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On Thursday, April 14, 2005, I woke up at 8:00 am. I left my Sturgeon Bay apartment at 9:00 am. I stopped for breakfast in Oneida Nation. I stopped for gas in Wittenberg. I stopped to stretch in Stanley. I stopped to figure out where the hell I was after I made a wrong turn in Eau Claire.

According to Mapquest, it takes 4 hours and 42 minutes to get from Sturgeon Bay to downtown Eau Claire, where my friend's apartment is located. I arrived at 1:17, 4 hours and 17 minutes after leaving, including four stops. When I got there, nobody was home. Naturally.

Here we go again...

Friday
More Than Neil... Less Than Duct Tape Boy

I guess I'm being a little unfair, since Matt had called me ahead of time (during my Stanley stop, conveniently enough) and said he had to run some errands. He and his girlfriend Julie arrived fifteen minutes after me, so no harm there. Unfortunately, he was nailed to his job and she was nailed to a killer reading assignment and were unable to attend the convention next door. No frowning emoticon can describe how much that sucks. In a gesture of sympathy, I left my crap with them and headed to the con.

Unlike previous years when the con was held at the university student union or ACen, which is at the Hyatt, No Brand Con 4 was held at Il Pallazzo, or The Plaza for the rest of you. I arrived, registered, and found out that I was a bit early, and that everybody was still setting up. So I bugged everybody trying to set up in the dealer's room and got some early DDR in. It wasn't long before the convention started in full force, and I was rapidly bumping into everybody from the message boards.

Now for those who have never been to a small convention before, there are many misconceptions about them. They have everything a big convention has:

Stupid gaijin I take your money.

A vendors' room, complete with banana-flavored Pocky and Pocari Sweat...

They had Mario Kart! Long live Mario Kart!

A gaming room, where you too can get pwned at the game of your choice!

Who's that dancer? It's Yuni!

Dance Dance Revolution... and Dance Dance Revolution cosplayers!

Break it down McFarland-chan!!

And voice actors talking about... ADR writing. They're working on Kodocha now; I don't blame them. On the right is Greg Ayres (Tsuyoshi), in the middle is Monica Rial (Aya), and on the left is Mike McFarland (the poor sap with the unenviable task of writing Sana's raps).

Finally...

I'm pretty sure someone got fired for this.

The first documented line in No Brand Con history. The staffer taking registrations collapsed in shock and it took several pokes with the Is My Roommate Dead stick to revive her.1 Okay, maybe not... but lines are such a momentous occasion here! We all love lines, right?

And these guys pre-registered!And these guys... didn't.

Whoops... how did those pics from Otakon and ACen sneak in there?

Never mind. Anyway, the first real "moment" came as I cruised by hotel rooms, looking for any early parties or anybody from the forums. Room 115 was setting up a projector and needed a female-to-female A/V connector to hook up their XBox to it. After a visual demonstration of why it's called female-to-female, somebody was a little put off. To soften the suggestive nature of the term (or to increase it, I forgot), I suggested calling them yuri connectors instead (and, of course, yaoi for the male-to-male ends). That seemed to work better.

While they headed to Radio Shack for some yuri, I hit the opening ceremony. Which meant the first appearance of...

Duct

Tape

Boy!!

Hug Executron!!1

This picture has been approved by BrandCorp™

This also let everybody in on this year's convention plotline. Namely, the corporate takeover by the beloved BrandCorp™, who obtained (read: stole) the only share of No Brand Con stock from Duct Tape Boy, and essentially made the con hold such obscene fund-raising activities such as a man auction.

This whole thing was wrapped up nicely and neatly (okay, it was all a disorganized mess... but it was our disorganized mess) during the cosplay. The reason for mentioning all this is not to tell the wonderful story of BrandCorp™, but rather to acknowledge the fact that this convention has a plotline. How many conventions do you know of that have a plotline?

Didn't think so. But while we're on the subject of all the wonderful things BrandCorp™ brought to the convention, it's time for the Man Auction.

Neil will certainly go for lots, right?

The concept is simple. Several manly staff members can be bid on by the throngs of fangirls (or the occasional facetious fanboy or roommate). For example, the ever-popular Neil here got all pimped up for the occasion, and went first. He went for the impressive price of $9.50 to the gentleman in the corner. Surely nobody would top that, right?

More than Neil! More than Neil!

Almost everybody topped that, including one of the founding members Vinnk, who came all the way from Japan to go for $53. As they went down the line, the more men went for more than a ten-spot, the more people chanted "More Than Neil!" For the 22 hours that BrandCorp™ remained in power, they slapped it on every piece of merchandise they could and marketed it full force as their official BrandCorp™ catchphrase. Too bad they couldn't get the design back from the printers before they were conquered and "More Than Neil" became a product of the people.

After all that Funn it was time for the pool party. Since I wasn't a guest at the hotel, I couldn't jump in, but I watched and socialized while everybody else splashed around with the inflatable snakes in the pool. Oh yeah, and...

And I escaped bone dry!

The Waitohooru-inspired water gun fight! Because by an 8-7 vote, people who point guns at you are cool. Majority rules!2

Once the pool party wound down, the room parties started. I found my way into Room 202, one of the most discussed parties on the forums. There, I ran into Tyler and Val, fellow Digimon fans who could not stump me at trivia. After trying again using some of the music (Hey Joe- I had "Butterfly" as a trivia question too!)3, the discussion quickly segued into my English lyrics for the music. Which is why I brought a CD of all the songs I had translated. Karaoke session! It didn't help that Tyler wanted to do "Fire" first, practically the only song on the CD with a karaoke version, but it was interesting watching him try to follow along with the lyrics. I was just happy it was late enough in the day for me to hit those high notes (I couldn't hit squat in the car that morning). Although our duet on "My Will" from InuYasha was freaking hilarious.

Since Julie had to work an overnight shift at the dorms and Matt wanted to go with, I had to be back to the apartment by 11:30. So that cut my night short. Until Julie called in sick and we played Zombies! until 5:00.

Pengi-san! Pengi-san!

Click on my badge, lovingly colored by Momo, to go to Saturday!

Footnotes

  1. After posting this on the No Brand Con message boards, said staffer replied and claimed to have not, in fact, collapsed in shock at the sight of the line. I admit that I do use embellish the truth once in a while in recaps and that all reports of collapsing, killing, and death may be greatly exaggerated. She did not deny being poked several times with the Is My Roommate Dead stick, so feel free to tease her about that whether I made it up or not.

  2. Hoo... long story here. In an extended (and ridiculous) protest of the abridged final episode of AR2, reader Waitohooru went to extreme lengths to get me to write a more complete version (even going so far as to e-mail my real-life boss). His campaign included posts on several message boards, including one where another reader replied angrily and told him to shut up at "gunpoint." Waitohooru also made a few pleas on the No Brand boards, including a few ridiculous poll questions. One took the aforementioned reader's reply as a threat and asked if "people who point guns at you are cool." The kooky forum members voted yes by an 8-7 decision and the thread started talks of a water gun fight at the convention. Incidentally, someone else at the convention recognized my name because of a someone on the boards that was a "huge fan" of my stories.

  3. One of my friends, Joe Klemm, was a participant on a "Name That Tune" style competition at a different convention. One of the songs he had to name was "Butterfly" from Digimon.