Sunday, September 30, 2012

Final Dragon 2012 recap

Dragon, the final day.

                So I have survived everything Dragon had to throw at me but then I came to Sunday, which was the game changer. After Saturday I was just glad for a chance to breathe. The convention was not nearly as crowded as it was on Saturday which was a huge relief. I could no longer afford to tip all the people who had their hands all over me. It is terrible when you go broke from giving tips to people for a service you basically did not need. Of course many of them commented that I have so much tension built up all over. I’m not sure how to take that.  Any way I take it is probably the wrong way.

                I was leaving the next day so I call this my last chance day, my Hail Mary day, my day to run around madly and try to get everything done. Like most things in my life, I failed at this too. After lugging around Ted Naifeh’s books (to get signed) for two days and not seeing him I decided not to bring them today. Guess who I ran into on Sunday?

                I was there for the big Marvel shoot which was the biggest photo shoot I saw over the weekend. Hundreds of people dressed up as all kinds of Marvel characters from the popular (Spider-Man and Avengers characters) to the lesser-known ones (Squirrel Girl and Frankie Raye).

At the end two men came out to get married. As I watched it occurred to me that this looked just like the wedding of Northstar in an “X-Men” comic recently. There was a reason for this. They were recreating the whole tableau.

During the ceremony there was a pop and another photographer spun around. “What was that?” he asked.

                “Dan Cathy’s head exploding” I replied.

                During the large photo shoot, Brandy (she goes under Lucid Cosplay to the general public) approached me and asked me to hold her purse. All the other photographers began to giggle and smirk while some even had the audacity to make snide comments about my masculinity (of which I really don’t have any so the comments had nowhere to go). Since I was among strangers (well, no one is stranger than me) I decided to turn the attack on them.

                “Hey, at least I have a woman’s purse to hold. What are you all holding?” I said loudly. Several of my mockers just turned away and stared down in shame at their cameras. I showed them.

                During the shoot, I looked around and saw a lot of Rogues at the X-Men subgroup. Rogue is my favorite Marvel character and some voice (I don’t know whose but I do know it was not mine since I don’t hear things) told me to call the Rogues over. I obeyed the unknown voice (as I am wont to do) and they listened (pardon me, I need a moment as I work my way through my Rogue bliss/overload. Next year I swear I am going to try this with Zatanna even though I fear several Zatannas in one spot will cause my head to explode). I had all these Rogues to myself and, out of nowhere, other photographers showed up, cameras at the ready. I was forced to share but I didn’t want to! Anyway, I set up several shots (which many people also have now). My directions were okay but Allan Hanserd has provided me with several ideas on how to make better shots, which I will utilize next time.

                All the other photographers now snapping away required (okay, it did not really require me but it seemed like the best thing to do) me to do something I had observed at photo shoots over the weekend. The person leading the shoots would set up a pose and after people had been taking shots for a bit started counting down. At the end of the countdown people stopped taking photos and allowed the models to relax. This also allowed for the next shot to get set up. So this is what I was forced to do. When I had my shots done I started counting down. The amazing part (besides the Rogues listening to me which I still weep in joy over) is that the photographers listened as well. I see this as an indication of the high level of respect for everyone who was there. That is probably the greatest thing I am taking away from the convention.

                One down side occurred when a cosplayer turned me away. I have known this one cosplayer (call her  -R- ) since last year told me that her eyes were hurting from all the flashes and did not want me to take her picture. I think she did this since she knew me. “Fine,” I said and walked back to my spot but what should I see when I turn back around but her in the middle of groups taking photos with her.

                What the what? My self-esteem just plummeted into a puddle on the carpet. Not that I had much before but that really did not help.
                That is when I ran into Thing 1 and Thing 2 or, as they like to be called, Sherri and Mae.

                They were walking around the Marriott looking at all the costumes. My submissive (shut up, I am) nature obeyed when the two of them (forcefully) demanded a picture. Then they MADE me walk around with them (just like they MADE me try sushi). They really did not give me a choice. You may not believe that but it is the completely varnished truth. We continually walked in circles around the hotel looking at all the people and what they had on.  

                And so, as all good things do, my three days came to an end. I got back on the bus to return to my hotel. As the bus pulled away from the curb a crowd of all the people I had met over the course of the weekend formed outside the main hotel. I was touched. I thought they were coming to see me so I announced that I will return next year, swearing this loud enough for them to hear me. In unison (once I completed my oath) every one of them held up a sign reading “The Hell you will.”

                I’m not sure how to take that.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dragon*Con 2012 Part 3

Dragon*Con Report 3

                I finally dozed off from all the excitement of actually being at the convention but woke to the sound of someone opening the door to my hotel room. They flicked on  the lights and I saw two guys in suits come in the room.

                “Nothing to worry about, sir. We’re just hotel security doing routine checks since we know what all you Dragon*Con types are up to. Wait, there is only one of you here. Usually the rooms have about 10 people. That is so sad. Don’t you have any friends?” He asked these questions while his partner starting going through my bags, throwing my clothes onto the floor. I love being woken up at three in the morning and judged by security guards. I’m used to it but I don’t like it. Eventually the second guy announced that I was clean and they started to leave which is when the first guy suggested that I get some friends. I suppose it would have been too much to expect one of them to say “Have a good night” after that.

                Upon waking up what I consider to be way too early, I rode a bus back to the con where people began trickling in. The hotels were mostly empty as people were wisely still asleep. Obviously I am not one of the wise people. The booths around the hotel floor were not manned at this time. Even the information booth was deserted. I felt alone. I felt forlorn. I felt empty booths meant one thing; FREE SWAG! The looting began. I grabbed every flier I could. Yes, that’s right. I took fliers. What did you think I was going to take? How low an opinion of me do you have? Really people, I am not a crook (random Nixon reference. It was bound to happen).

                The hotels began to quickly fill (like a light bulb being turned on) and Friday’s activities began. A crossplay shoot is the first thing that I can recollect happening. Crossplay is when a person makes a cosplay of a certain character but changes the gender (like Mary Kate Smith portraying Wolverine as female.)


Cyclops is another good example of this.

Side note: That is Allen Lee Hansard in the background as Dr. Strange. He runs the Superhero Cosplay Forum, an ultrasecret group that sets up photo shoots at conventions. Oh, wait, maybe I shouldn’t be discussing it…

                During the shoot, the photographer lowered his camera and asked “Okay, who let Stan Lee in the shot? Can someone get him out of there?”

                That is not what happened. During the shoot a voice off to the side asked if he could get in on this. Everyone looks over and saw Stan Lee standing there. Like anyone is going to say no to him. Heck, he would even be welcome at DC shoot (he did write the “Just Imagine” series.) So he gets in the center and many photographs are taken. One person, as Spiderman (or woman) began to scream in joy after Mr. Lee left. “Stan Lee touched me! Stan Lee touched me!”

You’ll notice that even people who were not in costume got in on this.

                The rest of the day was spent walking around between the three main hotels. I got to see the celebrity room (not too crowded), artist alley (somewhat crowded) and the dealer’s room (very crowded). None of these rooms on Friday compared to the mass of people on Saturday. That day was wall to wall people and I spent all my money that particular day tipping for the amount of and type of touching I went through. People were pressed up against me and I could feel hands and bodies touching me in places I have not been touched in some time. It was like a thousand fingers pressing up against me all day long. I felt as though I should be thanking people for this but I am still not sure who to thank.

                One of the big draws was John Barrowman. Seriously, every woman I met swooned when his name was mentioned and they declared that was the one person they HAD to meet in the celebrity room. I made the mistake of saying “Ah, he’s not that great.” 43 women turned to face me at the same time. Even women on the other side of the room out of hearing range apparently just knew what I said turned towards me. Their eyes were ablaze (and I don’t say that lightly) and they began to move toward me.

                “What did you say” hissed the woman in front.

                “You heard me” I said defiantly, standing straight and tall.

                “Ladies, bring me the noose.” Now I am not very fast and am not a runner but I was this day. I ran long and I ran far. I did not stop until reaching the sign reading “Welcome to South Carolina.” At this point I turned and walked back just in time to make the next photo shoot. The rest of the weekend women stared at me with narrowed eyes and some even gave me the “I’m watching you” gesture.

                The most amazing thing is how I kept running into people I met at previous cons. No, I do not mean stalking when I say run into. The problem arises when they have no recollection of who I am. I say how great it is to see them again and I get a blank stare. They always ask "Have we met before?" My response is "Yeah, we met that one time at that one con where you were cosplaying that one character." Then they nod and say "Sure, now I remember." Below are some people I ran into again.

Ann McManus,

Victoria Centeno and Lucid Cosplay,

Han Pan,

and Stacey Allen


 To be concluded next time with what happened on Sunday.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dragon*Con 2012 Part 2

Okay, in the earlier post, I discussed some basic things about Dragon. Now I am going to get deeper into the story. Rather than driving down there (since I have no friends which is a horrible, horrible way to live your life). I choose to fly--which brought me into direct contact with the TSA. If you read my earlier post about how to make a visit with the TSA more memorable then you know what I wrote. When I walked to one of the checkpoints where you have to show your ID, the agent stared at it for what I consider to be too long of a time. He asked if I was the same person who wrote that blog about the TSA.

                I was faced with a choice. I could take credit for my work and stand by every single idea I put in there or I could weasel out and say I never heard of it. I choose the path of least resistance and said I don’t write a blog, that is must be a different Al they are looking for. All the agents that had mysteriously appeared out of nowhere brandishing bats suddenly stepped back, my lie having mollified them.  Just to clarify, they did not really have bats. You are not going to turn me into one of those stories you see posted on the internet about how badly people were treated by the TSA. Nope, not a word.

                I have been to the Atlanta airport before and it is the only one I have been to that required an underground subway to get around in. The airport is really that big. I made the mistake of walking the distance the first time I arrived there. Never again.

                Upon arriving at the convention I looked for the registration line. I asked where it was and I was pointed toward a line.

                “That’s the pre-registered line” they told me pointing at a specific line.

                “But the line is moving!” I commented in disbelief (You’ll understand if you have been to a convention of this type. It has been two weeks and I am still in shock like it was a dream of some sort; a glorious, beautiful dream. I weep at the memory of it.) “That cannot be the line!” Others heard my statement and began chiming in (yes, I know this makes me an instigator) that pre registration lines are never that short and never move.  Throwing fuel onto the fire I began a chant “We want to wait! We want to wait!” Others quickly joined in. The mob swelled. Soon the hotel was filled with a thousand voices until the administrator yelled “Security!” At this point I ducked away and quietly slid into the fast moving line. Before I came here a supervisor told me not to get arrested. Okay, more like he begged and pleaded knowing who I am (mainly his advice was not to put my plan for getting free autographs from the celebrities in action but it applies to many, many other behaviors I have demonstrated). Before I left for my trip he kept muttering (in my presence) “Don’t get arrested, don’t get arrested, don’t get arrested,” as if I am going to fall into a subliminal trance. I did not get arrested so maybe it worked. Huh, who would have thought it? Plus, I think getting pulled out by security on the evening before the con even starts would set a bad precedent for the weekend.

                After this getting my badge, the phone calls began.

                “I’m here. Are you here yet?”

                “I cannot believe you made it.”

                “I can’t believe I am actually here.”

                I had always thought that the sound squueee was just a made up sound in comics to indicate extreme pleasure upon seeing a friend. I am now disabused of that concept since I found myself making that very noise upon seeing Sherri Lyn again and getting to meet her sister, Mae Fairchild. We met at a photo shoot where Sherri was wearing a very slinky dress with a long slit up her outfit revealing her legs and I had to resist the urge to say “Hello, girls” (this was not in reference to the two ladies I was with).

              This was my introduction to photo shoots at Dragon*Con. When I did this shoot (and got to see 2 Zatannas there-squueee) I was told about several other shoots going on over the weekend. After this weekend I realized going to shoots was addictive and got me hooked. She was my enabler. To be fair pretty much everyone at the shoots kept me craving more. By the end I was a complete mess, all high on photographing as many people as I could. They had to pull me away as I pleaded with them “Please, you gotta let me get one more shot. I can quit photographing anytime I want. I just need to take pictures of one more Zatanna and then I will quit. I promise…”

Day 1 (Thursday) came to an end when I finished shooting all the lovely ladies by the poolside. The ride back to my hotel was mostly silent except for when I stood up on the bus and said “Driver, turn the bus around. I need to go back.” I grabbed his arm and made doe eyes. I blinked them rapidly in the hopes he would cave and do what I wanted.

Without missing a beat (as though he had heard it all before) he said “Nope.”

I sat back down.

To be continued with Day 2 or how I learned not to buy bottle water inside the hotels.

                                                        Thanks to Kim Bookless for her assistance.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dragon*Con 2012 Recap

This was my first time attending this convention. I have wanted to go for years but I kept putting it off. This year I finally decided to go. I know, I'm so brave. Yes, this con is not for the faint of heart as it is big (not San Diego Comic Con big but I am not going to even try that) and there is a lot to do. This convention is in Atlanta every year and is filled with people. People walk around wearing all kinds of costumes, more costumes than I can even identify and I read and watch a great deal of material. The cosplay is the only thing you are guaranteed to see. You can skip the panels (you shouldn't), the vendor room (you shouldn't) and the artist alley (you...well, you know). Making and wearing costumes is called cosplay (costume play) and it is huge at conventions now (or at least the ones I attend).

There is so much that people have to pick and choose since several things overlap. One solution the administrators of the con did to alleviate this problem is to repeat the panels over several days so if a person misses it Friday that panel can be seen on Saturday. Speaking of panels, expect to be waiting for some because the lines are lllllooooonnnnnggg. The good thing about being in a line is the chance to meet new people. That is what I did when I was waiting for the shuttle to the Georgia Aquarium. There you go, Autumn and Will, you have now officially been mentioned in a blog.

Dragon is one of those events where no amount of description will do it justice. You have to experience yourself to truly understand. One can see thousands of pictures online (I will be posting mine here soon and on Facebook) but they are no substitute for being there. You will run into people you have not seen in a long time or people whose cosplays you have worshipped from afar. Yes, I said worship since I am at the altar of cosplay. No, I have not done a cosplay yet myself. I like to watch...Yes, I know how that sounds and no, I do not mean it like that.

I took at least a thousand photos over the long weekend. I will be posting them soon. I have to clean them up before they are ready to be seen here. I went there with my little digital cameras and stood next to guys with the huge cameras. They would look down at me holding my little rectangular box of a camera, start smirking when they saw what I had and then tell me that size does matter.

               My favorite photo is posted below with Samantha Merrell. I did not know her before this con and she makes this photo great. My face, ehhh, not so great. Obviously she has done cons before since she seems so comfortable doing this.
There are several  things I have learned at this con:
 Wear comfortable shoes (there is a lot of walking to be done).
Stay hydrated (just not at the prices the hotels were charging for bottles of water).
 Bring extra batteries and memory cards for your devices.
Saturday will find you feeling like you are in a pinball game.
Go see Amber Benson if she is there.
Let me explain the last one. Amber Benson has starred on TV, in movies and written books (in case you do not know who she is). She was in the walk of fame with several other celebrities and like other celebrities, had a line of people waiting to see her. She moved her line with a military precision so the wait time is not very long but people did not feel rushed or shorted. She has a warm, friendly disposition that made the 30 seconds with her seem longer, that it was quality time and she was glad to see you. Even though I could not afford it my book still got signed (and that is all I am going to say about that). This is different from some people there who had the attitude “can’t afford anything—NEXT!” So, yes, if she is there, see her. I was going to make a joke about how the celebrities got to meet me, not that I got to meet them-but in Amber Benson’s case, I had the privilege to meet her.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bunheads take 2

                I reviewed “Bunheads” right after the series began and I want to address the show again since the first run of episodes is complete. I still like the show but now I have a better feel for it. After having watched each episode twice I can honestly say I still enjoy it but some of my opinions have changed.

The show revolves around Michelle (Sutton Foster), a Vegas showgirl. She impulsively (drunkenly) marries Hubble one night and moves to the small town he lives in. In a strange twist of fate, her mother-in-law owns a dance studio. Michelle tries adjusting to life in a small town (there is no movie theater or regular grocery store) and dealing with people she does not know. The show was created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, the same person who created “Gilmore Girls.”

Michelle is lost. I don’t mean she does not know where she is. She has no real direction in life and has ended up here. Dealing with other people is a skill set she has not developed. Moving around whenever she feels like it has become second nature to her as she does not put down roots anywhere. In the very first episode she reveals that she ran from being established as a dancer. This reveals that the source of her pleasure (dancing) is also the source of her pain. She loves dancing but her feelings of self doubt continually show up in her dreams where she is rejected. This leads to one complaint about the show; the lack of dancing by Michelle. She loves dancing but we rarely see her dancing. Sutton Foster has performed on Broadway so she should be able to handle what they want her to do.

There are several similarities between the two shows, primarily the protagonists. Both shows have tall brunettes who are strong willed, quick speakers, and good with pop references. G.G. was set in Stars Hollow while “Bunheads” is set in Paradise. Both are small towns filled with eccentric characters. Several people who showed up in G.G. have also appeared in this new series.

                My biggest change of heart comes with the character Truly. Stacey Oristano plays Truly and I originally thought the character was too over the top. I no longer feel that way and she is now my favorite character on the show. ABC Family has already called for more episodes so I hope to see more of her next time. She is an odd but entertaining character. My favorite bit so far is when Michelle called Truly in a panic over pipes leaking. Michelle calls and starts to complain about the pipes when Truly picks up the phone. When Michelle stops, Truly says, “This is Truly. I make dresses.” Truly has not appeared in the last two episodes of this arc and I hope she becomes a regular character when the show returns.

                The show has great moments: the ringer, Rose Abdoo, small town life, etc. Sherman-Palladino is good at adding these details. Quick dialogue is not present here (not like it was in G.G.) but the inimitable Kelly Bishop is. She is the only person to star in both shows (others only make appearances).

                Since the show is about dancing we get to meet several young women who are learning ballet. Their lives bleed into the episodes and we get to see how complicated romantic lives can be even at age sixteen. Each girl is well-defined with characteristics from the snarky to the optimistic. Sasha is snarky and is the one who needs Michelle and her guidance the most.

                One thing I find missing is the Luke and Lorelei relationship from G.G. Michelle does not have a Luke so far but what she does have is the guy of the week. Every week she meets a new man who might be a romantic prospect. The list so far includes the millionaire, the director and the surfer. They appear then they disappear. The exception is the surfer who has shown up several times but, in the last episode of this block, said he was getting ready to leave. I prefer the millionaire since he is age appropriate, lives in the town and is someone  who can match her verbally.

                This is a good show and I am glad it will be coming back. It does not have the depth of G.G. yet but I think it will get there. As the show progresses I hope we get to see more of the town as this is what Michelle needs. She needs to grow as a person, to become an adult and being around young girls can help her get there. This, as with G.G., is an easy show to get invested in.