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GATHERING REPORT 2004
Greg, I know you wanted Gathering reports posted here, so here's mine. It was good to see you and everyone, and as always, thanks for sticking by the show.
I wrote up the original report with links to photos. Since I don't think Gore accepts HTML, and I didn't want to interrupt the purported narrative with URLs, I've removed most of these links from the text of the report. Photos are available on Norcumi's site at http://norcumi.gargles-fans.org/photos/con2004 for anyone that's interested. No, that's not a typo.
Norcumi and I got into Montreal on Friday at about 2 in the morning. Apparently MapQuest had underestimated driving times, because we had been /planning/ to get in earlier the previous night. The last 45 minutes' drive inside Canada proper was largely composed of road construction, replete with signs politely warning us in French that we were to beware of the tigers. Or something. I remembered enough high school French to get by, but I think the signs made Norcumi's head explode. But to me, the really funny thing was the customs agent at the border. The Gathering site had led me to expect the usual bilingual thing, where everyone who works with tourists greets them in both languages. Many of the store clerks and waitpeople in Montreal did indeed do that, but the customs agent didn't, so my ear didn't process her greeting the first time around. The conversation went like this:
Me: "...say again?"
At which point I got it, but I thought it was rather interesting that she didn't switch to English once it became apparent that I spoke it. She simply repeated herself. Har har.
Anyway, since we arrived so late, we looked at the schedule and figured that none of the panels on Friday looked interesting enough to lose sleep over, especially since the Blue Mug was scheduled for that night. So we slept in, and Friday afternoon we went out to wander around Montreal a little. Nice city, though the fact that all of the signs were in French was consistently, and unduly, intimidating. At a square around the corner from the hotel, there were a couple people with a table and a sign bidding all passersby to "IMPEACH CHENEY". There was also a lot of nice architecture, some of which was nice enough that they were shooting a movie with it a couple blocks up the street. We didn't see the actual shoot, just the no-parking signs and a couple Old West-style telephone poles which had been cemented into tree holes on the street.
That part of Montreal has an interesting system for its subways. In order to reduce the number of subway stations while still making them easily accessible, they have an underground grid of walking tunnels which connects to a subway station every few blocks. Makes sense, given how far north they are. We didn't actually take a train -- we got as far as the station and turned back -- but we did wander around, and get lost in, the tunnels. Ultimately we followed the signs back to the hotel and wound up in the food court vaguely underneath it, where we ordered from Subway and McDonald's in a combination of pidgin English and gestures. (I was loath to use my high-school French, probably because I was afraid I would mispronounce stuff. I tried, but wasn't able to work myself up to it.) While we were eating in the (beautiful) food court, a random Gargs fan who turned out to be Yggdrasil struck up a conversation with us. (Maybe he noticed Norcumi's shirt? Or did we just look like the con type?) It was his first con, so it was interesting to get his impressions of it, though we mostly ended up talking about Canadian gun control laws.
After that was Opening Ceremonies. It was pretty much the usual, though they held the first Clan Olympics event /during/ OC. It wasn't very well planned (http://norcumi.gargles-fans.org/photos/con2004/20040807_174126_1382), but it was amusing, and the sign trick they pulled at the beginning was cute. Greg announced that the first-season DVD will be out December 7, and introduced the camera crew that was filming a Gathering documentary for the DVD. He read some PowerPoint slides that had been conveniently overnighted to him on pieces of paper, raving about how great the show was -- it even had a yearly convention attended by THOUSANDS OF FANS. Heh. (Though we had a surprisingly large number of con virgins this time, as it turned out.) Chris Rogers gave an impressive talk about 2005, and then Greg did his song and dance. I've seen the leica reel three times now, and this is the first time I understood all of the action in it; the animation can be pretty jerky at times. They also played an audiotape made by a bunch of people who worked on the show who weren't able to be at the Gathering. One of those people was Ed Asner, and something in his message jumped out at me. I wasn't taking notes, so all I can give is my impressions rather than direct quotes... but while everyone else on the tape was talking about the show as something in the past but somehow still in existence, Ed was very definitively talking about the show as though it was finished, dead, never to happen again. The finality of his tone really took me aback. Thom, Keith, and Greg are all realists, but they all seem to think of Gargoyles as having some sort of existence outside of, or alongside, reality: that it's about more than 65 episodes which aired from 1994 to 1996. Ed doesn't seem to think that way. I don't mean to say that it was deliberate. It didn't seem to me that he didn't enjoy doing the show, or that it wasn't very important to him at the time. Mostly it felt to me that his method of dealing was to move on. But I don't think he was aware of the discordant tone of what he was saying.
After OC we wandered around. We dropped in on MGT3K for a while, but the room was too big and it didn't seem like anyone could hear anyone else. So we headed to dinner in the hotel restaurant -- very good food. Nice clam chowder.
Then we went to the Blue Mug-A-Guest. Like last year's, it wasn't very blue, and there weren't any major revelations this year, but the Blue Mug is always fun because of its informality. It was held in the con suite, presumably so that we wouldn't be kicked out the way we were last year, but there wasn't really enough space to go around. Norcumi and I got there early, so we had seats, but most of the people ended up having to sit on the floor. It came up at some point that Owen was Puck, and there was a con virgin sitting next to us who hadn't gotten that far in the series and was really disappointed in the spoiler. We both felt bad about it, but what are you going to do? Greg also made an interesting comment about this idea for the Korean gargoyle clan: what they protect is an idea, and the idea is justice. But not in the way the Manhattan Clan does: the Korean gargs believe in poetic justice, meaning that you get what you deserve. Apparently they never were able to fit that into the World Tour, but it's an interesting idea nonetheless. He also explained TGC: apparently the people who worked on TGC had just come away from working on /X-Men: The Animated Series/, and didn't have time to come up to speed on Gargoyles before starting to write for it. Thus things like putting Goliath on trial: it made perfect sense to these people that the existence of gargoyles was accepted, because they were thinking of them in terms of mutants.
After the mug, on the way out to the elevator, I pinned Greg Weisman and told him that Norcumi and I had first met in person at the 2002 con and that we had been together for two years. ("You're probably not collecting these anymore, but...") He congratulated us and told us to tell the film crew about it, and we all went to bed. I hadn't been able to get up my nerve to mention that to him at 2003, so it felt good.
Saturday we slept until the radio play. Before they opened the doors, we hung around the mezzanine waiting for the play to start. We went through the art show; very nice work. I enjoyed all of it, but particular kudos to whomever did the Mary Sue piece. We talked to BrooklynX some, got big hugs from A Fan, and I determined from another staff member that the schedule was in fact correct: Greg would /not/ be at Closing Ceremonies. Nice of them to keep us in the loop and everything.
The radio play itself was a modified version of The Journey. It was fun, though I do wish Greg would return to using non-Gargoyles scripts for the radio plays. If we're going to the Gathering, we've probably already seen the episodes, and IMHO it's much more fun when we don't already know what's going on. It makes sense, what with Keith David (who ended up not making it in time for the radio play anyway) and the film crew, but still. Nonetheless, the (huge) cast gave a very nice delivery.
After the radio play we wandered out to find the film crew. Given Norcumi's story and mine, we figured they might want an interview, so we asked them about it. Apparently they had already struck the set they used for interviews, but they told us to find them during the masquerade and they'd interview us somewhere. We headed up to the con suite for a while and then went down to wait for doors to open for the banquet, only to run into the film crew again. They ended up doing a couple interviews right there (including ours). They were done in the style of a fake conversation: grab some random fan and bore them by telling them your story for the cameras. It was fairly annoying, actually. The interview before ours was pretty good, but I'm not at all sure (and was not at the time) that we gave the film crew anything usable. The fake-conversation device was just so /awkward/. Maybe the part about Norcumi coming to G2K on a Make-A-Wish grant was usable... anyway, we did our Honorable Duty, and if they don't use the footage I'll probably be happier anyway. I looked like an idiot.
Then came the banquet. This was a delicious five-course meal which started with shrimp cocktail and a salad and then went on to stuffed quails. I ended up eating Norcumi's shrimp cocktail as well as my own, not that I'm complaining. We ended up sitting at a table with BrooklynX; a French Canadian fan; and a girl from Vermont and her father, who were only there for the day. Apparently it was the first con of all three of them. The girl from Vermont had seen the website and convinced her dad to come out to Montreal for the day. She ended up giving Greg a piece of art she made, and he really seemed to appreciate it. It was really sweet.
BrooklynX, Lynati (who was in and out; she had to work on her costume for the masquerade), and the two of us ended up spending most of the meal talking about con politics; hopefully that didn't distress the other occupants of the table too much. The Canadian added an interesting point, though: the con T-shirt shows the Canadian beaver riding on top of the Quebec mascot. He said: "This shirt would be fun as a gift to a child or something, but I would not wear it." Apparently it's offensive to Quebec separatists. I doubt this occurred to anyone responsible for the shirt; it's just interesting how politics always come back to bite you.
Keith David had been scheduled to be there for the entire convention. Apparently his movie got behind schedule, so he wasn't able to leave for Montreal until Saturday morning, and then he had delays at the airport. He showed up at the end of the banquet, and so everyone ended up grilling the poor man while he attempted to eat dinner at the same time. Unfortunately half of his comments were inaudible, due to the tenor of his voice and the bad karaoke sounds coming from the next con over. ("Somebody shoot that ho!" -Keith) But he was interesting. On more than one occasion his answers were so profound that everyone erupted in spontaneous applause. He delivered the most spirited, considered praise of gargoyles as a species that I have ever heard. It was clear he really feels the characters; the extent to which he personalized Goliath was heart-warming. And, on a personal note, when he had to duck out he asked me where the restroom was. It was the extent of my interaction with him, really, but it made my day. Isn't that sad? (While he was out, Norcumi managed to save his meal from destruction by the hotel's Plate Retriever Person, so we both have a really bad story to tell.)
After the banquet, BrooklynX grabbed us to help rearrange tables for the masquerade. No one knew what was going on, but it got done, and at the very least it meant we got front-row seats for the masquerade itself. We therefore got to see the saga of Daniel the hotel coordinator, who was sitting at the judging table right in front of us. He had done up the banquet menu himself, complete with Gargoyles logo and a screenshot from the Disney site. He was really proud of it, telling us all about how he did it, and very enthusiastic about the con. He was fun. When Greg came in he had him sign a copy of the menu, and while Greg signed Daniel turned around and gave us an exaggerated thumbs-up (http://norcumi.gargles-fans.org/photos/con2004/20040808_214602_1406). That's gotta be the best photo of the whole con - Greg, seriously, check it out. I ended up getting Daniel's email address to send him a copy of the photo when we got home.
(He also let A Fan borrow his hotel nametag, which Fan used to do his butler routine and stand next to the door. Fan was even waiting on Daniel, getting water and such. The whole thing was a blast.)
The masquerade was truly amazing. Apparently everyone was hamming it up this year for the film crew. The photos tell more than I possibly can, but it was just amazing. We even got a guy in who is apparently an amateur master costumer of some sort; he goes from con to con showing off his costumes. He won Best Costume, of course.
After the masquerade we hung around for a while. Lynati wanted to give some art to Greg, since he was leaving the next morning, and so we chased around with her for a while as she got everything together. I wound up sitting in the hallway outside Lynati's room, waiting for people and chatting with Aaron, who was trying to get into the room to get his shoes but didn't have a key. Then we went back downstairs, Lynati gave Greg her thing, Erik sang "Blame Gargoyles", and Lynati and the two of us headed up to our room to talk until about three and a half.
Sunday, because we had been up so late, we missed everything again. We seem to be making a habit out of this; it happened last year too. (We both seem to be going more and more for the people, and less and less for the events, as the years go by.) We got downstairs in time to catch the middle of the 501(c)6 organizing meeting, which was not nearly as fun as a KGB meeting nor as well organized (!). Then we met BrooklynX for dinner, which ended up being at a diner nearby. The food was decent, but it was outside the hotel and wasn't McDonald's, so no complaints. We came back to the hotel and hung around for a while, but Norcumi wasn't feeling well so we headed back to the room.
Eventually Norcumi started feeling better and we got bored, so we went out to look for Lynati. Though we didn't find her we found a Muzak knob next to the mezzanine elevators, which was cool enough that I had to go back to the room to get the camera. Got camera, took pictures, went down to the lobby and promptly ran into Lynati, who was waiting for people to get back from laser tag. So we ended up sitting around the lobby talking to Lynati until several in the morning. And playing with the camera. Over the course of it, Emambu, Mara, Aaron, CKayote, and GregX were there for various periods of time. There was TGS, there was Aaron telling stories about driving down the highway with his foot out the window, and there was a long, animated, highly amusing discussion between Aaron and Emambu over the quality of recent seasons of MST3K.
Eventually everyone that was left (Lynati, Mara, Aaron, and Emambu) decided to go bug Hudson and we decided to go to bed. Yet for some strange strange reason, instead of going to bed, we went along to bug Hudson as well. Mostly this consisted of hanging around in the hallway listening to rants about MST3K while Mara and Lynati went to see if Hudson was presentable. Apparently he was not, and by the time he was, everyone wanted to go to bed. Thus we stood around watching Hudson watch everyone drift off to go to bed. I decided I had had enough, told Hudson that we hadn't been able to sleep without him, and went to bed. The whole thing was worth it, just to be able to deliver that line.
Monday we checked out. We had been planning to wander around Montreal a little before heading out in late afternoon, but we were too tired from all the late nights. So instead we hung around the lobby. A bunch of people came and went -- there's no way I'm going to remember who-all was there, so I'm not even going to try -- but mostly I listened and wished I had the camera again. Chris Rogers was there, and so I aired a few things I had wanted to mention for next year's con, but mostly it was just sitting there hanging out. Keith David came by wearing a bright blue suit and posed for a picture with everyone. (By the way, whoever took that picture, please get in contact with Norcumi or me. I'd like a copy.) Ultimately we decided we had to head out. We had another meal at the lobby restaurant (while watching the public works department pull up all the manhole covers on the street outside, look underneath them, then close them again) and then headed for Connecticut to visit Norcumi's parents.
One final note on the organization of this year's con. I thought the con went really well this year. The hotel was terrific, the location was great, and organization was good. The hotel staff were incredibly tolerant of con craziness; it astounds me that they even let us make nuisances of ourselves in the lobby as much as we did. The schedule was overly light and had some timing problems -- three of the four interesting events during the day on Saturday were scheduled during the 12:30-1:45 time block -- but that was my only major complaint. Except for this: the staff had a persistent us-against-them attitude which I found highly distasteful. The staff was highly defensive, and anything that looked like it /might/ be a criticism was jumped on with all four feet. During Opening Ceremonies, someone said that they missed Thom. It wasn't a gripe about the con staff, it was just the sort of thing people say when Thom isn't there, just the sort of thing they said at 2002 -- and suddenly Karine was at the microphone berating people for wondering why Thom had been cancelled at the last minute. That's the first example. The second example is the way Keith's schedule was handled. Again, his travel delays weren't the staff's fault, but neither was the staff particularly communicative (though they did try) about what was going on. And finally, to my knowledge, it was /never/ announced that Greg wouldn't be at Closing Ceremonies. I figured it out by looking at the schedule and then asking a staff member, only to get snapped at for my trouble. Now, I don't think /anyone/ would object to Greg leaving early so that he could be there for his daughter's birthday. I don't think anyone would blame that on the staff. But I /do/ think people wanted to know that, so that they could say their goodbyes or whatever. But I never heard it announced. It should have been. The con staff was too busy defending their turf to keep people in the loop. Folks, you can do better than this.
Next year's Gathering looks to be a fun one. The staff really seems to have it together, and the schedule and location should make for interesting times. Honestly, my biggest fear is that we'll be completely overwhelmed. Even if the DVD sells very badly by Disney standards, the Gathering documentary will send lots of new recruits our way, and in the worst case I fear that we'll be completely overwhelmed by con virgins next year. Not that that would be bad from a financial perspective, but the smallness of the Gathering seems to be a major attraction these days. Many of us don't come for the events anymore, but for the people. And if the people have trouble finding each other, it'll be a very different con. We could certainly use some new ideas and new blood, though, so it'll be a mixed blessing no matter what happens.
I don't think you'll ever have to worry about not being able to find your friends at the Gathering... For better or worse, we're never going to turn into ComicCon.
As for the Radio Plays, I like to mix things up. So I'll continue to do new stuff and old Garg scripts. Both are fun, for different reasons. And honestly, I don't always have new stuff to present.
And I see your point about staff defensiveness, but you could also cut everyone a bit more slack. I'm not sure you realize (a) how much work goes into putting one of these things on and (b) how much complaining does take place. The examples you gave may indeed be instances of people being defensive, but the reason for that defensiveness is because (and I've witnessed this) so MANY instances of people, well, bitching.
And frankly, I'm not sure that you're being entirely fair. My non-appearance at Closing Ceremonies was in the program, as you stated. That to me qualifies as an announcement. And Keith's delayed appearance was spread by word of mouth... how else would it get spread? At the time of Opening Ceremonies, no one knew Keith would be delayed. After that, when was everyone together for a grand announcement to be made?
I know it may sound like I'm being defensive now, but I'm not on the staff. I'm just a bit protective of these good people. Still, I'm sure we could all stand to lighten up a bit.