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DucKon - Phil's Rambling Rants
June 16th, 2009
09:07 pm

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DucKon
I'm going to attempt to remember the weekend in order.  This will probably be long, not too coherent, and less interesting than the other 37 conreps that you've already found on your friends page.

We'll start our narrative on Thursday.  Our hero had expected to spend the day cleaning tiger cages, but despite an email the night before canceling the engagement (and thus leaving the day free), our hero managed to sit around ineffectually rather than actually being properly ready.  OK, I'm done with trying to write about myself in the third person.  I gave up on doing anything useful like packing around 1 and went to bed, alarm set for 8:30, and my body proceeded to react in its usual way to knowing that I actually needed to get up at a particular time by not wanting to sleep.  Thus, by the time I got over to birder2's, I was already tired enough that I actually had her drive between the first and second rest areas.  One of the things I should have done to prepare but hadn't was to actually ask LJ-land what construction was like on the tollways, so I asked the lady at the Monee rest area, and she said there were several construction zones on 294 and that I would definitely be happier taking 355, so we did that, and arrived at the hotel around 3.  We checked into the hotel, got a room on the 4th floor, which was low enough that I never rode the elevator the whole weekend except when I was herding a cart.  This fortunate event probably kept me from biting off several heads over the course of the weekend, because there were a lot of trips to my room and back and I really hate elevators.

As soon as I arrived in the hotel, people started hugging me.  I hope no one will feel slighted that I don't remember who hugged me when, but it did help.  It took a while to make it through the lobby to reg, but eventually I picked up my badge and started looking at books at Larry's table.  This was the point where I needed to be aggressively looking for dinner companions and I didn't, so it was just birder2 and me for a nice sandwich and knisch at Schmaltz'.  Note to self: next year, plug Schmaltz' deli a couple of days before the con and see if anyone will agree to join.  Note to anyone else reading this: Schmaltz' is the best Kosher deli in my world.  Admittedly, my experience of Kosher delis is limited; I would be willing to believe that it is merely a good example of the species, not the best ever.  But it is definitely a great place for a non-fancy meal, and it's only about half a mile from the hotel, definitely walking distance for people who walk.

Back to the hotel for opening ceremonies.  Opening ceremonies at most cons are a waste of time, but DucKon is not most cons.  At opening ceremonies at most cons, the concom introduces the guests of honor and they say a few words.  If you're lucky, they say a few words, that is; if you're not, they say a lot of words.  But DucKon gives the guest of honor a plushie My Little Chainsaw.  And then gives her a microphone, a fiddler in a corset, and a band and has her perform the Time Warp.  Officially half an hour into the con, and it's already produced more fun than most cons manage in the entire weekend.  After Opening Ceremonies, we had Whose Line Is It Anyway? on the main stage.  I know this has been done at other cons before and I guess it's originally a TV show, but I'd never seen it before and I didn't actually know what it was, but I knew that if it had Seanan and Tom Smith it was going to be entertaining.  I was hanging out near the stage being the Mildly Obnoxious Photographer when Tom called me onto the stage.  I hope the deer-in-headlights feeling I felt projected to the audience!  It turned out that he needed me to escort Seanan out of earshot while he and the audience noisily negotiated who Seanan's party guests would be.  I got to take Seanan out of the room on my arm, so I win.  And I got to watch her reaction when she saw the Klingon Jail-n-Bail, examined the string of Barbie dolls that were affixed to the jail, and have it sink in that this was a security measure -- a Barbie wire fence.

This was about the time when the worst thing about DucKon started to manifest itself.  The worst thing about DucKon is that the con is only about 45 hours long, but it has several hundred hours of stuff I want to do.  If you're unclear on the math, I'm sure Wikipedia can enlighten you; start looking at "pigeonhole principle".  The only way to make it through the weekend happy instead of frustrated is to concentrate on enjoying where you are and just not worry about the other things you're missing.  I chose to go stand in the parking lot and watch the Singing Tesla Coils.  I'm not actually that much of a tech geek; I'm pretty good on the theory (or I was before I got old and senile and forgot it all anyway), but I don't really get into the practical details of building gadgets.  I am, however, utterly mesmerized by watching the lightning dance as a million volts tries to find a path to ground through the atmosphere.  It makes a cool roaring-buzzing ZAPPP! noise, too.  But when a couple of smart guys, a couple of years ago, figured out that they were using modern digital circuits to generate the high voltage pulses, and realized that they could modulate an audio signal into the ZAPPP! so that it actually PLAYED MUSIC, it officially became the COOLEST THING EVER.  It's pretty lo-fi, but it's a very visceral way to deliver music.  I don't need to go back in time to hear Bach play the Toccata and Fugue himself, because I got to hear it as played by Tesla coils.  And I got to hold a little girl on my shoulders, because she couldn't see through the people.  That's actually a big deal for me.  I never get close to small children because I have a morbid fear that I'll break them.  So thanks to Xapling 2!

While I was doing this, I was missing Toyboat.  If I had enough brain to have actually remembered that Toyboat had been planning some unique cool stuff for this show, I probably would have tried harder to get there, but I didn't want to give up the Tesla coils.  And by this point I was getting wobbly from lack of sleep, so I went up to my room and decompressed for just a little bit before heading back downstairs.  I missed most of the Dead Things theme filk, but I did hear Seanan sing "Preston Miller" by Dave Carter, so as I told Seanan, I can die happy now.  I totally missed the erotica panel, which makes me sad (and if you didn't want to know that about me, well, tough), but I had found some energy by then and we had a really good filk until pretty late.  I've managed to dredge up memories that I did "Dangerous Color", "Hope Eyrie", and "The Solitary Singer".

Saturday started out painfully early because Seanan's plague panel was at 10, so I had to be up before then, and I had to eat something so I wouldn't collapse, and I had to be dressed or I would be arrested, and I had to shower or I would be shunned.  It hurt a lot, but I think it was worth it to hear Seanan excitedly telling us about how they actually weaponized smallpox during the Cold War, and that 3.5 tons of it is missing.  Hmm, maybe I didn't actually want to know that and I should have gone to Jim Butcher's reading instead.  Somehow, after that, I managed to learn about the state of the art in medical imaging (3D ultrasound makes babies left handed, that's almost as freaky as losing 3.5 tons of weaponized smallpox), shop for more books, hear sweetmusic_27 and hsifyppah in concert, eat a sandwich, and catch most of Kathy Mar's concert.  Then we had the main event concerts, vixyish and tfabris, filkertom, and of course Seanan.  The music runs together, and I don't remember much beyond being really happy.  I remember snuggling with barbarakitten_t.  I remember Tom did "Contessa".  I remember vixy and Seanan both saying that they have new albums in process.

At this point in Saturday we reached dinner break.  There wasn't enough time to both leave the hotel and have real food, but the hotel (have I mentioned that this is an awesome hotel?) has a prime rib buffet for us on Saturday night.  It's a short buffet, so if you don't like prime rib, it's not so awesome, but several slabs of dead cow, plus some salad, veggies, and stuff, and cobbler and ice cream for dessert, it works for me.  And my dear friends filkart and ithiriel even rescued me from having to be part of the big group, and I actually participated in the conversation.  (Don't get me wrong, filk-friends, I like spending time with you, but dinner with 20 of you at once is just too much.  I'd rather dine with a big group of friends than alone, but a table small enough that there is only one conversation is much better.)  I would love to have continued to chat for much longer, but I was also missing a panel.  And while I'm mentioning filkart and ithiriel, I do want to cheer that they have actually set a date for their wedding.

The Urban Fantasy panel was entertaining, but negatively enlightening, in that I'm more confused about how I'm supposed to label the books I like or what I'm supposed to expect from a book that's  tagged urban fantasy than I was before.  I thought it was a pretty broad category, but lots of people seem to have specific narrow definitions.

I needed a break at this point so I went back to the room.  I think this is when I managed to talk birder2 into extending our stay; we had been planning on staying for pizza and as much of the dead dog as we could before driving home, but I knew I wouldn't be able to drive home at 1 AM, and I knew I was going to hate leaving the dead dog before it ended.  I figured it was probably too late to change plans but it couldn't hurt to ask, and the next thing I knew, we were staying another night.  Yay!  Note to self for next year: be sure to communicate clearly with Jan about whether there is a full-on dead dog filk planned.  By the time I was ready to face the world again, it was open filk time.  When I got to the first floor, it appeared that everyone was abandoning conference room C (the designated filk room) for the main programming room.  A huge circle.  I actually had room to set up my stands, and I discovered that my better guitar stand was not in my gig bag.  I carry two stands because I sometimes bring two guitars, so I used the less-good stand.  I dedicated "Engineer's Hymn" to Eric Webb, because that was one of his songs Back In The Day.  I did "The Word of God" and it touched Mark Ewbank enough that he wanted a copy.  The most memorable part of that circle was Adam Selzer performing his "Howl (for Mayor McCheese)" which literally made me laugh so long and hard that I had to leave the room so that I could cough up the goo that came loose in my lungs.  That room broke up early, and I ended up in the room with the real die hards until I just couldn't function.  I remember that I tried to do "When I Go" and forgot the words in the last verse.

Thanks to the change in plans, I only had to be up in time for Seanan's 11:00 reading Sunday, rather than in time to clear out the room and then get to the reading.  The reading was way cool, but because I somehow couldn't make my mouth open to yell out that the phrase "Rosemary and Rue" comes from A Winter's Tale, I didn't get the ARC and I will have to somehow survive until September.  A fun panel about the weapons to use against supernatural predators followed, though I didn't get much help on the question of how to take them alive.  If there's a real vampire or werewolf out there, I want to give them every possible chance to play nice.  The folks on the panel seem to be looking for excuses to play with bigger guns.  Of course, that's to be expected of Mad Mike Williamson.  A sandwich, and I think a little bit of shambling around like a zombie, got me to 2:00 and the Riverfolk concert.  They play so pretty, and they are adding new songs and hinting that new albums might be upcoming.  Not one but two stunt fiddlers, with Andy joining in on some of the older pieces and sweetmusic_27 on some of the new.  Cuddling with exapno and flipping through Leah Fisher's memory book.  She has greetings and autographs dated from before I got into fandom from lots of famous folks, like Ursula Le Guin, Gordy Dickson, and Anne McCaffrey.

The pizza party went as smoothly as one could imagine, a tribute to janmagic's experience and skill.  The pizza actually tasted like Giordano's this year too; it has said Giordano's on the box in some recent years but not seemed as good as I expected.  Our room was right across the hall from the filk suite, which was awesomely convenient.  Things were very crowded when we actually moved from eating to filking.  On the down side, I didn't manage to maintain my seat beside exapno.  But on the up side, I got to sit next to Seanan.  After shoehorning myself into my little space with my guitar, I did my first song a capella -- Harold Groot's "We Will All Room Together When We Room".  It seemed to go over well.  Amy and I did "Swing the Cat".  chirosinger squeed and Seanan seemed happy, so I think I win.  Instead of going all out for "just how stupidly fast can I play this", I managed to restrain myself enough that I fancy I played it well.  I did "Dancing Bear" in there somewhere, with ornaments from both fiddlers.  Toward the end of the night, one of the most intense musical orgasms came when I was right between chirosinger and chasophonic for perfect stereo on their perfect unison introduction to "Angel From Montgomery".  I was getting pretty toasty when I reminded people of Sue Blom's words at Opening Ceremonies when she was trying to identify what it was that we all have in common at DucKon.  Something I think pretty much all filkers, if not all fans, have in common is that for us, "Puff the Magic Dragon" is not a song about drugs.  My rendition probably wasn't all that special but people seemed to be enjoying it.  I think the last thing I did was "Benson, Arizona".  I borrowed phillip2637's Larrivee because it's a 6 string song.  Niiiice guitar.  Because people were actually going to sleep in that room that night, the singing actually stopped at the officially designated time of 1:00.  I'm not sure how long we'd have continued if we'd had the option, but this way, I got some sleep and was able to drive home the next day.

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From:poltr1
Date:June 17th, 2009 03:50 am (UTC)
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If you're planning to go to Inconjunction, you may want to take an hour and swing downtown to Shapiro's Deli. Note: it's not within walking distance, the sandwiches are pricey (about $10), but they're gooood!
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From:janmagic
Date:June 17th, 2009 05:03 am (UTC)

thank you for a great report

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I love the line "more fun than most cons manage in an entire weekend." I got my con chops at milwaukee's X-CON. we worked really hard to make opening ceremonies since it always proved to satisfy.

for a while i ran opening ceremonies and i hope set a precedent for the quality, i usually have a finger in to make sure the filk guest gets their song in.

and phil, i hope you have it cemented into your brain that DucKon ALWAYS has a dead duck filk. Chasophonic and chirosinger have registered for life and were there are a good time follows.
i am glad you got a good hugs and snuggle factor out of DucKon.
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From:tigertoy
Date:June 17th, 2009 07:14 am (UTC)

Re: thank you for a great report

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and phil, i hope you have it cemented into your brain that DucKon ALWAYS has a dead duck filk.

I think I get it now. Maybe I am mixing up past cons, but I'm pretty sure that Duck has not, historically, ALWAYS had space in the hotel for a dead duck filk. I knew there would be a room this year, but I somehow got the wrong signal about whether there would really be people taking advantage of it. I think you said vixy and Tony weren't staying over and somehow that became in my mind that nobody was going to stay around.
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From:janeg
Date:June 18th, 2009 12:33 pm (UTC)
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You didn't just "do" Swing the Cat, you did amazing guitar work on it and the best performance of it I have seen. It is wonderful to have Amy around, isn't it?

I'm really glad you had such a good time at Duckon.
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From:tigertoy
Date:June 18th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC)
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Aw shucks, 'tweren't nothin' ma'am.

That's the one song I've noodled on at least a tiny bit pretty much every time I've picked up my guitar for 25 years or so. I usually try to end up doing it as fast as I possibly can, and I consciously restrained myself this time to merely doing it fast. I think I got it pretty much right.
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From:tigertoy
Date:June 18th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and of course Amy is the real reason it sounded good.
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From:tigertoy
Date:June 18th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
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I think I forgot to mention something unusual about the weekend in my report, which I'll add for my own reference. I drank, for me, a truly prodigious amount of alcohol: 4 ciders, 3 (little) shots of Mark's whiskey, and a sample of Amy's pumpkin vodka. Spread across the whole weekend, I don't think it was actually mood-altering; I was high the whole time on con and no sleep. But that's at least a normal year's worth of alcohol consumption for me. Whee!
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