Matt Arnold (matt_arnold) wrote,
Matt Arnold

Penguicon 2008 Report

This year's Penguicon included the fulfillment of several of my long-standing ambitions. There is so much more ground to cover in each of these ambitions, but momentum is well and truly rolling now.

One of these is organized puppetry, which I haven't done since childhood. We did a rollicking performance of a marionette adaptation of "A Shoggoth On The Roof". Over the past year I, Jer, and Allison, have become good friends with Naia, Andy, and "He-Of-The-Daily-Changing-Name". They are the Dreamland Puppet Troupe of Dreamland Theater in Ypsilanti. Rehearsing with them was one of the most enjoyable parts of helping to organize the convention. We plan to do another show this year: "The Trouble With Death Traps". We have received the enthusiastic support from the author, Marjorie James.

That was an example of the type of glittery theme park attraction that I love. Another is the Giant Singing Tesla Coils. You have to hear them in person to get the full effect-- it is not for nothing that they are known as Zeusaphones. Thanks to Steve Ward and Jeff Larson for inventing this glorious thing. As I sat on the lawn listening to one of their concerts, I realized (1) it felt exactly like being back at EPCOT Center, (2) by helping us to bring things like this together in one place, I am doing what my life is about.

Another thing I have wanted for years is to meet Eliezer Yudkowsky of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Not only did I get to meet him, we became friends, had a lot of fun chatting with Vernor Vinge, and Eliezer and I are now "fans" of each other. Meanwhile, He-Of-The-Daily-Changing-Name decided I was his guru. I can never tell whether HOTDCN is serious about anything or if it's just performance art. Eliezer and HOTDCN caused a snowball of ersatz toadying which accumulated downhill into absurdity from there. Soon I was leading a large crowd of people from room party to room party. We must get Eliezer back soon! He has proposed such wonderful panel discussions as "World's Funniest Dystopias".

I also was lucky enough to receive an invitation to the Lingerie Party. It too was an exploration of long-standing interests, which for me are so obvious and uncomplicated as to require no further comment. Thus ends the checklist.

The convention swept me along like a whirlwind: a conga line, a pretty face, a phone call, repeat.

Saturday afternoon I stood in the bright sun by the Brazilian Beef grills, listening to the chatter of geeks in paradise, and declaimed a desire to holograph that moment in my mind and freeze it for all time. A lady named Lauren who had accompanied her son to the convention overheard this. She told me it was possible. She then taught me how to create a permanent memory by focusing on all my senses of standing there in that moment, and bringing it back up every hour or so. Whenever she saw me the rest of the weekend she reminded me to focus and concentrate on all the senses of that moment to lock in the memory. The moment is still
I am tearing up a little.

The playtest of the lavish prototype for my new board game "Lemuria" was well received. I had more applicants than available play slots, and received valuable feedback from a different audience than those with whom I had previously playtested it. More on that later.

In other news, misfortune befell my Coffee Ritual almost completely across the board. Saturday I had to cancel it and Sunday we soldiered on. At least there was coffee, but that was all there was. Everyone enjoyed it, actually. I converted it from parody High Church to a Pentecostal revival meeting and invited the whole audience to testify to their love of coffee. David Bloom from Ann Arbor SPARK particularly entertained me with his trembling supplication, on his knees asking for more coffee. My "testimony" was the story of a few weeks ago, pulling an all-nighter at Tracy Worcester's place, working on the Penguicon program schedule. I was worthless after about 3. I started to have psychedelic visions and passed out at 8 in the morning. This is why I don't stay up past about 2 usually.

Speaking of soldiering on, Allison Anderson broke her toe doing Program Ops! She is now truly a Penguicon veteran with the injuries to prove it. Fortunately it was not serious and she decided to soldier on, in a wheelchair. We're so grateful to her.

I enjoyed the discussion of "Sequencing the Genome of Fiction" with two of my favorite Penguicon presenters, Sarah Elkins and Catherine Devlin. I asked to do this panel to basically provoke interest in replacing fiction magazines the way has made music radio obsolete (it just doesn't know it's dead yet). netmouse  was in the audience and I asked her to tell us about her cool related project.

At the Dead Dog party I finally got to sit still long enough to meet Jono Bacon, the community manager for Ubuntu Linux. He loves Penguicon, and we made many fine plans. That is all I will announce... for now. ;)

Thanks to all the new people who have come forward to play a larger part in Penguicon. Brian Robinson. Phil Salkie. Mark Lenigan. Austin Howard. Nathan Jiskra. Limey and Amy Zrnich. Dan Diebolt. And many more. I have enough business cards to wallpaper with. The existing concom and staff positions are all but full, and now I'm creating ones that never before existed. But keep volunteering!

To sum up on how I feel, here's the lyrics to the music that was in my head this weekend, from "Meet The Robinsons". If you have the song, listen to it while looking at Penguicon photos. SRSLY.

The future has arrived
Nobody can doubt
The future is what every thing's about
It's better for you and it's better for me
It's better than what everybody thought it would be

The future has arrived
The future has arrived today

The future's arrived, as light as can be
Just open your eyes, it's as plain to see
Just don't be afraid, just keep going on
One step at a time, and you can't go wrong

It's time to CREATE time to GROW, if you feel right
The world yeah she's changing
And life's rearranging
To make you feel ALIVE!

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