19 April 2015

Having Withdrawal with Star Wars Celebration Anaheim Concluding

At Star Wars Celebration this weekend

With today's conclusion of Star Wars Celebration VII ending, it is quite sad; I definitely feel as if I am experiencing some withdrawal. With so much Star Wars stuff having transpired over the past several days, it is sad to think that something like this won't happen for a while. Yes, the next Star Wars Celebration will be only next year, however, it will be on another continent, being in London (although I will try my best to watch what I can of its being streamed). Plus, I don't know that even once it comes back Stateside that I'll be able to attend it.

I thought it was really great not only to be exposed to so much news about upcoming Star Wars movies, television, and more - all of which is exciting - but also to be around people and to be able to discuss what's coming up and what's happened in Star Wars with other people.  There's also a lot of excitement in the Star Wars fan community about what's going on and what's coming up that it's a great opportunity to unpack everything.  

Yes, one can go on the Internet and read blogs and listen to podcasts, as well as to produce them, but it's not the same as the in-person opportunity.  In dealing with my withdrawal feelings from the post-Celebration phase, I wonder if I am just missing an opportunity to meet with other Star Wars fans to engage in discussion around Star Wars.  Perhaps a discussion group meeting in a regular fashion, engaging in a salon-style discussion, with particular topics for each get-together.

We'll see what happens.  In the meantime, I am thankful I had the opportunity to take part in Star Wars Celebration and am processing the excellent weekend.

13 April 2015

4th & 5th Press Passes: Beyond Comic Conventions

At the 2015 US Coffee Championships

A month and a half ago, I was able to use my fourth and fifth press passes(!).  While I was able to use three press passes last year, these two were special because not only did they take place on the same weekend, but they were also not for comic conventions.  My first three were for Long Beach Comic Expo (see here for a round-up of my posts about it), Long Beach Comic Con (yielding three posts: one, two, & three), and Stan Lee's Comikaze (yielding four posts: one, two, three, & four), while my fourth was for the US Coffee Championships and my fifth for the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show.

One thing I need to state is that I was very glad I was able to get a press pass to something not a comic convention, especially since that's not something into which I want to pigeon-hole myself as a writer.  Also, before 2014, I had never attended a comic convention, yet I ended up attending four of them (three of which I attended as press).  I am fortunate to have been accepted to receive media credentials at these two events in 2015, especially since they provided me with the ability to provide content that was different than anything I had previously done at Matters of Interest.
Showing my press badge at the 2015 LA Travel & Adventure Show

As to the US Coffee Championships, I was able to go for a couple of hours on its first two morning, before heading off to be able to get to my regular job.  This was especially helpful, in that I was able to caffeinate up before encountering the rest of the day.  Having received the press pass, my wife decided to come along and check out what was going on on the first day.  While not a whole lot was going on, I was also able to meet a couple of blogger brothers who were there on a press pass, which was neat to get to chat with other fellow bloggers. I also got to have my first-ever espresso, which was very bitter!  I had my first-ever macchiato, although I found it to be too milky, so I returned to espressos. 
My first-ever macchiato and my first-ever espresso

On the second day, which had more going on, I returned for another couple of hours, this time with someone else, who knew more about coffee than me, which was definitely helpful to me, to have someone with me who knew more about coffee and help guide me.  Also, this was an interesting aspect of having received press pass: I promoted the event beforehand on Facebook and let people know it was going on, and people even bought tickets to come along with me to the US Coffee Championships - this is definitely advantageous to those giving away press passes: these are sales they would not have otherwise made. 

Getting some coffee at the Roasters Choice competition
Picture I took while in the pit at the barista championship
The 2015 LA Travel and Adventure Show was busy
On this second day, I greatly enjoyed having fifteen different roasts of the same coffee bean by different roasters - I was glad I had a drinking buddy with me to share our thoughts of the roasts and to detect which ones had been roasted more and which had been less so.  This was certainly very neat.  Also, it was novel to me in that I did not drink the coffee with any sweeteners - ever since beginning to drink coffee in the summer of 2011, I have always had it with sweeteners.  However, these coffees were so good, they really did not require sweeteners.  That was so neat and eye-opening for me. 

Beyond that, though was a new experience for me, one that was afforded me through having a press pass.  During the barista championship competition, when they were performing their craft in sort of Kitchen Stadium-like set-up, they only permitted those with press passes to go down in that area to take pictures of video.  At first, I was timid and though, "I am just a mere blogger, how can I go down in there with those professional photographers and videographers?"  Then, after a while, I got up the courage and decided, "Why not?  Let's see what happens."  Well, having a press pass, no one questioned me and I was able to snap a couple dozen of pictures before heading out.  I think, for me, it was really exciting to get that special sort of access, even though I didn't have such cool cameras.

Not being able to return to the US Coffee Championships on Saturday, due to it being Shabbat, I was able to come back on Sunday morning.  The funny thing was that the US Coffee Championships were taking place in the Long Beach Arena and right next door to it was the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show, for which I had also received a press pass!  I was super excited that I could easily attend both events!  So, I started with coffee, of course :)  After having tasted some really yummy coffee from the six finalists in the roasters choice championships, I then made my way over to the LA Travel Show.

Wow - it was impressive, with so many countries represented, as well as travel companies, various locations in the western US, and other vendors.  It was almost overwhelming. I was able to make my way through all of them, I think.  And it was pretty neat.  I made sure to stop by the booths, including the Israel booth, where we had travelled the previous month and Turkish Air, upon whom we had flown (and enjoyed). 

After a quick stop back for more coffee at the US Coffee Championships, I then returned to the LA Travel Show for a couple of really helpful talks for travelers: the first one was by Angel Castellanos, who spoke about packing and preparation for travelling.  Following that, I also heard Peter Greenberg dispensing advice when it comes to booking any sort of travel arrangements.  While I could have written about the travel show, writ large, I really didn't know what, in particular to write.  However, finding the Greenberg and Castellanos talks to be very insightful, I stuck with covering those two talks and hopefully other people will be able to get some useful tips out of those posts.
The press badges I received at the two events

As to the US Coffee Championships, I wrote about the mood and what was going on each day (as opposed to focussing on specific elements, as I had at the LA Travel and Adventure Show): Day One, Day Two, and Day Four

I am looking forward to see which events I can cover in the future - we'll see what they may be....