Who You Gonna Call? Kick Ass Women!

[ASIDE: I started writing this last week but hadn’t yet posted it. Seems appropriate that it goes up now, on International Women’s Day.]

I am a Ghostbusters fan. I love both movies (and, yes, I more than occasionally do the lines along with the films). I watched the cartoon growing up. I lamented my lack of a quality gaming console when the game came out years ago (touted as the closest thing we would ever get to a sequel). I drank my fair share of Ecto-Cooler. And I was cautiously optimistic as I listened to rumors about a new film: Akroyd was working on a new script with Reitman, Murray wasn’t thrilled with it…all that news was circulating in the back of my conscious.

And then came the day that they announced a new movie. A reboot. Directed by Paul Feig. With an all-female leading cast.girl power

I lost my mind. In a good way, mind you. Not in the way that many of the male fans lost their minds on the internet. You know…the ones shouting “OH MY GOD, THERE’RE BOOBS IN THIS MOVIE AND NOT IN THE WAY I DEEM ACCEPTABLE MY CHILDHOOD IS RUINED THIS MOVIE IS RUINED EVERYTHING IS RUINED.”

First off…if all it takes to ruin your childhood is one bad movie based on something you loved as a child? That’s a pretty shitty excuse for a ruined childhood. You know what actually ruins childhoods? Molestation by an adult or other child. Loss of a parent or guardian (or, for some unlucky ones, both). Living in a box or a car on the street. Having to work even when you’re a kid, just so your family can eat. My dad became the “Man of the House” at age eleven; two days after his dad’s funeral he went to work making items to sell in the family’s store. And even he never classified that as a “ruined” childhood. Sharply curtailed, yes, but not ruined. Sadly, there are a large number of children out there who are dealing with more life-ruining moments than the reboot of your favorite movie with an all-female leading cast. Your life won’t be ruined, even if the movie turns out to be awful.

Second, no, your childhood isn’t ruined. Because it already happened. Presumably, you are no longer a child – despite your attempts to convince us all otherwise through your behavior. Unless you’re planning to take a time machine back to the days when you were just a little tyke, blissfully ignorant of what growing up would truly mean, and beat your child-self into the ground while screaming “THIS IS BECAUSE OF THE GHOSTBUSTERS REBOOT!”…your childhood is not ruined.

Instead, what has been ruined (and not ruined, per se, more like threatened) is your ability to pretend to live in a world where women or people of color are incapable of being captivating major characters in a story. And, I’m sorry, but if you’re a fan of SFF, that should have already happened. Ripley from Aliens. Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games. Korra in The Legend of Korra. Petra Arkanian from Ender’s Game. Rey from Force Awakens. Hermione and Professor McGonagall and Molly Weasley (and book-Ginny Weasley) from Harry Potter! Soldiers in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (the book, NOT the movie). Lauren Olamina in Parable of the Sower. Superhero and detective Misty Knight (several different comics series). Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel.

Kamala-Khan

[Granted, some of the studios and publishers still struggle with depicting people of color, but I like to hope we’re getting there.]

Okay, so some of these are more recent examples, and that’s kind of the point of some of this. It can be hard to find movies and shows where women are featured as fully-realized characters with as much knowledge and skill as their male counterparts. Even in shows where women could be considered equals (i.e., The Big Bang Theory, where Bernadette is a molecular biologist and Amy is a neuroscientist – played by an actual neuroscientist), female characters are often pigeonholed into stereotypes – the awkward nerdy girl who had no friends or love interests until one of the main male characters came along – or have their laudable merits overshadowed by boob jokes. It’s a hard world for female characters, y’all, and that doesn’t just affect women. It affects men, too. When all you see on television are a bunch of supposedly smart men reducing the equally brilliant women in their lives to boob jokes and nerd stereotypes, why wouldn’t you think twice of doing the same thing to the women you know in real life? Why wouldn’t you think it’s okay to make comments about someone’s body, or pursue them repeatedly even though they’ve said no (Again, I’m looking at you, Big Bang Theory**).

So, it is a big deal for the new Ghostbusters movie to feature an all-female lead cast. Just maybe not for the same reasons some of those fans are screaming. Think about it…we’ve now gone through an Avengers movie where the merchandising led to Black Widow being left out of the toys (and replaced with a man riding the motorcycle that she was featured riding in a big scene) AND Star Wars: The Force Awakens where the same treatment was given to Rey, arguably the main character of the movie. And the reasons given, time and again, for the lack of toys showing these female characters is that boys don’t want to play with them. Hmm…Why not? Consider the potential reasons:

  1. Boys don’t want to play with them because the idea that anything female is bad and somehow lesser (but feel free to objectify them all you want).
  2. Girls aren’t driving the market – i.e., they aren’t buying all the toys, like the boys are, so we’re not going to produce the things with girls on them.

Neither of these reasons, when you get down to it, are really good reasons. Or rather, they shouldn’t be. The argument that “Boys only want to play with boy toys” is bullcrap, because those boys had to be taught that the girl toys were somehow lesser. And they are taught that, in part, by erasing major female characters from toys used in expressive play. It’s a vicious cycle.

And, as far as girls not driving the market…who do you think half of the Lego sets that get purchased go to? How about a portion of those Hot Wheels that have been around forever? Hell, how do you know the Star Wars toys aren’t going to be taken home to little girls? Growing up, my brother had so many hot wheels, and Legos and action figures that we had to keep them in individual garbage bins. Trash cans, people. Each of them at least two gallons. And do you know how he got most of those plastic bricks and metal cars?

That’s right. From my sister and I. [Heather had a sizable collection of Hot Wheels before Andrew was even born, and was rather territorial about them. She could tell when I had played with them while she was at school, despite my trying to put them back where they belonged in the storage case.]

Now…I’ve gotten a little off topic. Ghostbusters reboot.

The trailer came out last week. And, again, I lost my mind. I watched it five times that morning. Then I clicked through the trailer, shot by shot, combing for little clues. And then I watched it again. I want the intro, with the Ghostbusters theme plunked out on a piano, playing on a loop for the next few days. The ghosts sort of remind me of the live-action Scooby-Doo movies (and I’m unsure how I feel about that), but I love the look of the new packs and equipment (check out the aluminum foil!), and the characterization via clothing choices has me excited about the possibility of some cosplay/office life overlap (Yes, that means I am extremely tempted to dress as Melissa McCarthy’s character when I go to work).

HemsworthI like the complete gender-swapping of the cast, too, with Chris Hemsworth being cast as the secretary, Kevin. There has been some moaning about this casting, too, from folks who claim that he’s too attractive to be a nerd. To which I reply…”Have you ever been to a convention before? Do you even know the geek community?” Because, believe it or not, being a nerd or a geek does not mean you can’t be attractive. This isn’t an either/or situation. People are drawn to all sorts of different things, and those loves aren’t dictated by another person’s classification of their appearance. It’s not like, if someone happens to fit the American standards of beauty they automatically have “better things to do” than be smart.

Robert Bunny(I mean…look at this nerd right here. Isn’t he handsome? It takes a special kind of person to proudly sport a dashing Super Bunny on his cheek at a festival. He manages to be both geeky and attractive – at least, I think so.)

Also – and probably most importantly – “attractiveness” isn’t necessarily a defined Janine Melnitzmarker. People are attracted to different things. Not only are there pretty big cultural differences in what is considered “ideal” in various countries, but people within those cultures often have different ideas about what they like and don’t like. I’m sure there are a number of people who don’t particularly care for Chris Hemsworth (honestly, when he’s at the higher end of his bulked out muscles, for later versions of Thor, he kind of freaks me out), just as there are others who love him. Plus, this is not the first time the Ghostbusters have had a secretary who falls into beauty standards. I mean…Annie Potts. Enough said.

This is not to say that I don’t recognize some problems with the new movie – for instance, the very real concern about a lack of diversity in the cast (still predominantly white). And Leslie Jones’ character fits into the category of “Sassy Black Friend” that Chris Rock poked fun at during this year’s Oscars. At least, as far as we’ve seen. She mentions that the three other ladies have the “science stuff” down, and she has the street sense. It would have been nice if she could have been a science nerd, too.

However, we don’t yet know her backstory. Maybe she’s an ordained minister who went to seminary, has a Ph.D in religion, and has to work a part-time job in New York transit to support her family. Maybe she was an academic scholar in a non-science field. Maybe she was a marketing rep who is used to taking big ideas and jargon and distilling it into bite-sized pieces that the average person can understand (this is important…remember Egon’s twinkie comparison from the first movie?) Maybe she is retired military.

Maybe the producers thought that casting all women in the main parts was shaking things up enough. Maybe they were just trying to keep with part of the demographic breakdown in the original movie. My big hope is that there is some serious room for her character development in the film. Who knows? She might have a tremendous backstory, like Ernie Hudson’s Winston was originally supposed to have. [I am really glad to have this backstory, by the way. Winston was always my favorite of the four, and I felt he could have had a film all on his own.] My second hope is that, as the series moves forward, there will be room to accommodate more voices that aren’t often included in big budget films.

Now, before I wrap this up, I will leave you with one final thought about the impact of this cast. I’ll do the same thing I did when talking to Robert last night.

Take a look at the cast. ghostbusters

What do you notice? Need another look?

Ghostbusters-Reboot-645x370

Did you notice it? The wide presentation of body types? I am so used to the heroes of a movie fitting into one body type, and it’s refreshing to see more variety here. “But the guys in the original aren’t necessarily buff gym bodies,” some might argue. That may be, but it’s generally more acceptable for a male main character to be larger than a female main character. Think about all the female superheroes you see in movies, t.v. shows and comics. Think of all the female action stars. It’s only recently that we started getting comic characters like Faith, or super-spy Susan Cooper (played by Melissa McCarthy…well, look at that).

To have an all-female cast for Ghostbusters, and watch them kicking ass, and see that it’s not just all typical Hollywood body types? It’s very possible that I am going to cry when I go see this movie, and not because I think my childhood is ruined.

[I’m also really excited about the presence of what looks like a proton-pack fueled set of brass knuckles, that McCarthy appears to be wielding during a fight with ghosts. I’ve always thought the Ghostbusters needed some type of melee weapon, instead of just relying on the gun-like proton pack. Definitely cosplaying as Abby Yates]

 

**While I love the fact that Big Bang Theory has helped to bring science and geek-related topics to a greater audience of non-geeks, and there are still plenty of episodes and witty banter that I like, there are still a lot of things about the show that I find problematic. The amount of sexism – disguised and excused away as “these guys are belittled and made fun of, too!” – that the show exhibits is hard to put up with, particularly as a female fan. Think of how many times the show has shown the male characters pursuing a female character…even going so far as to make unwanted physical advances on her, despite her repeated denials:

  • Consider the episode when Penny first really sets things out for Howard, after being objectified and made uncomfortable time and again. She’s seen as mean for being human, and expressing how she feels when he says or does these things. When she apologizes (because the guys think she’s at fault in this situation) he tries to kiss her And, of course, at the end he thinks he’s close to getting pity sex. Again, missing the point that she is trying to make.
  • Think back to the episode where Amy is being pursued by the geologist down the hall and Howard and Raj insist that she can’t just tell the truth – that she doesn’t like the guy like that. Instead, she has to “let him down gently.” AKA – the guys tell him she’s a lesbian. Because the only way to get someone from following you is to make them see you as someone else’s property, in some way. Because it’s not enough for the woman to just say she’s not interested. No, we’ve got to let the guy off gently, and forget about a woman’s agency.

These are just two examples I’ve pulled out of the long history of this show. Like I said, I consider myself a fan of the show, but that’s also sometimes really hard to do. Because, the truth is, examples like this – from popular shows – highlight the problems that women deal with day in and day out, without actually recognizing that they are problems. I would love it if the writers of Big Bang Theory used these moments as an opportunity to advance the dialogue.

If you make it, they will come – No.Va. Mini Maker Faire

Dismantling a printer

Dismantling a printer

Around the middle of March, I took part in Northern Virginia’s Mini Maker Faire, held at South Lakes High School and Langston Hughes Middle School, in Reston, VA. To my knowledge, this was the first such fair in Northern Virginia. There have been several mini maker faires held fairly locally before – Silver Spring being one of them – but this was the first one within the Fairfax County area. I found out about it quite by chance. While Robert’s sister was visiting for her birthday celebration, we somehow stumbled on the topic of Maker Faire. Robert has been to the large one in New York. Always interested by festivals and fairs (let’s just blame that on folklore, shall we?), I did a quick internet search, which revealed that there would be a smaller version of Maker Faire taking place just down the road from my place in Northern Virginia.

I went ahead and submitted an application to be an exhibitor at the faire, showing how to make costumes (particularly, large character heads) out of fairly household materials. They accepted my application and I was on the list of creative booths!

Robert and I went in to the high school the day before the event to set up my table. I had an interesting set-up: a round table, with stools attached to the rest of the assembly. I knew it was going to make for an interesting challenge, when it came time to actually do some work at the event, but I figured I could make due.

After we finished laying out the bins, Robert and I took some time to wander around, watching people setting up their own spaces in

These are carved out of wood and stone.

These are carved out of wood and stone.

anticipation of the next day’s crowds. I had a nice chat with a lady who had a booth where she was going to teach people to knit. She had a fantastic pair of knitted and felted slippers on display, and I was incredibly jealous of other peoples’ ability to make something other than a scarf.

The gym, across the hall from where I would be stationed, was a hub of 3-D printers and robotics and drones. The DC Area Drone Group, of which Robert is a member, was set up at one end, with a screen separating the flying robots from anyone who might not have the presence of mind to duck when it sounds like something is going to crash.

Sadly, I didn’t get a whole lot of opportunity to walk around and visit the other booths the next day. We got to the faire early on Sunday morning, and I immediately set to work straightening a huge stack of coat hangers. My plan for the day was to have a work-in-progress…Olaf, from FrozenAfter setting out my materials that morning, I was just about to start wandering around the nearby tables when I spotted the swarm starting to enter the far end of the cafeteria. Before I knew it, it was battlestations!

Costumed head selfie!

Costumed head selfie!

The first visitors to my table were my friend Scott and his two sons. I hadn’t seen the eldest since he was about four, and I had never met the youngest, so we had a wonderful visit. They tried on the heads I had on display, and told me about this year’s Odyssey of the Mind challenge (which sounded awesome!) and promised to return later in the day, to see how my costume head was progressing.

I wound up having a fairly steady stream of visitors to the table throughout the course of the day. I think folks were mostly drawn by the opportunity to try on giant costume heads. I had brought Kowl and Oogie Boogie the day before and had planned on grabbing Toothless as I headed out that morning, but I had forgotten the dragon at home. Thankfully, I caught Heather before they passed our house, and she and Frank picked it up for me on their way in.

Toothless was probably the biggest hit at the table. He was definitely the most recognizable, for most people. Everyone wanted to

Working on Olaf's head

Working on Olaf’s head

try him on. Unfortunately, he also happens to be the most fragile of the three heads. He’s not exactly about to break apart, but the eyes and the horns are definitely the sections of the head that I’d rather people not poke or pick the head up with. Of course, that means that the eyes and the horns are the very first things that people are drawn to. One came up and started poking the eyes into the headWhen I told him not to do that, he asked why. Oh, child. Because it doesn’t belong to you, it’s not yours to destroy, and because someone told you not to. I even had a grown ass man who should have known better poke at the eyes. When Maggie and I asked him not to do it, he nodded his head, and poked them a little more. GRAAAAA!

Apart from those two, and a few kids who attempted to walk off across the room while wearing the heads (they were thwarted by Maggie), most folks were pretty respectful of the fact that they were handling something that someone had spent a lot of time working on. I chatted with a mother whose daughter had recently taken on the challenge of making her school’s mascot costume (a panther), and crossed paths with a number of other costumers. Some folks had even been to DragonCon, and recognized some of my costumes.

I have to say, it’s a good thing I had some extra help show up throughout the day. Robert and Maggie both took some turns at the booth, supervising little hands as they picked up the heads and answering the questions they could, and were kind enough to watch the table long enough for me to step out to the food trucks for a little break.

When the event ended at 4 I was exhausted, my voice was shot, and I was sweaty and dehydrated and ready to go home, but it was a truly amazing day. My only wish was that I had gotten a chance to see more of the rest of the faire. Mom, Heather, Frank and Joey all reported on the things they had seen in other rooms and buildings, and it sounds like there were a lot of wonderful offerings. There’s another mini maker faire coming up later in the year, in Charlottesville. I don’t plan on exhibiting there, but I’m thinking about going, just so I get a chance to see what else the faires have to offer.

Costume Heroes – “Uncle Marty”

We all have heroes when we start out in costuming. I’m not talking about the latex and tights-clad superpowered characters who people the comics we read and the movies we watch. I’m talking about the people we meet in our first, fumbling attempts at costuming – whether it be for Halloween, some at-home D&D or LARPing, or in the wider world of convention-going. When you start to make and wear costumes for yourself, you inevitably come across people you want to emulate, or just plain pick the brain of. I’m constantly amazed by the wondrous things I see people making and bringing to conventions, and I am genuinely gung-ho about asking them “How did you do that?!” and assuring them that it does, indeed, look awesome.

Among this group of wiser, more experienced and ridiculously talented individuals, there are always some who stand out in your mind. The folks who are not just wonderfully talented, but who take it upon themselves to guide newcomers and old hands alike; who feel it is their duty to record and discuss the history of costuming at conventions (at the original Star Trek conventions, those who dressed in costume were looked down on…can you believe it?), and who take great pride and joy in elevating the art of costuming even higher.

Marty Gear was one such person. In some ways, you could say he was the person. He was instrumental in creating solid, popular, and well-respected masquerades here on the East Coast, and founded the first chapter of the International Costumers Guild. He was a big name at Balticon, Costume Con, and a number of other events, and was a much sought-after MC for various masquerades. He worked at Castle Blood for a number of years, playing vampires for the haunted attraction.

Despite being a pretty big name in the costuming world, Marty was always down-to-earth and very welcoming and supportive of costumers of every level. He wasn’t a push-over (he did judge for costume contests and masquerades, after all, and would let you know what could have been improved), but he was polite and helpful and honestly wanted to help people improve their craft. Perhaps it was because he was a fellow Midwesterner (Ohio!). I think it’s just…that was Marty. He encouraged people to call him “Uncle Marty,” and I know many people looked up to him, using him as a measurement for professionalism and poise in this community.

I remember attending panels where he gave advice on what judges would look at and pay attention to, in terms of masquerade and worksmanship judging. He gave wonderful insight into an area of the con that many of us just don’t know much about, and was not afraid to talk about some of the mistakes he himself had made in his years costuming. Looking at his work, though, it’s hard to think of Marty as making mistakes. The man could talk better with full fangs in his mouth than anyone else I’ve heard. That’s talent.

He was just plain cool. When we saw him wandering around the bottom floor at Dragon*Con one year, Maggie and I were far and away more giddy and excited and, dare I say, starstruck than I think I’ve ever been with any of the actors I’ve met in my years of con-going. We shared whispered confessions that we wanted to be like Marty Gear.

A little while ago, word started to spread via several Dragon*Con-related Facebook pages that Marty Gear passed away today. Those of us who had the genuine pleasure of meeting him will always remember the dapper Dracula-clad gentleman who shared his knowledge with everyone, and who worked to make sure the art of costuming received its due respect and admiration.

Here’s to you, Marty.

Marty Gear

(If you’d like to read a little more about Marty, I encourage you to check out this link to a blog post about his embroidery)

You mean I have to keep smiling?

Hello all!  I’m Megan’s friend Angelica.  She’s mentioned me a couple times here. I guess I’m going to be a contributor now.  Back in April Meg asked me to write something about my experience attending Wonder-Con, in San Francisco.  It’s a tad late I know.  But enjoy.

I’ll be the first to admit that part of the reason I cosplay is for the attention.  I love being asked by random strangers if it’s okay for them to take my picture.  I also love hearing the reaction from people when they see me in my costume.  There is something truly gratifying about the whole experience.  I’m sure many other cosplayers feel the same way.

So it always surprises me when I come across those few cosplayers who don’t like the attentions what so ever.  Sure some of those might be shy newbies but then they soon get over their hesitation and embrace the attention the world offers them.  There is however, that small group who are just plain douche bags.

What do I mean by douche bags?

These are the people who dress up in awesome costumes, which would logically be very popular with the masses but then they are annoyed when someone compliments them by asking for their photograph.

One of my first experiences with this type of cosplayer was at Comic-Con in 2008.  It was for a Doctor Who panel and as I recall there was one guy dressed as the tenth Doctor.  He was a spot on look alike and of course he was very popular.  David Tennant look allike took pictures with a number of people and when I finally got my chance he totally brushed me off and told me no, he had to go away now.

Okay, granted he had been taking pictures for the past twenty minutes and I’m sure he was probably tired of posing but I think he could have refused in a nicer way.

I will sympathize with him on that part.  I remember having to pose for thirty plus minutes of photos last year when I had dressed up as a Dalek.  I remember at one point my checks were burning from having to smile for so long.  I also remember being chased by a fan wanting to take a picture of the Dalek girl.  And in my defense I did not know she was chasing me until she caught up.  I had somewhere to go but I still posed for her, after all it only takes a couple of seconds for a photo…sometimes.

Okay I guess David Tennant look alike can have a pass from the douche bag department.  I forgive him only because I only witnessed him brush one person of, me.

Any ways, recently I attended Wonder-Con in San Francisco.  This years Wonder-Con was unfortunately where I ran into the one cosplayer who prompted me to write this tirade.  Did I also mention this year marked the tenth year I would be attending the con, so running into this cosplayer compounded the lack luster that was my milestone anniversary, but I’m going a bit off tangent.

Back to the A-hole of a cosplayer; coincidently I had the misfortune of running across this cosplayer at another Doctor Who panel.  This guy was dressed as the very popular and very noticeable, Weeping Angel.  A Weeping Angel!

I had the bad luck of nearly missing the Doctor Who panel so I had no experience interacting with the weeping angel inside the Esplanade Ballroom.  That was the massive ball room where most of the popular panels were being held.  My experience was with him was outside the ballroom.  I remember being really excited hearing there was a weeping angel so I made it my goal to find it.  And sadly I did.

I approached him very politely, well as politely as I could muster for being so happy that I found him.  I asked “May I take your picture, please?” Imagine my surprise when he replied “you can take my picture but I’ll be walking away.”

I think I must have stood there dumbfounded for a few seconds, as I watched him go away.  As my friend said when he heard about the incident “Wait, you encountered a cosplayer that DIDN’T want [their] picture taken? My mind [is], blown.”

I would have grudgingly forgotten about the incident, since I know a couple of people (*cough, cough* Meg and Maggie) who have way better looking weeping angel costumes.  Unfortunately, we ran into him and his group a couple more times.  He was posing for pictures this time and I quickly took a couple and I watched as other people posed with him.

At one point there were these two children, they looked about eight or ten.  They were clearly Doctor Who fans, or at least their parents were since they showed an obvious fear of the angel.  The mom was trying to get them to take a picture with the angel but they were hesitant to stand too close.  The photo session was running long.                So what did A-hole cosplayer do?

He grabs the two kids by their arm and pulls them closer to speed the photos along!  Can you image the fear these kids must have felt as the angel reached out for them?  Everyone watching thought it was hilarious.  I was annoyed.

Part of that warm fuzzy feeling you get from the attention is the reaction from the kids.  Let’s face it these kids who attend conventions will probably grow up to be the future cosplayers of the world. So I always feel a certain responsibility to be patient and accommodating to kids.   For kids, it’s more real.  I’m not just some girl dressed in a costume, I really am Belle, or for my friend she really was Harley Quinn to that little girl sees her favorite comic book character come to life.

Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but for me sometimes cosplaying means being as real to that child and not to traumatize by adding to their fears.

I got too preachy I know, but he really scared those kids!

The whole session ended with weeping angel dude brushing off a guy and his lady by saying he had to go find a Darth Vader to take a picture with.  Personally, I don’t even find the irony of Darth Vader and a weeping angel.  Darth Vader and the Doctor, maybe.  But a weeping angel and Darth, I’ll just roll my eyes at that.

I had a point some where here.  Okay, my point is, as a cosplayer I feel I have a certain obligation to those who ask for my photograph.  After all cosplayer and fans have this symbiotic relationship going.  Cosplayers get validation that their costume is as awesome as they think it is by fans asking to take their pictures and fans get to see their favorite characters come to life.  It’s a win/win situation.

Cosplayers, remember with great costumes comes great responsibly.  So don’t be a douche bag.  Conversely, fans if you see person in costume being fed Tylenol and water, maybe asking them to take a photo is not the best idea.

Dragon*Con 2011 con report #1 – Final day of prep and Thursday

Doo dee doo dee doo…. ::wanders casually into the room:: Doo dee doooooo  ::looks around cautiously::

Alright. Now seems as good a time as any to start the con reports for Dragon*Con 2011. Oh sure, I hear you…”No, Meg. A good time would’ve been about two months ago.” Pshaw! Didn’t you know? Two months is fashionably late. And,as we all know, I am the epitome of fashion.

I’ll give you a moment or two to get your laughing under control. Take your time.

Okay.

As with any con worth it’s salt (why we’re still setting value in salt-based equations I’ll never know), the most important day of the convention is actually not a con day at all. It’s a prep day. To be specific, the most important day of the con, at least in my experience, is the final day of packing, sewing, last-minute-purchasing, and general hecticness (for the purposes of this piece, let’s just assume that’s a real world) before you embark for a weekend of fanboy/fangirl geek-outs.

Now, normally I try not to work on the day before a convention. I usually need the whole day to do laundry, pack my bags, re-check my list, re-pack my bags as I realize I forgot to put things on said list, finish costumes, pick up odds and ends from the store. So on and so forth. This year, however, I had to work on the Wednesday before we left. I managed to get someone come in for me for the last hour of my shift, which meant I could dash home…and finish a corset and jacket.

In my defense, the corset was almost finished before Wednesday came around. It was mainly missing boning and the final binding around the bottom edge and the armholes. Mom was kind enough to make a run out to Home Depot to pick up some wide cable ties for me. That’s right, folks. I use cable ties as the boning in my corsets. It’s often cheaper than the poly boning one buys in the store, I find it’s a lot sturdier, and you can get different widths and lengths. Plus, the Home Depot is closer to my house than JoAnn’s is. Convenience!

I had started cutting out the jacket earlier in the week. I think I had part of it done on Sunday, but I ended up working Monday at the coffee shop, which seriously cut into my Holy-Crap-I’m-not-even-CLOSE-to-being-done sewing marathon. I knew I had a bit of work ahead of me when I got home from my Wednesday shift. The boning and binding of the corset weren’t a major issue. I hadn’t figured they would be. What really set me back in regards to time was the stupid jacket for the God costume from Dogma.

Part of the problem was the fabric that I was working with. Polyester Shantung. It drapes beautifully…but it’s not as structured as I needed. With the jacket being unlined, I needed to finish the seams – meaning either French seams or flat-felled seams. Although French seams would’ve been faster, they also made the seam lines look bulky. I needed the fabric to lay flatter along the seam lines which, of course, meant flat-felled seams.

I won’t go into what these are right now. I think they deserve a post all their own. Well, maybe not their own. I’ll probably write about them in the same post as French seams, as they are similar, but that’s neither here nor there. Suffice it to say, I’ll write about them in depth later. I will say, however that they are not the fastest of seams. They require more work than French seams, and some folks (Maggie included) find them too time-consuming to really be of much value in most pieces. They were necessary to get the right look for the jacket, though, so I ended up giving over much of my precious prep time to working on them.

All told, it took me 8 hours of work, from start to finish, on just the jacket. Obviously, that wasn’t all done on Wednesday. But a large chunk of it was. This, of course, meant that I finally finished all my laundering, sewing, packing and re-packing and sleepy stumbling around fairly late on Wednesday night. Maggie and Heather had already been toiling away at Maggie’s house on their own last-minute prep list. Maggie helped Heather fit the harness for the wings on her dragon costume, they finished her dragon gloves, and packed most of the gear in the car. By the time I got all my crap shoved in my car and grabbed a quick bite to eat, it was late. I mean LATE. I think it might have been around 11pm by the time I finally got to Maggie’s. It might have been earlier, but I don’t know. I was incredibly sleep-deprived by that point, and all I wanted to do was get everything packed away and crawl onto the air mattress in Maggie’s room.

First, though, we had to pack and I had a few last minute paint touch-ups to do on my RC belt bags. Upon my arrival, Heather and Maggie wandered outside to help move my gear to the SUV we would be borrowing from Maggie’s roommate for the duration of the trip.

As I neared the back of the SUV, Maggie looked at me with a serious expression and said “I would like to apologize…for any frustration I may have caused when you were teaching me to sew. Your sister was driving me insane. It was an hour into it, and I was pulling my hair out. I was thinking ‘Oh my God! Is this what Meg had to go through?'”

All I could do was laugh.

The gear was stowed fairly quickly, the red crosses were quickly painted on my pouches, and I finally got to head to the fabulous air mattress in the back. I’m pretty sure I passed out as soon as my knees hit the air mattress. My body didn’t even wait until my head hit the pillow. And I’ll tell you right now…I didn’t move AT ALL from that position all night. I woke up in the same position I had gone to sleep in…sprawled haphazardly across the pillows and blankets.

The three of us woke fairly early on Thursday morning. I think Maggie and I actually got to sleep a little later than we

Obligatory shot of the Peach Butt water tower in Georgia

usually do on Thursdays, which my body greatly appreciated. I slept more on the drive down than I intended to, though I managed to do a smattering of last-minute fixes. I put some velcro on my RC belt, sewed the buckles onto the pouches, and even managed to fix Maggie’s skirt. That she was wearing that day.

That’s right, folks. At one point in the trip down to Atlanta, Maggie was driving along in her underoos while I fixed the hook on the skirt she was wearing that day. I’m sure she appreciates me noting that. Don’t worry. She was wearing a slip, too. So she was basically wearing a second skirt. I just thought it was a little amusing…especially when we got pulled over by the po-po while she was still essentially skirtless. I handed it to her and she draped it over her, and no one was the wiser.

Never a dull day.

We opted to check into our hotel (the WESTIN!) before heading down and over two blocks to the Sherton to pick up our con badges. I laughed as we helped the bellboy load our gear from the car to the luggage cart. I really wish I had taken a picture of it. The whole mess looked absolutely ridiculous. There was Maggie’s Goblin Knight and Heather’s dragon wings and head, and my Wise Man head – which I seem to remember carrying myself – and all our bags of shoes and costumes and assorted gee-gaws hanging from various hooks. We headed upstairs and waited for our bags to arrive.

Our room was AWESOME! and HUGE! and had hugely awesome windows with what looked like a dancer’s barre running along their length. I’m not normally one for cities, but I admit that the lights of Atlanta, as viewed from our room, were pretty and sparkly.

The view from our room

Finally, our bags arrived. We took a moment to settle in, change our clothes, and then it was down to the Sheraton! The line for registration this year was not even CLOSE to what the wait was like last year. It was a gentle, fair breeze in comparison to last year. It was still a tad bit warm, this being Atlanta, and my peanut butter shirt was more than a little hot. And itchy. But I think we made a cute trio as we marched around the hotel dressed as peanut butter, jelly and Wonder Bread. Before I had left for Maggie’s on Wednesday, Mom had bemoaned the fact that she hadn’t yet seen ANY of our new costumes for the convention (have I mentioned before that my mom’s my biggest costume fan?), so Maggie got a nearby line neighbor to take a picture of us.

Which I have not-so-conveniently misplaced in my files.

Maggie sent the picture to Mom. The reply we got: “You girls make me so proud. All dressed up for a night on the town. Have fun!”

As we wound our way through the ropes leading to badge pickup, Maggie and I kept up our usual barrage of geek-centered banter. About halfway through the room, the guy standing in front of Maggie informed us that we were hilarious. Apparently, we were providing solid entertainment for our fellow line-goers.

There was a slight snafu at badge pickup – which they never really explained – but we had our badges in what I consider to be record time for Dragon*Con. We stopped by the parade table in the Sheraton to pick up our parade ribbons, only to learn that they hadn’t arrived yet. The folks at the table told us to stop by again the next day, and they should have them by then.

Exploring time!

I was really surprised how many people were walking around on Thursday in costume. Granted, most of our experience of the previous year’s Thursday was spent in the never-ending Purgatory that was Registration, but I didn’t remember seeing too many folks in costume in the Sheraton when we finished our badge-getting that year. This year, there was a veritable explosion of costumes and robots and random geeky fun.

One of the first costumes we say was what I initially took to be a human R2D2. I asked her to pause for a moment while I got my camera out. She chastized me for not already having it out and ready. We’d just come from registration, so I wasn’t all that concerned. Upon closer inspection of the costume later, I realized she was actually dressed as RJewD2. Every year we manage to find someone who has worked an aspect of Jewish culture into a costume. One year it was Jew Man Group. The next it was Jewbacca. This was the one I spotted for 2011. It makes me wonder whether I’ll manage to catch someone next year.

There was a wonderful remote-controlled shark balloon cruising the air space of the Marriott’s lobby area. It was there to encourage con-goers to donate blood in the blood drive. And to entertain us. I swear it was like a real shark, the way all of us were staring at it in wonder and amusement. I seem to remember a space ship balloon later on, but it was no where near as cool as the shark.

I think Maggie’s Moment of Win for the evening was when she spotted Duke Nukem wandering in the bottom of the Marriott. I think her squeal afterwards might have had the ability to shatter glass. It seems Maggie is quite the fan of Duke Nukem. I had completely forgotten that she played the original game when it came out. She’s quite unhappy with the new version.

Now, while the costumes the three of us were wearing weren’t all that obvious, they did get some pretty nice responses from people. Most folks chuckled at Heather’s Wonder Bread shirt, and everyone was enamored with Maggie’s grape hat. My costume, being brown and not as obvious, often got overlooked upon first viewing. I remember a group of people coming over to ask Maggie about her hat. The guy and one of the women took in the rest of us and kind of chuckled as they got the joke, but the second woman in the group took a little longer to catch on. She stared at me for a little while, reading my hat. Things finally clicked, and she let out an “OH! Peanut butter, jelly and Wonder Bread! That’s so cute!” When she just stood there, the guy asked her “Are you going to take a picture of the most clever costume idea we’ve seen?”

Haha! Costuming win!

My favorite moment of the evening came when I was informed that there were Yip Yips in the atrium lobby. I made a beeline for them and tried my best to wait patiently for a chance to take a picture with them. The entire time I was kneeling there, the Yip Yips kept up a yippy conversation. They’d turn towards someone taking a picture and go “Oooooo….camera….yip yip yip yip.”

There was a group dressed as characters from Blade: Trinity. About ten seconds after I took their picture, hotel security came over and told the woman dressed as Abigail that she couldn’t have a functioning bow inside the hotel. I would have thought that was obvious. I do believe it’s in the rules – no functional weapons at the convention. She was surprised to hear this. When security told her she couldn’t have it, she said “Even though I had it last year? No one told me then.”

We wandered around the Marriott a bit more before we finally decided to head out for dinner and then call it a night. Most of our meals during the con tend to be purchased from the little shop in the Marriott, but we decided to treat ourselves to the Hard Rock Cafe that evening. The place was packed, so we sat at one of the bars in back to eat, watching the wait staff and kitchen crew. Hard Rock was selling some commemorative Dragon*Con pins. They were extremely shiny but I was untempted.

Costume Awards for Thursday:

Funniest: Zombie Chick-Fil-A cows

Best Random: I think these guys are dressed as Angry Birds, but I’m not entirely sure.

Best Childhood Moment: Yip Yips

Most In Character: Doctor Who who stumbled upon a remote-controlled K9 and proceeded to cosplay

Best Puppet: Men in Black

Closest Look-Alike to a Friend Back Home: Iron Man (he kinda sorta reminded me of my friend Tristan)

Most Common: Doctor Who and companions

 

So….not too much happened Thursday, but there were a few moments here and there. We retired back to the hotel fairly early for us. Chalk it up to a long drive after not a lot of sleep and knowing we were in for a long day of fun on Friday.

 

May Your Days Be Geeky and Bright

It is once again Geek Pride Day! To be completely honest, I almost forgot it was today. I didn’t program it into the calendar on my phone, like I did with May the Fourth (yes, I’m actually geeky enough that I program stuff like that in). I think that was the real problem with remembering it. I mean, May 4th is pretty easy to remember, with the whole catchphrase and everything. May 25th just seems like any random ol’ day.

Except it isn’t. At least, it shouldn’t be for geeks around the world.

The big thing on my calendar for today was work. I had my usual Wednesday shift at the shop to worry about, and that was really all that was on my mind this morning when I got up and started going about the business of preparing for the day. Well, it was on my mind following “Just a few more minutes of sleep…please!” and “Dear God! Why did I sleep that way! I think I dislocated my hip!”

Don’t worry. It’s not dislocated, and the severe pain went away within a few minutes of moving out of my strange sleeping position.

Anyhoo…as wonderfully aesthetic as my work shirt is (read: not very), I like to bring a different shirt to change into after my shift is up. Today’s choice happened to be my Raccoon Mario shirt. A nice little homage to my first videogame love. It wasn’t until I went upstairs and did my pre-work check of email and Facebook that I realized it fit in perfectly with today’s theme. Go me!

I hadn’t come up with any special plans for Geek Pride Day in the weeks leading up to it. I really should do something next year. Today’s celebration involved starting a new book (from Thomas Sniegoski’s Remy Chandler series), wearing the afore-mentioned shirt, and working on my Rebecca Chambers costume.

Nothing says "quality costume construction" like duct tape and hot glue!

That’s right kiddies! I’m finally getting started on my stuff for Dragon*Con. I figure, with 99 days until the convention, I’d best get started on something. So I’ve started work on the accessories. My logic is…if I make all the stuff that goes ON the costume, I have to make sure I pull the rest of it together. So far, I’m working on the canvas belt and the front pouch. The canvas belt is actually really easy. Probably the easiest part of the entire costume – a long strip of canvas webbing and a large parachute buckle. That’s pretty much it.

The front pouch took a little more thought. I ended up pulling out my Dad’s old CB radio to use as a basic reference for size. It’s a little longer than the front pouch needs to be, but it’s got the right width and depth. To my knowledge, there are no shots of the inside of the front pouch, so we’re left to imagine what it’s like. I cut out some flats of cardboard from an old box for use forming the pouch. I lined one side of each of the flats with some vinyl that was left over from an old costume I made. I had originally thought to make the pouch out of just the vinyl, with a canvas cover over top of it, but I decided I wanted it a little more sturdy. The maroon vinyl forms the inside of the pouch. I put some hot glue along all of the edges where the cardboard flats meet, and reinforced it with duct tape. It looks…well, not nice, at the moment. But it’s starting to look like a sturdy pouch to carry things in.

I’ve also started the preliminary work for my vest.

Up to this point, that’s the biggest thing that has had me worried, as it seems the trickiest part of the whole costume. To my knowledge, a real-world equivalent does not exist, so it’s not exactly something I can order online and make a video-game accurate version of in my own home. Instead, I have to puzzle it out for myself. I went ahead and bought a throwaway tank top at the grocery store the other day. They carry them in the hosiery aisle (which I find odd but convenient). There were a few color options when I went. Since I’m using the tank top as the basis for a pattern and will be cutting it to pieces, I went for the package with the pink tank top in it. I have no problem whatsoever with cutting up the pink one. I’d feel wasteful if it were a color I actually liked.

I’ve started drawing the seam lines on the tank top with marker. I need to double check my shots of the side of Rebecca’s vest, but I should be able to come up with the basic pattern by Friday. Then comes the challenge of transferring said pattern to the batting and mesh material that will go together to form the actual vest. I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to do the RESCUE insignia on the back of the vest. I’ve got some iron-on transfer paper, but I have to figure out how to make the insignia on the computer in the first place. Challenges! I have them!

Tonight should see the front pouch finished, and some fiddling with the pattern for the back pouch.

What I’m Not Watching

I feel I have been neglecting my geeky duties.

I have not been watching any of my shows. Not Supernatural. Not Doctor Who (which, apparently, had one hell of an episode recently, written by none other than Neil Gaiman himself). I did manage to catch an episode of Bones the other day, which left me particularly weepy, but it’s the first episode of the show I’ve seen in at least two months.

I haven’t managed to make it out to see Thor yet. I’m actually kind of upset about that. My uncle Tom worked as an extra in the movie and, as his self-professed biggest fan, I feel I am being negligent.

Those things are just drops in the bucket of geekiness that I seem to have dropped, though. The thing that makes me feel like I currently don’t deserve my geek cred might shock some of you.

I haven’t been watching Game of Thrones.

And I don’t feel all that shaken up about missing out. For some reason, I was not one of the folks who jumped on the excited bandwagon of fantasy fans clamoring for the show. I’ve met George R.R. Martin – or rather, I shared an elevator ride with the man when Maggie and I attended WFC in Saratoga Springs a few years back – and I respect him as one of the BIG names in the fantasy world. But I have not yet read any of his work and, despite the presence of Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage in the show (two actors I admire), I have not felt compelled to watch the show.

My brother’s been watching. As has Maggie. And Maggie’s roommate. And a number of the guys I was in high school theatre with. And, it turns out, a number of our customers at the coffee shop. The other day, one of our regulars came in asking if we’d been watching it. She is apparently LOVING the show. She was not, as far as I can figure, a big fan of fantasy before this.

It seems there are a number of folks who are watching the show who were not, originally, amongst the geek population. Perhaps this is why I am not watching the show. There is room in this world for a finite number of fans per show and, with these non-fantasy folks on the list, I am relieved of my duties.

Of course, identifying oneself as a geek doesn’t necessarily mean that one then has to participate in EVERY single geek outlet. I play video games…but not all of them. I’m not particularly intrigued by Halo. I read comics, but only select ones. I watch some sci-fi/fantasy shows, but not others. Not all geeks are created equal.

Some of us have no desire to watch Game of Thrones.