29 December, 2016

A Minefield Tribute

"...a case of political correctness spun way out of control."
 - metro.co.uk on Steve Martin's tribute to Carrie Fisher

I support equality of the sexes, racial diversity, and gender and sexual minorities. I feel like that makes me progressive. But I am also a staunch defender of free speech. If you say something insulting or offensive, you are bound to receive criticism. Nobody is immune to that (unless you're in one of those "progressive" safe spaces, ironically). But there's a fine line between that and shouting people down to the point that the public becomes afraid to even talk about certain subjects, and express honest feelings without ill intent. It may not technically be "censorship" (until such time as it actually becomes illegal to be an asshole), but it is a chilling effect that is nearly as effective (more so, in the sense that people tend to over-censor themselves, without a clear guideline as to what is and is not permitted) at stifling the open communication of diverse perspectives.

Women are more than their appearance. By golly, they're human beings! But I'd be terrified to live in a world where we're not allowed to comment on a woman's appearance - even respectfully. I get that women are disproportionately judged on their appearance (compared to men) over other, non-physical qualities. We should indeed be working toward leveling that playing field. But there is nothing shameful about being publicly acknowledged as a "sex symbol", unless you're still clinging to conservative notions of moral purity, which fly in the face of human nature (as the reliable juxtaposition of prudishness and perversity apparent in religious and political leaders ably demonstrates), and contributes to the very stigma that makes sex workers' lives more miserable than they need to be. If sex-positivity is neither conservative nor liberal, then what exactly is it?

"Please be better than Jabba the Hutt."

Honestly, the fact that people are talking about this makes me like Jabba the Hutt a little bit more (although, disgusting as he is, I've always thought he was a cool villain). And let me tell you, I think this is a LARGE part of the reason why so many people like Trump. He's not a great poster child for the free speech movement (and there's plenty of room to argue the space between his public image and his true motives), but it often takes a doofus like him to dare to "sully" his reputation among progressives, who demand that allies fall in line with their ultra-PC mindset, at the risk of being labelled sexist or racist or whatnot (one of the pitfalls of wanting to please everyone). It bugs me that people are so caught up in this "us vs. them" rivalry, that they don't realize the flaws and virtues in each other's positions. They need to join together - consolidating the good, while dumping the bad - to form one perfect super-party.

It makes it hard for me to place myself on the spectrum. (I could call myself Libertarian, but is that actually conservative or progressive? Not easy to say). I guess you could call me a "Wonder Woman feminist" - someone who believes that a woman can be sexy and strong (and/or smart), and that her sex appeal doesn't diminish her other qualities.

P.S. Just saw this bikini, and damn! I wish I were a girl, so I could wear it...

20 December, 2016

The -Saurus

I think about this a lot when writing (and apparently I write a lot - just not fiction), so you might have heard this before.

I once read a quote by Stephen King, who said, "any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word." I've always disagreed with this sentiment vehemently. (I'd be more inclined to forgive it for being taken out of context if the next sentence wasn't "there are no exceptions to this rule"). I suppose it's aimed at "try-hards" who want to spruce up their vocabulary by using words they're not very familiar with. (Is there a word for people who are pretentious about being unpretentious? Because there should be). But my mind works in such a manner that I'll often have a specific word in mind that I want to use, but for some reason, I can't remember exactly what it is.

It's like trying to look at a dim star in the night sky. If you look at it directly, it disappears. But look to the side, and there it is, in your peripheral vision (this is due to the placement and sensitivity of the rods and cones in your eyes). I have a vague sense of the word I'm looking for, and sometimes I stumble onto similar-sounding words that ultimately have different meanings. Using a thesaurus is the best way for me to save myself some agony and potential embarrassment, while preventing me from having to use a synonym with an altogether different connotation, that sabotages the intended meaning of my sentence.

Maybe my vocabulary would be better if I read more (but who has the time? :p), but I never use the thesaurus to find words I don't already know. That's just not it's function in my mind. Although I do sometimes come to the conclusion that the word I'm looking for may not actually exist. Yet.

12 December, 2016

A Sangawa Experiment

The Sangawa Project is an 18+ anime convention held in Pittsburgh (the word sangawa is literal Japanese for "three rivers") as a companion to and partial fundraiser for Tekko. It's a considerably smaller affair (only a tenth the size of Tekko or less), with programming geared towards adults. This is the first year I've attended. It's usually held in December - which is an awkward time for a convention - in the weeks leading up to Christmas; and for the past few years it's been held at the hotel which Tekko used in 2008 (my first year) as a transitional stage before moving downtown to the convention center to accommodate for its growing size. The hotel was tragically small for Tekko then (and Tekko continues to grow each year), but it's the perfect size for the much smaller attendance of Sangawa.

You might be asking yourself, what are the advantages of having an anime convention strictly for adults? I had to ask myself the same question. You see, I'm against age segregation as a matter of principle (it's just another way the government or society makes decisions for other people without considering the individual), and I'm not bothered like some are by "annoying kids who can't stop talking about Naruto" (or as it was in my day, Dragon Ball Z) - I like seeing the fandom being infused with young blood. And, the truth is, there's nothing you can do at Sangawa that you can't do at Tekko (and on a larger scale). It's just that some of it is more out in the open at Sangawa. For example, although it tries to distance itself from the stigma of being labeled a "hentai con" (not that I think there's anything wrong with that - that should be one of its main attractions!), I have to admit I enjoyed being able to browse hentai without having to give someone a secret handshake, or being treated like a pariah.

As my experience with nudism has borne out, it's amazing how not a big deal things can be when you just relax and stop getting yourself worked up over them. (No, I'm not advocating "anything goes" - I just think rules should be informed by cold reason, not heated emotions). One of my favorite activities of the weekend was a hentai coloring contest, in which attendees could stroll in at their leisure to sit down at a table littered with crayons, and choose from a selection of sexually explicit coloring pages to work on (I chose tentacles!). And it was nice being able to sit in for the end of Perfect Blue, and be reminded of what a good movie that is - animation for the sake of art (not just Japanese cartoons), which is what got me into anime in the first place. That's easy to forget in the face of all that titillating violence and nudity, especially with a movie that has as sordid a reputation as Perfect Blue.

There is a not inconsiderable focus on drinking at Sangawa (in place of concerts and raves), although you might be surprised to learn (as I was) that the atmosphere is rather subdued compared to Tekko. I imagine that people at Sangawa are, for the most part (not withstanding treating the IntoxBox as an arcade game), relatively mature. Not being a drinker, I was more looking forward to a concentration of content geared toward older fans of anime, who may have trouble keeping up with all the new series the kids are watching these days. Maybe it's impossible to turn back the clock, but this con was not the time capsule experience I was hoping for. I would have liked to have seen more retro content (I know the new Berserk series is exciting and all, but I was hoping to wax nostalgic with the original series), but I can only reflect on the panels I caught (which, sadly, do not include the Old School AMV Showcase or Retro Anime Worth Watching).

The biggest disappointment of the weekend, however, was a last minute schedule change. One of the traditions of Sangawa (I hear) is their Cosplay Cleanup contest, in which they encourage fans to dress up as their favorite characters, as if they had just stepped out of the bath. In other words, it's a towel and bathrobe cosplay contest, which I thought sounded like fun. So I went and prepared a cosplay I've been wanting to do for years - Griffith at the well (who is technically supposed to be naked, but I compromised with a flesh-toned towel wrapped around my waist; this was also my first experience working with a wig). And then, just days before the con, the contest was changed in favor of a Cosplay Battle Royale, in which cosplayers are pitted against each other in order to - and I quote - "act out silly situations". Yeah. I saw only one or two other cosplayers in bathrobes or towels, and one of them was headed to the hotel pool. I actually saw more non-congoers standing around in towels that night...

Still, I braved the subfreezing temperatures to show off my cosplay. A few people recognized me, which is cool, but mostly it was people telling me I was brave, or asking if I was cold (like, duh?). I was hoping to see a lot more "sexy cosplay" at this 18+ convention. Maybe it was the weather (I brought two other cosplays from this past year's Tekko that I wanted to wear, but ultimately left in the trunk because I didn't want to change out of my warm clothes), but that seems to me like a critical flaw of holding this convention in December. As it is, my favorite cosplayer was a Rider from Fate/Stay Night, although there was also a smattering of sailor senshi, a Deadpool or two, and quite a few Pokémon - including a Snorlax, which you don't see often, and lots of Pikachus in cozy hoodies and onesies (oh, how I would have wowed them with my sexy Pikachu cosplay!). I noted that there was a decided lack of emphasis on taking people's pictures, though.

All around, I'd have to say that I had a fun weekend, but I wouldn't call Sangawa a must-attend convention. It's just not as fun as Tekko, and most of its biggest flaws are a result of its small size. Not enough variety in cosplay. Not a big enough "exhibitor's room" - what was there was good (I bought some melon bread and green tea-flavored mochi, and an issue of Megami magazine - which is the one stuffed with posters of moe girls), but there just wasn't enough of it. I don't think I'd go out of my way to attend in the future (at least not unless they move the con back to July or thereabouts), but I wouldn't turn down an invitation, either, and I definitely wouldn't discourage others from attending if it sounds like something you would enjoy. If you have the time and the money, and need a break from Christmas shopping to hang out with grown up American otaku for a couple of days in December, it certainly helps to tide you over during the long wait for next year's Tekko...

Speaking of which, I'll see you there! -_^

17 November, 2016

More Thoughts on Politics

Because it's on everybody's mind lately, for obvious reasons. I, like many others I think, fell into the trap of thinking that people would finally shut up about politics after the election. Nope.

Democracy is like deciding where to go for dinner, except you're in a school bus outnumbered by dozens of children, and every single time, without exception, they either vote McDonald's or Burger King. If you happen to like either of those two options, then you're in luck. Because otherwise, you're gonna feel like your voice doesn't matter. Periodically, you see small subgroups campaigning for Wendy's, but not once has it resulted in success. Which is demoralizing. And say you really want to eat at Olive Garden. There's no chance in hell of swinging that vote, so why bother?

Here are three issues on which a candidate coming out in support of would cause me to become invested in politics:

1. Abolishment of the concept of obscenity, which is unconstitutional (twice over*), and unfairly discriminates against sexual expression. *In addition to effectively abridging the freedom of speech, I feel that this is an artifact of Judeo-Christian morality (which, unlike older, pagan beliefs, is very critical of human sexuality), which reeks of respecting an establishment of religion.

2. Decriminalization of prostitution, because whether somebody wants to buy or sell sex, they should have the freedom to do so (within the bounds of supply and demand). And before you cry "sex trafficking!", the best way to combat human rights violations is to drag the industry out into the daylight. Criminals (and make no mistake, anti-prostitution laws punish the victims) have no recourse to the law.

3. A federal statute either explicitly permitting, or prohibiting local or state laws that criminalize "simple nudity" (which is the simple state of being nude, not involving "lewd" or explicitly sexual behavior - honestly, I think this would police itself given that a citizen is allowed to film anything that goes on in public view, which can be used as evidence) either on private property in public view (such as my own house or yard), or - to go further - in shared, outdoor, public, community spaces, such as parks and roads and sidewalks and the like.

And those are just a few of the main bullet points. Can you see why I don't think there's any point in me voting? (And for those of you who are thinking right now, "thank god he doesn't vote!" - you're welcome :-p).

08 November, 2016

Why I Don't Vote

In the words of counterculture visionary George Carlin. I'd heard people talk about how great George Carlin was before, but I always just took him for a comedian. Turns out he was so much more, and I've had the chance to finally realize that just this year. He was one of the few, the brilliant, who see the illusion for what it is - those of us who step outside of Plato's cave, and can see the coding of the Matrix. I wish I'd known what a national treasure he was while he was still alive. Here he is explaining what a clown parade democracy really is:

All I have to say is, this election can't be over soon enough. Everybody thinks their candidate is the messiah, and their candidate's opponent is the antichrist, while ignoring the critical flaws in the two-party system (and it is a two-party system). And to anyone that says "But Trump!" - the fact that Trump is even in the running is proof that giving people the power to vote isn't going to fix anything. Meanwhile, it's always "meet the new boss; same as the old boss." Nineteen Eighty-Four was thirty-two years ago, and here we still are. I'm just glad we don't have to elect a Pope every four years in this country. I don't think I could handle that much pointless tribalism. We're all in this together; for better and - as is most often the case - for worse.

05 November, 2016

My Case

I don't need everyone to be like me. I just want them to give me space to be myself, instead of forcing me to be like them. But there's something else. I know I'm eccentric. I'm an outlier. It's probably difficult for most people to understand me. And they don't have to. Not completely. I just would really like it for people to view me as somebody interesting. Somebody with a unique perspective. Who looks at things in intriguingly novel ways. I want that kind of respect and admiration, even more than understanding. I want that, instead of being viewed as an anomaly, a failed experiment, an inexplicably-impaired head case. My psyche can't handle that alternative. But it's beyond my powers to "become normal" just to satisfy the majority. I can only be me. Yet I can't stand the idea of the world hating me the way I hate them...

17 July, 2016

Putting The Tea On

My roommate drinks a lot of tea - hot tea in the morning, iced tea the rest of the day. Since I like to help out around the house (read: pull my weight), I end up brewing a lot of pitchers of tea. And it's taught me something. The way the tea is brewed, there are two steps, with a little lapse in between. First, I have to put some water and the tea bags in the electric teapot, and then let it go for about five minutes. Then, I pour the freshly brewed tea into a pitcher, along with a scoop of sugar, and stir it up. (Then I wash the utensils and stick the tea in the fridge, but this is just a continuation of the second step). For the longest time, I couldn't decide whether to preload the sugar into the pitcher when I first put the tea on, or wait until I was ready to pour the tea into the pitcher. I would waffle, going back and forth one day to the next, because I didn't have a clear reason to do it one way or the other.

And then one day I thought to myself, if you can do it sooner, why put it off? Because whether you do it sooner or later, you're still going to have to make the same effort. If you feel "lazy", putting it off isn't going to make it any easier when the time comes to get it done. So you put in the effort as soon as it makes sense to do so, and then it's done. You don't have to worry about it anymore. Making your life easier later is preferable to making your life easier now (despite the latter being more appealing), because it's not any harder - in fact, after you've already put it off once, you might find it even harder to do the work when the time comes around - and it feels good to believe that you're being proactive, and getting shit done. Besides, you don't know what's going to happen later. Certainly, if there's a good reason not to do it right away, that's fine. But if you do it at your first chance, then chances are you won't wait till the last minute and find that circumstances have turned against you. So now I always scoop the sugar first, and that's one less decision I have to make.

Wow. Am I really arguing against procrastination? I can't believe it. But it works. Still, it's not applicable to every situation. For example, I prefer to make the bed in the evening rather than the morning, because I know I might lounge in it throughout the day, and the one time of the day I want most to have a freshly made bed is right before I jump into it for the night. So, in that case, there's an inevitable period of uncertainty, where I want to wait till it's late enough that I don't think I'll be lounging in bed anymore before bedtime, but not so late that I'm exhausted and ready to collapse. And anything that triggers my anxiety (e.g., communicating with people - emails and texts and things like that) is subject to exception, because even though I know that putting those things off makes them harder and makes things worse in general, there is that monster of anxiety getting in the way of rational thought. But, generally, I've learned that, unless there's a good reason for it (and often times there is), it's better to do things when you can, than put them off until some indefinite time in the future.

07 June, 2016

Ten Years Gone

(click for mood music)

I feel like I ought to preface this post with a discussion of how unbelievable it is that ten years have passed since I graduated from college. Even as my body grows older year by year, I still feel about 18 on the inside. But time passes on, and things change, and it really has been ten years since those heady days of my young adulthood, when I first set out from my parents' home and tasted of independence - albeit with training wheels on - for the first time in my life.

Looking back on my time in high school, I realize that it didn't mean that much to me. There was a person or two who made a significant impact on my life, and some unforgettable times were had. But there was also a lot of crap to slog through. College was different. I can honestly say that I had some of the best times of my life - and some of the worst - during my college days. But there isn't a time when I look back on those days that I don't long wistfully to return to them.

It's the first time I really felt alive, and like I could spread my wings, and command my own life - all of which are important to me. My anxiety keeps me trapped in a prison. It makes me feel helpless, like a passenger in the train car of my own life, with no say in where it's headed (although mostly it just seems to sit in the train yard not moving).

People talk about college being a "bubble", insulated from the real world. And that's true. When you graduate and go out into that real world, you learn fast that it's not like college. College, as much of a challenge as it is - and it is - is like bumper bowling compared to real life. But it's not just the challenges (like working yourself to the bone just to pay the bills), it's the feel of it, too. The environment. The atmosphere.

At college, you're surrounded by young people your age - many of whom are idealistic, academic, interested in the pursuit of knowledge (notwithstanding the very accurate stereotype of college as a place to get drunk and party seven nights a week - that's one of those inscrutable paradoxes in life). In the real world, you're surrounded by "adults" in various stages of life, all consumed by the daily grind of working to support their families. Some of them have nice jobs, cute kids, and fat paychecks. Many of them aren't so well off. Often times it's just depressing.

I don't know if it's just me, but these aren't people I can relate to. I was never interested in the usual things people are supposed to be interested in - "making a life" in terms of marriage with children, suburban homes with white picket fences, school buses, and nine-to-fives. I'm not interested in social standing, or even financial standing, except insofar as struggling for money puts a serious damper on a person's mental health, and tends to put a strain on relationships, and just generally makes life more miserable to live.

What I am interested in is learning and experiencing life; thinking deep thoughts and feeling strong emotions. Living and hanging with friends without the concern of spending the majority of our waking hours working to pay off our lifestyles, and instead heading to a café to have long, friendly conversations. I swear, there isn't a person in this town I'm living in that could carry on an intellectual conversation with me if I tried.

But the best thing about college was having friends - real friends - for once in my life. People I could hang out with, spend time with, and feel comfortable and relaxed, and just enjoy my time. I never had that before. And I haven't had that since. I've had other things of value - like a person with whom I can talk about anything - literally, anything - without ego or concern for my reputation - because she accepts me just the way I am, flaws and all; and, what's more, she appreciates parts of me that no one had ever openly appreciated before, which has helped me not only to find myself, but to find the me that I most enjoy being (in certain respects).

That's incredible, and I don't take it for granted. I know a lot of people don't have that, and that's too bad. But something that I miss having is just a friend (or two or three) where it doesn't have to be deep like that all the time, but you just kinda click, and tell jokes, and enjoy each other's company. Somebody to share activities and interests and meals with, but not, like, your whole entire soul. I had that in college, and I miss it.


I guess that's a pretty good (maybe too good) preface for my idealistic expectations of what a college reunion would be like. Without thinking about it too hard, I guess I had imagined that reunion would be like getting back on campus and being surrounded by all the people you used to hang out with when you attended college, that you never get to see anymore, and simply picking up where you left off. Like the proverbial "getting the band back together". The first problem with that is the fact that all of the people you went to college with who were not in your graduating class are celebrating their reunions on staggered years, and may therefore not be likely to show up for your reunion. But even among the people in your class, only a fraction are bound to return for any given reunion. What determines whether a person will attend their own reunion or not is myriad and unpredictable. I, for one, did not even notice when my five year reunion came and passed me by (I don't think I even realized that five year reunions were a thing).

To be honest, when I left college after graduation, I left with a lot of bitter feelings. Good memories, to be sure, but painful ones, too. I learned a lot about myself - including my limitations. Whereas I had graduated from high school triumphantly, with a girlfriend on my arm, and plans to ship off to a prestigious college in the fall, my college graduation was tempered by the realization that I had nowhere left to go. I had jumped the train of my continuing education, disenfranchised with my own chosen field of study. I was also in poor spirits, having spent a lot of time in depression, after facing the reality that there were certain things in life I couldn't have just because I desired them. To this day, I am still bitter that my college diploma hasn't earned me a single penny to make up for the exorbitant tuition that my family was so kind (and fortunate to be able) to pay for me - something I am reminded of every time the university sends out its feelers for the alumni donations it thrives upon. But, at least now, I can recognize that the fault of that is my own (namely, my anxiety), and not the university's - that ten years from graduation, I am still very much living a NEET life.

In any case, I could count the number of familiar faces at my reunion on one hand, and though they were among those individuals with whom I had spent a lot of class hours within my major, they were not of the category of people I would classify as among my "inner circle". Which is to say that the reunion was obviously not what I had absentmindedly dreamed it to be. Late into the first night (after an exhausting drive that put us on campus an hour past registration close), I laid awake in bed (staying once again in a dorm, to get the proper flavor of being back at college), remarking at how insanely noisy the building had gotten - though only after about 2:30ish, when I imagine the local bars had turned their patrons out after last call, so that they could simply bring the party back to their own dorms - thinking to the rhythm of an errant fire alarm that it had been a mistake to come back. The thought passed through my mind that the earlier reunions were only for the popular kids - the jocks and frat types who had always been responsible for boozing about and initiating a campus-wide discussion about the problems of alcohol. Later reunions would provide prime opportunities for the more affluent and successful alumni to return to campus and show off to their peers everything they have accomplished (or to earn major reputation points by donating some of their amassed fortunes back to the university), but these early reunions were all about keeping the party going.

I confess, that thought passed through my mind. And it may indeed have some merit. But by the end of the weekend, having had the opportunity to show this new person in my life (well, new for the past six years) a cross-section of my previous life, and many of my old college haunts (if not introduce my old college buddies), and the source of so many stories I've told, I came to the conclusion that it was worth it after all. Because the bottom line is that I enjoyed being on campus again, to reminisce and revel in the nostalgia of days gone by. It is a beautiful campus, to be sure, and I like that it's all self-contained, with everything you could need right there within walking distance. And I was genuinely saddened Sunday after noon, trying to drag out lunch and postpone the inevitable by tapping in to the characteristically relaxed and social atmosphere of the snack bar (munching on a classic turkey melt), when it became time to think about heading out on that long trip through the mountains, back home. I can't say what my life will be like in five, ten, or fifteen years, or what space there will be in my schedule or pocketbook, but I can say that I would relish any opportunity to return to campus again in the future, all the more so if any or all of my old college buddies were interested and had the means and the plans to visit, too.

Other things I liked/didn't like:

* The book store has moved off campus. :-(

* But it has grown into a three story juggernaut (located downtown). :-D

* Due to new-fangled security measures, I couldn't access any residence halls except the one I was staying in. :-(

* Many buildings were under construction and off limits. :-(

* The brand new south campus apartments (think gateways) look really fancy. :-D

* I did not meet my first reunion goal, which was to become an accomplished blues guitarist and perform with a band during reunion. :-(

* I did, however, meet my second and more recent reunion goal, which was to wear a pretty dress to the formal dinner (I got several compliments!). :-D

* No Italian Terrace. :-(

* I couldn't find the radio station's new location. :-(

* 7th St Café did not appear to be open (I really wanted to get one of their delicious banana smoothies!). :-(

* College graduates are decidedly more well-bred than the general population (especially of the hick town I currently live in). It was a treat seeing all the legacies about campus. :-D

27 April, 2016

My New Mousepad

It occurs to me that even after all these years, and the few significant changes I've made to my life (although I guess they haven't been all that significant), I am still an otaku at heart, and I am, in fact, still living a NEET life. Several years ago I bought one of those awesome 3D anime mousepads that were new on the scene, which feature sexy anime girls, the busts of which serve as a soft, jelly wrist rest. One of the most brilliant creations in the history of mankind. Well, after several years of loving use, mine has been in considerable disrepair for a while. After seeing some such mousepads in the dealer's room at the con one year, I determined to find a new one the next chance I had, but ever since, I haven't been able to find any at the dealer's room at the con - which is frustrating, and more than a little bit surprising (they have tons of other otaku merchandise, up to and including X-rated body pillows!). So I finally gave up looking in person, and just ordered one online. And here it is:

The girl is Kashiwazaki Sena, apparently from an anime titled Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (suggested translation: I Don't Have Many Friends). I haven't seen it. But she was the cutest anime girl I could find for cheap on eBay. And if I'm going to be staring at her on my desk for years to come, I want her to look pretty. Note the blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin. Yeah, I'm predictable. Normally I don't go for the stereotypical huge-breasted anime cliché (dfc 4eva!), but this is one of those unique exceptions. Flat-chested mouse pads just don't have the support my wrist needs (especially after long sessions at the computer involving heavy wrist exertion). Unfortunately. ;-(

Anyway. There were actually a lot more varieties available this time I checked, which is cool. You might be surprised to learn (or then again, you might not) that, in addition to the typical "booby" mousepads, there are also "booty" mousepads for the women (or gay men, as the likely case may be), featuring hot guys - example. Not too surprisingly, there are booty mousepads featuring girls, too - example. Vive la différence! Not just from the back, either, but some more explicitly suggestive ones from the front - example. I was seriously tempted to buy one of those, but I didn't find one I super liked. Maybe in a few more years, when the one I just bought is worn out, there will be more varieties still. Thank heaven for perverts!

25 April, 2016

Chicken Quesadillas

In the spirit of my previous post on Girl Scout cookie milkshakes, I thought I might take a moment to showcase one or two other things I've learned to prepare in the kitchen in the years since I've been living on my own (not alone, but on my own) - that is, things that go a little bit beyond your basic grilled cheese sandwiches and spaghetti dinners. I am by no means a cook - while, as a scientist, I am good at following directions (and the kitchen is basically just a laboratory where all of the chemicals are edible), food preparation involves a lot of mess and multi-tasking, and I like to focus on one thing at a time, in order to make sure it's done right. (I'm also the designated dish washer - and we don't have a dish washing machine - so I'd just as soon pop something in the microwave than dirty up a lot of extra pans and mixing bowls and whatnot). Nevertheless, I have learned how to cook a few things, and among them, my chicken quesadillas are perhaps the recipe I am most proud of.

Chicken Quesadillas

These were inspired by Taco Bell's quesadillas (which I love), although they don't really taste the same (so don't write them off if you don't like Taco Bell). The flavor of Taco Bell's quesadillas are characterized by the special sauce they use, but in lieu of such, the emphasis of my quesadillas are on their cheesy chicken flavor (and they're still really good). They're also crispier than Taco Bell's quesadillas (which is a plus). This may be a side effect of the way I cook them. I'm sure there are quesadilla presses out there (I know Taco Bell uses them), but I basically fry them on the stove. The name of the game, though, is to keep them flat and simple - not overloaded with filling - more like a New York style pizza than a Chicago deep dish. They're perfect for snacking on - try serving them as an appetizer at a party, paired with your favorite salsa - but you can certainly make them into a dinner entrée, as I do. They go great with Spanish rice (basically just rice mixed with salsa - but surprisingly good). Here's how to make them:

What you will need:

* Flour tortillas (look for "taco size", but they're actually a little big for tacos - pan size is what you really want)

* Frozen chicken breast (I'd say one per person is a good amount, depending on size, but if you're a big eater, you might want to use more)

* Shredded cheese (you can use queso blanco for a more Mexican flair, but I prefer the taste of cheddar)

* Basic kitchen supplies: a frying pan, spatula, and vegetable oil


1. Prepare the chicken.
    A. Submerge chicken breast(s) in water in medium saucepan and boil on stove until done all the way through (10-20 minutes or so).
    B. Dice chicken into little pieces. The smaller the better. You want it to be like a purée, not chunky. This actually takes considerable effort cutting with a knife by hand, but if you have one of those electronic choppers, it literally takes three seconds and you're done.

2. Pour vegetable oil into a frying pan (just enough to coat the pan - too much encourages splashing which can lead to burns!), and put it on the stove on medium to medium-high heat.

3. Once the oil is heated (it will sizzle if you flick a drop of water at it), place a tortilla in the frying pan. Sprinkle a layer of cheese on one half of the tortilla (like you're making an omelette). Then sprinkle a layer of diced chicken over top of the cheese. Finally, sprinkle another layer of cheese to seal the chicken in.

4. Depending on the heat and how fast the tortilla is cooking, you might want to wait a moment or two before folding the tortilla over. If it starts to bubble up, you can poke the air pockets with a knife or a fork or the tip of your spatula.

5. Before the cheese melts completely, fold the empty half of the tortilla over top of the other half (again, like you're making an omelette). Cook for a couple of minutes on each side, until the tortilla is crispy and golden brown. I like to watch over the quesadilla as it cooks, and periodically press it down with my spatula to keep it flat, and to crease the corner where it was folded over. Watch for hot oil splashes, especially when flipping the quesadilla over.

6. Remove the quesadilla from the frying pan. If necessary, drain excess oil by pressing (with the spatula - it's still hot!) both sides of the quesadilla into a paper towel. Cut into quarters (like you're slicing half of a pizza - I do this with the tip of the spatula, like I'm cutting a grilled cheese). Each folded tortilla makes four triangular slices.

7. If you're making more than one quesadilla (and you probably will be - I can eat 2-3 in a sitting), you can start the next one. Remember to add more vegetable oil to the frying pan as needed (you may not need to do this every single time, though).

8. Yeah, this one is a little bit labor intensive, especially compared to those milkshakes. But once you're done, you can sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you like crispy, cheesy, fried chickeny foods, then you'll love these quesadillas. Don't forget the salsa!

20 April, 2016

Girl Scout Cookie Milkshakes

One of my favorite things about the spring (or, really, pre-spring - we're on the tail end of the season by now) is picking up Girl Scout cookies. Although it's a little frustrating not ever knowing for sure when or where to find Girl Scouts selling cookies - but I guess that contributes to their mystique. I like to make a habit of buying cookies from girls only, because it seems like it defeats the purpose to let the parents do all the work. I walked into a Lowe's (of all places) this season, and was ambushed by several girls in costumes, dressed as the cookies they were selling, which was just downright adorable. The money practically shot out of my pocket on the spot.

My favorite cookies are Tagalongs and Thin Mints - both chocolate-based; one with peanut butter, the other mint. But as good as the cookies themselves are, I'm particularly fond of blending them up into delicious, creamy milkshakes. So a couple of years ago I looked up a template recipe (two parts ice cream to one part milk, with just the right amount of cookies), and then spent some time perfecting it. It's really very simple, though - all you need are some of your favorite cookies, an ice cream flavor of your choice, milk, and a blender. That having been said, I don't know how some of the other cookie types would work in milkshake form (feel free to experiment, though!), but I can vouch for (and heartily recommend) using either Tagalongs or Thin Mints.

Tagalong Milkshake (Chocolate/Peanut Butter) or
Thin Mint Milkshake (Mint/Chocolate)

Large (2-3 servings) [about 2-4 per box]
 2 cups ice cream
 1 cup milk
 6 Tagalongs/8 Thin Mints

Medium (1-2 servings) [about 3-6 per box]
 1-1/2 cups ice cream
 3/4 cup milk
 4 Tagalongs/6 Thin Mints

Small (1 serving) [about 5-8 per box]
 1 cup ice cream
 1/2 cup milk
 3 Tagalongs/4 Thin Mints

 1. Add ice cream, milk, and cookies* to blender.
     (*Break into quarters first.)
 2. Blend until smooth (or desired thickness).
 3. Enjoy!


* If your milkshake comes out too thick to drink, just add an extra splash of milk (not too much!) until it blends up nice and smooth (notwithstanding the occasional small lump of cookie, which is part of the milkshake's charm).

* Feel free to add more cookies if you really like them - but the amounts listed above should be sufficient to give the shake that cookie flavor. Instead of total indulgence, I tried to balance the number of cookies so as to make the boxes go further. (Thin Mints are small, so you might want to put in an extra one or two of those - it's up to you).

* Theoretically, any flavor of ice cream will work - so you can use what you like. If you prefer vanilla, for example, go for it. Mint chocolate chip would probably go great with Thin Mints. But I love chocolate, and these are both chocolate-based cookies, so I prefer the flavor of using chocolate ice cream. But the choice is yours.

* You might feel that the small recipe is a little on the meager side - especially considering the size of many one-size-fits-all milkshakes you get at professional ice cream parlors. If you're the type of person who orders the Big Gulp at movie theaters, then by all means, mix up a large monster shake and enjoy it all to yourself. Personally, I think that's a little too much indulgence for one sitting. Otherwise, the medium makes for a satisfying shake, and the small is great for those who still like to indulge, but who may be on a diet. I'd rather have 5-8 small shakes spread across as many days, than only 2-4 large shakes per each box. "The banquet is in the first bite; the rest is just filling up". But certainly, use your own discretion - the medium size is a good compromise.

* For the sake of presentation, or if you really like eating the cookies straight from the box, you can stick one on the rim of the glass, or float it at the top of the shake if desired. Personally, I think there's enough cookie flavor in the shake itself, and that seems like kind of a waste, so I don't bother. I usually leave a few cookies in the box un-shaked anyway, just for eating plain. But if you're serving guests or someone you want to impress, then certainly, this is a good way to give your shake a little extra flair. (I don't, however, recommend tricking somebody into thinking they're eating a Girl Scout cookie shake by putting a cookie on top when there is not actually any Girl Scout cookies in the shake itself).

14 April, 2016


a.k.a. Tundracon, Tekko 2016, and the Tekko where it snowed

(This is going to be a rambling con journal, but I write these mostly for myself anyway, to look back on in future years, so whatever).

Getting There

For the past nine years (and earlier, if you count the comicon) spring has, to me, been characterized by my annual attendance at my local anime convention (which I've prefaced at length in previous years' reviews). It's something I look forward to and plan for throughout the entire year. Unfortunately, there is something about the springtime - when things are thawing out from the winter freeze - that facilitates problems leading just up to con-time, be they mechanical, or biological. (It's making more sense to me why cryogenics is problematic). There was that time I had shin splints (or something - I didn't bother getting it checked out), and barely recovered in time, after worrying that I wouldn't even be able to walk at the con. And last year I had some kind of terrible rash (that turned out to be an eczema outbreak of unprecedented proportions) that spoiled my cosplay plans for the year. A few years ago, our car died in the spring, putting our con plans in jeopardy, until we scrounged for a new (old) car. This year, car troubles were once again a culprit.

But con weekend is a special weekend - a very fun (if exhausting) weekend that is unlike any other weekend of the year. I have a certain loyalty to Tekko - it being the anime convention of my hometown (even if I'm living in a different town these days). I've attended for the last eight years straight (and would have more, if I'd found out about it sooner), and had previously attended regularly (minus my college years) the comicon that it originally split off from, going back to my first year which was 1999. But if history creates a sense of obligation for me to attend year in and year out, it's all the fun memories I have every year that keep me coming back, without fail. Even when things don't go as expected, and even when you're tired and cranky and cold and exhausted - hell, it's still a fun time, infinitely more enjoyable than normal life, and I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Which is why I opted to shell out for a rental car this year, in order to take the pressure off of our daily car, which is currently in dubious condition and no longer well-suited to long trips. (If I hadn't, sadly, wrecked our other car last summer, this wouldn't even have been an issue. Sigh...). But if that were the only problem we'd had this year, it'd have been a pretty easy (albeit expensive) fix. But life is never that easy, right? After figuring out a solution to that problem, we got hit with the revelation that our apartment building has bedbugs.

If you're like I was a few months ago, you're thinking that bedbugs are just the figment of some nursery rhyme parents use to scare children (or something). On the contrary, they are real, and they are apparently (if you believe what you read on the internet) becoming a big problem of late. And unlike other infestations - not to get all gross city here, but cockroaches, for example, which are common in urban areas - that can be reasonably treated, bedbugs are supposedly super difficult to get rid of.

On the one hand, some people are hardly affected by them, and might have them and not even realize it. So, no big deal? But on the other hand, some people are affected, and prone to waking up with itchy bites all over their skin, leading to desperate (and expensive) attempts at respite that involve huge exterminator bills and, barring that, torching one's furniture and belongings, salting the earth where they stood (the amazing thing is that this is only a slight exaggeration), and then moving to a new place. Overreaction? You decide. But the thought of your bed being infested with little insectoid vampires that feed on you while you sleep is enough to make anyone's skin crawl, affected or not.

Well, we seem to be doing okay for the time being, but there have been verified sightings in our building, and so we're taking precautions. Moreover, like a group of Trojan Horses, we didn't want to risk dragging these loathsome creatures into the territory of the gracious host that puts us up in his own home every year for the weekend of the con, so making the plans happen this year also included the addition of a hotel bill. Well, motel bill - we picked the cheapest place in the city (a Motel 6) - actually, technically outside of the city. But I was willing to eat up much of that cost, too (although I didn't have to absorb it all in the end, as it turns out), because the con must go on!


The weekend started out with characteristically dreary weather (more on that later), as Thursday greeted us with a cold, rain-soaked morning. On the lighter side, due to a shortage of models, when I went to pick up our rental car, I was treated to an upgrade, and given a minivan for the lower price of the full-size car I had paid for. Spending a weekend driving a new Toyota Sienna was an experience. I have to admit that after years of driving smaller cars (especially my roommate's puny Hyundai Elantra, which barely has enough room for my legs to fit under the steering wheel), it took me some time to get used to driving this larger vehicle. (You wouldn't think that there'd been a time in my past when I'd regularly driven an astrovan)! I swear it felt like I was driving a bus - the higher vantage point and lowered visibility really threw me for a loop. But the extra space was nice, and it was neat playing with all the high-tech options - like the keyless ignition, self-opening and shutting doors, rear-side camera view, and computer-based panels (including support for USB audio, and weather and traffic details on a nice touch screen in the center panel). For a while, I had the distinct impression that I was piloting a spacecraft, floating smoothly over the surface of the road.

We drove in to town, checked in to our dinky motel room, and then headed to the con to pick up our badges. There's no programming on Thursdays - no real programming anyway (come Thursday, the "preview night movie" still hadn't been decided on) - no dealer's room (called the Exhibition Hall this year) either, but you can pick up your badge to avoid waiting in line later in the weekend.

Ostensibly, the goal of preregistering (as we did) is to avoid long wait lines, but when we got to the convention center on Thursday, we had to stand in the longest registration line in Tekko history (at least in my experience) - it stretched all the way across the length of the convention center from one end to the other! (It was still shorter than those Otakon lines, though). However, as I overheard someone else in line expressing, there's no better time to wait in line than when there's nothing else to do - it's harder to be patient when there's stuff going on that you can't experience because you have to wait in line to get your badge. So, I still think picking up your badge on Thursday is a good idea.

Plus, it extends your ability to bask in the glow of con weekend just a little longer. I didn't bother cosplaying since it was a pretty short and uneventful day trip, but many people do, and I'm thinking now that next year I will - although that may be influenced by the fact that, due to the cold, and always having to change in and out of my costumes to go outside for food and to the car, I had minimal time to actually spend in my cosplays this year. But I've got enough now to spare, especially if I bring my White Rock Shooter cosplay as a backup (since it's not that popular). So, yeah, I'm working up to having as many wardrobe changes as Mick Jagger.

After getting our badges, it was already getting late (registration opens at 4:30 on Thursday, and we got there a little after that, and waited in line well over an hour), so we followed our now annual tradition and had dinner at Lulu's Noodles (which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from downtown central) to inaugurate the weekend with a meal consisting of oriental cuisine (although it sucks that it's so hard to find Japanese food in this city). And since I had realized earlier that The Cheesecake Factory happens to be just across the river from there, we stopped off there to pick up dessert. (Which, in hindsight, was probably not the greatest idea, given that it was the eve of the weekend in which I planned to wear multiple cosplays showing off the body I'd spent all winter working my butt off to keep in shape... Ah well).


So, it was the morning of the first full day of the con, and let me tell you - I, for one, hardly got any sleep. Not due to excitement for once - although there was plenty of that - but because of the freezing temperatures that weekend, and the fact that we apparently didn't realize the motel rooms had a "fan" you could turn on to heat up the room. The motel rooms also had no comforters or heavier blankets on their beds, so I actually spent the night huddled up in the few thin layers of sheets that were provided, not able to sleep because I was just too damn cold. And then I woke up to a nice dusting of frost over the ground. In April. (It would get even worse on Saturday).

Still, the con was laid out before us, so we drove in to the city to drink it in. We got there a bit later than planned (despite being up earlier than expected), and missed our first of many panels we had wanted to see - one titled The Wonderful World of Ramen. I hesitated getting dressed in my cosplay, since it basically consisted of me wearing lingerie, and I still needed to warm up from being outside (the convention center itself wasn't all that warm, either). So we just spent a couple hours checking out the dealer's room instead, which is always a good idea.

Dealer's Room

The dealer's room got an upgrade this year, finally moving into one of the larger Exhibit Halls the Convention Center has, which the indoor bridge leading to the panel rooms overlooks. Plenty of space means less crowding, and also more vendors. Of course, it's always a gamble on what kind of merch you'll be able to find, but there are always plenty of goodies. There were lots of figures on display, in addition to the usual smorgasbord of posters/wall scrolls, t-shirts, keychains, anime/manga, cosplay outfits, replica props and weapons, etc.

I was hoping to buy a miniskirt kimono that I spied last year (but shied away from after I looked at the price), but couldn't find anything quite like it this year, unfortunately. (Isn't that how it always seems to go? I remember seeing "3D" mousepads one year, but then by the next year when I needed to replace mine, I couldn't find them, and I haven't seen them since)! I rifled through a rack of Lolita pieces (still wanting to dress Lolita someday, but the learning curve is huge), but for $100+, I'd have to find something I really like, which I didn't - which is a shame, because I could have tried it on first before buying it, which isn't possible when you shop online.

Sadly, the only good Berserk figures you can find are the really good ones, that run - no fooling - in the $400+ range. There were actually a couple good Berserk posters/wall scrolls, which is always fun to see, but my wall decorating days are more or less over. On that note, when we checked out the Manga Library elsewhere at the con, I was surprised to see it plastered with posters - many of which I own and are on my own old bedroom wall! That was a nice blast from the past.

In hindsight, I kinda wish I had bought some treats at the dealer's room this year. Not just from the obligatory confectionaries booth (which has delicious fudge), but also maybe some Pocky (in rare flavors you can't buy at Walmart these days) and melon pan and other assorted Japanese treats I saw around. I spent a good deal of time in the dealer's room this year, but it never seems like enough. I missed it completely on Sunday, and Saturday I was mostly concerned with showing off my cosplay. So I'm glad that I bought a couple things while I was there on Friday. Both figures, once again. One of Sailor Saturn (it's about time!), and the other an uber-moe figure of a vampire girl (but you wouldn't know it to look at her) from Bakemonogatari.

So, it was lunch time before we knew it, and I decided not to change into my cosplay until after we'd gone back out into the cold and come back inside for a good stretch until dinner. We lunched at Subway, and then, back at the con, I changed into my Friday cosplay - Sailor Stripper Moon!

Sailor Stripper Moon

So I got the idea for this cosplay last year, when I bought this Sailor Moon lingerie at the dealer's room (plus a tiara). Then I read some comment online from someone stating that they don't like it when a cosplayer gets lazy and pairs up a Sailor Moon outfit with stripper boots (because it's easier than making your own), since it makes the character look "trashy". And while I can see where that sentiment comes from, I wanted to demonstrate that it's okay to play up the character's sex appeal. So I decided to do Sailor Moon as if she were a stripper - wearing lingerie emphasizes that the sexiness is intentional, and not merely incidental.

If you ask me, Sailor Moon is already a sex icon. Not the stereotypical pin-up kind, but the feminist girl-power kind - like Wonder Woman. After all, 14 years old or not, the canonical sailor senshi outfit includes a miniskirt and high heels. And while you could argue that the miniskirt is practical, in that it avoids restricting movement like longer skirts do, I'd like to see you make the same argument about those heels. It's designed at least partially for sex appeal - and that's perfectly alright. I believe that powerful women don't need to be stripped of their sex appeal in order to be positive role models. You can be smart, and strong, and sexy. It's all part of the package.

And if you don't like that, too bad - because here I am, cosplaying Sailor Stripper Moon, and you can't stop me. I actually found these stripper boots online and just knew they were perfect (well, I debated over getting a stiletto version, but ultimately thought this pair had more of a "Sailor Moon" look), and saved up for them for a while. So it was exciting to finally put this cosplay into, well...play. I'd like to say that it was a moderate hit. I got a few people taking my picture (although it helps that, unlike say, White Rock Shooter, Sailor Moon is such a popular and iconic character).

The best part was when I was wandering the con, showing off my outfit, when I passed a group of sailor senshi posing for a picture, and they dragged me into the middle of it, because they were in need of a Sailor Moon. That evolved into a bit of an extended, impromptu photoshoot, as more and more people walking past stopped to take our picture. There was a whole group of us by the end, including the Sailor Uranus and Neptune pair I had spotted earlier, and a human-form Luna. Oh, and a Sailor V! I was really happy to have been more or less accepted by this group, because I know that my cosplay could rub some fans the wrong way, but I honestly have nothing but love and respect for the series and its audience.


The timing of dinner on Friday was a little awkward due to scheduling (which is, really, inevitable at a con). I had to duck out of Lovecraftian Horror in Anime & Manga (one of the few panels I caught all weekend) early, though not before catching most of it. It was an interesting panel that discussed Lovecraft's influence on one of my favorite characters - Madoka Magica's Kyuubey (no big surprise there) - as well as an intriguing manga series called Uzumaki (that I'd now like to read), and the surprising fact that the third season of Digimon (of all series) was infused with Lovecraftian themes, on account of hiring the guy who did one of my favorite mindfuck series of all time - Serial Experiments Lain.

After meeting back up with my group, we embarked on the moderate hike to Five Guys (the best burger/hot dog joint in town) in Market Square. The walk's not bad at all (in my opinion - as long as you don't get lost), but the cold temperatures and bitter wind made it considerably less pleasant. I stayed in my cosplay (albeit bundled up in a hoodie and jacket - which still wasn't enough), but switched out my stripper boots for a far more sensible pair of lovingly broken-in athletic sneakers (which are so comfy).

I even got a few comments on my cosplay outside of the con. Non-con-goer remarks are always a mixed bag - and walking through the city in your cosplay can have unexpected results. I enjoy it, because even though sometimes people have less than polite reactions, I like to turn heads and add a little spice to boring, everyday life. I'll admit I felt a little uncomfortable walking through the urban twilight past groups of people waiting at crosswalks and bus stations, wearing makeup and a skirt so short that you couldn't see it under my jacket.

But it was worth it, for the Sailor Moon fan at Five Guys who complimented my costume; and better yet, the barista at the café we stopped at for hot chocolate (to power our walk back to the con) who admired my costume and showed me the Transformation Brooch she happened to have stashed under the counter. Awesome. Not even some random drunk dude confessing, "I love you!" as he stumbled past me on the street was enough to spoil that experience.

Friday Night

On account of the awkward scheduling of dinner, we ended up missing the Fashion Show this year. But we caught the Dance Competition instead. It was okay. The last event of the night for me was the Octo Erotica panel, starting at an uncomfortably late 12:30am. It was cancelled at the last minute last year, so I was happy to catch it this time around. It was interesting, and headed by a true fan of tentacle rape hentai, although I'm surprised there wasn't a single mention of Urotsukidoji (Legend of the Overfiend) which was my first introduction to - and still one of my favorite examples of - sexy tentacles.

I would have liked to have also attended the seemingly more popular Fetishes in Anime panel (on the admittedly off chance that somebody would make a passing reference to the intriguing but utterly taboo subject of lolicon), but it was running concurrently with the Octo Erotica panel, which I was more invested in. I've probably said this in previous years, but it kinda sucks that all the 18+ panels are squeezed into the end of the night, and you have to choose one over the other. Although, to be fair, a lot of them are about things that don't interest me, like yaoi, and futanari, and various "for women" panels. But then, I guess schedule conflicts aren't limited to the end of the night - they're just a con reality.

Anyway, the con was closing down at that point, and it was time for us to head back to the car, and drive back to the motel. I thought that maybe I'd be exhausted enough to actually get some sleep, but I underestimated just how cold Saturday would get...


I was thinking that I'd get to sleep in on Saturday to make up for the late night that was Friday, and because there wasn't anything on the con schedule worth dragging myself out of bed for until noon. But, being that it was so cold I couldn't even properly sleep, I ended up getting up sometime around, I don't know, 7 or 8 o'clock, after collapsing into bed after 2am the previous night. I was lured by the prospect of sitting in the car with the heat on, because it would at least be warmer than our motel room. It was, but it didn't help me to get any more sleep. So I just sat and listened to the radio, and watched the snow fall (on this fine April morning), while screaming at the weather report because it was telling me that the day's high - high! - would be lower than tomorrow's low. Of all days, of all weekends, why this one? Well, now you know why it's called Tekkosnowcon.

So, we actually ended up picking up my brother on the way in to the con (bolstering our numbers by one more for the biggest day of the weekend) even later than planned. And funnily enough, presumably not having preregistered, he stood in line far less time than we all did on Thursday! Ah well, I've come to terms with it. Have I mentioned yet that, by total coincidence, I had planned to wear the skimpiest cosplay of my life on the coldest day in Tekko history? Much of the day would turn out to be an internal struggle between not wanting to let my yearlong planning and excitement go to waste, and fearing the discomfort of wearing a Speedo when it's snowing outside. Ultimately, I didn't let my concerns ruin my plans completely, although I spent a whole lot less time in my cosplay than I had hoped to. But we'll get to that.

By the time we got in to the con, it was actually going on lunch time, and so I figured (once again) that I'd wait to strip down to my cosplay until after I could count on not having to leave the convention center for a good stretch of time. Our plans to have pierogies at a gyro place were dashed by the realization that the place was closed (having walked an extra block in the blistering cold as a result), so we lunched at a place called Tonic right on the corner in front of the convention center instead. It was moderately pricey, but the food was really good, and they were offering a Tekko discount and a Tekko-themed menu, so I feel good about patronizing their establishment.

Back at the con, I changed from my street clothes into a Pikachu dress I had brought, but not my actual cosplay yet, as I was still warming up. Then, with nothing important planned on the schedule until the evening, I spent a while roaming the dealer's room and con halls, and sitting around feeling somewhat miserable, on account of being completely exhausted from two nights of hardly getting any sleep, and being really cold, yet not wanting to cover up because I knew I had to steel myself for the cold if I was going to go through with the one thing I had been looking forward to doing the most at the con - show off my new cosplay.

Sexy Pikachu

So it was a bit of a struggle, but I eventually pulled through. I'll tell you this, the anticipation of the cold is worse than the cold itself - once I was decked out in that Speedo, the cold actually bothered me less (at least at first). As my traveling companion who braved the blistering snow drifts in a tank top will tell you, it's mind over matter. And I'm glad I didn't let myself waste this once-in-a-year opportunity. Certainly, once I had my cosplay on, I wanted to make it last as long as possible, but there was a limit to how much I could stand the cold (my teeth were permanently clenched throughout the whole experience). But oh, it was worth it.

So here's my cosplay. I'll give it to you straight - the purpose of this cosplay was to be able to dress in the skimpiest outfit I could get away with. Judge me if you must - but I'm not trying to break any rules here, I'm just trying to enjoy life to the fullest. I think sex appeal is a positive thing, and I'm doing my part to make the world a sexier place. Also, as a male, it could also be taken as a bit of a political statement. Which is why I was so pleased when one congoer passed me by and remarked that I could have won the award for "Most Sexualized Male" of the con. See, I like sexualization - everything is more fun when it's sexy. But women are sexualized disproportionately more than men. I appreciate that this puts a lot of pressure on women to sometimes dress and behave in ways they'd rather not.

On the other hand, some people enjoy flaunting their sex appeal. Well, I'm one of those people. But as a man (or at least as a nontraditionally-gendered man, who doesn't view sex appeal as a nice suit, snazzy tie, and fat wallet, but as a tight body and lots of skin on display), I don't have nearly the opportunities that women do. The feminist perspective is that sexualization and objectification are problematic. My perspective - which is an egalitarian perspective - is that sexualization and objectification are okay, even natural aspects of human behavior. We just need to tip the balance so that women are not being pressured considerably more than men.

So, the inspiration for this cosplay was basically seeing women at cons walking around in skimpy costumes, and thinking to myself, why can't I do that? In fact, one of my primary inspirations was a girl dressed in a skimpy Pikachu cosplay that I got a picture of last year. And here's one of the best things ever - while I was making my rounds of the con in my sexy, skimpy Pikachu cosplay (giving people a chance to see it before it was gone), I was stopped and complimented by none other than the guy who helped work on his girlfriend's skimpy Pikachu cosplay - the very one that had inspired me! He admitted that his inspiration was to try to make the skimpiest Pikachu cosplay possible (or reasonable, or at least that his girlfriend would be willing to wear), and he had to concede that my cosplay was even skimpier! Boy, that totally made my day. :-D

The cosplay was definitely an instant hit. I only wore it for maybe an hour, two at the most, and I had tons of people coming out of the woodwork to get my picture. Although sadly, as is often the case, those pictures are next to impossible to track down on the internet. I worry that many of them aren't going to be shared because the pic taker may either be embarrassed, or fear embarrassing me by posting them, and had taken them only for personal "reference". Certainly, my conmate told me that she had spotted several people taking surreptitious pictures of me without my knowledge (no worries - that kind of thing doesn't bother me at all; when I wear cosplay, I expect - even enjoy - the attention).

But a lot of people came up to me and asked to take my picture, too - a disproportionate number of them wanted a picture with me, which I think is great (although I sensed that a lot of them were maybe too embarrassed to do that). I had a lot of positive comments on my cosplay too, which is a real vindication. I don't doubt that there were people that probably didn't like it, but if so, they had the sense of decency to keep it to themselves. Mostly.

There was just one complaint, and it wasn't even made to me directly, but to a staffer. Not surprisingly, it was a mother (it's always the mothers) complaining about my Speedo (which was also wrapped in a layer of felt, by the way). It's not even that she didn't like my cosplay, but that she was allegedly (as the staffer later informed me) concerned for "the children" (specifically hers, I presume, but it's all the same). Isn't that always the case? You'd be surprised if you actually asked the children what does and doesn't bother them. It's always the concern for what's "appropriate", and what we want children to be exposed to - not what's actually good for them (like learning to deal with the diversity they're inevitably going to encounter in the world, no matter how much their parents try to shield them from reality).

I'll tell you what, though, it was an eye opener. I thought a Speedo would be enough (even without the felt!). I mean, it's an Olympic-sanctioned swimsuit, for chrissakes! But if people in America are that sensitive, then it explains why Speedos are often banned at public pools and water parks in this country. Although I still think it's ridiculous. (Because the worst thing in the world is for a human being to be reminded of the general, vague shape of the male anatomy, right)? And hypocritical, to boot, because women frequently wear skimpy bikinis that sometimes barely obscure their nipples and cameltoe when wet. Hell, those kids you're trying to protect? The girls're often not dressed any better! It's sexism, plain and simple.

But that's all besides the point. I have to say, I am extremely pleased with the way the situation was handled, and how friendly and diplomatic the staffer was who asked me to "pad" my Speedo. He wasn't interested in chastising me, or even destroying the fun of the cosplay. He just wanted me to make a perfectly reasonable and modest alteration so as to make it slightly more kosher (and more firmly within the similarly reasonable rules for con attire, which basically boil down to "genitalia must be reasonably covered at all times", which I can totally get behind). I made the alteration, and everything was square - five by five.

This was, also, incidentally a tacit (or maybe even direct) approval of my cosplay by staff. Rules are one thing, but I was a little worried that staff would take a conservative view and not like my cosplay. Convinced that I was within the rules, and not being one to succumb to a chilling effect, I was willing to give it a try and see. But I was still pretty hesitant at first whether someone would pull me aside and ask me to change or cover up. That staff left me alone to do my thing - apart from asking me to add just a little extra padding - pleased me very much, and gave me lots of confidence.

Crossplay Diaries

I'll tell you, I love the liberal atmosphere of the con. One of the main reasons I do cosplay is that it lets me experiment in a mostly accepting - even enthusiastic - environment, in terms of what I wear. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it had a huge impact on my transition from presenting everyday as male to presenting everyday as female. Wearing dresses and doing crossplays at the con - Chii's pink dress, the school uniform I wore religiously for years before I wore it out - really helped me get comfortable with dressing like a girl in public, and it helped enormously that I got so much respect and encouragement every time I did it at Tekko.

I actually noticed a lot of cosplays this year that involved guys dressing in skirts and dresses, without even necessarily trying to look like girls. Like, full facial hair. Personally, I may not dig that look, and there's a line that, once crossed, goes into Sailor Bubba and Man-Faye territory. I've always been of the opinion that if a guy crossplays, he should make the effort to, for example, shave his body and facial hair, grow out his own hair or wear a wig, and wear makeup and stuff. Of course, I'm saying that as someone who is transgender and wants to do those things anyway. I'm open to other people taking different approaches, and a lot of these crossplayers don't look bad at all, even in spite of the clashing gender cues. And at the end of the day, it really just makes me happy to be immersed in an environment where, for example, an otherwise stereotypical guy could choose to wear a skirt, and it's no big deal. Girls have been doing this - in and out of the fandom - for decades. It's high time guys were given the same freedom.

So anyway, my cosplay got a lot of attention - from both girls and guys. I have enough experience as an internet model not to make the rookie mistake of assuming that sexy guys will be more popular among women than men (contrary to intuition, it doesn't work that way), so I wasn't surprised by all the male attention, but I was very pleased with the amount of female attention I received. In fact, one girl stumbled out of the rave obviously drunk or high and asked if she could "check out the package". This comment caught me completely off guard, and her friend had dragged her off before I could formulate a response (but I was thinking something along the lines of, "I'll meet you around that corner"). It occurs to me that this is probably extremely sexist, but if I think about it, if a guy said that to a girl, it would probably be offensive and considered harassment. Yet, I find the prospect of a girl showing interest in my body to be exciting and affirming.

Eventually, the cold got to me and I had to take off my cosplay and put on something warmer. Actually, it was probably as much the case that it was time for dinner, and I had to face the prospect of going out into the blistering cold again. Even if the walk to my favorite downtown pizza joint - Pizza Parma - is a short one, I wasn't about to brave those freezing temperatures in nothing but a Speedo (plus, the restaurant probably would have required me to cover up). Back at the con, it was time for the return of the Iaijutsu panel, which was my favorite panel from last year. I missed the beginning, but caught a good chunk of it, which seemed to be an extended Q&A. It was interesting as always, however. I guess I just think the sword arts are fascinating. Makes me wish I was a practitioner. Unlike the Octo Erotica panel, which was interesting to see once, but I'm not sure I'd go back another year (unless there's nothing better going on), the Iaijutsu panel is one I'll probably try to attend for as long as it's offered.

Extreme AMVs

When Saturday night rolls around, you know it's time for the Extreme AMV Contest! You know, I think I forgot to mention it, but we never did get to see the regular AMV Contest earlier in the day. The timing was, again, just not convenient, as we barely got to the con in time, and then we were all hungry and ready for lunch. I didn't watch any AMVs in the AMV Room throughout the weekend either. There were a couple themes I wanted to see - Magical Girls, Drama, AMVs that sell the Anime/Music - but again, you always have schedule conflicts. The time you happen to have an hour to kill just happens to be the time when the comedy AMVs are playing, or AMV Salad, or something else you're just not interested in, and the ones you want to see are playing across that Iaijutsu demonstration, or lunch, or 9:00 in the morning when you're in the shower (which is the only place you'll be warm all weekend).

Due to some unexplained scheduling snafu, the Extreme AMV Contest actually started earlier than scheduled, so I missed the first half. And it was split into two sections - hentai, and "other" (meaning violence, strong language, nudity, etc.). As much as I like hentai, I'm disappointed I missed the "other" section. I actually walked in on an Evangelion AMV set to Nine Inch Nail's Closer that looked pretty cool. But instead, I was treated to a bunch of more or less tasteless hardcore porn. My favorite hentai AMV was the one more softcore-ish, moe one, but the clear crowd favorite was a disturbingly accurate mishmash of the classic animated Frosty the Snowman cartoon with various hentai scenes. It was actually pretty funny. In the final round, it went head to head with the winner of the "other" bracket, which was the Deadpool trailer set to a series called One-Punch Man, that seems to be fairly popular right now. As with all things Deadpool, it was disproportionately popular, and won the contest.

The Rave

By now you're probably wondering about the rave. Even though it's not really my scene, I always like to check it out, just because it has this energy - it's like the Saturday night parties you were never invited to in high school, except it's all geeks and nerds, just like you. Also, with everybody dancing around getting hot and sweaty, the rave is a great opportunity to strip your cosplay down to its bare essentials, and so I thought my Pikachu cosplay would be a perfect fit. So I wandered the rave a bit in my Speedo, before some guy came out of the shadows to tell me that, although he didn't approve of my cosplay (I have no idea why he felt it necessary to tell me that - what he was trying to prove, or exactly who he was trying to prove it to (aside from himself)), he would be willing to "hype me up". I didn't know exactly what this meant, but I had the sense that he would "pimp" up my cosplay, and hell, I guess I wanted the attention. I should have known better, though, given that raving really isn't my scene, after all. The only thing I learned from the experience is that my Pikachu tail wasn't designed for moshing. It kinda broke off. I figured that was a good time to call it a night.


If there was one good thing about coming to the end of the weekend, it was rolling into our motel room late Saturday night, to find the heat actually on, and an extra blanket left on our bed (that we didn't even need, now that the heat was on). Regardless of whose fault it was (the motel's, ours, Mother Nature's), I was just incredibly relieved to finally be able to get some much-needed sleep on the last night of the con weekend. We probably made it into the con a little later than would have been ideal, however, given that Sunday is a half day. We stopped off for a big brunch at King's, and that ended up taking a bit longer than I think any of us expected.

For Sunday, I had a Misty cosplay lined up, and I was eager to change into it as soon as we got to the con, so I'd actually have some time to wear it, for a change. Unfortunately, as I was changing in the bathroom, I noticed that I had left my cosplay shoes in the car. Worse yet, we had to park in the lot across the street because the convention center parking garage was full (for the second time that weekend - I hate it when that happens). So I changed back into my street clothes, and trudged back across the block, in the blistering cold (but not quite as cold as the previous day), by myself, to grab my shoes, and then return to the con, and finally change into my cosplay.

I was eager to peruse the dealer's room one last time, but I wanted to get some pictures of my cosplay first (because I know, by now, that you can't rely on anyone else to get pictures of your cosplay for you). By the time I had finished that up, it was already 3pm (I have no idea where the time went on Sunday), and the dealer's room was closing, much to my chagrin. So I just had to suck it up. It was also time for the main AMV Contest winners to be announced. I have to admit, I wasn't very impressed with any of them. (Although it's interesting to note that they were presented in the form of an RPG Maker program). And one of the winners was that Deadpool trailer AMV, albeit a "green-band" version of what we saw during the Extreme Contest. I feel like that's a little unfair to the rest of the Extreme AMVs, though.

By that point, the con was pretty much done. However, I was of, course, reluctant to see the weekend end, and to change out of my cosplay after I'd only just put it on. So we sat around for another half hour or so, taking in the people until it was high time we started out on our journey home.

Lingering Thoughts

Panels: Panels seem to be increasingly becoming less of a priority for our group. Unfortunately, panels at Tekko are often amateurish and underwhelming. That's not to discourage panel makers - they produce much of the content of the con, and in the worst case, could benefit from the experience and feedback to produce better panels in the future. There are good panels at Tekko - the problem is not knowing which ones those are going to be beforehand (so that you can make a point to be there), and the fact that the chaotic scheduling of a con weekend usually involves missing most of the panels you wanted to see, and catching ones you just happened to stumble into because you had some time to kill, or a friend dragged you into them.

In the category of panels I would have liked to have attended but missed are any number of interesting panels in the Tekko Gakkou series - panels of a more educational nature - including one on the subject of knights and samurais (comparing and contrasting), as well as a series of workshops on creating armor. Panels like "Feminism and Sailor Moon" and "Social Justice Isn't Scary" sounded intriguing to me, but I wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole after the slut-shaming debacle that was the "My Cosplay Brings All The Boys To The Con" panel back in 2012. It's really a shame that these kinds of people are dominating the conversation, because I would love to talk about things like feminism and social justice in novel contexts.

Guests: Anime conventions in America are, for obvious reasons, largely centered around the English voice acting community, and that is something that really doesn't interest me. As such, I could take or leave most of the "guests" that Tekko is able to draw. Non-voice actors also often include comedians, and while I should maybe give some of these a try sometime, comedy really isn't my scene, so they just aren't a priority for me. Then you have the bands and musical acts. It's a shame, because I love music, and enjoy going to concerts, but I've never really gotten into the J-music scene (aside from the kawaii appeal of certain young female idols - but Tekko isn't big enough to get AKB48 or whatever its current equivalent is). And I've tried. I really wanted to like Gacharic Spin - which combines what I like most about J-Pop (cute girls) with rock music - but honestly their performance left me feeling lukewarm. And this other band that played, the only thing they did that I particularly liked wasn't even a Japanese or anime song - it was Alice in Chains!

Cosplay: I think the con (this con, and cons in general) desperately needs a better way to showcase all the awesome cosplays it gets. Roaming the halls and watching the people go past is fun, but there's too much randomness involved with who just happens to pass you by. I believe the Masquerade features a "walk-on" segment, but it's pointless putting the tiny cosplayers up on a distant stage. You need to have something more akin to a parade, with the cosplayers moving down on the floor among the admirers, mingling and stopping for photographs as necessary. I realize this is pretty much what the con itself is, but the difference is that it would be at a time and a place that people would go specifically to either pose in their cosplays or admire the cosplays of others. It would help to lessen the pressure of approaching a cosplayer with concern that you may be interrupting them, or catching them at a bad time for a picture.

Aside from my own cosplays, there wasn't anything I saw this year that got me really excited, but there were still plenty that I enjoyed. Sword Art Online was unreasonably popular, with tons of Kiritos wandering around. I had lukewarm feelings about that series, but I do enjoy seeing all the Asunas strutting around in their sexy outfits (especially the ALfheim Online version). Deadpool was once again super popular - excessively so. I personally liked seeing a Hit Girl, and also Bojack Horseman, who was totally in character, wandering around looking depressed on Friday night.

It warms my heart to know that Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z are both still very popular among cosplayers. The senshi are a perennial favorite (this year's highlights include an adorable Neptune/Uranus pair, one or two human form Lunas, and even Sailor V!), and even more in vogue on account of the new Sailor Moon Crystal series, but I was pleasantly surprised to see so many DBZ characters. There were several versions of both Goku and Vegeta to be found, along with the Master Roshi you see every year (not to be confused with the badass Roshi that joined our group last year), but then there was also the likes of Mr. Popo, Majin Buu, Great Saiyaman, Trunks, etc. - even a couple members of the Ginyu Force, I hear (though I didn't see them personally).

Other notable cosplays I witnessed: a vendor in the dealer's room dressed as Chii in her pink dress; a female Pyramid Head; Cap'n Crunch (yes, from the cereal); Daenerys Targaryen (along with a few other assorted Game of Thrones characters); a Catwoman that appeared to be influenced by Michelle Pfeiffer's iconic portrayal of the character; a really badass Carnage/Venom (I can never tell them apart); Proto Man; a campaigning Cthulhu (why choose the lesser evil?); Zoidberg; Rick from Rick & Morty; Princess Mononoke, Princess Unikitty; Princess Leia in her slave bikini; three Links modeling their red, blue, and green jerseys; another Link carrying potion bottles, one of which contained a glowing fairy...

In hindsight, I regret not taking pictures of all these cosplayers after all. This just wasn't a good year for pictures (the roof was even closed due to weather!). It takes a lot to build myself up to approaching strangers. It's not that I couldn't do it, or that I wouldn't want to (although sometimes I might convince myself otherwise), but it takes time. If there were a convention next weekend, I'd know better than to miss that opportunity, but by next year I'll surely be stuck back in my shell again.

That's just one of those things about these conventions. They happen too fast. You prepare for a full year, and then it's over in just four short days. You never have enough time to absorb all the excitement and the spectacle that the con has to provide. All the panels you missed. The main events you didn't get a chance to check out. The people and cosplays you didn't see. The videos you couldn't watch. The AMVs you didn't get to see. The merchandise you didn't buy. One thing you can say for the con, though, is that it always leaves you wanting more.

So, until next year...arrivederci, Pee Wee!