Con-X-Treme Two

Once I again I had a good time at Con-X-Treme that had little to do with the convention itself.

I spent time hanging out with David Moyce and Chris Garcia on Friday night, half of it during opening ceremonies and the other half in the hotel bar. Saturday Tadao and I swung by the Marriott for a few hours on our way to Santa Barbara and spent some time hanging out with Maureen Starkey in the hotel restaurant and an hour or so chatting with her and Chris Garcia in the dealer’s room/art show area.

Friday night Tadao and I arrived at the San Mateo Marriott sometime past 8 p.m. and right away found Chris and David. David had already picked up my “badge.” Instead of the customary badges, the convention was using color-coded paper sticky wristbands of the type sometimes used to confirm age at events that serve alcohol.

The convention itself occupied the second floor, where BayCon and Westercon had had their dealer’s rooms, and this worked better than the comparatively sprawling Doubletree. Another improvement was simply the general atmosphere of the convention, which was much more positive than last year with an upbeat and energetic vibe. The chair, Rob Miles, appeared to be everywhere at once chatting with folks and generally looking like he was having fun.

Opening ceremonies had a good band called Silver Griffin followed by the presentation of a birthday cake for the GOH, Antonio Fargas. We all sang Happy Birthday and afterwards the convention had a belly dancer come out and dance for him/us. She was quite good and Fargas and the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves. Someone mentioned that there was supposed to be music for a dance after opening ceremonies, but after a while it looked like that was not happening, possibly for technical reasons, so we headed down to the bar for the next few hours.

The next day we arrived too late for breakfast at the Marriot restaurant so we grabbed lunch in their lovely patio area for old time’s sake. Maureen was there promoting SiliCon and popped by for a little while ,but otherwise I didn’t notice any other convention attendees using the restaurant. Done with lunch, we headed upstairs to see what Con-X-Treme II looked like in the daytime. The answer was kind of like Con-X-Treme I, but in a smaller space and therefore much better looking. On the way we picked up the program book, which simply consisted of a folded one-sheet paper schedule with an introductory paragraph on the front, and I initially mistook it for a daily newsletter.

The large room in which BayCon and Westercon held their dealer’s room was again serving that purpose, as well as housing the art show in one corner and some fan tables beside that. There were about half a dozen dealers, including a table for JStore out of San Carlos which had lots of nice drawing tools, a t-shirt vendor called Juror 2, a vendor selling signed actor photographs, and a couple of other miscellaneous vendors who mostly seemed to be passing the time talking with each other. I bought a couple of cute fridge magnets from Juror 2 and the guy at the JStore table had plenty of time to give me a walk-through of a very nice looking Deleter software program which looks pretty hot.

The art show consisted of two artists, one of whom was Artist GoH Joey Jordan. Jordan had some very nice pieces up and I hope to see more at future conventions. Just like last year, the art was mostly laid out flat on tables, but at least someone had worked on the display and put some of the larger pieces leaning up vertically against the walls, so it looked much better. The bid sheets were printed with PayPal information but that was crossed out and a note to speak to them about purchasing was written in marker on top, so who knows what that was about.

Aside from the diminutive size of the convention, it still suffers from the issue of identity. Con-X-Treme doesn’t seem to know what it really wants to be. Last year it was about martial arts and anime, but didn’t really do much to push those themes successfully.

This year the website stated, “Con-X-Treme promotes the creation of animation, 3D modeling, video, digital art, manga and all other forms of media communication” — which, once again, was not terribly evident. “All other forms of media communication” is a rather broad category, but from the description one would have expected a lot of video, animation and film artist creator/creation promotion. But aside from the JStore table this was not much in evidence in the dealer’s room. Neither did the art show include any digital art that I saw. The GOH was a television and film actor — a form of media, to be sure — but if he has anime or animation ties or even genre credits they were never mentioned during opening ceremonies. Of the bands scheduled to perform I only saw Silver Griffin, and while they were very good, they appeared to be a rock/pop band with no particular j-rock/j-pop or other genre/animation connection.

I didn’t have time to attend any of the panels, so perhaps those were good. There certainly seemed to be a full roster of them on the schedule at least. Likewise I didn’t see if there was a gaming area, so maybe everyone was hiding over there. Regardless, I doubt I’ll be back next year. Maybe in a few years after it’s had a chance to grow up a little I’ll check it out, but for now there’s really not enough going on to warrant a trip out of the house, much less out of the city.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #73, September 17, 2008