21 November 2006

[pdx_life] The ZehnKatzen Times Orycon 28 Report

671 Another year, another OryCon.

The best damn science fiction convention in the world took place this last weekend at the Portland Downtown Marriott (the one on Naito Parkway, not the one on Broadway) and by all accounts it was a rousing success.

Last event was the first time in this site, which was arranged with the previously arranged hotel (the old Thunderbird at Jantzen Beach) abruptly going away (it still stands guarding the west side of the Oregon approach to the Interstate Bridges, empty and forlorn), and the paying Con population finding, pleasantly, that it worked quite well.

This year, the second in the event's new home, was better than the last. Marriott Downtown, where have you been all our lives? There was a shuffling of spaces, with the Dealer's Room going to the lowest (underground parking) level along with the Art Show–and though the spaces were in a parking garage area, you'd not know it. Comfortable carpet lined the floor, stanchions were wrapped in fabric, and veils walled off the areas. Actually very sumptuous.

The usual selection of panels and fun were to be had; I watched writers patch plot holes and other writers speculate on what to do after the balloon goes up.

The day-to-day star of this Con was the much-taken-for-granted hospitality suite, the Convention crossroads. Last year's hospitality was a disappointment, a smallish room that was harder to get to than it was worth to go there. This year, removed to the level with the ballrooms, it was large, spacious, and comfortable-a real place to stop, put your feet up, feast on junk food, and check your email (in a master stroke, the space also housed the traditional "internet cafe" (which in the past was a room with just computers in it...hardly a cafe, really). Just keep the food and drink away from the boxes, kids...the network was fast and friendly. Used Wintel and Fedora boxes provided the access, and yes, Firefox was available to all.

Personally, to me and The Wife™, going to OryCon is one of the lynchpins of our lives; our relationship was melded through this shared experience (as well as other ├╝bergeekiness) and we couldn't conceive of a year without one. The last thing we do on the way out the door is buy next year's membership (and at $25, it's a steal over the door price, highly recommended), and we did so gladly this time; it's never felt more like a second home. Very comfortable, refreshing, and inspiring.

But then, our Artist GOH was the legendary Vincent DiFate, and while I didn't get to meet the fellow, I did get almost nose-close to some of his artworks, including works I've seen reproudced on book covers for yonks now. Meeting the Artwork in Person isn't transformative, but it comes close, let me tell you.

It also gets me tapped on the shoulder in traditional art museums. I want to see the brush strokes up close, dammit!

Acrylic on hardboard, FWIW. You can really do fine work with acrylic, as it happens. Fine detail!

Musically, the highpoint was the Heather Alexander concert on Saturday night at 2100. Heather has quite a reputation, and there's a reason: she has a stage presence that will entertain you so much that, if you're sure you don't like Celtic-flavored folk music, you'll revise your opinion after you see her.

She's had a devoted following all over the West Coast for many years now. On last Saturday she gave us all a treat; a polished, professional concert being recorded for a DVD being released early next year, I understand.

The last song was done more as a performance art piece, where she retreated backstage under a ivy-entwined arch in a dramatization of her going to join the fae folk, thus actualizing a lietmotif of some of her work we've heard over the years. It was incredibly moving. There was a feeling of putting a full-stop on a period of her performing life; someone after the performance wondered if she was retiring. We take the view expressed by the moderator of Heather's message boards that she was taking a break for a while.

Since she's been incredibly productive and creative over the past 15 years, we rather think she's entitled to one.

We recommend to you that you get the DVD when it comes available.

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