And now, Scary-Crayon reviews...
SO. The weekend of July 9-11 saw the annual Shore Leave Science Fiction Convention in full swing, and for the first time ever, Scary-Crayon found itself lost amidst the hordes of overweight nerds and stale body odor that all conventions feature in nauseating excess. Now, I've been to conventions in the past, but never to a SF con, let alone one so tiny -- with the exception of numerous small comic book conventions that are essentially glorified dealers' rooms, my experience is limited to anime conventions of considerable size (namely Anime Expo on the West Coast and Otakon on the East). As such, Shore Leave was a vastly different experience for me, and in the course of this report it will be impossible to go through without comparing what I saw here to what I've seen in my prior anime-related travels. And hell, since I've no idea how to structure this lengthy and disjointed report, let's kick things off on a comparative note.
Pictures of the event are forthcoming -- don't fret! -- but since I'm not cruel enough to tear into unsuspecting folks whom I photographed at a distance (at least not yet; that comes later), I'm going to use action figures to illustrate a point. Above, Cammy, Noctilca, and Starfire represent the kinds of women you're likely to encounter at a large anime convention. Of course, you'll get your share of 400 lb. Sailor Moons and skeletons with cokebottle glasses and mouths like horses, but you're absolutely guaranteed to see a significant number of girls who'll make you say, "VA-VOOM!" You need your camera at an anime convention because there's so much shit you'll want to capture for those lonely nights later on, and you'll spend most of your time blinded by peripheral flashes because 50% of the people in attendance are thinking the exact same thing you are. Granted, as far as males go, you're more likely to see fat craterfaces in their late twenties with skintight Hello Kitty shirts riding up their hairy guts than anything even remotely attractive, but even in the Y-chromosome department you're likely to find some wonderfully androgynous cosplayers and even a few buff guys who've legitimately studied martial arts and somehow got into anime as a result.
This, comparatively, is what you get at Shore Leave -- and yes, the above figures represent the women in attendance. Or the men. At Shore Leave, it can be pretty fucking difficult to tell the difference, given that large men have a tendency to grow breasts as well. Of course, that's not entirely fair -- there were a few attractive members of both sexes to be found. Most of them were jailbait; the others were the actors brought in to sign autographs. (We'll get to them in a bit.)
Thus, the shortage of legal and/or realistic booty gives rise to what has been called the "convention curve" -- or "con curve" for short -- which ensures that women who meet the legal age of consent requirement receive far more attention than they would otherwise garner based on their appearances. Some of those whose perception is altered by the con curve are merely settling for the weekend; others have spent so much time at conventions that their eyesight is permanently fucked, as if they've been forever cursed in the same manner that Tony Robbins bespelled Jack Black in that movie where Gwyneth Paltrow weighed two tons. Either way, for at least two nights and three days, a number of hideous women will be courted by multiple fellows. To those unfortunate males resigned to these halls of unrelenting geekdom and horrendous body odor, the average woman will become Alyson Hannigan.
The photo at right, featuring me alongside a Zam Wesell cosplayer (Wesell and Wes!), illustrates a further problem with Shore Leave, and probably small SF conventions in general -- even where the girls were fairly attractive, SF costumes tend to be a lot less revealing than those you'd see at anime conventions. In most cases, this was a blessing -- four hundred obese Storm Troopers is bad enough, but four hundred scantily-clad obese Storm Troopers would be enough to make one gouge his/her eyes out on some Klingon's ridged forehead -- but there were one or two times when I cursed George Lucas for not dressing more of his characters in the manner of the Twi'lek slave dancers. Holy fuck, am I making Star Wars references now? Please shoot me, Zam.
Anyway, in that picture, you also see what was more/less my uniform for the weekend -- all black, black trench coat, and brandishing a giant grey crayon. And it's a bit covered up in the photo with Zam, but below you can also clearly see the rather large ankh that donned for the occasion. It is, admittedly, an interesting piece (there's a lot going on with its design), so I can understand why a handful of people commented on it. However, some of those exchanges were just fucking weird. Take the following scene, which occurred on the first day of the con while I was waiting for the elevator:
Some Dork: Have you read Anne McCaffrey's vampire trilogy?
(Some Dork points at the ankh)
Some Dork: That will not protect you.
Wes: ? ... It's an ankh, dude. (As in, not a cross.)
Some Dork: Still won't protect you.
(Random Guy comes over)
Random Guy: So, you're a vampire?
Some Dork: Yup.
Random Guy: You don't look like a vampire.
Some Dork: It's not about what you look like on the outside, man --
(Some Dork thumps his left breast)
Some Dork: -- it's about what's in here.
And then the elevator finally arrived and I got the fuck out of there. Now, I could go on and on about how, as far as I know, VAMPIRES' HEARTS DON'T BEAT BECAUSE THEY ARE DEAD, and other crap like that, but this is really one of those things that speaks for itself -- suffice it to say that there were some pretty scary people at this convention, and this is coming from someone who spent the weekend pacing around with a three-foot hollow grey crayon.
From there, it was on to the dealers' room, where one could find a plethora of crap ranging from Grim Reaper bobbleheads to bootleg DVDs. And oh, were there ever bootleg DVDs! This is another thing I found pretty shocking, actually. Yeah, at anime conventions, you have your share of bootleg DVDs, but they're usually factory-made HK bootlegs -- fairly high-quality stuff that's worth having unless you're a hardcore videophile or don't find poorly done subtitles amusing -- and in most cases, it's stuff that hasn't been released on R1 DVD, if it's been released on DVD at all. Here, you've got dudes taking shit they downloaded from the 'net, burning it on their DVD-writer at home, titling it with a black Sharpie marker, and selling it for $15-20. But if you buy six, you get the seventh free! Fuck that, thanks.
But DVDs weren't the only bootlegs being sold at the con. As I was walking around snapping pictures, for example, one particularly nasty dealer of shirts and caps barked at me and insisted that I delete the picture I'd taken of her merchandise. Rather than make a scene, I complied, but while I regained the composure I'd spent in not punching her squarely in her pudgy, drooping jaw I continued to nose around her wares, looking carefully at the tags. As if she knew what I was looking for -- but somehow I doubt it; otherwise she wouldn't have said it with such confidence -- she proudly announced that she embroidered all of the clothing herself... which explains why I didn't find any information about licenses or copyrights on the material. OF COURSE you're going to be uptight about having your merchandise photographed when you're selling illegal unlicensed shirts and caps! At least, I think it's illegal to profit from media tie-ins that you don't have permission to exploit. It should be. I hope that mean dealer lady goes to jail and gets fist-fucked by ham-fisted women with five-inch red fingernails. Okay, I feel better now.
Ah, yes, the game room. In my years of visiting anime conventions, I've accumulated many great memories of strolling along the rows of arcade machines and televisions hooked up to consoles. I remember stopping to watch Blanka of Street Fighter fame take on Robert from Art of Fighting before Capcom VS SNK was available in the States, and I fondly recall the vicious beatings I doled out to challengers in Rival Schools with Hyo Imawano. I remember when games didn't take an entire fucking day to play -- even if you signed up for a tournament, they generally only lasted for a few hours, so there weren't any suggestions that you bribe any of the administrators with chocolate because doing so wouldn't make any sense. If the screen said K.O., Ryu screamed and landed on his back, and you happened to be Ryu, you lost. All characters were pregenerated; that was the way of things. That was all we needed. And despite reading the above flyer, I figured that at a science fiction convention they'd at least have a few console games, given the number of games that have SF themes, so I made my way to the game room to have a look. This is what I found:
In marked contrast to the gaming glory of the anime conventions of my acquaintance, Shore Leave's game room consisted of about six guys in a small room with three tables showcasing dollhouses and tiny painted figurines. Yeah, there was one laptop there, but I was afraid to touch it because I think it belonged to someone there as opposed to being set up for folks to play with. Oh, and what you can't see from these pictures -- the room smelled fucking terrible, like a mixture of doritos, manure, and stale cheese pried from the mouth of a decaying rat left dead in the trap in a moist room for three days straight. In short, it was the worst game room... I ever seen. (Roll your cursor over the photos.)
THE PIRATE PARTY! After witnessing that pitiful excuse for a game room, I needed to see something a little less depressing, and, as luck would have it, the Pirate Party was taking place that night. Apparently it has a reputation for being wild and crazy and degenerating into orgies, so I went down to check it out... and while I probably went too early to catch the really wild action, it was still a fun time. I mean, it had pirates and liquor. Hard to top that.
So in addition to having alcohol (YAY!) and folks in wacky pirate costumes, the freakin' Terminator made an appearance. Doesn't get much better than that, folks. And here's another photo from the party, featuring your friendly neighborhood webmaster and captioned with a bonus Crayon Haiku.
BONUS Crayon Haiku!!!
This pic came out blurredso I used the unsharp maskcleavage likes dollars.
I figured that since I was drinking their liquor, the least I could do was donate a dollar to the pirates' cause. Their method of receipt didn't hurt too much, either. ;) However, like all enjoyable events at a con, there was one thing to sour the moment. Here, it was the appearance of Scary Guy (not to be confused with Some Dork and Random Guy). I should've mentioned Scary Guy during the initial dealers' room coverage (we'll be coming back to it), since that was where we first encountered him on the first day of the convention, but then I got to writing about that mean dealer bitch and totally forgot about him for the moment. Anyway, SCARY GUY. As I was looking at some Buffy action figures, he stepped in close and asked if I liked what I saw -- so intrusively that I thought that he was working the table. (Which he might've been, but not in the way that I thought.) When I found out he wasn't the dealer, his behavior struck me as a little odd.
But not quite as odd as when he showed up several minutes later and asked if I was "with" a friend with whom I rode up and roomed at the convention or if I was at the con alone. His face seemed to light up upon my reply. And then, near the elevators -- shortly before the arrival of the dork with the heart of a vampire -- Scary Guy appeared again and said, "So... I take it you work out a lot?" Dude. Dude. Fucking creepy. And then he showed up at the pirate party as well, not to mention numerous other times throughout the weekend. See, here's another problem with small conventions -- since the entire con space basically consists of a few rooms off of one not-so-long hallway, you tend to see the same fucking people ten thousand times per hour. And here's the worst of it -- when Scary Guy finally started leaving me alone (largely because I think he noticed that I was looking away and ducking into rooms when I saw him approaching), I felt like an ass. Sure, he probably wanted to fuck me, but maybe he was just awkward and nosy. So if you're reading, Scary Guy, assuming you're not really a freak, sorry I made you feel like one. Next time you're at a convention, try to be less creepy, ok? :)
You probably can't tell what's going on in the above picture, so I'll explain. In the center of that group of people, with her back to us, is a member of the fairer sex. Now even by normal standards she'd be a moderately attractive girl, but here, with that ass and the con curve in effect, she becomes Jennifer motherfucking Lopez in the flesh. As such, every guy in the immediate vicinity who believes he has half a chance of securing the star fuck flocks to her and attempts to slither into her pants in his own unique way. But be not jealous of Con J-Lo! While she may be getting plenty of attention from five guys, since there are roughly three personalities at Shore Leave spread across a thousand people, it's a safe bet that the only thing distinguishing one lustful suitor from another is his appearance. As such, this poor girl's task will be far more difficult than you can imagine. Still, given that Con J-Lo presently commands the attention of every male within eyeshot, there will be those who will view her with envy, such as the neglected woman in the foreground as she sighs and resigns herself to her sorry lot as a lady-in-waiting. Had Con J-Lo not been there, she might have had a chance -- SF nerds will fuck anything -- but while in other circumstances the con curve would have gotten her laid, for the moment it renders her all but invisible. Until Con J-Lo makes her choice, she will remain unnoticed.
Oh, you knew it was coming -- the stereotype that one will find endless hordes of Klingon cosplayers at a SF convention sadly rings true. But here's something you probably didn't know about SF cons -- despite being weird, overweight, unwashed, and oftentimes quite terrifying people, a good chunk of those chunky folks at SF cons are also quite generous. On Friday and Saturday there was a Red Cross blood drive running, complete with flyers featuring hand-drawn smileys with vampire fangs (granted, I didn't see too many people donating blood when I passed by the room, but it was there...), and there were numerous charity organizations collecting donations for their respective causes. In order to take this picture with the Klingons, for example, I had to give a dollar to the Philadelphia Children's Alliance, which attempts to facilitate the recovery of sexually abused children. Noble stuff, really.
However, alongside the noble, there was the slightly unsettling, and for that I refer you to the images above and at right. Now, it's one thing to encourage adults to become organ donors and such, but making the subject kid-friendly and putting it in a little fun book with puzzles and games for children to play? Death and organ harvesting isn't something that kids should have to worry about. Hell, these probably aren't things that any of us should be concerned with -- in a better place, we'd all be laughing and licking lollipops and the like -- but unfortunately that isn't the world in which we live. Little kids, however, still spend a lot of time in that ideal world, and we shouldn't try to wrest it from them by showing them illustrations of sick kids and telling them that they should be ready to give up a kidney because they can still get by with the other one. That's too much, folks, and it'll probably result in more nightmares and trauma than future organ donors. But ah well, I guess their hearts are in the right place. Or at least they will be until someone carves the buggers out of their chests and puts 'em on ice.
Anyway, more Klingons, this time drinking soda. Yes, here, we observe that Klingons display no particular cola preference, as they'll guzzle both Pepsi and Coke alike. It appears to have different effects on them, though -- while Pepsi appears to make Klingons anxious, such that they stare wide-eyed at photographers like deer in the headlights of an approaching car, Coke has little effect, as they retain their characteristic gruffness and I can't tell if that woman's eye is closed or if it's just NOT THERE, but I sure hope the Coke isn't responsible. Ah, those wacky Klingons; what will they do next? Seriously, ponder the question -- that wasn't rhetorical. And stay tuned! You'll see soon enough.
As I was randomly snapping pictures of folks in the general vicinity of the Klingon warriors, I happened to be noticed by a woman who got caught in one of the shots. Instead of being offended like that snarling bear-bitch of a dealer selling the illegal merchandise, however, she came over and happily modeled her shirt for me. However, somehow I doubt that she was aware that her photograph would be appearing on a website, so I've taken the liberty of decapitating her in the pictures above. (Roll your cursor over the image to see the back.) If you happen to come by, though, thanks a lot for being so good-natured, Virtual Snoopy Shirt Lady. Hope you had a fun time at the convention! Watch out for bears.
So. Just about every convention has a Saturday night Masquerade, and Shore Leave was no exception. Above, we see two of the more notable entries -- Princess Fiona from the Shrek films and the short-lived Oola of Star Wars fame. Despite being a bit too curvy for the role, Oola benefited largely from the con curve -- in addition to her relatively nice figure, the SW cosplay got her even more points from the drooling fanboys (though unfortunately for her, I barely recognized her when I saw her without the green skin). As far as Fiona on the left... well, at least she's got the figure to pull off a Fiona-as-ogre cosplay. After having seen far too many 300+ lb. girls thinking they had the bodies to do fucking Lum, this size-appropriate Fiona cosplay was a welcome reprieve. It was, however, too little too late, as one of the earlier contestants had already scarred my psyche beyond recognition. Folks, I now present one of the most disturbing cosplayers you'll ever see -- worse than Man Faye, for my money, since "Cowboy Bebop"'s Faye Wong isn't so intimately connected to my childhood memories as those characters that this particular cosplayer has forever linked with horror and disgust. Prepare yourself for...
** ~ BIGGIE SMURF ~ **
Bloody hell. Anyway, I think I can safely say that that's enough terror for one page. After you get through swabbing your eyes out with rubbing alcohol-drenched cotton balls, join us on page 2 of THE SHORE LEAVE REPORT!
-- Wes --
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