William Chow's Personal Web Page
The year is 2006.
Sakura Con 2006
Ok, this year was probably one of those years where I probably was the least excited and probably the least prepared to go to Seattle for the Con. I didn't even bother to go to the web site to even find out the date of when the con was until earlier this month. I didn't request time off, which would have been easy, since I had Friday, Sunday and Monday as natural days off, so to swap some hours around probably would have been easy. Maybe...
Anyway, I didn't let things worry me. This was going to be a short shopping trip for me.
This year, my travel companions will be Jack and King. Both have not travelled to Seattle nor have they been to a convention other than the ones in Vancouver. Our plan is to head down the US to do dinner and shopping. We will pull into a motel in Everett to get some rest, register early in the morning, get breakfast, do some mall shopping, do the convention in the afternoon, and then drive out during the evening.
So we leave for the US at 8:30pm. We are in Jack's Suzuki Jeep. Customs was not too bad. Jack was a little slow pulling out his ID, and he had to try to be funny by answering the question, "Are you bringing any food into the US?" with "I have cup of tea." Well, I am sure we didn't look like Asian gang members or hommie bums so, they let us through. However, there was a blue mustang in the other stall, the guard was banging on the car looking for any fake panels and stuff. So, it probably wasn't such a good idea to get funny with them at this time of the night.
Ok, we leave the border crossing and Jack immediately misses the ramp going on to I5, not only that, he also misses the 2nd chance on ramp to I5 after the light at the Pacific Crossing. Those people who have been to this crossing will know that it is not easy to miss BOTH signs but some how Jack did... I wonder if it was a sign of things to come... Yes it is... Anyway, we turned around and got back on to the on ramp for I5 and we were on our way.
Jack noticed that there was a pinging noise from his engine at high speeds. I also noticed we could hit Bellis Fair before it closed at 10pm. We headed to the Target and arrived at 9:50pm. We were intensely listening the the tied 3-3 hockey game between Vancouver and Edmonton. However, we arrived when they needed to take over 7 minutes to review video footage of a shoot out goal using the replay camera. Didn't matter in the end, because the Edmonton goalie couldn't stop anything.
We went in. I was looking for another one of those Gerber Recoil Needle Nose Auto-Pliers. They were $35 US, from their website but they don't ship to Canada. House of Knives charges $85 Cdn to order one in. Unfortunately, this branch was too redneck to carry that kinda stuff. Jack went and bought a bottle of fuel additive to get rid of the engine noise.
Ok, we got back into the car and drove down the I5 to look for food and gas. We found out, that Vancouver won 4-3, as Vancouver scored 3 for 3 and Edmonton had already missed 3, making all that video footage viewing a total waste of time. The next off ramp had a gas stop as well as a Jack in the Box and Taco Bell. Jack made a few left turns and some how missed the opening to the parking lot of both the Jack in the Box and the Taco Bell, and ended up in the right hand turning lane to turn back on to the freeway for I5 heading NORTH. So.. We had to drive all the way back to Bellis Fair, to turn around and come back and try again. We got to Taco Bell and found out that the dinner room was closed at 10pm, only drive thru was open. So, we got back into the car and used the drive thru for a 10 hard shell taco combo which went up in price again to $8 US, and a large Mountian Dew. Man, this combo is getting way way too much. Jack and King ordered food from the Jack in the Box because Jack need to pick up another Jack head for his antenna. They gave him a free New Year's Jack head because they had an overstock of them.
Jack ordered a taco from the box and King had the breakfast combo. Jack complained that it was sooo hot that it was burning in his throat, and that was even before he put the lame hot sauce on it. King of course, tried the breakfast combo which even with the Diet Coke is no where near healthy but when you think of the kinda food down here, it is not hard to see why 40% of Americans are over weight. You are on vacation... enjoy the slop.... Meanwhile, I was quite enjoying my tacos. Only complaint is you got to eat them quick because the heat will make the shell soggy and their hot sauce a lame hot, and they didn't have Fire sauce which is still lame but it at least gave it a kick.
We headed over to the gas station across the street to fuel up and put the additive in. It was $2.54 US a gallon (3.7843 litres in a gallon, 16.75% exchange rate) is 78 cents Cdn a litre. Yea, and they are belly aching now because they price of gas is high, and they expect it to hit $3 US a gallon by May. Oh boo hoo, you Yankee losers, today, Vancouver gas was 101.90 cents a litre, what a bunch of pussies.
Anyway, we were all ready to go and we pulled out of the gas station. There was a big crash from my side of the car. It was my Mountian Dew that I had left on the top of the roof of his jeep. The cup had rolled forward and fell to the ground. Oh well, it was lucky no of it spilled out onto his jeep.
We also saw a Walgreens Drug Store that was opened 24hrs. So I wanted to go there to buy some Lamasil. Expensive at $17 for 30g but it is effective and doesn't require a prescription down in the US. I had to pick up a few to be stocked up for the year. I also picked up a Wachamacallit bar and a bag of Sour Gummy Life Savers. Both things I have not seen in Canada. They also had the classic Arizona Iced Tea in a 695ml tall can, cheap at 99 cents. They also had the 32 fl oz. Bottles of Powerade on sale at 3 for $3.
Ok, we hit the road again and it was pretty clear and uneventful driving to Everett. Jack was getting tired and weaving the road a bit. He kept blaming it on opening a pop bottle while driving. I suppose he doesn't have the Matt trademark skills of driving while eating fried chicken.
The signs from the I5 to get to the hotel were really really ambiguous. One sign said to keep left, but obviously the off ramp was on the right. Which means we take a left when? Hmm It wasn't really obvious.
Anyway, it was handy to have our GPS with us. The coordinates from the web page for Motel 6 said "Latitude: 47.9072280712 , Longitude: -122.2418837591. Which is kind of stupidly written. Converted it should be N47° 54' 26.0209" by W122° 14' 30.7680". This matched my Pocket PC pretty much to the minute.
I didn't get a whole lot of sleep but it gave me time to write this log. It also gave me a chance of open up all the packages and dispose of some of the receipts. I found that one of the tubes of Lamasil had its security seal compromised.
Ok, we were up and on the road at 6:00am in the morning. We still had 23 miles to the city centre. Traffic was pretty smooth, however, when we were following the signs to the convention centre Jack inadvertly started to drive down the wrong side of the street, turned left on to an one way street going the wrong way. He got himself back on to the right lane again to pull into the Macy's parking lot. We got in early enough for the all day $8 early bird parking. I marked the coordinates as N47°36'38.7" by W122°20'21.6". I guess if I was really bored and became the leader of some radical militant group I will know where I can send a missile to
We go into the convention centre. We already seeing signs of cosplayers and lots of normal people looking at the otakus weirdly. And sure why not, to them they think we are some kind of new form of Trekkie who got time warped to think it was October 31st Halloween. Now the convention centre is huge and even a con like Sakura Con of 3000+ people is not enough to fill it all. They had to share the convention centre with some AAFC group thing, and some other SMTC thing but most importantly, they had the Criminal Forensics Meeting on the main floor. Yes, I can see why they shoved all the otakus to the top floor to keep them away from all the intellectuals.
The line up was not long and we got through it rather easily and we were done before 9:00am. Of course, there was nothing to do this early, except sit around watching videos. So, we decided to leave and get breakfast and then comeback at 12:00 noon when the dealers room opens.
Walking around downtown Seattle looking for food. Normally, in a metropolitan city it is easy to find cafes and diners to get food. Hmmm.. you would think.
There is a Starbucks almost every corner down here. Yes, there was a Subway at the convention centre and there was a McDonalds. But what else. Well even the food court in the mall doesn't even open till 10:00am. We passed by many bar and grills and even a teriyaki place but all closed. We finally ended up at a motel bar and grill that was open for breakfast. For $10, I had a lumberjack breakfast which is much like the Denny's one, but wow, does it ever give you a lot of eggs. It wasn't 2, I am guessing it was like 4 or 5 covered in cheese, quite the meal. The waiter was also trying hard to be funny, but Jack kept missing the punch lines, I guess he wasn't quite with it this early in the morning.
We started walking back. I marked out two Electronic Boutiques on Pine Street near the convention centre. We went into the mall which is now opened. Even a small mall like this had 2 Starbucks in it. We checked out the EB, Suncoast Video and the Sammy Goodie (which was closing). What was sad though, even with 50% off CDs it still couldn't beat our prices in Vancouver. Although, that electric guitar for $99 was really tempting.
Back on the road again, I spotted another Walgreens which was good because I could do an exchange for my punctured tube of Lamasil, but I can do it afterwards during my own spare time.
We arrive at the con just as the dealer's room is opening but the line was getting so short that we were the last people in the line when they closed off the extra spill hall for the line up into the dealer's room. It was good timing.
I decided to run around quickly around the hall. It is only four isles in the the place so I quickly made a nice shopping list of things. However I limited down to the following items:
Satoshi "Breastman" Urushihara's book for "Front Innocence" which is a must. The second item was a smut dojinshi from one of my favourite artists, Essentia, which was a Gundam Seed one with the princess getting bobo'ed by Char.
However, figurines was the big thing this year but I narrowed it down to Ikkitousen, Tengo Tenge and Guilty Gear Itsuka. I could have gotten more dojinshi because it seems like everyone in their dog is using porn to a make money especially Yaoi stuff (gay guys stuff).
I must comment the dealer's room was quite good variety. There were people selling original CDs, classic games consoles, artwork, comics and CDs. I think there was a excess of figurines and gasphons and dojinshi both yaoi and Yuri and normal. Now, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against good figurines, and good dojin smut, after all that is what I bought this year.
Anyways, me and King walked out to the street to look for some light food and drink. I used this opporuntity to go to Walgreen's to exchange my punctured tube of Lamisil. Then we took a stroll down to the Farmer's Market on Pine. We ran back into Jack back at the front of the convention centre.
Jack wanted to check out the Kendo while I wanted to check out the Para Para Freestyle thing but they cancelled that. Oh well, I guess someone wasn't available for that.
Ok, I spent a few minutes cleaning out my bag and sorting what few things I had of packaging and what not and began our trip back. Personally, I would not have minded to see how the Adult Karaoke was run but again the description that was given to me with judging and such really makes it more of Idol competion rather than real karaoke. However, King is always eager to bail early, so we left. But not before a short detour to the Microsoft Xbox room to put in our names for the draw for a Xbox360.
On the way back to the car, we ran into a promo van for Monster Energy Drink and they had two girls handing out free sample cans of their energy drink. We we all lined up and got one. It was nice and cold so me and Jack saved ours for when we were on the road.
Well, Jack got lost trying to find the entrance to I5, but I just took a freeway and had him follow it until we ran into a sign that allowed us to get on it. It didn't take long before we got on there and joined all the rest of Friday afternoon's traffic jam. It was sluggish but at least we didn't come to a total stop. It probably wouldn't have hurt to stay at the convention that extra hour. While we were getting nowhere on the freeway, we tried our Monster Drinks. My opinion, the taste SUCKS. Oh man, I am sure it is suppose to give you energy, although it didn't work on me, but it tastes really bad. It first tastes rather citrus but then there is this biting taste. It is like a plastic taste. It is like that vanilla artificial flavor taste that is in those square Sugaros candy. A real bad after taste like you finished a cheap awful dinner mint.
Anyway, we were getting close to the border before we wanted to find a place to eat. We found a Round House Pizza by a mall with a Wal-Mart and an Office Depot. We ordered an Ultimeat Pizza. I liked the all you can eat salad bar and the self serve drinks but I opted out of the salad bar, since the pizza was going to be enough. Now being a meat covered pizza, the amount of grease and oil was just dripping off this pizza. Not to include the crust on this was kind of crunchy but it was not strong enough to hold up to the toppings. But with that said, the toppings on this pizza was really good. It must have been all that bacon and sausage meat, gave it a real unique meat flavour.
We walked over to the Wal-Mart for a little browsing. I managed to find my Gerber Auto Plier here in the sporting good department for $39. Since I didn't have access to an ATM machine for funds, King put it on his credit card. We just had to wait a long time because someone was ahead of us in the line buying a shot gun. On this note, in merchandising, there is a term called "SUGGESTIVE SELL" or "ADD ON SELL". It refers to the ploy of putting a product that is sort of related next to the product you want to buy so that when you see one, you might get the impulse to buy both. For example, you want to buy a flashlight, and the batteries are located next to the flashlights. It is hoped that when you pick up the flashlight, you will also think that it is a good idea to pick up the batteries for it at the same time too. SO... At this Wal-mart, say you wanted to buy a baseball bat. Well, maybe with your purchase of a baseball bat, you will find that a concealled knife/multifunction tool might be handy. Oh and if you don't quite need a knife with your baseball bat, how about a shotgun with that bat? Yes, the baseball bats are beside the knives which are beside the shot guns... Hmm... You wanna take a wild guess where the golf clubs are?
Ok, we make it back on the road again, and to the border crossing. Again, Jack was slow pulling out his ID. This caused one of the extra guards to walk over to my side (passenger side) of the car and look inside. He asked where we went and how long and how much we were bringing back. After that, he pointed out that I didn't sign my passport. He waved us through.
So a very productive trip to Seattle. I hope to do it again next year. I hope that my wife will be with me by then so I can use my vacation time for Seattle and San Deigo rather than travelling back to China. We'll see....
My opinions of the con are as follows. Please remember these are MY opinions and yours may differ.
I feel that the con book was very very well laid out, although some of the descriptions of the events were very poor and shall we say NON-descriptive. For example, on the very first page of the events Page 11, we have Karaoke - Adult : "To participate in this event, you must have an ADULT badge." OK, not only is this a "NO DUH Sherlock" description but it also damn misleading. Maybe they mean it is like German porno Karaoke where they play a smut flick on the screen and the audience gets to act it out. Oh yea, massive ADULT fun!
Karaoke, I think it was good that they separated the older kids from the the younger kids. However, when sitting in the karaoke, it dawns upon me that it is not real karaoke. It is an open mike talent show. The people coming up to sing have already memorized their songs. They have their dance routine or air guitar rehearsed. It is a god damn talent show. The audience for the most part is sitting there watching, quietly. If the singer really sucks, they start getting bored and they start doing things like talking to each other, and opening up the things they bought at the dealers room, eating, drinking, sleeping, playing on their PSP or Gameboys. All these things I have seen the audience doing. The person at the information booth says the real karaoke is judged. Oh great... So now it goes from a talent show to being an Anime Idol or a Gong Show type thing. It is getting farther and farther away from what a real karaoke is suppose to be. It is expected that the audience to sit down and shut up. Now, I know why people are complaining when I did AE 2005 karaoke because they where brainwashed by Sakura Con to believing THIS is what karaoke was suppose to be. Well, this reaffirms I was NOT wrong, and it confirms I will continue to do it the way I did last year with no regrets.
I am not a big cosplay fan, so I will not comment on the cosplay contest. It is not to say I don't cosplay because I do have Patlabor uniform and I am making a quite complex costume. I just don't enjoy the need to win prizes for it or watch others win prizes for it. Although, I could say I have taken many of pictures of cosplayers both good and bad in various years.
The fiction and fan drawing panels I will skip. I am neither a writer or an artist. When I need an artist to do my web banner, I know where to look for a good pool of starving artists for commissioned work.
Masquerade is interesting, but like Anime Rave's, sometimes doesn't mix (har har pun). Well, I suppose if you like sweaty otakus, then this a place for you. But bad B/O is not on my list of pleasant convention experiences.
The hands on and demostrations are good ideas. Origami and the Kendo are interesting but not my cup of tea. Well, not right now anyway.
I have seen the 404's Anime Improv in action and they are good. Quite funny and very enjoyable.
Video traks are (in my opinion) a waste of time. To some people, they are a good way to sample animes, watch things they would never buy, and even kill sometime with. But for me, like many others, probably have more anime on DVDs and on their computers than they have time to watch for the next few years.
AMVs are now in my opinion a waste of time. Everyone does them, even a nobody with a computer can make them. So the novelity of finding good ones are now much much harder to find. Again, I was one of the pioneers of AMVs making them even before the days of non-linear editing, it doesn't take much to make one now a days, but it sure takes a lot to make a good one.
The classic gaming was not a new concept from previous cons. The arcade games are popular as always, though what was the deal with the Para Para Paradise v1.1 disks doing in the v2.0 cabinet?
So after all this, do I think I got my money's worth of $35 US for Friday? No. Do I think I would do it again next year? Hell ya... You see, it is not about what the con can do for me, because really, I just came for the shopping. No, it is about the fact that I want to have a local convention for me to come to annually (semi-annually) to pick up goods. Sure something like San Deigo Comic Con is a hell of a better deal at $60 US but that isn't quite the same thing.