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randwolf

OryCon

OryCon 25 was held two weeks ago, on an Hayden Island in the Columbia River, between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington (not Vancouver, BC, the great city. Vancouver, Washington—the Portland suburb.) I stayed with my old friends Toni and Mitch, in their house trailer which they had set up in the mobile home park down the road. A really nice trailer—had a bedroom, a living room, and a little tiny water closet; I had the futon in the living room.

My memories of the con are a jumble. I spent a lot of time in the fanzine fan lounge with people like Ulrika O'Brien and Arthur Aldridge. Of the panels, my favorite was one on Saturday afternoon—"The City as Character". Much discussion of interesting books, and I was quite impressed with the comments of the elderly sf humorist Robert Sheckley, who now lives in Portland—"The city is the house of culture", among others. And I found out about the Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and Richard Owen dinosaur sculptures buried in the southwest corner of NYC's Central Park.

A strange thing has happened to my fanac over the years; I've gone from someone who wanted to be a fan of techical science fiction and who actually had a closet taste for fantasy and filk, to someone who's much more inclined to go to the art workshops and listen at the filks. So that afternoon I also ended up sitting in on a discussion of computer art, going to the sketching session ("Art Jam"), and watercolorist and artist guest of honor's Gail Butler's demonstration of color mixing.

So much in that afternoon; my second favorite panel was "What's New in Science", with Howard Davidson, James C. Glass, Ken Goddard, Richard A. Lovett, and Mary Rosenblum. Fascinating stuff—and I didn't take notes, so I'm not sure what I picked up there. Did get a couple more questions to Howard on material science—I'd already asked some when I bumped into him Friday night. I'm interested in new building materials, and Howard is one of the few people I know to ask, though he is not primarily a material scientist.

Saturday evening, Lise Eisenberg, an old friend from New York, walked into the fan lounge. I ended up having dinner with her and Amy Thompson in a Thai place in downtown Vancouver. Vancouver is such a schizophrenic place; there's a rather nice arty downtown—rents are cheap, and there are a good many nice restaurants—and yet the rest of the city might be in California: vast wide streets, detached houses, and no reason anyone who didn't live there, or know someone who did, would want to go there. (And the awesome Tears of Joy puppet and mask theater company. Who have nothing to do with the con, but I figured I'd put in a word for them.) So we had dinner and headed back to the con.

Saturday evening Heather Alexander's new band Uffington Horse played in the hotel's Riverview Ballroom, a room which has either a beautiful view or appalling acoustics—which depends on whether or not the curtains are open. Anyway, Uffington Horse is a lot of fun; it's a three piece band; Heather singing and playing lead on fiddle and guitar (and occasionally a whistle and a bodran), Dan Ochipinti, on percussion, and Andrew Hare, on bass, banjo, and rhythm guitar. The the sound is very much like the old Phoenyx—electric folk—and Heather has resurrected a lot of the old Phoenyx material for the band and is doing a great deal of new stuff as well; there's a good bit of Middle Eastern-influenced material, partly from Insh'allah, a couple of songs from her European trip, and probably other songs I don't remember as well—I didn't write down a set list, so I'm not really sure. Myself, I would have liked to hear more of Heather's fiddling, but without a rhythm player that is just not going to happen. And I had a good time, anyway—danced for half the music, and listened to lyrics from acoustically better places for the other half. (Architectural digression: why, oh why, couldn't the hotel's designers and builders have attended to the acoustics of their showplace room intended for meetings, banquets, and dances—activities where hearing is supremely important? Some postmodern weirdness that broke up the large, highly acoustically reflective, parallel glass walls would still have a good view, improved the acoustics dramatically, and might even look cool.)

Thereafter I wandered around the parties. I tried visiting the filk but found that something in the room gave me either a mild asthma attack, or very bad allergic nasal congestion. Not even able to sing along quietly was just too frustrating; I left and resumed my wandering.

God bless OryCon's on-line program; without it I'd have no structure to hang this report on at all. In any event, Sunday was spent mostly in the fan lounge, and I don't have too much intelligible to say about the day, except for one thing from a panel I got to, "The world we've lost -- human skills and capacities lost to technology." Now I am completely fascinated by technology history, but a few members of the audience wanted to discuss the merits of being completely self-sufficient and how this was, somehow, "natural" and "good". After one or two of these, I surpised myself by bursting out with the comment that humans had been social creatures since before we were sapient, and that isolation is not in any sense natural to humans. The delivery must have been good; it got some applause, even from Steve Barnes, who I'd interrupted. But I'd just no idea I was going to do that. Testify brother!

And that's a very incomplete report; it seems like only half of the important stuff is there. Next con, better notes!

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I caught an early performance of Uffington Horse in Seattle, back in the summer. Similar comments, not enough of Heather, and Real Bad Acoustics.

The second is not likely to change, because most hotel large meeting rooms were not really designed for large groups listening to the same thing, except for individual speakers. A lot of the larger rooms are used for trade shows and the like, for speaking meetings they are usually chopped into smaller rooms and the dividing doors provide some sound dampening.

And most hotel upper management is not noted for accepting weirdness of any type, I suspect they would have shot down any design that deviated very far from the plain box look.


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