Sunday, January 15, 2017

Observations from the 2017 SwampCon at the University of Florida

So you know me, geek that I am, whenever there's a comic-con in driving distance I am prone to showing up and clogging the narrow vendor aisles.

You might remember I went to this SwampCon at UF last year. They've actually been doing this for awhile, but 2016 was the first I'd heard of it and hey, it's a chance for me to head back and check out my alma mater (also, I'm doing a shit-ton of research on Pragmatism, so to the shelvers at Library West I'm the guy who left three piles of philosophy books on that reading table on the First Floor).

I kinda dreaded going back this year, though, because last year when I went it was the same day Scalia died and the universe exploded. If I went this year and something incredibly insane happened on the political stage, then I'd be convinced that SwampCon is jinxed and I wouldn't go anymore.

Good news is, the worst thing was Trump getting into a Twitter war with civil rights hero John Lewis. Everybody else on Twitter was punching back and making Trump bleed, so it's all nice sweet schadenfreude.

As for the convention itself, here are my takes (and some photos and video):

The registration / wristband tables are set up at the entrance walkway to the Reitz Union.

I didn't dress up this trip. I'm saving the Jedi outfit for the SyFy street convention this February. I basically dressed as I usually did when I was a student here from 1988 to 1992: with a blue button shirt over a Batman tee.

Deadpool! My old nemesis! This time working on his foam sword skills.

Last year was before Pokemon Go came out. This year, I looked at the map and damn near fainted. The University campus has Pokestops all over the place within easy walking distance of each other. As soon as you step out of one Stop's range you're already in range of two others, meaning the spawnage rate with well-placed Lures would make this an ideal hunting ground for Pokemon. IT'S PIKACHU HEAVEN!!!

Also I finally caught a Tauros - my birth sign! - and an Onix, both of which don't naturally spawn where I live.

I need to come back to campus someday, with my bicycle and about 9 Incubation jars with 10km eggs to hatch...

Funny thing about living on a campus for Florida Gators. We get real gators floating in the Reitz Union pond. It's cool, he's cool, we're cool, right Bitey?

Except for this guy. He was pissed he couldn't go wading in that pond.

In terms of vendor space, this one room doesn't compete with the massive floorspaces that MegaCon and Tampa ComicCon work with. This is still a pretty small, regional con. There were a lot of anime/manga vendors though.

Told you I had some homework to do, so I walked from Reitz Union to Library West that afternoon, and en route there's Turlington Hall and THIS statue. Everyone seems to call it "The Potato". Even the Pokestop description labels it "The Potato".

IT'S NOT A FREAKING POTATO, PEOPLE! IT'S A FREAKING GLOVE! Look, to the right of that rocky shape. THAT'S THE THUMB! Sheesh!

Also, that's Century Tower in the background.

After I did some homework on Pragmatism, I walked off-campus across 13th Street to go to Leonardo's Pizza. While there, I got a photo of this... GAUDY MONSTROSITY being built at the corner of University Ave. and 13th.

It's that long-planned condo project the city's been dying to build since I had been back in Gainesville working at Library West from 2003 to 2006. It wouldn't look out of place in New York City or downtown Tampa, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of a mid-sized city where it will dwarf the college buildings right across the street from it. It blocks out the sky, it's getting built right on top of the roads, claustrophobic... Gods. Look, I know there's a problem with residential properties in Gainesville, as more and more UF students stay in-town when they graduate, and that Gainesville is growing in population. But you need to be more responsible with what you're actually building and where. This thing is gonna clash with the old-style architecture of the UF campus, no lie. Something of this size and complexity could have easily been built maybe a mile away, closer to downtown Gainesville where you want more of a nightlife community to sprout (or maybe closer to Oaks Mall or Archer Road strip malls). You all should have been something half that height and with an eye towards matching the campus architecture to where it would COMPLEMENT the scenery, not consume it.

Speaking of consumption, here's the pizza slice from Leonardo's I ate.

This was a mainstay eatery within walking distance of campus back when I was a student, and it'd been around for years before then. Last year, the place has been bought out by the university (they're looking to build more campus offices I believe) and I've been told that June 2017 is when it will close. So that pizza slice might be the last one I'll ever eat from there.

You can't go home again to the same pizzeria, can you? :(

On the way back, I took a slight detour to go visit one of the iconic locales on-campus.


On the lawn, they were prepping another group of foam swordfights, so I got some video clippage of that. Ooh, wait, I can't, Blogger can't handle the file size. Gimme five minutes to YouTube it instead.

I made it back to SwampCon for the afternoon, and I wanted to go into the "So Bad It's Good" Anime revue. Sadly, by the time I got there the room was packed. Note to the con organizers: next year, bigger room for these guys (or any other anime-themed shows, that culture is HUGE on-campus).

Other observations of note:

There was a shit-ton of Steven Universe cosplayers (I should have gotten more pictures of them, but was busy catching Onixes). Only two Deadpools. Where's my plethora of Deadpools?!?!?!

I'm used to an Artists Alley at other cons where local and published artists set up tables for autographs and print sales. The SwampCon folks should look into that, especially since there's an art college on-campus where up-and-coming sketchers and inkers are learning their trade (and there should be a number of Florida-based artists who'd love to show)...

The UF Bookstore needed to do a better job advertising and promoting the works of the authors who showed up for discussions on writing and publishing. These are authors who either live in Gainesville, are graduates of your school, or authors of some renown who put in the time to help with activities and events for the day. Putting a small pile of books on top of a table with little signage shoved into the corner of the Vendors room does not cut it.

Things have really changed in the year I've been away. Wal-Mart is no longer where it was on Archer Rd. and nearly 90 percent of that mall had been bull-dozed. Half the restaurants I knew are long gone, it took me an hour to find a Mexican eatery (for some reason I was in the mood for Mexican to balance out having pizza for lunch. I don't normally do that...) before I got back on the road to drive home and feed mah kittehs.

I did find time for one thing, to pay my respects:

Always remember.

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