Shiny People! – Farpoint 2011

It is official…Farpoint is awesome. I know, I know. I declared it such last year when it came time to write up my con reports about it. It could have been a fluke. It could have been an awesome con last year, simply because all the stars and planets aligned to make it so (haha…didja get the not-so-clever Star Trek reference there?). I do not believe that was the case, though. Once again, the folks who put together Farpoint planned and ran a wonderful con. There were fantabulous guests (quit sneering. That is a real word, for the purposes of this post). There were costumes! There were dealers with wonderful wares to tempt me with. There were awesome fellow fans to talk to. And talk to them I did.

At one point, fairly early on in the con, I remarked to Maggie that Farpoint is more of a “chat with people” convention than many of the others we go to. Maggie’s response was “Yeah…I don’t really do that. That’s your job.” Maggie really doesn’t do “chatty” at conventions, except to people in whatever group we put together to go with. My labeling of Farpoint as the “chat with people” con is not to say I don’t chat with people at Polaris or Dragon*Con or Shore Leave. It’s just…I talk to what seems like EVERYONE at Farpoint. And I absolutely love it. I’m talking LOVE. If I could somehow make those letters shimmer and dance about, I would, just to try to get my point across.

Now, before I get much farther into the actual con day…some lead up. The

Best. Scarf. Ever.

 night before the convention, Maggie and I retired to our respective houses to prepare. She wanted to take her Sith costume to Farpoint again this year, minus the wig which, she claims, makes her feel like she’s burning up. I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to take to Farpoint this year. Part of me wanted to take the Blink Angel again, but I need to make new sleeves. There was my Jedi stuff…but it’s gotten rather big and I haven’t had time to take it in or make new items. I didn’t want to take Kowl, as he really needs other She-Ra characters around him for context. I didn’t want to wear my Popple, either, as I’m still not 100% happy with it. Though, now that I think of it, there would probably be a number of people at Farpoint who would know what I was.

After looking through my choices, I decided I’d just go with my Kaylee costume. It’s uber-comfortable, it was clean, and I’ve only had one opportunity to wear the “new” version of the coveralls since I put the whole thing together. Also, the costume has the most important thing for comfortable convention attendance. POCKETS! There are pockets everywhere on that friggin’ jumpsuit. There are so many, I have a tendency to forget about half of them. I pulled out my Kaylee shirt (not film accurate, but something I can imagine her having in her dresser, or wherever she keeps her clothes on that ship), my altered flightsuit, and my boots. Honestly, the boots might need to be replaced. Or, at the very least, repaired in strategic places with some sort of sealant.

Late in the evening I got a text from Maggie, saying she couldn’t find half of her stuff, and the stuff that she could find didn’t really fit right, and that her red contacts that she purchased at Dragon*Con were apparently not completely sealed. One of the contacts had dried out and kind of shriveled up. I advised her to go ahead and soak the lens over night in a crap-load of solution, and hope that it would be rehydrated the next morning. Luckily, it worked.

We set out on Saturday morning – after a brief stop at the coffee shop for caffeine and breakfast – and wound up getting to the Crowne Plaza a little after 10am. There was only one panel I wanted to attend at that time and it had already started, so we opted to check out the dealer space instead.

As usual, there was a nice assortment of booths at Farpoint. The first had some excellent t-shirts. Maggie picked out one that read “Real Tears Excite Me.” I didn’t get one, but I saw several I liked. Among my favorites were: “Support your local medical examiner…die strangely,” “Bondage Instructor: Let me show you the ropes,” and a shirt that depicted about 20 sci-fi weapons with the phrase “Celebrate Diversity” written underneath.

There were two steampunk booths I fell in love with. The first we came to was Got Steam? There were two parts to the booth – corsets, and assorted steampunk merchandise. There were so many lovely items. Of course, there was a pith helmet, which I love, but I’m of the mind that Tesla wouldn’t wear one. Like me, she finds hats fun, but she has yet to find one that’s practical enough for her to wear. There were, however, some lovely face shields that I think go nicely with her character. And there was a belt with places for test tubes, and many other lovely items. I picked up a card and, if I ever get money, I can definitely see some of it going to this business.

The other booth was Lady Heather’s Fashions. My attention was first drawn to the booth by the sight of a really frilly, fluffy skirt that was displayed above the booth itself. Normally, I’m not one for frilly and fluffy things. I’m clumsy and they tend to get snagged. That being said, I was very much drawn to the skirt. When Maggie and I swung by Lady Heather’s, I was drawn to a number of other items within the booth. Namely, functional tool belts, of the sort that Tesla would most definitely wear during her travels. Lady Heather herself was at the booth, working on a new piece, and mentioned that she also does custom work. Again, when I get money…

Amongst the usual items one finds at sci-fi/fantasy conventions are groups selling patches. Starbase Atlanta – the largest vendor at Dragon*Con – had a booth at Farpoint. I was on the lookout for a very specific Jurassic Park patch that I had seen down in Atlanta the previous year. Heather has plans for a Jurassic Park costume and, when she told me, we had tried to find the patch. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to locate it at second time at Dragon*Con. Fortunately, Starbase Atlanta had one to sell at Farpoint! I called Heather and she chose the “Park Ranger” patch.

The other patch I was on the lookout for was one for my Rebecca Chambers costume. It’s the black and white “S.T.A.R.S. Raccoon Pol. Dept.” patch she wears on the arm of her t-shirt. The guy who ran the booth pulled out his boxes of patches and told me he’d sold out of that specific one. He had the other two versions (one is blue, the other olive green) but not the one I needed. He said I could order it online. I decided to see if I could find it at one of the other two booths also selling patches.

The first one I came to after Starbase Atlanta had the blue and green patches, but not the black one. The booth opposite from them had one hanging up on their patch board. I asked the vendor if he had one in stock. He didn’t but asked if I wanted the one off the board. That wasn’t even something the guy at the first booth had offered, and I jumped at the opportunity. Two patches in hand, Maggie and I moved on through the vendors.

I had gotten a couple of smiles and nods and people going “Hey! Kaylee!” by that point. I’d seen a really nicely done Mal costume when I was over near Starbase Atlanta. Unfortunately, every time I saw him, Maggie was nowhere to be seen, so I didn’t get a picture with him. I did, however, see someone dressed as Wash. We were both heading in opposite directions when we passed the first time, so I didn’t stop to talk right then. I did make a point of tracking him down later and getting a picture, though. His name was easy enough to remember – Josh. I actually wrote down the note “Josh is the Wash I saw” in my con notes.

At one point I was stopped by the women who ran a booth with chainmail jewelry and sci-fi buttons and asked about my coveralls. They wanted to know whether I had made them myself from a pattern, or gotten them from someplace specific. My Kaylee 2.0 costume, as I sometimes refer to it, is made from a U.S. Air Force flight suit – olive green. It took some altering. Kaylee’s suit doesn’t have sleeves, and has rather large pockets just below the waist. While the flightsuit I bought had a multitude of pockets, as I’ve already mentioned, those big ones were missing. Since I needed to take the sleeves off anyway, I just cut them open and used the fabric to create the missing pockets. They turned out nicely, if I do say so myself.

It turns out one of the women at the booth has been trying to make a Star Trek: Enterprise uniform for a few years now. So far, she’s been unable to find a pattern or an existing uniform that matches the look. I told her about Unique – the thrift store on Gallows Road where I got my flightsuit – and suggested she try there.

A little later in the day, I actually spotted a gentleman sporting a ST:Enterprise jumpsuit. I hurried over to him and asked how he’d made his. He said it was a US Navy jumpsuit that he had just added the needed patches to on the shoulder. I pointed him in the direction of the ladies at the booth and told him they would be interested in how he’d made his costume.

Look at me. Connecting costumers, one person at a time.

As we circled back to the front of the dealer’s room, Maggie and I encountered a guy wearing a Browncoats t-shirt and carrying a bunch of photography equipment. He introduced himself – Steve Guminski – and asked if we had been at Dragon*Con in 2010. When I told him we were, he explained that he had been the official photographer of the Whedon track last year and wondered if he had taken a picture of me there. I don’t remember him from Dragon*Con, though, and I remember most of the situations at that con when people stopped me for a picture.

On a sidenote – I rarely get stopped for photos at Dragon*Con, unless I’m already doing an interesting pose for my own fun. Throughout the day at Farpoint, though, people kept asking me for photos, and commenting on the costume. One of my favorite moments was when some Battlestar: Gallactica people seated a few tables away from Maggie and I in the lobby shouted over the crowd “Great Kaylee!” I joked to Maggie that I’ve certainly found the place for my Kaylee costume.

Anyhoo, Steve asked if he could take a picture of me now, since he hadn’t gotten me at Dragon*Con. I agreed and Maggie and I posed together. While he was snapping a picture, I noticed a Jawa and a Tusken Raider walking past the masquerade registration table, behind Steve. I went “Tusken Raider! Tusken Raider!” through my teeth, and I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of the pictures he took of me looks a little crazed.

I was so excited to see them, I dashed off as soon as he finished a few shots, desperately trying to catch up with the two costumed con-goers. Apparently, Steve remarked as I rushed off “Wow. She’s definitely excitable like Kaylee.” Maggie shook her head and replied “You have no idea.”

Of course, I didn’t hear any of that. It was only later, after I’d taken my pictures of the two Star Wars characters and Maggie and I were talking about random fandom things that she told me about his reaction. I will admit that, out of all of the characters I dress as, Kaylee is the closest to my own personality. Perhaps that’s why people don’t mind sitting down and chatting with me at conventions.

Speaking of…the next random stranger I talked to was a guy carrying a big silver case and wearing a jacket that said “Forensics” across the back. When he turned around and talked with me, I noticed he had a CSI badge on the front. It turns out he was in charge of doing the makeup for a few of his friends that evening, and that’s what was in the silver case. He told Maggie and I a story about being in a convenience store once, while wearing his jacket, and a guy came up to him and said “My wife loves that show! You’re the real thing, aren’t you?” and proceeded to talk to him about forensic science. The makeup guy isn’t actually a criminal investigator, but he figured he’d just let the other guy talk to him about it.

Cookies!

Halfway through the day, Maggie mentioned she’d heard Girl Scouts were selling cookies at the convention. Sure enough, I spotted a flyer on one of the walls that said “Come to the Dark Side…we have Girl Scout cookies.” There was a number to call, which I did, and I was directed to a room where the cookies were available. Since Maggie was the one who really wanted the cookies, I sent her along without me and went to grab some water.

I can only imagine what it was like for the woman selling the cookies to poke her head out of her hotel room and see Maggie, in her Sith costume, with her bright red eyes and makeup, standing in the hallway with her lightsaber. I imagine it’s going to be one of those stories that gets included in Girl Scout cookie-selling lore.

While Maggie was off shaking down Girl Scouts for her Samoa fix, I took the opportunity to chat up a kilted Stormtrooper and, in the process, check an item off my convention “to-do” list.

If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know that I have had the deep-seated desire to try on a Stormtrooper helmet for some time. The last time I spoke to a contingent of Stormtroopers (Dragon*Con 2009), I was covered in zombie makeup and fake blood that was dripping everywhere. Not a situation where random strangers would be willing to let me try on their helmet.

This time, however, I was free of goopy fake blood and apparently looked disarming enough that, when I asked the kilted trooper if I could try on his helmet, he took it off and offered it to me without question. He did say it might not fit because he has a small head. I didn’t think there’d be a problem. My head looks a lot bigger than it actually is, because my hairs rather poofy and uncontrollable most of the time.

When he handed it to me, I noticed it was actually a bit bigger than the other helmets I’ve seen (stop giggling and get your mind out of the gutter). He explained that his helmet is actually an FX helmet, and is made a bit bigger than the ones in the regular kits. That way, you can put fans and voice boxes inside it and still have enough room for your head.

Despite forgetting my digital recorder at home, I conducted a short interview with the kilted trooper – whose name, by the by, is Anthony. He bought the suit from a guy overseas and ended up spending a number of months cutting it down to the right size, as the previous owner was about 6’5″ and he is 5’8″. He had a friend help him. “Basically, I was a living mannequin while he worked on the stuff,” he said. “I didn’t want to do it myself and mess it up, since it was so expensive.”

Now, despite not being able to try on the helmets of the troopers I interviewed at Dragon*Con, I had been granted a glimpse inside two of their helmets. I remember the visors on both of the helmets I looked inside being light blue. Anthony’s visor, however, was green. And a fairly dark green at that. When I tried it on, I could barely see.

I asked him how he saw with it on and he replied, “I don’t. That’s why I have a handler.” He smiled and motioned towards his friend, Ray. He said it was important for him to have a friend who didn’t mind following him around.

“There are times when it takes two people just to get into all the gear. And then, of course, he helps look out for my safety.” I recalled the three troopers from Dragon*Con telling me about some of the things people do to them when they’re in costume. Anthony said he’s been at events where someone from the garrison has been tackled by some idiot or people have come up and pounded on helmets.

Another reason you probably will never see me in Stormtrooper gear.

Look! A Time Agent!

Maggie and I didn’t actually attend any real panels throughout the day. The big things we wanted to see were Bonita Friedericy and the Luna-C show. As a result of not really having anything else planned, the two of us spent most of our time just hanging out in the lobby of the hotel, costume-watching and talking to random con-goers. Well, again, I was the one talking to random con-goers.

While we relaxed at one of the tables, I spotted a guy with what I deemed the “Best Random Fandom Shirt of the Day.” His name was Jason.

I can’t remember whether the Airbender couple came over to our table and asked for a picture, or if they just happened to be there and we ended up chatting…at any rate, the two people I refer to as “the Airbender couple” wound up talking to me about my Kaylee costume (According to the email I just received, the blue spirit’s name is Evan). They asked if I had the parasol, and I expressed sadness over the fact that I didn’t have one yet. The guy wearing the blue spirit mask said that he knew someone who sold them. He gave me the name “The Shady Emporium” and said they were offered at a pretty good price.

I mentioned the blog to him and handed him the address, as well as the blog-specific email. Josh happened to be standing there, as well, and he also received the address. One of these days, I’ll actually manage to get business cards made.

I inquired as to who made the blue spirit mask and learned it was the young woman dressed as Katara. The guy dressed as the blue spirit handed me the mask so I could take a closer look at it. She had used a full-face plastic masquerade mask as the base and sculpted the details out of paperclay. She actually used the same exact stuff I used to make my Blink Angel mask. When I mentioned it, the guy asked if I had been the Blink Angel at Farpoint last year. I laughed and said I was.

“Cool. Yeah, I remember there being two, I think.”

From Robot Chicken's Star Wars special. He even had it set up to play the theme music.

“Yep. I was one, and my friend Maggie, over there, would be the other one.”

I think it’s awesome that our Blink Angel costumes are remembered by random strangers, a year after the fact.

About that time, Maggie signaled that we needed to start heading to the Grand Ballroom if we wanted to get a seat for Bonita. We started heading towards the hall that leads to the ballroom. On the way, a man in a Resident Evil Umbrella Corp uniform sidled up to me and asked if I had the fluffy Kaylee dress to wear later in the evening.

“No, sadly. It’s on my list of costumes to make, but at the moment the ones I have to make for Dragon*Con take precedence.”

We started talking about the absolutely fantastic versions of the Kaylee dress we’ve seen done over the years. He mentioned the one he saw at Dragon*Con this past year, and I’m pretty sure we were talking about the same one – it’s worn by a young woman who looks just like Kaylee. I remembered there being a very nice version of the Kaylee layer cake dress at Farpoint’s masquerade last year. It might have actually been the same person at both conventions.

The two of us actually ended up talking a great deal in the hallway. At some point Maggie realized that I was no longer behind her on the way to see Bonita. She wandered back to where I had been waylaid and Thunderduck (as his con badge and the nametag on his back proclaimed him) and I were in deep discussion about the merits of functional costuming. Namely, costumes with pockets and places to store things. Since he was dressed in a Resident Evil costume, I mentioned I was planning to make a Rebecca Chambers costume for Dragon*Con this year, and that I was worried about the potential difficulties of making my flak vest. It’s got a specific look to it, which I haven’t yet found in pre-existing vest catalogs. Also, it’s specifically cut for a woman. The vests I’ve come across so far are pretty uni-sex. Rebecca’s has what basically amount to princess seams. I’ve got a lot of the material to fashion one, but something tells me it’s going to be one of the things that causes me problems. Fortunately, I’ve got the webbing belt done, and the pants are just green BDUs, which should be easy enough to get.

When he learned I was looking for certain military items, Thunderduck referred me to the site of “The Vest Guy.” The guy makes custom-made vests of all sorts. Many of them are based on patterns of vests which are no longer in production. He also suggested paintball gear websites which I, surprisingly, hadn’t really considered as a possible source for my Rebecca Chambers gear.

Oh, and if you’re interested, look up “Thunderduck” on scifihero.net. That’s the gent I was talking to.

A very blurry Bonita.

Eventually, we broke off the conversation and each headed our separate ways. Maggie and I found seats in the ballroom for Bonita’s talk. She began the whole Q&A by touting the wonders of a specific type of duct tape. It seems a part of her car fell off and she duct taped it back on. The thing hasn’t fallen off since.

She then proceeded to pull out two of her husband’s action figures. It took me a while to figure out who her husband was (it was written in the Farpoint booklet, but I hadn’t read that yet). Eventually, through context clues, I realized she’s married to John Billingsley. John was originally scheduled to appear at the convention as well, but had withdrawn in order to perform in a play that he had been trying to get a part in for quite some time.

Bonita goofed with the action figures a bit and wound up calling John on the phone, so he could talk to the audience a bit. It turns out he was actually very sick – to the point where he’d had to drop out of the play he was originally supposed to do. While she was talking to him he had a coughing fit, which elicited sympathy from the audience. Bonita’s response? “Oh, he’s an actor. Like that’s real.”

I ahve to say, I really enjoyed Bonita’s Q&A session. She, like all the actor guests I’ve had the chance to see at Farpoint, is very excited to interact with her fans. She’s got an incredibly quick wit when answering questions. I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow of the session, but I’ll say she’s definitely joined the ranks of awesome stars.

After Bonita’s talk, Maggie and I took a break for lunch. We were looking forward to eating at Northern Lights all week. It appeared that some new things had been added to the menu, but we ended up sticking with the chicken wrap – and it’s lovely, spicy sauce. Mmmm.

Following lunch (much easier to eat than the last time, when we were both in our Blink Angel get-ups), we meandered through the dealers again. While we went through the patches again Maggie was approached by a guy who was a bit…well, creepy is really the only word I can use. He asked Maggie if he could take a picture and went on to say “You’re definitely the most attractive Jedi I’ve seen.” He stepped away for a moment, only to return and say, not-at-all-suavely, “So. Where are you ladies from?” We replied and went about our business, but he followed Maggie over to another booth and asked whether she’d read any of the expanded universe.

At that point, I had to walk away or I was going to burst out laughing. I really need to make a sign to hang on Maggie at cons that reads “Please don’t talk to me.” Again, Maggie doesn’t do “chatty.”

Later that evening, Maggie and I found ourselves parked at one of the tables in the lobby, waiting for the time when we could go in and get seats for the Masquerade. I took out my con notes and started going over them, and Maggie snacked on some of her cookies.

Maggie pointed out that Indiana Jones was there. This time he was dressed in the uniform of a crew member from the Nostromo (extra points if you know what that’s from). I find it interesting that she can identify him, regardless of what costume he’s wearing. I also find it interesting that we only refer to him as “Indiana Jones,” despite the fact that we’ve only seen him wear that costume once. Why do we call him Indiana Jones, you ask? Simple, really. We don’t know his actual name, but the first time we met him was at Shore Leave, when he was dressed as Indiana Jones and was admiring our homemade lightsaber handles.

More people drifted into the lobby, assembling for the evening’s activities,

I love how the ones on the end are smiling.

 and we were soon joined by a man dressed as a US Colonial Marine. His uniform tag said “Burkett” and he later introduced himself to us as Don. Of course, that was long after he made his rather memorable entrance.

He walked over to our table, preceeded by an almost palpable aura of booze, and merely said “Thank you.”

Maggie and I sat in our seats and looked at him. I smiled. She said “Uh, you’re welcome.”

He reached out his hand and continued, “Thank you for not being a pussy Jedi.”

I chuckled to myself, thankful that I had chosen to attend Farpoint dressed as Kaylee. I’m not sure I would’ve fared well if I had been otherwise attired. As I am wont to do, I talked with Don about a variety of geek-related topics. We discussed the merits of Jedi vs. Sith. He revealed he really wanted to make a Darth Bane costume. I brought up the two versions I had seen at Dragon*Con the previous year, and Maggie pulled her pictures of them up on her Blackberry so he could see. He asked Maggie what the basis of her Sith character was – whether it was based on a pre-existing character or if she’d made it up herself – and asked if she’d considered making the costume for the blind female Sith lord…whose name I currently forget. She said she was thinking about it. She’s planning to dye her hair platinum blonde next, and her hairstyle is close enough to the character’s that she could pull it off.

Don mentioned that he doesn’t get down to Atlanta for Dragon*Con, as he works at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, which takes place at the same time. I asked what he did. Turns out he used to be a bartender at the Dragon Inn. Last year, though, he wound up working as a grove vendor. His wife, we learned, is the costume director of the festival. Most impressive! Eventually, one of Don’s friends came to fetch him. It seems their group was gonig to be celebrating the engagement of two of their friends. Don shook our hands and said “I’m going to go have an engagement drink, but I’ll be back in a bit.”

An hour later, it was clear he wasn’t coming back. I don’t know if he went back to his room, or what.

While we waited, I noticed a guy in an orange jumpsuit, carrying what appeared to be an ice cream maker. He spotted friends of his (I assume) who were peering out of the window of their hotel room, two floors above. They were dressed as the 10th and 11th Doctor. I watched as Orange Jumpsuit Guy walked over to the side of the lobby below their room and held his ice cream maker up towards them. Both Doctors took out their respective sonic screwdrivers and lit them up, pointing them down towards the ice cream maker. Then, Orange Jumpsuit Guy set down his prop, dug in a pocket and pulled out a Green Lantern ring. He put it on, it lit up, and he held it out towards them.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Gotta love random geeky fun.

The masquerade was, as expected, a fantastic amount of fun. My favorites mainly came from the children’s group. There was an adorable little dragon, a baby with a Yoda cap, the cutest damn Amelia Pond EVER! She came out with a Roman Centurian helmet (supposed to belong to Rory) and yelled “Na na nanana, I got your helmet!” The emcee immediately changed his Facebook status to “Amused as hell,” following her appearance. There was also an awesome Star Trek Enterprise costume. Not a costume from the show ST: Enterprise. The kid actually came out with the Enterprise on him. He was standing in the middle of the disk part – yes, I’m sure there’s a more technical term for it, but I’m not going to look it up right this minute – and the tail of the ship stuck out behind him. The thing even lit up. It was fantastic.

Maggie and I sat through the intermission – a shorter charity auction than last year’s and performances by musicians Insane Ian (check out his parody of Kesha’s “Tick Tock”) and Jonah Knight. I liked both of their stuff. They’ve got different styles – Ian is reminiscent of Weird Al, while Jonah’s got a more singer-songwriter vibe, for the most part. The song Jonah sang (the one about George Clooney) was rather bittersweet and almost made me tear up. That’s pretty impressive, considering I try not to cry in public. I definitely recommend both musicians.

We decided to head out before the winners of the Masquerade were announced. It had been a long day and we were both pretty beat. As we pulled out of the parking lot and started the hour-long drive back to Northern Virginia, I turned to Maggie and said “I don’t think I will ever get tired of talking to people at conventions.”

Quite honestly, that’s one of my absolute favorite parts of going to these things. Sure, I love the costumes – both wearing them and ogling others. Of course I enjoy meeting the actors and writers who bring me such fangirl glee and entertainment. Hell yes I enjoy perusing the wares at the dealers’ room. In the end, though, the thing that makes a convention great are the myriad of tiny moments I get to have with fellow fans.

Talking to people is, in a way, my job – seeing as how I’m a storyteller and a folklorist. Sure, I don’t get paid to do it, but that’s essentially what my vocation is. I love talking with people. Thankfully, I’ve got places like Farpoint where I can indulge that love.

All Points Far: Farpoint Con Report #2

Maggie and I got back to our hotel after the first day of Farpoint around 10:30. We’d had to swing by a 7-11 on the way so I could pick up some superglue to affix the fabric over the eyes of my Blink mask. Since I built the second mask over a pre-existing plastic base I couldn’t just use hot glue, as I had in the construction of the original mask. Well, I could have but it would have melted the plastic. I must have looked exhausted when I went in to get the superglue because the cashier on duty commented on it and asked if I had just gotten off a really long shift. Nope, I told him. Just coming from an all-day event.

Tired as we were we couldn’t get right to sleep as soon as we got back to the hotel. Apart from the gluing of the fabric over my mask’s eyes there were a couple of other touch-ups that needed to be done to the Blink Angel costumes. The major one was painting the wigs. Both wigs had been done kind of quickly back when we made the original costumes and there was a good deal of the white from the original mop heads peaking through. Maggie gave both wigs a good once over while I fought with the superglue. I eventually got everything to stick on my mask.

Sleeping was made a bit difficult by the light shining in the window of our room (despite having the blinds closed) and the thin blanket for the sleeper sofa that I was sleeping on. Our room never really warmed up, despite having the thermostat turned all the way up and I eventually just pulled my coat off the nearby chair and used that as an additional, albiet smaller, blanket.

After a quick breakfast the next morning we set out for the Crowne Plaza and Day Two of Farpoint. I think the parking gods must have known that we were going to be running from the car to the hotel wearing tank tops and jeans – coats had to be left in the car, as we didn’t want to carry them around with us – because we managed to find a parking spot fairly close to the door. We didn’t even have to run through slush!

Maggie and I set up a little camp in a corner of the women’s bathroom and set about getting all our gear on. The first step of getting ready for a day as a Blink Angel isn’t putting your stone-painted arms on or adjusting your wings. Nope. It’s much simpler than that. The first step to a costume as restrictive and involved as the Blink Angel is going to the bathroom!

But Meg, you say. Surely going to the bathroom doesn’t really qualify as a step in the dressing process.

It certainly is. If you start getting ready to get into a bulky or hard-to-get-out-of costume and think to yourself “You know, I don’t really feel the need to tinkle” I guarantee that, as soon as you are all buckled, zipped, buttoned, tied and strapped into your costume you will start to feel the call of nature. Then you’re going to have to take off everything you just put on and hurry off to solve your problem and voila! You’re off to a crappy start of a long day. So just save yourself the trouble, march off to the stall, and make sure you won’t be doing the pee-pee dance while walking the halls or standing in the autograph line.

If you’re doing a costume that involves a lot of pieces that have to be hooked or pinned or adjusted it’s also a good idea to make sure you’re going to be wearing the costume on a day when you’ll have another set of hands to help you. The Blink costumes don’t necessarily require a handler (although a shout-out goes out here to LeeAnn and Mel who took on this duty when we went to Shore Leave…you guys really helped!) but getting in and out of the things goes a lot smoother when you’ve got someone helping you.

The new head sleeve worked much better than the original one and the extended panel that Maggie added to my back harness helped keep the wings from dragging on the floor or bumping into my calves when I walked.

Farpoint attendees were coming in and out of the bathroom the entire time Maggie and I were getting in costume and folks kept stopping to ask about aspects of our costumes. Being the excitable costumers we are we were more than happy to explain how everything was made.

Maggie and I finished most of our preparations and then split up briefly. She went to drop some things off at the car and I stayed behind in the bathroom to fiddle with my mask and wig. When I finally finished and exited the bathroom I had only taken about three steps before someone stopped me for a photo. It was one of the women who had seen us getting ready inside the bathroom. She’d missed Maggie when she came out but figured she’d get a shot of me while I was standing around. The halls of the Crowne Plaza are not exactly the best for taking pictures but that didn’t seem to matter to folks who saw me. As with the Potter Puppet Pals costumes the Blink Angels tend to be costumes that everyone wants a shot of.

I mugged for five or six different people with cameras and then headed out to the lobby to wait for Maggie. When I saw her coming across the parking lot I waited beside one of the pillars in the “Weeping Angel” pose. She came in, walked over to do the same thing and laughed, then headed over towards the tables and chairs set up in the Atrium. I stood up on my tiptoes and glided after her a moment later.

And almost gave the manager of the hotel’s restaurant a heart attack. He started to laugh after recovering from the shock and told me he had seen me standing by the pillar but thought I was just a statue. When I started to move he still didn’t realize I was a regular person. “You just kind of glided across the floor and I didn’t see any feet!” He stopped me again a little while later for a picture. He hadn’t had his camera on him the first time.

Scaring people and posing for photos became the major theme of the day for Maggie and I. It seemed that someone was stopping us for a picture at least every five minutes. Each time one person took a picture at least two others were there snapping away at the same time. Luckily, the masks for the Blink Angels are much easier to see through than the Potter Puppet Pals heads. I was able to see if there was another person waiting for a picture and so didn’t mess up pictures by moving out of our “Attack!” pose.

Near the beginning of the day we were stopped by a small group of young women who were cosplaying as the Master and his wife from “Last of the Time Lords” (Season 3, Episode 13 of the new Doctor Who series). The woman dressed as the Master even had a sign that said “Vote Saxon.” We took a few photos as a group and I know someone snapped a picture of the Master and I where I was holding the sign and giving a thumbs up. I’ve been doing Google searches for it to no avail. If you happen to come across it, please let me know. I’d really like to have a copy of it.

The original plan for Sunday was to attend a few panels (Blogging, Costuming & Props for the Steampunk Universe, and SciFi Shorts) and stay for Dr. Horrible’s Sing A Long Blog. After catching Lee Arenberg’s Q&A and seeing Sam Witwer ham it up during the awards portion of the Masquerade the previous day we decided to spend most of our time checking out the Q&A sessions.

Staying hydrated is a good idea! Also, Felicia Day is visible behind me in the green sweater.

 We spent most of the 10am hour goofing off in the Atrium and posing for pictures. I had actually written in “lurking” for that section of the schedule. That’s where Maggie filmed me doing a silly little dance. We took a quick water break, which involved looking for straws so we didn’t have to take off our masks and wigs and struggle to put them back on. People kept coming up to us for photos while we took our water break, too.

When we were sufficiently refreshed we wandered off down the hall towards the Main Ballroom. The Bob and Howie show had just finished and Maggie and I headed to the far left side of the room where we could see a bunch of open seats. Since we can’t really take the wings off without unhooking and untucking everything else we can’t sit in a seat regularly. Sitting down in the Blink Angel costumes requires turning a chair around, pulling the hoop up around our knees and just kind of straddling the seat. Very unladylike, yes, but comfy none-the-less.

Lee Arenberg again kept us laughing for the entire length of his session. Since he had spent a good deal of the previous day’s time “pontificating” (his words, not mine) he decided to open it up to questions pretty quickly. He told some more wonderful stories about the different actors he’s met and the projects he’s worked on – there was a wonderful story about the first time he had to do a scene where his naughty bits were almost hanging out. He actually went a little over his time and he apologized to Sam Witwer, who was hanging out just off stage, apparently making faces at him. Finally, he said his final words and left the stage.

Now, before I go any further I figured I’d interject a little tale about something that had happened the previous night. Remember how I said Maggie and I were out in the Atrium people-watching in the time leading up to the Masquerade? Well, I happened to be looking towards the back of the Atrium when I saw a guy make his way out of the dealer’s room and past the bar at Northern Lights. I know I had been saying something to Maggie when I first saw him but I honestly have no idea what that something was. I leaned to one side a bit so I had a better view and muttered “Turn around, turn around.” Maggie shot me a quizzical look and I told her I was hoping the guy I’d seen would turn around so I could check out his ass.

Don’t give me that look. I’m human. At least I’m honest about it.

Anyway, he turned and stepped into the restaurant just as someone else walked in front of him so I didn’t get a good look. Maggie turned around and gave me a knowing smile and told me that it was good. “Baseball butt” we call it. Mm-hmm. A few minutes later I was distracted again as I saw him wandering down the way towards us. I gave Maggie the “there he is!” look and she glanced his way again. That’s when she realized who our mysterious, hot, baseball-butted gentleman was.

Sam Witwer.

I apparently hadn’t paid close attention to the program that people had given me as I hadn’t recognized him from his photo. All I knew was he was a nice specimen of a man. We figured that he was heading towards the Main Ballroom and surmised that he was going to be one of the judges for the Masquerade. I mentioned the story to Angelica when I saw her online later that same week (hello Angelica!) and she asked if I followed him. We might have wandered down the same hallway after he passed but it wasn’t exactly “following.” I mean, we were going to end up in the same room anyway. And, honestly ladies, wouldn’t you have been tempted to do the same after seeing this come down the hall?

Okay, okay, so he wasn’t shirtless at the time. Forgive me for wanting to drool.

I did admit that, had we been staying in the Crowne Plaza, I might have given serious though to following him at the end of the night to see what room he was staying in. I wouldn’t have done anything with said knowledge. It just would’ve been something to squee about. She called me a stalker and I agreed it kind of sounded that way. Though I like to think I’m not all that creepy, I still have an occasional fangirl moment. Rest assured, famous people. I don’t actually act on any of it. I just have an active imagination.

Anyhoo, back to Day Two.

One of the Farpoint volunteers fetched some glasses of water for Sam and was setting them up on the table just as he came out. He teased her a little, saying he couldn’t drink both of them and hold the mic at the same time as he only had two hands. Like Lee Arenberg before him, Sam opened up the discussion to questions pretty early on. He was maybe 15 minutes into his Q&A session when the best moment of the entire con happened.

I was sitting all the way over to the left in the front row of seats, with Maggie sitting behind and just to the right of me in the second row. I’d moved a little bit now and then while listening to Sam but, due to the dim lights and the way my  costume kind of blends into the shadows, those movements hadn’t really been noticable. In the midde of one of Sam’s stories I noticed that my leg felt kind of cool. I looked down and noticed the pant leg was still rolled up from my earlier trek across the parking lot. I bent down to fix my pant leg and heard

“OH WOW! Oh holy crap! You’re real! I thought you were statues or really cool props and then you moved!” I looked up from fixing my pants and realized he was talking to me. The audience laughed at his reaction and people sitting further back in the ballroom craned to see who he was talking to. He asked “Were you here last night?” When we replied that we were he said “I didn’t see you. Were you just perched somewhere?” We explained that we had actually been in different costumes the night before. He declared us awesome. We actually made him forget what he had been saying. Someone in the audience had to remind him. He went on with his story but he continued to look over at us regularly for the rest of his Q&A.

Now, I’ve been to a number of cons by now and I’ve sat in to listen to my fair share of Q&A sessions. Sam Witwer’s was, by far, the most humorous. The man does fantastic impressions which should really come as no surprise, seeing as he does a lot of different voices for videogames. He does what is possibly the best Christopher Walken impression I’ve ever heard. Every time I see Walken in a film from now on I think I’ll hear Witwer saying “This water is weird. It tastes like dog” in my head. He also does a wonderful Arnold Schwartzenegger and Keanu Reeves, as well as a pretty good Tom Cruise, complete with chair jumping and weird laugh.

He’s also, I learned, a big fanboy. He loves the movie BeastMaster. At one point he started talking about Marc Singer, who starred in BeastMaster and the original “V” series. He remarked on how Singer always wore very tight pants in “V” and his theory for why that was. I nearly choked while laughing at his description of a fight in V.

Marc Singer’s crotch versus a helmeted head of an alien. Who’s gonna win? Marc Singer’s crotch!

Never have I laughed so hard in single Q&A session. The man has a quick wit and could certainly cut it as a stand-up comedian. One of my favorite moments came when he was talking about the Transformers. He made the freaking Transformers sound! You know, the one they make when they transform? He also does a great Optimus Prime. There was a short story involving Simon Pegg that I might save for later (if you want to hear it, drop a comment). At one point he started talking about goofing off one day on the set of Battlestar Galactica. He and Katie Sackoff and a few others were standing about talking about call signs and flightsuits – mainly, what happens when people die. At some point they’re just going to start running out of call signs and flightsuits and need to start reusing them. Apparently Jamie Bamber was standing nearby but not really participating. Witwer wondered if they were bothering him. Eventually Jamie Bamber walked over and went ” Okay Starbuck, Crashdown and Steve, I need to see you in the briefing room.” The joke being, of course, that “Steve” was the call sign, not the pilot’s actual name. He then went on:

Spork. You need to go on now. Spoon and Fork have died. Now you’re going to have to do what they both could do together but by yourself.

A gentleman sitting in Maggie’s row, whom we referred to simply as “Mohawk Boy”, piped up and said that his friends, who are Navy pilots, actually have the call signs “Joe” and “Wad.”

People called Sam Witwer on being a fanboy and he was really proud of the fact. Someone asked if he has collectibles and he mentioned a cool replica of Darth Vader’s helmet that the folks at LucasFilm gave him (in case you didn’t know, Sam Witwer does the voice of Vader’s secret apprentice in the game Force Unleashed, as well as a few other characters). He’s apparently put it on a shelf above his computer and every now and then he’ll look up at it, bow his head and say “What is thy bidding, master?” in his character’s voice. He’s also currently getting a bug from “The Mist” made. When he was getting into film he decided to write to Bruce Campbell for advice. When someone asked why he replied “I don’t know. He seems likely to tell you the truth. Why do we look to him when the Armies of Darkness fall?” By the way, Bruce Campbell wrote back to him.

The time finally came for Sam to turn the stage over to the next guest. He’d already gone over his time a bit. He took his final bow, thanked the audience, turned to Maggie and I and said “Gargoyles? Awesome.” It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

We got up to leave the room and were immediately stopped by throngs of con-goers who wanted to take pictures of us. It was absolutely bonkers. So many flashes were going off and people kept yelling “Wait! Look over here!” I felt like a movie star surrounded by paparazzi. The whole time I just kept thinking “You know the real movie star has left the stage, right?” Maggie later told me that folks had been trying to take pictures of the two of us all throughout Sam Witwer’s Q&A. She’d see flashes go off periodically and look over to see people with cameras pointed at us.

Our eventual exodus from the main ballroom took us past the women’s room again. By that point the water we’d had earlier was finally starting to kick in. We were halfway through the day and I figured it was as good a time as any to take a quick break. We headed to our little alcove in the bathroom and stripped off the wings and confining layers of our costumes (don’t worry, we had clothes on underneath). When I came back out and went to put my mask back on I noticed that there was water inside it. I stood there looking at it for the longest time, trying to figure out how water had gotten in it. Then I realized…the inside of my mask is plastic. Although I’ve got a few breathing holes there’s not a whole lot of air circulation in it and the water came from the condensation and heat that my breathing and head gave off. A quick wipe-down with a paper towel and I was good to go.

Although we had originally planned to attend the SciFi Shorts segment of the convention Maggie and I both figured it would be a good idea to take some time and get something to eat. The main hallway that led to the panels and the ballroom smelled like hot dogs and we knew we could probably find something we could eat at the little concession stand but when you’ve been smelling said hot dogs for two days you tend not to want to eat them. So we headed out to the Atrium and tried to decide what to do. Did we want to order something to go from Northern Lights or did we just want to go in and see if they had a place where we could sit and eat? We didn’t want to have to go through the trouble of taking the wings off again so whatever we decided on we knew we were going to be straddling backwards chairs again. We decided to just stop into the restaurant and see if they had room.

As luck would have it most people seemed to have already taken their lunch break and the whole back section of the restaurant was empty. Maggie and I followed the hostess down the aisle, past tables already occupied by a few con-goers. I watched the eyes of one of the Boogie Knights (the same one who had emceed the Masq the night before) grow big as Maggie walked past his booth in front of me. We also walked past a booth where Felicia Day was sitting with the man who had won the lunch in the previous night’s charity auction. I heard her remark on the costumes as we walked by and it filled me with even more warm fuzzies.

The hostess sat us at a table that is usually used for four people. We knew we wouldn’t be able to sit on the booth side so Maggie and I turned the chairs on the outside edge of the table around and took our seats. One of the waiters came by and took our drink order and a few other members of the staff swung by the table to admire the costumes. Our waitress came to take our order. Unfortunately the gloved hands meant my usual wrap was out of the question and we both settled on finger food.

We got a lot of attention from the staff. Various waiters kept stopping by to ask a question or two about the costumes. In fact, we had a nice long visit with the two managers on duty. One of them was the gentleman I had scared earlier in the day. He asked the majority of the questions with the other manager, a woman, piping in every now and then.

Of course, being inundated with questions about the Blink costumes was nothing new by that point. Maggie and I had been fielding questions all day long. We both find it incredibly interesting that people are fascinated by so many aspects of the costumes. The most common question we get from people is “How long did all that take?” Everyone’s always surprised at the answer. Each dress takes about a day to make and an hour to paint. I finished my mask in about two hours, snowed in at the coffee shop. Each set of wings takes a full day to make. My recent remake of the sleeves took about four hours to sew and a little less than an hour to paint and affix the nails. I don’t remember how long it took to make the wig, simply because it took me two different attempts and, by the time I finished, I was so sleep-deprived that I was on the verge of falling over. The costumes themselves don’t actually take all that long to make…you just need to find the time to sit down and work on them.

During our talk with the managers we brought up the original dilemma we were having outside the restaurant. When we told them we had been worried about there not being a place for us to sit down the manager told us “Next time you’ve got a concern about that kind of thing, needing to eat and not having a place, just come and get myself or one of the other managers. Let us know and we’ll work out a solution for you.”

That information will be filed away for a later time, as I’m sure it’s not going to be the last time we attend a convention at the Crowne Plaza.

I’ve got to say that I’ve been pretty impressed with the service at the Crowne Plaza in all of our interactions with them so far. We’ve been to the hotel for Costume Con and Farpoint now and stayed there when we attended Shore Leave last summer. The rooms are super comfy and look all kinds of swanky and the chicken wraps at Northern Lights alone are worth the trip up from Virginia. Also, they have black out curtains in the rooms…even on the windows that face out to the Atrium! WIN!

After lunch we stopped by Sam Witwer’s table. Maggie wanted to get an autograph. When he saw us coming he grinned, pointed at Maggie and said “That’s what I’m talking about! Hello, gargoyle.” We didn’t correct him about what we were from. He asked Maggie a couple of questions about the costume and asked why she comes to conventions. I loved her reply: Because I get to dress up like this.

That’s a big part of what draws me to conventions. I get to get all decked out in crazy costumes and it doesn’t look out of place.

After she got her autograph we headed back to the ballroom and caught Felicia Day’s Q&A session. She’s another person who has a really quick wit and seems to take a lot of joy in interacting with the fans. I read an interview that someone did with her later that day. They asked how lunch went and she said that the guy who won the bid for lunch had actually worked on her web series The Guild but they had never met before.

She told stories about her cats – Charlie, George and Speedbump (yes, there’s a reason for Speedbump’s name) – and talked about shows she’d like to be on. Apparently she auditioned for GLEE before it started but fell victim to the Redhead Rule. In case you ddin’t know, most shows have an unofficial rule saying that there can only be one redhead in the cast at a time. I think it’s terribly unfair (especially since I love red hair) but such is the way things go.

After Felicia Day’s session and a slightly glitchy run-through of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog it was time to head out. Maggie and I hurried out to the car, trying our best not to be blown off course by the wind. We did what was probably the fastest quick-change out of our costumes at the car and hopped inside, huddling under our coats in an effort to warm up.

On our way home Maggie remarked “Now I want Dragon*Con to be here even faster.” It’s a sentiment I whole-heartedly echo. Our two days at Farpoint were a fabulous opener for the 2010 convention/festival season. I’m definitely excited to go back next year and it’s got me even more excited about the upcoming cons – if that’s at all possible.

As far as conventions go, Farpoint is aces in my book.

Escape to Farpoint: Con Report Day 1

Holy. Effing. Crap.

Before I go any further I’m just going to whole-heartedly recommend attending Farpoint if you are in the DC/Maryland/Northern Virginia area. Heck, even if you’re not exactly local I’d recommend it.

First things first, Farpoint is by no means on par with many other cons I’ve been too as far as size is concerned. It fits nicely into the rooms of the Crowne Plaza in Timonium and each day’s panels only take up one side of a paper. This is one of those cases where size really doesn’t matter. What Farpoint might lack in grandiosity (yes, it’s a real word) it more than makes up for in comfort, entertainment and just plain warm fuzzies.

I had been a little worried about the prospect of getting up to the convention after the massive snow accumulation that the mid-Atlantic region had seen the previous week. Luckily, the roads were pretty clear all the way up. The parking lot of the Crowne Plaza was a bit treacherous but the good folks who run the hotel were trying their best to clear as much of the snow, ice and slush as they could.

Maggie and I headed out of my place around 7:30 and got up to the con hotel 8:30ish. Registration wasn’t scheduled to open until 9am (or was it 10am?) and we hadn’t eaten anything yet so we stopped in at the hotel restaurant, Northern Lights, for some breakfast. We weren’t yet in our complete costumes and, by the looks of things when we took our seats, everyone else was getting a later start as well.

As soon as we took care of registration we headed to the back of the hotel’s atrium to check out the dealer’s space. There were some wonderful t-shirts that I would have liked to get if I had more funds at my disposal. There were also some patches, as there always tends to be. I don’t currently need patches for any of my planned costumes, though. The only uniform on my list that I might need something for is my Light Company coat from Night Watch and, as far as I can tell, there are no actual patches on the coat or costume in general. Nope, for that one I’m going to have to hand-stencil the words “Light Company” on the back in the Russian alphabet. Fun fun fun!

I wandered past a table where some Browncoats were hanging out. One of the guys looked at me in my Jedi get up and asked kind of shyly “Do you like Firefly?”

I chuckled. Do I like Firefly. I told him I did and he handed me a little postcard thingy with the poster for a Firefly fan film called “Browncoats: Redemption.” I’d heard about it before, through an email from the NoVA Browncoats Meetup Group. I’ve seen the teaser trailer but he said the actual trailer was going to be screened at the panel “Big Damn Films” later that day. I took the card and really would have liked to attend but I had already made plans to attend another panel scheduled for the same time.

If you’d like to know more about the fan film I encourage you to check out the group’s website. You can view the trailer, learn more about the cast and the premise of the film, and read about the charities that these folks are supporting.

Our tour of the dealer space only took up 10 minutes and we didn’t really have anything we wanted to go to until around 10:30 so we headed down the hall to see what was going on in one of the other panels. We ended up stopping by the art show. There were some absolutely stunning pieces in the show and, again, had my finances been in a better situation I would have gladly plunked down some money to buy a few prints.

Both Maggie and I were excited about a half-hour program listed in the schedule as “Alice in Wonderland Puppet Making.” Puppets? Sign me up! Unfortunately, when we showed up to the room we learned that it was a program for kids and the puppets were going to be made out of construction paper and popsicle sticks. There wasn’t a description of the panel in any of the literature the folks at Registration had handed us so we hadn’t known what to expect. Honestly, that was the only drawback of the con – not

"Come to the dark side....we have cookies!"

 knowing what exactly some of the panels were going to be about.

We headed back out to the atrium to people watch while we waited for the next panel we wanted to attend. Maggie and I were dressed as a Sith and a Jedi, respectively, and we got stopped a few times to take pictures. I kept trying to sidle out of the photo but people seemed to like the idea of having both a Sith and a Jedi in the same picture.

Squeeee!

As we wandered around we spotted the cutest darn Padawan I have EVER seen. I asked her dad if I could take a picture of the two of them together and commented on the training ball she had attached to her belt. He volunteered the information about how to make one: you take one of the balls you’d find in one of those playplace ball pits and use craft foam. That’s all there is to it. Needless to say I will be making one of those training balls myself. She also happened to have a tiny lightsaber clipped to her belt (which made me feel even stupider for forgetting my lightsaber at home). Adorable!

After we took their picture her dad asked if he could get a picture of her with Maggie and I. The little girl was really frightened of Maggie’s Sith get-up but I told her not to worry…I was a Jedi and I’d protect her. That’s another picture I’m going to have to look for online.

Maggie and I were lucky enough to catch the “Workmanship Nuts and Bolts” panel at 11. It was the most helpful and informative panel I’ve ever sat in on, in all my years of going to conventions. I’ve been in several masquerades by now and people always ask us if we’re planning on entering anything for workmanship judging. We never do, mainly because we’ve never really known what kind of things the workmanship judges will be looking for. It’s intimidating to go into a judge without knowing what exactly counts for good workmanship.

Case in point – when we entered the masquerade at Shore Leave folks kept saying we should have entered some part or another of our Blink Angel costumes for workmanship judging. We were both hesitant to do so at the time because we didn’t really think we were going to be on par with the other folks. After sitting in on the workmanship panel, though, I’d be willing to put my mask or my arms or possibly even the top half of the dress in for workmanship judging. I think Maggie’s construction of the wings could really go far with workmanship judging.

Here are some wonderful nuggets of wisdom and advice that we picked up from the folks running the panel:

  1. Don’t think you have to enter the whole costume. If you’ve got a wonderful prop or an elaborately beaded headpiece that you want to show off but the rest of the costume is kind of blah, enter the prop or headpiece or whatnot.
  2. Don’t worry if a costume isn’t 100% finished. If you’ve got a part of the costume you’re really proud of but the rest of the costume is not completely up to the same level just call it a “work in progress.”
  3. Bring in documentation and visual references for the costume! This is especially important if you are going to enter in the category of Re-creation. This way, even if the judges aren’t familiar with the original source, they can look at the picture and see that you re-created the costume faithfully.
  4. Only bring in reference pictures that are going to work for you. This was a neat little way of side-stepping some of the problems that might pop up when the judge takes a close look at your source material. The example that was given to us came from Rachel Wyman. She was dressed as Donna Noble from the episode “The Poison Sky”. She showed two pictures of Donna – one showed that Donna is wearing a thick black ring on one of the fingers of her left hand. That is the picture she would use as her documentation, as it shows that the ring

    This isn't the exact picture Rachel Wyman showed us as an example of "what not to show the judges" but it still shows the reason you wouldn't want to use it -- the different shape of the ring.

    is black and wide, but not the exact shape. If she showed another picture with a close-up of the ring the judges would see that the real ring was kind of bulbous, whereas Rachel’s ring was a flatter cut.

  5. If you will be wearing a wig as a part of the costume make sure you bring in a picture of what the hair looks like in the sunlight. Most pictures of Donna in the Tardis, for example, make her hair appear much darker. In order to show that the wig matches the actual color of the character’s hair you would need to also bring a picture that showed Donna outside in natural lighting.
  6. Judges will understand if the color on your reference pictures is not completely the same – they take into account that there is a good deal of difference in tones and brightness from printer to printer. Just be sure to tell them if there’s a lilac overtone to all your pictures, etc.
  7. Don’t think that something has to be handsewn to qualify for workmanship judging. Marty Gear (one of the folks on the panel!) said he once saw a costume where the whole thing was hand-sewn and looked horrible. When he asked the costumer why she didn’t sew it on the machine she said “Hand sewing is more difficult.” That may be, but if your stitching sucks it’s not going to matter how long it took. Unless you’re doing a historic garment from the 1400s or something similar the sewing machine is your friend. (The panelists did, however, reference a woman who makes beautiful reproductions of the Lord of the Rings costumes and handsews everything. Apparently she thinks sewing machines are too fast. Her handsewn stitches look just as good as those on a machine and there is never any rolling or puckering when she sews on velvet and other difficult fabrics. Her stuff is flawless. If you can consider your stitching flawless feel free to handsew your seams. I know mine isn’t so I’m fine using a machine).

The final piece of advice they gave was my absolute favorite: “Remember, the judges are always on drugs. Sometimes you just want to say ‘ Really? Did you watch the same masquerade as me? It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t clever, and the costumes sucked!'” I suppose that might explain how the Cult of Snuggie people won at Dragon*Con.

After the workmanship panel we sat in on a program called “Star Wars and Such.” We watched the trailer for the new Tron movie that’s coming out (I had seen it, Maggie hadn’t) and the video for Brad Paisley’s “Online.” According to the gent who was running the program a lot of sci-fi/fantasy fans think the video is bashing fans but he thinks it’s actually very fair to them. His feeling is that the video is basically saying that we shouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. That the best things happen when we don’t pretend to be who we’re not. I happen to agree with this interpretation of the video. I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself but I always get a kick out of the song. Plus, Brad Paisley’s just hot.

We took a short break from the convention to go check into our hotel. We returned to Northern Lights for lunch and then hit up the Sci Fi Jeopardy panel. We cheered on Tom Atkinson (whom we met back at Shore Leave). He went on to achieve a record 48,400 points by the end of his game. I kind of wish I had volunteered to be one of the contestants for the second game of Sci Fi Jeopardy. I knew a surprising number of the answers.

After Sci Fi Jeopardy Maggie and I headed down to the main ballroom and sat in on Lee Arenberg’s Q and A session. Lee is perhaps best known at the moment for playing Pintel in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He is extremely funny and has some wonderful stories about growing up with some of the best actors in the business today (he went to school with Sean Penn and Robert Downey Jr.) meeting and befriending some legends of the silver screen (Sir Laurence Olivier) and his body of work. He’s a real down-to-earth kind of guy and believes that actors have the responsibility to be what he calls “class acts.”

Lee Arenberg had the best quote of the day:

There needs to be more nose-punching and beer-buying, in that combination. — in regards to U.S. foreign policy.

Basically it means we shouldn’t be afraid to call people on being jerks and we shouldn’t hold grudges after everything’s settled. Pretty good advice, if you ask me. He also had an idea for how to save NASA: make going to Mars into a reality television show and send up Jay Leno, the cast of Jersey Shore and the Real Housewives of Orange County. Then sit back and have them be voted off one by one. They’d be put into life pods and be booted off into space.

We moved up to the front of the ballroom during the break and settled in to watch the hilarity that is Luna C. You might remember me mentioning their “Harry Potter in 45 minutes” program back in the Shore Leave con report. This show was more their usual style simply because they covered a lot of different fandoms. One of my favorite bits was a sketch about Fringe. I’ve only just started watching this show but it’s being added to my long list of “stuff to watch when I have time.” I’ve got to say that the actor portraying Dr. Walter Bishop from the show (Rick Siebigteroth) had his character spot on. He even sounded like John Noble. I won’t go into details about the skit other than the fact that it involves a kitten, a vial of liquid that’s supposed to make things bigger and a furry glove puppet. Hopefully the group will put a video of the sketch on youtube, alongside their other videos. I’m going to try to get my hands on one of their dvds soon.

By the way, Kevin Smith (the one from Xena, not Silent Bob) and Karl Urban have both guested with the members of Luna C in the past.

Maggie and I meandered a bit back out in the lobby for a few hours. We people-watched a bit more and I wrote down some questions for when I finally came in contact with a Klingon. We had seen one earlier but I didn’t screw up the courage to interview her then and couldn’t find her in the evening. I did however get the chance to interview a woman who was dressed as a Snow Trooper from Hoth. That interview will be up after the second Farpoint con report.

The Masquerade started at 8pm. We hadn’t noticed as many people wandering the halls in costume as at other conventions we’ve attended but

Shiny!

 there was a nice showing in the Masquerade. All the costumes were nice and the presentations were pretty good. There were two costumes entered under the Champion’s Cup division. This is basically the hard-core costumers who already have a fair number of big wins under their belt. One was a re-creation of Kaylee’s dress from the Firefly episode “Shindig.” It was absolutely beautiful. The other group included Rachel Wyman and the aforementioned Tom Atkinson as well as two others. They ended up winning the most humerous award for their skit…which was eerily similar to a skit that Maggie and I had thought of entering this particular Masquerade with.

While the judges went off to deliberate — the judges, by the way, included Felicia Day, Sam Witwer and Lee Arenberg, amongst others — Marty Gear came out to run the charity auction. He went through most of the items but decided to save the biggest draw – lunch with Felicia Day – until she came back out. After Marty finished the main part of the auction the Boogie Knights came out and played a few songs. I’d always heard of them but had never gotten to hear any of their sets (One of the Boogie Knights served as the emcee for the masquerade, in addition to playing a set during the intermission).

Finally, word came that the judges were finished. Marty took the stage again, this time with Felicia Day. Now, before I go any further I want to mention that the charity auctions at Farpoint have raised $3000 per year for the past two years. They wanted to hit that same goal this year but

Marty Gear auctions off lunch with Felicia Day as part of the charity auction

 Marty said they understood that we were in the middle of a “Vampire Economy…it sucks.” The goal was then to just raise as much as they could. Well, they had managed to raise about $2000 with the previous items and lunch with Felicia Day was already up to $300 by the time auction time came around.

It was only about four or five bids in when it rose to $1000. Felicia Day was really surprised, and then it continued to climb. When it got to about $2000 Lee and Sam, who were still backstage, started calling things out to her from the wings.

When it got to $2600 they poked their heads out from behind the curtain. As it went higher they actually came out completely and stood to the side of the room, watching the bidding war. It had basically come down to a couple in seats on the other side of the aisle from Maggie and I and a young man in the back of the room who couldn’t have been more than 25. I don’t know where these folks get their money but the final bid wound up being $5000.

I’ll say that again, because I think it bears repeating.

The final bid for lunch with Felicia Day was $5000. And the kid in the back had looked like he was seriously considering continuing to up his bid. I managed to find a video someone took of the last five minutes of the bidding. If you look at the left side you can see Lee and Sam up by the curtain. Maggie and I are back a few aisles on the left side but you can’t see us.

With one item the folks at Farpoint managed to eclipse what had been raised the previous year. When you combine that one bid with all of the other money raised this year at Farpoint you wind up with more money than the last two years PUT TOGETHER!

If that isn’t impressive I don’t know what is.

Of course, watching the reactions of Sam, Lee and Felicia throughout the entire bidding was entertainment enough for me. I thought Sam’s eyebrows were going to climb into his hairline and his jaw was going to fall on the floor. Felicia literally did fall on the floor at one point, doing a very realistic faint. The look on the emcees face when he came out from backstage to announce the masquerade awards was just priceless.

Since Lee, Sam and Felicia had been on the panel of judges they were called to help distribute some of the awards. It would have been nice to have the chance to see them on stage, all up close and personal, but I really enjoyed kicking back this time around and just getting the chance to watch the goings on. One of the awards that was given out that night was the “Robbie Greenberger Originality Award” — I’m pretty sure I got the award title correct. Robbie Greenberger was the son of DC Comics editor Bob Greenberger. He passed away in 2008 at the age of twenty after a battle with leukemia. Understandably his passing had a huge impact on the local fan community – the same community that Farpoint caters to. Many of the people who attend Farpoint on a regular basis knew Robbie and so the award, given out by his father, was quite touching. It went to two young kids who had a Farpoint-specific entry – FARP. It was quite original and they actually wound up winning a few awards that evening.

Photographs weren’t allowed inside the ballroom during the masquerade so

People (including Felicia Day) crowded around the Cultist of Cthulu to check out his props, which included a hand-made Necronomicon with distressed pages and fake spells.

Maggie and I scurried out to the atrium once everything was finished to snap a few pictures of some of the costumes. We got shots of the Shindig dress, as well as the “Cultist of Cthulu” who won, amongst other things, Best in Show. The costumes we really wanted to get a shot of were the orcs but they ran off back to their rooms pretty quickly. I don’t blame them, though. They’d been walking around in their costumes and heavy prosthetics all day and I’m sure they were anxious to get everthing off and take a much needed break.

We spotted the Indiana Jones we had chatted with back at Shore Leave. He was dressed as James Bond this time (and his wife was absolutely gorgeous in a beautiful powder blue halter dress). At one point I saw him coming out of the Northern Lights bar carrying two martinis and I’m kicking myself for not having my camera out to get a picture. Hopefully someone else managed to take one and I’ll be able to find it online. I also got Maggie to take a picture of a wonderful steampunk costume that I had seen wandering around all day. I complimented her on the welder’s jacket and I absolutely loved the tool belt she had on.

That ends the first half of the Farpoint con report. Check back for Day Two!

**And just a reminder that the birthday anniversary contest is still open. Check out the details over on the “CONTESTS” page**

Final Prep and the Olympics

The opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics are currently on television at the moment. I’m watching it as I write this so if this post makes even less sense than my posts usually do you at least know the reason. I wanted to get in one last post before I leave for Farpoint tomorrow and this is really the only time I’ll have to type anything up. Plus, it gives me a chance to blog a bit about some of the pomp and ceremony that will take place throughout the show.

My new mask is almost complete. The painting has been done and matches the color of the rest of the costume much better than the original did. I think it also looks a lot scarier than the original. It’s going to be a lot warmer inside the mask simply because the opening at the mouth is a lot smaller than it was on the original mask. All that is left to be done on the new mask is to glue some tights fabric over the eyeholes and attach some cording to hold the mask in place.

Attempting the "Buddy Christ" pose in the new arms and an incomplete head-sleeve.

The new arms are much better than the original pair I made, in terms of the painting and -for the most part – fit. Maggie painted my arms like I was wearing them and they look much more like actual stone. I had a little bit of trouble with the fingernails but they’ll do. The headsleeve is also going to be better than the one I was wearing at Shore Leave. In that case the head sleeve wasn’t sewn to the rest of the sleeves and there were huge gaping holes where it was pulling away. With luck, I won’t have the same problem this time around.

The dress was successfully remade. I actually found the old dress the other day. When I pulled it out it was crunchy and stiff and didn’t look at all like stone. It’s a really good thing I had already made the decision to remake the costume. I almost didn’t have enough fabric to make my dress. It took a little more planning than the original dresses had but everything seems to have worked out for the best.

Maggie’s re-design of the wings included extending the length of the back harness and removing a good deal of the foam that had originally been on the top of the harness. The wings sit against my back much better now and no longer drag on the floor. Win! I’m really looking forward to standing around in a corner of the Crowne Plaza on Sunday trying to scare the bejeezus out of people.

And now, on to the Olympics. I was very excited to watch the ceremony tonight. I caught the closing ceremony of the last Winter Olympics in Torino. If you’ll remember, a part of the closing ceremony is given over to the host country for the next Olympic Games, so they can start the ball rolling on the preparations. I figured the First Nations would be featured in that ceremony and I was not disappointed. It seemed only natural to expect them to be incorporated into this year’s program as well.

I am happy to report that the ceremony all but started out with the First Nations! After a short intro video and an entrance via ramp by a snowboarder delegates of the First Nations tribes around Vancouver came out to welcome the athletes and visitors in their native languages, followed by representatives of tribes from the various regions of Canada: Pacific Coast, Prairie, Eastern Woodlands, etc.

Now, if you just happened upon this blog and don’t actually know much about me, you might be wondering why I am so excited about the presence of First Nations people in this program. It’s really pretty simple…I’m a part of the Munsee-Delaware nation, which currently calls Munsee, Ontario, Canada “home.” They weren’t originally based in that area, of course. Originally our group lived in what is now New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Although I’ve also got Welsh/Scots-Irish heritage I grew up more Native than anything else (except when it came time for Highland Festivals). Naturally, I’m excited when First Nations are prominently featured in events as huge as the Olympics.

Anyway…back to the topic. Being the token Native in my group of friends means I usually wind up the de facto “expert” when it comes to questions about the culture. I’ve come to expect this by now so I wasn’t all that surprised to be answering uestions abou somet of the stuff that was going on up on screen when the tribes came out. Since I firmly believe open communication and education is the key to creating understanding and building bridges between cultures I decided to post some of the questions that came up throughout the ceremony and my answers.

“Why do they keep saying ‘aboriginal people” and “First Nations?” — Technically, “First Nations” is the official term for Native tribes in Canada who do not fall into the category of Inuit or Metis. The Inuit are settled in the Arctic area and the Metis have mixed ancestry (Yes, I know that many tribes could actually be considered to be of mixed ancestry but we’re not picking nits here. This is simply how the group is classified and distinguished from other Native groups in Canada). The term “Aboriginal people,” in contrast, actually refers to all First Nations, Inuit and Metis people together. Both are considered correct depending on the situation. However, individually, most Native people (both in Canada and in the United States) are more likely to refer to themselves by their tribal affiliation. I actually kind of prefer “First Nations” to “American Indian/Native American” as it recognizes that there were nations in existance in the Americas before what we refer to as First Contact.

Hmm…the clothing of the Canadian tribes looks very similar to the Southwestern tribes here in America. (Not a question, per se, but sparked a short explanation) — This comment followed the entrance of representatives from the Canadian Prairie. The regalia that they were wearing was the type one typically finds at powwows today. The dances that most of the folks were doing were also the kind that you’ll see at powwows. The modern powwow is made up of many traditions that come from the Plains and Prairie region of the United States and Canada. There’s a tremendous powwow culture in Saskatchewan and this culture has shifted down and become the major backbone of what is known as Pan-Indian culture. A lot of tribe and region-specific regalia traditions had actually started to die out because of powwow culture – too many people choosing to do fancy dance regalia over, say, traditional Seneca dresses. The past couple of years have seen a resurgence in the old forms, though, which I’m happy about. My own regalia is very much specific to my region. Specifically southwestern regalia is actually rarely seen outside of the Arizona/Colorado/New Mexico/Utah area.

Okay…it’s a little after 11:30pm now. There’s still a little left to go in the ceremony but I think I’m going to sign off now. The late hour is starting to get the better of me – I’ve been up since 5am this morning and worked a shift at the coffee shop today – and I want to sit back and relax for a little bit.

The next post should be the Farpoint con report. 🙂

Farpoint…so close and yet so far

Farpoint starts on Friday but Maggie and I will not be going up until Saturday. At this point we might have to leave at 5am in order to get there by the time things open up around 9 or 10. We’re getting still more snow. According to the forecast we should expect a total of 10 inches between last night and tonight. All of that’s going on top of the two feet that’s already fallen. Everything looks to still be on target for the convention, though. The snow’s supposed to stop by tonight and the streets should be plowed by the time we head out Saturday. It’s obviously not going to be hot, but it should be warmer than it’s been the past couple days. ::knock on wood::

The final preparations are being made for our trip up to Maryland. I brought my paperclay and the second attempt at the Blink mask with me to the coffee shop today (I’m not working. I’m just here hanging out) and finished most of the work. It’s sitting on the counter behind me, drying. I’ll go over it tonight with some glue and try to get some of it painted. The remade dress is almost finished. The big things are done. I’ve attached the waistband to the skirt and I’ve pieced the top together. Here’s what remains to be finished:

  1. Finish the neck and remaining armhole.
  2. Sew the seam up the back of the skirt.
  3. Attach the hoop to the bottom of the skirt.
  4. Add hooks to waistband.
  5. Paint dress (Maggie)
  6. Remake head sleeve.
  7. Fix wing harness (Maggie)

It sounds like a lot, I know, but it’s really just a couple of fairly small things. Well, other than the harness re-build. I would’ve been all finished except for the painting if I’d spent the night at my place. However, it was quite likely that retrieving me from my house would have been nigh on impossible today. Instead, I spent the night hunkered down at Maggie’s. We’ll probably do most of the work tonight while watching Project Runway.

The popple costume is pretty much done, though it’s in pieces at the moment. The hands, feet and head are all separate from the main body at the moment. I put everything on the other day and walked around in the basement, though, and I’m pretty happy with the way things turned out. Still wish the back pouch was better but there are almost always things I wish I could change about the costumes I make. There are very few exceptions.

Although the popple is finished and could be worn this weekend I’ve pretty much decided to save it for a later convention. Maggie has finished her Sith outfit and is planning to wear that one day and it’d be much nicer to go as a Jedi when she’s dressed as a Sith than to go as a Popple. The second day, of course, will be spent in our Blink Angel get-ups.

We’ve also made the call not to do the Masquerade this time around. I think it’s a good idea. We did the Masquerade at both Shore Leave and Dragon*Con. We didn’t participate in the Masq at CostumeCon, but we did do it at Polaris the last time we went. It’ll kind of be nice to just sit back, relax, and enjoy a Masquerade without having to worry about recording our skit and getting everything on and in place in time.

I really don’t mind skipping the Masquerade. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in the event. It’s just…I’d like to be able to see the whole event from start to finish without waiting a year for a copy of the official video to be sent to me in the mail. It’s important to occasionally sit back and be an observer. Otherwise you get burnt out on something that you loved. I’d hate to lose my passion for costuming because I just got too tired from running around at Masquerade.

Destination: Farpoint

Remember about a week ago when I said I was back? Well, that was kind of true and kind of not. I had finally gotten back into town after a week away to Florida, yes. However, I was only in my house for – hmm…maybe two and a half days before I had to pack up more gear and head over to Maggie’s house for a week. In an attempt to make up for the few days of work I missed out on while off galavanting around Ocala I picked up a few extra shifts at the coffee shop. Which means sleeping on an air mattress on the floor of Maggie’s room so I can actually get to the coffee shop in the morning. Not having a car puts a serious kink into what hours you can work.

I borrowed a laptop from my folks for the duration of my stay with Maggie and it was brought out a couple of times during our four days of working together. Most of what we looked up was costume-related. And, of course, I updated the blog. 😀

We’ve decided to check out Farpoint this year. I had originally put it on my list of possible conventions last year but we had ultimately opted out of it. After a relatively lackluster Halloween costume season (by comparison to previous years) and missing out on the end of the Ren Fest season due to horrible weather I was itching for another chance to don a costume and parade up and down some hallways with fellow geeks of the costumed persuasion.

So, Farpoint it is.

The hotel is already booked. Maggie and I, true to our usual con-going habits, are both working on some new pieces for this convention. She’s putting together a Sith costume (it’s cool, as usual) and I have finally cobbled together all the supplies I’m going to need for my Popple costume. You know, the one I mentioned – fleetingly – in my last Dragon*Con post? It’s now graduated to “in progress” standing.

I’m also going to be doing some alterations to the Blink Angel costume I had already finished. Okay, a little more than just alterations. I’m remaking the dress entirely. Maggie and I are looking at a rebuild of the wings – not scrapping the whole thing, but building longer, more solid panels that will attach to the back and be a) more comfortable and b) less likely to pull away from the body. I’ve also got to repaint my stone arms, as they are WAY too dark. And I might just remake my mask entirely.

All of this has to be done in a three week timeline. It’s my intention to not have to rush this time around. I’m only working two shifts a week these next couple weeks (at the moment) and I’m going to be structuring my time so it’s divided evenly between working on my thesis in the morning and afternoon and working on costumes in the evening. I’m not taking classes or dealing with an internship at the moment so I don’t have that to worry about. The only thing that I see possibly cutting into this plan is making alterations to the resumes I’ve been sending out, but I don’t see that as an honest-to-goodness concern. At most there will only be a few changes to the file here and there.

Preliminary work has started on the landstrider costumes, as well. We’ve got a deadline for those, as well: Maggie and I would like to have them finished in time for Dragon*Con this year. I finally got my hands on a new DVD of The Dark Crystal (my other one “mysteriously” disappeared) and will be pouring over the landstrider scenes with my finger firmly on the pause button. I’ve already made a quick sketch from some reference pictures and I’ve got an idea of how I’m going to build the heads so they can be mounted securely on our own.

Now I’ve just got to go check Unique (my favorite local thrift store) for cheap bicycle helmets. 🙂