NEO Witches Ball/CobCon
Hudson, Ohio, October 15, "2011"
Photos by Rev. Ivan Stang, Princess Wei 'R.' Doe

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by Rev. Ivan Stang with Princess Wei 'R.' Doe

This event was a ton of fun (much as I expected), we saved two new souls, got paid, sold swag, were feted, enjoyed several unexpectedly FUNNY geek bands, ogled many nerd girls and I even had some truly FABULOUS unfamiliar tits pressed against my arm for a good, long, yet entirely legitimate time.

It was an odd combination of the typical gamer/comics/manga/sf con that I got used to long ago during the Fantasy Fair days in Dallas, and a distinctly neopagan Halloween party. The mix of what are normally very different types of geeks and weirdos seemed to us to work very well.

The single most amazing thing of the day happened before we even entered the Clarion motel / conference center in Hudson, Ohio, which is about a half-hour drive from the Slackermansion in Cleveland Heights: when we parked in the Clarion parking lot and exited the iVan, I saw that our right rear tire was low on air, in fact almost flat. What's amazing is that I, a SubGenius, noticed this fact at all.

Wei knew that I wanted to attend the Live Special Effects Makeup Demo, so she went and got the tire refilled herself. I had been hoping that this make-up demo would include complex latex facial appliances and such, but really it was a nice demonstration of what you can do with plain household make-up and paint -- IF YOU HAVE TALENT. What good does THAT do me?

(SubG Trivia: I have had several friends over the years who are professional make-up artists, including the late St. Joe Riley and Rev. Angry Larry of The Amino Acids, as well as the guy who sang the famous reggae Dobbs hymn, "Dread Dobbs." As a young teen I tried every single make-up in DICK SMITH'S MONSTER MAKE-UP HANDBOOK. Dick Smith used his sons as models, one of whom was a "Douglas Smith," exactly the same age I am. He grew up to be a woodcut artist.)

We wandered about the dealer's room and art gallery, "window-shopping" the cool but obscure toys, models, books, clothing designs, etc., and being baffled by the vast array of gaming-related products, all of which are totally alien to us. I bought Wei a bracelet made from a tiny multicolored beaded Slinky.

We spent much of the afternoon in the big room in which I was to rant later, which had a nice projection screen and multimedia gear being operated by an adept pair, "Shoebox" and Chris Mezzolesta of Power Salad ( ), both of whom also performed amidst what was to me a surprisingly entertaining line-up of bands and solo musical artists. I wasn't expecting so many, er. . . how shall we put this? -- novelty and parody bands, specifically GEEK-oriented bands. I am almost ashamed that I actually GOT most of the jokes in all these songs about computer technology, superhero TV trivia, gaming geeks and so on, but it proved that I am not quite as aged and out-of-it as I generally assume and wish myself to be.

3pm: Nuclear Bubble Wrap

These three very young men were musically . . . still improving . . . but lyrically very clever and contagiously self-amusing. The subjects of many of their humorous songs were various aspects of con nerd-dom and fandom, proof that nerds and geeks know exactly where they stand in respect to "normal" society and are proud of it.

These guys and some of the artists mentioned below are so far gone into parody that they are part of a "Weird Al Tribute Album."

Now is that postmodernist or what?

4pm: Carla Ulbrich

This solo singer/guitarist from South Carolina (whence came my Pappy, part of my accent and all paternal ancestors) is just plain funny. Her specialty is very short parody or "filk" songs, albeit not centered around fandom but more generally accessible. Proof that she is a real pro is that I could understand all of her lyrics. I talked to her after her show mainly in hopes that she might later give me freebie copies of her CD, but she was completely unfamiliar with SubGenius and, pointing to my Dobbshead shirt, asked, "What's this all about?" I said, "Are you familiar with the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Well, now I know how the old-time Discordians felt when the Church of the SubGenius was big in the 1980s." She didn't seem to get any of that, which is a shame because I was enjoying her sexy accent and looks. She split before my show, damn it.

At this point Wei and I drove into Hudson looking for reasonably-priced lunch. We ended up at a hippie joint called "Dave's Cosmic Subs," a mini-chain in this area. The decor was a combination of decent paintings of dead rocks stars (evidently the most respectable kind) on the ceiling, with every inch of the rest of the place decorated by customer graffiti -- like most rock club bathrooms, only much more deliberate and hence consistent. Not too bad a way to decorate a hippie sub cafe.

5pm: Rob Balder

We only heard the last of his songs, one about the horrible smell in gaming rooms at cons, but it was lovingly if painfully accurate. It was one of many songs we heard that night urging gamers to take showers.

5:30pm: Shisho

These two girls, ages 14 and 11 respectively, were astoundingly professional and extremely funny in a Jonathan Coulton/Devo way -- and they have been performing for SEVEN YEARS. It shows! They are one of the most refreshingly different bands I've seen since the 2010 DEVOtional. and

6pm: Devo Spice

This fellow's own promo is accurate:

"Devo Spice is a comedy/nerdcore Hip Hop artist from New Jersey who has become one of the most popular artists on the Dr. Demento Show. He was the founding member of Sudden Death, the comedy rap group that had the #1, #2, and #4 most requested songs of 2007 on the Dr. Demento Show. ("Cellular Degeneration", "Getting Old Sucks" and "Pillagers", respectively.)

"Devo Spice performs regularly across the country at music clubs, comedy clubs, and science fiction conventions. He has shared the stage with Dr. Demento, MC Lars, MC Frontalot, Jonathan Coulton, Paul and Storm, and many others. The live show features videos and animations synchronized with the music resulting in a hilarious show that goes over very well with a variety of audiences."

I can't argue with any of that. His take-offs on crappy hip-hop, computer tech feuds (like P.C. vs. Mac) are very funny, and his background video works in perfect sync with his lyrics -- the exact opposite of MY background videos, which work only in perfect randomness.

For my fellow SubGenius radio show producers, I would recommend checking out all of these bands. No kidding: I am one jaded old fanboy, but it filled my heart with joy to see these MUCH younger folks making fun of themselves and their own milieu so well. There IS hope for the future, god damn it. All the aforementioned bands and singers are effective antidotes to fannish pomposity as exemplified by The Simpsons' "Comic Book Guy."


The room EMPTIED after Devo Spice, about 20 minutes before I was to go on. Wei and I had already set up the Swag Table near the tech area, so I found myself at the impromptu pulpit/lectern talking completely off the cuff to about 10 die-hards until 7 pm, when a shamefully few more people entered the room. However -- as I have experienced before at sf cons in the past, where few are familiar with SubGenius (or have a very wrong impression of it), as the devival progressed, people walking by outside heard the laughter and were attracted in, staying until the end.

I knew that this would mainly be a virgin audience -- those cherries are now all popped -- so I worked from a special con-geek oriented intro that I wrote during the afternoon and then did a modified "SubGenius 101." This rant (which has been mutating since 1982) got several new one-liners spontaneously added to it, although I'll have to go through the tape to remember them specifically.

My intro was about the various TYPES of con/fandom geeks, and where I personally fit in: as a truly old-school monster fan. (I was very likely the oldest person in the room.) I made some observations about the various geek and fanboy categories with which I am familiar.

The guy who really runs this whole con, Andy Hopp, later told me my intro reminded him of a breakdown of fan-geek-types seen on his website:

There were a few dues-paid, experienced SubGenii in attendance, though mostly not of the kind who all know each other. The good Rev. CrudeMatter Bliss was there and will validate my report. Rev. Steve Scynic got in somehow (AS ALWAYS!) but the other Subs were not of the Facebook or X-Day Drill variety. Wei and I met and hung out with a young pagan/SubG couple, Rev. Euphrates and Rev. Irish Coyote. The Superior Mutant who invited us in the first place, magician Michael Mirth and his wife Deborah (pause while Stang gnaws knuckles), will probably be paying up soon, as they are both obviously Yetinsyny. The audio and video tech guys also were EXTREMELY enthusiastic.


By the time I was finished we had recruited two new souls, sold decent swag quantities, and gotten paid, Praise "Bob." Also, many of the bands we'd seen earlier gave us their CDs to play on Hour of Slack. . . although the stack is so big that Wei, who drives more, will have to narrow the selection down for me.


We were prevented from noisily packing up because the event immediately following my sermon was a completely real wedding, or rather a handfasting, of a young geek couple, conducted VERY ably by Michael Mirth. It was most touching and had its funny moments. As one who has conducted many actual weirdo weddings I was very impressed. He managed to keep the corniness level (even at the Con on the Cob) to absolute zero. Not easy!

This was then immediately followed by several combinations of belly dancing troupes. The music they chose for their performances was all actually quite surprising and unusual, at least to me. I find it interesting that the majority of belly dancers generally look like middle-aged housewives, not skinny James Bond movie models. I am all for this, as it gives gals who don't exactly fit the Con Barbie mold the confidence they deserve. For a "chubby chaser" like me it was heavenly. There were some SERIOUS bellies being shaken. Wei and I took a lot more pictures than we'll be posting. Only later did we learn that we weren't really supposed to be taking any photos at all.

BELLY DANCERS avi movie, 2.4 MB

The singer Destini Beard did a couple of paganish numbers that were really beautiful. Wei, who really knows this genre, was blown away. Then Michael Mirth took the stage for a brief bit of magic/side-show business best known as The Human Blockhead. This will be familiar to anyone who has watched St. Andrew the Impaled -- it's the old "4-inch nail hammered directly into the nose" routine. I have seen Andrew do this so many times that I felt like the phrase ". . . directly into MY FUCKING FAAAACE!" was missing. And Michael used the mic as a hammer, a great idea because one can hear the subtle and delicate tones of the nail entering the nasal cavity. Another big difference was that he had a pretty but terrified girl in the audience hold the nail by the head as he drew back away from it -- thus basically making a timid audience member remove it for him. And he did not LICK the nail afterwards, as Andrew does.


Wei and I left the CobCon for a while to refuel, and missed the costume contest, one of my favorite aspects of these things. By then, the serious partying had begun in a couple of special rooms. These con parties are FURIOUSLY booze-soaked. We are such lightweights that we brought our own cider. True fire-water is a bit much for us. We made sure to ascertain that this was still true.

When we returned, Michael Mirth and his wife Deborah took us into the con's "Big House," a fancy part of the hotel restaurant where the organizers can get away from the noise and mix their own drinks. We had met this couple at Starwood, albeit in a distracted condition as we were preparing for the somewhat demanding bonfire-lighting ceremony. Or something. Earlier, in the hotel hallways outside the party rooms, Deborah and I had been comparing our equally sparkly clothing and posing for photos, which is when I was delivered the delightful but completely inadvertent feel-copping-by-elbow that I may have mentioned about twenty times already. (By mental concentration, I am able to transform my elbows into a kind of "antennae.") Michael Mirth, much like me, scored him quite a gal.


Princess Wei and I marveled at the many game rooms that stayed packed all night even though there was sexy stuff like belly dancing and hard drinking and dancing and whooping going on elsewhere. One thing I was re-amazed by upon looking at those game rooms was the physical condition of about 80% of the occupants. I asked Wei to estimate the average weight of a person in those rooms and she said about 300 pounds.

Now, I saw plenty of OTHER 300-pounders picking up sex partners later in the night.

This reminded me that some people really ARE more interested in playing one of those games than having a roll in the hay.

But I have decided that some people are just wired that way and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Less competition for us sex fiends, although I am no longer in competition myself. In some ways getting laid is every bit as much a game as what those gamers are doing and sometimes less rewarding. Or so I hear.

Wei and I sat in one party room like wildlife photographers in a deer-blind, observing the mating habits of the mostly overweight geeks and nerds. In one case we followed the entire courtship cycle, from blabbering to touching to public feeling-up to leaving for their own room.

Things are looking up! Especially the shorter of us.

That reminds me of The Amazon, a tall pagan girl we met at the con, dressed as a barbarian. She was so tall that I literally had to crane my neck to talk to her, and made me think of snu-snu a la that one Futurama episode. Despite Michael Mirth's stern warnings she poured herself a whole cup of his Zombie Punch, which is largely 151-proof rum, the kind fire-breathers use. I became concerned for her welfare at this point and urged her to share as much of it as possible, starting of course with us. The merest sip was stronger than anything I have ever touched since an ill-fated encounter with Everclear in my high school years, a century ago. We actually stalked her out of concern for a while, until a lady closer to our age told us she was a close friend of the girl and was monitoring the situation.

See, at Starwood (and X-Day Drills) I am one of the "cops." Wei and I are among the ones who talk kids down from bad trips, drag inert drunken bodies out of roadways, defuse domestic disputes, and make sure half-dead kids don't die completely from alcohol poisoning.

Somebody did all that for us when we were younger and so we continue the tradition. We're drunk too! -- but we're just KINDA drunk. Or tripping or whatnot. Hard lessons learned, about moderation.

There came a time when people who weren't staying at the hotel, like us, were in just the right condition to eat some food, pack up, and drive safely home. . . around 2 a.m.

I am POSITIVE we'll be there next year. We should get a room at the hotel next time, though, because having to drive the half hour back to Cleveland Bluffs meant we had to forego literal rivers of high quality free booze provided by some incredibly generous party-hosts -- although that is probably for the best, come to think of it. Wei, at least, was in good condition to drive, although with my crisp diction I probably could have fooled a cop as long as he didn't stand too close to me. As it was, we awoke on Sunday morning feeling pretty normal and hardly woozy at all. I guess we must be grown-ups now.

Finally! And guess what? It ain't so bad being a grown-up. I'd sure as hell rather be where I am now, arthritis and all, than where I was as a teenager and an Angry Young Man. I couldn't even BEGIN to recognize the Slack I already had then, and foolishly thought I had NONE, whereas nowadays I can't even keep count of my blessings. Even at my lowest point in the last 10 years -- which was fairly recently, due to a snowball of bad timing -- I knew better than to do anything drastic while under stress, for the simple reason that I have finally learned that I definitely cannot predict the future, and neither can anyone else.

If I recall correctly, that ended up being the climactic message of the latest revision of SubGenius 101. DON'T do anything drastic while upset, because by definition it will be under a mistaken assumption. LEAVE IT TO "BOB, GOD, CONNIE or the DEVIL. They, and/or the long-tested nature of animal life, will get around to killing every single one of us, soon enough. So, no hurry. Stay alive until X-Day, and Fuck 'Em if They Can't Take a Joke.

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