Saturday, March 05, 2011

Panel OF DOOM! Report: Genericon 2011

Genericon is a anime/gaming/general geekery college convention in upstate NY that's been run by students/alumni for 24 years. This year, they flew me out as a guest, and DOOM came along for the ride...

(I tried to have the rest of this post be after a cut, but it didn't work because I suck)

Although I was born in Boston and grew up in upstate New York--Rochester, to be precise--I moved to Florida when I was 10 (man, twenty years ago?) and have stayed there ever since. In fact, the only times I've ever been back to my old stomping grounds have been for anime conventions. The East Coast was being assailed by a serious cold front for the entire week prior to the convention, with snowstorms and the like causing numerous flight delays. As such, while I can count the number of times I've seen fallen snow since coming to Florida on one hand, this actually marked the first time since I was a child that I saw actual snowfall. Gotta say: snow's pretty darn long as you don't have to shovel it and can retreat into a heated car or building once you start losing feeling in your extremities.

This probably gets old really fast, but I went out of my way to make this happen.

I didn't exactly have any heavy-duty winter gear, but as I predicted it didn't much matter: much like living in Florida, the goal is to minimize your time outdoors such that you're only out there when going in between your car and a building. The college con experience is not one I've had in several years, as the once-deluge of Florida anime conventions have now mostly become "media" cons.

This is not something I'm accustomed to seeing.

One look around revealed a "college life" that I thought only existed in the realm of television and movies; this world of student dormitories with entire floors reserved for the anime enthusiasts [to isolate them...?] was a far cry from my commuter college experience. I felt slightly jealous of it all, doing my best to conceal the fact that I was about 1 to 1.5 decades older than the majority of the attendees. College anime cons have all but vanished from the once-crowded Florida anime landscape (reflecting geek trends, they're all "media" cons now with some anime on the side), and so I must confess: I was ill-prepared for the first Panel OF DOOM! for the year as far as on-site promotion was concerned. Hotel and convention center cons tend to strongly frown upon non-upper level staffers putting up flyers of any sort anywhere, but those rules don't fly in college land. Luckily, the con guide did feature the writeup I supplied them, though I overheard one attendee saying that there was no way they'd go to a "Panel OF DOOM" because "OF DOOM" was such an out-of-date phrase. Perhaps they're right. Over the, eight years?...I've occasionally given consideration to changing the name--giving it a "something Hell" title to match up with the rest of us--but I'm not sure it's necessary. That said, having a panel with "Panel" in the name has always sort of bothered me.

Genericon is held at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological university in the United States. The panel room in which I was situated was basically the PERFECT mood setter; a college auditorium-style lecture room outfitted with a thoroughly bizarre mish-mash of 1970s technology and modern day. Overhead transparency projectors, molded plastic chairs that only partially swiveled out, CRT monitors built into the lectern, and weird giant silver balls hanging from the ceiling that for all I knew would arc static electricity lightning at the push of a button sat right alongside a wall of fancy LCD HDTVs that were all disabled for the weekend. I never found that lightning bolt button, but I did find that the CRT monitors were wired up to a closed circuit surveillance system for the room, meant so professors could see when students were sneaking in late or trying to cheat!

The ideal HELL environment? That's the Reverse Thieves up front.

Prior to my requested start time of Saturday at 7 PM--opposite cosplay and the formal ball, which is exactly where I want to be--I did a tech dry run with some of the A/V guys to figure out the systems by which I would have control over lights, video and sound. Everything was all set to go...or so it seemed. Being a small college-run convention subject to high staff turnover each year, there was nothing stopping the various other people using the room between my technical check and panel start from disconnecting every single thing in the room for the sake of connecting their own video setup, speaker system, microphones, and what have you. Nor was there an easy way to track if someone took the room-designated audio equipment to another room and locked them away. So when I got to the room ready to instantly switch over to DOOM...everything was gone. The cables connecting and powering the projector, the microphones, somewhere for me to sit down, you name it.

To their great credit the Genericon staff were able to help me out as fast as anyone could've possibly managed in that scenario, but I still lost about 30 minutes out of my allotted 2 hour block to that. Still, once we got rolling, I found an opportunity to reuse some of the classic standbys that are at this point "played out" on the traditional Hell territories. So this year, I got to bring back some of my dear favorites from years long past such as The Special Picture, Christopher Walken the Prankster, and (who else) Ivan the Red. Although Genericon is more sci-fi/gaming than anime, I've been dead-set on making sure my shows have a substantial amount of anime to them. To this end I've found that Science Ninja Team Gatchaman is one of the best series there is when it comes to pulling wacky 2 minute clip after clip after clip. My recurring theme which began at AWA was "Professor Nambu is a DICK" and that's probably the easiest picture of all to paint. I can't directly gauge the effectiveness of Hell/DOOM at getting people to watch classic anime, but showing people the bit from season 2 of Star Blazers where the Comet Empire kills all the dinosaurs then blows up the planet before noting "and you can see this cartoon for yourself in the video rooms of THIS VERY CONVENTION!" is about as good a sell for Star Blazers as I can think of until the SyFy Channel broadcast kicks off. Experimental Osamu Tezuka shorts, anime beer commercials (Suntory and Murphy's Irish Stout are my go-tos), anime cell phone ads, Black Jack and Dr. House, and the like keep things mostly in the realm of Japanese pop culture.

The Godfrey Ho/Joseph Lai pool is a near limitless source of comedy, but lately I've started to dig deep into the fountain of plenty that is Action International Pictures. AIP is great because virtually none of their catalog of B-grade and below action and sci-fi pictures were ever released on DVD, and because they were an independent get little to no play time on cable. Their most well-known movie is probably Space Mutiny thanks to the MST3K episode, but outside of the Everything is Terrible set, NOBODY knows about these movies. The AIP film I've picked as my go-to for this year's DOOM run is Deadly Prey, another Most Dangerous Game-type tale featuring a lead actor's a compilation video courtesy of EiT that actually doesn't scratch the surface. Some enterprising folks have taken it upon themselves to digitally archive all their stuff, but as a good starting point I recommend "That's Action," a feature-length "best-of" compilation they put out in the early 90s.

Between the technical difficulties and the fact that it was a first-time outing for such a panel at the convention, I didn't pack the place to capacity but I got a respectable turnout. They originally had me in the main events room which seats 1400, and as nice as it is to run in the big room, the content of Hell and Hell-type events just aren't an appropriate fit for the 10 AM Sunday timeslot. Fortunately, my change request was granted!

All in all, Genericon was a good way for me to start off 2011's Panels OF DOOM!. I'm not sure if I should look into getting some silly flyers made up for future events. As smartphones become more commonplace I might just be getting more mileage out of using Twitter and hashtags in 2011 when it comes to on-site publicity of panels. That'll be the experiment for this year, I think.

Right now it looks like my next showings will be at Anime Boston as I once again cohost Anime Hell with Mike and Mike! See you then!


Dr. Mila said...

Aw, don't feel bad about the cut. It's new!

Sorry to read you had some tech problems; but then, if we didn't, it wouldn't be HELL.

Looks like a fun show!

Tohoscope said...

I thought you were talking about American International Pictures, totally threw my googling. ACTION International Pictures have been on my VHS list for awhile, I just didn't realize it.

Tohoscope said...

Professor Nambu really is a dick.