Day 7 - Convention Day 2

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Second day of the convention. We tucked into some of the food we had purchased yesterday at the supermarket. Quite good but we needed a bit more. Heading over to the convention we figured out where the “con-suite” was which turned out to be quite useful. For those of you that do not know: A “con-suite” is a room set aside by the people running the convention as somewhere you can go at any time during the convention to relax, have a drink, something to eat and chat with other convention members – all free of charge. Here the snacks on offer are really good with Pocky (pretzel sticks half-coated with different things such as chocolate, strawberry and cream flavourings), ramen snacks (ramen dried noodles crumbled with spices on top), onigiri (rice “balls” with various fillings), etc. The shaved ice was quite nice – They have a block of ice in a gripping device with a crank that forced the ice to be spun on top of a blade. Putting your cup under you then take the resulting shavings and pour over it various flavourings. Very nice.

We again parted our ways with my attending “The Henson Company: Character Building and More” (10:00 to 12:00) and mother attending “Welcome to Yokohama”. The Henson discussion was very interesting with quite a senior lady in the company present along with a performer and a writer. Obviously, Henson is very much associated with puppets and it was interesting to hear what they are doing now with computers – A performer puts on a suit that translates their movements directly into the characters on the screen. They can pretty much do this live and have the character react immediately (rather than having to wait). There was supposed to be a live demonstration of puppetry but the puppet evidently has been stopped in customs. We had to make do with the interesting discussion and a bit of video showing what they are doing. I also found it interesting to hear what they thought (internally) of the decision to sell of the Muppets to Disney – Not very pleasant really.

Mother did not find the Yokohama overview very interesting and did not even take up an hour (never mind two) so she wandered around a bit afterwards including having a look at some flower arranging.

Flower Arranging (SW)

I had a bit of a disappointment afterwards as I attended the “Tezuka was born” (12:00 to 14:00) panel. “Tezuka” is Osamu Tezuka who is a famous name in the world of manga (comics) and anime (animation) creating (amongst other things), Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion (upon which Disney's The Lion King is based), and Buddha (a manga telling the story of the life of Buddha). The guide indicated it would be conducted in English and Japanese but it ended up really only being in Japanese so I left early since I was not really able to follow it at all.

Painting Contest

I took this opportunity to visit the dealer room in more detail. I was lucky enough to find a painting contest in full swing with some of the famous (western) artists painting with a strict time limit. Amazing how they can come up with things so quickly. Fantastically the paintings from Tales from Earthsea were now up on the wall and I could examine them in more detail than yesterday. Each of the original paintings are those that were used in the film and are amazingly detailed – A work of art in themselves. Even a relatively simple story like Earthsea. It makes you wonder at the under-appreciated and under-valued skills of the many animation workers in Japan. Yes, I also spent some money at the Ghibli stand…Could not resist original Japanese editions of some of the best animation in the world. It was not on special or anything but I did get some small toys as a bit of a thank-you. I had an interesting talk with a lady from Walt Disney working on the stand who is responsible for distribution of the films about how important it is that these works are distributed and that it continue. I think input into the industry from Japan is very valuable and I would like to see more of it in the west. Different perspectives expand the small worlds of many people.

Tea Ceremony (SW)

From 13:00 to 14:00 mother attended “How to walk the way of tea – Japanese tea ceremony” which she had to book ahead of time (to pay for the tea and other equipment). She really enjoyed it and had the opportunity to actually have a go at making it herself rather than just watching. The ceremony really is beautiful with every movement of the hand, twist of the wrist and cup, positioning of the body and timing is all very specific and intentional. I find the tea itself different as it is just a green powder that is whisked into a bit of a froth for serving.

Tea Ceremony Demonstration (SW)

We met up again for “George Takei: Q&A” (14:00 to 16:00) where Mr. Takei, who was Sulu from the original Star Trek series, gave a fascinating talk on what he is up to and just general thoughts. I was amazed to learn that he speaks Japanese very well as we was born in San Francisco (1937) as a Japanese American just before the second world war (and spent time in the Japanese internment camps in the US during the war) – I am not sure how many Americans of Japanese ancestry actually speak the language as fluently as George. He also talked a bit about his “coming out” and the work he is doing on social inclusion and “gay rights”. He continually thanked the crowd for their support of Science Fiction and the “hope” that it imparts to society. Mother's comment to me was that perhaps this was in no small part thanks to people such as himself giving us something to think about…There were also a number of interesting questions and comments made about his recent appearances on the US television series “Heroes” (where he plays the father of a young man who is a big Star Trek fan but seems to not recognise his father looks a LOT like Mr. Sulu…). Mr. Takei had a lot of interesting things to say and is very eloquent. We very much enjoyed this talk as did the very large crowd he gathered.

“The State of Cosmology” (16:00 to 18:00) was run by the same lady that had talked about interstellar travel yesterday and she acknowledged right from the very beginning that she was not an expert on the subject but she did manage to hold her own quite well. She gave interesting insight into what is being planned for space telescopes and talked a lot about Hubble as well.

We had a short break at this point before the showing of “Star Trek: World Enough and Time” at 18:30 in the main hall (where the opening ceremonies were). We had a quick stop at the con-suite before finding our seats in the auditorium – quite close to the front. A bit of explanation about what exactly this show is: This is the latest show (only premièred last week) in a series put together by fans. “Star Trek: The New Voyages” pro-ports to be the series of episodes that follows what was to be the last year of the original Star Trek series on television with Captain Kirk and the rest. Although the series is written, produced and acted out by fans it is very professionally done and one of the deals is: It is available FREE to anyone that wants to get it from their web site. “A labour of the heart” as Mr. Takai suggested in his introduction (paraphrased). He was joined on the stage with Marc Zicree who worked on the production of the film. It was great to see it on the big screen though there were some technical hic-ups before they could display it…The crowd appreciated it very much.

Afterwards we headed off to visit some parties. Friday is the traditional night for the larger parties at the convention. In this case we visited the two convention hopefuls I am supporting: Montreal and Australia. Oh, to explain, the “parties” are hosted by various groups pretty much every night of the convention. These groups rent a room in an area set aside for this in one (or more) of the main convention hotels. At these “parties” there is free drink and food but they ideally want you to part with your money to support whatever it is they are standing for, in this case two groups hoping to host the WorldCon in future years. Mother and I visited Australia the last time the convention was there and really enjoyed it so we had to support their bid to have it there again and I have to support Montreal as I come from Canada (and never have actually been to Montreal…). The parties are typically very noisy but full of interesting people. The party rooms here are traditional Japanese so half of the room is actually tatami mat so it was a bit tricky as you had to remember to take off your shoes before stepping onto the mats…

The whole floor of parties was crammed with people and very stuffy so we did not really stay that long before getting back onto the glass elevator to return to the main floor of the hotel. It is the main convention hotel, “Inter Continental: The Grand Yokohama”, and is shaped on the outside like a giant sail. On the inside there is a large inner atrium that goes from the ground floor, with a small garden and water feature, all the way up to the sky lights at the top of the hotel with the doors to all the rooms on balconies all around each floor looking out over the atrium. Impressive.

For dinner we had a bit of a Korean barbecue once again in the shopping centre. We were given a bit of raw food that we cooked ourselves on hot griddles sunk into the tabletop. It was a bit expensive, particularly my “Wagyu” or “Kobe-style” beef. Mother stuck to the seafood.

We had hoped to visit the tower but it appears to close quite early in the evening so we settled with wandering around in the mall. Mother knows the area a bit better than myself as she visited the Post Office at the base of the tower earlier in the day during one of her breaks…A long day today, in retrospect. We have been going since 8:00 and it is something like 10:30 PM now. I think tomorrow is a bit more relaxed.

Day 8 - Convention Day 3

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