29 April, 2011

Musical Repertoire

Just for fun, I'm gonna list all the songs in my musical repertoire that are, as of right this moment (because it evolves constantly over time), currently a part of my practice regimen. I practice guitar for at least an hour every day, and I perform at various local open stages - currently there are two I go to, which happen to be on the same night. A while ago I had a set of songs I practiced regularly each night, but as I've been learning more and more songs, I've reached a point where I have enough under my belt that I can afford to be a lot more loose in my practice setlist.

Now, when it comes to performing these songs in front of an audience, there are some that I play more often than others, for a multitude of reasons. Some of these songs are more fun for me to play, some of them suit my playing (and singing) style better, some are better crowd pleasers than others, some I'm simply better at playing, and some are 'incomplete' in that I don't know all of the guitar solos (which I will hopefully take the time to learn someday). And of course, there are a ton of songs that I won't list here that I either half-know, or that I used to play in the past - and might be able to pull out if pressed, though I'd be concerned about remembering both how to play it (more so if there's a lead involved), as well as how to sing it (I am desperately in need of a real singer to accompany me whenever I perform in public...).

I will list these not in alphabetical order either by song title or artist name, which would be the obvious choice, but in thematic chunks, both because that makes them easier for me to remember, and also because that's generally how I play them, so it will better reflect what my practice setlist would be like (provided I stood there and played all the songs listed - and if I did, I think I could probably fill close to a two hour time slot, if not more).

Here we go...

Blues:

John Mayall's Bluesbreakers - Stepping Out
John Mayall's Bluesbreakers/Otis Rush - All Your Love (I Miss Loving)
Jimi Hendrix Experience - Red House
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Leave My Girl Alone

Rock:

Deep Purple - Smoke On The Water
Black Sabbath - Wicked World
Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
The Doors - Roadhouse Blues
Neil Young - Rockin' In The Free World
Neil Young - Cowgirl In The Sand

Less Distortion:

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Simple Man
Tom Petty - Mary Jane's Last Dance
Tom Petty - Good Enough
The Rolling Stones - Angie

Featured Artists:

Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac - Man Of The World
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac - Jumping At Shadows
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac - The Green Manalishi
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac - World Keep On Turning
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac - Black Magic Woman

Robin Trower - Too Rolling Stoned
Robin Trower - Day Of The Eagle
Robin Trower - Bridge Of Sighs
Robin Trower - I Can't Wait Much Longer

Ten Years After - I'm Goin' Home Intro/Love Like A Man
Ten Years After - Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
Ten Years After - You Give Me Loving

Leftovers:

Big Brother & The Holding Company - Piece of My Heart
Derek And The Dominos - Layla
The Runaways - Cherry Bomb
Pink Floyd - Have A Cigar

Rare Plays:

The Allman Brothers Band - In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
Roy Buchanan - The Messiah Will Come Again

27 April, 2011

Taking Responsibility For My Choices

Incidentally, today is Secretaries Day. That doesn't really mean anything to me, but it just so happens that the subject I want to explore in this blog post has some relation to a film titled Secretary, starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal, which I watched a while back during my phase of being interested in serious movies depicting alternative sexual lifestyles. This one is about a D/s relationship (that is, a fully D/s relationship, even outside the bedroom) and is significant in that it demonstrates that - contrary to sensationalist stereotypes - Doms can actually care about the wellbeing of those they dominate, and subs can enjoy (or even thrive on) being dominated. And that last point is what ties into my theme for today.

I was out walking in the beautiful eighty degree weather today, and had worked up a bit of a sweat toward the end of my walk (which took me through the woods). I was contemplating taking my shirt off (which, as a nudist, would be a step towards a much more enjoyable state of being), but my fear of drawing attention and/or being judged negatively by others prevented me from taking that step. Obviously, taking my shirt off on public streets is not illegal or anything like that, and I wouldn't have even been the only one (although certainly within the minority). But, you know how people are, even about partial 'nudity'. Even if it's nothing you wouldn't see at a public swimming pool, some people don't mind it, but others do.

Really, I shouldn't care about those others who don't, because this is such a trivial thing (not comparable to doing something like shouting obscenities in someone's face). But, I do. Now, if I had been with another person who I knew was on my side, I would have been much more confident in the tacit knowledge that I was not alone in thinking my decision (to take off my shirt) was a good one. I would feel defended, backed up, and that could stand against anyone else's opinion who might disagree with me. I really should be confident enough that I can trust my own judgment, without having to defer to external support, but that's precisely my issue.

Because you see, if somebody tells me to do something, or explicitly agrees that something I had already wanted to do is a good idea, then I feel like I'm not totally responsible for doing it, if someone were to come up and complain. I could say, well, this other person wanted me to do it (or thought it was a good idea), so don't blame me. I want to be able to shirk the responsibility for making those choices, so I don't have to feel in a position where my judgment is being questioned. Because I much too easily succumb to those sorts of psychological attacks on my self-esteem.

What I need to learn how to do is to take responsibility for my choices. It's true that we all make mistakes, and this isn't the end of the world. If I make a bad judgment here and there, that's okay. As long as I'm committed to learning from my mistakes, and working together with other people that I (unfortunately) share this world with, then there's no justification for me to feel hated or despised. And when it comes to subjective considerations, such as the appropriateness of doffing one's top on a warm summery (even though it's still spring) day, I have to be able to stand up to my fear that someone might disapprove - because that's not the end of the world, either, and there's no rule that says that you have to please everyone all of the time, regardless of the personal sacrifices required.

But it's not entirely that straightforward, because there are lengths to which I'd like to go that are not as generally acceptable in public society as male toplessness. And yet, rarely are codified laws so specific as to be unambiguous - most of the time, these things are determined largely by 'community standards', where 'community standards' are largely assumed to be a certain set of behaviors - a certain set that I don't necessarily agree with. The confusion comes in regarding rare behaviors I would like to engage in that don't have a clear precedent of either acceptability or non-acceptability.

Just for example, the whole male toplessness thing works on exactly the same levels as full nudity. It's about people being offended by parts of the body. I know genitalia are clearly off-limits, but I fail to understand why. It's merely a difference of degree. Some people don't like to look at bare chests, yet it's allowed. Some people like to look at genitalia, but it's not allowed. It doesn't even have to be this perverted sexual thing, I fail to understand why simple nudist-style nudity is not tolerated in reasonable contexts - such as public streets and parks and pools and things like that (I'm not even talking about restaurants and business establishments here). And sometimes the law isn't all that clear-cut, and there's a question of exactly what you could get away with, and it might be as arbitrary as whether your particular local community gets upset or not. But then the risk of testing the waters could prove to be dire, so it's almost a chilling effect.

Getting back to taking responsibility for my choices. I just don't see how I could learn to be comfortable taking responsibility for my choice to go topless, while still restraining myself from going fully nude. The only thing that would stop me is a blind adherence to the law and fear of subjective community standards, and that's exactly the sort of thing that impairs my ability to live a happy, fulfilling, content life. I almost feel like, if I can't go all the way, I may as well impose a punishment on myself, to spite the community standards, by not going any distance at all. But of course, that's probably exactly what the system wants - to scare people into not taking risks until we're all terrified conformist yes-men.

The law and community standards make such little sense to me that I'm struggling to figure out an egosyntonic reason to follow them. It's not healthy living a life where you have to curb your natural impulses for no other reason than the fear of being beaten into submission by the authority of the state. And I'm not talking about impulses to go out and hurt someone. If someone has an impulse to murder, for example, then I might argue that, practically speaking (ideally, my position would be different), that person may not have recourse to a healthy life. But what is so terrible about wanting to walk down the street naked that I deserve to have to curb my impulses and live a restrained, resentful life? I agree that the law (and the community) should regulate things like murder - but when the law stretches out to cover things like what a person wears outdoors in public, I have a really hard time maintaining my respect in that law.

I choose to follow the law to my own personal detriment, because I recognize that the law has power over me, and I fear it. But in the process of trying to learn how to overcome my fear, I am at an obstacle, because I don't know how to be happy and remain obedient. And every step pushing me towards being more confident and trusting my intuition and reaching out and grabbing the things I want in life leaves me worrying that this can't happen as long as the law stands in my way. And I don't know which way to go. It's like I'm being pushed towards a ledge. I need to get off the ledge, but falling isn't the solution I had in mind. And I'm not so sure the people who are helping me can even see the drop-off. And of course I'm afraid to mention it, because the minute you start talking about breaking the law, you put yourself in dire jeopardy. Course, avoiding the issue doesn't make it any more likely that you'll avoid a disaster. I guess I'm not in much of a position to demand sanity from others...

Sometimes I wonder if I'd be more content being a prisoner with my integrity intact, than a hypocritical "free" man who doesn't practice the freedom he preaches. It seems to be a question of trading my psychological bars for physical ones.

If I had no fear, even then I would not go around hurting anyone, simply because that is not something I desire to do. I care about other people (too much, it seems). But I also care about myself, and there are things I do desire to do that carry restrictions in this social climate. It just really bothers me that the authorities can dictate the way I live my life in such a way as to prohibit certain activities - not because they harm anyone, but for purely arbitrary reasons. It's not right.

17 April, 2011

A Mention of Easter

I'm not religious, but I like Easter. In fact, if I were religious, I would probably like Easter much less. Because unlike some holidays (I'm looking at you, Christmas), Easter pretty much has zero requirements for the irreligious. I like the fact that I don't have to do anything. I can celebrate it or not celebrate it on a whim. And the content of that celebration is entirely up to my own plans and desires.

But then, that doesn't really separate it from the countless non-holiday weekends that occur throughout the year. I also like that it's a celebration of spring. It's a good time of year, when the weather's finally starting to get nicer, and you have the summer to look forward to. And I like the bright colors of Easter, and the symbolism of life. I like that girls are encouraged to dress up in really pretty Easter dresses. I like having deviled eggs and Cadbury creme eggs and Reese's peanut butter eggs. I think chocolate bunnies are both cute and delicious. I like having an excuse to watch/listen to Jesus Christ Superstar, which (despite not being religious) is my favorite musical ever.

And I love knowing the Pagan traditions that underpin Easter. Eggs and chicks can be written off as symbols of 'new life', which accompany the Christian theme of resurrection, but the inclusion of rabbits belies the Pagan focus on fertility. To me, this feels like a naughty secret, that imbues a Christian holy day with hidden sexual connotations. And naturally, that excites me.

After all, my favorite thing about Easter over all...is bunny chicks!

Two Complaints (Re: Cosplay Photos)

If you haven't seen my addendum to my last post, I'm giving you a head's up here - it contains information about the DeathCom photos I appear in.

I just wanted to take a moment to voice two complaints I have re: searching through people's cosplay photos from the con (now two weeks past). And both of these things seem to be a casualty of modern internet culture. Now I don't want to sound like I'm whining about how young people are choosing to express themselves these days, it's just that there are a few practical matters that make my searching through con photos and looking for pics of myself a lot harder.

First of all, there's the concept of privacy settings. It doesn't make much sense to post a public link to a private photo gallery. Granted, this usually happens by mistake, but I see people trying to fix it, and the gallery still comes up as private. And no, friending random strangers to see their private pictures isn't the best solution. I know, Facebook (and no, I'm not afraid to name names) is trying to 'protect kids from themselves' (that is, protect them from others by preempting their own alleged 'stupidity') by setting recommended privacy defaults and making it really complicated to change them. The end result is a mess of confusion and a bunch of pictures I should be able to view, but can't.

The other complaint I have is that it seems like a very hip thing to post slideshows on YouTube featuring the pictures you took mixed in with the random videos you took, with a song of your choice (bound to agree with only a small percentage of your audience's tastes) playing over top. Okay, so it's really 'cool' and everything, but it's a pain in the ass for people who are there to see the pictures you took, and not to get to know you better by viewing your little creative montage (which I get the feeling is often created on the fly by some sort of automated program).

It takes me a matter of seconds to scan through a picture gallery, and spot the pictures I want to look at, or the pictures that have someone in them I know. I have to sit for a few minutes (or up to eight minutes and more) to watch your slideshow montage. And if I do see an image I like, it's prohibitively difficult for me to download it and save it in my archives. Now, in other cases, there are issues about creator rights and stealing and all that, but con photos are largely (being the rule rather than the exception) shared to be shared, and it's 1) excepted that people like to collect con photos they like, and 2) generally expected that people will want to keep a copy of any photos they themselves turn up in (and are therefore usually provided the opportunity without having to go out of their way to ask - and remember, this isn't professional photography we're talking about). So this isn't a case of me saying, "you should make it easier for me to steal your photos", it's a case of me lamenting that this particular venue of expression makes it extremely difficult to first locate and then save the pictures I'm looking for, that are there for me to find anyway.

I figure most people just go and do what they're used to, without thinking very long or hard about what level of user-friendliness their audiences will experience. And Facebook and YouTube are very popular. And yes, I guess a slideshow montage is more 'exciting' than a boring photo gallery. I'd like to see more people, however, take a little more time to consider their audiences when they share. You can have your slideshow montage and all that, but maybe provide some options, so people can make choices for their own convenience. Provide some kind of organization for the media you have, so people can find it and look through it more easily, and know what they can expect to find. And no, it's not any sort of requirement, but it's only polite (and responsible) to post a link to your media on the official con forum if you have any expectation of other con-goers being able to view/find that media.

15 April, 2011

Cosplay Pictures (Part 2)

It looks like I'm finally finished working on all my cosplay pictures and getting them posted up. I put up a bunch on my (previously empty) profile at cosplay.com (link), which is great, because I am excited to actually have some content on there - it's proof that I am now officially a COSPLAYER! And I can't wait for my next chance to cosplay. You can find pictures of my Tentacle Rape cosplay here (linked previously in my con diary), and my Chii cosplay here (the pink dress!).

You can also find all of those pictures and a few more on my flickr photostream in this set. Because of the way flickr works, some of them are hidden behind a content filter, on account of how skimpy that skirt is. You may have to adjust your safety settings to see them. Of course, if you're not accustomed to seeing men in [extremely] skimpy skirts (and don't find the concept charming), you might prefer not to view those anyway. :-p

Unfortunately I haven't really found any more pictures of me that others took at the con. And there are several that I was hoping to find. The initial influx of con photo galleries has slowed by now, but depending on people's schedules, they may not have had a chance to put their photos up yet. Or they may be hiding somewhere unlinked on the official con forum, where only chance and luck will lead you to them. I'm hoping some more shots of me will turn up over time...


Addendum: DeathCom photos are finally up. They are a group that goes around to conventions and sets up 'professional' booths to take pictures of cosplayers/congoers for free, in the hopes that some of them will pay for quality prints. Personally, I'm not real fond of 'studio photography' - the lighting is harsh (exposing all your flaws), and the background lifeless. But it has its uses, and it's a nice 'official document' of my cosplays. You can see pictures of me from both Friday and Saturday. This is my favorite shot they got. Considering that I'm not anywhere near as pretty as the real Chii, it's not a half bad picture.

And now for some complaints...

11 April, 2011

Cosplay Pictures (Part 1)

Now that my con photos are uploaded and ready to view (with the exception of the pictures I took of my own cosplay, that I am still processing), I provide here a link for those of you who read my con diary and are curious to see the pictures I spoke so highly of therein:

zharth's Tekkoshocon IX pictures

I will let you know when the other pictures (that I took of myself) are ready. In the meantime, there are bound to be some pictures that other people took of me already floating around in cyberspace. So far that I have seen, this one is my favorite, despite my being relegated to the background. There is also this picture of me posing with another Chii in the same outfit! If you come across any other pictures of me (that I didn't take), feel free to give me a shout, I'd love to see them! For reference, this is the outfit I wore on Friday, and here's a picture of me in what I wore on Saturday:


Continue to Part 2

06 April, 2011

Con Diary (Part 2)

four in the morning
at the end of Saturday, April 2 (2011)

Arrived home late. Much too tired to recount the day's events now. But that indicates that it was a fun, busy day. For now, I rest, and restore my energy, while the lingering image of hot girls prancing about in skimpy outfits dances through my head.

2pm - Sunday, April 3 (2011)

Saturday at the con started off with a few snags, though judging by what I wrote last night, you can probably guess that things worked out just fine in the end. The first snag {editor's note: actually, the first snag was one I neglected to mention in the following account, involving a chemical accident during preparation for a weekend of crossplay (let's just say I was promised a cooling sensation, and experienced a burning sensation instead) - but, since not a single person mentioned it, I can assume it wasn't a significant problem after all} was missing all but the last five minutes of the only other panel I had a strong interest in attending that I hadn't missed on Thursday evening - the EGL panel (separate from the fashion show on Friday) - on account of not getting to the con early enough. I'm not blaming anyone (including myself), it's just unfortunate that it worked out that way. With my newfound motivation to jump the hurdles of cost and complexity in dressing Lolita (for next year's con), I wanted to learn all the panel could teach me - but it's not like I can't get that information elsewhere. So, only a minor snag, really, particularly compared to the next one.

I don't know if it was the stress on my body of having to get up out of bed early (something I dearly despise having to do), the quality of the breakfast I ate (which was a little light and rushed), or actually my anxiety at finally coming to the point where I'd be wearing The Pink Dress in public; but I wasn't feeling very well when it came time to change (I opted to change at the con, because the outfit is very elaborate, and not well-suited to the unfortunately cold weather), and for a time felt that I did not have the strength to go through with it. This was exacerbated by the fact that the hotel refused to allow us usage of the unisex bathroom we had counted on (and which the DLLCC never barred us from using, ahem). My costume, as I said, was elaborate, and I needed the aid of my 'wardrobe assistant' to get it right. I couldn't very well change out in the hall (though I would have if it were socially acceptable), and I felt uneasy about getting partially dressed on my own, and then coming out into the crowd - before the outfit was complete - to make the final (extensive) adjustments in the hall. Though, that is ultimately what I ended up doing. It took a long time and a lot of work to get the costume together, but eventually we got it.

I was, understandably, very concerned about how my cosplay would be received, among the general congoers. Firstly, whether I looked good - and enough like Chii, the character I was cosplaying - and secondly, if people could tell that I was crossplaying, and what sort of reaction they would have if they did. On the first count, I had a lot of people complimenting me both on my dress, and my cosplay. I had more than one person tell me I was the best Chii they had seen - with different qualifiers, like "at this con". And even a few of the girls I later took pictures of complimented my dress. As for the second count, I think I fooled a lot more people than I was expecting to. And of the many who at first thought I was a girl, then upon closer inspection realized otherwise, their reaction was either very positive, or (at worst) neutral - which is not bad at all. There were, of course, some among those who took my picture that I didn't get any sense of whether or not they knew I was crossplaying, but still others who I was convinced knew (for one reason or another), and yet enthusiastically showed their support.

My best experience was with a woman on con staff. I had a short exchange with her when I went to sit down in a corner out of the way to get some rest. Judging from what followed, she must have thought I was a girl at that point. Shortly thereafter, my friends had found me and we were all sitting together talking, and the staffer was sitting just a few feet away. She must have heard me talking, because she got my attention and asked me to say something to her. The request confused me, until I realized what she was after. My voice must have given me away. Having confirmed, I presume, that I was really a guy, she then asked to shake my hand as a sign of respect. That pretty much made my day.

As I wrote previously, this year's con was all about the cosplay, and taking pictures. Anime congoers (and people who have been with me to anime cons in the past) may remark that I didn't do a lot of 'anime stuff'. I visited the Dealer's Room only once on Friday, and bought only a single t-shirt, on account of my budget being [over]spent on preparing my cosplay(s) {editor's note: which is to say, not for lack of interest in the Dealer's Room}. I didn't watch any anime, or even see any AMVs like I usually want to do - though I heard the viewing rooms were small and crowded - much like, I imagine, it was when the con was temporarily held in a hotel in Greentree before making the initial move to the DLLCC (which I'd like to see it return to). But, on the other hand, in lieu of 'anime stuff', I did the sort of thing I'd always yearned to do at a con in the past - that is, dress up in a decent costume, and take lots of pictures of all the hot and pretty girls dressed up in their costumes. And that also reflects my more recent and developing interests in fashion, modeling, and photography.

Regarding the photography, to continue where I left off on Firday, my momentum from that day had worn off come Saturday - especially after my trepidation at putting on The Pink Dress, in which I felt more self-conscious (perhaps ironically) than I had in my 'tentacle rape' cosplay, on account of it being a more recognizable cosplay {editor's note: thus tending to attract more attention and potential criticism}, and the minor fact that my 'panties' (actually a speedo to stay within the rules) were hanging all out under my super short skirt. Even in the end, I may not have been quite as proactive as on Friday, but in spite of my own prediction earlier in the day, I did eventually pick a lot of my momentum back up, even to the point of making one (if not more) awkward exchange, that I still feel embarrassed about (editor's note to himself: if a person is rushing off somewhere, leave them be; it will be harder to get their attention - and anyway, it's probably not in their immediate interest to stop and have their picture taken). And there was one cosplayer I had wanted (really badly) to get a picture of, but missed - twice! First, because my legs were too lazy to rush after her (and I wasn't quite 'warmed up' yet at that time), and second, because she slipped into the elevator before I had a chance to compose myself.

So, later in the evening, as the always highly-anticipated rave was drawing near, you saw a lot of the cosplay being replaced by [even] skimpy[er] 'rave wear', featuring lots of super short skirts, tight-fitting garments, rainbow colors, and shiny materials - stuff that reminds me a lot of what I saw much of at Burning Man, albeit with a lower absurdity quotient. I felt even more awkward asking girls in rave wear for their pictures because, with cosplay, you have the craftsmanship of the costume, the joy of fandom, and the expectation that wearing cosplay will attract photograph requests. With rave wear, although this is not to say that there isn't an interest in photographing such fashions - many of which are clearly designed not only to be practical for jumping around and sweating in, but also for catching the eye, particularly in dark rooms with lots of colorful flashing lights - but I can't help feeling that it's less "I love your outfit, can I take a picture?" and more "you're hot, can I take your picture?" Which, I suppose, is just my guilty conscience whispering into my ear. {editor's note: also, that's my excuse for missing the girl in the silver HOT pants}.

After the rave started, I decided to 'dress down' as well - or as much as was possible. So I switched to the 'skimpy' version of my dress, by taking off my sleeves and my dress train (which was basically the only thing covering my ass - heaven knows the skirt wasn't), and wearing my (already barely-there) sandals as little as I could get away with. I suppose the whole day of wearing that dress, and the late night atmosphere of the rave (and rave-goers wandering about) gave me confidence I hadn't had at the start of the day. Because then I went to do some modeling, for my own self-portraits - first, in a quiet corner, and then in a less quiet hallway. I got some good pictures, and it was a great experience in modeling in front of strangers/random people/a crowd. Not to say that it was a turning point, necessarily, but it was a good experience. And the pictures I got out of it reinforces that fact. (I only wish I wasn't having computer problems, because I'm anxious to share my pictures, and look at others').

Unless I'm forgetting something important, I suppose the last note I have to make is about the rave itself. I went into the rave, and I liked being there. Rest assured, I still haven't transformed into the outgoing type who likes to jump and bounce around in the flashing lights, but I do enjoy the atmosphere. On one level, it looks really cool, with all the lights, and the outfits, and mist and whatnot; and on another, people are having fun, it's a real party atmosphere (and I'll say, a whole lot better than jocks and frat boys drunk out of their minds), and it feels like the kind of place I've always felt left out of (even in spite of the fact that I don't really belong there). If you remember the concept of the 'Saturday Night Heist', which Janis Joplin articulated, and that I've written about before - it's like this: I'm not convinced that the heist is total. Though it's largely a wild goose chase, I believe that there are a few geese out there, and regardless, I'm engineered to chase them one way or another. With all the excitement of the rave on Saturday night, I can't help feeling like I'm missing out - on something - if I'm not there. Even if, ultimately, there's not much [for me] to do there.

But here's the core of the situation. It's the hot girls I'm drawn to (simple biology, right?), and when I see them all hanging out at the rave, having a good time, I want to be there, too. I want to be part of that good time. The pain comes from the fact that I know I'm not an outgoing person, and I don't take pleasure in the same kinds of things (jumping about and socializing and making lots of noise) they do, and that even were I accepted an invitation to this 'inside world' (which has happened on occasion), I would be awkward and not know how to conduct myself (which has been borne out on those occasions), thus confirming that my lack of participation (and, by extension, a lack of invitation) is appropriate after all. Yet I continue to chase, because the desire that drives me is stronger than all matters of reason and compromise and convenience...

Afterward: Even though my attention's been drawn partly away from anime lately, and towards other, more recent interests (how little time there is in a day), my enjoyment of the convention has yet to fade (which I say with a smirk directed toward those I know who I have gone to conventions with in the past, but whose interest has since waned). Though I haven't watched as much anime in the last year as I have in years prior, there is still so much about the general culture of the fandom that I like (not everything, of course, but certainly enough to keep me invested). I think it's amazing that I can be drawn to different aspects over the years. Years ago, I liked the conventions for the free anime and the tempting merchandise. I still liked the cosplay and the crowds then, but I'm more focused on that now. Its time has come, and that interest has matured in me. I still like the free anime and the [all too] tempting merchandise, but they may have abdicated priority at this time.

Now, where this is all headed is that I already can't wait for next year's con (granted, I enthusiastically accept a period of rest before it happens again, to regain my energy, make new plans, and hopefully (finally) settle the matter of my dwindling finances). The only plans I have as of right now (yes, already) are regarding "cosplay". And I put that in quotes because the one thing I'm dedicated to is dressing Lolita (which I had wanted to do this year, but it didn't work out) - and Lolitas traditionally object to their fashion (which some of them wear everyday) being referred to as "cosplay". The other idea I have is to do another Chii cosplay (after all, I've got the hair - and the legs - for it) in another outfit - this time, her long shirt/panties pajama outfit. The Lolita outfit is going to be elaborate, so it would be a good idea to make the other one something relatively simple, for the sake of mercy. But, I've got a whole year to think about it, and I may yet change my mind {editor's note: or get caught up in more cosplay fever}. One thing is for sure: I thought I might fall into the habit of doing one or two good cosplays, then becoming lazy (or poor), and riding those out indefinitely, wearing them over and over again, but my passion has been kindled, and I am eager to try new outfits!

{editor's note: Thanks for reading; the con really was a blast. I am still incredibly excited about all the pictures I took, and I can't wait to get them up and share them. And I am driven to do so before the excitement fades. Unfortunately, my frustrating computer problems are slowing me down, but stay tuned.}

04 April, 2011

Con Diary (Part 1)

an hour past midnight
at the end of Friday, April 1 (2011)

If I'm counting right {editor's note: I am}, this is my fourth annual visit to Tekkoshocon, ever since I found out the con existed - but that story's been told before. Since this is my hometown con, I've never prepared for it quite like one might prepare for a Big Event - such as driving to Baltimore for Otakon, one of the country's biggest anime conventions. I don't need to book a hotel room or plan a trip because the con itself is just a short drive into the city. But this year was a little bit different. I have three house guests from out of town (relatively new - but very good - friends of mine), and, on account of having someone with enough of an interest in seeing me dress in 'unusual' outfits to aid me and motivate me, I've put more work (and money) into planning my cosplay this year than I have ever before. You can find out how that turned out below (so far so good, despite the odds, but there's at least one unexpected snare for tomorrow's feature cosplay).

The week preceding the con I was unfortunately hit with a massive computer failure (which I have yet to engineer a solution for {editor's note: my computer is not quite fixed, but it's at least working well enough for me to cope, though that can change at any time}), slowing down my intelligence-gathering and communication capabilities. Not to mention putting me behind on some of the non-con-related tasks I had wanted to put behind me before the con arrived. As it turns out, I only managed to briefly glance at the schedule (which comes out last minute, as usual) before getting to the con on Friday. I noticed, unexpectedly, that there were actually some quality panels planned for Thursday evening. 'Thursday evening' is a relatively new phenomenon on the anime convention scene - or at least, new for this particular con. I had thought it would be much like 'Sunday morning' - light, dull programming hardly worth making the trek for - but I was wrong. Trouble is, I found out too late to adjust my plans {editor's note: I'm not a drop-everything-and-go kinda person}. And so I missed the Silent Hill panel (again; much like a few years ago), a moe panel, and a yuri fandom panel {editor's note: it seems that hentai programming at a convention is becoming something of a white whale for me}. In the future, I will have to remember not to rule out the Thursday evening programming until after I've checked the schedule.

So the only programming left that interests me, is AMVs (which is always hit-and-miss - and the contest never seems to be scheduled conveniently for me), and the two EGL (Elegant Gothic Lolita) offerings. One of which is a fashion show, and was today. It was good, but the best part, for me, was something that didn't happen. Well, sort of. At the end of the fashion show, one of the two co-hosts (elegantly dressed, of course) called up anyone in the audience who was dressed Lolita. Those audience members were then led up to the stage, and given a chance to introduce themselves. What this means to me is that, if I dress Lolita (in the future), I could get a chance to take the stage! And what's more, during the question-and-answer session, the [very pretty] co-host responded to a question about "Lolita for guys", saying that she admires the courage of a guy who is brave enough to dress Lolita - not the Kodona style which is the boy counterpart to Lolita, but the actual sweet, girly Lolita style. Challenge accepted! (Deadline: next year's con; budget: to be acquired).

But this being the only programming that really interests me this year (that I didn't miss) emphasizes the fact that this year's con, for me, is all about the cosplay, which I've been planning for. [Even the one thing I bought in the Dealer's Room (very painfully limiting my budget on account of how much I've already spent on cosplay) was a piece of clothing - an irresistible Elfen Lied t-shirt. Though it hurts not to bring home another figure for my collection]. And today was my secondary cosplay {editor's note: the one I kept secret in my last cosplay preparation post - are you dying to know what it is?} - Japanese schoolgirl being molested by lustful, demonic tentacles. I got a schoolgirl uniform (which, I must say, looks really cute on me); I put my hair in braided pigtails (twintails?); and my lovely wardrobe assistant designed some truly awesome homemade tentacles to wrap around my arms and legs. The result, though maybe a bit unwieldy, is nothing less than amazing. Of course, the sheer novelty of the costume (surprising, if you ask me) itself lends it much flair. I wasn't super popular among the con-goers (unlike my traveling companion Hidan with his impressive triple-bladed scythe (the worksmanship of which is courtesy of the same lovely assistant mentioned above)), but I got more attention than ever before, when not in a [good] costume.

Actually, the attention I got seemed to suggest that people were indeed picking up on the 'tentacle rape' implication of my costume, but that few were eager to openly admit it, or brave enough to confirm their suspicions out loud. However, there were several who did exactly that, and those who did were very supportive. I got more recognition wandering the Artist's Alley than anywhere else (and from people behind the booths, I might add), which I guess I can attribute to their being creators, craftsmen, and more in tune with the perverted side of 'fan works'. But there was one girl who, after taking a picture with me, asked about the 'worms' wrapped around my limbs. When the realization dawned on her of just what they represented, she seemed less than totally thrilled. I only hope she didn't then regret having that picture taken! But even tentacles aside, I got a couple people who responded to the schoolgirl uniform itself. One girl I ran across said I looked "amazing", and another wanted me to pose with a sign reading "it's a trap!" (I happily obliged). Now, I'll be the first to admit that it's no contest if you put me up against a real schoolgirl, but it's all in good fun.

The final note for today's events is, perhaps, the most important, and it concerns my photographing other cosplayers, as I've been too shy to do in previous years (being intimidated by pretty girls and all). I wasn't sure I'd even take the time to pull out my camera, aside from the pictures I had to take of my own cosplay. But I started shooting during the EGL fashion show (them being on stage makes it easy), though my view wasn't spectacular {editor's note: the resulting pictures are unfortunately not much to look at, with all the foreground silhouettes}. But there was a girl in the audience with a gorgeous dress that caught my eye immediately, and after the show, I managed to work up the courage to ask for a pose (such a trifling matter). It was great, but it didn't exactly open the floodgates. Ask one, and you're relieved that it's over with. Face another, and you're right back where you started, with all your fears and intimidation.

But my good friend (and ever loyal supporter), upon hearing of the one, instantly assigned me five more. :-x I didn't think I could do it, though I desperately wanted to be able to - enough that I was willing to at least try, especially considering how easy and cooperative the first was - and I managed to pull through. It still wasn't any easier though, and when I was assigned yet five more(!), I was ready to throw in the towel. But I did keep at it, and I got to a point where I could even ask the hot girls for a picture (which are more intimidating, and I feel more guilty about wanting a picture of, compared to those wearing a pretty dress I could compliment), and it actually did get easier, though at no point did it become effortless. But when you've only asked a few girls for a picture, it's not much of a precedent, and it's easy to doubt yourself. But after about 26 (my final count for the day) it's practically rote, and not once did a girl refuse my request, or reject my compliment (and I always paid them a compliment - and sincerely, too, else I wouldn't be so eager to get their picture).

{Editor's note: Upon further experience, and further consideration, the trick to doing it is that it has to be instinctual. The second you begin to think about it, doubts appear. And then, either the opportunity passes (the girl walks away), or you've lost the confidence to go through with it (and further reflection only gets in the way of actually doing it - which is a hurdle that still must be crossed, even if you can manage to talk yourself into doing it). The problem is that in doing it without thinking (which is the only way to do it), you do open yourself up to making mistakes, which is precisely what I fear and hope to avoid. But it's unavoidable, and you just have to shoulder through it.}

So, I'm not, like, gonna say anything is different now than it was yesterday, but I won't say it's not different, either. And the important thing is, I have some great pictures of exactly the kind of cosplayers I've always wanted to take pictures of - not just the ones who I thought looked nice, but also many of those who I felt I had to get their picture the instant I saw them - the type that most intimidated me and I avoided at first. And let's just leave it at that - it's good to end on a positive note. And now I must get some rest for tomorrow - another big day!

P.S. Ok, forget what I said about ending on a positive note (not that this is necessarily bad). One realization I made, while taking pictures, is that, as great as getting that picture is (and it truly is: it's a mark of proof of the exchange that I know happened), the picture never does justice to the person being photographed. And I'm not talking about poor images {editor's note: though now that I'm looking at them and processing them, I'm finding they're still not as good as I want them to be - is it possible to take really sharp, handheld pictures in natural light (without a flash)?} - I'm at least an intermediate photographer, and my equipment is better than the average photosnapper {editor's note: I had also wanted to mention my dilemma about the two lenses I have - the one being fast enough for sharper, better looking pictures, but at the cost of having a narrow field of vision, making it more or less unusable in cramped quarters such as the middle of a crowd} - I mean it doesn't quite capture the beauty and charisma of a person moving and talking in front of you {editor's note: though maybe that's also part of learning to be a really good photographer}. Which is the real joy of people watching (my favorite con activity).

The exchange I have with these girls is short (granted, I don't want to become an imposition on them) and functional - meaning that it's something I do for the sake of getting the picture, almost as if it doesn't matter beyond that. And then, once I have the picture, it's gone, over, done. So what I'm getting at is that, maybe, it would be fruitful to put more emphasis and humanity in the exchange, relegating the picture to a secondary position. Maybe that's the next step beyond approaching girls, to actually interacting with them on a deeper, more meaningful level. Well, I'm just thinking out loud. {Editor's note: also, this may not be the best venue for that, since you want the picture-taking process to be quick and seamless so as not to bother the people whose pictures you're taking; but, it might be something good to work on in a general sense}.

Continue to Part 2