Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Thoughts on "David Bowie Is" at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

Today, I attended the special exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), David Bowie Is.

Let me preface this by saying I'm a rather big Bowie fan. He was one of the first musicians I really connected with when I first got into rock music at age 8 and it's been a long, passionate love affair since. My favourite concert of all time is still when I attended his Sound and Vision tour on my fifteenth birthday with my former babysitter. Four rows from the stage, I watched him strut and fret his hour and a half upon the stage, his faithful guitarist for the tour - the amazing and incredible Adrian Belew - weeping and wailing his axe in harmony with Bowie's swoony croon.

That being said, I was rather excited when I heard that after a successful run in England, David Bowie Is was coming to Toronto.

Not wanting to be too "spoiled" by what I might see there, I went in without reading any reviews, hoping it would somehow live up to the excitement I was feeling.

It was AMAZING!!!

The exhibit is housed on the top two floors of the AGO. Upon entry, you are given a headset that you can listen to snippets of music, Bowie musings, and others discussing Mr. B. Frankly, I found it a bit of overkill after awhile. Once you get into the exhibit, there is so much to see and read, someone chattering in my ears was more distracting than helpful. Unless there was something that I definitely wanted to hear - like the audio for movie or concert clips - I pretty much left the headphones off.

Be warned - the exhibit starts slowly. The first floor has a few fun little photos (especially of a very young Davy Jones), but most of it is more about who Bowie has influenced and a few random, vaguely connected objets d'art that the AGO seemed to just plunk there to take up space...

Then, you reach the top floor.

Oh.

My.

God.

A veritable feast for the senses awaited me! The moment I stepped inside, my mind exploded in multiple Bowiegasms!

The main room is stuffed with costumes, handwritten notes, memorabilia, and various multimedia items. Television screens peek out from corners, flickering rare concert films and interviews.

Since there was just so much that one must experience firsthand, here are some of my personal highlights (in no particular order):

- My favourite, favourite thing there wasn't actually by Bowie. Housed in a small glass case was an original set of Brian Eno's infamous "Oblique Strategies" cards that helped both him and Bowie (and many other artists, including me!) find ways to be creative. There is a fun online version here so you can see for yourselves.

- The handwritten note from Jim Henson telling Bowie how great he'd be as Jareth in Labyrinth made me tear up. I didn't realize Henson had Bowie in mind when he wrote the character. In my mind, no one else could have played The Goblin King. Right underneath the note was Jareth's amazingly detailed riding crop (complete with teeny-tiny goblin heads carved into it!) AND his magic crystal ball!

- The page from a 1970s actors' handbook listing David as an up-and-coming player. Not only was Mr. B. great at music, he was also an established actor and mime!

- Hands down, the Pierrot costume from the "Ashes to Ashes" video was one of the major highlights for me. It's even more stunning in person. The detailed embroidery and beadwork is dazzling and it shimmers with an almost other-worldly iridescent blue colour.

- Runners-up for awesome costumes included the Screaming Lord Byron costume from "Jazzin' for Blue Jean." I always enjoyed the extended video/short film as a kid and loved how colourful the costume was. Much like the "Ashes to Ashes" costume, it's even more stunning in real life. Seeing all of Bowie's concert outfits and a lot of the Ziggy Stardust stuff was fantastic. There was almost TOO much to take in!

- All the lyrics written in Bowie's charming, scrawly, left-handed handwriting. I especially loved seeing his marginalia on "Fashion", which reads:

We midgets and fools should learn not to dance on concrete poured for GIANTS.

- Seeing a clip from Bowie's very first role in a tiny, short film entitled The Image. What delighted me most is that it almost seemed Lovecraftian in tone. A little like "Pickman's Model" or something similar. I'm hoping the whole thing is somewhere out in cyberspace for me to see.

- Bowie's handwritten notes on a Hunky Dory album cover that read, "David Bowie...plays the less complicated piano bits" and the reference to a then-unknown "Richard Wakeman" who played piano on the album.

- Bowie's handwritten note that read "Dada"vid Bowie.

- A very early fan letter response from David Bowie's mother who used to be in charge of writing fans back with information on her up-and-coming son. Her closing words to the fan made me grin:

Keep this letter to yourself as I do not want to be inundated with fan mail.

Margaret M. Jones - David's mum

- All of the photos/outtakes from album sessions and just about every photo in there. Bowie's Diamond Dogs outtake photos are super amazing, as are the Aladdin Sane ones. My favourite picture, though, was this shot of him from the early 70s when he was busted for possession of marijuana.

Only the Thin White Duke could look this debonair in a mugshot.

The exhibit was so huge and so amazing, I spent a good four and a half hours looking around and still could go back and look around some more! There were these really lovely "soundscapes" courtesy of Sennheiser (who make the headphones I adore!) that floated in and out of your aural consciousness. I'd find myself humming whatever song was blaring from the particular room I was perusing.

Not wanting to leave, but exhausted and hungry, I left the "concert" area of the exhibit and was spat out into a tiny gift shop area. The shop was cute, but left much to be desired in the unique gift department.

I ended up getting this cool tote bag, though:

as a memento of my amazing and wonderful day. :)

A lot of the rooms had sayings in them, "David Bowie Is...[insert end of sentence here]." When you buy something at the gift shop, they give you a little bookmark with your purchase that reads, "David Bowie is yours." D'awww.

I feel so privileged to have been able to see this amazing exhibit. Toronto is the show's second stop and it runs from now until November 27th. More info and tickets here.

David Bowie Is was well worth my $30 and I loved every minute of it!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy Cronenberg Day!

In honour of director David Cronenberg's 70th birthday today, I wanted to share my experience with the man from all those years ago...

David Cronenberg & Me (1992)

On a wintry February evening in 1992, three girls - Mellissa, Agnes, and myself headed down to TheatreBooks in downtown Toronto to meet the illustrious and mysterious Canadian director, David Cronenberg. Best known for helming such amazing horror films as Scanners, Shivers, Naked Lunch and my personal favorites, Videodrome, Dead Ringers, and Crash...then there's Rabid and The Brood, and...well, you get the picture. Cronenberg has recently branched out and done more "mainstream" work like Eastern Promises, but I'll always love his earlier stuff, and I've seen it all.

When I was about 15, I discovered Dead Ringers and then proceeded to go through Cronenberg's whole back catalogue, imbibing his flesh symbology and amazing visuals like a religion. He was my introduction to horror films, and I can't think of a better way to get one's toes wet in the genre. Cronenberg makes horror so chilling, and his situations are so possible, no matter how insane, that much like Clive Barker, he draws you into his intense world like a virus crawling through your bloodstream.

David was signing his then-new autobiography, Cronenberg on Cronenberg, which I believe came out in Canada first. All three of us girls had devoured the tome earlier and throughout the car ride down, we chattered about our favorite of Mr. C.'s films and what he might be like.

We arrived at Theatrebooks and all lined up, eager to meet him. Mellissa was first, and asked him his opinion on directing, since she was a budding director. Agnes had mostly come along for the ride and was the official photographer, but didn't have much interest in actually meeting the man.

Then it was my turn.

I'll admit it, I had a bit of a crush on the man. His work was just so amazing, and after reading the autobiography, we all agreed it felt like we all were able to get a bit of insight into his head and thought processes.

I can't remember what, if anything I said to him, but I was able to squeak out the correct spelling of my name and asked for a photo to capture this special moment. Agnes pointed the camera at us, and David very kindly said, "You should pop down a little, so you're in the picture better." I squeezed in a little closer and grinned as Agnes snapped the photo. (Note the gift at Mr. C.'s right hand - a small token of my fannish appreciation - pretty much everything I wanted to say folded neatly into a tiny gold box.)

After meeting THE David Cronenberg, we were all on a total high and wound up going to a late screening of Wayne's World. There is a line in this masterpiece (and I say that with all seriousness!) uttered by one of Wayne & Garth's crew:

"Have you guys ever seen that scene in Scanners where that dude's head blew up?"

to which we shrieked SO loudly in excitement over in the theater, I was afraid we'd be thrown out. But we were excited, and happy...and sixteen. Looking back, this picture makes me smile, because I realize my fangirling days have been happy and plentiful. Happy Birthday, Mr. C. Long live the not-so-new-yet-still-awesome flesh!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Thoughts on the Toronto ComiCON 2013



Today, I attended the Toronto Comicon at the Convention Centre. After the painful ordeal I suffered a few months ago that was FanExpo, I didn't expect much from this convention.

Today, I was pleasantly surprised.

Toronto ComiCON 2013

My enjoyment may partly have to do with how prepared I was this time. For one, I purchased my ticket in advance online. Instead of waiting in a stuffy parking garage, I waited in a relatively temperate indoor warehouse room. We were still herded around like cattle, but at least more like organically grain-fed cattle. Having arrived before the con began, it was a relatively brief wait and soon after eleven o'clock we were whisked into the main hall.

Toronto ComiCON 2013

The con was mainly held in a large hall at the back of the convention centre. Other talks - celeb Q&As, special presentations, etc. - were held in smaller, satellite rooms around this larger room.

Like most newer cons, the hall was a "one-stop shop" that housed all the dealers, an "artist's alley" (much like the one at the massive the San Diego Comic Con), and the celebs. Thankfully, unlike some other cons, the celebs were sequestered in an area far enough away from the action and the "nerdchandise" so as the congestion was kept to a minimum. Handlers kept the crowds moving so there were no bottlenecks of looky-loos around the celeb area holding up traffic.

Unlike previous experiences, the staff and volunteers seemed somewhat knowledgeable and highly organized. The crowd control in the lobby was ideal, with volunteers manning both sides of the long hallway between the main room and the satellite rooms, with one-way traffic running in either direction. This really helped the flow of people and kept congestion to a minimum. I did wish there were more visible signs to tell you which way traffic was supposed to run, but the volunteers were very polite in redirecting you to the correct "lane" when you strayed.

Toronto ComiCON 2013 Most awesome dolls EVER!

There are several aspects universal to any convention. Let's take a look at how ComiCON fared:

The Celebs

LeVar Burton at Toronto ComiCON 2013 LeVar Burton (aka Geordi LaForge)

The big draw to this con was the near-entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation making an appearance. Sadly, the delicious and delightful Wil Wheaton was nowhere to be found. For me, TNG just isn't TNG without Wesley Crusher.

Toronto ComiCON 2013 Sign on Patrick Stewart's table

The cast were all signing autographs in the main hall and for a mere [insert insanely huge amount of money here], one could actually go and see the full-ish cast Q&A. Although TNG is my absolute favourite of all the Trek series, I just couldn't fathom shelling out a huge amount of dough to hear the actors say what they probably would in the extras on a DVD box set.

There was a bit of an "incident" that happened to me today that left a rather sour taste in my mouth. I'm nearly certain this wasn't ComiCON's fault, but what happened to me today should never be part of the fan experience of any con. In all of my many years of con-going - both here and in the United States - this is the very first time this has happened to me.

And may it be the last.

Having wanted to document the con for those that couldn't attend and enjoying photography, I had thought to take my delicious Nikon D40 along for the ride. You will notice from these photos that it's a darling little camera that takes quite good photos. Having met the majority of the cast of TNG at various other cons, but never "Jean-Luc," I wanted to get a little shot of the Captain himself, Patrick Stewart, as a memento of today.

Let me preface this by noting that there were no prominent signs noting anything about photography or the limitations of photographs around the celeb area. As I approached Patrick Stewart's booth, I prepared my camera to take a little shot of him, to add to my vast collection of celeb shots I've gotten at other cons. The moment I lifted my camera to my eye, an overly officious, young "handler" barked, "You can't take photographs close up!" and proceeded to shine a bright light into my eyes, blinding me.

Yes, you read that right. Without forethought, the man essentially assaulted me with a penlight. The act temporarily blinded me and shocked me, but what if I were an epileptic? Would he do this to a child with a camera? There were five million other things he could have done to prevent me from taking a (very innocent) photo of Mr. Stewart, but he chose the most heinous and brash thing possible.

Several times, I queried as to what the issue was in taking a photo, but the man never gave me an answer, merely telling me I would be "thrown out of the convention" if I tried it again.

Fans are not paparazzi, they are fans who have paid good money to see their favourite celebrities in what one would hope would be a safe and positive atmosphere.

Thankfully, this occurred near the end of my day and I was able to recover from the shock relatively quickly. But I wondered - was I the only victim of this insensitive handler? I've written various diatribes on the idiocy of actors not wanting their photos taken at a public convention where they are making a paid appearance (or worse, charging for unposed photos), but I will not go into that again here. Suffice it to say, I was incredibly shocked and miffed at the rudeness of this handler. Perhaps he should rethink his position in "public relations."

All this being said, this incident was thankfully the only negative blip on my con radar for the entire day.

Sean Astin at Toronto ComiCON 2013

On the sunny side of celebs, the other big Comicon draw was actor Sean Astin. The moment he uttered his first line of "Aw, bummer!" in The Goonies, I became an instant fan. His portrayal of my beloved Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings films only served to cement his brilliance in my fangirl heart. Naturally, I made it a point of heading over to one of the smaller satellite rooms in time to hear his full Q&A.

Sean Astin at Toronto ComiCON 2013

Sean was both delightfully amusing and incredibly interesting. He spoke of his family, his career, and most pertinent for me, the actor's process. He was so fascinating to listen to, I am even more keen to read his book, There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale. He made a point of engaging his audience, telling a young boy that he had seen his hand up and that he would call on him next, soothing the boy's anxiety. Then, halfway through the Q&A, Sean got the whole audience as one to get up and do the "Harlem Shuffle." Having never seen, yet heard of this phenomenon, I still had a blast participating. Sean was engaging without being pompous; intelligent without being snobby. A true delight that I hope I have a chance of meeting sometime in the near future. For now, seeing Sean's Q&A was good enough for me.


The Dealers & Artists

Although I didn't buy anything, I was highly impressed by the sheer selection of items and the variety of stuff being displayed.

Toronto ComiCON 2013

Creepy to some, cute to others (including me!), Homemade Horrors created absolutely stunning creatures so creatively and lovingly rendered, I seriously considered taking one home with me. Would I have a bit more of a disposable income, this little bat would've definitely been sitting by my side as I write this.

Toronto ComiCON 2013

Not only is this little guy precious, he's also practical! His wings are wired so they can be posed in various ways and he has a clip on his body so you can give him "batty-back rides" and take him with you wherever you go!

As of now, the artist has an DeviantArt here, but a website is coming soon. She's only just started selling these little darlings, so here's hoping they catch on quickly. She is so talented and her creations are so unique, I know they will do well.

Toronto ComiCON 2013
Note the tiny, Mona Lisa smile playing on this Borg's lips…it must be Hugh!

Overall, the con was well organized, in a space large enough to accommodate the massive crowd and a good variety of dealers. Although a lot of them cancelled (sadly many of the horror ones), to potentially do another con in the U.S., there were still enough celebs to satisfy fans. Heck, I could've listened to Sean Astin for another hour!

After such a horrendous time at FanExpo, this was a definite welcome change that one hopes will continue into the next FanExpo and beyond.* A solid 8 in my books, and a very pleasant weekend surprise.



* NB: Having read some of the early Facebook comments, it seems not everyone had such a pleasant experience. Many people suffered the same fate I did at FanExpo, not even getting into the con itself. Here's hoping these kinks can be worked out for the next FanExpo, which will be held simultaneously in both halls of the convention centre in August.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Thoughts on FanExpo in Toronto



Today was definitely a test of patience.

Large, healthy doses of patience. With a whole lotta aggravation on the side.

Decided to head off to the FanExpo at the Toronto Convention Centre. After hemming and hawing over the ridiculous price ($45 FOR THE DAY!!!) and being haunted by the horrid memories of FanExpo experiences past, I decided to just go and look around anyway.

Forty minutes of pleasurable riding on the GO Train and getting a little lost later, I was on my way across the SkyWalk to the South Building.

There are two buildings that make up the Toronto Convention Centre - the immense North and the smaller South.

Keep this in mind as you read.

Having assumed one could purchase tickets "onsite," I followed the Nerd Herd towards the only entrance.

"Where's your badge?" asked a bored teenager at the door.
"Isn't this where you buy tickets?" I queried.
"Nope, you gotta go two blocks down that way."
She pointed vaguely somewhere into the middle distance, then went back to snapping her gum.

Thankfully, there was a rather large crowd headed towards the "offsite" location to purchase "onsite" tickets. Without this human arrow, I would have had NO CLUE where to head. There were NO SIGNS ANYWHERE, not even a "Welcome to FanExpo" type sign. You'd think after all the hype on the radio and in the newspapers, they'd want to show fans where the con was.

Still undeterred, I walked towards what I discovered was a parking garage. Along the wall, on a tiny white piece of cardboard, "FanExpo Tickets" was scrawled in black magic marker.

Keep it classy, FanExpo.

Heading inside, I was greeted by a sight that took my breath away:


This is the line to get in.

Moments after I joined this convention conglomeration, a similar wall of people filled in behind us, and trickled down the street outside. The pictured line in front of us goes down around the corner and winds a good half-mile on into oblivion.

This is just about as far as I got today.

After waiting 3+ hours in this Human Zoo, inching ever closer to the goal of purchasing an overpriced ticket to make the best of what I had left of my afternoon, the first communiqué of the whole day was announced:

The convention was sold out.

From my vast experience in attending them all across North America, I know one thing for certain:

Conventions DO NOT GET SOLD OUT!!!

Wait, let me rephrase that:

GOOD conventions DO NOT ALLOW their fans to wait for hours on end in a hot tunnel of flesh only to be told they can't get in.

The ONLY con that officially gets "sold out" is ComicCon in San Diego. But they sell all their passes ONLINE IN ADVANCE, so this bullshit nonsense doesn't happen.

From what one of the other people in today's line said, this happened last year too!!!

The mind boggles.

When I attended FanExpo four years ago, I thought it was pretty bad. It was somewhat annoying to have to wait in line for half an hour inside the convention centre even though I'd purchased an advanced pass. But back then, the wait was more of a bothersome inconvenience than an all-out, hot, crowded, total afternoon-waster.

This is the Clusterfuck that Was FanExpo

From what I'm reading of others' accounts, even if you actually did make it through the multitudinous mob, you weren't guaranteed to actually see anything inside. Lines were super long, celebs were grumpy, the dealers' room was a chaotic fiasco, and no one really knew what was happening anywhere at any given time.

On the bright side, the best part about today was all the instant friends I made after having to stand near them for hours on end: the kindly retired cop whose stepson is putting on a stage production of Night of the Living Dead (Romero approved!); the man and his son (who spent the majority of his 14th birthday in line); the British dad and his Stan Lee-loving son, inconsolable he'd miss out on meeting his hero; the cosplay guy who bought a pass, but misplaced it and even though he had his credit card receipt and proof-of-purchase, the idiot organizers forced him to wait in line to buy another pass; the guy in the Ghostbusters costume who had 2 Tupperwares full of cupcakes for a bake sale inside, but ended up selling them for $5 a pop to the famished crowd of people surrounding him...

THAT was the fun part. Crowd mentality and all that.

This is the Clusterfuck that Was FanExpo Unhappy fans turned away by the hundreds.

After three hours of brutal waiting, the rumour rippled down the line - FanExpo was sold out for the day. No free Sunday passes given out, no real information, not even an apology.

Honestly, if this happened in the U.S., there would've been riots and pandemonium. Like my new friend the retired cop so accurately postulated, "They're taking full advantage of Canadians' politeness."



If FanExpo decides to fix things, here are a few tips for next time:

- Know your audience. Nerds, geeks, dorks - whatever you want to call us - we RULE conventions. We are your people and we deserve to be treated like people and not cattle with dollar-sign brands. Treat us well, we'll return the favour. Treat us like today and only "apologize for the inconvenience," you'll get a backlash like you wouldn't believe. If nothing else, we'll stop coming, which means no cash for you!

- Change venues. Fast. The North Building of the convention centre was fine for Toronto Comic-Con, so why a show at least 2 1/2 times its size wasn't there is beyond me. My 65-year-old mother who only ventures into nerd-dom enough to love Big Bang Theory also suggested having it at the Direct Energy Centre at The CNE. It's big, it's spacious, it has good, copious parking, and it's right on the transit lines.

- Have it at a different time. August?! During The Ex?! As my dad would say, "Are you NUTS?!" Apparently. Try for early July and then have another one in September or October. Spread out your crowds so this bottleneck never happens again.

- Another avenue would be if Rue Morgue would branch off and have their own separate horror con in October. They're big enough and well-known enough to pull it off, and they could work in concert with the Toronto After Dark Film Fest so fans could have a con experience and a cool film fest around Halloween.

- Communication is key. If we were actually told at least ONCE what was going on today instead of hearing things thirdhand, we would've felt at least a little mollified.

- This brings me to the key element of any good convention - organization. It's not that difficult. ComicCon in San Diego does quite well, thank you. As do the smaller cons like Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, NJ and Monsterpalooza in Burbank, CA. Having been to conventions all over North America, I was mindful to tell all the new congoers that this is definitely NOT what a GOOD con should be.

To say I was disappointed today would be a gross understatement. Apart from the Continuous Creation Con Clusterfuck™ in the U.S., FanExpo is THE WORST run con I've ever had the displeasure of attempting to attend.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Thoughts on Monsterpalooza 2012

Monsterpalooza 2012

Today I attended my fourth Monsterpalooza in Burbank, CA.

If you'd never gone to a horror convention previously and this was your first, or even if you were a half-decently regular con-goer, but had never attended a Monsterpalooza con before, you'd think, "Gee, this is pretty cool."

If you were a seasoned con vet and had been to all three previous Monsterpaloozas, you might be a little disappointed.

My friends, I am sad to say that today, I was a little disappointed.

This is not to say the con was bad in any way, just...average. For its first two years, Monsterpalooza hummed with this wonderful independent vibe. You could feel the tangible energy of something new in the air and it was as electric and exciting as when Colin Clive threw the switch in Frankenstein, shocking his monster into consciousness. The panels were wonderful (and most importantly, plentiful), the vendors were new, and the con's size was Goldilocksian - not too big, not too small, just right.

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Word to the wise: get your tickets in advance. My advance ticket "Will Call" line took all of five seconds whilst these poor people were waiting hours for same-day tickets.

As I mentioned in my report from last year, Monsterpalooza had already outgrown the rather smallish Burbank Marriott back then. Somehow, the organizers doggedly stayed in this same venue for a show they must have at least suspected would be even larger this time around. The growing pains that were whispering around the edges last year were echoing banshee shrieks down the overcrowded hallways this year.

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The main ballroom/dealers' room now feels more like a "schmoozefest room," possessing a less "fannish" vibe and more of an industry tone.

No longer is the convention confined to the large ballroom and smaller building off the main hotel. It now spills far into several sections of the hotel, thrown into random rooms, which made navigating the convention itself a nightmare. Some panels and vendors were shoved into tiny, out-of-the-way alcoves that unless you knew about them, you may well have missed.

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In comparison to previous years, the panel schedule this year seemed rather flimsy. Tucked away in a near impossible-to-find ballroom, many of the panels were more Q&A sessions than the previously informative and fascinating "talks" given at earlier shows. Unlike previous years, this year, the panels almost felt like an afterthought to the schmooze of the "dealers' room" and the draw of the celeb area.

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Main celeb area

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Unpleasant smells and sauna-like temps plagued the "lesser" celeb room

"Lesser" celebs were squashed into an overheated shoebox of a room, whilst others were strewn across the main check-in lobby of the hotel. Having them situated away from the main dealers' room and the main "hub" of the con itself felt odd and unnatural.

The whole layout this year had a very "mish-mashy" feel to it, which brings me back to my earlier point about Monsterpalooza's severe growing pains. Were it at a larger venue this time around, where they could organize and spread out more cleanly, it would have been a whole lot more enjoyable.


I must reiterate that these are all not bad things per se, they're just what I had feared would inevitably happen - Monsterpalooza has gone from being a magical, little, secret, happy gathering to a regular, run-of-the mill, medium-sized, vanilla convention.

Part of me is really disappointed about this. Another part is just happy Los Angeles has a solid, up-and-coming con that hasn't been overtaken by those corporate Creation bastards...yet.

Enough of my rambling, how about some photo highlights?


Celebrity Corner

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Here's cutie William Ragsdale, best known to horror fans for his turn in the original (and best!) Fright Night.

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It's the wolfman himself, David Naughton!

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Did Chris Sarandon and Amanda Bearse talk this morning before getting dressed?

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Here's Julie Adams, whom I met at the last Monsterpalooza, signing autographs for her faithful fans.


A Meeting with "The Goddess"

Jessica "Goddess" Harper at Monsterpalooza 2012

One of my main reasons for going to this con was the opportunity to meet Jessica Harper. I've been a huge fan of hers since I first saw her in Richard O'Brien's campy yet awesome Shock Treatment, the sequel to his cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Since then, I've sought out her other work and absolutely loved her in Woody Allen's brilliant Stardust Memories. Oh yeah, she also did this little film by some guy named Argento called Suspiria or something? ;) Besides being a wonderful actress, Jessica possesses the pipes of an angel. That woman's voice is richer than Marie Callendar honey butter. Being a fellow singer, I always hear how beautifully and delicately she phrases her lines and really utilizes her voice as an instrument. Jessica should really be on Broadway somewhere.

All this being said, it's no surprise I went a tiny bit "fangirl" on poor Ms. Harper, gushing about how wonderful her voice was and carrying on about how much I'd love to see her record more CDs besides her adorable children's albums. She was incredibly kind and sweet, thanking me for my praise. It's unfortunate that the ambient noise level in the "celeb area" was so high, rendering coherent communication relatively pointless. Still, it was an absolute thrill to meet her and I literally tripped away from her table in excitement. Once a fangirl, always a fangirl, I guess.

Disappointingly, my other meetings were not as sweet. The one celeb (besides dear Jessica!) I wanted to meet turned out to be a bit of a standoffish douche and many other celebs were charging for unposed photos just like the Hollywood Show celebs do now. *sighs*


Scenes from the Floor

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Check out these neat "Writers Blocks" by artist Pete Von Sholly. Pete also created a very cool mural depicting every beast, butcher, and baddie throughout the horror genre in his "History of Monsters," which I somehow can't find a pic of online or I'd share it!

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No words are needed. I'll just let the hilarious awesomesauce seep in.

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These adorable pins are by artist Neil Winn who also creates three-dimensional clay figures and artwork in a horror vein. He was one of my favorite artists there today.

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Even the prop museum felt a little lacking this year. The stuff was cool, but not quite as cool as previous years. I usually get loads of photos in there, but this year, this hairy fellow and a few others were all I could muster interest in.

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That being said, I loved this little "haunted host," who introduced attendees to the museum and politely reminded them not to touch anything.

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As this is primarily a con for makeup arts and props, there were numerous special effects demos at various points around the con, which were incredibly cool to see.

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The props in the main ballroom were no less impressive:

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How cute is this guy, eh?

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Conventions can be so exhausting!


The most hilarious part of the con for me today was that not only did people love my homemade shirt, they recognized it! Even the con's organizer, Eliot Brodsky stopped me and introduced himself after noticing my now-infamous "I Heart Mad Scientists" shirt.

New Horror Shirt!
My now-infamous shirt!

Down a narrow hallway, I heard my name being called and turned to find an older man and his daughter smiling back at me. The man told me he recognized me from my blog post and queried as to whether I had ever gotten my Cinema Makeup School bag I had been whining about not getting at the last show, mentioning he had an extra had I not already gotten my prize. With a kind, "Keep up the good work!" we parted company. Gotta love the internet!



After a day of some enjoyment and some disappointment, I left earlier than usual and headed for home. The intangible, magic something earlier Monsterpaloozas possessed was sadly missing this year. I am ever hopeful that with a larger, more organized venue, better and more plentiful panels, and the continuing of awesome guest appearances, the magic of the first few Monsterpaloozas will be "re-animated."


*For anyone who missed this month's Monsterpalooza, they have just announced Son of Monsterpalooza, which will be held in October.

Check out Monsterpalooza's Facebook page for further details and info.


And you can check out all my photos from today's Monsterpalooza here:



Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Madcap Loved: The Love Songs of Syd Barrett

Thanks to friend and fellow Floyd fanatic Dave, my infamous essay on Syd Barrett's first solo album, The Madcap Laughs is now in my possession!

Written in 1997 for Dave's now-defunct Pink Floyd website, Breathe, many passages of this essay, "The Madcap Loved" were quoted in Julian Palacios' 1998 Syd bio, Lost in the Woods, which is itself now sadly out of print. The excerpts were used without my permission (or knowledge, until alerted by a friend), but I didn't mind a bit - especially since I can now claim the fame of my name being an index entry in a book!

After being lost in obscurity for almost 10 years, I present the essay below for amusement, curiosity, and interest. I've done a bit of quick and dirty editing on some of the wonkier sentences, but most of the essay remains exactly how it ran when I wrote it as a 22-year-old Syd fanatic in 1997.

Enjoy!



The Madcap Loved:
The Love Songs of Syd Barrett


Syd Barrett is probably one of the ultimate writers of love songs for this and previous generations of music fans. I say this without hesitation, as I have believed this statement to be true the moment I heard his first solo album, The Madcap Laughs. The album is a lilting movement of ballads, upbeat pop songs and "bubblegum" songs—all dealing with love and its effect on others. I remember finding a British vinyl pressing of it at a record show a year or so ago and ever since then, it has been a mainstay to the "playlist" of albums on my record player. From the first note of "Terrapin," I was hooked.

The most obvious and direct way of affirming my statement above, is to examine the songs, to find the similar threads that hold this album together. It is not, as most tend to be, a type of album that one needs to "skip" through, to find the certain songs they recognize or are worth listening to. This whole album hangs together so beautifully, that to skip a song would be to miss the "point" or "cohesion" of the songs. As one will see, I use Barrett as the "subject" or "speaker" in all of the song lyrics. This may be off base in some cases, but with Barrett (as with many other songwriters) it seems that he writes very personally, and the characters in his songs are somehow connected to him or represent real people in his life.

The first song or lead-off song is "Terrapin." This is a slow, sweet song primarily about the worship of a lover. Barrett imagines that he and his love can become turtles (or terrapins) to escape the hectic day to day life "below the boulders" of a turtle tank. The first verse of this (and of the whole album) is:

I really love you, and I mean you/The star above you, crystal blue/Well oh baby, my hair's on end about you

Setting the tone of the album, with an affirmation of total love for another. This, as in 3/4 of the other songs, has the word "love" somewhere in the lyrics. In other songs on "Madcap" the love is not as "direct" and "outward" as in this example.

Following this opening song, the mood changes from "exulted love," to Barrett's calm perseverance when trying to soothe a girlfriend into seeing how important she is to him, no matter how plain she is. "No Good Trying," repeats its title frequently, with different reasons why she has no way of arguing her way out of how attractive and lovable she is to him, no matter how flawed she is:

I can see that you can't be, what you pretend

The woman is real and not merely an archetype, although she tries to feign "archetypal attitudes" by "holding a sequined fan" (pretending to be wealthy) or as she's "trying to hold her love where [I] can't see...," when he sees how she truly feels about him.



As she tries to hide herself and her feelings from him, he relates:

The caterpillar hood won't cover the head/that you know you should be home in bed

She should hide nothing from him, but be (in all probability) "naked" or "exposed" with Barrett in the most intimate surroundings—the bedroom. This could also be a nod to Barrett himself, as he is known as a bit of a recluse, and he realizes this is improper, but "comfortable" behavior and thus he hides like his terrapin image or under the aforementioned "caterpillar hood".

"Love You," the most outward and "poppy" song on the album, is a gushy outpouring of love to a girl Barrett may not have ever met. The first verse is a cacaphony of honey-dripped words that ooze together into endless streams of affection:

Honey love, ya honey little honey funny sunny morning love you more funny love in the skyline baby...

This stream of amorous jargon may be what Barrett is feeling within himself about this girl, but cannot put it down coherently into actual sentences to speak directly to her. This can also been seen as the "baby talk" lovers engage in when in the earlier stages of "courting."

One is reminded of The Doors' classic "Hello, I Love You," rumored to be written by Ray Davies (a type of early model Syd Barrett) in which a man sees a woman and instantaneously falls in love with her when in actual fact, it is her beauty and physicality he is attracted to. Granted, this is one of the first steps in mutual attraction, but there is no "depth" to the lyrics. Barrett may have been mocking or parodying these types of "fluffy" love songs that Davies and Donovan (his rivals) were famous for with his song.

The next line links the songs directly:

Ice cream, 'scuse me, I seen you looking good the other evening

Barrett's casual and cocky "pick-up line," in relation to the Davies' model reads in the same abstract as how the song began, yet the end of the line is just as cliché as saying, "hello, I love you." The lyrics also mention: "If we in love like I think we'd be." The ever-hopeful Barrett character in this song believes that she may grow to love him, but finishes the verse with, "It ain't a long rhyme it took ages to think, I think I'll hurl it in the water baby," as if perhaps giving up such a farfetched notion. Thus, this is the first of the many "unrequited" love songs on the album.



"No Man's Land" is one of the only songs that does not mention the word "love" somewhere in the song. In this case, it is done purposefully. The song relates to the loss of love, another main theme on the album. Lyrics such as: "You would hold another hand, oh understand" or "If it's there would you go there too/when I live I die," show the hurt and pain that the ex-lover is going through and he doesn't want his lost love to "see [me] cry." The song ends in a rant that is almost unintelligible to the casual listener which may relate to the ex-lover's state of “unwellness” and may also comment upon Barrett's own sanity. This, as in other songs on this album, may be relating to not only lost love, but the loss of "stability of self" or sanity, which is an aspect of Barrett's own personal life.

"Dark Globe" is probably one of the most "known" songs on this album. This is a beautiful lament over lost or unreciprocated love, following the same thread as the above song. It starts out: "Oh where are you now/pussy willow that smiled on this leaf/when I was alone/you promised the stone from your heart." Barrett almost "grieves" over what "used to be" and wonders about the girl: "Won't you miss me? Wouldn't you miss me at all?" as she has merely cast him aside, forgotten.

The last song on the first side, "Here I Go" plays much like an early Beatles song—it has a sort of "skiffle" aspect to it and has a definite, though simplistic storyline about a girl Barrett knows who "didn't like [his] songs and that made [him] feel blue" and has not much in common with him. The song itself is a way of winning his girlfriend back from "the big band" that's "far better than [him]":

Well everything's wrong and my patience was gone
When I woke one morning and remembered this song,
Mmm-hmm hmm, kinda catchy, I hope!
That she will talk to me now and even allow me to hold her hand and forget that old band.


The second part alludes to his journeys to her apartment building to win her back, but the song relates:

Her sister said, that my girl was gone
But come inside boy and play, play, play me a song
I said yeah, here I go
She's kinda cute don't ya know that
After a while of seeing her smile I knew we could make it,
Make it in style.

Thus, his serendipitous journey ends as the last verse relates:

So now I've got, all I need,
She and I are in love, we've agreed
She likes this song and my others too
So now you see my world is...
Because it's you, what a boon this tune,
I tell you soon, we'll be lying in bed, happily wed
And I won't think of that girl or what she said.


Ironically, the song itself has become the vehicle for winning the heart of a woman as opposed to losing one. Barrett acknowledges this himself by saying, "What a boon this tune" — even though his old girlfriend did not like it, he has found a "match" that does.

This is written much like British pop songs that still have staying power today. One is reminded of "Up the Junction" by Squeeze or even "Eleanor Rigby" by The Beatles. Barrett's song may again be slightly parodical of these other hits, but at the same time stands out as a fine example of this type of more "upbeat" pop song. This song also ends the album side, and along the way, there have been definite changes in emotion from high ethereal love, to unreciprocated love or "love gone bad" to the ever-hopeful "Here I Go."



Madcap’s second side continues this upbeat, positive outlook, but in "Octopus," it does not hinge upon the love of another, but the love of life itself. The nonsense lyrics in this song are reminiscent of Lewis Carroll in their childish playfulness. The chorus:

Please leave us here/Close our eyes to the Octopus ride!

tells of how life has ups and downs and is bumpy, fast and unpredictable, much like the mainstay ride at any fair, The Octopus. Barrett relates:

Isn't it good to be lost in the wood/isn't it bad so quiet there, in the wood?

which relates to the changes life offers us—they're scary, but exciting at the same time. It's a sort of double-edged sword, with change comes excitement, but also with fear. There is another reference to Barrett in this song as well. The line:

Well, the madcap laughed at the man on the border

may directly relate to the sanity of Barrett himself, or anyone else. The "madcap" who embraces life wholly and completely with joy and reckless abandon is coupled with the more stable, yet stagnated "man on the border" (border of sanity) who is "within the norm," but may be repressing his inner "madcap." This is also true of the "madcap" possessing a "man on the border" who keeps him from going totally "over the edge." Thus, Barrett may be relating the age-old theory that to create anything, one needs both stability and recklessness—the Apollo-Dionysus theory. One of the last lines of the song relates: "they'll never put me in their bag" which is Barrett's way of saying that "they," the judging general public, will never "pin him down" into a category, and he’s right - they never have succeeded in doing this.

Madcap’s second offering on side two is the most beautiful, lyrical song on the whole album. In his teens, Barrett put James Joyce's poem, "Golden Hair" to music and this is the final product. The gorgeous poem is a man’s ode to his Petrarchan love object, his woman upon a pedestal.

My book is closed, I read no more...I've left my book, I've left my room/for I heard you singing through the gloom

The poet only wants to think of her, the woman, as the sole part of his life, his other half.

"Long Gone" is another song about lost love, which is quite melancholy. The lines:

And I stood very still, by the windowsill, and I wondered for those I loved still/I cried in my mind, would I stand behind/the beauty of those in her eyes

seem as if the love object has deserted him, and he is left wondering about “those” who still find favor with him. It seems he can't believe she has left and may still be in some sort of "shock," although she is long gone, probably to never return.

"She Took a Long Cold Look" is the second of the four songs ("Long Gone" being the first) that are held together by a type of "bauhaus scaffolding." These four pieces seem very "ragged," as there are various stops and false starts that seem more "realistic" than the polished studio versions making up the bulk of the album. This is again, a song of breakup. It seems as if Barrett may have been going through something personally during these songs. The other tracks seem more "detached" from his psyche, yet these raw, unrehearsed takes are more heartfelt and "real."

The song itself displays the last remnants of a dying relationship. His girlfriend likes to "see him get down to ground/she doesn't have the time just to be with me,” relating that she puts him down and gives him "long cold looks" or stares. Barrett also describes himself as a "broken pier on a wavy sea” – symbolic of a broken man, unable to find refuge anywhere in his life.



"Feel," the next song in this emotional pattern, seems as if Barrett is not only detached from his proverbial girlfriend, but from everyone else. The song begins:

You feel me/Away far too empty, you're so alone/I want to come home...

He is felt by others, but he does not say that he feels. Barrett wants to "come home," but doesn't seem to be able to. He is again, like a "broken pier on a wavy sea," which could describe his unstable mental state at the time.

How I love you to be by my side, they wail

is a fascinating line, as it sets up the idea of "hero worship" by Syd fans, but could also relate to Barrett's parents wishes for him to be safe at home, away from the ravages of rock and roll stardom. The different types of love in this song are heard on many levels.

"If It's in You" falls into the same pattern as songs like "Love You" or "Octopus." It is held together with the same sort of nonsense Carrollian lyrics that again relate to the happiness of being in love, but also with Syd's possible unease about falling in love or having a close relationship with anyone:

Oh you tight, you're so close, yes you are/please hold on to the steel rail

As if getting any closer to him would be dangerous or next to impossible to achieve without getting hurt. The use of "steel" here can relate to the underlying bitterness the second side of this album presents about lost love or "love gone wrong."

Finally, we reach the last song and coincidentally, the prettiest, most underrated song on the album. "Late Night" relates to how Barrett sees his love in relation to others and how she differs, which makes her special and makes him love her all the more:

When we grew very tall/and I saw you so small/then I wanted to stay with you

This could be a reference to getting high and perhaps in one of Barrett's LSD "visions," he saw his love as "smaller," as perception especially is altered on this drug. There is also the aspect of Barrett wanting to take care of the girl. He sees her as small and helpless when everyone else is tall and strong.

But alas, again, this girl may have left him as well:

When I woke up today/and you weren't there to play/then I wanted to be with you

And he remembers: "the way you kiss, will always be a very special thing to me."

The best line of this whole album occurs in this last song:

Inside me I feel, alone and unreal

This can either relate to the emptiness of losing love or a nod to Barrett's own "unstable" condition in which he feels "detached" from the rest of the world.

Overall, The Madcap Laughs speaks of love on various levels and touches on several different kinds of love. Although others may not want to delve so deeply into it, the album is still definitely worth a listen- Syd fan or not - for its enchanting and haunting lyrics, lovely melodies, and simply as a way to, perhaps, be able to crawl a little farther into Barrett's psyche, as no musician is totally detached from the music he makes.

©1997, 2010, 2012 Elisa Ward

Thoughts? Comments? Email me

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Thoughts on Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles



Today, I attended the very first Comikaze Expo here in Los Angeles. After much publicity and fanfare, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I went with an open mind. As I told someone earlier, today could have been either totally awesome or a colossal failure.

Comikaze fell squarely between the two.


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The con was held in a single, large convention hall on the lower level of the L.A. Convention Center. This was both a good and a bad scenario. On one hand, you had a "one stop shop" for everything you wanted to see, without having to locate other rooms (save for one, which we'll get to later) in other parts of the center. On the other hand, the mish mash of guests, dealers, and panels felt a little too squished together and claustrophobic.

Having been to a variety of conventions over the years, I speak from a bit of experience. Below are my thoughts on the good, bad, and ugly of Comikaze. This is gonna take a little while, so go grab yourself a beverage and a snack, settle back for a spell, and enjoy!



THE GOOD

THE PRICE: Even without all of the deals and discounts the convention was offering, the general admission price for a day pass was $12. Yes, you read that right - TWELVE DOLLARS. That's less than any con - save for the L.A. Comic Con - I've ever attended. With my Goldstar deal, I got in for a measly four dollars, which made the exorbitant $12 parking fee slide right off my back. After a long day of congoing, I figured being able to make the short trek back to the adjacent parking garage would be a luxury I'd appreciate. And I was right.


THE PANELS: Comikaze's programming schedule was a nerd's paradise. Offering at least five different panels per hour on everything from zombies to how to break into video game reviewing, the selection was fantastically varied and satisfied the majority of con goers. I had a hard time choosing between which panels I wanted to attend, and ended up having to leave several panels so I could catch the tail-end of my "second choice." In my mind, Comikaze's panel selection is now second only to Monsterpalooza's in variety and cool topics.


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Excellent panel on the independent horror film genre. The woman down front is signing for the deaf audience members. It was almost as fascinating to watch her deftly sign as it was watching the panel!


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Fun panel on campy horror films, featuring Sleepaway Camp's most sexually confused teen, Felissa Rose (pictured center).


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Fascinating panel on the evolution of the zombie in modern cinema. After a bit of thought, I actually agreed with the panel that Re-Animator is not really a "zombie film" per se, but more of a Frankenstein film.


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As all other ST celebs had buggered off before 5pm, Garrett Wang kindly manned the Star Trek Q&A panel single-handedly.


THE SIZE: Comikaze's size was ideal - not too big (like ComicCon in San Diego) and not too small (like the L.A. Comic Con at USC), but just the right size to feel like you got your money's worth, but weren't either let down or overwhelmed by the show itself. By the end of the day, I was tired, but not exhausted, and really felt satisfied that I had had just the right amount of con experience to satiate me.


THE GUESTS: The guest selection was fantastic. The good amount of guests made sure anyone wanting to meet their favorites would get their money's worth. And although there were some of the familiar con regulars, it wasn't all the usual suspects (Bill Moseley and Sid Haig were no shows). There were a few celebs I'd never seen at conventions previously (Noah Hathaway, for example), which made the selection refreshing and fun. Heck, Comikaze's two "guests of honor" were Stan Lee and Elvira - you can't get more polarizing than that!


And now, a celebrity interlude...

Here are a few of my favorite shots from today of the various celebs in attendance. Scroll down to the end of the interlude for a slideshow of everyone I captured at the show.

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The only photo of a celebrity and me today was this one with none other than Ambassador Soval himself, Gary Graham. (I also just remembered he was in Stuart Gordon's terrible Robot Jox, too! Hehe!) Told Mr. G. that I had read his rather good book, Acting and Other Flying Lessons and he was pleased. Really nice guy.


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Comikaze had set up a small Star Trek corner and I was pleased to see Marina Sirtis in attendance. She was a guest at my very first convention I ever attended back in the mid-90s in Toronto.


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Hoorah for Trek photo ops! Cutie Robert Picardo poses with Commander Tuvok himself, Tim Russ.


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Ladies and gentlemen, the most photogenic woman in the world, Erika Eleniak. You may remember my previous photo of Erika from the Hollywood Show, which is just as lovely and a little more blonde!


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Headliner Elvira smiles at her adoring crowd.


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Love this shot of video gamer/comedian/all-around nice dude Jace Hall battling it out with a bunch of kids at his booth.


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This is seriously the best picture I could get of headliner Stan Lee. The man was constantly mobbed by fans!


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Ernest Borgnine and Morgan Fairchild, together at last!


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I'm SO super bummed this photo of Angie Everhart turned out blurry. She's always been one of my absolute favorite models. With her stunning features and gorgeous auburn hair, I was near-dumbstruck meeting her in person.




Caught Venture Bros. co-creator Jackson Publick walking the convention floor after his panel and got this semi-paparazzo/stalkery photo. Wanted to say something to him, but I couldn't think of anything that didn't sound totally fangirlish. I'm also terrible with names and probably would've called him Doc instead of Jackson. :/


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Garrett Wang is a totally nice dude and really liked my homemade "I Heart Mad Scientists" shirt I wore today. He even took a photo of it! Now if I see it show up on some website for sale without my approval, I'll know who the culprit was! ;)


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The beautiful and absolutely sweet Erin Gray. She's now an actor's convention agent and I hear nothing but amazing things about her new "role" as well!


And here's a slideshow of everyone:






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THE VENDORS: The selection of dealers was amazing. Every geeky genre was represented, from horror, sci-fi, and comic books, to cosplay and Steampunk. There were a few dealers there today that I see at every con I attend, but a lot of new ones, too. Even though I didn't buy anything, there were far more things I considered purchasing than I usually do at a convention.


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Best. Shirt. EVER.


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Were this ring not $40, I may have purchased it. Next best thing to having a wedding band from Howie himself. *sighs*


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Here's Kim and her extensive X-Files collection that's up for grabs for lucky fans. She still has some great goodies left, so if anyone is going back for seconds tomorrow, be sure to stop by and pick up a treasure or two!


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THE ARTISTS: The show floor was littered with fantastic artists showing off their creations. Everything from superheroes to zombies and beyond were represented and it was absolutely fascinating watching the artists work on their designs.




Michelle Romo, the creator of the wonderful (and adorable) official Comikaze poster was on hand, showing off her artwork. (Check out her website here). After squeeing all over her adorable creations, she thanked me and gave me this wonderful sasquatch pin, which I wore proudly on my belt all day. :)


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The awesome Angus Oblong signs autographs at his booth. Apparently, they're trying to get his amazing animated show, The Oblongs back on the air. If you've never seen an episode, I highly suggest seeking them out (they play reruns on [adultswim] quite a bit). It was such an inventive and cleverly written show, at the time it aired, it was just too different for television.


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An alien with braces? How "Andorable!"

THE COSPLAYERS: Part of the fun of any convention are the cosplayers and some of the costumes I saw today were so inventive and well done, it's astounding they were "homemade." Driving into the parking garage, I couldn't help yelling, "Cool costume, dude!" out my window at a portly Venture Bros. henchman.

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It's everyone's favorite Henchmen, 21 and 24! I very dorkily asked 24 why he wasn't in ghost form, and he insisted he was. Sorry, some of my Venture Bros. nerdiness leaked out for a minute there. XD I think there was someone dressed as Pete White strolling the floor as well, but I didn't get a chance to take his photo.


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Even Steampunk era women can't function without an iPhone!


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She's just a hunka, hunka re-animated flesh!


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It's Spy vs. Spy!


Check out more cosplayers here:







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A little congoer makes some new friends.

THE VIBE: There was generally a really good vibe around this con. Sometimes, larger cons are very cold and heartless, but this still felt welcoming enough and many people were smiling and having a great time. A girl I passed exclaimed, "I LOVE cons!" and her face lit up with a big grin. Too cute.



THE BAD

KNOWLEDGE: (or lack thereof) of the staff was immediately evident upon my first entering the con. I asked a guy manning the will-call booth where the restroom was, and after giving me a blank stare, said, "Uh, I dunno, maybe ask one of the security guards?"

Anyone who is helping to run a convention should know the answers to these basic questions. This also happened when I asked a woman manning the official Comikaze booth where panel room 306AB was (we'll get to that in a minute). After giving me the now-familiar blank stare, she stated that all panel "rooms" were housed in the small tents that surrounded the perimeter of the convention hall.

Not so, madam! After getting lost for a good 20 minutes, I finally located the elusive Room 306AB - a larger room with A/V setup for the more popular panels - on the third floor (makes sense, doesn't it?) far removed from the main Comikaze convention hall. This was an absolutely stupid thing to do and I'm certain I wasn't the only fan who couldn't readily find this hidden spot.


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Which line are we in? And for what, now?

DISORGANIZATION: The general disorganization of entry was disappointing. As the con was so widely attended, lines snaked haphazardly all over the convention building, no one really knowing whether they were in the "correct" line. One was apparently for picking up your ticket at will-call, another for buying a ticket, and yet another was for actually getting in. After having to wait in the will-call line for so long, I made a pit stop at the ladies room adjacent to the main hall. When I got outside again, I was able to randomly join one of the various and pointless lines to enter the con itself. Next year, Comikaze should not promote the fact to "come early and beat the crowds" since by about 10am, the mayhem had died down to a dull roar and the pointless lines were minimal, save for those to meet the guests of honor.


GUEST LAYOUT: was ridiculous and random. There were several alcoves of guests that were oddly narrow and hard to negotiate, especially with large poles blocking the middle of the aisle. Other celebs were unnecessarily scattered around the main floor haphazardly, and if you didn't know where they would be signing (there were apparently no official programs or schedules of any kind at the con), you were at a severe disadvantage.


PANEL LAYOUT: was also ridiculously dumb. All panels were held in these relatively tiny little "tents" that were scattered around the perimeter of the convention hall, thus making them nearly impossible to find. Each "room" had a number, but they were not numbered in any coherent way. Mid-afternoon, I attended a panel in Room 4, and then wanted to find a panel in Room 5. You'd think it would be the next tent down, but inexplicably, Room 5 was on the opposite end of the convention hall. The mind boggles.

The tents were set up with flimsy folding chairs that never stayed in any semblance of order, which made things messy and confusing. One of the tents was even set up around a large pole, so if you came in late and had to stand near the back, you'd be stuck behind the concrete blockade, unable to see the panel. The mics were all too hot and too loud, but the panelists were still hard to hear over the general din of the convention hall and the P.A. voice that constantly barked out unintelligible announcements in a garble that would make Charlie Brown's teacher blush.


THE UGLY

The B.B.O.: The smell...oh GOD, the smell! Twice the chairs I sat in at panels stank so badly that I had to switch seats or stand. Unwashed masses, indeed. For the love of all fandom, please wear deodorant when you attend a convention. Your fellow nerds' noses will thank you.

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After finding the infamous Room 306AB, my stay was unfortunately brief and very smelly. At least I got a half-decent shot of cutie Jackson Publick, co-creator of my beloved Venture Bros. Although not on the panel, the voice of Doc Venture, James Urbaniak may have been there today. Sadly, I didn't spot him.


CELEBRITY PRICE GOUGING: As is now the new and highly unfortunate trend, some of the celebs were charging for random photos taken with your own camera. One (who shall remain nameless) asked me for TWENTY BUCKS to take her photo. What have you done since Back to the Future, lady? Ridiculous!

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Tippi Hedren was one of the celebs charging for random photos today, but I still got this surreptitious faraway shot for my collection.


For a first attempt, Comikaze did very well. They're no Monsterpalooza, but they aren't a horrid Creation convention either. You'll note that the above "goods" outweigh the "bads" and "uglies" quite heavily.

L.A. fans should consider this con to be a closer (and smaller) solid alternative to ComicCon in San Diego. If this con continues to improve, trains its volunteers a little better, and works out a few kinks, I'm certain it will become a fandom force to be reckoned with here on the West Coast.


Note: All of the above photos are ©2011 Elisa Ward. Please ASK before using them elsewhere. Thanks!