Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Tourist in an Unknown Land: Seven Hours at NYCC (Part 3)

               When we last left off, our hero had made it into the Sean Astin panel and finally found the friends he had managed to swap contact info with...

              I have some trouble describing panels. I am by nature an active sort of writer...when I do things, I do a lot of things very quickly and then report them in a long, rambling wall of text. It's crazy, it's kinetic, and while it looks like wandering aimlessly and doing random things, I am to some degree building something. But panels are for the most part a sedate thing. You can report on what was said, but unless you're making a big announcement or something, reading about someone sitting in on panels gets kinda boring. But there were a lot of interesting things going on, so I'm gonna try to talk about those.

              I finally got into the Sean Astin panel only for the guy ahead of me to park his ass right in the empty seat next to my friends. I managed to find a seat on the other side of them and sat down for what I was sure was going to be described as "very definitely a panel". My friends and I chatted for a bit-- they had some very specific questions they wanted to ask (all of them loaded), I had nothing I really wanted to do or say-- and then, slowly, Sean Astin and his two moderators made their way to the stage. The moderators were guys from a satellite radio program*, and they tended to dominate a little more than the soft-spoken Astin. 

           But as Astin found his momentum, he began to take more and more of the focus. Not in the same way Morrison held a room, but in a more congenial way. It wasn't his court, it was more of a chat with a group of people he really, really wanted to tell stuff to. He was quieter. Gentler. And then, somehow, we got on a tangent about Discworld, and things got a little surreal.

       Sean Astin, as it turns out, is a huge Terry Pratchett fan**. So much so that his favorite role he's played thus far is Twoflower, the mostly oblivious tourist from The Colour of Magic. So much so that he actually invited an audience member with a Kindle onstage so that Astin could read the prologue of The Colour of Magic. And so much so that he decided his panel was going to have a special surprise guest-- Terry Pratchett himself. In fact, before we got to the Q&A, the panel turned into a Terry Pratchett panel moderated by Sean Astin moderated by two guys***. Also, the audience member with the Kindle got to stay up on stage, which gave me slight pangs of envy. The Q&A session went about the same way every session goes...people asked Astin about his roles (hanging halfway off an active volcano wearing prosthetic feet while carrying Elijah Wood was unsurprisingly a frightening moment), about what he was doing next (doing a lot of work on various projects), and one case where a guy flat-out asked him if he could make a cameo in an indie film****. Finally, the panel ended and I decided I was going to wander off again. 

     Thankfully, this time I was able to wander with friends, so we made our way around the halls. They went off to meet a friend from Temple, and I started heading in the direction of the theater for the next panel. After a few more sweeps of the various floors to look for people I knew, I headed back towards the larger theatre structure so I could see the last event I wanted to for the night. 

     There was a sort of "main theatre" sponsored by a company I won't name here***** that I'd found out early in the day in my crawls across the convention's floors had a panel from some of my favorite artist/writers, Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick. Having seen the footage of them from such places as Dragon*Con and SDCC, I knew I shouldn't pass up the opportunity to watch them in action. So about an hour before their panel started in the theatre, I broke off from my friends and went to go stand in line. For about an hour, I stood in line, surrounded by cosplayers, the only entertainment my trusty music player and the panel going on about Silent Hill: Revelation, a film for which I had zero interest. Strangely enough, I gained interest from the trailer, but had none from the panel******. 

      Finally, we were herded into the large auditorium, and after they'd made sure the whole thing was filled, the lights dimmed and...the set turned into a 70s-style talk show?!

      Yes, apparently the good people behind the show The Venture Brothers had decided to do their panel in the style of a show called "Let's All Smoking!", with voice actors Paul Boocock and Michael Sinterniklaas as "guests" and Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick (the creative duo behind most of the show) as "hosts". The "hosts" pretended they had no idea what TVB even was, and managed to keep up the pretense until just before the Q&A session. And yes, they did actually smoke during the event. Little E-cigs that were too long and apparently felt all weird, but it still completed the effect. And it's a rare panel where the people running it are actually more impressive than the product they bring to show off, but in this case, they were. So much. 

     The AstroBase Go! panel had the general aesthetic of theatre, but a very approachable type of theatre. One where everyone's in on the joke. Hammer and Publick were welcoming and very congenial, and most of the jokes they made at anyone's expense were either about themselves or an apparently very funny in-joke about Deborah Harry from Blondie*******. The Q&A session continued the tone, with fans asking Doc Hammer for hugs ("It must be like getting hugged by a fence rail dressed like Dracula"), asking the panel about their favorite Halloween costumes, and relating an anecdote about meeting Doc Hammer in an American Apparel store (Which lead to an unprintable back-and-forth session. It was hilarious, and probably caught on film somewhere. Go look for it). By the time the panel had ended, I actually started to come down, surprised that yes, the panel had given me a high of some kind.

            But finally, the charms of NYCC had begun to fade for me. I was beat, dead tired, hadn't found anyone else, and had missed the last few panels my friends were attending. So, my coat heavy on my shoulders and once again the sounds of "House Jam" by Gang Gang Dance (which is now my official "end titles" music) pumping into my ears through my tiny earphones, I trudged out of the building and out into the streets, following the brightly colored costumed people back towards the train station and home. It may not have been the best con I've gone to, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

What I learned:
- Prosthetic Hobbit feet have got a lot more comfortable since 2001
- An hour's lead time may be just enough time to get into the bigger panels and get a good seat. Barely.
- Terry Pratchett speaks very quietly these days.
- Understand that you will not be able to see everything, but you will be able to see most things
- I should really be buying my books at these things, as they have a lot of new and promising-looking titles
- "House Jam" is still the best damn end credits music, I mean, seriously, but I will allow "Midnight City" by M83 as a close second. 

*The moderators for the panels were all from satellite radio. Those that did have moderators.
**He also appeared to think Terry Pratchett was little-known. It must be that he and I travel in wildly different circles or something.
***Who, while energetic, I tried to tune out because they tended to think a ton of references to his earlier career in such movies as Goonies and Rudy were what the crowd needed.
****One of my friends later reported that he waited with the guy to talk about Astin and film appearances. Nothing ever came of it. I don't see this as a slight on Astin's part. I just think he was busy.
*****They already get more than enough press, thank you. Actually...I think they even are the press...
******I think...I think there might be something wrong with me. Isn't this the inverse effect?
*******There was also one fan who got up to ask two questions, one "in character" that was misconstrued as something about "jews" that got a good response. But it was good-natured ribbing, it seemed. 

- A guest gives her impressions of NYCC, as she was there for longer than I was^
- Horror Show by Greg Kihn
- The Annual Geek Rage/Strange Library Halloween Special
- And much, much, much more


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