Thursday, August 29, 2013

Home Renovations 105: Apparently construction lasts forever...

It's been a long six weeks.

Really, really long.

For instance, I took a video on July 16th. It's mostly a recap of the stuff that I posted pictures of in my last home renovations entry, but regardless, take a look (if you want):

I suppose I should admit that we've come a long way since then - because we have. Unfortunately, as our contractor worked, he kept finding other things that needed to be fixed. And Steve and I have had so little free time the past couple of months that even though we used 90% of that free time to do our assigned home renovation tasks...well, none of it happened fast enough, if you ask me. So here we are, exactly six weeks later, and our house is still mostly torn apart.

What has me just a bit disheartened, by just a few days into our renovations it seemed like so much had been done. For example, at that point the solarium and dining room walls were entirely gone, and the new flooring had been laid over where where the solarium used to be:

It took a lot of hard work, but by that first full weekend Steve and I had knocked out the hearth as well. He did most of the drilling, but I was the crowbar whiz. (He was very proud of my skills and even admitted that I did most of the "heavy lifting" ;) Not that he didn't do plenty of work himself - he did!)

After that, though, things slowed down. A lot. Too much, in fact. Tearing up the carpet and padding and staples was more time consuming then it should have been, and on top of it we decided (sort of last minute) to repaint our walls - even the ones that hadn't been effected by the renovations. Ahhh, the things we should have thought about long before doing them... ;)

Thankfully, even though it still seems as if there's no end in sight, in recent days we've gotten a lot more done - and a lot faster - so I'll hopefully get around to posting painting and flooring updates sooner rather than later. Until then, though...I guess we'll continue to work our butts off. ::sigh:: Pin It

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Who's Ready for Dragon Con?!

(Hint: Not this girl :-/ )

Seriously, how is it that I will be IN Atlanta in just TWO days...and I still have so much to do to get ready?!

Part of my not being ready is sheer procrastination; another part is that it was simply a bad idea to think that I could spend this summer working two jobs and renovating my house and still be ready for Dragon Con. Sadly, I've had to scrap a major costume upgrade that I was going to make, and to be honest a few other things for my new costumes are going to be, well, pretty thrown together.

At this point, though, I think I've reached some sort of Zen mindset about the whole thing. At least, I hope that's the case. Because I really almost don't care if some of my costume stuff ends up not finished...I just want to be at Dragon Con, hanging out with my friends and enjoying another amazingly hectic (or hectically amazing?) Con weekend. Because that's what it's all about, no?

Pin It

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Confessions

I confess...I don't remember the last time I felt this exhausted. I feel as if I say that a lot, but this time I really, really mean it.

I confess...that I'd rather never have to live in a construction zone of a house ever again.

I confess...I'm a procrastinator. That's all I even have the energy to say right now ::sigh::

Pin It

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book Review: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

If you know anything about Fitzgerald, you know that he and his wife had quite the tumultuous relationship, and that Zelda struggled with mental illness. In a way, Tender is the Night is essentially a very sad sort of ode to their relationship. But it is also inherently fiction - and therein, I think, lies the problem with this novel.


As per the usual, Fitzgerald proves that he is a capable writer in terms of phrasing and description. Unfortunately, it seems to me that he spend so much time laboring over those things that he forgot that a novel was actually supposed to have a plot. Because of this, what would otherwise have been a beautiful and enjoyable story becomes a dull, rambling, and even forced, read.

Now, I understand that Tender is the Night is *supposed* to be about shallow, wealthy people. But unfortunately, without the first person narrative that we are given in Gatsby, there is literally no depth - at all - to any character in this novel. Combine that with the fact that Night is chock full of contrived scenes (most of which add nothing at all to the plot) and jumps from one thing to another without any obvious direction, and you have an overall insubstantial and problematic novel. 1.5/5 stars.

Pin It

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blogs & Podcasts, oh my!

Well, I haven't done a link share in a while, and with Dragon Con fast approaching I'm so busy trying to finish home renovations (more on that later) and costumes ( ::crossing my fingers that everything I need to get done, gets done...sigh:: ) that it seems like a good time to promote/mention some other things I've been involved in. So that it actually looks like I have a life outside blogging, of course... ;)

The most recent thing I have to mention is - surprise surprise - about Dragon Con. I was invited to guest post on Needless Things again, this time during their Dragon Con prep time - so I wrote up a little "article" about what I learned my first year at Dragon Con. (Thankfully that was just last year, so my memory is still at least somewhat fresh...) So go check it out!

Now, some time ago I was a guest on the Bastards of Kingsgrave podcast. BoK is an offshoot of A Podcast of Ice & Fire, during which they talk about non-ASOIAF-related things...and of course, often end up comparing them with ASOIAF ;) This particular episode was about Battlestar Galactica, and it was as always a blast to talk to Ashley, and also to meet other fans of the series. (Well, in this case, both series!)

Bastards of Kingsgrave Episode 18: Battlestar Galactica

Now, speaking of Podcast of Ice & appears that I forgot to plug the last episode I joined in on, here on my blog! During this one, I come in about an hour and a half in to talk a bit about Dragon Con (surprise surprise? haha) and a bit more about Ice & Fire Con....

That said, I absolutely could not post this blog entry - and mention APOIAF that many times - without also giving them a huge congratulations...because earlier this week, they won Best Podcast at The Geekie Awards!!!

Amin, Ashley, Kyle, and Mimi put a lot of time and effort into APOIAF. They clearly love their fans and the podcast is not only informative about Song of Ice & Fire and Game of Thrones, but amusing as well. They totally deserved this award and I expect more awesome things to come for them! So again, congrats, guys! Pin It

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Writer's Block Wednesday: It's past time for me to announce...

 ...there's this thing called..."THE HUMP & BRONTO SHOW...WITH TARA"!

Yup, with *me* :)

As of now, we are still getting things rolling with this webcast (yes, I said WEBCAST ;) ) so as of now we actually aren't doing fully edited episodes. This means several things:

1) We can't promise that we won't offend anyone. (But the truth is, we really don't care all that much.)
2) While we're naturally amazing at segues, there's not much of a "plan" for each episode.
3) However, I can promise that we will talk about the following nearly every week: movies that are in theaters, random television shows (Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, True Blood, etc. - depending on the time of year)
4) Eventually we will offer this in podcast form, but for now it is, as I said, a webcast. So it's video, and you really probably need to watch it on YouTube (though not necessarily live) to get the full, err, picture.
5) We can't promise that we won't offend anyone. (But the truth is, we really don't care all that much.)

(I guess I should also mention that we are in no way, shape, or form safe for work.)

Anyway, Mike is a close friend of mine and has been for over 11 years now...he and John basically grew up together, so of course I met John through him a while back. We have a great time with these webcasts, and honestly that's what it's all about for us is hanging out with each other and enjoying ourselves...well, and I suppose hoping that we at the very least amuse those who watch us ;) Pin It

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday Funday, New England style!

I should be at home in South Carolina, painting our house and working on Dragon Con costumes.

But my cousin got married this weekend, and Monday was the only day with affordable flights back home...which means that I have a couple of days to hang out in New England. And what better way to spend them than at my best friend Jenna's family cottage on Lake Mascoma in New Hampshire?

As you can see, it's beautiful up here, and the weather was perfect yesterday and promises to be perfect again today. We'll be whipping up some Bloody Marys in a minute to make this a true Sunday Funday.

(Of course, it will be way more fun if I can stop thinking about the million things I need to do when I get home from this mini vacation...)
Pin It

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Watch this, not that.

So there's all of this to-do about Heroes of Cosplay. The vast majority of my friends don't like it. I have thoughts, but to be honest there are a lot of them (what's new? heh) and they belong in an entry all their own.

Instead, what I want to do today is share with you what you should watch - instead of Heroes of Cosplay, that is.

View Cosplay: Crafting a Secret Identity by clicking on this link OR on the picture above :)

Cosplay: Crafting a Secret Identity is an approximately hour-long documentary about a group of people who have taken cosplay to the next level - and are essentially making a living off of it. Some of them film webisodes, some are what I suppose should be called cosplay diplomats, and others simply make costumes and props for those who don't have the time and/or knowledge to do it themselves. Cosplay: Crafting a Secret Identity also has some footage from last year's Dragon Con (I caught glimpses of a few people I know!) and delves a bit into how Atlanta has become the sort of epicenter of the cosplay phenomenon.

So instead of wasting an hour of your time on Heroes of Cosplay (which may feature some talented cosplayers who are wonderful people, but was of course filmed and edited by a cable network that clearly knows nothing about the love of the hobby), check out this documentary - which is clearly a labor of love. Pin It

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Travel Tuesday: Tara's Guide to Drinking Around the World at EPCOT

I posted my first guide to Drinking Around the World at Epcot early 2010, I think. Since then, other blogs and websites and videos have popped up offering information on Drinking Around the World...but because I stand by my own personal rules, I figured it couldn't hurt to rehash them here on my blog.

My friends, Drinking Around the World - or DATW, as my friends and I affectionately call it - is a staple of every trip I take to Walt Disney World. My trip in March of this year marked my seventeenth full completion of DATW, so yes, I think of myself as something of an expert on the subject.

Round 17 - St Patrick's Day 2013!

First, the main thing to know is that there are two different ways to DATW - but this entry deals with only one of them, that being your basic/usual DATW trip. The second - DATW during Epcot's Food & Wine Festival - is a completely different experience and needs an entry all its own to describe ;)

Second, yes, there are rules about DATW. Personally, I believe that once someone has fully experienced DATW a couple of times, most of these rules are bendable, but for at least the first time you drink around the world, they must, must, must be followed. Now, these are my rules, based on seventeen successful DATW trips. There are other rules out there, but I can only tell you what has worked for me and the many, many people I have introduced to DATW.

For example, this DATW trip in July 2006 was a first for many present (but not, of course, for me). To this day it's still my #1 DATW trip of all time.

I suppose I should at least give a brief description of what Drinking Around the World is. For those of you who don't know, the EPCOT theme park at Walt Disney World has an area called The World Showcase. In The World Showcase are eleven countries - starting on the left (if you are facing the back of the park) and working around clockwise, they are Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, USA, Japan, Morocco, France, Great Britain, and Canada. Yes, there are some very notable world powers missing here, but you might as well push that thought off to the side because the eleven staple countries were "installed", if you will, in 1982 and haven't changed since. There has been a small addition of an African-styled area/corner on the bridge between China and Germany, but there really isn't enough there for it to count as a pavilion - not to mention, they don't carry any drinks or beers native to any African country, so why force yourself to drink another crappy mass-produced American beer? My friends and I simply act as if this little African area doesn't exist, and I suggest you do the same.

As for my rules...

My very first - and to me, the most important - rule is that you must start in Mexico. I have a couple of friends who swear by starting in Canada, but I will never understand why. Mainly because of the old adage, "liquor before beer, you're in the clear; beer before liquor, never been sicker". If you start in Canada, you will start with beer, and probably have beer in Great Britain, and from thence move to wine/champagne in France, a mixed drink in Morocco...and I can't imagine that ending with one of the amazing Mexican Margaritas would be pretty. As I said, I have completed seventeen DATW adventures, and let's just say that I've never gotten sick from DATW. (::knock on wood::)

I won't name names, but I think it's a few of these folks who believe starting in Canada is a good idea. Tisk tisk, I say!

The second rule, and what should be the most obvious one, is that you need to have at least one drink in each and every country. I am not so much of a stickler on exactly what you drink (because I understand that some people can't stomach certain things) - as long as it isn't just Bud Light every single time. Personally, my day looks like this:

  1. Mexico - Margarita (my favorite drink of the day)
  2. Norway - Beer (nowadays it's Carlsberg, brewed in Denmark--I want to say they used to have a beer that was actually from Norway, but if so it hasn't been around since sometime in 2005 or 2006)
  3. China - Beer (Tsingtao)
  4. Germany - White Wine (they used to have a Riesling; the last time I went it was a Gewurztraminer; regardless, they were both amazing)
  5. Italy - Bellini
  6. America - Beer (I usually go for a Sam Adams)
  7. Japan - Beer (Sake is obviously the braver choice, but I don't like the stuff and so I drink Kirin Ichiban)
  8. Morocco - Tangerine Daquiri (my second favorite drink of the day)
  9. France - Champagne
  10. Great Britain - Beer (I used to get Tennant's, brewed in Scotland, but the past few times I've stuck with Stella Artois, brewed in Belgium, simply because I prefer it)
  11. Canada - Beer (Previously we always had to drink Labatt Blue, but a few years ago they started offering Moosehead, which I was very excited about!)
This second rule is one that I feel can be broken after you've accomplished a few trips around the world. It's rare that I substitute, but it has happened, so if you are already an established DATW champ, it is a-okay in my book for you to, say, skip a drink in America and instead have sake and beer in Japan, or two glasses of champagne in France, or two beers in Great Britain.

August 2010 (this was DATW trip #12 for me)

My final true rule is that you need to take your time. Although I know people who have started at 5 or 6 PM and rushed their way around, this just leads to messy drunks and/or puking and/or the very good chance that you simply won't have time to make it all the way around the world before they stop serving at 8:40/8:45 PM. I have discovered, through trial and error, that the best time to start is before 3 PM. (Usually 2:30 seems to work for me.) This leaves you time to linger in a few countries (including eating, at some point) and also grab your last drink and a viewing spot for the 9 PM Illuminations - and of course you'll be good and drunk, but not quite to the point of making a fool out of yourself.

The rest of my "rules" are something like the Pirate Code of Parlay - they're more like guidelines - or maybe, more aptly, tips, about how to make your DATW experience more enjoyable.

Tip #1: Eat something. For whatever reasons, many of my friends insist upon the sushi in the Japan pavilion; personally, I feel it's best to get something heavy and/or greasy in your stomach during your trip around the world. A giant pretzel in Germany, a burger and fries in America, or fish and chips in Great Britain are my top picks.

Tip #2: The more people you are with, the better. The absolute best DATW experience I ever had was with a group of 17; however, I've also had amazing times with groups of 8-12. That's not to say that it wasn't fun the few times there were only 4 or 5 of us participating; it's just that in a bigger group, people tend to act sillier. Plus, bigger groups make better pictures, as well ;)

September 2009 - and of course, the obligatory troll picture!

Tip #3: Grab a Kidcot mask! This is basically a white mask made of posterboard, attached to a paint mixing stick from Home Depot. You pick it up when you start DATW, in Mexico (make sure to grab a marker as well!) and as you make your way around, you write the silly things your DATW-mates say on it, and hopefully get creative with decorating it as well. Each pavilion has a Kidcot stop, along with a little something that they will add to the mask for free, but we also usually buy a few cheap little souvenirs/trinkets and attach them ourselves. This makes for a great souvenir, although for some reason we are rarely ever able to keep track of who brings the mask home and what happens to it in the future...

Tip #4: Don't bother with cash or a debit/credit card. Grab a gift card at one of the stores in the park, before you start DATW, and load it with at least $80-90. If you only use it for drinks, that amount of money should get you all the way around the world (or perhaps one country shy of doing so - Disney tends to raise their prices a little bit more every time I go back), without having to worry about change, or signing something, or balancing your bank account the next day. My good friend Marty pushed this idea on me a while back, and all I can say is that I'm not sure why I never thought of it - and I definitely owe him one!

July 2008. Definitely in my list of "top three DATW trips EVER".

Tip #5: Explore the pavilions. This is another big plus when you take your time - you can ride the Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico and make fun of it, and ride the Maelstrom Waitstrom attraction in Norway, which is sadly one of Epcot's thrill rides. Make sure to do some shopping in China and Japan, keep an eye out for some great photo opportunities in the nooks and crannies of Morocco, hop in the fountain in France (okay, you may not want to do this...I think I'm just lucky that I have yet to get caught), and if British Invasion is playing in Great Britain, try to catch their show. These little opportunities are what make DATW so much better than just hanging out at some bar, whether it be in Orlando or another city.

Tip #6: Have a group theme! I've done a lot of holiday DATW trips - mainly on Halloween (in costume of course), and most recently on St Patrick's Day. But we've also done random themes and those are always fun. Sadly not everyone always participates in said themes ( ::cough:: party poopers ::cough:: ) - but they still end up being fun, nonetheless!

September 2012 - Our Mustachioed DATW Adventure

Tip #7: Well, it's time that I left you with one last (and what should be obvious) tip: take plenty of pictures! (As you can probably tell, I don't have a problem with adhering to this, err, tip.)

And that's about it! Though of course, when drinking one should always remember the Golden RuleS: Drink Responsibly. Don't Drink and Drive. And just generally Don't Be a Dick. I think that about sums it up, don't you?

Hope to see y'all around the World! (Showcase, that is...)
Pin It

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Confessions

I confess...that I'm kind of just ready for this summer to be OVER. That's partly because Dragon Con marks the end of summer ;) But also partly because it's been a bit disappointing as summers go - no travel, really; lots of working; and of course our house being torn apart for the better part of it :-/

I confess...I'm at the point where I have no idea how I am going to finish everything that needs to be finished before Dragon Con. I may have gotten myself in too deep what with renovating the house, making Dragon Con costumes, and working two jobs all summer.

I confess...that I'm getting annoyed at the fact that Groupon and Living Social emails still won't immediately go into my spam folder. I've been deleting them automatically - without even opening them - for months, and yet they still aren't being labeled as spam. (Despite the fact that if I delete an email from another site even ONCE without opening it, from then on all emails from that site will end up in spam? I don't get it.)

Pin It

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dragon Con Excitement!

I got an exciting email yesterday, right on the heels of the Dragon Con mobile app being released on Friday, so as you can probably imagine, Dragon Con is on my mind even more than it was already (if that's even possible...)

Anyway, so, the email was my panel schedule for Dragon Con! I'm going to be on not one but two panels this year, both with the American Sci Fi Fantasy Media track - the Game of Thrones "Shock and AWWW" panel, and their late night "Sexing up History" panel. So not only do I get to be a panelist, but one of them actually has a little something to do with my college degree ;) (For those who don't know, I have a B.A. in History.)

I decided to post a schedule of the public events I will be attending because hey, I always want to meet others who have similar interests! Of course there are other panels I am going to try to attend throughout the weekend, but these are the activities that are definites for me...and please note that all photo shoots I'm mentioning are open to the public!

Thursday night starting at 7:30 PM (and going until whenever!) 
Partying with other Song of Ice & Fire/Game of Thrones fans! We’re going to do what will hopefully be a bar/lounge crawl that will either start in the Hyatt lobby bar or at Pulse in the Marriott.

Friday 11:30 AM 
Running the Game of Thrones fan meet and greet for the American Sci Fi Fantasy Media Track, (Marriott 301-302)

Friday 5:30 PM 
Walking Dead photoshoot
(on the steps of the Hilton)

Friday 7:00 PM 
Panelist on the Game of Thrones Shock and AWWW Panel with American Sci Fi Fantasy Media
(Marriott 301-302)

Saturday 10 AM 
Walking with the Game of Thrones group in the parade (as Cersei, of course)

Saturday 12 PM 
Game of Thrones photoshoot
(5th floor of the Hilton)

Saturday 6 PM 
(10th floor Marriott)

Saturday 7 PM 
(Westin lobby)

Saturday 10 PM 
Panelist on the Sexing Up History panel with the American Sci Fi Fantasy Media Track
(Marriott 301-302)

…and my Sunday is thankfully still pretty open ;) I’ll just be attending panels and the like, and later in the day searching out other Battlestar Galactica cosplayers because I will be dressed as Starbuck and I want to meet BSG people!
Pin It

Friday, August 9, 2013

Book Review: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

I've got a couple more epic posts in the works, but this has been an exhausting week and I'm really behind on posting my book one of these comes first :)

Since I've already read the Song of Ice & Fire series several times, and pickings were getting slim in terms of the books in my bookcase that I hadn't yet read, I decided to finally give in and start reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. It had been suggested to me by several friends who love ASOIAF, and one friend in particular who kept saying "OMG it's even BETTER than ASOIAF".

The Malazan series is already over twice as long as ASOIAF, and when I saw that I thought "awesome, this will keep me busy for a while!" I looked up the reading order and dove right into Gardens of the Moon.


I started reading the forward written by the author, but after just a couple of pages - in which Erikson mentioned that this series was basically originally created as a role playing game a la Dungeons & Dragons - I'd gotten a bigger picture than I would have liked and decided that it would be best to skip the rest of the forward and focus on the novel itself.

At first, this seemed to have been the right choice. Throughout perhaps the first 20 pages of the book, I was intrigued. The writing was good, the imagery was amazing, and the conversation between the boy and the soldiers really hooked me.

Unfortunately, it was pretty much all downhill from there. I never had any problem keeping up with characters or places in ASOIAF, but Erikson tends to throw locations at the reader, giving these places next to no context, and not even visiting most of them more than once. He does the same with far too many of the characters that he introduces, and it wasn't until the last third of the book - when he really started focusing on what I could actually call a "cast of characters" - that I finally began to see some personality traits (and shoot, even physical traits, which Erikson is not very good at describing) of many of the "main" characters emerge.

A bit of a spoiler alert, here, for the next paragraph only...

And the magic. Ohhhhh the magic. It's everywhere. It trumps everything. It wins battles between armies that are made up tens of thousands of people, totally negating the necessity of having all those people in an army in the first place. It brings far too many of the characters who die, back to life. It forced other characters to change, and by the way, that's about the only character development you will see in this book - that which is forced upon those characters by outside (read: magical) influences. I doubt I was even halfway through before I realized that I really should have taken what was written in the forward to heart - because while playing an RP style game - with other people - may be fun, reading one entirely written by another person/other people is decidedly not.

I'm the type of person who has to finish something once I've started it, but finishing this novel was rough, to say the least. I keep wanting to remind myself that structurally, the writing was sound. That again, the imagery was great at times. But really, Gardens of the Moon is made up of an out-of-control plot, characters I couldn't bring myself to care about, and twists and resolutions that seem forced more often than not. I was so exhausted/burnt out after reading this novel that the only books I could bring myself to pick up for weeks afterward were light reads. Seriously, I had never before read a book written by a celebrity, and after Gardens of the Moon I had to read three of those before I could pick up something more "serious".

Now, I do hear that the series gets better, around the third book or so. Maybe someday I will force myself to pick up book two and give it a go...but honestly, I think I'd have to be really, really desperate for something to read. (1.5/5 stars)

Pin It

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Writer's Block Wednesday: EXCUSE me, Linda Stasi/the New York Post?

Dear Linda Stasi & the New York Post,

I would say that I'm confused, but truth be told, I'm more annoyed than confused. You, however, are. Confused, that is.

In case you didn't know - I'm pretty certain that those of us who spend our personal time and personal money on a hobby that we enjoy don't care that you didn't know about us. In fact, I for one think that we were probably better off when you didn't. But unfortunately, thanks to SyFy and their new "Heroes of Cosplay" show that you reviewed...that's no longer the case.

First of all, many of the people who enjoy costuming and cosplaying also participate in things like theater, American Revolution and Civil War reenactments, SCA events, Renaissance Faires, etc. etc. etc. My question is, how is any or all of that "child's play" compared to cosplay? Especially considering that those who participate in reenactments or PENNSIC or Ren Faires are often there to actually stage [fake, in most ways] battles or sell items or sing folk songs, rather than to just hang out in costume and take fun photos and [sometimes] drink? Oh wait, the latter sounds just like Halloween, doesn't it? Is Halloween no longer deemed a fun holiday? Am I perhaps the only person in the world who would love if we could have Halloween several times a year or more? Well then, I guess I should just keep my mouth shut and go on being 'weird'.


Regardless, to separate us entirely from those who make costumes for theater (either for community theater or for money), or from those who act in theater, or from those who reenact Revolutionary or Civil War battles, is one hell of a mass judgment. It's one hell of an assumption. Oh, and additionally, doing so at all was completely unnecessary.

In fact, we had a mock tournament at the convention I organized, and cosplayers participated in it! I'm shocked that the world didn't explode! (Please note extreme sarcasm.)

Second of all, the next time you write something, you may want to have an editor look at your article before posting it. Because even if I look beyond your rude, judgmental tone and uninformed opinions, you left out some words here and there, and used some phrasing that doesn't quite belong in an actual news article or official review***. Of course, maybe I should go easy on are writing for the New York Post.

Thirdly, what is your obsession with the competition aspect of costuming/cosplaying? "Competitive costume-making". "Competitors spend thousands of dollars." "Competitive cosplayers make giant molds." While costume contests are certainly part of conventions, I would like to see the factual numbers that led you to assume that all people who costume/cosplay are in it to win said contests and apparently don't do it for any other reason. I've never entered a costume competition and if any of my friends who costume/cosplay have, I've seen them do so maybe once - at a small convention that I organized. And there was certainly no "big cash prize" for that particular contest.

Fourth, some people probably do rent their costumes. Just like some people buy their costumes. As someone who makes most of mine, here's a hint: often, it's actually enjoyable to make these costumes. I mean, whoever would have thought that a person could actually enjoy sewing, molding, painting, or jewelry making? I don't know, perhaps the people who have had hobbies like these for hundreds of years? If not longer?

Fifth, most of us are in fact actual people who have real lives outside of costuming/cosplay. We are finance managers, engineers, book store clerks, bank tellers, real estate agents, nurses, waitresses, college professors...I could go on and on and on. The point is that it doesn't - and shouldn't - matter what we do to earn a living, because while I can't speak for everyone who costumes/cosplays, I think it's safe to say that for the vast majority of us, when we gather together and put on our costumes we do it because it's fun. I mean, God forbid a hobby being fun, though.

Sixth, what in the world  gave you the idea that we "want to be the fictional characters [we] portray"??? Again, I can't speak for everyone, but I have a lot of friends who cosplay. And of course I do it as well. For example, I can't imagine my friend who cosplays Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones literally wanting to be a mentally, physically, and sexually abused political prisoner in a medieval fantasy world. Another of my friends used to cosplay as a stormtrooper. You know, from that little saga called Star Wars? I'm fairly certain that he has no desire to be an essentially mindless soldier wearing horribly uncomfortable and hot and yet apparently not very protective body armor in a galaxy that is constantly at war. And hey, then there's me - I've put together a cosplay of Andrea from The Walking Dead series, because clearly I have some base desire to be fighting zombies and falling for the wrong guys in the post-apocalyptic Southern U.S.

Mr. Stormtrooper has had about enough of your shit.

Point being: just because we enjoy a book/tv/comic series, or a video game, or a movie - just because we like and/or identify with a character - just because we decide "I'd really like to cosplay as so-and-so for this convention" - does not mean we want to be these characters. And last I checked, it wasn't an issue for people to put on costumes and play characters in movies, TV shows, Broadway, community theater, high school theater, college theater...yeah, some of those are paid jobs, but some of them aren't. Some of them are - dare I say it? - hobbies.

Seventh - and last, but certainly not least - I was under the impression that you were supposed to be writing a review of a SyFy television show. What you posted instead is a badly written opinion piece on costuming/cosplay in general. So please note that I'm not sticking up for the show that you were supposed to review or how it portrays costumers/cosplayers - but if you watched the show I'm pretty sure you are supposed to post about whether or not it was entertaining. And if you knew nothing about cosplay and the lives of those who are involved in it,  the intelligent thing would have been to do a bit of research and, oh, I don't know...perhaps comment on whether Heroes of Cosplay does a decent job (or a bad one) of portraying what cosplay is and the people who enjoy it - since you clearly felt the need to write some sort of uninformed social commentary, rather than an article about the show's entertainment value.

Judging you right back.

*** Sample quotes:
"That's all mere child's play, or should I say, 'cosplay', compared to [the] real thing."
"Syfy...has a new series, "Heroes of Cosplay", devoted to these very folks who are devoted to competing..."
"She is...a cosplay mogul with lines of accessories and God knows what else." Pin It

Travel Tuesday: Visited States, Part 7

And now we're down to the final six! I'll probably take a break for a week before starting my visited countries series, but I've enjoyed sharing these on my blog so Travel Tuesdays will definitely continue :)

32) Utah: While I was on that aforementioned missions trip to Arizona the summer after my junior year of high school, we drove up into Utah and visited several areas in the southern part of the state - most notably, Monument Valley.

My dad and I in Monument Valley, UT, June 1999. Don't mind my scowl; the sun was in my eyes!

33) Vermont: Despite growing up so close to Vermont, I believe that the first time I visited there was actually in high school! While I did end up in Burlington for the New England Music Festival in 2000, mostly we would travel to southern Vermont to go skiing :)

Oh hey, another picture of my dad and I! You'd think we actually liked each other... ;) This one is from a ski trip to Okemo Mountain in Vermont, December 2002

34) Virginia: I went to college in Virginia and lived here for some time afterward - and it was by far my least favorite place to live. There are some beautiful places in this state, but if you ever visit, take my advice and stay far, far away from Lynchburg ;)

At the top of Sharp Top Mountain in the Blue Ridge, May 2003

35) Washington: I stopped in Seattle for a couple of days after that Alaska cruise that I took in 2008 - I really enjoyed the city and would love to go back!

See, look! The Space Needle! I DID go to Seattle! ;)

36) West Virginia: Though I've never vacationed in West Virginia (do I really have to explain why?) I've seen about 80% of the state. It's...pretty... ;)

Here is my Traveling Sandor in a West Virginia McDonald's. As you can tell, he isn't very happy. Let's just say that my friend Matt and I suck at choosing highway exits.

37) Wyoming: When I turned 21 I was living away from home, and rather than spend a bunch of money for me to go back to Connecticut for a visit for my birthday, my parents did the super cool thing and took me on a ski trip to Wyoming!

I had a bit of a pattern going at the beginning of this entry, so I figured I'd close it with a picture of my dad and I at Jackson Hole ski resort, December 2003 :)

Well, like I said, that's the last of my visited states list :) Tune back in to Travel Tuesdays in a couple of weeks or so, when I begin my visited countries list! Pin It

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Confessions

I confess...even though I spent every spare moment I had this weekend working on costumes, I am still RIDICULOUSLY behind on my Dragon Con stuff :(

I confess...pulling staples out of a floor for hours upon hours is not as fun as smashing up a stone hearth. More on how I know this at a later time, I think.

I confess...for reasons that I won't get into right now, I am really feeling my age right now. Thirty is the new twenty, my ass... ;)

Pin It

Friday, August 2, 2013

Dragon Con Maps Edition!

So we're fast approaching Dragon Con and it's pretty much all I can think about just now...partly because I still have costumes and props to finish, but partly because I'm super excited and seriously can't wait :)

One thing I wish I'd done last year is really look at the layout of the Dragon Con host hotels - both their relation to each other and their own floor plans. Unfortunately it seemed that 90% of the time the PDF files on the Dragon Con website weren't working, and Google Maps simply has too much going on.

So imagine how excited I was to find a great layout map of downtown Atlanta while perusing /r/dragoncon yesterday! Granted, the original version had these little numbers on it to mark where photoshoots were at some past Dragon Con, but those were easy to edit out ;) This particular map is great because the blue areas show the habitrails *and* the Americas Mart is on it! (However, I also want to note that there is a liquor store across the street from the front entrance of the Sheraton, and a Starbucks on Peachtree right by the Americas Mart ;) )

Once I found this I kind of got it in my head to gather up all of the Dragon Con hotel floor plans. As usual the PDFs weren't working about the first three to five times that I tried to download them, and then I had to play around in Microsoft Paint to erase the room assignments from 2012. I know that the official website will have these maps available with the new room assignments on them soon - but to be honest I think that for this particular entry to stay relevant, it's better for me to upload the floor plans with just the hotel information on them - as we know, Dragon Con changes a few things every year, but the hotel conference and ballroom names should stay the same for some time to come ;)

Therefore, behind the "read more" cut you will find all of the basic floor plans of the five host hotels! Check them out...

Pin It

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson

Lately I've been on a "lighthearted memoirs" kick - I read Sliding into Home back to back with Tina Fey's Bossypants and Betty White's If You Ask Me. Let me be clear that these types of books are not my favorite kind to read, yet I feel that I can at least appreciate a well-told story enough to review them in kind.


One of my girl friends from college introduced to me to The Girls Next Door in what I think was its second season (if I'm remembering correctly). My first reaction to her saying, "You've got to watch this show, it's about Hugh Hefner and his girlfriends and their live at the Playboy Mansion" was along the lines of "Oh yeah, this is going to be a train wreck." I've never been one for reality TV and while I don't have a problem with the idea of women posing nude for magazines (or whatever) I've never been fond of the "perfect" bodies and faces of the girls featured in Playboy's publications.

But anyway, I digress. My friend insisted that I sit down and watch a couple of episodes with her (they were airing some re-runs before a new one, I think) and I was pretty much immediately hooked. Listen, I had no delusions about this show really portraying all sides of life in the Playboy mansion and of being one of Hugh Hefner's girlfriends...but I have to be honest, E! struck gold with Holly, Bridget, and Kendra and the way they portrayed those girls.

And honestly, while watching the show Kendra was my least favorite. I was about 23 at the time, so maybe it's simply that I "got" Holly and Bridget - the older of the three girls - more than I "got" Kendra....though to be honest I think it was mostly the way E! portrayed her, as being this sporty party girl who didn't tend to get along with other women and was ditzy and immature. (Basically the exact type of woman I would never be friends with, versus Holly who was ambitious and really seemed to care about Hef to the point of wanting a future with him, and Bridget, who was into animal rights, had an education, and was interesting in continuing to further that education.)

Well, there I go again with the digressing. Sorry ;) Point being, it wasn't until TGND ended and I watched the first season of Kendra on Top that I forced myself to understand that there was clearly more to Kendra than TGND had let on. Again...deep down I always knew that, TGND being a reality show, it was still probably pushing a certain agenda - and that none of the three girls was likely as one-dimensional as the show made them seem.

Still, I didn't dive into this book with great expectations for it. To be honest, the first thing I noticed was that despite having a ghost writer, you can really picture Kendra writing it. Some reviewers have noted this as a bad thing, yet I didn't feel that Sliding into Home was full of grammatical errors or any of that nonsense. It was simply written in a very informal manner - almost like each chapter was a really long blog entry, in fact. And I think that Kendra having a ghost writer who overshadowed her personality would have been more of a detriment to her story and her person than anything else.

I think it's important to remember that while most people would likely hope to read a book like this and see a lot of introspection, that's probably not going to happen. Yeah, sure, sometimes it does, but I just don't think that's the norm - because let's be real, most people aren't like that. We all may be willing and able to admit that we were wrong in regards to certain decisions, but it's hard to do, and it will never be as much as what others want or even outright expect from us.

All that said, while a lot of the first third or so of Sliding into Home is repetitive, it's repetitive because Kendra admits over and over again that she was being stupid, that she was making bad decisions, and that there really weren't any "good" reasons for her to do so. As the book progresses she makes more excuses for her behavior than most of us - including me - would like to see, but I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to write the story of her early years and to be honest about the bad things she did and bad decisions that she made, and at some point she had to stop bashing herself.

While there were some things about her time at the mansion that were likely glossed over (her side of the story in regards to the relationships she had with Holly and Bridget, especially at the beginning), I personally thought that her honesty in terms of her relationship with Hef was refreshing. It may not be what everyone wants to hear, and some of it may seem (or outright be) a bit hypocritical - in terms of her not doing any of it for the money, despite being basically disgusted at the weekly "orgies" in his room and having to have sex with him period - I didn't feel that Kendra lied about any of that, but maybe rather is torn in regards to her own feelings on the matter. And that's okay, because it's only human.

I would say that the thing that bothered me the most about the last third of the book - that dealing with her last months at the mansion, meeting Hank, having a secret relationship with him behind Hef's back, coming [somewhat] clean about it to Hef, and then diving into a "life" with Hank - was the fact that she knew what she was doing was wrong, but claims that she didn't want to be honest from the get go "for the good of the show and Playboy's reputation". Well...if that was really the case, writing the whole truth about it, or at least most of the truth, pretty much in and of itself undoes all of her reasoning. And yeah, the bit about her constantly flashing her boobs to the cameras despite knowing how much it upset Hank, especially as she admits that she knows she didn't have to keep doing that, doesn't help things either.

All in all, as books go this was at the very least a pretty entertaining, quick, and easy read. Personally I hope that in telling her tale, Kendra learned a few things about herself and will use that knowledge to continue to grow as a person, to be a good wife and a good mother. 3.5/5 stars. Pin It