Ari Rockefeller presents A Look Back at Whatever the Hell 2011 Was

The year 2011 is in its death throes, and even as I type this, I and the rest of the world are essentially waiting for its heart monitor to go to the inevitable flat line, which is a mere hours away. So with members of my (real, not AJS) family ready to loot the corpse while said corpse is still warm, so to speak, I figured I would take a look back at ’11 and say at least some kind words, since it falls to me to the be the voice of reason, sanity and basic human decency. (Somehow I think personal issues overtook metaphor in this opening paragraph…)

                During 2011, DJ Ranma was kind enough to upgrade my computer to Windows 7, which was a boon for my computer but a bust for a lot of my writing efforts. So I’ve had to go back to AJS’s website and, for a lack of a better term, relearn what I wrote in regards to what. So if this last article feels choppy and all over the place, that is the reason why.
                My tenure with the site started in February with my review of Katsucon. As I had mentioned, my visit to the convention prior to ’11 was highlighted by very crushing personal issues, and I had essentially avoided the place. My overall experience with the convention was positive, but comparing it to the one time I went before it could possibly damn it with false praise. Naturally, simply having more money on hand would’ve made the trip a lot more enjoyable for me, as well as made the con feel like less of a money sink. The assist goes to Chad Dietrichs of press relations for contributing to how legitimately satisfied I was by the convention. It also helps that members of Katsucon staff were sympathetic toward my situation. Also, as I reread the report, it bummed me out to be reminded of my run-in with Nick of MAGfest, mostly because it was one convention I really wanted to go to, but ultimately can’t this year.
                Zenkaikon in mid-March continued the (very brief) trend of revisiting conventions I stopped going to. This, to me, was a local convention, and since for me, local = Philadelphia area, I certainly felt like I was in my element. I did get to sit in on a bunch of good panels, and semi-participated in a game show or two. I had some money issues, but they weren’t nearly as severe as the prior Katsucon. My surprise interview with CJ Henderson was easily the highlight of the weekend.
                Next came a one-day excursion to a convention held by a college’s anime club in Hoboken, NJ—Castle Point Anime Convention, held in early April. All throughout my meandering around Hoboken, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of dread that clung to me like a wet blanket, that thought being I’m in freaking Hoboken…why?!. Granted, when I look back, the place wasn’t all bad, but aside from extenuating circumstances, I wouldn’t seek out the city specifically. The convention itself was small, but not exactly minor league. They have a lot of potential, and I and many other attendees would like to see that potential fulfilled.
                The Steampunk World’s Fair that was held Apocalypse Du Jour Weekend changed gears so harshly it blew out the transmission. The lowlight of the weekend was that “Macho Man” Randy Savage died on the 21st. Despite the massive fish-out-of-water feeling I had throughout the weekend, I had plenty of high points, such as the immersion into Steampunk culture, the very colorful and elaborate panels, and the very cool guests. And I tasted absinthe for the first time…and it was glorious. I don’t make many New Years’ Resolutions, but having a race around the world on zeppelins against Professor Elemental is something I’ll try my hardest to fulfill. The apocalypse was proven to be a load of shit, but it’s not like that was beyond the collective realm of our imagination. Not nearly as much backpedaling from apocalypse-mongers as I thought, though.
                I was in the same general area for the next convention, AnimeNEXT, held approximately a month later. The con was sprawled around several hotels as well as the convention center, which was nice because it spoke of how well the con had grown, but was a logistical pain in the ass getting from venue to venue, especially if you were going from a panel to a game room to one of the video rooms. Aside from it being the convention’s tenth anniversary, it was my one-year anniversary writing for Anime Jam Session. It was nice, but not entirely special, considering I didn’t realize it until I was writing the report. Perhaps this year I’ll do something “special” for it.
                And then came the big convention of the year. Otakon. Otakon is the one convention I go to come hell or high water; if I only go to two conventions a year, Otakon is one of them (and for a while, that’s exactly how it went). The extortion at the parking garage and the ungodly heat and humidity were the low points, while wandering around with full press credentials was easily the highlight. It made me feel like Anime Jam Session had truly “arrived.”
                Finally, the last convention of the year for me was New York Comic Con and Anime Fest. It was a sad continuation of the trend from last year of the “Anime Fest” stuff being downscaled and pushed aside to make more room for the “Comic Con” stuff. The masquerade, despite the profoundly obnoxious wait to get in, was a lot better than I imagined it to be. Oh, and Veronica Taylor remembered me from the previous year (and the autographed Ash jacket she graced me with). That was especially nice.
                Overall, things went a lot better for me in 2011 than I could’ve ever anticipated. For one, after spending almost 2½ years on unemployment, I finally found gainful employment. Granted it’s not the path of writing my own books for a living (and my first attempt at NaNoWriMo crashed and burned due to a debilitating bout of food poisoning), but the fact that I now have a steady paycheck coming in will greatly help not only my quality of life, but my ability to visit and cover conventions for years to come.
                So, to all our fans and readers, have a happy new year, and try not to let the nonstop doomsday bitching and moaning get you down.

Ari Rockefeller

When he is not training Pokémon and being the very best, the Master of the Written Word churns out convention, video game, anime and movie reviews like clockwork. No one is more productive and dangerous with a pen and paper (or, in this case, a keyboard).

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