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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Japan Cartoons Attack Memory Two! Texas Suffers the Blogging Lag!

The first thing to go is your memory.  Or so they tell me.  Doing the "googling for cool crap I missed out on during the past 15 or so years" thing and stumbling across this name or that location or this publication and that date, I found myself scratching my brain and came to the conclusion that I'm gonna need to do some shorthand here.  A lot. And so I give you...

AMM.  "Another Memory Malfunction."  Proceeded by a letter, depending on how frustrating it is.  Damn,AMMJustAMMWhattheHell,AMM.  Okay, the latter brings back memories of a bunch of particularly ugly records I actually spent money on back in the day, so I'll skip it. A quarter of my family died of Alzheimers, but I'm hoping it doesn't get that bad.

I never was that much into Steve Martin, but he did have this really great bit in his stand up routine called "I Forgot." Basically, he'd throw out all of these outrageous things you might do and get away with if you only remember two basic words. "I forgot."  Get caught robbing that bank?  "Sorry, officer, I forgot bank robbery was illegal." Owe a million in taxes? No problem. When the IRS shows up at your door, you give him your best puzzled look and tell him "I forgot." And, of course, when it doesn't work, he stepped up to his trademark "Well, EXCUUUUUSSEEE ME!"

"Now, where was I?"

Most humor works because there's an amount of truth to it. In the case of the Martin routine, the "truth" is that everyone can identify with somebody forgetting he owed the IRS a million bucks.  Or at least using it as an excuse. Never having had a million bucks, I have to guess at this stuff.  But unless you're Commander Data or Aunt Tilly (we all have an Aunt Tilly, she's the one who is always right even when she's not), we've all been there.  Hell, even HAL forgot stuff, though he had a little bit of help.

So, where am I going with this? 

"I forgot." 

See how easy that was?

Seriously, I don't seem to be the only one with a faulty memory.  Seems like the entire second generation of American anime fandom has collective amnesia.  Well, almost the entire first generation has the same problem, but they're fucking OLD, so I can forgive 'em.  Hell, they're all on Medicare by now.  Computers?  Hah!  The orderlies are probably having to remind them about how to use the newfangled remote controls for the television set in the common room...

But my generation shouldn't have that particular problem. Hell, even I can kinda, sorta manage this stuff, though I still can't get a handle on the linking thing.  Or the HTML thing.  Or the "gadgets" thing on this Blogger site.  Much less get a scanner to work, which is why all of you have to put up with lousy digital pictures.  But the point is that if I can learn to do this web publishing stuff, just about anyone can.

So, why do so few of us?

Coming across this gem (as well as this one) from Dave Merrill brought two questions to mind.  Why'd they get hidden away on StarBlazers.com - the articles aren't linked from the "links" page as far as I can tell - and why'd it take someone from outside Texas to finally put this shit down?  There may be a few other hidden Texas-type buried treasures around the net that I'm not aware of, but I think I dug kinda deep and came up empty.  Is no one really interested in the history of anime fandom on this side of the Pacific? Or is it just a Texas thing? Something to be ashamed of? Sure, there weren't a whole lot of people back then actually interested in putting forth effort more than the minimal needed to organize the viewing experience, but this stuff has absolutely gone nuclear since the '80s.  Anime cons draw tens of thousands of fans now.  So where is the interest in the history of the fandom?  And where are the sources? Surely, a bunch of someones not named Dave Merrill and Fred Patten are still alive and breathing and have better memories than I do.

So where are the blogs?  The articles?  You know, this?

What does it say about me that I actually recognize three of these guys?

One of the things I hope to accomplish with this blog, assuming I can stay focused for longer than two weeks, is to commit some of my scattered memories (such as they are) down before they're lost forever. Seeing that video from Denver and the names Rich Arnold and Scott Frazier and hearing the Anime World Order podcasts with Walter Amos, Rob Fenelon, Bill Thomas...  Man,  my one regret back in the '80s was not having met Bill Thomas.  Every freakin' American anime fan should meet Bill Thomas before they die, just to see how it's done. 

But, no, I was pretty much stuck down here in Texas.  Which wasn't exactly a lousy place to be if you were an anime fan during the '80s, just...inconvenient.  For all of you who have never spent any real time down here, Texas is big.  Really, really big.  It's 200 miles from San Antonio to Houston, 250 from Houston to Dallas, etc.  Grab a map and look.  So basically, Texas anime fandom didn't overlap much, except at the conventions or when supergoofs like Ben Dunn or I took it upon ourselves to drive the 270 miles to an EDC meeting in Dallas or when some guys from College Station (which is centered pretty much between the three major cites) made the trek to monthly meetings. But all the major cities were represented during the '80s.  Except maybe El Paso.  Never met any fans from there at any of the state conventions I went to.

Dave Merrill did a great write-up on the Earth Defense Command in one of the articles linked above, so I won't mention them here except to say that it was the first anime club I joined back in either '83 or '84.  JAMM, and all that.  Ben and I rented a car and drove up to Dallas at least twice for meetings before we founded the C/FO chapter in San Antonio, one of those times ending in a car wreck two miles from my house. But that's terribly embarrassing, so I'll pleased to be shutting up about it now.  Dallas also had a C/FO chapter for a short period of time, led by Mike and Lea Hernandez. 

The EDC also had a chapter in Ft. Worth, but there was friction between the two leaderships, and the Ft. Worth chapter reformed as the SDF-Ft. Worth.  My memory is blanking on any of the members, but I'm thinking Karen Helmer(sp) was one of them.  She totally rocked a Misa Hayase costume during the Nasfic in Austin in 1985.

Yeah, I was at both of these.  More embarrassing stories to come.

Austin had the first C/FO chapter in Texas, founded by Mike Wright.  Ben tells me he used to drive up to their meetings before he was legal to do so.  Heh,  I bet I get in big trouble for that one, but it just shows what some people will do for love.  Anyway, most of the tapes that Ben used to start the C/FO-San Antonio came from Mike, whom I assume got them from the C/FO in LA.  I finally got to meet Mike myself at that '85 Nasfic. He was in charge off the vid room, but the con organizers were dicks and wouldn't let him show anything that wasn't "legal," which meant a lot of Voltron and Robotech.  At least I think he could show Robotech.  Things got a bit loopy for me as I set a personal record by staying awake for 52 straight hours...
Austin remained a hotbed of Texas anime fandom throughout the '80s, mostly due to UT-Austin drawing students from all across the US.  I know Walter Amos was there for a time, and they actually got to use fairly large meeting rooms to show their anime. 

Austin also could lay claim to not one, but two retail outlets that sold anime goods - Alpha Sector and Atomic City.  Alpha Sector sold mainly models and toys, whereas Atomic City was a bit more...uh...unique. The owner had Godzilla tatoos all over his body.  We'd have road trips up to Austin  (50 miles both ways)every month or so just to see what new stuff they might happen to get in.  In later years, Alpha Sector would move from the south side to the north side, but Atomic City remained in a neighborhood near the UT campus.

College Station (home to Texas A&M) also had a fairly robust anime community through most of the '80s, though most of them came from in-state.  I saw many of them at the various cons throughout the state, including AggieCon on the A&M campus, where they generally ran a pretty nice video room.  I'm blanking on most of the names (DAMM), with the notable exceptions of Kirk Hauser and Alex Botello.  Alex was a fixture at just about all of the Texas sf/comic book conventions during the '80s.  He sold anime model kits he'd get from connections in Mexico and was simply one of those characters you don't easily forget.  I think just about everyone in anime fandom in Texas had an Alex story, if you know what I mean.  Mine had to do with him meeting my "good-looking seester," at a Dallas con, but it's more embarrassing than the car wreck story...

Houston remained an enigma to me.  It had the largest Asian community on any Texas city even back then, and sported one of the few stores in Texas that sold imported manga, so I'm fairly sure that there were a few anime fan groups, but I can't ever recall meeting a representative of one until the '80s were almost over.  After I moved to SA from Houston in '80, I very rarely got to go back there for conventions and the ones that I did attend didn't seem to have much of a anime presence at all.  Several of the comic book stores sold anime stuff, but I can't even recall seeing flyers for any groups posted.  I'm hoping that if anyone reading this has more info about activity during that period, they'll email or comment - or, better yet, do a full write-up in their own blog.  Considering that one of the larger anime importers ended up based there, I figure probably was a presence I just didn't notice. 

Then, of course, there was San Antonio.  I'll get more into our little club o' fun in depth in many a future entry.  In the meantime,  I'm going to go through more assorted crap that I didn't manage to throw away in an effort to supplement my feeble memory.  Unfortunately, I've moved several times since '95, and most of my old zines, newsletters and such found other homes.  I seriously never thought I'd end up back here, either mentally or emotionally.

Which might go a long way to explaining where everyone else went.


  1. Hey Robert. I just wanted to let you know I've been reading your posts since pretty much the beginning since I found your blog when looking at the tracking stats for well, my blog. There haven't really been too many comments left, so I figured I'd let you know that folks are out there, reading what you write, and look forward to more.

    Well...I am, at least.

  2. Once again I click on a Daryl Surat twitter link and found another blog to read. Actually no, none of the blogs Daryl links to (with the exceptions to the ones I already follow) I bookmark. But then again he's usually trolling (I mean stating a different opinion) in some inane fujoshi blog.

    I skimmed down and saw an Aint's picture, being a good New Orleans boy I have to go read that in full later, look forward to it.

    PS: Opelousas eh? I drove through there billions of times (mainly on treks to A-kon).

  3. Heh, Daryl, even if you never do another podcast, I'll keep using the site for the updates to your blogroll. There have been several discussions in the various comments sections of those blogs that I would've loved to have taken part in if I'd been awake two or three years back.

    One thing I find most bewildering about the anime blogs I've come across has been the way people use the comments sections for debate instead of doing it via their own blogs and linking to each other. I've been following political blogs for so long that it just seems natural to me that writers would want the traffic on the meat of the blog instead of in the comments sections that a good number of the viewers won't even read.

    OTOH,I'm doing it myself :-)

    RWG (maybe traffic picks up I'll start debating topics on the blog and see how it goes)

  4. Glad to hear I can write about Texas anime clubs and get enough of it correct, so that the article passes inspection from people who were actually there at the time! Keep blogging and the memories will start to come flooding back. It's better than therapy, and cheaper too.

    If you need a copy of that Macross videotape, let me know!!