10 minutes of your life

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“Do you like spirits, mommy?  Even fuzzy ones?”

Many years ago, I was at a party thrown by, and attended by, varied people from a Philadelphia BBS. (This would be internet-before-the-world-wide-web, when we connected via modems and messaging systems,   when 2400 baud was still pretty common and 9600 was incredibly fast and why are you laughing?? Get off my lawn!)

Ahem.

So.  There was this party where people were bringing in videos of things most of us had never seen.  It’s where I first saw “Bambi VS Godzilla” and “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown,” as well as several of the Warner Bros. cartoons that are too politically incorrect to be shown anymore (although you can find them easily enough on YouTube).

And then someone walked in with an animated film – Japanimation, to give you an idea of how far back this story goes –  that needed a bit of explanation.  “This isn’t in English,” he said. “I have no idea what it’s really about.  But it’s awesome and you have to watch it.”

The title of this movie?  “My Neighbor Totoro.”

It was in Japanese with no subtitles, and it was…bewildering.  And amazing.

A few years later, I saw this movie for rent and told my mom we had to get it.

“What’s it about?”

“I have NO IDEA.  But you’ll love it.”

And she did, of course.  Because it’s amazing.  Really, it’s the perfect bit of anime for me, with its soot sprites and bizarre cats and nature spirits.

Based on all of this, you’d think that I’d love anime.

I don’t.

I seriously have zero interest in the genre, outside of the work of Hayao Miyazaki.

But that’s not to say I won’t give it a chance.  I think it’s one of the personality traits I find most frustrating in other people, the inability to give something new a chance, to give it 10 minutes of your life and see if it’s worth 10 minutes more.  (This is a concept my friend Gwendolyne introduced to me, and it’s brilliant.)  I’m not always good about this practice, myself; but I know that when I am, those are 10 minutes of understanding/experience/compassion that enrich my life, and so really, I can’t recommend the idea highly enough.

…And part of me still kinda wants to snuggle a totoro.

 

but what’s my motivation?

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Last year during our haunt build, our electrical wizard pinged Bones and asked if he could help with a video project.  This resulted in a pause in building while Bones went through our makeup supplies, transformed himself into a disagreeable older gentleman, and Became! A! Star!

…Sorta.

dustin old

Dane and his team – Team Ventura, so you know it’s awesome – participate in Public Media Network‘s contest, Cinema 2880 Film Festival, in which participants have 48 hours to create a short film that must contain certain elements or words.  Team Ventura does a great job, and I’m always wicked impressed by what they can get done in such a short amount of time.  (Last  year’s video is here.  It took first place in Facebook Viewers Choice.)

This year, they needed a grim reaper, and they were planning to film that scene in the same location where we were having our haunted event, so..meant to be!

My desire to take photos was discouraged by the crew.

20151125-172955.jpg

Bones…er, Death… was, as always, a professional.

Shooting happened pretty fast (48 hours includes all the editing/production time, and the team had varied filming locations).  The final result may be found here…this year, Team Venture took First Place in Facebook Viewers Choice again – yay! – and third place at the festival.  🙂

if you enjoyed AHS’s Freak Show, go watch this stuff

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(This is an unusual blog post for me, but I’m wicked geeked out about the topic right now, so humour me. 🙂  )

Like a lot of people, I don’t get caught upon TV series until they hit Netflix.  American Horror Story is one of those shows, and considering the wild popularity of that show, I thought I’d share my wanderings through Netflix’s collection of things that don’t always pop up easily on people’s feeds.

Last year – and honestly, unrelated at all to AHS – I discovered a reality TV show on Netflix called “Freakshow.” You may not be into reality shows, but Todd’s desire to replicate freak show history today in Venice Beach is pretty interesting/educational…and with only 2 seasons?  Not a huge commitment.

When I finally got around to watching American Horror Story’s fourth season,  I found myself really glad I’d watched the aforementioned show because I felt like I understood the season better.  But goodness, was I missing stuff.  I knew (mostly) who had inspired varied stories; I just didn’t realize how many of the actors on the show were real-world ‘freaks.’  Indeed, even the opening credits reference real people.

Curious about Dot and Bette?  You’ll find “Bound by Flesh,” a documentary about conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, to be well worth your time.

I don’t know of a film about the “Lobster Boy” character Jimmy Darling’s real-world counterpart,  Grady Stiles Jr, but his son (who shares the family’s ectrodactyly condition, is a part of the Venice Beach freakshow and discusses his father on one episode.

Not related to AHS but definitely related to freaks, I highly recommend the following two documentaries as well.  First is “The Real Beauty and Beast,” which primarily tells the story of Petrus Gonsalvus, a man in the 1500s who was afflicted with hypertrichosis, causing long dark hair to cover most of his body.  He and his wife are believed to have helped inspire the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast.”  (The trailer below doesn’t really capture much of what the documentary is about, although you’ll see the Venice Beach freakshow making yet another appearance.)

And then there’s this documentary about the Ovitz family – a family of Romanian dwarves that survived Auschwitz.  (Why don’t we all know about their story?)  This one doesn’t have much of a connection to anything else I’ve mentioned other than the obvious tie little people have to the world of the side show/carnival, but oh, I so encourage you to watch this one.  This family’s history is an incredible story.

I would not be surprised at *all* to learn that I’ve missed a thing or two from Netflix’s collection.  But since we know that things offered up for our viewing pleasure there does change over time…if the history of carnivals/freak shows interests you at all?  I encourage you go to take a look at this stuff.

one dead, five injured by a gunman at zombicon

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Last year, chlorine gas was released at a con, causing 19 attendees at the Illinois event to be sent to the hospital.

This year, the violence moved to Florida.

You’d probably have to be hiding under a rock to not have heard about the popular zombie walks that have been happening across the country for the past several years.  The biggest and arguably the best one, Pittsburgh Zombie Fest, asks attendees to bring a can of food as an admission price, and that gets donated to a local food bank.  Running these events with a charity in mind is fairly common, and it shows heart behind the horror.

Many of these events are organized like a block party, with live music, face painting, and vendors.  Others are pub crawls, like my personal favourite, the Philly Zombie Crawl. In Minneapolis, their zombie pub crawl is huge, pricey, polarizing..and here to stay.   If you’d rather participate in something that resembles a zombie parade, check out Zombiewalk Columbus, which raises money for Ronald McDonald House, or Denver’s zombie crawl, which has also been around for a decade.

So you get the idea.  There are lots of people that want to dress up like zombies in outside venues for a little walking dead fun.

Until this year’s ZombiCon.

ZombiCon in Fort Myers, Florida has been going strong for 9 years now, and its organizing group Pushing Daizies, Inc is very focused on its charities.  They take food donations for a food bank; their attendees are given the opportunity to donate blood, and their $5 admission fee supports children’s art programs and scholarships.  Over 20,000 people were estimated to show up this year – numbers the average convention would envy.

Just before midnight on Saturday, October 17th, someone started shooting at random attendees.  One person was killed.  Five were wounded.  The FBI is now involved in trying to find the man responsible.

This time, no one’s amused by the violence.  Thank heavens.

There’s a lot of buzz about What Happens Next, of course.  Do the organizers raise the price and take the event indoors?  This was tried a few years ago, according to a response on Facebook, and it reportedly didn’t work very well.  (I personally can’t imagine anything than a stadium working for this kind of crowd.)  Do the organizers bump up security?  They do hire security and have police on site every year.  Was the shooter just someone looking for a real-world zombie paintball experience?  That’s something that occurs to me, and I really really really hope it’s not the case.  Does the reality of this story blur over into other street parties and conventions?

Consider that in 10 years of zombie crawls and such, it looks like this is the first time violence has erupted.  It’s having an effect on events in Chicago and West Palm Beach, so it’s not hard to imagine the ripple effect going further.  Personally, I hope not.  Zombies aren’t my bag, baby, but I love the passion of the people that organize and participate in these events, and – like any fan-driven thing, really – I want to see the geeks win.  I mean, really…look at how amazing the ZombiCon attendees were!  That’s a level of creativity and fun that has to win out over an ass with a gun.

19 convention attendees were sent to the hospital – news media thinks it’s funny

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Over the weekend, friends of mine in east coast fandom started sharing news links about attendees of Fur Fest being evacuated from their convention hotel because of a deliberate release of chlorine gas into the hotel space. Fandom was pissed, and for good reason.

Details of the criminal act:

The Hyatt-Regency in Rosemont was completely evacuated at roughly 1AM. (For those of us that have attended TransWorld?  Yes, it’s that Rosemont.)  Guests sought shelter in nearby hotels and in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.  19 attendees ended up going to the hospital. Powdered chlorine was found in a stairwell on the 9th floor of the hotel.  Firefighters on the scene reported that there was a reading “as high as 20.6 on the chlorine meter” and also stated that “whatever the substance is, it is overloading our chlorine meter.”

To give you an idea of how bad a rating of 20.6ppm is?  Let’s go back to Wikipedia, because this article references a bunch of stuff I was already going to include….  “Chlorine is a toxic gas that irritates the respiratory system. Because it is heavier than air, it tends to accumulate at the bottom of poorly ventilated spaces. Chlorine gas is a strong oxidizer, which may react with flammable materials.[67] Chlorine is detectable with measuring devices in concentrations of as low as 0.2 parts per million (ppm), and by smell at 3 ppm. Coughing and vomiting may occur at 30 ppm and lung damage at 60 ppm. About 1000 ppm can be fatal after a few deep breaths of the gas.[24] Breathing lower concentrations can aggravate the respiratory system, and exposure to the gas can irritate the eyes.[68] The toxicity of chlorine comes from its oxidizing power. When chlorine is inhaled at concentrations above 30 ppm, it begins to react with water and cells, which change it into hydrochloric acid (HCl) and hypochlorous acid (HClO).” And the CDC cautions, “Hazardous concentrations may develop quickly in enclosed, poorly-ventilated, or low-lying areas. Keep out of these areas.”

If you’re wondering what it was like to be there, here’s one attendee’s story of what it was like to try to get off the 9th floor via the stairwell.

So having this crap in a stairwell that people were forced to use during the hotel evacuation?  Really bad news. 

Ok.  So someone exposed a bunch of convention attendees to a hazardous gas.  Good reason for fandom to be pissed off.

So why the hell was my Facebook news feed flooded on Tuesday with stories about reporters laughing about this story?

Because Fur Fest is a fandom convention for “people who are interested in the concept of fictional non-human characters with human characteristics.

These folk are more commonly known as “furries”..some of the most maligned people in fandom.

If you’ve ever been in downtown Pittsburgh in June or July, you may well have seen this charming sector of fandom running around the city in mascot-esque costumes during the weekend run of Anthrocon.  It’s rather adorable, actually…the variety of detail and creativity in the costuming is lovely to see.  One collection of photos can be found here. And if you have either never heard of a furry or you think it’s some deviant sex group, I strongly encourage you to go take a look through that album, or any of the others on Anthrocon’s site.

Fur Fest is one of the largest conventions of its kind, warmly received by the Hyatt-Regency, whose Twitter feed shows some great love and support for Fur Fest. (Really, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a convention hotel be so sweet to a con. I mean, really..themed meal options?  A free room contest?  This hotel is pretty awesome!)

This convention had roughly 4,600 attendees from 15 different countries.

According to Furfest’s website, “Our charity, Critter Camp Exotic Pet Sanctuary, was able to raise $11,000 by charitable donations from our attendees and an additional $20,000 was donated from Midwest Furry Fandom, Inc., our parent 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. Part of our core mission is to raise money for animal focused charities in the Midwest.”  HOLY POOP THAT’S GREAT!!

But what do most people know about the event?

They know that reporters over on MSNBC responded to a story about 19 people being sent to the hospital as a result of a criminal act by laughing on the air and having one of their reporters run off camera because she couldn’t deal with the idea of people wearing fur suits.

How far is this, really, from the media making fun of fandom and costuming of any sort?

Why does it suddenly not matter that 19 people went to the hospital?

Oni Hartstein rather brilliantly summed up the story with the question, “It’s ok to commit terrorism toward children if you don’t like them?”  

Victoria McNally wrote a much more detailed description of the story than I have here in her blog post over on TheMarySue.com, entitled, “Let’s Stop Making Jokes About Furries While Discussing That Recent Terrorist Attack on Furries.”

You should read those posts.  These women make some fantastic points.

And then think, really think, about what this story, and the sadly common public reaction to this story, is saying.

Because, while this is a very dramatic story?  It’s not an isolated incident sort of story.  Fire alarms get pulled at conventions to force con attendees out of hotels and into the street..sometimes to try to ’embarrass’ the costumed attendees, sometimes to evict attendees that don’t have hotel rooms.  I’ve read a lot of stories today about what sometimes happens at conventions, and I’m appalled at what people are doing to my fellow geeks.

Most of my fellow con goers can tell me of at least one convention they’ve attended where there was another group of people in the same hotel that didn’t appreciate sharing hotel space with fandom or haunters.  We’ve seen the looks of disapproval and we’ve heard the grumblings.  It’s not hard at all to imagine a repeat of what happened at Fur Fest last weekend.

If you have something you love enough to attend a convention to celebrate?  Do not think for a second that your convention is immune from something like this.  The only way that works is if we stop trying to decide who ‘counts’ – which passion is ok to have and which one isn’t good enough.

Each of us, every single one of us, has an interest, a something we love that makes us a geek.

Stop saying that your love makes you better than anyone else.

Once we get to that point?  Crap like this stops happening.

(If you’re appalled at what happened on MSNBC, TELL THEM letters@msnbc.com)

‘DashCon Rebrands as EmotiCon, Hopes You Won’t Notice’

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http://www.nerdandtie.com/2014/09/03/dashcon-rebrands-as-emoticon-hopes-you-wont-notice/

Take-aways:

* Dashcon.org is gone.  The tumblr account still exists.

* All those people promised to be paid back?  Shouldn’t be holding their breath.  In their own words, quoted here because of the repeated pattern of their deleting their statements:

When the dust settled after DashCon, we were left with thousands of dollars worth of debt. Because this, among many others reasons, DashCon LLP is being dissolved and assets being liquidated. Once the assets are liquidated, each debt will be paid pro rata, meaning that there’s a possibility the debts won’t be paid in full, but each will be paid the same percentage of what’s owed. We don’t know how long this process is going to take, but it’s fair to say it could be up to 90 days. Apologies for the further delays. This has all become a bit of a legal ordeal.

 There has been a lot of speculation that DashCon LLP has changed its name to Emoti-Con or So Attacked Entertainment LLC. That, however, is inaccurate. Two of the three owners of DashCon, Cain and Megg, are now functioning as So Attacked Entertainment LLC, which will be hosting an event called Emoti-Con. Despite Cain and Megg’s involvement, neither So Attacked Entertainment LLC nor Emoti-Con is in any way affiliated with DashCon. 
 
Thank you for your patience while we try to resolve these final matters. Apologies that we are unable to give a more definite timeline on payment. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
* Making a joke out of the refrain from both attendees and con owners, “I’m feeling so attacked right now,” by calling the new company So Attacked LLC, is…quite something.  Claiming Emoti-Con has no connection to Dashcon is an outright lie, and is further proof IMNSHO that Cain and Megg still don’t get how to handle themselves in a professional manner.   (And really, if this whole thing becoming ‘a bit of a legal ordeal’ was any sort of surprise?  These two have a lot of growing up to do.)
Personally, it would impress me a helluva lot more if they were taking the money for next year’s con and fixing their screw-ups from this year.  I get it.  Legally there’s no connection between the two…although I’m curious if the money raised for Dashcon II was shuffled over to EmotiCon’s account, or if it’s being used to pay this year’s debt.  Which would be the right thing to do.  Which is why I suspect it’s not happening.
* The con owners protest too much.  Currently, the Indianapolis convention center is still listing the defunct dashcon.org website as the website for Emoti-Con.  (Way to be organized, guys.)  And hey, if this is NOT, in fact, Dashcon II, what happens to the people that bought passes for Dashcon II?  Do they get their money back? Or do they get a pass to, um, this completely-not-connected-to-Dashcon convention?
I really truly hope all of the following happens:
1.  People actually get their money back.
2. Cain and Megg take the time to figure out how to run a good, professional convention.
3. All the people that have been supporting the fiasco that is Dashcon figure out what a good, professional convention looks like…and either demand Cain and Megg step up, or they stop throwing their love and money at a bad project.
4. No guests get screwed over by Cain and Megg ever again.

 

a dashcon story that also very much needs to be heard

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Here’s the story of what happened to one person that was friends with Dashcon main staff and became the person in charge of the vendor room.  (Dashcon has stated, “Any “official” information found on any other blog should not be considered true or accurate without first checking with the actual DashCon staff.”  Based on this, you may, in all confidence, read the following story and know it’s true as well as accurate.)

http://mjhellscream.tumblr.com/post/93196609316/our-experience-at-dashcon-2014

I know, I know.  Who the hell cares about Dashcon at this point?  Read it anyway.

Take-aways:

* Dashcon mgt paid $3K for this couple’s flight from Australia to the US.  At that point, these were just attendees, not con staff.  This money was paid in late 2013/2014…well after the Indiegogo campaign had ended and after payments were being made to the Dashcon hotel.  Looking at those numbers, it seems reasonable to assume Dashcon was not concerned about money..perhaps not until the weekend of the con.

* This woman was not aware she would be expected to be staff until July, days before the Dashcon event.  This is another example of the poor management of the staffing of Dashcon.

* Yes, Dashcon told the hotels to take hotel rooms off its bill and yes, that included staff as well as invited guests.  It’s still unclear as to whether or not volunteers and con attendees were also affected by this, or if keys just were being faulty.  What is clear is that there was zero communication with those affected by Dashcon mgt’s decision to do so.

* This woman considered one of the three main organizers of Dashcon to be “a close, personal friend.”  The following quote is from the above blog post:

“… a person who my wife considered a close, trustworthy, personal friend left her high and fucking dry when she was needed the most.”

So my previous repeated opinion that the attendees of Dashcon were mistreated by the event and that ANY event that turns to its attendees and demands a financial bailout at the event is NOT  an event one should support? I’m amending that to, “You do not treat your close, personal friends this way, either.”

* We already knew that Dashcon didn’t staff its event in a well-thought-out way.  But.  JESUS, people.  If you don’t have the common sense to NOT put children and inexperienced people in charge of shit – and no, you didn’t, because you DID – and if you don’t have the ability to keep track of what previous con management was doing- and NO YOU DIDN’T, as your own public apology stated – GET YOUR DAMN SELVES SOME EDUCATION.

Seriously. It’s out there.  You do NOT have to recreate the fucking wheel.

SMOFCON.   THIS DECEMBER.  “Smofcon is an annual conference for the planners of science fiction & fantasy (SF&F) and other genre conventions. Attendees discuss and share insights into many aspects of convention planning at the local, regional, national, and international levels.”

INTERVENTIONCON.  THIS AUGUST.  “Intervention is different from every other event you have ever been to. Our name is the combination of the words “Internet” and “Convention” but the significance is deeper than that. The entire idea of this event is to Intervene and Inspire everyone to live a more creative, geeky, and fun life within the welcoming scope of a traditional geek convention.”  These are the kinds of people you need to be talking to.  Go get inspired…and find out how to do a con the RIGHT way.