Looking Back: Dragon*Con 2008

Topic started by rocketbomber on Aug. 27, 2009. Last post by rocketbomber 4 years, 11 months ago.
Post by rocketbomber (226 posts) See mini bio Level 9
  With the next Dragon*Con (the 23rd) coming up in just a week, I thought I might share some posts written over the past two years about what the con is, and why a blinkered manga and/or anime fan should give a shit.  
 
Who said this was a *holiday* weekend?  I feel like I’m working my ass off.  
 
This being Atlanta, and this being Labor Day (not to be confused with Labour Day, which is Canadian and actually came first) that can only mean
 
Dragon*Con.

Ah yes, a chance to be out and amongst the geeks of my nation, to let my Geek Flag fly, to mercilessly self medicate with alcohol in an attempt to overcome my nascent demophobia

Yesterday I listened to Jake Tarbox give a panel on “How to Read Manga” — which might be more accurately described as art appreciation and an introduction to Japanese visual language, analysis of panel layout and composition, cultural differences in the pictorial depiction of time, space, and sequence, and how the arbitrary separation of art into ‘high’ and ‘low’ forms has largely been discarded by the academic art community… but that’s kind of a hard title to fit into the Pocket Program listing.

Also yesterday: 

  • a voice actor panel where George Lowe (Space Ghost) completely stole the show: an impressive feat with Vic Mignogna and James Hong (and others) on the same stage 
  • a panel discussion and Q&A on the legalities of copyright, fair use, transformative works, and literature (um. well. that is to say: fan fiction)
  • & a two hour stint @ Gibney’s (love that place) drinking Guinness self medicating and taking a break away from the crowds, while also trying to finish up the weekly (and monthly) manga charts.
 
speaking of: The manga charts should post on time, if I can find a freakin’ wifi connection at the con. Between four hotels and the Peachtree Center Mall you’d figure someone would be fronting some bandwidth, but no — “No internet for you, Fanboy!” (if only Gibney’s had free wifi…)
 
Back to it. Vic has an hour-long solo Q&A coming up if I can get to the hotel by 11:30. (Well, he’ll likely still hold the panel even if I can’t make it… but y’all know what I mean…)

##

I made it to the International Ballroom at the Hyatt downtown -- a little late -- but in time to catch at least two-thirds of Vic’s Q&A, where he answered the same 50 questions he has to answer at all the cons.

It was someone’s birthday (Amanda? I seem to remember Amanda) so the 200 or so people in attendance all got to sing Happy Birthday --led by Vic. I bet that is now a happy memory, hopefully preserved via i-phone or camcorder or the like. Vic also sang again at the very end of the session, rolling right into a karaoke version of his song “Nothing I Won’t Give” when the video and music played but for whatever reason the vocal dropped out.

Vic Mignogna is a composer and musician, if you didn’t know. If I might be permitted some fanboy gushing — he’s pretty damn good, too. At least, “Nothing I Won’t Give” has real emotional impact when paired with clips from FMA, the anime that inspired it.

##

I swapped hats following Vic’s session, switching over to my Serious Blogger persona and also changing venues, to attend a panel on Creative Commons and Legal issues for Podcasters. (Please ignore for a moment that despite repeated promises, I’m not actually a podcaster yet.)

Among the five panelists there were two regularly-updating and (one assumes) moderately famous podcasters, two musicians, two lawyers, a law professor, and a radio executive — yeah, that’s more than 5 but some folks are just that multi-talented — and they managed to cover every question I had in the first 5 minutes, then went on to discuss pertinent issues for the next hour. I could post my notes, but this being a podcast panel, of course there’s a podcast — well, this year’s recordings likely won’t be up for a while but the same panel discussed the same topic last year.

If you wanted to see a list of everything folks were talking about (into microphones) then you might want to check out the 2007 index and bookmark the rss feed for 2008

Following Podcasting I stuck with the AV track — not that Dragon*Con has an AV track but they present such a big buffet that you can pretty much program your own con from the extended offerings —

...and let me riff on that thought for a bit before getting back to how much of a loser fanboy I am:

##

As I noted last year, one of the big, big draws of Dragon Con is that they do everything — if you’re a fan, they’ve got your fandom. It’s not just a matter of “Oh we have both Star Wars & Star Trek” either. I mean everything. If elves and space pirates just aren’t your thing, there are panels on robotics, astronomy, legal issues & the internet, art, literature, YA novels — heck, they run a four-day writer’s workshop that runs parallel to the con every year. (it costs extra, but it’s there.) The con schedule runs 40-some pages [edit: in 2009 it runs about 100 pages]; there’s no way one person could do it all, let alone talk about it all: if you’re interested you should check out the pdf yourself: [link to the upcoming 2009 schedule .pdf]

The telling thing is they’ve been doing this for 22 years, drawing tens of thousands of people each year, and they only recently got around to adding an Anime & Manga programming track. (Oh, sure, they’ve always had the viewing rooms — I remember anime at the 2nd Dragon*con — but this is the first year there is a full schedule and dedicated space given over to otaku panels)

For me, it’s a long slog. I can get downtown in about 40 minutes (incl. the time it takes to link up with the mass transit system to take the train in) but travel time is incidental. Navigating the crowds (esp. on Saturday), switching buildings five or six times a day because the con is spread over four downtown hotels (adjacent hotels, but still), finding time to eat, taking time to breathe…

Incidentally, I found that a pair of sunglasses and an MP3 player turned up to a suitable volume help with my phobia of discomfort in crowds almost as well as the alcohol. Taken together it’s almost perfect — and my consumption of $7 pints of Guinness (but only $5.75 at Gibney’s) was considerably reduced yesterday compared to Friday (& last year). Perhaps it’s just a matter of psychological distance — a way to pull myself back and away from the mob & throng.

I’m sure if I were in costume (in a way, not there myself at all) there would be a similar effect, but I can count the number of awesome anime characters I’d be willing to dress up as who also share my stylish, handsome goatee on no hands. (I’m not shaving for cosplay. Without whiskers, I look like that blue muppet who was always stuck with Grover as his waiter.) (No, I’m not doing that either, even if if you can find someone willing to wear the Grover suit)

Anyway: it is possible to attend Dragon*Con, nominally a sci-fi and fantasy convention, without doing anything fantasy or fannish all weekend. Other than rubbing elbows with Oddly Dressed Folk in the lobby, you might as well be attending science or cultural seminars at a college campus all weekend.

Of course that’s no fun.

##

Following Vic & the podcast panel, I trucked it back to the basement of the Hyatt for the “Dub Your Own Anime” panel.

Before you discount this as just an amateur effort in the vein of fandubs, let me point you to Coastal Studios [flash site — as an alt here’s the wikipedia entry] and their founder, Scott Houle. Scott loaded up a spare Mac G4, a Pro Tools LE workstation, mics, script, stands, and all the assorted accoutrement and basically transported a sound booth to set up at a con panel. (He’s done this before, at Otakon and others)

There were so many attendees (starting at about 50 and growing to 75 or more as more folks kept filtering in) that Scott took a round-robin approach — having volunteers step up to the mic to record a line or two each. Besides being hilarious (both for the efforts of those brave enough to try it and for the source material — a scene in a bar that ends with a drinking contest, from the anime Miami Guns — complete with drunken characters & bad accents) it was also a very informative session. Instead of just talking about the process, folks got to see it in action, they could work (however briefly) with an actual ADR director, and the results were there for everyone to see (and hear) on the screen.

In fact, Scott promised to post the final ‘product’ when he gets back to Wilmington, after some editing and clean up (and getting the licensees permission): It’s not uploaded yet but the fan-dubbed scene should be found at http://coastal-studios.com/dragoncondub/ in about a week. 
 
[edit 2009:  not just posted but posted to YouTube] 
    
     
 I took the opportunity after the panel (and after everyone left) to sit through an interview Scott did with DragonConTV and then to ask him some pretty hard-core tech questions, discuss the nuts and bolts of the industry, where the American Anime Industry is headed, and also to get his opinion on SCAD’s Sound Design Degree Programs (his take, mostly favourable: “They certainly invested in the right equipment”) and to ask his advice (three words: Final Cut Pro)

I’m not a journalist, so I won’t post the ‘interview’ because it wasn’t an interview. (Hopefully DragonConTV will end up uploading their interview to iTunes or it’ll make the D*C 2008 highlights DVD) Still, I really enjoyed the conversation and I’d Like To Take This Opportunity To Thank Scott. Again. Very Very Much.
 
[edit: here, have some fun, but they didn't post the serious interviews to their YouTube channel.]  

I know I was acting like a otaku fanboy loser but I was really into it which isn’t a defense but there ya go.

Talking with Scott meant I completely missed the graphic novel panel over on the YA fiction track, which would have been informative and certainly on-topic and eminently more suitable for posting to this blog, but screw it. It’s my $90 and I’ll act like a fan when I feel like it.

Scott also hosted a panel early that evening on “the Anime Racket”, where he covered a lot of the same ground as the DCTV interview. (some of the points Scott Houle and various voice actors made in this panel and others I’m going to discuss in a follow-up post)

After that in the same room, there was a Toonami Panel with a lot, and I mean *a lot* of video clips and a lot of discussion (Nicolas Anderson of Tsubascon in WV was the sole panelist/moderator/emcee but he was doing a fine job getting the audience involved while simultaneously keeping everyone more-or-less in line and on topic).

(And after that I trundled home. Alas. One of these years I might muster enough scratch to get a hotel room and actually attend the con, rather than just faking it as a day-tripper.)        
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