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

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