Niko (Level 8)

Back from recording over three hours of @CineGeek webcasts. Now to get to @MTAC work... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
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( Crossposted from NikoScream)

This it it! The big show. The one I’ve waited all year for. Just took me a week an a half to get around to it. MTAC Odyssey.

MTAC Odyssey, or (swi)MTAC, is the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention’s 10th annual main event. It was held this past weekend, April 30-May 2, at the Sheraton Music City hotel in Nashville, TN. This year’s theme was space

We made a point this year to bring guests back from every past MTAC, and we actually did it (and some). We even scored our first Japanese band – Quaff (Because everybody knows Peelander Z isn’t from Japan. They’re from another planet.)

This was my busiest con ever. All the jogging I’ve been missing out on because of work was more than made up for. I’m seriously positive I lost enough weight over the weekend to make my swimming trunks almost slide off.

My responsibilities took a step up by assuming the role of senior director of public relations. The up side is that I get to be more involved in putting on this event that I love and have a blast doing. The down side is that I have less time to hang out with my friends. Even those who are staff with me, I may not see for hours on end thanks to being consumed with random tasks.

I spent a lot of time in our new Media Suite, a room for press and public relations staff to conduct interviews and work in peace and quiet. It’s probably my favorite addition to the con, which is funny because it’s one most congoers won’t appreciate or even use, nor should  they. I got to hear several guest interviews, which was pretty entertaining to hear 10 feet from me while I worked on panels and updated Twitter

Surprisingly, I actually found time to sit on and even run panels and events. I’ve grown to enjoy hosting panels, even more so than attending. Not only does hosting feed my ego, but it forces me to do something other than simply sitting there and being a passive participant.

I almost view How to Run a Con and Anime Clubs 101 as a responsibility in my public/community relations role, particularly not that I have stuff to say after being con staff for a few years and having ran an anime club. The Ramen Eating Contest is kind of an inheritance I wanted to run for a year, although honestly I just like coming up with random secret ingredients (this year was cake).

My true panel joy is my tokusatsu panel, this year titled Tokusatsu Heroes: It’s Henshin Time! People really freaking liked it, even more so than last year. That blew my socks off and helped make the con for me. We hosted a variety of clips, info slides, group discussion, toy showoffs and trivia giveaways. Despite working until the last minute for the panel content, it went off with little problems (save an annoying congoer I’ve since determined to be Kamen Rider Decade, but they happen). Thanks to my fellow panelists/awesome friends Thanatos and Zasalamel for helping out.

Every April, MTAC consumes more and more of my life. I am fortunate in this economy to have gotten a job recently, but getting a job two weeks out from the con, killing over half of my prep time internet access for the day made those two weeks a real pain. A lot of the work I wanted to do – wanted to learn how to do – ended up getting relegated to others.

That weekend was one heck of an odyssey. We had our fair share of problems, with several delays, cancellations and last-minute changes. A lot of this came from new people in charge of departments and sections (myself included), and while they are very capable (myself maybe included), sometimes you don’t know just what you don’t know until the time comes for you to know it (myself definitely included).

And sometimes, some things are really last-minute, spur of the moment issues, like sudden reschedules and cancellations that were otherwise set at the beginning of the con.

And then it rained…

On Saturday, May 1 and Sunday, May 2, Nashville and its surrounding counties were hit with an amount of rain. This lead to the flooding of the Cumberland River in what became the worst disaster to hit the area in decades, if not centuries.  Homes and buildings became consumed with water. Roads became rushing rivers. Historic locales became swamps. Over $1.5 billion in damages was done to Music City, and more priceless were the 20+ lives lost.

MTAC was lucky to be based in a hotel on a  fairly high hill, so we were safe from flooding (save for a few leaky ceiling tiles). Some were caught on the way to and from the con though. This natural disaster kept many attendees from coming to the con Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday. By Sunday, we began to learn the extent of the situation beyond simple rain. Outdoor events we couldn’t place inside were canceled, but we kept the con going. Eventually though, many people became trapped at the con and unable to go home.

The Sheraton hotel was gracious enough to offer congoers a low room rate (even lower than the con rate) to stay Sunday night, and we kept the Main Events room going until sunrise with videos and karaoke to entertain those who could not leave. Inadvertently, the con known as “3 Days of Anime” became four.

Despite the weather and the scheduling issues, I think this year was a really good year. While it may not have appeared so to the average congoer, the behind-the-scenes went fairly smoothly compared to past years and the staff worked like a good team. We just need to have the public persona better match the inner workings, and I believe we will for MTAC 2011, or…

“Are you upset little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don’t worry…I’m here. The flood waters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow, and I will always be here to take care of you.”
-Charlie Brown to Snoopy

For more info about the flood and how to help, check out these great and informative Nashvillest links.


And now time for dinner.

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It's a travesty that I'm not seeing any Nekki Basara in here.
Honorable mention: best non-anime opening:
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(Originally posted on NikoScream)

My first convention of a new decade. Speaking of a decade, Ohayocon celebrated its 10th anniversary with this convention. It’s been my third year attending. Oddly, while I went up to the convention in Columbus, Ohio expecting it to be covered with snow like last year, it was pretty bare but still cold, and the snow storm hit Tennessee while I was gone. Even without the snow, it was enjoyable.

I didn’t really get to do much of the con stuff. I attended very few events. However, I got to see plenty of people, including OSMcast (which has Aaron Dismuke’s phone number as 209-676-5463).

Of the few panels I did attend, I enjoyed the UC Gundam panel the most. It was a two-hour block dedicated to all Gundam series in the Universal Timeline. There was a large panel of hosts discussing aspects of each series, with a Powerpoint presentation going in the background that was a supplement instead of a script to read from (something I need to learn to better do).

(Someone was recording this panel, but after asking one of the panelists, he wasn’t with them. If someone finds video of the panel online, please let me know. I’d love to link to it.)

This year, Super Sentai and Tokusatsu was one two-hour panel, as opposed to two separate panels like last year. It was mostly full of hosts and (probably more so) attendees fangasming about their favorite series, and for the first hour, it proved difficult for the panelists to take control of the panel with the attendees talking so much among themselves and playing with everyone’s toys. Once they started asking the attendees questions though, everyone paid attention for their chance to speak up.

(Given that I maxed out an hour at my own toku panel with just mostly just info and few clips, I’m looking into extending the length of my toku panel at MTAC Odyssey to an hour and a half to two hours.)

There was a birthday celebration panel on Friday night that promised cake. There was no cake. One would expect some of the seasoned staff talking about the convention through the years, but there wasn’t much of that. The problem was probably that this panel was scheduled immediately after opening ceremonies, so if that ran late (or even ended on time), the primary people one would expect for such a panel would be busy there. I hear more showed up after I left about half an hour into it.

Most impressive about the panels though were panel surveys right outside. Upon leaving the Gundam panel, there was a table with a staffer asking me to fill out a survey on what I thought of the panel. It’s a neat idea, and it reminds me of the survey boxes in the back of the animation track room at Dragon*Con. Having gophers man the tables though would prove resource heavy, but getting feedback on specific panels is useful in knowing what to keep and what to let go.

One neat thing about Ohayocon’s location is that while most of the con fits fairly well in the Hyatt Regency Hotel, it has expanded into the attached Greater Columbus Convention Center which has an incredible amount of room to grow. Some of the convention center was used last year as part of the hotel’s meeting space was under renovation, but they needed both places this year.

I’ve yet to see an official number, but the convention had easily over 10,000 attendees. There was still plenty of room to move around though. The convention center mostly housed panels, autographs, Q&As and cosplay registration.  The Q&A area was a neat little inset area in the main hall, visible to any passers-by.

And of course there was the attached food court, which actually has decently-priced food (with no sales tax).

The only issue is that all this area is a good walk from the hotel which housed registration, gaming, more panels, dealers and main events. Given, no one used to larger conventions like Dragon*Con should be complaining.

The guests were often the typical voice actors, industry vets and artists. The one that probably stood out the most was internet phenomenon and musician Jonathon Coulton, who performed two concerts at the convention (I didn’t see either). Carl Horn of Dark Horse was also at the convention, whose panels I missed as I seem to always do at AWA (need to force someone to give me Hellsing 10).

As usual, I went to promote MTAC. One of these days, I’ll go to a con again that I’m not working for or at. Our booth was not at the best location, in a little wing off to the side past the path people would take to the food court. Thankfully for our setup, our MTAC Odyssey anime music video and of course our wonderful Conkitty, (and an elevator behind us) we did get a decent amount of traffic. Word from our registration department is that we got quite a few pre-registrations over the weekend, so I guess we did our job.

It was a generally fun con. Yet again, I just didn’t do much con stuff, but I still enjoyed myself.

(For more photos, visit my Flickr account)

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Going to my first convention of the year in a couple of weeks with Ohayocon in Columbus, OH.
Tentatively, my schedule is:
  • Ohayocon - Columbus, OH - January
  • ConNooga  - Chattanooga, TN - February
  • MidSouthCon  - Memphis, TN - March
  • Momocon - Atlanta, GA - March
  • MTAC - Nashville, TN - April (I work this convention)
  • Dragon*Con - Atlanta, GA - September
  • AWA - Atlanta, GA - September
  • GMX - Nashville, TN - October (I work this convention)
I've got a busy year.
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(originally posted at NikoScream)

James Franco was a special guest on an episode of 30 Rock this past Thursday. He was, of course, playing himself. Mr. Green Goblin Jr. and his manager hire Jane Krakowski’s character Jenna to be Franco’s public girlfriend. This is all an attempt to hide Franco’s true relationship with Kumiko-ton – a Japanese body pillow with an anime cover.

I don’t know if the real James Franco has any interest in the anime fandom his body pillow (called a dakimakura in Japanese) supposedly spawns from, but his fictional self’s unhealthy attachment and attraction towards it is pretty funny.

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