Shore Leave con report, part deux

As you could tell from some of the pictures in the last entry, some Stargate fans had gotten together and assembled a life-size version of the Atlantis gate. For some reason they built it up on a platform (that you had to access from a makeshift plywood ramp), so it didn’t look like it was set into the floor like it’s supposed to. I imagine they incorporated the platform so as to have something to bolt the base of the Stargate to, thus making it more OSHA-compliant and less likely to fall and smash someone into the ground. Lest you think I’m just being nit-picky for no reason, I’d like to point out that I’ve already seen a fan-created Atlantis Stargate that is totally free standing and not bolted to a platform. It’s all a matter of how you engineer your build.

We still ended up taking pictures in front of it.

I mean, how can you not? Huge freakin’ Stargate at the end of a hallway? How could you not? What made it even cooler was the fact that someone had brought along an LCD projector and pointed it at the blue fabric hanging in back of the gate, so it had the whole “ripply water” effect going on. You can’t really make the effect out in the pictures we took of it with Maggie’s camera. I think we were at the wrong angle to catch it. However, you can see it in the first picture on the last post. We didn’t take that one.

After lunch we split up for a bit. Well, Megaganie went one way and LeeAnn headed off to the pool. Megaganie putzed about the con for a while. Originally we had intended to wait in line for Jason Momoa’s autograph. When we headed over, though, we learned that they were trying something a little different for his and Rachel Luttrell’s lines. Instead of having folks stand in lines in the hallway, they were going to call people’s badge numbers. You know, “All folks with badges 1-100” and so on. When your badge range was called, THEN you could go stand in line. That’s right. You still had to stand in a freaky long line. We had badges somewhere past 1000. I think we might have been around 1045, but I’m not sure.

Now, in some ways this might be a good idea. It can cut down significantly on the number of people waiting in the line, if done right. Personally, though, I think there were more things wrong with this method than right. First of all, they sent people around with boards announcing the badge numbers. Okay…it’s going to take a while for these folks to get through all of the rooms where the convention is going on. What if people are sitting in a panel? Are you going to bust into the room and announce numbers, thereby disrupting everyone else’s day? What if someone needs to go up to their room – either to retrieve something, go to the bathroom, lay down because they have a headache, etc. They miss hearing their badge number called. What if someone only had a specific time period in which they were going to be able to wait in line. They’re number gets called but not when they can get away from their other duties, and they’re screwed. What if someone is Deaf and can’t hear when the volunteer wanders around, bellowing numbers? From prior experience, I can attest to the fact that there are a great number of individuals at cons who have a disability that might prevent them from hearing the number called or getting to the line in a timely fashion.

Before I go much further I want to point out that I’m not being bitter about this aspect of the con because I didn’t get my autograph. I did. He signed the insert of one of my Atlantis DVDs. It’s important to look at the success of a con through eyes other than your own, though. To that end, I want you to consider this: we didn’t hear badges in our number range being called until we were already very much in the middle of preparations for the Masquerade on Saturday evening. I had already put on my gray trouser socks and sandals and had started to get into costume bits when someone walked past the Green Room calling “All Badges!” LeeAnn, whose costume consisted of nice street clothes, offered to go stand in line but I didn’t want her to do that. It’s not a barrel of laughs waiting in a line with friends. Waiting by yourself for a signature from someone whose show you don’t watch? I’m not going to make anyone do that for me. Besides, I was having a fun time being incapacitated in the Green Room. 🙂

No, I’m not being snide or sarcastic. (Not there, either)

The Green Room was in a bit of a shambles throughout most of the set-up to the Masq, as well as during and afterwards. Gone were the den mothers that Maggie and I had loved so much during our first competition up in Canada. Groups were just settled here and there throughout the tiny room, belongings getting jostled and mixed up in the excitement. Our little quartet set up camp in one corner of the room. We needed an out of the way place to set the wings and hula hooped dresses until it came time to get dressed. There were none of the check-ins and overviews that were so present and time-consuming at Polaris and, quite honestly, I kind of missed that. Even though it was tedious, you came out of the whole planning part with a pretty good idea of how things were going to work. With the Shore Leave masquerade we didn’t even know that we were supposed to walk off the front of the stage until the first entry came out!

This was only the second masquerade that Maggie and I have participated in. It was the first for Mel and LeeAnn. I had originally hoped to put together the audio for the skit before the con. Actually, to be fair to myself, I did. In fact, I had three different versions of the skit, each with different variations of echo and volume. Unfortunately, to get my taped bits loud enough and sound like the sound clips I had of the Doctor’s speech from the “Blink” episode I had to put a fair bit of echo on my clips. When I joined said clips together the Doctor’s bits (teeheehee) came out rather tinny and hard to understand. David Tennant speaks really quickly anyway, so the echo effect doesn’t help. In the end we had to use Mel’s computer to cobble together the skit. It opened with about 20 seconds of the current Doctor Who theme music and went on to Maggie and I doing the voices for the Doctor and his companion. I’d still like to have a better version of it, but it did the job. Thank goodness for Garage Band’s podcast setting!

I had brought along an extra cd to burn the final audio copy onto, but when I popped it into the computer we found out it wasn’t blank at all. Oh joy. Thankfully, I had my thumb drive on me and I just saved it on that instead. Not having the sound on a disk that I could hand over meant an extra step in the whole process, though. While Mel and Maggie set things up in the corner of the Green Room LeeAnn and I walked down the hall to the ballroom with instructions to talk to the sound guy.

This is where we met some resistance.

We found the doors to the ballroom, but they were being guarded by two volunteers. We explained why we were there but were told that, unless we were part of the tech crew, we couldn’t go in. Even though the tech director for the masq had just told us to come here? Yep. Even though we had been given instructions to go in by someone in charge, we couldn’t go in. I was frazzled by that point – and standing in a crowded hallway wearing knee high gray trouser socks, shiny pewter-colored sandals, a pair of blue gym pants that ended just below my knees, a bright red tank top, and my olive green Jedi tunic like an open robe, I might point out. Thankfully LeeAnn was there to take over with her teacher voice. She asked if they could get someone from inside the ballroom, then, so we could resolve the situation and get back to getting ready. They hadn’t even thought of alternate solutions. The sound guy waved us past the check point a minute later and we made short work of transferring the audio for the skit onto his laptop. That done, we headed back to the Green Room.

My Blink Angel costume is probably the most restrictive thing I’ve ever worn. When everything is on, my hands and arms are completely covered, as is my face, neck and head. The mask isn’t necessarily uncomfortable – it’s got breathing holes for the nose and mouth, and my vision in the mask isn’t nearly as bad as it is when I’m wearing my Potter Puppet Pals head. In fact, the biggest problem in regards to vision is simply that I can’t wear my glasses when I’ve got the mask on, so things are blurry, rather than simply hard to see. I can see people, where I’m going, etc. I just can’t see fine detail.

One of the things about the the Blink Angel costumes that does irritates me a bit is that it kind of requires another person be there to help you get into the whole thing. I’ve not worn many costumes that require a handler, even at the dressing stage. Mel helped me untwist the tights as I put them on over my head; Mel, Mag and LeeAnn had to pin my head sleeve to the tunic, I couldn’t tuck the back flap over the wing harness and into my skirt by myself…at times it felt like I was a kindergartner who hadn’t yet mastered the art of getting dressed. By the end of the night, though, I was able to put the wig and mask back on all by myself. There were a couple of moments during the initial dressing stage where I was completely surrounded by Mel, Mag and LeeAnn. My tunic was being tugged and pinned, my head sleeve stretched, and my personal bubble very much invaded. It was that point at which I realized how much I’m really able to deal with. If I tended more towards the claustrophobic end of the spectrum I’m sure I would have run from the room screaming. As it was, I was rather relaxed. It was similar in some strange way to the state of zen I enter when I get my face wrapped in cold, dripping plaster.

The wings weren’t as big of a problem while I was walking around as I thought they’d be. They change your balance a bit, of course. They feel heavier when you’re carrying them around in your arms than when you’re actually wearing them, too. I ended up using part of an old backpack for the harness for my wings. And duct tape. Lots and lots of duct tape. My wings also got a nice, new paint job from Maggie and Mel in the hotel room Friday night. They had looked fine in the light in my workspace down in the basement, but when compared to Maggie’s they were WAY too dark. Of course, a lot of my stuff, when compared to Maggie’s, tends to look like crap. Stoopid artist training….

In the end the biggest problem with my wings came from other people. For some reason they just could not seem to avoid running into them. There was one guy in particular – who had been wandering around selling ratty looking Tribbles earlier in the day – who just didn’t seem to care that he was nearly destroying them every time he shoved by in back of me. As I had my back to him (as I straddled a chair in a very undignified but rather comfortable manner), I couldn’t glare at him. Maggie, Mel and LeeAnn did that for me. A few other people in the Green Room weren’t paying much attention to where they were going or whose wings they trounced on. At one point I was nearly dragged off my chair when someone ran into them. I’m actually surprised that the wing didn’t pop off the harness. And that I managed to remain seated and vaguely upright. Folks apologized that time.

Eventually they called our number for the masquerade. We marched down the hall – a much shorter walk than the one we’d had to contend with at Polaris – and headed into the backstage area. Stage ninjas were waiting to guide us up the three or four short steps leading to the stage. I want to pause here and say that, of the two stage set-ups I’ve been privy to for a masq, I MUCH preferred the one at Shore Leave. There were lights underneath the stairs, with little cut-outs in the front, so you could really see where they were going. The stage was marked with white tape, so it was easy to figure out where you needed to go and where the stairs going down were. There was a wonderful amount of wing space, too. Actually, the wings for the temporary stage were deeper than the wing space on the stage back at my old high school!

The skit itself went pretty well. There was a moment’s bumbling on my part, as I started to step into the hula hoop at the bottom of my dress when I moved forward. Mel and LeeAnn did fantastically well with their part (LeeAnn later told me it was weird to be on stage, syncing to Maggie’s voice) and I heard from a number of people that we were wonderfully creepy.

The judging for the masq took longer than it usually does, apparently. Eventually we wandered back in to the ballroom area and listened as the results were read. The workmanship awards were announced first. Mel and LeeAnn were both of the mind that we should have entered for workmanship – a notion that was further supported by other folks who had been in the masq that night themselves.

We ended up winning 2nd place in our division – and received an honest-to-goodness trophy this time! We couldn’t figure out what to classify ourselves as when we filled out the forms, so we put ourselves down for Recreation. One of the theories is that we would have placed even higher if we’d entered in the straight Sci-Fi division. I was happy with what we won, though. Especially considering it’s only the second time Maggie and I have made things for a competition outside of our Halloween party.Although winning the trophy and placing 2nd was a pretty cool achievement it was the comments made by all the folks in the Green Room in the time leading up to the show that I appreciated most. As Maggie and I balanced in our backwards chairs we could hear the other entrants oohing and aahing over the wings and our stone-like arms. I kept hearing “I hope they win for Best in Show” over and over again. Maggie and I just kept shooting each other looks and tried to hold back our grins.

Now, it might seem odd that people who are in the running themselves for Best in Show are cheering for other people to win. Most of the folks I’ve met in masquerades – though they admit winning would be nice – are not actually in it for the win. They’re in it because they, like me, love costumes. They love to have a place to wear them around and not be mocked for having a “weird” hobby.

Personally I think a big part of their well-wishing had to do with one of the other entrants. Apparently the girl who won Best in Show this time around always wins. In fact, she’s won so many times that other people have just given up going up against her. It’s just been a given that she’ll win. From the impression I got from one of the judges afterwards, though, we made it a really tough decision this year. That brings me joy – not the least because the judge waded through the crowded hall and sought us out to say that it was a difficult choice.

In the end, I’ll take the feedback from fellow costumers over the actual award.

So…do I consider the con a success? In part, yes. The masquerade was fun, though poorly planned and rather disorganized. It would be hard for me to not enjoy a chance to wear a costume. Plus, I got to share the evening with three awesome friends. There were opportunities to geek out and I got the signatures I planned to get. I met some interesting people and had a couple ideas for new blog posts. I laughed for a good part of the weekend.

In part, no. While the guests were all fantastic, the staff was kind of lacking. Not in amount. They were kind of lacking in quality. Mel lost her badge on Saturday night, while changing for the con. When she went to the info booth/lost and found to see if someone had dropped it off, they refused to help her. They just looked at her and said “We’ve already packed everything up.” Even though they knew she’d need it for the rest of the evening. The next day they were going to charge her $30. We ended up just heading out earlier than we originally planned.

While there were some familiar, friendly faces (Tom – who was the masquerade director and Marty Gear) we also encountered a fair number of staff members who were entirely unpleasant. I can understand being overwhelmed and tired and wanting people and problems to go away. I’ve been in that position. I’ve run big events. Granted nothing like a con, but a powwow with no funding and only two other staff members who are as clueless as you are is nothing to sneeze at. If you are on the staff for an event the one thing you can’t do is take your frustration out on the folks attending the con. If you do, they won’t come back.

Case in point: we don’t intend to return to Shore Leave in the foreseeable future. From now on, it’s Polaris or bust.


3 thoughts on “Shore Leave con report, part deux

  1. Wow are you really full of yourself or what? Wish I had seen this much sooner. Your so-called ‘assumptions’ are just that with regards to Shore Leave 31 Masquerade and the Best in Show, Best in Workmanship, Best in Fantasy, and Most Beautiful winner…for your information it was her FIRST ever competition. Kinda hard to be the ‘constant’ winner if you never competed before? Feel stupid now, hope so. If you know anything, which you don’t apparently, about Shore Leave Masquerade, the workmanship judges have been in the business for decades. So please by all means take your pretentious attitude elsewhere, your kind is not appreciated at Masquerade. By the By, we even thought you had great costumes, its the person wearing it with the attitude that is unbecoming.

    • No, I’m not really full of myself. I’m the first to admit that I make mistakes, that I’m not the best at anything, really, and that I am by no means in the top ranks of the costumers who frequent the different cons I’ve been to. Shore Leave included.

      If you re-read the section of the entry regarding the masquerade, I mention that I was really quite happy with the turnout of the Shore Leave 31 Masquerade. It had the best layout of all of the masqs I’ve been in, the people who run it are wonderful (Yes, they were busy and running around, but that’s also the nature of running an event. As someone who’s been involved in the behind-the-scenes of other events, I understand that there’s not a lot of time for the ones in charge to really kick back and chat much with every participant). I know the director of the Masquerade and, like I said, I think the whole thing comes off quite nice. When we had an issue getting our sound all fixed, the masquerade staff was helpful and full of suggestions. Our only problem was getting into the actual staging area to talk to the sound crew. The only suggestions I have are in regards to just mentioning that the exit from the stage is on the front, not on the side. I loved all of the costumes I saw in the Green Room, and I fully agree that the Best in Show winner was fully deserving of the award. It was an absolutely beautiful costume.

      As for the “assumptions” about the winner and everything else connection…they weren’t assumptions, they were just things that were told to me. They might well be incorrect – after all, they were told to me, and we all make mistakes. I was told that the maker of the costume consistently wins. Again, she was fully deserving. I was simply mentioning that folks were kind enough to think that our second-only contest entry was decent enough to at least be in the running. It was a surprise to me, and I never even expected us to place, as far as the awards went. I think there were other costumes that were just as deserving, if not more so. Like I said, it was the interaction with fellow costumers that I really appreciated. We learn from each other, and that definitely happened.

      I know that the workmanship judges have been in the business for a long time. It shows in their own absolutely stellar work, as well as in the wonderful advice they give to new costumers just starting out. I re-read my entry, and there’s nothing in it that says they don’t know what they are doing. In fact, I left out the fact that the workmanship judges told us later that we need to consider putting some of our pieces in for individual judging. Again, they shared their experience and insight with us. We didn’t know that you could submit individual aspects of a costume for workmanship judging. In point of fact, we didn’t submit any part of our costumes for workmanship, so we didn’t have official contact with the workmanship judges during the competition. Only afterwards.

      Now, as for the “pretentious attitude”…How so? Like I said, I don’t think I’m all that when compared to other costumers and people. I am truly in awe of the pieces I see out there, and most of the time I’m surprised when my own pieces hold together at all. I went to Shore Leave again this year and, as far as I know, the winner for Most Beautiful (and a few other awards) was the same individual who won at 31. And, again, it was stunning and awe-inspiring and she was fully deserving of winning her awards. As for “my kind” not being appreciated at Masquerade, what kind would that be? A human being who perhaps repeated misinformation that she received from others? If I am truly wrong about repeating what other folks told me about one of the winners being a regular winner, then I’m sorry for that. Beyond that, I haven’t said anything negative about fellow contestants. And, again, there was nothing negative about what I said about the winner. All I said was that we were, for a brief moment, in the running, and fellow contestants were generous enough to think we had a place in the competition. The most deserving person won, and there is no doubt about that.

      I’m not sure whether you were a fellow contestant, a judge, or just a con-goer to Shore Leave 31. I don’t know if we had any contact at all, beyond being in the same place the same year. I figure, though, that you must have some connection to the afore-mentioned Best in Show (etc.) winner. Working from that assumption (and yes, I will admit that that is an assumption that I am making), I can see why you might have felt it necessarily to blast me. I never said anything bad about the costume, but perhaps I didn’t heap enough praise on it in the original post, either. That does not mean I didn’t like it, or the contestant. It just means I didn’t write down the praise.

      I harbor no ill-will against you for your comments. If I did, I wouldn’t have approved the comment you left. And, yes…I have to approve comments for them to show up here. If I were full of myself, I could’ve deleted them and not thought anything more about them. But I believe in being honest and straightforward and, most of all, I believe in open communication. I also believe in being a bit kind when offering criticism. It hurts to be called stupid, no matter the context. Being wrong (which, in your opinion, I am) is not being stupid.

      I hope that you will see this reply in the way it is meant – an attempt to clear up any miscommunication and misunderstandings, and not as a personal attack of any kind.

      • Perhaps I should weigh in here as the costume designer, not model, of both the Shore Leave 31 costume “Sea Beacon”, as well as Shore Leave 33 Astranaithes costume. I appreciate, Meg, that you took the time to reply regarding the miscommunication, and clarified your post. Having read through the original post several times, often its more about perception, rather than what is intended? Yes? Please accept my apologies therefore in the spirit they are meant for misconstruing your intent based upon that perception, as well as for the ‘stupid’ part of the post, as you are correct in stating that it was neither appropriate or constructive criticism, rather a knee jerk reaction when words often fail us. Also, please know it wasn’t that you didn’t ‘heap’ praise on the winner, it was the implication that the costume didn’t win on its own merits, but rather implied that ‘she always wins’ suggesting that you and whomever else was in the running were somehow cheated. For any costumer, whether they always ‘win’ or not, that implication that they won simply because of that perception rather than on merit is highly insulting, and you do costumers, like yourself, a disservice when that is the impression you give.

        I didn’t find the original blog, I was directed to it by an interested party. I do not compete often in Masquerade simply because I’ve rarely had time to devote to costuming in the past. In fact, it had been years since I showed at Shore Leave at all prior to 31. That anyone was even familiar with my work then is still a mystery, perhaps they thought I was someone else, who knows. But I guess that suggests not to give validity to rumor and innuendo, rather just go to the source :). I would have loved a moment to have spoken with your group in the Green Room, but I was still futzing with Sea Beacon and overcoming some LED issues so was focused on that. I thought your Angels were great, and even I thought you were all a shoe in for Best in Show, I never thought for a moment Sea Beacon would take more than Workmanship and 1st in Fantasy. I’m not a skit person preferring a solo model, and stand alone costumes like Sea Beacon rarely take Best in Show at Masquerade, I was more surprised than anyone.

        In the end, Meg, I think it comes down to this: take pride in the work you do, be genuine, be honest, and above all remember that just by competing you win. Not everyone has the nerve, or know-how to create a costume, those that can’t love to watch those that do. Shore Leave is a small con, gets smaller every year, and I’ve been going for nearly 12 years. Not even five years ago, there were nearly 75 entries in Masquerade, now we barely scrape up 25. When you post a blog, as you have, that is very negative in many instances, you hurt a Cons ability to encourage new blood to attend. Sure, things aren’t perfect, they don’t always run smoothly, but that’s a Con. Some years are better than others. Please just remember that, and I’m sorry that so much didn’t ‘go right’ for you at Shore Leave 31, glad you didn’t take your own advice, and returned this year in spite of it. You seem to enjoy going to Cons, so you understand how important it is to encourage new blood to attend or they cease to exist. I hope you will attend again, and compete in Masquerade, because you are both innovative and creative. :))

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