29 April, 2010

Black Rock

Joe Bonamassa's latest album, Black Rock (released about a month ago), continuing Joe's partnership with producer Kevin Shirley, has a bit of a world flavor, while not straying too far from Joe's blues rock foundation. It was recorded in Greece, which inspired the mood of the album. From the liner notes:

"Our mandate was clear - first instruction: play loud. Second: play reckless. Third: channel the music that inspired you to pick the damn thing up in the first place. Fourth: have fun with it. The result is an album that is the product of good times, reckless abandonment and the environment in which it was recorded."

Sounds like a raucous good time, right? As one could expect from any Joe Bonamassa album. Even so, the album didn't hit me the first time I listened to it, unlike when I first listened to The Ballad of John Henry. This is likely due to my ambivalence towards "world" music. Still, as could be expected, a few more listens has warmed me up considerably to the material on this album, and it fits snugly into Joe's constantly growing catalog of good music.

The album opens with an upbeat track, Steal Your Heart Away, penned by Bobby Parker, who played the riff that Led Zeppelin surreptitiously "borrowed" for the guitar part to their song Moby Dick, once upon a time. After a couple more steady rockers, including one with a title - When The Fire Hits The Sea - that definitely makes me think of Greece (Greek fire, anyone?), we get Quarryman's Lament, which recalls the previous album's Story of a Quarryman, except with a heavy coating of that world flavor.

Following that is Joe's third cover of a Jeff Beck Group song (the first two being Rice Pudding and the magnificent Blues Deluxe) - Spanish Boots. Joe's version sounds great, a heavy rocker, and I'm inclined to say that I like it better than Jeff Beck's! Granted, Joe Bonamassa is one of the better cover artists I've heard (though not to downplay his equally impressive writing ability), but with cover songs, it's always going to be a case of hit and miss. Joe just happens to be a star hitter, and this one counts toward his total.

The album then rests with a Leonard Cohen song, Bird on a Wire, the first truly laid-back song on the album. It's a slow acoustic piece, with a heavy dose of world-style accompaniment. If you like those kind of songs, you'll probably like it. I, however, live for the higher-energy songs. Speaking of which, the next song is an Otis Rush number titled Three Times A Fool - a standard blues. Following that is the track that guest stars Joe's inspirational mentor and friend (and blues legend) B.B. King, a song called Night Life. Joe and B.B. trade off licks and vocals through the song, and it's a very B.B.-flavored track, and a nice addition to Joe's recorded legacy. You knew it was just a matter of time before they got together in the studio.

The next song, Wandering Earth, is a slow paced bluesy rocker with a melancholy theme - just my style. Look Over Yonders Wall picks up the pace a bit, then it drops back down a notch for the worldly (and acoustic) Athens to Athens. Then we get hit with what is probably my favorite track on the album - Blue and Evil, which is just like it sounds. It's got a mean, heavy riff, and a persistent recurring chorus of the song's title. The song opens and closes with an acoustic line that gives it texture, when placed in stark contrast to the electric energy of the bulk of the song. If you can't tell, I like it a lot. The album then finishes with an acoustic Blind Boy Fuller song, Baby You Gotta Change Your Mind. It's a good blues, and while the almost quirky acoustic mood is not my style, it's a nice way to close out the album on a bit of a mellow note.

To reiterate, as a piece, Black Rock isn't my favorite Bonamassa album (and honestly, they can't all be), but it's a solid effort with a lot of substance, and though the world flavor isn't my bag (others may respond significantly better to it than I), I think it's good for Joe to continue to experiment, to keep his material from sounding all the same. Although, there is a striking character to Joe's music that manages to keep it all internally consistent - even his covers take on a "Joe Bonamassa" feel. Considering the importance for a guitarist and a musician to create a unique style, I'd say this is a good thing. In any case, I like Joe Bonamassa's style, and as long as he continues to make music, I'll be listening.

For clarification: everywhere that I've used the word "world" above, you can probably interpret that to mean the addition of instrument(s) not commonly found in a rock band. :p

28 April, 2010

Pretty & Sexy

There are a lot of things in my mind that I'd love to discuss but I refrain from on account of avoiding controversy. Like, for example, the feminist implications of The Runaways' short career (specifically, the politics of sexuality as it relates to the different approaches to feminism). And I love controversy. But while I love to revel in it when it's produced by others, I'm more hesitant to produce it myself, because of the risk of attracting negative attention from others (something I'm not too fond of). And yet, a lot of what I do is already pretty controversial. You'd think I'd be immune to those fears by now.

The dilemma I face at this moment involves the potential (imagined?) conflict between my admiration of pretty girls, and my interest in the sensual, erotic side of life. And this has implications that go beyond me being afraid to add a pretty girl as a contact on flickr, for fear of scaring her away when (if) she finds out I am an erotic/nude photographer. This is the curse of every softcore pornographer - too tainted to charm the more sophisticated elements of society, yet too pure to be satisfied consorting with only the perverted bottomfeeders (I refer to this dilemma more generally as "The Unhappy Medium", which haunts my life). Here the impact of sex negativism can be felt clearly. If we had a healthy, positive attitude towards sex, then sensual individuals would more readily be judged based on their character, rather than on the simple fact that they embrace sensuality (as opposed to shunning and shaming it, as any decent person would do).

Maybe I am, once again, overreacting. My approach to sensuality is very clearly unique, and distinct from (and more sophisticated than) the usual, basic one that is most often assumed (that is, insensitive animal lust). And yet, from a glance or two - a first impression - how easy is that to glean? In fact, the "purest" and most "innocent" elements of society don't even make the distinction between tasteful sensuality and perverted filth - it's one and the same. Are these, then, people that I have no business associating with, in the first place? Ah yes, that's the easy answer. But what if they're pretty? What if they're beautiful? As an aesthetic artist, I cannot simply ignore such a thing. And the rarer and prettier the pearl, the stronger the desire to shine it. How does a nude photographer approach a pretty girl and ask her to pose for him (not necessarily nude)? While I'd enjoy taking sexy photographs of sexy girls, and pretty photographs of pretty girls, I want more than anything else to take sexy photographs of pretty girls.

On a related topic, I've been very interested in Lolita fashion lately (ever since the con). And I say "related" because any self-respecting Lolita would be appalled to find their fashion mentioned in the context of a post containing the word "sexy" in its title (barring the all-too-common ironic exceptions in the form of public denial). And no, I'm not backing out on my support of the tenet that Lolita fashion is nonsexual. In fact, it's the modesty that, perhaps in some twisted way, attracts me to it. (Not like that, jeez). But the issue comes up that some people might be offended by my interest in Lolita fashion, on account of the fact that I actually thought Nabokov's Lolita (in no way affiliated with the fashion, except in name only) was a brilliant - and even partly sexy - novel. And the fact that, while I don't exactly broadcast it (at least not in direct terms), I'm not actually offended by animated lolicon. (And if you don't know what that means, you probably don't want to). Or even just the simple fact that I am a man, and thus my interest in women's fashion is suspect (of perverted motives), by default (because if a man has an interest in girly things, it must be because he gets a sick sexual thrill out of it (by the way, are there any healthy sexual thrills?), and not because he might actually identify with girly things (then again, a man who identifies with girly things is abnormal anyway)). Yes, I am a pervert, and I am not ashamed to admit it, but not everything I do is perverted. I'm capable of keeping separate things separate, I'm just not so certain that others are capable of seeing it that way.

Even so, the question of attraction comes up. Are [heterosexual] males normally attracted to prettiness in girls? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think so. Are they sexually attracted to prettiness, or is that a different aspect of the attraction? Regardless, it is an aspect of the overall attraction. So why should pretty things not be sexual? Not to say that we should eliminate the line between them - pretty is pretty and sexy is sexy and they each have a distinct appeal. But can they not be combined favorably in some instances? I would say certainly! Observe:

Meet sexy (Yoko), and pretty (Nia). Now certainly, pretty girls can be sexy, and sexy girls can be pretty, but the best girls are the ones who are sexy & pretty, simultaneously:

Chii is, in my opinion, the epitome of the pretty + sexy girl. Of course, some may argue that Chii is simply pretty + lots of exposed skin, and not the sexy archetype - which might well be true. But "sexy" means different things to different people, and exposed skin is sexy to me (very sexy), provided the skin being exposed belongs to a pretty girl. :3 I don't hate T&A, but the stereotypical way they are presented almost seems to me a "masculine" presentation of sexuality. I'm turned on by a more delicate, feminine presentation of sexuality. Which is why Chii's pretty face, beautiful hair, soft skin, and long legs (frequently bared), attract me more than the lumps on the front or back of her body (not that I don't like them, mind you). And her gentle personality completes the package, turning her into an object of love, not simply lust, for me.

We've been skirting around the very similar issue of cute vs. sexy, here, and I know someone who will certainly say that cute = sexy. There is truth to that statement. I think, much like the feminine vs. "masculine" presentation of sexuality discussed above, it's a matter of taste. I've always been more attracted to cute features than outright "sexy" features. And, as it turns out, cuteness is more often associated with youthfulness, while sexiness is considered an "adult" trait. I believe that a lot of this has to do with social constructs - the fact that sex is an "adult" activity, and thus only adults are allowed to be sexy, and saying that a non-adult is sexy is politically incorrect - but it's also true that there is a physical quality to youthfulness that has a specific appeal, unrivaled by the appeals of age (subjectively speaking, at least).

The problem with saying that youthfulness is sexy, is that people will start asking, well, how young is too young? There is a too young, right? Right? All I can say about that is, different people have different preferences. And as long as we are talking about appreciating beauty (whether it's cuteness, prettiness, or sexiness), there's no logic behind labeling what sort of objects (I'm sorry, subjects) are allowed (or ought) to be appreciated, and which aren't. Aesthetic admiration is an involuntary emotional reaction, and policing it means putting restriction on thought - especially spontaneous thought that can't really be controlled. Not only is this a gross miscarriage of justice and basic liberty, but, thankfully, it's impossible to enforce (at least for the time being).

Where I'm going with this is, I don't see any point in punishing somebody for admiring beauty in another person. When I look at a pretty girl on flickr who places a clear statement against "perverts" in her profile, it makes me feel bad for being a sensual being that happens to find her to be attractive. Again, maybe I don't fit that profile of the run-of-the-mill "pervert", but I'm not exactly Mother Mary, either. This is exactly like the old pseudo-feminist ploy of trying to convince the world that when a man finds a woman attractive, it's a form of rape. Hopefully, anyone with reason will agree that this is ridiculous, but it doesn't eliminate the conflict between the sexually "tainted" and the attractively "pure". And when I say that, I don't mean that these girls are attractive because they're "pure" (I don't define real purity based on sexual experience), but that they happen to be attractive and "pure", thus making that attraction some kind of assault against their "purity".

So I'm probably making a big deal about this, but the bottom line is that I don't want to feel guilty for thinking a girl is pretty. There are sexy things in life that I enjoy, and there are pretty things in life that I enjoy, and I don't want to feel like I can't enjoy them both, whether combined or separate (as the individual occasion merits). Yet I don't want to offend the sensibilities of one or the other. Of course, if I was not suffering from social anxiety, I could just send this girl (who is old enough to drink, and is married, by the way) a friendly flickr mail, proving that I am a gentleman and not just another of the countless creepy perverts that are allegedly out there, and then wait for a response instead of agonizing over how I might be judged, and assuming the worst case scenario. But then, you wouldn't have gotten the chance to read this post about my winding thoughts regarding aesthetics and sexual politics. You see, I suffer for you!

(On the other hand, I like talking about pretty girls, because it makes me feel good inside. Almost as good as when I get to look at them. Have another picture of Chii:)

23 April, 2010

Jailbait Rock

I tried to write up a cohesive post about The Runaways after seeing the movie (the first time ;p), but it didn't quite come together. But since The Runaways is definitely my current obsession (or at least one of them), I just have to spend some time talking about them.

The Runaways was an all-girl rock band (officially the first) that formed in Los Angeles and existed during the latter half of the 1970s, and included Joan Jett, who would go on to a successful solo career. I, personally, didn't know about The Runaways until I heard that a film about the band was being shot, starring Hollywood hotties Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning (former Hollywood cutie). I'm not ashamed to admit this was my introduction to the band - and anyway, I love the music, and I've become a genuine fan, so it's win-win, right?

So what's the appeal of The Runaways? It should be obvious. The band (and the movie) combines two of my favorite things in the world - rock music...and jailbait! And on that note, I recommend this refreshingly honest review of the movie. (Go ahead, read it now. I'll wait.)

Isn't the poster hot? "It works on so many levels - and most of them will get you arrested." If you're feeling uncomfortable right about now, then you're probably not a rocker. Rock is raw and rebellious; it is violent and sexual. For all the verbal abuse producer/manager Kim Fowley spewed, he was right about the music. Although I think women's lib was an important part of what The Runaways did (i.e., prove that girls can rock just as hard as men - and boy, can they ever!), women's libido was an equally important component. Which is why I was disappointed by the scene where the band gets upset over Cherie's risqué photoshoot. It's not a distraction, it's an integral part of the formula!

The movie, I am told, is based on the real Cherie Currie's memoir, Neon Angel. As such, it focuses on her and Joan Jett's part of the story, emphasizing the chemistry between the two. The end product is a wildly entertaining rock biopic with lesbian overtones (which gives it a decided advantage over other rock biopics), complete with the requisite kickass soundtrack (I was particularly delighted to hear The Stooges during an especially memorable scene). I saw the movie twice in its limited run (don't be fooled, there was no true "wide" release) and enjoyed it just as much both times. I bumped into a fan after the second showing who [enthusiastically] confessed that it was her ninth viewing! This is a movie that I really recommend.


After my first viewing of the new movie, I tracked down the other Runaways movie that's been made - Edgeplay. Rather than a fictional dramatization, it's a documentary featuring interviews with the band members (minus Joan Jett, unfortunately) and those who were close to the band. So you get a nice picture of the "true" story (at least how it's remembered by those who were there) of the band, and get to know the real members (instead of actresses playing those members - although Kristen and Dakota did a fantastic job). If you're interested in the gritty details of the band, I definitely recommend it, though for sheer entertainment, the new movie is where it's at.

Now let's talk about the actual band. The Runaways had punk and glam influences, but they were a solid rock band through and through. The drummer (Sandy West) and lead guitarist (Lita Ford) were known to have jammed on Deep Purple songs; Cherie Currie (lead singer) was fond of David Bowie; and Joan Jett (guitar, vocals, songwriting) was largely inspired by Suzi Quatro. The band released their self-titled debut in 1976, followed by Queens of Noise in 1977, and a live album recorded during their tour of Japan in that year (they were an instant hit in Japan). Their first two albums are really good, with a lot of great tracks, and the live album is even better. The lead guitar has more room to breathe in concert (compared to the studio), and the live sound on the album is just great.

What are my favorite tracks? Cherry Bomb, which kicks off the first album, is an infectious hit (in a good way). It was written by Joan Jett and Kim Fowley for Cherie Currie when she was added to the band as the lead singer/frontgirl. The song itself is good, but the symbolism behind it - how it represents Cherie, and the raw sexuality of it - adds to its appeal for me. The closing track of the first album, Dead End Justice, is captivating, with the traded off vocals between Joan and Cherie telling a whole story. I was excited to hear part of that song performed in the movie. I can't possibly name all the songs I like, because then I'd just end up listing their whole discography, but from the second album I like Johnny Guitar, which is a bit different from the rest of the band's songs, and has more guitar noodling than average (hence my interest). Really though, the more I listen to these songs, the more I like them, and the more of them I like.

After the Japan tour/album, Cherie unfortunately quit the band. The next album, Waitin' For The Night, features a stronger (and heavier) Joan presence, as she steps up to fill the gap left by Cherie's departure. Don't get me wrong, I love Joan, and I think the songs on this album are strong - they would sound fantastic played out of context - but together they get a little repetitive, as it sounds like the same basic formula repeated song after song (Fantasies is a standout track, though). The band's fourth and final studio album before disbanding, And Now... The Runaways, took the band in a new direction (thanks to new management). The end result is kinda light and poppy, and mostly not as interesting as the band's earlier material.

But there is plenty to love about this band, that much is certain. And instead of writing a conclusion, I'm gonna take the band's example and just run away. :p If you like what you've read/seen/heard here, be sure to pick up one of their albums, or keep your eye open for the movie.

12 April, 2010

Tekko '10 (Spoils)

Let's jump back to the Dealer's Room on Saturday afternoon at the con, where I made my purchases. But first, I'll tell you a secret. I had a gift card I've been trying to get rid of ever since Christmas. I brought it with me, hoping I'd be able to use it, and it worked swimmingly. As such, since I was eager to use the gift card up rather than hold onto it indefinitely (which is what I was doing with it by that point), I actually had something of a nice budget to blow at the Dealer's Room. Thus I ended up buying considerably more than I would have bought had I not had that gift card, but I'm completely satisfied with how that turned out.

One of the things I had thought of before the con to look for when I got there was a school uniform. You can call me whatever names you want, but I was inspired by the idea of hanging one up on my wall (no, I wasn't actually planning on wearing it :p). There were two problems with that plan, though. First, is the concern I have about cosplay fabrics, which seem cheaper and faker than what they use for real clothes (which kind of irks me, because I think "costumes" look better when they actually look like clothes and not costumes). The other problem was that, of the serafuku cosplay I spied in the Dealer's Room, they were all alternative colors or styles, and not the classic blue/white/red ribbon style that I'm looking for. Not to say that I don't like those other styles, but for my purposes, it's supposed to serve as a symbol, and as such, it should be the most iconic style.

Anyway, in place of that, I ended up buying a serafuku pillow that I spotted instead, which is similar, and quite cute. I'm really impressed with it.

The shiny red bow is reminiscent of the sailor senshi's uniforms.

Look, it even has pantsu!

And to save you the trouble of asking, yes, it's a DFC pillow. -_^

As for my other purchases, I bought all of four figures, all of them larger than the capsule/trading type that I focused on last year. Since I kind of ended up overdosing on Eva figures last year, I restricted myself to just one Asuka figure this year, which I like, although it's not the one I saw last year that I regret not buying (since it was kind of expensive).

It's a very nice figure, featuring Asuka in an attractive ground sit pose, with her civilian clothes modestly disheveled, and a suggestion of wind blowing through her hair. On her face is painted a look of slight melancholy. This is a figure that tells a story. You can't help wondering what set of circumstances led her to be in this condition.

Pantsu Check:

Pantsu? Check!

The figure also comes with a box of combat rations, which includes some sort of crackers and a lump of "crystal sugar". I can't decide whether to eat them or save them for the Second Impact...

One of the other figures I bought was a Nagi in a white swimsuit, likely a result of my being inspired by watching Kannagi earlier in the day.

When I asked the vendor for the price, he offered to open the box and take out the (wrapped) pieces so I could inspect them. As he pointed out, there is a very faint blush on the goddess' cheeks which is hard to see on the box art. It enhances the erotic effect of the figure.

A close inspection of Nagi's bust (like you could resist :p) reveals that she is probably not as flat as she is supposed to be, but the inflation is minimal, and not outside my standards of acceptability, thus I will refrain from lodging a complaint.

I'm happy with this figure, even though it's a little out of character (a large part of Nagi's charm is her whimsical mischievousness). Also, I'm particularly fond of Nagi's distinctive regular outfit, even down to the boots, and would love to have another figure with her in those clothes. Maybe someday.

I saw three different Nia (from Gurren Lagann) figures that I liked, but I ended up going for the standard one rather than either the swimsuit or maid figure, based purely on the fact that she was the only one of the three who had the longer hairstyle that I prefer.

It's still a cute outfit, though, and all the elements of her style are there - from the psychedelic eyes and puffy blue-yellow hair, to her pink clothes, and the flower in her hair. Very girly. Just the way I like her. :3

I'll admit, though I liked her character from the start anyway, I've grown more attached to her than I would have otherwise, considering that I sleep with her in my bed every night. ;-) Speaking of which, I saw a few dakimakura at one of the booths, including a tempting Nia one, but they were half the size of the one I have (at most), and being official products, not quite as naked. ;-)

Pantsu Check:

Pantsu? Check!

The last of the figures I bought is a fully posable Tohsaka Rin (queen of the zettai ryouiki), from the Fraulein Revoltech line. If I hadn't picked up the box for closer inspection at the last minute before deciding on another purchase, I wouldn't have noticed it was a posable figure (now I'm wondering if those Rei and Asuka figures I saw from the same line were posable too), and wouldn't have thought to buy it.

The idea of being able to pose a figure takes me back to the days of my childhood when I actually played with my toys, rather than just stare at them and drool. Not that the two approaches aren't compatible.

Rin comes with a magic blade, and four different pairs of changeable hands, including one pair with her holding her magic gems between her fingers. The addition of a posing stand is convenient, so you can stabilize the figure even in the midst of unbalanced action poses.

Playing around with her is fun, though she has quite the habit of falling apart. Adjusting an arm frequently leads to reattaching that arm, and I even had Rin's back come off at one point.

(I couldn't resist.)

It's all quite put-back-together-able, and I presume that's how it's supposed to be, but correct me if I'm wrong, because I've played with posable toys before that don't have a habit of falling apart. In any case, it's pretty neat - I mean, even Rin's twintails are posable!

Perfect for indicating motion.

Pantsu Check:


Check! Actually, I had to split her in two to get the last of the plastic sheets off of her, and her stomach is nicely detailed. Bonus points for that, since it's an area that really isn't meant to be exposed on this figure.

In addition to the above figures, I bought three Chobits "posters", which are actually done in that nice pencil board material, though they are the size of small posters and not your typical smaller pencil board. They are three very nice designs, including the one I described as "Heaven" in a blog entry from almost a year ago. Since the material is sort of translucent, the "posters" look very nice backlit, such as against a window.

(My window doesn't produce a whole lot of light...)

I know I said I didn't have any room left for this kind of thing, but these looked just too good for me to pass up (and considering how I feel about Chii...). I didn't even see them at first, because they were hanging low off the front of the booth of one of the vendors, below my vision. That was a good booth. They had some nice figures and t-shirts and buttons and posters, and one of the guys working behind it, a Japanese guy, recognized my Behelit (one of only two people) and described to me some rare Berserk merchandise. He also told me these Chobits "posters" were rare. I believe it. They're very nice.

And while we're speaking of vendors, I saved the receipts from my purchases this year, so I can actually tell who I bought my stuff from. I mention this because last year I wrote about how nice the one vendor was whom I bought the majority of my Eva not-so-blind box figures from, but I had no idea what store he represented. Well, the same guy was there again this year, and he's the one I bought my Rin, Nia, and Asuka figures from. And he was representing Kyoto Anime. So now you know. And now I think I'll get back to playing with my toys.

Tekko '10 (Aside: Cosplay Photography)

The main attraction of an anime convention for me is the people. Some go to a convention for the celebrities, but I go to a convention for the people. Of course, being an antisocial loner, I don't mean that I actually interact with the people, I just like watching them. And while there are stereotypes about otaku and geeks in general, the truth is, there are as many attractive people at an anime convention as there are anywhere else (except places that specifically attract attractive people - like a supermodel convention, for example :3). It helps that the demographic is relatively young, too.

And the special benefit of an anime convention is the cosplay. Cosplay can be exciting because you get to see your favorite characters (if you're an anime fan) imitated in 3D (yes, I know 2D > 3D, but that doesn't mean 3D doesn't have its own unique appeal :p). Plus - and there may be some people who don't want to hear this, but - there are a lot of fetish elements in anime cosplay. And when I say that, I don't necessarily mean that in the context of raw sexuality - although there's that, too. I'm just saying, there's a whole lot to admire.

So while sitting around, watching all the people in interesting costumes go by, I got to thinking about beauty. In my mind, there exists an abstract form of ideal beauty. When I look at a person, I might notice an element here or there that reflects that ideal form of beauty - but it's just an element. In most cases, the more I look, the more I see the other elements that person possesses that clash with the ideal form my mind is seeking. Some people have more of the ideal elements than others, and those are the people my gaze is drawn toward more strongly. It is rare, but every so often my eyes will light upon a figure whose combination of elements is so perfect, that no matter how long I look, I cannot find a flaw. When I discover such an image of divine beauty rendered in earthly flesh, I am overcome by a feeling of great weight. I would drop to the ground and bow before this goddess if only she would acknowledge me, if only she would let me be close to her, if only she would allow me to admire her (and if only I wouldn't be criticized and then ostracized for my unnatural outburst of affection).

This feeling leaves me with a longing desire, and since I don't feel in a position to appease it, I have to start wondering what it is for. In terms of pure physical attraction, one could suggest the purpose is procreation, but I'm above and beyond that. Besides, I view beauty as an ends in and of itself - to consider it as simply a means for some other end would be blasphemy. And in any case, my lofty notions of getting along with the people I am most attracted to have already been shattered by past (painful) experiences. But this feeling cannot be ignored, and thus I must find a use for it. Preferably something more satisfying than an everlasting source of depression.

As a photographer, the obvious answer is to capture that beauty on film to be shared and admired and preserved for eternity (relatively speaking). Which brings us to the question of why I don't take cosplay photographs at anime conventions anymore. The obvious answer is my hesitation when it comes to approaching strangers, but it goes deeper than that. Rather than taking quick snapshots of a lot of normal people in costume (which anyone can do, and many do), I'd prefer to take the time to create flattering portraits of only the most attractive people I see. But the more serious the shoot becomes (and the more attractive the model), the harder it is for me to ask a stranger out of the blue who, though she might happily pose for a snap or two, probably doesn't have the time or the inclination to indulge my unexpected request.

And anyway, I'm not comfortable working with strangers in that way. Especially not in such a chaotic environment. So, it's not like I'm trying to downplay my own failings, but the fact is, if I were to take cosplay pictures, I just wouldn't be satisfied with the run of the mill shots you most frequently see. I demand more, and I'm not comfortable demanding that from people I don't know, at this time. Still, David Hamilton, a photographer I greatly admire, once said, "if you are on a beach and you notice a face, or a body, that stands out from the crowd, the sight of which makes your heart leap in your breast, then stop. If your feeling is honest and sincere, it will help you find the right words. Who knows what could then come from such a meeting?" Maybe the day will come when I am able to follow David Hamilton's sagely advice, but that day is not today.

11 April, 2010

Tekko '10 (Day the Second)

We continue on to my second day at the convention (Saturday), in which I was accompanied by yet another con-goer, related to the first. After securing a convenient parking spot in the garage attached to the convention center, we got into the convention and I noticed with surprise (and glee) that Kannagi (a very humorous series that I recommend) was currently playing in one of the subbed video rooms! We caught a few episodes before it was time to catch one of the few panels (actually, a workshop) I had my eye on. Which one, you ask? Japanese food!

I was hoping they'd have some samples (and thankfully, they did) from the start, but even more so by the time I got there, as I was getting pretty hungry for lunch. The panel (er, workshop) was pretty crowded, but we managed to squeeze in. The first part was a description of popular Japanese foods, accompanied by slides. All the usual suspects were there, as well as some surprises, except that I didn't hear much about sushi - although there's a good chance they covered it at the very beginning of the panel before we came in. Plenty to make one's mouth water, for sure.

After the descriptions were out of the way, the rest of the workshop consisted of eating the food samples (thankfully NOT plastic samples) that had been prepared. Naturally, there wasn't much for any one person to have, but there turned out to be more to go around than I was pessimistically predicting there to be. I was of course happy to try some of the samples, although it made for a very meagre lunch (even for someone like me, who doesn't like to eat a lot!).

There was a variety of samples to choose from. As you can see, I grabbed some gyouza (very tasty), crab/shrimp (or something similar) chips (which were actually pretty good), edamame (I was tempted by how nutritious they're supposed to be, and the story I heard that they're eaten like peanuts at bars in Japan, although I was less than totally impressed by their taste), a single sugar star, a strawberry Pocky stick, some delicious mochi, and some form of barley tea to drink. Attending that workshop was definitely a worthwhile experience.

And while we're talking about subjects that are more along the lines of Japanese culture in general as opposed to anime in specific, for those of you who are hoping for a description/pictures of a kendo demonstration, I am disappointed to inform you that I did not see such a thing in the schedule, nor did I hear anything about one. That's too bad, because that was the highlight of last year's con. :(

Since it was warmer and sunnier on Saturday, there were more people outside on the roof/balconies, compared to Friday. I actually discovered that you could go out onto one of the balconies, which has grass (fake grass, though), that I didn't realize you could go out onto last year (unless I'm forgetting myself). It was a nice place, a great outdoor location for photoshoots - and expectedly, there were cosplayers out there doing their thing.

Next up was a visit to the Dealer's Room, which meant it was time for me to make some decisions and spend my money. I'm gonna go ahead and describe my spoils in a separate post, so for now you'll just have to wait, while we jump ahead a couple of hours.

After linner (at Subway again; they were getting swamped and running out of things at this point) we headed up to the roof to enjoy the comparatively better weather. It was actually pretty nice out there. Sunny, with a bright blue sky, and not much wind. We ended up spending quite a bit of time up there getting some much needed rest and relaxation.

Afterward, I decided on a whim to check out a show playing in one of the video rooms, based only on the title - Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl. It's about a guy who gets changed into a girl after being hit by a UFO (yeah), and the resulting confusion with regards to the two girls who had feelings for him. Now that he's a girl, will their feelings become platonic, or will they remain romantic? You should be able to guess which direction it goes. I wouldn't say that it was an amazing series, but the subject matter alone made it of particular interest to me.

When sampling of that series ended, we went over to catch the tail end of the Evangelion Is Totally Awesome panel, which, as I predicted after reading the description in the con booklet, wasn't that great on account of the passage that read, "rather than talking about a bunch of philosophical nonsense, we'll be looking at all sorts of unusual and hilarious facets of the Evangelion franchise and fandom that you didn't know existed." Which included watching an animation of the Eva characters performing the Haruhi dance. One thing of interest that was brought up was the theory that the new Evangelion Rebuild isn't purely a remake but something like a continuation of the series after EoE or somesuch. I admit the idea makes the whole Rebuild thing more palatable, and replaces some of my disdain for it (on the grounds that it's a remake of one of the greatest series of all time) with fascination. And though I dislike the idea of tossing an entirely new character into the works, I saw some figures of the glasses girl in the Dealer's Room that looked pretty cute. I still can't forgive changing Asuka's family name, though. I saw some figure boxes with that name on it. I'll never accept it. Never!

Wandering around afterward, I oddly saw a lot of people carrying pizza boxes, and it not only accentuated my growing hunger, but intensified my craving for pizza. We spotted an address on the side of one of those pizza boxes, and since it was a street name that I recognized as being close enough to the convention center, we decided to go for it. We didn't make it there, but we found a different pizza shop (Pizza Parma) right on the corner past the Subway previously introduced. So, I'll consider that a new addition to my restaurant repertoire for future Tekkoshocons. It had a very corner shop pizza parlor atmosphere, and the pizza was very good (New York style) - it hit the spot.

Coming towards the end of the night, it was time for the anticipated Silent Hill panel (which I missed two years ago due to a last minute schedule change, by the way). The panel was fun, although I was kind of perturbed by the fact that they kept talking about the Silent Hill game I haven't played - Shattered Memories - although they made it out to sound very interesting (which I already thought it sounded anyway). But that's understandable, I guess, as it's one of the more (if not the most) recent titles in the series. They also spent some time at the end playing videos of the various UFO endings. Which are quirky. What they said about those endings being an example that the makers really enjoy what they're doing and don't take themselves too seriously, I agree is cool, but at a Silent Hill panel I want scares not laughs! :p It was still fun, though.

So to end my convention experience, I opted to do some final people watching outside the rave. Why does the rave attract me when I know it's no good for me? It's the same thing I felt in high school when other kids went to parties and I stayed at home. There's nothing in that rave for me. I went in there last year, and had no desire to dance. But the lights and colors and fog and music make it seem fun. It reminded me of Burning Man. But it's not my kind of party. If I were to host a party, my ideal party, the atmosphere would be different. So why do I feel empty because I'm missing something I don't even want? Why do I have to feel the desire to be social if I don't like being social? My life has been filled with such questions, and I still haven't found my place in the world, where I feel comfortable. Not just safe, but satisfied, too. Is there a medium ground out there somewhere?

To conclude, I had a lot of fun at the con. There's a certain other thing I'd like to discuss in another post, and then of course there will be a post detailing the goodies I picked up in the Dealer's Room, which I'm looking forward to. I'll have to take some more pictures of my toys as I open them up first, though. But stay tuned!