As per usual, I mostly spent time hanging out in the filk room with some excursions to other tracks during breaks in the filk programming or when something looked particularly interesting. This is also a commuter con for me, which makes it harder for me to get to morning stuff because I sleep in and eat a big meal at home before I go to the con each day.
I was worried about whether or not they'd lost my pre-reg because I'd looked up my badge name (Algeh), my first name, and my first and last name on their website reg-checker and it kept telling me I wasn't registered. (I just tried it again today, and it turned out that I also needed to put in my middle name, and it came up registered with all three names present, but when the only instructions are "Enter your name here to see if you are registered" and a single text field I don't leap immediately to putting in my full name like that, particularly when it seems to be checking character by character as I typed, so I kind of assumed it was looking at partial matches and that no one whose name started Al was in its system when it told me "Yes you are Registered" when I typed A and switched to "No you are NOT Registered" when I typed the l. Also, I'm pretty sure that in previous years this kind of information was dispensed by badge name rather than real name and was usually in the form of a list everyone could see so you could see which of your friends were going. I could just be getting mental con cross-pollination on that one though, since that's how Conflikt does it.)
However, they did have my registration waiting for me when I got there, so it all worked out. The line was also fairly short. Annoyingly, I got to wait in it twice as they were giving out the parking discount passes at registration this year and no one told me this as I picked up my badge (there was a sign, but it was over in the non-pre-reg area so I didn't see it when getting my badge). (Over the course of the con I got to wait in the reg line 4 times as a result of this new policy, as opposed to the two times - getting my badge on Friday and registering for the next OryCon on Sunday - I normally would.)
After I got my badge I hung out and talked to some of the filkers for a while, mostly runnerwolf. (I'd allowed extra time for a argument at reg over whether or not I'd pre-reg'ed, so I had some extra time before any of the panels I was interested in.) Then I hit up one of the "ex-military people and military SF writers" panels (there are a group of guys who are on a bunch of panels together each year that more or less boil down to this, and I generally attend whichever one fits my schedule best regardless of declared topic) before I disappeared into the filk track.
The Friday night concert track was a little different this year. We had a couple who played mostly eastern European folk music in addition to some of the usual filkers, and we had at least two filkers get stuck in traffic and miss part or all of a panel or concert they were scheduled for. Also Frank Hayes was at Windycon so Orycon had other people doing covers of his stuff in place of his usual Friday night concert. The concerts we had were all worthwhile, though. I always enjoy hearing Cecilia Eng, and it was nice to get the variety of the folk musicians and the different musicians covering Frank's stuff.
I skipped the Megatherium concert because they've been way too loud for me in the past and went to a panel that was basically people who've been doing cons forever swapping stories. I was tempted to tell the story of the time Guy Letournaeu (who was also in the audience for this panel) showed up at my anime club barbecue with two vanfuls of people without warning me first, but decided that I shouldn't talk because he was the only person in the room I even vaguely knew and it was a pretty "in-group" kind of panel. I was probably the only person there who'd been attending cons less than 10 years (I'm pretty sure my first con was a SakuraCon back in 2003, and my first SF con was an OryCon in 2006). They decided to keep going past their scheduled time because no one was in the room after them (OryCon is TERRIBLE for this kind of thing - constant schedule-slippage and no concept of passing time between panels) but I decided to go check out The Doubleclicks instead despite only the vaguest of descriptions in the program book. I am glad I went, for they are exactly the kind of thing I like. (I was worried they'd be another rockish group that would be too loud for me, but they were acoustic and at a reasonable volume.)
Friday open filking was bardic-style, as is traditional for OryCon Friday nights. A lot of familiar faces were missing this year, and I don't really know why. If any of you who couldn't make it are reading this, you were missed. However, the smaller crowd made for a much more manageable bardic, and it took almost exactly an hour the first time around and only slightly longer the second time. It then took a half hour the third time and pretty much petered out soon after that. Quality-wise, there was never a logical time for me to take a bathroom break (I usually try to time them for when someone is going to play something that they play every con and I am getting a little sick of because I see them several times a year) which is a good problem to have (I finally snuck out while Cecilia was playing her song about the werewolf game, which I have at least heard several times before although I'm not sick of it). It seems like we ended a little earlier than usual this year, which may have been due to the smaller circle as well. (I suspect that most filkers only have two or three songs that they are invested in getting a chance to play in a night of bardic and are willing to give up and go to bed after that point.)
I made a brief pass through the room parties because open filking ended so early, but there wasn't much to hold my interest that late at night. If I'd been staying in the hotel and thus able to have a drink I probably would have found more to do, as the parties seemed to be either drinking-focused, dancing-focused, or catching-up-with-old-friends-focused at that hour.
On the never-ending filk argument front (yes, I read the Emerald Forest Filk list in August, why do you ask?), I took stats of requests and how many requests each person answered. (Because of the way I take notes, I don't have data on who requested each song or whether each request was for a specific song, a specific person, or for a specific topic open to multiple potential filkers, nor do I have data on unanswered requests. I just put a * by the performer's name if it was a request as I was writing the song listings.) Out of the approximately 20-25 people in the room, either 7 or 8 (depending on whether or not you count a duo as one or two people) answered requests, 4 of them more than once. No one answered more than 3 requests, and neither of the 3-request answerers had a solo concert at OryCon this year. I don't have a good direct measure of who is and isn't a "big name" (and I'm unwilling to base that on a personal judgment call), but only 12 people performed more than one song at the bardic (which I'm trying as a not-terrible measure of who might have enough material and energy to answer requests if asked, although two of the requestees played only their one requested song and passed or requested songs of others on their turns, so this may not be a very good measure after all) and only 15 total different people performed, so it seems like the requests were fairly well-distributed on this occasion. The most songs anyone performed was one filker with 7, followed by another with 6 and one or two with 5 (there are a few things I'm not sure how to count). These were all filkers who pretty much stayed until the end, which helped them in racking up their relatively-large totals. The most songs performed by someone who received no requests was 4. I'm not counting backing/supporting roles in these stats when possible, and I also don't have good data on how long anyone was or wasn't in the room when not performing and thus was available for requests. I am including spoken-word pieces in these totals, but not things like announcements. I assume that all sides heavily invested in the never-ending filk argument in question are now pointing their fingers at their monitors and yelling SEE!, but I wanted to put the data out there regardless. I have no interest in posting names along with the data generally, but if you want to know how many songs you personally performed I'll be glad to tell you (and give you recordings of your own work if you want them, although it will take me a while to edit them out of the larger sound file).
In a fit of unusual optimism (and a desire to support OryCon programming in trying new things) I decided to sign up for the band scramble, which was new to the con this year. Unfortunately, only 5 people signed up, so I ended up in a duo, and I'm not a strong enough musician to bring much to a duo on 24 hours notice. (I was hoping to get to do harmony or supporting vocals in a larger group.) Also, there was no logical time or space for rehearsal, which was kind of a mess. I don't know if everyone participating was supposed to show up at noon when they announced the bands and then go off with their band to form a plan, but in practice this didn't happen and I didn't happen to cross paths with my bandmate until later in the afternoon. (If the con does this again next year, I suggest announcing the bands right before dinner break on Friday night or during sound check for one of the after-dinner bands on Friday to give people more time to locate their bandmates and pick rehearsal times. It would also be nice, if possibly impractical, to have some space set aside with some filk books, a computer, and a scanner/copier to facilitate bands picking songs and getting everyone a copy. A time and space set aside for rehearsal would be awesome but almost certainly impractical.)
Anyway, I spent the middle of Saturday not finding my bandmate, getting too hot in the dealer's room (I swear it was like a sauna in there this year, and that kept me from lingering long enough to actually buy stuff), not being able to find the right booth to buy the Doubleclicks CD at (later in the day, I finally discovered it was a fan table rather than a dealer and so I was looking in the wrong room entirely) and finally getting enough anxiety going that I needed to check out for a while (not knowing what I am supposed to do or where I am supposed to go causes a lot of anxiety for me, which makes trying new things hard). I finally ended up going to another of the "ex-military people and military SF writers" panels just because it'd be in a small room that hopefully wouldn't be overcrowded and I could sit near the door and not interact with people. It ended up being a pretty good panel, too. Then I caught a space-focused panel (another thing I try to hit at least once each con) before heading back to my "home" at the filk track.
The Eugenics concert (for the non-locals, it's a pun based on the band's hometown, Oregon's third-largest city) was pretty good, although I remembered the band having more members last year so was initially surprised to just see a duo this year (another case of filkers who couldn't make the con this year for one reason or another, I suspect). I think the highlight for me was watching admnaismith wander into the audience to entertain a small child with a stuffed bear puppet during a song that only Dave was playing on. It just summed up a lot of the best part of the filk community to me, as I can't think of many other places where musicians would be able to do such a thing. (As an aside, I also appreciate that admnaismith posted a track list in his journal, as it helped me correct the song titles in my notes. For whatever reason, the norm in the filk community is not to announce the name of each song before you play it, so I often have no idea what a lot of the songs I like are called unless the performer gets a CD out or posts them all to a website somewhere.) The actual music was pretty awesome, too. I finally touched base with my bandmate at around this time, and we concluded that we had no shared spare time until open filking. This is the peril of trying to add in one more thing on a Saturday at a con. I stayed to listen to the jam, then decided that my nerves needed a nice, quiet sit-down dinner all by myself, so I walked over to Village Inn. I have no idea where everyone else goes to eat at the con, but it's clear that Village Inn isn't it, and it was nicely quiet for me.
After dinner Katie Tinney performed with her temporarily-named band Bowl of Monocles, then Vixy and Tony went on. Katie did a nice mix of originals, covers, and traditional tunes, and Vixy and Tony surprised me by having quite a bit of new material since the last time I'd heard them. I'm glad I decided to stay for their concert. (I almost didn't because I didn't want to be too overwhelmed to see Tempest later and considered ducking into another of the "ex-military people and military SF writers" panels to let my batteries recharge a bit.)
Tempest was the music GOH this year and had their concert in the main ballroom rather than over with the rest of the filk programming. As a result, open filking technically started in the midst of their performance, and I hear from other con reports that I missed some good stuff by going to the concert. The con staff did a good job of running the concert, making sure that people in scooters and wheelchairs were able to get in before others and answering my question about audio recording without me having to go bug the band personally (I generally record all music performances at cons, and I try to ask performers that I haven't recorded before whether or not that's ok with them, but I didn't feel like it was appropriate to pester a band with that big of a crowd while they were trying to get set up - I generally try to ask before/during sound check while the performer in question is waiting for their turn with the sound people but the room was closed during sound check in this case). I suspect that Tempest is the kind of thing I'd really enjoy at a venue like Faireworlds where (a) I'm not baby-sitting my audio recorder and a bag full of my con stuff, (b) I'm able to get further away from the band and their speakers since it's outside, and (c) I've been drinking. They seemed like a fun band to dance to, but dancing is just not something I enjoy doing sober (particularly on days when I've already had anxiety problems). I enjoyed the concert anyway (although I really, really wish I'd brought earplugs) and I expect that I'll enjoy listening to the CD I picked up as well.
Open filking (chaos-style, as is traditional on Saturday nights at Orycon) was lightly attended, probably as a result of the concert going so late. I got there about 11:20, and it ended before 2 am. I don't think we ever even got up to 20 people, but the people who were there were more than able to carry the circle, so the net result was probably that those in attendance got to perform the things they'd been wanting to perform rather than feeling stifled by a really competitive circle as happens some years. Unless someone really wants me to, I'm not going to post a bunch of stats from the chaos filk, particularly since I didn't get there until after the concert so I don't have a complete record. I've also finally gotten to the point where I know almost everyone who performs in the circle's name, which is a lot of progress for me because I'm terrible at matching names and faces. I've been keeping notes of who plays what in circles for a year now, and on both Friday and Saturday nights I was able to either read badges or get up the nerve to ask the few people who I was still writing descriptions rather than names for. I'm sure I'm still spelling a few wrong or only know either a badge name or a real name for some others, but that's a smaller problem to work on. I also need to do a better job of learning the names of the other listeners. That will be my next project, but I'm not quite sure how to approach it.
Also, at the very end of open filking my bandmate and I finally got a chance to try our song for the band scramble, and I discover that it's a tune I completely don't know for the verses (I'd sung along with the chorus enough times in previous open filks that I had that fairly solid.) When I got home, I poked at Wikipedia and pulled up a page from a 1907 hymnal for what Wikipedia says is the tune for the original song the filk is based on. (I am a very visual person, and the best way for me to learn a song involves sheet music and a piano. The second best way involves just the sheet music. Listening to a song a bunch of times is not nearly as effective, or I would have just recorded my bandmate singing it and played the recording a bunch of times before I went to bed. This is one reason that I don't generally perform in filk circles - if I haven't specifically prepped and rehearsed something or have the sheet music in front of me it will be a total train wreck.)
In the interest of coherency and emotional stability, I decided to skip the 10:30 am Alexander James Adams concert and sleep in and eat a large breakfast before leaving home. Most years, I skip eating breakfast, go to his concert, and then eat a big brunch or lunch right afterwards at some place that does bottomless coffee (Village Inn is a pretty good choice, as they leave an actual carafe of coffee on the table). However, this year I knew that wouldn't work because the band scramble was at 1:00 so if I were to have any shot at practicing with my bandmate at all I was going to have to skip lunch. If I were to skip both breakfast and lunch I'd be a big, whiny meltdown waiting to happen, so I decided to let that concert go this year. It was fortunate that I did, because the concert ran late and thus one of the judges missed part of the song contest he was judging because he was at the concert and didn't realize that the contest was going to start on time even if the concert was still going on (I suspect that other people at the contest had made a similar sleep and food vs. Alec trade-off and weren't aware that the concert was running late). This in turn let my recording-everything habit be actually useful to someone other than me, and I handed him my recordings of the already-performed songs so he could get caught up while we waited for the final performer (who had also been at the concert and had no idea that the contest was running on time rather than waiting) to show up and get ready.
At around this point, my bandmate and I discovered that the tune he knew for that song was different from the one Wikipedia gave me and I'd been practicing all morning. That's when we decided to give up and just have us both sing everything and not try anything at all fancy (the previous plan had been to alternate verses and both sing on the chorus). I'd just have to sing quieter during the parts that I was fuzzy on the tune for, because the only other option at that point was beatboxing, and that would have been an even worse idea. (This did, however, give us our band name, which was "Plan B is Beatboxing".)
Because the band scramble had only two acts and an hour allocated for the performances, they very nicely gave us a little more rehearsal time, so we did at least sing the damn song all the way through together once before getting on stage. I also got to try out my partially-written "Dollar Tree" filk (tto "Lemon Tree") as my sound check song, which was kind of fun. (I'm going to try to finish this before Conflikt, so if any instrumentalist out there would like to learn how to play Lemon Tree before then it would be appreciated. Unless I lose my mind and decide to sign up for a two-shot, this would be something I'd do during open filking. If I actually get the words finished and am happy with them I'll start asking around more thoroughly, but I'm also optimistic that it's a common enough folk tune that I'd be able to find someone spontaneously at the con, particularly if I bring the chords with me.) I'm pretty sure the actual performance was a train wreck on my part, but we got all the way through without stopping and giving up, which is always goal #1. I tried to emote the song with facial expressions, but realized partway through that it probably looked more like I was making faces at my own performance instead so I stopped. I have not yet listened to my recording of it and I'm not sure I will. The other group did a much better job, and had words written by one of their group members to boot. I felt kind of bad that my bandmate was stuck with me rather than them.
I then went to the con feedback panel, which I try to do in years when it doesn't compete with a concert. I'm bad at knowing when to talk and when to shut up at things like that, but I hope I handled myself appropriately this year. I suspect that this was one of those years in which balls got dropped along the way earlier in the year and concom spent the con scrambling trying to fix things, but was well aware of where those failings were well before the feedback panel started (since they'd spent the con trying to fix them), so I tried not bring up some of the more glaring issues along those lines. One of the most interesting moments that shows how these long-running cons can get totally entrenched in a certain way of thinking is probably worth mentioning here, though. Someone else mentioned that he'd like to see more panels that were reader-focused rather than writer-focused in the literary track. The explanation he got back had to do with panels being chosen on the basis of which ones the panelists want to be on and on the basis of which ones go well with the panelists they have, which to me kind of missed the point. Obviously writers want to be on panels where they can (a) talk about writing and (b) promote their books. Readers, who probably make up a much greater proportion of the con membership than writers, would like some panels about, say, which other books they might want to be reading if they like a certain author or subgenre that are less well known or older and they may have missed when they came out. The logical thing to me at this point is to recruit some new panelists who know a lot about different books rather than asking author-panelists who already have a dog in that fight to be on those panels, and I suggested that librarians would be excellent panelists for those types of panels. Someone else offered to give programming a list of several local librarians he knew who already attend the con, so maybe something will come of that. I'd personally like to see more outreach to people like educators and librarians generally (I suspect that teachers without a whole lot to say on a topic would do a better job as panel moderators in some of the rowdier panels compared to people with more invested in the topic and little other experience in managing a group of people who all want to talk, for starters), but I also admit that I'll spend most of the con in the filk room no matter how much they do what I want in the rest of the tracks, so it's perfectly reasonable to ignore suggestions from me if they aren't things other people want too.
The last formal con programming I attended was a Betsy Tinney concert, and it was a wonderful way to end the con. The number of people, most of whom were pretty tired by then and many of whom had a long drive ahead of them, who showed up for a concert of mostly instrumental cello music was pretty impressive, and Betsy did a wonderful job of performing it. She also did an excellent job of speaking between songs, and I wonder why that task does not more often fall to her when performing in groups. (I suspect it's because she doesn't usually have a vocal mike, and that's kind of a disappointing reason.)
Rather than a dead-dog filk we mostly had a chance for people to actually talk to each other. One of the few things I dislike about filk is how little time there is to have conversations and get to know people at conventions. Because it's rude to talk while people are performing, there is very little time for casual conversation. OryCon filkers used to all go out to dinner together one of the nights (I think it was Saturday night) but that tradition seems to have ended with the new hotel as there isn't an obvious choice for a nearby restaurant that would work well for us. I think the dead dog is also more sparsely attended because Powells does an author event on the Sunday afternoon of OryCon and a lot of people go over to that. I decided I was too broke to get dinner out again and come back to see if dead dog filking would happen in hospitality later, so I just went home, had dinner, and went to bed early. (There was no time in my day for lunch, so skipping dinner was not a good option.) I didn't wake up until after noon today and I never did manage to go outside or talk to anyone. I will probably go rescue the newspaper before I go to sleep, but putting on socks just seems like an unreasonable demand today.
Personal observations/what worked and didn't work about how I managed the con
This section is mostly notes-to-self stuff about what I can do to make future conventions go smoothly for me, kind of like an internal feedback panel.
On both Saturday and Sunday, I made a full pot of coffee at home and poured half of it into two Contigo travel mugs that I'd gotten at Costco a few months before. (I like these mugs and water bottles because they are virtually impossible to spill from as you have to hold down a button to keep the spout open. I call them my "adult sippy cups". I wish they'd make travel mugs with carabiners like their water bottles, though.) This worked out pretty well. The coffee was still warm (if not overly hot) by the time I drank the second mug in the evening, and it saved me from paying $2 for each cup of coffee out someplace. I'll have to remember this strategy for future commuter cons. (It may not work quite the same for cons where I stay at hotels because the in-room coffee makers tend to be tiny, so I'd have to make multiple pots and they don't often give you enough coffee and filters to do that.)
I need to find some additional food to keep in my con bag besides cashews. I like cashews, and they certainly helped when I got hungry, but I feel that some sort of vegetable would have helped nutritionally. I didn't want to haul around an insulated lunch sack or worry about the food getting crushed, so I think I went too minimal here. I just can't think of anything other than nuts or dried fruit that can hang out at the bottom of my bag all weekend and not get crushed or otherwise gross. Adding the two travel mugs meant that there really wasn't much space left for food in non-crushable containers. I at least need to add some dried fruit next time, and ideally some sort of veggie. I might also want to get another travel mug and fill it with milk or drinkable soup, but sour milk would smell and taste awful and I worry that it's hard to get these mugs completely clean (which is less of an issue with coffee).
Eating one meal at home (brunch), one meal out (dinner), and otherwise packing snacks seems like it'll mostly work for me. I get really hungry again around midnight or 1 am, but I suspect that I'd have that problem even if I ate separate breakfasts and lunches. This year I ate mall pizza on Friday and breakfast for dinner at Village Inn on Saturday. I'd like to find less carby options next year so dinner sticks with me a little better, but it's hard to find protein-heavy food I can eat (vegetarian and not made of soy) out places.
For my home-meals this year I'd cooked up a bunch of black beans on Thursday and made bean and cheese burritos each day. That worked out really well, and 2 cups of dried beans was just about perfect to get me through Thursday dinner and one meal per day of the con. Since that's just microwaving after the initial bean-cooking, I may bring the pre-made stuff for this to hotel cons in the future, although I've found it really difficult to get a refrigerator and microwave in my room at cons before so I may skip it rather than bring my own microwave and a cooler. It's nice to have one filling meal a day that I know doesn't contain anything I'm sensitive to, though. (I have only one food - bell peppers - that I'm severely allergic to but many foods that I'll get varying degrees of sick after I eat or, in some cases, eat more than once every few days. This means that I can be reasonably non-picky about what I eat once or twice a con, but at the cost of being really fussy the rest of the time. I try to save the non-picky meals for times I'm going to eat in groups.)
I felt really overwhelmed and anxious for a while on Saturday, and the thing that sucks about commuting to a con is that there's no place to go to be alone. It's particularly bad at OryCon because they put hospitality an elevator-ride away and elevators make my anxiety worse, so I didn't go up to see if it was reasonably empty or really crowded. This is the one thing I miss about their old hotel - hospitality could be reached using stairs from most of the programming spaces so I'd go check it out a lot more often. I finally just decided to go to panels in small rooms and sit near the door for a few hours, which helped somewhat. This was also part of why I decided to got to Village Inn for dinner, because for some reason it's not popular with con attendees so this is the second year I've gone and it hasn't been at all crowded.
I need to seek out some people to specifically hang out with at cons. I ate dinner alone both nights this year, and I probably didn't need to do that if I'd be proactive in asking people if they wanted to go to dinner with me. The second night I really needed the alone time, but I probably should have asked a few people if any of them wanted to walk over to the food court on Friday night. I can tell I'm on the fringes of the social group, and if I want to make any progress with that I need to both make sure I'm on my best behavior so people want to include me and to try to reach out to other people.
So anyway, that was OryCon. As with every year, I have moments when I wonder why I keep doing this to myself and other moments when I remember why I keep coming back. I've already bought my membership for next year, and this year I also offered to volunteer before, but not during, the con (with my anxiety I don't want to commit in advance to doing anything in particular during the con so I can adjust my con schedule as needed if I'm having a day when I can't handle much). We'll see if they take me up on that.
Next up: possible December housefilk at my dad's place in Aloha (I'm not sure that there's enough interest, so I need to put out a few more feelers before committing) and then Conflikt in January.
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