2018 Summer Year in Review Pt 1

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.

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”. This article is all about June since it was a busy month by itself.

Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival

Sadly, for two years in a row, I didn’t write a review for the festival. It takes me longer to write a review than it takes to film and edit a video. Plus, this event was so close to JAFAX that I felt overwhelmed with trying to work on content for both of them. I felt bad about a lack of review. Thankfully, I have this article to rectify that. I’ve walked away with a smile every time I’ve attended this wonderful festival. As I’ve mentioned in the past, one of the cool things (literally and figuratively) about this event is that it is held in a forest. During my yearly visits, I’ve never felt over heated. Plus, the ample shade is nice. There is a lot to see and do. Numerous stages for performances, whether musical, belly dancing, feats of fire, historical, or comedic, were prevalent throughout the forest. The parade, which featured cast and vendors, was a sight to behold. While this brief review doesn’t come close to describing this excellent festival, I hope it gives a glimpse into why I keep coming back every year.

I loved how my photos turned out for the event. The lighting was perfect throughout the day.

Speaking of photos, my lovely girlfriend used my extra camera to take photos as well. She has a knack of finding cool things to capture, that I normally miss. I really enjoyed her photo that focused on a troll in the background. It was a great shot.

Leveling Up

My girlfriend surprised me with an early birthday gift which were two sweet shirts. Unbeknownst to me, she enlisted the help of my friend Tracy to create T-shirts with my logo on them. Sneaky McSneakersons are what they are. One was grey and one was white. I absolutely loved them when I laid eyes upon them. I, initially, thought that I was going to like the grey one more because I normally don’t wear a lot of white shirts to begin with. Turns out that the white one was more comfortable. Plus, the color scheme of my logo pops more on the white shirt. Definitely, an upgrade to my old all black shirt with bold MI Geek Scene letters in white. A massive thanks goes to my wonderful girlfriend.



Why was it so HOT during JAFAX weekend? It was in the 90s. I remember the sweltering heat even at night time. My clothes were sticking to my skin from just walking around at a casual pace. I don’t know what it is about Michigan and crap weather when you least expect it, but they seem to go hand in hand. I believe there might be a curse for events that I want to attend.

I made the mistake of scheduling my yearly staycation the day after JAFAX. There was no way that I would be able to whip through editing photos to have them ready by the Monday after. With that being said, I made the announcement that the photos would be delayed by a week. As far as I know, no one raised any objections. I ended up spending six days working on stuff from the convention. Honestly, I found it frustrating because I wanted to enjoy my vacation instead of working through it. After I finished the photos and interviews, I placed them online and went on with enjoying the rest of my time off. From that point on, I vowed to never schedule my staycation so close to a convention that I plan on attending.

Since I was on vacation, I never managed to write a review about JAFAX. To be honest, JAFAX built off of the improvements of 2017 and provided a good experience. I didn’t really have anything to comment on. Fast registration, good signage, wonderful guests to meet, an enjoyable layout, and quality programing were what I experienced at the convention. I will note an improvement of the layout though.The majority of programming was consolidated to Devos Hall away from the Amway Grand Hotel. I didn’t have to make multiple trips back and forth between both buildings to experience everything. JAFAX has established a nice base to build off of for years to come. What can I say, I had a good time.

Kogan Con

When I first started up MIGeekScene, I used to do interviews with con-chairs to hype their upcoming events. After a while, they felt formulaic and generic. I shied away from doing them because I felt like I was doing a commercial. If I’m going to do a commercial to hype an event, I might as well get paid for it. I believe my last convention hype interview took place in 2017. I’ve known the folks behind Kogan Con for a few years now and they are good people. I decided to do an interview to help promote their event. This interview was far more conversational than my other hype interviews. We both delved into how we were first introduced to conventions. As the interview progressed, we got ridiculous as we came up with the concept of Kogan Con becoming a hipster con. Here are a few examples of note. You could buy a ticket to get in but there was nothing to experience once you were inside. There would be one panel at 4:30am where the moderators would drink craft beer for 15 minutes and that was the whole panel. Finally, the convention would end abruptly at 2:35pm on a Sunday with no announcements as the lights were turned off. It was a fun scenario to riff on. Honestly, I had more fun conducting this hype interview than the rest of them combined. While I didn’t get to attend the event, I’m sure they didn’t go the hipster route. Maybe, 2019 will be the year for Hipster Con.

Lesson that I Learned
I learned about noise gating, which removes sounds past a certain decibel level. In the past, removing my heavy breathing was a tedious task that would take a considerable amount of time. While I did not hold the microphone to my face, it would still pick up my breathing. Noise gating would set a decibel level threshold that would remove any sounds that did not meet the settings criteria. Once, I applied the settings to my audio file, boom, no more heavy breathing. Editing audio has been easier thanks to noise gating.

Traditional Geek

I believe I presented the idea of interviewing the duo behind Traditional Geek in 2016. Sadly, I was not able to fit them in until 2018. They were cool about it and sent me a reminder months in advance, which was helpful. I finally made it happen at JAFAX. This interview was a showcase of their wonderful talent which includes awesome anime based pyrography, book binding, and etched glass artwork. Just before we wrapped up the interview, we talked about anime. Since they brought it up, I’ve been inspired to watch Megalo Box. I still haven’t seen it as of this writing, but I will watch it at some point. Katie and David are cool people that do cool things. Go check out their stuff.

About 5 minutes into the interview, there was a “disaster” in the background that made us pause to reset the scene. It marked the first time I used a Technical Difficulties segment in an interview. I even included the long beep sound too. Fun Times.

Super Guitar Bros

One of my favorite interviews of the year. I wanted to knock this interview out of the park since I’ve evolved as an interviewer since the last time I interviewed this duo in 2015. I would like to say that I’ve succeeded. While the first interview was 16 minutes and the audio was low, this one was over an hour long and the audio sounded fine. We filmed this in their hotel room. We went into depth about musical influences, their latest albums, collaborations with Ninja Sex Party, anime, video game soundtracks, thrash metal, Sam’s Patreon channel, and Steve’s then upcoming solo project. This was a relaxed conversational interview. Just the way I like it.

This interview highlights why I would benefit from switching to a podcast format. Let’s face it, my interviews are long. Expecting people to sit through an hour long video depicting 2 to 3 people having a conversation is a lot to ask for in the age of decreasing attention spans. I feel the same way to an extent. With a podcast, you can listen to an interview while driving, cleaning the house, or any amount of the numerous errands we all experience in our day to day lives. I will place an hour long video on in the background while I’m multi-tasking. Podcasting is an area that I plan on exploring in the future.

For those with the eagle eye attention to detail, I did a switcheroo with the featured image of the video and the beginning image of the video. While the head touching photo was hilarious, the prom pose photo was better.

Huge shout out to Steve and Sam for the good conversations throughout the weekend. I got to know them more hanging out on Friday night at HopCat and sitting on a curbside eating pizza in Westside Grand Rapids on Saturday night.

Leveling Up
I created a new addition to my bag of interview tricks. I printed out and laminated a list of questions that I will not ask the voice actors in an interview. Partially inspired by a voice actor, I created the list shortly before JAFAX. In 2016, one voice actor told me that he would grant an interview if I can ask him questions that he’s never been asked before. This list is composed of the same tired and cliché questions that you hear at every Q&A panel and interview for the most part. Since then, the list helps in setting me up for potential success for a good interview with the guest. I know that I will always have an uphill battle to set myself apart from other interviewers who ask the same questions (without much research) over and over again.

Clifford Chapin

I was able to introduce myself the day before I had a scheduled interview with him. It was a quick hello and thank you for the opportunity type of introduction. After the brief interaction, I went on my merry way. Later, I ran into him at the Con Ops area. Since my video equipment was in the room, I presented the list of questions (that I don’t ask in interviews). While he was looking them over, I started talking to him about one of his favorite comic writers, Jonathan Hickman. He was surprised that I brought that up. I told him that it was an intentional hint at what I was planning to delve into during our interview. Afterwards, we talked about our mutual love for comics for a little bit. I would like to believe that I successfully piqued his interest in our interview. Come Sunday, I found out that he was a little sick before the interview was going to take place. I gave him the option of canceling if he wasn’t feeling up to it. He told me that our interview was the last on his itinerary for the weekend and I could have as much time as I wanted. I was totally stoked.

I covered a lot of topics in this interview. On the subjects of movies, I love the look on his face when I brought up The Apartment with Jack Lemon. I could tell that Clifford truly appreciated Jack Lemon’s talent as an actor. While I was hoping to possibly dive into B-movies, Black Dynamite was not a topic that I thought would come up in conversation. We shared a mutual love for that excellent parody of blaxploitation films. Also, we did a deep dive into comic books for about 15 minutes. Not to say that he was bored prior to that topic but his excitement level rose considerably while we were talking about comics. I find it very satisfying to talk with people who have an equal appreciation. All in all, he was a really cool dude to meet and interview.

Clifford came up with the idea to pose for the picture.

Shout outs to Holly Rey and Jessie T for leaving a real nice comment about the interview and the work I put into creating them. This interview was my most popular video of the year.

Justin Briner

One of the nicest actors that I’ve had the pleasure to meet and interview. All of the interviews that I watched, I picked up the vibe that he was nice. Boy, was I right. Justin was the very last interview that I conducted during JAFAX. While his roles in My Hero Academia and Final Fantasy VII Machinabridged were cool to talk about, I was interested in learning more about Justin as a person. I massively respect that he is a total gamer. I’m glad that we got to talk about Dexter’s Lab, which was a great cartoon. The topic of music was an extensive conversation where we covered indie bands, concerts, musical theater, and a film centered on an abusive Jazz teacher. I was surprised that he was disappointed that I didn’t have anymore questions to ask. Plus, I appreciated his compliment about my comprehensive research. Thumbs up to Justin.

Shout out to the JAFAX crew for all of their hard work. A big thanks goes to Tim and Greg for the wonderful opportunity and interviews. Another big thanks goes to Sarah, Kristie, and Kily for their help with my interviews.

HUGE SHOUT OUT to Kurumi Shim. She’s been super supportive of my interviews by sharing them on social media. She’s also said nice things about them too.  It still blows my mind that I have a fan from the Phillippines. I happened to come across her account because she tagged me on twitter. I’ve talked a little bit with her and gave her some sneak peaks at interviews that weren’t available to the public. I appreciate her support. She has a cool website that you should check out HERE.

Be sure to check out the upcoming part 2 of my Summer series. It will cover the months of July and August.