Sunday, March 27, 2011

Off-Topic: Things I Learned at MegaCon 2011

I'm posting here because more people follow this blog than my writer/geek blog.

1) The High-Speed Rail between Orlando and Tampa would really help tourism.
Driving on I-4 from the Tampa Bay metro area was stressful and hazardous even in the early morning (before 6 AM).  I left that early because previous experience taught me that parking at the Orlando Convention Center for MegaCon is a nightmare if you get there too late in the day (say, before 10 am).  So I drove early.  And traffic was still bumper-to-bumper the moment I got on I-4.  Even taking I-75 down from where I live to get onto I-4 wasn't as bad: and that part of I-75 is 2-lane traffic, not 3-lane like I-4.
If we had high-speed rail in place, I could get to a parking garage along the rail, pay for the day (money to the state or private operator, cha-CHING), get on the rail, and ride into Orlando and then back again without the worries of traffic.  And if the rail was planned out smartly, there would have been a stop right near the Convention Center well within walking distance (it's right there on the interstate, where the rail would have co-existed).  And if not, then

1a) Orlando (and the whole Tampa metro) would really benefit from a metro-wide light rail system too.
From what I know, most MegaCon attendees are from the Orlando area.  Lacking a light-rail (cable car, elevated monorail, I wouldn't suggest subway because the landmass is sediment-based), all attendees have to come by car or metro bus.  That means massive traffic tie-ups (buses use the same roads after all).  It also means a massive headache trying to find a parking space if you don't get there too early.  So everyone gets there too early.  For now, getting there before 8 AM is decent enough, but at this rate it'll be 7 AM as the prime arrival time within another three years...
Orlando would benefit incredibly from a light-rail metro.  Like most metros that boomed from the Eighties onward, Orlando has huge suburban sprawl.  Connecting the suburbs to key areas - business districts, downtown, sports arenas, and above all THE THEME PARKS (where they work as well as visit!) that dominate the landscape - would go a long way.  College students in particular (UCF, Rollins, et al) would use such a rail system.  Visitors coming in via airport could hop on a rail, circle to a connected hotel, drop off, clean up, and hop back on to ride the rail out to Disney World (which is actually pretty disconnected from Orlando proper.  Only car traffic that I know of can get there, and I've seen how congested the roads in and out of the Magic Kingdom can get.  You'd think Disney would extend that monorail system of theirs out to International Drive or something...).
And this is just from my visiting Orlando for a day to hang out at a comic-con.  The daily use of a metro rail system would be 1) influx of money, 2) jobs, 3) viability of a metropolis to stay connected moreso than with congested car traffic.
I live in the Tampa metro area.  Trust me, a light rail system here connecting our colleges (USF, U.Tampa, St. Pete College) to our downtowns (Ybor party district, St. Pete Baywalk) to our beaches (Clearwater Beach to Ft. DeSoto) to our stadiums (Trop, Ray Jay) to our cultural centers (Tarpon Springs, Safety Harbor, the Dali, Ringling Museum in Sarasota) could go a long way too for both tourism and business.
People will still have cars: as a means of variable long-distance commute it has advantages over a fixed-line rail system.  But the light rail gives them more options.  And again, in a tourist-driven economy like Orlando (and Tampa), it helps business.

Now, onto the business of comicdom.
2) The problem of showing up TOO early for a comic-con?  You stand in line for 2-3 hours crowded with 15,000 other early arrivals waiting for the doors to open.
You know, it wouldn't kill you MegaCon guys to have something going on before the doors open to the main showroom floor: like say have a coffee-donut get-together of geeks in one of the smaller side rooms for panels/events, or get a cosplay group enacting Shakespeare whilst in anime costumes on the foyer floor.  I mean, sheesh, it gets DULL waiting for the doors to open man!

3) I didn't see any overriding costume theme this year.
Previous visits?  In 2009, with Watchmen coming out soon to theaters practically every outfit was Rorshach or Silk Spectre.  In 2010, after the release of Cameron's Avatar, you could swing a catgirl by the tail and hit 100 different guys dressed as Na'Vi.  This year?  Even with the coming of Captain America, X-Men First Class and Thor movies for Marvel, and with Green Lantern for DC (with a Wonder Woman-based TV show in the works, but oh GOD don't get me started on how Hollywood is SCREWING that up), there wasn't one dominant costume.  Yes, there were a handful of Lanterns, and a couple of Captain Americas, but not the huge numbers of Rorshachs I saw two years ago, or the Na'Vi of last year.  If anything, there were a ton of anime characters (especially for girl cosplay).

4) One of the things you see every year at the con: the same actors from cult shows of the Seventies and Eighties at the autograph section.  And that's okay.
Jennie Breeden once wrote it's not an official con until you see Lou Ferrigno there.
Because when you don't see them there, you gotta worry if they're feeling alright... :{
Sometimes there's a lot of fun seeing the recent arrivals you don't normally see, if only because Hollywood made either a sequel or a remake, meaning fan interest will be high on you again.  This year I saw Cindy Morgan on the floor, mostly due to TRON: Legacy coming out this past December (there was some fan outrage the sequel didn't find time or space to include either of her characters Yori or Lora.
Sometimes it's weird to be spying on the celebrities you watched growing up as a teenager, or when you were a younger adult clinging to your geeky ways.  Kevin Sorbo was there: he looked so much thinner than I was used to seeing him.  Gil Gerard from Buck Rogers from the late Seventies was there again.  Last time I saw him he didn't look so good - diabetes - but this year he is thinner and more energetic, so it looks like he's doing well.  Here's hoping.  Erin Grey, I'm convinced, does not age.  Jonathan Frakes was there: his beard had gone gray and his hair... it was just... I mean.  Let's face it: Our heroes get old... so do we...

5) The MegaCon floor planners still do not carve out enough walkway space between vendor pavilions to allow huge fat geeks like me to maneuver easily through the mobs.  It doesn't help that people stop not to shop but to chat with people they've just bumped into.  I know the have to fill the floor with as much merchandise as possible to cover the costs of hosting a con in a huge place like the Orlando Center, but they ought to 1) widen the walkways by another 4-5 ft and consider every third island of booths to have one corner left void for standing room / meet-and-greets.

Oh.  You're here for the pictures.  Okay.

Big pirate boat in the middle of the main hallway leading into the showroom.  There is that Pirates of the Caribbean movie coming out, and the MegaCon covers all geekery: comics, SciFi, anime, fantasy, gaming, and pirates.
 Scottish Stormtrooper.  I had no way to adequately include a photo of his kilt.  The camera kept breaking down from the level of awesome.
 R2D2 working the showroom floor like a pimp.  R2 be comin' yo.
 There is something to be said about how nice it is that girls get into geekdom.

Most people would recognize the lady on my left (your right) as Raven: popular character from the Teen Titans comic and animated show.  The lady on my right is dressed as Yoko Littner from an anime show called Gurren Lagann: If you hadn't heard of it yet, basically it's Studio Gainax's attempt to create a Saturday morning cartoon show.  ...You never heard of Gainax?  Um.  How about FLCL and Evangelion?  ...okay, you need to watch more anime...
 This is Deadpool.  He kills people.  Either for money, or if you said something bad about the TV show The Golden Girls.  Or the slash fic he writes for his favorite show The Golden Girls.

The only reason why I'm still alive is because I told him he needed to find a Rorshach and sing the theme song.  Good thing his attention span is shorter than a centipede's shoestring.
 Jennie.  The Devil's Panties.  Read it.
 The guest speaker for the day was WILLIAM SHATNER and he was there to talk about this self-published book of poetry he wanted to read to us.

This is about as close as I dare get, and the camera I own it's one of those high-end professional cameras with super Zoom and light-source adjustment.  Suffice to say, Shatner looked good but ambled during his presentation in a free-form-thought kind of way.  Also, he threatened the world with more singing.  But it's got ZakK Wylde and Brian May backing him.  What could possibly go wrong?
 I want to end this blog entry by thanking TNC Lost Battalion member bactrain (AKA Ciruce) showing up for a post-convention get-together at Bahama Breeze.  He came with his SO Cecelia, both pictured here.

Sad to say we didn't get more people asking to attend from the OTAN group.  I know one Battalioneer unable to attend, but I had thought we had a few more Floridians on the comments than this... :-(  Still, anyway the Cuban sandwich at Bahama Breeze was pretty good.  Got my Cuban food for the month out of the way.  ;-)
I changed shirts - after walking a crowded convention for most of the day, it was the least I could do - and was wearing the tee for the Lost Battalion gear.  That is what the logo looks like on a tall fat guy.

So: Final thoughts.

Orlando and Tampa need high-speed rail.  Both cities need local metro light rail.  MegaCon needs to have pre-door opening activities.  And they need to widen the walkways a little more.  And you all need to read more webcomics and watch more anime.  Tsk.

Now, back to your originally-scheduled political outrage at your state GOP crooks.

No comments: