Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Media Expo Trip 3

So, immediately after Renee's panel was our panel (actually, it was lunch, but immediately after lunch was our panel), which was entitled "Using Comedy To Humanize Characters and Hook Listeners in Audio Fiction."  For more than a decade now, I've been going to conventions (granted, mostly movie, TV, and comic book shows) and thinking, "Wow, I'd like to be up there on a panel.  Someday, I'll be sitting there, with a placard with my name on it in front of me, and even more importantly, I'LL be the one with one of those fancy water pitchers filled with an unending supply of ice water.  Someday, Jennifer, someday."

Well . . .
The truth is, that water thing was pretty effin' cool.  Though I'm not sure I should have stuffed the pitcher and glasses in my backpack when the panel was over.  I'm still getting the hang of these things.

I joked later that there were STILL people lining up not to come to our panel, but it was a bit disappointing to see so few folks in the audience.  I guess I should be grateful anybody showed up at all, since our subject matter was among the few panels not about monetizing and buzz-words and using new social media to snag millions of hits to your website and the like.  Plus, at the same time as our panel was the Free iPads Handed Out By Supermodel Nymphomaniac With Two Vaginas, so that was unfortunate.

I kid, but Abbie prepared some good questions, and Renee had an audio/visual presentation complete with "Seinfeld" clips, and nobody saw either of them.

So, the last panel of the last day (before the Keynote, which I am told is a proper noun now), was our panel on Comedy.  The panel itself went well, I think.  If we made the audience laugh, we succeeded at least partially, and who knows, if the room had been full, it might have been harder to please people, and if half of them had left, it would've been a bit of a mood-dampener.  As it stands, there were a few walkouts, which mathematically, probably accounted for a third of the total attendees (Abbie singled one of them out, making the point that any time you try to be funny, somebody's bound to get offended).
Abbie (wisely) organized a rehearsal session with us the day before, so we could plan out what we'd say when, but I felt bad for Marshal, Renee, and Bryan because they ended up hearing our shtick twice.  When the panel was just about to start, and nobody we didn't know had shown up, a middle-aged man in a blue shirt came in and sat down near the back.  I told Lauren, "That guy is my audience.  If I can make him laugh, then I have succeeded."

I think I took it a bit too far, at least when I asked him in the middle of the panel, if he'd be my dad.

Here's a photo of our audience:
That's only partially a joke.  Even so, when the panel was over, the man who'd invited Abbie to the conference approached us, seemingly pleased, and asked us if we'd do it again.  To my surprise, nobody said, "Hell no, New Media Expo guy!"

After that was a keynote speech, which I'll admit I was keen to attend.  They were doing a taping of a TV show called "Inventing the Future with Robert Tercek," and one of his guests was Chris Hardwicke, who impressed me at the Superman panel at last year's Comic-Con.

But this taping/presentation/keynote was a bit hollow, a lot of flash with almost no substance.  I know a couple of the guys (we all sat together at a table) absolutely hated the hour we wasted there, and I have to admit that, since there were other things we could have been recording, we'd have been better off running back to Abbie's room and recording something for Marshal's show, or the story Big prepared, or played Twister or something.

Even so, because the mics Bryan and I had used the night before recording Scribe's story were not on, we had to take a few minutes and re-do those.  Then we recorded a sketch I wrote for an upcoming show, which the people in the room really seemed to like (so I will probably write more), and all of us did a bit of after-story chat for the Dunesteef episode we'd recorded on Monday night.

One thing that I forgot to mention was that there was a company called Gunnar that had a booth selling something called "digital performance eyewear," which are basically sunglasses that you wear when in front of a computer monitor.  They protect your eyes from glare and eyestrain and chiggers, and have cool yellow lenses that remind me of Bono at his most pretentious. 

What's more, if you were a speaker at the Expo, you got a free pair!  All of us signed our lives away for a pair of these glasses, and even though they were out of the men's style when I finally got some, Lauren said the women's made me look like Gary Oldman, so I grabbed me one of those.  I like Gary Oldman.

I don't know if these glasses are the greatest thing since bread slices, but it was a blast wearing them and pretending we were someone else--  Okay, maybe I was the only person who pretended he was someone else while wearing them, but I thought they were neat.
After that, I drove Marshal to the airport while everyone else walked the mile or so to the Imperial Palace hotel and casino, where we had been told there was karaoke.  Unfortunately, Abbie started getting really sick, so she stayed home, and as far as I know, she's lying there still, moaning and ill, as alone as Rish Outfield on a national holiday.

For his job, Marshal had to go to Ontario, Canada, on the same day as his panel, so that shows the level of dedication he carries around with him.  Marshal is a really nice guy, soft-spoken and patient.  I wished I could do something to help his podcast get more listeners, but I can barely get an episode of my own out every month.

I dropped him off and headed back to the Strip, looking for the Imperial Palace (which I actually saw for a split-second while driving, but couldn't find on foot).  I met the others, who had been wandering around trying to find the building, but no one would give them directions unless they bought something or Lauren took her top off, and when she finally did, the directions were no good.

She bought something, I mean.  Not the other thing.

Everybody except me has a phone that will do everything from correct your spelling to check your prostate, so eventually we followed a map to where the Imperial Palace resides (it is back behind a bunch of inaccessible buildings under renovation, and--I kid you not--has absolutely no signs on the outdoor entrance telling you that's where you are.

What's worse, there was no karaoke there, and Big had invited people to come hang out with us there, never realizing we'd be over an hour late, and that the karaoke bar we were meeting at did not exist.*  We remembered the boob lady telling us about the karaoke at Ellis "Old Las Vegas" Island, so we loaded into my car and went there.  Where we should have gone to begin with, since a) they actually had karaoke, and b) their building was also visible to people who do not speak Elvish.

I parked there, and a drunk dude came up to me and said, "That's a great car, man.  I lost my virginity in that car!"  I had no idea what was the appropriate response to that, so I congratulated him and told him I'd make sure to wipe down the seats. 

Apparently, that was the correct answer.

The Ellis Island is a little casino with a buffet, a bar, and a small alcove where people smoke and drink and sing karaoke, in that order.  I love karaoke, having apparently drawn that ability out of a hat at the end of my last life, having left "ability to keep a job" and "ability to talk to girls" in the hat.  There was a tiny stage, and no less than six wide-screen monitors with lyrics on them about the place, as well as a couple of extra TVs that only played old music videos with the sound cut off.  There weren't a lot of open--no wait, let me rephrase.  There were no open seats when we got there, so we stood around for a few minutes until people left, and some of us sat, eventually overtaking three tables when they got vacated.

The DJ at the Ellis Island had a lot of rules, which he repeated twice each that I heard.  One of them was no cursing, and no drinking on stage.  Despite an odor so foul it reminded me of a terminal cancer patient's catheter bag, apparently the Ellis Island is a family establishment.  This DJ was also, in my experience, the least-happy with his job person I've ever seen doing it.  In most situations, the DJ will sing his own songs, laugh, or help out with backing vocals, and in every situation, will applaud the people who did well and try to amp up whoever's about to go next.  This guy was straight out of a Charles Addams drawing, moping about up there, reiterating the many inane rules, and anxiously chucking the song of the next person up if they took longer than ten seconds to get on the stage.  He even did so with me, at one point, despite the fact that our entire group was sitting close enough to hear him call my name, which somebody would have noticed.

The guy was so sour, I was actually amused when he'd announce "Jody just gave me a dollar tip, ladies and gentlemen.  Those have been few and far between, by the way," or some such passive-aggressive swipe.  I could see somebody making even that entertaining, if they said, "Wow, a dollar?  A whole dollar?  Now little Angie can finally get her teeth fixed!" or some such thing, but this guy just made it sound like a drudgery to play the songs for us, and when someone gave him a tip, it was like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.
Renee Chambliss & L. Scribe Harris & Glasses

Oh, and the people who got up to sing were no slouches.  Even in karaoke contests, I don't know that I've heard such a consistently-great group of amateur singers.  Usually you'll get two or three really terrible and/or drunk guys who absolutely destroy a song to bolster your confidence, and rarely some chick who belts out Ella Fitzgerald like a professional and makes you go, "Boy, I'd hate to be the one who follows her."  But on this night, our little group could barely hold its own, let alone dominate in the singing department.

Which doesn't really matter, I realize.  You go there to sing and have a good time (which we did), not to lay down a demo track for your new album.  And I'd say Renee, Scribe, Big and I all had fun sitting around the table, singing along with whatever was being done from the stage, even without waiting for our own song to play.  Bryan, I'm not so sure.  The guy's musical taste seems limited to stuff they don't play in chain-smoking, alcoholic family karaoke bars, and I got the feeling that he didn't get as excited as the rest of us when Wham! starting asking us to wake them up before we went-went.
But he also could have been extremely tired, I don't know.

I got up and sang "Your Song" by Elton John and "Oh Sherrie" by Steve Perry, Big sang "Rio" by Duran Duran (which he insisted was not because we had been at the Rio that day), Scribe sang "Foolish Games" by Jewel and a Rihanna song I didn't know but liked a lot more without Rihanna singing it, and Renee sang "La Bamba" by Los Lobos.  Bryan sang "Rainbow Connection" by Kermit D. Frog.

Oh wait, that part was a dream.  Bryan didn't get up and sing.
I enjoyed the evening, and everybody was pretty exhausted when we went back to the Rio.  We said our goodbyes, and Big and I went back to my aunt's house to sleep.

We slept in a while the next morning, then got up and let my aunt feed us before heading home.  We did look for a charger for Big's tablet, but no one seemed to carry them (even Best Buy), but figured we could chat for a while.  I was not looking forward to the below-freezing-at-the-warmest-point-in-the-day weather waiting for us, and must have subconsciously been thinking of this when I pulled us into a one-way road heading the wrong way trying to get onto the freeway.

Unfortunately, no one was hurt, and we backed up and turned around, getting back in the right direction in no time.  Which doesn't mean Big won't bring it up again and again until the end of time.  But hey, I'd do the same for him.  That's what friends are for, Dionne Warwick.
The drive homeward was less productive, in that we couldn't record anything for the show.  My guess is, that when we get together again to record, neither of us will want to talk about things the way we would have when stuck in the car for seven hours.

It was a nice couple of days, in my estimation.  We had fun, got to meet some great folks, and were left with very little to complain about (though I have tried in these pages).  I appreciate Abbie for inviting us, Big for being willing to rearrange his crazy schedule so we could go, and my mom for swapping cars with me, especially since the heater in my Mazda P.O.S.-3 has been going out.

I'm not saying we should jump at the opportunity to go to another of these, but things could've gone worse . . . and they didn't.

How's that for a silver lining?

Rish "Mister Brightside" Outfield

*Luckily, the same amount of people showed up to meet us as showed up at my last birthday party, so absolutely no outsiders were inconvenienced.

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