I have safely returned from Chambanacon. Despite the very small attendance, I had a wonderful time. Chambanacon for me is more like my holiday weekend with my family of choice than a regular convention.
I got up Friday morning, and was feeling quite happy and peaceful as I took my morning walk. Time pressure trying to get the last minute things that had to be done (like packing!) done combined with a series of minor annoyances at things I forgot to do, realized that I did not have time to do, or that simply went awry got me into that frustrated state of feeling like it's one of those days where nothing is working right, and I was feeling stressed enough as I drove to Springfield that I was getting a sore neck from the tension. We got to the hotel around 3:30, and there was a bit of frustration on checking in, since I wanted a luggage cart. All the carts were in use at the time, and the bellman told me that the con had a couple of carts on the second floor and suggested that I could borrow one of those. On the second floor, I did eventually find one luggage cart, but I was told emphatically that that the consuite needed that cart. But fortunately, another cart came back as I was returning to the front lobby, and I got my stuff into the hotel, parked the car in the space right in front of the side door (the street parking is only enforced until 5PM, after which it's free for the rest of the weekend, so I parked for the whole weekend for $.80), and then got my stuff to my room. The bellman seemed much friendlier and more polite when I returned the cart than when I'd been trying to get one, and even addressed me as "a gentleman and a scholar".
My first destination after I got my stuff to the room was the art show. I'd decided that I would actually put some of my photos in the art show, and I'd actually managed to select, prepare, print, and frame three, so I wanted to get them into the show ASAP so that people who might buy them would have the maximum chance to see them. I've of course visited far more art shows than I could count, bought art at many, and even helped with setup and teardown a few times, sometimes helping a particular artist and sometimes helping the people running the show, but this is the first time I've ever exhibited anything of my own. There is nothing science fictional about my photos, but the requirement of SF content in art for art shows isn't one most conventions seem to actually enforce even when it is their stated policy, and I am proud of my pictures and wanted to show them, and also to give the people who've been telling me how wonderful my pictures are a chance to put their money where their mouths are.
After taking my stuff to the art show, I picked up my badge, whereupon I'd discovered that I'd left my good badge holder at home. Fortunately, I did have the piece of string that Penney fixed me up with at the last FKO when I bemoaned the lack of any way to wear that badge other than its pin, and while I didn't have the larger copy of my LJ user pic that I'd had in my OVFF and Windycon badges, I did have the smaller one that I'd printed by mistake when I made that one (a slight error with the DPI settings), so after some fiddling with the string and the scissors, I had a functional badge, and once I snagged a bit of tape from the art show and a staple from registration, I had a badge that would stay on, hold my room key securely, and not put holes in my clothing.
With my pictures hung in the art show and my badge hung around my neck, I was ready to start enjoying the convention. I sat in the con suite and put the pictures from Windycon into a photo album, and then left photo albums on the table for people to peruse. While I was in the con suite we had one of the major bits of unwanted excitement of the weekend, as wet gooey globs of ceiling tile came splatting down. Advice to hotel owners: don't neglect the maintenance on those flat roofs, even when the hotel is getting older and into that stage of its life where you are neglecting maintence of a lot of things, or they will leak when they get a load of wet snow on them. Leaky roof over function space bad.
I wandered through the con suite and hucksters' room for a while, just chilling out and chatting with people. One of the first people I met was former ChUSFA (Champaign-Urbana Science Fiction Association, the sadly defunct U of I SF club that originally sucked my mother and me into fandom in the late 70s) stalwart Louis Blair, whom I'd seen for the first time in twentyish years at last year's Chambanacon. Louis was slightly obsessively worried about missing out on dinner, and I assured him that I'd make sure we found him before heading off to dinner.
janmagic arrived somewhat before 6, and shortly, she, my mother, myself, and Louis were off to the Holy Land diner, a Lebanese restaurant whose virtures include good food, low prices, a location within an easy walk of the con hotel, and most important, being just about the only place in downtown Springfield that's not closed on Thanksgiving weekend. This restaurant is one of the very few good things about Chamabanacon's exile in Springfield. After a nice dinner and conversation mostly featuring catching up with Louis, I realized as I was walking back to the hotel that I'd gotten over the stress I'd accumulated in the afternoon and was feeling peaceful and happy. We got back to the hotel just before they put away the ice cream at the ice cream social, so I was able to have my banana split for dessert -- though I was so full from the all-you-can-eat buffet that I only had a half a banana under one scoop of ice cream.
The filking got under way earily, because Juanita said she didn't want to be up horribly late so she wanted to get started earily. I was pretty full for singing, but I schlepped my stuff down and got set up. I have trouble remembering just what happened in which night at the filking, but I do recall tnatj reciting Alfred Noyes' rather long but really cool poem "The Barrel-Organ" while I was setting up; once I was finished, I sat myself cross-legged on the floor in front of him in the proper position of the rapt disciple at the master's feet. We got into some Kipling after that; I recall doing "Mandalay", which went reasonably well after I realized I was completely not up to playing the melody break beween verses as melody and just whistled it, with Dr. John playing bass and Ernie Clark laying down some very quiet lead guitar licks, and "The King" in response to tnatj reciting "In the Neolithic Age", and Juanita singing her setting of "The Road to Endor", and tnatj reciting a poem about cigars and Juanita doing "The Female of the Species", the two of which spawned some discussion of political correctness. I know bedlamhouse and lladyat were there Friday night, but I'm having trouble remembering what they sang. Art Warneke got in about 10:00, having been unable to get away from work earily and having to drive down from Milwaukee. I can recall him performing "Eve of Destruction" and "Discovery", the latter of which I followed as I always do with "St. Brendan's Fair Isle". I think we broke up around 2, which wasn't really too bad for starting around 8 and having such a small group.
Saturday morning I joined Art for lunch at the Holy Land (he'd arrived much too late to have dinner there Friday), and we had a good converation, which ended up running longer than it was supposed to so we were late getting back for Juanita's guest of honor presentation, which was a concert. My fatigue-fogged brain is having trouble remembering very many of the songs she did specifically; I don't think there was anything I wasn't familiar with, but she of course performed everything well and I liked almost all of her songs. (The one of her movie monsters set about Frankenstein, with the chorus that runs "Frankie, why'dja choose THIS bod, it needs considerable work ... Frankie you're a jerk" just doesn't do it for me.)
Unfortunately my camera battery ran low by the end of Juanita's presentation, and by the time I got back from my room with my fresh battery, ladyat had already started her toastmaster presentation, and I missed her introductory remarks and the beginning of the reading she did. I gather that this is a work-in-progress novella (? -- I'm not sure of the overall length of the piece); it's about some spirit entities that she refers to as doppelgangers. The basic idea is of a kind of spirit creature that moves from body to body, not completely taking over each host body, but trying to guide it thorugh life. Part of the soul of each successive host becomes part of the doppelganger. What I got to hear was really cool, and I certainly want to read the whole thing when it gets finished. After she finished the part of the story that she had, she did some songs, including a really cool spooky story-in-song that I believe is titled "Thanatos", about a psychologist treating a schizophrenic who's seen fairyland and wants to go there herself. She says she's working on an arrangement for the band, but she's having some issues with TWS's producer who thinks she should change the plot. This song is really going to kick ass, folks; it will stand out even among TWS's incredible repertoire.
It's frustrating to think that Chamabanacon would get to be over-programmed, but I skipped Tom and Tara Barber's Fan Guest presentations because I'd been sitting in two hours of presentations already and I wanted a break to go to the con suite and such before the Never-Ending Filk Panel at 4. While I was in the con suite, there was a woman I didn't know whose nametag said Kat who had a guitar and was playing some folk standards; I sang along with "The Gambler" and "Christopher Robin" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and told her that she needed to come ot the filk and got her to agree that she would.
At the Never-Ending Filk Panel, we didn't seem to have a whole lot to talk about as far as the state of the filking world other than awards. tarkrai was praised for his hard work on the Pegasus awards, and we discussed preferential balloting, the nomination process, and the problem of the Best Song choices looking very similar year-on year, all without coming to any conclusions that I noticed. I brought up the question of whether it was time yet for there to be an award or awards specifically for recorded filk. bedlamhouse argued for any such award being chosen by the recorded filk producers, rather than the general population of filk fandom in general or the membership of some convention in particular. I don't have a horse in this race myself; I brought it up not because I'm convinced that we definitely need recorded filk awards now, but because I think recorded filk has been around long enough and is diverse enough that it's worth thinking about whether we're ready to have awards and what form they might take.
Early rumors that banquet tickets were selling well turned out to have been exaggerated, so my mom, I, Art, and janmagic all bought banquet tickets to support the con. The other three wanted to watch Shrek 2 in the movie room at 7:30, which meant that they'd been reluctant to go to the banquet at 6:30, but Jan who was instigating the Shrek-watching decided that they could eat and duck out before the speechifying. The banquet was a disappointment. First, there was a mis-cue as to the menu; there was supposed to have been roast turkey and dressing, but somehow it ended up with the only turkey being cold turkey cubes in the salad section and no dressing was to be found. Chairman Mike Brim apologized. Second, and more serious in my view, the gravy was scorched. I've been to a lot of Chambanacon banquets over the years, and this is probably as close as it's ever come to being bad food, but (except for the gravy) it wasn't bad, it just wasn't quite as good as it should have been.
Soon after the banquet I got my instruments and set up in the filk room, but I wasn't really ready to sing, since I'd failed to notice that there was dessert until I'd gotten seconds from the buffet, but I had a piece of pie anyway. I recited the worst poem I know -- '"Queen of Cheese" by James McIntyre, clear evidence that humans are one of the two species who are worse poets than Vogons -- and managed to avoid having anything thrown at me. I wandered about a bit, in and out of the filk. In addition to the regular filk, there was a Drunken Smokers filk in the smoking con suite, which I poked my head into briefly but didn't stay because of the smoke. This kept bedlamhouse and ladyat busy most of the evening, but we still had a pretty good, if less focused than usual, time in the reagular filk. The high point was clearly Kat being Madeira-ed by bedlamhouse. She was a quick study and was playing along with it pretty well. I recall doing a version of "Bold Marauder" that I didn't think was that bad as I was singing it, but which the other filkers weren't getting into at all, and "Anti-Carol", John Pohl's modern-day version of the Christmas story that I stole from Frank Hayes, and a group effort at "Your State's Name Here" with tnatj singing Lou's lines, me singing Peter's lines, and Ernie Clark playing guitar, which I followed with "After Life Goes By", which inspired Bill Rintz to do his halting best at his former signature piece "I Can See Your Aura (And It's Ugly)". I am still cheered every time I see Bill still alive (he had a heart transplant 4 years ago, and I hadn't expected him to hold on long enough to get the transplant), but it is still very painful to watch him haltingly struggle through simple fiddle tunes when he was truly one of the best fiddlers ever to grace a filk circle before his stroke.
Sunday morning was a typical Sunday morning at a con, only a little more laid back than usual because check out time from the hotel was extended until 2. There was scheduled to be a jam, but there didn't seem to be anyone really looking to jam; if we'd gotten all of the people who were sort of interested in jamming but didn't think anything was happening and weren't excitied enough to try to start something on their own together in the same place, something might have come together, but I didn't want to stay too late, so I wasn't that disappointed. I picked up my unsold pictures and my check -- I sold one of my pictures, and have actually gotten money for my photogaphy -- from the art show and wandered around saying good-bye to people for a really long time.
I've gotten pictures onto the computer, and I'll try to post a few of them in the next day or two.