Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jen's Gems 9/11/12

I thought the Robot who uses your cup as a hot tub was the best tea infuser ever, but that was before Kelly S. sent me a link to THIS:

I am now deeply, deeply in love with the "Deep Tea Diver." [gigglesnort] And the handle looks like an oxygen tank!! Of course, I'd have to get a clear mug to go with him, so I could watch him bobbing along. Not to mention start drinking tea... [plotting]

You can buy him for $14.95 now at Amazon, or Perpetual Kid has one with orange accents (!!) coming in October for only $9.95.

Think you've seen every geeky nursery theme imaginable? Think again. And get LOST:


The numbered bunny, the polar bear, and the vines are my favorites - but there's also an airplane mobile over the crib made up of all Oceanic planes, a custom baby station sign, and lots, LOTS more. (!!)  Check out all of the mind-blowing details posted by the mom here! (via NerdApproved)

I had a total squee attack when I spotted this mind-blowing, handmade, poseable (!!) plush Raz from Psychonauts over on SuperPunch yesterday:

Anna made this as a gift for game creator Tim Schafer. (Lucky man!) It blows my mind that she started with nothing more than a sketch and some wire. There are lots of process pics over on her blog - go see! If you're like me, you'll be adding "make a poseable plush" to your craft bucket list.

(What? You don't know Psychonauts?? Seriously, you guys should play this game! I have it on Xbox, but it's also available on the PC.)

Mashable featured a new phone today that makes me seriously consider re-installing a land line at our house:

AHHHH ORANGEY GOODNESS!!! This retro-styled "rotary" phone has a wireless handset and digital center readout. And it's awesome. If that rotary dial actually turned, I'd be about $150 poorer right now. (Am I the only one who wants a rotary phone just so I can play with the dial? I love spinning them!)

I only found these on ebay here in the US, but you UK folk can get one on Amazon for about 68 pounds. (I tried to make the pound sign - I really did. But I failed.)

And finally, Donald of KodyKoala did something I never thought possible: he gave a Hungry Hungry Hippos game a Mario "Koopa Kids" makeover. AND IT IS SO COOL:

(via Geekologie)

Look at this! Donald added sculpted heads and shells, carved bricks into the base with an Exacto knife, and then custom painted and clear-coated everything so it's still playable! He even printed custom name stickers for each marble base:

If you're going to the El Paso Comic Con this weekend, and you're quick, you can buy this from Donald there - although he doesn't mention the price. Personally I'm thinking he needs to make a lot more of these, and in all different themes. Think about it: Hungry Hungry Cthulhus?  Hungry Hungry My Little Ponies? Hungry Hungry Demon Dogs from Ghostbusters?? (You're welcome, Donald - and let me know if you do a StayPuft version, k?)

Seen something cool and geeky this week? Then link me up in the comments, or over on Facebook!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Best of DragonCon 2012

Is it possible to take TOO many pictures at Dragon*Con? Because I think I did. I've been cropping and tweaking and sorting cosplay pics for a solid week now. EEK!

My pain is your gain, though, as I've weaned down my favorite shots to the best of the best that D*C had to offer this year. So let's get right to it!

The four House founders from Harry Potter. AMAZING.

And while I'm at it, here's the rest of my favorite Potter cosplay from the weekend:

Why yes, that IS Snape in Neville's grandmother's clothes - right down to the vulture on his hat & purse! And Hagrid there spoke to everyone in character, and his voice and accent were perfection. (See his pink umbrella?)

Here's a fun group of look-alikes:

When possible, I love chatting with cosplayers. These next guys were so, so nice; they're actually brothers, and they have some fantastic costumes:

You see a lot of girls in Tardis and Dalek dresses, but these are the only male versions I've seen. And those steampunked Wonder Twins? SO COOL. Check out the details:

They made the space monkey Gleek into a robot!
(Confession: I'm not really that good; I had to wiki the monkey.)

Some cute geek girls in spandex:

That's a fabulous Seven of Nine - and such an adorable Harley!

I may have had an extreme fangirl moment with this jaw-dropping GLADOS puppet:
Yes, she really is a kind of puppet, and the guy operating her made her movements perfectly smooth and sinuous - PLUS he had a speaker wired up so that she could talk to you. It was SOOO COOOL.

And this one just made me laugh:

Here's the prettiest portrait I took the entire con, snapped quickly on the street corner while we waited for the light to change:

Isn't her makeup lovely? If only I had sunlight for all my shots! (This seriously makes me want to camp out on the street corner for photos next year!)

Speaking of great makeup, check out my friend Christie again with her sister, Robin:

They were dressed as the Ponies of the Apocalypse, Death and War. They each did everything themselves, from hand-sculpting Christie's rib cage to cutting the sheet metal for Robin's shoulder guards. These ladies are so darn inspiring with their cosplay, it's not even funny. Love it.

The hardest part with big group shots is getting everyone to look at you:

Or getting anyone to look at you. Ha!

I love the girl Spy's coat dress in this group:
Wait - I just realized the one on the left is also wearing a skirt. A matched set!

Some scary baddies:

And a sexy Cat Woman:
 Her cameo has a cat on it. :) I love the lace mask!

This little girl was crawling around on the floor, making me seriously fear for her safety - but doesn't she make a cute dragon?

I think this was John's favorite: they're the soldiers "combing the desert" from Space Balls:

And to show you that nothing at Dragon*Con is ever truly what it seems, take a look at this:

I took a picture of the black and white lady last year, and have since been told that she is actually a he, wearing a strategically padded body suit. If you look closely, you can see the wrinkles in the fabric on her shoulder. If it's true that's a guy (anyone know for sure?), then this could be the best illusion costume EVER. I salute you, sir! [Note:Yep, he's a guy!]

I'm about half way through my favorites, so check back soon for part 2!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Book Review: Bossy Pants, Redshirts, & Insurgent

How's this for a long overdue book post, eh? Let's see if I can actually remember these titles well enough to tell you how well I liked 'em. :)

Bossypants, by Tina Fey
 (I will never get used to that cover. NEVER.)

Tina Fey is an inspiration to any woman who tries to be funny, and her book is just the right mix of biography, behind-the-scenes juiciness, and literal LOLs. My favorite chapters were the ones about attending your own photoshoot, which had me hooting with laughter, and the one with her thoughts on Photoshop, which I found quite thought-provoking - if somewhat controversial. (In a nutshell, she thinks it's a far better alternative to cosmetic surgery, and that future generations will be savvy enough to know it doesn't represent reality.)(Don't yell at ME, now - I'm just recapping what SHE said. Heh.)

Bossypants is a quick read that left me both entertained and better educated on the obstacles Fey has faced in the male-dominated field of comedy. She talks about the continuing (albeit improving) sexism in the industry without being preachy or overly bitter, and she even manages to convey a sense of optimism by pointing to the triumphs of other strong funny women like Maya Rudolf and Amy Poehler. A good, funny, and often inspirational read.

Redshirts, by John Scalzi

I've followed Scalzi on Twitter for ages, and yet had somehow never read any of his books. When I asked a friend and Scalzi fan which I should start with, she immediately pointed to Redshirts.

I went into the story knowing absolutely nothing about it (I like to skip the back cover sometimes), and wondering if the title was just a passing Star Trek homage or something far more central to the story. 

To my delight, it's the latter.

Redshirts is gleefully, unapologetically absurd. It's a Trek parody that not so much breaks down the fourth wall as dematerializes it with a Douglas Adams-style disrupter ray. The character names are different, but any Original Series fan will be picturing Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew in the story, and nodding and laughing along as Scalzi good-naturedly exploits some of the show's more ridiculous foibles - the most central being, of course, that only red-shirted security members die on away missions.

The story follows a new security ensign who discovers an entire ship gone insane, physics thrown out the window, a captain who lapses into overly dramatic speeches at critical times, and key bridge officers who are routinely pummeled to near death but are back at their stations, healthy and whole, within days. I won't say more for fear of spoiling anything, but trust me when I saw it's crazy good fun.

The only thing I didn't like about Redshirts were the three "codas" at the end of the book. The story ends at 230 pages, making it quite short, but then there are an extra 85 pages of first, second, and third person filler - broken into three chapters - that felt a bit tacked-on and unnecessary. I'd only recommend reading the third and final coda, which is a sweet epilogue that follows up on a love story mentioned in the main storyline. The other two add nothing of value to the story, and are a bit tedious to boot, so I'd advise skipping 'em.

[Note: You Kindle users can grab the first four chapters of Redshirts for free here.]

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

When I reviewed Divergent some months back many of you urged me to go on and read its sequel, saying it would take care of some of the problems I cited in the first book. And you guys were right! 

I think I enjoyed Insurgent even more than Divergent - a rarity with sequels - precisely because it does tackle that main sticking point for me: that of everyone being forced to choose one faction to identify with for life.  As the title suggests, Insurgent is about a revolution, and there's plenty of action and drama to keep the pages zipping by. I'd even go so far as to say this revolution succeeds where the one in Mockingjay fails. It's large enough to feel world-shaking without losing the personal narrative and feeling of investment you have with the characters. It also keeps the main character Tris central to the storyline, instead of shoving her to the sidelines while the adults call the shots ala Mockingjay.

That said, I did get pretty ticked off at Tris this go-round. The whole self-sacrifice-to-the-point-of-stupidity thing tends to get my blood boiling; I want my heroines to be intelligent fighters, not angst-riddled "they'll be better off without me" Bellas. (To be clear: I'm not saying self-sacrifice is stupid. I'm saying pointless self-sacrifice is stupid.) 

Other than that, though, I highly recommend Insurgent. Just know you'll be yelling at a fictional character for a few chapters. ;)


Good news, book lovers! I've compiled all of my reviews into one handy-dandy page! Hopefully this will help us all keep track of what I have and haven't read yet.

Also, a lot of you have been e-mailing me book recommendations - which I love - but it's hard for me to keep track of them all that way. So could you guys do me a favor, and only leave book recs in the comments on one of my book review posts, or on my book review page? This helps me keep them all consolidated, and I promise I *DO* read each and every one. Plus, leaving them in the comments makes your recs available to your fellow readers - a win-win!

And because it's an FAQ: I do know & use GoodReads, but only as a personal account. Since I've used it since long before CW, and back before anyone knew who I was, I prefer to keep it private. (Let's just say I really shredded some books back in the day. Ha!) If I ever create a new, public account, though, I'll let you guys know!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dragon*Con 2012, Continued

(Read part 1 here, if you haven't already!)

We didn't bring the zoom lens to the Eureka panel, so even though we were less than half the distance from the stage as at The Guild's, my pics are blurry messes:
Blech. Sorry.

Colin Ferguson made the panel a non-stop laugh riot, though, and this was easily my favorite event of the whole con. If you ever get the chance to see him in person, GO. He's hysterical.  (Niall & Tembe are wonderful, too; just not as funny.)

At one point this elegantly dressed older lady stood up and thanked Tembe for setting such a wonderful example for other women, and women of color at that, by playing such a strong, intelligent character. Tia then immediately started talking about Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) and what an inspiration *she* had been. It was a beautiful moment, and I know I wasn't the only one choked up by it.

Friday night we took my parents to Pittypatt's Porch, this fabulous Southern restaurant across the street from the Westin (try the pickled watermelon rind! Really!), and by some crazy random happenstance we walked in exactly one minute after the entire cast of The Guild. (!!) So, yeah, I may have spent the whole meal staring three tables over and being told by John to stop staring. Hee.

Saturday I decided to sleep in and skip the parade, while John went out and took pictures. I later learned he had a miserable time of it, though, since he emerged from the hotel into a solid wall of humanity, and it took over 45 minutes for him to navigate two block to the Press area - and once there he still couldn't see much, and then the Parade stopped moving for over 15 minutes while it backed up, and finally John admitted defeat and left. 

My parents also had a rough time: they arrived a full hour early to stake out a good spot, and at the last minute a big group of people elbowed their way in front of my parents so they couldn't see a thing.  >.<

Stuff like that makes me so sad and disgusted with people. I can only hope the rude ones were locals or other tourists, and not Dragon*Con attendees. Considering that most D*C folk are always amazingly polite, I really think that must be the case.
You can see from these pics just had crazy the parade crowds are. It's hard to tell where the parade stops and the onlookers begin!

I think from now on we're swearing off the parade, unless we stand at the very tail end by the Marriott - we've had luck there in years past.

In happier news, on Saturday I got a tattoo!!
Ok, so it's a Sharpie tattoo, but still.

This is the work of artist Jason Thomas of Red Rocket Farms, who I contacted ahead of time to demand/request one. I'm not sure he did any others the whole con, either, so here I am looking smug:
The rocket ship was my idea, but Jason came up with a second tattoo design on his own. I think you can tell he designed it just for me:

Actually, this is just an in-process shot; somehow we neglected to take a finished picture until that night when it'd started to fade (oops!):

A robot and cake - perfect, right? (Have I mentioned that Jason is a fan?)

As you can see, Jason's art and daily comics have an adorably twisted and often morbid sense of humor, so I'm pretty sure you guys will like 'em. ;) 

Plus Saturday night we got to see the premier of his new cartoon, Cradle Me, Sky, which looks pretty amazing. The fates conspired against Jason & his partner Jennifer that night, though, with a room change, disappearing equipment, and a host of other problems, until the delayed premier was to a much smaller crowd than they'd hoped. So do me a favor and go check out the nine minute premier. I, for one, can't wait to see the next chapters.

Also on Saturday we attended the Gadgeteer's Showcase, where steampunk builders and enthusiasts show off everything from jetpacks to giant wings to weaponry. Needless to say, it's awesome.

That's the builder/creator in the cap. He rode this...erm...vehicle? through the whole parade! And I overheard him saying he's worked for Disney for years as a prop builder. Makes sense, right?

 I still don't see how the giant wheel didn't scrape his head. o.0

This group was there showing off their awesome Avengers steampunkery:
I like Thor's hat.

Also there were the Apparition Abolishers, a steampunk Ghostbusters group kind of similar to The  League of Steam. And as luck would have it, I got a photo of the lady Abolisher who would go on to win Best In Show in the big D*C Masquerade costume contest:

 This is Leah, aka "Chloe Seachord," and the secret to her costume's success is all in those wings!

Here they are in action:

Amazing, right? She's using an iPhone to control the wings mechanism. Hit the Abolishers link up there to see lots of information on how the group built it all.

Sunday night was the big night: the Mechanical Masquerade, and time for me to step out once again as Lady Vadore.

I was so nervous I had John loosen my corset twice, and even then I had to pace around the room a bit and take half a Xanax before I could don the mask and goggles. Once we left the room we discovered another problem, though: the dreaded elevator wait.

As anyone who's been to D*C knows, every host hotel has a LOT of floors, and the wait for elevators gets insane. At one point we talked to people on the 37th floor of the Westin who were stranded for over an hour, because every elevator that stopped was full. Even worse, the Westin forbade the use of stairs. Yes, really: an alarm would go off. (But we took the stairs anyway on checkout day with another large group. If we hadn't, I think we'd still be there!)

Elevators are another thing that trigger my anxiety; every time the doors close I have to suppress a moment of panic that we'll be trapped. When we checked in we initially were assigned the 40th floor, but after one shaky elevator trip up I made John get us a lower room. We ended up on the 16th floor, which was a vast improvement, but that meant getting down to the lobby could be a challenge: every elevator going down was already full. (There were 72 floors total.) So...we waited. And I paced. And we waited some more.

 Fortunately after only 10 or 15 minutes we were able to cram into an elevator and get downstairs. (Phew!)

As soon as people saw us and started asking for pictures, my nerves evaporated. Like most things, it's the waiting that's the hardest part. I think my parents were surprised by how many people wanted all of our photos, not just mine, but I was delighted each time to wave them over beside me. (John wore a cap, vest, and goggles, but still managed to duck out of most pictures.)

The Masquerade was getting a late start, though, so rather than stand around at the Westin we decided to trek down to the Marriott - you know, that pace where you have to trade places with people to move? - and wander around a bit.

 (There's that lack of peripheral vision again: could I....BE any closer? Ha!)

If ever there was a test for crowd anxiety, this was it. It was the most crowded night at the most crowded hotel, and I quickly discovered that the lack of movement (due to both the crowd & photo requests) caused my goggles to fog up. When I walk the cooler air gets in on the sides, so I hadn't noticed this problem before. My already limited vision got worse the longer we stood in one place, until I had to cling to John's sleeve to lead me through the thickest areas.

(See how much brighter my mask is here? That was after a quick battery change.)

I'm sure this sounds like some people's worst nightmare, but somehow the crowds at D*C don't really bother me. (Well, there was one point when we got caught right outside the main ballroom just as the Masquerade let out, and we literally couldn't move for about three solid minutes. That made me a bit antsy - but eventually we shuffled along to a slightly clearer spot, and all was well.) There's just so much to see, and overall you do keep moving. If I didn't have John, though, I could see it getting too much too fast.

And, surprise surprise, a LOT of readers found me in costume! Some were too shy to stop me, instead choosing to yell to the person next to them, "THAT'S JEN. FROM CAKE WRECKS!" Most stopped to grab a photo or chat (or attempt to chat, at least) for a few minutes, though.

Here's my favorite photo from that night:

Someone said they saw more kids in costume than ever this year, which baffled me, because I saw almost none! I guess that's because I skipped the parade and was mostly out in the later afternoons and evenings, but I was still pretty bummed I didn't see more. Anyway, aren't these two girls great? When they asked for a picture, I made sure John grabbed one with our camera, too.

After an hour or so we made our way back to the Westin, where we met a bunch more readers, including Little Girl Spock (aka Bryden)'s mom, Rachel! Check out how snazzy she and her guy Wade looked, too:

You can't really tell in this picture, but they're both wearing the coolest steampunked Star Trek insignias. Plus, Rachel was carrying the first steampunk prop I've ever seen that reduced me to a squealing fangirl. I WANT ONE SO MUCH, you guys:

 It's a steampunk tricorder. (!!) Wade made it himself! And it has switches! And different colored lights! AND I REALLY REALLY WANT ONE. (Oh, Joo-ooohn...)

The Mechanical Masquerade itself was nice, but held in a giant dark room that made photos almost impossible:

Plus the music combined with my mask made conversation extra impossible. So after making the circuit through the room once or twice to make sure we met all the readers who were looking for us, we headed back to the Marriott.

In the end we stayed out 'til 2AM in costume - a new record! - and John and I were both nearly crippled from all the walking. Ha! Not to mention the gouges on my face from the mask & goggles took nearly two days to fade completely.


Ben Franklin, Cat Woman & Harley, and a steampunk lady Vader - only at Dragon*Con.

Speaking as a cosplayer (and who knew I'd ever be able to say that?), I have to say I preferred Star Wars Celebration to D*C, even though I had my photo taken far more at D*C. Less crowds actually means more people can see - and therefore appreciate - your costume. As John pointed out, I'm so short that many people never saw me in the masses until I was right next to them. Plus the teeming crowds pushed people past so fast that often they'd only have time for a quick picture; no time to stop and chat. In fact, I think part of the reason Dragon*Con is known for the big spectacle costumes is just because that's the only way you can guarantee people will see you. You know, like this:

I guess it's just a quality-time thing for me; I'd rather have the option of chatting with the person who freaks out over my costume, instead of standing stock still while a steady stream of people file past and snap pics along the way. But that could be just me. (And it was still fun, so don't think I'm complaining!)

Now, speaking as a cosplay photographer, I'll take Dragon*Con over any other con all day, any day. You just can't beat it. Wait'll you see my next posts - you'll see what I mean!

And now, my friends, I will end this insanely long post, because it really is getting insanely long. If you're still reading this, thanks for making it this far! I hope you've been able to enjoy Dragon*Con vicariously through my ramblings. 

Next, stay tuned for the best Dragon*Con costumes! (And watch my Flickr account for all the pics I don't post here on the blog; I'll be updating it as each post goes up!)