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Post MineCon 2011

I wrote this because some things needed to be said.  I wrote this because you shouldn’t go around breaking children’s hearts in the name of being kind of famous.  I also wrote this because many reviews are from young adults perspectives and I thought a child/parent perspective would be good.  I think there is much to learn from the mistakes that were made.


So I began writing my post about MineCon and it very quickly became a novel.  It’s not really my style to write long drag out posts so here I am with a much shorter recap of the entire event.

Skylar and I made it to Las Vegas and checked into the Mandalay Bay around 3pm on Thursday.  We went over to the convention center and registered that evening for MineCon.  I remember buying my tickets and not receiving any instructions on how to actually GET my tickets so I hoped my name and an ID would help.  Kids 13 and up needed ID as well apparently, this was never told to me, but they let Skylar have his badge anyway.  The line was long and I was grateful not to have to enter it again.

We received our Creeper schwag bag filled with some cool stuff…  minecon schwag.  We also received a Jones soda with custom Minecraft labels.  Well, I mean one of them did, the other had a normal label.  Why didn’t ALL the promo soda reflect the event?  I have no idea.

The next day we grabbed our schedules and headed to the convention center.  I have heard many, many complaints over how the whole thing was organized and I have a few of my own.  I want you all to know that we had a FABULOUS time.  You see, wherever we go we tend to bring our own fun and no matter how poorly organized this event was we would have had fun anyway.

The opening ceremony was wonderful.  The whole crowd was laughing and cheering and having a GREAT time.  People are on Reddit complaining about the speaker, Minecraft Chick Lydia Winters.  I have no idea why, people can just be so nasty sometimes.  She was so awesome and the whole opening ceremony was the best part of the whole thing for me.  Watch it here.

The rest of the convention was typical of any convention.  Vendors, sponsors, exhibitors, swag and cool décor.  However, the event very quickly turned into LineCon.  The lines for anything were hours long.  That means the merch booth, the autograph sessions, and the scavenger hunt.  I understand that at conventions lines will be long, but it was way out of hand.  WAY, WAY out of hand.  The organization of the event left much to be desired.  We hopped in line for a limited edition Creeper toy that I wanted to bring home Milo.  We stood there for an hour and a half only to be told the room was closing so that they could start the opening ceremony I spoke about above.  I was less than thrilled, but tried to let it brush off of me.  I don’t think I have to say that I never did get one of those toys since I couldn’t make it back to the line in time.

On Friday night, I got in line to try and get an autograph from Notch (Minecraft creator) for Skylar.  We were 3 people and the last in line.  An extremely rude volunteer told us the line was closed and we had to leave.  I heard we should have gotten a ticket to get preferential line status the next day but these were not given to us.

On Saturday was the Yogscast panel.  Yogscast is Skylar’s absolute favorite YouTube channel.  He idolizes these guys.  He wants to BE those guys and has talked about starting his own similar channel.  It was promised to the attendees that they would announce where the Yogscast would be signing autographs, but it never was.  As it turns out they gave out 100 tickets for autographs as a surprise and that was it.  5000 in attendance. 100 tickets.  So yeah, “SURPRISE!!!  You didn’t get one.”  By the time Skylar there and found out he did not get a ticket he was torn apart.  Tears.  Anger.  Everything.  When the signing was done, Simon, Lewis, & Hannah (Yogscast) didn’t even look in the direction of all the kids standing there behind the ropes who didn’t get tickets.  Not a wave.  Not a smile.  Not a thanks for watching us guys.  Nothing.  I saw the crushed looks on about 20 kids faces and I cried myself.  What they did was just not right.  Not right at all.  The volunteers were actually apologizing for them.

See, he’s 13 and spent his own money to buy his ticket, brought his pick axe to be signed by 3 people and couldn’t get near any of them.  He looks up to these guys so much and they all made themselves so freaking unavailable during the convention that I wondered why they held MineCon in the first place.  The things that were promised did not happen, and if they did it I always had to find out by word of mouth.  Right down to the super cool swag bag I was supposed to get for being a speaker.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the custom soda bottle I received, but it wasn’t what I was promised.  They didn’t even give it to me, I had to go looking for it.

We had so much fun in between all the disappointments, but I just feel those disappointments didn’t have to happen.  It could have been different.  I was a panelist at this convention and I never even met anyone from the Mojang team that put it together.  I didn’t get an introduction, a thank you, or an acknowledgement from anyone.  I just showed up, did my thing and that was it.  I got a soda that I had to go looking for.

So, let’s get to the awesome parts.  The décor totally rocked.  Someone had built all the Minecraft characters out of wood and they stood all around the convention hall.  Let’s face it, being in a room with 5000 people all passionate about the same thing is sort of exhilarating!  I met and saw so many awesome people.  Of course I had many of my unschool buddies to hang out with but I was just shocked at how many kids were there with their parents!  And parents that played the game!  Just amazing.  Tiffani and I spent some time hooping with Steve and Creeper heads on down in the convention center.  Skylar made some friends that I just know will last a long long time.

The panel went absolutely amazing.  I was very nervous as it took a very academic tone, but I settled into my skin and made some great points.  I think I even inspired a few people toward unschooling.  I’ll post the podcast or video as soon as it becomes available.

The after party at Club XS with Deadmau5 was just totally surreal.  I’m still wondering if it was real.  It was really fun to hoop by the pool and geekify this fancy club for a night.  The muggles were totally mystified by the geekery in the room.  I think they dropped the strict dress code just for the evening.

People are asking me if the convention was worth the money.  I think I would still say yes, but Skylar feels really cheated.  He says he had a great time, but much of that fun was had outside the convention.  So the entire trip was 100% absolutely worth it for me and maybe75% worth it for Skylar.  If he knew that he wouldn’t be able to meet his favorite people and get autographs he may not have gone at all.  Like I said, what was promised didn’t happen.  I’m so glad he did go though as he made some unforgettable connections.

I just wish that we could have left it there and not experienced the airing of dirty laundry between Yogcast and Notch.  You can read all about that on Reddit.  Honestly, I felt that they all sort of acted like divas when it came to their celebrity status.  We even tried to talk to Notch at Club XS but his entourage whisked him away and wouldn’t let us near him like he was Tom Cruise or something.  Strange behavior since Prince Harry didn’t seem to mind being around people at the club.

Will I go again?  Yeah…  I totally would.  It’s just really hard for me not see the obvious failures that happened at MineCon.  It’s also hard to me to watch my child have his heart broken.  We missed the closing ceremony because of it.  I do hope they learn from their mistakes.  But I’ve learned too.  I’ve learned I have to be careful with my expectations and to see the red flags from the beginning.  Other people had worse experiences than us, and others have better.  It wasn’t across the board terrible.

I’m still giddy with excitement, but it’s less about MineCon and more about friendships and sharing some amazingly good times with the people I love.  You know who you are.

I covered so little of our trip in the post.  As usual, feel free to ask me anything.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – A Review

These 3 boys eat a lot.  Back in Vermont, it seems like we made daily grocery store trips.  After all, the grocery store was practically across the street.  Here it’s not quite that simple, but we *do* have a Costco within 10 minutes of driving.  Every Saturday is Costco day.  It’s TJ’s favorite, since they have free samples at the end of almost every aisle.  The last two Saturdays I have gone with him, and quickly realize just how giddy these free samples make him as he exclaims to Phoenix about his free 8-10 course meal.  Me?  I hate grocery shopping.  I’m so glad he likes it.  He’s an organized, money saving maniac.  He has food lists, and price lists, and 3 different stores he shops at but it’s all in his head.  As far as I know, he’s never written any of down.  He just calculates and organizes all up in his geeky head and saves us a small fortune each month.  Or at least when he shops by himself, because when I go I always seem to find something else to buy.  It’s been ages since I’ve read a work of fiction.  I scanned the tables with the books and waited for something to catch my eye.

I read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, in its entirety, yesterday afternoon.  I couldn’t put it down for anything.  I made tomato rice soup and tapioca pudding all while reading.

The circus is in town.  The home for elderly patients is a buzz with excitement about family members coming to take them to the circus.  After catching a resident in a lie about working for the circus, Jacob Jankowski tells Rosemary, a nurse at the assisted living home his story.  He was a student at Cornell, studying veterinary medicine like his father before him and after a heart wrenching turn of events ended up working with a traveling train circus introducing him and me, to the unknown world of the depression era train circus.

Camel, an old, frail working man saves a 23 year old Jacob from being thrown from the train and gets him a job much to the dismay of the other men.  Later when Camel falls ill, Jacob is there to help him out.  Once Uncle Al, the totalitarian ring master, learns that he’s a veterinarian he takes him on and gives him work.  August and Marlena, a married couple with a turbulent marriage, are the stars of the show.  August tries to take Jacob under his wing but suspects he’s falling for his wife.  He is abusive and explosive, he can’t keep his anger and jealousy under control.

The train circuses all but fell apart during the depression, prohibition gave many men nothing to live for, and Water for Elephants gives us a compelling story of what it might have been like to live and work during those times.  The characters are vibrant and lovely, and dark and hateful. This story is full of hope, heartache, debauchery, secrets, murder and love.  The raw emotion made me feel like I was right there on the train.   I couldn’t take my eyes off the pages for barely a moment.  Each turn of a page brought me further into the world she Sara Gruen had created around me.

I *loved* this book and I can’t wait until next Saturday’s trip to Costco so I can grab another discount novel.

Confessions of a Superhero – A Review

We have in our possession, a Roku box, which will stream Netflix movies instantly to our movie screen.  I was on the Netflix website, adding a few documentaries I wanted to see when I came across Confessions of a Superhero.  We have a family love of Superheroes so there was no way we could turn it down.

Confessions of a Superhero is a documentary by Matt Ogens.  Along with producers Jaime Patricof and Charlie Gruet, he paints a portrait of the lives of 4 unique people trying to make it in Hollywood.  The only thing they seem to have in common is that they make their money dressing up as Superheroes on Hollywood Boulevard and pose for photos with tourists in hopes of receiving tips.

Christopher Dennis who dresses as Superman, claims to be the son of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf actress, Sandy Dennis (although her family denies it).  He says she really wanted him to carry on the family business of acting and that’s what keeps him going.  Truly the most endearing story of the four, Christopher has a loveable, oddball personality who seems to embody Superman’s principles while on the street.  He is patient and kind and probably the most knowledgeable Superman historian ever.  His tiny Hollywood apartment is a museum of superhero memorabilia worth more than the house I live in. As if that wasn’t enough, he looks uncannily like Christopher Reeve.

Jennifer Garrett, former prom queen, homecoming queen, and cheerleader came to Hollywood in hopes of making it big.  At first glance she’s the poster child social popularity. Maximus Allen, a George Clooney look alike came into his profession by accident, and talks cryptically about his shady past.  North Carolina native, Joe McQueen sold his Super-Nintendo for a bus ticket and spent 4 years homeless on the streets of Hollywood.  He receives big news while cameras are rolling.

Interviews with Leron Gubler, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president, Johnny Grant, honorary mayor of Hollywood, and Stan Lee, American comic book writer (among other things) question whether the people that dress up in costume should be allowed to make work for themselves or not.  While it is legal within legal parameters, (staying on public property, not being aggressive, not requiring tips) some believe that the characters are nothing more than pan-handlers.

A perfect composition of idiosyncratic lives, a playful soundtrack, and the allure of the Hollywood dream.  Confessions of a Superhero brings together four similar lives and focuses on four peculiar individuals.  I definitely recommend this documentary for anyone like me, that finds people who manage to escape the status quo (possibly through no fault of their own), just completely fascinating.