PASADENA... part 3
(griffin's 2011 BotCon report)
I awoke on the final day of 2011's BotCon to eat the last of my Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal, shower and dress ready for another big day.
I stopped by the Dealer Room briefly first to take some more photos, before heading into the Panel Room early for a good seat for the first panel.
Between each panel, I was filling out the annual survey form, because
I never get time to do it each year, and end up handing in something that
is mostly blank just to enter the prize draw.
This year I was able to fill out everything I wanted to, with comments that have been building up for several years of BotCons.
Sunday 10am - Collector Club Magazine
Sunday 11am - TF:Prime Creative Process
Sunday Noon - Gen1 Cartoon Voice Actors
Sunday 1pm - Hasbro future projects and story planning
Sunday 2pm - Costuming & Cosplaying
Soon after the Costuming panel started, I took a few photos and then had to leave to cover anything I had missed in the Dealer Room (photos and info from exhibitors) before it closed at 3.30pm.
I only had about $30 when I returned to the Dealer Room at this time, so I wasn't looking to buy anything. A dealer had a boxed Blue Bachus and the other JP pretender which I was interested in, but would have cost me about $1300 for the pair... which would have meant chasing up the money and spending more than I was comfortable with. So I decided to leave it for another year. I like the hunt, so if it came to a time when I had everything, I'd be rather bored (it'd spoil the whole fun of the Dealer Room).
I did come across a dealer with 2 of the 3 new Walmart Exclusive Deluxe Movie toys (Optimus & Rally Deco Sideswipe - Bumblebee is the third), and I could only afford one. So I bought the one that was a new mould (Optimus) and hoped that I would find the other two later in the day on my way back to the airport (I wouldn't need cash at a store).
Other things I did in the closing minutes of the Convention - I had a go at the DotM Game and talked to one of their reps about it's release, ran into friends (including the Australian ones), gave out more of the Ozformers Calendars to various important people (like the IDW and FunPub people), and inviting a couple of JP/Asian dealers to our forum (to help out the members with finding JP and HK Transformers).
At 3.15 the usual prize drawing occured (2 people to gain free entry
to next year's convention & domestic flights).
Below is the prize-drawing, and on the left is a sign that I saw at the Club Store, with a great deal to get people to join up to the Club. It was only valid for that day, and not to current members.
After the prize draw, I just walked around the Dealer Room, doing laps, getting another big empty box for my return home, taking a few random photos, and just soaking it all in without worrying about anything or anyone but myself (for the last half hour at least). I'm kinda thankful that Ian forbid me from offering my services to buy BotCon toys for others, because as much as I want to help out others, I would feel obligated to help EVERYONE wanting toys, and spend hours to not let anyone down.
The Dealer Room closed at 3.30 (no extra hour like in 2009), and I hung around as long as I could before it got a little too empty, with just dealers and official guests dismantling their stalls and displays.
That's when you get a real feeling that it is really all over... the
annual event that takes up 5 days, and gets dismantled for another year.
And all that is left are the photos and memories... and the new friendships.
Outside the Dealer Room a few of the Australians were hanging around, so I stayed with them until about 4pm, but then had to leave to pack up my 3rd box with enough time to depart for the Airport.
It took me a couple hours to pack the last of my stuff and organise with the front-desk of the hotel to have Ian charged for the remainder of the stay... and at 6pm I left the hotel in the hire car (which had been parking dormant in the Hotel Carpark since Wednesday (with a daily parking fee).
I wanted to check out Kmarts if I could and there was only one on the
way to the Airport. And it didn't have anything.
It was in a real blue-collar ethnic part of town though - the crappy cheap hire-car was the most expensive, newest car in the parking lot, and I seemed to be the only white person in the store.
Next up was a ToysRUs... which also had nothing I wanted.
Time was running out, and I checked on the Sat-Nav to see how long it
would take to get to the Car-Rental yard from the TRU. It said I had enough
time to stop at a Walmart on the way, so I did.
The Walmart was in a shopping centre, and the Walmart was the only thing left open. I went in and again, found nothing, which was really annoying. But I had run out of time now, and probably didn't even have time left to grab a snack for the flight.
I also needed to refill the car with fuel as well, so I set the Navigator to take me back to the Car-Rental yard, and would stop for fuel at the first place on the way.
Unfortunately, none of the fuel stations on the way were on my side of the road, so to get into one to fill up, I had to do a bit creative driving that involved driving on the side of the road I'm used to in Australia. At least there wasn't any traffic around to get in my way.
I had to return the Rental Car by 9pm (that was the time I had in the reservation) and it was about 8.45 when I pulled into the In & Out Burger at the Airport (close to the Rental yard), but just like last year the place was totally packed with people and cars. If I had even attempted to wait for a parking spot or wait in the drive-thru lane, I would have been there at least half an hour.... time that I just didn't have left now. It was a shame, because this was the burger joint that I was looking forward to this year, for creative reasons.
I did a quick reversing out of the carpark, before I could be trapped by other people coming in behind me.
Plan B was to go to Burger King, which I knew was nearby as well. That took a few minutes as well (including some hair-raising driving as I was forgetting American road rules in the chaos and rush), and it was just past 9pm while I was waiting for my burgers to be made.
I rushed back out to the car, and drove for the Rental yard. It was about 10 past nine when I arrived (including driving across a double yellow centre-line to get into it - I just didn't have the time to go all the way around the block again), and they checked over the car to make sure it was in one piece and that it was refilled.
It was about now that I was starting to get a bit worried about my check-in
time. Even though I had put down 9pm for the return of the car on the Reservation,
I wasn't originally planning to be that late to returning the car.
I was meant to be back up to an hour before that, so that I could check-in
early enough to pick a good seat, or at least have enough time to sort
alternatives for my luggage if they told me it was too much. I had checked
online before I left, to see that I was allowed two items free, and up
to two more items for $105 each if I pre-paid online (the cost was $158
each if paid at the check-in counter). Luckily for me, I didn't get
around to pre-paying for my extra luggage (I'll say why shortly), but was
still mindful that the total weight could be too much, or they may have
a shortage of luggage space which could mean sending my excess luggage
on a later flight.
My flight was scheduled to leave at 11.20pm, which meant the check-in cut-off was 10.20pm (but sometimes it can be 90minutes for international flights, so I had 9.50 in my mind as the time I needed to be there... so in my mind I only had about 40 minutes to wait for the next shuttlebus, drive to the airport, offload any other passengers before me, and stand in an unpredictable check-in line that could take 10 minutes or even an hour)
Now picture this - I have 3 big boxes of toys, big bag, a backpack,
a roll of posters, and a bag of burgers... all of which I have to get from
the hire-car to where the shuttle bus would arrive (about 10 meters away),
then have to get them onto the bus, then to offload them from the bus at
the airport (onto a trolley that I had to jump out and grab first, with
a $5 fee!!!!) and then trolley all that to the check-in desk.
The photo below is of my luggage, with two of the boxes taped together at the check-in desk.
This was a struggle, and in the process of it all I damaged my posters quite a bit, including one of the Canadian Lithos that I lost last year... so it seems those things are just cursed.
The big spanner in the works right now was the arrival at the Airport.
I told the shuttle bus that I was flying QANTAS, which meant the International
Terminal... or so I thought. (and so did the bus driver)
At 9.35, the bus stops at the International Terminal, and waits for me to go get a trolley (with that rediculous $5 fee - lucky I had it on me), and load up all my luggage (which I was practically throwing at this stage). I then race into the Terminal, speeding to the QANTAS check-in desks, queue up with no one else in line, only to be told that the Brisbane flights leave from Terminal 4. (lucky there wasn't a queue, otherwise I would have been furious, and out of time)
Apparently, since the A380 started the LA to Sydney/Melbourne routes two years ago, the Brisbane QANTAS flights had to be shifted to Terminal 4 for departures, because there was no room for that non-A380 plane to leave at the same time as the others (maybe they lost a departure gate in the upgrade, or one of those flights use to leave through Terminal 4). Either way, this was news to me, because the last time I flew direct from LA to Brisbane, it was from the International Terminal.
Luckily for me, being a regular at LAX, I knew that Terminal 4 was right next door to the International Terminal, but it would still require another 5 minute dash with the trolley precariously stacked with my luggage and posters.
9.40 and I was at Terminal 4, and it was closing in on the cut-off time.
There was only 2 people queued up at this time, so I was only waiting a
Then the next bit of fun started... I was now the sort of person you hate being stuck behind in a queue when short on time, because I tied up the check-in person for about 10 minutes and quite a few people arrived during this time, making it a long line by the time I was done.
So I told the lady that I was wanting to pay for 2 extra pieces of luggage, and we started weighing in all the items. As she proceeded to stick the third baggage label on one of the boxes, she suddenly had an idea (after I commented how the items were so light, I shoulda just taped two together). For QANTAS, economy passengers can have up to two items that each can weigh up to 22kgs (V-Australia was only up to a total of 32kgs between the two items). Since one of my items was 10kgs and another was 11kgs, the lady reached over and grabbed a roll of tape and said, go for it, but make sure it looks like it is a single large box. The final weight of the new box was 21.7kgs... just under the limit.
As you can see in the photo above, I wrapped layers of tape on the boxes to prevent them from moving or separating at all.
That brought it down to three items, halving my excess luggage cost.
The lady then said that my big bag should be small enough to take onto the plane. We weighed it, and it was just on the limit, and was just the same size as the baggage testing box. Okay, it was okay on its own, but surely not with another backpack and a roll of posters? The carry-on luggage limit is supposed to be one bag and a 'personal item' like a computer or handbag. I wasn't complaining though, as it was saving me $316, and as long as there was space inside the plane when I got on, it wouldn't matter how much I carried on with me.
She obviously didn't work directly for QANTAS, or else she wouldn't have prevented me from saving that huge amount of money (over half of the cost of my one-way ticket).
Once the luggage was labelled, I had to wheel it over to a nearby doorway
to hand it off to airport staff to take out the back. I then went
over to the security point and lined up to be scanned. It was then
a few minutes in that I realised that the litre of Pepsi Max I still had
with me (to have with the burgers), would be confiscated (that anti-terrorist
requirement about having no liquids brought into the airport). So I had
to ask to be let back out of the waiting area, and sat down on nearby steps
to eat some of my burgers so that it could absorb some of the liquid (too
much liquid at once can end up going straight through the system, and I
didn't want that happening on the plane).
It was now that I looked at my ticket to see that I wasn't sitting on the aisle. I was in such a panick about my luggage, I didn't even remember to ask for the seating I need for my long legs.
Ah well, I figured I could ask at the boarding gate if there were any seats left spare that I could switch to (which I found out there weren't - it was a completely full flight and there was nothing they could do).
It was also at this time that I remembered that I had my knife in this bag (the one I take to BotCon to cut open toys and tape up the boxes). Since I was expecting to check-in the big bag, the knife was good to go in there. But now that I was taking it on the plane with me, it would be spotted on the X-ray and I could have been accused of trying to smuggle a weapon onto the plane. I had to dispose of it quickly.
Lining back up to go through the securit check-point, I saw that there was a big bin for people to throw out their liquids and anything else that wouldn't go through. I slowly shuffled along the line until I reached the bin... and with a stealthy movement, I reached into my bag, felt around for the knife, grabbed it and threw it quickly into the bin. It was a shame too, as that was a knife I bought in 2009 at the Gelsons store across from the Convention, and it had travelled with me to three BotCons because it was just the right size and shape for cutting open toys.
Lucky I had put that 2007 bottle of water from the Auction Night into one of the boxes, or else that would have had to be emptied out somewhere or trashed. Not to mention all the hotel toiletries I had acquired over the 12 days.
This particular security checkpoint had an added full-body scan, which was a first for me. I had to stand in a star-jump pose for a few seconds, and then wait for the results before I was allowed to proceed with my stuff.
It was 10.20 by the time I got to the departure gate, and it was already
full of people waiting for boarding to commence. I went to take a
final leak to make sure I was completely empty for that litre of soft-drink
that was now in my system, and sat down at the departure gate to eat as
much of my dinner as possible.
Boarding commenced while I was eating, and with one burger left to go, I was one of the last to get on. (I never see the point in standing in line for 5-10 minutes when I can just sit near the actual door and get up as the line shrinks to about 5 or 10 people - it doesn't hold up anyone, and I don't have to lug around my bags for as long).
This was one of the few times all the passengers were all on board before
the scheduled departure time, but we didn't end up leaving at 11.20 as
we were meant to.
Instead, there was something wrong with the entertainment system that they were trying to fix up before leaving... actually it seemed that the entire personal entertainment system was not working, which they might not have bothered about for us in Economy, but if this was affecting the First Class and Business Class passengers as well, then they probably knew that something had to be working before they set out, or else it would be 13 hours of nothing for people to do.
It ended up taking them an hour to improvise something with the entertainment
systems, reverting them back to their 'transitional' or 'basic' format,
which was having several channels of 2-3 hours of programming cycling over
and over again, which meant that if you missed the start of something,
you had to wait until it completely finished the cycle to see it. It still
beats the previous system of just a single channel of several movies playing
on TV screens hanging from the ceiling, but this 'basic' format meant that
there were no games or selective programming of TV, Movies and Music.
But being the flight home, I wasn't too upset, as I usually sleep most of the journey home anyway.
I was actually glad to be tired enough to sleep on the flight back,
as I was stuck on a window seat with two people between me and the toilets...
And one or both were asleep for most of the flight, and I hate getting
people to let me in and out (the small space requires everyone to pack
up their stuff and shuffle out, and then do it all again when I return).
Unfortunately I wasn't able to hold out for the entire flight (sleeping didn't slow the metabolism enough for all that Pepsi Max in my system)... but luckily it was just before they served breakfast, so the other two people were finally awake at the same time, and even went to the toilet (queue) as well, preventing me from having to force anyone to get up when I returned.
I know it is necessary, and people do it to me when I'm in an aisle seat, but you just feel bad for the inconvenience.
The female Cabin crew member on my section wasn't very nice though - she totally ignored me on 3 occasions (dinner, coffee, hot chocolate - the latter 2 I didn't want anyway, but not even asking was very poor service). The other cabin crew were great though, and usually are at QANTAS. This one was just being a real b*tch for no reason (that I could see).
The meals returning to Australia were better than the ones I had on the way back, and just before Breakfast, I ate that last burger that didn't have before getting onto the plane. (I don't mind cold BK/HJ burgers... it's like cold pizza - the taste is still there, but the texture changes to make it a whole new dish).
As dawn broke behind us, the view looked so beautiful with us above the clouds, but the photo didn't quite capture that, as it was taken from my Phone instead of my camera (it had run out of power at the close of the Convention, but there wasn't any time to recharge the battery, and I figured that if I needed to take a photo of something, I could use my phone).
The flight landed at 7.10am Brisbane time, Tuesday morning (yes, we
missed a day due to the Date Line), which meant that we didn't make up
any time we lost in the hour delay at LA.
That was okay though, as I didn't have a connecting flight. I just proceeded through Customs (the express line... which is the best thing ever - until everyone else gets the new microchip passports).
I grabbed my boxes and bag, and put them on the FREE trolley, and headed for the exit. I was asked what food I had declared on the form (it's just the coffee and tea from the hotels... it's in the daily room rate, so I grab what I can). Without them even wanting to check my luggage or have it scanned, I was told I could proceed on my way (to oblivion... wait a sec, that's from a movie).
Outside I went straight to the Taxi rank, and managed to get into a
taxi that had a white guy driving. This was the first time in years
that I had someone who could understand me, and I could understand them.
I'm usually one who doesn't like talking to strangers in those sort of
situations, but felt it would be rude if I didn't... and he was able to
tell me a fair bit about how tough it is for cabbies these days. Especially
when they use the airport (waiting in a 'holding yard' at the Airport for
up to an hour just to get the chance at a good fare to somewhere across
the other side of town, and hating it when they only want to travel 5 minutes
to a nearby suburb).
I don't know if it was me being so impressed at having someone understand where I was wanting to go, or the sympathy of his situation, or if it was just the habit of tipping people in America... but I gave him an extra $20 on top of the fare. It's amazing how a simple gesture like that can make someone's day. I remember the cleaning lady of our room at the Sheraton, who had to deal with the mess of four people in our room (and every other room) for her minimum wage... I gave her a 20 on one of the days and it made here seem happier.
So I was home by about 8am, and went straight to the post office to
check my mail, which already had several ebay items I had bought while
I was in America.
It was another 7 toys to add to the 128 I acquired while in America... now I gotta find space for them all in the collection room.
All 128 Transformers toys I came back with, sorted into groups - from
the front are regular Movie toys, then Exclusives, then gimmick Movie toys,
then pre-DotM toys, then JP figures, and up the back are the BotCon toys..
The Mainline Movie toys, with first wave on the right (from smallest size class at the front, to Leader class at the back), then second and third waves, then Human Alliance and Action Sets.
The same toys, in robot mode (thanks to my friend Julian, who also test-drove most of my toys like Ian did).
The gimmick lines and on the left are the pre-DotM toys (which were almost all found at Kmarts).
And the Japanese and BotCon toys.
The comics and guidebook I bought.
The Canadian Posters I had to re-buy for losing them last year... and then getting them all crushed and torn on the way home this year.
And I can't go past a shot of all the Hotel stuff I swiped... Well, it's paid for in the room rate, and if they weren't being used, it was a waste.
I just want to thank the fellow Australians who were there with me this year - Paul, Dallas, Malcolm, Ian, Rafeal, Steph, Caroline (and Emilie), and Scott. It was another great bunch of people, that helped make the adventure one of my best.
The one thing, that would have just made this the best BotCon ever,
was a 25th Anniversary screening of the 1986 Movie that was happening on
the Sunday I left, at a theater 40 minutes away from the BotCon hotel.
it was to be followed up by a Q&A session with several of the Voice
Actors from that Movie, including Dan Gilverzan (Bumblebee), David Mendenhall
(Daniel), Wally Burr (Voice Director) and three BotCon guests Gregg Berger,
Paul Eiding, and Neil Ross.
That would have been awesome... plus seeing the 1986 movie on the big screen (it doesn't happen very often).
But as I had mentioned on the first page, it was happening on the ONLY YEAR I had not stayed the Sunday night.
In the end, none of the other guys went either, as it was too far, and I think the tickets had sold out a few days beforehand too.
Once again it was over faster than it should have... and I'm home already,
like I had a 'blink and you miss it' moment.
I was away for 12 days, and can remember each day if I stop to think about it... but, it just feels like I was only away for a day.
So that's it for another year. The Convention is over, and the
report is FINALLY done... after 3 long weeks.
It's just a pity that it takes so darn long doing up these reports, that most of this doesn't get uploaded for public viewing weeks after the event.
I hope it was as interesting reading this as it was for me being there.
And maybe inspire more people to attend, especially from Australia. If you go next year and you find me, say 'G'day'...
Return to main index page for BotCon 2011
OZFORMERS - Australasian Transformers
News and Interaction (our 15th year - longer than any other moderated
BotCon website - The official Collector Club and Convention website (check it out for when and where the next one will be)
Me --> griffin @ otca.com.au
Easter Egg 3of 4
American Survival guide for Australians.
For the last 12 years I've been talking about all the different things Americans have, do or say, compared to us... things like having Gasoline instead of Petrol, having Soda instead of Softdrink, calling a burger a 'sandwich', or even something like calling thongs (footwear) flipflops, and, well, in America it's a G-string that's called a Thong...
But onto the more important things... my pet peeves when it comes to
surviving in America.
Despite the whole driving on the opposite side of the road thing, which I took on the challenge and survived, I've already detailed that in this year's report. I want to go into the important issues that have plagued my trips to America since my first BotCon in 1999. Things I have commented on just about every year, but never bothered to photographically illustrate and document them before.
Number 1 - the light switches.
They flip up to turn on, and flip down to turn off... completely different to here.
(the same with their power-points, or power sockets as they call them - which have different holes to ours, so always buy an adaptor before you first travel to America)
Number 2 - the taps in the bath & shower.
Not very environmentally friendly these things. You start out turning it anti-clockwise to turn on the water, but you only get cold first. You have to keep turning it to progressively get hotter water, but by then, you have it at full pressure... so you can't have a small amount of warm or hot water coming out of the tap. If you want anything other than cold, it has to be at full pressure.
And see that tiny nob under the dial? That's the thing you have to pull out slightly to make the water come out of the shower-head instead of the tap. Some of them stay in with the pressure of the water (so will only revert back to the tap when you turn off the water and then turn it on again), while others like at this hotel, can be pressed while the water is still running, and the water goes back out the tap instead of the shower-head.
Confused yet? I haven't even mentioned the plug-hole-stopper-thingy. I didn't take a photo of it, but should be easy enough to work out. It's like a metal plug that is part of the bath or sink, that presses in and can be pulled back up slightly to let the water out.
(those two were a bit of fun to work out on my first trip to America, especially since I'm water-wise/conscious, so never like having taps on full - but to activate the hot water and the shower-head, you need full pressure)
Number 3 - the toilet.
(turn back now if you are a bit squeemish on details relating to this area of the bathroom)
I left the worst until last... those darn American toilets.
The scourge of that gender that stands to pee. (and probably isn't much fun for the ladies either)
Unlike our Aussie toilets that has a deep bowl with just a small puddle of water at the bottom (leaving a big open space of porcelin exposed above the water-line), the American toilet has a shallow bowl, that is usually completely full of water. Now, there is one advantage of this over the Australian toilet, and that's the 'smearing' of the bowl when 'dropping off the kids at the pool', if you know what I mean.
With a bowl full of water in the American toilet, there is no exposed porcelin to have to clean later, when, you know... it's been a bit messy and the flush didn't wash it all away.
But it's the peeing side of this that annoys me... and not because I'm tall.
Well actually, it's because of my height that this is worse for me. You see, in the photo below, you can see that there is no exposed bowl to aim for when taking a leak. You have to aim for the water, and from any height, that causes a great amount of splashing (and noise, if you have to share a room). So each time you pee, you're left with a mess to clean up around the bowl and the floor... and the only prevention I can think of is to sit down to pee, like a girl. (unless there is a "technique" to it, that I have not yet been able to master in all these years of American trips)
But that had me thinking - wouldn't the splash-back be even more annoying for the females, because the water level is so much higher in American toilets, compared to Australian ones, that a bit too much pressure peeing could leave them with water splashing back? Which may not just be an uncomfortable inconvenience, but also unhealthy if it is a public toilet?
Okay, enough over-analysing toilets...
I just think there should be a design that is mid-way - to cover most of the bowl with water to cover your number 2s from smearing, while leaving enough bowl exposed to cover the number 1s from splashing.
Oh, and just like the non-environmentally friendly taps, their toilets don't have a half flush like Australian ones do. So you have to have a full flush no matter what you do.
I hope this bit of "education" on topics that others wouldn't dare touch, has been of some use to Australians reading this, who may one day venture out to that wild and wonderful land of America.
And I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all for getting through
all this (if you read through it all), and for having the patience for
me taking 3 weeks completing this journal/report.
You've been a great audience... and I hope to be doing this all again next year. Well, maybe not ALL of it again, as I think the toilet bit is something NEVER to be detailed like that ever again.
Thankyou, and goodnight.