24 July 2013

DeepSouthCon 50 Report: Day 2

[See Day 1, if you missed it.]

Day 2: Saturday, June 16, 2012

Curse me for not taking the time to write this entry a year ago when it was still fresh in my mind. I don't recall precisely what I did Saturday morning, but it was probably spending time with family, as the first music track concert wasn't until 1:00 p.m.


The DeepSouthCon 50 filk room
The artists performed in a suite on the hotel's second floor. The room was L-shaped around a bedroom. The "stage" was in the bend of the L facing three or four rows of chairs down one end of the L. The other end of the L was separated by a bar where the artists sold their CDs. It was also where most of the artists watched their fellow artists perform, leaving the seats mostly for us regular con-goers and Dr. Demento.

Danny Birt
First up was Danny Birt. Danny was the one artist I wasn't familiar with because at the time he wasn't a member of the FuMP, although he'd posted one song to the Sideshow some time before. Danny does everything live with no pre-recorded music. He also invites audience participation, such as in "The XKCD Song", included in the playlist below.

After Danny's concert, he and Steve Goodie hosted a filk song writing workshop at 2:00 p.m. in the Madison Room. It was quite an interesting pairing, in an Odd Couple kind of way. It was, unfortunately, not very well attended, with six to ten people in the audience. The idea was to have a song written by the group by the end, but that's not how it turned out. We started out with an idea from a father with his son, who was wearing a bug-eyed alien mask, of turning the Crystal Gayle hit "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" into "Don't It Make My Bug Eyes Blue" (or something along those lines).

Danny spoke of the virtues of starting with many ideas and seeing what you end up with, so he wrote that down. Then someone suggested "Don't It Make My Bug Eyes Glow" and the session devolved from there. Steve happily fed odd ideas to Danny, who promptly wrote each one down. Every so often Danny would stop to recap all the ideas up until then. Steve had his guitar with him, so he plunked along as Danny read. What you see in the playlist below was the final reading of the ideas, which was the closest thing to a song we ended up with.

The great Luke Ski
Next up was the great Luke Ski in concert at 3:00 p.m. back at the filk room. He did a nice set of songs, all different from the ones he did at the music sampler the night before, if I remember correctly. I happened to be sitting on the front row, so for me the highlight of the concert was when he sang "Dementia Revolution." The original song features many dementia artists saying/singing "I've joined the Dementia Revolution," so in concert Luke has the audience do those parts. At the first such break, Luke called out my name and held the mike up so I could shout it out!

Dr. Demento

Following that it was back to the Madison Room for Dr. Demento's SF Song Revue at 4:00 p.m., a presentation on science fiction in comedy music. He essentially gave an overview of science fiction-based songs, including a rare, pre-album version of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Yoda". The room was packed with both regular con goers and pretty much all the dementia artists, many of whom were delighted to see the good doctor wearing a FuMP t-shirt.

Steve Goodie

At the conclusion of Dr. Demento's presentation, it was back to the filk room at 5:00 p.m. for Steve Goodie's concert. It was going well until he broke a guitar string. He attempted to switch to the mandolin, but somehow it didn't seem to work quite as well, so I believe he borrowed a guitar from someone else for the rest of his set. Steve is, in fact, a talented musician, and as you can see above, for one song he was playing both guitar and harmonica.

Devo Spice (and Shoebox)

After Steve, there was a break for dinner, then it was back to the filk room at 7:00 p.m. for Devo Spice. Devo had committed to the con before realizing it was the same weekend as a big birthday celebration for his grandmother, so he flew in just for Saturday. As in, he arrived Saturday morning, hung around the con until it ended for the day, then went riding around Huntsville in a limo with the other artists until his plane left Sunday morning. (More on that last bit at the end.) I was glad to finally meet Devo, as just a few months before I'd accepted a job from him as editor of the FuMP newsletter.

Anyway, the highlight of Devo's show was the premiere of a brand new song called "All in My Tights," which was scheduled to the debut on the FuMP a couple days later. You can watch it in the video playlist below. A personal highlight for me was to finally get to see Devo and Shoebox perform "Pac-Man" live. (If you look, you'll see classic video games is one of the main labels of this blog.) And to see the video that goes along with it because I'd been able to see bits and pieces of it in various YouTube videos of past con performances, but not the whole thing. You can see that in the playlist below, too.

After Devo's concert, we had some time to kill before Dr. Demento's presentation in the main hall, so I took the opportunity to get photos with as many of the artists as I could.  Here's a collage of those:

Then all proceeded down to the main hall for "Dr. Demento's Greatest Hits."  The hall was fairly packed as it was obvious many con attendees who'd been doing other things during the concerts wanted to see the good doctor, who was dressed again in his signature tux and top hat. I think I ended up sitting next to Steve Goodie for that one. Many familiar comedy songs were played. When it was over, since he was wearing the tux and hat, I took the opportunity to finally get my photo taken with Dr. Demento.

Logan Awards

Sadly, the main hall emptied after Dr. Demento's program, leaving once again mostly the hard-core Dementoids to watch the presentation of the second annual Logan Whitehurst Memorial Awards for Excellence in Comedy Music. The Logan Awards consist of three categories: best original song, best parody, and best video. Nominees are accepted from the public and a panel of judges, which mostly changes each year, narrows it down to a few finalists in each category who are announced beforehand, one of which will be announced as the winner during the awards presentation.

 Danny Birt, who was chairman of the awards for the year, did the introduction and Dr. Demento emceed. Those acts that were available played their songs live. Those that weren't had recordings or videos of their songs played. The live performances were:
  1. "Hulkulele" by Nuclear Bubble Wrap
  2. "I Am the Doctor" by Devo Spice
  3. "Charlie Sheen" by Power Salad
  4. "Snoopy the Dogg" by the great Luke Ski
  5. "Robot Cat" by Devo Spice and the great Luke Ski as a wrap-up tribute to Logan Whitehurst
The winners were "It's Not Just for Gays Any More" by Neil Patrick Harris (not present) for best original song, "The Muppet Show Theme Song" by OK Go (not present) for best video, and "Snoopy the Dogg" by the great Luke Ski for best parody. I was sitting two seats from Luke (with Chris Mezzolesta between us) and Luke's reaction was one of utter shock. Chris gave Luke a friendly hug before Luke went up.

I recorded the entire ceremony, but accidentally stopped recording at one point without realizing it. Therefore I recommend that if you want to see it, you watch it on Power Salad's UStream channel. JayeKitty used Chris Mezzolesta's phone to record it and she was sitting right beside me, making my recording rather redundant, even if I hadn't messed it up at one point. Except for the frame grab above of Luke. She didn't take her camera off the stage after he was announced as the winner, so I'm the only one who captured it.

I am so glad I got to attend a Logan Awards ceremony. This might be the only time it's held anywhere near me, much less the city I'm living in, so it might have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. And it was the second one ever! (Yeah, the first would have been better, but beggars can't be choosers.)

More concerts

Shoebox of Worm Quartet

Next we all stayed right where we were for the Worm Quartet concert. Shoebox is a very animated performer, to say the least. He performed his chutney song "The Laundromat of Sin," which features a chorus of screaming. In order to save his voice, Shoebox employed Alchav (of Soggy Potato Chips) as a "surrogate throat" during the song. He screamed quite well. I have a note written down about Shoebox letting me scream into the microphone, but sadly I don't remember what that's about or whether it had to do with that particular song or not.


Later came "What Your Parents Think All Your Music Sounds Like," which features an audience participation chorus of "Sex! Drugs! Satan! Drugs!" The audience is divided into three groups, each getting one of the words. Shoebox called me out by name as the dividing point between sex (my group) and drugs. As soon as they realized what he was going to sing, Luke Ski and Rob Balder moved to the opposite side of the hall so they could be in the Satan group.  Luke's wife, Sara, and Rob's significant other complained afterwards about them leaving sex for Satan.

Nuclear Bubble Wrap

The final concert of the evening was Nuclear Bubble Wrap. Although they're based in Tennessee, only two members were able to make it, Jace McClain and Eric Zhu. They put on a good show anyway and premiered the video for their song "Sharktopus." It was fun video and cool to be the first public audience to get to see it. The Logan Awards had run over, so their concert ended after midnight. I got to talk to Jace briefly afterwards.

"Party Rob" Balder had looked into doing a concert bus for the con as he has done in the past for MarsCon, which features a strong dementia music track every year. Unfortunately, he couldn't find a suitable bus company in Huntsville, so he rented a limo instead. Most of the dementia acts, Dr. Demento, and a few of the fans got to spend the night riding around town in it. I would have loved to join them if I'd been asked, but sadly Sunday was Father's Day -- who schedules a con on Father's Day weekend? -- so I needed to go home and get some sleep so I could spend some time with my kids before returning to the con in the afternoon.

[On to Day 3.]

23 July 2013

Spaceknights Going to Infinity!

This are afoot in the Avengers by Jonathan Hickman. It was first teased in #15 when Captain Universe and Manifold travel to an unspecified destination ("somewhere in space") that has "knights" as its guardians. This is the place "where the end begins," according to Captain Universe, and we see a large spaceship approaching.

Avengers #15
In #16, we find out the place is Galador and we get a single panel of Spaceknights flying to meet the ship. (I grabbed the "Galador" caption from a previous panel and inserted it here.) Perhaps you recognize Pulsar, Ikon, Firefall, Terminator, and Starshine?

Avengers #16
Or perhaps you don't because while, with the exception of Ikon, they all invoke the memory of those first generation Spaceknights, the designs don't quite match. And Pulsar is no longer orange, but a yellow-green color. (I presume this was done so that he doesn't blend in with Firefall.)

So what's going on here? We, the readers, don't know. Nor are we supposed to, exactly. All I know is that it's been confirmed that the Spaceknights will have some part to play in Marvel's upcoming event, Infinity. And that's all the facts we have, so now begins the grousing. Marvel needs to pick a direction for the Spaceknights and stick to it!

Let's review. After many years of efforts by various creators to bring back Rom in some fashion, Chris Batista finally succeeded in doing something with the Spaceknights limited series in 2000. He had a new generation, including Rom's two sons, take up the mantles of their predecessors. (He also killed Rom, but given the legal problems surrounding him, we'll let it slide for the moment.) Unfortunately, sales of the series were abysmal so the new Spaceknights were stuck in comic book limbo until 2006, when Keith Giffen briefly used them in Annihlation, only to leave their fate up in the air. The following year, Abnett and Lanning used a previously unknown Spaceknight to kick off the events of Annihilation: Conquest, but do nothing else with them.

A few years later, in 2011, Annihilators introduced Ikon, essentially a a female version of Rom. However, where Rom was noble and kind, she is arrogant. We also check in with Brandy Clark, still the leader of Galador and still fretting over the loss of Rom back in 2000. But oddly, no mention of or appearance by her two sons (or the others from the LS). In the end, we're left with Galador in a unique position, its sun merged with the dark sun of Wraithworld, with both worlds orbiting the merged star. Certainly there's story potential there, but it hasn't been taken advantage of yet.

I admit, I wasn't thrilled at first with the new Spaceknights introduced in 2000, but I came to realize they had real potential. We had a new Javelin, son of the original. We had a new Firefall, who apparently somehow shared his existence with the original. And, of course, we had Liberator and Terminator, Rom's sons, and their mother Brandy Clark, our old friend. But since these Spaceknights weren't successful, there's no one at Marvel overseeing the concept. We're left with a bunch of writers who are fans of Rom all wanting to do their take on the Spaceknights and no editor in charge to keep their story coherent.

I really hope Hickman will be respectful of all that's come before, not just the original Rom series. The more fractured the Spaceknights' history becomes, the less likely they'll ever return to greatness. I'm hoping the Spaceknights don't just go to Infinity, but beyond! I'm hoping, but I'm definitely not counting on it.

12 July 2013

DeepSouthCon 50 Report: Day 1

Day 1: Friday, June 15, 2012

I attended DeepSouthCon 50 in Huntsville, Alabama June 15–17, 2012.  While it wasn't my first convention, it was my first serious science fiction convention. However, I was there for the music track. I'm a big fan of The FuMP (The Funny Music Project), which features numerous "dementia artists." (Thanks to Dr. Demento, comedy music has become known as dementia.) Several FuMP artsts were attending the con, a few of which I've been corresponding with in various ways for a while, and this was my first chance to meet them in person.

I requested the day off work well in advance, being uncertain just when the con was going to start. This turned out to be a good thing, because it let me get several last minute things done that day. Registration opened at noon, but I didn't make it until two or three o'clock. After registering, I checked out the art show and the dealer's room, where I knew one local dealer, Science Fiction Collectibles.

First meetings

Afterwards, I went up to the con suite, where I happened to find the dementia fan known as WildCard. He regularly hangs out in the Dementia Radio IRC channel when I hop on during the FuMPcast recordings on Thursday nights. Thankfully, I'd been able to find photos of him on Facebook in advance of the con, or I'd have had no idea what he looks like, because chatting on IRC was the sole interaction we'd had up to then. He was with two other dementia fans known as JayeKitty and PoohBear47. Yes, all these people have real names and I even known them (now), but I'll stick with their noms de dementia for the blog.

The great Luke Ski & Superhorse
I hung out with them, migrating downstairs near a bar.  It was then that the great Luke Ski showed up!  I got to introduce myself and get a photo of him and his Superhorse puppet before he wandered off to post flyers about his concert.  Superhorse is a character from some Cirque du So What sketches, a sketch comedy group made primarily of four of the FuMP musicians.  He's voiced by another member, but Luke (and his wife, Sara) are the puppet makers.

At that point I had to join my family at church for dinner.  They'd scheduled our church's Vacation Bible School (VBS) for the day.  It lasted all day, having the children's families come together for a lasagna dinner in the evening.  Once that was done and my wife was almost at the point where she could leave – she'd been a volunteer as well – I returned to the con.

I arrived just before or just as the opening ceremonies started.  Unfortunately, the room was packed, so I had to stand at the door at first.  I was eventually able to migrate in and finally make it to a seat on the far side of the room.  The ceremonies consisted primarily of Doc Taylor of the Rocket City Rednecks (which you can see on the National Geographic Channel) introducing the various guests, including Dr. Demento.

There was one guest at the con outside the musical ones I was interested in: Jody Lynn Nye, the late Robert Aspirin's co-author for the last few Myth Adventures books.  Unfortunately, the opening ceremonies would be the only time I'd see her during the entire con, and I wasn't able to get her to autograph my copy of Myth-Fortunes.  She had a couple panels, but I missed them both.

Because it was the 50th – or perhaps the 49th, there was some debate – DeepSouth Con, they had cake in the wake of the opening ceremonies.  Dr. Demento was one of the first ones served and I learned an interesting (and irrelevant) factoid:  Dr. Demento is allergic to chocolate.  I was in no hurry and didn't grab a piece of cake until a little later when the main room had cleared out a bit and I could move around easier.

So I wandered back out toward the lobby and discover Luke's wife, Sara Trice, had come over.  It turned out she and Luke weren't staying in the Embassy Suites where the convention was held, but at the Holiday Inn across the street, as were many others.  I had just finished my cake, so I made sure to wipe my face thoroughly of any of the bright blue icing that might be on it.  I then went up to introduce myself as one of those "anal-retentive freaks" from the FuMPcast.  As I smiled broadly, she seemed to pleased to meet me, but informed me my teeth were blue.  D'oh!

Meeting Shoebox

While milling about in the hotel lobby, Shoebox of Worm Quartet and Chris Mezzolesta of Power Salad showed up together. I'd made a special plan for introducing myself to Shoebox. You see, just a few months before DeepSouthCon, I'd volunteered for the job of putting together the monthly FuMP newsletter. Each one ends with a bit called "In Other News" and involves Shoebox, because he writes them. So it's my job to remind him to do so each month. Here's an example:
In other news, Shoebox is laminating the electric waterfowl of infinite tomfoolery with the underwater waitress hammer. In bed.
As you can see, to say that these bits are a little weird would be an understatement, so I decided to see if I could out-weird him. (I later had second thoughts, but decided I'd regret it forever if I didn't try.)

The one other thing you need to know about Shoebox, if you don't already, is that he was once profiled on VH-1's Totally Obsessed for his obsession with Pac-Man. As an expression of that obsession, he created a site called the 1st Church of Pac-Man. If you've read this blog, you'll know that I'm also a big fan of the classic video games of the 1980s.

So, when Shoebox shows up, I move away from the dementia music group because I don't want Shoebox to know who I am yet. I  skulk around the lobby, waiting for an opportunity. Finally, I get one. Wearing my vintage Pac-Man necktie and holding a tin of Pac-Man candy, I go up to the Rev. Shoebox (of the aforementioned church), offer him the tin as an offering to the "great round golden one", and ask for a blessing. (I had a whole little spiel I worked out and memorized ahead of time, but sadly as I write this -- nine months later -- I've forgotten the details.) I have no idea what Shoebox was thinking, but he appeared to take it perfectly in stride, handed the things he was holding to his friend, Alchav of Soggy Potato Chips, and asked me something about having faith in Pac-Man, using flowery language equal to what I'd said, placed his hands upon me and blessed me. Then I thanked him and revealed to him just who I was.

The rest of the night

[I started this entry shortly after DeepSouthCon. First I did a brief outline of what I wanted to talk about, then I started writing. I got down to the part about meeting Shoebox and put it aside for what ended up being months. I wanted to write a nice, long narrative report so I could bask in the nostalgia of it later. (In case you hadn't noticed, I'm big on nostalgia.) But now the memories aren't nearly as sharp as they were and, perhaps more importantly, I realize this has gotten far longer than anyone on the Internet is going to read. So henceforth I convert to a bunch of quick memories.]
  • Now that I didn't have to worry about keeping my identity from Shoebox, I introduced myself to Chris Mezzolesta. Needless to say, it wasn't as exciting as what I went through with Shoebox, but Chris is a nice guy and it was a pleasure to meet him.
  • I learned, sadly, that what was in the case Shoebox was carrying was actually Chris' guitar and not Shoebox's new keytar because Shoebox hadn't had time yet to learn how to play it. The keytar was a stretch goal on Shoebox's Kickstarter campaign to publish his new CD, to which I'd contributed.  I'd joked on the FuMPcast that my donation had bought up to 2% of the instrument and Shoebox responded that the lower C# was mine. I'd wanted a quick video of him playing that note for me.

Comedy Music Sampler Concert

  • The main attraction of the night was the comedy variety show featuring Chris Mezzolesta (Power Salad), Seamonkey, Shoebox (Worm Quartet), Steve Goodie, Danny Birt, and the great Luke Ski.
  • I believe it was during this concert that I first met Mad Mike and his wife.
  • One surreal bit was having Dr. Demento, dressed casually in a t-shirt and not his signature tux and top hat, sit next to me for the concert. On the other side of him was former comedy musician Rob Balder.
  • Seamonkey asked if anyone in the audience was Catholic, warned us the song was offensive, and then performed "Altarboy." (A rather obscene song about a priest and an altar boy.)
  • After he was done, one guy in the audience said that wasn't offensive enough. He borrowed a guitar and proceeded to sing a parody of "Puff the Magic Dragon" with the same theme as "Altarboy". Seamonkey bowed to him at the end.
  • Danny Birt noted that everyone in the audience seemed to be familiar with the song's being sung, so he  -- assuming we'd also know Jonathan Coultan -- did a Coultan parody.
Danny Birt
The great Luke Ski performing "Grease Wars"

Chris Mezzolesta of Power Salad


Shoebox of Worm Quartet

Steve Goodie
Here's the songs I recorded during the concert as a single playlist.

The Boobles concert

Juan Melon (Seamonkey) of the Boobles
The final concert of the night was The Boobles.  The Boobles is a project of Seamonkey's.  He's raising money for breast cancer research by recording breast-themed parodies of Beatles' songs.  Although the song's have been recorded with many other artists, the concert was mainly him with pre-recorded backing tracks.
  • At the end of "I Want to See Your Cans", Danny Birt came up and stuffed a dollar in Seamonkey's pants. Seamonkey revealed the next day that he forgot about it until he undressed back in his hotel room when it fell out of his pants.
  • Seamonkey had Shoebox perform "Double D's" during the concert. Since Seamonkey wasn't singing, he wore his boob mask and swayed along beside Shoebox. At one point he discovered he could suck in the mask and began doing so rhythmically, which freaked out Shoebox when he noticed it. Luckily for you, I caught that bit on video. (It starts at the 1:45 mark, but watch the whole thing.)

Thus ended the first day of the con, which was actually sometime well after midnight on Saturday.

[On to Day 2, or even Day 3, if you want.]