Scenes from the headache weekend

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Friday begat the headache, a piercing, screaming thing birthed from the caverns of Video Room One.

Ayacon was showing He Is My Master, a Gainax anime which should have been the Evangelion of maid-fetish shows. Two young girls -- thirteen and fourteen, barely more than little children -- run away from home and end up on the estate of an equally tiny orphan boy. At first charming and sweet, the boy hires the two girls on as maids. It turns out that the boy views his parents' tragic death as an opportunity to act out reprehensibly, and so begins to demonstrate an alarmingly lecherous streak. It does not help that the girls carry with them an alligator who exists mainly to jump the fourteen-year-old girl and tear at her clothes. "Oh, that's Pochi," says the younger girl. "He gets like that whenever he sees her."

This show is meant to be a comedy. I had hoped for subversion -- the self-insertion target is selfish and slavering? Bring it on! -- but no such luck. Gainax had used up all of their year's mojo on Re:Cutie Honey, leaving us to simply feel unclean.

At roughly the third screech, the four-day headache began. An ill-advised attempt to drink away the pain of He Is My Master begat a hangover, which compounded the problem. By Saturday afternoon, con flu had firmly taken hold instead, and the headache persisted.

By Saturday night, my back joined my head and stomach on the picket line. I would spend much of the convention holed up in my room, wrapped around a laptop, swaddled in masses of blankets. The scabs and reruns of CBC Radio One were cold comfort, but I felt too out of sorts to position myself so as to watch Teen Titans episodes or my copy of The Incredibles.

Periodically, I would leave the room for a couple of hours, trying to enjoy the con, or spend time with friends, or find food. Passing through the crowds of costumed eighteen-year-olds, I felt out of place. Here, a catgirl. There, a goth Moogle. Beyond, a passel of elegant gothic Lolitas. While some of the worst excesses of American anime fandom were thankfully missing (for example, no one carried signage soliciting sexual favours in exchange for Pocky), the event was set about an octave and a half above my comfort levels. Once again, I did not speak the language anymore.

I gingerly made my way through the dealer's rooms, eyeing a wallet of shoujo-themed Letraset Trias, but only buying a small set of ProMarkers (thinking all the while: "What am I doing? I can't even draw in this state"). Five years ago, I would have walked through the room and been wracked with tchotchke desire; now, the plushies and knickknacks were quaint. I barely even glanced at the DVDs; I knew that there was next to nothing that I would want to watch.

It took two Nurofen Plus and a Luna bar to get to sleep that night. Everything hurt.

By Sunday, little had improved. I moderated the anti-piracy panel, by which I mean that I stood at a podium and looked menacing, then took questions from the audience and continued to look menacing. (I suspect that I looked less menacing than exhausted, but either will do for the purposes of cutting people off when they ramble.) Occasionally, I would sling the panelists a question, or give them a two-minute warning, but that was about it. It went relatively smoothly, although we had limited time for questions.

A nervous, wild-eyed young man circled a small group of us -- panelists, friends, audience members -- afterwards, then approached to ask if I worked in the anime industry. This perplexed me. I'd helped out at a distributor's booth the year before, at another event, but my badge plainly labeled me as a regular congoer. I'm not particularly remarkable.

"You seem so knowledgeable, and you have such a strong American accent..."

Ah. No.

Politely explaining no set off a bit of a panicked screed. "I want to work in the industry," he told me, "but I can't seem to make any connections." And so on, and so forth, with the undertone obvious: can you tell me how to make them? I couldn't. So he began to pace. Around us, around the panelists, around the people around the panelists. Waving his hands, lecturing the air.

I'd seen that look and that stance a few times in my life. At charismatic Baptist prayer meetings, from the purpotedly demonized. In a hospital, from schizophrenics who'd been led down from the wards to the cafeteria. One night in a shelter, on the faces of some ongoing residents. You don't forget it. You just learn to huddle in, then slink away when you have your chance.

What could I tell him?

On went the headache, through another pass by hucksters, through the dwindling crowds, through an escape into Coventry for lunch and books. Disconnected, pained and alarmed, the last day was a fog. When the Blood concert ran long, and the closing ceremonies were postponed for another hour, it didn't seem like such a bad thing to just go home.

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I was at some all-day retirement ceremony/party a few months back, and I was on the (amatuer) video crew (running cameras, switching the feeds). Afterwards, a seventy-to-eighty-year-old man approached me and struck up a conversation. A few minutes into it, his purpose became clear: he wanted to get into the video production industry, and was hoping I could get him connected. (I am in no way connected with the professional video production industry.)

Honestly. I wouldn't believe it either if I wasn't there.

Anyways, I felt exactly the same as you did, Wednesday. Like you said: "What could I tell him?"

Oh, poor Weds! There's nothing like going to an event expecting/hoping to have fun and have it turn into the sick-fest. Do get well soon, darlin'.

As for the poor lost soul wishing for a new job in the Fabulous Anime Industry... well, good luck with that. It's a pity that, once in a while, somebody will make it big just out of the blue, from meeting the right person in a place like that. Because it sometimes happens, there will always be those looking to make it happen for them.

Of course, they miss the point about how it never happens to someone who's looking for it. Like the Metropolitan Opera diva who was discovered singing while mucking out a stable. If you go looking for it, much less looking desperately... it blows the chances of the luck-fairy pinging you on your nose. /shrug

the problem with "those people" (and by that, I mean --perhaps obviously-- people like me) is that they have no empathy for anyone else. they know merely what they want, and stumble when what they want isn't readily available from an internet retailer.

'tis to be pitied. no other action is appropriate, unless, of course, you've figured out a way to soak money from those (us) poor losers...

Ouch. I doubt you were able to attend the Webcomics 101 panel at Otakon there, of which four of us held.

There's nothing like being hit up for advice on how to get into a given industry. I didn't realize until this past weekend that my SMOF paperwork is apparently in the mail.

The funny thing is, I do know how to break into the various industries people ask me about. But the methods I know invariably demand lots of hard work and sacrifice over the span of years, and people seem reticent to put actual work into reaching for their dreams.

I had some guy attempt sexual congress with my leg at Linux World 2000 because he had seen me *gasp* actually have a brief, polite conversation with Alan Cox of kernel-hacker fame.

I'm *really* never sure what to make of that sort of thing.

Sadly, goths send up my poser alarm, despite the fact that the only goths I've ever actually [i]met[/i] were perfectly nice people who just liked dressing in black with army boots and too much makeup and piercings. I don't think I would have survived.

Also, there is an American anime industry? I thought they just hired dubbers, rights laywers and translators. There's not a whole lot of magic going on there, but then I get the feeling the guy was slightly delusional. (And probably meant the Japanese anime industry, which like most Japanese industries only hire outside Japan when they know they're getting good value for money.)

Redwolf: I was at Ayacon in the UK, so, er, no. ^^;; There was no webcomics activity to speak of that I could find, which surprised me; while I knew that most of that sort of energy in British anime fandom had often been channeled towards print minicomics, I didn't realize the extent to which it had remained that way.

Merus: No, I'm fairly confident that he meant some aspect of North American or British industry. That side of things has scary amounts of acquired mystique now, too.

I can readily affirm Wednesday on this one. While the jobs for Americans in anime are limited, those have quite a bit of appeal. It's really odd to see how many people go wild over English-speaking voice actors, given how many otaku only watch subtitled anime. I've only started watching dubs because I'm expected to hype these voice actors for Anime Boston, so I figure I should be familiar with their work.

Also, never underestimate the desire to be a translator (or translation editor). TokyoPop's entire business model basically consists of exploiting people with said desire. Of course, on the flip side, TokyoPop is also the company that is most likely to publish "American manga," like Van Von Hunter. So they probably offer the most opportunity for any American that wants to get involved with anime/manga.

I'll mention here my stock line that I give anyone who wants to get involved in something like this - work very hard for several years at what you want to do, and always look for opportunities to get involved. The problem with most people who ask the question, again, is that they want the "won the lottery" method when the "lots of hard work" method is much more reliable if slower.

I've been a puppydog more often than I've picked them up, I suspect, but I've picked up one or two. In Chicago fandom in the mid-80s sometime there was a guy who looked at the daily comic strips in my binder and got it into his head that I ought to be an "underground cartoonist". Since my stuff has always been perfectly conventional (except, perhaps, for the derivativeness of its subject matter which has widely varied in legality over the years), I had no idea why he thought I'd have any particular aptitude or inclination to be an underground cartoonist, except that probably that was his favorite kind. Are webcomics underground comics?

I always thought "underground" meant independent and/or self-published. I know that when people think of "underground comics" or "underground magazine" or what-have-you, the image that comes to mind is of some subversive publication. However, I think the phrase just basically means it's created and distributed independently, as opposed to a syndicate or "professional" publisher.

I do so hate the phrase "break in to the industry". Sorry, folks, but there can be only one Rob Leifeld per century. Everyone else requires talent and basic skills to get in to an industry.

But still, Can you get me an in, Weds? I don't want to toil at my comics till I get a bigger audience. Give me the magical secret to sucess! (Hint: Claiming you single-handly revolutionized webcomics does not work. See my bio for details.)

Oops. I forgot to flaunt my page views. 7 per day, baby! Beat that! ;D

I ran into something something similar several years ago, when I worked for a local concert promoter (working their merch table at festivals, taking money at the door at clubs, etc.) A lot of people wanted to be my friend in hopes that I could be their ticket into the 'in crowd.' Of course, there were a couple of very attractive women who were in that group, and I had at least one band manager buy me drinks all night in hopes of me putting in a good word for them with my friend, so it wasn't all bad.

The thing people failed to notice was the amount of work that went into my job. If I was lucky, I caught may be one band at a festival (I ussually used that time to take a nap) and, depending on the club's layout, I may get to see the band at club shows. Even when I showed up at shows to just enjoy myself, that didn't mean I wouldn't end up working when my friend needed to go off somewhere and flier at another club. And after a foul up at a new years show where I almost lost the door money, I was always sober when I was working.

In some ways it is high school all over again, some people just want to be one of the cool kids. If you're into anime, then that means working in the anime industry, if you're into music, then that means hanging out with the local promoter. Lack of talent or ability to work hard, doesn't replace the desire.

Of course, it probably should be mentioned that yes, life is pretty sweet on the 'inside.' For me there were the cute girls who knew me, even though I didn't know them; becoming friends with bartenders who mixed your drinks strong and then charged you half price; never paying for shows; and all kinds of other pluses. So there is something to be said about wanting to be on the inside.

It also involves a lot of work and responsability and knowing when getting the job done right is more important then having fun. And it is the williness, not just the ability, to put work above fun, that gets you inside more then anything else.

In the end, after about a year of working for my friend, I was completely burned out. I stopped working for him and ultimetly hit a place where I needed to just walk away from everything/one that was associated with that world, because it had gotten to be to much.

So, it is a lot of fun being there, but it is also a lot of work. In the end, the majority of people are just not cut out for it.

I remember someone asking "How do I break into a doujinshi circle?". Do you ever think these kids don't have the first clue what goes on in the industry? A doujinshi circle is a group of friends who help each other with their indie comics. If you want to "break in", you just get some friends and start working hard.

Like me. I work hard. And my art looks like garbage. I am indie! (Looks a lot beter before the inks. I gotta work on that.)

For the record, the concept of breaking into the industry isn't always total garbage; approaching random people and waving your arms at them is idiotic, of course, or pathetic in the classic sense of the word, but there are industries where talent and the willingness to work hard are still required (mostly), but connections and such really can be incredibly crucial, and merely working hard and having talent is nothing like a guarantee (okay, I'm really just talking about the entertainment (Hollywood/theatre) industries here, but one of my majors is Drama, cut me some slack).

Also I missed the "Wednesday," so I had to reread the entire post with a different set of mental images (and the "American accent" thing finally making sense) after I saw the comments.

On the side of your rant, I noticed your comment about the dealer's room. I've been finding the local anime dealer's room having less and less of a pull on me - these days it's mostly a trawl for bargains, or looking for something odd that really grabs my interest. (Like the LUM random statue, or the little kubrik universal monsters. It's the Creature from the Black Lagoon! Kawaii!)

Sometimes I wonder if I'm going to help out again at NDK, but then I do enjoy helping people. Last year, I got to take someone to the hospital, and he was scared... and I made a difference for him by staying there until he was done with the hospital and needed to go home. And that was cool.

Well, siwangmu, connections are important. They do help you get further in what you want to do. However, even those are subject to hard work.

I'm going to use my own experience as an example. One of my friends is a fellow by the name of Clayton, who also helps run the video game review site I work on. He's a great asset, as he knows quite a few people in the industry because of his work with several large game companies (names withheld because this isn't meant to be a name dropping exercise). He also has written reviews for a good year or so before I started. And through him, I've managed to to grow more in prominence as a writer (and to be fair, there have been quite a few times I've helped him out; it's a two-way street).

Now, how did I meet Clayton? He sought me out because he saw that I wrote a review of Chrono Cross, and was obviously both a fan of Square (now Square Enix) and They Might Be Giants, as he was. But he was interested in me not just because we liked two geeky things in common, but because he liked my writing alot as well. Coincidence led him to find me, but it was my own effort that convinced him I was worth his time.

Those coincidences will always happen, if you put yourself in a position to find them. But while serendipity can happen to anyone, it has a tendency to happen more to people who work at it.

It's neat to hear about your experience; we have no real quarrel on the point itself (you'll note that I explicitly acknowledged talent and hard work being required--the "mostly" was just a silly "We're not sure everyone famous in L.A. is actually talented" thing, but then again those people probably work even harder). I merely meant to point out that in some industries, there's no promsie that hard work and talent alone will get you anywhere, even with years put into it. But you're right to reinforce its importance; hard work and your attitude are really the only aspects you ahve any control over, so they are what you need to focus on. Anyway, I don't have any major "You're wrong!" to add, but I felt like I ought to respond, since you were kind enough to.

To add to 32's comments, which I agree with. I've also found just going out and doing something can sometimes be the best thing to do. For example, the reason that I was working for the promoter I mentioned was because I volunteered at one of his early festivals. I worked my 8 hours for my ticket, saw that they still needed help, and kept working. The next festival he did, I did the same thing. After that I was considered staff.

A better example might be the promoter himself. He started out offering to hand out fliers for bands that he liked. As time went on he became friends with those bands, who turned him onto other bands. When those bands couldn't get local shows, he booked the shows himself, and the whole thing steam rolled from there. I've met a lot of people in the background of the music biz who started out doing things like handing out fliers and just kind of went from there.

I'm not sure what the equivilent postion is in other industries, but there's always some crap job that people would be happy to let you do for free.

We? How many siwangmu are there out there?

In all seriousness, I know that sometimes, blind luck does just happen. Really, I think the best comparison to what I've gone through is the stock market. Sometimes, luck comes into play. Sometimes, effort alone isn't enough. But with alot of effort, recognizing opportunities as they come along, and a pinch of luck, you can come out ahead. Certainly more reliable than waiting for the Powerball to come in.

As for other fields, I can easily point to a few ways to make things happen.

For anime and manga, I can attest as fact, one great way is to get involved in an anime convention. I started right off as staff at a con, but you can certainly get your feet wet by starting as a volunteer. But being involved with conventions has put me in some interesting positions and a chance for some new opportunities (I'm hoping to score an interview with one fairly prominent voice actor who does work for both anime and games). Basically, making yourself useful to people with connections is a great way to make them for yourself.

For non-video games, I'd suggest finding a small company that makes a game you like and start talking to them about it. They might recruit you for demonstrations, play testing future product, and the like. I don't do this myself, but know quite a few people that do.

Of course, for webcomics, you can always start a wordy and intelligent blog that gives serious and thoughtful critiques. There's some evidence of that working.

Basically, making yourself useful to people with connections is a great way to make them for yourself.

And with that, 32 sums up one of the key points I was getting at.

bad:

"please help me"

good:

"how can I help you"

sorry about the spacing snafu there. Still fine tuning the sacred art of the blockquote tag.

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