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Inside Gen Con: Day 2

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The second day wasn't as overwhelming. Now I know the lay of the land (Thursday is traditionally reconnaissance day) I could dive in with confidence on Friday and explore. I actually started my day outside of the Convention Center, though, and had lunch in the Arts Garden with Il Toubadore, the Indianapolis-based Klingon band. No really, this is a four piece band that is in full Klingon (they are a race from Star Trek, just in case you didn't know) garb and they even performed a few songs in the Klingon language. (Yes, some people actually look the small amount of Klingon used in Star Trek and made a full language that you can learn to speak, and apparently sing.) These guys were hugely talented and were probably my favorite thing I saw all day. They had a huge range, playing everything from Klingon songs to a cover of Smoke on the Water, in which the mandolin played all the guitar solos. I also heard the singer sing in at least four different languages. These guys aren't just some fans who can't play dressing up for the fun of it, these are highly skilled musicians that just happened to be dressed up like Klingons.

Il Troubadore Klingon Music Project is a talented bunch of people that happen to dress up and sing in Klingon.
  • Il Troubadore Klingon Music Project is a talented bunch of people that happen to dress up and sing in Klingon.

Apparently, they really are a band that typically plays for belly-dancers. They sort of fell into the Klingon bit by accident when one of their belly dancers asked them to theme up for a convention she was going to and the response was enormous. So now they travel around to several conventions and are having even more success with Klingon music than with belly dancing (and they weren't doing bad with belly dancing). They are hugely entertaining to watch. They are funny and engage well with the audience. I highly recommend seeing them if you have the chance.

After lunch, I decided it was time to be brave and head to anime alley. I don't know a lot about anime outside the basics: Japanese cartoons with overly-large eyed women and lots of high-pitched shouting. I've had a couple friends really into anime, but I guess I never spent enough time with them to really learn about the culture.  Now, Gen Con is a gaming convention and while there is some definite cross-over of gamers and anime fans, I wasn't expecting a whole lot out of the anime show. Even with my low expectations, though, I've got to say it was disappointing. There were only about ten tables outside some ballrooms in the Westin and half of them were completely empty. There were maybe two professional-level artists there and then a couple tables with sketches that honestly didn't even look as good as some things I'd seen in my high school friends' notebooks. And I was surprised there was no Bronie stuff at all. I talked with my current Bronie/anime fan friend after and it sounds like the real draw for anime at Gen Con, if there is any at all, is actually the films they show as part of the Film Fest and a couple celebrity voice actors they have come in, who I missed.

After that experience, I decided I had enough observing for a while and it was time to make some art myself. Miniatures are a huge sub-culture of geek. These are guys that spend hours (and HOURS) of their life painting very small representations of characters that are then used in various roleplaying games as stand-ins on maps and things to show what is happening in the game. The detail some people go to is incredible. And the cost. I overheard a guy say he had already spent $300 on miniature models and was going to be spending more today. To celebrate this hobby, there was a free Paint and Take area where they gave you a miniature and some paint and let you just go to town. I had never painted a miniature before and it sounded like fun to me. It was actually pretty popular when I went by and so I had to put my name down and they told me it would be an hour wait for a spot at the table. I decided that was alright so I went and wandered the exhibit hall some more and found some more cool art while I waited. One artist caught my eye because after row upon row of sketches and painting, this guy had photography. Somewhat reminiscent to me of Terry Borders, this guy has decided to mix his great photography skills with a few toys and a sense of humor to come up with some great piece. His name was Chris Nitz and I was smiling the whole time I flipped through his print book.

CHRIS NITZ
  • Chris Nitz
Peep Death with Dragon - CHRIS NITZ
  • Chris Nitz
  • Peep Death with Dragon
CHRIS NITZ
  • Chris Nitz

After some more strolling through the exhibit hall, I headed back to Paint and Take and only had to wait a little while longer up there before my name was called. There were several miniature models to choose from, but I picked up one that looked interesting to me and was pointed to an empty chair ready with a small Styrofoam plate, a cup of water, a handful of brushes and bottles of paint everywhere. Now, I started off confident. This will be fun and won't even take that long. It's just an inch and a half high figure, right? Well, it didn't take me long to discover how hard it is to get the paint thin enough it didn't glop and wasn't a lightly tinted wash. Paint kept ending up in all the wrong places and I kept trying to touch things up, but it got all smeary. It was a little frustrating (still fun overall, honestly) and I didn't feel too bad until I looked at the guy next to me. He was working on a soldier and he had shading and teeny tiny outlining. It was amazing. It looks like an actual, real-life thing that had accidentally been shrunk. I just sort of had a ghouly-thing (I wasn't entirely sure what it was once I started painting it) that had paint slopped on it, looking like an elementary school art project. So, sorry to say the lesson was I need a bunch more practice.

Please don't make fun of my awful painting skills.
  • Please don't make fun of my awful painting skills.

Two hours later (yea, it took long than I thought) I declared her done and headed back to the film fest to see Motivational Growth, billed as a feature-length movie about a depressed buy that starts talking with a very large growth of mold in his bathroom after a suicide attempt.  This movie had a lot of great things about it: high quality actors, beautiful cinematography, an impressive animatronic puppet and lots of fake blood and other bodily fluids (maybe too much, guys).  The part that was lacking for me in this film was a point. There are long monologues from the main character and the rather creepy mold and plenty of delusions. Time is not always linear and you can never be sure what happened and what didn't and who is real. There were plenty of points that felt like there was supposed to be depth of meaning and metaphor, but it all felt like loose ends. After the movie, there was a Q+A with the writer/director/editor and he seemed like a great guy and he made clear that he had definitely put in some deep symbolism and such. But it was pretty deep, honestly, and I couldn't find it as a casual observer under all muck of that apartment. In the end, I didn't know whether the guy was dead or alive, if the mold was evil or not and I felt so drug in different directions throughout the film, I didn't even care at the end. Maybe they needed to hand out a study guide before the movie so I would know what to look for, but as-is, I've got to say it was difficult to understand.

My last event of the day was one I had definitely been looking forward to: Dorks in Dungeons. This is an improve comedy group in from New Hampshire that plays through a Dungeons and Dragons-like game live, on-stage, making it up as they go with audience participation. There was a game master, four characters and four members that got to play everything else. It's pretty much Whose Line is it Anyway with a quest. Last night, the crew was a postal service and their quest was to deliver a noise complaint from Garyhawk to the Keytar the Dragon who was rocking too hard. So, for two hours, these guys had to battle everything from pudding and fluffy animals to breakdancing dragons before they could finally succeed. It was a fairly hilarious night and while they played up some D&D themes because they knew they were at Gen Con, they show would be enjoyable for anyone, no matter their familiarity with role playing games.

Whew! Yesterday was a full day and Saturday is the busiest day of Gen Con. But today is also costume contest day! Follow me on Twitter for live updates of what everyone is wearing this year.

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