And now, Scary-Crayon reviews...
(If you're just joining us, you might want to check out page 1 before proceeding. Just a suggestion.)
Still, despite some of the horrors of the masquerade, there were good costumes to be found outside of the competition, such as Wolverine of the X-Men and the Real Ghostbusters. Unfortunately, having seen Biggie Smurf, the only folks I'll be calling are a therapist and possibly a lawyer, because I'm pretty sure the resultant trauma of that sight qualifies as pain and suffering. Not pictured from the masquerade, but still notable, were the Joker (who apparently threw bleach in with the wrong load the last time he did laundry), Isis and some snake creature thing, and this woman. Her face is kinda strange and unattractive, but with that figure and the dictates of the con curve in effect, you can pretty much be assured that she spent the weekend being drooled over as if she were Gwyneth Paltrow. These girls were pretty cute also, but they're probably twelve and fourteen, and given the cornucopia of scary nerds in attendance I'm betting that there are already several webpages up counting down the days until their eighteenth birthdays. Run, children, run.
Oh, and I took a picture of this woman too, who was apparently cosplaying as Drusilla from "Buffy". It's a nice outfit, but you sure as shit can't tell that she's supposed to be Dru -- and even after you find out you're hard-pressed to make the connection. Anyway, I felt bad for her because all of two people took her picture during the "official" photo op, so I got a better picture of her later on. So don't feel bad, little Dru wannabe. Like I said, it is a nice outfit.
After the Masquerade ended, the Saturday night dance party began. Every con has 'em. Shore Leave's is known as Ten-Forward, and from what I heard from disappointed folks who weren't dancing it might as well have been called Ten-Backward because the DJ was apparently playing songs from the early 90s -- and not even good ones -- but I dunno know; those folks look pretty happy in those photos to me. By the way, that congo line on the right was apparently led by none other than Michael Welch, who plays the typical annoying "genius who really just uses big words that he (or whoever writes the dialogue) doesn't fucking understand because he doesn't really know shit about philosophy or science" on the CBS network's unbearably awful "Joan of Arcadia". Given his connection with that show, I hope he tripped and fell once they got inside the ballroom, 'cause I like dominoes better than congo lines anyway. I kid, Michael Welch -- I don't wish you physical injury. Still hate your show and your character, though.
Oh, and while I was hanging with some folks outside of the ballroom, a cardinal walked by and blessed us. Yep.
Anyway, it's been said before, and at Shore Leave the statement certainly proved true -- the fucking freaks come out at night. On the left, we have some freak in a nurse's outfit, whereas on the right we've got a fat guy in a top hat with a ruffled shirt, a cane, and a little dog plush under his arm. I've no idea who or what the fuck he's supposed to be -- all I know is that he frightens me -- so if anyone out there knows please drop a line and fill me in. But see, at least the guy in the nurse costume knows he's ridiculous and is having fun with it. This guy in the top hat played his role deadpan, which further leads me to believe that he's either acting out some character role or that he's someone to watch when little children in his neighborhood start to turn up missing. Actually, I feel a little bad for ragging on the guy, since I tried unsuccessfully to photograph him several times and we had to move around quite a bit to get the proper lighting for the shot. Maybe he just wanted attention? Happy to oblige, Freaky Whoever-you're-supposed-to-be Guy. And thanks!
Aaand speaking of freaky things, dig this scan from the event schedule. Yes, Virginia, there were actually panels devoted to discussing slash fanfiction. For those of you not familiar with the term, let me explain -- slash fiction typically centers around male-male sex. That K/S up there? Kirk and Spock buttlovin' action. And they were discussing it. In a panel. I am totally not making this up. I actually went to that one, and I kid you not when I tell you that the room was filled with fifty-year-old women and a sprinkling of shady, shifty-eyed middle-aged men, with the panel dominated by a few women seated towards the front who kept raising their hands to add their constant input to the discussion of what is essential for a fanfic to be classified as K/S. You'd think that this is a simple question -- Kirk or Spock fucking the other guy in the ass -- but they were actually debating whether a sex story without an emotional connection, or vice versa, qualifies as "genuine" K/S. I couldn't fucking believe it.
And then one of the panel heads (heads...) piped up to offer a clarification: she didn't mean for them to discuss what is essential for calling a fic K/S, but what is essential for the reader to derive satisfaction from reading a K/S story. Given the reasons people read slash fics, that's an even easier question to answer. Only one thing is essential for the reader to derive satisfaction from a slash fic -- that it contains the necessary elements for engaging that particular reader's lusty thoughts as he/she furiously masturbates to orgasm while staring at the computer screen. And maybe that answer is cheating, but everyone has different turn-ons, so other than supplying the obvious answer of Kirk and Spock engaged in buttfucking -- which is obviously the one shared turn-on, given the group's choice of erotic reading material -- the question can't be answered. THEY HAD AN ENTIRE PANEL ON THIS, FOLKS. Hell, I've written too much about it as it is. To sum up: at Shore Leave, a large group of fifty-year-old women enthusiastically discussed stories which center around Kirk and Spock fucking each other up the ass. Let us never speak of it again.
So. MORE KLINGONS! I shoved a ton of handouts in my bag at the con and didn't really look at them until I got home, and it's probably a good thing I didn't -- if I had, I might've lost my mind and started dealing out giant crayon enemas to everyone I saw with a ridged forehead and a feigned look of seriousness on his/her heavily made-up face. And speaking of made-up things, on the left, we have an advertisement for KLI. What do those letters stand for, you ask? Klingon Language Institute. I'm not fucking kidding you. In a world in which we have enough communication problems as it is due to the excess of "legitimate" human languages in the world, there is an organization dedicated to studying and teaching people to speak the made-up mother tongue of a fictional alien race. Never mind learning Spanish so that you can perhaps make the transition to American citizenship a little easier for some poor immigrant; never mind learning Latin so you can read and appreciate the great classics of old as they were written; never mind learning French so you can sound both delicate and pretentious as all hell at the same time; never mind learning Arabic so you can
scream, "PLEASE DON'T SAW OFF MY FUCKING HEAD!!!!" perhaps communicate with terrorists if the situation arises and, at the very least, gain a better understanding of their position and how to deal with them. No, learn Klingon, so you can speak to dorks with whom you otherwise wouldn't be able to communicate could talk to anyway given that they probably speak English and so you can read the number of fascinating journals written entirely in Klingon moronic FKBK publications (For Klingons, By Klingons -- and at least to my knowledge, that's not a real outfit). I mean really -- what the hell can you expect from something completely composed of a made-up Star Trek language?
Anyway, if you're a card-carrying member of KLI, you need no help deciphering the text in the image at right, but since you hopefully have better sense than to waste your time studying an artificial language, I'll just drop the bomb and tell you that the graphic was scanned from a handout for Klingons for Christ. Go ahead and read that again, why dontcha. KLINGONS FOR CHRIST. Yep, they've got a website. A website that takes us back to the oh-so-awe-inspiring layouts of every SF-related Geocities page in the early nineties, but a website nonetheless. You'd think that it's just an in-joke or a silly parody of sorts, but upon reading the pamphlet it becomes frighteningly apparent that way too much thought was put into making connections between the teachings of Christ and "qeyleS the Unforgettable" before acknowledging that Klingons aren't real (thank God) and going into a familiar spiel about accepting "yeSu'a QaySt" as your personal Savior. But see, here's the thing. Even though Jesus supposedly sat around with lepers and prostutites, I can't see him sitting around with a bunch of dipshits wearing Klingon costumes and speaking in a made-up alien tongue. Moreover, if the God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old, I'm pretty sure the sight of folks tramping around with latex ridges stuck to their foreheads would cause Him to sincerely regret ever making that fucking rainbow and promising never to drown everyone on Earth ever again. The realm of science fiction is rife with reasons to question the existence of an almighty God as it is, but fuck me if Klingons for Christ isn't another reason to throw your hands into the air and emphatically cry out, "THERE IS NO GOD!!!!!!" Because seriously -- Klingons for Christ. Bloody hell.
Not all of the free crap was quite as disappointing and faith-destroying (ironic, isn't it?) as those advertisements for KLI and Klingons for Christ, however. Among other things, just as anime cons are known for promoting upcoming anime that you may or may not have heard of, Shore Leave was rife with promos for all sorts of SF media. For example, above and at left, we have scans from The Raccoon City Times, a mock newspaper created to promote Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Admittedly, I wasn't a fan of the first RE film, but I do enjoy the games up to a point. (I think the Leon B speed guide I wrote for the second game is still available on GameFaqs somewhere.) Anyway, the information tidbits and humor in this ad were enough to get me reasonably excited about the upcoming film even though Hollywood hasn't put out a decent zombie movie years, so I guess it did its job. I mean c'mon, in the ad at left -- which promises that a user of the drug "Return" can eat as much as he/she wants and never gain weight, cleverly explaining why zombies can pig out to their undead hearts' content on human flesh without ever gaining so much as a pound -- the side effects include "tingling, bloodshot eyes, muscular atrophy, foaming at the mouth, sudden appetite for human flesh." That's just gold, folks.
Promos for other flicks included movie posters and trailer viewings of I, Robot, Alien Vs. Predator, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a PC demo of the latter film's video game tie-in (which, unfortunately, my computer is about five years too old to play), and even Anacondas slap bracelets -- you remember, those things that were as straight as rods until you slapped them against your wrists, at which point they'd curl around and become fashionable armwear (for kids). So not only did they play on the nostalgia factor here, but it's like, "AAAAHHHHHHH!!! A SNAKE IS WRAPPING AROUND MY WRIST!!!!" A snake with no head and text on its back, but it's still pretty cool. Look at me gushing! These promotional items sure did their jobs well. Feel free to pay me for the word of mouth, Hollywood. Thanks.
And hey, given that the above ad mentioned eating all you want, it's only appropriate that our next stop in this rambling report is the Sunday morning breakfast buffet. Apparently it's a Shore Leave tradition, so far be it for me to miss out on that! Among other things, I got an omelette and a waffle with the works. Nothing special, really; just thought I'd mention it. 'Cause it's tradition. Can you tell things are winding down at the convention? I thought so.
And apparently they'd wound down enough for me to actually catch sight of the good folks at NASA -- given that I'd walked this corridor enough to wear out a path in the carpet specifically set aside for Wes, I can only imagine that there were so many people crowded around the table in the previous days that I'd been unable to find it. So here, at the NASA booth, a team of NASA researchers (or something) presented free photographs of cosmic events and eagerly answered any questions that convention goers presented about what was going on in them. Pretty cool stuff, and a good way to get folks interested in the space program -- the real space program, sans Klingons and whatever other alien races (which are pretty much just regular people with protrusions like various natural phenomena and private parts on their heads) are present in Star Trek lore. Besides, rocketships look an awful lot like crayons. It's like we're family.
Back to the boredom. It's funny that we only noticed this on the third day, but apparently the customary hotel pen we'd been left had already been chewed on by a previous guest. Yep, they left us a pen with a pre-chewed cap. That's fucking disgusting. On the right, we see that things were slow enough for one convention goer to get bored enough to zap a keg with his/her incredible shrinking ray, thus turning it into a miniature version of its former self. Or maybe things were slow enough for me to take a picture of a slightly unusual beer can and make up a short SF-related blurb about it being a keg that was shrunk down to the size of a normal beer can. Or maybe things weren't slow at all, since some drunken asshole was obviously having too much fun to throw away his/her beer can, instead leaving it in the hotel stairway for me to come by and photograph later. You decide -- which scenario do you prefer?
Now, at this point, despite those glimmers of fun and hope in the form of pirates and charity and nifty promos and free junk and curvalicious Twi'lek dancers, given the far more abundant and depressing evils that we've witnessed it would be tempting to write up the con as a complete and total bust. However, you'd be forgetting the main draw of conventions like this -- the invited guests. Granted, most of the Shore Leave personalities consisted of writers of Star Trek novels (which don't particularly interest me; I view them as professional fanfiction, which rarely if ever reaches or even aspires to reach that lofty level of great literature and high art) and actors whom I've never heard of, but there were a few names in attendance that I was a little excited about the prospect of meeting. Can you say "Britney Spears", people?
Just kidding, but note the resemblance. On the left, we have a photo of Teryl Rothery (whom I'd never heard of before, though apparently, among other characters, she voiced Rose in the "Street Fighter" episode we reviewed) as Dr. Janet Frasier from "Stargate SG-1"; on the right, Britney Spears as she appeared on the cover of the October 2003 issue of Rolling Stone's edición Mexicana (image cropped from a scan on BritneySource.com). If you don't see an amazing resemblance there, you're in serious denial, yet whenever I passed a group of people talking about Rothery I made it a point to say, "Teryl Rothery looks like Britney Spears!" just loud enough for them to hear and it never once failed to garner dirty looks and sneers, as if it were a blasphemous insult and as if they'd never heard anyone else make the connection between the two EVER. Well, fuck me if this wasn't the layout of the photos on one dealer's table -- note that the photo of Britney Spears is directly above that of Ms. Rothery. Not only is that peculiar, but it's also peculiar ther Britney's photo was for sale at all at a SF con -- with the possible exception of the "Oops, I Did It Again" video, she's never done anything connected to science fiction at all. Thus, unless that was actually a photo of Teryl Rothery in her younger days (in which case the "Teryl Rothery looks nothing like that slut" crowd has no argument whatsoever), you must admit that this dealer made the visual connection between Rothery and Spears as well. What does that mean? Why, simply that Teryl Rothery looks like Britney Spears, or vice versa -- nothing more. It's just an observation, folks.
But if you know me and my love for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" -- from Seasons 2-5, anyway -- and "Angel", you know that one of the guests I was pretty interested in meeting was Mercedes McNab, who played Harmony Kendall on both shows. I'm also familiar with Brian Thompson's work, though his roles have been decidedly less good -- for example, he was Shao Khan in the abso-fucking-lutely atrocious Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, not to mention a host of other stupid characters on other shows who either got killed off in one episode or overstayed their welcome over the course of several episodes and then got killed off, much to the delight of the viewer. He's like that in person, too.
Believe it or not, he walked into Mercedes McNab's panel and basically proceeded to irritate the shit out of half of the people in attendance, raising his hand to ask stupid questions like, "Can I have some of your water?" (not in a lewd sense; he really took the time to walk up on stage and take a drink from her fucking glass of water) and at one point he called his son up on the cell phone and interrupted the panel by having Mercedes speak to him. Well gee, Brian, we think it's great that you're so close to Ms. McNab and all, but seriously, these question/answer sessions only last an hour -- why not give the folks who don't have her personal cell phone number a chance to get their questions in? What an asshole. I'm kinda wishing someone had actually stood up and told him off in person. Hell, Harmony should've done it. It was her panel, after all. Anyway, while Mercedes McNab was okay, except for the dodging of difficult questions (like naming puppet Angel as the most difficult "actor" to deal with) and indulging Brian Thompson in his juvenile attention-getting antics, and Brian Thompson was pretty much a conceited glory-grubbing dick, there was one actor in particular whom I really wanted to meet. And for the glory of Scary-Crayon, I did! And now, I give you...
Yep, Scary-Crayon had the pleasure of meeting, as one person put it upon being asked if he could step in front of her in the relaxation massage line, Clint fuckin' Howard -- the ugliest kid who ever lived who grew up to be one of the most awesome actors ever to grace terrible movies with his always-entertaining presence. Among other roles, this is the guy who made us laugh in Carnosaur before being chomped on by horribly animated rubber dinosaurs and who fed kids ice cream lovingly combined with pieces of dead people in Ice Cream Man. This, folks, is a champion among B-movie actors.
Moreover, unlike, say, Brian Thompson, Clint actually came across as a pretty cool guy. I first encountered him at his surprisingly uncrowded table and, after we chatted for a second about the giant crayon -- lots of people asked about the crayon; hopefully some of them will find their way to SC -- I asked if I could take a picture with him. I was, however, ignorant of the rules -- apparently one was supposed to buy a photo at the table before being allowed to take a picture with the actors, but Clint not only told me that he'd catch me later on for a photo, but actually followed through with it, recognizing the giant crayon and stopping me so that the above moment could be captured on digital film. You, Mr. Howard, rule. Unfortunately, given that the small con pretty much consisted of a hallway that I paced for an entire weekend, I saw Clint Howard approximately three-thousand forty-six times during Shore Leave, which got kinda old after about the fourth time. "Hey, Clint!" became "Still here, eh Clint?" became me not saying anything and walking past the table without making eye contact because approaching and saying hi would be just too awkward and weird. I didn't want the guy to think I was stalking him, after all. But the convention has to get a thumbs up for this one -- not only did I meet Clint Howard, but I saw him so freakin' much I actually got tired of seeing him. It's like we were classmates throughout high school and the alphabetical arrangement of our last names ensured that we were always sitting/standing next to each other in assemblies and programs. The improbable rendered commonplace: that's pretty much SF in a nutshell. Shore Leave brings home the symbolism.
Speaking of bringing things home, it's impossible to leave a convention without picking up something from the dealers' room, so I made one final trek down there to have a look, as it's common knowledge that dealers tend to drop their prices on the final day of the con in an attempt to sell more stuff and lighten their loads for the return trip to wherever they came from. I'd planned on picking up one of the aforementioned DVDs, but that was before I knew they were homemade boots -- which I'd have been willing to pay $4-5 for, but $15 was robbery for something like that -- so I let them slide and went looking for something else. The above ST teddy bears almost had me, if for no other reason than because they're both strange and cute, and the top hat-wearing purple octopus nearly got to come along as well, but in the end I figured I had enough plushies in my room for the moment and bade them a fond farewell. So what did I end up with, you ask?
BEHOLD! An April O'Neil action figure (adding yet another member to the ranks of the April O'Neil alliance), an Evil Ryu Toyfare Exclusive, and a Scorpion Alien figure, whom you can expect to join Wild Boar Alien and Kain in some of their cheesy Random Lunch adventures. And also, as you see at right, I was able to snag two Godzilla Kooshes for a buck each. So it wasn't quite the victorious haul that results from an anime convention spree, given that the wares at those things are primarily foreign-born and therefore much more elusive -- I didn't snag anything here that I couldn't easily find on eBay, and at cheap prices at that -- but ah well; it's something. Besides, given that there was far less drunken debauchery among our group than I'd anticipated, I ended up with enough leftover liquor to last me for the next few months. At least now I can drink away the depression left in Shore Leave's wake.
As I sat on a bench, reading a book appropriately titled Strange People to pass the time before we were scheduled to leave the convention, one con goer approached me and said, "You know, there's a small group of people here who would really appreciate that crayon..." Here, he paused, and I thought that in my last half-hour at Shore Leave I was going to be tipped off to the existence of a secret crayon-worshipping cult which had sent an envoy to crown me its leader. He then continued, "...not just for what it is, but because it's also a powerful phallic symbol." After a moment, he added, "From what I've seen of you so far, I hope it's the ladies." Um, okay then.
Thus ended Shore Leave, and thus ends this in-depth SC report. On the weekend of July 9th-11th in 2004, Scary-Crayon ventured to Hunt Valley and battled many horrendous foes. And though I can't exactly say we were victorious in this three-day war -- for while several worthy acquisitions were made and several enjoyable experiences were had (I mean c'mon, Clint fuckin' Howard in the flesh!), we also found ourselves beaten down by the hordes of stinking, shambling fanboys, not to mention the Klingon armies, one total jerk of an actor, and several personal enemies like that fucking mean dealer-bitch. Moreover, while I hear lots of talk about how, no doubt owing to the con curve, there's lots of "action" that takes place after hours at Shore Leave, except for Scary Guy (who with my luck is probably some famous producer and wanted me to star in a legitimate non-porn film) I can't say that I came even remotely close to engaging in even the slightest hint of the most innocent flirtation -- and given my "competition", if you will, that's some seriously depressing shit. But while your humble webmaster was seriously wounded, the soul still burns in that giant grey crayon. We may have fought to a draw this time, Vader, but next time... next time you can wave your lightsaber in the wind, 'cause I'm calling in sick.
-- Wes --
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