An incident from my past was brought up at Balticon, in a story that Evo Terra regaled a group with one evening. I’ll give the Reader’s Digest condensed version.

Podcast Expo 2006, it was year two of the Ontario California conference. We were reprising our “spontaneous poolside barbecue feast” of the first year with a less spontaneous version of the same thing paid for by Dave Hamilton of Backbeat Media. Tee Morris gets some sort of spirit of Elvis in him and decides to shed his clothes and jump into the hotel pool naked as a grape. He invites me to jump in, in the most platonic and masculine way one straight guy can ask another straight guy to join him in public nudity. I decline, and my excuse is that I have a condition called flickrphallophobia, which I defined as “fear of seeing pictures of your dick posted to Flickr.” Evo Terra refused to believe that I made up that term on the spot, and I believe we placed a bet on whether Google would find it and he lost it (the second bet he lost in 30 seconds.)

I have told Tee this many many times, but my biggest regret in my 5.5 year history with the podcast medium is that I didn’t just take off my clothes and jump in. It wouldn’t have been that big a deal and I really don’t know what my problem was. Given the opportunity again, I’m opting for shenanigans. However, as the story came up again this weekend we realized that this term still isn’t in the googlosphere and Paul Fischer really wants it so. It was also suggested that the better term is “autoflickrphallophobia”, which would be the difference between fearing any wee wee photos on Flickr vs. pictures of ones own. I coined a term for that person: “redonkulopedantic.”

Now I Am a Songwriter

While I was at Dragon*Con, I got a really pleasant surprise. I had been hanging out with Randy Chertkow all through the weekend but I had no idea until I got an email late Sunday (early Monday, really) that Beatnik Turtle had posted the song I wrote with them for their Song of the Day, a tender jam called “Drunk Man’s Junk.

Here’s the story behind it, which actually is two stories in one with a nice sitcom plot twist in the middle. Last year, I was hanging out with Randy, Jason and Tom from Beatnik Turtle on the balcony of a party that was well out of hand. As we were talking, we heard a girl utter the phrase “I can see that drunk man’s junk!” Apparently one of our bekilted brethren had had the one drink too many and hit the deck but in a state of disarray. While we were in the vicinity, I never actually saw the money shot which is probably best for all.

I turned to the guys and said “If you don’t turn this into a song, by god I will!” They thought that was a funny idea. I had already arranged to do an interview with Randy and Jason about their book The Indie Band Survival Guide: The Complete Manual for the Do-It-Yourself Musician . I decided to try hard to get the lyrics together and when we did that interview (published here and here), after it was done I sang my song into their portable recorder and they took it back to Chicago. A few days later after a generous assist from Ewan Spence, who corrected a few things no Scot would actually say, I emailed them a copy of the updated lyrics. That was September 2008.

Fast forward to this year’s Dragon*Con. Randy is there but the other two guys are not, and I have meals and drinks and generally hang out with him. Either he did not know this song was going to be posted Monday or he was playing it really close to the vest. Back in Chicago, Jason and Tom and the rest of the band were taking advantage of not being at the con to finish it up.

Here’s where the story turns into an episode of Three’s Company. I would be more vague to protect the guilty, but Evo Terra has been gleefully spilling these beans (so to speak) so it’s out of the bag now (so to speak). I might as well talk about it. As it happens, earlier that evening I was invited up to the intimate room party of the Scotchcast guys, who gave me tastings of several varieties and talked me through the nuance of the experience. It was really interesting and educational and I had a blast with it. I didn’t actually know these guys very well before this but had a great time with them, and was very appreciative of their hospitality. Turns out that one of my hosts was the guy from the inspiring incident. I didn’t know that for sure at the time as I had forgotten a lot of the specifics from last year and wasn’t that familiar with them before sitting down for a visit. I thought there was a good chance of it but my memory was a little shaky as I too was on less than best behavior at said party last year.

Not until I saw Evo tweeting about it today did I know for sure that was the case. I had a sinking feeling when I got the email about the song and a worse one this morning when I saw the tweets but the gentleman in question is being a ridiculously good sport about it. Unlike Evo I’m going to not name names just to help a brother out in staying off the Google page rank for this topic. There you have it. I threw the song over the wall last year, they threw it back about 2 hours after I got to know the guy that triggered the whole thing. Who can figure? If I wrote a song about the writing of the song, it would be silly and unbelievable.

I love listening to this song. It makes me laugh. It’s both very different from what I expected and very much like what I thought it would sound like simultaneously. It’s different in being a rocker when I always thought of it like a drinking shanty kind of song. A few words in the chorus are different (for the better), and a new bridge exists (for the better) that puts a bow on the whole thing and I really like that. However the weird part of how much of my original idea is there. The tune and meter of the singing are really close to what I sang into their digital recorder last year. Almost all the lyrics are straight from the 2nd pass after Ewan’s feedback. I’ve never written a song that ever propagated beyond my own head before, and especially not one that made it to a full production recording like this. It makes me insanely happy and I’m going to put it as the lone song in my Dragon*Con wrap up episode. Fun times in my podosphere.

Thank you Beatnik Turtle for working with me on this and for a great song. Thank you to the fine gentlemen of the Scotchcast – Jeff, Chip and Michael – for hosting me and my friends. Who’s the guy who inspired the song? To paraphrase the Doors: “Three to one, baby, one in three. No one here gets out with dignity!” Good times, people. Good times. Maybe one day I’ll tell the stories of the multiple times my underwear were found around the Georgia Tech campus in the mid-80s. I too have been the drunk man with the junk.

Balticon 2009 in Strobe Flashes

Dave Slusher

I’m really bad at doing thorough con wrap-ups, as evidenced by the fact that I usually don’t actually finish them. I though about presenting my Balticon 2009 wrapup as a compressed novel in honor of the recently late but always great JG Ballard but that turned out to be really difficult. Imagine that. That is now a scratched idea.

I’ll present a series of snapshots of my weekend. It won’t be as exhaustive as I was exhausted. I met a whole lot of great people that were new to me and basically had a blast the whole time. As always, I missed a few names here and there and will forget to mention people and things. This cannot and will not be a complete document of the event, just a quick strobe light version of quick shots.

  • Paul Fischer invited me something like five times before I could accept this year and I’m glad I did. I met him for the first time, along with people I was either meeting for for the first time really talking to such as Phil Rossi, Earl Newton and Annie Turner, A Kovacs aka A Real Girl, Ross Scott, Tom Vincent, Matt Wallace, John Cmar, Jim Van Verth, Erk and many many others. You note that this list is mostly dudes, that’s because I’ve already met most of the ladies at previous events. I prioritize, you see.
  • The biggest downer of the way it was set up was that there was not a lot of mixing of new media track people and science fiction people. I randomly saw Keith R.A. Decandido in the bar on Sunday afternoon which led me into chatting and then attending a concert he was doing that night. If not for fortuitously seeing him, I wouldn’t have otherwise known he was there. There are multiple other stories like that. I made a specific point of going and talking to some of the SF people but it took work. I’d love to see more mixing, and I suggested an explicit mixer: something like a “SF folks and Podcast folks party” .
  • I saw from her blog late Sunday night that Kathryn Cramer and her family were at the con. I’ve been reading her blog for years and wanted to at least just say hello to her and tell her that I am a fan. As it happened, I got up Monday morning and went for a swim in the hotel pool. A few laps in she and her family also got in! It was slightly awkward to introduce myself wrapped in a wet towel, but I did it anyway because I Am That Guy.
  • Monday in the dealer’s room, late in the con, I was specifically looking for some John Brunner books. I wanted non-collectible cheap copies I can take to the beach without worry, and specifically I wanted books that were the transition from his 50’s schlockier style into what we know from the The Shockwave Rider and Stand on Zanzibar style books. As I was shopping, Kathryn’s husband David Hartwell was walking by. I don’t know the man, but I stopped him and introduced myself to him. He gamely helped me and browsed the shelf with me. He suggested Squares of the City as the closest available to what I was looking for. Bearing in mind I’m a complete stranger, I thought that was just a cool moment. He suggested I try Darrell Schweitzer, who also thought over the question and suggested The Whole Man as a good one but didn’t have a copy with him. I’m not sure what those guys were thinking about the whole deal, but I can’t imagine that old guard SF people have a problem with youngish (relatively) fans trying to broaden their understanding of the field.
  • Panelist Eye View

    The panels I was on were all fun. My talk Friday night was lightly attended but still worth doing and quite edifying. Thomas Gideon posts on the “broadcast vs peer media” panel in his con wrapup here. Before this weekend I didn’t already know Chris Lester and Phil Rossi, but I had a good time with them on the music in podcasting panel. The final one was the “Social Media Triage” panel with Evo Terra, which is the sole reason I created my Facebook account. Previous to this, I had resisted for years. In 50 minutes he walked through my mostly default, newly created shell account and pointed out to me and the audience things that could be one to make the account more effective for the goals I want to achieve. Really good stuff.

  • I was a little shocked at how early things shut down and Sunday night and how dead they were Monday, but in retrospect both were probably for the best. The bar closed down at 1 AM Sunday and I was still in the market for shenanigans but going to bed was better advised than what I would have done if the contrary was available.
  • I had a lot of fun walking the social graph (literally, like, walking). At one point I sat down at Mur Lafferty’s table and as people came and went I ended up talking with David Moldawer for a long time. The conversation ranged a lot of places and he asked if I was familiar with Hugh Macleod. I said that not only was I but that I explicitly referenced his “Sex and Cash Theory” about keeping your day job in my Friday night talk. David reached in his bag and pulled out a copy of Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity and gave it to me. It’s not published for a few weeks, but I have it in my car as I type. Right on! Thank you, David, you kind kind man.

There is undoubtedly more, but I’ll publish now and make other posts later. Publish early, publish often, don’t sit on it waiting for perfection. That is what I preach, no? I had a great time. Thanks to everyone who invited me, made the con possible, talked to me, and so on. It was a great weekend, well worth the 9 hour drive each way.

Dragon*Con Wrapup Part 1

Here’s my wrapup of this year’s trip to Dragon*Con. This is probably about the latest I can do it and have my friend brain cells intact enough to remember things. It might should go without saying that there is a looooong post warning, but I’ll try to spice it up with enough pictures to keep some visual interest. [On second thought, it’s out of control and I’m still on Friday so let’s break this down into parts.]

I left work shortly after lunchtime on Thursday. I needed to get going before 4 PM if I wanted to make it to the registration that night and avoid it on Friday. Although I had mostly packed the night before, there were just enough little details to handle that I kept failing to finish packing. It got to be around 3:45 PM and I was still fiddling around gathering minor things. I finally hit the point that I was willing to leave whether or not I had everything, just as long as the car was moving towards Atlanta.

Registration Line Around the Hyatt

I drove pretty solidly through from Myrtle Beach to Atlanta, other than a gas stop in Florence that inexplicably took freaking forever. I got to Atlanta around 9:30 PM, checked in to the Days Inn so that I could park there, and trotted directly over to the Hyatt for registration. Because there was a mixup with my guest status, I ended up buying a registration. That was less painful than you might expect, as the pre-registration was really the zoo.

After getting my badge, I went over the Hilton to see Derek and Swoopy setting up the podcasting and skeptic tracks room. I was willing to help but there really wasn’t much for me to do. Anything beyond one person trying to cable mixers is a complete mess. I did help Derek sound check a little and fix some feedback by walking around the skeptic room on the handheld mike while reprising the Casey Kasem routine.

I needed to find a Kinko’s to run off and cut some flyers, and both the Hilton and Marriott are supposed to have ones that are open until 11 PM. At 10 PM both were closed. Thanks FedEx, for buying Kinkos and screwing it all up. I went back to the hotel room, unloaded the car and found that there was a Kinkos at 100 Peachtree so I drove over there. Now, I used to drive an ice truck in Atlanta and I thought I knew the Five Points area acceptably. I had the hardest time getting to this damn joint because of all the one way streets. I ended up on Peachtree going south past it at one point, which ain’t the best part of ATL to be driving your Honda Civic around at midnight. At least I knew I was doing it wrong, and eventually got back to the Kinkos. Everyone was grumpy and it was much slower than I thought it should be, but thank you Kinkos lady for fixing the cuts of my flyers. I thought they were perfectly lined up so that a single cut down the center would be perfect, but they were a full 1/4″ off. WTF, Dave? She made extra cuts to make them perfect and didn’t even charge me, so that was very kind.

I walked across the street to the Landmark Diner and got a burger after that, mainly because it was right there and open. I had thought about heading to other better late night restaurants but the proximity and ease sold me. It was OK. The dude sitting across from my table appeared to be a big time rapper or music mogul. He was highly blinged up with rings and medallions, and at least a dozen dudes came by to give him their obeisance. I didn’t recognize him but then I wouldn’t. In retrospect I should have snapped a phone cam picture of him just to identify who he was. He must have been somebody. After this, bed.

Friday morning, I got up and read some books for a while. Sad to admit, although I had two book interviews to conduct I didn’t have either of them significantly read. It was a lot like cramming for finals. I read a big chunk of Playing For Keeps, got ready and headed over to the convention. I made the executive call to leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign all weekend because I didn’t want maids farting with my equipment. That turns out to have been the right call, although by Monday morning it was a disaster area.

I’ve spent 14 years of my life in Georgia, the bulk of that in Atlanta and that whole time I’ve been active in science fiction and comic book fandom. Despite that, the very first person I ran into was Ryan Karetas – my coworker and the guy who sat the next desk over from me at the office in Myrtle Beach for a long time. For all of the weekend, I spent a fair bit of time fiddling around with leaving flyers on tables, putting out stickers and such. Anytime you have an agenda of doing this, there is a lot of jockeying at the table. I try to be ethical about it, but when some guy has 17 stacks of the same flyer at 8 inch intervals, I tend to combine them and using the extra space for myself. By the last day, it’s a free for all of Lord of the Flies proportions.

I attended the first two sessions of the podcasting track and shot a little video of each with my very first camcorder. The second one was on shooting video, which I was obviously newly interested in. I asked a question about using some of this info towards indie documentaries. After the panel, Rhett Aultman caught up to me and was interested in talking to me more about what I want to do. He was meeting friends at the Marriott anyway, so I and his wife (parter?) Amy and him all went an hung out for a long time talking about the ins and outs of making documentaries. It was highly useful and I was very glad of it. The con was off to a great and roaring start.

I forget what I did for the rest of the afternoon. Surely it involved fliers of some sort, and back to the hotel room for reading and probably some basic scoping out of dealers rooms and such. At 10 PM I had a session on the podcasting track at the Hilton where I’d do a live interview of Mur Lafferty. However, Evo Terra was throwing a podcaster party in their suite in the Hyatt at the same time. Mur and I decided to go over to the party before, hang out for a while and then come back. There were several potentials for mishaps here, involving pre-interview cocktails and elevator rides. We actually got to the party relatively easily, partly through the efforts of one of Mur’s hometown friends who completely big balled his way onto a service elevator with us trailing behind. We hung out for a while and I left to go back to the Hilton around 9:20 PM since I had a camcorder to set up, equipment to check out and such. I walked into the elevator area as the bell rung. I hopped on a half-empty car with zero wait, and there were no stops between us and the ground floor lobby. In 20+ years of Atlanta SF conventions, I’ve never had a ride like that at 9 PM during a con night.

Me and Mur Share A Laugh

I went over to the Hilton, set up and got everything ready. It got to be close to time, and maybe 5 minutes until 10 PM I got a text message from Mur that said only “Elevator hell”. Uh oh. I had everything ready to go and we had a small audience – about as small as you can get and still have an audience – but I told a few stories and basically vamped for a few minutes until Mur got there. We took a minute for composure as we had a whole hour to get a 30-45 minute interview done. Then we turned on the machines and the magic happened. The interview was great and I have it on both audio and video. It will be posted to the Reality Break Podcast feed this weekend.

After the interview, I schlepped all of my stuff back to the Days Inn and unloaded it all, called home and then went back to the podcaster party. Because I had no function booked on Saturday but an interview at 10:30 AM on Sunday, I had already prepared for Friday as a party night and Saturday as a relatively well behaved quiet evening. With that in mind, I settled in for an evening of revelry. I ended up running into Jason and Randy from Beatnik Turtle on the balcony of the party. They are also the authors of the The Indie Band Survival Guide: The Complete Manual for the Do-It-Yourself Musician, a book about which I had been getting emails from their publicist anyway. I had been planning on replying after the convention when I was less busy, and now here were the dudes right in front of me! We set up an interview for Sunday at noon right after the other one I had scheduled in the same spot, so I was able to knock out two without moving my equipment. Sweet luck!

As we hung out and had a few drinks, a hilarious incident occurred. I’m not going to talk about it here in specifics, because it led to me writing a song that Beatnik Turtle will record and that Ewan Spence kindly sanity checked for Scotsman correctness. Keep watching the skies, maybe we’ll have a podosphere premiere of the song on an upcoming episode of the podcast. The evening was fun and I talked to a number of people that I already knew and people that were new to me. I kept drinking and hanging out and chatting with people so long that I literally closed down the party. I helped Evo and Sheila clean up a little and then it was off to my little room for sleep.

Part 2 coming soon …