These Year in Reviews are not, what I call, official “reviews”. Like last year, they will be a series of musings, learned lessons and stories of what I experienced through out the year. Of course, reviews are featured but they are blended in with everything. The theme of FIRSTS sum up the beginning, middle and end of my year, as you will see. Enjoy my year of 2016 in the Michigan Geek Scene.
Ah, Summer. Beautiful, sunny weather without a hint of snow in sight. Con season is in full swing and outdoor festivals appear to entertain you. I can only be inside of convention halls and hotel rooms for only so long before the freedom of outside beckons me. Just like the Lovin Spoonful said, “Despite the heat, it’ll be alright”.
Cedar Springs Renaissance Faire
Part one of a back to back Ren Faire Weekend
My girlfriend and myself were asked to escort the Queen and King to the Royal Dinner. On the way, I managed to convince Queen Victoria that we should have our pinkies extended to signify our upper class status. I acted like an arrogant aristocrat to everyone along the way. I turned my nose up at them and told them no eye contact. Upon arriving before the dinner table, our introductions were announced to the crowd. When asked what my title was, I stated the Duke of MIGeekScene. What came out (accidentally) was the Douche of MIGeekScene. It was hilarious and strangely appropriate for the way I was in character. Afterwards, my girlfriend and I ate dinner at the table with the Queen and King. At the end of the day, my girlfriend snapped an excellent shot of Queen Victoria and I while we were keeping it upper crust.
Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival
Part two of a back to back Ren Faire Weekend
The Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival came to life in 2008. Originally, it occurred in October before transitioning to the summer of 2012. Not to be confused with the Michigan Renaissance Festival in Hollygrove, this event is held in Vassar, which is super close to Frankenmuth. The festival is held inside of a forest. Not the same forest from the awesome Cure song (of the same name), but a forest nonetheless. Sadly, that song was not playing upon entrance in this festival but I can’t hold that against them. The shade of the forest kept everyone cool while the hot weather from outside dared not to enter. This treated forest kept out the bugs, for no mosquitos or flies were found.
This event would benefit from better signage pointing the way to the entrance. A few miles out from the place, signs would be helpful. On the way to the festival, I passed the place thanks to my wonderfully wonky GPS unit. A bigger sign at the entrance of the parking lot would be beneficial as well. Once I found the entrance, it was smooth sailing from that point on.
The festival runs for three weekends, each with their own theme. I came down during the Magic and Mysticism weekend which focused on fairy and belly dancers. I was unable to return for the other themed weekends. The Pillage the Village weekend centered around pirates and vikings. Cosplay and steampunk was theme of the When Worlds Collide weekend.
I like the fact that this festival is trying to reach out to different groups of the geek spectrum besides Renaissance Faire attendees. I know some purists out there would scoff at the notion of anime or comic book cosplayers walking around at a faire. I see the time lord Whovian Doctors walking around and that seems to be accepted (barely). Fairies, trolls, dragons and other mythological creatures didn’t exist but they are acceptable at Ren Faires. Where are the purists calling for the historical accuracy of the unwashed masses? What about credit cards, bottled water, and outdoor port-a-johns? They didn’t exist back then but they get a pass. I never understood the hang up that some people have over non-period specific costumes at a Ren Faire as if it takes them out of the immersion and ruins the experience. To each their own, though.
Since it was the weekend designated for celebrating fairies, I ventured into the fairy village. Upon entering, I was greeted with misting water. I loved the miniature castles with the miniature fairies on the miniature horses. Did I say miniature enough in that last sentence? I must confess that I did not capture a photo of a real fairy since the fae are elusive.
Fairly priced food was the name of the game at this event. I don’t know the name of the vendor but they were serving the biggest elephant ears that I have ever seen. Seriously, look at that thing in the picture above. Gigantic!! Since they were served at room temperature, you didn’t have to worry about burning your fingers. I was told to check out the “botato” which was a baked potato with pulled pork, sour cream, and cheese. I opted for the bread bowls because they are my go to meal since they are quite filling.
An extremely unique play area was designated for children. I saw a green ogre with a large padded nose. I figured that was a target for balls and I was wrong. The protruding nose was meant for picking “boogers”. Inside the booger, was a prize. Kids would learn the art of historical biological warfare by catapulting squeaky “mice” balls at the windows of a castle with the slingshots. Combat skills were tested in the battle arena. Yes, you read that right. This festival had a battle arena for kids. Before you break out the torches and pitchforks to raze the forest, the kids “battled” with soft foam padded weapons under adult supervision. The participants would receive lemonade and cookies afterward. If parents wanted their children to act in a more regal or chivalrous manner, one could undergo a class to become a princess or a knight. For those that completed knight training, they were given a certificate honoring them as a knight of the realm. During the princess course, subjugation and imperialism were the courses of choice. Sure, it was under the guise of manners and acting like a princess, but we really know what being a princess is really about. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Entertainment was prevalent at the Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival. The Theatrical Combat Network performed a skit, called The Lost Treasure of Blackbeard, which combined comedy and sword fighting. The Fiend Fyre Charmers displayed dangerous feats of entertainment with……..fire. A few lucky contestants tried their luck with three fairies during the Fairy Tale dating game throughout the weekend. This festival seriously missed the opportunity for a musician to perform the dating game theme song on trumpet throughout the game. During the later afternoon hours, the festival’s cast paraded through the village.
I would gladly come out to the Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival again. There was plenty of entertainment for the one day that I attended. I would love to experience a full weekend in 2017.
This event wins my award for the coolest looking press pass of all year. The fact that they took the time to create the pass with regal lettering was a nice touch. I am partial to the color of blue too. Excellent job.
My official review for JAFAX can be found here.
Part of me missed the beautiful outdoor campus of Grand Valley. I enjoyed driving out to that campus each year on my annual JAFAX vacation. It was the best time of my year each year for years. It was a peaceful drive home with a hint of melancholy because I would returning back to the real world once my vacation was over. My escape was gone and I had to wait a whole another year before the next one. I know that everything evolves over time. I would be foolish to expect the same feeling of yesteryear when JAFAX rebooted in 2016. Yet, the nostalgia makes me miss my old annual tradition. That time has come and gone. I am eager to see what the future holds for this convention.
JAFAX provided press with a private room to conduct interviews. That room had excellent lighting. A big thanks goes out to the crew for making things easier for me. I had two back to back killer interviews, which were my personal favorites of the entire weekend.
Lesson That I Learned
I learned to cut planned questions if you are having a good conversation. If you can work them in, awesome. If not, go with the flow of the conversation. Samantha Inoue Harte was an absolute pleasure to interview. She casually dropped a bombshell of a topic for me. Berserk. That is one of my favorite manga series of all time. I didn’t even know that she liked that series. I decided to skip some of my questions and riff back and forth with her on that topic. We talked about Clerks, Final Fantasy, and Dr. Who. The look on her face when I told her that I haven’t watched Dr. Who was priceless. Her comment on John Barrowman made me crack up and momentarily speechless. I want to interview her again down the road since I left out numerous questions.
Tyson Rinehart. Really Awesome Dude. What else can I say? This interview is tied with Yuri Lowethal as my favorite interview of 2016 and all time…….so far. This interview marked the first time that I bonded with a guest mid-interview. Tyson was truly a kindred spirit because of similar backgrounds in DIY punk, a mutual love of Rumiko Takahashi and Actraiser. This two part almost 40 minute engaging conversation is a prime example of the type of interviews that I strive for. I am still in contact with this dude. I can’t wait for our paths to cross again and they will.
My most watched interview on my channel is with Brittney Karbowski. Overall, I thought it was a decent interview due to time constraints. It was more of a Q&A than a conversation. I had to cut a lot of questions because the next scheduled guest was arriving and I wasn’t going to be that rude journalist who was going to go over by a significant amount of time. The interview went up and I didn’t really think about it afterwards. As of this writing, it has over 2000 views and growing. Plus, it has the most comments on them. She has a very loyal fanbase.
Speaking of comments, someone posted a much needed comment at the right time. Around this time, I was starting to become bummed because I felt like my interviews were not being watched. I put about 2 to 6 hours of research into each guest to avoid asking the same questions that you see in many interviews. Guests tend to appreciate that, as well. I would like to believe that my interviews are interesting and engaging at the very least. Yet, they were not gaining any traction. I’m not foolish enough to hope and expect for my videos to go viral with a million views. I was questioning myself about whether I was wasting my time or not. Someone by the handle of Revy Two-Hands complimented my interviewing style and the interview itself. I was not expecting it and it came at the time when I was low. Huge shot out to this individual for doing this.
In 2014, at the final GVSU JAFAX, I purchased a maroon crocheted Giroro hat. This cool hat based on the Sgt. Frog manga series even has the skull embedded in the middle of the forehead. The mother and daughter duo (who’s company name eludes me) gave me their contact info for a custom order. I wanted a black hat with the red Berserk Brand of Sacrifice on the forehead. After a small back and forth through email, we lost touch and I figured that was the end of that situation. Fast forward to 2016, I ran into them at their booth in the dealer’s room. We were talking and they remembered me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Berserk hat on display. Excitement filled me since I was not expecting the real deal to appear before my eyes. It may have taken two years but I kept my word and purchased that hat right on the spot. It’s been helpful keeping my head warm during the winter.
More hijinks, lessons and personal insight are on the way in the next edition. July and August were filled with great summer events. GR8bit Live, the BlackRock Medieval Festival, the Motor City Steam Con and the Michigan Renaissance Festival round out my coverage of Summer. Find out more about them in part 2 of my Year in Review series.