August 14, 2011

A Fan’s Visit to RollerCon – Part 3

I hit another quick seminar on “Legal Music – Justify All Music Legally” where Showtime explained copyright issues around music and how to avoid problems (and expensive legal bills) with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC the performing rights organizations in the US. Showtime brought brochures and even had sample contracts with fee schedules for people to take with them. Great session addressing an often overlooked topic in roller derby bout production.

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Riedell Pajama Party

Thursday night the festivities continued with the Riedell Pajama Party. I didn’t stay very long since I had to switch hotels and also get some sleep, especially since Friday night was going to be very late due to the Black N Blue Ball. Sleep is definitely one of those things in short supply at RollerCon. The Pajama Party was nice, lots of prizes and giveaways by Riedell.

Sniperella laying down the law

Friday I went to a few seminars, the most interesting was definitely Sniperella’s “Intellectual Property For Non-Lwayers” where she covered all the basics and answered a gazillion questions. Again the room was packed, there seems to be a lot of demand for business-related legal knowledge. Sniperella structured her presentation very well, the whole session was very impressive.

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Jerry and Frank reminiscing, April explaining some details

In the afternoon was the definitive highlight of all the seminars: Kasey Bomber’s “Derby History 101”. There was even an extra bonus in the form of April Ritzenthaler (one of the original She-E-Os), Jerry Seltzer (Leo Seltzer’s son, Leo was the inventor of roller derby) and Frank Macedo (one of the main skaters in Jerry’s league). Kasey kicked it off with a brief history of roller derby and how it came into life, then as she continued into the modern era of reborn roller derby she invited April up to the microphone and together they continued talking about many of the interesting details of modern roller derby. Why are the bouts called bouts? Why are they 2 minutes long instead of 1 minute in prior roller derby incarnations? And so on. The audience had lots of questions and this session alone was worth the trip to RollerCon. In the last few minutes Quadzilla came in, he used to skate in RollerJam.

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Jerry, Kasey, Frank, April group photo, Quadzilla and Jerry after the session

And the Friday was the party highlight of RollerCon, the Black N Blue Ball. Well, “Ball” implies something different from the actual festivity, it was more a giant Black N Blue Pool Party. Still good, but less fun if you are in a suit or fancy black and blue dress outside in Vegas, in the summer, in 105 degrees and are miserable. We went to the party all dressed up and after about 40 minutes made our way back inside, passing exhausted and overheated partiers that were trying to cool down just like us. We went to the Queen Victoria pub, had some cool drinks and after a while felt ready to go back outside.

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At that time a bit of a storm was starting to hit Vegas, strong winds tangled blue wigs with fake long blue eye lashes and some of the fancier costumes were battered by the gusts. Many parties jumped into the pool to cool down, well that wasn’t an option for me with the camera, bummer. Below are more photos but for some truly amazing pictures check out Jim Cottingham’s RollerCon pictures.

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Lots of fun but yeah, hopefully future Black N Blue Balls are indoor and more ball-like or are called Black N Blue Pool Parties so we can dress accordingly :)

August 02, 2011

A Fan’s Visit to RollerCon – Part 2

Thursday morning a small group interested in video production and bout casting reconvened and continued to discuss various technical topics. Hurt Reynolds showed his setup which he was using to broadcast from one of the training tracks.

liquor Liquor Possi sharing her marketing experience

I also visited a seminar about marketing “Get More Butts at Your Bouts” by Liquor Possi who was super organized, had lots of great information and even provided hand-outs. The room was filled to capacity and then some and from all the interest and the variety of questions it looks like general Roller Derby marketing is one of the key areas that leagues are interested in. Liquor Possi talked about the various marketing techniques that her league uses: from flyers and print to radio, TV and billboard ads. Most interesting was her blurb about challenges with her name which she sometimes has to shorten to just “Possi” depending on the target audience. I was reminded of that when I later saw an attendee with the derby name “Fistfucker” on her back, don’t think I’ll be seeing her on a billboard or local TV programming anytime soon.

vagine The Vagine Regime mascot, wonderful

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There were also tons of bouts to watch from Robots vs. Zombies to Vagine Regime vs. Caulk Suckers and of course Team Australia vs. Team USA. These were all very lopsided slaughters but the losing teams never gave up and fought all the way to the end. The level of athletic ability varied but in general the skaters were very good. Some of the co-ed bouts were amazing and filled with jumps, spins and other advanced stuff. The mascots at the Vagine Regime vs. Caulk Suckers bout were a riot and the audience had a blast.

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Nice whip by Team USA

The Team Australia vs. Team USA bout was an audience favorite, tough very lopsided the Aussies never gave up on cheering for their team and kudos for enjoying a good-natured beating.

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Great hits and blocks in the Team Australia vs. Team USA bout

July 29, 2011

A Fan’s Visit to RollerCon – Part 1

It’s Thursday night, I have 1 1/2 days of RollerCon in Las Vegas behind me and I thought: time to write down some notes. First let me state the RollerCon is primarily (but not solely) aimed at skaters and people directly involved with the sport of Roller Derby. I have seen very few people who are “just” fans, so naturally RollerCon and most of the events are not targeted at them.

Having said that, there is plenty of stuff for even just us fans or people that are not actively involved with Roller Derby:

  • tons of bouts (ranging from lopsided blow-outs to highly competitive close fights)
  • about 90 seminars (I would say around 50 of them of interest to the fan, unless you want to become an announcer or referee)
  • close to a dozen parties, including the famous Black’n’Blue Ball, pool parties and more

So, tons of stuff to do, and it all started Wednesday morning with the check-in. The location of RollerCon was the Riviera, one of the older casino hotels in Las Vegas. I was there 4 years ago for CGE 2K7 and what seemed worn then looked pretty darn old now in 2011. To be fair the Riviera is famously inexpensive, has a decent pool, fantastic convention facilities (not like Cesar’s Palace but still very good) and there was construction going on all over the place – so things are looking up. I stayed in one of the newer rooms for a night which wasn’t bad. Well, except for the girls next door who saturated the hallway with weed smoke, but nothing a wet towel roll under the door couldn’t fix.

longline Long but well-managed lines at the RollerCon check-in

Early check-in at the Riviera was an extra $20 and then I got in line for the check-in at RollerCon. Although the lines were super long they moved quickly and within 45 mins I had my pass. Off to the first seminar about video production and bout casting “RC Videography Summit” with Aaron Johnston ( and Chris Seale (Hurt Reynolds from Aaron was sharing his experience with video production, mostly for highlight reels etc., Chris was all about bout casting roller derby on DNN. They had a wealth of information, the best advice came from Aaron on how to capture announcer audio without having to run lots of wires: attach a lav microphone close to a speaker and mix that wireless audio into your video. The onboard audio from the video camera will pick up more ambient noise which will give you multiple audio tracks with different content. The small group ran out of time and agreed to meet again on Thursday morning.

vidguys Aaron Johnston and Hurt Reynolds from the RC Videography Summit

At 3 in the afternoon I went to the Queen Victoria pub for the RollerCon welcome reception and that thing was a total bust. Only a few people showed up and the whole event was not worth the $30 it cost. I ended up at the bar and talked quite a bit with Blue Brawlz from the Richland County Regulators and DoliDerringer from the Columbia Quadsquad Rollergirls. These guys were super nice and that ended up saving the otherwise lame welcome reception. In the end I think meeting active Roller Girls and Roller Guys from far away is one of the great opportunities at RollerCon. If you are a guy interested in playing Roller Derby in Richland County or surroundings then look up Blue Brawlz and get in contact, he is forming a men’s team.

bawlzdolly Blue Brawlz and Doli Derringer at the welcome reception

The next session was about “The Business Of Derby” but there was no speaker. It quickly turned into a roundtable with people discussing topics as diverse as rule books (WFTDA or OSDA), advertising and promotion and what legal structures to use in your derby business: profit on non-profit, if non-profit then charity or non-charity etc. – and all of this is different from country to country and in the US from state to state. One of the original “She-E-Os” April Ritzenthaler was there and she had lots of good advice. Overall a very fruitful if somewhat unstructured discussion, could have easily gone for another two hours.

Roundtable at RollerConRoundtable at RollerCon, 3rd from right: April Ritzenthaler

Betweens seminars I checked out some bouts and the vendor halls, the variety of stuff is just unbelievable. I also kept running into a few familiar faces from Seattle: various skaters and non-skaters and Eric Carlson the super-fan from the Rollergirl Appreciation Society.

Wednesday night I missed the Vagine Regime pants-off dance-off but I was told by the Queen Victoria folks that it was quite a party, ok, I’ll have to check that out next year and bring some really funny underwear.

February 15, 2011

Nintendo World Champions at the Cowlitz Classic Video Game Show

1990 Nintendo World Champions Thor Aackerlund (1st Place) and Robin Mihara (3rd Place) will speak at the 2nd Annual Cowlitz Gamers for Kids Classic Video Game Show on April 9th, 2011 in a special panel discussion. They will share their experiences competing in the 1990 Nintendo World Championships and answer attendee questions. Additionally, they'll compete in an exhibition match on the original NWC competition cartridge used by Nintendo for the 1990 NWC.

Our friends from the Portland Retro Gaming Expo put up a fantastic show in Cowlitz last year. The 2011 show promises to be even bigger and now with the added star power of Thor and Robin it will be a blast!


Robin will discuss the upcoming release of the tentatively titled film "Ecstacy of Order: The Tetris Masters" that follows several top gamers as they compete in the 2010 Tetris World Championships. Some footage for Ecstacy of Order was shot at last year’s Cowlitz Gamers for Kids Classic Video Game Show!

On the heels of last year's successful event, our own John H. is organizing the 2nd Annual Cowlitz Gamers for Kids Classic Video Game Show on April 9th in Kelso, WA. Last year we helped John raise over $1,300 for the Childrens Justice and Advocacy Center (CJAC) and we're convinced we can do better this year with your help! PRGE is absorbing much of the cost of putting on this show so that 100% of the admission will go directly to CJAC.

The show will be on Saturday, April 9, 2011 at the Kelso Red Lion Hotel in Kelso, Washington. Kelso is about 1 hour north of Portland or 2 hours south of Seattle on I-5. Doors open at 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM. Admission is a suggested donation of $5 to CJAC, although we invite you to contribute more if you can! The event is child-friendly so please feel free to bring the entire family!

    Kelso Red Lion
    510 Kelso Dr.
    Kelso, WA 98626
    See map

More information and all the details can be found right here!

September 19, 2010

2010 Portland Retro Gaming Expo In Full Swing

PRGE kicked off this morning at 9:00 with a big crowd of pre-sold ticket holders rushing the main exhibition hall. Within minutes the main hall was full and soon after that the console play tables filled up as well. What a great start for this year’s show.

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I saw some amazing deals for classic hardware and software, some at less than a quarter than the usual Ebay prices and that without shipping costs of course. Tonight there will be a classic gaming auction and items I have seen so far include a HALO Master Chief statue, a LaserActive console, SEGA Genesis, Nintendo and Atari rarities and some 8-Bit home computer stuff.

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Tomorrow the show continues, head over to the official PRGE website and check out the details!

September 18, 2010

2010 Portland Retro Gaming Expo This Weekend 9/18 - 9/19!

It’s that time of year again! “Wockawockawocka” sounds from TV speakers, the smell of old capacitors fills the air and joysticks have just one fire button = it’s time for the 2010 Portland Retro Gaming Expo!

Since this event started 5 years ago it has gotten bigger and more popular every year and 2010 promises to be the biggest and best ever. There are tons of vendors (see photos below) setting up, the museum and console play area is huge and there are XX arcade machines on free play and growing. In addition we have keynotes with noted speakers such as Bill Carlton (“High Score” movie), Robin Mihara (3rd place winner of the 1990 Nintendo World Championships) and Bob Smith (20 year veteran Atari, Imagic and Accolade game programmer). This promises to be an awesome show!

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Here are some pictures from the vendor setups, notice tons and tons of classic games!

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They even set up a little retro corner with wood cabinet TV, scary looking couch, wood paneling and the mandatory black velvet painting – relive the past in style! (or lack thereof)

So come to Portland this Saturday and Sunday and geek out at the PRGE 2010!

July 19, 2010

10 Reasons to Visit CGE 2K10 in Las Vegas

Well, after a longer hiatus it’s that time of year again! Follow the wokka wokka sounds, the smell of old overheated capacitors and the shiny reflections of near-mint Spectravision labels on Atari 2600 cartridges! And if that alone isn’t enough to lure you to Vegas then here are 10 more reasons to go:

10. Vegas Baby! Vegas!

9. I can tell the wife/gf “I’m going to sell all that junk!” – just to come back with more :)

8. The CGE Museum will make your awesome world-class collection look pa-the-tic!

7. Geeked-out chip music Nerdvana!

6. A cold Corona for 50 Dollars? No, it’s not a strip club, it’s the CGE Auction!!!

5. Kunkels and Daglows and Cranes – oh my!

4. An Elvis impersonator playing Atari 2600? Hey, it might happen!

3. Somewhere in hundreds of banana boxes full of Pac-Mans and Combats hides a prototype!

2. It just might be your chance to touch Billy Mitchell’s hair!

1. Mystery boxes! ‘Nuff said!


April 23, 2010

Madeleine Peyroux Concert in Seattle

Sunday 04/18/2010 I had the pleasure of seeing Madeleine Peyroux live for the first time at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in downtown Seattle. A friend and I had front row seats, literally sitting two feet away from Madeleine and her band. We also had the best table neighbors in Juanita and Ed, who had just gotten married after 21 years of knowing each other, congratulations!

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Miss Peyroux opened up in a playful mood, trying to warm up the rather laid back audience. Already in the first song all the band members were introduced with short soli:
Starting on the left of the stage was Gary Versace playing piano, keyboard and a what looked like a Hammond B-3 organ which sounded fantastic. Gary really went to town on that one but kept things more subdued on the other instruments.
Next was Jon Herington, who played guitar and ukelele, excelling at solos as well as harmonizing very well with Madeleine's own guitar playing. Jon had multiple short and two extended soli and had great stage presence without overpowering his band mates.
To the right or Madeleine and more in the background was Barak Mori playing the double bass (mostly plucking but occasionally using the bow) or electric bass. He too had two extended soli, especially his second one was quite long and groovy.
Last but not least was Darren Beckett playing the drums. He played really well, used the brushes a lot and impressed with lots of variety.

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The concert was great with Madeleine and her band really getting the room going after 2, 3 songs. Good move playing the well-known "Don't Wait Too Long" early on to get the audience in the mood. Her singing was a bit more embellished than on the CD but that went very well with the intimate somewhat under-lit setting of the club. No specific album was dominant in the set list with 3 songs coming from her "Careless Love" and "Half The Perfect World" albums, 2 songs from the "Bare Bones" and 1 song from the "Dreamland" album.
Overall I did think the concert was a bit short, she played for less than 1 hour and a half, just 13 songs total. On the other hand I also understand that she had to do a second concert that night at 10 pm and had played double shows every night for three days prior.
Still a great show with wonderful vocals and music from Madeleine and her fantastic band. And of course also in part to the great food at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, my good friend who accompanied me and our wonderful table neighbors Juanita and Ed.
I'll definitely see Madeleine Peyroux again when she comes to Seattle!

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Madeleine Peyroux, vocals & guitar
Jon Herington, guitar, ukelele
Gary Versace, piano, keyboard,Hammond B-3
Barak Mori, bass
Darren Beckett, drums

Set list

  • I Hear Music
  • Don't Wait Too Long
  • La Javanaise
  • I Must Be Saved
  • Half The Perfect World
  • All I Need Is A Little Bit
  • Rooftop
  • No Better
  • Ophelia
  • Reckless Blues
  • This Is Heaven To Me
  • Dance Me To The End Of Love
  • Instead

May 26, 2009

Sam Philips Concert in Seattle

It was last year that I saw Sam Philips at The Triple Door in Seattle but I still wanted to post some pictures and a small write-up of this concert!

This was the first time I have seen Sam Philips live and she and her band were absolutely fantastic. Really! First the warm-up: Seattle's own Robert Deeble opened with well... it's hard to describe. His music is somewhere between indie folk-pop, minimalist and... well head over to his website and check it out for yourself.

Robert Deeble (right) at The Triple Door

The concert was sold out, something that surprised me given that Sam Philips isn't exactly well-known - or so I thought. Apparently she contributed some music to the TV show  Gilmore Girls and even appeared on screen in a season finale. We arrived 2 hours early and still got fairly decent seats but the place was packed.
I primarily own Sam's older stuff such as "Martinis & Bikinis", "The Indescribable Wow" and "Omnipop" and am not familiar with her latest stuff but I figured it should be good :)

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After Robert Deeble and his colleague had finished Sam Philips and her band set up:

  • Drummer Jay Bellrose with a rather eclectic drum set
  • Violinist Eric Gorfain with a variety of violins, including a Stroh violin with a sizeable metal horn, a banjo and some guitars
  • Accordionist Ted Reichman sitting a bit more in the background.

Soon they started and I was very impressed with the cozy atmosphere of The Triple Door and how well it worked with Sam's style and her accompanying musicians. Especially Jay Bellrose was a joy to watch, pulling one little noisemaker after another out from behind his drum set: rattles, shakers - I felt reminded of a busker and his props. In a big arena this would simply not come across as it would be invisible to the vast audience. In the intimate setting of The Triple Door most people in the audience saw the use of the little noisemakers and the fun that Jay's play exuded.

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Eric Gorfain's Stroh violin did not only sound unique he seemed to enjoy playing it quite a bit. He also switched back and forth between the various violins, a guitar and a banjo and seemed to master all these with ease and enthusiasm. The big variety brought some new interesting interpretations to older Sam Philips songs, especially the ones from her first 3, 4 albums.

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Sam Philips did change it up as well, at times playing an acoustic guitar, then a very heavily distorted guitar during "I Need Love" or a more moderate electronic guitar during most of the other songs. Speaking of "I Need Love", Sam's new interpretation of this 14-year old song was excellent, a nice new twist on something very familiar. Another surprise was her singing of "Animals On Wheels" when Sam just took a cassette player (think old-school Walkman) and played the instrumental track from that - accompanied by her singing. For some of the vibrato passages she rapidly shook the cassette player, introducing wow/flutter with nice results. Fun to watch and to listen to! Call it a one-woman-Karaoke-show-with-manually-induced-sound-effects but it worked for me :)

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Throughout the evening Ted Reichman stayed in the background, consistently playing away on this accordion and weaving dense tapestries of sound. Here and there he would throw in some unexpected embellishments and demonstrate his skill. Overall he was a great addition even when he didn't have the stage presence of his colleagues and perhaps purposefully chose to stay out of the spotlights.

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In the end a very enjoyable concert with many old favorites (some of them interpreted in delightfully new ways) as well as the songs from Sam's new "Don't Do Anything" album. Great eclectic music well and enthusiastically played to an appreciative audience - what more can you ask for? I look forward to Sam's next concert in the Seattle area!

November 15, 2008

Ficion Audio at Redmond Town Center

Last Friday we went to have dinner with friends at the Redmond Town Center. While leaving the restaurant I saw a speaker in a store window that looked oddly familiar – especially the tweeter looked like a typical Aurum Cantus ribbon tweeter.

While I still checked out the store the owner Peigen Jiang came out, told me that they had literally opened that same day and we agreed to meet on Saturday morning for a listening test.

The Ficion Audio store in Redmond Town Center  Listening Room

Fast forward to Saturday: I showed up with a stack of my CDs and Mr. Jiang gave me a run-down of his company eFicion and the speakers that he had set up for demonstration: eFicion was created out of the desire to build better and more affordable speakers and at the same time have the designs manufactured in China for lower costs. Currently eFicion offers two models for test listening sessions in their store:

  • Ficion F200, a larger ported bookshelf speaker with an Aurum Cantus ribbon tweeter and an Aurum Cantus woofer.
  • Ficion F300, a fairly large two-piece speaker with an Aurum Cantus Air Motion Transformer, a rear-firing ribbon tweeter, and a midrange and a woofer also all by Aurum Cantus.

I was very curious about how these speakers would sound, having enjoyed Aurum Cantus Leisure 2 SE and Music Goddess speakers for years at home.

Mr. Jiang explained the rest of the system (components by Balanced Audio Technology) while I checked out the finish and craftsmanship of the speakers. They are beautiful and meticulously built. The finish is flawless and far superior of the typical China-made OEM speakers - no comparison! The F200 speakers were in natural cherry and the F300 speakers in rosewood veneer.

Audio Set-up

First up was the F200 and Sniff ‘n’ The Tears with “Driver’s Seat”: highs were very smooth and although just bookshelf-monitor-sized the speakers had a surprising amount of fairly low base. But unlike my Aurum Cantus L2 SE which are just a tad boomy the  F200’s base was dry and very neutral. I moved on to Norah Jones’ “Turn Me On” which is beautifully recorded and has some very prominent vocals as well as a clear base drum. Again the F200’s ribbon tweeter reproduced the vocals very clearly, transparent and without any discoloration. Despite the speakers being away from the soundboarded back wall by at least 3 feet the base was very authoritative yet dry.

F200 bookshelf speaker

No doubt – the F200 is an amazing speaker, especially given the relatively small size and the very fair price of $3400/pair. Very neutral, surprisingly deep yet dry base and very detailed highs and vocals.

 F300 full-size speaker

Next up was the F300 and well… let’s just say I haven’t heard speakers like that before. Neither in the price range nor in this range of sound reproduction quality. I am not a professional audiophile, just a bumbling amateur but wow, did these speakers sound good! Mr. Jiang played “Jun Fukamachi at Steinway”, a direct-cut LP transfer CD from First Impression Music. I must honestly say: rarely have I been so impressed and impacted by music. The F300’s AMT tweeter is unbelievingly transparent and neutral and when closing my eyes the grand piano was right there in the room! Truly an amazing experience! I played some other CDs and just as expected vocals were effortless and neutral, base was very deep yet neutral and if I had $15K I would have taken these speakers home that very same day!

But I don’t… sigh!

F300 full-size speaker, notice rear ribbon tweeter 

Overall I was very impressed with Mr. Jiang’s creations and his willingness to explain the details, provide background information and let customers like me take the time to listen to their own CDs. Personally I think that locally designed speakers like this deserve more attention, especially given the excellent price/performance ratio of these products!

So, next time you are in Redmond Town Center, stop by at the eFicion store, right next to Matt’s Rotisserie & Oyster Lounge. Or look them up on the web at!

Eficion LLC
Redmond Town Center F225
7525 166th Ave. NE
Redmond, WA 98052
Tel: 425-882-1717

Thanks Mr. Jiang for two hours of wonderful music!