Six Months of Glitching

It’s been two weekends since Intervention, and I finally have the strength to sit down in front of a keyboard again. I’ve been pushing myself hard at work the last two weeks to demonstrate my conscientiousness, and it’s worn me out creatively. Last weekend I couldn’t even manage the energy to play any of the video games I have unfinished. (This week, I’ve found a little. Damn, Shadowrun: Hong Kong is good.)

About a week and a half ago, I released Episode Twelve of Managlitch City Underground, which was one of the craziest things I’ve tried. There ended up being eight speaking parts, which were recorded live in a room full of strangers with little more than thirty minutes of prep and rehearsal. Five of the voice actors I’d never worked with before; two of those were total strangers, and a third was forty-year-veteran of radio, TV, and audio drama Terry Molloy! If I’d spent any time contemplating what I was doing, I’d have been terrified.

I’ve had great feedback on the results. There are some sound quality issues, but they were unavoidable given the circumstances, and certainly explainable in the episode setting. I’m so proud of hitting half a year’s work on this project; I have plans for the upcoming six months, and I can barely imagine how I’ll feel when I reach the one-year anniversary.

In the meantime, Maya’s still looking for work, I’m still wishing I had a gaming group (and time to devote to it), and Mom is still pretty much exactly how she was a week, two weeks, a month ago. Intervention itself was great! I had a blast, didn’t screw up any of my staffing responsibilities too much, and got the hit of inspiration juice I always get while I’m there. I also reconnected with an old friend, and we mended fences that needed fixing.

I’ve had to hit the brain meds pretty hard lately, but that’s what they’re there for. I expect I’ll never be any more free of my anxiety illness than I will be of this hip prosthetic. Thank goodness something could be done in both cases. I many not be happy about either but the alternatives are far far worse.

Well, I’m doing this instead of writing Episode Thirteen, so it’s time to wrap up and get back to work. The City needs me!

Tenth Episode Anniversary

I’m a little amazed that I’m sitting here working on the eleventh episode of Managlitch City Underground. I’ve already released just over two hours of audio since I started: an entire movie’s worth of storytelling. And while it’s not a complete one-man show, I do most of the heavy lifting all by myself: writing, most of the acting, editing, graphics, webmastering, etc. This is literally the product of four decades of trying my hand at anything that interested me.

Is it any good? I like it, and I know of at least a few regular listeners. Like any creative type would, I hope I keep getting more. I do think it steadily improves as I learn more and more about what I’m doing – by making mistakes, of course. Only way to improve.

I had to ditch another con due to finances, as $1000 of car repairs (front CV joints and tires) swallowed up my Shore Leave money without a trace. That meant leaving my fellow actors in Luna-C without a cast member, so it’s extra painful, though they had a month’s notice to work around the problem. Looking forward to working with them at MarsCon next January.

I’m still going to Intervention in two weeks, mainly because I can’t drop out of that; I’m staffing coordinator there, thanks to a terrible attack of constaffus volunteeritis. On top of that, I’m a member of a panel on World Building with Pete “Sluggy Freelance” Abrams, I’m presenting a talk on the making of my bawdy slapstick videos, and I’m recording an episode of Managlitch City Underground live at the con with audience participation and special guest voices which I can’t yet discuss. I’ll almost certainly cosplay too; I hope I see lots of my friends there. Gonna be fun, and I’m going to be exhausted when it’s done!

I’ve been to see a doctor for the first time in years. They’ve x-rayed my hip and kidney to be sure neither will be offering trouble anytime soon, and I’m back on anti-anxiety meds which is wonderful. I lose so much time and work to panic attacks and general feelings of dread; I’m absolutely thrilled to have the chemical tools again to beat that back. Things are still great with Maya, and I’m so lucky to have her at my back when things are bumpy. We make an amazing team.

With luck, I’ll have lots of amazing news from Intervention. Until then, drop me a note if you’re enjoying the podcast!

Clearlight 23rd, 715 in the Forty-One Worlds

Hi. It’s me. I’m surprised to see that I last wrote something here less than a month ago… it seems ages. But I just posted the eighth episode of the Managlitch City Underground podcast, and even if that isn’t a nice round number like fifty or twenty or even ten, it feels a bit anniversary-ish because I’m a computer geek.

I’m trying to finish another episode in a week because I want two of them out this month. That sure sounds easy when I type it, but it hasn’t been. Lesson: when hitting up busy friends for donated talent, figure on lots of lead time. Basically, I’m learning to write more scripts in advance.

Maya still supports my creative efforts wonderfully. Since I work full time, every hour I spend writing is an hour we aren’t talking or cuddling or something; but she gets me so incredibly well, and understands that I need to express myself creatively for my soul to work right. And that’s important to her. She’s amazing and I love her dearly and I wish every day for a long joyful partnership.

I’m adjusting to life in Raleigh nicely, though it will of course be months before I feel as comfortable as I did in Hampton Roads. Having my own place is making me pretty happy; I’ll be happier when I tame more of the stack of storage boxes.

This year I had to skip Anime Mid-Atlantic because of all the moving expenses, and I hate that. I’ve barely seen any of my friends for weeks, and I’m not happy to have missed this chance to dress up, socialize, and party. (Responsibly.) Plus it’s my last non-working con until November, so feh.

Frankly, I’ve got plenty of money worries now that I’ve decided to level up my adulting game, but I don’t know many folks who don’t, and they aren’t disastrous at this point, so they’re barely worth mentioning. Were it not for my anxieties, I might barely notice them.

So that’s where I stand right now. Hopefully by my next post I will have some very fun news to announce. In the meantime, try the podcast out if you haven’t? And positive reviews of it on iTunes are always most welcome!

Ordering Pizzas in Fan Film

A few months ago, Maya and I went to a convention at which someone was showing their latest fan film effort. I won’t say which con or which fandom, but it’s well-known. I remember many thoughts going through the filmmaker side of my brain while the other half sat back to be entertained:

“Wow, the production values are stunning. Good job on them getting the talent and funding.”

“How did they get that guy to show up? Are they that well-connected, or did he just think it would be fun to be in a random fan thing?”

“This story’s kinda weird, but that fits the universe in which this is set, so okay.”

But most importantly: “After going to all this trouble, why can’t the lead performer act worth beans?”

Now, I’m no award-winner when it comes to acting. I’ve done community theater, no-budget film, and sketch comedy on stage. Humble stuff, yet I’m proud of it. But one of the things I do know about acting is that in 2015, any computer can read lines. But if you are playing a real, live person, everything you say has emotions, opinions, history, and personality in it. Doesn’t matter if it’s a single line: this is how human beings behave!

Here’s a line: “Well, I’m going to order pizza.” Alone, that line means nothing. But think of all the different ways you might say that in real life! Perhaps you haven’t had pizza in a month, and now you can order your favorite. Perhaps you are bored by pizza, but you know it’s the only thing the rest of the room will agree on so you’ve given up. Perhaps you’re defiant, because the rest of the room is ordering Chinese, but screw them. Perhaps you are a Vulcan, and you must act like the ordering of pizza means nothing to you but inside, pizza reminds you of the mother for whom you could never properly express love. (Now we’re getting into the tricky stuff.)

Too many fan film actors just read lines as if that’s enough. Since the character speaking isn’t real, there is no need to consider who they feel about the line, what they are thinking inside, the context of the situation and the others nearby; it’s just typing on a script page. And it doesn’t matter if your Kickstarter collected a million dollars and you got Benedict Cumberbatch to appear, if you just read the lines, your film is going to suck.

And that, by the way, is why I’m not naming names. Even the cheapest fan film represents a massive outlay of time, resources, and effort on the parts of multiple people. I can’t just sit here and sneer at that hard work. I celebrate it, and I hope they learn and they get better, because that kind of dedication will always beat “Oh, I always wanted to make a fan film, but I somehow never got around to it.” That really sucks.

Harassment

Whether it be a fan con or a lifestyle event, from this day forward I will do everything in my power to make sure that every convention with which I am involved has an anti-harassment policy in place, well-publicized, and enforced. For decades, I have been under the impression that my subcultures were better than the everyday rank-and-file, and we didn’t do that crap. Over the last few years, I’ve had this mistaken impression corrected.

Today, someone actually said directly to me, “Cons don’t need anti-harassment policies because the women are always lying anyway.” And that does it. I don’t want my life polluted by these kinds of people, much less the lives of my friends. I can’t fix it myself, but I can be one more drop of water in the inevitable erosion of this mountain of idiocy. So yeah, I’ll be checking.

And I can name two events off the top of my head that have beat me to the punch: Intervention in fandom, and Debauchery in lifestyle. Since day one, neither event has been willing to put up with harassment against gender identity, skin color, or any similar method the greyfaces use to try to split us up. These conventions aren’t the only ones willing to stand up for their attendees, and more are joining the tide. Rising Star, Black Rose, and Virginia’s MarsCon either have or will soon have such policies with the eager support of their staffs.

I hope anyone who reads this is with me. Eventually, we’ll reduce these fucktards to the impotent, whining fraction they should be.

Threads of a Dilemma

Yesterday, I saw a trailer for a Fox Network “comedy” in which a lady wore the Japanese schoolgirl outfit known as a fuku, or seifuku, and I was repulsed by the sight. I have friends who own seifuku costumes. Heck, I own one. Why was I so horrified?

I knew I liked looking at ladies in various unlikely outfits at least as early as my introduction to Dungeons and Dragons. If you look at how they dressed female characters back then, “practical for fighting monsters” is the last concept that would cross your mind. I could only assume that the chainmail bikinis had to include some kind of magical deflector shield to be usable armor. Back then, I found the idea silly, but this was just a game, and it didn’t bother me.

Once I discovered anime, the seeds of doubt took root. I still loved some of the even more-implausible outfits, but seeing the characters move and be voiced by humans changed my perspective. I felt somehow more obliged to believe that someone would really wear this, and that was a bit of a stretch. Japan isn’t the most sexism-progressive country, and I wondered how women felt about being depicted in these costumes designed only to draw in the male gaze.

At fan conventions, I began to find out – or at least to become further confused. There were ladies all over the place wearing these costumes – at least the ones which could physically be hung on a human being’s body. I wanted to look, but was it okay to look? Which emotions were acceptable while I looked? What expression should I maintain to not seem creepy? The whole thing confused the hell out of me. If the costumes were not sexist, then why were there no obvious male equivalents? Why did they seem designed solely to encourage sexual thoughts in the viewer? And if they were sexist, how could these women – many of whom I knew to be intelligent, capable, and unwilling to take crap from anyone – be wearing them, and having such fun doing so?

Now I have an answer. There may be other answers but this idea has cleared up a few things. I’ve been into costuming since I was little, but in recent years I’ve chosen to wear rather more flamboyant outfits, for reasons which could be several blog posts on their own. Now some would call these outfits degrading when worn by any gender, but I stumbled upon a secret: if I’m wearing a costume *because I want to*, it’s not degrading at all. Someone else can try to convince me it is, but that’s my decision to make; and if my costume choice makes me feel appealing, confident, and happy, then people’s negative opinions don’t matter much.

And that’s the answer to my dilemma. If anyone wears something that makes them happy to wear, then I’m free to enjoy it. The inverse also holds true: no matter what the garment, if someone’s wearing something they don’t feel good in, something they are forced to wear to cater to another person’s whims, it’s bad. And these can be the exact same outfit, because at the end of the day, it’s just clothing. It has no power besides what we allow.

That’s how a seifuku on Fox turned my stomach. The lady didn’t want to wear the outfit, it was forced on her by someone to make it clear they had no respect at all for her. Hell, the costume was more over-the-top sexualized than you’d ever see at a con – which on its own doesn’t have to be a problem, but here was meant to say, “You are not a person, you are an advertising prop.” Nauseating.

So I’ll go back to looking with a clear conscience; I only hope that the wearer is having ten times as much fun wearing it as I am looking, because that’s how it works for me when I’m dressed up. I still can’t recommend the chainmail bikini for actual monster fighting, though. Dramatic poses only!

February: A Con Odyssey

Just did Farpoint in Baltimore, and MystiCon in Roanoke back to back. Both cons are five hours away from my home. Pro tip: don’t do this.

Farpoint was the second stop for Luna-C, so as usual I spent most of the weekend preparing for the performance in one way or another. Of course, I simultaneously love live performing from the depths of my soul and it triggers my anxieties as only a job interview can, so it’s both relief and regret when the show is done. Regret must win, though, since I’m always eager for the next show. We premiered my “Lonely Villain” skit which I think is quite funny; and I got to play Scotty again, which has been one of my lifelong dreams.

I also premiered the My Little Pony “Twilight Sparkle” costume at Farpoint, and I must say it was a pretty big hit. I’ve known since the fandom took off that I would need an MLP costume before long, so of course I had to do it in my own special fashion.

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Back from Shore Leave!

The new car behaved itself well! Much less general wear on a car = much better gas mileage, as I made Baltimore and back on only a tank and a half. Dwight and Dawn were excellent company: among other things, I got to hear a Duran Duran album I hadn't picked up yet. Huyndais handle differently with three people and a trunk of con luggage in them than they do with one, something I'm not yet completely used to.

The Hunt Valley no-longer-Marriott is an interesting hotel. Every year I manage to get lost in their hall layout at least two or three times, and combining that with the eye-searing carpet makes me suspect that it will be a rough place when the stars are right. Also, the room was too darn humid the whole time. Clothing in my still-packed bag felt a bit damp this morning.

The con itself was a lovely time. I picked up a nice Ron Weasley wand replica for the "Warehouse 9 3/4" skit and a replacement UFP patch for my Trek flight jacket. Didn't get to hit the vendor area much, which no doubt was good for my wallet; but I attended an interesting costuming panel and was a panelist on another, got many good costume photos of Kara that I must send her, and of course performed with Luna-C.

I glitched twice during my first skit, though I was assured it was unnoticeable from the audience. Phew! The other three went nice and smooth, and in fact I think the Holmes and Watson podcast skit got more laughs than ever. From a backstage perspective, the skits I wasn't in seemed to work very well, with good comic timing and plenty of laughs. I believe this was one of our strongest performances! (And we got to meet Kate Mulgrew very very briefly backstage beforehand, which I enjoyed!)

Afterwards, I got hit in the head with being 43 years old: I needed a nap. I wanted to watch the Masquerade but my body wasn't into it. We did head down to the Ten-Forward party at 11… the music mostly stank, but I finally got to put a name to Paulette Guillory-Gardner, a lovely lady with whom I've been crossing convention paths often. My Alice costume went over well, and I even got a picture or two with a White Rabbit before it was time to head back up to bed.

In the morning, we headed down for the Luna-C breakfast and wrap-up. Dana Stewart gave me exactly the Doctor Who costume idea I'd been looking for, complete with a bad pun to go with it – win-win. I grabbed a couple more click-base random starships, but I think from now on I might spend the extra couple of bucks and buy the specific ones I want from eBay. I don't like getting duplicates, when I don't have lots of folks interested in trading.

The drive home was too long, frankly. The company was still good, but I just wanted to be home. Still, made it in safe by 7:30, said my goodbyes to Dwight and Dawn, stuffed a sandwich in my mouth and was unconscious by 9:30. All in all: quite the good weekend.

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Costuming at RavenCon

To those who’ve attended RavenCon before:

I’m in the mood to wear the Alice costume again to RavenCon, since the movie’s still out, and hey, it’s comfortable. I’ve never been to RC before, though, and I don’t know the atmosphere there. Am I likely to have staff and attendees dropping apoplectically to the floor at the sight of a boy in a dress, or will it provoke the smiles and chuckles I usually get?

Input would be useful!

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