile."

We roamed our way to the Fort Pitt museum, but decided we were too lazy to go in, so we watched a Boy Scout Troop take down the giant American Flag and fold it up.  It was interesting to see how a flag that is folded in a moderate wind (with twenty people assisting, that’s how!).

We meandered back to the convention around 3:30 and decided…who cares about the Feedback panel?  We’d probably just have to wait in line for it, too.  We decided we won’t be back next year, unless some drastic changes are announced.

Had we made it to the Feedback panel, this would have been our barrage of proposals:

1. Staff should know, before-hand, what equipment they are tech savvy enough to run.  This should be the only equipment permitted for use.  If no one knows how to connect a DVD player to a projector, than Panelists should not be allowed to base their entire panel off the usage of a DVD player.  Staff can’t trust the panelist to know what they’re doing.

2. The schedule should be cemented on Day 1.  Aside from last-minute cancellations or such, there shouldn’t be any need to change the Sunday schedule on Friday afternoon.  Likewise, regardless of changes…Panelists should immediately be told of the correct time of their panels.  All staff should always have updated schedules.  Telling a panelist that their panel is 30 minutes after it was supposed to start is not acceptable.

3. Panelists should be required to show up for their panels a minimum of 15 minutes before it starts to weed out tech and logistics problems.  The 30-minute window between panels is a good idea, but it was executed poorly.  This gives them 15 minutes to plan out their stuff, test it, and get a Tech Staffer to help them out if something goes terribly awry.

4. Lines…lines…LINES!  So many problems and complaints I heard about, and suffered through myself, had to do with lines.  Both from con-goers and from staffers.  Staffers complained that it was hard to keep lines formed properly, con-goers complained that lines were unruly and blocked doors and hallways and got convoluted.  This ties into #3’s solution: The 30 minute window between panels.  There is no need, with a 30-minute buffer, to wait until the top of the hour to let people into the room.  Ten minutes ’till for the major things (like the ones in the Sterling rooms this year), five minutes ’till for the minor panels (like the ones in Brigade, Rivers, etc.).  This gives plenty of time to get into the room, get situated, and see what kind of room is left or how many people aren’t getting in.  That way nobody waits until other panels have already started rolling to find out they aren’t getting in the room, and they can leave and go to a minor panel before it starts up if they didn’t make it into the major one.  This also lessens the amount of time you have people standing around in line; which means people will sit on the floor less, which makes the lines easier to manage and access control easier to coordinate.  It also means people will be loud in the hallways for shorter periods of time.

5. Premium Badges.  For the Main Events and Dealer’s Room it worked to have two separate lines for the regular badges and the premium badges, because they had so much room.  But for the other panels last year’s basic call for Premium badgers right before entrance worked out well in my experience.  Have the Premiumers (I almost called us Premies, but thought better of it) stand in line the everyone else, then have them create a second line just before entering.  Two lines make it too hard to manage, but one line that bursts suddenly is easy to handle.  Also…all panels should have this feature, not just autographs and main events.  People don’t pay an extra $30 to not make it into a guest panel (like a voice actor panel) or a popular event panel (like anything yaoi or porn related, as we con-goers are dirty-minded people in general).

Ultimately, while I know others had more problems with Staffers than my fiancé and I did, I found most of the staffers to be generally positive.  They had no idea what the hell they were doing!  But for the most part they were friendly in the process of their jobs.  There were a handful of staffers that needed a good foot in the ass, but most of them were just poorly equipped and prepared for their jobs.

From a military view-point it made me think of when Deppers and ROTC cadets were tasked with handling things.  A regular Lance Corporal in active duty service could walk in and slap a hammock between two trees and be asleep in it before the cadets got it out of the box.

The cadets would always have those wide-eyed, “What am I going to do?” kind of looks when they realize just how difficult the actual job is.  Yes handling a mass of a hundred people waiting in line to get into a room big enough for 80 is difficult, but there are better ways to do it than just slap the rookie on the back and say, “Good luck, pal.”  And that seemed to be what was happening, a lot, as far as staff problems went.

Something needs to be improved with the sign-in and badge retrieval process, too, but I only experience it once every year so I have no real wisdom to help improve it.  I know that badge retrieval has always been a weak point for Tekko and it hasn’t gotten any better, but sadly I didn’t spend any time standing around by the entrance trying to figure out a better way to do it better.

 

All in all, as I said before, we won’t be back next year as plans go now.  We got cheated out of our money for the Premium Badges, which we only used twice the whole weekend.  And that was a pretty big kick in the nuts to us; to spend the extra money and go the extra mile, only to feel sullied and betrayed by the Tekko crew.  It was like going to your favorite uncle’s house for some ice-cream and instead of Vanilla Moose Tracks, he sodomizes you and takes your dog then makes you go to the store to pick him up some treats for his new dog.

In the end we just felt sore and used.  And puppyless.

~RCS

Tekkoshocon X Review: Day 3

-Saturday-

We started the day off with the 12:30 panel about Gaia Online because my fiancé is a hardcore player of that online game.  Then we grabbed a bite to eat by hitting Sharp Edge, again.  Still delicious pudding, by the way.

When we came back we jumped in line for the Brief History of Sailor Moon panel.  And it was certainly brief, because the women running the panel showed up twenty minutes late for their own panel, then claimed they still had ten minutes before the panel started.

By this point in time we’d been waiting in line for 45 minutes, and there were people in front of us, too, that had been waiting even longer.

The panelists claimed that staff had told them their panel started at 3:30, not 3:00.  That would have been fine and dandy if one of the panel runners hadn’t been a staff member herself.  They also didn’t really know what the hell they were talking about, truth be told.

Afterward we hit up another panel by Travis Willingham, proving his hilariousness is not a mere fluke, but it is genuine.

After that we stuck around for the War Stories of the Conventions panel with Kevin McKeever.  Kevin is a VP for Marketing for the Robotech franchise (via Harmony Gold).  He handles the Robotech info at numerous conventions, domestic and abroad.  He’s also a really funny guy; we went to this panel last year and found it quite amusing.  Last year he even had two, a regular and one and an adults-only panel.  Both were very amusing.

Needless to say we enjoyed Kevin’s panel again this year, although it was a bit tamer than the year before; but that might be because we’d already heard a few of his good stories and were rehashing them.  It was still a fun time, though.

We then went back to Sharp Edge for dinner and some more pudding (I decided the whole ‘getting back into shape’ thing was suspended for the duration of the convention, BTW).

When we came back we decided to find a comfy spot and I let my fiancé have some nappy-time for a couple of hours.  We were planning on attending the Voice Actors After Dark panel with Travis and another actor, Todd Haberkorn at 12:30.

We decided to go up early, about 11:25, to get a spot in line close to the front.  Boy were we disappointed to learn that we should have been napping in line!  We were already pretty far back in the line when we showed up over an hour ahead of schedule.

We banked on our fancy, expensive Premium Badges, though.  No problem, we’ll just hop at the back of the premium badge line.  We asked the staffer handling the lines if he was running a PB line, and if so…where it was.

In return we got a glare and a gruff, “I’m not doing that!”

The extra $60 bucks I paid for these two badges suggests you are, or are supposed to.  Needless to say we quietly went to the back of the line, decided that we were fed up with the way staff had been running convention this year.  They’d really screwed us over this year.  The past few years there had been administrative hiccups, but that’s to be expected in something this size.  This year, though, it seemed like they were legitimately trying to screw us over (and succeeding at it, too).

We talked about not coming next year and figured we’d make a decision on Sunday after we attended the Feedback Panel to voice our concerns, and basically bitch out the convention staff.

Needless to say we were in the middle-back of the room when we were finally let into the panel.  Todd Haberkorn was alone, because something had come up and Travis was indisposed of.  There was talk of duct tape and a rope, but no definitive cause was given.

"I'm sorry, Travis can't come out and play right now...he's, urm, tied up at the moment."

Needless to say Todd was another interesting chap, very funny; I really liked his panel.  He ran it differently than most, in that he ran it from the flip of a coin.

Normally you raise your hand, when the panelist calls on you, you ask them a question.  But Todd decided to do it this way: You raise your hand, he calls on you…you call heads or tails and he flips a coin.  If you guess right, you get to ask him a question; if you guess wrong, he asks you a question, instead.  All in all it was pretty hilarious panel.

We were planning on seeing another panel after that, but when we came out there was already a line for it and, again, no premium badge benefits.  So we left and officially decided we won’t be attending next year.  We felt cheated, jilted, and betrayed, after being loyal customers and attendees, to be treated like that.  Especially when you consider the folks who have enough money to buy a Premium Badge, are the kind of folks who have enough money to go to a different convention.

Needless to say, we ended on a happy note with Todd Haberkorn’s panel, but it was a happy note to an overall souring composition.

Friday gets us to the last day of the convention.  And ultimately my final summary of the convention.  You also get to find out if we changed our minds and whether or not we’ll be there, again next year.

Also there will be pictures in the final post.

~RCS

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