Archive for September 2010

Misty Nightstalking

My house is on a little hill in a big river valley.  It’s a misty night, the mist pooling in the lower parts of my yard, making my house an island in a ghostly sea.  The moon is full tonight, and right now it is bright, close, and almost directly overhead.

I go outside, and the light of the moon far overpowers the light streaming from a few windows in my house. Shadows are deep and sharp, but the full light is bright enough that I can see the tracks left by my footsteps in the dew-soaked grass. The forest that surrounds me is mostly oaks and maples, and it makes a thicker darkness than the mixed piney woods where I grew up. I’d go for a longer walk, but I haven’t spent enough time exploring in the daylight to unerringly navigate the darkness under the trees.

The full moon makes the mist thicker and more visible, so that the landscape appears to fade into a pale grey with the distance, rather than running up against the wall of dark trees on the other side of the valley.  I wander further downhill as my yard slopes toward a small stream, half expecting the mist to obscure my vision. Mist doesn’t really work that way, though, and as I walk downward the mist retreats before me, only to form again behind me, leaving me alone in a little bubble of clarity.

So it’s very beautiful outside tonight, and it reminds me why I do love the country, despite its associated inconveniences.

Poetic musings aside, It says a lot about my default frame of reference that, upon stepping through my door to behold all this, I thought, “Wow, someone really turned down the draw distance on the world.”

Day Late Dollar Short Movie Reviews: Machete

Since my college days during the advent of internet movie reviews, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have that job. I like movies, I like talking about things, and I can and do enjoy  movies of just about every genre. Now that I have this here blog, I figured I’d finally get around to writing some – the problem being that I now seldom see movies when they come out and reviews matter. That’s why I’ve titled this feature “Day Late Dollar Short Movie Reviews.” Movie news you probably can’t use!

A few days ago my brother told me he was going to see Machete. If he hadn’t I probably would have forgotten it was even out.  I loved the Grindhouse trailer, I’m generally a bit fan of the ‘sploitation revival, and when I heard they were making a full movie I was ridiculously gleeful, but that anticipation faded in the intervening months.

Machete is a movie where Danny Trejo kills a lot of people, primarily with the titular machete (though there’s more variety in his methods than the title implies). There are some hot women in it. If that’s all you want, you won’t be disappointed. The violence in Machete is super mega over-the-top; the problem is that the rest of the movie can’t seem to keep up the same pace. There are long stretches where it starts to take itself far too seriously, and instead of a ‘sploitational romp it feels like a mediocre action drama. Most of these interminable interludes contain Jessica Alba. Read the rest of this entry »

Cosplay Catalogue

Well I promised a writeup of the buttonneering experience, but a series of trips in rapid succession using the same luggage means… I’ve misplaced my button haul. So until I uncover it in the process of cleaning, you get a quick contemplation of another aspect of conventions (though not PAX, for me, specifically, so far.) (That was a lot of conditionals.)

Ahem. Anyway: Cosplay.

Cosplay has kind of a weird place in my heart. It’s the one part of conventioneering where the traditional social values (hotness of girls) overwhelm the geeky ones (game knowledge, pop culturability.) That said, there’s nothing like dressing up like your favorite character to say “I’m here, I’m totally dedicated to this cause, and I’m throwing away any pretense of camouflage.”

Five years and twenty pounds ago I used to cosplay a lot. Esteemed translator and anime celebrity Richard “pocky” Kim once stopped me in the hallway to take a photo of me in a Shion Uzuki costume, exclaiming that there weren’t enough cute girls with glasses in video games. (This was before the tragedy of Xenosaga II where they gave her contacts… something I have obviously still not forgiven.) I cosplayed Tohru Honda before Fruits Basket was cool. I did a double act with a friend as Flonne and Etna. And, of course, my first real costume was All-Purpose Cultural Cat-Girl Nuku Nuku. Oh no! My secret origin has been revealed.

A few days ago I was cleaning out the giant uninsulated attic-closet at my parents house and I found a bag with pretty much all my old cosplay costumes in it. I’m not going to lie, I tried a few of them on. They mostly fit, but the tunic I made for Flonne was constructed to try to hide my chest; it works, but it also makes me look like a baked potato. The Nuku Nuku skirt still fits, which may be an omen.

Anyway, in recent years I’ve started a lot of costumes but I haven’t finished any of them. A significant reason for that is the consistent divide between how I think I’ll look in a costume and how I actually look. Still, Finding all those old costumes made me remember how much I enjoyed it. I’ve had a few ideas brewing for future conventions, PAX in particular. Maybe it’s time to start that project. Get excited and make things, as the kids say. It would be a good source for updates, illustrated with mediocre Droid photos, at least until I find my digital camera. Have you noticed that losing things is a theme with me? I moved a few months ago and I’m currently working on reorganizing my parent’s house, so the theme is likely to consider. I guess it just makes things more of an adventure.

Adventures are also a theme.

PAX

I’m going to try to dash off a quick PAX post before I’m off on my next adventure. Of course my cabin-in-the-woods weekend of tabletop gaming and general geekery would be scheduled the week after PAX. At least it keeps me from getting the post-PAX blues.

If you came here because of my PAX buttons, welcome! We’ll see if the delusion that I may now have an invisible audience motivates me to write more often.

This was my second PAX prime, and it somewhat mirrored my first: outside parties and events the night before and after, then panels panels panels. I supplemented this rotation with some good old fashioned mutha-f’ing Participation, and that was the sweetest treat of all.

First I’d like to talk about rooming at PAX. So far I have roomed with strangers every single PAX and it has always been awesome and rewarding. I’d recommend it to almost anyone: it’s a good jumping-off point for meeting new people and you’ll find you form a sort of ad-hoc adventuring party with those people. This year was no exception: I met a few nice Guild Wars maniacs, a couple of friendly Hufflepuffs and a gentlemanly Ravenclaw. That brings me to the second bit of organized geekery where I met many awesome people: The Third Annual Triwizard Drinking Tournament. It’s pretty much what it sounds like – a Harry-Potter-themed pubcrawl the night before the con. I’ve never gotten back from one of these before 2am though, so plan your Friday around caffeine and lingering drunkenness.

My next extra-curricular was the Cookie Brigade: a charity-slash-community outreach project that gives away cookies and accepts donations for Child’s Play (a charity that provides video games for sick children in hospitals). The Cookie Brigade is a lot of fun, but it is also WORK. Lugging around a basket of cookies all day leaves you with one less hand for everything and one more thing to drop or misplace. Also, when I was “on duty” for cookie brigade I didn’t find myself being caught up in random conversations with the people I was reaching out to as much. I was always handing out cookies, taking money, then moving on to the next group. This wasn’t necessarily bad – actually it was a great way to spend line time. When I got in line for an event I’d have people hold my space while I went on duty and walk the line – finding a lot of appreciative people who had often skipped a meal to secure their ideal place near the front. After brigading all of Friday I cleared out my remaining stash on Saturday and took the rest of the day off. I’d meant to do more on Sunday but they were out of cookies by then. Next year I plan on baking and distributing – the organizers were super-helpful, but meeting up with them was slightly complicated and if I’m my own supply next year I can be a lot more flexible and productive.

I also buttoneered this year. Another event/clan/group/game from the PAX forums, buttoneers make custom button and trade them with outer buttoneers. My design was something that jumped in my head the moment I heard about buttoneers: The Nintendo Power #1 game tip of all time – Talk to Everyone. It’s something I learned at the first PAX – everyone is awesome, and the worst thing they can say to you is “I’m busy right now.” There were a lot of awesome designs, and I think I’ll be doing a more in-depth article later about both the plethora of buttons I acquired and the philosophy behind my own buttons. Long story short: huge success.

Finally, my last and favorite project: the Reverse Signing for Wil Wheaton. Some one-post-wonder who I never got to formally thank made a suggestion on the PA forums: since Wil was doing fewer signings this year, we’d all sign random things for him to show our appreciation. The flaw in that plan was the potential volume of total gifts: if everyone signed a poster or a D&D module things might get out of hand. I refined the idea slightly by purchasing a Moleskine notebook and having people write notes to Wil inside it. All throughout the weekend, at parties and in lines, I’d ask people if they wanted to leave a note to Wil. Some places people looked at me like I’d grown another head, other places it was like they’d been waiting for someone to ask them this for a long time. As a group, though, Wil’s fans were the nicest people I talked to the entire con.

Doing this signing also necessitated I find a way to actually talk to Wil. I planned on going to the last signing on Sunday and got there reasonably early. I immediately asked if anyone there wanted to sign the book and the response was very nearly overwhelming: almost everything had something. I slowly watched as the book took on a life of its own, drifting through the line, each person explaining to the person next to them what it was for. It was a sort of crazy con magic. Eventually the line was capped – nobody else would be allowed in. At that point I started to offer the book to people cut off from the line. Several gratefully signed it. One guy asked if anyone could take his dice bag to Wil… he’d just purchased his first dice bag because of the D&D podcasts. I didn’t have anything to be signed (that wasn’t the point) so I decided to take pity on him and take his pouch.

Soon the line dwindled down. I’d actually moved toward the back with my book, so I was now second to last in line. I approached him with the dice bag I’d accepted and explained the story behind it. As he was signing it, I presented him with the book and told its tale. As he opened it his reaction was overwhelming. “Oh my god, this is the nicest thing.” He turned its pages with, dare I say, reverence? My first thought was “Hooray!” My second thought was “no… I didn’t put enough work into it for this. I just… I just talked to people. I have to do it again, better.” I did get a hug though. I’m not made of humility, after all.

As soon as I was out of the line someone asked me “was that the Reverse Signing book? Oh man, I wanted to sign that.” With that I decided to start another project, so that everyone who didn’t get a chance could sign it again this year. I’ve given myself a new mission, imprecisely defined as it may be.

And that was the essence of my PAX this year. More details and anecdotes to come after I return from the wilds of Pennsylvania this weekend.