01 November, 2020

Pandemic Blues

I don't look at it in terms of, "how much normality can be preserved?" but more, "how much normality am I able to sacrifice?" And I don't understand why we're so attached to celebrating a holiday in a certain way, that we can't give that up, even just for one year out of our whole lives. You could probably go out trick-or-treating, wearing a mask, and socially distancing, and be okay. That's just not the issue, the way I look at it. The issue is, is this something we have to do? And if we do it, are we taking risks that we don't need to be taking? Masks and social distancing are measures we use to reduce risk - when we otherwise have to go out and be around other people. Limiting social interactions and staying at home are other things we can do. Just because we have masks, and stay 6 ft apart (which is really not necessarily far enough in all cases), doesn't mean that everything else can just go back to normal. Those are measures you use when you have to go out - like to work, or to buy groceries. And I'm not saying you can't get fresh air, either. But you go to a park that's not crowded, on a normal day. The very idea of an activity that involves massive portions of the population all going out within the same hour on the same day and crossing paths and knocking on doors, in the midst of a pandemic? This is exactly the sort of thing we need to be sacrificing, for the common good - like conventions and concerts and spectator sports.

COVID-19 isn't a terrorist. It's not a sentient human being. You can't fight it by going out and living a normal life and showing it that you're not afraid. That just reeks of entitlement to me. I've lived my entire life with debilitating social anxiety. I know what it's like to miss out. I feel like I've missed out on most of life - hanging out with friends growing up, going to parties, girlfriends, and then getting a normal job, raising kids. I've been extremely lucky to have a little bit of all of that (well, most of it), and I've learned to (mostly) be content with that, because it's as much as I can expect from life. But I've spent too many days of my life depressed at home, alone, thinking about everything I'm missing out on. And now we're in a pandemic, where that skill of being able to stay home, isolated, and miss out on things, is exactly what people need, what society needs. And yet I look around and see all these people who have always gotten everything they wanted out of life, spoiled and entitled and unable to make the sort of sacrifices I've had to make all my life, for just maybe one year - hell, they couldn't even do it much longer than a month!

I suppose I should be sympathetic, because it's not an easy thing to do, and I have an unfair advantage for once. But it seems like people aren't even trying. And I feel alone, not in the way we're supposed to right now, but in the way that it's almost like I'm the only one having to endure this pandemic right now, while everybody else around me just goes on with their lives, humoring me because I'm a germophobe or something. I don't want people to be miserable, and to miss out on everything. I just want the feeling of solidarity, like I'm not in this alone, and that I'm not being crazy because I'm going too far. From the beginning, I've honored the idea that in a pandemic, if you're doing all the right things, in hindsight it'll look like you're doing too much, but if you're not, it'll only ever be not enough. And I look at the state of the world right now, and particularly the country, and I can't believe people think things are okay the way we're going. It hasn't gotten better since March. It's just kept getting steadily worse. Once there's a vaccine, and numbers actually start going down, then I won't resent people insisting on being able to crowd into bars to drink on the weekends (because they've earned it). But we're not quite there yet, and I want to see us working together to weather this storm until we are, not resenting every little sacrifice we're asked to make, and then turning it into some political squabble or conspiracy theory.

14 June, 2020


I have, in the past, been accused of living in a bubble. First, while growing up in a nice, suburban community. And again, while attending a small liberal arts college. But while modern society is more connected than ever, thanks to the internet, I believe we are all living inside of bubbles - the walls of which are formed by the people we follow on social media. Before COVID-19, I'd never been in the habit of regularly watching the news, because it is frequently depressing, and I am more concerned with running my own life, than the affairs of others I have no influence over. But social media fulfills a purpose for me, both personally and professionally.

Personally, it affords me the opportunity to engage in an indirect form of socialization that is easier for me than face-to-face interaction. Because although I have social anxiety, I am still human, and humans are social creatures; no man is an island, as they say. Furthermore, it provides a level of intellectual stimulation (sadly, less from mutual interaction than just as a medium for expressing my thoughts) that my mind demands and is hard to satisfy by the lack of company I tend to cultivate around me (for my own comfort) - especially these days, while I'm hunkered down in isolation. And, professionally, it acts as a platform to grow my brand and advertise my business. It's not something I can easily just walk away from, even if I want to.

So, while it's easier than ever to stay abreast of current events, those events are frequently filtered through the opinions of others. Even news outlets are more than likely to hold some kind of bias. I hear about movements and scandals from the reactions of others - memes and trending topics - before I even know the facts of the situation, which are so hard to find. And how many other people are shaping their own reactions based on this incomplete picture? (This is all the more dangerous in a #cancelculture). And then we only ever hear the opinions of the voices that reach into our bubble. I believe this is a significant cause of the growing schism in our culture. I also believe it is an inevitable symptom of democracy, which is dying a slow death. When everyone has a voice, how do we decide which voices hold the most value? Is it only the ones we agree with? I increasingly feel the need for more context within which to digest the information I am bombarded with on a daily basis. Is it any wonder nobody knows who or what to believe anymore?

03 November, 2019

10 Things You Might Know About Me

Because I thought this could be fun, and I've gotta post something on this blog between Tekko reviews, amirite? :-p

Anyway, this is supposed to be "ten things you don't know about me", but I've been around for a while, so it's possible you might already know some or all of these things. And anyway, I don't keep a lot of secrets, except for private stuff the internet doesn't need to know about me, which I'm obviously not gonna open up about just for something like this.

1. My favorite food is pizza. Whether it's New York style or Chicago deep dish, from a delivery chain or a fine Italian restaurant, it's all good - I may be a connoisseur, but I'm not a snob (at least not with pizza). And the only topping I usually need is pepperoni, although sometimes I'll get sausage or diced tomatoes.

2. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astrophysicist unlocking the secrets of the universe, like Albert Einstein. My favorite subjects in school were math and science, which I find amusingly ironic, now that I consider myself an artist. I have a degree in physics, for all the good that's done me.

3. I can solve a Rubik's cube (in under two minutes!). It takes a good deal of practice and memorization, but it's less difficult than I expected it to be. The hardest part was getting over my pride that prevented me from consulting a solution guide.

4. My favorite sport is volleyball, and I have nudism to thank for that. I was never very interested in sports growing up, but it turns out I have a decent instinct for athletics, and I've grown quite fond of the game of volleyball lately.

5. Though I am a summer child, my birthday is in the dead of winter. The only consolation for enduring cold weather, in my opinion, is getting to experience the beauty of snow. So I'm always happy when it snows on my birthday.

6. My favorite place to shop is not actually at the mall (which I love), but a store called Gabe's. They sell a wide variety of brand name clothing at discount prices, so they're neither as expensive nor as style-exclusive as the fancy stores at the mall. Plus, they're big and spread out, so I don't feel too self-conscious browsing around and trying on a bunch of things.

7. My favorite dessert is a brownie sundae, where the brownie - still warm - contrasts with the coolness of the ice cream. But anything chocolate will do. Bonus points if it's also got peanut butter. Few things are better than a trip to Dairy Queen (regardless of the season) for a blizzard - they have so many good flavors to choose from (and they're constantly switching them out), I often have a hard time deciding!

8. My spirit animal would either be a unicorn or a shark. A unicorn, because I am drawn to all things girly, despite not technically being a girl myself. And a shark, because they're silent and solitary animals, that have suffered from misrepresentation.

9. My favorite color for most of my life has been green, but recently I've gravitated towards pink, because of its association with girliness. But if I were pressed, I would have to choose a particular shade of teal as my absolute favorite - and I say particular because in-between colors like teal can be very finicky, and the whole mood of the color can change drastically with a minor shift in the shade. I don't know how to describe the shade I prefer, but I know it when I see it.

10. I like blues and rock and I'm a fan of the classics, so bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd have certainly passed through my list of top favorites, but these days my favorite musical act is a blues-rock guitarist by the name of Joe Bonamassa, whom I discovered in college and whose career I've been following ever since. I've seen him five times in concert. If you only listen to one song he's recorded, I recommend Sloe Gin, a cover of a song originally by Tim Curry (yes, that Tim Curry).

18 April, 2019

Tekko 2019

Tekko 2019 (Apr 11-14)

I'm going to try (no promises) to keep this con journal shorter than some of the others, which have a tendency to drag on (I actually typed "dragon" the first time, lol) through several pages. Not that my enthusiasm for the experience has waned, but I have been doing this for twelve years now. Also, I wasn't at 100% health this year. In God's cruelest irony, the first time in four years that it hasn't snowed during Tekko (in fact, the weather was very mild and spring-like, if occasionally a bit rainy), I discover in the days leading up to the big weekend that I'm coming down with a cold. The inevitability of it is most frustrating - I know it's coming, and there is nothing I can do to prevent it.

Still, I armored up with DayQuil, Cold-Eeze, and Hall's cough drops, and powered through. Luckily, it wasn't the kind of cold that kept me bedridden and miserable, but more of a general annoyance, albeit one that reduced my energy and enthusiasm during one of the most exciting weekends of the year.

We headed out earlier on Thursday than we sometimes do, and got to town with plenty of time to pick up our badges and take in the calm before the storm at the convention center before heading to our annual pre-con dinner at the Ramen Bar. This would have been an excellent opportunity for me to do a cosplay on all four days of the con for the first time ever, what with the mild weather and all, and the fact that I had three different backup cosplays in reserve, but since I wasn't feeling as festive as usual, I opted for plain clothes on both Thursday and Sunday (albeit with two great anime shirts - Sailor Moon, and the Chobits one I bought last year).

Before we begin in earnest, let me take down some notes about the convention that are unique to this year. The entire convention center was booked. That means no sharing it with other fandoms, and three exhibition halls available (one for the Dealer's Room, one for the Gaming Room, and an extra one that was used this year for a wrestling exhibition, a Beyblade world record attempt, and a flea market).

Registration was down on the ground floor again, with the bag check in an awkward position behind those lines. Being on the ground floor, this puts it in a slightly less convenient location for coming and going during the day, but, on the other hand, convenient for dropping stuff off and picking it up as you enter and leave the convention center. However, if you're bringing something you don't need to the convention, you could just as soon leave it in your car (or hotel room).

In fact, we only used bag check on one day, managing to acquire prime parking positions in the attached parking garage on both Saturday (with a stroke of luck) and Sunday. The other advantage to having the whole convention center booked is the conspicuous absence of badge checkers - once you pass the first one at the entrance, that's it. Lots more freedom for cosplayers taking pictures, and less bottle-necking at important points, like the entrance to the Dealer's Room.

Oh, and a note on the schedule. Tekko was advertising some stupid app, but we couldn't get it to work. We had better luck just checking the PDF schedule posted on their website. I still miss the days when they handed out booklets and paper schedules, but I guess I can't blame them for going paperless. It shows that I'm growing out of touch because it sounds to me like lots of people were coordinating their plans (e.g., photoshoots and such) online, via websites like Facebook, whereas I consider the weekend to be a vacation into meatspace, where I can step away from the computer for a few days. Of course, I also still use an actual desktop computer, and don't do all my online browsing on my phone, on that tiny screen, with that terrible "keyboard", and all those cringey mobile websites. "In my day..."

Friday was grey, but mild. I wore my "sexy schoolgirl" outfit recycled from last year (which was itself recycled from my second iteration "tentacle rape" cosplay from the previous year). It doesn't get a lot of attention, as it's not a recognizable character, but I did see one little girl's eyes go wide when she looked at me and squealed, "Sailor Moon!" Somebody else stopped me later to commend me on my cosplay, saying that she'd heard about somebody going around in a really skimpy sailor fuku, and wanted to see it for herself. I wish I could keep the tentacles attached to it, but they're extremely hard to wrangle. I'm sad to say that I might have to finally retire this outfit, as the skirt is getting pretty stretched out (it's the same skirt I used for my Sailor Stripper Moon Cosplay, so I've been wearing it for four years now). Yeah, it's sexy having my skirt ride dangerously low on my hips, but there's a point where you run the risk of it accidentally slipping off entirely, or even just drooping so low as to expose my underwear (which isn't as attractive as it sounds).

Saturday was even nicer, to the point of being quite warm in the sunshine up on the roof of the convention center. We took a leisurely stroll across town for lunch at Five Guys (I saw a car parked along the way with a Weyland-Yutani sticker on its back window). Dinners this year were split between Joe & Pie's on Friday, and Pizza Parma on Saturday (in its new location, although I didn't get to see it, as I was stranded at the con in my cosplay). In spite of all the years I've fangasmed over Pizza Parma (I have their magnet on my fridge), placed back-to-back, I actually liked Joe & Pie's pizza better. Maybe it was the crowds on Saturday night, running out their prime ingredients, or a change in their recipe with the move. I don't know. I'm not going to give up on them just like that, but Joe & Pie's has definitely risen up in the running for con food.

So, Saturday was the day for our sexy Pokémon cosplay - the second year we've had a group of three (or more - Ash didn't join us this year, although we'll hopefully have a Butterfree next year). I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and not wait until the evening, so I changed into my Pikachu costume right after lunch, and Charmander joined me (Poliwhirl arrived a little later). Right away, people started asking for our picture.

As an aside, while it's normal for people to ask "can I take your picture?", the way they tended to phrase it towards us carried a bit of a different connotation, as it was almost always, "is it okay to take your picture?" Like, because our costumes were so outrageous, they weren't sure we wanted anyone to document them. In the sense of "what happens in Vegas...", I suppose. Score one for the "cosplay isn't consent" advocates, but this isn't Burning Man. My opinion is, when you wear a costume to a convention, you expect people to want to take pictures of it (at least, you hope). If I didn't want a picture of me in this cosplay out in the metaphorical ether, I wouldn't have worn it in public, much less to a cosplay-heavy convention.

Anyway, as Charmander needlessly reassured me before we changed, the good reactions always outweigh the bad. And these are controversial cosplays - ones that tend to split the divide: people seem to either love them, or hate them. On the one hand, you get to absolutely make people's days with this cosplay. This is by far the most popular costume I've ever worn, in terms of people complimenting me and wanting to take pictures (and it's almost always "can I get a picture with you", and not "can I get a picture of you"). When else do you get people saying not just "I like your costume", but "thank you for existing!" (one of my favorite compliments)? A girl in a Playboy bunny version of Haruhi cosplay (with her own butt in fishnets hanging out of what was practically a thong) caught my eye and gave me a salute to body positivity. One guy spotted us and told us that he had wagered that whenever he saw us (proof that we're becoming an "installation" at this con), he'd have to strip down to his underwear for his own skimpy cosplay, and did just that. Pictures were taken all around.

On the other hand, you occasionally have people like this one guy who insulted us with a curiously friendly demeanor. He implied that we have no shame to be walking around in outfits like this, and while I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and take that as a compliment (although I prefer when people tell us how brave we are), he then proceeded to compound that statement by telling us we have no dignity, either. To top it all off, when presented with our argument for equality (i.e., that women walk around half naked in skimpy cosplays all the time), he explained that, "but it's not sexy when you do it." Like, as if one person's subjective preferences should determine the rule? I could have put together a whole line-up of people (that I'd just met that same day) who would strongly disagree!

It seems, however, that most people that disapprove of the cosplay have less courage in confronting us than we have in wearing it. Instead, they go and whine anonymously to staff members. Here's my best story of this year's con. We were up on the roof, all three of us, taking pictures in the sunshine (or about to, right after somebody who'd taken my photograph mentioned that this was his favorite time to be "working for the paper"), when a staff member flagged us down, apparently responding to a series of complaints about "men walking around in speedos". He politely asked us to "put on some clothes", citing that this was a "family-friendly convention" (in an ironic twist, we had just half an hour earlier been approached in the Dealer's Room by a man with three or four kids, all about ten or under, who were over the moon about our cosplays, enthusiastically trying to guess which Pokémon we each represented - proving that bodies are just bodies, and it's all about the meaning you put onto them).

I was fully willing to comply with staff's demands - as I did four conventions ago when I learned about the unwritten rule on "padding" one's crotch to avoid revealing the vague outline of a part of anatomy that every fifth grader sees detailed depictions of in his or her health textbook, not to mention the half of the population that has one of their own - because that's just what you do, if you don't want to be ejected from the con. But not before being given an adequate explanation of exactly what rule we were breaking, mind you, so I would know how to keep my costumes appropriate in the future.

You see, in a free country, I believe in pushing the boundaries to a reasonable extent, instead of playing it safe, otherwise those boundaries have a tendency to collapse inwards, and society becomes more and more conservative. I like to know what the rules are, so I can follow them, knowing exactly what's prohibited and what's not. And whatever's not prohibited, if it is desirable (as wearing skimpy clothing is to me), should be exercised, otherwise it's as good as prohibited, if nobody ever does it. And our costumes, while shocking (which is part of the point, and not against the rules), are not criminally indecent, as you won't see anything you wouldn't see at the beach (or, aside from our chests - which is another argument that would only work in our favor - on quite a few female cosplayers at the very same con).

To staff's credit, they were very diplomatic with us - the staffer who stopped us didn't have it out for us, he was just doing his job. He offered us the opportunity to speak with a manager down at Con Ops. Personally, I didn't like the implications of being trotted through the convention, led by staffers, with everyone looking on thinking we'd been "busted", but I didn't think of that until it was happening, and it's not staff's fault anyway. At Con Ops, a manager took one very quick look at us, and determined that we were "fine". I think he was just checking to see that we were all sufficiently padded, which we were. He made a point to explicitly state (for some kind of verbal record, I suppose) that we'd had this review, and then we were free to go about our business.

It's a testament to the importance of standing up for yourself, because we were indeed not breaking any rules, and allowed to wear the costumes we were wearing, but if we'd bowed down to opposition at the first moment that a staffer had asked us to "put on some clothes", we'd have seceded a victory that by all rights was supposed to be ours. I'm happy with the way things turned out, proud of the way we handled it, and have to once again give Tekko props for their very reasonable approach to a cosplay dress code (assuming they don't add a new rule for next year; although even then, you can't blame us for taking advantage of a freedom we thought we had, for a freedom you can't take advantage of is no freedom at all). Still, I ended up adding a jacket to my cosplay before the end of the night (although it didn't cover anything from the waist down), merely for warmth and comfort.

With that story out of the way, let me try and finish up this con journal. I was somewhat under-impressed with the Dealer's Room this year. Maybe it's me, but the prices for those figures seem awfully high. I wouldn't mind smaller figures at more reasonable prices. I couldn't find either of the two figures I was looking for, the first being Demon Lord Milim, from the new hit series That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime. Maybe it's too soon, but I'm surprised there wasn't more merchandise from that series - I mean, come on, slime plushies anyone? I'd just finished catching up on Dragon Ball Super before the con this year, so the other figure I was on the lookout for was the alternate universe female Saiyajin Caulifla, with her dark hair, acid temper, and penchant for cropped tops (reminding me of someone I know). All those Dragonball figures (including several hot-to-trot Bulmas), and I didn't see a single Caulifla. I did see a very rare Serial Experiments Lain figure, but she was prohibitively expensive. There was also an amazing Femto figure, emerging from the cocoon of his crimson behelit, but it was hundreds of dollars, too...

So I ended up spending less than twenty dollars, on a cheapo Asuka figure in an outfit similar to one I've wanted in the past, and a small Berserk blind box that I thought would be fun to open, although all I got was a Blue Whale Knight whose name I can't even remember. I think the Dealer's Room is unfortunately losing some of its razzle and dazzle, in this age of online marketplaces, and with the kind of merchandise available at stores like fye and Hot Topic these days. Anime and geekdom has truly gone mainstream. Even the Japanese snacks have lost a lot of their allure, because you can pick the most popular ones up at your local grocery store these days. (I do think, however, they would stand to earn more business if they stayed open into the night, past when the Dealer's Room closes, because that's when I always get a hankering for something sweet, after dinner - although perhaps I should be grateful to be free from this temptation). There was an intriguing booth in the Artist's Alley where a vendor was offering to perform 3D scans to print figures out of actual congoers, but when we returned on Saturday to immortalize our Pokémon cosplays, the booth was mysteriously empty...

The panels were even less thrilling than the Dealer's Room. There were a few occurring too early in the morning for us to catch, including one Avatar-themed panel, the ever-impressive iaijutsu panel, and a classic Super Nintendo RPG quiz panel. I attempted to attend a panel on breaking the rules in Lolita fashion, hoping to get some ideas on how to do a Lolita outfit I would really enjoy, as my biggest gripe with the community - apart from the sheer cost of participating, and their ironic disdain for Nabokov's infamous novel - is their strict adherence to following arbitrary rules like how low the hem of your skirt must fall, or how little skin should be on display; but it was delayed due to technical difficulties, and the more I sat there doing nothing, the more I felt I was missing out on what was going on everywhere else.

The first of the only two panels we actually attended was a Godzilla panel on Friday night, that was fairly interesting. I didn't realize there were so many different Godzilla movies. The other panel was an Evangelion panel on Saturday night (that prevented us from viewing the Extreme AMV contest this year, not that I'm too concerned about that), which was appropriate, as I'd just recently finished re-watching Evangelion for the first time in many years, while also introducing it to a new viewer. The panelist really knew her shit, so even though it was an hour and a half long, we stayed for the whole thing (minus those of us who hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before, and needed to find a corner to nap in). By then, it was after midnight, we were all tired, and me being sick as I was, I didn't mind hitting the road before close, after one last walk-around, without much more than a glance at the "rave" (although as my partner pointed out, there wasn't a lot of rave gear going on this year).

Sunday was leisurely as usual. We half-caught the AMV contest winners, although I can't say that anything there was really able to catch my attention (aside from the overabundance of judge/staff awards, and an overuse of the song The Greatest Show). After a final sweep of the Dealer's Room, we had our departing pow-wow at Olive Garden on the way out of town, listening to the last of my con weekend playlist in the car - aside from a few Evangelion soundtracks and my trusty Tak Matsumoto CD, I put all the anime (and J-Pop) songs I've collected over the years onto my phone and hit shuffle.

But before I finish up this journal, I have to tell you about all the great cosplay I saw at the con. I didn't take very many pictures, for better or worse, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a lot to admire. There were a few really good Negans, including one female version that I liked a lot, and another in zombie form, dragging his bat along the ground - excellent adaptation (this isn't actually a spoiler, because the Walking Dead compendiums have these really cool covers where they envision main characters in both living and, if you flip them around, undead forms). Avatar Aang put in an appearance, hanging out with an impressive Khal Drogo and his Khaleesi, and there was even a Toph on the premises. On Saturday, we were treated to the spectacle of a dino fight, as a gigantic T-Rex and Triceratops brawled on the con floor as a crowd of people formed a circle around them, pointing their phones and all but taking bets on the winner (hint: I was surprised by the outcome). Only at a convention...

I was blown away on Sunday by an unexpected Dread Pirate Roberts cosplayer, complete with a plush ROUS (Rodent Of Unusual Size)! There was a really great Dumbledore wandering around throughout the weekend - actually, quite a few Hogwarts students, too, which was exciting, as I've recently started rereading the Harry Potter books. I even saw one girl with Luna's Spectrespecs, but my favorite was a note perfect, even age accurate (about first or second year) Hermione, from the bushy brown hair right down to the wand. I really wanted to get a picture of her, but it's awkward, to say the least, approaching kids in this hyper-paranoid society - especially when you're walking around in a speedo (something something "family friendly"). On the subject of chibi cosplay (and there were plenty of kids at the con this year), I also saw an adorable Sailor Chibimoon. I know cosplay is about imagination, but I always love it when cosplayers play up their natural assets, and it's fun to see young characters portrayed by actual children.

Then again, on the other hand, you have novel twists like this one male Slave Leia (led around on a chain by his Jabba the Hutt) that I saw. There was, in fact, a second Slave Leia I spied - this time a female with lots of tattoos. There's never been a shortage of Star Wars cosplayers at Tekko - always a few Jedis (and occasionally some Sith Lords) wandering around - but this reassures me that, even though this is an anime convention, if I ever manage to get the homemade metal bikini I'm currently working on finished, I'll have somewhere to wear it where I won't be out of place. And talking about future cosplays, I think it's time I finally evolved my sexy Pikachu. Doing Raichu would actually be a downgrade, ironically, so I've settled on the idea of upgrading to a shiny Pikachu. The plan is to remake the costume in gold instead of yellow, with sparkling heels and glittering makeup. I think it sounds fantastic, and I'm really excited about it, so you'll have to join me next year to see if I can pull it together!

Edit: Apparently, there was a really kickass Guts cosplayer at Tekko this year, as DeathCom Multimedia's footage of the masquerade attests to. So sad I didn't get to see it in person. I wish there were a more systematic way of chronicling people's costumes, similar to the DeathCom booth but like having everyone in costume take a picture for the "census" as they walk in the convention center. And I wish there were a better way of sharing pictures afterwards, too. Whenever I have lots of people taking my picture in a popular cosplay, I see very few of those pictures later. Maybe some of them don't get passed around, but a lot of them are just scattered across a dozen different sites - Facebook, Instagram, YouTube (I've talked about how annoying it is having to scan through cosplay video slideshows before).

There needs to be a central database where everyone puts their pictures, and they get tagged (communally) for easy reference. Like a Cosplay.com, but not for cosplayers to post their own cosplays, but for everyone who's ever taken pictures at a con to upload their pictures of other cosplayers, to be tagged by costume/character, convention, year, and cosplayer (by whatever handle they use on the site). I feel like there's a vacuum here in the cosplay world, and if I had any business sense at all (as well as better people skills, and a good web developer), I'd capitalize on this missed opportunity. As it is, it frustrates me that nobody else has done this, because there's a very real need going unfulfilled. And I know I'm not the only one, because I've seen other people lament that "lots of people take my picture and I never see any of them".

01 November, 2018

The Problem With Involuntary Solipsism

I was part of the Amazon Associates program for eight years, and I never made so much as a penny. Now, I'm not saying the program is broken. Nor am I saying it was Amazon's fault, and not my own, for not doing whatever it is the program was designed for users to do to be able to make money. But I produced original content - mainly horror movie reviews (hundreds of them, all tailor-made to provide relevant product links to Amazon) - over the course of that period. And I've had several people tell me that I am, at the very least, a competent writer, so it's not like I was mass-producing bullshit.

Yeah, I know, if you want to earn money in advertising you need viewers, and that requires a different sort of skill set than producing the content. But that's exactly my point. Without content, there would be nothing to advertise. So how is the value of that content worthless, next to the value of having the skills to properly manage it? I'm not even saying I should make a living off of just producing content, if I don't know what to do with it. Even if it's good content! (So fuck off if you think I'm acting "entitled"). But not even a penny? You make a little bit of chump change, and it teaches you two things. 1) That you can make money off of this strategy, but 2) that to make any amount of money that matters, you have to work harder. That inspires you to work harder (including learning new sets of skills). If I haven't even made shit in eight years, then how am I supposed to motivate myself to work more? Nothing multiplied by ten, a hundred - even a thousand - is still nothing.

Isn't there anybody out there willing to invest in the future? This is why all the talent in the world that I have for writing is pointless, and why I'm better off just producing porn. Their standards are such shit, that I can do a half-assed job (and I normally try to apply myself 110%, like an idiot) and still make bankable profit. And that's in spite of how much free porn there is on the internet. So I can exert myself for eight years writing reviews - which I enjoy to some extent, but I still consider work - and make nothing. Or I can exert myself for two and a half minutes cumming in front of a camera and make fifty bucks every six months or so. Neither one is going to pay the bills (maybe if I were female...), but I can tell you that only one of the two seems like a worthwhile investment in my time (less of which I have the older I get). So you need to sit back and ask yourself what this system is teaching people in this society, and then stop being such a dick to anyone involved in the sex industry, until you're ready to actually get off your lazy, hypocritical, porn-watching fat ass, and do something to change it.

20 October, 2018

Super Metroid - The Kraid Challenge (A Walkthrough)

So, to preface, I finally got my hands on one of those Super Nintendo Classic systems, and while the game selection is far from exhaustive, I now have the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite games from the heyday of retro video gaming - Final Fantasy III, Super Metroid, Zelda: A Link To The Past, Super Mario World (as if I haven't already played through that game enough for one lifetime), Donkey Kong Country, Super Castlevania IV, Contra III: The Alien Wars, et cetera (the only reason I don't mention Mega Man X is because I already have the Collection for the PlayStation, and never really stopped playing them). Having recently finished Final Fantasy on the NES Classic (and in the process, introduced someone new to the wonderful world of classic 2D VG RPGs), I fired up Super Metroid and decided that I was going to take on the Kraid Challenge again, for old time's sake. Completing this was one of my proudest accomplishments as a gamer when I was a kid.

Explanation: although the world of Super Metroid is very non-linear (representing a form of gameplay/architecture referred to as "Metroidvania" - which the Metroid series pioneered, and Castlevania later piggy-backed on), there is a relatively straightforward progression of enhancements and power-ups that lead you further and deeper into new regions of Planet Zebes. Nevertheless, it is possible to bypass the first region boss (Kraid), and still complete most of the rest of the game. This, however, requires mastery of the self-propelled wall jump technique to ascend a chamber that normally would require a weapon that freezes enemies to be used as stepping stones, as well as a mad dash through the life-draining heat of a lava cave - without protection. Just for fun, I'm going to walk you through the steps required to complete this challenge.

Stage 1 - Reaching the Hi-Jump Boots

From the start, you may proceed through the game normally, until you reach the Hi-Jump Boots. Be sure to pick up these two Energy Tanks along your way (although, to be honest, you'd have to go out of your way to miss them):

Location: Crateria, just before the elevator to Brinstar proper

Location: Norfair, just before you find the Hi-Jump Boots

Stage 2 - Preparing for the Heat

With the Hi-Jump Boots now in your possession, you are expected to fight Kraid (but we're not going to). Defeating Kraid earns you the Varia Suit, which will protect you from the intense heat present in certain sections of Norfair. In order to bypass this heat without the Varia Suit, you will need as much life as you can get. Luckily, there are two more Energy Tanks now available to you, but to get them, you will need to use the wall jump technique to climb a vertical chamber in Brinstar that would normally require usage of the Ice Beam. Observe:

I edited out a lot of failed jumps - especially at the top. It's all about timing and placement on the wall. You don't have to get it on your first try. You just have to get it.

Ascending said chamber in this fashion gives you access to the Power Bomb out of sequence, which you'll need to get one of the two Energy Tanks you're after. It's located in Brinstar, in the first vertical chamber you encountered, below a false floor, on the way to the room where the critters teach you the wall jump (that you should already have mastered).

Watch out for the false floor! And be sure to grab the Super Missiles in the next room. The other Energy Tank you need is near where you first picked up the Morphing Ball. It's hidden in the ceiling. Use the Hi-Jump Boots to reach it.

Stage 3 - Into the Inferno

With four Energy Tanks in tow, you are now ready to face the searing heat of Norfair. Use the Save Station at the bottom of the first passage you encounter in Norfair, and practice your run over and over until you manage to reach the end before your life drains out completely. Watch how it's done:

This was one of my better run-throughs (I tried it in vain with just three Energy Tanks at first, so my instincts were pretty honed) - but as you can see, I stepped in the lava twice. So, there is room for some error. Just not a whole lot.

When you get to the other side (the large room looks like it should drain your health, but it doesn't), use the Save Station above you to record your progress (but watch out for flying baddies!) before you get yourself killed and have to do it again. You'll have to replenish your health by repeatedly killing the critters in this room. It's monotonous, but necessary.

Two of the three doors within reach above you lead to a Reserve Tank and the Wave Beam. I don't know if you can make it through the heat with just four Energy Tanks, but even if you can, it's not worth the trouble. You'll come back for them soon. Right now, what you want is the Speed Booster. Use the wall jump technique to reach the upper right corner of the large room (via the upper left corner - this is a tricky jump to make, but it's doable), then make another mad dash through the heat. Like so:

With the Speed Booster, you can now return to the vertical chamber where you first entered Norfair (via one of the lower passages), and complete another short heat run to get the Ice Beam. You should be getting the hang of this by now, but here's what that will look like:

Congratulations, you no longer have to rely on the wall jump technique! After replenishing your health (again), you can clear away those Power Bomb blocks you saw in the last scene of that video, which will lead you to yet another heat run. But don't worry, this one is pretty low risk. A long, Speed Booster passage will deposit you in another vertical chamber, where the heat will continue to drain your life away. You now have three choices. Through the door to your right is a long tunnel leading to an Energy Recharge station which will keep you alive if you're floundering. Above you is a door to a Save Station (and above that, a one-way route that returns you to where you started - after you pick up the Grappling Beam). But most importantly, through the green door directly beneath your feet you'll encounter Crocomire. Rest assured, the heat will not drain your life in Crocomire's tunnel. Defeat the mid-boss, and the Grappling Beam will be within your reach.

Ah, now we're getting somewhere!

Stage 4 - The Road to Phantoon

With the Grappling Beam, you can now access the Wrecked Ship. But before you go charging off, I consider Phantoon (the guardian of the Wrecked Ship) to be one of the more difficult bosses in this game. Without the increased damage mitigation of the Varia Suit, you're going to need all the life you can get. So you'd better take some time to collect all the Energy and Reserve Tanks available to you now, with your new weapons and abilities...

...starting with the Energy Tank at the far end of Crocomire's tunnel, accessible with the Grappling Beam. Between this extra Energy Tank, and the Ice Beam, you should be ready to pick up the Reserve Tank you skipped earlier, across from where you got the Speed Booster.

The Grappling Beam will also help you to snag the Wave Beam (which you'll need shortly) - though not without demonstrating a little bit of agility. (Don't forget to heal up before you go charging through the heat again).

Now you can return to Brinstar/Crateria, and make a loop, collecting the remaining items in the order of your preference. There's a Super Missile upgrade just off the evacuation chamber below your ship in Crateria, accessible only after collecting the Power Bomb, Ice Beam, and Speed Booster. Every bit of firepower helps!

Location of a Super Missile upgrade

Below where you got the Charge Beam in Brinstar, there's an Energy Tank that seemingly requires you to have the Gravity Suit, in order to use the Speed Booster underwater. But if you use the wall jump technique, you can find a just-long-enough patch of dry ground. Here's how to pull it off:

Located not far away is another room sealed with a yellow door (which requires a Power Bomb to open), and an Energy Tank accessible only if you have the Wave Beam. Here's it's location:

A Power Bomb and the Wave Beam will yield another Energy Tank

Our last stop in Brinstar will net you your second Reserve Tank - and another Super Missile upgrade!

Use the Speed Booster to get this Reserve Tank

Last, but not least, you will find one more Energy Tank in Crateria, above your ship. You'll need to use the Speed Booster (and a liberal sprinkling of Power Bombs) to reach it. This should bring your total up to eight (with two in reserve).

Use the Shinespark technique to reach new heights!

Now you're as ready as you're ever going to be to fight Phantoon!

Stage 5 - Business as Usual

Once Phantoon is defeated, locating the Gravity Suit should be a trivial matter.

In addition to being a further upgrade, and allowing ease of movement underwater, this suit also duplicates the heat-resistant effects of the Varia Suit. Once you have it, you can continue to play the rest of the game normally...

Stage 6 - The Taste of Victory

...until you've defeated Ridley, that is. Progress will then be halted until you go back and finish off Kraid (enjoy taming the great beast with as few as two shots!). But first, you can take a screenshot of the statue blocking access to Tourian to prove that you've defeated Ridley (and the other two bosses) while Kraid still lives:

Congratulations, you've completed the Kraid Challenge!

13 August, 2018

Opinions On

Saw this on Facebook. A MySpace quiz for the modern, political age!

But first, an aside. I hate how politicized certain issues are. If you support the second amendment, you're a conservative. If you want access to abortions, you're a liberal. Why can't we just give assault rifles to conservatives, and abortions to liberals? There's no reason everyone can't be happy, unless your happiness depends on everyone else in the world following your own personal moral compass, a position which should be recognized for what it is - lunacy! But is there a platform for that? I like the idea of libertarianism, but I'm also a socialist. Individuals should have the freedom to pursue their dreams. But in this overpopulated world, it behooves us to have some form of government infrastructure. I don't give a crap if the government is "infringing" on a corporation's "right" to pollute the Earth. Freedom isn't freedom to rape and plunder. If anything, my political views run along the lines of the Wiccan rede: "an it harm none, do what ye will." Obviously, there's a lot of room for interpretation there, but it's a really solid starting point.

Anyway, let's begin. Twenty issues and my opinion on each of them:

1. abortion

Pro-life is a rationally indefensible position. Even if you're a hard-line onanist, you're killing countless potential babies for every sperm that reaches an egg, turning the act of procreation into statistical mass murder, and thereby condemning the human race to extinction. Whether it's conception or the first trimester or the age of majority, we're all just drawing lines in the sand, and I feel like science and medicine should rule on this issue over superstition. In any case, if you publicly condemn abortion but do not promote or support access to birth control, then you are the worst kind of person.

2. lgbt community

I, of course, support them, but every establishment has its flaws. I much prefer LGBT people to any sort of LGBT community (not that I disparage them having one - they deserve it as much as anyone). I just distrust any entity that purports to speak unilaterally for a large number of individual minds (Borg much?).

3. non-binary

What's so great about the binary anyway? Why are people so resistant to this idea? Do people actually like limiting their options? Or are they just dumb apes who only feel comfortable with what's familiar? I know that sounds like incitement, but it's a serious question.

4. breastfeeding in public

Perfect example of male entitlement: a woman exposing her breasts in public is awesome, unless somebody else gets to suck on them.

5. feminism

Good in theory. But humans are fallible and capable of destroying anything.

6. meninism

As much hate as men's right activists get - and much of it is well-deserved - they are not any worse than feminists. Equality is a coin with two sides.

7. long distance relationships

Not ideal, but sometimes you gotta deal.

8. gun laws

I'm not personally a fan of guns, but I will defend your right to own them, provided you use them responsibly. But I think it makes sense to regulate the ownership of weapons specifically designed to kill. If you can't at least concede that point, you're being obstinate, and a real public danger.

9. saying the n-word

I'm a hard-line free-speecher. But there's a difference between what you say, and how or why you say it. Any word can be used as a weapon. But creating a taboo just gives it more power. We should never reach a point where merely saying a particular word constitutes a crime, regardless of any consideration as to intent. That having been said, after a cost-benefit analysis, I can't see any point in me, personally, using this particular word.

10. pedophilia

A very poorly understood sexual minority. We harm ourselves more by condemning them, than we would if we tried to help them manage their feelings.

11. trump

I'm not in the best position to judge Trump as a person, or even as a president (and I'm one of the few people, it seems, humble enough to admit that), but what I can tell you is that I don't like the effect he's having on this country, and I don't like the sorts of people who feel encouraged by him.

12. obama

I don't normally pay much attention to politics, but what I've seen and heard of Obama leaves me with nothing but a positive impression.

13. rape in marriage

Marriage is not a license to rape.

14. anime

Liked it before it was trendy. Still do. People who judge the medium based on a subset of its offerings, or its fanbase, are just as immature as the people they're criticizing.

15. hentai/porn

As a matter of principle, I can't trust anyone who's never jacked it to Legend of the Overfiend.

16. pansexuality

My own tastes are fairly particular, but as with the non-binary issue, I don't get why anyone would insist on criticizing someone for expanding their options, or seeking an appropriate label they identify with. "Oh, that's not a real thing." That kind of attitude just shows really poor character.

17. aliens

I want to believe. See: the "Fermi Paradox". I don't think we've been "visited" by intelligent life for the same reason I don't believe in God - the evidence isn't there. Doesn't mean it's impossible, just implausible. Call me agnostic. Certainly, the universe doesn't appear teeming with life, the way science-fiction often depicts it. Maybe someday we'll change that. For better or worse. I like to believe in a more transcendentalist future, though, where there's more to existence than just the four spacetime dimensions we're familiar with. Not necessarily in a "spiritual" way. But, like, networked consciousness or something. Maybe the reason outer space is so barren is because all the good stuff happens in inner space. Assuming, of course, that you're able to avoid the lava men.

18. cultural appropriation

Is there anything more fundamentally American?

19. fake freckles

I'm not gonna judge. I think freckles are cute, but whether you have them or not, I think you should embrace who you are and what you've got. That having been said, if you want to try on freckles for a change, then by all means, go for it.

20. he/him lesbians

No idea what this is or means. But I can't imagine I'd have any problem with it. Live and let live is my motto. Embrace the wonderful diversity of human nature, and don't be so quick to judge. None of us is half as smart as we think we are, but we all know ourselves better than anyone else does. So mind your own business. Or, as Miley Cyrus put it, stay in your lane, bitch.