These Year in Reviews are not, what I call, official “reviews”. They are 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. It’s a director’s commentary of my adventures during the year of 2018 in the Michigan Geek Scene.
2017 Year in Review???
Normally, at the beginning of the year, I would write a year in review for the prior year. It is a mix of reviews, my personal commentary/anecdotes, and behind the scenes stories. It’s a long multi part series of tomes that are fun to write. Honestly, I don’t how many people actually read them but I enjoy creating them. So, why wasn’t there a series for 2017? To be honest, 2017 was not a good year for me for a multitude of reasons. Events that I looked forward to fell through at the last moment. Some events that were awesome the year before were OK at best in 2017. I drove long distances to a few events that had very poor attendance and next to nothing to do. I would’ve been better off staying at home instead of wasting my time and gas. I had guests flake out on me for interviews that they agreed to do. Another guest was a rude individual behind the scenes. Unnecessary behind the scenes con drama that I won’t go into. The list goes on.
I know these are first world problems but they still didn’t detract from a feeling of why am I doing this if this is what it’s going to be like. The whole year was meh to terrible. Sure, I had some great experiences and met some cool people but 2017 was disappointing overall. To be honest, I contemplated hanging up my hat and quitting MIGeekScene all together at the end of 2017. I realize that everything can’t be awesome all of the time. That’s unrealistic to think that it would be. I was burned out and bummed out by the end of 2017. However, whenever life knocks me on my ass, I pick myself back up and keep going. For all of my friends that lent an ear to my problems and for my awesome girlfriend, I am truly thankful for all of you. After I decided to keep going, I vowed to make 2018 a better year than 2017. Spoiler Alert: 2018 was better than 2017.
On a side note, I will probably add commentary to some of my favorite interviews from 2017 at some point. Now, let’s get on with the show.
Just to start this off, I wrote a 5 page review about my trip to MAGFest which you can read HERE. No, seriously. Read it. MAGFest is that good.
Normally, January is a month where I hibernate from conventions and enjoy my time while recharging my batteries. This year, I decided to try something new and go to MAGFest. I had a great time at this convention. It was a pivotal event in my life because it rejuvenated my interest in attending conventions. It made me realize that conventions can be fun instead of work, work, work. I had such a great time. It was the best convention that I’ve attended all year. Throughout the year, my thoughts have been consumed by going back to MAGFest. I would get goose bumps and the shakes of excitement in anticipation of returning back. I decided that I would return in 2019.
I met Kyle Murdock at Youmacon 2017. It blew my mind that I got to meet and talk with the mastermind behind the beats of my favorite hip hop album, Forever Famicom. It was surreal. Before he flew back to his home state, he sat down with me for lunch and allowed me to pick his brains (for close to an hour) about recording techniques and programs to take my audio game higher. Shout out to DJ RX78 for making that scenario happen.
At MAGFest, we sat down and conducted my longest interview ever…..in two parts. At no point during the 75 minutes, did it get boring. I learned a lot about him. When I was constructing the interview, I thematically centered the questions around Japanese culture. Whether it was anime, video games, hip hop beats, or the Flaming Lips, the majority of questions were linked to Japanese culture in some form. I didn’t set out to do this intentionally but I noticed a pattern and I went with it. This was the first and last time that my interview questions were centered on a single theme. I’m proud with how the interview turned out. It was one of my favorite interviews of the year. I’m thankful for meeting Kyle because he’s been so cool to me.
He had some nice things to say about our interview too.
I was nervous about approaching Enongo Lumumba Kassongo (aka Sammus) about an interview. Here I was an unknown person approaching a well known rapper in hopes of landing a half hour interview. I did my hours of research and I was prepared but I still faced the reality of being turned down. On Friday, I inquired about an interview and she gave me a maybe due to how busy she was. Fair enough. I tried again after her Saturday night performance and it was a go after her autograph session. Enongo sat down with me to knock out an hour long interview. I wasn’t expecting it to go that long, but I wasn’t complaining either. Never interrupt a good conversation if you are in the middle of it. It was the second longest interview that I’ve conducted….at that point. I really enjoyed being nostalgic with her about the Super Mario Brothers Super Show, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cereal. I wasn’t expecting to talk about old MTV animated shows like The Maxx, Liquid Television, and the Head. It was a great conversation.
Prior to the interview, I came down with food poisoning thanks to a crappy Irish restaurant that had bad service. I was tempted to throw up before my interview but I repressed it because I didn’t want to risk missing the interview. So Enongo, if you are reading this, I was super ill during our interview.
Sammus was my first interview post which landed on Martin Luther King Jr Day. To feature an artist who raps about black identity and empowerment on a day of celebration for a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights movement was a fitting tribute. It was not planned but it was a nice coincidence.
Lesson That I Learned
I learned that my way of scrubbing audio was very excessive and extreme. In the past, I would silence every breath, audio pop and inhalation out of my interviews. For some interviews, it sounded fine. For others, it felt robotic. When I scrubbed the audio for Kyle and Sammus, both interviews took over 8 hours a piece to edit out all of that stuff. That’s beyond ridiculous for a reasonable work flow. It would be one thing if I was professionally editing audio for a movie or a TV show but I wasn’t. I decided to leave natural breathing in my interviews from that point on. I only take out my heavy breathing while my guest is talking. Also, I take out the mouth pops and clicks. Editing the audio is leagues better know since it doesn’t take nowhere near that amount of time now.
Washi Con was the first event that I got to use my own full frame camera. Prior to 2018, I didn’t have much experience using one. It was a learning experience to go from a cropped sensor to full frame. The difference between my old camera and the new one were night and day. The images were sharper and I had more room to work with functionality wise. To be honest, I’m still learning to properly use my camera. It can be frustrating at times but I enjoy the process.
Washi Con was a nice way to begin the year in Michigan. I’ve been fortunate enough to make it out to all of them, so far. The fine folks behind the scenes are big supporters of what I do and I’m thankful for that. Emily, Aurora, and Lee are people that I’m glad to call my friends. It was a nice family reunion. It was nice to catch up with the numerous members of my con family. Shout out to Ohio Kimono for the good conversation over dinner after the con.
During Washi Con, I wore my green Opeth shirt that I bought from their Heritage tour. There was no special significance behind my decision to wear it that day. With that being said, five separate people came up to me to compliment my shirt. It’s very rare for people to recognize the band T-shirts that I sport let alone compliment me on them. Let’s face it, the majority of the public are not into progressive death metal. Since these were rare opportunities for conversation, I just had to pick their brains about their favorite Opeth songs. A few songs that came up in conversation were Ghost of Perdition and the old school April Ethereal. One person mentioned all of the Blackwater Park album and I can’t fault them for choosing that album since it’s an excellent album that warrants multiple listens. Another person mentioned the Sorceress album. You never know where you are going to find metal heads. \m/ \m/
Another important thing to note: As the new year rolled in, I felt that I improved enough as a photographer to start charging for copies of my photos. Am I the greatest photographer in the world? NOPE. However, I stand behind my work. The money I receive would go towards gas and the numerous expenses I incur while traveling all over Michigan to cover all of the cool events. I think that is a fair request. In the past, I would upload everything to Facebook. I started uploading a 2 to 4 teaser images on Facebook and directed everyone to the website to see the rest. At the website, my gallery plugin prevented right click downloads of the image. While I couldn’t/can’t stop people from taking a screenshot, I know that they are not walking away with the high resolution full size version. If people liked their image enough to want their own copy, I offered a high quality version to them. An attendee from Washi Con bought a photo off of me. To that person, I have to say: Thank you so much, Svan.
I’m glad that I took the chance to check out this event. To say that the crew, behind this event, knocked it out of the park would be an understatement. Overall, this was a well run event with a great turn out. Despite only being able to attend for one day, I had a great time.
A huge shout out goes out to Tim, who was my assistant for the day. It was nice to have an assistant for once. I’m so used to going to lugging my equipment to events by myself. Tim was very helpful in carrying my video equipment in. Since he is huge into the music from Magik Ninja Entertainment, he filled me in on the numerous artists from the label. On the way home, I picked his brains on his feelings about the event. I was able to create a review combining our collective thoughts on the event. Thank you, Tim. You’re awesome.
I’ve been fortunate to interview numerous people through out my travels. I have to rank Ming Chen as one of the nicest people that I’ve ever come across. During the interview, we talked a lot about podcasting and comics. He was surprised when I brought up his idea for a podcast on vinyl records. He was a pleasure to meet and a pleasure to interview.
The man is a promotional machine that tries to help everyone. I’m not used to guests promoting my interviews. It’s usually up to me to get the word without any help. Ming was the exception to the norm. I was not expecting him to follow me on Twitter but I’m honored.
After getting to know her over the years at conventions, Stefani was high on my list of people to interview. Thankfully, we were able to set aside some time to have nice sit down interview in the mayor’s office. I’m not joking. We had a great rapport. I got her to crack up numerous times throughout the interview. My favorite part in this video was our discussion on mansplaining. How can I hate an interview where I get to have a conversation about comics, manga, b-movies and video games? This interview put a big smile on my face because it always fun to sit down with your friends and have a natural conversation.
Lesson that I Learned
At the time, I didn’t notice but the AC was loud in the background of this interview. Since I try to maintain high quality in everything I do, a distracting AC would ruin the interview for me. I had to use a new audio filter on this interview. Thanks to RX Elements, I was able to eliminate the background noise all together. Huge shout out to Kyle Murdock for making the suggestion to buy the program.
And that wraps up my winter season.
Spring is one of the seasons that I look forward to in the year. Warm weather, better road conditions, the ability to wear shorts and the multitude of events “springing forth”. (No pun intended.) What did I encounter during the months of March through May? Well, you should come back and read about my adventures in the upcoming Spring editions of this multi-part year in review series.